This is the latest in an occasional series looking at some of the key characters in my current works - The Orphans, and Knight & Deigh.
If ever there was an unlikely hero, Maxine Matham (INTJ) must surely be that person.
When we first meet Max, she is self-employed, working as a freelance forensic accountant. Max lives alone in a late 19th century cottage in rural Buckinghamshire. Her only company is her cat, a four-year old Russian Blue tom named Ivan. Sophie Deigh, her housekeeper and assistant, is her only regular visitor. Sophie also house- and cat-sits for Max when her work takes her away for short trips.
At just over forty years of age, Max is a woman of habit, with strong standards. Even when alone in her house, she dresses for business when working, favouring matching skirt and jacket, blouse and low heels. She refuses to work in the jeans and jumper she favours for relaxation. Physically, she stands at 165cm, and is always on the cusp of carrying too much weight. Her light-brown hair is close-cropped, and she does not usually wear any make-up.
The only child of Maxwell and Gillian Matham, she spent much of her early life under the close control of her domineering, authoritarian father, himself an independent accountant. Despite this, or maybe because of this, her relationship with Maxwell was stronger and more durable than with her mother, an outwardly meek woman who lived in the shadow of her husband’s overpowering personality.
Predictably, when she fledged the nest and took up her place at university, she donned a new persona. Her hair, then long, was dyed blond and kept in ringlets, and she dropped her weight to give her the very slight figure that was fashionable at that time. As did so many of her fellow students, she experimented with the limits of relationships and sexuality, aided by hypnosis and alcohol. Unlike many, she never indulged in any of the mind-altering substances that were popular in her circles.
After graduation Max found that although jobs were plentiful in her chosen field, her appearance was not an asset to her. She learned that people took her more seriously when she looked the part. Things changed when she stopped using make-up, and adopted a simple, short hairstyle and practical dress, appropriate for where she was and what she was doing. Men started to treat her more as a person and less as a potential love-interest, and women respected her more and didn’t see her as competition. From then on, her work became the centre of her life, pushing all other considerations to the periphery.
Max Matham takes pride in being as close to self-contained as it’s possible to be in the modern world. Married to her work and hobbies, and comfortable in her own company, she sees no need to complicate her life further with a lover of either gender. She is an avid reader – mostly crime and spy fiction – and often fancies taking on the rôle of amateur sleuth. She considers this a frivolous fantasy, divorced from real life, and suppresses the thought. She has been working on a novel, on and off, for more years than she cares to admit.
Max is a heavily conflicted individual. Although outwardly unemotional, rational and calm, she carries a mass of insecurities that cause her to question her every action, her every decision. This often keeps her awake at night, analysing her day’s actions and decisions. In itself, this is frequently a positive exercise; her head is certain of itself, and can almost always convince her heart. On occasion, though, the conflict is too close to call. At those times, Max needs someone to bounce her thoughts off. Sophie fills that role when she’s about, but when she’s not, it becomes Ivan’s job. It is at these times, and only at these times, that Max Matham questions whether she is right to remain alone.