Two weeks past our bizarre dinner together, things move faster and more certain than I would have imagined.
Wicker and Blight initially left the scene with Cali, the only one in any position to make a stand. Dinner proceeded without them through four more labored courses. Course four, E introduced Pye and gave her back story. Pye had had no idea this was coming, her face simultaneously stricken with horror and pain. My story came with course five, though I had known it was coming and steeled myself as soon as the plates of artisanal polenta and asparagus came through the doors.
Course six brightened considerably with the addition of both sugar and caffeine in the highest form: the strongest chocolate cake I’ve ever experienced and the spiciest coffee I’ve ever chanced. This was the only peaceful course. E ate tiny bites with a dainty fork. She looked up now and then as a test proctor might. While none of us opened conversation, we all seemed to enjoy the quiet.
With course seven came plates of unidentifiable (by me) cheeses and wine. E seized the relative calm to seal the deal.
“You are now part of a new crew. I presume if you doubted this reality, you would have taken flight with your comrades. Each of you will be called individually to meet with me to discuss your past, your privilege, and your future.” She walked out after the last word with not so much as a glance at anyone.
Afterwards, the rest of us soaked ourselves in our libations of choice until we had few secrets remaining.
But absolutely no one spoke of the meeting with E in the days that followed. No one asked.Even after Cali, Blight, and Wicker returned, everyone spoke only of the tasks ahead. We knew instinctively that E’s power beat our collective power handily and exhaustively. The path forward, while clear-ish, wound inextricably around her schemes. We would form the knots.
Which brings me to today. My interview ended about ten minutes ago, and I have an hour commute of confusion to get me safely to my new home. The sun isn’t yet setting, but the D.C. skyline grows in shadows. They eventually swallow me whole.
No longer an unbird, I am now Naomi Bird. Pye picked the first name and I added the last, with E’s approval, of course. Naomi is a twenty-something girl with beige clothes, beige shoes, and dishwater hair. She has never met makeup. She carries the brand-name education and experience of a legal and political scalpel – not flashy or often seen but surgical and very private.
If old me, writer-on-deadline me, hadn’t disappeared, she’d at least be dead now. All records of her have been altered just enough that Naomi Bird only vaguely resembles her. As for blood type or DNA, well, you might be surprised how mutable records can be.
Tomorrow I’ll receive an offer. None of us knows all the players, but I am assured that the interview matters not. One more day before I become another thing, full-fledged with no take backs: an actor with the role of a lifetime.