Four minutes in and I knew I had made a colossal mistake.
It was supposed to be a joke.
I didn't think it was real, none of us did.
But it's too late now, and there's no way out.
Three disfigured bodies lay in a pool of blood, and her skeletal hand was reaching for me out of the broken mirror next.
Call me Ingrid
The bitter liquid is warm in my hand. My cold, blue eyes are frozen in the distance upon a sign that says, "You can't buy happiness, but you can buy alcohol and that's close enough."
I chuckle as I shoot the liquid to the back of my throat. It burns, but it's a welcomed burn.
"Another, Ms. Williams?"asks the bartender.
"Please, just call me Emily, and make it a double," I say.
He nods, "You got it...Emily."
His warm green eyes and inviting smile give me a sense of ease I haven't felt since I became "Emily Williams".
Ah, Emily Williams. The the day I created that alias, I never imagined it would reach these heights. The name would be plastered on every magazine, billboard, television and any empty space that could be filled for the public to consume.
Emily Williams, model, actress, singer, writer and CEO of a soon to be Fortune 500 company.
She has it all; beauty, money, fame and access to any man she wants at any time. What more could she want? Emily may say nothing, but Ingrid would disagree.
Ingrid Schmidt, the invisible girl. She was plain but sharp. The world wouldn't see her, but she would make them. Her parents abandoned her at an orphanage when she was three years old, and she would be on the streets before she was 16. Ingrid dreamed of having a family, a home and all the things she'd never known. Instead, fame found her, fortune became her, and life would never be the same. Ingrid Schmidt would change her brown locks to blond, her hourglass figure would form and Emily Williams would be born.
Yet, even as Emily, Ingrid would dream of her parents' return, and one day she would get her wish. As Emily Williams spread across the globe, the parents that abandoned her would find her. They'd use Ingrid to feed their addictions, steal from her, and break her heart once again.
Any remnants of Ingrid and the dreams she once possessed would die an agonizing death within Emily, and Emily's focus would not surpass money, fame nor self-preservation. She'd refuse her hand to various men, find a different bed each night and never stay in one place for too long lest her past, thoughts and loneliness caught up to her.
"Here you go, Ms- I mean Emily", says the bartender as he hands me my drink, and a noticeable silver band on his left hand glimmers under the bar light.
"Thank you," I say as I take drink and swirl it in my hand.
"Tell me..." I squint to read his name tag, "Jesse...what would you do with a million dollars right now?"
Jesse looks at me bewildered, as others before him often have.
"What do you mean?" he asks.
"I mean, if someone gave you a million dollars right now, what would you do with it?" I say persistently.
Without hesitation Jesse says, "I'd buy a house. My wife is pregnant, and we always dreamed of having a house to start our family. I was hoping I'd have enough saved but the baby came sooner than I thought."
I'd gotten a lot of answers over the years but none as sincere as this one.
"Hm," I say as a I take a sip, "how long have you been married?"
"Five years," he says.
"And what are you having?"
"A girl," he responds as he lights up, "I'm terrified, but I also can't wait. She'll be daddy's little girl."
I clear my throat in a grim attempt to mask my tears.
"Do you guys have a name?" I ask choked up.
"The wife and I can't agree. I wanted to name her Ingrid after my late grandmother, but the wife isn't a fan. Says it sounds too old-timey," he says.
I laugh. I always thought it sounded old-timey too.
"What's so funny?" he asks.
"Nothing,"I say. "nothing at all. That's a beautiful dream."
I pause, "Can I please get the check to close out the tab?"
"Sure." Jesse turns to go but stops, "I'm sorry to ask, you think I can also get an autograph for the wife? She's a huge fan, and actually so am I..." His cheeks turn a rosy hue.
"Absolutely," I say.
His smile stretches ear to ear, like a child left alone in a candy store. To think one signature could make someone so happy.
Jesse returns with a check in a holder.
I take the holder. "Thanks."
I wave a hundred dollars in front of him before I put it inside the holder on my lap and tell him to keep the change.
"Oh wow," he stammers, "thank you. I'll put it towards the house fund,"he jokes.
I keep the holder and pull out a piece of paper from my purse.
"Who am I making this out to?"
He says, "Oh, right, the autograph. Jesse and Laney Hanks please."
I fill out the piece of paper, put it in the holder atop the hundred dollar bill, close it and give it back to Jesse.
"I hope your dreams come true," I say as I down the drink and begin to leave.
I leave Jesse giddy with joy, but before I can step foot outside the bar he stops me from behind. I turn around to see that all the color has drained from his face and the piece of paper is in his hand.
"Ms-Emily, this is a check. A check for a million dollars, you must have made a mistake. I can't take this."
He tries to hand it back to me with trembling hands. I tighten his grip around the check and push his hands back.
"Yes, you can and you will. It's for you and your family. You deserve to have a house you can make a home in for your daughter."
His mouth is agape, his green eyes wide and moistened by tears. He can't seem to find the words to speak until he simply says with a quavering voice, "Thank you, Emily."
"Please...call me Ingrid," I say as I walk away.
To My Dreams
You give me hope in the darkest times
And when I come close to touch you
I stumble and fall
Farther and farther
And I must admire you from afar
When I think of you
My heart flutters
My stomach in knots
I crave your touch
Your kisses of life
Your beauty entrances me
It filters the darkness that surrounds
And lives within
It shows me what could be
In the vast ocean
You are the reason I keep swimming
Our stars are crossed
But one day,
One day, I pray we could be
Ah, the world we could make
Together, you and me.
There's no happily ever after
No silence filled with laughter
No pain without the dagger
No void that doesn't get blacker
There's just the tears filled with fears
And the screams no one hears
So you draw on a smile
Even though you feel vile
You walk the walk
You talk the talk
But when you look in the mirror
It couldn't be clearer
The sadness inside
That you've denied
Painted in your eyes
There's no surprise
But no one else can see
All that you may be
So you wipe your tears
Disguise your fears
Illuminate your teeth
And hide all that lies beneath
Tell me it’s okay
Tell me that the broken pieces of my heart will one day be mended. That if I just keep swimming I'll eventually reach the shore. Tell me that this isn't forever. That the crushing ache in my chest and the ever-flowing tears will stop, and I'll breathe again. Tell me I'll find my way, and that the days of wandering aimlessly through life without purpose will be long behind me. Tell me the sun will come out and light the darkness that imprisons my mind and cripples my soul. Tell me you see past my smile, and that one day it will be real.
Please, just tell me it's okay. Tell me because I don't believe myself. My once bright eyes have dimmed, and I'm struggling to swim. My arms have gotten heavy and my legs are numb. I'm in the middle of the ocean without a life jacket. The waves are crashing down on me without any breaks in between, and I fear I'll drown before I ever see the shore or the new horizons it will bring.
"And when my world goes dim, what will I leave behind? For the seasons are changing quicker and quicker, and I fear I have hardly the time to catch my breath let alone my dreams."
Not in 1952 Anymore
Hollywood Blvd. looks different than I remember. There are stars on the ground with names of people I don’t recognize, except for a few from my time. I read the one I am standing on, Pitbull. I wonder what this dog has done to be on a star. So much has changed.
I look around, everyone is staring at these rectangles in their hands that irradiate. They all seem so enamored by them. One person was nearly run over by a vehicle because he refused to look up. No one stops to say hello, no one makes eye contact or asks how you are doing. They just pass you by, and heaven forbid you smile at them and tell them to have a lovely day. They look at you like you are a martian who just landed from outer space speaking in an alien tongue. When did humanity become so robotic?
I agreed to be cryogenically frozen because I hoped for progress and change, yet, here I stand in the middle of a foreign Hollywood Blvd where all basic decency ceases to exist. Fifty plus years have passed and in some ways, the world seems to have regressed.
I was even told the President is an orange man who likes to grab women’s private areas, and children are being kept in cages. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how to feel about 2019 or about the future in general.
I walk dejected, wondering if I made the right decision when a man bumps into me and yells, “watch it!” I’m taken aback, but before I can apologize, two rather diverse looking women come to my aid.
“You watch it,” says the tall, beautiful African American woman. She is dressed in pants that stop well before her knees and a rather revealing blouse. I blush.
“Yeah, you bumped into her you jerk. Apologize,” interjects the hypnotizing, brown-eyed Spanish-looking woman dressed in a skin-tight dress that accentuates her hour-glass figure. There are names for women who dressed like this in my time, but I am too ashamed to utter the words.
The man scoffs and mutters, “damn feminists,” under his breath as he walks away.
“You okay?” asks the brown-eyed beauty. “Yes, I am fine. Thank you,” I respond in awe of the manner they spoke to a man. “I’m Madison,” says the African American woman, “and this is Rachelle.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” I say, “my name is Anne.”
“Nice to meet you, Anne. You look a little lost. Are you headed to a costume party somewhere or a character on the strip?” asks Madison. I furl my eyebrows until I realize they are pointing out my apparel. I did not get the opportunity to modernize my wardrobe and am still wearing my polka-dotted dress and black heels. I smile awkwardly.
“No actually, I was, um,” I pause in an attempt to form the words that explain my situation. “I am not from this time,” I say. The looks on their faces tell me that was not the right way to phrase it. “I apologize, I meant to say, I was cryogenically frozen in 1952 and just woke up in 2019.” Their faces begin to ease. “Oh, Dr. Greenberg’s experiment,” Madison says excitedly, "I was reading about that in my biology class at Standford. I’m shocked you made it without injury. You’ll have to tell us more about it.”
“Madison here is a huge nerd. She’s studying to be a biochemist,” teases Rachelle. Madison hits Rachelle in the arm with her elbow in a joking manner and says, “Says the soon to be Harvard graduate in psychotherapy.”
My eyes widen in awe. “You are able to go to college?” I ask. Their eyebrows furl in curiosity but quickly soften in understanding. “Women can do all sorts of things these days, including going to college,” says Madison.
“Oh?” I say, “I always wanted to study science but back then it was a rarity for women to attend college. My mother forced me to marry right after high school,” I say.
They raise their brows, “Married? where’s your husband?” Rachelle asks rather abruptly. Madison elbows her again and gives her a “you cannot just ask that” look.
“It is quite alright.” I say, “Yes, I was married. He died in an accident, just before I turned 35. Although I didn’t love him, with him and my parents gone, I felt there was nothing for me in 1952, which is why I agreed to be frozen. If I could not study science, I thought I could be a part of it.”
"Well," says Madison, "It's still not too late. Here, why don't you come with us, and we'll show you the ropes."
"Ropes?" I question.
"She means we'll help you get settled and teach you everything you need to know," Rachelle says.
"But first," Madison says pulling out her rectangular object, "let's take a selfie to commemorate this moment, shall we?"
"What is that object, and what is a selfie?" I ask. They giggle and ask me to smile as a flash goes off and captures our images. I look at it mesmerizingly. "Is this a modern camera then?" I ask.
"It's a camera, a phone, and a computer all in one," Madison says.
I blink profusely as my brain tries to adjust to this newfound information and technology.
Rachelle swings her hand over my shoulder and around my neck. "You have much to learn young Padawan."
"What is a Padawan?" I ask.
They laugh. "Just come on. First stop, shopping," Madison says.
Shopping. Finally, something I understand.
As we walk towards the shops, I wonder if perhaps I have misjudged 2019 and that there is more good than bad. If women can become scientists, I cannot wait to discover what else we can do.
Suddenly the future is not looking so dim.
"When I grow up I want to be...an astronaut...no wait...an actress...or maybe a doctor like you daddy!"
He strokes her sweat stained hair as it rests upon her pale face.
"Daddy?" she says, "why are you crying?" He wipes his flooding tears from his puffy red cheeks. "What? Me? I'm not crying. They're tears from how much you make me laugh," he lies.
"But you weren't laughing daddy, and I didn't say anything funny," she coughs.
He gulps. "You're always funny to me cupcake. No matter what you say."
She smiles at her father who drinks in his daughter's porcelain face. She has her mother's ocean blue eyes, the same eyes that hypnotized him when they first met and kept him hypnotized until they closed forever. His daughter's eyes are all that remain on her tiny, fever-striken face, and now, soon they too will close, never to open again.
"Daddy, I'm not going to grow up am I?" she says.
Sobs fill the back of his throat. He couldn't save his wife and, despite all the clinical trials, numerous tests and experimental drugs, he couldn't save his daughter either. He opens his mouth to answer but the held-back sobs find their voice instead. He crashes his face into his palms sobbing, unable to look at his daughter and tell her the truth. She strokes her father's shoulder with her frail, shaking hand and smiles brightly with her big blue eyes.
"It's okay daddy, I'm not scared. Mommy said she was waiting for me up there, and she said it wouldn't hurt anymore."
He looks up at her as shivers vibrate throughout his body. "You talked to mommy?" he asks. She nods weakly. "She visited me in my dream, and she said she couldn't wait to hold me in her arms. She was so pretty, daddy. I wish you saw her. She had big blue eyes like mine." He wished more than anything to see her, to hold her again and have her scent stain his shirts like before. His daughter was a baby when his wife died from the same disease that now encompassed his daughter. He used to show his daughter pictures of her mommy, and always pointed out his wife's big blue eyes. Although, as a doctor and a man of science, he believes that it was merely a fever dream, it oddly gives him hope.
"She had a message for you too daddy," she says. He perks up, intrigued by the words to follow.
"Did she now? And what did she say?" he humors her.
"She said 'it wasn't your fault. That you did all you could to save her and me, and that she loves you. And even though you want to do it, it's not your time yet.' What were you going to do daddy?" He sits up in his seat, taken aback by these words. His daughter couldn't have possibly known what he was planning upon her death. She couldn't have known that he set out to take numerous sleeping pills, now hiding in his pocket, and lay his head next to his daughter's as they both drew their last breath. He can feel his pulse racing. He takes deep breaths in an effort to regain his composure. He takes the pills from his pocket and stares at them. He walks towards the bathroom and contemplates heavily about his next move when he hears his daughter's voice.
He tosses the pills into the toilet and flushes them as he rushes back to his daughter's bedside.
"Nothing now sweetheart," he says, "Nothing. How are you feeling?" he asks, stroking her burning, scrawny cheek.
"Tired," she says breathing heavily, "It's getting hard to breathe. Will you hold me?"
He smiles down at his daughter as he weeps heavily, tears staining his cheeks and lips. "Of course I will," he says, crawling into her bed and holding her tight as his tears crash upon her brittle face.
"Dah-dah-dee" she struggles to say as her breath shortens and she fights for air.
"It's okay, it's okay. I'm here, baby,"he sobs. Her body twinges in his arms as it battles for oxygen only to lose miserably. He sits there, taking in their last moments as he weeps and screams uncontrollably. He wonders what posessed him to throw away the pills. He could have died with her, with them both, but here he sits with his daughter's small and lifeless body in his arms, all because of some words his wife allegedly said from beyond...if there even is a beyond. "Why!" he screams as he rocks back and forth,"Why!" He looks down at his daughter's motionless face and brushes her blonde locks from her small forehead. He's suddenly reminded of his momentary feeling of hope. Hope that what his daughter said was true, hope that she did in fact reunite with her mommy and hope that one day he would join them too.
Death is not painful for the one who dies but for those who bothered to care. Rather, life is painful. A twisted beauty, life draws you in with its false promises as it whispers sweet nothings into your ear, only to disappoint. As time goes on and we become older, the illusions fade. The pain and heartache have settled in as we desperately fight to clutch onto the other side of the grass; but alas, most never reach the greener side as they are left in the cold, dead and fruitless dirt. In the end, for most, death is not painful...it is freedom.
I can feel his warm, tequila stained breath on my neck as each individual hair stands up in defense. I close my eyes and take a breath. Just one more hour, hang in there, I reassure myself. His sausage-like index finger traces the line in the back of my neck. My chest clogs, and I gulp frivlously to keep from vomiting. His very touch makes my skin crawl as I imagine it did for all the girls he's touched before. I open my eyes and look in his direction. He grins menacingly, like Pennywise the clown about to claim yet another victim. Every part of my body aches to kick him in his tiny balls and jump out of the plane without a parachute, but I resist the urge and manage to flash him my best smile. You've got a great smile, he says, transferring his dry wrinkled hands onto my face, you ever think about modeling? I want to bite his fingers off, but I gently brush his hand off my face and say, No, never occurred to me before. Thank you.
I sink further back into my seat, attempting to keep as much distance between us as possible, but he's persistent, as expected. His hand is now on my inner thigh. My eye catches the flight attendants' who are watching us, as though waiting for what usually comes next. One of them approaches us, like she saw the look of disgust and fear in my eyes, and says, Can I get you guys anything to drink? Before he can decline, I ask for a glass of champagne. God knows I could use alcohol right now. Mr. Epstein, for you? he looks at me and smiles. Make that two. We deserve a toast, he says taking his hand even further up now. I clear my throat and excuse myself to the restroom. Don't be too long, he says after me.
I look at myself in the mirror and splash cold water onto my face. My green eyes are blood-shot from lack of sleep and stress. I can't do this, I think, what was I thinking agreeing to this when the police asked me to cooperate? There's a knock on the bathroom door. Are you alright in there? I suddenly have flashes to the bathroom scene in The Shining. Get yourself together, I tell myself.
Fine, I'm fine. I'll be right out, I yell. I take one last look in the mirror and take a deep breath like it may be my last. You've got this. Not long now. I slide the lock on the bathroom door and let myself out. I fix my dress and make my way back to my seat where he's waiting with both champagnes in hand. I missed you, he says handing me my champagne. I grin, I'm here now, I say. Yes, you are, he says placing his hand back on my inner thigh. Drink up, he winks at me. I take the glass close to my mouth, but quickly stop. How am I to know that he didn't spike this drink? Everything okay? he says.
Yes, yeah. It's great. I have to think fast. I just- I put on my best clumsy act and spill the drink all over him. Oh crap, I'm so sorry, I say, but he's quick to reassure me as he begins unbuttoning his shirt as the flight attendant makes her way back with another shirt. Don't worry about it, he says taking my hand and putting it on his bare, wrinkly chest. I clench my jaw in an attempt to keep myself from gagging. Mr. Epstein, here's another shirt, the flight attendant says. Thank you, he says taking the shirt and freeing my hand from his clutches. The flight attendant eyes me in an Are you okay? manner. I nod, smiling, but I am far from okay. I look at my watch. Only thirty minutes until we land.
Somewhere to be? he asks me as he buttons up his new shirt and hands his stained one to the flight attendant. I giggle. No, of course not. He buttons his last button and cuddles closer to me. He brushes my hair and tucks a stray piece behind my ear. Don't worry about the time, let's just enjoy each other's company. His lips brush my neck and my body immediately tenses up. You smell so good, he whispers in my ear. I humor him for a minute, but gently push him off. Are you okay? he asks. Yes, yeah. Just a bit nauseous. I haven't eaten today. His face falls, disappointed his advances failed for the time being. He quickly picks himself up. I wouldn't want you to pass out, let's get you some food. He calls over the other flight attendant. Please bring the lady the best sandwich we've got. The flight attendant nods. Thank you, I whisper.
His hand touches the small of my back and gently massages it. Thankfully, the flight attendant hastily brings me a wrapped turkey sandwich leaving no time for any more advancements. Thank you so much, I say as I grab the sandwich from her hands. Jeffrey looks at me as I slowly unwrap the sandwich and draw it close to my mouth. He licks his lips as he watches me take a bite. I watch his chest rise and fall a bit faster than normal. I focus on eating as slowly as humanly possible, and he seems to be eating it up. Good? he says. Mhm, I mumble with a mouth full of food. God, you're beautiful, he says. I smirk, using eating as an excuse to not verbally respond.
Mr. Epstein? The captain would like to see you for a moment, the flight attendant interrupts. Thank God, I think. Excuse me for a moment, he says. I nod as he leaves. I look at my watch again. I'm nearly done with my sandwich, and I've wasted a good twenty minutes doing so, which means we'll be landing any minute now. I take the last bite when he returns to his seat. Captain says to buckle up, we'll be landing soon. I nod handing over the remaining wrapper to the flight attendant. All better? he asks. Yes, I say, much. Good, I'm glad, he says brushing his finger across my lip. You had a mustard stain, I got it. I didn't, but I let it slide. He smirks, displaying all of his teeth like he's ready to ravage me. The pilot's voice comes over the intercom. We will be landing shortly, flight attendants and passengers please buckle up. I sigh in relief. Better hang on tight, he says as he grabs my hand and brushes it with his thumb. I clutch the armrests tightly as we begin to descend.
After what seems like an eternity, we finally reach the ground. Jeffrey tells me to hang back as he goes to speak with the Pilot. I look around frantically in search of the police, praying that they'll infiltrate the plane quicky, but nothing. I watch the flight attendants and pilot exit. Jeffrey notices the look of confusion on my face. I thought we could hang back and finish what we started. My heart sinks and the sandwich is quickly making its way back up. Um, maybe another time Jeffrey-, but he doesnt let me finish. No better time than now, he says as he picks me up and caresses my face. He begins kissing my neck. Stop, please stop, I say, but he won't budge. He pushes my back against the wall, and I struggle to push him off. Oh God, where the hell are they? I think. Tears drop like waterfalls on my face as I plead for him to stop. Stop being a little bitch, you know you want this, he says, his hand now creeping up my shirt onto my breast as he squeezes it roughly. I fight to get away, but he pushes me further into the wall. I groan. Please, I cry, Please stop. Nothing. I start to lose hope, slowly descending into my own mind to avoid being present. But, just as I am gone completely, I hear them. Jeffrey Epstein, you are under arrest, let the girl go and put your hands in the air. Just then, with his pants around his ankles, Jeffrey pushes himself off of me and raises both hands above his head, shamefully facing his fate.
I watch as they take him out, he looks back at me with betrayal and hatred in his eyes. I lose myself completely as I sob uncontrollably. Where were you? I scream, as a female officer comes to console me with a warm blanket and water. I take small sips trying to regain my composure. I want to wash myself in an acid bath in any attempt to wash his stench off of me, but I know it'll never be enough. His musky, cologne heavy scent will forever stain my nostrils.