Friday, June 1, 2012

In defense of Callie Harper

After last post I realized I had made quite a mistake in not explaining Callie Harper to you better. In wanting you to love Jerry, I ended up making quite a pool of loyal Callie-despisers. That was not the intention of the post and now I find myself saddled with the enormous job of reclaiming her sullied reputation. Let me see how I do.

First of all, Callie is not a mean girl. She is only insecure in every way imaginable. Witness her mind in  action. :)

    All at once I realized the cabbie wasn’t taking me down Fifth Avenue. We had turned off Columbus Avenue where my apartment was, and were now meandering toward Broadway. I reached through the little pane of glass separating me from mine worthy host and rapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me. It is quite illegal for you to take me a different route from the one agreed upon. I have a constitutional right to go where I wish, as long as I pay.” 
    The cabbie shrugged and kept his eyes on the road, but through the rear-view mirror I could see he looked a bit unnerved. “What are you? A lawyer or sumpin?” 
    “I’m a newspaper reporter, actually, and if you don’t want to see your seedy cab-business written up on the front page of the St. Evan’s Post, you’d better take me where I want to go.” 
    My words sounded braver than I felt—I hated getting stuck in this sort of cab—having to use that constitution spiel. Now I wasn’t even certain I wanted to go down Fifth Avenue. I hadn’t any real business there—just wanted to scout out which penthouse I’d rent once I made it big.  Should I tell the cabbie to proceed on the course he’d chosen? But no—a woman had to stick to her word in NYC or the men would take shameless advantage over her.

Truth is, Calida Harper is a fish out of water. She doesn't know it, and even if she did, she wouldn't acknowledge it. But her father deserted the family when she was two years old. Her brother died in WWII. The men in her life have not stuck around and gradually Callie has grown a bit cynical. Still, she's not all bad. There remains in her a humorous, gentle, sweet streak that consistently appears for her cat, Nickleby, and at random moments for other people.
She wills desperately to be successful, glamorous, and famous. Her measure of her worth is in what other people think of her--therefore she gets complexes rather often, and wavers between self-satisfaction and self-doubt. Her issue is not her self-image. She knows she's pretty and can carry off pretty nearly whatever she puts her mind to, but rather she's wrapped up in the measure of professional success.
When Callie first meets Mr. Wade Barnett, she gets a jolt. He's like no one she's ever met, and truth be told, he annoys her. You see, she's rather jealous of Mr. Barnett. He's a man who cares not a jot for the world's opinion, nor tried to work his way up, and yet he's reached dizzying heights of success. Callie, on the other hand, lives for being a big-time reporter and it irks her to see him making so little of her favorite dream.
I think what makes Callie and Mr. Barnett tick as a pair is the fact that he consistently brings out her fun, easy-going, genuine side and gives her a new idea of what a successful woman might be after all. Callie's double-duty personality can be seen briefly here:

     Growling to myself over the unfairness of it all, I fled the office and stopped at the edge of the street. There—just across the constant stream of yellow traffic—was my destiny. “Wish me luck, Nickleby,” I muttered. I took a large breath, drew myself to my stylish height of five-foot-eight, and dashed across the street in a brief lull between cars. Shores never told me which building I belonged in—but I never bothered about such things, just followed my intuition. I walked with a firm step up the sidewalk, enjoying the clandestine sensation of treading on the golden side and belonging there. I grinned like a loony at everyone that passed by before realizing that sort of a loose, girlish expression in no way fit the image I’d built of the famous Callie Harper. I pooched my lips, dropped into a lazy saunter, and ambled up the sidewalk, searching for the place I belonged. 
“Miss Harper? Are you well? You look a bit faint.”To my extreme horror, Mr. Barnett was at my elbow; brown eyes bent on me with concern. “I was just looking out for you." 
That's what I got for elegance. I pulled my arm away from his touch and summoned all the hauteur I could manage. “I am exceptionally well, Mr. Barnett. And you?”

You can see how hard Callie tries to look and act and be perfect. Poor girl. Gradually as Callie works alongside Mr. Barnett on their Ladybird Snippets project her views are constantly opposed and challenged on every point. Will their individual differences get in the way of business? Will Mr. Barnett turn out to be just like every other man in her life so far? You will have to wait to find out. :) But I do hope I've given you a bit of a better picture of Calida Harper. I don't condone her behavior toward Jerry, and sometimes she's downright horrid. But don't hate her, for my sake. :)

I popped a chocolate caramel into my mouth and grabbed Pickwick off the table, opening to the silk ribbon that marked my place.  “Observe, Nicks,” I said. And even around the lump of chocolate my voice had a determined edge to it. “I take notes from the best masters.” I nodded out the dim window in the directions of Shores’ office and sucked my chocolate. “Let that be a lesson to you, Mr. High-and-Mighty. I won’t be easily squashed.”


Anne-girl said...

Oh I loved Callie she just made me a bit mad. One of those characters you love and groan over at the same time eh? Poor girl!

Jenny Freitag said...

Oh dear, you thought we didn't like Callie? We like Callie, we just had to side with Jerry for his sake under the circumstances of your last post. Being now able to say that I've dashed across a New York street in a lull of cars and stood in pricey shops feeling all manner of out of place, I know how Callie feels. But I had my husband, and I could face New York City and not flinch. Callie needs Mr. Barnett, sure and certain; she's got plenty of pluck, and cheek, she just needs someone to keep her soft. New York will make you hard. I know.

Hurrah for Nickleby. ^.^

Carilyn said...

Aw, I didn't really hate Callie... she was just being annoying. :/ I think now everyone's going to comment and say they don't hate her. :D

Rachel, you are a GENIUS at writing. How can you not be a famous author by now???!!! I'm not joking, Rachel, you've got to be one of the best writers I've ever met. (I actually haven't met hardly any writers, but isn't that beside the point? :) Your writing is really seriously amazing. You've got to publish something, with all that talent. I don't know what else to say.... God has blessed you with a beautiful talent.

Your friend,

Carilyn said...

Okay, that might have sounded weird... "You've got to publish something, with all that talent."

What I mean is that you are so talented, that people would be crazy if they didn't want to publish your books! Unfortunately, I don't think there's as many publishers out there as there should be, who would like the sorts of things you write. All you need is one publisher who likes it... there's gotta be one out there somewhere, waiting for you! :)

Sheesh, sorry! Hopefully this all makes sense now.

Rachel Heffington said...

Very much so, Carrie-dear. Thank you for your encouraging words! You made my Frantic Writing Day. :)

Daniel said...

All true :)

Horse Lover said...

I like her. Is this time period like 1950s? One of my favorites! Keep up the good work, Rachel. Can't wait to see one of your books in print! I shall be the first to purchase one. (Well, maybe not the first, but one of the closest to it!)

Rachel Heffington said...

It is the 1950's! :) And I can't wait either! :) I shall look heartily forward to that day!