NaNoWriMo, or November of the 50K Words, was beginning to find a plot in a stuffed, red fleece notebook decorated with an adorable Ugly Doll worm. Errands had been run accompanied by a steady commentary of potential characters and complications (audible while alone in the car, internal monologues while navigating Target) and I was beginning to worry about the turn toward romance--why was my goblin developing a crush on the kilted buddy of her cousin? (Some of the plotting may have taken place while wandering around RenFest--I know the goblin's liege came from there, although I'm sure the woman in the gorgeous fairy costume is a perfectly wonderful person and not at all interested in consuming souls to maintain her fiefdom...)
Then I realized what I was doing. It's another November and I'm about to commit to ignoring existing drafts to chase after the new, new, new, really, this one will get finished story.
And I started to wonder what Amanda, the protagonist of the eternally in revision Sun, Flower, Shadows would do during her downtime. She's just lost her dog, her fiance left her and she's trying to make the rent on the house next door to her parents. There may be fairies haunting her town and something has been trying to devour her while she mopes around the house and, instead of moving forward, she's just been abandoned to her fate. Or, more accurately, she's been consigned to a fateless limbo. So what will she do?
Habitual behavior should get her to work at a small office downtown. she can walk there each morning, stopping for breakfast on Wednesdays and Fridays at the coffee shop where local artists place their obscure paintings and collages along the wainscotting railing and the floor is so dark she has mornings when she has to walk carefully, worried that it will become the tar it resembles...that perhaps it already has. Still, she loves this place. It's cool, even in the sticky coastal summers, and the air is sharp with the scent of the coffee, easy to breath compared to the humid heaviness outside.
Work is standard: phones, filing, signing for packages and greeting the random drop-in. Most of these mistake the shop for one of the boutiques strung along the older section of offices. Amanda sometimes takes a few minutes to talk to tourists who are heading for the beach but had a friend who recommended the local clothing shop next door. Amanda has never been in there--she is well aware that it specializes in clothes for moms who have active social lives and designer pocketbooks. She went through a phase right after Paul left where she decided to take all the old beads and buttons she had left from childhood sewing projects and bling out one of those thin t-shirts from Target. It's still hanging in her closet, a host of buttons crawling from one sleeve down to the hem of the shirt. There are plastic bags of beads, lace remnants, and more buttons sitting in the top of the closet, but this shirt will never been finished.
Amanda has given up on that particular idea, anyway. She's seen a few old high school friends, met a few new people around here and is slowly finding her way in this place. It no longer feels like home. She shed that chrysalis sometime in college. Instead, it feels like the place she lives now. She's careful to avoid discussing plans with her family. Her mother still wants her to move back home. They feel guilty about charging her rent and they reduced that when Paul moved out. There is a feeling that Amanada should be back home, preparing to leave again. With a good man, this time. Someone who attends church regularly and has a real job.
It's easy--too easy?--to fall into the habit of taking long walks or bike rides, pretending to be a tourist and visiting old shrines, houses her friends used to live in, places where she remembered having piano concerts, the old schools. One day, Amanda finds herself standing in front of a building that used to have a ceramic workshop. She started painting a small vase there years ago, but never returned to finish it. She imagines that it's lost in the old building, waiting on a shelf with her name written on a piece of masking tape in blue ballpoint ink. The building iitself is half-gone, someone must have started renovations and run out of interest but Amanda can't shake the feeling that she needs to get in there and finish the vase.
She goes to work on Monday, though, and forgets about the vase. There are three potted plants--two ivies and a ficus--she has to remember to water and she dusts those pots.
That evening, she finds herself sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk in front of her house. She's remembering the couple who lived there when her family moved in next door, the couple with the crazy pointer who would race up to her, stand for a minute, and then run back to his yard. She had hated that dog. It's zippy noisiness unnerved her. Now, she wonders why it was so interested in her and not the rest of her family.
It's late in the year, but it's still warm enough for mosquitoes. She slaps one away from her knee and rubs her hand against the nubby concrete. The heat of the day soaks into her palm. It's been weeks since she felt the shadows gatherring at the edge of the room whenever she sat down to rest. The house is cleaner than it has been in a long time. She wonders, as the sky dims overhead, if the shadows have forgotten about her, and what that means. She took a walk over the weekend, intending to go down the old footpath by the creek, past the old soccer fields and the first playground she visited when they moved here, just before Amanda started kindegarten. She remembers biking down that path with her parents and trying to climb the monkey bars that were shaped liked an oval set on its narrow end. It was too wide for her to navigate easily and Amanda was a clingy climber. The sight of guys standing on top of the monkey bar dome at the elementary school always twisted her stomach. But she was thinking about courage and the lack thereof, and she wanted to go to the old park.
She had started out, following the sidewalk to her old elementary school, crossing the street and passing in front of the old church that was more like a civic office and on to the beginning of the soccer fields. She'd gotten that far and then a car had pulled out too fast, almost as if she'd startled it out of the caliche like a Jurassic insect. She'd tried to catch her breath for a few seconds and then decided she'd rather go home, collect her mother, and go to the mall. Her mother was busy and Amanda had gone back to the house, instead, and lost herself in a library book she'd already read three separate times.
Now, her skin is stained by the darkness spreading from the trees behind her. Her trees, now. At least, temporarily. Tommorrow will be a busy Tuesday and she thinks she has a meeting at the church in the evening. Her mother will remind her at dinner. Maybe, if this upcoming weekend is nice, she'll try to go back to the park. If there aren't any mmeetings that she's forgotten. There is a rhythm to Bastian Creek she's growing used to, evening meetings and weekday office hours. If she never makes it to the park, the meetings will accrete until she's eased herself back into a chrysalis.
I mean, if I do NaNo, Amanda will be fine. She's got plenty on her plate. And she might be happier to not know what was trying to devour her or to never meet the man lurking along the creekbank, the one who has gradiose plans but needs a champion to get the ball rolling. Happiness is fleeting for characters in the modern school of crush, set fire to, shoot, and shove out of the plane protagony. I guess I'll just miss her voice.