I’m writing a series of novels: the Seeking Scylla series. Some characters dance on the edges of the narratives. Some never make it in. In Beyond Scylla blogs, I share stories and vignettes about these characters.

We envy each other for lives we never live.

She sees your envy. The small in her basks in it, giddy watching your envy snake across your face as she tells you stories, mostly true, rarely embellished, and always withholding the dark.

We imagine those we envy as courageous adventurers, going places, doing things we’ll never allow for ourselves.

“I’m skipping grad school for a semester. Jim and I are going to hike el Camino.

For most of your adult life you will resent that one postcard then crickets.

You don’t know that a few days after she sent the postcard, one month into their six-month adventure, Jim left Marlena on el Camino.

Curled up on a bunk in a popular el Camino hostel, Marlena counts her cash. Jim left her enough to get home, but the dark cravings that sent Jim packing paralyze her.

You think she abandoned you, but on that bunk, for a flash, she remembers you. With envy.

If I could only be solid and simple like Lisa, brave enough to be true, strong enough to walk away, wise enough to reach out.

Marlena spends another month in Spain, the great adventurer. She hardly remembers coming home, the chance efforts of strangers who connect her to relatives. As far as she knows, she fell asleep on a bunk in Cantabria and woke on a cot in rehab.

She is smart. You envy her intelligence, your gaze locked on her face like a lover’s as she blisters seminars with her insights and unexpected takes on topics. Pure awe.

Marlena rules rehab with her clever. She follows rules long enough to get out, maintains appearances and practices until the people around her relax. They envy her courage and strength.

She thinks of you often in rehab, envies your simple life.

Did you know she comes all the way back for the 9th step? She finds you, spends several evenings parked on your street, watching that enormous house Kevin talked you into buying. Envy eats her heart. She never learns you hate the house. She doesn’t know the cancer is already blooming in your left ovary.

She never completes her 9th step.

You’re not one to read the papers, so you miss the headline: “Former Grad Student Found Dead in Hotel.” You’ll never see the obit that names her, “Marlena Vásquez-Sargent, aged 43… survived by…”

You never know Marlena.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2021