Character Windows: Short little pieces of flash fiction that have characters from your novel doing everyday things. I’ll be doing this for my free writing for the foreseeable future. The goal is to help create highly distinct characters for my current ongoing draft of Everlasting.
Today’s piece is Carlos buying a theater ticket.
Everlasting Window – Buying a theater ticket – Marla*
Marla drew a few more stares than usual. In a metropolis like Qual her kind were less uncommon than the countryside but, ironically, the people of the country side were less likely the gawk. It helped that Lee was escorting her although it likely did not help that he was escorting her by the arm, or that she was wearing her finest travel dress, hat, and shoes. Not that she was out of sorts with her companion’s clothing. She had made a point of telling Lee to wear his nicer clothing. They were visiting Qual and meeting his very first patron. Looking presentable was expected.
The train that had brought them was several pops early allowing them time to walk the city. The pair were walking down one of the busiest streets of Qual, the main street between Qual Plaza and Qual Castle. This was not a mistake. Lee had led them there, knowing Marla would like to window shop the vendors and boutiques, and she appreciated it because she knew Lee disliked the public attention.
“Oh, Lee. Look!” Marla said quickly, tugging on his arm. Lee was not very swift to glance in the direction she pointed. It was not the first time she had uttered the phrase and the prior subjects had mostly been displays of clothing or accessories that she felt would have been an excellent purchase for him. This time, however, she was pointing at an advertisement board.
Leons Swalari’s The Operetta. A special engagement this evening only! Come here the play everybody will be singing tomorrow! Don’t miss this chance! The advertisement board was painted garishly to attract the eye but not without skill, the man and woman who were no doubt the leading cast members were well drawn even if their attempt to stare into each others eyes lacked the passion she assumed the advertisement was going for. The man’s eyes needed to be smaller and the woman’s mouth parted slightly. That might have improved it. Not that she faulted the artist. The advert had done it’s work.
“Tonight only. Three-seventy five by the candle. That is pretty late…” Lee started to say then looked at Marla. She decided to go for humor, adopting the somewhat vacant expression the woman on the advertisement was making, although Marla made a point of parting her lips. She enjoyed facial expressions. It was one of her unique qualities. Lee almost laughed immediately but managed to hold it in, pressing his lips together and breathing out of his nose. “Fine. I suppose I shall go get the tickets then?”
Marla smiled brightly and gently gripped Lee’s arm before letting go. “I’ll be up the drive aways. Perhaps near Rudy’s?” Lee smiled faintly at that and nodded.
“I’m sure I’ll catch you up,” Lee said and gave a little wave before briskly walking down the road. It was too crowded a street. The mid-afternoon sun was still something to avoid even in the city and most shoppers had retired to home or a cafe. Still Marla lost sight of Lee almost immediately. Unlike her, he didn’t shine slightly in direct sunlight. Marla continued her window shopping, splitting her attention between the dress shops and the inventor shops. Fashion had changed, as it always does, since she last visited Qual and she found herself appreciating some of the latest patterns, even if they favored exposing more back and arm than she appreciated. The subtle form-fitting nature of the dresses intrigued Marla and she stopped in front of one window to study a silver and black colored one through a window for several moments.
“You are a wonder, if I might say,” said a woman from behind Marla. Marla turned, offering a smile to the stranger. She was an old woman standing a few feet away next to a stall that held various jewelry and accessories. She was obviously tending it.
“Why thank you,” Marla said. She quickly scanned the woman’s wares. They were of excellent quality on first impression, although she would have to look closer to be sure. “Is this your stand?”
“Yup. Make half the items with my own two hands,” the woman said proudly, sitting up straighter and motioning to the jewelry section of her cart.
“They are very beautiful.” Marla said, still smiling. She stepped away from the window to the cart. Other shoppers were taking notice of their conversation but, as usual, Marla ignored them. The stall tender did not, however, giving a few pointed side glances and then even an outright glare at one man who had simply stopped to stare. Once traffic had resumed somewhat, the woman sat back down on her stool and smiled at Marla.
“Thank you very much, ma’am,” she said, then leaned forward, peering at Marla’s hair under her hat. “This might be too personal a question but, is that a wig?”
Marla shook her head slightly. “Yes and no. It is obviously not my hair but it is indeed hair. Not is it hair that simply sits atop my head. It is attached to my head and takes time to replace.” She lifted her hand and carefully pulled some of the locks of her blond hair forward over her shoulder and leaned forward, offering to let the old woman examine it. The woman nodded appreciatively then as if caught with an idea, slipped to her feet from her stool and walked around her cart.
Marla peered at the old woman. She had a slight odd gate to her walk. She listened intently and heard the faint sound of hydraulics. The woman had a limb replaced, likely her leg. That helped explain why she was being so friendly. Veterans with mechanical limbs were more accepting of her type. Marla waited patiently until the woman returned. She held a decorative hair clip in her hand which she offered out. Marla smiled at it. Was it beautifully crafted of stained wood with metal of various colors, cut into the form of a flower. It was dominantly blue and black, which contrasted nicely with the colors of her outfit.
“I’m afraid I’m simply a window shopper today-” Marla began to explain before she was cut off.
“A gift. You’re obviously a person of taste. Were I several decades younger, I would have been eying that outfit in the window myself, especially if I had your skin tone.” The stall tender said without a hint of insincerity and a fair amount of grandmotherly affection. “Here. Turn around.”
Marla found herself turning around as instructed without really thinking about it. The older woman gathered up Marla’s hair, separated a lock, then clipped the piece of jewelry to half way up the lock so that is rested near the nape of her neck. She then fanned out of the rest of her hair. “There. Give them something else to stare as you walk away besides your skin, eh?”
Marla might have been offended except that the old woman had her rather pegged there. No other women on the street were wearing a long-sleeved dress and gloves. That had been out of fashion for cycles. Instead she smiled and turned back around. “Thank you. May I asked your name?” she said, wanting to know who this kind shopkeeper was.
“Olivia Wicker of Jewelry and Stuffed Animals, at your service.” Olivia said brightly.
“Well it was nice to meet you, Mrs. Wicker. My name is Marla. Thank you again for the gift but I should be going. I’ll be sure to tell of your generosity, however.”
Olivia smiled and waved her hand dismissively once, then turned it into a small wave and Marla began to walk away. She wasn’t far before she spotted Lee waiting in front of Rudy’s. She strolled up to him, smiling brightly.
“Had a nice time shopping?” Lee asked. “Got those tickets. We should probably start heading over to the count’s now if we want to wrap up the meeting in time to go see it.”
“An excellent time.” Marla said happily and took Lee’s offered arm. “And Lee? Thank you for buying the tickets.” Lee just shook his head and began leading her towards a coach parked not too far away. She caught the slight smile on his lips, however.
Okay I cheated here, hence the asterisk. Marla didn’t actually buy a theater ticket. I did another window one that was actually Marla handling the purchase of a ticket, sorta. You can read it here. This just fit in well with Lee’s buying of a ticket because well, it was mentioned in his story that he was buying a ticket for her. Plus we got to meet Olivia, who is a side character in Everlasting and one of my favorite side characters. I think this helped flesh out Marla’s character some more but I mostly tread over familiar ground. If you’re curious what is so odd about Marla’s skin or who she is, you might read this previous Free Writing: A Fateful Meeting. If your curious, yes, this is the same Marla and the same Lee. Just… later. :) I’m not sure if these are cannon to the Everlasting story or not but I may try to work them in.