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Writing Dialogue: Meet Chris and Rebecka

2006-11-24

Writing dialogue is the most difficult thing I know. But watching Ally McBeal has really made me interested in writing again; and I think I realize that the whole purpose of dialogue is to establish a relationship in the story. Let people communicate and grow with each other. (Maybe that's the purpose of all dialogue?)

So, I had to jot down some ideas, and the idea became a story, and the story became a blogpost... And so, I introduce to you Chris and Rebecka, two people with an interesting and common past:

- Hello, Becka!

Rebecka looked up from her thoughts. A handsome guy stood in front of her with a recognizing smile on his face.

  • Chris? Hi! Rebecka said with her best fake smile. This is a surprise, I didn't know you were in town.
  • Yeah, I just flew in yesterday, he said. I hadn't planned to be in actually, but a customer dragged me away, and... You know how it is.
  • Yeah, sure. She smiled again.
  • Hey, do you want to grab a cup of coffee or something? I've got a couple of minutes to spare.
  • Uhmm... She hesitated. I don't know...
  • Maybe you're busy?
  • Well, no... Okay, maybe a cup of coffee then. Yeah, that could be nice. She smiled, but silently bit her lip.

* * *

  • So, what's been going on with you lately? Chris asked as they were sitting down at a table in one of the nearby coffee shops.
  • Oh, I've been around, doing stuff, Rebecka said evasively. Nothing in particular...
  • No big changes in your life? I remember you talked about going to the Andes to research or something...
  • Yeah, well... She hesitated. It didn't really turn out that way, she said. Some professor got sick and then the whole program was kind of cut short for a while, so I postponed everything and that's where it is right now basically.

Rebecka glanced briefly at Chris while she talked. She really didn't want to go into any details. Particularly that little detail that since Chris left, her whole life had sort of turned upside down and that she had cried for six months straight. Just because the man she was in love with had disappeared out of her life and she never even got to tell him how she felt. And now, when she finally had gotten over it and turned that particular page in her life, he shows up out of the blue and now they're sitting here talking like nothing happened. She fought her emotions, fought her desire to gaze deeply into his eyes and drown in them like she had done so many times before.

  • Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, Chris said. You talked about it like you really wanted it, I hope it works out for you.

Yeah. She had gone on and on about it, because she desperately wanted to impress him. Chris had this sort of rugged thing going; he had an adventurous look about him and she had, sort of on a whim, come up with this little story about going to the Andes and spending time with the Indians. It had gotten his interest, and before she knew it she had spun off on it and said all kinds of things that she never would do or had planned to do. It was just so easy to talk whenever he was around.

But he looked different now. So business-like... It would have been difficult to imagine that two years ago.

  • Yeah, well, maybe it was all just as well... But look at you, she quickly changed the subject. You look like you're in high business these days. You must have been really successful lately, have you?
  • No, not really, Chris let out a little embarrassed laugh. I'm working for a small business and we've just been able to secure some funding for one of our projects, and of course the next step is selling it. That's why I'm here in Boston, to meet this client who might end up buying.

So he had changed.

  • It's not really that much of a deal actually, he continued. I don't know if I told you, but one of the reasons I moved away was that a friend of mine had just started this business, and he needed some help setting it up, so I went there to help him out a while. And I've been with him ever since.

No, you didn't tell me that, thought Rebecka. You never told me why you moved. We were fooling around... Casting glances and smiles across the study hall; had long talks about study subjects, history, politics and anything that came to mind. I never really figured out if you loved me, she thought. She thought he did, but she never knew how much, or dared to ask. But there was something there, wasn't it? Some chemistry that just made the both of us laugh and laugh, she felt. Something could have happened; something really good.

And then, one day, you moved. Just like that. You never told me why.

  • So, you like it over there? she said.
  • Yeah, actually, I do, he said. I mean, it's a whole lot different from Boston, I'll be the first to tell you, and I kind of miss this place from time to time. But it's nicer, kind of a small town community, and there's lots of places you can go if you like. I mean, right next to town are these incredible mountains...

She sipped her coffee while he talked. There were parts of the old Chris there, of course, the rugged explorer hiking the mountains and wilderness. But he seemed to have mellowed down a fair bit too. He didn't mention any girlfriend, maybe he was still single? Rebecka quickly pushed that thought out of her mind.... she was not going to fall for him just like that, again. And yet...

Ever since they first met, she'd had this secret crush on him. And the more he talked about his life and what he wanted to do, the more she fell in love with him. Naturally, she wouldn't come with him on all those adventures he planned - she wasn't really the hiking person anyway - but he seemed to know so much about the world, like all they had to do was go around the corner, and he could show her the most amazing things about neighborhoods she had known for years but never quite discovered the way he did. And he had seen the world; traveled to lots of interesting places: Hong Kong, Sydney, Tel Aviv...

She looked into his eyes. She didn't want to, but she could feel herself drawn into them again. So dark and yet alive... Rebecka could feel herself leaning forward towards him. She was falling for him again, she knew it. She was listening intently to what he was saying, hung upon his every word. Something about biking. Whatever. Yeah, she knew it; she still had all of those feelings for him intact. All she needed to do was to open the box and let it all fly out again.

Maybe this was the moment. Maybe this was her one chance to have something happen? Right here, right now, right in this coffee shop. They probably wouldn't meet again, and if she didn't do something, the moment would be lost. She had to seize it, right now.

She opened her mouth to say something, she didn't know what. Just something, words. She'd open her mouth and say something out loud, probably about how handsome he was and how much she liked seeing him after all this time again, and how much she would like to go out with him...

  • By the way, he said, I'm getting married next month.

She stopped right there, mouth still open. She swore she could hear a whole glass window breaking into a thousand pieces.

  • Huh? was all she could manage.
  • Yeah. I met this girl some time ago. Actually, it was right about the time that I moved away from here. We've been together for a while now and just a short while ago I finally proposed to her. We're getting married in five weeks. Isn't it wonderful?
  • Wow... That's great news, really, she said. She felt numb.
  • Yeah. She's just like the most amazing woman I've ever met... In my entire life I could never figure out why someone like her would want to be with someone like me. But... She said yes! I'm not wearing my engagement ring right now, because I can't get it to fit, otherwise I'd show it to you, promise!

Rebecka could feel a strange, new knife twisting and turning inside of her. She smiled.

  • I'm so happy for you, Chris, she said and laid her hand upon his; just to reassure him how happy she was. For him.
  • Well, what about you? he asked. Have you found anyone?
  • Actually, I have, she heard herself say. Yeah. His name is... Jack. We haven't been together for so long but I have a really good feeling about it. She smiled again, to ease the pain.
  • That sounds great! Chris said. I'm happy for you. If anyone deserves it, it's you.

The knife kept digging. She looked down into the table. She didn't want to meet his eyes.

  • Well, it's been great seeing you again, Rebecka. I've gotta go, have a meeting to catch. Hey, maybe I'll run into you again, he said as he jumped up from the table and looked at her to say goodbye.
  • Yeah, sure, Rebecka smiled, holding back her tears. That would be great, really!
  • Okay! And hey... Good luck with Jack! he said, left some change on the table for the waitress and then disappeared out of her life.

Twenty minutes ago, Rebecka Emery had been a nice, confident young lawyer, walking down the street, life in order, assured of herself and striding towards new and wonderful things in life. And now, barely half an hour later, she sat all alone in a little coffee shop in downtown Boston; the world had faded around her, her heart lay in ten thousand pieces all spread out over the floor, and she had, for the second time in her life, just lost the man she loved with all her heart.