A fire coursed through Matilda’s brain. It pulsed through her ears and blazed down her spine. Her toes, where it would be suspected the fire would quell whirled around and shot back up her body. Matilda was livid. Her body was hot, her blood was pumping, and her vision was clouted in red. Matilda was fuming with anger.
Matilda sat at her blue wooden desk. The one she had refurbished from old pallets and old shelves she recycled herself. The blue was intentionally bright and bold, but worn to revel most of the stained, darker pallet wood. She looked out the window which her desk faced. The woods behind her house were illuminated by the sunlight reflecting from the snow they had gotten the night before. She lifted herself slightly off her seat, leaned forward and looked out the window down toward the ground. The outdoor furniture was lightly covered with snow in such a way it made Matilda think of sugar dusted cookies. For the most part the patio was snowless. Matilda thought of how cold the metal furniture and snow would feel pressing against her legs and back. At the very least it would feel good, even if it didn’t calm her down.
A loud ping came from Matilda’s computer, snapping her attention back to the present. The notification of a new email flashed away before Matilda could read it. She clicked back into the tab where her email sat open. She opened the email from Jonathan:
From: Jonathan G.
Date: Friday, December 29, 2017 at 10:51 AM
To: Matilda S.
Thank you so much for submitting your second manuscript. I will personally review it first, and pending my approval, will send it over to our editors. Look forward to reading your work. Thank you again.
Matilda exhaled a long steady breath she hadn’t been aware she was holding. At least she knew her email was received and Jonathan could open the attachment. The easiest part was over. She had written, rewritten, revised, edited, revised, rewritten, and finally finalized her novel. It still sounded so pretentious, even in her own thoughts. But for a technical account of what she did, Matilda had finished, polished, buffed, repolished, and submitted a PDF version of her novel to Jonathan, her contact at her favorite publishers. Matilda felt a joyful tingle shimmer through her body.
“Honey,” her Auntie hollored from downstairs. Whatever calm or peace Matilda had felt melted away to the heat of her anger. “Honey, are you home?”
Matilda had been stupid enough to let her Auntie move in with her, as temporary as she said it would be it felt like a lifetime of condemnation. Honey, can you just help me bring this in when you have a chance? Honey, do you want me to make you and your friend dinner? Honey… honey… honey… honey… How about Hilda, shut the fuck up? She had always loved her Auntie Hilda more than anyone else, including her own mother. As it turned out, Hilda’s own daughter, Bethy was much more like Matilda’s mother Rose. They were both colder, more distant family members. They loved in their own way, but their love was not soft or padded. It was direct. It was there to make you stronger, but not hold you up or hold you tight. They were also both fiercely independent. It was Bethy who told Matilda, “don’t do it. You love my mother, I love my mother, my mother loves my mother, but she needs to help herself. She hates her apartment, let her get a new one. She wants to buy a house, let her get a second part time job and find one a little further east of here that she can afford. Do no let her move into your basement. You’re going to regret it.”
Bethy had been wrong, Matilda didn’t regret it. But she was certainly seeing how one could begin to resent it. She appreciated that Hilda wanted someone she could love and baby, especially since Bethy had been parenting her Auntie Hilda since her cousin was only 14 years old. In normal parenting terms, she only had 4 more years left before it was legally acceptable to drop her like a scolding potato.
“Honey,” Matilda’s thoughts were interrupted by her auntie’s voice moving up the stairs.
“I’m home, auntie,” Matilda said slamming her computer closed and dashing through the kitchen over to the stairs, “I was just working on something.”
“Oh,” Hilda said with a smile, “well, your cousin will not be coming over.” Hilda’s face momentarily crumpled as she shooed away the air. “But I wanted to know if you wanted me to make us dinner?”
“Thank you so much, Auntie. I actually have plans this afternoon,” Matilda replied. Matilda watched as her auntie’s face crumbled once more. She opened her mouth once more, this time in a softer tone, “How about we do dinner on Sunday. Does that work?”
Hilda lit up like every Christmas tree her mother had decorated, “that would be excellent!” Hilda turned and headed back down the stairs, “have fun, Honey! Text me when you’re home later!”
Matilda closed the door to the staircase as softly as possible. If she hadn’t spent months growing it out, or hours straightening it the day before, Matilda would have ripped shreds from her scalp. Walking away from the door, Matilda headed into the living room to grab her phone before heading back into the old dining room where Matilda’s writing desk lived. Her “writing room” only lived in her head – for now. Once her first novel was published, and she received her first check, Matilda was going to turn one of the bedrooms upstairs into her writing room. She had wanted it to be a room in the basement. That was before Hilda moved in. Matilda sighed to herself and unlocked her phone. Punching in a number she knew by heart, she took the stairs off the living room up to the guest bedroom. It would be the furthest from where Hilda sat downstairs, and would mean she was the least likely to overhear any of Matilda’s conversation.
“Hey Tildy,” Bethy’s voice sang into the phone, “what’s up?”
“I’m going to kill your mother,” Matilda blurted out. “Not in real life, but perhaps in a story. I’ll call it ‘Hilda Gets a Heart Attack!’”
“That bad, huh,” Bethy asked?
“Yes. That bad. It wouldn’t be a real heart attack either, by the way. It’d be a medically induced one, or maybe just a hypodermic needle to the back of the neck.”
“I don’t want to say I told you so,” Bethy began.
“So don’t,” Matilda interrupted, “ just say that I can come over tonight. We can grab that shitty Chinese food you like and watch whatever 1960s show you’re in the midst of… please?”
Bethy laughed, “of course. But the Chinese food by my house isn’t shitty. You all just have broken taste buds.”
“Thank you. What time works for you?”
“Feel free to come over whenever. Ae is leaving in the next forty-five minutes or so. There’s sports to be watched!”
“Thank you, Bethy. I’m gonna finish my coffee, change and then head over. Do you guys need anything?”
“Just bring yourself, Tildy,” Bethy said before hanging up the phone.
Matilda felt the her shoulders release. She didn’t even tell her cousin that she submitted her novel. Bethy was always her biggest fan, critic, and supporter. Aeson would be leaving soon, and she and Bethy could have a relaxing day in. Matilda walked over to her room to change. Looking out at the backyard again Matilda saw her auntie Hilda sitting down on the stone wall that outlined the parameter of the patio. She had a photo in one hand and tissue in another. Matilda felt a pang of grief fill her heart. The past year had been hard for both Bethy and her mom, regardless of what Bethy said. They had lost their grandmother and Bethy’s stepfather. Hilda’s just trying to find her way, Matilda thought to herself. Maybe that’s what her short story should be about. Hilda Finds Her Way, much better and far easier to explain than Hilda has a Heart Attack. Unless of course she changed the name? Matilda grabbed her notepad from the side of her desk and jotted down her future story ideas. She brushed her teeth in her master bathroom, and stopped by her desk. Hitting print for a second time, Matilda ran a second copy of her manuscript. When it was finally printed Matilda left it on her kitchen table along with a piece of Auntie Hilda’s favorite chocolate. Before starting her car Matilda texted her auntie, “Heading out now. Left a little something for you on my kitchen table. I’ll pop in when I’m home later tonight ♡♡♡”
Matilda hit send and started her car. Bethy’s copy was in her backpack, and for the first time in two hours Matilda was able to feel the celebration running wild through her veins. Her first novel was “in the books” – or at least almost there. But she had done it, and that was the coolest part!