I can’t speak for everyone, only myself. And please know that I’m not a therapist, or a scientist, or a doctor of any kind.
I’m a writer.
Aside from letters and this blog, I write fiction, which means I make stuff up and write it down. But everything I write comes from somewhere—some dark and shadowy parts of my mind.
Today at my critique group, I read a few pages from my novella in progress, Love at the Apple Cheek Inn, and it made me look into those aforementioned shadowy corners of myself…something I don’t often do.
In my story, after a near fatal car accident, Eric Roudel, a mega-rock star disappears into first rehab and then, with a false identity, hides himself in the tiny town of Rose Arbor where he meets and falls in love with Janey. (Janey is a minor character in The Rhyme’s Library. You can read that book, but not Love at the Apple Cheek Inn, because it’s not finished yet.) In this scene, Janey takes on the paparazzi.
Standing, she shoved her feet into a pair of wooly slippers and threw a nubby sweater around her shoulders. Padding down the stairs, she stopped by the cleaning closet and got out the fire-extinguisher.
Creeping down the hall, she headed for the back door.
Who’s the ninja now? she thought.
The cold air took her breath away. The pale moonlight had turned the yard and grounds to gray. The whole world slept, while Janey hung out in the dark. Was she crazy? Had she seen someone? She walked out into the middle of the lawn, letting the heavy dew soak her slippers. Slowly, she turned and saw no one and nothing. Behind her, a twig snapped, and Janey whirled—her extinguisher raised.
A rabbit darted out of the bushes. Feeling stupid, Janey blew out a breath. She let her weapon dangle at her side and headed back for her room.
Light flashed in her eyes, blinding her. Janey hoisted the extinguisher, pointed and aimed. She still couldn’t see, but she could shoot. White foam sprayed. Not really caring what or who she hit, Janey slowly circled, sending the foam in all directions while cameras clicked and lights flashed.
A window opened. “Janey—what’s going on?” Victoria sounded more sleepy than mad or curious.
“Burglers?” Victoria asked. “Are you sure, dear?”
The Masons stuck their head out their bedroom window.
“There they go!” Mr. Mason yelled, his finger pointing to the commotion in the parking lot.
“Goodness!” Mrs. Mason said, “Call the police!”
“No!” Janey cried.
“No?” Victoria and the Masons echoed.
Janey took a long shuddering breath. “No. Just no.”
“Why not?” Victoria asked.
“Yeah, why not?” Mr. Mason said. “I don’t want some punks hanging out around here.”
Janey sent Victoria a pleading look. “I’ll explain.”
Victoria’s lips lifted in a kind, amused smile. “Why don’t you come inside, dear. I’m thinking that by tomorrow, you’ll wish you had taken the time to fix your hair…and changed your clothes.”
Eric slid away from the window and sat down on his bed. She knows, he thought. But for how long? Had she known when they were at the lake? No. And if she had known—why would she face the photographers dressed in plaid boxers, an oversized T-shirt and elephant slippers?
Eric rubbed his hand over his stubbly chin. After a moment of thought, he slipped on his jeans and headed for the attic.
He met Janey on the stairs. Her blonde hair stood up in strange places, foam spattered her clothes, bare arms and legs, and mascara smudges stained her eyes. He thought she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
“Thanks,” he said, leaning against the wall so she could pass him.
“You’re welcome,” she replied.
“That’s it? No questions? Just you’re welcome?”
Janey sniffed. “No. That’s not it.” She thought for a long moment, then added, “Call your mom.”
Eric burst out laughing.
She turned to him, concern puckering her brow. “It’s not funny. Your mom has probably been dying inside with worry for the last six months.”
“You don’t know my mom.” Eric’s voice sounded hard.
“But I know moms.” Janey paused. “Look—I hate my mom and I’m sure the feeling is mutual—but if I was missing…well, she would want to know where I was.”
Eric lifted an eyebrow. “Even if she hates you?”
Janey nodded. “She’s your mom.”
“Do you hate me?”
Janey shook her head. “But we’re not talking about me.”
“I love that you charged after the press dressed in…that.”
Janey straightened her shoulders and grinned. “You don’t like my clothes?”
Eric pulled away from the wall and stepped inches away from her. “You are, I think, the bravest, stupidest person I know.”
He slowly shook his head. “You don’t even know.”
“If not tomorrow, then soon, your picture is going to be all over the news.”
Eric lifted his lips into a slow grin. “Because you’re with me.”
He nodded. “This is going to be way bigger than it ever was before.”
Janey lifted her hand as if stopping traffic. “Okay, let’s think about this. Right now, you need to disappear.”
“It’s too late.”
“No, it doesn’t have to be.”
“In a few hours, the press will be swarming.”
Janey lifted her shoulders. “Let them swarm. You can stay in my room.”
Eric’s grin deepened and his eyebrows rose another mili-inch.
“Not with me. I’ll stay in a different room.”
“I liked my idea better.”
Janey put her hand on his chest and pushed him away. “Sorry, Romeo.”
Eric grabbed her wrist and pulled her against him. “When did you know?”
“About twenty minutes ago.”
“You know there’s a reward.”
“You could have made a lot of money. I would have forgiven you.”
“But I wouldn’t have forgiven myself.”
Eric lowered his lips so that they were inches above hers. “Did you really want to kiss me when you thought I was just Eric?”
“I liked Eric.” Janey swallowed. “I’m not sure if I like Derrick.”
“I could see myself with Eric the music teacher.” Janey blinked long and slow. “I don’t think I can be with Derrick the rockstar.”
“That makes two of us.”
“Why do you think I’m hiding in Rose freaking Harbor?”
“We should go to bed,” Janey said.
When Eric lowered his head to kiss her, she placed her hand on his forehead stopping him. “But not together. I might have let Eric kiss me, but I just met Derrick.” She tapped his head with her finger. “Go hide in my attic. We’ll deal tomorrow.”
Why do I love this scene? Why do I love that Janey grabs a fire extinguisher and goes on the attack? I think it’s because Janey demonstrated strength when Eric needed someone to be strong.
And I think that for me, falling in love was like that. When I was young, I needed someone strong. The people who were supposed to be strong, the people who were supposed to love me the most, fell down on the job (and one of them died.) I can look at the situation with a lot more compassion now than I could then—but the gut-wrenchingly honest truth—I had a need and I found someone who filled that need.
Maybe it wasn't the ideal basis for a marriage, but every day, I thank God that I married someone who would pick up a fire extinguisher and go to battle for me, someone who gets up, puts on his shoes and goes to work to support our family, who puts on his tie and goes to church meetings when he'd rather be out boating, who is willing and able to have hard conversations with troubled children, someone who is strong when I'm weak--and gets that I'm weak, and loves me anyway.