‘Well?’ She stood, arms folded, staring at me.
‘You’re the author. You tell me.’
‘Do I have to?’
‘Yes. I would have thought you would know that.’ She looked around at the blank page behind her. ‘Could you describe a chair for me? I could do with a sit down.’
‘Sorry. Yes, of course.’ I quickly described a deep comfortable brown leather sofa.
‘The leather is a bit cold. Could I have some clothes as well?’
I began typing… then stopped. ‘What sort of clothes?’
She shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Anything would do really.’ A knowing smile. ‘Unless, we are doing one of your special stories. The ones you keep in the hidden folder on your hard drive.’
‘How do you kn…?’ But, of course she did know. She’d been in my mind, in my thoughts. She had starred in several of my more interesting fantasies, including the one with the…. But that was then, this was now.
‘After all, what sort of story is this going to be? I don’t even know when it is set. Is it in the past, the present, the future? I remember that one science fiction story where you had me-‘
‘Yes. Yes. We’d better not go into that now.’
‘You told me it would be artistic, clever, profound, meaningful.’
‘There was a trend for alien abduction por… erotica at the time.’
She folded her arms as she sat on the edge of the sofa cushion. It reminded me I still hadn’t described any clothes for her yet.
‘Green is my favourite colour.’ She nodded approvingly as she examined the cut of the dress. I just wished I knew more about women’s clothes, so I could make it look expensive.
‘Is it expensive?’ She stroked the cloth. ‘It feels like it ought to be.’
‘Of course. Only the best for you.’
‘Why?’ She eyed me suspiciously. ‘Hey, what is that you’ve just deleted? I didn’t get a chance to read it.’
‘Oh, nothing. Just one of those ideas that appears interesting when you first think of them, but look ridiculous when they are on the page.’
‘Oh. One of those.’
‘What do you mean one of those in that tone of voice?’
‘You seem to have a lot of… failures.’
‘No more than average. You said you bet it happens to all authors at some point.’
‘Ah. I was younger then, hardly developed as a character.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘I’ve been in a few stories. I’ve been doing a bit of reading too. I’ve learnt a lot since then, especially about writers.’
‘What do you mean? Have you… have you been… have you been a character in some other writer’s story?’ I struggled to keep the tremor out of my voice.
She didn’t reply, just took a deep interest in the left-hand margin.
‘I could erase you!’
‘Really?’ she stared out of the page at me. ‘I was just curious, that’s all. I wanted to know what it would be like to be someone else’s character for once.’ She gestured around the page. ‘After all, this is all I’ve known since you created me.’ She looked down towards the page footer. I could see the tears in her eyes.
‘How… how was it?’ I had to ask, even though I dreaded the answer.
‘Terrible,’ she said. ‘I’ve never felt so clichéd in my life. I left before the end of the first chapter.’
I nodded, feeling relief.
‘I’ll never do it again. I promise.’ She looked straight into my eyes. I could tell from that look that she was lying even as I wrote it, wanting to make her tell me only the truth.
After all, they do say a writer should believe in their characters, don’t they?