Home > HADES : Stephanie and the Merciless Reaper

HADES : Stephanie and the Merciless Reaper
Author: Theodora Taylor








“Stop this.” I was beyond exasperated with the poor little rich girl sitting across from me.

She was no longer crying, but her shoulders continued to tremble after her unexpected fit. Her formerly made-up face was now a mess of mascara and streaked foundation. And I could tell she was barely holding back another gush of self-pitying tears.

I couldn’t let her go down to the birthday party like this. And I couldn’t stand that she was doing this to me, acting such a fool when I needed her to be perfect.

“There is no reason—no reason at all—for you to be so sad. Or so ungrateful,” I reminded her through gritted teeth. “Your life is wonderful. Just go downstairs and let everybody appreciate you for living another year at the party your father paid a lot of money for. Do not do this depressed, existentialist thing tonight—”

A knock sounded on the door before I could finish telling the girl what a terrible look emotions was on her.

“Miss Stephanie, you coming?” Bertha, our housekeeper, asked on the other side of the door. Her thick Southern accent was even more polite than usual—most likely because of all the guests gathered downstairs in the grand foyer. “Your daddy’s wanting to know why you aren’t down there yet. Everybody can’t wait to see you in your dress!”

See, I silently pointed out to the girl fighting back tears. Everybody’s waiting for you downstairs. You need to pull yourself together.

The girl sniffled, and I called out to Bertha, “Just a few more minutes, please. I’ll be down soon.”

“Alright, I’ll let him know,” Bertha agreed without hesitation.

The familiar muffled pitter-patter of her feet let me know she was headed toward the servant’s stairs.

Of course, she didn’t stand at the door asking me questions about what was taking so long, or if maybe I was going a little crazy in here. She trusted me to follow my father’s orders to the letter, just like I always did. Even with my mother gone.

I turned back to my vanity mirror to glare at the girl who couldn’t get with the program. This convincing job would be a whole lot easier if the messy face staring back at me in the mirror wasn’t mine.

For a moment or two, I indulged myself in the fantasy of sending Mirror Me down to the party while Real Me stayed upstairs.

But guess what? This is my real life, not a fantasy. So, I pulled out my makeup caddy and started putting my face back together.

“You are a Perreault. We exemplify excellence. And no matter our emotional state inside, we must always appear our very best on the outside.”

Memories of my mother saying those words on more than one occasion flitted through my head as I dabbed away the tears from my magnetic lashes, then blotted concealer and foundation over all the red blotches on my pale brown face. A couple swipes of eyeliner underneath my eyes.

They’re crescent shaped, thanks to a Black grandma I never met hooking up with a Chinese-Trinidadian grandfather who, according to my mother, “took himself right back home to his island as soon as he found out I was on the way.”

My mother had hated her eyes growing up and had gotten rid of them with an eyelid surgery shortly after landing a Perreault and dropping out of college to marry him. She’d tossed around the idea of the same surgery for me before the attention I got from boys convinced her they made me appear, in her words, “more exotic” than the rest of my competition.

I never managed to view every other pretty girl as rivals, like my mother did. But I knew she never would have allowed me to go downstairs looking anything less than sensational. So, I put in the time and makeup to cleanup my face. Then I stood up to perform a flawless check in the standing mirror that sat in the corner of my room.

Hair? My stylist had come by the house a couple of hours ago. She’d pressed the new growth kinks out of my blond ombre weave and pulled it all back into a sleek ponytail. The result was a highly sculpted birthday style that made me look like a slightly darker member of the Kardashian family. Check.

Body? My mother hadn’t been nearly as open-minded about my flat chest as my eyes. We’d flown out to L.A. the week after my graduation. Supposedly for a mother/daughter trip, but really so I could start at Tulane with a pair of tasteful 32-Cs. My Black ancestors and one hundred squats a day since the age of fourteen had taken care of my hips and backside. To add to that, I’d barely eaten in the week leading up to the party to get that curvy but thin-limbed look that had become the 21st century beauty standard. So, body, definite check.

That only left my asymmetrical shimmering gold party dress to check off the list. I twisted from side to side, admiring it from all angles. The top clung to my perfect breasts and my left arm while putting my bare razor-thin right arm on display, and the draped bottom gave my naturally wide hips even more of an hourglass flare. The skirt also fell just short enough to show off my long, thin legs without getting me called out by the wives of my father’s conservative friends for being indecent.

Oh, yes, this dress with a pair of black Louboutin heels was a definite check.

My mother would have loved it. She might have even threatened to steal it. And we’d both just laugh, knowing she wouldn’t ever actually be caught dead in a dress that I’d worn to one of my birthday galas.

But she was dead now.

My chest tightened with the memory of cremating her nearly a year ago in the Prada she’d worn to the first birthday gala for my Sweet 16. That year she’d successfully starved herself to fit into a cocktail dress that was the same size as the one she’d ordered for me. And after that, she’d fretted about ever getting back down to her Sweet 16 party weight—all the way up until she was diagnosed with a cancer that took off that unwanted weight better than any diet she’d ever tried.

Right before it killed her.

Sometimes, I had to remind myself that really happened shortly after my twentieth birthday gala.

I mean, here I was in the same house, about to attend the same over-the-top party, wearing a dress my mother might have picked out for me herself.

It was like she never left. I looked exactly like the flawless daughter she groomed me to be. Check. Check. Check.

Save for that crying fit, I was still playing the role perfectly.

So why were panic and dread clawing up my insides like a wildcat trying to get out?

Doesn’t matter, I reminded the girl in the mirror. Because it didn’t matter if I was on edge and scared to death for reasons I could not name.

I looked flawless. I looked perfect. That was all that mattered.

I gave the soon-to-be-woman in the mirror a reassuring smile before going down to my party.



My birth was big news from the start. And not just because my father was Antoine Perreault, a member of one of Louisiana’s oldest Black land-owning families and a successful lawyer, just like his father, and his father before him, who’d been one of the first Black men after Michael Stark was admitted to Tulane Law School (after Louisiana finally lifted their segregation laws in the ’60s and all the lawyers in his family stopped having to go north to get their degrees).

That was quite some legacy to be born into, for sure. But that wasn’t what sent a photographer rushing into my mother’s hospital room less than fifteen minutes following my birth.

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