Character Development Challenge
Wren Ridere, Age 16
Prompt: Describe your character’s relationship with their mother or their father, or both. Was it good? Bad? Were they spoiled rotten, ignored? Do they still get along now, or no?
The silence said more than their words ever had.
It had been nearly eleven years since Wren could remember any sort of genuine warmth from her parents. That was before the war, before Phillipe had been taken as part of the new training regimen for children and long before she found herself in the same training camp that her brother had been in.
“You look well.” It took more effort than she thought to not roll her eyes at her mother. For an English professor, Monique Ridere really sucked at conversation. Then again, what did you say to the daughter that you didn’t fight to keep?
Wren couldn’t think of a response that didn’t sound sarcastic so she kept her mouth shut and nodded. With her Commanding Officer overseeing the visits, she couldn’t afford to be seen giving lip to her parents. Not if she wanted walk without a limp for the next week.
Worse than giving lip would be to let civilians in on what actually happened behind the gates of the Alpha Military Training Camp for Children. She had been drilled enough about keeping the secrets but nothing was a better motivator than seeing what happened to the one boy who didn’t keep his mouth shut.
But at least she had parents who were feeling awkward enough to fill the silence with mundane conversation. She had already lost count of the random topics her mother was burning through but it didn’t really matter, eventually the real topic they wanted to talk about would come out.
“Honey, you’ve barely touched the muffins we brought,” her mother reached over to pat her hand but thought better of it half way through. It was a good thing too; Wren wouldn’t know what to even do with that version of concern. “Aren’t you hungry?”
Though it was tempting, Wren kept her gaze on her parents instead of glancing over at her CO. That was another potential bombshell of a subject but it was also one that was more worrying if she didn’t answer.
“Not really, I had a fairly large breakfast this morning.” It was a complete lie. All she had was the gritty mush of nutrients that she’d been eating for years now. The brilliant scientific minds of the army developed the mush as a way to supply growing bodies with all the proper nutrients in a smaller potion. With the sacrifice of taste and actually filling her stomach, she had everything she could possibly need to survive, grow, and work at her highest standard. But she was a great liar and her parents were gullible enough to believe it. “Thank you for bringing them though, I’ll make sure to share them with the girls in my bunk.”
There was a short round of nods from her parents before silence reigned again. Like before, it didn’t last very long before another topic was on the table.
“Your brother is writing letters again.” There it was. That was what they really wanted to talk about. It came as no surprise that it was her father that had brought it up either. Phillipe was the golden boy and the favorite in the family. “He was promoted again.”
“I’ve gotten the letters.” And more information than either of them got. From the lack of enthusiasm from her mother, she doubted they knew that the golden boy had a secret family. “I cannot write him back at the moment but if you could tell him congratulations for me.”
“How do you not have time to write a simple letter? Phillipe didn’t have much trouble sending letters while he was here.” Her father rested on his elbows and leaned towards her on the table. After dealing with much scarier men for years now, his disapproving look was like looking at a puppy. “Are you not keeping up? Phillipe said it wasn’t all that hard and he was taken at the same time that you were.”
One would think that a visit with their daughter would bring them joy and excitement, especially since it had been nearly two years since she had seen them. Instead her father began to mentally compare her to her brother.
Sitting up straighter, she buried the pain of the comparison down and relied on all her training. There wasn’t much but she could defend herself at the very least.
“I am not training in the same division that Phillipe did,” In fact, she had barely ever seen her brother while he had been there because they were training in different parts of the compound. Most times, it was just the hours before their parents came to visit that they themselves found time to catch up and fabricate an acceptable story. “My schedule is different and most hours of my day are either with my commanding officers or satisfying my basic needs.”
The edge to her voice had obviously shocked the both of them. Her mother had the decency to at least look contrite but her father’s eyes darkened. “It cannot be that demanding if you managed a visit with us.”
“That’s because you showed up for once,” she drummed her fingers on the table, the silent warning to her supervision that it was nearly time for this to end. The last thing they really needed was for a familial dispute to shake things up.
“You are only sixteen, Wren, you should speak to your father with respect. Isn’t that one of the things they teach you here?”
“They teach me to speak to my superiors with respect, not my parents.” She snorted and after a glance up to her commanding officer, Wren pushed her chair away from the table. “Besides, respect would imply that you had actually done some parenting to earn it.”
“Wren—,” Holding up her hand, she cut off her mother and shook her head slowly. She couldn’t take the same old excuses again, not today.
“Mom, please don’t insult my intelligence.” Even they knew the signs of a failing visit and were standing up as well. “As nice as it is to see that you two are doing well, don’t visit again if you don’t actually care about how I’m doing. I don’t need my hopes up.”
There was that pesky pain in her chest again at the sight of tears in her mother’s eyes. It wasn’t that hard to bury it though at the anger in her father’s. He was a much better actor then she ever gave him credit for or he had honestly purged any trace of affection for her. That hurt, something Wren would acknowledge but she wouldn’t dare show it.
At the end of most visits, parents would smother their kid in hugs and kisses before unknowingly sending them back to a hell that rivaled the Nazi concentration camps of old. At the end of her visit, tension reigned even as her mother attempted an awkward excuse of a hug and she said her goodbyes.
Grabbing the plate of muffins, she watched her parents leave. A mixed feeling of pain and regret filled her. That was the worst visit she had ever had. As her commanding officer fell in beside her, her body stood at attention and she silently handed over the muffins. She’d never get to taste more than the single one that she’d had to appease her mother but the higher officers would.
“You did well, Ridere.”
“Thank you sir.”
“It had to be done. They are too much of a liability to your future missions.” It was an obvious end to the conversation but Wren didn’t turn away just yet. Her gaze lingered on the door her parents disappeared through.
The little girl that was buried under seven years of training was crying violently. All she had ever wanted was the attention and affection that she had lost when she was five years old and now, she had started the process of driving her family away for good.
Unlike Phillipe who was trained to be a soldier out in the open, to draw attention and inspire, she was training to become the shadows of the war. By the time she finished her training, she’d no longer exist to anyone that she once knew as a civilian.
It was the only way she could keep them safe but it tore her heart to pieces to push them away.
Alright guys!! I’m back!! School has been hectic but I’m hashing out a writing schedule that works for me. So far, this is what I’ve got:
Monday: WriteWorld Pictures
Tuesday: Character development (Wren)
Wednesday: Writeworld Sentence
Friday: Requests or Song Challenge
Sunday: Single Word Challenge
I took up a character development challenge of sorts and instead of doing it straight (like my 100 Creatures) I’m going to break it up. ^_^