Developing Characters and Story, Part 3

chiseling

My Friends and Neighbors on Myers Ridge (So Far), by Vree Erickson

Leonard “Lenny” Stevens

Lenny is my age—15, born July 5, a day that was known as Margga’s Curse because of a witch’s spirit that tried to kill his family on that day every year. Lenny works helping my maternal grandfather Jack Lybrook fix up the old farmhouse that Grandpa bought from Lenny’s dad. The house used to belong to Margga when she was alive. Lenny’s paternal grandparents bought it after she was killed by the Council of Magic.

Lenny is handsome, with dreamy dark brown (chocolate) eyes, thick, burnt sienna hair, and is 5’ 7” tall and says he weighs 130 pounds. He lives up the road with his dad and 2 of his 3 sisters.

He has toys and childhood treasures hidden beneath the floorboards of the attic that is now the bedroom I share with Amy. Also hidden in the floor was a large book with a dusty black, hard leather cover and pages askew that I call Margga’s Book of Spells and Other Magic. It’s an old, oversized log book that has no title and is filled with numbers and strange figures, like secret code, which are predictions written as poems, spells written as songs, and some strange recipes that I’m sure no one would want to eat. I’m the only one who can read the book, when it reveals itself to me. When it doesn’t, the pages are blank.

Lenny knows a lot about the weird history here, like the white crow Enit Huw who can speak to us. Lenny’s paternal grandmother told him that Enit Huw is the soul of time—past, present, and future, and brings hope for healing and new beginnings in life. Lenny used one of Enit Huw’s tail feathers for its magic power to release me from Margga’s imprisonment spell when she tried to steal my psychic energy. He also wears around his neck a good luck pendant of a gold cross that his grandmother gave him. He believes in all kinds of good luck charms—he gave my family and me flint arrowheads as protection from evil spirits the day Margga tried to kill him.

Lenny and I are spiritually close to each other by a psychic connection. Once, he touched my forehead and connected to my dreams. When Margga killed him, I brought him back, which strengthened our connection and gave him some of my psychic abilities, albeit weaker than mine. The connection remains and allows him to psychically communicate with me—he often visits me in my dreams without physically touching me like he did before. Now, if we touch or we’re in close proximity for more than 5 minutes, our bodies glow with white light. The longer we’re together, the stronger the light becomes and we feel heat envelop us until it gets too hot to bear. We usually have to distance ourselves by 10 feet or more after 20 minutes.

Howard Stevens

Howard is Lenny’s 45-year-old widowed father. Howard is 5’ 10” tall, has dark brown hair graying around the temples, and brown, almost hazel eyes.

He is a wildlife artist and the high school art teacher at Ridgewood High. His spouse Rebecca “Becca” Stevens née Crawford of New Cambridge is deceased. Besides Lenny, his children are Lynelle, 20; Lindsey, 9; and Leanne, 7. Lynelle owns and runs Becca’s Diner (once owned by Howard’s wife) located at Alice Lake—his youngest daughters and Lenny bus tables and wash dishes there on weeknights and weekends; he and Lynelle prepare the food at the restaurant.

Howard and his three youngest children live up the road from us at the next house across the road. His parents once owned the house my maternal grandfather bought from him. Howard still owns his family’s property next door to us where I fought Margga and where she imprisoned my father’s spirit. That creepy property belonged to Howard’s maternal grandparents Reginald and Cathleen Myers and gives me the chills when I get near it, probably because of its bloody history. According to what I’ve been told, Howard’s grandfather accidentally shot and killed Margga’s father while hunting in the woods behind the house. Then she killed him and his wife and spellbound their spirits to Myers Ridge. She was sentenced by the Council of Magic at Myers Ridge to a 1,000-year incarceration, but she escaped, stole a valuable spell book from the Council (the one I now have), and used a powerful spell from its pages to create a plague that drained 90% of magic from all creatures within a thousand-mile radius of Myers Ridge—including members of the Council. A protection spell she put on herself saved her from the plague. The Council called for and obtained enough magic to capture her. They stripped her of her protection spell and added to her incarceration, but were unable to lift the spell on Howard’s grandparents. She was killed during another escape attempt. Her spirit, under the powers of spirit law, was bound to serve imprisonment in Tartarus (an abyss reserved for evildoers below the underworld Hades where the Greek mythology Titans were imprisoned), and sentenced to return annually to the scene of her crime until forgiven by Howard’s grandparents. She refused and haunted Howard’s family for years. The Council never recovered the spell book hidden inside her house where a young Lenny Stevens found it after Howard’s mother bought the house. He relocated the book to another hiding place (beneath the attic floor) and later gave the book to me the day I moved in. Having it has been a blessing and a curse.

Rebecca “Becca” Stevens

Becca is Lenny’s deceased mother; she was 36 when she died 5 years ago. She owned and operated Becca’s, a restaurant located at Alice Lake. Her oldest daughter Lynelle owns and runs the restaurant now. Besides a fondness for cooking and baking, Becca was an avid hunter who enjoyed the outdoors. Her parents own a hunting camp in the northeast woods of New Cambridge, not far from where she was born and raised.

From the photographs I have seen of her, she was a plump woman similar in size to my maternal grandmother Evelyn Lybrook. Becca had intense ice blue eyes and brown hair. In some pictures, her hair is long and straight like mine, and in others it’s short like Grandma’s and Mom’s hair.

Although I’ve never told anyone, I think I met her ghost.

According to Lenny and his family, Becca was killed 5 years ago on July 5 (Margga’s curse and Lenny’s birthday) between 9 and 9:30pm, right at sunset when a car struck her along the road she lived on while she changed a flat tire on her car. I had a psychic vision of the event. Becca heard dogs howling and saw a Rottweiler (probably one of Margga’s hellhounds) in the road before she died. In the vision, she wore a yellow blouse, navy blue skirt, and black hose and high heels for a birthday party planned for Lenny.

Not long after I had the vision, I met a woman like her who wore the same clothes. She was at a pond I went to when I ran away from my grandparents’ place; she was extremely excited about finding a hunting knife on the ground there, and she warned me to stay away from Margga.

Lindsey and Leanne Stevens

Lindsey is 9 and Leanne is 7; they have straight and shoulder-length brown hair. Lindsey has brown eyes and likes to hunt and fish with Lenny; Leanne has bright blue eyes and likes drawing and painting, like her dad and Lenny … and me. That’s all I know so far.

Lynelle Stevens

Lynelle is 20; she has blue eyes, long auburn hair that is always tied in a ponytail when I see her, and is slim with a nice figure, and stands around 5’ 9” or 5’ 10” tall. Her boyfriend Henry James is adjunct history professor at New Cambridge University who, according to Lenny, receives lower pay than tenured professors and no health benefits, which makes him attractive to Lynelle’s caring personality—“All her life, she has taken in unfortunate stray animals … and Henry is no exception.”

Lynelle owns and runs her mom’s restaurant called Becca’s, located at 79 East Main Street, Alice Lake. Her brother Lenny and her two younger sisters Lindsey and Leanne often bus tables and wash dishes while she and their dad prepare the food. Months before her death, Becca turned the restaurant’s foyer into a gift shop where Howard Stevens sells some of his artwork, which are mostly wildlife and landscape paintings. Double doors behind the counter and cash register in the foyer/gift shop lead to the kitchen where Lynelle and Howard and a 40-year-old cook named Juanita Richards do a lot of the food preparation. During business hours of 6-9am, 11am-2pm, and 5-9pm, Lynelle greets customers in the foyer/gift shop and takes them to their tables in the dining room. An unmarked wooden door between the restrooms in the gift shop leads to oak stairs and Lynelle’s apartment upstairs. This is Lenny’s favorite place to go to, so we’ve spent plenty of time watching TV here. The first room inside the entrance is the living room where white shag carpet matches most of the furniture there, including a plush cream sofa. A glass coffee table sits in front of the sofa that faces a giant flat screen TV attached to the wall. A bookcase sits across the room next to the door that enters the kitchen; a clay urn made by Henry sits on the bookcase. A computer desk with Lynelle’s laptop sits in the corner. A cream-yellow kitchen sits off the living room (the entrance is next to the bookcase); lots of glassware and a glass table are in the kitchen—glass figurines sit atop a five-foot tall refrigerator. Plush cream carpets, plush furniture, cream-colored drapes, animal and pastoral prints and paintings on white walls make up the rest of the apartment’s décor. Lynelle’s 2 boxy bedrooms and narrow bathroom with bathtub and shower are behind the living room. The place is in a residential business community—small stores and shops, a tiny post office, a bank and a savings and loan, and a small fire station. Law enforcement is maintained by Ridgewood’s small police department. East Main Street is a quintessential picturesque street of small, independent, family-owned business and stores that still thrive in America. The long, wide street is lined with Hawthorne, Linden, and Flowering Cherry trees in plots along wide sidewalks on both sides of the street, which is near Alice Lake and runs north and south along the lake’s east side. I love visiting the lake and seeing the neighborhoods of quaint houses and cottages every chance I get. I think this would be a nice place to live at—much nicer than creepy Myers Ridge and its scary sinkholes.

Henry James

Henry is 30, an adjunct history professor at New Cambridge University, and Lynelle Stevens’s on-again off-again potbellied (beer gut?) boyfriend who has a whiskered face—the beginnings of a goatee. He is shorter than Lynelle at around 5’ 7” in bare feet, though he always wears cowboy boots with big heels. He has short, dark brown hair, brown eyes, and wears blue jeans and T-shirts a lot, and pointed-toe cowboy boots with heels that clomp on wood floors and stairs—heels that add nearly two inches of height but still keep him shorter than Lynelle. He drives a silver, turbocharged Ford F-150 full size pickup truck he calls Mama, and he knows a lot about Ridgewood’s history and folklore, especially supernatural stuff.

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