I am 33K words into a non-Settlement thing, and very excited about it. Because this is the first time I have “moved on” from the Settlement since I began to write ten months ago, I am feeling all nostalgic for my first set of characters.
Alexander Smith was a great protagonist. He got odd at the end (I have complicated feelings about it, believe me), but I love him dearly. Gotta love a man who cries. Does this seem like a lot of tears? Well, it’s out of 430,000 published words. Alex does many other things, too, believe me.
Let’s have a montage of all the times it happened, shall we?
Alex was now thoroughly at sea but too desperate to admit it. Gelila was the first woman he’d loved, and he intended to love her forever; he also needed, at his very roots, to believe that she felt the same. Even to speculate about other eventualities was too painful to bear. No one else had needled him about the situation, so he had no defenses ready to throw up—his father and stepmother had had nothing instructive to say at all, and Coira was only happy that Alex was happy.
To his embarrassment, he realized that tears were coming to his eyes. He had averted them and taken a moment and a few swallows to compose himself.
“I know myself well, sir. I like to think that I know her too. That’s all I can say about it.”
A tear dropped onto the carpet beside his foot. “You started me with the fairy tales.”
“I did. Fairy tales first. It’s important to have a good foundation. Then Blyton, Stevenson, Rowling, Lewis…”
“Pullman. Haggard. Tolkein. Burroughs. L’Amour.”
His hands unclasped from her wrists and hips, and he braced himself against the butcher block to stop himself from falling to the floor as he turned his head to his shoulder, so she wouldn’t see his face pinch when he began to cry.
He had staunched his tears before she saw them, and he was now seated at the kitchen table with his arms crossed and his gray eyes narrowed at the very dangerous creature who danced about her kitchen making tea.
His composure crumbled. His head dropped from my view, and his great shoulders started to shake. I scrambled onto my knees to crawl across the bed to him. I wanted to see his face, to draw it to me and kiss it, but he kept it hidden in his hands.
When I tried to pull one arm down, he yanked his elbow out of my grasp and turned away. I impotently knelt at his side, twining my fingers in the sleeve of his shirt, to watch and wait while he silently wept.
For a split second, I thought he was about to cry. One low sobbing sound did come out of him before he rushed forward to give me a ravenous, encompassing kiss, grabbing and squeezing the curves of my body with his big hands as he did so. He pressed his face into the sweaty curve of my neck, where he opened his mouth, sucking the salt and moisture off of me.
“Anna… oh, Anna. Oh, God.”
With an anguished huff, he forced himself to let me go, and disappeared into the night.
“No, I can’t.” His voice was high and tight. “I can’t guess, and now I’ll never know.”
I rested on him for a long time while he wept, with his face away and his fingers over his eyes. At length his breathing evened out, and he let his hand drop. He still pretended to be interested in the morning light spilling through the windows, but at least he was unshuttered again. I waited for him to talk.
With the bundle squirming against him, his anger ebbed. Her fluffy head bobbed against his jaw, resting in the curve of his neck. He blinked away a sudden sheen of tears.
“Don’t bring that up.” His terse words killed mine in my throat. I watched him in sickened wonderment. So it had been that bad.
He kicked at the rocky shore for a while, and sniffed once or twice. When he made up his mind, he walked back to me. The trail of moonlight in the water was reflected in his eyes.
His voice faded into suppressed tears. He bit them back so he could return to his confession. “Not on purpose… not because of anything you were or weren’t, and not because of anything going through my head about you. Not ever.”