A/N: This story was written on the occasion of Severus Snape's fiftieth birthday -- January 9, 2010. It's a little happier than my usual angsty fare, but as I say, it was for the man's birthday. I gave him the day off from suffering. Well, mostly. And many thanks to my generous beta The Real Snape, without whom everything I wrote would be much worse.
"My Journal About My Life and Stephen and Miranda" by Adela
by Kelly Chambliss
June 26, 2000
The young girl with the bright blue eyes wrapped thin, trembling fingers around the cover of an elegent journal with perky Hello Kitty pictures on it. She stared in sadness at the tragic pale man with the crooked nose who stood on his porch and pulled his long hair that was black and a little bit stringy, and he shouted, "Miranda! Come back to me!"
But she was gone, long gone, his beautiful black-haired bride that he loved so much even though she was alot older. "Do not fear," said the blue-eyed girl. She held up her journal and a pen. "I will tell the world the story of you and your beautiful bride that you lost."
That's the beginning of the novel I wrote last August. I can't believe how bad it was and how much I didn't know what I was doing. But I was only eleven then, and I really didn't know any better.
I hadn't started working with Dr. Reese then, for one thing. She's a writing professor who lives down the street, and she pointed out the problems with my novel. She's really good at that -- she doesn't just show you the easy errors, like spelling "elegant" wrong; she says not to worry about that sort of thing because you have Spell Check. She tells you about the stuff that's hard to fix. That's what makes you a better writer.
My novel was about Stephen and Miranda. They live in the house next door to me. They are from England, well actually, Miranda is from Scotland, that is not the same thing as England. Their names are Miranda Robinson and Stephen Smith and they moved here last summer when I was still eleven.
They are very interesting and mysterious. I used to think there was some great tragedy about them, because my pop said they were like what Cathy and Heathcliff would have been if they had lived longer. (Cathy and Heathcliff are in an old movie called Wuthering Heights, it is about tragic love. Have you ever seen it? It is a book, too.)
Miranda and Stephen don't look like the people in the movie except that they all have black hair and are pale and tall and thin. Stephen is younger than Miranda, and they wear odd clothes, kind of like olden days, and they have very interesting accents. They hardly ever say anything about their past lives, which is alot of what makes them so mysterious.
It was something I saw right after they moved in that made me think they were tragic.
They were in their backyard one night, and Stephen was pacing back and forth and his hair was flying all over the place and Miranda was pale as death. You could just tell how upset they were. I was looking at them out my bedroom window and you can usually hear things pretty well up there, but that time, Mr. Hilliard across the street was cutting his grass, and his stupid ancient lawn mower was so loud I couldn't hear a word they said. They didn't actually talk much though, because pretty soon I saw Stephen storm out the back gate, and Miranda sat down on the steps and put her hands over her face.
So I thought they were star-crossed and sad, and I wrote a novel about them that ended in heartbreak. I cried while I wrote it, it was so sad.
The real Stephen and Miranda have not ended in heartbreak. I have never seen them fight again, in fact, they seem to get along really well, and they do alot of just ordinary things. Stephen has a garden, and Miranda writes stuff. Not stories like me, though. She says it is "theoretical" stuff.
So they are not star-crossed lovers. They may not be lovers at all, because I don't know if they are married or in love with each other. But I think they are.
I let Dr. Reese read my novel, and she said it was "ambitious" and had promise, but she hoped I wouldn't be hurt if she told me it was "overwrought." That means too extreme and emotional. She said don't feel bad, if she didn't think I could be a good writer, she would not spend so much time helping me. But she does think I can be good, so she has told me no end of useful hints.
Like she talks about diction (that means the words you choose). "Look at your opening paragraph," she said. "Do you see how you have several adjectives in a row? It sounds monotonous." (She says to put in dialogue to make your narrative more of a story.)
I can't believe I didn't notice that, about being monotonous. I just thought you were supposed to put in a lot of details, because that's what Ms. Dumond used to say. She was our Language Arts teacher last year. She was always like, "more details," but she never said what kind of details.
Dr. Reese just roles her eyes whenever I tell her what Ms. Dumond used to say. "Let us put aside the well-meaning but dim counsel of the redoubtable Ms. D, shall we?" she says. That's one of the things I like about Dr. Reese -- she talks like people in books. She does it on purpose, because it's fun and it makes you aware of language.
Another thing on Dr. Reese's "beware list" is what she calls "the tyranny of the iris," which means that some writers get silly about telling you what color people's eyes are. Like I did in my novel last year, about my blue eyes. (I'm the young girl in the opening paragraph, in case you didn't know.) I couldn't think of any other way to tell what I looked like, but I know better now.
"There's description and then there's description," that's Dr. Reese's way of saying some kinds of description help "advance the story and characters" and other kinds don't. One of the kinds that doesn't is to tell about how "dark black eyes looked deep into smoky gray ones." (That's a line I wrote in my novel about Stephen and Miranda, when I was having them be star-crossed and tragically in love.) I have really learned a lot from Dr. Reese. I don't do that silly iris thing any more.
Dr. Reese is the reason I am writing this new journal (which does not have Hello Kitty on it, I think that's too babyish now, this journal just has a plain black cover, like a serious writer). She suggested that instead of writing an actual novel right now, I just act as a "recorder of life" and describe the life and things and people I see around me. If you are a good observer and recorder, stories will grow out of the description.
July 1, 2000
So today I am going to start describing the people and things around me. As I have said, the people I want to observe most are Stephen and Miranda, because even if they are not tragic, they are still the most unusual, but I should probably start with me.
My name is Adela Edwards. I was born on September 29, 1987. I will be 13 in three months and I just finished the seventh grade at Mount Jefferson Middle School. In the fall I will be in the 8th grade and then I will have to go to high school. I have big feet (sad), and double-jointed thumbs. I like to write and I plan to be a writer, but when I'm not writing I like to read and do other things.
Lately, I have been spending time observing life so that I can record it. This gets me out into the neighborhood more, which Pop says is a good idea, but Dad says don't bother Stephen and Miranda too much. (Since their life is the one I like to observe most, I go over to their house alot. They don't seem to mind. Well, Miranda doesn't. Usually. A lot of times Stephen acts like he minds, but I'm not sure he really does.)
My best friend is Rosa Velez. She likes to read, too. She is Puerto Rican, she likes fantasy books, and she has three brothers. She is the oldest. She wants to be a reporter for a Spanish language newspaper (if they still have newspapers when we grow up because my pop doesn't know if they will.)
Then I have two dads. My first dad is James V. Edwards, he adopted me when I was just a baby. Dad is an engineering professor at the university. (Dr. Reese works there too, she's a writing teacher. Alot of faculty live in our neighborhood.)
My other dad I call Pop. He and Dad have been partners since I was 2, so I don't really remember a time without him. They met at the university, Pop is in the Media Studies department. Pop's name is Timothy Jevic (that's pronounced like "Yevich." He doesn't like to get his name said wrong.)
Dad and Pop get teased sometimes because their names are Jim and Tim, but otherwise they are lucky because the people they work with don't bother them about being gay. It doesn't bother me either, but I did have a fight with Jason Gribble in the fourth grade because he said my dads were faggots. Pop says they are faggots, so what, and don't worry about it.
The houses around here are old, but Dad says they have character. He'll tell you all about the woodwork and architecture in our house if you get him started. We have a front porch and a backyard that is kind of overgrown. Pop always says he's going to start a vegetable garden back there, but he never does. On one side of us is another street, and on the other side is Stephen and Miranda's house. It is separated from us by a wooden fence you can see through because there are some spaces between the boards.
I look through the boards alot to see if Stephen or Miranda are out in their yard because when I observe the life around me, they are totally the most interesting things to observe.
Pop went over there on the day they moved in just to welcome them to the neighborhood and say let us know if we could help with anything. They didn't have that much to move in, really, because most of the furniture came with the house.
They have a ton of books, though. Their whole living room is books. I don't know when they moved those in, because I didn't see them on the actual moving day. They didn't have a moving van or anything. They came in a taxi and just had some suitcases. Maybe they had the books shipped.
Their house used to belong to old Mrs. Prince, a widow lady. Pop said she was a hundred if she was a day. Mr. Prince had been dead a long time, he was from England too, and when he died, Mrs. Prince came home here to the United States. She didn't have any children or relatives, so we used to watch out for her, get her groceries, things like that.
When she died, a lawyer came around and Pop went over to talk to him and the lawyer said that the house had been left to Mrs. P's husband's great nephew in England. So she did have a relative, only she never mentioned him. It is Stephen, and I still don't know why he and Miranda moved here. I asked, but Stephen just said, "Because despite all evidence to the contrary, Fate has apparently decided that I have not yet been subjected to enough eleven-year-old idiocy."
He talks like people in books, too, but I don't think he does it because of the pleasures of language. Maybe he does it because he's British. He's rude like that sometimes, but he doesn't mean it. I don't think he does, anyway. Pop says his bark is worse than his bite, but Dad says he doesn't think Stephen has even come close to biting yet and that we should just watch out.
July 5, 2000
Yesterday was July 4th and we went to Broadhurst Park for a picnic and to watch the fireworks. We went with Rosa's family, and everybody brought food, which I love because Rosa's mom makes Puerto Rican food to remind us that lots of different kinds of people are Americans. She says we need some brown in the red, white, and blue.
We asked Stephen and Miranda to come, even though they probably don't care about July 4th because they are from the UK. (That was a joke Pop told me once -- Do they have the Fourth of July in England? And when you say no, because the Fourth of July is American Independence Day, he says of course they have the Fourth of July, do you think they just go from July 3rd to July 5th? The joke is that they don't think of July 4th as a holiday.)
Well, we asked S & M, but they couldn't make it. (That's what Pop calls them, S & M. It's some kind of joke, because Dad always roles his eyes when Pop says it, and Pop grins. I'm sure it has to do with sex, which is why they won't tell me what it means. I hate that, I am not a little kid any more. They usually explain to me about sex stuff, so I don't know what is the big problem with this particular thing.)
Anyway, it was too bad S & M couldn't come, because I was hoping to learn more about them. They are both so. . .I don't know how to say it. There is something really mysterious about them. It sounds silly, but I really do think they have some secret sorrow even if they are not tragic lovers. Even Dr. Reese says that their names sound like aliases -- Robinson and Smith. Pop says they are in the Witness Protection Program, but he laughs when he says it, so I don't think he really believes it.
Pop thinks Miranda is maybe 60. Stephen is probably 35 or something, but Pop says he looks "like he's been rode hard and put away wet." (That's a saying from Granddaddy's childhood, he lives in Tennessee, and we go there to visit him every summer.) I think I said before that Stephen is really pale and has black hair that always falls into his eyes and a hawky nose. He is a very thin man and has very long, thin fingers like you think he would play the piano, but I don't think he does. He looks tired sometimes, there are dark circles under his eyes.
He is not what you would call handsome, but Pop says he is "sensually compelling." That means Pop thinks he's sexy. Dad just roles his eyes at stuff like that, he knows Pop never means anything by it.
"Do you think Stephen is gay?" I asked Pop. Because it is usually gay men that Pop thinks are sexy. But I think Stephen is in love with Miranda, even if it is not tragic love. And that means they are probably married, because they are both old, and usually if people are in love and old, they are married (except people like Pop and Dad, because they are not allowed). But sometimes you can be gay and be married to a straight person. It's complicated.
But Pop said no, he didn't think Stephen was gay, and Dad said Stephen didn't "read gay" to him, either. But Dad doesn't think he is in love with Miranda.
Pop was like, "Why not, Jimmy? Just because she's older than he is? You're not being age-ist are you?" (I'm not sure if that's how it is spelled, but it means being prejudice against people because they are older.)
Dad said, "It's not that. Well, at least I don't think it is. I don't know. They just seem so reserved."
Pop said, "Well, of course they do, they're British. But I think Adela's right, there's something there between them. I can sense it."
"I can't," Dad said.
"So who do you think she is then? His mother?" Pop asked.
"I have no idea," said Dad. "And it's really none of our business."
Pop laughed and said, "Killjoy. Well, if there's a story there, Della will find it, won't you, sweetie? You can be Nancy Drew and Rosa can be Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter." (Nancy Drew is a girl detective in books and Brenda Starr is an old-fashion comic strip. Pop knows a lot about that sort of thing because of doing popular culture in Media Studies.)
I do not believe that Miranda is Stephen's mother. He wouldn't call her Miranda if she was, would he? And she does not act like his mother.
Here is what I think: I think they are in love with each other. She is older than him, but they are both pretty old, so I don't think that matters. They have different names, but so do a lot of the married people from the university. It is true that when I am with them, they don't touch each other or hold hands or anything like some people do who are in love. My dads do. But Dr. Reese says not every couple does that when other people are around, or children. So that doesn't mean anything.
Pop is right, there is something between Stephen and Miranda. Something about the way they look at each other. Stephen gets this expression on his face. Sort of a smile, but not exactly. I don't know what to call it -- it's just his Miranda expression. Something just for her. And even though he is sarcastic to her like he is to everyone, his voice is different with her -- softer or something. Like he's smiling behind it.
(I read this part to Dr. Reese, and she said that last one is a good descriptive line.)
She says she does not know what is true about Stephen and Miranda's "relationship," but she agrees with me that they could be in love. Dr. Reese doesn't talk too much about them, she says she doesn't want to gossip about her neighbors, but she is interested, I can tell. She's a writer like me, so she observes alot of the life around her, and I just know she finds Miranda and Stephen as interesting as I do.
She even invited Miranda to join her women's group, and Miranda said maybe in the autumn she would. (Scottish people don't say "fall.") I wish Dr. Reese would decide what she thinks about them being in love, because so far she has been right in some of the other things she has guessed about them.
Like right after school started last fall, she said she would bet money that Miranda used to be a teacher.
"I know the look," she said. "And I saw how she talked to you at the Labor Day community picnic, how clearly she explained things, and how even those rowdy Bierman kids were on their best behavior with her. I honestly thought that youngest Bierman girl was going to raise her hand before she spoke."
Pop had invited Miranda and Stephen to the picnic personally, he told them it was a good chance to get to know people in the neighborhood. Miranda came, but Stephen didn't. I asked him later why not, and he said, "Because sometimes the universe takes pity on even such as I."
And it turns out that Miranda was a teacher once. I asked her. One day last winter she was walking home from the store and I was coming home from Rosa's, so I walked with her. (She and Stephen don't have a car, which is a little strange, but when I asked her about it, she said they like to walk. I guess if they need to go far, they probably take a bus.)
Anyway, I knew it was her even from down the street, because she has what Dr. Reese says is "an upright carriage," which means that her back is very straight and she never slumps or leans. And I recognized her plaid coat and long skirt. I've never seen her wear pants. She wore long black skirts in the winter and now in the summer, she wears long flowy dresses.
Other things to describe her: Even though she is old, over 50, her hair is still dark and Pop says you can tell it's her natural color because there are a few silver streaks in it that would be covered up if she dyed it. She usually wears it in a bun, but sometimes in the summer, she lets it down in a braid. Probably if she was really your teacher, she'd be scary, but she's usually not when you just talk to her. She has glasses.
Tomorrow I will write down what she said on our walk, but I can't write any more now, my hand is killing me.