I need your help… I’ve been trying to help my FMC express her frustrations at being overworked… As I read over what I wrote, I feel like Juliana’s just repeating herself. She also seems like a REALLY whiney teenager. I’m gonna post the excerpt below, and I’d love any advice that you can offer. As always, all material is Copyright 2012 Evangeline Warren.

Following a leisurely and rather relaxing meal, which James did manage to wake up for, the three friends congregated in Cyrus’ room. Although they were able to communicate with each other at a moment’s notice with their bond, the three friends still valued time that was spent in each other’s company, not in each other’s minds. With Cyrus sprawled across his bed, little room was left for his friends. Julian chose an upright position leaning against the headboard and James decided that handstands would be an appropriate use of his time.

“So how are your lessons going?” Cyrus asked Juliana, well aware of her frustrated outlook on life.

“Eh, they’re going…” She sighed, slouching a bit. “I can’t say much else. I know that I’m the Phoenix and all that, but sometimes I wish that I could just sit back and relax.”

“I know what you mean.” Cyrus angled his head towards his friend’s melancholy face. “Sometimes I feel like being Prince just isn’t worth it. Everything I do is scrutinized down to the tiniest detail. I know that no one would enjoy the fact that I’ve chosen a girl in disguise as one of my closest friends.”

Juliana placed her hand over Cyrus’ and gently squeezed his, a tacit sign of support. Interrupting the moment, James collapsed from his upside-down position. “I can’t say that I’ve had to deal with the issues that you two have, but I do know that living in an environment with ridiculously high expectations can be tough. We all know what my ‘father’ is like.” With that, he took a flying leap and landed on the sliver of space between Juliana’s left leg and Cyrus’ stomach, landing on his friends in the process.

“Why is it that adults always expect us to be perfect? Why must we somehow be able to achieve everything that they task us to do?” Juliana asked her friends. “We are never allowed to fail. I know that if any of us fail at anything, no matter how trivial, there would be drastic consequences. It’s not fair!”

“Come on, Julesie, I think you need rest.” Cyrus inched up towards an upright position. “You’re getting a bit whiney.”

“Why thanks…”

“Anytime.” Cyrus’ soft smile wormed its way into Juliana’s heart and she sent one in return.

“I have to interrupt the goo-goo eyes going on over here—” James started.

“Nothing’s going on!” Cyrus insisted. Juliana just looked a bit confused, not to mention amused.

“Sure, sure, what ever you say, Your Royal Highness.” James flashed a quick grin in Cyrus’ direction. “Anyways, I’m sure that Master Theodore has developed new tortures for me, so I must get my beauty’s rest before that great meeting of sword blades that I call my fencing lessons. I’m off to bed now.” He rose and headed towards the door.

“Whatever you say, James.” Juliana laughed before rising to her feet and joining James at the doorway to Cyrus’ room.

“Good night, Cyrus!” James shouted over one shoulder as he exited the room.

“‘Night!” Came the reply.

“Goodnight, Cy.” Juliana told him.

“Goodnight Julesie.” For the first time in a long time, all three fell asleep that night not to the mental goodnights of tradition, but the oft-ignored sweetness of a verbal goodbye.

The next few weeks passed uneventfully. Juliana grew more stressed and exhausted, Cyrus took out his frustrations on the fencing dummies, thereby becoming a better fencer, and James was merely a bit less chipper and not quite as quick to joke as before. When all was said and done, the trio was a more subdued version of the normal group and everyone was beginning to notice.

One evening, after their nightly lesson, Jonathan sat Juliana down for a chat. He conjured up two plush armchairs and made it clear that he was settling in for a long conversation. “How are you, my dear Juliana?” He asked her as he placed some cookies in front of her.

“I’m fine.” She replied with indifferent tone and a lackluster smile.

“Just fine?” When she shrugged, he tried a different tactic. “This will seem a little strange to you, and I know that you wont follow most of this instruction, but I’m going to try anyway. I want you to disconnect all of your mental connections. Let them know that you’re with me, or even just leave a thin little tether so that they know that you’re okay. Let go of them all. I want you to just be Juliana right now. Got it?” As she nodded, and carried out his instruction, he noticed that her shoulders drooped a bit and her smile slid off her face. “Now, I’ll ask you again, how are you?”

Juliana sighed, relieved to be able to tell someone about her frustrations without worrying that her friends would be concerned. “I’m stressed and frustrated.”

“Why don’t you explain the first to me?” Jonathan gently prodded her to release some of her tension.

“I know I’m the Phoenix, and I’m okay with that, at least I think I am, but I’ve had all of this extra work piled on, and I feel like I’m loosing Juliana in my transformation into the Phoenix. Not only am I taking my current classes, which are a year more advanced than I should be in, I’m also doing remedial work with you in the evenings and extra sword work with Master Theodore whenever we can fit it in. I’m also absorbing the same material that my two best friends are learning in their lessons. Oh, and did I mention that whenever you or Master Theo learns something new, I absorb it too? It’s a lot of information! And it’s a lot of work!”

“I guess that leads us to our next point, does it not?” Jonathan asked his pupil.

“I guess it does. I’m frustrated that Juliana is being ignored. Everything is about the Phoenix and what needs to be done to transform me into her. Sometimes it seems like I no longer matter… People, well those who know about the Phoenix stuff, only care about the fact that I’m the Phoenix…”


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