This is my Protagonist Backstory for my 2020 Nanowrimo novel.
|The car ride had been silent. Dead silent as they headed out on their family vacation. Arlynn kept quiet not wanting to disturb the heavy weight of tension that permeated the car. Her eyes latched onto the passing scenery trying to find some place to disappear as her parents volleyed cutting remarks and accusations at each other. The fact that they were now silent was no better than the tirade of words, now the deathly silence had her feeling nauseous, her stomach a tight ball of wadded up fear and dis-ease.
She wanted out of the car; away from these two people who were her parents. She wanted the peace she could find out there; beyond the confines of the car. In the bush, dense and thick. Lost with only birdsong to guide her.
But no. She was stuck here. A lump trying to make herself small and invisible. Aching to be set free. In this stony silence, she knew she did not exist. Her parents would have forgotten about her in their attempts to decimate each other. Still, she wanted to be any place, any place, but here.
They'd been on the road for two hours. She knew this because the face of her new watch showed her. She had remembered the placement of the big and little hands when they had piled themselves into the car. Back then they had been somewhat happy, but now, there was not even a spark of joy to be had. She wished the time to be closer to the time mommy had said they would be arriving at the cottage. That was, if daddy could find it.
Arlynn stared back at the blur of trees that were rushing past and prayed time would get them there.
After what seemed like eternity, they managed to find the place. Her father pulled the car off the highway and they moved slowly along a jutted logging road. Arlynn watched as the world around her slowed. she rolled down her window to let the freshness rush in. It seemed to force the heavy tension out and Arlynn was able to drag in great gulps of air and let her own tightened stomach ease. She longed to get out and run along beside the car. Stretch her legs, as he daddy would say.
As they came around the bend, Arlynn's eyes lighted on a cottage that seemed to rise up out of the wooded expanse. It was painted a rusty red with trim a faded green, but it looked delightfully cozy amid the trees. As her father pulled to a stop beside another car, she could catch glimpses of the lake. It called. Glimmering hopefulness. The sun sparkled off the surface sending ripples of excitement through her body. They were finally here.
When her father cut the engine, she through open the door and dashed down to the water's edge before her mother could call out any kind of warning. Freedom kissed her cheeks. The sweltering heat and tension from the car lifted and blew away in the breeze. She pulled in a breath and smiled.
"Hey, Spunk!" her uncle Tony called as he rose from one of the Muskoka Chairs and headed her way. She flew into his arms and he whirled her around as if she weighed nothing. "How's my favourite niece?"
She beamed at him socking up his words.
"Hey Arlynn," her aunt Stephanie called coming off the back deck toward them.
Arlynn ran over and hugged her aunt, feeling the embrace all the way to her toes. These were her two most favourite people in the world.
"You drive here yourself or did you bring some parental units with you?"
Arlynn giggled at her uncle as she told him she could not drive.
"We're here," her mother called as she rounded the corner. "Took us awhile to find the place. We got a bit lost..."
"We were not lost," her father began a bit gruffly, then smiled when he saw her uncle.
"It is a bit tricky to find this place, but well worth it," her uncle said as he moved forward to greet the newcomers and help gather up their luggage and show them around.
Arlynn followed them in to see the inside of the place. When her mother and aunt began discussing sleeping arrangements she went back to the water's edge to dip her toes in after shedding her shoes and socks.
"You be careful," her mother called out to her. "No going in without adult supervision."
"Yes, mommy," she called obediently as she skipped over the uneven ground to dip in her toes into the ebbing flow. She stifled a scream at the chilly first touch of the water. Wiggling her hips and legs, she sank her feet into the pebbles along the water's edge and stared out over the glassy ripples. She blew out a breathe thinking, "It was wonderful here."
As she stood anchored to the earth, she heard a clear voice calling out a hello. Turning toward the sound she saw a girl hopping and jumping over the granite outcroppings along the water’s edge. The girl waved when she saw Arlynn looking at her. Arlynn waved back wondering where the little girl had come from.
“Hi. I’m Emily. I live over there,” the girl said pointing back towards a spot where the forest swallowed all that was there. The girl laughed realizing that her place was not visible, “well, there is a house over there and that’s where I live.”
Arlynn smiled. Something about Emily made her feel relaxed. Most new people made her nervous. Especially kids her own age. They usually called her names and made a point of leaving her out of their games; which was fine with her, she wasn’t much of a joiner. Still it hurt.
Emily didn’t seem to mind. “What’s your name? Where you from? You staying long? Most people disappear after a week or so, my mommy says it’s because the place is a rental.”
Arlynn opened her mouth to answer, then waited until Emily stopped talking.
“Sorry, mommy says I yatter on and on. So, what’s your name?”
When Emily paused and looked at her expectantly, Arlynn answered. She also told her she was from New Liskeard and when Emily made a face, she explained that New Liskeard was a small town about three hours north or at least that’s what her mother had said.
“Hmm. That’s a long car ride. Did you just get here?”
Arlynn nodded figuring it was the easiest and fastest way to answer.
“Did you bring a swimsuit? We can go swimming,” Emily bounced around excitedly.
“I did, but...” Looking out at the lake she felt the enormity of the situation. Emily seemed to sense her reticence.
Arlynn had a feeling Emily wasn’t going to give up on doing something and doing it together. She was grateful when Emily didn’t push the swimming idea.
“We don’t have to swim. What else you like to do?”
Arlynn sunk her teeth into her bottom lip wondering what this new girl would think if she told her the truth. She wanted a friend. Wanted it as much as breathing, but she worried the truth would have the girl laughing at her. Still, this place had a way of making her feel more at ease; able to face things. So taking a calming breath, she decided to tell her truth; in a quiet voice she said “I like to draw.”
Arlynn heard the word echoed back to her and waited for the girl to laugh or make fun of her.
Instead, Emily beamed. “I love to draw too. And paint. Do you like to paint? My mommy said I could take lessons this summer.”
“Lessons,” Arlynn asked with wonderment touching her voice.
“Yeah, Mrs.Thomas gives lessons at the Gallery in town. Mommy said I could go this summer. She says I’m old enough.”
“How old do you need to be?”
“Six,” Emily stated proudly, “I just had my birthday a month ago and Mommy signed me up ‘cause that’s what I wanted for my birthday - art lessons.”
“Wow,” Arlynn said with breathless wonder.
“How old are you? Maybe you can come too?”
Arlynn nodded. That would be the most wonderful thing she could think of - art lessons.
“I’m six too,”
“So cool! When’s your birthday?”
“Want to go ask now?”
Normally Arlynn would stammer and try to back peddle, but the need to escape did not rise up as it usually did. Instead, she nodded.
“Come on,” Emily chirped and grabbing Arlynn’s hand, they hurried to the cottage where they found everyone just coming out on the deck.
“Hey, Arlynn’s got a friend already,” her uncle said raising his beer in salute, “welcome.”
“Hi,” Emily began before telling everyone who she was and saying where she was from and what they had planned.
Arlynn’s uncle grinned, “busy getting acquainted, I see.”
“Well, I don’t know...” Arlynn’s mother began.
“Now wait, art lessons sound like a great idea. We stopped into a gallery on our way in. I picked up a brochure thinking Arlynn might be interested.” her aunt said cutting into her mother’s thoughts.
“Too expensive,” her dad said.
“No, reasonable actually and besides it would be our treat,” her uncle added.
“And she’d have a friend to go with,” her aunt pointed out.
Arlynn looked over at her mother, silently pleading for her to say yes. Nancy took in a deep breath considering the idea.
“Please mommy,” she ventured to ask.
“My mommy can drive us. She wouldn’t mind,” Emily burst out.
“I haven’t met your mommy,” Nancy began, but was interrupted by a friendly hello as two adults, two young boys and a dog made their way up from the lake. The dog bounded forward when it saw Emily.
“That’s my mommy, and my daddy and my dog Ruffus....” she paused to rub the dogs ears.
Arlynn looked at the dog nervously.
“He’s a real good doggy,” she told Arlynn, who decided the dog must be good if Emily said so.
Emily’s mother laughed, “and this is Danny and Eric her brothers who she neglected to mention.” The boys were older and clearly a nuisance for their sister, who stuck her tongue out at them. “We figured she’d made her way over here after the boys told her she wasn’t allowed to play with them.” The woman gave the boys a pointed look and they shifted around looking like they were in trouble.
After introductions were made and beers were shared among the adults, the topic of art lessons resumed.
“I would gladly take the girls in. Mrs. Thomas is a friend of mine. She runs classes for the kids every summer. Arlynn can go for a week or more. Miranda's flexible.”
“Well, we’re only here for a week,” Nancy hedged glancing over at her sister who nodded. “I guess she can go.”
“Thank you mommy,” Arlynn said as Emily whooped and the boys groaned.
“Can we do a sleepover?” Emily asked looking over at her mother expectantly.
Her mother shook her head, smiling as she said, “We need to let them settle in tonight, Emily.”
“Oh, okay, but what about tomorrow?”
The adults all chuckled. The girl was persistent.
“I think it would be lovely if Emily wanted to stay with Arlynn in the loft,” Stephanie said looking over at her sister who was clearly perturbed, but trying to hide it.
“Ohh, the loft! Can I really mommy?” Arlynn asked knowing she had heard some mention of it before and her mother was clearly against the idea.
In a tight voice, Nancy said, “we’ll see.”
“The girls would be just fine up there together,” her uncle Tony added.
It seemed Nancy was the only one who did not agree.
“Oh, let her try it. She’s old enough,” David said taking another swig of his beer.
“I am, mommy,” Arlynn told then feeling all the more confident with Emily standing beside her.
“Fine, but you be careful. I don’t want you falling out and cracking your head open.”
“It’s safe. Arlynn is a careful girl, aren’t cha’ Spunk,” her uncle said giving her a wink. She grinned and nodded.
When Emily left with her family an hour or so later, it was not before they all accepted an invitation to a barbecue over at the Stone household the following night. Followed by the first of many sleep overs.
Words = 2086.