Madeleine L’Engle is one of those authors whose works I devoured as a child, but later in looking back at some of the themes I began to be uncomfortable with the portrayal of certain issues, although for some of them it is hard to know if a plot point represented her personal opinion, or was more indicative of what was happening in a specific story to specific characters. I've grappled with this for a while, and, as is often the case, I tend to gravitate towards processing things by first thinking about things for several days (or years) and then sometimes writing about them.
It came to me that I would like to explore the character of Zachary Gray more, who always seemed like such a flawed but deeply fascinating character, with definite development throughout his appearances, as well as Adam Eddington, whose promising character development seemed to stall a bit in his last two appearances. To me, it felt like Zachary’s story wasn't really over, not in an open-ended end of the story way, but in a, what's the next step before the open ending kind of way. In addition, Adam’s story felt like it wasn't going anywhere either, and in many ways in his appearances after The Arm of the Starfish, he feels like a foil for Vicki to develop off of. At least Zachary feels like he has more agency.
However, I don’t feel comfortable writing post-canon, because of the time frame/era and some of the plot choices relating more to geopolitics, as well as the fact that there are a few things that I think would be handled better in a contemporary context (A House like a Lotus, for instance). (And there are a few things in the trajectory of the chronos and kairos timelines that make me incandescently angry, so really, the less said the better.) So, even though I want to explore the story in what would be a post-canon setting, it's still definitely alt-canon in that Vicki is a contemporary young adult, not contemporary to canon.
While things similar to canon have happened in the past, many details are different, the large geopolitical details are no longer from a USA-centric understanding of geopolitics (especially in regards to Troubling a Star—drugs? Really? How about illegal oil drilling by multinational corporations) and the characters have reacted different and thus developed differently, as a result. However, I also don't feel emotionally capable of going back and reading things at the moment either, so I'm going to blur the details a lot.
Generally speaking, Adam and Vicki are no longer romantically involved post-Troubling, though they are still friends (maybe better friends? I'd like to see that evolve in a less YA novel way, seriously it still feels like Twilight kind of ripped the “in danger” prologue off it, not that it makes the use in either book good in my opinion, or at least to my recollection it felt too romance-oriented, but likely it was also to a certain extent a preference thing) and Vicki has connected with Polly, possibly through Polly’s uncle Dennys.
L’Engle’s protagonists in canon have felt too cis+heterosexual to me, though admittedly it was also probably to at least a certain extent a product of the period in which she was writing them, and the corresponding stage in the church. I don't know that denomination she was and at this point I don't think it would be helpful for me to look into it further. In addition, things have changed and keep changing, and the reality of the fact is that for authors who have died, their work exists in a capsule of its time.
Age-wise I'm going to pretend that Vicki and Zachary are about the same age, with Adam a little older and Polly a bit younger. Zachary and Polly have still had An Acceptable Time so they are very much an ex-thing, but Zachary’s heart condition is no longer a serious concern in terms of affecting his life expectancy. (And another side note, I remember when I first read the books, I thought for whatever reason that Zachary was Chinese [probably Hong Kong?] so I'm definitely going with him having two half Cantonese probably U.K.-citizenship-carrying parents, that whole angle.) In that way, Adam and Zachary are oddly suited.
(And I'm still hung up on the main conflict affecting Polly in Lotus, so I'm clarifying here for my own sanity that while something like that still happened, in alt-canon there was no emphasis on/reference to Max’s sexuality (even if her relationship with Urs would have still likely been under wraps in the past, though not the present) but rather the general situation, which I think puts an entirely different spin on things.)
So right now I want to write about possible Adam and Zachary ideas, but keeping in mind that Vicki and Polly have some kind of connection/are working together/something. Maybe in Greece. This is more of a character exploration, with actual particulars alt-canon and also likely to be entirely different when I ever get around to really working on this. For example, I don't remember where Adam’s great aunt lives in canon, and haven't really thought about where she would like in alt-canon.
The title is from Hyolyn’s Seesea.
[In the passenger seat]
Feels like rain, Zachary thinks, glancing up at the clouds as he steps out of the Boston airport. A raindrop lands on his cheek, as if in agreement. He could pull out his phone to check, but he's already memorized the rest of the day’s itinerary. His bus isn't due to arrive for another twenty minutes.
Zachary considers calling a cab, but something he would’t have thought twice about only half a year ago no longer seems appealing. A little rain never hurt anybody, he thinks, the words sparking a memory he can't quite grasp.
Another bus pulls up along the line of stops, but it's headed for somewhere in Massachusetts, not Maine. Most of the people waiting have already boarded buses, amidst the fine drizzle that is definitely falling.
Zachary checks his watch again, glancing up along the side of the building to see if he can spot the Portland bus. The footsteps coming up from behind don't register until he feels someone stop just beside him.
“Are you waiting for the Portland bus?” The voice is eerily familiar, sending Zachary back, for a moment, to one of the many times in his life he'd prefer not to remember. He turns, eyes widening as he spots a familiar face.
“Um—” he starts, faltering when he can't find the find the name that's sitting on the top of his tongue.
“It’s Adam,” the man—Adam—says, quirking an eyebrow. His shoulders shift, adjusting the straps of a blue backpack. “You're Zachary, right?”
Zachary nods, opening his mouth and then closing it again when Adam steps towards another bus that have just pulled up to the curb.
“This is us,” he says, waving Zachary ahead of him. Zachary is already fumbling with his printed ticket, trying to remember if this kind of bus has assigned seating, when he takes in the words.
“Us?” he asks, wheeling back to stare at Adam and inadvertently blocking the aisle in the process. Adam swings the blue backpack off of his back and onto the rack above the seats. He's slipped into a window seat, waving Zachary into the aisle seat next to him while Zachary’s thoughts are still spinning.
“You’re staying at an Airbnb in Stonehaven,” Adam says, and then explains over Zachary’s growing feeling of disorientation. “My great-aunt.”
The bus engines grumble, the driver introducing themselves with a brief series of announcements. Zachary buckled his seatbelt as instructed and watches Adam do the same. Eddington. The name echoes through his head, an innocuous detail suddenly of much more note.
His hand strays to his chest, even though his heart is still beating normally. Adam glances at the gesture, but thankfully says nothing.
“You were going into marine biology?” Zachary asks, a wild guess based on a half remembered conversation, and Adam nods.
“I'm working on my master’s right now,” he says, “but I wanted to see Aunt Serena again before my summer project.”
Zachary thinks about the course lists in his internet history. He doesn't think about his mother.
“I hope she's doing well,” he says, and something must leak into his tone because Adam looks at him for a moment before his expression warms slightly.
“She's definitely not young,” he says, “but still sharp as ever.” Zachary nods, irrationally relieved.
“I’m glad,” he says. In the window behind Adam, the green of the trees blurs with rain.