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Tess is an artist. Sensitive and idealistic, she sometimes seems frail or even weak, but she is committed to her art which makes her strong. Art is where she puts her faith. And people of faith have the tool to be strong. She grew up in North Carolina and heads for the west coast out of high school. Her mother dies and she is in a love/hate relationship with her father. She has a twin brother who goes to New York to study acting. Tess starts out in Santa Cruz, where she studies art at the local community college.
Tess falls in love with the instructor, who is married, and after graduation needs to leave Santa Cruz. The instructor helps her set up in Oakland at a studio with other artists. She gets involved with the Bay Area arts scene and slowly builds up her reputation as a figurative oil painter. She meets Selma and falls in love. They have both left relationships with men and treasure their uncomplicated relationship. However, the erotic spark between them eventually fades and leaves them with a friendship of love and mutual respect. A supportive and strong bond has been established between them.
Tess's relationship with her dad is complicated. They are similar in temperament and are both creative thinkers and clever wordsmiths. Tess learns about life outside the home from him, while her mother domesticates her. He gives, provides and reveals life's secrets to her, but because her mom is prudent and correct, with a tendency to wear a mask to hide behind, Tess doesn't get the full benefit from her dad's teachings. He needs to consider his wife and her needs and is often overruled by her. He is gregarious and loves to be with people. Tess knows fun from him.
Tess’s relationship with her mother is of a different nature. She grew up with the notion of good girls and bad girls and teaches Tess to be a good girl. And in fact, being a good girl means to be subservient and to always be of help to others. Tess’s mother adores her husband and lives and breathes for him; however, she turns on him frequently as well: when he returns from business trips, she greets him with a cold shoulder. She doesn’t like the fact that he is with other people and forgets about her. This is how she feels.
Tess knows she carries her mother inside and she tries to be conscious about this and fights against it. She doesn’t want to be the good girl and experiments with sex and love. That is how she grows up. She is comfortable with flirting and dating. But when she commits to one, she stays with that person exclusively, until the relationship falls apart. The longest she’s been with one is less than a year. She’s gone without a relationship, too, for a time, the longest being one year. She seeks security but realizes she can feel safe on her own.
Tess is average height, small frame, slender, heart face, short salt/pepper hair, deep eyes, small mouth, lovely smile, straight nose, hands that feel everything. She likes loose clothes, jumpsuits, dresses, long skirts, feminine but simple lines, mostly solid colors, perhaps with a stripe or two or perhaps polka dots. She prefers natural fabrics: cotton, linen, wool. She wears only little jewelry and plain, not heavy. A bangle, a chain round her ankle, stud earrings, a ring or two. She likes simplicity but paints with bold colors. The colors she possesses are so strong she cannot wear them. Put on canvas.
When Nora comes to town Tess is delighted. She hasn’t touched base with Nora for a few years, because she left the city and Nora divorced Ove who didn’t want to continue having Tess in the city gallery. She prefers to be represented by a gallery to being shown through web portals for art. For Tess it is important to be with the art and feel the soul of it instead of merely looking at an image of it. With Nora’s many art connections and strong network, she’s sure she will sell her figurative work again. Done with the flowers.
Tess’s mother dies from an aneurysm that goes unnoticed and then ruptures. Before she dies Tess has already decided to go to California and therefore, does not attend college after high school but works at the local library. Eventually, she applies to different colleges in California but when her mother dies, she simply leaves to get away. Her brother has already been in New York for a year and she doesn’t want to stay with her father. He is an alcoholic and secretly, she blames him for the death of her mother. She being co-dependent drank and smoked like him.
Selma is from a big family. Oldest of many siblings. Therefore, she doesn’t want children herself. She’s from the Midwest, Nebraska, and grew up in the country. She’s healthy and wholesome but also, sensual and seductive. Somehow, she’s just a person of balance. And she’s full of positive energy. Therefore, people love to be around her. She’s successful in the hospitality business, which she dedicates herself to, while she attends the City College in San Francisco. She gets involved with the arts scene and meets Tess. They fall in love. The fact is, they recognize certain elements in each other.
Selma is a people person, unlike Tess, who is happy doing art all day. However, when she’s home, she likes to kick back and do nothing. She is more the sleuth than Tess. Through her questions to people in town we see how clever she is, and it is her who figures out why Nora is in town. It gets complicated and Selma doesn’t share her insight with Tess as she uncovers the truth about Nora. The truth is powerful enough to challenge the friendship of Tess and Selma, which suffers a few ordeals before the final showdown.
Selma loves her freedom, financially, emotionally, and sexually. She is able to feel the full force of real freedom without being afraid of losing her sense of comfort and security. An admirable skill. She does not need constant feedback or admiration from other people; she is able to feel comfortable in her own skin and further, can accept critique of any sort. She is levelheaded and sensible and therefore an excellent sleuth. Some people find her selfish, which is a common perception of a person who understands the intricacies of being human. But most people revel in her good energy.
Selma’s relationship to Tess is of a special nature. It is a meeting of two souls who connect effortlessly, and the importance of this relationship is central to my overall story. As people the two women are different, both in personalities and in values, but what they have in common is this: curiosity, belief in common good, achievement over competition, sustainability, and sharing love. This they subconsciously know and these themes will surface all through the story. It is through their actions, thoughts and sensibilities that the themes will drive the story. Naturally, conflicts will arise and complicate the development.
Selma is blond with curly and thick hair that she puts up occasionally but mostly wears to her shoulders. Blue eyes, full lips, and a nose that doesn’t matter. A Marilyn Monroe type, but sharp as a dagger and aware of her sexual appeal that she owns. She decides who can have her because she wants that particular person, too. Her clothes accentuate her figure. Favorites are jeans and loose shirts. She’s not big on clothes and wears professional outfits at the restaurant: black pants or skirts and a white shirt. When she dresses up all eyes are on her.
Her big family loves her and is spread out through the country and Mexico. Only her parents are still in the Midwest. She keeps in contact with everyone through emails and texting. That is how she likes it. She will attend family reunions but otherwise, doesn’t prioritize family time, as she likes her daily life among friends, lovers, and colleagues. Her real love is Tess. Boyfriends come and go but her current one, Danny, humors her and satisfies her needs for fun and good sex. Danny wants to marry her but Selma is happy living with Tess and not Danny.
Naturally, every character needs a flaw and Selma’s flaw is her relentless pursuit of Tess. Tess agrees to move to the wine country and become Selma’s roommate. They were lovers in the city but Selma follows a career opportunity to the country. Money is important to her; she wants to live a comfortable life. But she wants Tess to be part of that life, which is why she invites Tess to join her. She also knows Tess is an artist and sensitive and needs her freedom. Selma cannot be ‘married’ to Tess. However, they both know they need each other.
It’s like there is this big love in your life (Tess for Selma) but this love cannot be framed in a traditional loving relationship like a marriage. As lovers they had a good time but when it was time to move on into a serious relationship, everything that comes with that: expectations, obligations, and considerations overwhelmed them. Suddenly, the relationship takes precedence over their individual lives. And they are both women who are strongly committed to their careers. The roommate situation works well for both of them. However, Tess would like an established relationship with Leo, whom she loves. Triangle.
The triangle is complicated furthermore when Nora comes to town. Leo was her lover in college and is the father of her child, Ellen. Selma will know this before Tess and won’t know how to tell Tess. Selma understands from Nora that she is in town to untangle her life but not necessarily to be with Leo. Nora is more interested in letting Ezra know that he is a grandfather. She would like for Ellen to have a grandfather. No doubt that Selma is the first one to discover the real reason for Nora’s presence in town. Secrets and lies.
Selma is not the type that wants to make good for everyone or who wants to have happy endings. She knows life is complicated. She knows real love is unconditional. Even though she is not a mother she grew up with many siblings and observed her parents offer unconditional love. She understands the difference between ‘owning’ love and ‘letting’ love. In comparison to Nora who wants to make amends. She wants to feel better. She wants Ellen, her daughter, to have family through her and not only through Ove, her ex-husband, and a wealthy, international art consultant with Danish roots.
Nora comes to town as a new resident. She and her ex-husband have a second home there but now she lives in it full time. She opens an art gallery in town with local and regional artists in her stable. On the outside it looks like she’s there to become part of the town. But she is there for specific reasons. The father of her child and his father both live in town. They represent the life she did not choose. And she wants her daughter to know them. She is there to make amends with herself and to heal.
Tess is delighted that she is in town. Now, Tess is represented right there in her own town with Nora, whom she adores. However, Nora has altered her view on art business and looks at art more as a spiritual and personal experience than a mere monetary investment. To make it big with her art, Tess still needs the city gallery representation. Will she pursue Ove Bentsen, the high roller art consultant and gallery owner? Or is she happy to be represented by Nora? Nora has important friends and colleagues and will she use them? Tess will find herself conflicted.
Nora has chestnut brown hair, green eyes, full body, round hips and breasts and is Jewish. Her upbringing is sophisticated and cultured. Her parents moved from New York to San Francisco when she was eight years old. Her older brother was eleven and her younger brother six. She was adored by her parents and brothers growing up. Nora has an Art History degree from UC Berkeley and wrote a thesis on 19th century and early 20th century female painters from Denmark. She focused on their floral and still life paintings. Her paternal grandmother was Danish. Her husband, Ove, is Danish.
Nora meets Leo when doing the First Thursday art hopping in San Francisco. She’s an art history student and he’s an artist, represented by one of the galleries. She falls for him hard. They are together for a while, perhaps two years, but Nora also meets Ove, an influential art consultant and gallery owner from Denmark. He adores her and pursues her relentlessly. Finally, she gives in to him and marries him, while she is pregnant with Leo’s child, which might as well be Ove’s child. They stay married for almost twenty years before Nora must make amends with herself.
Ove is from Denmark and grew up with alcoholic parents. He likes to drink and often, one too many. Nora is frustrated by this and decides to leave him. She’s been privileged in this marriage but wants to be more true to who she really is. Several things make her divorce Ove: his drinking, his status and network (which Nora finds exhausting), his relentless pursuit of money. Even though her daughter, Ellen, stays with Ove in Copenhagen, she sets out on her own and opens an art gallery in Aldhaven. Here, she collects real people over the former fake people.
Besides Nora, Tess, and Selma – strong women of Aldhaven – there is Avery. Avery is a mother of twins and she’s married to her high school sweetheart, Martin. They split up after high school but were re-introduced some years later and quickly married, knowing that they fit, in a sensible and reasonable way. A year later, the twins (a boy and a girl) were born. Both educated lawyers decide to move to the wine country. Martin’s clients are from the wine industry and he likes to invest in small upcoming wineries. Avery takes care of the twins and writes children’s books.
Avery is my mother figure; the mother archetype. She loves being a mom and puts all her energy into that. When the twins are teenagers she gets serious about writing children’s books. She’s volunteered at the twins’ schools and dealing with children is meaningful to her. She’s an only child with teacher parents. She and Martin grew up in Santa Cruz. She loves to shop in consignment stores and becomes a good friend of Ezra and Esther Sheinfeld who own the eclectic antique store in Aldhaven, and they, in turn, are like grandparents to the twins. She’s traditional and established.
Avery is from a mixed marriage with a black father and a white mother. Her skin is light brown and her hair is dark and curly. Her smile is infectious and her demeanor is that of a warm and caring person. She’s of average height as is Martin, and she likes to wear colorful clothes. Children love her and her house is the hub for after school hours. Watching the twins grow up makes her both happy and sad, as she anticipates their leaving the nest. She is not overbearing; in fact, she believes each child to be their own.
Esther and Ezra Sheinfeld have one daughter, Sarah. Sarah is a medical doctor and has worked for Doctors without Borders for many years. She resides in Mozambique. The Sheinfelds are proud of her but also sad that Sarah chose not to marry or have children. Therefore, their relationship with Avery and Martin and their twins is a substitute for that void. They do not know that Ezra has a grandchild, Ellen, by Leo and Nora. In fact, Esther does not know that Ezra has a son, Leo, by a previous relationship. Ezra left Leo’s mom but did pay child support.
Leo’s mother was from an interracial marriage and had beautiful and smooth light brown skin. She was a model. Before Leo was born she spent many years in New York City as a sought after model. She met Ezra, a fashion and design journalist, and they fell in love. When she became pregnant she wanted to go back to the Bay Area, her place of birth and Ezra agreed and followed her there. They spent a few quality years together but when Leo was two years old, Ezra had fallen in love with Esther, a writer colleague and also Jewish.
When Leo’s mother learned she had cancer and a few months left to live, she decided to tell Leo about his father, who had married Esther and they had homes both in San Francisco and in the wine country. Leo, who as an artist was involved with the art world in the Bay Area, listened but was not impressed with the fact that his father had married into a wealthy old world family and did not feel compelled to pursue a meeting with his father. However, years later, and for other reasons, Leo ended up in his father’s small town.
Leo knows Nora is in town and that she has opened an art gallery. However, Nora is avoiding Leo as much as possible and does not want him in her gallery. After Nora befriends Ezra and Esther she learns that Ezra has nothing to do with Leo; in fact, Esther knows nothing about Ezra’ son and Leo has done nothing to open up to his father. She is shocked. Nora wants to introduce Ellen to Ezra and Esther over the holidays when Ellen visits. To realize this wish is a huge challenge for Nora and she will need Leo’s help.
Another hurdle for Nora is the fact that Tess and Leo are in a relationship. Even though Leo never married and Tess has never married, the two seem intimate and fond of each other. Nora is not interested in Leo (that is what she tells herself) – Nora is focused on Ellen and keeping her in her life, as she fears Ellen will default to Ove’s family in Denmark. With a grandfather in town beside herself, Nora has something to offer Ellen when she visits. It does not occur to Nora that Ellen would want to know her biological father, too.
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