Every Friday, I will feature a character from one of my books, both published and unpublished. The character will be presented as if he/she is writing about themselves in a journal entry.
My name is Arianna Banks. I was born July 23, 1992 in Cleveland, Ohio. Most of my life, I haven’t stuck with anything long. I was the kid who grew up an only child, whose parents gave her pretty much anything she wanted. I tried ballet, tap, sports, martial arts, art classes, horseback riding, you name it, but none of those ever lasted for more than a season. The same was true with my friends. I don’t know if it was just bad luck, but every year in school, I had a different best friend. I was lucky if I kept one for a couple of years. We’d get in a fight about something, although now that I’m grown up, I forget what most of the fights were about. I remember thinking my friends were just jealous of me because my parents had a nice enough house, and I had tons of toys and all the latest gadgets. Most of my “friends” were interested in coming over for what I had as far as things went, but truth be told, I wasn’t that nice of a person.
At school, I became more and more of a loner the older I got. By middle school, I was one of the losers of the school. My stuff didn’t seem to matter anymore. I was bitter and cut myself off from others, but that was when I began writing. I kept journals, writing my feelings down every moment. I neglected my homework and my grades in favor of writing my own stories and poetry. I never thought any of it was any good. It was dark and angsty.
My parents encouraged me to make friends, but I stopped trying. I had one friend in high school — Lori Miller. She was in marching band with me, the only extracurricular I’d stuck with. I didn’t enjoy playing the clarinet, except that it was the one thing my mom insisted I keep doing because she had also played the clarinet when she was growing up. She told me time and again that music had been her life — that playing the clarinet in band had gained her lots of great friends, and they’d bonded and joked together while in marching band. Lori and I were always the last and second last chairs. We dyed our hair black, dressed in black, and wore thick dark eyeliner. I guess we were Goth or Emo or something.
When I finally graduated, I enrolled in the community college. I had no clue what I wanted to do. I worked at various fast food restaurants and chain stores. I changed my major every semester. After four years of what should’ve taken two years, I got my associate’s degree. Lori and I had lost touch in this time, as she’d gone off to college after high school and hadn’t looked back. Being Facebook friends hardly seemed to matter.
Also during college, I began hanging out with Brad. He’d worked at the movie theater with me. His parents were disgustingly rich, but he didn’t care about that. Most of the time, he didn’t even have a job. He’d worked at the theater to get free movies, but that had lasted all of a summer. I’m not sure what I saw in Brad except that he actually talked to me. He told me he found me interesting, that I wasn’t like other girls. Whatever that meant. We didn’t really date in the usual sense. He hardly took me out anywhere, but we hung around his house and sometimes mine. And yeah, we had sex. Whenever Brad called, I came. Maybe it was finally feeling useful, like I belonged to someone and had a purpose. It was stupid, but I was caught up in that messy relationship for two years.
I should mention that I kept writing all through high school and college, but I never shared it with my parents or Brad or anyone.
I finally got it in my head to go to beauty school. It was one option I hadn’t tried yet, and my fascination with hair color and alternative beauty (think body piercings) made me want to give it a shot. I began working at the receptionist desk at a salon and spa and got into beauty school. Things seemed to be going fine. I was interested in beauty school enough to stick with it for a few months.
But then my parents died in a plane crash while flying to Europe to celebrate their anniversary. It was for their twenty-fifth, but they didn’t go until a year later due to my dad’s crazy travel schedule for his job. He was a national salesman for the construction industry. If they’d gone last year, none of this would’ve happened, right? They’d still be alive. The shock of it all took me over the edge. I was already pretty used to being alone, so what was the loss of two of the people who loved me the most? I got more piercings and dyed my hair bright red. (My hair hadn’t been its natural color of a drab brown in years.) I moved in with my nana. I was in denial, afraid to confront the pain.
I should take a moment to mention my dear, awesome nana. I can’t believe I haven’t yet! Anyway, she was always close to our little family when I was growing up. She’s a spitfire. She seems younger than she is, and she’s health-conscious, sharp, but sweet and totally devoted. So, rather than live on my own, she invited me to live with her. Although I wouldn’t have had a problem living on my own due the compensation received from the airline and the inheritance left to me, I affected her offer. Deep down, I was tired of being so alone.
A month after their deaths, their loss finally hit me full force. I broke down in front of Nana. She told me about her own mother, Lorna Blake, and how she’d also lost her parents. I guess my great-grandma had lived in isolation with a severe cause of depression for years until she’d met and married my great-grandpa. I knew I didn’t want to be like that.
I had some choices to make. I knew I’d always been a disappointment to my parents because I couldn’t settle on anything. On a whim, I quit my job and beauty school. It wasn’t what I really wanted. Losing my parents, I knew how life was short. I needed my life to start having some meaning instead of just wandering from job to job or friend to friend. I left Brad, finally fed up with his crap. I’d become a shell, doing whatever he wished. I wasn’t really living. That needed to change.
Nana tried to warn me that I was making too many changes too quickly, but I wouldn’t hear of it. One good thing during this time was my friendship with Kelly from the salon. She turned out to be the real deal. Somehow, she’d seen something worthwhile in me, and we became steadfast friends.
Another crazy, spontaneous change: I called a number I’d found in the McDonald’s parking lot on a fence about a job opportunity. That’s how I found out about a company called Affection for the Afflicted. They were a telemarketing company that claimed to raise money to help those in Africa who were suffering. Finally, a purpose, I thought! This seemed like an amazing opportunity, so I took the job and began training.
Turns out I was very good at telemarketing. The more calls I made in a certain amount of time and the more money I raised for the charity, the bigger my paycheck was. I had money rolling in in buckets. Money wasn’t the problem.
I also met Marc Arnold at work. Unlike Brad, he was very different. He was blonde-haired and blue-eyed, trendy, and was into theatre. He sought me out right away, claiming to be fascinated by me. He was outgoing, brutally honest, and deep. But as much as I wanted to be open with Marc, my self-consciousness held me back. We were like oil and water more often than not, but imagine this: The water is dyed blue, and the oil is dyed red. When you shake up the container holding them, they do mix (sort of) for a while. They create beautiful patterns, complementing each other.
All this while, my writing slowly came alive in the uncertainty of my career choice and romance (or lack of it). I was trying to build my future, but the question was: What was I building it on? What role, if any, did Marc play in that? Was my job really the answer to my need to find fulfillment?
And in the midst of all this, Brad wasn’t gone yet.
Like my great-grandfather who was a writer and an author, I felt the tug to put the pen to the page, that incessant discomfort and thrill that pulled at my heartstrings.
Where does my story go? I’m a writer. I should know these things, but one thing any writer will tell you is that their characters dictate the story more than the writer. What does that mean for me?
Arianna is the protagonist of my unpublished and current work-in-progress story, Arianna.
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Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful