THE FIFTH STORY IS HERE. (Password: valhalla.)
Suggested drink pairing: ice-cold Sprite.
Editorial note: this story is the first one published exclusively on Patreon, and edited by the amazing, award-winning writer and editor Kat Howard. I used part of the funds you've all given me to pay her for her work. I'm so happy at this new direction, so happy you gave me the green light for it, and so happy to have worked with you on the shape it would take. Not to mention happy to work with Kat--my Clarion suite mate from all the way back in 2008!
Process porn. If you're the kind of person who doesn't want to know any of the background stuff, then GO READ THE STORY before you read this post further. Back? OK? Now here's the background.
"Birthday Girls" is semi-autobiographical.
Sugar is the closest thing I've ever had to an addiction. I feel like I control it pretty well now---I just don't keep it in the house, for one, because if it's around, I have to eat it. Now, I'm glad to say that it's more of a once-every-other-day treat, and I can actually enjoy it.
I worked day jobs from 2005 to 2011, while I was writing The Girl in the Road, Nightwork, and a lot of short stories. First I was a secretary at Duke Clinical Research Institute, then a lab tech at UNC Pharmacology, then an administrative assistant at Catalent, a pharmaceutical company. Sugar was around all the time. It seemed to function as a sedative. At DCRI, I remember a centrally-located, chest-level file cabinet structure in the middle of the floor, where everyone would leave their holiday leftovers. And SUCH leftovers. My God. It was like an altar.
I was so bored working those jobs--so unhappy that I wasn't writing--that I manifested all kinds of passive aggressive behaviors, including, well, sugar abuse. I showed classic addictive behaviors: structuring my days around when the cookies would arrive or the candy bowls were unwatched, hoping that I could take enough to satisfy myself but not too much to be incriminating. And around those behaviors, I developed attendant neuroses: fear of being watched, being caught, being thought of as taking too much. The line in the story, "How could she explain that she needed far more than she was expected to take?" comes straight from my heart, because it's not only about sugar, but about all the things I wanted at the time, to write, travel, make art, get out, get away.
Which, needless to say, is largely the life I have now. And largely because of you all.
I must say, though, that I enjoyed eating cake from time to time in the revising of this story. Just to refresh my memory ;)