I make no secret that I tend to write about relationships. I can’t tell you how many times I received a response from a blog fan concerning The Foundation Chronicles: A For Advanced, that stated, “I thought this would be about magic, but it’s really about love,” and I just smiled because that’s so true. Anyone can write about casting magic: it’s happened a lot since a certain boy wizard appeared on the literary scene. But what about relationships? What about love? And what about putting them in usual locations and circumstances that could affect the outcome of that relationship?
I do that. A lot.
I thought about this last night when I was editing Kolor Ijo. My main characters, Indri and Buaua, come from different cultures and religions, they come from different backgrounds, and when it comes to the paranormal, they come from far different experiences. Long ago I laid out a series of stories around these two, because if there’s something that’s not lacking in Indonesia–where the stories take place–it’s the supernatural, and the supernatural there would pretty much kick the asses of the Winchester Brothers without so much as working up a sweat.
But though all their trials and tribulations, Indri and Buaua will never be anything but great friends and colleagues. And it’s not their religion that keeps them apart: it’s that they recognize they each have their own lives, and there isn’t any interest in getting the waters muddy with a lot of face hugging of the good kind. I like that, because it means I can concentrate on the investigation of the horror and not get bogged down with a lot of stupid, “By doing this, I’m putting him/her in danger!” tropes that should die out faster than certain ghosts and goblins.
But when it comes to some of my other characters, however . . .
There’s Couples Dance, where the married couple in the story learn about the twisted romance of the people who owned their house, and there’s Suggestive Amusements, where a writer and his muse become something of a couple when he realizes mythical beings need love, too, even though they know they shouldn’t become involved in the romantic affairs of mortals. In the end things go wrong for both couples, but that’s the breaks, right?
And then there’s Echoes.
Echoes was written at the very end of 2011 and through the month of January, 2012, and last edited December, 2012, right after I finished writing Kolor Ijo. As my stories go it’s one of my shortest: just under twenty-one thousand words. It’s also one of my more personal stories, because it was written at a time when I was starting a new job I hated, I found myself moving to a new location, and I was dealing with separation anxiety of the worst kind. In short, I was more of a mess that ever before.
It deals with characters from my novel Transporting, and it’s a strange world. For one, it’s twelve hundred years in our future. For another, it takes place in a parallel universe that’s like ours, but it’s not. This was where I started working on the idea of The Multiverse, which is something you’ll hear a lot of in The Foundation Chronicles, because my witches know there are a billion different universes out there, and while be can’t visit them, that doesn’t mean things can’t slip through to here.
Albert Dahl is also something of a transgender character, because though various handwavium and not a little technobabble, he becomes Audrey Dahl, who is just as nutty and crazy as him, but also the beloved of her lesbian partner in crime and duty to the Crown, Cytheria Warington, a planetary duchess from this future with access to a time machine who originally kidnaps Albert from 1986 because she thought there was something different about him.
Already you can see this is an unusual relationship.
Echoes is about Albert and a love that could have been. He dreams now and then of a woman he knew when he worked in Chicago, Marissa, which whom he had a brief affair that left an enormous, lasting impact upon him. The relationship was so intense that, in the course of the story, the reader realizes that while he loves Cytheria, he still loves this Marissa, who, however you cut it, has been dead a long time.
Which leads to the main gist of this story: did Albert and Marissa ever get together in the universe in which the current future Albert now lives? See, not only did he come from the past, but from the past of another of these multiple universes, and that means that an identical Marissa and Albert could have lived at the same time in his current universe, and they could have been . . . happy.
Really? You believe that? You don’t know me well, do you?
In a nutshell, after an order from the Crown–in this world everything is ruled by various aristocracies, and they all pledge fealty to the Queen–the reader learns the truth: he did exist in this work, and he did not only get together with Marissa, but they married, had kids, and were happy–
For a short time, for it did all go to hell at some point. Such was Albert’s luck, that another version of him couldn’t even find true happiness.
I just reread the last chapter of that story, and it still affects me. I cried when I wrote it; I cried when I edited it, and I’ve cried a little reading over it now. Like I said it’s a personal story, and reading it brings back those times in all their horrid glory. In the last chapter of Echoes, Albert and Marissa meet in a dream, though Marissa knows it’s a dream and that she’s deal, and she puts forth the question that perhaps she’s really the remnant of what Albert’s Marissa had been, that somehow jumps from on universe to another, found the Marissa living in the universe where her Albert–her love, as she calls him–and took up residence there and found a way to pass from one of their generations to another until she found her Albert living in the future. It’s a hell of a twist, you have to admit.
But that story reminds me of another couple . . .
Albert Dahl is sort of an older, far more screwed up version of a certain Ginger Hair Boy (you gotta trust me on that one, but yeah, he is), and Marissa is a less stuffy and controlled version of a well-known Chestnut Girl. Marissa even calls Albert “love”, which is a whole lot like “my love” when you think about it. And the last line from Dream Marissa is, “Sweat dreams, my beautiful Albert. Sweet dreams . . . of us.” Hummm. Now who have I heard say that before? Oh, yeah: this girl.
All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)
Annie saw Kerry’s eyes flutter, and in that moment she wasn’t an almost seven year old girl sitting in the crook of the arm of a six year old boy with whom she was sharing a dream—she was back in Bay #1, cuddled up next to her soul mate. “Kerry?”
“I’m tired, Annie.” He turned his head enough that he could see her lying snuggled next to him. “I feel so tired.”
“Then you need to sleep.” She laid her hand part-way across his chest and circled it over his heart. “I won’t go anyway. You’ll be safe.”
“Okay.” He rubbed his check against the top of her head. “Good night, Annie—”
She was about to tell him the same when Kerry finished his thought:
“I love you.”
Annie gasped in a near-silent voice. “Good night, Kerry. I love you.”
“No.” He chuckled as he fought to keep his eyes open. “You’d say it in Bulgarian.”
She chuckled as well. He would know that. “Yes, I would . . .” She leaned up and kissed his cheek. “Leka nosht, Kerry. I az te obicham.”
“Um, hum.” His eyes closed and his breathing slowed as she sunk back into sleep.
Annie made herself comfortable against Kerry’s torso. She only now realized that his right arm was draped over her torso, making sure she was secure against him. “That’s it, my love.” She stopped rubbing his chest and left her hand there. “Sleep and dream. And remember it so you can tell me in the morning.”
Sleep began to take her as she wished her soul mate into dreamland. “Dream of your tree in California.” Her eyelids fluttered. “Dream of reading to your Chestnut Girl.”
Her eyes closed as she sunk into the same sleep that was claiming Kerry. There was only one thought left that needed saying before she joined him in unconscious bliss . . .
“Dream of us.”
Yes, I went there with that, and I make no apologies for that last line, because I was going to use it no matter what. Does that mean Annie and Kerry are Marissa and Albert. No–but maybe a little yes as well.
A writer does remember all the things that made them what they are–to somewhat paraphrase Harlan Ellison, they are all of the lies that are your life. A little of Kerry came from Albert, though Albert is far more messed up where love is concerned, and while Kerry is now confident in his love for Annie, Albert never finds that contentment because the one true love of his life whom he can never forget was taken away. And since you know I time lined out the lives of those characters, a reader would eventually discover that Cytheria also lost the one great love of her life, and as much as she may love Audrey, she is forever reminded of what she could have had, but couldn’t because, as the movie Roman Holiday reminded me last night, the aristocracy has its duties they must uphold. And because of that, Cytheria spends her life silently suffering.
Cytheria and Albert/Audrey are broken people, they really are. They do love each other in their own way, but it’s never going to be the love they could have had, so they instead settle for the love they have. That will never be Annie and Kerry. While life may never be completely fair to my witchy couple–and if you think it will, again, you don’t know the stories I spin–they will love each other, and that love will grow more intense over the years. Annie and Kerry heal each other–in another story, one might say they complete each other, and in a way that is true, because they are far better together than apart. And in the opening chapters of the next novel, you’ll even see Annie do something that she never did in the first novel. Why? Because of Kerry.
And, no: it’s not kill Emma.
They’re not a perfect couple, but they do represent something I long for, and it’s one of the reasons I sometimes found myself having a difficult time telling the tale of my kids, because what they have is something I’ve always wanted. One of the reasons I developed Albert is because he did represent my outlook on love at the time: you can’t always get what you want, and that means you settle for what you can get–and in doing that, you’ll never truly be happy. You may believe you are, but in time you see it for the lie it represents.
Annie and Kerry are my current outlook on life and love: sometimes you do find your soul mate, your moyata polovinka, and when you do you work your ass off to try and make it happen. It may not happen, because life sucks like that, but don’t give up hope, because as I said yesterday, hope is sometimes all we have.
And why would you want to give up on that?