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Phobia: Chapter One
ONCE upon a time…
Julietta Amelia Marks had always found these four simple words to be simply irresistible, for it appealed to her that once upon a time something had indeed occurred. Whether this something was bad or good mattered not to dear Julietta merely because she was concerned with the happening of the event rather than the manner in which the event took place. If the event turned out at all she was pleased, and such were her feelings as she read the beginning sentence in Rapunzel.
She had read it a thousand times—a million times—enough times to know nearly every word to the t. Turning another page, her thoughts raced ahead to the main events of the story; to Rapunzel’s being shut up in a tall tower by the witch who had stolen her from her birthparents; to the girl’s first meeting with the charming Prince whom she agreed to marry; to the witch’s fury and her sending poor Rapunzel off to live alone in a desert; to the Prince’s escape from the witch’s anger—but not the escape of the loss of his sight to the vicious thorns of a rose bush in his path. After wandering blindly for days on end, the Prince finally found his bride, and with one kiss, his eyes were magically healed.
“And they lived happily ever after,” Julietta recited quietly, fingering her hair enviously as she eyed an illustration of Rapunzel dangling her beautiful blonde hair over the edge of the balcony. She glanced into the full-length mirror leaning against the wall nearest her bed. It was plain enough to see that her own hair was of a dull brown color, much like that of a murky mud puddle, and her plain, razor-cut fringe fell lifelessly into gray eyes that were equally devoid of verve and personality.
Pushing her glasses further up her nose, Julietta quietly closed the fairy tale book and reached over to set it back in its proper place on the shelf closest to her, next to several other volumes concerning fairy tales and folklore.
“Well,” she commented, referring this time to the general whole of the story. “I suppose these things do happen on occasion.”
* * *
If there was one word to describe the Marks’ residence, it would be perfect. The home itself was a perfectly white rectangle, with three perfectly divided floors, and three perfectly spaced sets of windows, the latter of which was divided perfectly in the middle by a perfectly plain brown door with a perfectly plain bronze doorknob—shined to perfection, naturally. In the front of this rectangle, on the left hand side, there was situated what one may call a garden, what another may call a concentration camp for ill-fated plants. Those flowers which were unfortunate enough to show a mere hint of originality or personality would promptly be “taken care of”.
If one were to venture inside of this perfect rectangle, one would find perfect rooms with perfectly painted walls and furniture angled perfectly with the walls.
This level of perfect simplicity did not, of course, exclude the very residents themselves.
Mrs. Marks was a woman of tall stature and of even taller standards. She wore her hair in a neat bun on the top of her head and was known for strutting about in a pair of high heels, both of which did in fact make her seem even taller. Her features themselves could have possibly been classified as beautiful had they not appeared to be frozen into the form of a perpetual—rather frightening—smile. She possessed arching eyebrows, a sharply pointed nose, high, defined cheekbones and small, thin lips. In fact the only part of her face that did not appear entirely chiseled from stone were her eyes, which were watery blue and soft, contrasting absolutely with the rest of her facial appearance.
Mr. Marks, too, was quite probably related—perhaps by cousins or second cousins—to a marble statue, the only difference between himself and his wife being that his possibly-beautiful face was besmudged with a look of arrogance that never left him for very long. Despite his fair hair, pale complexion, and incomparably stately height, Mr. Marks’ features were constantly tormented by that thin, high-eyebrowed look that simply made one wish to strangle him. Perhaps it wasn’t his fault; perhaps he had been born into this world with such high, taunting eyebrows. Whatever the case, thus it was that Mr. Marks’ most notable feature was that one which most people normally identified as arrogance.
It was this warm, kind, friendly, and entirely loving family that Julietta dealt with every single day during meals, which were delivered promptly between the hours of seven and eight o’clock in the morning, twelve and one o’clock in the afternoon, and six and seven o’clock in the evening.
In between these three long hours of family congregation, Julietta spent her time locked in her room, studying studiously while being sternly observed by her strict, stiletto-ed mother. For Julietta was homeschooled.
Her parents feared that if she went to a public school she would be teased into lowering her standards until she would become stupid; that she would receive insufficient amounts of information and thus become stupid; that she would become lazy with all of the extra time on her hands, which would lead to her doing stupid things, classifying her as…stupid; that other things would occur which would harm her in a way that did not include her level of intelligence. For example, severe physical assault, acute physical assault, giant explosions, terrorist bombings, worldwide floods, serious earthquakes, and other such presentations of worldly violence.
Had the sentence ended merely after “Her parents feared”, it would have clearly showed the theme that ran through each member of the Marks’ family. For not only did her parents fear, but dear Julietta, too, had been bred to fear. Everything.
She feared and feared, and feared and feared, until the outside world simply became a place haunted by a merciless fear of death and destruction and hurt and theft and, of course, stupidity—and it was not long before her own bedroom was the only place Julietta felt truly safe.
Such was the case in the Marks’ establishment.
Such was the environment in which Julietta, over the years, slowly developed more phobias than any normal person could possibly handle.
But somehow—by some unknown means—pinpricks of curiosity needled their way into Julietta’s searching teenaged mind. And it was this that stood in as the true setting for the beginning of our tale—as well as the beginning of Julietta’s journey to freedom.