She had been hyphenated for decades. Refusing to drop her own name, but wanting the attachment to the two consecutive husbands she had been married to unsuccessfully, she had always opted for the European tradition she had grown up with. She used both her and her husband’s names as her own last name. It sometimes confused the less worldly people she dealt with in her life. It was also the source of digging at her by insensitive people. She was stubborn and proud of her name. She had no intention of completely giving up her birthright for anyone, no matter how much she had loved them. They each had finally learned to understand that although not without argument or belittling.
Now the names of two husbands that choked her memories with bitter tears, and that had for a long time made the simple signing of a check or addressing joint Christmas cards an experiment in short story writing, were removed. Her own name suddenly felt light, tall, and unencumbered, standing there alone on the book in her hands. But a part of her felt a great frightening loneliness at the singular name.
Now it was just the inevitable mispronunciations of her own last name she had to deal with. The varieties of pronunciations had been legion throughout her life. The Gaelic name lent itself to such creative interpretations, some that even made her laugh.
But there on a printed book, her now singular short Scottish surname, preceded and accompanied by the twin letters of her first and middle names, ( a style akin to those she had decided as a child she would someday emulate in their pen name choices, those of E.E.Cummings and A. A. Milnes.) She had always liked the simple solidity and classiness of how their names looked in print.) In her long ago fantasies she imagined signing books with flair using her abbreviated names and full last name.
The memory of sitting in childish day dreams practicing her signature for her adoring dolls and stuffed animals made her smile. Nowadays she was much too reclusive to want to sit signing a book with throngs of fans vying for her personalized signature. Realistically she knew no throngs had made their presence known to her yet. Maybe they would if she ever left her hermit like existence again and got more writing in print, but the idea of dealing with swarming crowds coming toward her with smiling faceless anticipation still shook her to her bones.
Her experience sitting with a well-known adult celebrity as a child herself, when he hosted his live televised show from a special overseas telecast in Munich, where her home was at the time, and almost being crushed by the sudden surge of faceless autograph seekers, still made her break out in a cold sweat at the long ago memory.
He had saved her from the crowd that evening and held her safe in his lap, his arms wrapped around her as a shield while she buried her head in his chest in fear and shook while her legs that had been crushed by the madding crowd ached. His angry voice scolded the unthinking mob for their insane behavior hurting a child to get to him for a silly signature from someone famous.
He was a hero to her that evening. She told him then, in a very serious voice, that she never wanted to be famous like he was. He had understood and hugged her closer. She had made it a vow to herself from that day on. The experience of dealing with the herd mentality of fanatical uncontrolled fans was not something she ever wanted to deal with again after that, but here decades later, the memory of her knight in a shining suit, the now passed pop culture icon, still made her feel safe and warm inside.
She looked back down at her name in print and smiled again. “It stands fine by itself, she said softly, almost afraid to verbally acknowledge the singularity in her life now. If I ever find someone special in my life again,” she decided,” they will have to accept the fact that a third merging of names will not happen. They will have to accept me as I was born and love me anyhow. I earned the name I carry. No one is ever going to mar it again, even in love.”
“Rebirth alone is not easy,” she said touching her name on the book cover, while tears welled in her eyes. She carefully set the book on a shelf and went back to work typing another story, focusing ahead, not to the broken past.