Chapter 1: Christmas Eve

The redheaded, freckle-faced teenager knocked timidly on her supervisor’s door. She feared that this could be her last opportunity and that if she failed yet again, she would be demoted. All she wanted to do was to finally earn her wings!

Her supervisor greeted her curtly. “Miss Hadley, I have serious reservations about sending you on this assignment, but I have no other option. The person you are to guide is a teenage girl and, while I’ve wracked my brain to come up with an alternative, the only logical choice is to send another teenager to help her.”

The teenager and her supervisor sat on overstuffed chairs to look at a monitor. The supervisor continued, “This is Ellowyne Wilde. She is eighteen and is in her last year at Briermier Academy. She lives with her father, brother, and her globe-traveling grandmother in the grandmother’s Victorian style house in San Francisco. Her mother died when Elllowyne was very young. I believe you’ve met her—”

“Oh, yes. Beatrice Wilde,” Midge replied. “She’s a beautiful, gracious lady and an enormously talented artist. Her family must have been devastated when she passed.”

“Indeed they were. Ellowyne’s father threw himself into his work, and her little brother Freddy started to act out as a teenager. He has an unfortunate—and dangerous—obsession with starting fires. But tonight he is not your concern. You are to help Ellowyne. When her mother died, she withdrew into herself and developed chronic ennui—that has persisted throughout her life.”

“Ennui—-that’s just boredom, right?”

“To an extent, Miss Hadley. It is an exquisite type of boredom, often found in the world-weary, the jaded, and, of course, adolescents. As a teenager, you know that young people often get bored with life. They become dissatisfied, depressed, and melodramatic, partly because they’re growing out of childhood and learning to become adults. But for Ellowyne, her ennui is disabling. She can’t enjoy living in San Francisco, which, as you know, is one of the most interesting places on Earth. Ellowyne’s Weltschmerz keeps her from participating in life, which makes her more discontented than ever. Occasionally she tries to break out of her mood but she’s often too fatigued and overwhelmed to do so. Tonight, Ellowyne’s ennui leads her to think that everyone would be better off without her—and you must convince her not only to survive but to truly live and engage with the world again.”

“Wow, that’s quite the challenge. Please tell me, does she have any friends?”

“She does. Her friends are a loyal bunch, willing to stick with her in spite of her world-weariness. Some, however, are more patient than others.

“First is her friend Prudence Moody. Despite the impression one might get from her last name, Prudence is a deliriously happy, lively young woman and she is extraordinarily patient with her friend. She’s as enthusiastic about life as Ellowyne is dispassionate. As you can see, she has rather eclectic tastes, especially in clothes. Pru is kind-hearted and volunteers at an animal shelter, walking dogs and playing with cats. She likes to dance and do karaoke, and some say that she has an undeveloped sixth sense and can occasionally tell what’s going to happen in the future. Be careful so she doesn’t sense your presence.

“Next is Lizette Dionne. She recently moved from New Orleans with her parents and was rather unhappy here until she met Ellowyne and her other friends. Lizette is quieter than Prudence and perhaps more studious. She has a keen grasp of human psychology and doesn’t always share with others what she has observed about them. She understands that Ellowyne’s feelings are complicated and, while she believes only Ellowyne can get herself out of her seemingly endless ennui, she will do her best to help her.            

“And this is Amber Stanhope. Amber is what young people today call a ‘frenemy’. She socializes with Ellowyne but considers her to be a rival. Sometimes Amber comes off as rather mean-spirited but she’s merely hiding her insecurities. Deep down, she would like to be just like Ellowyne and desperately wants her friendship. Amber is the least patient with Ellowyne’s chronic ennui and frequently tells her to ‘snap out of it’, which only makes Ellowyne angry and defensive. Oddly enough, all four girls share a birthday, which should bring them closer together; Ellowyne, Pru, and Lizette often celebrate together but exclude Amber because of her occasionally outrageous behavior. One thing Amber does is—I’m not sure how to put this delicately—she tends to be aggressive with Ellowyne’s friend, Rufus Rutter, who is not interested in her romantically. He is terribly annoyed at and embarrassed by her behavior.”“Is that Rufus?” Midge interrupted. “He looks quirky but he is kind of cute.”

The supervisor nodded. “Rufus is a scholarship student at the Academy and works part-time as a handyman in Ellowyne’s grandmother’s house to save money for college. He’s sensitive and kind and has an acute, self-deprecating sense of humor—but at times he’s painfully shy. And of course he’s been in love with Ellowyne since seventh grade but cannot muster the courage to tell her how he feels. Ellowyne is wrapped up in her misery and has no idea. Prudence and Lizette know his secret and plot ways to bring him and Ellowyne together but so far, to no avail. Rufus is incredibly patient and has been willing to wait for Ellowyne all these years, but I suspect that his heart is slowly breaking with her indifference and I suspect that his patience could eventually fade. It’s a pity because he is the love of her life and her misery will be multiplied without him.”

“He reminds me of my Allan,” Midge sighed.

“Indeed he does. And may I remind you that Allan already has his wings and is waiting patiently for you to get yours?”

“Let’s do this! I’m ready to go.”

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