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Stop us if you've heard this one before: Boy meets girl; boy falls madly in love with girl; girl doesn't love boy. That pretty much sums up Audrey, the blonde bombshell that Ed wants… but can't have. When Ed first describes her to us, he says:
There's Audrey. Audrey always sits opposite me, no matter where we play. She has yellow hair, wiry legs, the most beautiful crooked smile in the world, and lovely hips, and she watches a lot of movies. She also works as a cabdriver. (1.2.7)
We can almost picture the stars in his eyes.
Though Ed's a realist, this doesn't stop him from being head-over-heels in love with Audrey. At first, she is almost a symbol of failure in Ed's life. He sees a string of guys knock at Audrey's door, but never has the courage to do so himself because he's afraid of what might happen. In this way—and by no fault of her own—Audrey is a near-constant reminder, for both us as readers and for Ed, of Ed's generally apathetic relationship to his life.
Pretty much Ed's whole philosophy in life is to back away from anything that might ruffle any feathers even the tiniest bit. We like to think of Audrey as a signifier of Ed's progression from scaredy-cat to more courageous—when he finally gets up the nerve to tell Audrey his real feelings, we see how much he's grown.
Now don't get us wrong, though. Audrey is much more than just a device for marking Ed's transformation. She's opinionated, willful, and a complete original. This is super clear when Ed asks her if she wants to go hang out with Simon on Christmas Eve, and Audrey replies:
"Of course. You know I wouldn't do anything I don't want to." (4.2.6)
Audrey never lets others tell her what to do or decide anything for her (unlike Ed, who lets cards from a stranger govern his actions). Perhaps that's why we're on pins and needles when Ed dances with her, barely says anything, and then tells us: "she let herself love me for three minutes" (4.10.36). We really hope he's right, but we also know that Audrey is running the show, and she's had a hard time allowing herself to express her feelings in the past.
Eventually Audrey comes around to the idea of loving Ed for more than three minutes. Phew. So just as we've watched Ed go from a checked-out cabbie who doesn't care what happens in his life to someone who's super engaged in the world, so too we see Audrey go from fiercely protecting her heart to opening herself up to love. And that leaves us optimistic that these two just might make it as a couple—they've each summoned the bravery to change, which is a pretty excellent thing to have in common.