Authors: E. M. Lilly
The Girl and the Genie
E. M. Lilly
If Emily Mignon’s mother were to pick one word to describe her daughter it would be
. If she could pick two words they would be
. And if she were allowed the generous sum of six words, they’d be
too picky for her own good
. And she’d add several exclamation marks for good measure. Emily was almost twenty-four, and not only was she still unmarried, but she didn’t have a fiancée, or even a serious boyfriend! That made no sense to Alice Mignon. Her daughter was such a lovely person, both inside and out. A beautiful girl, Alice Mignon would tell people she’d meet, and when she’d show them pictures of her daughter that she kept on her cell phone they’d agree, and not just to be polite. While not beautiful in a glamorous model sort of way—that wouldn’t be possible as Emily was only a smidgen over five foot two and too slender to have the curves that those models possessed—she was beautiful in the way Natalie Wood was in West Side Story. There was no reason that she shouldn’t be married and giving Alice grandkids already! Absolutely none, except the girl was just too stubborn and picky for her own good! And Emily packing up and moving to New York City didn’t help matters any. If she had stayed put in her hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, Alice Mignon would’ve made sure her daughter was hitched up already regardless of how picky she wanted to be!
If Emily Mignon were to pick one word to describe herself, it would be
. Or maybe
. Romantically, professionally and personally she felt blocked. Ever since she was a young girl she had had this romantic notion of waiting for the one true love of her life. That when the right man came along, he would sweep her off her feet and that the love they felt for each other would be as intense as a burning flame and be eternal. Because of that romantic notion she had been stubbornly holding on to, she had so far been saving herself for her Prince Charming. Ever since she was thirteen boys had shown that they were interested in her, but she had decided she was going to wait until she was in high school before dating, and once that happened she could tell they were either only trying to use her or that they weren’t the “right one” for her.
The one time she had almost weakened was with Todd Jansen. This was when she was a freshman in college, and she had such a crush on him. He was from California and had these surfer good looks with his lean, muscular body, deep blue eyes and sandy blond hair, and he had spent two weeks saying all the right things to her while she would stare dreamily into those gorgeous blue eyes. One night after an hour of intense kissing and petting, her desire had heated up so intensely that she thought she might pass out, and she let him pull her jeans off. It was when he was starting to remove her panties that she caught that flash in his eyes. For that brief moment, they weren’t the gorgeous eyes that spoke of love and poetry, but instead were hard and cruel, and she understood the truth. That she was only a conquest to him. That realization sickened her, and she had to fight like a wild panther underneath him to get her panties back on and him off of her. The rest of college went similarly. The guys she met had no real interest in dating or getting to know her, only in hooking up for sex. And then Todd Jansen out of spite betrayed her by spreading the word that she was a virgin, and a stuck up one at that. After that she became among the other boys in the dorm only an object to conquer; a pretty little thing to undress and deflower. She wasn’t someone to give in to hate, but Todd wounded her deeply and made her all that more determined to wait for true love.
That was college. Things only got worse once she graduated and moved to New York. The men she met only wanted a quick hookup and had even less interest in dating than the boys in college. They looked at her as cute and pretty and someone who’d be fun in bed, and once they realized that she wasn’t going to sleep with them right away and instead wanted to get to know them and develop a real relationship, they moved on quickly to the next cute and pretty girl in the coffee shop or bar or wherever they had met her, thinking the next one would be equally fun in bed. Hence, Emily felt blocked romantically. Or
. Or beginning to feel jaded, maybe even somewhat callous regarding men and dating. That she’d only been wasting her time chasing a childish fantasy that had no real chance of ever coming true.
As blocked and frustrated as she felt romantically, she was beginning to feel the same way with the rest of her personal life. Mixed in with her romantic notions of true love were two passions: books and adventure. At age ten instead of reading the commercially contrived books with dreamy vampires and other such nonsense that was being spoon fed to other young girls her age, she was reading Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and other great writers. When she was twelve she discovered Jane Austen, and then at thirteen Hemmingway, Flannery O’Connor and Mary Shelley’s
. It was the power of Shelley’s Frankenstein that convinced her that she was going to be involved with literature as her life’s profession when she got older, maybe even become a writer herself someday, but it was all the other books that convinced her that she was also going to live a life of adventure.
Emily graduated college with a degree in English and a focus on creative writing. She felt that she needed to experience life more before attempting to write herself, but she found what appeared to be a dream first job as an associate editor for a large publishing company. In her mind she could envision her romantic notions and her two great passions all mixing together. Moving to New York by itself would be a great adventure, and then as she grew more experienced as an editor she would travel the world to meet the authors she was working with. And whether it was in New York City or during one of her travels, she’d meet the man she’d been waiting her whole life for, and she’d have the life she’d been dreaming of.
The job was demanding, requiring her to work a minimum of twelve hours each day, seven days a week, but that was okay as she was immersing herself in something she loved, even if at this stage it was reading through the slush pile. It didn’t pay much, and New York was much more expensive than Des Moines, but that was okay too. Barely scraping by as she made her way in the world fit with her romantic notions. She didn’t make enough to rent her own apartment, or even share an apartment in Manhattan, but she found a roommate whom she adored named Sally Palmer, and the two of them shared an apartment in Queens. Sally was her age and also from the Midwest; in Sally’s case, from a small town in Kansas. Engaging and pretty in a blonde cheerleader sort of way, the two of them would often share pizza or other takeout food for dinner, and when they both weren’t loaded down with work, explore New York together. Their apartment wasn’t much, a fourth floor walkup to a tiny two bedroom that shared a single and cramped bathroom, but they decorated it as best they could and gave it a homey feel, and Emily was happy, or at least three years ago she was.
The reasons for her feeling so
in her personal life were due to a number of things. Not having any money to travel or really do much of anything was part of it. Emily didn’t think of herself as materialistic, but she had to admit that three years of barely scraping by each week was beginning to wear thin. Even being able to buy some nice clothes would be a treat, but she made do searching consignment shops for articles that would give her a unique retro look and not appear too stylishly out of date. A bigger reason for her feeling so blocked personally was the apartment and Sally. Or more precisely, Sally’s boyfriend, Mitch Connelly.
Sally had started dating Mitch six months ago, and almost immediately it was as if he’d moved in—not that he was paying any part of the rent, but with how often he was sleeping over which was just about every night. It was a small apartment, and adding any third person to it would’ve felt like an intrusion, but Emily would’ve been mostly okay with it if Mitch had been a good person, but he wasn’t. He was loud, rude and obnoxious. Supposedly he made a lot of money as a stockbroker, which Emily didn’t understand since he also appeared to be dimwitted. And as she also found out, he was a pig.
When Sally started bringing Mitch to the apartment, Emily tried to be gracious about it. Emily was an only child and she loved Sally as if she were the sister she never had, and they really were the best of friends as well as roommates. She wanted Sally to be happy, so she tried to act as if he weren’t an imposition, and at first would hang out with them in their small living room instead of hiding in her bedroom, but that quickly changed. She didn’t like the way that she’d catch him leering at her when he didn’t think Sally was watching, and she didn’t like other aspects of his behavior as Mitch often acted like a drunk frat boy instead of a nice guy. But Emily didn’t want to make an issue of him with Sally. For whatever reason, he seemed to make her happy, so Emily started working even longer hours than before and would find other ways to keep herself busy, and would eat all her meals outside the apartment. When she was home, she’d only hang out in the living room when Mitch wasn’t there, otherwise she’d be locked away in her bedroom.
Two weeks ago she had gotten home later than usual from work. It was past midnight, and Emily felt especially grimy from her day in the city and got in the shower. Five minutes into her shower, Mitch walked in on her, and she screamed. The shower had a plastic see-through door instead of a shower curtain, and to get to her towel she’d have to expose herself fully to him, so she covered up as best she could while she screamed.
“Relax,” he said, his voice slurred. He rocked slightly as he stood in front of the toilet. He was drunk. He turned his head to leer at her and his eyes showed a dull alcoholic sheen. “I need to drain the weasel. I’ll be out of your hair in a minute.”
“Get out now or I’ll call the police,” Emily yelled, furious.
Sally had stuck her head in the bathroom at that point to see what the commotion was about, and she quickly squeezed past Mitch to grab Emily’s towel and hand it to her, all the while apologizing profusely to her and ordering Mitch out of the bathroom.
“Can’t you let a guy piss in peace?” Mitch complained.
“It don’t work that way. Once it’s started, I got to wait until it’s done, otherwise I’ll be leaking all over the place.”
Emily, with her towel wrapped around her, was too angry to see straight. Sally didn’t look too happy either. After about a minute the sound of liquid pouring into the toilet bowl slowed to more of a dribble, and then Sally grabbed Mitch to pull him out of there.
“Ow! Jesus! Can’t you let a guy zip up first? You’re going to injure the goods doing something like that!”
Sally ignored him, and even though he outweighed her by at least seventy pounds, she successfully dragged him out of the bathroom, and then apologized some more to Emily, who barely heard what Sally said over her embarrassment and anger.
The next morning there were more apologies, sincere ones from Sally and a mostly disingenuous one mumbled from Mitch with a smirk on his lips. “I promise you, Em, that will never happen again,” Sally stated.
Emily was determined to make sure that was the case. She used her cell phone to take several pictures of the bathroom door and doorframe, and during her lunch break she found a hardware store in Brooklyn where a nice older man showed her how to install a door lock and found the right tools for her. Emily’s dad had died when she was eight, which was one of the reasons she had immersed herself so much in books, and her mother was helpless with tools, so she had grown up being the same. That night when she got home from work, she had the lock installed on the bathroom door in only forty-five minutes. She was proud of her first handyman project. Mitch walked by once while she was installing the lock, and while he smirked at her he didn’t offer any help. Not that she would’ve taken any from him.