Monday, October 23, 2017

Character Spotlight: Eleanor Brown (was Davenport) (Hiding Behind The Couch)


Another CV / character profile from the Hiding Behind The Couch series.

Profiles posted so far:

Hiding Behind The Couch is an ongoing series about a group of friends—‘The Circle’ (the original main characters in the series), which has expanded and changed over time to include the ‘extended circle’ (additional main characters, below the circle on the right).


This week, it’s Eleanor’s turn. To shorthand the preamble, here’s Josh’s description of Eleanor: ‘She’s a complete and utter control freak, unbelievably bossy, constantly in need of attention, demanding…my best friend, whom I love dearly.’ I will also add to this that Eleanor was diagnosed with bulimia in her teens; however, this is only abstractly touched on in the excerpts below.

Eleanor features in Beginnings and Seasons One–Seven, with some brief appearances in some of the character/festive special novellas.

You can find both the writing and suggested reading order for the series on this page: deb248211.blogspot.co.uk/p/hiding-behind-couch.html

Eleanor Brown (was Davenport)
Name: Eleanor (Ellie) Brown (was Davenport)
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown, straight, shoulder length
Complexion: Fair
Height: 5' 4"
Weight: 10 stone 7
Build: average
Tattoos/Piercings: Both ears x 1
Education: MB BS, MRCGP
Accent: Northwest English/RP
Languages: English

Quickfire Questions:
Place of Birth: Northwest England
Siblings: Six – oldest to youngest: [Eleanor], Ben, Charlotte, Luke, Tilly (Matilda), Teddy (Edward), Pete.
Children: Toby (son), Oliver (stepson).
Places lived: Northeast England, Northwest England.
Jobs: Restaurant Manager, GP, housewife.
Interests: Charity work, my son.
Pets: None.
Greatest Success: ‘Beating’ bulimia.
Worst thing you've ever done to someone: Pushed Ben off a seesaw.
Biggest Trauma: Getting locked in a car with my ex-husband.
Do you have a secret: No.
Favourite Book: Catcher in the Rye.
Favourite Food: None.
Favourite Drink: Tea.
Strength: Organised.
Weakness: Obsessive.
Best way to spend a weekend: With family and friends.
Closest Friends: Josh, my mum.
Love of your life: Josh.

And here are some excerpts featuring Eleanor. Note: contains swear words and contentious opinions. Eleanor is often outspoken (particularly with Josh). There are also some series spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read as far as In The Stars (Seasons Four and Five).

Beginnings

(Setting: Eleanor’s younger brother’s first day of school. Eleanor is six years old.)

“Ellie! Hurry up!”

“I can’t find my skipping rope.”

“Well, you’ll have to manage without it. We’re going to be late.”

Frantically, Eleanor pulled out one drawer after another, rifling through the top layer, feeling underneath, but it was nowhere to be found.

“Eleanor Davenport!”

She took one last look around her room and ran downstairs. Her mum already had the front door open and was halfway out with the pushchair. Eleanor squeezed past and lifted the front wheels clear of the step.

“Nmm!” Charlotte said, reaching up a butter-slicked hand to offer her big sister a very soggy corner of toast.

“Nmm,” Eleanor repeated with a grimace. Charlotte giggled.

“Now then,” their mother began, as they set off along the road, “have you got your pencil cases?”

“Yes.”

“Yep.”

“And plimsolls?”

“Yes.”

“What’s plimsolls?” Ben asked.

“Pumps,” Eleanor said.

“Oh. Got them.”

“And your snack money?”

“Yes.”

Ben patted his pockets and stopped, aghast. His mother continued to waddle up the street.

“Phew!” he said, pulling the coins free of his coat pocket. He caught up again. Meanwhile, Eleanor had skipped ahead and momentarily disappeared around the corner. Ben ran after her, and she slowed down so they could continue together.

***

Chain of Secrets


(Setting: Josh and George in their high school dinner hall. Age 12.)

They sat together to eat lunch, at the empty end of a table full of fifth years.

“I talked to someone in my class today,” Josh said.

“Did you?”

“Yes. A girl called Ellie. She’s nice.”

“Ellie who?”

“Davenport. Do you know her?”

George thought for a moment. “No, but I think her little brother plays football.”

“What’s his name? I’ll ask her.”

“Ben. He’s two years below us—at Parkside.”

“That’s where Ellie went. She wants to be a doctor.”

“Oh, right.” George tried to think of something else to say, but he felt weird. He was pleased Josh had talked to someone at last, or he thought he was pleased.

***

(Setting: Josh’s house in the summer holidays. Age 14.)

Josh grabbed George by the arm and pulled him into the house. “Won’t be a second,” he said to Ellie and Jess, shutting the door on them.

“Joshua, what are you doing?”

“Have you really got to go?”

“I don’t have enough money for milkshakes and shopping.”

“I’ll buy the milkshakes.”

“You can’t keep doing that.”

“Please?”

George scratched his head. He looked worried.

“I’ll tell them we can’t go,” Josh suggested, reaching for the door latch.

“No. Don’t do that. They’re your friends.”

“So? They turned up out of the blue. They can’t expect me to drop everything, just like that.” Josh opened the door and smiled at Ellie. “Thanks for the invitation, but we’re not coming. George and I have other things we prefer to do on a Saturday.”

Ellie looked at Jess, and they both burst out laughing.

“What’s funny?” Josh asked.

“I told you,” Ellie said to Jess.

“Yeah.” She grinned at Josh.

“What did she tell you?” he demanded.

“That you’re very abrupt.”

“Am I?” Behind him, Josh could see George nodding his head and turned to face him. “Am I?”

“Yep. Kind of rude, too.”

“I am not. I’m…I…I know my own mind, that’s all.” Josh folded his arms, which made the other three laugh even harder. Josh glared at George.

“Sorry,” he spluttered.

“I can’t believe you’re laughing at me, George. I thought you were my best friend.”

“I am!”

“Oh!” Jess said. The laughter stopped. “We thought you were…” She wagged her finger between Josh and George. “You know?”

“No?” Josh said, watching George to see if he knew what Jess was talking about. George was blushing vivid crimson. Josh shrugged in query.

“They thought we were together.”

“Together? Like…oh!” Josh nearly choked on his breath and started coughing. “No…we’re…just…friends.”

“OK.” Jess smiled. “We don’t care, by the way.”

“So, you coming into town, or not?” Ellie asked.

“Yes,” George answered on both their behalves. “Go and get your jacket, Joshua.”

***

Hiding Behind The Couch

(Setting: Eleanor and Andy at The Pizza Place – the restaurant Eleanor manages. Age 36.)

“Jess wants to set up on her own. An all-female [law] practice,” Andy explained.

“Yeah, she mentioned that.”

“Except she needs to re-mortgage to do it and can’t afford to. So, I was thinking, if I get a regular job then maybe I could buy half of the house from her.”

“Or…” Eleanor paused, unsure how he was going to take what she was about to say.

“Or what?”

“You could get a job you really want and stop trying to be something you’re not.”

He didn’t respond, instead maintaining eye contact, pushing her to explain.

“You couldn’t do a nine-to-five job, not for Jess or anyone else. It’s just not you. I know you have to break away from Dan at some point, and maybe from the rest of us, too, but not like that. It’s admirable you want to help, but Jess doesn’t need you to do this for her, and I’m not sure it will do her any favours in the long run.

“You’re obviously up for making some big changes in your life. Now’s the time to do it. You and Jess need each other’s friendship and support. You can give her that without sacrificing everything you are.”

“I let her down, Ellie.”

“Yes, you did.”

“What if I get it wrong again?”

“So you get it wrong again. Start over. You always get back on your snowboard. Why should this be any different?” Eleanor drained her cup. “More coffee?”

“I think I might need it!”

***

No Time Like The Present

(Setting: Josh’s surgery, with Josh and George. Age 37.)

Both men stopped dead and held their breath, waiting like hunted-down teenagers in a horror movie, knowing all the while that the rustling of bags, the low-volume grunting, signified one thing: Eleanor was coming, and she was in a very bad mood.

“Festive spirit, my arse,” she said, emerging from the staircase, her arms weighed down by plastic carrier bags, spilling their cargo of shiny beads, tinsel and multicoloured, glittery baubles onto the floor. “Don’t you say anything,” she shouted at George before he even opened his mouth. Instead, he went to the kitchen and filled the kettle. He knew better than to test his fledgling skills on this patient, but he listened in to hear what the latest excursion into life with a live-in partner had done to her.

“Working late again,” she stated loudly to no-one in particular. It was an exclamation of her annoyance that, having spent two hours putting the decorations on the tree, she’d had to take them all off again—a further two hours—she was convinced that the scratches on her arms—“Look at the state of them, please!”—would go septic and now it had cost her a small fortune—“Forty-seven pounds eighty? For a box of glass balls and two strings of beads? Are you having a laugh?”—to replace all the stuff that she and the tree had wrecked between them. That tree: her unwitting accomplice and new nemesis.

Josh chuckled and picked twigs and needles out of her hair as she ranted away, pausing only to take in breath. And, Eleanor continued, there was something very wrong with chopping down trees for the sake of Christmas, which, when all was said and done, was about new life and the Saviour of the whole world, which she was pretty sure extended to trees, although the ‘living trees’, as they liked to call them, cost twice as much again as the half-dead thing now taking up most of her living room, and probably wouldn’t look any the better for their roots being intact, come December the twenty-fifth.

Yes, he said he was sorry, but the American MD’s plane had been delayed in Ohio, and his meeting had to be postponed. No point, after all, having a video conference with a blank wall, but he’d drive up just as soon as they were done. It would be well after midnight, and he promised not to wake her, would warm his hands before he snuggled up behind her and even go and make the cocoa, should he inadvertently disturb her.

“Doesn’t James know you’re disturbed enough already?” Josh chanced.

“That’s not funny,” she snapped, but with a little less venom than her previous onslaught. “I thought I’d do something nice for him for a change, and look where it’s got me. I’m wearing more flora than a church done up for a wedding, I’m bleeding, and my carpet is utterly destroyed.”

“They’re only pine needles, Ellie. They do vacuum up.”

“Eventually. By Easter, perhaps, if I’m lucky.”

“You know what your problem is?”

“No, what’s my problem, Joshua?” She glowered at him.

“George will tell you.”

***

The Harder The Fall

(Setting: with Josh at the first sixth-form reunion ball. This is Eleanor’s first night out after the birth of her son. Age 38.)

“I’m just going to the loo,” she explained edgily.

“OK,” he replied. This wasn’t the same as the previous visits, he could feel it, and as he watched her meander barefooted through the crowd and off down the hallway outside the ballroom, he cursed himself for not paying attention to her mood. He’d let the moment take over, and in the time that had lapsed, something had happened. He started to worry, that worry rising to panic when he felt his phone vibrate and saw she had sent him a text message, which read:

~ Please can you come to the ladies ASAP? x

He downed the rest of his now-warm lager in one go, went straight to the Ladies’ toilets, which were directly opposite the Gents’, and waited outside the door. Women smiled quizzically or sympathetically at him as they emerged, having already passed him once on the way in. Another text:

~ I’m in the second cubicle from the door. x

Well, isn’t that just great? All those women wandering in and out and she wanted him to go in there? He took a deep breath and pushed against the door.

“This is the Gents’, mate,” a surly voice called from behind. He glanced back and identified the owner—one of Dan’s friends who was there at the time of ‘the unfortunate incident in the showers’. Terrific.

“Erm, yes, I know. Thanks anyway,” he said, blushing. There was nothing for it but to put his head down and push on through. “Sorry, ladies,” he announced as he speed-walked past the women lined up in front of the mirrors, all engaged in make-up re-application and a snide conversation about some poor soul who had been foolish enough to wear red shoes with a black dress. Cherise Williams et al again; and there he was thinking it couldn’t get any worse. He tuned out and lightly tapped on the second door along.

“Ellie. It’s me!”

The bolt clicked, and the door opened a couple of inches.

“I’m so sorry, Josh. I’ve got a bit of a problem,” she said, ushering him inside and locking the door again. He heard the conversation on the other side switch to hissed whispers.

“Right?” he asked hesitantly. At least she hadn’t been vomiting, which was a good sign.

“I knew I should’ve expressed before I came out, but I didn’t have time. It was stupid of me, and now I—”

“I’m sorry, Ellie, but I haven’t got a clue what you’re on about.”

“Right. See, there’s this thing called a let-down, which is basically triggered when a feed is overdue, or you think about the baby, or something.”

“OK. Still not following.”

“I’m leaking milk, Joshua! And if it goes through to my dress it’s going to leave two big fat round nasty stains on my boobs!”

“Ah,” he said. “Now I understand. So what am I supposed to do about it, exactly?”

***

In The Stars Part I

(Setting: Josh’s grandma’s house. This follows a few days after Eleanor has told George she isn’t happy he and Josh are getting married. Age 38.)

“George told me what you said,” Josh mumbled quietly, believing that in so doing he could deliver his point without it escalating further. He felt the squeeze of the blood pressure cuff on his arm and ignored it.

“It’s just how I feel,” Eleanor said in a slightly louder voice, but still little more than a muttering really.

“Is it? Or is it what the Church tells you to feel?”

“It’s what I believe.”

“For what reason?”

“Marriage is about family.”

“Where in the bible—”

“I’m not doing this, Joshua. Marriage is a sacred institution. The union of one man and one woman, for procreation. There is nothing wrong with gay relationships—”

“And yet that is the aspect of homosexuality that is clearly condemned by the bible.”

“The act itself is the sin, but the Church is against unjust discrimination in all its forms.”

“So your discrimination is just?”

“Marriage is one man and one woman. What you will have is not a marriage.”

“Why? What makes it any less of a marriage than what you have?”

“We have Toby.”

“And Shaunna and Kris? Was their marriage less of a marriage because Krissi was not the result of their union?”

“Of course not.”

“And the straight couples who choose not to have children, or can’t have children. What about them, Ellie? Their marriages are presumably worthless, too?”

“They could still naturally reproduce, because they are male and female. You and George…” She stopped short of saying it: that it was an unnatural union.

“Marriage is about love and commitment. We’ve waited long enough to make that commitment, and you have been there all the way. Now you’re telling me you think it’s wrong? I never had you down for a narrow-minded, unthinking fool, Ellie. You’re so clever. How can you be so utterly bloody stupid about this?”

“That’s what you think, is it? My beliefs are stupid?”

“No. I think you’re stupid for not questioning the bullshit you’ve been fed all your life.”

“Oh, so it’s my parents as well?”

“Don’t you dare! This is, once again, about your beliefs. Not your parents’ and not the Church’s, either. It’s your interpretation, because, let’s be honest, if we go down the route of ‘the bible says this’ or ‘the bible says that’, then the bible says that raping a woman is preferable to homosexuality. Is that what you think, too?”

“I can’t win, can I? If I say it’s my beliefs, then you’ll belittle them for being mine and mine alone. If I say they’re based on the bible, then you’ll claim I’m condoning rape!”

“Or you can stop being such a dogmatic bitch and think for yourself for once.”

“You know what, Josh? You’re right. If you’re saying it’s wrong to speak up for marriage, to stop it from being morally degraded by some nonsense plea for equality, when gay marriage is not and cannot ever be equal to real marriage in God’s eyes, then you’re right. I’m an unthinking, dogma-driven automaton.” She moved away towards the door.

“And you would leave it like this?” Josh shouted after her.

“Oh, go to hell.”

“When I do, you’ll be right there beside me.”

She slammed the front door.

***

In The Stars Part II

(Setting: Dan’s mum’s house, where Andy, Dan, Charlie and Eleanor have been drinking for the better part of the evening. Age 39.)

 “I’m going home,” Eleanor slurred at Dan as they met at the door.

“Why?”

“Cos I live there. And I’m drunk.”

“So?” Dan tried to shove her through the doorway, and she shoved him back, which normally wouldn’t have shifted him so much as an inch, but he was too drunk to keep his balance and fell backwards.

“Charlie?” Eleanor shouted.

“Coming,” she said. She wasn’t, though. She was sitting on the sofa, where she’d been conversing with Andy, but at some point had switched to talking to the fish in the tank.

“You’re very pretty, with your big yellow tail. And you’ve got a cute black nose like a panda, and you…ugh, you ugly, liddle fishy.” She tapped on the side of the tank, and the catfish darted away.

“Charlotte Davenport! Get your pissed-up arse over here!”

“Yes, boss!” Charlotte dragged herself up off the sofa. “Have you rung a taxi?”

“No. I thought you had.”

Andy pushed Charlotte back down again. She huffed and took out her phone, squinting at the screen, unable to focus. She held it up to Andy. “Can’t do it.”

He took the phone from her and somehow managed to make the call. “Thirty minutes,” he said.

“Oh, goody. Time for another lager.” This time, she got up just fine and went to the fridge, collecting a beer for herself and filling an empty glass with wine. She handed it to Eleanor on the way back.

“What you giving me more for?” Eleanor asked.

“Taxi’s not for half an hour. Drink up, sis.” She wandered past and returned to the sofa and her conversation with Andy, though neither of them could remember what it was about.

“She’s a good little sister,” Eleanor said to Dan.

“Yeah,” he agreed.

“Are you a good little brother?”

“Dunno. I reckon so.”

“And so modest, too.” She poked him in the chest with each word. “Gosh, that’s very firm.” She did it again. He grabbed her hand.

“I work out a lot,” he told her, as if she wouldn’t know.

“Do you?” she responded, as if she didn’t know.

“Yep. Come see the gym.” He led her, by the hand, up the corridor and to the room past the conservatory.

“It’s very dark,” she said.

“It’s got lights. Hang on.” Dan staggered around, feeling along the wall for the switches. He found them. “There. See? Lights.”

“Oh. Yes. Lights. Bikes. And stuff.” She nodded and stumbled forwards. Dan caught her. She held onto him with her free hand. “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

It would be inaccurate to say that they gazed into each other’s eyes, because both were too drunk to fix their gaze on anything, but they were looking into each other’s eyes, and then they were moving closer together, and then they were kissing, and neither could quite comprehend why they were doing it, but they kept doing it, because it felt good. There was no sudden pulling away from each other as they realised; they just continued until they were both sure they’d had enough of the kiss and slowly moved their lips apart.

“Mmm,” Eleanor said. “That was nice.”

“Yeah,” Dan agreed. “What the fuck, though?”

Eleanor shrugged. “Dunno, Dan, mate. Tomorrow, we’ll probably be beating ourselves up about it, but today? Oh, hang on, it is tomorrow, except it’s today, but—oh, you know what I mean. It’s been a horrible day, and we deserve a little treat.”

“A little treat?”

“Now, now, Daniel.” Eleanor giggled. “Let’s go back to the others. My taxi’ll be here soon…”

***

Thanks for reading!
Deb x

2 comments:

  1. Brain cramp. I forgot to comment on this when I read it yesterday and remembered when I came back to find this post.

    I don' think I ever had specific feelings one way or another about Ellie because I don't really know her, I suppose. Or not the way I feel like I know some of the others. I like this--it's nice to have it kind of in one place. I'd forgotten her "real marriage" eye-roll-inducing comments, though. Yeesh. But I know far too many people in real life who agree with her, sadly.

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  2. Urgh - that's just reminded me I haven't made it to the WIPpets and it's almost Wednesday again. :o

    Ellie...matters more to Josh than she does to the author, LOL. I keep sending her away and he insists on bringing her back again! :D

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