VOICES: The Interviews
Allow me tell you about the little project AJ Brown and I are working on. In the coming months, one character from each story in AJ Brown’s collection VOICES will be interviewed by me! Hmm… Actually, let me tell you what AJ says about our project:
“No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.
Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing. If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers.”
So, as the man says, Spoiler Alert!
* Spoiler Alert * Spoiler Alert * Spoiler Alert *
While this project was originally intended to be a promotional piece, it has taken on a life of its own… or maybe the characters have taken over. It’s hard to say. Read Voices, follow the interviews here and at Type AJ Negative… let me know what you think.
Voices: The Interviews
Session 4: Claire
She knows this one, at least that she is fragile in many ways. She is pretty, but not in a movie starlet way. It doesn’t matter that she won a big time award on a big time show. Nothing has changed about her. Her clothes are conservative, not showing off any skin, other than her hands, face and neck. She wears blue slacks and black flats. Her shirt is a long-sleeved pullover a shade lighter than her slacks. Her dark hair hangs down the sides of her face, covering the front of her shirt.
Intentional, Lisa thinks.
Claire doesn’t look away. Lisa finds this only slightly odd. Normally, those who have gone through what Claire has are usually withdrawn and shy, not wanting to discuss anything about the … assaults (yeah, that is pretty much what they are, right?), but the vibe Lisa gets from the teenager is one of desire. Desire to talk, to get it off her chest.
Manners, Lisa thinks. She wonders if Mom taught her those before … she shakes her head and focuses on Claire.
“Thank you for speaking with me today. Are you nervous?”
“Maybe a little. I’ve never talked about … Dad … in a group this large.”
“Really? You’ve talked in a group before?”
“Well, the police and investigators and all the psychiatrists were in groups of at least two and sometimes six. The court room … I didn’t say anything in the courtroom. The attorneys told me not to.”
“I don’t think you had anything to worry about in court. The evidence came out about these terrible things he did to you.”
She nods, but doesn’t smile. Instead, she frowns, takes a deep breath and speaks evenly. “Well, maybe so, but the attorneys thought it best I didn’t take the stand at the trial.”
“Is it okay if I ask you some questions now?”
“And your attorneys are okay with this?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask them. It doesn’t matter anyway. I want to talk to someone. I need to talk.”
“Okay, Claire, let’s start with this: did you even enjoy acting?”
“I wouldn’t call what I did acting. I just did what came natural, so acting, I didn’t really act.”
“I’m sorry, Claire … I mean, did you have fun when you were working on movie sets?”
“Well, the scenes where the father would do the things he did were not fun. The ending wasn’t all that satisfying. I mean, she leaves home with the boy of her dreams, but she never got to exact any measure of revenge for what her father did to her.”
She has gone from timid a couple of minutes earlier to aggressive now. Lisa hears her words, hears what she doesn’t say and she wonders if it was revenge Claire was after or resolution.
“So, if the acting wasn’t all that enjoyable, what was it like to play the role of Josie, a little girl who was abused, after what your father did to you?”
“It was no different than the life I led. You know?”
Lisa believes maybe she does know. She feels sorry for this pretty little girl—no, young lady—in front of her.
“I apologize Claire.”
“For what? You’ve done nothing wrong.”
“For asking about the role of Josie.”
“It’s okay. Really, it is.”
“But … well, didn’t it just make you relive it in your head?”
“Yes. The role made me realize how bad things were, how bad my father was.” Claire pauses. She looks away, wipes her hands on her slacks and then rubs her fingers together. “He was a very bad man.”
“Can I ask you another, more personal question?”
“Claire … when did you decide to kill your daddy?”
“My dad … I’m no longer a little girl and I no longer see him as a daddy. He was my father and I associate that term as not one of endearment, but as one of being despised … and I despise him.”
Lisa nods. “Fair enough, Claire. When did you decide to kill your father?”
Claire shakes her head. “I don’t know if I ever really decided so much as I knew where he kept his gun and I knew he was the reason my mom was gone—did you know she is dead?”
“Excuse me?” This is not what she expects.
“He killed my mom.”
“How do you know this?”
“I just do.”
“There is no just do, Claire. How do you know this?”
Claire looks at her with the sadness of a child who has lost everything she ever had. Her face is long, her brows are arches above her eyes. She shakes her head. “He said she left him for another man. She needed a different life. That is what he said.”
Lisa listens intently, her heart breaking for the young woman in front of her. She will never be the same, not because she killed her dad—no, her father—on national television, but because whatever she tells Lisa is going to be the truth, not how she sees it, how it really is.
“If Momma had left, then she would have taken her license with her. Her cellphone. Her wallet. She took none of those things.”
“How do you know?” She feels like a recording on a loop, asking the same question over and over.
“I found her stuff in a box in the cellar a few days before the awards show.”
“In the cellar?” What were you doing in the cellar, young lady? the voice in her head whispered. It doesn’t sound like her at all. It sounds like an accusation, one she thinks Claire may not be able to handle.
“Yes. I … “
Before Claire can answer, a shadow comes over her. It’s not much, but it is there. Lisa sees it and she knows Claire feels it. The young woman looks over her left shoulder, then over her right, as if someone is talking to her.
“Claire, look at me,” Lisa says. “Look at me.”
She does, but only briefly. She shifts in her chair as if pulling away from someone. When she does, Lisa sees the shadow lean down and put its head near Claire’s ear.
“Get away from her,” Lisa yells. She stands, but doesn’t walk toward Claire and the shadow. Part of her wants to grab the teen and pull her away. The other part wants no part of the shadow. Fear holds her for several seconds. “I said get away from her.” This time she does take a step forward.
The shadow shimmers, then pulls away. It solidifies for fifteen or so seconds and Lisa sees it is Mr. Worrywort and he is smiling.
“Get away from her.”
Mr. Worrywort’s smile is hideous, dangerously electric. He puts a hand on Claire’s shoulder as if claiming her for himself.
The fear in Claire’s eyes is sudden. They grow wide and her mouth pinches shut. Her chest heaves and she holds the breath.
“Tell him to leave, Claire,” Lisa says.
Mr. Worrywort whispers in her ear. She lets the breath go and closes her eyes.
“Are you going to send me to jail?” Claire asks.
Lisa’s nose crinkles up at this. At first she doesn’t understand the question. She won’t go to jail. She knows she won’t. The legal system did its job for once and … No. It’s him. Mr. Worrywort. He is doing this …
“Claire, no one is sending you to jail. You’ve paid your price for what you did.”
Mr. Worrywort leans down again. Claire shakes her head.
“Claire, don’t listen to him. He’s not on your side.”
“Are you?” she asks.
“Very much so, but I can’t help you if you don’t tell him to get away from you, to leave you alone.”
Help? I’m not here to help. I’m here for answers. What is …
You must help her. She looks around, searching for the voices, though knowing they are in her head or on her shoulders or just out of view like all voices tend to be. One came through stronger than the other. Help her!
It comes to her what she needs to do. Lisa walks over to Claire and puts her hand out. “If you will just trust me, he will go away.”
Claire stares at the hand as if it is a snake, as if it is about to strike her and sink its long fangs into her hand.
Lisa extends her arm further. “He can’t hurt you if you don’t let him. All he does is whisper lies into your ears.”
Claire visibly swallows, glances over her shoulder. Though Mr. Worrywort is no more than a shadow again, he is still there, his venom-like voice in Claire’s ears. Tears trickle down her face.
“Claire, the voice in your head, the thing over your shoulder … it is your father.”
The young woman jerks as if she had stuck her tongue to a battery. Her hand goes out in front of her, gripping Lisa’s tightly. When this happens, Mr. Worrywort growls in anger. His shadow flees back to the corner as if being banished.
Claire’s face shows relief. She shivers and then laughs. “How did you know?”
Lisa shrugs. “I didn’t.”
After a minute goes by, Lisa asks, “Are you ready to continue?”
Claire gives a nod. “Yes, Ma’am.”
“Why were you in the cellar, Claire?”
“I was looking for the cleaner—my father never kept it in the living rooms of the house, only in the cellar. When I didn’t find it on the shelf where it normally was, I looked for it, and came across the box at the bottom of a shelf unit.”
“At the bottom of a shelf unit?”
“You didn’t believe your mom had ever left home, did you? After all, what loving mother would leave their child, right?”
“Right. And I was right. She never left. What person, when leaving forever and ever and ever, wouldn’t take their cell phone, wallet and i.d.?”
”One who never left.”
Claire nods. Her lips are a thin line across her face.
“Claire, did killing your father really make you feel better?”
She doesn’t smile, this teenager. She only looks up at Lisa and says, “Yes. Yes, it did.”
“How? I mean, in what way? Umm… what about it made you feel the way you do?”
“I felt relief,” she says. “And like I had gotten some justice for my mom. He killed her. I killed him. If I hadn’t, he would have killed me.”
“One more question, Claire, if you don’t mind?”
“I don’t mind at all.”
“Was it the right thing to do?”
Claire and Lisa stare at each other for a minute, then two. Finally, Claire speaks, “No. The right thing to do would have been to tell someone, let the police arrest him and have him thrown in jail. But that wasn’t what felt right. Killing him feltright. It was the only thing I could have done.”
“I understand,” Lisa says, and she does. She thinks hundreds of thousands of young girls have gone through what Claire has and many of them remained scarred for their lives because of it. But Claire had faced the monster who scarred her and had vanquished it. She doesn’t feel sorry for Claire. Instead, she feels great pride and respect for her.
“Thank you, Claire.”
Lisa turns in her chair, takes a deep breath and begins her next line of questions for the next character on her list.
To Be Continued …
And, of course, VOICES by AJ Brown:
Get it on Amazon US: Voices
Get it on Amazon UK: Voices