Developing Characters and Story, Part 1

chiseling

Sketches and Anecdotes About Me, by Vree Erickson

My Origins and Family

My name is Verawenda Renée Erickson. I have straight, shoulder length blonde hair that I usually part in the middle. Mom won’t let me get a pixie cut like hers, though I’d really like short hair so it’d be easier to dry when I’m in a hurry to be somewhere. Maybe some tease and curls added to the shortness … and dye it auburn like hers and Amy’s hair color. My eyes are listed on my birth announcement and student identification as green, but are actually blue-green and gray with amber flecks in them. Some days they are bluer, some days greener—the blue stands out if I wear white clothing, and the green stands out if I wear dark clothing. I am 5’ 4” tall and weigh around 95-100 pounds.

My nickname Vree comes from my initials VRE. My name is a combination of Vera and Wenda. I was named after my mother’s paternal grandmother Vera Lybrook and maternal grandmother Wenda Walsh. My middle name Renée is my maternal grandmother’s middle name.

According to my mom and 3 birth certificates, I’m the youngest of triplets born 15 years ago at St. Clair Hospital by natural childbirth to Charles and Karrie Erickson. My brother David is the oldest and older than me by less than an hour, followed by my sister Amy. Dave and Amy were born before midnight, June 18; I was born 9 minutes after midnight, June 19. Though my parents always celebrated my birthday on June 18, Dave reminded me last year of my real birth date, as if I were committing a crime celebrating my birthday early. So, to make peace with him, I chose to gain some independence by celebrating my birthday on its proper day this year. That proved disastrous when lightning struck me, my father, and our home in Upper St. Clair PA. I awoke from a coma to discover I had developed telepathic powers and that the lightning had killed my dad and burned down our home.

I sometimes have difficulty remembering past events, which started after I awoke from the coma. When I’m tired or really stressed, it’s difficult for me to know if I’m remembering real events, dreams, or plots from TV shows, movies, or books.

Another thing that began after waking from the coma is my body emits white light when I’m anxious or excited. The white crow Enit Huw calls me a Luminary. The book of magic that Lenny Stevens gave me over the summer mentions the word and uses it to describe powerful sorcerers/magicians whose bodies produce light.

Overall, 15 is an awkward age, especially when you feel like you’re responsible for your dad’s death and the loss of your home and most of your possessions. Then your mom moves you to her old childhood hometown and now you have to make new friends and go to a new school. And along with all that, you find out you can see and hear and do paranormal things that most other people cannot, while your body goes through physical changes that make you look less like a teenager and more like a woman. Too many boys—men too—look at you with lust in their eyes. And alcohol, drugs and sex are things to be afraid because they can really screw up your life. So you think about the past when you were innocent of the bad things in life, and dream of a future where everything turns out right.

Dad – My father, Charles Maxwell Erickson, was born 41 years ago on May 11 in Wheeling WV where he lived with his parents, attorney Reginald Keith Erickson (now 70, retired) and school teacher Rachel Louise (McGuire) Erickson (now 67, retired) and older siblings, Leanne Louise Erickson (now 45, graphic designer, married and lives in Cincinnati OH with husband Paul Watson and family) and Alexis Michelle Erickson (now 43, kindergarten teacher, married and lives in Laramie WY with husband Justin Roth and family).

Dad graduated from Wheeling Park High School at age 18 and then from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (Pitt Law) at age 22. He met my mom at college and married her when he was 25. They lived in Upper St. Clair where he was a lawyer. He died June 19 this year (my 15th birthday) when lightning struck him while he put away his lawnmower that I left in the rain.

He was tall (6’ 3”) and had blonde hair and blue eyes.

Mom – Karrie Renee Lybrook was born 37 years ago on November 19 in Ridgewood PA, the only child [1] of her dairy farmer parents Jonathan “Jack” Edward Lybrook (now 66) and school bus driver/substitute teacher Evelyn “Evie” Renee (Doyle) Lybrook (now 64) on Myers Ridge. She lived a childhood of milking cows, baling hay and harvesting crops when she was home. At high school, she was a 4-year cheerleader for the football team.

[1] (See Balen Renfrew below.)

Mom graduated Ridgewood High School at age 17 and moved to Pittsburgh where she attended and graduated at age 21 from University of Pittsburgh School of Education, receiving her teaching degree in secondary education. She lived with her Aunt Helen (Pittsburgh schoolteacher) and Uncle Ken McCormick (news editor) while attending college, met my dad Charles Erickson while at college, and married him in a July ceremony in Pittsburgh after a whirlwind relationship. They lived in Upper St. Clair where Mom taught school for 16 years until lightning killed Dad and burned down our home.

Mom is 5’ 4” tall, has thick auburn hair worn in a stylish pixie cut, and green eyes that never look blue like mine do. She drives a silver-colored Kia Sorento SUV that has a transmission that rattles and an AC that stops working during long drives. She was hired to be the seventh grade science teacher at Ridgewood High School when the school year starts.

Brother – David Charles Erickson was born at 11:46pm on June 18. He has hazel eyes, is 5’ 11” tall and lean like Dad was, and has blonde hair kept short in an Ivy League crew cut—a style worn by Dad most of his life, except that one time when he was a law student at the University of Pittsburgh—an incident Mom refers to as The Lost Bet of Haircuts.

Dave is sports active, outdoorsy and loves playing football, basketball, and baseball. He enjoys bicycling and riding motorcycles and 4-wheelers. He is mechanically inclined and is handy at fixing small engines, which has endeared him to Grandpa Jack Lybrook. Since he is the only boy in the family, he seeks out other boys with similar interests.

Sister – Amy Louise Erickson was born at 11:57pm on June 18. She is 5’ 5” tall, has brown eyes, and straight, shoulder-length auburn hair. She is musically inclined and likes to write and play songs on Grandma Evelyn’s piano and on her own Gibson acoustic guitar. She sings with a beautiful soprano voice. She had a trio “rock band” in Upper St. Clair (Pittsburgh) called The Amys (all the girls were named Amy—she and Amy Schweitzer are best friends, but the move has changed their relationship to an online one when she can go somewhere that has a working internet/wi-fi service).

Maternal Grandfather – My grandfather Jonathan “Jack” Edward Lybrook is 66 years old, tall and thin at 6’ 2”, has bushy but well-groomed gray hair, frowning brown eyebrows, serious looking brown eyes, and an upturned nose above a pinched mouth on a clean-shaven face.

Grandpa often wears brown coveralls and spends a lot of time mowing the yard and fixing things in the 2-car garage at his newly purchased foursquare farmhouse on Myers Ridge at 31619 Ridge Road, Ridgewood PA, built around 1890 by sheepherder and farmer Ludwik Dekownik, grandfather of Margga Dekownik, a witch who created havoc on Myers Ridge for too many years. The house is white trimmed in blue and has a long, stone paved driveway on the right that leads to the garage painted to match the house. Inside are 4 boxy rooms on the ground floor: the living and dining rooms have wall-to-wall plush cream carpets, plush furniture, velvety drapes, animal and pastoral prints and paintings on white walls, a glass chandelier in the dining room, and a large kitchen next to a laundry room and a small bathroom. Upstairs are 4 more boxy rooms: 3 bedrooms, including the master bedroom where Grandma and Grandpa sleep, and a large bathroom. The attic is now a bedroom where my sister Amy and I sleep. Downstairs in the basement, the low ceiling with copper pipes everywhere make going there a headache for anyone who is taller than 5’ 10” and forgets to duck their head. Still, Grandma and Grandpa keep it clean, the lighting is adequate, and the cement floor has good drainage, so it’s good place for storage.

Grandpa grew up in nearby New Cambridge where his father and his brother Paul and sister Janet Baker live. His brother Jerry lives in Albany NY with his wife Alice and family. His mother is deceased and his 91-year-old father lives at New Cambridge Retirement and Health Center, a senior care home.

Grandpa had to move from his dairy farm on the other end of Myers Ridge because the ground has collapsed, creating a large sinkhole in the cornfield next to the house. The sinkhole emits a strange buzzing sound that only Enit Huw (the white crow) and I can hear. I thought the sound came from generators pumping gas to keep alive the Roualens (travelers from another planet residing there), but they left with their machinery and the buzzing continues. The sinkhole also emits green light caused by crystals glowing underground. I think the buzzing and light are connected and needs to be investigated.

Overall, Myers Ridge is old farmland with few farms in operation—where farming is almost a vanished way of life. Second growth woods surround the house, and are quiet and peaceful now that the Roualens have left, flying back to their own planet, and Margga’s spirit isn’t around anymore. This is country life where lawnmowers are large, tractors are used to plow fields and harvest crops, barbeques and lemonade are part of backyard activity, as well as gardening small flower and vegetable plots, swimming in aboveground pools, camping, hiking in woods, and riding horses in summer. In winter, there is deer hunting, plowing and shoveling snow, sled riding, and snowmobiles.

Maternal Grandmother – My 64-year-old grandmother Evelyn Renée Lybrook is short at 5’. She is plump but fit and strong from living on a farm. She has short, red hair and green eyes. She drives school bus and is a substitute teacher for the Ridgewood school district.

Grandma grew up the youngest of 4 at nearby Alice Lake where her father (now 89) was a Presbyterian minister and school bus driver and her mother (now 87) was a housewife; both live at Alice Lake’s Lakeview Living Center. Grandma’s oldest sister Vera Ziegler and husband Kurt live 10 miles south of Alice Lake in a small community called Blooming Valley where their son John Luke is a Presbyterian minister. Her older brother Matthew and family, and her sister Sara Davies and husband Nathan live north of Ridgewood in Brookside and Bakers View, respectively.

Lightning struck Grandma when she was 4 years old while she was fishing with her father at the backside of Alice Lake; the strike left her with low-grade psychic ability, which she kept hidden from others and secret from us until the day doctors found a tumor pressing against my brain. Her psychic ability allows her to see ghosts and other creatures invisible to everyone but me.

Another secret Grandma revealed to us is she has a son (Balen Renfrew) from a relationship with a young man she met while at college. She befriended a wizard named Trevor Renfrew while attending college at New Cambridge University. Trevor saw potential in her of developing her magic to greatness, but she feared possessing a power her father called Satanic. (Grandma had a strict religious upbringing that kept her from talking about her ability to her parents. This made her seem shy and awkward around them and others who poked fun at her. Trevor made her feel better about herself and helped her develop confidence while at college.)

Grandma lived off campus with Trevor at their apartment above an occult bookstore that he owned. Though Trevor supported her financially, Grandma worked as a waitress at a nearby Pizza Hut after classes. During her third year, she dropped out of school when she became pregnant. She gave her son Balen the last name Renfrew, though she and Trevor never married.

Her parents refused to support her financially or emotionally, so Trevor paid off her student loan and helped raise their child for 3 years. Grandma returned working as a waitress part-time.

One day when Balen levitated a lamp and broke it, he struck back with magic that almost killed Grandma when she scolded him. She left the child with his father and sat at the local bus station deciding where to go. That’s when she met Jack Lybrook, a business classmate from college who had majored in agriculture and owned a small dairy farm on Myers Ridge in Ridgewood. His car was in the shop, so he had taken the bus to visit his parents in New Cambridge. He invited her to a cup of coffee and lunch at his parents’ place. She accepted.

Later, with nowhere to go because of the friction between her and her parents, Grandma told Jack her predicament of being homeless, though she omitted having a son and psychic abilities. Jack took her in and she worked at his farm. He convinced her to return to college. They married after she graduated with a degree in business, whereupon she ran the business end of the farm. She and her parents reconciled their relationship and she never saw Balen and his father again until this year when the dragon woman came and took her psychic powers.

Mysterious Uncle – Balen James Renfrew is my maternal grandmother’s 45-year-old son. He has thick, somewhat curly dark brown hair, short facial hair (he always looks like he needs to shave), bright blue eyes, thick eyebrows and lashes, olive skin, stocky build and muscular chest and arms, and walks with a small limp—he favors his right leg. He always wears a black short sleeve, buttoned-to-the-collar cotton shirt, black cotton trousers, and dark brown leather oxford shoes.

Balen is a wizard with limited magic. He can move small objects with his mind, see an hour into the future (in short flashes and not always clearly), communicate/converse aloud and silently with animals, see auras (energy fields), hover up to 3’ off the ground for almost 5 minutes, leave his body and travel in spirit to locations less than a mile away, sense psychic impressions (vibrations) left on an object by someone connected with it, and sense the needs, drives, and emotions of people nearby. Really weird and unsettling is how well he can communicate mind-to-mind with me, read my thoughts and hear me when we’re miles apart, and how quick he can start fires with his mind.

Although he is 45 years old by mortal standards, his wizard blood has slowed his aging and he looks half his age. Since wizards can live to be 800+ years old—Balen is a child at 45. By comparison, his father Trevor Renfrew is in his “senior citizen” years at 693. Like many wizards, Trevor Renfrew has the unique ability to appear a tenth his age for every 100 years. During the time my grandmother lived with him, she discovered his true age after Balen’s birth and felt deceived by his dishonesty. When she left Balen in his care, he raised the boy in Paris, France. Balen returned to his birthplace three years ago and moved to Myers Ridge three months later, secretly watching over his birth mother. Since our move to Myers Ridge, he now watches over his half-sister Karrie, and me.

Balen has 2 stepsisters and a stepbrother sired by Trevor: Phoebe is 516, birthed by Trevor’s first wife Bianca (who died from complications while giving birth), Dextra is 475 and Julius is 401—both birthed by Trevor’s second wife Floris (who presides over the Council of Magic).

Balen lives in a doublewide trailer on a tiny parcel of property along Russell Road on Myers Ridge, though he is tremendously wealthy, with 90 million dollars in various banks, local and abroad—wealth given him by his father and earned and stolen over the years. His father and stepmother belong to the Council of Magic that executed a witch named Margga and imprisoned her ghost/spirit to Tartarus. Margga’s spirit was allowed to return to Myers Ridge once a year to apologize and seek forgiveness from those she killed. Instead, she tormented and killed members of a local family named Stevens before she destroyed herself while fighting me for my psychic powers.

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