Eek! Please judge me on my talent and not the things I've done!

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
I remember being small and pulling a red beaded bracelet out of a bubble gum machine. They were supposed to be good luck charms or something. Mine said "Courage". I had to get my mom to read it to me. After she read the single word that was nothing but lines only adults could interpret, she got down on one knee, as you always do when you have something important to say to a child, and said to me "Now, Genevieve. Wearing this bracelet won't make you courageous. It can remind you to be courageous. The power of courage comes from within you."

That night, I wet my bed and had to sleep in the guest room. The guest room was dark, and scary. In the basement with an exterior window. Sometimes little yellow eyes would check up on you while they searched for water and an unattended cat dish of food. Boxes my parents had kept swearing someday they'd move out of the economically depressed community towered over my little head. It wasn't the walls closing in on me, I had always envisioned. It was the boxes enfolding me like the deck of cards had in Alice in Wonderland. All's I remember is twisting the bracelet over, and over, and over again, while I whispered "courage" to myself in a voice that sounded so much like Madeline. A cartoon I only got to watch at my grandparents'. They could afford cable.

"Courage." I lay there knowing all the strength to be courageous was inside of me. I could do it. I could spend the night in the guest room. After all, I had been a bad girl and I didn't tell Mom I needed to go potty so she could take me without the monsters getting me.

That was another thing I had to worry about. Monsters. "Courage." I told myself, twisting the beads around my small wrist. So small Mom had undone the knot and taken off three beads to make it fit.

Ever since that day red has been my favorite color. The color of courage.

Today is a big day. I have prepared my whole life for this. I have a job interview with a company that can open a thousand doors for me and I can lead others through them too. I have a job interview with the county library.

I started out shelving books at the college library and when I had to move home in defeat (my stupid boyfriend decided to beat me and leave me to die in the street but kept our shared apartment). I got a job with the county library. Today, I have a job interview to become the library director. The boss. The leader. I had to sit in my parents basement and bum Wi-Fi for two years but I wound up getting my MLS degree on top of my bachelor's degree in English. Nope. We never moved out of that economically depressed county. But if I can't get away from it I might as well change it and make it better. I always wanted to be a librarian. I just didn't expect it to be here.

I am wearing red. Some might say that's too "sexy" for a job interview but all the business is covered. You can't even see my cleavage and the hem reaches to my knees. A young girl in line at the coffee shop tilted her head at me and said "You look like Wonder Woman."

"Thank you." I don't know why but ever since that movie came out, if you're female, hold yourself like you're capable of anything, in the eyes of little girls you're Wonder Woman. It's kind of nice, I guess.

As a tween I temporarily abandoned my dreams of becoming a librarian and wanted to be a gypsy. Odd. I know. But over the summer, through visits to grandma's house, and little vacations I collected bracelets until I was dripping with them up my left arm. I couldn't handle them on the right. It stopped me from sticking my hand in weird places without getting caught. I felt like that young girl now. I had a bundle of red and gold bangles my friend from India had sent me as a good luck pick-me up. I had told him the story of red courage after they arrived on my doorstep. "You were meant to have them." I think he's in love with me. But that doesn't really matter now, does it? I was happy for the extra good luck and reminder of courage.

In the car I finish off my too-sweet coffee in one single sloppy sip. Like I'm downing a tequila shot. My plans for after this interview. Good. Bad. Either way I want to get hella drunk after this. "Courage." I remind myself. And not the liquid kind. I tease myself internally. I physically had my hand on the bottle this morning. I had to tell myself to put it back on the shelf. That's why I was at the coffee shop this morning. I didn't want to allow myself alcohol and mixer in the same room. I don't need liquid courage. I am bigger than it!

Just like my mother told me before I wet the bed like a dweeb that evening: "The power of courage comes from within you." And for external resources I have a copy of my resume and photocopies of my degrees in a manila folder. "You've got this." I say to myself on a breath. "Courage."