At the Vernon Writers’ Conference this past weekend, author Patricia Donahue encouraged participants to create biographies for our characters. She uses cards for this purpose and makes point form notes. I decided to explore ‘background info’ on the character of Christie by letting her speak for herself. This won’t be in a book, but it tells us interesting things about her, and how she got her job watching Grace. Enjoy!
My name is Crystal Visions of Rainbows.
It’s stupid. I know.
On the first day of kindergarten everyone laughed at me when they heard it. Everyone except Grace. She came and sat beside me on the circle time carpet and whispered, “That’s the prettiest name I ever heard.” I adored her from that moment, of course.
As I’m sure you can imagine, anyone who names her kid Crystal Visions of Rainbows is a hippy. Free love. Peace not war. Tie dye and joints. Yup. My mother. Her real name was Martha Grimes but she changed it to Earth Helper. Sometimes it is an absolute mortification to have parents.
She did one good thing, though.
One day, in her communing with the goddess through some psychedelic haze, she got me a job. I was assigned to watch Grace.
Watching, in this case means knowing who Grace’s friends are, how she’s feeling about things, and helping her out in simple ways. In other words, I was hired to be her best friend. I would have been her best friend, anyway. Theoretically I’m paid for this, but I don’t know if it’s in drachmas, gold, or good karma. Mother looks after the finances and any of those would be good enough currency for her. Myself, I don’t ask.
My brother Shane is lucky. Somehow he was excused from the expectation that he be a flower child. Shane (birth name, Sky Rider) is now aiming to be a corporate lawyer. Mother rolls her eyes, and is relieved when he assures her that he votes Green. It’s a small consolation.
With his abdication of the family burden to save the world, all the weight of expectation falls on me. Hence the bargain with a goddess.
When I was about twelve, I decided that my mom had been hallucinating the whole thing, and I put my foot down. No more spying on my best friend and leaving written reports in the silver bowl on the dining room table. There’d be no more of this crap about goddesses and duty and obligation.
But then the goddess showed up and introduced herself, and what could I do?
It was Friday after school. I was going to be meeting Grace in a couple of hours, so we could go see a movie. I walked in the door and there was this woman sitting in my living room.
My mother was nowhere to be seen. Shane was at some debating practice at school. I froze.
“Who are you? What are you doing in my house?”
She smiled and extended a beautifully manicured hand, “Hello. You must be Crystal Vision of Rainbows.”
I scowled. “My name is Christie.” I didn’t take her hand.
“Have a seat.” She indicated the chair opposite the one she’d been in. “We need to talk.”
I crossed my hands and stared at her. “I don’t think we do,” I’d said, and turned to leave. I was going to the neighbours to call the police. I took a step forward and froze, my right foot stuck in the air. I couldn’t move.
“Actually,” she drawled, “we will. Have a seat, child.”
Completely against my will, my body pivoted and carried me to the chair. “Hey!” I tried to fight it, but I had absolutely no control. “Who are you! What are you doing!” My hands folded themselves demurely on my lap. Inside I was thrashing, but outside I was quiet and calm. It was like being wrapped in an invisible strait jacket.
“Crystal Visions of Rainbows, I am pleased to meet you at last. I am Aphrodite.”
I gaped at her. “The Aphrodite?”
She inclined her perfectly coiffed head in assent. “The Aphrodite. Your mother told you about me, of course?”
“I read,” I grunted. Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love (beautiful, vain, used to getting what she wanted) was sitting in my living room in a perfectly tailored, spotless white suit. Her hair was twisted into a chignon. Scarlet toe nails peeped from shoes made of satin brocade. No blouse was visible; the suit jacket displayed her cleavage in suggestive, if not provocative, style.
She nodded, “Very good. You know that you have been in my employ for several years.”
I started to speak but she raised her hand, and my mouth wouldn’t open.
“Your work the past few years,” she continued, “has been exemplary, and I have been pleased with your efforts. Recently, however, I have observed that you are growing dissatisfied with our agreement. This is not acceptable. You have an obligation. You must follow through with it.”
I tried to speak, but it doesn’t really work when your jaw is clamped tightly closed.
She flicked her index finger through the air and my body returned to me. “Speak,” she said imperiously.
“She is my friend. I don’t want to spy on her. What will she say when she knows that her best friends is spying on her! She’ll hate me!”
Aphrodite nodded, “Very likely. What would you feel like if she were to die because you were not spying on her. Would that be better?” Her brows were raised in calm inquiry.
“What?” I stared at her. “That’s ridiculous.”
“It is not. Why would we have someone watching her if she were not in danger? You are a key reason she is still alive, and make no mistake, the older Grace is, the more danger she is in.”
“Really?” I squeaked.
She inclined her head. “Your job is vital to Grace’s survival. Are you enough of a friend to keep her safe, even if it is a secret that you are doing so?”
“What’s so important about her?” Grace was just a regular kid. Uncoordinated, silly, crushes on boys, not great at PE, not great at music, not great at math, but good enough at everything, and pleasant enough that she got along with everyone, kids and adults alike.
“If I told you, I would have to kill you,” Aphrodite deadpanned.
Or maybe she was serious.
At my incredulous look she laughed daintily, in a contained, fake sort of titter. “She is important to me. I would like her alive. Your job is to continue to file reports through your mother… What?” She’d intercepted my rolled eyes and tilted her head. “You don’t trust your mother?”
“My mother is a nut job.” I love her, but she is. She’s into all the quackery of tarot cards, crystal gazing, tuning into her qi, and all that. She’s fervent, and loving, and fun, but she’s a nut.
“Your mother is attuned to me. It is not your place to question your mother’s role in this. Your place is to obey, and in so doing, to keep your friend alive. Can I trust you to return to your duty?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said quietly, looking down at my feet.
“Excellent. I look forward to your next report, Crystal Views of Rainbows.”
“My name is…”
“Yes. I know. Do you understand the power of your name? You see clearly. You divide simple facts into a spectrum of understanding, like a crystal divides colours into a spectrum, or rain divides light into a rainbow. You see beauty and create beauty. Your name is a declaration of your true self. You should not deny it.”
I sighed. “Can’t you call me Christie?”
She laughed that contained titter again. “If I remember. We are in agreement, then? You will report?”
“Very good. Farewell then.” She rose in an elegant unfolding, stepped into the centre of my living room, and (I swear to god!) vanished in a slice of light, as if she’d stepped through a curtain from a dark room into a brilliant one.
I sat staring at the spot. I was twelve, but I suddenly felt as if I’d grown up. I was doing great and important things, even if no one else knew about them. I was a hero, keeping my best friend safe. I smiled to myself and inclined onto the couch, pondering what else my mother might be right about.
(As a bonus, I can count this in CampNaNoWriMo word count. I’m in desperate need of the 1200 words! I have been seriously distracted by poetry this month).