Sunday Storytime: “That’s your story and you’re sticking to it?”

It’s been months since I wrote anything on Fait Accompli. I’m having way too much fun writing Book 4, aka Suicide is for Mortals. It seems that the plan for Fait Accompli is not as solid as I thought. I haven’t really found the “soul” of Fait Accompli. It’s not often that I use the term “soul” without irony, but in the case of a novel in progress, it makes sense. I’ve figured out Book 4 to such an extent that I know what I’m doing, and it’s actually enjoyable to write. Fait Accompli, not so much. Given the choice between the story that’s a ball and a half to write and the story that’s a struggle to put on paper, I’m taking the first option.

However, I’ve written enough of Fait Accompli already that I can still afford to post bits of it for Storytimes. This one is from Nadia’s POV. She’s having one of her counseling sessions with Claudia.

***

We were about three weeks into counseling when Claudia pulled the rug out from under me.

“Listen, before we go any further,” she began, in that same perfectly innocent, sincere tone she always used in our sessions, “is there anything you’ve been meaning to tell me?”

A lie has a limited shelf-life.

“You mean, aside from the kinds of things I’ve been telling you for the last few weeks?”

“No, it’s more like,” Claudia hesitated, with a sudden self-conscious attitude of telling me I was not the one to set the terms of the debate, “is there some information in your client file you’d like to correct? I can assure you it’s very unlikely you’ll tell me anything that’ll get your welfare benefits cut off.”

“But, how would I know if any info in my file isn’t correct?”

“Because of what you told me at the beginning.”

My stomach began to churn, in a way that was nothing like the nausea I’d stopped having weeks earlier. I wanted to run out before she had a chance to ask me anything else. I gripped the sofa cushion and hoped she didn’t notice. “Everything I told you at the beginning is fine, though,” I argued.

“Look, whatever it is, I’m not angry, and you’re not going to be punished,” she assured me, “but if you’re not forthcoming in here, there’s not much I can do for you.”

“How have I not been forthcoming?” I stalled, trying to keep my voice under control.

“I’m not disputing the details of your kidnapping, in case you’re wondering,” said Claudia, “but there’s something that doesn’t add up about your life before you ended up at Gail Lovejoy’s house in Hyattsville. This is what you gave us: Nadia Aimanov, age 22, homeschooled by immigrant parents from Kazakhstan, raised Orthodox Christian, ran away from home at 18 to escape an arranged marriage. Are you quite sure that’s your story and you’re sticking to it?”

“My name,” I began in a whisper, and forced myself to speak up, “isn’t Nadia.”

“Okay, we’ll start with that,” said Claudia. “I don’t mind calling you Nadia, but I also need to know your real name.”

“It’s Nadira.”

“And how about your last name?”

“Achakzai.”

“That doesn’t sound Kazakh.”

“My family isn’t from Kazakhstan,” I continued, trying and failing to stop the tears from coming to my eyes. “They’re from Afghanistan.”

“Right. So, how many Orthodox Christians are there in Afghanistan?”

“I don’t know,” I sobbed. “I was raised Muslim.”

“That’s fine,” said Claudia, like she thought I was embarrassed about my religious upbringing. “How about the arranged marriage?”

“I didn’t make that up,” I said through the tears. “I ran away so I wouldn’t have to get married, and I made up a different name so my parents couldn’t track me down,” I sobbed.

Claudia sat down next to me and handed me a tissue. “It’s fine. I won’t let your parents track you down.”

She let me lean on her shoulder while I cried it out. After a few minutes, I got under control enough to talk without squeaking. “I told you,” I said through deep breaths, “the same thing as I told Mrs. Lovejoy, and my co-workers at the restaurant, and everyone else I’ve met since I left home. No one’s called me Nadira in years.”

“Your legal name doesn’t have to leave this room,” she promised.

“How did you know my story wasn’t right?”

“Last week, you mentioned something about how your family always wanted to visit the Eastern Vatican, in Greece?” she recalled. “It doesn’t exist. I knew you couldn’t be Orthodox, at the very least, when you told me that story. There’s no such place.”

“I guess I should’ve thought about that. Are you Eastern Orthodox, then?”

“My last name is Bowen.”

“I guess that’s a no?”

She gave a half smile and sighed, like she was about to tell me something embarrassing. “I’m Episcopalian.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Well, nothing’s wrong with it, if you actually believe in God,” she explained. “I haven’t been to church in years except for Christmas and Easter, and then only to get my parents off my back. They don’t believe, either, they just use the church for business networking.”

2 thoughts on “Sunday Storytime: “That’s your story and you’re sticking to it?”

  1. I’m new here. Discovered your blog through someone elses. I enjoyed reading the above and wish there was more!

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