In a future story, I would love to give our hero an opponent who was the “anti-Mrs. Hawking,” a woman just as devious and formidable as she, but who uses and manipulates the system to take advantage of women’s social entrapment for her own ends. This is interesting because I think Mrs. Hawking’s usual opponents are men, not other women. They could have a secret war, and I think it should be someone who knows her, someone for whom such actions would be a deep betrayal. I also like the idea that she would know Mrs. Hawking’s ways. Our hero trades on being unsuspected and underestimated, but would not have that advantage over an opponent who knows her for what she is.
I actually like the idea that they grew up together, that they were good friends in their youth in New Guinea. I could include this character in the prequel that details that time. I think at that point I would give no hint to her future villainy, but establish her as having a mentality in conflict with our hero to foreshadow it. And so when she did recur later, as the villain of a later story, it would be particularly shocking to Mrs. Hawking, and seem all that more treacherous.
I call her Elizabeth Frost, nee Danvers. You’ll note I am naming the major female figures in the Mrs. Hawking universe after the queens of England. We have Victoria and Mary already. Mrs. Hawking’s nemesis and opposite, then, is Elizabeth– one of the most powerful and brilliant of them all.
I scribbled a small scene with her this summer. I’m not sure of all its details and it’s not grounded in a plot yet, but it gives a vague idea of who this woman is, and how she interacts with our hero:
MRS. FROST: It’s no use, Victoria. I know you’re in here somewhere.
(MR. HAWKING emerges from the canopy on the balcony door and land catlike on the floor.)
MRS. FROST: Hmm. The canopy, very cunning. I would have guessed you’d be clinging to the transom.
MRS. HAWKING: It’s been a long time, Elizabeth.
MRS. FROST: Yes, it has. But some things never change.
MRS. HAWKING: I had wondered what become of you after that Frost man took you away. I never suspected this.
MRS. FROST: You make your own way in the world, and I make mine.
MRS. HAWKING: On the backs of helpless women?
MRS. FROST: You never did grasp how the world works, Victoria.
MRS. HAWKING: Oh, I grasp it. I just refuse to be complicit in it.
MRS. FROST: Complicit? No, not you, never you. You’ve never gone along with anything in your life when you could wage all-out war on it instead.
MRS. HAWKING: A world and a system I have spent my life defending helpless women against, you manipulate and exploit to your own advantage.
MRS. FROST: Oh, spare me your righteous wrath, darling.
MRS. HAWKING: You are as bad as any of them!
MRS. FROST: And you are hero, is that it? You are a beast in a menagerie pounding against the bars of your cage! For all your work and all your heroics, what have you done? So you pulled a few petty bacons from the fire. Nothing has changed, the world still traps us and uses us and batters us down! Do you honestly believe you can put an end to all that on your own?