Friday, February 26, 2010

Young Emily

Her young life had not been easy but her five-year-old spirit and strength had endured through the torture that tested her for as long as she could remember.  She was a bouncy, optimistic wide-eyed child with ample blonde curls that framed her delicate face and frequent smile.  The sparkle in her blue eyes could not be dimmed in spite of a cruel, evil father and the pain of abuse that befell this little girl.  She stood it all during that miserable childhood, choosing to excuse the abuser and take it upon her tiny shoulders and remain kind and giving to the people that came in and out of her young life.

Her nature defied any other reaction.  She saw her life as happy because she wanted it to be happy.  Emily was like a beautiful painting that had been vandalized by foolish men.  Scratch the surface, throw objects at the canvas, but still the painting endured.  It endured because it was there long before evil tried to destroy it.  Emily endured because the sweet essence of her spirit was also present long before her father tried to destroy her....


Emily had an older brother, Aaron, two years older than Emily. Aaron was handsome, quick-thinking, outgoing, and bright. He had her father's dark features, and was a striking reflection of him. Although Aaron and Emily lived in the same house, they did not share the same childhood. Aaron was free to run in and out of the house, and chatter about his childish exploits and adventures. Emily's father adored him from inception. There were pictures of Aaron lining the walls of the spacious ranch style house. Emily would occasionally overhear her father boasting about his quintessential son to his friends and family. Emily took it all in, stored it as truth without mental commentary. In her heart, she knew that she just wasn't good enough. She was not Aaron, and did not share his charm and intelligence. That was her reality. Emily never tried to compete with Aaron, emulate him, or embrace her brother as a peer. Aaron, as older children sometimes do, held his superiority over her and rarely allowed her access to his idyllic childhood. The attention that her father bestowed upon Aaron was so pervasive, and his adoration so unrelenting that Aaron spent more time with his father than he did with his neighborhood friends. At times, Aaron seemed overwhelmed by his father's attention but from Emily's view, it looked like an ideal relationship and a sharp contrast to the grim alliance she endured with her father......

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Emily's mother, the elusive Claire

Emily's mother, Claire, whose influence on Emily is subtle but pervasive.............

All of this was not lost on Emily. She knew that she was a bad child because no one told her that her father was anything less than perfect. Her mother, Claire, was an intelligent and sophisticated woman. Emily was in awe of her mother, she would fix her eyes on her beauty and never want to leave. Claire had azure blue eyes, alabaster skin set off by dark chestnut hair, beautifully contoured features, and full red lips. She had a mystery about her, a quiet allure as she preferred to listen to people and study them, only making comments when she had something to say. She preferred to listen to people and talk about them, which drew people to her. She had no inclination to promote herself, and had the persona of a woman that was comfortable and confident in her breeding. She came from a wealthy European family, renowned in France, and had a breadth of experience that people strive for but rarely achieve.

Emily needed her mother and tried to stay close to her when her father was around. Her mother was scholarly and taught her proper English, and about the arts which spanned far beyond her six years. Claire did not participate in small talk with Emily, and she rarely saw her mother laugh. She had a smile which she wore when in the company of others, but when she was alone she was solemn. She was usually reading or studying, and her hunger for academics was her passion. Her mother would devote one hour a day to Emily for learning. It was not related to a traditional school, it was her mother's school. The hour that Emily spent with her mother each day in learning was interesting and the discussions were lively. Emily and her mother would discuss a book and have wonderful debates on the meaning of the story. It was a delightful hour and time would pass so quickly as Emily devoured her mother's attention and reveled in the fascination of her mother's mind. When the hour was over, her mother would fold up that side of herself and life would resume as usual. Her mother would close the book and Emily would return to her room.

Her mother never discussed the cruelty of Emily's father, and Emily didn't either. The silence was a testimony to the reality that Emily was evil. She was sure of this, for if her mother didn't stop the cruelty or talk about it, it was because Emily deserved it. All of it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Captain Jacob Taylor, Emily's Father

As I have worked with character development, the personalities of the characters have changed little; but in thinking about how they look through the lense of a child - they have.

As children, our parents are infallible.  This likely accounts for why it takes so long for severly abused children to be recognized, and often removed from their dismal environment.  If you add charm and charisma to the mix, the child sees the person through the lense of how he interacts with others as well as how they view him.  Unfortunately, the end result in the mind of a child is the belief that there is something wrong with them.

If I take this out of the family circle, and broaden this hypothesis to other important figures in a child's life, the same rule applies.  I'm thinking of all the victims at Penn State.  It must have been confusing to see a renowned and charismatic figure in the realm of heightened authority, and wonder why this well-respected person picked him to abuse. 

The abuser is not always the boogie man waiting in the bushes.  If he was, "telling" would be so much easier.  When the abuser is an elevated figure, a person in authority and an admired person - it compounds the confusion and the damage digs deeper into the child's psyche.  This is the situation in Pages in the Wind.  Emily's father is a dynamic figure, admired and respected by many, and his attributes are outwardly apparent.  Emily is always in the audience, seeing his charismatic behavior in action. 

Growing up in that house, no one told Emily that her father was anything but righteous. He was a tall, handsome man with hazel eyes, dark wavy hair, and an infectious grin. His hazel eyes were set off by his tanned skin, which he never allowed to fade. His features were masculine and rugged with high cheekbones, an angular nose, and a square and prominent jaw. He had a style that attracted both men and women. Men were drawn to him, for he enjoyed the camaraderie of other men, and he sought a large audience of men as much as women. Men made him feel important and envied, while women made him feel desirable and sexual. He was comfortable in both large and small gatherings, and moved around the room with an ease and demeanor that would catch the eye of everyone in the room.

He was gregarious and always the first one invited to a party, for his quick wit and engaging presence. An officer in the navy, Captain Jacob Taylor was often called to serve as master of ceremonies at naval functions. Captain Taylor was never hindered by inhibitions, and reveled at being the center of attention without looking foolish or self-serving. His co-workers admired him for his intelligence and imposing demeanor, and his friends gravitated to him for his outgoing personality. It was readily apparent that women found him wildly attractive. He filled up every room that he walked into. His stride was confident, and in his presence you knew that you were with a man that could accomplish whatever he set his mind to do. He had that certain charisma that is hard to explain, but you know it when you see it. It was the way he laughed with his eyes, the way he exuded confidence in every step he took, the way he seasoned his conversation with interesting anecdotes.

I wonder if you have known people in similar environments, or if you relate to the "pull" that charismatic people have in dragging in their prey.  Does it, in fact, even reach beyond our childhood and follow us into adulthood? If we witnessed a child being abused by a nameless person, wouldn't we drag them to the nearest cop, after we did our own damage? Would we even have to think about it? Would we go through the proper chain of command, and consider damage control in terms of the abuser?

What do your feelings about it?