I’m a big fan of character sketches. For mine, I like to flesh out a character’s appearance, personality, and life and then put them into a scenario somewhat atypical of their daily life to see how they react. Then I write that scenario, and I have my sketch. Recently, I stumbled across a few character sketches I did for characters who have yet to appear in any of my stories but exist in a world of their own, just waiting to be shared. So I thought I’d share one of them here! I cleaned it up a little, to make it presentable, but here it is. The sketch is for a character named Georgette Price. She’s a wealthy and sheltered young professional who has a few dark secrets in her past. Let me know what you think!
A Tale from NISI. April, 1996
As soon as Georgette Price opened her eyes that morning, the butterflies in her stomach returned. It was the same feeling she’d had last night when discussing the “dangerous plan” of her mother’s. Regan Price rarely ever asked her daughter to do anything to further her “quest for world domination”, as Georgette liked to call it, but when she did, it was always a feat. Georgette rolled out of bed and entered her bathroom to dress, style her brunette hair, and make up her same pale, freckled face. Her stomach rumbled, but instead of feeling hungry, she just felt nauseated.
As she dressed, she reviewed exactly what she was supposed to do. Regan had planned out every step, and all Georgette had to do was follow every step to the letter, something she would be the first to admit she wasn’t good at. As a teen, she’d often broken her mother’s one rule, nearly exposing her family to the world once by getting caught stealing a dress from a wealthy neighbor’s closet on a dare. Her stepfather’s money and the dress’ return with a heartfelt apology took care of the issue, but her mother was sure to send her away for a while to teach her a lesson. Georgette looked at her face in the mirror and sighed. She didn’t fully grasp that lesson until she was 25 years old. If only she’d learned it sooner, Papa might have still been alive. Not a day went by that she didn’t think of him, but she couldn’t afford to punish herself for that today.
Georgette scheduled her day while drinking coffee in her apartment’s kitchen: review the opening ceremony for the museum, have lunch with Daddy Harrison, and get Mom her info. Then dinner with Calvin as a reward. The dinner with Calvin was the only thing keeping Georgette sane today. Calvin had surprised her a few weeks ago with reservations at her favorite restaurant in the city. It was notoriously hard to get a table there, and their reservation was set for that evening. Although it had been a year, Georgette’s heart still skipped a beat when she thought of Calvin. The tall, slender, and handsome man was the best thing that had happened to her in years. His charming smile and goofy laugh belied his intelligence, but he was also romantic and fun. Georgette couldn’t remember a time when she’d been happier. Even though Calvin was a man Regan had picked for her, Georgette had to grudgingly concede that she probably wouldn’t be able to find a better boyfriend.
Georgette’s drive to work was long and uneventful, giving her plenty of undesired time with her own thoughts, so she was relieved — almost happy — to pull up to NISI’s campus. The National Institute of Science and Innovation was a research facility dedicated to the “independent advancement of science”, as the organization’s mission statement declared. Hundreds of scientists worked here, churning out ideas, performing research and experiments, and producing innovations to somehow better humanity. Georgette wasn’t a scientist, but she was familiar enough and skilled in archiving and curatorial duties, so she’d been given the position of curator for NISI’s new Museum of Science and Innovation. The museum was supposed to make science in general, and more specifically NISI’s work in the scientific community, more accessible to the public, and its grand opening was scheduled for July. The meeting this morning was to review the plan for the grand opening celebration with the program coordinator, Dr. Franks.
Dr. Mitchell Franks was a tall man, towering over Georgette’s petite frame. He was thin and wiry, with a receding hairline giving him a permanent silver wreath just above his ears, but he spoke with a deep, commanding voice that never failed to capture the attention of everyone within earshot of him speaking. As the new program director at NISI, he was enthusiastic about NISI’s public image, believing that the more positively the institute was seen, the more funding they would receive. He would want the opening to be spectacular, and Georgette and her team made sure that it would be, but that wasn’t her main priority today.
Georgette breezed through the presentation and review, being sure to address all of Mitchell’s potential issues and questions. When she was finished, it was just before lunch, so she headed to her office. Georgette’s office was on the main level of the museum, back behind the information desk. She gave a quick hello to Antonio Garza, the chief of security, and spoke briefly to Xersana Greene, the hospitality coordinator and her right hand in nearly everything. When Georgette reached her office, she was happy to find Daddy Harrison waiting for her. Harrison Wolff was Georgette’s stepfather. He’d met her mother Regan when she and her older brother Zachary were still quite young, and she was still often amazed at the man’s ability to dote on her and her brother even though they were not his biological children.
“Daddy Harrison!” She exclaimed, giving him a warm hug. While Zachary had always called him simply “Harrison,” Georgette was more than happy to refer to him as “Daddy Harrison” from the time she was a child.
“How’s my pixie doing today? Had any time to stretch your wings lately?” Harrison smiled mischievously at Georgette. Just as she’d always called him “Daddy Harrison”, he’d always referred to her as “my pixie”, claiming that while she certainly had wings and was always flitting about, she was no angel.
“No such luck,” Georgette sighed in mock despair. “This job doesn’t allow much wing stretching, unfortunately.”
The two headed out to lunch in Harrison’s personal limousine. Harrison was a wealthy man, and as he was on NISI’s board of directors, he could come and go on the property pretty much as he pleased. They ate at one of Harrison’s favorite restaurants, discussing their favorite topics: family, shopping, and theater. Harrison never mentioned Regan’s task for Georgette, though. Georgette wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t want to pressure her or give her added worry, or if he just didn’t know what her mother had asked of her. Either was possible. Harrison was always very careful with his words. At first Georgette thought that it was because he was shy or didn’t know what to say in conversation, but she later realized that silence and great care in conversation were Harrison’s tools to get what he wanted, even from Regan.
When lunch was over, Harrison dropped Georgette off at the museum, and they bid each other a warm goodbye. Georgette waved to the limo as a drove away. Then she took a deep breath and headed not to the museum but to the laboratories. She’d seen the Jaguar on the street just off NISI’s campus, and knew that was her cue to get to work.
Regan Price was an intimidating woman, even to her children. She wasn’t much taller than Georgette, but she always seemed to tower over everyone, especially when she was planning something. Georgette had seen the fierce and determined look in her mother’s eye for several weeks, and she tried to avoid her as much as possible, the way she usually did when Regan got into planning mode. However, Regan had a special idea this time, and Georgette was to be involved. She’d thought it was a bit too easy, her getting this job as a curator. She had some experience, but not enough to work for a museum that was just starting out. But with only a short interview, Georgette was hired nearly on the spot. She shouldn’t have been surprised when Regan pulled her aside a few days ago and asked her for a favor. Regan Price did not ask for favors.
“I need you to do something for me, Georgette,” Regan had said.
“What is it?” Georgette had responded, still not wary.
“It’s about your father.”
At this, Georgette stiffened. There was only one person in the world Georgette despised enough to avoid entirely, and Regan had just brought him into the conversation.
Jasper Vanlin was the first person Georgette had ever truly been afraid of, and he brought out the worst in every member of her family. Georgette still had nightmares about all the unspeakable things he’d done to her, her brother, and her mother. He was a monster, and he was her father. After a while, Georgette responded flatly, “What about him?”
“I believe he’s had his job too long, and I’d like to do something about it,” Regan quipped.
“All right fine. But what does that have to do with me?”
“I just need you to get something for me.”
Regan launched into a description of Georgette’s task. Jasper Vanlin kept thorough records of all his research, but Regan had been unable to find any record of his experiments on her or the children in his home or in his office at NISI. She concluded that they must be in the briefcase he carried with him religiously. That briefcase traveled with him, and the only time he ever left it was during the day, when he had to leave his office for a while. So Georgette needed to get into his office during the daytime, break into his briefcase, and steal the documents her mother needed. Simple as that.
Regan was helping by shutting down NISI’s power for a while. It would give Georgette an opening to get into the office while Vanlin was gone, because he would no doubt be called to help fix the power, being the system’s chief engineer. Georgette entered the building housing Jasper’s lab just before the power was cut. As the lights went out, Georgette slipped into a janitor’s closet, waiting for the hall to clear. She heard the shouts of surprise and annoyance as the scientists were interrupted by the darkness. Eventually, she heard Jasper muttering to himself about the inconvenience as he left the building to look at the electrical system.
Georgette almost laughed thinking of the irony. He was the only one who could fix the system, but he’d essentially ruined himself by creating it. The pieces of Regan scattered throughout it were the only reason Regan could control the system remotely. Jasper was bound to be suspicious, but he wouldn’t catch on until it was too late.
After she was sure that the hallway was empty, Georgette made her way into Jasper’s office, being careful to put on gloves before she touched anything. She took a quick inventory of the room and located the briefcase. For a moment, she wondered if she should just take the whole thing but decided against that idea. It would take him longer to notice a file or two missing than it would for him to notice the entire briefcase was gone. In the dim light from the window, Georgette hoisted the heavy case onto the desk and examined it. It had a lock, but the briefcase was so old Georgette could have cracked it in her sleep. “When did he buy this thing?” She wondered, “1970?”
When it was open, Georgette began rifling through the papers. It didn’t matter what she took, Regan had told her, as long as it was incriminating. There wasn’t a lot there. She didn’t see any of his notes on her family or any similar experiments. One file seemed interesting, though. It was titled Subject A: Karla Davis. Georgette opened the file and scanned it. “Human subject… blind testing?” What is this? She examined the file more closely. What was Jasper working on? It didn’t seem to be related to any of the experiments on her or her mother, but it seemed scandalous enough for her purposes. Georgette closed the file and tucked it under her arm.
As she turned to the door, she felt an unusual and unwelcome pang of guilt. Jasper would be more than devastated. He would be ruined. His work was his life. He needed nothing else. But the guilt didn’t last long. Georgette remembered Papa. Even if she could forgive what Jasper Vanlin had done to her mother, to her brother, to her… Even if she could forgive him for her very existence, she couldn’t ever forgive him for Papa. She opened the office door and left just as the power returned to the building.
Georgette enjoyed her dinner with Calvin, but that night she had the nightmare again. When she woke, somehow Regan was there.
“Mom…” Georgette whimpered.
Regan sat down next to her and did something she hadn’t done in five years. She hugged her daughter as she cried. Then she said the same words she had five years ago. “It’s not your fault… It’s not your fault.”
So what do you think? What happened to Georgette in 1991? Would you like to see a sketch for her mother Regan, her birth father Jasper, or her stepfather Harrison?