Toni-Do We Ever Forget our First?

Excerpt from Best-Case Scenario.

The modest swell of her breasts is all but camouflaged by her flowy tunic. Turning sideways in the mirror, Nyra pulls it tight and pouts. Does anyone even notice? She twists and stands on tiptoe, for an over-the-shoulder look at her stern. Does her slender waist make her ass look too wide? She’d once overheard her brother’s best friend Mark commenting on her “sassy chassis.” Nyra’s all through high school crush on Mark date from the overheard offhand remark.

He’d flirted persistently, but nothing ever came of it. Had Kip warned him off?

The door swings open and in walks Toni, the IT Applications Manager. Nyra pivots hastily toward the mirror.

     “Hey Nyra!” Toni smiles, pulls a plum shaded lipstick from her purse and gets to work. “You look just fine leaving, if that’s what you’re wondering. How goes it in the call center?”

     “Nothing but a party.” Nyra fishes lip gloss from her own purse and concentrates unnecessarily on applying it.

     “One of those days, huh? I feel you. Had a few of those working the IT Help Desk before I got my certification.”

     “It’s nothing I won’t get over.”

     “That which does not kill us?” Toni’s lips twitch in irony.

     Their eyes meet in the mirror and Nyra’s stomach twists. Toni has most of what Nyra wishes she had. Full, prominent breasts. Perfect symmetry. her mahoghany skin seems to glow, calling attention to generous, kissable lips.

     A light dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks spill down her neck, inviting speculation. A thick cascade of glossy black curls frame her face. And those liquid brown eyes.

     Toni drops the lipstick in her purse and pulls out a cell phone chiming to a text message.

     Her brow furrows as she reads. “Gotta go.” She meets Nyra’s eyes again and smiles. “Keep the faith, Girlfriend!”

     Nyra follows Toni’s graceful departure until the closing door cuts her off.

Toni’s loveliness, Nyra soon learns, goes way past her undeniable beauty. Her soul is a shining example of loving, giving kindness coupled with competence and empathy. Who would not love her?

Best-Case Scenario-Intransigent Hope

Nyra Westensee

The first thing you notice about Nyra Westensee as she approaches from afar is her graceful, athletic gait. Her movements are light and free. Close up, her striking hawk-nosed face, and full, kissable lips catch your eye. Is she beautiful? Objectively, no. But when she speaks, her meliflous contralto and careful diction—a siren’s song of possibility reel you in.

Her eyes tell the rest of her story, mirroring her spirit. Very little in Nyra’s young life has gone her way. Hints of her disappointment lurk beneath her thick chestnut eyebrows in impossibly turquoise eyes. Now that she has your attention, she seems not to know what to do with it. Her reticent smile and occasional nervous giggle suggest she’d probably be good company, if she’d just loosen up and take herself less seriously.

Nyra’s as slender as Kip—her brother from another father—is muscular and powerful. Otherwise, they share their mother’s complexion and hawk nose. You don’t have to ask, to know they’re brother and sister. But where Kip is confident and self-assured, Nyra often doubts she “can,” even after she “does.”

More than a year out of college, Nyra is still in search of her first career-level position in marketing. Is it her reticence, her choice of career or both that seem to have her feeling like she’s wading through wet cement? The truth is, many less intelligent or less accomplished have already started their careers and many less attractive have found what looks like “love.” So what’s wrong with her?

Nyra is still looking for answers. But the very incarnation of hope, Nyra purserveres. Working an internship that barely pays for gas and waitressing in a south bay sportsbar, she hasn’t given up. And though she doesn’t realize it yet, opportunities personal and professional lurk. She knows nothing in life is guaranteed and has never acquired the vice of feeling sorry for herself, though her peppery wit occasionally borders on acerbic. But to most of us, a time comes. And Nyra’s is just around the corner.

Best-Case Scenario, a tale of hope is the first act in Nyra’s journey of growth from a thoughtful young woman with more questions than answers to her dawning maturity, sophistication and the possibilities of a life of purpose and promise.

Best-Case Scenario (of Dreams and Demons)

Shadowboxing with herself...

Nyra Westensee has a long history of conflicted shadowboxing with herself—metaphorically speaking. On the surface of things, it’s hard to see why. She’s attractive, much more than she realizes. She’s not voluptuous, but she has a light, pleasing figure. She once overheard her brother’s friend Mark commenting on her womanly stern as a “sassy chassis.” But crushing on him came to nothing and unaccountably, she’s concluded that her ass is more a liability than a positive.

Is it partly because Kip is so out of reason good-looking? Maybe it’s those disarming smiles that earn him forgiveness and second chances he doesn’t always deserve. Things just come easily for Kip. Maddeningly competent and sublimely confident, he nevertheless manages to avoid appearing too full of himself.

Growing up in Kip’s shadow no matter what the dynamics at home were like would probably have been difficult, Nyra knows. Two years younger, Nyra joined him in middle school after Kip had already established himself. Same thing in high school. She was always walking a path Kip had already walked and as much as he tried to make things easier for her, she was always Kip’s younger, cute younger sister. Nice, attractive, but somehow “less than.”

But Nyra’s struggles for validation at school were mirrored at home. Their mother unconsciously confirmed Nyra what suspected. She’s just not quite as good. If Kip was in the room, he always seemed to fill it. It’s not that Nyra wasn’t there or that she wasn’t loved. She was just never the center of their mother’s world the way Kip was.

Dreams and Demons

Does it not happen to all of us, at some point? That recognition we’re not necessarily who we thought we were or wanted to be? Maybe it’s the friction of life, dangling our limitations, real or imagined before our eyes. Or perhaps we’ve always been aware of them, but are only now realizing how those limitations are defining us in ways we’d rather they didn’t. How we’re suffering by comparison with others we’d like to live up to or who show us how short of our own expectations we fall.

In the end, the catalyst of truth or it’s timing matters less than the truth it reveals. “Less than” is who we are. It is also who we must be in order to discover with who we can be and perhaps as importantly, who we want to be. It is the demons living inside us that drive us, for better and/or worse.  And it is in confronting them…how we confront them and what we do when we see them for who they are…that we become.

On the Threshold of Tomorrow...

In some respects, Nyra is fortunate to have to confront her demons early. She has her fair share of them, but they matter less than her response. In common with all of us, she will grow (or not) into what she was meant to be, can be…or wants to be. Or some combination thereof. Are we not our own life sentence and our own demons?

In Best-Case Scenario, Nyra is confronted by her truths in a way it’s impossible for her to ignore. It is a catalyst of self-discovery and the beginning of a journey toward her most authentic self. In common with all of us, she joins the silken river of life, meandering toward an uncertain destination.