There are few people in this world that I’m still friends with who knew me back when I still had my natural hair color. But Mariangelica and I have been besties for over 30 years now and, as she likes to say, “We know where each other’s bodies are buried.” Despite our drastically different personalities, backgrounds, and politics, there is no one in my life I trust more than her.
When the summer of 2016 hit Americans (and, dare I say it, the world?) like an 18-wheeler, Mari took me on a road trip. I needed it. She knew I needed it. I had just spent the better part of the previous 18 months reeling with an alphabet of emotional and behavioral diagnoses for my then-7YO. In addition to the stress that divided my country, I suddenly had to help a first grader adjust to yet another new school (his third school in less than a year because we’d just moved), put him on meds, drive him and his 3YO brother half an hour each way to therapy once a week, and self-educate on IEPs and therapeutic toys. How could I be the best parent possible for his needs? What did he need from ME? Was he going to be OK?
I needed self-care and, as much as I love my children more than life itself, I needed a break. So while we were in Miami visiting my parents anyway, Mari shoved me into a car and drove four hours, non-stop, to Universal Studios, Orlando. Did I mention that I had also broken my foot a week before? Yep. She spent two whole days pushing me around in my wheelchair and only occasionally bumping me into people, mostly not on purpose. In Florida. In August. Uphill both ways.
Everyone needs a friend like that.
A story about a special needs child and a unicorn had been bouncing around my brain for a while, and that trip gave me the structure I’d been looking for. If the two of us can be friends, if she could be there for me in ways no one else could, if she was my Person with a capital P, then maybe two characters like us could help a fictional child with special needs get a happily ever after. If we could find a way to still be friends despite the world telling us we should be enemies, then maybe others could, too. Optimism doesn’t come naturally to me – I’m usually a horror writer – but yeah, I just said that. It’s Mari’s influence.
The story is set during the Great Depression because I enjoy historical fiction and that era seemed to fit the themes of my story: swindlers, bad luck, desperation, overcoming impossible odds, and of course, unicorns. Because if anyone deserves a unicorn, it’s those who keep getting beat down yet rise up to fight another day again and again…with a little help from their friends.
And by the way? My special needs kid is now almost 11, and he’s happy, healthy, and thriving better than ever.
Thanks for sharing, Meredith! Great backstory.
Readers, I'm intrigued, how about you?
Check out all the new stories on August 31, 2019!