Everly’s Escape: A Short Story about Escape
Curios? Sometimes we all need an escape. Find out how Everly gets hers!
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The crowded room erupted in laughter. Sheepishly, Everly sipped her zinfandel. The cool, sweet drink must’ve paled in comparison to her burning, flushed cheeks. Then came the “nudge, nudge,” she was most accustomed to, followed by the words she’d memorized, “I am just kidding Ev.”
Everly, gave a fraudulent grin, polished off her wine, and stepped away from the crowd.
She headed to the balcony for a gulp of late-night, Aspen air.
In spite of the hum of the party, Everly only heard the majestic stillness of her favorite place on the planet. Born and raised in Aspen, Colorado, she was a local. And in Aspen, you are either a local, a transplant, or a tourist.
A gust of mountain-high February wind swirled about her, cold enough to chase a tourist inside, but exactly the refreshment Everly craved.
A voice from behind her gave her a startle. “Everly? You okay?”
Barely glancing over her shoulder, she acknowledged the familiar voice of the hostess of the intimate party, the beautiful, Aspen socialite Madeline Murph. Madeline was also Everly’s boss and the owner of the real estate agency where Everly had worked for the last 9 years.
Everly tightened her evening shawl and said, “Yes, thank you, Madeline.”
“Mind if I join you?”
Everly did mind, but Madeline owned the balcony and signed her paycheck, so what could she say other than, “Of course not.”
Madeline wandered over to the balcony fireplace, with a flip of a switch, flames erupted. The glitzy woman nearly floated on her elegance, She opened a chest, that doubled as a coffee table and pulled out two fluffy blankets. She kicked off her heels, plopped onto the outdoor sofa, and patted the cushion next to her.
“Come, sit with me. I took the liberty of asking the waiter to bring us something to warm our bones.” Everly reluctantly moved to the couch and Madeline graciously and maternally covered them with the blankets. The waiter delivered them steaming mugs, and Madeline thanked him.
“Cheers.” They tapped mugs and sipped.
“WHOA!” Everly gasped, “What is this?”
Laughing, Madeline said, “A family secret. It is cocoa, but I better not say what else. But you won’t feel the cold, I promise.”
“I like the cold.”
Madeline looked straight at the fire and inquired, “Do you? Or do you just prefer the cold to the burning humiliation of being victimized by Lauren in public?”
Everly nearly choked on her fuel-injected cocoa.
“Oh my gosh! What do you mean? Lauren is my best friend, we’ve been inseparable since we were in grade school. She was only kidding.”
Madeline’s steel-blue eye’s turned to Everly, her porcelain-like face was nothing short of magical in the firelight. The shadow of the mountain behind her nearly blended with her sliver gray updo. The silhouette made it hard to decipher where the hairdo ended and the mountain began. She leaned in, just a bit, commanding even more of Everly’s attention. “No Everly, she was not kidding. And she is not your friend, she is your abuser. I will be very clear, I really like you. Not just as an employee or as a real estate agent. I like you as an intelligent, creative, compassionate young woman. You have much potential. If I had kept a husband longer than a few months at a time, and had children, I would like to think my daughters would be as intelligent and poised as you.”
Everly wanted an escape, but there was not one. Over the balcony to her death or back into the party, neither was appealing.
Submitting to her entrapment she pretended to take another sip of the cocoa brew and nervously played with a tassel on the blanket.
Madeline continued. “Lauren is a great agent, I know you have been together for a very long time. But chronology doesn’t equate to true friendship. How did the two of you ever even become friends?”
Everly had no choice but to answer. “We were in the same third-grade class, both locals. My dad owned a catering business in town and her dad was the general manager at the Aspen Inn. We just ended up together everywhere and have been that way ever since.”
Madeline prodded, “And you picked the same careers?”
“Well, not exactly. I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. But Lauren’s grades prevented her from getting into the University of Colorado and we didn’t want to be apart, so we decided to get real estate licenses.”
“Oh, we did?” Madeline taunted. “And why didn’t WE marry Jeff Loggins last year and move to Denver when he was invited to join that prestigious law firm?”
There was no denying what was obvious but was rarely said out loud.
“Jeff and I had been having some problems. And I don’t really know that I want to leave Aspen.”
Madeline pried, “Meaning Jeff and Lauren didn’t like each other?”
“Jeff likes everyone. He is kind to everyone. I still love him. We talk every night. He actually asked me to move there and he would help me go to school to get my degree in education. But,”
“BUT!?!?” Madeline barked, “But what? Lauren won’t let you?”
Everly struggled to answer, “It isn’t that she won’t let me. It is just that we…”
Madeline interrupted, “Everly, she is a habit and a bad one at that. I can’t count how many times I have witnessed her use you as the brunt of her jokes, belittle you, shame you, hush you, and boss you. I cannot fire her for this. Honestly, she sold over 5 million last year, so I have no intention of getting rid of her. And highly suspect she stole the Anderson sale from you with sheer bullying tactics. Cunning, and you needn’t comment. However, she is not your friend. She reached her long elegant hand to Everly’s chin and lifted their eyes to meet. “Everly, just because a bottle says perfume on the front doesn’t mean it smells good.”
Everly’s eyes burned and she looked away.
She tried to take another swig of cocoa, but the smell of the cup nearly had her knee walking drunk. She was speechless, and Lauren wasn’t around to fill in the conversation.
Madeline broke the silence. “I ran into your mother at the coffee shop last week. We had a nice chat.” She paused long enough to take a swig of chocolate poison. “She was telling me that you had a full academic scholarship to U of C.”
“Yes,” Everly answered, “I did. I was the valedictorian of my high school.”
“I know, we talked about that too. She is no fan of Lauren’s.”
“No,” said Everly, “We have had similar conversations to this one over the years. I don’t want you to think I am a victim. Of course, I don’t want anyone to think that. I have asked Lauren not to humiliate me and I have stood up to her, I mean in private. But I don’t know how to change my life so drastically that I can move on with my life. I guess that makes me weak.”
Madeline patted Everly’s knee, “You are only weak if you let it continue. What do you want? Pretend Lauren is of no issue, what would you do if you had no one to answer to but yourself?”
Everly did not hesitate, “I would move to Denver and go to school.”
“And! I would become a kindergarten teacher. I would like to live on my own, in one of those cliche Colorado bungalows near the University. I’d like to continue to see Jeff, get to know him better, without having to hear Lauren talk about all his faults, just because she is jealous.” Both women guffawed, and Everly said, “Oh my gosh! That was awful.”
“No,” said Madeline, “That was honest.”
Everly shifted in her seat and pulled the blanket up under her chin. “She has some good qualities, kind of. I guess I know I am trapped by her. But, I have no idea how to move away from our way of doing things. It is so complex,I mean, I work with her, we socialize together, this is a small town. It would be hard to separate from the…” Everly trailed off.
Madeline finished the sentence, “The habit.”
Everly nodded in agreement.
“I am going to help you, Everly.” Madeline reached into the pocket of her evening pants and pulled out a folded piece of paper. She handed it to Everly.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“It is your severance pay, well, it is more generous than that. It is five times what your severance pay would be. You are fired.”
Everly was breathless with shock. “FIRED?”
“Well, I am firing you. But in reality, you are quitting to move to Denver to go to school. Monday we will call my realtor connections in Denver and find that bungalow. I don’t want to be another domineering presence in your life Everly, but I also don’t want to stand by while Lauren manipulates your future.”
Everly stared at the outrageous dollar amount on the check, “I don’t know what to say.”
“Say whatever you want, there is no one here to dictate your response. You are just going to have to decide what YOU want, and not let anyone talk you out of it.”
“Thank you.” Everly felt so empowered and free, the hard parts of her escape barely phased her.
Just at that moment, Lauren stepped out onto the deck, “I hope you two aren’t talking about me?” She beckoned partly kidding and wholly serious.
Madeline cackled, “No dear, Everly just broke the news to me and we were toasting her future.”
Lauren glared, “News? What news? She glared at Everly.
A wave of strength bubbled up in Everly as she shoved the check in her pocket. “Oh, did I forget to tell you? I resigned from the agency. I am moving to Denver to get my education degree.”
Lauren stood in stunned silence and Everly and Madeline stood to go inside.
Everly brushed past Lauren, “Madeline thank you for a lovely evening. Lauren, I will see you at the office Monday when I come to clean out my desk.”
Madeline stopped in front of Lauren, “Close your mouth dear, your tongue will get frostbitten.” And patted her on the cheek.
I love a little triumph in a story.
And rarely does someone hand us a check that gets us out of a toxic situation. But what else is happy fiction for, but to imagine the best-case scenario?
Have you ever been in a situation that seems to have no reasonable out? I know I have. And no one gave me a check.
Still, this week’s quality question is reasonable, even if your answer isn’t. Do you need out of a relationship that no longer serves you well?
And this might help you in deciding, if the relationship was life-giving and full of purpose, what three things would define that for you.
If you can’t answer I encourage you to talk to someone you can trust, not to gossip, but to rationalize the whys of staying connected with someone who is not blowing wind beneath your wings.
See you next time!
Ready for some freedom! Check out my book “Well, Girl” here!