By the time she was fourteen, she’d covered all the walls of her room with candy wrappers. She was in heaven—jolly ranchers formed one line across her headboard while the Hershey collection was proudly displayed right next to her various awards and trophies that she had won just two years ago. That was so long ago—she was such an innocent child then. That was before she discovered the magic and lucrative powers that were stored within a bit of sugar.
Her school decided to institute healthy food only so all the vending machines were taken out and soon it showed on the faces of the eighth and ninth grade classes. Not able to stay awake, their grades dropped and no one had the energy for physical education much less after school activities.
Anne saw possibilities. She started carrying her backpack everywhere she went and would hit up the Walmart, Dollar Tree, even the foreign stores after school every day to collect various sweets. Her mother assumed she was adjusting well to her new school and responsibilities.
Little did they know her sweet child was opening up her own corner of the black market.
Anne spread the word by mouth, in whispers to the lethargic teenagers in locker rooms and behind the school where others would smoke, drink or get high between classes. She had only one rule: After the transaction, the customer had to open the sweet and give her the wrapper—no questions asked. No one asked any questions, their silent screams for sugar canceled out any rationality they possessed.
What was the harm in letting Anne get rid of the evidence? Who cared that it looked like she was operating as a live garbage can. The halls became chambers of silence as more sugar addicts gathered behind the old high school to get their fix of chocolate, peach slices, Twinkies, and War-Heads.
Moving to a new neighborhood and school hadn’t been easy for Anne who had grown up with the same kids across the street. Change had happened suddenly—overnight in fact for Anne. On Friday she had been worried about an upcoming math test due next Tuesday on fractions as well as the weekly paintball competition they held every Saturday night at Williams Field. Anne had just been crowned Female Leading Champion for the Division Dogs. By Saturday night, they were eight hours into a fifteen hour drive.
“Why, Mom? Are we in some type of trouble? Did you forget to pay rent this month?”
Her mother turned around in the passenger seat to face her daughter. She had been ill for the entire journey and had been praying for sleep for the last five hours. “Please stop asking so many questions. I told you before. Uncle Dan is in the last stages of stomach cancer and he needs someone there to take care of him. Hospice can’t be there constantly and—”
“I know. But why couldn’t Amy take care of him? She is his kid, right? Why do we have to drop everything and go flying over there to take care of someone I’ve never even met!”
But her mother didn’t answer. She had finally found rest through Dramamine. Dead to world and making a high-pitched whining sound that meant that her mother was dead to the world. Anne plugged in her headphones and turned up the Rolling Stones instead. Music never yelled at her, nor did it change in any unexpected way. At least she didn’t have to go to school for the next week—the only good thing about any of this.
By Monday, Anne had a job—or rather the job found her. It turned out that her uncle was living in a senior independent apartment complex and everybody needed help with day to day errands. She hadn’t spent more than two nights in her new bedroom when she was offered a job to help a Mrs. Cranston with light housework and to serve as a daily companion.
“Why me? Can’t she just find someone in the local newspapers to wipe her butt and fetch her mail?”
“Anne, she is a very special woman and not just anyone can take care of her. She’s particular and stubborn—just like someone I know.”
“I haven’t made my mind up yet. How much does she pay per hour to do all this stuff? I won’t take any lower—”
“She has made a very generous offer if you would agree to help her out—said it was private and that you two would discuss it when you start work.”
“Wow. She’s old-fashioned. I bet she dries flowers and has a huge collection of porcelain dolls filling up each room and has an attic where—”
“Stop it now Anne. You start work tomorrow at seven a.m. sharp. Here’s how you get to her apartment. You better get to bed early. I know how you hate to rush when you wake up.”
Anne muttered, first the sudden move to be close to a stinky dying old stranger, and now a job working for another stinky old dying person? There better be some redeeming value here—anywhere.
A loud buzzing was coming from somewhere close to her right ear. Her arm shot out towards the noise but came into contact with her end table. Sharp pain started in her wrist and spread quickly to her elbow and located her funny bone—which was not at all funny. Anne rolled over seeking shelter within her shaggy pillow but the buzzing started again. How did morning come so soon? Leaning to one side, she felt under the bed for a spare shirt and pants. She wasn’t dressing to impress anyone.
Fifteen minutes later, thermos in hand she found herself in front of a stained glass door that seemed to shimmer in the early morning rosebud sun. Anne’s eyes followed a bold stroke of blue lazily meander its way across the surface atop a combination of blood red and midnight designs that covered the entire entryway. To her right, a lion head the size of her hand yawned revealing a mother of pearl doorbell.
A woman dressed in a brilliant shade of green and pink kimono opened the door and smiled at Anne. Small pink shell lips parted and stretched upwards revealing a perfect double row of pearly whites—a dentist’s wet dream come true.
“You must be Anne. I’m so grateful you could come and help me around the house. My name is Avalon. Come in please.”