Kelly Thompson : Character profile
Dr. Kelly Thompson is an assistant professor of history at a small liberal arts college in Northern Florida. She teaches early history courses, including a course on medieval England, which is her professional specialty. She is also the sponsor for the Archery Club on campus.
Kelly was born to Rick and Joanne Thompson on June 12, 1981. Her early life was marked by a bit of colic and lots of love. Her first word was “dada” at 11 months, and she was walking well by her first birthday. She was a precocious first born in every way. When Kelly was two, her parents bought a fairly large, secluded house with lots of trees and a private drive. They had hoped to give Kelly a sibling or two, but four miscarriages in a row caused them to reevaluate their plans. Their attentions instead focused on Kelly. While they didn’t want their daughter to become spoiled, Rick and Joanne were prone to indulging her and protecting her from the outside world whenever possible.
In elementary school, Kelly had trouble making friends. There were very few children her age who lived nearby, and her parents’ families lived on the West Coast, making visiting cousins a rare treat. Her social awkwardness stood out like a sore thumb from the start, and while she was friendly enough, the other children tended not to accept her. She was never bullied, not even teased frequently, but she never fit in. Her classmates almost seemed to forget her.
To make up for the lack of play-dates, Kelly read, far beyond her grade level, in her playroom. She loved the thick tomes full of stories of King Arthur, and, better yet, Robin Hood. Her active play quickly centered around made up bows and arrows and ersatz targets. Towards the end of first grade, she asked her father if people still used the weapons. She received her first archery set for her seventh birthday.
Archery became a solace for her. In her school, full of over-scheduled overachievers, it was assumed that everyone had at least one hobby that they could share during show-and-tell. Some of Kelly’s classmates were Boy Scouts, or dancers, or soccer-players, but there was only one archer. It made her unique. No one forgets a girl who can hit a bullseye in the third grade.
Middle school was as difficult for Kelly as it is for any child. In a sea of gangly pre-teens, her body seemed resolute to stay small and squat, which did nothing good for her social life. As her classmates began going to movies with friends instead of parents, Kelly was still on the outside. She was still friendly, inviting people to her house, to the mall, to youth events at the Unitarian church she attended with her mother. She waited patiently for those she considered her friends to reciprocate, but the invitations never came.
Again she found relief in her bow and arrows. She began taking part in local tournaments, which, regrettably, never seemed to fall on the days of birthday parties to which she hadn’t been invited. Less regrettably, she frequently won. The target became a way to focus her mind, blocking out for a time the frustration and rejection she felt. She spent more and more time on the field set up in her back yard, and less and less with other people. After a certain point, it seemed logical to abandon the latter entirely.
Her parents were surprisingly open to the idea of homeschooling, although they cautioned her that it would only continue if she didn’t fall behind in her schoolwork. Kelly’s mother had returned to work during her daughter’s middle school years, so there was no one making sure she did her work. Because of this, Kelly developed a strong work ethic, and a good deal of self-motivation.
Kelly trained twice a week with Catherine Pollock, the region’s foremost archery expert. Catie had been on the United States archery team in the Olympics in 1992, and an alternate in ’88. Kelly couldn’t have hoped for a better coach. She utterly demolished her competition in regional tournaments, and helped her team win two Outdoor JOAD Mail In Tournaments in a row. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed this archer from the swift completion of her appointed practice. Nothing competed with her love of her sport. Almost nothing.
In her “sophomore year” of high school (a nebulous concept to someone who took odd breaks and was more or less covering the next years’ material), Kelly decided to read T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral for an English assignment. The character of King Henry II intrigued her enough that she sought out information about the factual King’s life. From there she discovered that his sons were the very kings she read about in her childhood: the righteous Richard the Lionheart, nationalistic and honorable (quite the disappointment to study the man); John, the scoundrel, the lecher (an able administrator, but otherwise accurate as presented). An obsession was born, the only love ever to threaten the dominance of the bow and arrow in her life.
The original intent of her move to homeschooling was to focus on becoming a professional archer, but her new-found love endangered that aim. Instead of spending more time in practice, she was spending less. Instead of throwing herself deeper into her sport, she found herself sucked into the world of these kings, and their line, and their country, and its place in the greater world.
Finding herself in a bit of a bind, Kelly confided in her coach. Catie responded by giving her young pupil a way to make peace with her world: a spirituality more active than any Kelly had previously experienced. Wicca gave Kelly a balance that she craved, but it unsettled her father. Though he had been content with letting her find her own path until then, paganism crossed a line in his mind. She had never accompanied her father to the old Congregationalist church, excepting Christmas and Easter, when the whole family went together.
The services, while boring, weren’t bad. The attempt to bludgeon out her new-found religion wasn’t that bad, either. The bad part was the youth group, formed mainly out of her old classmates from elementary and middle school. Nothing had changed; Kelly still felt excluded and out of place. The time apart had only made things worse. She barely knew these people anymore, and they certainly didn’t know her. No one made an effort to get to know her, either, which stung more than any jab about witches. They, not firm faith, were what kept her practicing Wicca into college.
College was a fairly cut-and-dry affair, at least to begin with. No matter her focus, the plan was the same: Go to a large, public university, where she would have maximum flexibility to continue training while pursuing academics. Major in history. Graduate with honors if at all possible. The next step was where it became tricky. Kelly had always assumed that she would train for the Olympics, but what if that wasn’t what she wanted anymore?
In her junior year, Kelly started thinking seriously about where her life was going. She still loved archery, but her enthusiasm for training was waning. In stark contrast, she loved her history classes, enjoying everything from research to presentations. She had classmates who were more than just scenery; they were friends. For the first time in her life, she truly felt that she belonged. Where archery had been about harnessing her solitude for positive means, her education was now bringing her away from loneliness.
After a few long nights of tears and stress, propped up by her roommate, her decision was made. Archery was still important, but it could no longer be her priority. Kelly began to investigate graduate school in earnest, e-mailing potential mentors and studying for the GREs whenever she wasn’t in study group or last minute cram sessions with good friends and bad pizza. While she still managed to get a half hour on the field every day, rain or shine, the rest of the day was spent in her new world. Her life had completely turned around.
Around this time, Kelly also felt a shift in her spiritual beliefs. As archery took less of a hold on her life, so did what her coach had taught her about the world. One day, while listening to the experiences of others in her campus neo-pagan group, she realized that she held no stock in any of it. Perhaps the Triple Goddess and the Horned God were the feminine and masculine personifications of the divine, or maybe they were just a nice story to give people a semblance of control over their lives. Either way, her former path didn’t make sense to her anymore.
Kelly felt no qualms about stopping practicing, but something was missing from her life. Her longing for spiritual fulfillment hadn’t gone away when she left behind her old path. Floundering a bit, she went home for a weekend to get away from everything and everyone and just think. It wasn’t until that Sunday that she found her answer. Her mother, as she always did, asked if Kelly wanted to come to the Unitarian church that Sunday. Kelly, as she always did, said yes. It felt as if the scales had been balanced once again. She didn’t know what she believed, but she had found a place where it didn’t matter.
From there, senior year was fairly peaceful. Kelly threw herself into her work, while never missing a day on the field or a Sunday morning’s respite. Her friends, most working towards graduate school themselves, commiserated with her when things were hard, and celebrated with a few too many drinks when a major hurdle had been cleared. The GREs breezed by. Interviews crept up, visits flew past, and soon it was down to waiting for acceptance or rejection.
Her first choice of program was Cornell University. She liked that their program forced students to find secondary fields of study, as the prospect of burning out on her passion was rather unpleasant. She liked that the entire University was geared towards serious academia. Most importantly, she liked that she would have funding. Student loans were scary enough for undergraduate in-state tuition, but the cost of a PhD program at a private university was staggering. The end result would be worth the financial ruin, of course, but if she were accepted to Cornell, the whole thing could be avoided.
Her waiting finally paid off when she received a phone call welcoming her to the university. Kelly doesn’t remember much about that evening, but she is fairly certain that it involved entirely too much alcohol and losing her virginity to her friend Jon, a prospective microbiologist. It was, by all surviving accounts, a very good night.
Graduate school was exactly what she had hoped for it to be, a safe haven of intellectualism and academic thought. It was also a place where others in her program floundered, struggling to stay sane in the midst of pressure, deadlines, and new-found responsibilities. Kelly, however, never had those problems to the same extent as her peers. The virtues of time management, self-motivation, and balance that she had cultivated since high school were paying off in spades.
What didn’t pay, though, was her stipend. While it was more than enough to live off of, it wasn’t enough to keep her archery equipment in good repair. While at the local sports equipment shop, she bumped into a former competitor from high school. Linnea taught beginning and intermediate archery lessons at a nearby YMCA, but was moving to Minneapolis at the end of the year. Without a replacement, the program would be discontinued. Kelly volunteered almost immediately, without thought as to what it would do to her sanity and her sleep schedule. The pay was just enough to make it all worthwhile.
Somehow Kelly survived years as a TA, a GA, an RA, and a GRA, all while keeping up her Saturday morning commitments, her archery practice, and her church-going. She learned to get by on not enough sleep, but also to listen to her body. She knew when she was pushing herself too hard, and would find ways to cut back when necessary.
As with many people, graduate school for Kelly was not as socially stimulating as undergrad had been, although she participated in her fair share of departmental functions, mainly for the free food. She made friends, of course, but they weren’t the same type of friends. These were friends with whom she constructed pillow forts and shared many a (cheap) beer, but she couldn’t open up to them the same way.
It didn’t help that they tended to push themselves to the edge of insanity and back on an all too frequent basis. While Kelly had the ability to realize when to cut her losses, and, better yet, actually do it, her fellow candidates tended to keep pushing themselves past the point of any productivity. Kelly was notorious among her peers for leaving the office at strange hours, going to bed, and coming back in the middle of the night to continue her work. When she returned, she usually found the same students in their cubicles as were there when she left, making little to no progress. She saw them attempt to teach classes, meet with mentors, and function in their daily lives. It wasn’t pretty.
Kelly wrote her dissertation on the effectiveness of English monarchical relations with the Church during early Plantagenet rule, focusing predominantly on Richard I and John. Her research took her to the UK and France for the first time in her life, and she had a marvelous time. She defended her dissertation admirably, and, at age 26, graduated with a Philosophical Doctorate in medieval studies, majoring in medieval history with minors in English history and Old French.
Kelly taught as an adjunct professor for the State University of New York at Cortland, as well as at Tompkins Cortland Community College, for the next two years. Money was tighter than it ever was during her time at Cornell, but it was expected that she would pay her dues. On one particularly cold, snowy, miserable day in February, Kelly looked for history positions open in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and, why not, Florida. She didn’t expect to find anything; this was purely an act of self-pity. However, she found one listing for an assistant professor at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. She figured there was no harm in applying.
Four months later, she packed her car, said goodbye to upstate New York, and headed south. She has never looked back.
Kelly desperately loves her position at Flagler. The students are less uptight than at Cornell but more serious than at SUNY Cortland or TC3. She is sponsor for the archery club. Her colleagues are friendly, sometimes overly-so. Her archery classes are more popular than ever, thanks to movies like Brave and The Hunger Games. She hasn’t had a date in six months, but that’s not the end of the world. Now all she needs to do is secure tenure, and to do that she needs to find original research worth pursuing. A bow, older than all of its known relatives by a hundred and fifty years, surviving longer than any of its newer cousins?
Well. That would be more than enough.
[Note: All institutes of higher learning mentioned are real places, but I'm not very familiar with any of them, so assume that they have been fictionalized. Is Cornell really good for medieval history? I have no idea, but in this world, the answer is yes.]
Someone else would describe me as...
Focused. The instant Kelly needs to concentrate on something, she can shove everything else out of her mind. It's a skill she learned to block out pressure during archery competitions, but it's very useful. Kelly is the only person she knows who never had a complete meltdown in grad school.
Controlled. Kelly has excellent time management skills. She would likely attribute this to managing her own schedule through high school. She had to figure out how to get work done without much pressure, a skill that has allowed her to meet deadlines without a problem.
Busy. That all being said, Kelly tends to have a lot going on, both in her head and in her life. In addition to teaching both college students and small children, she has an ambitious publishing schedule, a more ambitious reading schedule, and a long-standing coffee date with other professors from work every Thursday afternoon.
Intuitive. Kelly knows how to listen to herself, body and soul. Even during the chaos of graduate school, she never missed taking thirty minutes a day on the archery field. Every Sunday, she took the time to go to church, or, if not feeling in the mood for religion, a short hike. She rarely let herself get over-tired, over-hungry, or over-stressed. If that meant leaving her "office" at eight in the evening and getting up again at three in the morning to start working, so be it.
These can all be seen as strengths. However, Kelly has a few major weaknesses.
Kelly has never experienced real failure. She has always been remarkably driven, and when she has put her mind to something, she generally succeeds with flying colors. This isn’t to say that things have come easy to her, or that she hasn’t worked for them; Kelly is an incredibly hard worker, and deserves all the accolades she has garnered over the years. But, somehow or other, she has never been in a situation where all of her hard work just wasn’t enough.
Her one, strong fear is, in fact, failure. Sure, there’s the usual nightmare fodder: cliffs, drowning, confined spaces, that sort of thing. But she has looked over a cliff and felt the ground secure under her feet; she has fallen off the back of a white-water raft and found the air again; she has scurried through narrow caves and come out no worse for the wear. None of those things have any power over her like failure does. Because she has never experienced it in any meaningful way, she doesn’t know how to handle it.
A lesser fear is that of being alone forever. This is an odd one because, in the short term, she enjoys being alone. She is an introvert, and has no problem with living alone. She doesn’t feel the need to have a romantic relationship (although she isn’t opposed to the idea), and she doesn’t want kids of her own. But she needs peripheral relationships-- friends and colleagues-- and she enjoys playing auntie to her friends’ children. Those are the people that matter to her.
Not that you would ever know any of this about her. Kelly is a very private person, but this is not to say that she keeps to herself. She will strike up an awkward conversation with anyone she finds interesting, but getting beyond pleasantries and academic talk can take a while.
(Note: These opinions are that of Kelly, and may or may not be shared by Victoria.)
In Thorn Valley:
Shivani Kurtha: Shivani and Kelly started out their time in Thorn Valley as fast friends, but as of late their relationship has become strained. Kelly realizes that she is not faultless: She did, after all, break Shivani’s trust, however good her intentions were; and she has not done a stellar job of thinking before she speaks. However, Kelly sincerely believes that the bulk of the blame lies with Shivani.
For someone so intent on painting herself as a failure, Shivani sure does enjoy judging those around her. Every time Kelly came to her with a problem, the answer was always, “Be more like me.” “Think like me.” “Do what I would do.” Shivani didn’t want a friend; she wanted someone to boss around. Well, now she has Allegro, and Kelly isn’t going to play along any more. They can still be roommates, but they don’t have to be friends.
Quinton Sharpe: Kelly never knows where she stands with Quinton, but clearly he doesn’t have a high opinion of her. He seemed approving of her at first, but lately he’s been more content to treat her as if she’s insignificant. Since their last meeting, Quinton holds all the power in their relationship, and they both know it.
Attempting to right the balance a bit, Kelly was all set to occupy the moral high ground regarding Quinton’s adopting Erika. However, after talking with Shivani, she realizes she can’t. Had she taken the Dynamis Core that ultimately became Mani and done what she wanted in the first place, she would be in his shoes right now, doing the exact same thing as he is. She is still very, very worried that he is playing with fire, but she can’t condemn him for it now.
Bartholomew Pershing: Bartholomew is one of the teachers that Kelly doesn’t know very well. He isn’t the most communicative person in the world, although she doesn’t view him as timid or meek as the others do. He is merely quiet.
Kelly refers to Bartholomew as the Melancholy Man, or MM, whenever he isn’t present. Given the unfortunate situation vis a vis his missing eyeball, the moniker is a bit more apt than she intended. In fact, Kelly feels a good deal of guilt regarding that day. She may always wonder if she could have done anything to stop the attack, but it’s probably good that she didn’t try. It may well have killed her.
Wendell Anders Sheridan: He’s the other teacher that Kelly needs to get to know better, but she’s found the perfect opportunity to do so. Anders seems as interested in the impossible papers as she does, which provides a bright spot in a predominantly bleak future. How stable a friend and colleague he will prove is anyone’s guess, however. He drinks too much and too frequently for it to be considered healthy, and he seems to have problems with motivation. Perhaps his investigations will prove the kick in the pants he desperately needs.
Ward: To the rest of the world, Ward is Kelly’s student. He was home-schooled, just like Kelly, and finished his senior year a semester early, just like Kelly. They had been in e-mail correspondence for a few months before the fire. He had intended to start at Flagler during the fall semester, but the opportunity to study one on one with Prof. Thompson was too good to pass up. He will instead join her in St. Augustine for the spring semester.
To Kelly, Ward came about because of her failings as a teacher. 16 demanded a name, demanded an identity, and Kelly complied. He is still stand-offish, but she is more than happy with how he turned out, given her shoddy encouragement of 16.
16: 16 was a nightmare, but 16 is Ward now. 16 doesn’t exist anymore… does it?
Mani: An iridescent purple cat sounds like something out of a fantasy book, but Kelly loves her nonetheless. But right now she’s not entirely sure where Mani is, or even whether or not she’s still…. Well, that’s just too terrible to think about.
Bennie Gahr: Kelly has been steadily gaining respect for Bennie. He doesn’t really fit in anywhere, but he so desperately wants to belong, and Kelly understands that feeling. In addition, his support in raising their Dynamises has proven to be very helpful indeed, to the point where Kelly feels no qualms in breaking Juan’s rules, but takes Bennie’s very seriously.
Dr. Juan Villalobos: Kelly is no longer willing to give Juan the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t matter if his intentions are good; his intentions nearly got her killed. It was his rules that kept her behind her peers for so long, and his ideas of 16 becoming violent that sparked its rage. If there is one person in this whole situation that Kelly truly hates, it’s Juan.
Dr. Emily Barnes: Head Bitch In Charge. Kelly wants to stay out of her way as much as possible. Anything else is too risky.
Dr. Turner and Dr. Roppucinni: Turner’s insensitive and Roppucinni’s an asshole. Kelly despises them both. And if they had anything to do with Mani’s disappearance….
The denizens of Thorn Valley: Kelly tries not to think of them too much. It seems that every time she does, one of them is horrifically attacked or murdered. That has yet to stop her from becoming increasingly curious of Latchkey, fond of Richard, and suspicious of Rev. Phillips. She also has quite the affinity for Lincoln Ford, the bartender, although that may have something to do with the amount of gin he pours for her.
Richard (Rick) Browning Thompson and Joanne Elizabeth Thompson, nee Sharpe: Kelly has a generally positive relationship with her parents. She doesn't see them terribly frequently, owing to the long distance between them, but when she does, they get along well. Kelly was always their little baby, but mercifully, they don't treat her like it anymore.
Catherine Pollock: Catie was Kelly's archery coach in high school and college. While Kelly has naturally drifted apart from her as their professional and spiritual paths diverged, they are still fairly close. Their relationship has changed over time from master and student to equals, which is why Kelly will occasionally get drunk texts from her former teacher. And yes, she is way too old for that.
Georgia Conard: Kelly's roommate from undergrad, with whom she is still fairly close. She is now a practicing psychologist, and has two adorable little boys with her husband, Scott Greene.
Jonathan Halsinger: Kelly's only semi-serious relationship to date. They had humongous crushes on each other through junior and senior year, only managing to tell each other once they had both been accepted into their various graduate programs, and only while very, very drunk. Everyone knew what happened that night. Jon is a microbiologist, attempting to find a teaching position. One of the biology profs at Flagler is retiring this year. Kelly is trying very hard to put in a good word for him.
Cassie Washington: One of the ballet instructors at the YMCA where Kelly teaches archery. Cassie dropped out of a program in medieval literature when she found out she was pregnant, but she has never truly left behind her penchant for academia. She now has a daughter, a son, a husband (she had him before, too), and three hives of bees. Kelly and Cassie are good friends, but it can be hard for them to relate to one another because their lives are so different. Kelly frequently babysits for Cassie and her husband Ryan when the go out on dates. She does not touch the beehives.
Tommy: A fellow history professor at Flagler. Left her by herself to board the plane for the estate sale. Stupid, stupid Tommy.