When I first came up with the idea of the ghost story, it was all Dean’s fault. He gave me the “what if” that led to the whole mess. Most of my stories start out as a “what if,” and in this case it was: What if a man is murdered on his way home while just trying to be a good Samaritan and it’s up to his ghost to help his lover track down the bad guy?
At first I wasn’t going to do write it, but Dean kept poking at me. He wanted this question resolved. He wanted to know that his partner would be okay when the dust settled and he couldn’t do that until I wrote it. Dean was a nice guy, but a persistent bugger.
So I started thinking about the man he left behind. What kind of a man would readily accept help from a ghost without question? What kind of circumstances could there be where such a man would prefer that his loved one moved on instead of staying to linger with him as a ghost?
Andrei and his sister Ileana came to me almost fully formed. I knew their background, their bond, and how that fed into Andrei’s fears for Dean. I finally found this picture of him, too. Funnily enough, the model’s name is Andrei too. He’s a little prettier than my Andrei who I picture as a little more rugged, but after months of searching this is the first picture to make me go ooohhhh, that makes me think of my character.
I’d never attempted a character interview before, but I decided why the heck not and sat down with Andrei to talk to him about his relationship with his sister and how it changed his life. It had some unexpected results. I hope you enjoy.
* * * * *
I hand Andrei a cup of coffee and take a sip of my own. “Thank you for agreeing to talk to me, Andrei. I know you don’t have a lot of time since you have a busy case load, so let’s get right into it. How old were you when you lost your sister?”
“You go right for the throat don’t you.” Andrei paused, his eyes lost in thought. “Five, she was so sick. I remember my mother and aunts hovering over her. I wasn’t allowed to get too close because they didn’t want me to get sick too. I never really lost her though. Ileana’s always been rather strong minded and she decided that she wasn’t ready to leave her little brother behind without a playmate, so she stayed. At the time, I thought it was the best thing to ever happen to me. I adored Ileana. She always had time for me and I repaid her poorly in the end, when it got to a point when I always didn’t have time for her in return.”
Ileana pops in and whispers to me. “It was the boys. He started looking at them getting all silly about it too.”
Andrei frowns at her. “It wasn’t the boys.”
“Uh-huh, was too. You liked to sneak away in uncle’s truck to make kissy faces with them.”
I pick up Ileana’s stuffed turtle that had fallen to the floor and hand it to her. “I don’t think it was just the kissy facing that dragged him away, Ileana. That’s not entirely fair. He did get kicked out of his home because he refused to let them exorcize you.”
“Only a little!” Ileana glowers fiercely. “They caught him kissing the boy too! It wasn’t my fault.”
Andrei cuts in. “Wait a minute. I am here remember? This is my interview you two. Yes, I’m sorry Ileana but my relationship with you was the main reason why I was kicked out, but I don’t blame you and you shouldn’t blame yourself either.” Tears fill her eyes and he gathers her in a hug. “But, you’re right, kissing the boy didn’t help either.”
“I’m glad they left you at the church. They were big ole meanie faces. And they always yelled at you.” Ileana wraps her arms around her brother’s neck. “And then you met Dean. I like him. He’s the best in the whole world.”
“They had plenty of reasons, Illy girl. It wasn’t like I was the most behaved child in the world.”
I clear my throat and realize they both forgot about me when they look at me in surprise. “I always found that kind of interesting, Andrei. You carry some pretty hefty baggage around because your family abandoned you. I mean, you did tell Dean that you didn’t want to adopt and I know that it stems from your fear of repeating your parent’s mistakes.”
Andrei glares at me. “Personal much? I didn’t realize you had your psych degree.”
“Okay, that was rude. I’m sorry, but you do defend them.”
“No I understand them. Big difference. I broke the rules and they didn’t know how to cope with me.” He smiles down at Ileana and the smile eases the hard lines on his face. “I think the both of us were too much for them. We both wanted to do our own thing. I hope for our brother Sergey’s sake, he is more compliant than we were, but we’ll never know.”
“Sergey is boring.” Ileana rolls her eyes. “He never wanted to play. Not ever!”
“So why didn’t you ever tell Dean about how you could see Ileana?” I ask, before they forget that I’m here again.
Ileana twisted around to look at her brother. “Yeah, that was stupid, Andrei. Dean didn’t even blink when I told him who I was. You shoulda told him a long time ago.”
“You told him after he’d woken up as a ghost after being shot. I think he was pretty shell shocked.” Andrei’s expression turns thoughtful as he fixes the end of Ileana’s braid. “I wish I had now, but I’d already lost one family because I talked about her too much. I didn’t want Dean and his family thinking I was unhinged. I needed that stability.”
“Can you make the lady go away?” Ileana makes a shooing motion at me. “I want you to sing me a song.”
“Ileana, not now. I promised that I’d answer her questions.”
Ileana’s eyes go round as she shoots Andrei a look of appeal. “Puh-leeeeeeze.”
Faint red spots appear on Andrei’s cheek and he doesn’t look at me. “Oh for the love of God, not here.”
I grab my notepad and get up. “That’s okay, Ileana. He’s all yours. I’ve gotten what I need. I think next time, I might bug Dean. After all, this is his fault.”