She came unbidden, slipping through the keys and weaving herself into the words. It seemed like she had materialized out of nowhere, appearing in the pages with no warning, no hint that she would be arriving. An unexpected, and perhaps, if I’m totally honest with myself, unwanted character in a story I thought that I had already written.
I leaned back from my computer, surprised by her arrival. For a while I sat and I thought about her and her role. What now? Did I have space in my story for another character? Who was she, and why was she here? Something about her frightened me, she seemed dangerous. Her eyes were very cold, there was very little that was welcoming in them. We stared at one another for a long time. I looked at her, and she looked back at me, neither of us speaking. I wondered what she was thinking about, why she had decided to make her entrance, and why now, when everything seemed like it was already as it should be. She finally leaned in, beckoning me closer. Her voice was soft when she spoke.
“I have a story to tell. It’s mine. You’ll find aspects of light in it, even if much of it is darkness. Perhaps somewhere along the line you’ll even decide that you understand me, and that maybe we see the world the same. There’s a chance you’ll label me as a villain, and decide we could never be friends. Or maybe, you’ll discard everything that I tell you, harden your heart to me and cover your ears. Wish me away, back into the ether…write me away with taps on a keyboard. I’m inconvenient, aren’t I Winter? I wasn’t supposed to be here, not according to you and that outline.” She motioned to my notebook, sitting on the corner of my desk. “But here I am.”
“Why are you here?” I asked. “Why now, when I thought that everything was done? I don’t know if I have a place for you.” I folded my arms, defiant.
She smiled, but it did little to soften her face. Her eyes were still hard. “I’m here because I want to tell my story. I exist, Winter. Deep in the confines of your mind. And I’m ready to speak. I’m here because whether you know it or not, you need me to be here.”
I frowned, startled by this statement. I needed her to be here? Was my story missing something? I racked my brain, thinking through my story line. I didn’t know how to respond to this and so I stared at her, my mind working. She laughed at my silence. “It’s not as perfect as you think it is, Winter. And deep down, you know that. Stop allowing fear to make you settle. You don’t like me because I represent everything that is unfinished. I represent what is hard, what will force you to make changes and to stretch yourself as a writer and a person. But.” She smiled. “Is that such a bad thing? If by some chance you had to start all over again, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, you know.”
I fought the conflicted emotions bubbling up in my mind. It wouldn’t be the end of the world? Starting this book all over from the beginning was something I couldn’t even imagine at this point. It felt devastating. I didn’t like her, in fact I was afraid of her. I felt like she might take me and the story to places I didn’t want to go. Force me to rewrite things, to re-imagine what I thought already existed. Is that what this was all about? About resistance to change, about the uncertainty of trying something different? What if what she was saying was true? Was I letting fear win? I have a very bad habit of doing that. I looked at the clock. One in the morning. “I don’t know.” I finally told her. “You’ll have to come back later. I’m too tired to make a decision right now.”
I thought about the character as I fell asleep that night. I could still hear her whisper, her taunting words flying through my brain like wrecking balls. Her eyes, those eyes that weren’t kind. I didn’t like any of it. I wanted her gone from my head. But I already knew the truth. I had known it the minute I had seen her name written on that page. Now that she was here, she wasn’t going anywhere. Ever. And when I finally fell asleep that night, I had already decided to give her a chance.