This is a song I found this summer that describes the character in my novel- Alli Montclair. The Bridge to Freedom centers around a young atheist couple that travels on a Christian pop tour. Alli is the female protagonist, with her boyfriend Ethan who reluctantly manages the tour to save his troubled estate.
Alli Montclair is a 26 year old graduate student at the University of Virginia. She grew up in Conncecticut with her younger sister, Gwen. Her father was well-off, although she never was sure what he did for a living. That wasn’t part of her life. In those early years, her mother didn’t work, she was a spoiled woman who played tennis and drank a lot.
Sometimes, when the girls were little, they would all get dressed up and go to the Presbyterian church. Everyone hated it. The clothes were confining, and the service was boring. In a stuffy children’s church room that faintly smelled of sour water from a leaking roof, the girls were taught that they could talk to God, whom they could not see.
“Sort of like an imaginary friend?” Alli asked.
“Exactly,” the teacher beamed. “Only God is real.”
This didn’t make any sense to Alli. Even at eight years old, it was the most ridiculous idea she had ever heard. Gwen didn’t seem bothered by it, and was really more interested in the boy who could fart the alphabet under his armpit. When Alli was eleven, her parents divorced, and they never went back to that church ever again. Her father moved to North Carolina where he opened a boat dealership, and remarried not long after. Alli, Gwen and their mother Pamela, stayed in Connecituct where Pamela began a career in finance. She worked long hours, but provided well for her daughters–left mainly to raise themselves.
They saw their father during the summers, but his new wife, Ann, was a former beauty queen who made comments about the girls weight, hair, eating habits, and whatever else. Gwen took it all as gospel, and eventually went on to pursue fashion design. Alli, however, cut by Ann’s biting tongue, shrunk deeper into her books until she was fourteen and stopped going to her father’s at all.
Gwen and Alli, though worlds of different, were always close–barely three years apart. But Gwen was always the social butterfly, living in a constant flurry of people. Alli found solace in books and quiet. She had a summer romance in North Carolina when she was thirteen. He broke her heart. She dated a few guys after that, but didn’t have another boyfriend until her sophomore year of college. As she grew, Alli was an editor for this or that, and was attractive with a handful of close friends. But, she always kept the boys at length, sardonically voted by the yearbook committee, as “Miss Independent.”
After high school, Allli went to the University of Virginia where she studied English. That was where she met Brad. A business major, Brad had that winning smile, and he charisma of a young and up coming Jerry Maguire. He could, as they say, sell ice to the Eskimos. And he sold the pretty blond English major down the hall right into his arms. They stayed together shortly after graduation, when he got a job in Cincinnati. She was going to move with him, but then found out he had been cheating on her all senior year.
After her relationship fell apart, Alli enrolled in the graduate English program. She loved English and writing, but it was mainly because she had put her whole future into Brad and didn’t know what else to do. Her first year, she met Ethan. He was failed rock star living on a generous trust fund. He had enrolled in the English literature program after his drug problem almost sent him to prison, and realized he needed a whole new life.
Ethan was good looking, smart, rich and kind. After six months, she moved out of her university housing, and into his condo. So it was, she researched and read dusty books, and coffeed with her friends, and came home to a beautiful fifth story condo with bay windows that overlooked lush gardens and mountains. And waiting there was a beautiful man with a disarming smile whose lips dripped her name like water over spring creek rocks, as he filled the air with exquisite music..It was perfect. More or less. All she was waiting for was the ring. And his heart. His real heart, anyway.
And then he got that stupid job that changed everything. It was just supposed to be a job. That was it. He would teach music at the Christian high school, and everything would stay just as it was. She never liked the job, but she didn’t know how much it would change him. Suddenly, he was reading a Bible, and books on Christian doctrine insisting they were “required reading for all the faculty.” Suddenly, he was talking about religious ideas, and they weren’t a punch line anymore. Then there was the little white lie they had to tell–a form stating she moved out, and they now lived at separate addresses.
“No one believes it, and they don’t have to.” he insisted. “It’s just for appearances, you know, being an example or whatever. Something to tell the students or parents if it comes up.”
She never quite could attend the faculty social events in good conscience after that. Now, he was going on tour with a school family. The last thing she wanted him to do, was run around the country playing rock star without her. But the only alternative was to run around playing rock star with him. She didn’t know which was worse….
And so, the novel begins…