She took the last drag of smoke the cigarette could give before dying out then flicked the stub onto the cold concrete pavement under her feet and crushed the final memory of what was her release onto the sidewalk, adding yet another ugly mark to the imperfect work of underpaid workers. She wasn’t noticeable; a random street-person wouldn’t give her a second thought. Yet she managed to make a lasting impression on those she contacted; it was her eyes, the intensity in her gray-blue green eyes burned with fire she knew she possessed. Her ability to blend into the background stemmed from the power of standing out. Crossing the street she headed to the comic book shop. She used their mailing address from her summer job days, and never thought to change it. Upon entering she was greeted with the smell of comics, the sweet blend of ink and paper. Glossy editions of this era and worn out special ones from the early days of the industry were displayed making her itch to buy them all.
“Morning Luther” she greeted the heavily eye-lined guy behind the cashier
“Hey Jade! Good morning to you too” he gave her his brightest smile.
It still managed to fascinate her how Luther never grew old. She was equally fascinated that when she applied for the summer job he gave it to her no questions asked. All the other places gave her a look that said: “You’re kidding right?! Why would we hire you? “
Despite being immortal Luther gave her the push she needed to grow up. Being a girl in today’s world meant either being a dependent or an independent you could never be in the middle unless you fought tooth and nail for it. Plus, it was hard to shake off the years of “You can’t do it” drilled into her head.
By giving her a job at his store and introducing her to the world of comics; Jade learned the most important thing she never knew before: Expression through art.
At home expression was through raised voices and physical violence.
Feelings were trampled on and belittled, you were told what to feel, never given the chance to know your own mind.
As if every day were the continuation of a war that started years ago waged over a couple of dirty dishes and a messy bed.
Conversations never start at a regular tone unless in sarcasm, they start at level six and grow with bitterness and anger until it no longer is a conversation; it becomes this psychotic blend of violence that had no reason to appear.
The people in her life were separated into two categories: the ones who accept her and the ones who scarred her.
The problem lies in that the abusers are none other than her family and the accepters are the people she chose for herself.
This is not a pity story. It’s a life story of a lady who found her voice.
James couldn’t get the song out of his head as he arrived to work that morning. It was on replay
Now I’m knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze blowin’ wind thru my hair
Only worry in the world
is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise, there’s a fire in the sky
never been so happy
never felt so high
and I think I might’ve found me my own kind of paradise
He knew that he had reached the point in his life where he could take off and go to an exotic place and relax knowing he had no more worries. But he wouldn’t allow himself that luxury. He felt the responsibility of his success more than anyone, he knew what it felt like to be bone-deep cold and starving, the cruelty of the world hadn’t spared him anything. But it made him better knowing that nothing comes cheap and to get to the top you had to forget yourself and your needs.
Being the eldest of nine brothers and sisters wasn’t easy either. Being the one to protect them and their mother after their dad died of pneumonia when he was 35 wasn’t easy either.
So at the age of 15 he learned to appreciate the good he had. A loving family who were the strongest people he knew.
The burden of being responsible became a part of him, like one of his limbs; permanent. While kids his age went out, partied and reveled in their youth; James went to night school and then to college at the age of 17. His mind absorbed every bit of information it came upon, made connections and formed possibilities and ideas that woke him up in the dead of night so he would write them down then fall asleep again just to wake up a little bit later with another.
He took part-time jobs with his brother Oscar to help their mother take care of them. He would often work as an editor for his future college professors who would give him their papers and manuscripts. Or work at the library, digitalizing decades of old records and manuscripts. But it wasn’t enough to keep a house warm and ten bellies far away from hunger.
Books fascinated him. From encyclopedias to fiction he enjoyed them all. He was never without one. Once his mother joked that she’d have to find him a girl who loved books more than he did or he’d never give her a second glance.
The time he missed out on dating was more than made up for when he was in college, since God graced him with charm and looks, girls were always hanging on his every word and asking him for help with their studies, he enjoyed the attention but never let it distract him from his goals.
His mother, Evelyn, worked as a nurse and started taking extra shifts when his dad died, which was difficult since she gave birth to his baby sister Violet three months after he passed away.
Luckily her boss was sympathetic and allowed her to enroll Violet, along with Oliver and Noah into the nursery he owned three for the price of one in exchange for extra clinic hours. His mother was efficient and indispensable to the work force and proved worthy of her boss’s confidence in her.
By the time James turned 25 he had built a successful publishing house that published upcoming authors who turned out to be best-sellers, he had the gift of finding great writers who inspired. His mother became the chief nursing officer after getting her graduate degree with a scholarship funded by the hospital. His brother Oscar created a record label that specialized in finding unique voices that moved something within those who heard them. But that didn’t slow down or stop the family of sheer determination from making their mark in the world. They saved every penny the earned and put it in trusts for the younger siblings, built foundations that aimed to teach skills to the less fortunate, people who were just like them that needed the push to realize their inherent potential, and invested the rest by buying land that had promise. They lived modestly, never ostentatious. The only sign of wealth they showed was the worry lines that faded from their faces and the happiness the radiated to those around them. That and the property tax forms they filled, paid and sent for each piece of land they bought every 1st of January.
Now here he was, founder and owner of one of the biggest most successful publishing houses in the world. But that didn’t ease the restlessness in his soul.