Her name is Charlotte though everyone always called her Charlie, that is despite her obvious loathing of the gender obfuscation. The truth is, and was, that her father had wanted a son and had been delivered a girl instead. Complications during childbirth then removed any chance of a boy ever being delivered to Mister and Missus Brown. And so Charlotte became Charlie. The monicker stuck and spread throughout family then friends while Charlotte managed others’ expectations by being the most gentle and feminine of girls one could ever encounter.
Can you imagine the mocking a person, and more so a girl, is subjected to when entering school labelled with the name Charlie Brown? Teachers, thinking it to be cute, would address her in that way despite knowing her name was actually Charlotte.
In the beginning Charlotte would correct her teachers and her classmates, trying to assert herself with her proper name. It was never to be. The temptation was too strong and, in children at least, irresistible. Her teachers gave in far too readily which at first surprised then disappointed Charlotte. She thought she could expect more from adults.
It was easier, no, not easier, less painful, to give in in the end and to resign herself to wearing that awful label.
In her teens, when a girl stands on that narrow sliver of land, precipices either side separating her from childhood on one side and adulthood on the other, Charlotte dove headlong into being the sort of person people would expect a girl called Charlie Brown to be. She clowned, she played the dark, depressive, tortured soul, she drank, smoked, and slept with boys and girls until she reached a nadir, at seventeen.
A teenage cliche, the fodder of news pulp, Charlotte found herself one night, alone and lying on a filthy floor beside an equally filthy toilet at the back of an inner city pub. She awoke to the smell of vomit, her own, and piss, not hers, and she had an epiphany. It crept then crept then barrelled headlong into her aching head; you aren’t fucking Charlie, you are Charlotte, so be Charlotte!
Years of giving in then overcompensating with pretentious femininity then giving in again, to a stupid name, had torn her. Enough, no more Charlie, no more jokes, no more surrender. Charlotte is here and she will not surrender again.
~ ^-^ ~
This started out to be a cute story, light-hearted, about a girl with a cute name. Then the writer’s experience (of the world, not personal in this case) took over and chose to pursue something more interesting, and a whole lot darker.
One aspect of writing, for many if not all, is embedding oneself in the story. With that can come the pain of being in that person’s mind, for the duration of the story at least, and a kind of hangover for a time afterwards when real life comes back into focus. I guess that’s why some writers refer to the process of writing fiction as opening a vein onto the page. After writing this beginning, immediately after the last full stop, I felt the urgent need to stand up and make a cup of tea. You writers know this feeling I’m sure. And for readers who don’t write, this is why we writers are kinda weird.