Product of a cappuccino in my favourite cafe in Pudsey (Cafe Rain, for anyone who wants to know). Based on advice from Beta readers, the entrance of Simon in my NaNoNovel was far too abrupt. So, I went off and stewed in caffeine until this came out. Some of it ended up in the novel; some did not. You’ll have to wait for the book to be published to find out which.
Simon. Maggie’s best friend in this small university town. Vibrant without flamboyance, athletic without being a slave to the gym, he was a bastion of creativity and mirth in a place devoid of both (unless large quantities of alcohol were involved). He kept Maggie smiling and sane with his mocking stories, but drove her mad with his incessant and pointless flirting. “I can’t help myself,” when he tried to explain. “I see a woman, and I have to make her want me. Even though I do not want her. It’s more likely that I’m interested in her boyfriend.” He waggled his eyebrows in that undeniably suggestive way, as his blue eyes took on a hooded, come-hither look.
When she first met him, Maggie could barely make sense of his stuttered Shetland accent. But as her look of incomprehension deepened, and the majority of their initial conversation rolled around the phrases, “Could you repeat that?” and “I’m gay”, Simon endeavoured to smooth out the rolling hills of his accent. (Though, on further reflection, it could have just been that Maggie understood him perfectly, but could not comprehend that this beautiful specimen of masculinity was not interested in her.) Maggie had encountered that holy grail of friendship: a gorgeous man, willing to compliment – and complement – her at every turn, give her excellent advice on fashion and men, but who was not working tirelessly to get her into bed. It pained Maggie to admit – though only ever to herself – that he wouldn’t have had to work too much to succeed.
There was always some part of Simon that he kept hidden from her, and there was nothing she could do or say that would get past that barrier. If she had been a little more observant, she may have seen Simon clench whenever she expressed her conviction that there was more to life than had been dealt to her; whenever she waxed lyrical of her desire for a life more fantastical, less flat and boring.
He loved her dearly, as the wife he might have had in another universe. There was something about Maggie that convinced him there was more to her than what could be seen. Simon longed to tell her of his secret, to reveal the World behind what could be seen, to lift some of that cloud that was permanently attached to her soul. But he could not. It wasn’t allowed. And so, with growing heartsickness at her growing despair, Simon watched as the woman he loved grew greyer and flattened. To get around the injunction of silence, and to give her hope, he presented his own experiences as fairy tales from his hometown, feeling his heart lift with every smile she gave him, and with every twinkle that returned to her eyes.
Soon enough, that twinkle would fade, and Maggie’s hardness would creep back, giving her voice a cynical edge that wrenched his heart every time she spoke. How he longed to assure Maggie that every story was real, and that her wish could be granted! One night, he became so desperate for Maggie that he was preparing to introduce his own helpmeet to her. But – and quite rightly too – Loriall refused point-blank to be exposed to a Sleeper. Simon tried to convince her, but Loriall was adamant. She disappeared, after warning him that she would return only when he had come to his senses.