Day 196 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about a character’s role model.
Shannon: I had a teacher who always managed to see the good in people. She’d work with lost causes like me, and teach us that we were good for something where our minds could excel. Before Mrs. Davis took me and a few other students under her wing in a new after school program, I hated going to school. It was like a video game where I kept losing all my lives at every turn and I never improved. The game was pointless and it didn’t make me feel any closer to the finish line.
I guess the reason why she wanted to help us in the first place was because she felt the same way when she was younger. She felt stuck, and she explained to us how she dug herself out. She started the program because she didn’t want us to be alone in our journeys. For the first time in our lives someone believed in us, and it’s amazing how having someone cheering you on can make you feel unstoppable. When I’m older I want to same thing for other people, and because what I’ve learned from Mrs. Davis I know one day I will.
Erin: A little part of me hated going out with Raven. She painted her make-up on her face like the artist she was. Her cheekbones were contoured razor sharp. Her lips stained a supple red. Her winged liner looked printed on, her false lashes looked real if you didn’t know perfection was impossible, and her shadow drew all attention to her crystal blue eyes. The worst part of it all was that her unbelievable beauty lasted all night perfectly. One day I would finally properly learn from her and my face could be art too.
What character inspires your character?
I sunk into the overly comfortable wingback armchair, kicking off my shoes, curling my feet tightly under me and hugging my legs with slightly trembling arms. Shutting my eyes, I held back the well of tears that threatened to drown me in a lake’s worth of salty water. Without the ability to see the room, I focused on the auditory and olfactory senses; mainly, the calming lavender and patchouli scent that permeated the warm chamber and gentle nature music that was playing on a bass-heavy speaker across from me. As a door shut gently, I resisted the urge to open my eyes and acknowledge the woman who’d just entered, though I could hear the discreet clicking of her heels.
“Sonia?” asked a sultry voice steeped in years of incense smoke and too-strong chai. Redoubling my efforts to ignore her, I leaned my head against my knees and sniffed a little indignantly. Somewhere, there was the harsh scratching of pen on rough paper as the woman made some notes, presumably about me and my unwillingness to speak with her. When she spoke again, there was an edge to her laid-back tone, “Sonia, you don’t have to talk about it. We can talk about anything you want; anything at all.” By the end, I could hear the desperation creeping in; though she hid it well behind what I could assume was years of practice. At our first meeting I hadn’t spoken a single word, but she was clearly the determined sort.
When I finally raised my eyes to hers, after nearly half an hour of uncomfortable radio silence, I huffed irately and shifted in the chair to be curled up in the fetal position. “I don’t wanna talk about anything,” I stated plainly, dropping my head and shutting my eyes again. The silence started again, seeming to stretch on forever.
After a minute, the pen was on the move again and she piped up mid-stroke, “How about we talk about your aunt, hmm? About how your childhood revolved around her; you know, the good times.” I peered out at her when I heard the notebook hit the coffee table and watched her quietly pour herself a cup of fragrant chai, slosh a second cup out of the ornate teapot and pass it wordlessly across the table toward me. Taking a sip, she breathed in the aromatic steam with her eyes lightly closed as though she were recalling some distant, wonderful memory.
Tentatively, I plucked my cup from the table and sniffed at it warily before taking a long drag of scalding liquid; it tasted strongly of cinnamon and clove with an earthy tang that stuck on your tongue. I placed the half-drained tea back down and looked into the woman’s ocean glass eyes, intending to continue my ignorance. “Alright, I guess I could say some stuff about Vick. She was always kind to me, and tried really hard to understand what I was going through,” I mumbled from between my fingers. My response gave the woman a newfound confidence and she scribbled something quickly in messy hand before folding her hands politely in her lap.
“Wonderful, now, when you were very little what was it like with her?” pried the woman in an almost-excited tone that made me want to hide my voice again.
I sniffled again and sighed, “Well, before I was old enough to go to school she and I would run around the house, chasing her little dog Chester and giggling uncontrollably.” Pausing, I turned in my chair to face her more squarely, inching my feet toward the ground. “We uh, we lived in the house my mother and her were given when their parents died, so it was uh, it was pretty, pretty big, you know, for two people and a weirdo dog.” Our lives were flooding back to me in a terrifying wave that was threatening to pull me under, but I persisted, “There were lots of thunderstorms where we lived, too, and me and Chester were absolutely terrified of them, so we’d uh, all three of us would be hiding under Vicky’s bed with, uh, with my blankets and hers and we’d just cuddle there until we all fell asleep. Well, until I fell asleep and Chester didn’t wake me up again.” Giggling at the thought of us hiding from nothing, I felt the tears prickle in my eyes, falling silently at the corners.
A short silence followed before she prompted gently, “And she did well by you?”
Dabbing at my eyes, I nodded, “Yeah, she always had food on the table and lights and water. We never had any issues with that and she never uh, you know, she didn’t bring strange men, or otherwise, into the house, at least not when I was home.” Vicky’s face swam before my eyes, the younger version from pictures and videos of us, and I had to stop for a minute. “And she taught me how to count and the alphabet; well she tired anyway,” I thought, chuckling to myself, “and how to ride a trike and bought me toys when I was sad. And then I started school and I always, always had lunch.” I remembered the sandwiches and fruit and juice boxes from my early childhood fondly, knowing every day that I had something to fill my tummy and someone to hug me when I got home. “Some kids didn’t have food at lunch, but my Vicky always made sure I had some, always. She picked me up, too, most days. And let me stay in the park with my friends when I was older. When I fought with people she would listen to the stupid reasons without laughing at me, even when they were really, really stupid.”
The woman had been steadily taking notes as I spoke, but when I stopped she continued for a bit, catching up with vigor. “And then, when you got a bit older, she taught you how she could afford everything?” she asked politely when she was finished with her notes, her eyes darting between mine for tells.
With a deep sigh, I replied quietly, “Yeah, she had bought this warehouse for her boyfriend of many years and rented it to his gang for a good deal of money. They sold drugs and made them and stuff, but she said she never had anything to do with that part. I mean, I guess I believed her, but, I don’t know, it was just hard to think of her like that. She said it would never be an issue, money or the business, and she was right; it never was.” When I was finished, I stared at a small pile of candle wax stuck in the carpet and attempted to ignore the pit that grew in my stomache.
“Okay, and so she taught you other things, too, right?” she inquired, the music suddenly growing to a low crescendo.
Nodding, I thought back to everything my aunt taught me as I was growing up. “Yeah, she was a fair pianist so when I was little she would sit me down on her knee and play and I’d tap along with her. Then I would uh, I’d sit beside her and she showed me the notes and a few songs. And then, when I was bigger, she taught me the chords. But there wasn’t any pressure to be good or play more or anything like that,” I reassured the woman, who was writing vigorously. “And she did my makeup all the time and showed me all that and how to hide things like blemishes so no one would see them. I never pried or asked about why I might need them or why she did, but I suppose there were some secrets in her life.” Sighing, I leaned against my arm and continued solemnly, “I learned to cook the basics and some special dishes Vick used to make when I was feeling bad. She loved to garden so we’d spend the summers elbow deep in root vegetables and soil. But she also took me to the range and we did skeet shooting because she wanted me to be able to defend myself or something; I think she just didn’t want me to be a housewife.” I stared at the wax again as I thought about everything she’d shown me about the world in the short decade and a bit we were together.
With a cough, the woman got my attention and asked, “So, did your aunt help with your schoolwork at all?” There seemed an edge to the question, as though, no matter what answer I gave, my aunt wouldn’t have been worth all this anxiety and sorrow.
“Yeah, she did a bit. I mean, she finished schooling, but didn’t do any college stuff or anything other than some random classes. She was really a painter, but she’d fallen in with the wrong crowd so she didn’t do it much. But she knew math and stuff a bit,” I defended her, even though I wasn’t sure why; this woman didn’t really care if Vicky could count to ten. “She took me shopping for uh, well, for everything whenever I needed it and we both went to visit mum every month, even though I didn’t remember her.” As I spoke, I could practically feel a nervous energy enter the woman before me because this was what she’d really wanted to know. My mother was the reason I was sitting here, if truth were told.
“Mhmm,” she nodded, attempting to look nonchalant as she asked, “And, now, you mentioned you don’t really remember your mother?”
I looked away and stayed quiet as I considered my response, watching the mist from her diffuser spiral into the stained popcorn ceiling. “Well, I don’t really remember anything about her. I know, from being told, that Vick and my mom were very close and that when she got sick, Vicky stayed at the hospital with her. At the time, she was pregnant with me and wouldn’t tell anyone who the father was; no one knows to this day, but it doesn’t really matter.” That was a topic for another day entirely. “My mom waited until I was born to die. I mean, literally waited until I was born and then she stopped living. That’s how much she loved me; if she’d let me go she might have lived a while longer. I thought Vicky would hate me for that, but she just loved me more and protected me and, I don’t know how she did it.” Tears were streaming down my cheeks and permeating the collar of my hoodie as I straightened and dabbed viciously at the water.
With a few last strokes, she shut the notebook and looked up with a faint smile on her pale lips. “I think we’re really making progress here, Sonia, I’d like to see you next week if you’re up to it.”
I slumped in the door of the enormous, empty house and bolted the three different locks deftly as I hung up my coat. Kicking my sneakers into the shoes rack, I headed into the living room and cranked some tunes that vibrated the very bones of the ancient, exquisite house. Through to the kitchen, I passed by the file box that was precariously placed on the kitchen table and poured half a whiskey. With the electric lights buzzing away, despite the bass pounding in my eardrums, I leaned against the rustic counter and sipped my beverage while glaring at the box.
Someone had messed up on labeling the contents, so there were several layers of smudged white-out on the sides, and it looked like any ordinary thing could be in there. In reality, Vicky’s existence was held within those cardboard walls with tape, glue and fear. When I drained the rest of my drink in one go, I set the box on the floor and lifted the lid with trembling fingers, peering inside.
Most of the contents were files pertaining to the will, estate and official adoption of me, but, sitting on top everything like some black sheep among prude cousins was a leather-bound diary that was attempting to escape its bounds. I plucked it from the top and set it gingerly on the table, stroking the worn material and thinking about my mother and aunt. This diary was supposed to contain everything my mother wanted me to know, and I was almost too excited to breathe. Taking a seat in a rickety chair, I carefully unwrapped the tie and lifted the first page up, every other page crinkling slightly as though it had been waiting all this time for me to read it.
Ever since Josh learned about his mother’s journals, he always had one either in his hands or open in his room. When he was able to read, he would practice with them, and then found every excuse to be reading them. His mother’s journals and books were his first choices for daily reading assignments for school. He would ask questions to his English teachers and Mikio, but there were only so many that they could answer.
And then he started writing. He worked on his penmanship by starting his own journal. He would write in notebooks for everything that came to mind, as his mother did. He fills up notebooks easily and by the end of each, his handwriting was different. He tried different ways of writing, and loved the cursive his mother wrote in. He even tried copying typing text by hand. By the time he was in high school, he could trick a few of his teachers into thinking his essays were typed, when he really did them by hand. His room is full of notebooks and journals.
But his mother’s journals are in a safe spot on his shelves and in a box under his desk, where he can find them and read his mother’s words again. He never found what he wants to use his skills for, but he loves the idea of writing. He wonders if that’s why his mother had journals, too.