Creating Characters – Jack Wilde from Just Say It
Jack is the love of my protagonist, Lisa Grant’s, life. He always has been, but they split up when Lisa was twenty-two after Jack proposed. Lisa had panicked, turning him down for a multitude of reasons. Too young, fear of commitment, terrified of going through the ‘momopause’ and turning in to her mother. Instead of talking it through with Lisa, Jack walked away, leaving her alone at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Eighteen years later, and in the throws of getting back together, Jack has another hissy fit after misinterpreting an intimate moment between Lisa her ex, Rory, and flounces off back home to New York.
Going the Wrong Way
Jack was holding the neck of an empty miniature bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin between his thumb and forefinger, tapping it against the tray table in front of him. He was in a foul mood, questioning his reasoning for going back to New York. The woman sitting next to him was trying to read and cleared her throat, glowering at his tray table. He stopped tapping, shrugged and said, ‘I’m very sorry… I was miles away.’
BLAME IT ON THE MOTHER
She nodded curtly and went back to her book. Jack glanced at the cover, Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me, and Elizabeth flashed into his mind. The bloody woman had a great deal to answer for. He felt sure Lisa would have married him years ago if it hadn’t been for Elizabeth. Her twisted obsession with finding Lisa a husband, when she was incapable of being faithful to either of hers, poisoned Lisa’s views on marriage. It wasn’t too surprising Lisa crossed marriage off her list of lifetime goals from a very early age.
He squeezed his eyes tightly together, recalling the painful memory from eighteen years ago, as he stomped off down the Champs de Mars after Lisa turned down his marriage proposal. Walking away was not something he was proud of. In retrospect, he had behaved like an overgrown schoolboy whose conker had been annihilated. Jumping into the first taxi he saw and commanding the driver to ‘Take me to Charles de Gaulle airport, tout suite!’ The word immature flashed through his mind.
Once back in London, the blurry recall of rocking around on a barstool at the Flying Horse in the Tottenham Court Road, with Brenda Stark all over him, and his alcohol-fuddled brain fuelling the words, ‘Brenda, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.’ Words that made him cringe. It was a blatant albeit drunken, lie, as well as being the most ridiculous statement he’d ever made in his entire adult life.
The following morning, disorientated, and with the hangover from Hell, he struggled to open his eyes, reaching out his arms expecting Lisa’s sylph-like image to emerge from the bathroom. Instead, the outline of a much fuller figure, with a mane of red, pre-Raphaelite hair, approached him on the bed. Her lips overwhelmed him, as he found himself smothered in a bright auburn thicket.
It was the most dismal morning of his life, which turned into 6,570 dreary mornings after she told him she was pregnant, and, as Will had done before him, he did the right thing. So why, after eighteen years of married misery in New York City, was he going back there? If he thought it was because his children wanted to see him, he was deluding himself, because they didn’t, Brenda had turned them against him. The divorce was finalised, she had screwed him for everything he had, and was still screwing Barnaby Ziff, which she had been doing, long before the divorce. Workwise, he had cleared his desk and, although he had been offered the role of CEO in the London office, he wasn’t sure he wanted it.
He had spent the last few weeks trailing around the world like some lovelorn puppy wondering if his first, and only love, still had feelings for him. After watching the millennium sunrise with Lisa in Portugal, he felt sure that she did. Nothing about her had changed. She was still the person he had loved with all his heart. Her confident exterior still betrayed a degree of vulnerability lurking beneath the surface, which she always tried to hide with her sense of humour. Eighteen years on, his feelings hadn’t changed. All he had ever wanted to do was to wake up next to Lisa.
He had only spent a few days in the Algarve, but he had fallen in love with the country and had allowed himself to fantasise about living there. Thanks to the magic of Google, he had earmarked a property in need of renovation just off N125, which would be perfect not only as a home but for hosting writers retreats, which he knew Lisa was planning to do, and he could be a great help to her. The outbuildings had already been converted into self-catering units; there was a pool, and it was in spitting distance of Playa do Trafal, Lisa’s favourite beach. He had even started drawing parallels between himself and Will. Marrying someone he didn’t love because she was pregnant, before creating a new life with the love of his life in Portugal after the divorce. But, unlike Will, he had lost his nerve at the hint of a little competition. He swilled his gin and tonic. He wasn’t sure about anything anymore.
From his window seat, he watched as the 747 gobbled up the miles in cruise mode, every second taking him further away from Lisa, the only person he had ever wanted to be with, so why was he doing it? Because he felt she’d ignored him after they returned to Gloucestershire, and then he’d seen her with her arms around Rory’s neck. Now on his second gin and tonic, it didn’t seem such a big deal. She hadn’t been ignoring him; she’d been frantically sorting everything out in the wake of Arthur’s death, which included kissing and hugging everybody who offered sympathy.
As a young man, he enjoyed staying at Silkwoods with Lisa, and fondly remembered all the evenings they had spent with Arthur, soaking up his wit and wisdom. What would Arthur have said to him now? He would have probably thrown a Moliere quote at him. Hearts are often broken; when words are left unspoken and followed it up with, ‘Have the courage of your convictions, man! Tell her how you feel!’ But he couldn’t get the image of Lisa draped around that philandering photographer out of his head.
The sound of giggling made Jack lookup. A man and woman were walking up the aisle, his hands all over her like an octopus. Jack tut-tutted disapprovingly. They were old enough to know better. The lean, dishevelled figure in a crumpled, cream, linen suit looked very familiar. The recognition was reciprocated as Rory raised an arm in his direction.
‘Bloody Rory, what the hell is he doing here with his arms wrapped around a brunette?’
WHEN YOU REALIZE YOU’VE GOT IT WRONG
He closed his eyes as the enormity of his misconception sank in. His stomach lurched, and his intestines reeled from what felt like a Lennox Lewis punch in the solar plexus.
‘Jack! You are the very last person I expected to see up here. I thought you and Lisa would be tucked up in your cosy little love nest by now. Did her proposal scare you off so much you felt the need to escape?’
‘Her proposal! When I said goodbye to her the other day, she said she wanted to ask you to be with her for the rest of her life, as her soul-mate and lover, you know rather than her lawfully wedded husband. You will remember how bloke-ish her views on marriage are. This is the gorgeous Célia by the way. We are off on the first leg of our round-the-world trip. I will be taking stunning photographs of the world at large, and Célia here will be writing deliciously seductive pieces to accompany them. All funded by Focal Point, would you believe?’
‘Pleased to meet you, Jack,’ Célia purred, but he wasn’t listening; he was staring out of the window. Bailing out at 38,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean was not an option.
‘He’s not normally rude, Célia. He’s just realised what a tosser he is. Am I right, Jack?’
Rory persevered, raising his voice, which made the woman sitting next to Jack shift in her seat, glowering from Rory to Jack.
‘If your facial expressions are telling me anything, mate, I think you just might have made the biggest mistake of your life. Jack? Are you listening to me?’
Jack was still staring out of the window, so the woman sitting next to him elbowed him in the ribs.
‘Oh, for goodness sake! Listen to what he has to say, then I can get on with my book,’ then nodded to Rory to continue.
‘Lisa needs you. She always has. She’s always loved you, Jack. I might have caused a distraction, for a while, when she thought she would never get you back, but it’s you she wants to spend the rest of her life with. She told me. She said the biggest mistake she’d ever made was saying no, to you.’
Resting his elbows on the tray table, Jack put his head in his hands as a frustrated groan escaped his lips.
‘You see, Célia, the penny’s finally dropped! He knows what a knob head he’s been.’
‘I saw you two together the other day, and I drew all the wrong conclusions.’
‘Shame on you, Jack, and you a publishing man! Never judge a book by its cover. Isn’t that what they say? Ah, well, good luck, Jack. We were stretching our legs a bit, back here in cattle class. Let’s go back and have more champagne in Club, and drink Focal Point’s health.’ He turned Célia around by her shoulders and leaned over to Jack.
‘We should arrive at JFK in about four hours and, if you have any hope of salvaging this mess, I suggest you get yourself booked on the first flight back to London. Better still, book Concorde, she might just save your life.’