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When I was young, I had an imaginary friend and
her name was Glory B.
"Gloria?" said my mother indulgently. "That's a
"No. Her name is Glory Brown, but she calls
herself Glory B. She's prettier than I am, and her
hair is in those cornrows, but they're too tight,
and her head hurts. She lives where it's hot, and
sometimes she can't sleep at night because she
hurts and because of the yelling. That's when
she comes to see me. She has a gap in her
front teeth where they pulled a tooth out when
it ached, and her skin is black. She's blacker
than the space under my bed, and she tastes
of guava juice."
"Oh," said my mother faintly. "Oh."
Glory B. was there during my teen years, and she
told me it didn't matter that I could run faster
than the boys, that she wished she could.
"I think I'm different," I whispered to her at night.
"I know," came back the answer. "So am I."
"I can't get a prom date," I told her, when I was
seventeen. "The boys think I'm strange, and I
don't like them. And no girl will go with me."
"Sssssh," she whispered. "It will be all right in
If I opened my eyes, I could sometimes see
her outline on my bed, lying on her stomach, her
hair still in the cornrows. She would always fade,
but like Alice's Cheshire cat, her grin would be
the last to leave.
When my mother pressured her oldest friend
to have her son take me to the prom, Glory B.
told me to relax and enjoy the night. "I'll be here
when you come home," she said. "You can tell
me all about it."
So she was the one who heard how Danny
covered my mouth with his meaty paw and
forced my compliance with his heavy thighs.
"It hurts," I whimpered.
"I know," she soothed, and then she kissed me.
I looked for her, the real Glory B. She had to
be around somewhere, not just on the edge of
my dreaming. Maybe she was down south with
her braided hair and bright colours. With long,
plump legs and skin that tasted of the heat
I moved to Baltimore and looked for her there
among the bars and along the waterfront at
Fell’s Point. She wasn't among the college girls
in shorts working at the aquarium, nor one of
the people running the water-taxis around the
My brother and his friend came to visit and
spent the night in sleeping bags on the floor in
my tiny living room. His friend didn't come home
one night, but he reappeared early the next
morning, and his grin stretched to Annapolis.
"Met a girl," he said. "Works at the biker bar.
She was hot. Called herself Glory."
My hand stilled on the coffee jug. No, I wanted
to shout. She's mine.
I went looking for his Glory and found a
redhead with watered-milk skin.
"He's not coming back," I said. "He returned to
Her nametag said Gloria, but I had to try, and
for a month or so, I was her rebound girl. Sworn
off men, she said, even as her eyes searched
over my shoulder. I held her close and kissed
her, loved her as she waited for the call that
There were women, of course. Relationships
that unfurled in an evening, peaked through
the night, and withered over coffee the next
morning. Some that lasted longer, one that
I thought might be more. But Evienne was a
foreign-exchange student, and it was simply a
year out of her normal life.
Glory B. faded in those years and I put her
aside. She was my girlhood imaginary friend,
nothing more. In rare, wistful moments, I'd bring
her memory out of my mind, unfold it, hold it
to my cheek, and wish that she were real and
somehow we would meet.
My company loved me, the career woman with
a flawless executive style. I could golf with the
boys and accompany their wives to day spas
where the real decisions were made. I could host
a dinner party for twelve or a cocktail hour for
fifty and still slice and dice in the boardroom.
One day, the president took me aside. "I need
a successor," he said, "and you need a husband."
"What about a wife?” I shot back, and the next
month I was transferred to Phoenix.
I lay under ceiling fans, swamp coolers, and
air conditioning. My skin hardened, my hair
gilded with grey. Phoenix leeches the life from
you, drains it through your feet into the burning
sidewalks, evaporates your essence into its blue,
There was another woman. Young, ambitious,
determined. She courted me and what I could
give her. So I took what she offered and flaunted
her on my arm. My trophy wife. When she moved
in with me, she unpacked her cases and set a
small rag doll on the bedroom shelf. The doll
had chocolate corduroy skin and hair in wispy
cornrows. Her gingham dress was faded from
years of handling.
I picked her up and arched an eyebrow in
question, even as my hands caressed the doll.
Emmaline flushed. "My comfort," she said
defensively. "I was only a kid."
"Does she have a name?"
"Susie.” She hesitated. " Yeah, Susie."
I retired at fifty-five. I made COO, but that was
all and it got old quickly. My farewell was at an
exclusive restaurant in Scottsdale. My successor
was there, and so were many business contacts,
old and new.
There was a woman across the room. She
was tall, and her skin was of the bitterest
chocolate. Her hair was cropped close to
her head, and she wore the power suit with
confidence. When she moved towards me, I
saw she had a limp. She crossed the room while
I stared and wondered.
Her handshake was firm. "I'm Gloriana Brown,"
she said, "but my friends call me Glory B., and I
already know we're friends."
We left together and went home to my sun-
bleached adobe on the edge of the desert.
We lay on my bed under the ceiling fan and
drank the champagne they would have been
toasting me with at my retirement had I not left
Later, much later, when the talking was
finished and the loving was about to start, we
lay together watching a small printed gecko
climb the adobe wall. I saw the scar on her
back and the tiny twist of her spine, all that was
left after they straightened the curve when she
"Pain does strange things," said Glory B.
"I know it does."
I smoothed her skin with my palm, imprinting
the feel of her on my heart. And the smoothing
became a stroking, and the slow, soft slide
BY CHEYENNE BLUE
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