For context, I’ve been trying to write more during quarantine so, in order to push myself to write, I started journaling. While my journal is mostly short fiction and writing prompts, I have actually been able to use it as a resource to work on my current writing projects. The two scenes below introduce two characters from a novel I am currently plotting out. I would rather not delve into too much information about them upfront so here you go. Allow me to introduce you to Bianca Barrowbone and Ophelia Grayson!
The Cold Girl
On a much-too-warm July morning, at a corner cafe in the middle of Miami Beach, sits a young girl enveloped by a crisp cold air, sipping from a scalding cup of unsweetened black coffee. To everyone around her, she is nothing but a brief and thankful chill in the air, a question unanswered yet also unasked. She takes a sip from her bubbling cup on an ordinary morning with ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, uneventful but for the fact that the water was marvelous this time of year.
By the peculiar girl would pass a three-person-huddle of teenage girls, gossiping about how Johnathan is simply a terrible idea and how that one girl could do wayyyy better as they shuffle towards the glittering, turquoise bay, desperate for the touch of the sea breeze and the cool press of the waves. As they pass the cold girl, one girl stops for one second but, seeing her friends are leaving her behind, rushes to catch up, brushing off the chill in the air. In the end, they thought the cold was simply the touch of an unexpected breeze and would forget its gentle caress in just a few minutes.
Only minutes after the gaggle crosses her path, a hungover middle-aged man with a five o’clock shadow flashing along his jaw and exhaustion seeping through his sunglassed eyes walks on by. All he wants is to go inside and feel the chill of the AC on his face. He hates the sun and the ocean is far too untrustworthy for a swim and don’t even get him started on the sand. He cannot wait to plop down on his bed and turn on the TV, drowning out the laughs and cheers of kids and college students alike, free for the summer at last. When he passes the chilled girl, he sighs in relief, glad for the brief respite from the oppressive Miami summer heat. He did not think her peculiar. He thought she was air conditioning.
After him, a great many other people pass, none of them asking questions, only sighing in relief at the brief touch of cold waiting for them in the unknown, invisible person of a young girl, sitting with a boiling cup wrapped in her fingers and a black turtleneck hanging from her figure. If anyone does glance at her, they may think her outfit choice is odd. Perhaps, they glance at the cover of the book firmly clutched, held open in her other hand as her eyes scan the pages for secrets she has not yet cracked. Some may even look at her and find her attractive, but much too intimidating and cold to approach.
While every choice the girl makes, from her clothes to her book to her coffee, is entirely deliberate, she cannot help but chuckle at the ignorant mobs rolling through the streets around her thinking she, the girl with silver-blonde hair and a narrow, lanky frame, is young and new and fresh.
They are quite wrong.
Finishing her drink with a satisfying, freezing gulp, the girl closes the book clutched in her palm, cataloguing the page number with every other thought running across her mind. She rises like a swan from her chair and smoothes her sweater, turning back to admire the front of her darling cafe, with its arching brown doorway and elegant, black, brown, and green interior. She looks back at the buzzing crowd once more when her phone buzzes.
OPHELIA: I’m there in 5.
She pockets the phone and breathes in what should be hot, humid air. To her, it is the cold she always feels, the cold that has followed her since the day of her birth. Then, without looking back, she strides through her door and, finally, her day begins.
Ophelia Grayson is a bitch.
In freshman year, she kicked a guy in the balls so hard that he had to drop out of school. When questioned by the principal, she only answered, “What? He deserved it.” Clearly, the principal thought otherwise. She was suspended for two weeks. When Ophelia got home, her mom gave her holy hell and signed her up for anger management classes.
They didn’t work.
By the following year, regardless of her record and intimidating yet tiny frame, Ophelia had amassed herself a tight-knit group of friends. Out of all of them, she was the most aggressive, ready for a screaming match at a moment’s notice. It should be noted that during her later years of high school she also started dressing punk, all soft leather and sharpened steel, and cut her hair to a bob at the nape of her neck. To everyone else, she was the cutthroat bitch that’ll break your nose if you look at her wrong. To her friends, however, she was a dauntless defender.
If anyone called her friend a hurtful name, she was the first to clap back at full force. Anyone grabbed her friend’s ass… or worse… they ended up just like Tommy Shumaker from freshman year. Ophelia Grayson was fearless to a dangerous extent and she was the kind of loyal that only comes once in a generation. She would do anything for her people and she knew her people would’ve done anything for her. Luckily, they never had to because one does not simply have the balls to face off against THE Ophelia Grayson.
With her high school friends, Ophelia blossomed. She finally cut those bangs she always wanted and dyed her hair a royal purple that complemented her complexion. She learned what grudges were worth letting go and what battles were right to pursue, so it was all the more heartbreaking when she and her friends parted ways for college. Ophelia, somehow, was the only one to stay behind. Some said that she was directionless, a fuck-up or inmate waiting to happen.
It wasn’t that they were wrong. It was just that she wouldn’t let them be right.
Giving up was not in Ophelia’s nature, so she went to school on a Pre-law track and participated in school activities at her local college. She even made new friends, not as close as her first group, but certainly as close as she was going to get.
In college, Ophelia changed to the point that people from her old school hardly recognized her on the street. She was still leather and studs but, unlike before, she was also floating cashmere and satin dresses over white tees. She was open and alive, but her wallet was not.
She needed a job, so when she found a listing online asking for baristas for a new cafe at the beach, she was the first to sign up.