Weaver of Dreams
Summary: Christie's life is mirrored in her stories. OneShot.
Set: before, during and after the original story
Disclaimer: Standards apply. Entrance poem taken from Brian Jacques, Eulalia
The warm days are past, the dry dust has settled,
Those long-dead summers, a dim memory,
Small birds have flown south, cold east-wind is dreary,
So come ye and sit by the fireside with me.
Let's add a good log, stir up the pale ashes,
'Til they glow crimson red, txixt the grey and the black,
I'll recall my adventurous young seasons,
together, my friend, we'll go journeying back.
Meet my comrades long gone, whom I'll always remember,
I hope when I've joined them you've learned what it means,
That a story passed down can live on forever.
I'm the Teller of Tales, and the Weaver of Dreams…
It's an occupational disease, really.
Christie cannot help it. She has a vivid imagination, always had. Her first stories draw fairies and princes onto the white canvas that is her mind; color them with adventure and secrets. She reads a lot – fantasy novels and children's books, fairy tales about wolves and hunters and twin brothers and their talking animals, myths about faraway countries, jinni flying carpets and caves full of treasure. She dreams herself into those worlds, takes part in them, sometimes even comes to live in them for a short time. People smile fondly at her favorite pastime. Oh the witches, magicians and princes she meets! She sets off onto great journeys with them, rescues dragons from mean princesses, saves unicorns and protects the weak. Sir Arthur. Robin Hood. The three princesses with hearts of glass. Sometimes, when her friends come over, they play and she invents the stories. Her stuffed animals and her dolls are included as well as everything she can find in her room. They are figures from imagination, re-living their adventures, and she feels like she can reach the sky. Christie knows who she is – she is no one save herself – but she loves to see the world through other people's eyes. She is Sailor Moon, and Georgina, Martin the Warrior and Lung the Silver Dragon. Their worlds become part of her world.
As time passes, the white canvas fills.
One day, she stumbles across a fairly new phenomenon called manga. She still can remember the first one she ever held in her hands – not knowing why they were the wrong way round, not caring that the volume she was reading was the fifth not the first. It took her some time to fall in love with them entirely. She read the story once, the only volume to be found in her library – and she read it a second time, and a third – and suddenly she wanted to know the whole story. The series she bought that day – seven volumes, thankfully already published and available at her local bookstore – still has its place in her collection today, still is loved and cherished as the gatekeeper who opened the door to another world.
Colors are added, black and white and of every other color of the rainbow.
Throw in a very, very good friend from school and a mutual like for manga, books and stories. Together, they dream up a world. Her first real story takes shape in front of her eyes: a stand-alone, a story that isn't based on another, already existent world. The story is chaotic and romantic and terribly tragic and features everything a story needs to be a good cliché: a prince and a princess from a faraway world, mortal enemies without knowing, two guardians, strong and practically able to use any weapon, two crazy girls (who, conveniently, mirror Christie and her friend) as the princess's best friends at school, school, concerts, dates, a war, a fight, a dramatic and tragic ending and the eventual rebirth of both hero and heroine for a happily ever after. They draft their world out with so much love: her friend sketches; Christie develops the text and background information. They spend days together, giggling and scribbling, and here is where it starts: Christie's writing career. Of course, the story is never finished. The sketches fade away in some file (she still takes them out to look at them sometimes) and when her friend drops out of school they lose each other in the strange way only two people previously extraordinarily close to each other can lose themselves in the world.
But it's too late by then.
She has tasted it: the unique taste of creating something, of developing something. It feels like someone who plants flowers and watches them bloom, literally, and she wonders why she never realized how much fun it could be to just write. She starts off with a writing pad and a pen and she develops the habit of never going anywhere without it. In the course of a few years she fills pages and pages with her messy handwriting: stories of her own, short and long, dramatic and funny, finished and unfinished. She files them away with great care. There are weeks when she doesn't touch her sketchpad at all. On other days her mother yells at her for being late for dinner, for not concentrating on her chores, for generally being somewhere else. She can write anywhere: On her bed, her legs crossed underneath her. On the plane. At her desk. At school, during breaks and during lessons, even on the bus – though she prefers to do so only if she's alone. Even now, her stories are full of princes and knights but gradually her style changes. She almost doesn't notice herself.
It's a part of her.
One day she watches an anime – she used to watch it with her younger brother but he has gotten bored of it and she continued on her own, feeling slightly embarrassed at the thought that she, as the elder sister, likes to watch stuff like that when her siblings have long decided it was uncool to watch that kind of shows. Yet she watches an episode and suddenly it is there, right there in front of her. It just jumps at her from seemingly nowhere and she runs back to her room and searches for her sketchpad and doesn't find it, so she switches on the old computer in the living room. And out it comes: her very first fan fiction. Needless to say she is proud.
It is the first in a slowly growing collection.
On her way through the years Christie passes several fandoms. Some are short-lived and abandoned shortly after their discovery. But only very few. Christie likes to think she is a steady person and a fandom which has touched her mostly stays with her forever, whether she writes in it or not. She remembers even Dragon Ball fondly, even if she never would read or watch it again, or, at least, not the newer spin-offs. She still keeps her very first manga series – Arina Tanemura – and she rarely regrets having delved into a new fandom head-first. What kind of attraction they might hold she has no idea – her parents lament over her refusal to read something intellectual – but the pull undeniably is there. And, honestly, she doesn't want to miss it. Some weeks she barely reads, taken up with school and her part-time job and her family. On others she does not even switch off the computer, ready to dive back into worlds created by other fan fiction writers, authors and mangaka. It isn't a purely Japanese movement anymore. It has been taking over Europe slowly and it reaches America, sooner or later, and one day she sees a manga in the shelves, sees the artwork and reads the summary and buys it without ever having once opened the cover. Lida Zeff is a rising star in America's manga world and Christie pours over her stories days and nights. The artwork is amazing, the story simply breathtaking. She wants to be like Lida, or, at least, wants to be able to write like Lida does. Somewhere she stumbles over an interview and almost explodes with joy reading Lida regards herself more as an author than as an artist. As other children have singers and actors as role models, Christie has Lida and she doesn't miss one publication, no matter what. She waits for each new release with an excitement that mirrors children's excitement waiting for Christmas.
Some stories come slowly while others assault her in the middle of what she is doing.
But that's only later. At the beginning of her writing career it works like this: she reads a manga or a book or watches an anime. And something strikes her – a sentence, a gesture, a glance – and the sentence is there. A line, or a word, something she centers her entire story around. Whenever she tries to force it, it refuses to be grasped, hovering just on the brink of her mind but too high up to catch it. She forms her stories around her ideas, re-uses characters and places, expanding her world and the original author's characters into a brilliant, multi-colored universe. She does it for fun – and for herself. Because reading her own stories is like watching a movie – the universe expands in front of her inner eye, wide and unlimited. She writes fan fiction for the series she loves most – always only when she has an idea. She prefers one shots; mostly, but there are multi-chaptered stories in her collection as well. Some people read her stories, some don't, some comment on them, some don't. Sometimes, she feels bad for loving her own stories so much. But it´s not as if she feels like she is a good writer, it rather is the opposite. She loves her stories for the possibilities they present, for the worlds they open up for her. Other people have created worlds far more elaborate than her own – people like Natsuki Takaya and Yukiru Sugisaki and Lida Zeff and so many others – and Christie revels in the way she can add a tiny bit of color to their worlds, not for the sake of bettering it but for the sake of expanding it. She never gets enough, neither of reading nor of writing. And, despite everything, she still has her own original works. They consist of jumbled ideas and scenes, odd phrases and sentences that don't really fit. She works on them or she doesn't. It has become increasingly easier since she has a laptop. That way, she doesn't have to switch on the ancient computer in the living room.
When she meets Derek, Wary City is already halfway formed in her head although she hasn't got the time to put it onto paper until now.
He's a nice guy, and good-looking, and she really, really enjoys talking to him. They meet in High School during lunch breaks and during their Chemistry Classes. He takes her out and doesn't mind if she rants about her favorite books and manga and movies. On the contrary: he returns in kind, summarizing movies for her she hasn't seen, telling her about his favorite graphic novels and mangas. Together, they laugh so much her side hurts and she feels light-headed and happy. Derek presents her with a little gift one day, a thank-you note for a Math homework she lent him. It's a plain paper, only carrying the words Thank you! And a raw sketch of a lady ghost and a grim man. Christie sees the sketches and falls in love. And Derek is more than willing to share her project. He is as enthusiastic as she is, discussing appearance, height and character of their characters, their favorite food, their backgrounds. Together, they put together panel after panel in an amateurish but loving way. Christie writes the text and tells Derek what to put where and he draws the pages in his unique style and their project is amazing. Derek is amazing, too, he asks her out and she agrees and when he asks her if she wants to be his official girlfriend Christie launches herself at him and they tumble over each other on the floor of the library and have to be called to order by the librarian three times.
One year later, the fiasco of her first convention leaves Christie with a boost of confidence from Lida's praise, new friends and plenty of experience. But her heart is broken – stupid Derek, stupid Matt, stupid world in the first place – and there are other matters to attend to. Wary City is put on hiatus for an undefined time. She doesn't even attempt to try because she knows it is impossible.
But stopping writing is out of question.
Somehow, it has become a part of her – what people call occupational disease, maybe. Whatever it is – she returns to fan fiction and in a strange, totally normal way her entire life flows into the stories she posts on the internet. She hadn't realized how much it meant to her until now. She doesn't even know how it happens in the first place. But one day she looks at the busy shopping street and the sentence is ready in her mind, only waiting for her to put it into a frame. It is a simple story, bare of breathtaking adventure, dangerous secrets and heart-stopping action. Instead, it contains a scene taken from life, rather short but poignant, unconventional but absolutely normal, too. The fact that she knows so many characters means she can choose the ones best suited for the story she has in mind, for the emotions that threaten to spill from her in form of letters, words and sentences. And from then on, it doesn't leave her. She walks down a street and sees a red-headed man. It was strange, the way Cassidy always seemed to feel perfectly at ease with himself. She goes on a class-trip and steps into a puddle. One day, Kagome fell through a puddle in the middle of the street. She goes shopping with her brother and they argue all the way there and back. Sometimes it was so damn difficult to deal with Chiaki. She sits at her desk and sees the clouds pass by. Fall was the gloomiest season, in Hinata's opinion. She loved it anyway. She sits in the car and waits for them to arrive. Journeying, Kurogane decided, stopped being fun as soon as one began to ask oneself when one would reach the destination. It is so easy, and so natural, to let her entire heart and soul flow into the little stories she types into her laptop. She doesn't even care much if anyone ever reads them. Of course, having readers is nice. But this is her way, her way of keeping track of passing time, her way to sort out her jumbled emotions.
In a way, her stories are a much better instrument to pinpoint her feelings than her weblog ever will be. On the downside, as soon as anyone realizes that, it's hard to hide.
When she meets Beth in her senior High School year she doesn't suspect her new friend has already found out that much. No one she knows personally actually reads her stories. Beth hasn't read any of her stories, either, until the day she finds the script of Wary City in Christie's room on a visit. They have been friends for some time now, a few months, maybe more, and the intelligent girl surprises Christie again and again. You didn't tell me! She accuses Christie, who is rather taken aback. She never would have believed her serious, down-to-earth new acquaintance would show interest in her hobby. But Beth does and most fandoms fall back in the face of a world-weary private investigator, his ghostly secretary and both of their haunted pasts. "Write me the next chapter," Beth requests and it comes back as if it never was gone. With one exception: all the skill Christie has honed, the plenty stories she has written for other author's characters, have given her an entirely new view on her style. She suddenly is able to see the inner structure, the story arc and the character description much clearer than she ever did before. Feeling herself into other characters has helped to get the grip on her own characters. Having followed so many authors through their stories means she knows what has to be done, what can be sacrificed and what not. And with Beth, Wary City gains a new depth. Not only because her artwork is amazing. Christie has changed, as well. Together, they finish the second issue in four months, post it on the internet and gain a whole lot of new fans and even more acquaintances. Amazing how she has forgotten how much fun it can be, working on the world that is, truly and entirely, her own.
Second year, second fail. A girlfriend, a meeting in the rain, and they leave earlier than they had wanted to. Beth gives up her job offer, Christie gives up her dream guy, and the world continues to turn.
Had her moods and her everyday life influenced her stories so far, another aspect comes into the equation now: her dreams, her feelings and wishes. The third issue of Wary City becomes a recollection of her own desires, her deepest wishes and her own feelings. The encounter between her and Matt last year, which she only refers to as the bus stop scene, is mirrored in a scene her hero has with his ghost lady – it does not take place in a bus stop, at least, she is clever enough to change setting as well as the topic – and the fact that her detective literally cannot touch his secretary adds to the drama. It also, coincidentally, is a perfect description of how Christie feels. She aches for Matt, dreams of him, searches for him in a crowd although she knows he cannot be here. She has to be careful because if she indulges in loneliness too much her characters might do so as well and that's not supposed to happen. But there are other things, as well. Her love for her brothers is mirrored in her detective´s elder sister who has raised him. A day she and Beth spent at the river, watching the most glorious sunset, finds its way into it as well, and they provide the ghost lady with a best friend that has both their combined best assets and some of their worse ones, too. And there are many other characters she can distribute her feelings and thoughts on. If Beth ever notices she doesn't say anything and Christie doubts Matt reads Wary City. And it is not as if she does it deliberately or screams for attention. It is what happens when life goes on and most people experience the same things now and then. It's not even exhibitionism. Not every character has character trades that she knows from her life, though one of her class mates, a particularly annoying one, finds his way into the antagonist's character, as well as her father's kindness, her mother's patience and Beth's father's life. Many things that happen to them on one day or another can be found if you know where to look. And the things are small, so small they escape notice again and again. But whatever happens to Christie she is ready to convert it into plot details for her story.
It's an occupational disease; or something like that.
Wherever she goes she carries her little sketchpad and pen, ready to note down hasty ideas. The little book becomes her constant companion – reading it is like leafing through her life and her imagination at the same time. It only holds sentences, jumbled, thrown together – much like the sentences that once laid the foundation for her fan fictions. Fly high. The story curls and unwinds, traces through time and space, until it turns back to where it came from: the beginning of existence. One day she didn't get off as the bus held in front of her stop. Suddenly, the park was there, where a day before had been only grey and brown. Sometimes, she wonders. Should she be doing this? She's imprinting her own wishes and desires and great parts of her experiences and her life onto total strangers who happen to follow Wary City online. Is it okay for her to do so? Won't they notice? Nobody says anything. She continues on. She keeps her weblog, too. Just in case. Spell out the obvious and nobody will believe there is more to it than it seems.
Uh-oh. Matt had been reading it.
Strangely, and typically, the first thing she thinks about after recovering from the initial shock (after spraying half of her cup of tea across her display) she falls off her desk chair, laughing and crying in embarrassment, and wonders in which story she can insert this special anecdote that is typical of her life.
So three is her magic number.
Being with Matt is a balance act between. Between insanity and exhilaration. Between love and anger. Between loneliness and earth-shattering happiness. Between screaming in fury and crying with joy. He's neither good with people nor with feelings. His sarcastic remarks make her laugh at best and cry at worst. Their discussions still are nuclear explosions – hot, furious, uncontrolled, with serious repercussions for both of them. And Christie is surprised at how much their fights get at Matt. He's not the one to hold back, especially not with that sharp tongue of his. And although he's not always the first to apologize – actually, they never apologize, they make up on deeper levels than words – he seems even more devastated than she feels after their arguments. It's like he feels not only his own pain but hers, as well, and he stubbornly stumbles forward until it drives him to his knees and he cannot get up any more and she has to help him to. Maybe it is because he blames himself. Maybe. Even after weeks and month with him Christie can't really tell. He is an enigma. It takes her weeks to find out even the simplest things about him. Some things she just has to ask – others she has to coax from him, read from his expression, sense from his silence. Sometimes it drives her crazy. She loves him for it. She hates him for it. She is a mess of emotions, hot and cold, love and hate, desperate need and desperate desperation. Beth says her stories become even better. She manages her life like a mother manages the lives of her children – while passing, with one hand, effortless and yet tired in the evening. Finish college, pass the finals, meet Beth, Ray, Hyu-Jeong and Monica. Go shopping on weekends. Meet Matt. Talk to Matt. Continue Wary City. It has reached its climax by now, in issue five, and they are slowly moving towards the end. Her readers notice and express both hope and despair. The ideas come rushing from her like water from a fountain, cold and clear, and all she has to do is to collect them and place them onto the right part of her story line. She could go on like this forever, expand her universe, make up new cases, create new adventures. Her detective's life is a life, as well, and it won't end until he dies. But good things, Christie believes, have to end as long as they're still good. Like a puzzle, her story grows, expands, contracts and builds up and she sails with it, continuing on, always forward but already knowing the destination. And, piece by piece, as she learns to share her thoughts and feelings with Matt, she refrains from telling them in her story all too often. Only now and then, they reappear.
Especially funny events, jokes and jests find their way into her stories.
She expands her field of vision. Beth, who has a lot on her head with her new job with Mangapop, her college and Ray, never expressed her wish to step down from their mutual project. But Christie knows her friend. They have already limited Wary City in its drawn issue to six volumes. Christie continues the stories herself and writes them out. It is something like a novel and yet isn't. She trains herself to write whole stories rather than story-boards. She misses Beth, sometimes, and she misses her a lot. She would give a lot if she was able to draw herself but her tries end up wadded up into paper balls in the corner of her room. Matt once finds one and asks her why she had been drawing dinosaurs in cubicle boxes. She hits him on the head with a fresh paper ball. And laughs. Everyone does what he is able to do. She won't ever draw manga or comics. She won't ever publish novels, either. She isn't good enough for that. She loves to write, to invent stories, to create worlds. But whenever she imagines having to write under a deadline, something in her recoils. It's enough seeing her works posted on her website, her loyal fans returning month after month to see what she has created. She takes up fan fiction again, now and then, and is amazed about how easily it all comes back. The stories, the style, the challenges. Give me a sentence and I write you a story. And, as always, happenings from her life, funny little incidents or quotations fall into her creative mixing bowl and are used. Matt finds her scribbles now and then – on newspaper edges, napkins, even on shopping lists. He smiles but doesn't say anything and she loves him even more for it. My Scheherazade, he calls her once, and she is so surprised she just stares at him. His gaze turns mocking. You know who she was? Of course she knows. Scheherazade, the great story teller, the woman who saved her life and the lives of many others by telling the sultan stories for 1001 nights in a row. Retort. Retort intelligently. Don't let him get to you. "You mean you're going to have me decapitated if I don't tell you a story tonight?" She leans over to him, knowing full well she's wearing a light summer dress with a generous cleavage. Her lips ghost over his skin and he shivers and pulls her down.
He never needed words to communicate, other than her.
It doesn't change. She is the one who talks, he listens. She invents stories, he lives them. Her nickname sticks with her because he seems to think it fits her. She doesn't mind. She always loved Arabian Nights. And, as her written works become fewer, she finds a new way to keep on telling stories. It is strange, in the beginning, like reading out loud a story that one never has heard before. She hesitates a lot, in the beginning, and then grows more secure.
Her stories grow with the tiny bundle in her arms.
Never, ever in her life before had she imagined that this day would come. But she is sitting on the edge of a tiny bed and a perfect creature is lying underneath the covers, looking at her with huge, grey eyes. It's Matt as a child, over and over again, just like on the pictures Sandra has shown her, and Christie feels like her heart is bursting with love. She remembers a moment, years ago, when she wondered whether she'd ever be ready to have children of her own. Now she has, a beautiful, perfect boy, and she loves him so much she feels like crying. "A story, Mami," her baby son demands, almost asleep already but unwilling to let their nightly ritual slip past. And, smiling, Christie begins. "Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there was a little boy with blond hair and grey eyes…" It's a different story every night, though it begins with the same words each time. Knights and dragons, kings and princesses star in the main roles as well as geese girl, construction workers, accountants and teachers. There is no limit to the world she creates. And her little boy follows her, trusting and willing, and his mind is a country full of colorful pictures and beautiful places. They invent stories together while waiting for his father. They go out for adventures, watch the sea, climb mountains, rescue fairies, and what she has in her child makes up trice-fold her soft regret that her time of writing is over. Daily chores, work and household take up most of her time and she wants to spend as much of it as possible with her son. Together, they create a world of words and pictures in his little bedroom, every evening, in their own, special ceremony, until the front door is unlocked and familiar steps are heard in the corridor. Albeit tired, David's eyes light up as he calls to his father. And Matt enters the bedroom, kisses his wife, hugs his son, and asks him to tell about his day. A few more minutes and they bid him Good Night, and the child falls asleep while they tiptoe out of the small room and head into the kitchen. Her everyday adventures are laid out for him there to look at if he wishes so. Colorful, enhanced by her liveliness, her enthusiasm and her happiness in seeing him again. He reciprocates, in the awkward, lovable, one-word way only he has, and she smiles. Matt rounds the table to kiss her.
In fairy-tales, time never passes. In her world, it does, and remembering back there seems to be a colorful aura to most of her memories. Soft golden and red for the birth of her daughter. A fierce green where her children passed puberty. A wordless black as her parents die, grey as her youngest brother falls ill and beautiful orange as he survives. Her son's marriage shines in pastel violet. Her daughter's in blue.
"Mum, why did you never write down all those stories?" Her daughter asks her, years later, when they are tucking in the children. Her grandchildren, for Heaven's sake. Is she that old already? "You could have made a lot of money with them. I still remember the stories you used to tell David and me. They were amazing! You're a walking story-teller. How did Dad always call you?"
"Scheherazade," Christie answers, smiles and caresses her daughter's cheek. "Love, my stories aren't good enough for books."
"They're just stories, Leonie."
Her daughter sighs and smiles wistfully. "Aunt Beth said you published them once."
"I wrote a story Beth drew. It was a joint project, and never published."
Her daughter is insistent. Probably the worst genes she could get: Christie's own stubbornness mixed with Matt's pigheadedness. But she lets it go. Christie smiles they walk back into the living-room. Christie sits down on the sofa, sighting, and leans against Matt. Leonie curls up on the other side, next to her husband. David and his wife return from the kitchen with another bottle of wine.
It feels so right to have them back home.
The thought stabs her, goes right through her heart, and she tenses. Matt looks at her inquiringly and she shakes her head: Everything is fine. Her smile is genuine even though it carries pain.
She could have told the story, then and there.
She could have told a story about a girl with nothing but fantasies in her head who carried around a scrapbook for all her ideas. About a girl who read manga even though her parents disliked it, who sat in the library giggling and scribbling and inventing new stories. A girl who grew, learned, saw, who married, had children and watched those children have children as well. A girl who had become a woman who had become the old woman on the sofa right here and now, curled up next to her husband. She could have told them the story, her son and daughter and son- and daughter-in-law, but they wouldn't have understood. So she smiles and laughs along with them and chats away until late. And only much later, in their bed, soft night air brushing through the curtains, Matt turns around to look at her.
"What is it?"
Christie smiles at him.
"Would you like to hear a story?"
"What kind of story?"
"A story about a crazy woman and a stubborn man and about how they met for the first time. About love and fights, about sorrow and happiness, about children and grandchildren and much more. About a story-teller who isn't one."
Matt chuckles and kisses her softly.
"You'll always be my Scheherazade."
Christie's life is mirrored in her stories.
But she would never consider herself a professional author, no matter how much experience and skill she has. Life is such an intricate matter, as is imagination. Human beings can't write such stories.
Only life can.
I'm the Teller of Tales, and the Weaver of Dreams…