Monday, February 19, 2007

Why Lydia?

For some reason, when I write flash fiction, Lydia jumps herself onto the page. I'm not even sure how I came up with the name. I finally did an internet search and found that Lydia was a kingdom in an area of what is now modern day Turkey -- not the name of a person at all. The closest thing to a person is Lydia of the "tattooed lady" fame. I'm pretty sure I didn't have that Lydia in mind, but she must be buried somewhere in my subconscious because she keeps popping into my stories, unbidden. My guess is that she's somehow become my alter ego.

At first, I wasn't going to bring Lydia to this blog, but what the heck; she seems an integral part of me whether I like it or not, so here's a bit of an experiment for me.

Please meet my friend, Lydia: (A version of this first piece was on First Drafts last year, so if it sounds familiar to some of you, not to worry):

When Lydia awoke, she was filled with a mix of anticipation and apprehension. Janie was coming – arriving on Air Canada 601 at 12:55 from Calgary.

They’d known each other since junior high – inseparable despite radically different personalities. Janie was a wild child – extroverted and opinionated; Lydia - quiet and prone to introspection. They were the unlikeliest of friends. From the outside, the only thing they had in common were their green eyes. What others didn’t realize was that they complemented and balanced each other. They could confide the deepest, most intimate secrets to each other and never fear ridicule or humiliation.

Their lives, not surprisingly, had taken different paths. Janie had moved to Toronto for university and Lydia had stayed in Vancouver. Not that they hadn’t tried keeping in touch. The first year, they wrote each other every month, then it gradually tapered off to a couple of times a year, then only a few lines on a Christmas card. They completely lost touch after each had moved several times in the intervening years.

Lydia had married her high school, football captain sweetheart. She’d started dating Jeff in grade ten after he gave her a ride home from a fundraiser jointly held by the football jocks and the choir. They were another unlikely pair. After the wedding, Jeff went on to dental school while she worked as a teacher’s aide. When Jeff graduated, he set up his dental practice and they moved into a two-level, three bedroom Tudor, complete with picket fence in the upscale suburb of Kerrisdale. Shortly afterwards they had two children – a boy and a girl. How corny was that?

Janie, on the other hand, had lived the bohemian lifestyle of a student while getting a degree in Fine Arts. At some point, she decided her degree wouldn’t get her a job that would pay enough to finance her love of art, travel and clothes. She went back to school and got a degree in business admin and marketing. Straight out of the U of Toronto, she got a job at a high-powered marketing firm in downtown TO. For four years, she climbed the corporate ladder - travel plans put on hold – as she lived the executive high life of expense accounts, fine dining and hobnobbing with Toronto society. It seemed she was being groomed for a shot at the firm’s partnership. That is, until she met, and shortly thereafter, married the CEO of one of their clients. She quit her job and settled into a four bedroom executive home in Oakville. When Lydia heard that Janie had settled in suburbia, she couldn’t believe it. No way would the old Janie she knew want a house, kids and “suburban hell” (as she would have not so delicately put it). Janie had assured her it was what she wanted.

Anyways, they hadn’t seen, spoken or heard from each other in fifteen years. It was only by a fortuitous coincidence, they connected again on the internet. They’d both started blogs - Lydia, calling herself, Deeyah - and Janie, calling herself Jane. Independently following links and comments on various blogs, they recognized similar references to their high school. It was Janie, who first asked, “what year did you graduate?” It didn’t take more than a few emails to fill in the rest.

They corresponded and chatted back and forth for several months, catching up on their lives. Both were divorced – Janie twice. Lydia had remained in and around Vancouver, while Janie had moved from Toronto to Montreal to New York, back to Toronto, then to Calgary, where she now lived. Both had two children – all of them grown, moved out and independent.

Today, they'd see each other again. What if they didn’t like each other anymore? What if they had nothing in common? What if this meeting was a big mistake? What if, what if, what if . . . . They’d both find out soon enough.

Waiting in the baggage claims area, Lydia scanned the arriving passengers. Janie said she’d be wearing a camel, mid-calf-length coat and a red scarf. Who knew if they’d recognize each other through the extra pounds, lines and years? Best to have something identifiable to avoid any embarrassing hugs with complete strangers. Lydia was wearing the West Coast uniform of jeans, T-shirt and jean jacket.

Lydia spotted the red scarf first, then the unmistakable long-loped stride of her friend. Peering through the screen of people in front of her, it took Janie awhile longer to respond to Lydia’s frantic waving; but with a flash of recognition and the familiar gap-toothed Lauren Hutton grin, she strode straight over to engulf Lydia in a bear hug. They stood back, looked at each other and laughed. All the years melted away; the extra pounds didn’t matter; the extra lines didn’t matter; only the eyes mattered – they were exactly the same.


Hay said...

I'm wondering how they have changed and how the other is going to notice these changes.

ell said...

Janie has mellowed, is less driven; and Lydia has become more assertive and proactive. Without realizing it, life experiences have made them more alike than before.

How will they notice? They'll go out to a great sushi restaurant, go back to Lydia's bungalow in East Van and talk 'til sunrise -- spilling their guts about failed relationships, their children, deaths of dear friends, and the stupid and not so stupid things they've done to arrive at this point in their lives. :)

Joy said...

I want to read the rest of this novel. You got me hooked! Keep going, please. :-)