A New Year

While there is no full installment of the Adventures of Elizabeth Shelley, here’s a short interlude in which Hayden and Elizabeth begin their next writing session, and Elizabeth hints at things to come in our story.

        I knock three times with my knuckles on the oak door.  The door was a deep polished brown, once upon a time, but wear and tear reveals chips and scratches and cuts, too far gone to bother putting any effort in.  It’s old.  Time has had its way with the door, and as it swings open all the creaks and groans surface.

        Elizabeth opens the door and says nothing, simply raises her eyebrows and struts back into the house.  No doubt she’s complaining in her mind about how I am exactly ten minutes early.  But it is the first writing session of the new year, so I am determined to start the story off right.  ‘No normal person is ten minutes early,’ I practically hear her screaming in her head.  I have known Elizabeth for such a long time, and yet only after our writing sessions began did I truly begin to know her the way she knows the chips in the front door.  

        I softly shut the door behind me and slowly follow her down the hall to the living room, studying the piles of strange items and papers, the glass cases of ornate stones and, of course, the bookshelves.  Almost every single wall on the first floor of her house has a bookshelf pushed up against it, floor to ceiling, with books jammed in next to each other from the entire Planescape. The only walls that are exceptions are the ones with windows.

        In the living room, Elizabeth is waiting for me, a mug full of coffee in her hands.  Her legs are crossed, up on her favorite leather chair, and the morning light streams in from the window behind her, giving her this…glow.  And in that moment I see her exactly as she is in her stories, way back when.

        “Why are you staring at me.”  No small talk.  No ‘Happy New Year.’  Her statement is less of a question and more of a command.  Her eyes narrow at me, and I feel small in the way only she can make people feel. Sitting down on the chair in front of her with my hands folded over the notebook on my lap, I rush for an answer.

        “A system.” I blurt out, not entirely sure why I said that.  It comes to me after she gives me a confused look. “Your books…is there a system? There are so many, and libraries have systems, so I thought maybe…”

         I am cut off by the sound of her laughter.

        “Hayden, I thought you writing about me would give you a better sense of who I am.”

        She is right.  From the character she has presented, it is unlikely that she would have any organization whatsoever.

        “Well,” I chuckle, “what are you if not surprising?”

        She stops laughing to ponder that for a moment. “You’re definitely not wrong. But most of the surprises are yet to come.”

        Her gaze turns wistful, and she averts my eyes, choosing instead to look down at her swirling coffee.

        I choose the silence as the moment to open my notebook to where we left off last time and test out my pen.  I look back up to Elizabeth, but she is still looking at her coffee.

        “Elizab…”

        “Did you know,” she looks up with urgency, “that I started the war between dimensions?”

        I am a little taken aback. “I mean, yes, I had heard that, but…”

        She goes on. I do not think she even heard me speak. “Or that I was the first to travel to the locked-off dimension Opes?  And I found Otera and Phoebe? And I fell in love with someone from the trees who broke my heart? And there was this time Finn and I fought? And I met…”

        She halts abruptly; then she readjusts herself on the chair, placing the coffee mug on the little table next to her with a shaking hand.  I think that now that we have finally started this, she just cannot stop; her story cannot be contained in her body anymore.

        A few solid minutes pass in silence.  

       “Maybe…” I start softly and cautiously, “maybe we should…continue like we have been, yeah? Chronologically. In order.”

        She nods through a deep breath.  “Hayden, I’m just saying, up until now, up before that new year, that was all fun and games. Not that there isn’t plenty more fun and games; there was a lot of fun and games.  But now things are about to get…”

        “Complicated?” I suggest.

        She shrugs. “I was gonna say ‘about to get real,’ but yours works too.”

       “Well,” I click my pen and softly adjust my notebook so my arm lies beneath a pillow, “shall we dive back into the wondrous but ‘real’ Adventures of Elizabeth Shelley?”

       She closes her eyes, takes a shuddering deep breath, and runs a hand through her hair, as if she is contemplating, as if this is her last chance to back out and leave these memories in the past.

        She opens her eyes, and that fire that seems to be lit just beyond her pupils returns.

        “We shall.”

The Adventures of Elizabeth Shelley will (hopefully) continue next week!

Featured Image found at: https://www.pexels.com/photo/door-rustic-4905/

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