Love and Loss 6

A few days after breaking things off with Lawrence, Lizette finally felt good enough to crawl out of bed and interact with her friends again. She decided not to tell any of them about her breakup because she didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her, especially when Prudence was the friend who really needed support. 

As she splashed her face and put on some comfortable clothes, she had a sudden inspiration. Anxious to get their feedback, she FaceTimed Ellowyne and Rufus, who were available to talk.

“Hi, Lizette!” Rufus called out. 

“Hi! You’ve gotten a little fuzzy. Beard, long hair…” Lizette responded.

“Yeah, I’m growing it out. I want to sport a man bun while they’re still in style.”

Ellowyne joined the conversation. “But there’s no way he’s growing a lumberjack beard. Fuzziness has its limits!” She took a sip of her tea and asked, “So Liz, what’s on your mind?”

Lizette inhaled sharply. She felt a little twinge that seemed to warn her not to proceed, but she ignored it. “Well, we’ve both had experiences with Dr. Bantam. Ellowyne, what do you think about getting Pru to go see her? Be honest.”

Rufus and Ellowyne were gobsmacked. Rufus scowled and folded his arms across his chest. Ellowyne stared at her laptop screen, slack-jawed. Neither of them could say anything. 

“Uh, what do you think?” Lizette questioned. “Should we tell Prudence to speak with Dr. Bantam?” 

Rufus squirmed and bit his lip. 

Ellowyne queried, “Do you feel your sessions with Dr. Bantam were helpful?”

Rufus started to crack his knuckles. 

Lizette answered, “Well, I felt a whole lot better after seeing her. I mean, I was new in town and didn’t know anybody.”

Rufus took a couple of gulps of his tea. He looked as if he wanted to say something. But Ellowyne blurted out, “How long did you see her?”

“Oh, I’m still seeing her. We’re doing virtual sessions since we shouldn’t meet in person,” Lizette replied.

Rufus could be quiet no longer. “Liz, look. Ellowyne’s been seeing Bantam since middle school. She had her going up to three times a week. Chronic ennui. Yeah, right. Who can be in an existential crisis for eight  or nine years? Bantam never explored any other reasons for Ellowyne’s alleged ennui. I mean, she lost her mother when she was young! Maybe she was still mourning. Maybe Ellowyne was having issues from being a teenager, which is normal. Or maybe she was clinically depressed. Or had anxiety. But Bantam didn’t help her at all!” 

“He’s right,” Ellowyne admitted. “I meticulously kept my therapy journal but, looking back, I really didn’t make much progress. I pretty much felt the same year after year. Always sad. Always doubting myself. Always feeling bored and fatigued. Since I stopped seeing Dr. Bantam, I feel happier.” 

Liz was incredulous. “You aren’t seeing her anymore?” 

“No, she isn’t,” Rufus exclaimed. “Bantam saw Ellowyne as a cash cow.” 

Ellowyne frowned and nodded her head. “She called me not long ago, wondering why I didn’t want to continue therapy remotely. She asked about Rufus and suggested he might want to see her as well.” 

“It’s been really tough since my parents died, and I could probably use some grief counseling. But I question Bantam’s motive for getting me to see her. Seeing how Ellowyne has been and how she is now, Bantam didn’t help,” Rufus responded.

“I know that I’m in a period of massive change with our relationship, COVID, and Rufus’ parents passing away. But it hasn’t been because of Dr. Bantam,” Ellowyne pointed out. 

Rufus agreed. “All of the change that Ellowyne has made has come from her own spirit, her own heart, her own strength. I wonder if she didn’t make those changes, would Bantam have helped in the least? How much more therapy would she think Ellowyne needs?”

“I don’t know if you’ve seen this, Liz,” Ellowyne remarked. “But you know that cup of ‘tea’ she always drinks at therapy sessions? It’s Long Island iced tea. She’s usually sloshed by the end of the day.”

Lizette was taken aback by Ellowyne’s revelation. Dr. Bantam never drank tea at their sessions. Instead, she sipped what looked like water. Was it vodka? No, it couldn’t be. Dr. Bantam was too much a professional to drink at work. Ellowyne must be skirting the truth. 

“Well,” Liz murmured. “I think Dr. Bantam helped me.”

“Are you kidding, Liz?” Rufus asked. “The reason you got used to San Francisco was because you wanted to. Sometimes you’re still a little shy, but that’s charming and not anything you need therapy for. You made friends here. Good friends. People who love you like family. You’ve also been successful. You graduated magna cum laude and got into one of the best veterinary schools in the country.  But it was all you, not that quack Bantam.”

Lizette was getting irritated. “Well, I don’t agree with anything you’ve said, Rufus. Dr. Bantam helped me get out of my shell. I wouldn’t have you all for friends if I had never gotten therapy from her. I might not have even gone to college. Who knows? Dr. Bantam is NOT a quack! In fact, I was thinking of telling Prudence to see her.”

Ellowyne and Rufus were gobsmacked. Rufus said, “Prudence could probably use some professional help, but not with that incompetent, manipulative drunk.”

“I don’t care what you say!” Lizette retorted. “I got help from Dr. Bantam and I’m going to suggest to Prudence that she makes an appointment ASAP. Don’t bother messaging me. I don’t want to talk to either of you right now!”

Then Lizette slammed down the lid to her laptop, leaving Ellowyne and Rufus dismayed and confused.

Ellowyne asked, “Do you think we were too rough on her? I’ve never seen Liz so angry.”

Rufus was chagrined. “I’m sorry to have been so blunt. I think I hurt Lizette’s feelings. But she wanted to get our feedback, and I don’t think Bantam is right for anyone.”

Ellowyne nodded her head. “We both probably should apologize to Liz. We have such strong feelings about Dr. Bantam, and she probably had no idea. I mean, if she feels better from having therapy with Dr. Bantam, maybe Prudence should see her, too. It’s also possible that Dr. Bantam, while unhelpful to me, is effective with Lizette and might be with Prudence.” 

“I don’t know, Ellie,” Rufus responded. “You could be right. But I don’t trust Bantam. Therapy might be just what Prudence needs to get out of her funk. With someone competent who doesn’t drink on the job.”

“She might also need meds,” Ellowyne replied. “But Dr. Bantam is a psychologist, not a psychiatrist, and can’t prescribe any drugs.”

“Maybe Pru needs a thorough physical examination,” Rufus asserted. “There could be something else going on with her in addition to COVID stress.”

“You’re right,” Ellowyne said. “Have you been reading any of the online articles that discuss the mental health crisis due to the pandemic?”

“I have. You know, maybe Penn would have an idea for someone that Prudence can see, although he’s so busy I hate to ask him to do anything,” Rufus quipped.

Ellowyne knitted her brows. “I’m afraid it’s going to take a while for Lizette to talk to us again. She was so distressed while we were talking about Dr. Bantam.”

And it did.

To be continued…

Love During Lockdown 5

Lizette was beside herself with worry about Prudence. She had difficulty sleeping and found herself feeling morose. Sometimes it seemed that she no longer enjoyed Lawrence’s company, so she decided to broach the subject the next time they were together at the sanctuary.

She didn’t need to bring up the problems she and Lawrence were having. He noticed these changes, too, and he was concerned about Lizette’s tepid mood and how it might impact their relationship. Before she could say anything to him, he queried, “Lizette? Are you okay? Are we okay?”

“It isn’t you. It’s me,” she remarked, much to his chagrin. Lawrence had several relationships in the past and recognized this phrase to be the death knell to many would-be romances. “I’m just so anxious about Prudence and how sad she must feel. I’ve told you that she doesn’t want to join us in any Zoom meetings or video chats. She has isolated herself, physically and emotionally. She doesn’t do that! Prudence is always the liveliest of our friends and she’s always there to cheer us up, whatever the problem. I feel guilty. I’ve put so much of myself into being with you that I’m not there for her.”

“Lizette,” Lawrence responded. “You shouldn’t feel guilty for having a boyfriend. I’m sure there are times when she’s had someone and you haven’t.”

“Not really,” Lizette replied. “I mean, she’s dated Penn a few times. But then again, so have I. A couple of times, Penn has taken both of us out and called it a double date. I guess you’d called it friend dating, since none of us had romantic illusions. Now he’s seeing Amber but I’m not sure either of them realizes how serious they are.”

Lawrence asked, “So neither you nor Prudence dated anyone somewhat seriously while you’ve been friends?” 


He rubbed his chin over his mask. “What about when you had feelings for Rufus? Did that affect any of your friendships?”

“Not really. If anything, I envied Ellowyne but she’s such a wonderful friend that I couldn’t begrudge her being happy with the guy I liked. And she’s far better for him than I could ever be.”

“But that didn’t change your friendship with Prudence,” Lawrence pointed out. “Now, hasn’t Pru done things without you? Things that might decrease the amount of time she spent on you?”

“Well, she’s involved with sports. I don’t think of that as taking her time away from me.”

“But don’t you see, Liz, that it’s okay for friends to do things or have relationships in which other friends participate?” 

Lizette’s eyes teared up. “I’m sorry, Lawrence. I guess I need some time for myself. Let’s take a break.”

Lawrence was dumbfounded. He knew how close Lizette and Prudence were, but it saddened him to think that she should feel guilty for being in a relationship with him. 

The next day, when Lizette arrived for her shift at the bird sanctuary, she discovered that Lawrence changed his hours and they would not work together again. 

To be continued…

A Work in Progress 4

Amber woke uncharacteristically early after another sleepless night. The past few weeks–months really–felt unsettled and awkward as she was trying to deal with the various challenges her friends faced. First, Rufus’ parents died. She tried to empathize—something that didn’t always come easy to her—but it was such an unimaginable loss that Amber couldn’t wrap her head around it. She sent flowers and made an “anonymous” donation to the hospital in their memories. But was it enough? Was it meaningful? Second, Penn sounded exhausted, overwhelmed, and burned out by his experiences taking care of COVID patients. She wanted to see him, to hold him, and to reassure him that he was doing a wonderful job and would be okay. But, obviously, she couldn’t. And she didn’t know if things would be okay. COVID changed everyone’s lives and no one knew if a return to pre-pandemic would ever be possible.

Then Prudence was having problems. It wasn’t like her to rebuff her friends. In fact, Pru was often the one to suggest enjoyable activities and reacted enthusiastically if someone else had a great idea. She rarely turned down an opportunity to have fun. And she never shied away from conversation, whether in person or online. She was lighthearted, hilarious, affable, and thoughtful. Pru was quick to laugh and slow to rage. 

But the pandemic changed her. Gone was the effusive, enthusiastic Pru. In her place was a sullen woman who was socially diffident and withdrawn.

Amber didn’t feel as close to Prudence as she was to their other friends. They liked each other, but Pru got along with Ellowyne and Rufus the best. Then again, they had gone through middle school and high school together and relished being a quirky trio who banded together in their idiosyncrasies. Amber wasn’t their friend back then. She was part of the conventional, cool kid crowd. Interestingly, Amber had no contact with her so-called friends from the academy. But once she realized how horribly she’d been treating Ellowyne, Rufus, and Pru, she vowed to change. Eventually they, Lizette, and Penn welcomed her into their social circle.

So Amber didn’t have as much in common with Prudence, but she vowed to change that. She liked to give things to her friends. That was a way she showed that she cared. But were those gestures appreciated? She texted Ellowyne to ask.

Ellowyne was sewing face masks when Amber texted her. “I can take a break,” she messaged. “What’s up?”

“I have something to ask you and I want you to be honest,” Amber replied. “You know that I like to give things to people I care about. Like when I sent flowers to Rufus and made that donation to the hospital…”

“So it WAS you,” Ellowyne exclaimed. “Rufus and I thought so. And it was a truly welcome gesture. We appreciated it so very much.”

Horrified, Amber realized what she texted. “Ellowyne, please. Never tell anyone, especially Rufus, that I was the one to make that donation. I don’t want to be that person who gives only to impress others.”

“Don’t worry, Amber. You aren’t that kind of person anymore.”

“You know what? It’s fun to give anonymously. It makes me so happy to know I’m doing good with the resources I have. Even my parents have gotten into making anonymous donations. We have money and enjoy giving it to good causes.”

Ellowyne texted thumbs up. “By the way,” she texted. “What did you want?”

“I think I have my answer,” Amber replied. “I don’t want to go all Golden Girls on you, but thank you for being my friend.”

After the conversation with Ellowyne was over, Amber went straight to her computer to look for something that would be a good gift for Prudence. She thought about flowers. However, they were temporary and Amber wanted to give her something that would last longer than a week. She strolled into her family’s sun room, where they kept many plants. An orchid? No, too high-maintenance. A cactus? Too prickly. She did a search for succulents and stumbled across a site that featured terrariums. Perfect! One would require Prudence to do give it some care, not too much, not too little. Amber was about to order a ready-made terrarium online but she realized that creating one herself would give her a creative outlet and hopefully make it more meaningful for Pru. 

Amber found a website for instructions and a list of supplies. Her family’s gardener, Akito, always bought plants and other necessities at a garden center, which offered curbside pick-up during the pandemic. She found the perfect plants: maidenhair fern, pilea silver sparkle, friendship plant, frosty fern spike moss, and a pink polka-dot plant to add some whimsey. She needed a big glass jar with a cork lid, pebbles for drainage, substrate, activated charcoal, and some springtails. Amber crinkled her nose in disgust, realizing she needed to add some insects to her creation, but she wanted to ensure that the terrarium would thrive. Springtails ate mold, the  bane of enclosed plants, so they went on her list of supplies. Lastly, she wanted to add some sort of decorative object, maybe some crystals that might be meaningful to Prudence. She remembered that Pru said that clear quartz was an especially strong healing stone, so she picked out an obelisk that would fit perfectly in the jar. She picked out an opened amethyst geode because of it was supposed to be calming, balancing, and a way to ease stress. Then she chose several tumbled moonstones, but she wasn’t sure why. She asked Akito for feedback, and he agreed with her choices. He questioned Amber about the project because he was afraid that she would delegate the creation of the terrarium to him, but she assured him that this was her project. She placed an online order and waited to hear from the garden center when it would be ready. 

The supplies were ready later that morning. When Amber got behind the wheel of her candy apple red BMW convertible, she realized it had been months when she last drove anywhere. The streets were ominously empty. She didn’t miss fighting traffic but the deserted roads unnerved her. Finally she got to the garden center. As per instructions, she texted them to bring out her items. Amber was quite shocked when she saw all of the things she needed! Her car had only two seats, but the garden center employee put everything but the jar and the plants in the trunk. Plants went on the floor and the well-wrapped jar on the passenger seat. She gave the worker a generous tip and went on her way.

Once she was home, she took the supplies into the ceramic-tiled sun room. She spread out newspapers, pulled up the instructions for creating a terrarium on her laptop, and made sure she could get Akito in case she needed his advice. The smooth, tan pebbles were warm in her hands. She carefully put them on the bottom of the jar and covered them with the charcoal, which made her fingers black. She didn’t like to get dirty but somehow, she didn’t mind it while making her terrarium. Next, she added the substrate, which was made of coconut hulls, aquarium dirt, and earthworm castings.  Earthworm castings? She searched online and learned that they were actually earthworm poop! Eeeuuuwww! But she thought about Lizette, who always teased her about her “weasel poop” coffee, and she went back to work. Then she put in the plants, starting with the tallest one first. She had to be careful because plants for terrariums can be tricky and she only had enough of them for this one project. She could go back to the garden center but, in spite of being a beginner, she wanted to do absolutely everything right the first time. She went outside to find Akito, and asked him what he thought about the placing of the plants. He was surprised when Amber invited him to stretch out on the comfortable wicker chair and gave him a tall, frosty glass of homemade lemonade. He liked her work so far and agreed with Amber’s choice of plants. He suggested the placement of the plants, starting with the tallest one. Akito grinned when he saw Amber poke holes in the substrate. To think that the girl the staff called “Princess’ behind her back would relish the task of digging in dirt! Amber added the moss and thought she was almost done, but then she remembered her springtails. She opened the container of insects and tapped the bottom to get them out and into the jar. There were a few stragglers, so she put her finger into the container and flicked them into the jar. Finally, she placed the crystal and tumbled stones in prominent but not intrusive spots. She closed the jar with the cork and was done!

Akito was pleasantly surprised by Amber’s terrarium. It wasn’t store-shelf perfect like the premade ones sold at the garden center, but it was charming, personal, and thoughtful. In comparison, the terrariums from the garden center seemed cold and soulless. Akito, like all of the servants in the Stanhope home, was told to never, ever criticize any of them, especially Amber. But his praise was genuine, and his heart softened toward Amber. Perhaps she was changing, growing, becoming an empathetic human being. He made sure Amber didn’t see him shedding a single tear.

Amber finished the terrarium in the mid-afternoon, and she was so excited she wanted to take her gift to Prudence immediately. Akito helped secure it in her car, and off she went. 

She felt a little nervous when she got to Prudence’s home. Would she be home? Would she read a text? Would she answer the door? Amber put on her face mask, one made by Ellowyne, and rang the doorbell.

Prudence had slipped on a face mask before answering the door. Her parents once chastised her for not opening the door when a package arrived. That package had been taken by porch pirates. Prudence was quite surprised to see Amber holding a terrarium.

Amber was aghast at Prudence’s appearance. Her eyes were downcast. Her face, which usually glowed even if she wasn’t wearing makeup, looked dull. Her hair was stringy and unkempt, and she was dressed in shorts and a torn, stained t-shirt. She looked puffy, and Amber thought she might have gained some weight. Still, Amber put aside her initial feelings, handed her the terrarium, and said,  “This is for you, Prudence.”

Prudence seemed unenthusiastic about the gift. “What do I do with this?”

Amber gave her a pamphlet about caring for terrariums, but realized that Pru probably wasn’t talking about maintaining the plants. “I just wanted you to have this. I was thinking about you and somehow decided you needed these plants.”

Prudence sighed. “I hope I can take care of it.” She started to close the door but Amber stopped her. 

“I made it myself,” Amber stated. “It’s not much and it’s not as flawless as one you can get from flower and garden shops. But I made it, with love, for you.” She turned toward her car but Prudence called to her before she left.

“Thank you, Amber.”

To be continued…



We first meet Prudence Moody when she and Ellowyne are in high school at Briermier Academy, although the canon implies that they’ve been friends for a while. Prudence is Ellowyne’s confidant, partner in crime, shopping buddy, and best friend. In many ways, the canonical Prudence is Ellowyne’s opposite. While Ellowyne suffers through Dark Days, Prudence sets her sights on Bright Nights, Big City. While Ellowyne is Falling to Pieces, Prudence is Picking Up the Pieces. Twice! And while Ellowyne Wallows in White, Prudence says, “C’est La Vie!”

Prudence is exuberant, always ready for an adventure. However, she needs to cajole Ellowyne into doing things that might lie out of her comfort zone. One time, Pru takes Ellowyne shopping and Ellowyne is appalled by the colorful, bright, cheerful outfit Prudence picked out for her. (Then again, the first Prudence was dressed in a funky, offbeat outfit, so Ellowyne should’ve known what to expect!) Pru takes Zumba classes and hopes that someday Ellowyne will join her but so far, she hasn’t.

Prudence’s most unique characteristic is her psychic abilities. She was born on Halloween in the middle of a séance. The first Prudence doll in the Ellowyne Wilde line was ESPecially Prudence, an allusion to her extrasensory gifts. One of the last Prudence dolls is Possibly Clairvoyant, which is an homage to that first doll’s paranormal prowess. Possibly Clairvoyant even has dark pink streaks in her hair.  


It’s easy to overlook Prudence because she is the Midge, the sidekick, the one who just isn’t as pretty, wise, popular, or important as the main character. I build on the canon—particularly her dual nature–and develop it in perhaps unexpected directions.

First off, I envision Prudence as an athlete. She has so much energy that it’s easy to see her participate in sports. In, we learn that Prudence takes Zumba, circuit training, and hot yoga classes. From that story, as well as this one, Prudence is on several sports teams including women’s hockey, softball, and rugby, and sometimes she fills in for missing roller derby players. Also, she was the first girl on her high school wrestling team. Pru is the captain of her rugby team, the She-Devils. She brags that she laughs at pain, but when she suffers a bad injury in, she cries. Her friends and teammates are worried about her, but she does well with surgery and physical therapy and has a special someone help her with recovery. Speaking of that particular individual, sometimes he takes her to college or professional games. Prudence loves hockey and occasionally she and the mystery man call each other during televised games if they couldn’t get together to watch them in person. (Okay, the unnamed gentleman is Penn, who sometimes is romantically involved with her, other times with someone else.)

Prudence is said to have psychic abilities but instead, she is an empath. She is keenly attuned to the emotions of others and readily discerns any hints of distress like facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, or choice of words. In, Pru has a feeling that there was something amiss with Ellowyne and Rufus, only to find out that they weren’t breaking up but that their relationship was being challenged because his parents died. But before we learn Amber’s secret, Pru gets a horrible headache because Amber is an emotional vampire who sucks all the energy out of empaths who feel overwhelmed with negativity. Of course, when Amber reforms, she no longer reeks of negativity and morphs into a real friend to everyone in their social circle. And Prudence becomes headache-free.

Pru doesn’t belong to any organized religion, but she engages in several spiritual practices. She meditates, does Tai Chi, and takes a variety of yoga classes. Sometimes she adds aromatherapy to her meditation session and lights incense or candles. She owns several sets of singing bowls and Tibetan finger cymbals, known as Tingsha bells. Prudence makes jewelry of semiprecious stones that purport to promote healing in the body, unblock chakras, and protect from any kind of spiritual malevolence. 

Career-wise, Prudence is in exactly the right place. Her involvement with athletics gives her an understanding of the human body, and she is accepted into a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Satisfying her spiritual sensibilities, she can incorporate her interest in holistic therapy into her bachelor’s degree or her DPT program at San Francisco State University.

Canonically, Pru was born on Halloween, but with her dual nature, she is a Gemini, the sign of the twins. It might seem like she flits from one interest to another, particularly in her athletic and spiritual pursuits, but that’s the nature of an air sign. (Full disclosure: I am a Gemini but I don’t believe in astrology. Doesn’t that sound like something Prudence might say?)

Don’t overlook Prudence. Sometimes the sidekick is more fun than the main character!

Not All Superheroes Wear Capes 5

A few weeks later, Penn was reassigned to the ER after his stint in the COVID-19 testing booth. He went into nursing because he recognized the importance of treating the whole person rather than just the disease. He certainly wasn’t getting to do that when he was sticking a long cotton swab deep into someone’s nose to determine whether they were positive or negative for the virus. He also hated how rude and obnoxious some people could be. The incessant horn honking rang in his ears until he was about to go to sleep. The yelling, threats, and fists in his face triggered his PTSD, but he couldn’t take a mental health day. So, while the ER wasn’t a great assignment, at least he wouldn’t be stuck in that infernal booth anymore.

He went back to night shift, regularly working more than his 12-hour shift and coming in to work on his days off. Again he saw an influx of critically ill COVID patients. Dying patients. A couple of patients requested that Penn joined them in prayer. He wasn’t a religious man, but he prayed aloud if he was familiar with their faith traditions and silently if he was not. These patients reminded him of working on a wounded soldier and the chaplain, no matter what religion he or she practiced, would pray as a soldier died. 

There were plenty of other heart-wrenching stories. One man, minutes away from death, asked Penn how much his care would cost his family because he didn’t have insurance. Hospitalized mothers and fathers would ask Penn to FaceTime their children to say good bye, as would spouses or significant others. Penn thought about how Rufus’ parents died alone without saying farewell to him and he wanted to shed a tear—if only he had time.

Sometimes ER patients would be stable enough to go to the ICU. Penn helped transport one of his patients and marveled at the differences between the ICU and ER. It seemed like a luxury to be assigned to three or fewer patients per shift, and the atmosphere suggested a feeling of hope instead of despair in the ER. In the elevator down to the ER, Penn contemplated asking for a transfer but, once he hit the floor, he had no more time to think. 

Amazingly, Penn got off work on time for a change. At 7:30, he joined his nursing school chums, Beth, Judy, and Nancy for breakfast in the hospital cafeteria. 

“I cannot believe what we went through in the testing booth,” Beth stated. “We were cooped up, wearing full hazmat gear, stuffing testing swabs up people’s noses.”

“Some of the people got angry when the swab hurt or if we had to go deeper to properly retrieve any virus-laden secretions.” Penn added. “I had a couple of guys threaten to punch me in the face if the swab hurt. Got others who weren’t able to be tested try to storm the booth and beat me up if they had to be turned away.”

Judy nodded. “I was threatened with a knife by a man whose wife had moderate symptoms and was going to an isolation. He thought that transferring her out of the ER was a way to dump her because she wasn’t sick enough for continued use of the ER or ICU.”

“It’s those medical shows,” Nancy complained. “In some of them, they show a patient in the ER for their entire hospitalization. Even if the patient has surgery, they come back to the ER instead of a post-op floor. ER beds are too valuable to use for patients who can be treated elsewhere.”

“None of us signed up for this,” Beth grumbled. “Most days I wonder why I even decided to go into nursing. Sometimes I just hate it.”

Penn asked, “What do you think you want to do?”

“I’m going to get my PhD,” she said. 

Penn was baffled. “But don’t you need some practical experience first?”

“Nope,” Beth answered. “Nowadays PhD nursing programs don’t require any practical experience. In fact, they like new grads who haven’t been tainted by actual work in a clinical setting.”

Judy’s and Nancy’s goals were not quite as lofty as Beth’s. Nancy wanted to work obstetrics while Judy planned to be a nurse practitioner. Then they asked Penn’s plans.

“Long term, I want to join a medevac team. It’s the closest thing to what I did in the Army,” he responded. 

Nancy asked, “But is it a good idea? You went through Hell when you deployed to Afghanistan.”

“True,” he said. “But right now, I want some time off. At least a month, maybe two.”

Unfortunately, Penn’s casual wish would come back to haunt him.

To be continued…

Nature Abhors a Vacuum 5

As the pandemic continued to dominate everyday life, Prudence sank further into the abyss known as the Internet. She spent so much time online that she skimped on self-care measures and interactions with her family and friends. She had gotten into YouTube stories based on situations gleaned from Reddit. Pru had been a bit disillusioned when she discovered that some YouTube channels wrote their own outrageous stories. How many stories could there really be about nasty mothers-in-law who insulted young wives, sisters and friends eloping with fiancés the same day as the wedding, and mom friends expecting that someone else will pay for their high-priced meals and vacations? 

Eventually, Prudence figured out that the most unbelievable stories were fake, so she stopped watching those videos and went instead to videos based on Reddit posts. She soon ventured into Reddit, where she read stories about a mixed bag of topics, from the revenge of jilted lovers to the histories of obscure comic book heroes. Although she had heard that Reddit users could be brutal, she made an account, read anecdotes, and made a few comments. 

One afternoon, Ellowyne sent her an invitation to FaceTime. Prudence ignored it because she was immersed in a discussion of open relationships. Later, she disregarded Lizette’s request to FaceTime, and paid no heed to a text message from Amber. Frustrated and concerned, Ellowyne texted everyone in her circle to join a Snapchat meeting and try to convince Prudence to participate. 

The next day, Ellowyne invited her to the Snapchat group but again Prudence didn’t respond. Undeterred, Amber, Lizette, and Rufus tried to get in touch with her but were unsuccessful. Finally, Penn sent her a message and implored her to converse with her friends. He even offered a one-to-one interaction but she paid no heed. Stymied, Ellowyne decided to discuss her concerns about Pru with their friends. “I am so worried about Pru,” she started. “She’s cut off all contact with me. And Rufus.”

Rufus spoke up. “Prudence and I have always been good friends. She was supportive when my folks died, but I can’t figure out why she ignores my texts.”

“I’m afraid I’m part of the problem,” Lizette said, chagrined. “I told her about Lawrence some time ago, and I haven’t heard from her since.”

Ellowyne tried to soothe Lizette. “Prudence isn’t the kind of person who would be jealous of a friend’s happiness.”

Rufus responded, “Yeah, but maybe she’s worried that we don’t have time for her anymore. I mean, I’ve been so preoccupied…”

“Oh, Rufus,” Amber replied. “You’ve had so much going on. I don’t think anyone could begrudge you the time and space you need.” 

Ellowyne stated, “I’ve been so wrapped up in my relationship with this guy that I haven’t given my friends the attention you all deserve.”

“I haven’t kept in touch with Pru, either. These 12-hour shifts that turn into 15 or 18 hours are killing me. Even worse, I don’t get a lot of time off, and I’m always exhausted,” Penn admitted. 

“I think everyone understands why you’re socially out of the loop. “I mean, you’ve been so busy and worn out with work that you haven’t even had time for us,” Amber explained. To her chagrin, she immediately realized she had revealed her secret relationship with Penn. “Oh no. I’m so sorry, Penn. I didn’t mean to tell anyone about us.”

Penn wasn’t thrilled that Amber said anything about their relationship, but he assured her that it was okay and their friends would find out anyway. “One of the reasons we haven’t been forthcoming about…us…is that we didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. Rufus and Ellowyne hadn’t gotten together yet, and when Lizette and Lawrence got involved, we were about to say something to all of you. But then we decided not to because we didn’t want to make Prudence feel left out.”

Ellowyne shook her head and replied, “Maybe Prudence feels left out of life. The pandemic has changed everything. We used to get together all of the time, usually several times a week. We saw each other at college and had lunch together. But the isolation of the pandemic, maybe that’s what is getting Prudence down. She doesn’t see us or her teammates.”

“She probably isn’t as active as she was before COVID. No yoga classes, no Zumba, no Pilates. The rugby season is cancelled so she’s missed out on practices and games,” Lizette suggested.

“With all classes being online, she didn’t have to leave the house to go to campus,” Amber said. “Then again, none of us have.”

“And none of us got to walk for our diploma,” Rufus pointed out. “We got our degrees in the mail, and we understand why we didn’t have a real graduation ceremony. But it sucks. We worked hard and missed out on a truly happy day of our lives.”

Penn stated, “Several of us will have other opportunities to walk for graduation. Amber, you’re headed to law school. Lizette, veterinarian college. Rufus, a PhD in engineering. And Prudence will get a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. Ellowyne, you and I are the only slackers not going to graduate school right away.”

Ellowyne smiled. Penn had always said he wanted to get an advanced nursing degree so he could become part of a medevac team. And she made plans for her own further education but hadn’t even discussed them with Rufus.

“The thing is, we have to admit that the pandemic has been terrible for all of us. But we’re strong and will get through it. Prudence is our good friend and we’ll all just need to take time to make sure she knows it,” Ellowyne remarked.

“I think if we try to treat her the way she would treat us, we won’t go wrong,” Amber suggested. 

“She was so caring when my parents died,” Rufus said. “All of you were—and still are. But maybe we need to focus on Prudence, surround her with positivity, and just be there when she needs us.”

“Prudence is going to get through this,” Lizette remarked. “But we need to be patient and let her know that we love her. No matter what.”

The truth of the matter was that Prudence, for the first time in her life, was clinically depressed and in need of professional help.

Love During Lockdown 4

Lizette’s life settled into a comfortable routine—in spite of or because of the pandemic . She was able to get out of the house more than most people, and saw Lawrence on a regular basis. For such a long time, she looked for love. She had a huge crush on Rufus but her feelings were unrequited, even while Rufus pursued Ellowyne’s unattainable affection. Lizette was happy that Rufus and Ellowyne were in a strong, loving relationship. She was ecstatic and optimistic about her romance with Lawrence, who was both irked and relieved that Rufus was oblivious to Lizette’s overtures. Most importantly, he was as enthusiastic and overjoyed as she, and he talked about a future together when they started at UC Davis. 

Still, she wished that they could do normal couple things, like go dancing or to a movie or a nice dinner in a place that didn’t serve its food in paper bags. It would be so much fun to double date with Ellowyne and Rufus or Amber and Penn. She dated Penn once in a while, casually, of course. Lizette harbored no illusions that she would have a grand romance with Penn, and long ago, she figured out that Penn was secretly seeing Amber. Just looking at the way they interacted and the sparkle in their eyes convinced Lizette that they were far more than just friends, more than friends with benefits. To her delight, Lizette saw that sparkle in Lawrence’s eyes.

She wondered how Prudence was. Lizette had been so caught up with her relationship with Lawrence that she didn’t have time to text or FaceTime her. She figured that Pru, usually so unflappable and serene, would rely on her inner strengths to weather the pandemic. Still, she decided to call Prudence the next morning before she was to leave for the bird sanctuary. 

Pru didn’t answer her phone when Lizette called—not the first time, not the second, not the third. Lizette was worried and sent a text. There was no answer. Then she texted Amber and Ellowyne to see if either of them heard from Prudence. They, too, were troubled and they all made plans to FaceTime her later that day. 

Naturally, Lawrence was concerned about Prudence, even though he only knew her through Lizette. He noted how Liz was always empathetic toward her friends, and what a caring soul she was. He knew that Lizette would always have his back and support him to achieve his dreams. Lawrence envisioned Lizette and he starting a mobile avian veterinary practice so people wouldn’t have to take their birds out to an office setting. Maybe someday…

Maybe someday he would find the right time, the right place, and enough courage to tell Lizette that he loved her. 

To be continued…



Amber Stanhope enters Ellowyne’s life when she is enrolled in Briermier Academy, the school Ellowyne, Prudence, and Rufus attend. Ellowyne has to get along with Amber because Mr. Stanhope is Mr. Wilde’s boss. The problem is that Amber doesn’t have to be nice to Ellowyne. She is competitive, self-centered, and vain. She seems obsessed with proving herself to be better than Ellowyne. In other words, Amber is Ellowyne’s frenemy. As per poem cards and Ellowyne’s journal, Amber is often dismissive of Ellowyne’s ennui and thinks she is better than Ellowyne—and everyone else.

Moreover, because she doesn’t seem to have other friends, Amber gloms onto Ellowyne’s friend group. There isn’t any evidence to show that Amber and Prudence have much to do with each other. However, Ellowyne’s journal and therapy notes indicate that Rufus bears the brunt of Amber’s bad behavior. She often flirts with him—always in front of Ellowyne—and once invites him to join her at the wharf, most likely to make out. And he goes with her! Really dumb move, dude! Over time, Amber’s aggressive, inappropriate behavior toward Rufus escalates, and she gets into a pattern of kissing him, then slapping his face for kissing her! And when Penn joins the squad, Amber kissed and slapped him, mistaking him for Rufus. Her outrageous behavior seems to peak when she crashed Ellowyne’s Halloween party. Not only did she kiss and smack Penn, she also showed up in a skanky Dorothy from Oz outfit. On her way out the door, she stepped into a pumpkin outside the Wilde’s front door and, predictively, everyone laughed at her. The bottom line is: canonical Amber was a hot mess.


First of all, I have to admit that I love Amber. In the canon, she’s so outrageous that she’s laughable. My vision of Amber is deeply rooted in her official story, but she grows and changes. In my story, Amber’s Secret, Penn gets upset when Amber gooses him in a coffee shop, and asks Rufus, Prudence, Lizette, and Ellowyne what makes her act so inappropriately. Warning: the rest of this is a spoiler, so you might want to skip the rest of my Amber headcanon if you haven’t read Amber’s Secret already. 

Amber was a child pageant queen, like on Toddlers and Tiaras. Because her parents were extremely wealthy and she was their only child, they indulged her. From the time she was a toddler, 15 months old, they bought custom-made outfits for her to wear. She never wore the same glitzy, glamourous dress twice. For her outfit of choice, she would often be dressed like iconic sex symbols: Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Jayne Mansfield, Brigitte Bardot. She channeled Madonna, Cher and Lady Gaga in her infamous meat dress. Her most controversial ensembles were as Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8, Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, and Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which incurred the wrath of other pageant parents and warnings from pageant directors. The Stanhopes weren’t terribly popular with the pageant crowd. One time, Mr. Stanhope rented a zebra foal from a zoo to appear with Amber in a “My Favorite Pet” competition. He also purchased a small private plane emblazoned Amber’s name and picture onto the sides. Her parents spared no expense making their little girl happy and successful, and even had a separate room for her sashes, crowns, and several child mannequins dressed in her most beloved dresses. 

Although Amber enjoyed pageants, she developed some unfortunate attitudes and behaviors. She was successful, in part because her parents spent so much money ensuring she would win. Amber was beautiful and quickly learned she could manipulate others because of her appearance. She knew how to flirt with judges and entice them into scoring her highly. Often, she charmed the audience, even though her parents weren’t well-liked on the pageant circuit.

After Ellowyne discovers her secret, Amber realizes that she needs to change her behavior. She learns to laugh at herself, especially at her life as a pageant child,  and often invites her friends to her crown room so they can sip wine, try on crowns, and giggle. She no longer views female friends as competition and takes a genuine interest in her friends’ activities. She used to greet the women as “Bitches!” but later calls them “Heifers,” a nod to the way the patrons of Cheers greeted Norm. The women moo in response to Amber’s greeting. Yes, it’s silly, but it shows the way Amber’s relationship with them changes from hostility to harmony. She becomes fast friends with Lizette, and they like to speak French to each other. Amber isn’t quite as close with Prudence but that will change. Amber will also become fast friends with Neema. What about her relationship with Ellowyne? They discover they have many things in common and develop an especially warm camaraderie. Here’s the most recent story about friendship, the ladies and the gentlemen:

Additionally, she apologizes profusely to Rufus and Penn for her inappropriate behavior. Surprisingly, she and Rufus become friends. They discover they enjoy arguing with each other, and Rufus eventually encourages her to look into law school. She is accepted into Stanford but isn’t quite sure what kind of law interests her the most.But what is even more unexpected is that Amber develops a relationship with Penn. Sometimes they’re casually dating, but sometimes they’re friends with benefits. Will they get together? Will she–or he–meet someone else? Time will tell.

Amber is becoming a wonderful friend and successful university/law student. However, she can still be a little spoiled and entitled, and she’s still as lazy as a house cat. Amber is growing as a person but she is still a work in progress.



Lizette Dionne reluctantly moves from NOLA to San Francisco for her parent’s political careers. The first person she meets is Rufus, whom she finds kind and helpful. He plans to introduce her to Ellowyne, Prudence, and even Amber in an effort to widen her social circle. However, Ellowyne meets her at Dr. Bantam’s office; Lizette’s parents urged her to go to therapy because she’s having trouble adjusting to her new home. Later, she meets Prudence and Amber at Briermier Academy, where they, Rufus, and Ellowyne go to high school. Lizette is impressed with the science curriculum, which tells me she’s smart.

Lizette is shy and doesn’t take many social risks. One of her first poems relates how she is reticent to meet new people. But another doll, Woefully Rich, she divulges how she feels wealthy because of an abundance of good, solid friends. But in a poem for Seriously Dressed, Ellowyne, she talks about seeing Lizette at Dr. Bantam’s office, and the two of them taking a silent walk later that day. A later poem for the doll Lizette’s Bold Move talks about how she’s going to make a move on a boy she likes. However, the object of her affection is never named. 

As per the Wilde Imagination canon, Lizette has two passions: birds and hats. Her love of birds is mentioned in Ellowyne’s journal entries and therapy notes. Lizette’s love of hats is cited in early poem cards but otherwise it’s not probed much deeper. 


One thing about Lizette that is never explicitly put forward is her ethnicity. Lizette was produced in two skin tones: honey, which is light-skinned, and spice, which is darker. The honey-colored Lizette dolls were produced in larger number than the spice-hued ones. Hence the matter of Lizette’s heritage. While we can assume the spice version was most likely Black, we’re less sure about the honey  version. Is she a light-skinned Black woman? Brown? Biracial? Latina? Native American or Eastern Indian? But the most important thing about Lizette’s heritage is that it doesn’t matter.She can be of any ethnic group you want. All interpretations of Lizette’s heritage are valid. For the most part, I see her as Creole with French, West African, Spanish, and Native American ancestry, which is logical considering that, canonically, she is from New Orleans. But other times I see her as biracial or Latina. 

In my headcanon, I build on Lizette’s canon rather than reject it. She likes science and birds, so she aspires to become an avian veterinarian. She is going to study at University of California Davis, which has a highly ranked vet program and is not too far from San Francisco. In her spare time, she is an avid birdwatcher, and she has several pet birds, and sometimes she volunteers at an avian veterinary clinic or a bird rescue. Occasionally, her friends tease her—in a good-natured way—about being a “bird brain.”

How about the hats? She wears hats and looks good in hats but I don’t see them as integral to her character with one notable exception. There is a rich tradition of Black women wearing bright, elaborate hats to church. Some used them as a conduit to God, a way to attract His attention. Others saw the hat as a crown, a tangible symbol of overcoming hardships. Still others wore hats as indicators of personal wealth, especially in the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. Is Lizette a church-going woman whose love of hats is associated to her faith? Is she influenced by her grandmother or another older relative? Or does she just like hats?

Lizette is shy but well-liked by her friends. They accept her as she is and enjoy having her as part of the group. She is especially close to Prudence, but gets along well with everyone. She and Amber have a running joke about the premium coffee, kopi luwak, that Amber loves. Asian palm civets eat coffee cherries and defecate the fermented, partially digested beans; therefore, Lizette refers to the coffee as “weasel poop coffee” even though civets are not weasels. I always thought that Lizette was just being cheeky and wanted to tease Amber. However, perhaps Lizette was right. I just read on Wikipedia that “Weasel coffee” is a loose English translation of Vietnamese name for kopi luwak, cà phê Chồn. Who knew? Lizette and Amber enjoy speaking French, a language which Lizette speaks because of her Creole background and Amber learned back in high school. 

And then there’s the issue of Lizette’s love life. In one of her poem cards, she alludes to the first time she was kissed. Perhaps her difficulty leaving NOLA and moving to San Francisco was due to her leaving behind her first true love. She has a huge crush on Rufus, as evidenced by the way she said he was so kind. Unfortunately—at least for her—Lizette’s feelings are unrequited. In my story, The Lonesome Loser, ( Lizette is thrilled that Ellowyne is interested in Penn because she might get a chance with Rufus. Unfortunately, he is oblivious to her advantages. Once Ellowyne and Rufus officially start dating, she starts seeing other men, including Penn. In Spring Break, she has a torrid but brief relationship with a young man named Keanu. ( In Ennui in the Age of COVID-19 ( Lizette meets a handsome man named Lawrence (who is not a doll but should be) who is as obsessed as she is with birds, and he is planning to attend UC Davis to study avian veterinary. Will he be in her life for the duration of the pandemic? Will they go to vet school together and fulfill their dream of opening a mobile clinic? Please keep reading to find out!


With everything packed, the four women were ready—albeit reluctant—for the trip home. They didn’t have to leave until the early afternoon, so they got some extra sleep and had smoothies for breakfast and an early lunch. They sipped rum cocktails when they munched on conch salad and their favorite shrimp tacos. Finally, they boarded the Stanhopes’ private plane to go home.

In contrast to the previous day in which they were mostly silent, the four chattered throughout the entire flight. They talked about how much they enjoyed and appreciated the trip, from swimming to the pigs to shopping to the Ardastra gardens to the wonderful food they ate. However, they also conversed about how they felt they were closer friends than before the trip. They all thought they knew each other well, but spending a week on vacation helped them see each other holistically and authentically, and their friendships deepened. 

Finally, the plane landed in San Francisco. The Stanhopes’ limousine and chauffer were waiting for them and whisked them off to the mansion, where Penn and Rufus patiently awaited them. 

Ellowyne ran into Rufus’ arms, and, when he kissed her, she noticed that he hadn’t shaved in over a week. “But it’s not scratchy. The stubble is soft and tickles. Keep it!”

Penn hugged Prudence and Lizette and politely kissed each of them on the cheek. They didn’t seem to notice that he kissed Amber on the lips and embraced her much longer. 

The girls told the guys everything about their vacation, the beauty of the white sands, beach volleyball, the nightclub scene. Amber made sure to tell Rufus that Ellowyne didn’t go out dancing with them because she saw no point in spending time with anyone else. Then they talked about shopping, the museum, the gardens, and the pigs. Prudence quipped that she might never want to eat pork again because it would make her think about the pigs. Lizette shared the story of her spring break fling and how she met Keanu at the Ardastra center. Ellowyne talked about shopping some more, and Amber shared some of the exquisite handmade jewelry she purchased. Then all of the girls showed the guys their souvenirs, and Ellowyne gave Rufus the pig t-shirt she got for him, among other gifts. He told her than a theme park shirt was waiting for her.

The lads told them about the Batman movie marathon and how they got shushed and shamed at the Cartoon Art Museum. Penn shared that Rufus thought he was going to die when they went bungee jumping but was woozy but okay at the extreme thrill rides at the theme parks. Penn admitted that getting stuff done before having fun was much more satisfying than procrastinating. In turn, Rufus mentioned that academia was often wrought with busywork, and that he recognized that he needed balance in his life. 

Then it was time to head home. Spring break was a most excellent experience for everyone, but Rufus and Penn swore they would never again turn down a free trip to the Bahamas. Or anywhere else!