Excerpt: Snow White and the Seventh Bodyguard

I’m so sorry for your loss, Makana. I don’t know if you remember me or not, but my name’s Randy Foss. We used to play together all the time when we were kids.

Makana thought about it until xe was able to put a face with the name. Randy had been one of the children xe’d used to play with all the time when xe had been about eight or nine. He’d loved playing Space Pirate Stowaways with xyr and xyr father.

Xe leaned against the kitchen counter, remembering how xe and Randy and the other neighborhood kids used to charge around the house until xyr mother inevitably sent them into the backyard. Xe looked out the window above the sink into the backyard, wondering what had happened to the children xe’d used to play with. One by one, they’d all moved away. Xyr manager kept urging xyr to get into Facebook, rather than just letting xyr publicist post updates for xyr; maybe xe’d finally take Alyce’s advice.

I hated to hear about what happened to Ms. Pham. She was always a really sweet lady.

Makana smiled, setting the letter down on the counter. ‘Sweet’ wouldn’t have been the first word xe’d use—Aunt Linh had always been more of a soft-spoken tank to xyr. But none of the kids who’d come over to play had ever talked in-depth with xyr mother’s friend. Makana took off xyr hat and plucked a piece of lint off the black veil. Xe felt it was self-involved of xyr, but xe hadn’t even come back home to change clothes after the funeral before xe’d stopped at the post office to pick up xyr fan mail. It had always been a bright point in xyr day, and if any day could use brightening up…

Xe picked the letter up again, hoping that Randy had some good news to share with xyr. Though, if he’d only written to give his condolences, that was still welcome. Alyce and xyr publicist were dear to xyr, of course, but they’d each come into xyr life less than five years ago, and they were technically xyr employees. Knowing that someone from the past still cared about xyr, about Aunt Linh, was a comfort.

It really makes you realize how valuable everybody is, doesn’t it? Randy’s letter went on. No matter what happens in their lives, whether they get lucky and make it or stay at the bottom, everybody’s worth something. And we rarely show them that until it’s time for the eulogy. I hate that we’ve lost touch. I’d really like it if we met up for lunch sometime. We’ve got so much to catch up on. I haven’t been as fortunate as you have, but I know that can change if we work together. The world would be a much better place if more people shared what they had instead of hoarding things, don’t you think?

I’ve run into a bad stretch of luck, Makana. They let me go from my job and I’m not sure how I’m going to keep my house. Then I thought of you. I mean, what with the success you’ve had, the money I’d need wouldn’t even be a drop in the bucket. And Linh was always such a nice lady; I know she wouldn’t want one of your old friends to be homeless.

Jumping up from the kitchen table so fast that xe nearly cracked xyr knees on the underside of it, Makana grabbed an envelope and a piece of paper, so furious xe could barely copy the return address.

How dare you ask me for money, let alone bring it up today, you insensitive prick, xe scrawled, and then xe stormed out to the porch and threw the letter into the mailbox, jerking the red flag up enough hard enough to nearly break it.

Normally xe would’ve sat down on the swing xyr parents had hung from the tree in the backyard decades ago and taken a few moments to breathe. That usually helped xyr calm down. But now xe was afraid that all xe’d do was focus on the letter.

He would’ve sent it a few days ago, xe tried to tell xyrself. There was no way he could have known xe would read the letter immediately after getting back from Aunt Linh’s funeral. Simply bad timing and an awkward request.

No, not awkward. Crass, unfeeling, manipulative…

Enough, Makana thought. Tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow xe wouldn’t have time to focus on anything. Xe had a costume fitting first thing in the morning and then xe was talking to potential bodyguards all afternoon.

Aunt Linh had been bothering xyr for over a year to hire another bodyguard. Ever since xyr popularity had gone on the uptick again—who knew a two-hit wonder from the 80s could revive xyr career on YouTube?—and the awful comments and letters had started, Aunt Linh had told xyr that xe needed to do something to keep xyrself safe.

“Have you seen what these people are saying about you?” she’d asked once, her dark eyes fretful as she peered at the computer screen.

“They’re just twelve-year olds who think they’re being funny,” Makana had said, taking the laptop. “I’ll disable comments, okay?”

“You still need to think about hiring security.”

“There’d be no point. Someone ever threatened me, you’d pound him into the pavement before any bodyguard could even take a step.”

Aunt Linh had smiled. “True. But I could always use backup.”

Six months after that conversation, her body had begun to deteriorate. Now, she was in the ground.

‘Aunt’ had been an honorary title, but one Linh had worn with pride. She’d been the maid of honor at Makana’s parents’ wedding and xyr first and only babysitter. She’d also been the one Makana had called when xe’d been fifteen and gotten drunk at a party with xyr friends, only to have those friends leave with their dates. Scared that xyr mother would be furious, xe’d called Aunt Linh, in tears. Aunt Linh had come to get xyr, given xyr some water and a little food, and then xyr first cup of coffee to help xyr sober up.

She’d been the last person Makana had known for certain would never try to take advantage of xyr, to use their fondness for each other as an excuse to ask for money or other favors.

At least she was with Mom again. The two of them had been inseparable since they were in kindergarten; some days xe’d thought Haunani’s death had hit Linh even harder than it had hit xyr.

Makana looked at the small stack of mail on the kitchen table, and then decided to ignore it. Odds were it was just a few photographs people were looking to get signed, maybe an actual fan letter or two. But the idea that the pile might hold another request for money or a ‘how dare you corrupt the children’ rant made xyr decide to wait until tomorrow.

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