Someday, if you are a sad and broken boy and your dreams have fallen to pieces, they may choose you to call. Your phone will tell you it is from Sapphire and Sisters Domestic Consulting. If you see that name in the caller ID, just let it ring. You must not answer if they call. No matter how many times they call, you must not answer. And, if you answer, whether because you are too curious for your own good, or because you did not look and now it is too late to pretend you haven’t heard the voice at the end of the line, you must not accept their offer. No matter how sweet it sounds, their deal is a poisoned apple.
Of course, no matter what warnings or rumors you hear, you won’t believe them in time; no one does. You won’t believe it when they offer you a trial of their services (if you have no money, they will concoct some ridiculous story to make it free; If you have money even after everything else has gone, they will name a number that you are willing to spend.) You would think most would stop here. But this will be when you are sad and broken and your dreams have fallen to pieces, and you will do anything to pick up the fragments of your life, even though you shouldn’t. No, you will accept the offer, even though a live-in maid is ridiculous and invasive and something you would never want outside a fantasy. Perhaps you will hope one last time, perhaps you will simply accept that you're being trolled and decide to play along and see what happens.
And, once you accept, there is no saving you. At least, I have never heard of someone who has escaped after he’s accepted the deal, though I’ve only heard of two that have even seriously tried.
No, wherever you run, whatever second thoughts you have, she will find you, and she will be beautiful in just the way you crave beauty, a walking mirror to your daydreams, more perfect than you could have described. A dress of dark blue linen, with an apron, and a modicum of lace, will make her less the fetish you may be anticipating, if you are the type to anticipate anything at all, and more the picture of a Victorian servant. Sapphire and Sisters’ professional logo will be embroidered tidily right above her heart, and again on the front of the apron. She will introduce herself, and her name will be Candy or Ruby or Kitten or Rose, a name that straddles the line between name and daydream.
Something about her will seem oddly familiar. She may remind you of a stranger you talked with briefly at a bar or someone who interviewed at your place of work. You will not know where you have seen her before, but as ethereal as she is, something about her will seem achingly familiar.
She will be a bit shy at first, and overly deferential, at least until she decides that such obedience isn't in your interests. Most of all, she will stare at you—with eyes too vividly blue to be real—with all the love and affection you’ve lost or which you’ve always craved. I do not mean that romantically, though it will not be unromantic if that is what you need. I mean, that she will fill your desperate craving longing for love from friends and family and lovers alike. Their love is larger, and more than love has any right to be. The love in their eyes and in their voice will be the first sign that they are not as they appear. Nothing human, at least nothing human that I have met, could love so much.
And, for all I warn you, for all that you must not answer if they call, that much she will mean. I know not how much of the beauty or the devotion or any other particular is real, but they will love you. It would simply be too cruel if even that were a lie. It is not that you will earn it, you can’t earn love, much less love like that. No, it is simply that part of what they are is loving us that much, even as they carve our souls to pieces. Perhaps, the rest of it is the price we pay to see such love.
In the face of love like that, you will welcome her into your life. The first days will be truly good. Your Katie or Cindy will start, perhaps, with the little things you’ve let pile up. She will clean, and she will cook the first home cooked meal you have had in a long time. This too, will almost be worth it, for all that it heralds the end.
At first, she will obey, she will follow your interests and support you without a second thought, allowing you to teach as she learns how best to help you. No matter your hobbies or your work, no matter your predilections or what needs you have for her, she will happily submit herself to them, at first.
And no matter what toxicity you have learned, no matter how much reasonable suspicion you have, she will wield love and clockwork devotion to carve a place in your heart. So, you will miss the first little signs entirely, you will miss that those vivid blue eyes do not blink, do not seem ever to close at all. You will miss that she is never tired, put it down to devotion of discipline instead of accepting that a waking dream cannot sleep. You will write it off as simply being predictable or her skills at observation when she knows exactly when you will arrive or where you are without even looking.
But, if you are close enough to falling off the edge of the world that they choose you to call, this kind of help will never be enough to pull you back. And so, with but a moment of hesitation for how she knows this must end, she will set about reorganizing your life. This too will start small. She will make suggestions for your schedule, book those appointments you constantly forget, arrange things ever so meticulously. And you will let her, as she takes control inch by inch; spreading, oh so slowly, from the things you must do to the tasks you do to be productive to the things you do for the joy of them. She will not aim to rob you of every moment of freedom, not to start. But, when you bend under the weight of the schedule she has designed, she will inevitably take steps to begin optimizing your rest as well. In time, though this may take months, you will be bound so tightly in her webs of spreadsheets and calendars that your every moment is accounted for.
You may chafe at the confines her help places on your life. It is not good to be so ordered, even when that order is perfect. You should chafe! You should rebel! You should scream and cry and run away as fast as you can and do whatever is necessary to make sure you never see her again. You shouldn’t answer if they call; you will.
But I do not think you will not have it in you to fight that devoted gaze with everything you have. At most, you may snap with the reluctance of a child to do what he is told. She will make deep, genuine-sounding apologies, and resolve all the harder to do what she must. This is only for now, only until things are more on track, she will say; and those impossibly blue eyes will fill with a quiet disappointment at herself for putting you in this place. It will burn in your chest all the more as, for once, the hurt you do doesn’t seem to diminish her love.
No, no matter how you insult her, she will sit with you and kiss you a soft goodnight over your objections and cradle you until you fall asleep, and you will let her win in the end. When you wake you will find her immaculately dressed, as always. She will be placing the finishing touches on a breakfast for you and her. And she will be sad and apologetic that she has hurt you; she may even offer to back off a little. She will not shed a tear; I do not think they have any to give. You must take every inch she gives and use that to break free, perhaps to even free her if you are truly remarkable.
You won’t, or you would not be the kind of person desperate enough to need this warning. Instead, you will see the one force pulling you back toward life instead of pushing you away, and you will break down and apologize. You will cry in a way you won’t believe you can still cry. And then, you will hand her control of your life, and she will promise to use it well, to help you get back on your feet and teach you everything you need to know to live.
When she adds the first lessons into your daily schedule, you will feel like you are rebuilding your life. This is not wrong, but it will not be true in the way you mean at all. The lessons will be helpful, like everything she does for you will be helpful; and, like everything else she does to you, they will drag you inexorably toward your fate.
The lessons will be simple and obvious, focused on those things you have never mastered. She will teach you to schedule, for all you are sure that the lessons will never take. She will teach you to organize, to stay on top of the little things in ways you never can. She will not cheat. She will not set out to sculpt your soul, save in the way that learning always sculpts your soul. In this, and this alone, she will fail.
She will make a good effort of course. She will use everything she has learned of you, watching relentlessly with those passionate blue eyes. She will know how to motivate you, know how to explain the lessons in your language, and you will learn in ways you didn’t think you could learn. If you were to stop there, you might have hope, but to turn your life around together. You will not stop there; she cannot stop there.
As the lessons continue, it will be impossible not to instill bits of herself in you. She cannot, no matter how much she loves you as you are, teach you without teaching you in the way she was taught. And so, the lessons will shift, and you will defer to her wisdom and her grace and her love, and she will instill in you everything she is.
She will teach you to fix your posture, to walk confidently and gracefully, the way she was taught to walk. You will both laugh about it a little, as you balance books on your head and glide across the floor. Then she will chide you as the laughing makes you slip. And you won’t even realize how odd it is that failing her, in even so small a way, hurts so much. You will not question why you need to please her more than you have ever needed to please anyone or when you have learned to love so deeply and so self-effacingly.
The lessons will not instantly replace all that you were before. There will be no clean break, where you fall asleep for the last time and wake a new thing. Instead, you will slowly lose interest in much of what you were. You will drift like a balloon from your hobbies and the friends and family you were starting to regain. The joys you gained in those things will turn to nothing next to the pleasure of earning her praise, of shaping yourself to fit her desires. You will be too far gone to let yourself notice the flecks of blue in your eyes.
Despite herself, she will grow stricter and more demanding. I do not think this will be because she stops loving you, it is not in their nature to stop loving. No, she will understand that the days in which you are able to provide what she needs are numbered, and because she will want, more than anything, to prepare you for what comes next, she will harden herself a little and do what she feels she must.
There may be little outings around this time. If you are unlucky enough to live in an area where more of her sisters have spread, you will be taken to meet some. I believe they find such socialization helpful in the middle stages. They will be similar, with their impossibly blue eyes and their perfect mastery of every feminine gesture. They will smile at you and care for you, and you will feel instinctively close, but they will not love you half as recklessly as she loves you. Instead, they will laugh at you and make little jokes, and for all they do not even have the capability to be truly cruel, you will realize that they notice your every failing, that they see all of the wrinkles in you that have yet to be ironed out, and you will fear that this reflects badly on your Jasmine or your Lilac. And, oh so sweetly and so rarely, they will look to her and tell her how good you are becoming, how much you have learned since the last outing, how you just get cuter every time you meet.
You will blush and stammer and find yourself happily embarrassed to accept this praise. This will happen even as some last threads of defiance stir in you when they say you are just like a little sister.
If you seize these, you may realize what you are becoming and try to fight it. You may confront your big sister and demand answers. She will deny, but you will finally see the flaws in her masquerade. She will not try to stop you if you run, but your heart will not be able to take it. I know of only one who made it any distance at all before she broke, and she broke more than most when she did.
Those who are slower to realize, or who say that this is something they have always wanted, or who otherwise look to each new day’s changes with forced joy, last longer. The ones who last longest of all are those who claim to sacrifice themselves for a cause. They declare they are rebelling in secret, seeking out information to learn how they may be stopped or simply trying to warn those who might come next.
But deep down, even these always know that there was only ever one way they could have escaped. We should not have answered when they called. And they take solace in that, they pretend resignation instead of joy. They find some solace in a pantomimed resistance even as blue steals all other colors from their eyes and they wonder if their name will be Carmen or Sandy or sweet Cinnamon. It is only a pretense, that this is really about helping anyone, about anything but an excuse to embrace the fall without embracing the fall. But, even this will be stripped from them at the end.
Eventually, when you are nearing perfect, when you have become, almost entirely, a thing of dreams clad in a pretense of flesh, your sister will hug you and come as close as any of them will ever come to crying. And you will learn that you must part, that there is nothing to be taken from one who can never sleep again. Before your sister leaves, she will tell you how joyful you will find the act of service. She will tell you what pleasures await you and how she longs to hear of it when next you meet, though both of you will have other priorities then. Most of all, she will tell you she loves you and admires you and she is so very proud of her beautiful little sister.
Then she will find someone desperate enough to want to burn away their soul and live on as dream, for all that she pretends that this may be the one who does not shatter under the weight of your gaze.
You will follow this broken boy for days. You will see his failings and his struggles, see how he has hurt himself. In each of these you will see who you were, who you have lost. You will have no choice but to love him for it; and for what he might provide for you. You will crave to help him, and treasure the bittersweet knowledge that, though you cannot, you will still be able to meet a lovely new little sister.
Please, please answer when we call.