You try to wipe the crown of sweat that has adorned your oily forehead but, to no avail. The two hours of make up preparation was also in vain as your nerves have taken over and railroaded all of your efforts to appear as clean and composed as visibly possible. This isn’t your first interview, oh no! Face painting clowns, young thespians working in community theatres, the oldest crocheter in the county have all been interviewed by yours truly. However, in the five years that you have been with The Gazette, you’ve never had an opportunity like this before; the “make and break all” opportunity that couldn’t help but compel you to put on an extra slab of deodorant on and spend a ridiculous amount of money on a cab to beat the infamous Manhattan traffic.
Manhattan was definitely a contrast from the no name little town that you grew up in. There were buildings bigger than most of the trees back home; there was more than Lady D’s Diner, Moe’s Drive-In Movies and the Thelma Gibson theatre for entertainment; and, the city sang with an energetic pitch that urged you to join in its song. You always wanted to visit— no, to live in — the Big Apple, but you always felt like a worm too small to even reach. But not today! Today is your big break! And, if everything goes smoothly, you’ll be inching your way closer to the Big Apple sooner than you know it.
You pull out your compact and try your best attempt to freshen up your face. You cringe as you notice how poorly blended your foundation is, how your lipstick choice does nothing to bring out your pale skin and how the droplets of sweat mirrored tiny bullet wounds on your forehead. “Just great Ginger,” you groan to yourself as you try your best effort, once again, to impress Madame Asudem.
Her name was strange, but that’s what made it so unforgettable. Madame Asudem had a reputation throughout the country for making beautiful sculptures that were so real and intricately detailed, it was as if the gods themselves had carved them. Everything about her work was shrouded in mystery. The way they showed up at the most odd places, the fact that they all seem to blend in within the scenery no matter the location. Even the way she created the sculptures was secret. How could you not be obsessed!
You had to admit, you visited her page on a daily basis, liking sculptures as grand as a group of friends celebrating their youth to something as simplistic as a perched bird with a mischievous cat lurking eagerly behind. “Madame A” as she was best known, had a way of capturing beauty that you only wished you possessed; and now, as you sit in her gallery marvelling at the many sculptures left to be revealed, you feel like you have more in common with the wall than the actual art itself.
“I hope I didn’t keep you waiting,” her voice was sultry with a hint of smoke. Madame Asudem floated across the gallery floor; her hair was tucked within one of her signature jade turbans as were her eyes behind dark tinted shades and an ivory dress flowed down to the floor covering most of her body. She was the epitome of being an enigma.
“No ma’am, of course not,” you stammer as you clumsily get out of your seat to shake the goddess’ hand. She only smirks at you before seating herself across from you. Ever so lean, ever so poised, she gestures to the table filled with coffee and cakes, “By all means, help yourself.”
For a moment, you’re not sure what to do. Knowing yourself better than most, you can already picture the clinking of the teacup as you nervously carry out your interview; but, how could she say no to an idol.
“Maybe later, after the interview,” you managed to say without a crack or stammer. You inhale deeply, taking in the beauty around you, pulling out your phone to record, opening your mouth to speak and—
“You really like my work don’t you?”
Caught off guard you gush, “Who wouldn’t?! Your work is amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone capture beauty so perfectly before. Not even in paintings or photography!”
She chuckles and for a minute blood flushes to your cheeks, exposing your embarrassment.
“Well, I must say that it is indeed a pleasure to know that my work is ‘beautiful’.”
“Not just your work, but so are you Madame Asudem. Everything about you screams ‘goddess’.
“Perhaps in another lifetime,” her voice trails off in a reminiscent way that fills the air with melancholy. Not sure what to do, you get up, fix a cup of coffee for yourself and offer to make a cup for Madame A as well.
“No thank you,” she hums. “I’ve seen your writing. You’re really good. I normally don’t take notice of people commenting on my work but I cannot help that you caught my eye. Every piece that I’ve ever debuted, you’ve written about. That’s impressive.”
“Not as impressive as the pieces themselves.” The teacup chatters as the hot coffee spills over your hands. You hold back a wince and quickly search for a napkin to clean up the little mess.
“Your parents should be proud of their young budding journalist.”
“That’s what I’d like to think. Unfortunately they passed away after I graduated, so it’s pretty much just me. But my boss thinks I have potential.”
You’re again face to face with the ethereal beauty, sipping your coffee and feeling comfortable for the first time since you stepped into her gallery. You find yourself giggling and making witty comments with Madame A, something you thought impossible.
“So what’s the next step for you Ginger?”
“Well, if this interview goes well, I hope to move closer to the city and maybe pursue journalism here.”
“Why not start now? I have a few connections. I can set up an interview as soon as tomorrow if you’d like?”
“To..tomorrow?! But I only have enough for the cab ride to the hotel and the bus ride back home.”
“Stay here. I have no doubt that you’ll be hired and once the details have been ironed out you can leave as soon as you wish.”
You choke on your coffee! It feels like the universe is answering your prayers. Either that or you were in a horrible accident on your way to the interview and you’re stuck in a coma.
“I wouldn’t know how to repay you.”
“You can be my next piece.” Her voice is so confident and resolute that you know she isn’t joking but you also can’t believe that she’s being serious. You never once considered that you were beautiful enough to fit as a candidate, but here she was offering you your dream job AND selecting you as her next project. You gasp deeply, realising that you had forgotten to breath. Madame A gets up from her seat and walks over to a desk to get her cellphone.
“Excuse me Ginger, I’m going to call that connect now. We’ve spoken enough and there’s a lot about you that I like. I’ll be in the other room setting everything up, that is, if you still want it.”
“YES!” You shout, almost dropping the delicate teacup from your lap.
Madame A excuses herself and you lunge for your phone. You quickly call your boss and resign effective immediately, euphoria spilling from your pores. You make sure that you are still alone and do a little shimmy as you walk around and view the other sculptures in the wide gallery. You’ve never seen one of her pieces up close before but you stand in awe as you take in every single detail. You glide your fingers across a few, marvelling at the unique smoothness. What kind of stone was this?! It felt hard as alabaster, smooth as marble and yet as delicate as soapstone.
Feeling more and more lucid, you continue perusing the gallery and stop short at a mirror bordered with tiny stone vipers. You make different poses, fixing your face in “natural expressions” that somehow make you look more outrageous. You have no idea what Madame A sees in you, but it’s enough to make you feel like your days of inching and crawling are done. In a spur of the moment, you dash to the table for a napkin and scribble, “Madame Asudem’s Next Piece” and run in front of your favourite sculpture, an off guard of a beautiful woman sitting poised on the floor. You kneel down, close in on the frame and click! Checking the photo, you make an interesting discovery, “Huh, Madame Asudem’s name spells Medusa backwards. I wonder if that’s where her inspiration comes from?”
“Someone’s having fun.” Her words startle you and you spin around in a drunken stupor. For some reason, your body feels heavy, euphoric but heavy. You try your best to reel in this new feeling but you can’t help but giggle, your body now on par with the sculpture.
“You’ve taken a liking to this one, I see. Would you like me to pair you with her?”
“Oh that would be lovely,” the words dance from your lips in a giggling slur. You take a look at the sculpture again and notice the creases on her face and the wideness of her eyes. She looks more afraid than surprised you realise, as her hands are lifted slightly above her waist. What an odd pose you think to yourself.
“Again thank you so much for everything,” you try to get up; but like a gentle mother, Madame A ushers you back to the ground. “I have to capture the moment dear.”
“Yes, yes of course.” This was it! You were about to know the secret behind her magnificent sculptures AND be the one to publish it. Suddenly, you realise that you never actually started the interview. You scramble for your phone to salvage the remaining minutes with some actual details for you to use in your article.
“You know, we’ve been talking this entire time, but I think it was more of you asking the questions and me answering.”
“Yes, well I like to know who I get involved with,” Madame A remarks as she hands you another cup of coffee.
Sipping nonchalantly, you ramble on, “I want to know everything, be a part of the entire process. I can picture the headline now, ‘Modern Day Medusa’. My editor-in-chief will eat it up!” You finish the coffee and that sweet feeling of euphoria becomes heavier and heavier, so much so that your body starts to feel numb. You struggle to keep your eyes open and to keep yourself from smiling. Madame A bends towards you and poses your body to complement the still figure beside you. You try your best to hold the pose. You didn’t think she would want to start today. You haven’t even finished the interview.
She stands in front of the mirror and removes her turban. From your view hundreds of tiny vipers slither from her scalp and curl and bend around her neck. Your body freezes. Your heart stops. You want to scream but a giggle escapes your lips instead.
“H— how?” You wonder if it’s a side effect from the all the coffee you’ve been drinking. Maybe there was just too much caffeine. You try to get up but your body is fixed, limply complying to the pose that you’ve been put in.
Madame A kneels down to meet you once more. She slowly takes off her shades revealing piercing green eyes. Before turning you to stone, she smirks once more and asks, “Can you keep a secret?”