Ehremegerde Eileene Anverelle hated her name. The entire thing, from the first to the last E. It wasn’t just the fact that no one could ever figure out how to pronounce it or that it was a highly unusual name. No, what Meg (as she asked everyone to call her) really despised was how expensive it was.
The year she was ten, starting at a new school in a new city, she learned this. She could still clearly remember the pain she felt in her heart as the teacher cringed while reading her name. And then her mother…
“Darling, your name tells the world who you are,” she had said as though the fact would in some way provide comfort for the weeping child.
“But they hate me, they don’t want me in their class.”
“Ehremegerde Eileene,” when she wished it to, Mother’s voice could be piercing as arrows, “Of course she does. With a name like yours, it will draw all the right people to that forsaken little school of theirs. They should be thanking you, honoring you. A name like yours, it is a sure sign of wealth and class — why do you think we chose it.
Meg knew exactly why it had been chosen. At her previous schools it hadn’t stood out, with many other long, vowel-filled names surrounding, hers didn’t appear at all unusual. But with her Father’s newest placement, they had found themselves suddenly living among people who could not afford such luxury. Her classmates had names like Lucy, Ky, Scott, Li and Mary. Simple, normal names.
The letter tax, that charge for every letter of a name on an official document, had always served to separate the wealthy from the rest. Meg’s mother had a name that stretched elegantly over 20 letters for her first name, and another 30 for her middle name. It was one of the longest names that Meg had ever seen, carefully chosen to reflect the family’s newly earned wealth. A few years before Meg was born, though, the rules had changed. No longer was every letter equal, some cost more than others. With “E” being the most expensive of the letters. Father’s family was old wealth, Mother’s was new, but the fact was combined they were a powerful couple, and when Meg was born they wanted to assure that everyone knew that their child, their darling Ehrmegerde Eileene, should always be counted among the wealthy.
All official documents cost her dearly. She knew, as she penned her name on a form and handed over a deed of credit, that the financial cost kept going up, and it kept her tied where she was. While Bill and Vx (pronounced Vex, but managing to use the two cheapest letters), her two best friends, had left school with a world open to them, Meg had limited options. If she wanted to be able to afford to live, to sign her own name on any documents necessary, she had to do what her parents wished of her. She was forever tied to her legacy of a particular social-class because she could not afford to strike out on her own. The cost, the cost was prohibitive.
Meg smiled, as she moved a step forward in the line. The papers clutched in her hands more valuable than anything else. Sure, it was the most expensive of them all, but beyond that it held a meaning and power than any other. Like her birth certificate it sported her full name, along with her mother and fathers expensive names. But this form was even more expensive, for it held a third name.
A step closer to the counter. She had worked hard in the positions her parents had secured for her, but gone home at night to the smallest apartment she could manage, shared with Bill and Vex. She had scrimped on meals, on clothes, and entertainment. She had saved and saved over a number of years to reach this point.
She had walked into this office Ehrmegerde Eileene Anverelle. But it would be Meg L Anvers who would leave it..