She was beautiful right from the start. A perfect birth, no complications, barely any of the nastiness inherent in the process. I didn’t know where I wanted her to go yet, but I knew I wanted her to be beautiful. I named her Amber. It was always one of my favorite names. Amber Wellington Bower. A beautiful name. I knew that she would hate her middle name, and eventually she would sign her name only as Amber B. But the sound of a pen writing out her name has always been music to my ears. She wasn’t the first character I had written into existence, but she would be the last.
As she grew on the pages of my book that would never be published, her features became more apparent, as did her character. Long, red hair that never failed to frizz up if there was a storm less than a county away, piercing green eyes that could see through your soul but always held laughter if you looked hard enough. All of my favorite features in a woman. Pure narcissism I know, to describe her as perfect and gorgeous and clever, but I wanted all of those things for her.
Her childhood was normal, save for a few misadventures. Her personality seemed to cycle, one moment a cunning detective, the next a scared little girl hiding from her closet. I wrote her into stories here and there. Short tales I wrote to fend off writers block, or as a side character in a novel. Hidden cameos, scattered. She hadn’t decided what she wanted to be when she grew up, because of course, neither had I. Slowly she appeared more and more. Always growing older, changing, as if even my imagination were not exempt from the process of time. Eventually I set her aside. She was eight, and I felt the need to move on. Her story was not interesting to me, so I left her be.
But she did not afford me the same courtesy. I had written her to be stubborn, and she did not disappoint. I continued to find her in the pages I wrote. She was a dishwasher in a tavern in a far off kingdom, A waitress in a diner in New England, Always there, always staring at the protagonist with piercing green eyes. She would pass, in and out of my character’s lives, rarely noticed, but always saying just the right thing or asking the perfect question. She was good at going unnoticed, or perhaps I was an inattentive father, but I hardly noticed I had pulled her into every story, every world I had created. But I did notice eventually. She needed her own story.
She was seventeen now, on the cusp of adulthood. The girl that I had written into being had grown up, and she was beautiful. She had done well in school, I decided, and was going to move away for college. Neither she nor I knew what would happen in her life, but we were both eager to see. Her parents were supportive of course, and her friends, of course, would miss her. But she was stubborn, and determined to go. On move in day she met Michelle, her roommate, a character I cared nothing about, and introduced herself as Amber B. She planned to major in criminology; It seems I could never write the detective out of her. She made new friends, explored a new city, and loved her study. And over her freshman year, I fell in love with her.
How could I not? I knew her as intimately as a lover. I had cared for her, and watched her grow from a scared, headstrong little girl into the beautiful woman who stared up at me from the pages. I wanted her to know me, to love me as fiercely as I knew she could, but it could never be. A man cannot write himself into the pages of a book, and whats more I knew I didn’t deserve a creation as perfect as her. I was condemned to watch from afar; to affect her life only through the way I told her story. And so I wrote the best for her. I doted on her, that first year. Her classes were easy, and she was never want for attention. Flowers were delivered to her almost daily, though she never knew from where. She had adventures, most deemed too dangerous and swiftly erased from her memory with the stroke of a key. She loved cartoons and B-movies, and though I had never written it, I knew her favorites. Her life was safe, serene, and ultimately, boring.
Early in her sophomore year, her father had a stroke. The doctors never discovered the exact cause. The money for school was diverted to his care and Amber, my perfect creation, had to move home. She got a job, and stayed home to care for her suddenly ailing father. It pained me to make her give up school. To force her to abandon the safety of her former life. But safety does not make for interesting lives, and boredom was not a fate I could place on the one I loved. She existed in my head as much as on paper. It was her voice that would soothe me during fits of depression. Her careful, soft hand that would run over my neck and beckon me to sleep. she would appear in my dreams, laughing and smiling. I could barely cope with what I had to force into her life, but she could. She was always stronger than me.
She carried her fathers tragedy with grace, caring for him and guiding him on the steps to recovery. But it was not meant to be. I wept, as I killed her father one night. He died peacefully in his sleep, but my tears were not for him. I knew that this would hurt my lover, that the loss of her father would shatter her. And it did. When she discovered him she screamed and cried until her voice was gone. She held her mother and they wept for hours. Though they never would know, I wept with them. I wept as Amber no longer found the strength to get out of bed. I wept, when she renounced God to her mother in a screaming match. And I wept, when she turned to alcohol to lessen the pain. Through all this I knew, I hoped, that she would persevere. That she would come out stronger. But in my head she became quiet. Distant. No longer was she vibrant and laughing, but sullen. She no longer called me to bed or tended to my mind, now it was I who cared for her. Giving her what comfort in the real world that I could never give on the page.
She lived this way for years. And despite all my doting I could never relieve her pain. I gave her marathons of her favorite movies to watch, but she merely sat at the screen with a blank stare. I sent her flowers, but they always found the trash. Her mother tried to aid me in restoring life to this beautiful girl but was met with monosyllables and listlessness. I could not allow her to live like this.
At twenty-five she attempted suicide. In the middle of the night I wrote, with tears streaming, counting out every pill, every swallow of whiskey. I wrote out her fear, her pain, her doubt. I pleaded with her, begged her to stop, but she didn’t, she wouldn’t. She took her last look upon the world, climbing upon her roof to watch a meteor shower, a work of beauty, and a gift. And then she went to sleep. She didn’t speak to me that night as I lay in my bed. I wondered if she would ever speak to me again. I had hurt her more terribly than anyone could imagine. I slept alone that night, on a pillow wet with tears.
She awoke, as did I the next morning. She had been found, by some miracle, and given a second chance. In the hospital they pumped her stomach, and purged the poison from her blood. She was made to attend therapy and AA meetings. They helped, but never as much as I wanted for her. I knew, in my heart that she was destined for great things. But she was stubborn, and she fought. Night after night, I slaved over her story, trying in vain to undo the damage I had caused but it was fruitless. She had not spoken to me in weeks and my home felt empty. Every moment at the computer was another moment with her, and despite all I had done, I still loved my beautiful red-haired girl. I was waiting, praying for her to come back to me, to stare out at me again with those green eyes that had lost their laughter. And finally she did.
She was sitting in a liquor store parking lot, dirty and unkempt. It was a place she didn’t belong. She was holding a bottle of her old favorite in her hands, clutching it as though it would disappear. She hadn’t opened it yet, and from the keyboard I begged her not to. I knew what she could be, I knew the life she could lead, and I knew she was better than this. And for once in her life, she seemed to hear me. She put the bottle down, and drove away from it. I knew she had come out on top, and my heart soared. I knew she would return to me that night, that I would hear her laughter again and feel her soft hand in mine. I went to bed alone that night and awaited her return.
I woke alone. Amber Wellington Bower would never grace my home again. I was heartbroken, betrayed. I had created her, I knew her better than any and she abandoned me. I lashed out. She lost her job, and her friends, but it only made her resolve stronger. She worked harder and went back to school, she made new friends, and even dated for the first time in her life. She was beyond my control. And I knew she was beyond me.
Her life was simple after that. She graduated in the middle of her class, and was accepted into police academy. She married and had several children and the challenges of raising them were never boring. She divorced, and remarried to a wonderful man who loved her. She remained sober even into old age, though she never went untested. And eventually, she died, surrounded by children and grandchildren, she had given herself a much finer last look at life than I had given her all those years ago. When her story was finished she was printed and bound in one small book that will sit on my shelf alone. Never to be revisited except by an old friend, unwilling to say goodbye.