|Ella Dean is a (chanteuse) wrote,|
@ 2013-04-25 17:27:00
Are you 18 or over?: I am a terribly precocious toddler.
Alter’s source work, author and character: OC.
Character Name: Ella Dean (nee Main).
Character Age: Twenty-five.
Character Played By: Emilie de Ravin
Character History and Personality: Ella Main was five when she realized she was superfluous. She didn’t know the word - not yet, even if she was precocious. But she knew what it meant every Christmas and Easter and Columbus Day when the house (small, neat, tidy) lit up, when it was shaken out of its folds and stood to attention as if they - the two who tumbled in like the doormat was meant for their feet and the bedspreads had been hauled off and washed for them to lay on and the rugs vacuumed until the pile stood up like like it had been shocked - were the reason any of them were even there. She was an extra, an add-on. The General - her mother called him that to other people, and ‘your father’ second, and she never called him anything else at all unless she called him things in private - liked rules and he liked regulations. He liked Max, who was five years older and who was smarter and braver and bolder than Ella and who was first - and being first was important most of all to the man who growled and snapped until her mother folded like a paper doll, crumpled in defeat. Ella didn’t crumple and she didn’t fold but she watched Max who had five years more than she did and her father.
She was five years behind forever and her mother’s, and Ella was pulled into making things nice and making them perfect because rules and regulations applied to everything, including napkins on the table-cloth. Her mother liked to garden, green things that grew and didn’t need to wait, that didn’t salute or stand regimented in rows. She liked to give things away that she grew, at church and at the gate when people came by. She didn’t invite people in often - as if the house forever had to be ready, as if she forever had to be ready - but she stood at the gate, smiles and bright hair and her hand cupped over her eyes against the sun. Ella stood there too but she liked church more than she liked the garden and the green things; Ella liked the music and the choir, she liked the piano that trickled like cold water over glass and she liked the swell of voices so tightly knotted together you couldn’t pick them apart. Ella Main was five when she began singing, and the woman who took the choir took her, too.
They waited, all year round. They waited for the noise and the tumble, for dirt tracked in on the rugs and for laundry, for the kinds of dinners that meant fuss and Ella upstairs with her hands tucked around the spindles of the stairs and Max somewhere - downstairs and with them, a voice amongst voices or out, trailing trouble behind her, her mother brittle with worry and distracted from cleaning up, Ella a shadow at her edge. Ella waited whilst her mother waited but she waited instead, for the end, for the doors to close on Army and uniforms, on discipline greater than five lines to the stave, than beats in the bar.
She sang in the church and she made cookies with her mother to give out at the gate, until the next time the General and his firstborn - not his son but his firstborn - came around again and she sat beside her teacher at the piano until her hands fit across the keys and her voice could slide up and down the scales and weave across the notes and she was ten when she was a soloist, one note that soared above the others, melody against the descant. She was thirteen when Max slid into the Army, sleek as fish into water, thirteen when she sat beside her mother and held her hand as her mother stared blankly at the glass in the window and said not a word about any of it. When Max was gone, they were a broken ellipse, two women who revolved around empty home and the General came home less and less. Ella thought of letters; she thought of sealing up news and posting off pieces of home, cookies in boxes and handknit socks like the women in the church circle made. She thought of it but she didn’t, not after the first time, when news of singing and of sermons, of the small, quiet life they lived looked awkward down on paper and she didn’t send a one after that.
Without the General home, she played music and her mother objected but in the soft, trembling kind of way her mother objected to most things. It wasn’t music from the radio stations most kids listened to and it wasn’t music that you danced to, it was music on tapes and then on CDs, music that filled space with voices and instruments, music that was bar lines and rioting notes, chaos made out of order. Ella listened and she sang and she studied and she was seventeen when she applied to college, with her heart intact and her sense firmly in order and her music her first and only love. She applied to sing, because she loved the music first and foremost and there were colleges that were only for that, for music and for people who loved it as much as she did. It was the General’s money that was for tuition, the General’s money put into a bank account each month by her mother, for tuition and college and growing up because Ella wasn’t first, she was second but her mother didn’t care which was which. It was the General who said ‘no’. It was the General who said ‘no’ without looking at the literature Ella had trucked home, without listening to the music that soared through the house until ‘no’ shut it off. It was the General who said ‘no’ who didn’t go to church except on holidays.
It took two weeks. It took two weeks and Ella was seventeen but her mother said ‘yes’ when the General said ‘no’, and she handed over the account to Ella herself. Ella was eighteen when she went to college, eighteen and in New York for the first time clear across the country and the General said ‘no more’ and her mother stood at the gate and waved goodbye with her hand cupped over her eyes and sun bright on her hair.
She was happy. There was music and there was singing and if it wasn’t Louisiana sunlight but New York snow and slush four months out of the year then the music made up for it. Ella fell head over heels in love with her education and if she missed her mother and she missed the church and she missed the woman who taught the choir then she didn’t miss the little empty house near Fort Monmouth, not a bit. Her voice stretched and the notes untwisted, and she was riven-copper made to sing against the hammer, turned into something beautiful and wonderful. Ella was twenty when she saw her sister once more, in Seattle for a holiday season that was lacking in Christmas trees and lights wrapped fondly in tissue from year to year. She made cookies and she baked gingerbread men and she took apart the traditions she had grown up with and kept the heart of them for herself. She was twenty when she went back to New York and twenty when she fell in love with something beyond music.
Cooper Dean was as far from music as it went. He was a nurse’s aide in one of the big facilities in town, for rich folk who had no one who could keep them once they were sick or old or crazy. He was shy, which was just fine because Ella was too and he had a smile that could light up a room. He liked to read and he liked to think and he didn’t attend church but the once, when a friend pulled him along to hear the choir and the sermon. Cooper heard Ella and he saw her after and that was it for both of them. Ella wanted to be a singer, she wanted to finish up and be good - even great - but she loved Cooper as much as she loved the music. They loved each other for a year more before Ella finished up, graduated from Juilliard and the same day Cooper proposed. She invited her sister, now in New York, to her wedding and she invited her parents but the only person Ella saw on her wedding day in the mostly-empty church was Coop himself. Her mother sent a letter that could have been from the General himself, that they were both done with her, if she made such a silly mistake. Ella folded it up and she put it away and she didn’t bother with that family again.
Ella Dean was twenty one when people thought her crazy, Ella with her talent and her voice and her dreams she held onto tight. Coop and she sat down in their tiny apartment and they worked out their dreams on the back of an envelope, Ella to stand on stage and sing like snow on glass, Cooper to go to medical school, to become a doctor. They agreed, she and Coop, the way couples do, first was her turn with Juilliard fresh in her past and then when she was a rich and famous singer (they said it with a smile, they said it like they were laughing, they said it like they believed it could be true) it would be his turn, medical school and studying whilst she supported him. Ella took a job working in a bar at night and a restaurant during the day, the fancy kind that meant knowing where the napkins went, the rules and regulations but meant time off during the day for auditions and Coop, he worked looking after people, listening to them and cleaning up after them and coming home to the tiny apartment that was clean and warm and a home. She kept it nice, Ella, she kept it full of pretty things and good food and laughter and when they fought, which wasn’t often, they made up before bed. Ella was twenty three, when Coop got sick. They didn’t notice, not at first, Coop was clumsy at times and Ella wasn’t looking for bruises. She was twenty three when it began and twenty four when it became real, when he was sick enough to see and sick enough to go check it out, even with the thin health insurance that they had.
Coop was twenty five when a doctor told him he was very sick indeed, when hospitals and antiseptic were something they were going to get real familiar with, and when Ella started to get sick herself, she thought it was nothing but worry, working late and getting up early, with doctor’s appointments and blood treatments and chemo to go to. She wasn’t sick at all, but she was pregnant and if they’d thought Ella Dean crazy before, they thought it now of the two of them, stupid kids who loved each other madly enough for in sickness and health, for babies they’d written down on the back of an envelope. It was a mistake but not the kind you corrected, not when you stood up in church and sang. Coop lay with his hand curled around her belly, and he told her things, whispered with his mouth against her shoulder and promises made that wouldn’t be broken, only left behind.
She was twenty four when she gave birth to their daughter, twenty four and in a room in the same hospital, Coop two floors down and one along. When she screamed to a nurse and to a midwife and was wheeled as she took the damp, blanketed bundle down, exhausted and sweaty, for Coop’s tired kiss and delighted smile. They called her Elizabeth, too long a name for something so tiny, she became Beth and Bethie shortly after. She was tiny and she was contented, and she was two months old when Coop left them behind, left Ella behind.
Ella was twenty-five when she packed up and she left New York behind without a backward glance. Coop was from Vegas, had told her stories and she wanted to see them. If she couldn’t have her mother and Louisiana, then she’d take Vegas instead. She took what she had and she took Beth and she moved into an apartment which was shabby and dirty but in a part of town that wasn’t so bad. Ella cleaned it, and she made it a home and she found a job in a bar and one in a restaurant that wasn’t so fancy. But with her she took Coop’s medical bills, the emergency room visits and the chemo, the hospital stays and her own maternity term. Bills that were letters, stamped in red and it didn’t matter where she was or how many cookies she baked for the neighbors, they came all the same. It was one of the neighbors, since moved on, who took pity. Who explained how it was you could live in Vegas and manage, when you couldn’t stay out all night. Who gave her a name, and a number and told her to call.
Ella Dean was twenty five when she realized she wasn’t superfluous any more and she mattered. She goes to them mostly, and if they come to her, they’ve been vetted first by the woman with the soft, sympathetic voice on the phone who books them in and takes forty percent. She doesn’t own a fancy piece of underwear to save her life, and she doesn’t call herself a whore or a hooker, not a bit. She’s matter-of-fact about it and she doesn’t let any of them get pushy, she gives them what they want but on her terms. She’s a mother, and she’s a singer, and she dreams of standing on stage and singing like snow on glass, one day when Beth is older. She wouldn’t give up her life and what it’s been for anything at all - but she hasn’t been to church once, since she arrived in Vegas.
Journal/Key: A composition notebook, flat-bound in black tape with a key that swings alongside an old ring on a long, long chain.