High school senior Ashley St. Helens
has suddenly found herself living a fairy tale life....
Which is not as much fun as it sounds.
Until... the other shoe drops.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


From: info@fairytalereality.com

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sibling Rivalry

The night of many girdles, at least, inspired me to write one of my best college essays.

I gathered Sylvia’s creamy white Maidenform, Donna’s animal-style Nancy Ganz, and Debra’s flesh-toned Spanx in one hand. Then I reached for Debra’s cotton-candy Betsy Johnson cashmere shrug, and said, with a pleasing smile, “I’ll do a load of hand wash right now.”

It was as if I’d just announced my intentions to slice everything into ribbons.

“No, I don’t need it washed, just pressed!” Sylvia grabbed her underwear from my hands.

“No, Ashley, it says hand wash separately! Separately! You know, each piece!” Donna’s baffling logic still stuns me.

“It’s cashmere, Ashley! That’s not cheap,” Debra shouted, hysterically. Like she cared about price shopping. Well, actually, she did care. If something was on sale, it typically wasn’t good enough for her.

(Note: I’m sorry to be so snarky, Kristen—you can take this part out if you like—but snark is a skill I learned long after my time with the Hills, and it’s kind of therapeutic to be able to write it out…I now work with abused teens and it’s very interesting to slow the verbal fencing down in writing and see how my own thoughts actually ran...)

I put all their pet clothes down carefully, stepped away and said, in my own defense, “I’ll be here all night.”

“Well, do mine first,” said Debra. “I’m older.”

“Mo-om,” whined Donna.

Sylvia thrust her garment back at me. “Ashley, I’m warning you. Don’t incite my daughters.” I nodded, just barely enough for her to think I was obeying. But Sylvia was oblivious. She was focused on her daughters, her eyes unusually lively, even moist with excitement.

“Now girls,” she said to The Girls. “Time to get some beauty sleep. One of you is going to win the pro-omm! I just know it!” She was practically singing. The Girls caught her energy and began to bounce. “Enough with this... sibling rivalry,” Sylvia said in an off-hand way as she herded them out of the room, “we just never used to have so much of it before, did we? Did we?” The Girls were giggling now, but I'd caught the verbal dagger. With my stomach. And win the prom? Seriously?

The door swung shut behind the three of them. I went back to folding towels (in thirds, of course), tuning back in to the comforting rhythm of a zipper hitting the insides of the dryer. I was glad to have them out of my space. I soothed myself with rationalizations that I really didn’t mind doing all this laundry, or all the other chores that kept me so busy; I like having a purpose, and I like to see results. I still do. (Linda says I might be a little OCD, and maybe I am, but at least it’s my own standard of perfection.)

But just as I was starting to relax, Sylvia stuck her head back in, her voice weirdly sweet and flowery and fluttery, which should have made me suspicious right off the bat. “Oh, and make sure my silk blouse is neat, too,” she said. “I want to make a good impression on Jack Pupkin, the Squash Coach. We have a very important meeting tomorrow. He’s head of the prom committee, you know.” Like I was supposed to be impressed. Like I cared that the next night was prom night.

As the door swung behind her again, I noticed something. When I moved Debra’s cotton-candy Betsy Johnson cashmere shrug, the phone was under it, sinking into Donna’s pile of fragrant undies. I picked it up and it rang in my hand. Right there in my hand. Sylvia’s footfalls on the stairs paused for a moment, and I answered it quickly so she wouldn’t come back into the room. I wanted her to think that one of the Girls had picked it up.

To my astonishment, the phone was for me.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Super Underpants

Donna was generally so afraid of dirt, and of food, that there was never a chance she’d get any on her clothes, and since she would never exert herself, there was never a chance of B.O., either. Still, she’d bring me an outfit (or two, or five) every day to wash out the perfume, which she changed daily. In a typically brainless gesture, she dumped the pile right on the stack of laundry I had already folded.

Debra came in right behind her. Debra, who was a year older and about ten ounces heavier than Donna, always called her clothes by their proper name. “Ashley, here’s my Spanx,” she announced, “And my Juicy pants,” with their name iced across the velour buttcheeks, “and… my cotton-candy Betsy Johnson cashmere shrug.”

Debra was the big fan of designers, but Donna obsessed on the other labels: the little shiny white ones sewn in the seams. She rummaged through the pile she’d just tossed down, and located each care label, holding it up to my face to make sure I saw the little ‘x’ through the icon of the iron, or to have me decipher washing instructions printed in a European language.

“Here’s my Nancy Ganz,” she sung out, holding up a leopard-print bodyshaper and giving Debra’s Spanx a superior look. Debra let out a tsk! with an exasperated breath as Donna fished for the label. “Hand-wash sep-a-rate-ly.” She turned her great big brown eyes on me, checking for understanding. I held her gaze deliberately, pressing my lips together to keep from saying something, and using all my willpower to avoid rolling my eyes at Debra. “These are power Lycra—see?” Donna pulled the waistband out two feet and let the elastic snap back to doll-size. “Steel-stretch!”

“Those are sure some super underpants,” I nodded very slowly and appreciatively, as I did several times a week. While I was nodding, I noticed my brain wondering why, at seventeen, Donna felt she needed tummy control. Nod, nod, nod. I said, “I’ll make sure they smell dainty-fresh!”

Linda has helped me, since, to understand that Donna and Debra’s body and food issues were inflamed by their perfectionist mother (the only one in the family who actually needed old-fashioned foundation garments to make her clothes work)... but back then it baffled me why a size negative two would need such a thing. But just as I opened my mouth to say so, Sylvia, who entered a room chin-first (as if that made her taller somehow, and her cheekbones more aerodynamic), came through the swinging doors of that laundry room. Donna’s babbling stopped cold. For a moment there, I it seemed as if the fog clinging to the windows was frost.

Now it was Sylvia’s turn to hand me a silky bundle. “I need this pressed, dear.”

Quite baffled, I very emphatically did NOT point out the factor that, if there’s a wrinkle in your girdle when it’s hanging limp in your hands, it’s not gonna be there the minute you stretch it across your hiney. Instead I said, “Sure, Sylvia,” in a forcefully cheerful tone—my best way of maintaining my distance and avoiding any possibility of a fracas.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Teen Princess

I used to spend an hour or more in the laundry room each day, reading between tasks. The moist, tropical warmth of the dryer made it a cozy place. The loose ends of my hair would curl on their own, as if free for once to express themselves. One day I was sitting on the washer waiting for it to finish the spin cycle. Just as it slowed to a stop, I finished reading Kafka's Metamorphosis, and between the dreamlike story and the lulling motion of the ride, I was in another world. Everything was still for a moment, and far in the distance a curious thing happened: the phone rang upstairs.

In that house, I rarely heard the phone ring in the afternoon, since Debra or Donna were always talking on it and incoming calls would beep in their ears instead of out loud. A moment later Donna burst into the room with said phone attached to the side of her head, blabbing away to one of her girlfriends about—as usual—clothes. (Let me try to record this faithfully; it was pretty amazing…)

“So did you see in the latest issue of TEEN PRINCESS they had those thigh-high stockings with the cross-stitched ribbing—no not those, those were cute too, but I don’t like wide stripes, they make my legs look too fat—yes, and did you see the SHOES she was wearing with them, oh my God, anyway, I’m all, aren’t those adorable, just too too cute, and SO new they’re just the thing, I have to have ‘em, and I was like, trying to order them online but they declined my credit card because I’ve maxed it again and forgot I was waiting for Mother to get another mortgage, so I left ‘em in my cart, since it may be awhile before I can get them—but I hope they’re not like, totally out of style by the time I can complete the transaction, but anyway I have to email and ask their circumference since my thighs are only sixteen inches and they might not even stay up.”

I kid you not. One sentence.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~