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Celeste Fox’s publisher, Daniel Marks, had his head rested on his interlocked hands, which were propped by his elbows.

It wasn’t a good sign. It meant that either he forgot to pack doritos in his lunch she had done something wrong.

Considering he was calling her to his office, it was probably the latter.

“Celeste, I’ve got to say I’m disappointed,” Marks said. “Please sit down.”

Celeste sat. She was reminded of the time she was sent to the principals office in fifth grade for creaming a boy with his own snowcone.

“I’m disappointed,” Marks repeated, “In your writing. It’s not... dark enough.Not to mention there is always a considerable lack of romance in everything you write. Never anything more than a simple crush.”

“I write books for ten-year-olds,” Celeste reminded him.

“Think about the stuff they watch on television every day,” Marks replied, picking up her manuscript, which was almost completely covered in red pen scribbles and sticky notes, “They can take stuff way darker than this.”

“Not without nightmares,” Celeste mumbled under her breath. Marks didn’t hear her comment and continued to ramble on and on about careers and what was “hot” in the market at the moment. Celeste didn’t tune him out, because she’d learned to use her enemy’s momentum against them.

“Go home,” Marks finally concluded after a while, “And write something dark.”

On the drive home, Celeste considered her different courses of action. She could trash traditional publishing and self-publish so she could write what she wanted in peace, or simply break her contract from Maple Leaf publishing and try to find a new publisher, or...

She could write a horrible dark romance using all of Marks’ advice to spit back in his face.

She decided to go with the last option. She brainstormed for horrible plots and characters and equally disgusting romances, and she had a basic idea of her new book by the time she pulled into her driveway.

It was going to be awful. A grin spread across her face as she quickly rushed to her computer and performed what she called a “brain dump”, quickly putting all of her wonderfully horrible ideas onto a file on a word processor.

It would take place in Scotland. Gammel Sokk, Scotland, to be percise, a small town she invented after a quick trip to Google Translate. It meant “Old Sock” in Norwegian.

And there would be loch-ness monsters that could disguise themselves as humans. (it would be correct according to myth, see old Scottish folklore) One of them would fall in love with a human girl that was emotionally attatched to her left sock. On top of that the loch-ness monsters would be in a century-long feud with the trolls in the area, who ate nothing but left socks, and one of them would fall in love with the human girl, who, in Celeste’s opinion, was so incredibly stupid beyond measure that no one, in real life, would ever like her.

It was so awful Celeste wanted to cry.

She started on the rough draft that night.
****

It was done. And it was horrible.

Celeste was very proud of herself. A little part nagged at her and said that she really shouldn’t be going through this much trouble to bug someone, but she ignored it and pushed on. She called up Marks and proudly announced that she had finished a very dark romance.

She said with pride that it would not be suitable for ten-year-olds, no matter what kind of T.V. they watched, and they quickly scheduled an appointment. Celeste couldn’t wipe the grin off her face as she mounted the steps to Maple Leaf publishing with her manuscript tucked under her left arm. She eventually dumped the stack of papers onto his desk and quickly explained the rough plot, setting and characters. Marks skimmed the first few pages of the manuscript while taking long droughts from his mug of hot chocolate.

And he was very, very quiet. Then four words came out his mouth that Celeste thought she would never hear him say:

“Fox, this is just amazing.”

Celeste nearly fell over. For one, Marks only called authors he thought would be going “big” by their last name. He had never, not once, called her “Fox”. It was always “Celeste”. And for two, he had just said that a piece of work that she had carefully orchestrated to be horrible beyond compare was “amazing”.

“Um, excuse me?” Celeste stuttered.

“It’s going to be huge! I need to find you an editor right now.”

“Um, wait, I don’t think-”

But Marks was to busy doing a jig on his desk to listen.


Several months later, Celeste was holding a copy of her book in her hands. She hated it and seriously regretted ever bringing it to pass. Posters were hung all over every library and bookstore, loudly screaming the cover and title of her book and the words NEW YORK TIMES #1 BESTSELLER! She flipped in open to a random page and read a paragraph.

“Rupert, she’ll die,” Donnavan urged, gripping the underside of the table and nearly shattering the thick slab of marble.

“But I can’t do this to her!” Rupert moaned, putting his smooth, beautiful tanned hands up to his face.

“Rupert, you have to.” The clock seemed to count down the remaining seconds of Clora’s life. Everything seemed to spin and tilt, the hands of time squeezing the life out of everyone in the room, especially Clora.

“I’ll do it!” Rupert burst, on the verge of tears. “Even if it will leave her emotionally scarred!”

“Do what, Rupert?” Isabelle asked, taking a deep breath.

“I’ll-I’LL EAT HER LEFT SOCK!”
Celeste slammed the book shut in distaste and looked at the cover: Two browned hands holding onto a rugged left sock. She wanted to puke at the sight of her name printed below the hands. Celeste Fox. She did not want to be known for this utterly despicable piece of fiction. So why had it become the biggest obsession for teenage girls since german chocolate? She saw posters for Rupert everywhere. And he was specifically designed to be the most unrealistic male possible. There was no way an actual guy would act the way he did.

She couldn’t even go grocery shopping without being bombarded by screaming women waving copies of her book and begging for autographs.

She wanted to return to her quiet little life where her biggest worries were whether or not Marks would complain about the overuse of fairies or the underuse of romance. Now she couldn’t take two steps from her house without wondering when she would be attacked.

And look, it was time for yet another book signing. In Brazil. Brazil? Since when did her book start selling in Brazil?

Celeste pushed away from the desk, frustrated. Unlike most people, she did not want to be famous. She wanted to be a small-time author that sold enough books to pay the bills, and she wanted to write good books. She looked at the hardcover copy in her hands. It was junk. Silly, mindless junk.

Something inside her sparked, and she decided something right then: She was not going to Brazil, and she was not going to go to any other book signing ever again. Instead, she would leave the mansion she was currently living in and buy a small cottage in a small logging town in Washington (She’d definitely be able to afford it) and write real books under a pen name. She pulled out an old manuscript she had written a long time ago. Her name was still on the front page. She scratched it out and replaced it with Flora Opal Xavier.
She smiled. Let them figure out what that stood for.
After packing, Celeste climbed into her new sports car. She gave one last glance towards her house before disappearing down the highway.
And she never looked back.



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