I have been spending a lot of time over the past three months reflecting on this series and how it would continue. My choice to move the family nine years forward was calculated, of course, and required a lot of planning and thinking in terms of who these characters would be, nine years older.
Tommy and Brittany start book 19 relatively healthy, and have lived nine years without major illness or tragedy. (a shocker, I know 🙂 ). Brittany is pregnant, as we found out at the end of book 18, and that will soon become known to the rest of the family. Naomi is now 12 and has become very much her own unique individual with hopes and dreams. I also knew she would not have had an easy time with her health and incorporating her health issues with the 12 year old she has become was something I really worked at. I needed to see her struggles and her triumphs. She is not simply a mini Brittany, but an amazing combination of both her parents and I wanted her to also have some new characteristics. She loves to cook. She loves helping others. She adores Jimmy and she feels a lot of fear about what her future holds. Being in and out of the hospital has taken its toll on her young life and she worries so much about what that means for her moving forward.
A huge issue beginning book 19 is the children learning of the horrors of the past. For Naomi, it is learning of what her mother went through. That will profoundly affect Naomi’s view on the world and in a way, the view she has of her parents. It’s a worry Brittany has always carried and it’s time for Naomi to know it all.
Jack and Stephanie have their hands full with Sabrina and Tessa. I love writing the girls because they drive their parents crazy and that’s always good for a laugh. Sabrina has developed into a beautiful and intelligent 14 year old with a keen awareness of her place in the family. Having been thrown together with David her whole life, the burgeoning teenage feelings and hormones will begin to come into play and the subsequent issues which develop because of it will try everyone’s patience. She is a mini Jack and although he has always worried about her, he comes to appreciate his eldest daughter for the amazing person she is becoming.
Tessa is another story. She is a mini Stephanie and wears her heart on her sleeve. Her Crohns disease has taken a toll on her ability to be herself and she is struggling a lot with her place in the world. She has trouble living in the shadow of Sabrina and she feels a lot like she doesn’t fit in. She has Jack’s height and her mother’s personality and she appears much older than her 11 years. She has anxiety issues and she is a worrier. Stephanie sees so much of herself in Tessa and the loss of Mike just broke something inside of her.
Book 19 hits Tessa hard. She has always been connected to Mike and he understood her when she didn’t feel anyone else did. He took her under his wing and through the years, he helped foster her love of animals and her need to help those who couldn’t help themselves. She loved working with Mike and his loss is something that destroys her.
Stephanie and Jack are in a great place, but their children are also about the learn the truth. They need to hear about Josh and what he did to Stephanie and Jack. They will see their parents as more than the two people who adore them, but also as two people who have lived a lifetime that seems so foreign to them. It will be an eye opening experience for both girls, and it changes things for everyone.
Julie and Bill have the biggest change of probably any couple. Emotionally, Bill is damaged by what happened to Mike. He has always felt responsible for his friend and the fact Mike went overseas without him, and then was captured, just breaks his heart. He needs to do something. He can’t accept a reality where Mike is not here with him and the idea he let Mike down is suffocating to him.
Julie has trouble with this as well. She needs her husband present in their lives and the lives of their children. Bill’s need to blame himself put an undeniable strain on their marriage and pushes Julie to take action she never thought she would.
David and Josie are also deeply effected by everything. David feels responsible for the girls in the family and puts incredible pressure on himself to be strong for them. He feels like he has to take on the role of protector and it gets in the way of him living his life. He also meets someone else and his relationship with Sabrina is fractured. David is a teenage boy who is going through so many different emotions and he has nowhere to put his anger and frustrations.
Josie is struggling for different reasons. She has always been a daddy’s girl and she has always looked to Bill for guidance and reassurance. When she was a baby, she reached for him. When she was a toddler, he was her hero. Now that Mike is gone and Bill is distraught, Josie feels left behind. She doesn’t know why her dad is turning away and it makes her feel like she isn’t enough. She knows Bill loves her, but she thinks he doesn’t like her. She goes through a lot of stress in book 19- she is the first of the girls to get her period and she is the first to be directly effected by the past.
David and Josie learn of the dangers of the past and soon, the truth of Chris and Janet must come to light. David has always wondered by Bill never talks of his father. He could never imagine the real story behind it all.
Jade and Mike are broken. Jade has gone through a heart transplant without her husband and she has now had to face the reality of being a single mother to nine year old twins. The girls are beautiful and smart and funny and everything that Mike deserved to see. He deserved a happy ever after and Jade can’t understand how the world could be so cruel.
Without Mike, she is vulnerable. Rebecca and Nick resurface and Jade and the twins becomes targets. Her girls know nothing of the past or that Mike was married before. All of that must come out when things resurface and old threats come to the forefront.
Sara and Eden are just like their parents. Eden is strong and Sara is sensitive. They both protect Jade and know that their father would want them to be strong. Mike lived for his girls and now they need to live for him.
Evan and Elizabeth will also have a place in this book. Kevin is a young man who has taken a liking to Tessa, much to the chagrin of Jack. He is a protector like Evan and spunky like his mom. Evan and Liz will develop a bit of a side story in Left Behind and that will make for an interesting segue into the future.
I am so excited to share the continuing journey of my Family by Choice with all of you and I can’t wait for you to see what I have in store moving forward 🙂