Betty wore the mark of the storyteller. The delicately woven bracelet cradled a single black pearl and rested high on her forearm under her white lab coat. While she hated having to keep secrets, it was something she had grown used to.
She felt the tickle of the cold pearl on her skin as Chairmen Leo Barns and Reginald Foster entered her office and closed the door. “Chairmen,” she said, but did not rise to meet them.
“Dr. Dalton,” Barnes asked, ”Have you had enough time…er… have you cleared your head?”
“Yes,” Betty said as she scribbled notes on her tablet behind her desk.
“I think I speak for the rest of Eden Corporation, when I say that we are truly sorry for your loss.”
Betty dropped her pen. She knew that this visit had nothing to do with the recent death of her grandson. Nerves from the depths of her stomach pushed a knot up into her throat “Can I help you, Gentlemen?"
Foster slid a white box onto Dr. Dalton’s desk but left a heavy hand on top. “The board has asked before that you mask you age, Dr. Dalton. What means are you taking now to conceal it?” he asked.
“I have been doing the regular peels as suggested and henna in my hair.” She tried to smile, but the curls of her lips waivered.
“The board would like you to take it one step further,“ he said as he pushed the box toward her on the desk.
Betty opened the box curiously, and softly touched the dark locks of curly hair within it, “What is this?”
“It’s called a wig,” he stated.
“What am I supposed to do with it?”
Level 12 had its share of nasties, but they were usually confined to Low End. Most of 12 were shops and cafés, but it had many areas for general congregation. Betty frequented 12, more now since the death of her grandson, Jared. It helped to clear her head in the evenings before retiring.
While she traveled mostly concealed, the children were drawn to her. The light would reflect off her treasured bracelet like a beacon for the young, and soon she would be surrounded by many smiling, giggling faces.
Betty would lose herself in hours of storytelling, and when she would think it was almost time to go, she would always hear, “please, just one more story.”
“When I was a child, I used to visit a storyteller in the gardens on level 10. She was always smiling... Even when her lips were tired and released their smile, her face smiled on.
“She had been telling stories to children in those gardens for many years before I met her. She told stories to my mother, and my mother’s mother… well you get the picture, “she winked at the children sitting in front of her. “She was getting older, so old, that even Eden began to take notice.”
“You see,” Betty leaned into the small group of children, “Her hair was turning silver.”
“There’s no such thing.” Sally Neil snorted.
“Counselor Meacham’s hair is so white it glows,” Bobby Marks giggled.
“Her hair is yellow. Like mine,” Sally corrected, “It’s not white Bobby… stupid.” Sally turned her gaze to Betty and said, “And you’re lying. There are no storytellers in the gardens.”
“Sweetheart, this was long before you were born.” Betty said as Sally rolled her eyes and looked away. “Have you ever seen silver hair?”
There was a silence.
From behind several parents cleared their throats, and Betty stood to greet them.
“Must you fill our children’s heads with lies?” Bobby’s mother didn’t wait for the answer, she grabbed Bobby’s arm firmly, and stomped away.
Betty watched the children clear out, and made her way home. Her living quarters were very quiet and sadness lingered there.
In her room, Betty removed the majority of her clothing and headed into the bathroom. She pulled her scissors from the cabinet and sighed. She would cut her hair to wear the wig the chairs had given her. She hated that she had to hide, but being on the board she understood the consequences of noncompliance.
Strands of hair fell into the sink. Thoughts of the sacrifices she has had to make for her job, the exceptions that have been made on her behalf, and the family she had lost, were free falling in the form of tears off her chin and into the pile of lies in the sink.
After showering off her mangled cut, Betty settled into her favorite arm chair. She sat quietly in her robe and played with the pearl on the bracelet that never left her arm. She couldn’t help but wonder what had become of the storyteller of her youth. Would she meet the same end?
Is there such a thing as a happy ending?
Want to catch up on the other Eden Corporation tales? I reposted them all week to catch up to this particular story (starting Satuday March 20). I hope you like(d) them. ~2