You might be wondering why I have’t given any of my characters names. Trust me, it isn’t because I want them to remain mysterious. I just have a hard time coming up with names because I want them to mean something, but I know it’s getting to that point in the story when I have to crack down and start making hard choices. Otherwise, I won’t be able to tell you about anyone besides “he” and “she,” and things will get confusing pretty fast.
I have thought long and hard about what to call her, but for you to understand how I came up with her name, I need to backtrack a bit. So forget for now what you’ve read about the interrogations and their decision to bring her to the academy. Instead, I want you to imagine her as a child, about five or six years old when he first found her. This moment occurs shortly after he discovers that she is different from the other children; it is the first time he takes her outside of the lab and gives her a glimpse of his home.
You can imagine her eyes taking in the lavish surroundings, the ornate patterns on the carpet, the beautiful paintings on the walls, the delicate sculptures and figurines decorating the shelves and tables, and the rows and rows of books. She didn’t know it at the time, but she was in his personal library. He had set out a pot of tea and a plate of cookies on the table, but when he prepared a serving for her, she just sat there immobile on the plush sofa, her hands clenched in her lap. She didn’t understand what this kindness meant.
She had just told him that she couldn’t remember anything about her past. That she didn’t know who she was, where she came from, or who her parents were. And his response was to offer her tea and cookies. Looking at that delicate porcelain plate, inlaid with designs of blue and purple flowers and piled high with cookies dusted with powdered sugar, her lips quivered with longing but she quickly turned away, focusing her eyes on the floor. It must be some kind of trick.
Then, just as the silence between them grew almost unbearable, it was broken suddenly by the chime of the doorbell. He set the plate down on the table and pushed it over to her, “Help yourself. I’ll be right back.” With that said, he got up and walked out the door, disappearing down the hall.
For a brief second she allowed her fingertips to graze the edge of the plate, wondering what those cookies would taste like, but then she spun around and followed him instead. Tiptoeing on her bare feet, she hurried after him down the long corridor and a wide spiral staircase. She stopped on the last step, and peered around the banister as he swung the front door open. She could hear the sound of children singing, with a few hushed giggles escaping between the notes of the song. It went, “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way… Oh what fun it is to ride on a one horse open sleigh…”
Snow was falling softly all around them and at the door the man clapped along, all smiles and happy encouragement. She was entranced by this perfect image, their joyful singing and the snow, and hardly noticed when her foot slipped and she fell down hard on to the marble floor. He turned around briefly and glanced at her before thanking the children with some candies he pulled from his pocket. Her face burned and she looked down as he made his way over to her, but then he knelt down and extended his hand with a smile, with the same look he had just given those children. “Now, why don’t we get back to our tea?” he asked.
They walked together silently up the staircase and down the hallway. This time when he extended her the plate of cookies, she took them and ate, savoring each bite of the flaky crust, even licking the traces of the powdered sugar off her fingertips. When she was done, she finally looked up at him, wondering what this man wanted from her.
He just smiled and said, “Well, then what should I call you?”
She stared at him for a minute and then finding her voice, mumbled, “Jing… You can call me Jing.”
“Jing it is then,” he agreed.
And that’s the story of how she got her name. Don’t worry, I won’t have stories like this for all of the characters, but for her, because she has no memory of her past, I wanted to give you some insight into how she begins to craft a new identity for herself (with his help). More soon!