My Strongest Weakness

I am so excited to share a preview of the beginning of book 17, titled, “My Strongest Weakness”. Please let me know what you think!

 

Chapter One:

Bill and Julie sat on the porch for a little while and just held each other, nothing needing to be said. She knew he had spoken to Brittany and Jade and he would have to figure this out one way or another. She just wanted to be certain he knew she was with him no matter what.

“We should go inside,” he said to break the silence.

“Okay,” she rubbed his chest and kissed his arm before getting up.

“Thank you,” he smiled as she took his hand and helped him stand.

“For what?”

“Being here and allowing me to let all of this sink in.”

She smiled and they walked into the house.

“Any time.”

*****

“You need to relax,” Jack said to Tommy as he paced in the backyard. “Brent isn’t the bad guy here.”

“I knew there was a connection to how Jade was tortured. I should never have blown that off. I am such a fucking idiot,” Tommy said.

“You didn’t blow anything off. We will figure this out and deal with it. We aren’t going to be victims again.”

“We already are,” Tommy said. “We were blindsided by this one, man! Brent said it stems from a fucking concert my wife gave where she wasn’t cordial enough for that prick? Who the fuck cares? This is just one more reason both of our wives will feel responsible and it’s shit.”

“No. None of us are going to feel responsible again,” Stephanie said as she walked out slowly and stood between the men. “I know Josh better than anyone else and I know how he thinks. If he’s been alive this whole time, there is a reason he hasn’t come forward. He was waiting for the right time and we need to be ready. He will not win again. He will not hurt another person I love.”

Jack was so proud of her and Tommy shook his head.

“I’m going to take my family home. We can talk more tomorrow.”

Jack held Stephanie to him and nodded.

“Watch your back,” he said.

Tommy had a cold look in his eyes.

“Always.”

******

Julie walked into the bedroom after checking on the kids while Bill took Hope out. Everyone agreed to spend some time alone tonight and they would meet in the morning to figure out what was next.

She pulled her clothes off and sighed.

Mike and Jade were about to bring their little girls home and it should be the happiest of moments and now she knew they were once again dealing with Rebecca and all of the pain she caused.

She worried about Stephanie and Jack and what the news of Josh being alive would do to them. She worried about her brother and how precarious Brittany’s health was. This was going to add so much stress to all of them.

But worst was her husband. She wondered how much a person could take before they simply quit? Her eyes filled with tears when she thought of all he had endured and how he continued to believe in the good in the world. The things Bill had been through sat on his shoulders and she worried he was going to be crushed under the weight of it all.

“Hey, you okay?” his deep voice startled her and she turned to him.

“I was talking to you for a minute but you didn’t seem to hear me.”

“Sorry,” she smiled and wiped her eyes. “I was just thinking.”

He walked closer and stopped her when she went to put her nightgown on.

“I like what you’re wearing now,” he said as he pulled her into his arms.

“I’m almost naked,” she grinned as she melted against him.

“And your point is?” he nibbled her neck as he removed her bra.

“I forget,” she moaned and pulled his shirt off so she could feel his chest against hers.

“Is it wrong that I just need you? I just want you,” he said as he tilted her chin up and lowered his mouth onto hers, kissing her with a neediness and an aggressiveness that made her feel incredibly turned on.

“It’s not wrong,” she said as he pulled her to him and they came together passionately.

“Shit,” she said softly a little while later.

He turned and smiled at her as he pulled the covers over them.

“Thank you,” he said as he pulled her into his arms.

“I’m pretty sure that was for both of us,” she said as she ran her fingers over his waist.

“Not just for that, although that was amazing. For being here with me and never letting me forget who I am.”

She kissed his chest and felt her eyes fill with tears.

“You are my everything. You are my home.”

Bill held her and realized that her words were so true.

And that was everything.

*******

Tommy put Naomi in her crib while Brittany changed and then fed Tramp. They both met in the family room and sat there for a few minutes before talking.

“Was Stephanie okay?” he asked.

“No, but she will be. Of all of us, Josh really did a number on her for years. She held Nikki in her arms as she died from what Josh did,” she said and put her head in her hands. “Stephanie was on a ledge from that prick. I can’t let her go back to that.”

He ran his hand over her back and smoothed her hair back.

“Jack won’t let her; none of us will.”

“I know,” she sat back and looked at him.

“What did Brent talk to you guys about? Did he say something to upset you while I was in with Stephanie?”

“I don’t trust him. He kept calling you Barb.”

She smiled and took his hand in hers.

“He’s only known me as Barbara. He doesn’t mean it with any disrespect. He and my dad were friends and I spent a lot of time at his house with Stephanie growing up. He’s a good guy.”

Tommy hesitated before telling her everything Brent had said. He knew she would be upset and he didn’t want to add to her stress.

“He thinks everything that’s happened to us has been planned. He doesn’t think there are any coincidences. He thinks Josh went after Nikki to get to Stephanie to get to you.”

She was stunned.

“What are you talking about?”

Tommy was quiet and she faced him.

“What is going on here? What aren’t you telling me?”

“Red,” Tommy began and they were interrupted by a pounding on the door. Tramp barked and ran to check it out and Tommy went to see who it was.

Brittany followed and held Tramp while Tommy looked and then he opened the door.

“Jason?” Brittany asked as her friend walked in.

“I’m so sorry to come over so late, but I think something is wrong.”

Tommy felt like this night was about to get worse.

“What is it?”

“Evan and Elizabeth are missing.”

Sunday surprise!

Here is a little treat for you. This is a never before published flashback 🙂

(The past)

 

Tommy sat in the kitchen while he waited for Julie to get home from school. Jack was getting dressed and they were going to the studio for a family portrait.

 

He straightened his tie and looked at the image on the wall of the family just a few years ago. His parents looked so happy and he and Julie were as far away from each other as possible.

 

Maybe this was stupid. Maybe he was trying too hard?

 

“You okay?” Jack asked as he walked into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water.

 

“Yeah. I just wonder if this is a bad idea?”

 

“Why would it be a bad idea? I think you’re right. We talked last night and I agree with you. I think it will be great.”

 

They both jumped when the front door slammed and Julie came in. She looked at them in the kitchen and sighed.

 

“What did I do wrong?”

 

Tommy raised his eyebrows.

 

“Who said you did anything wrong?”

 

She scratched her head and shrugged.

 

“You’re both all dressed up like you have an important meeting. The only thing you would do together dressed like that would be about me, so what happened?”

 

Jack sat down and smiled.

 

“Jules, don’t you remember? We have an appointment with the photographer for this afternoon.”

 

She was quiet and then looked at Tommy.

 

“Oh, well no thank you,” she got up and went into the family room.

 

Tommy looked crushed and Jack walked after her. Tommy reluctantly followed.

 

“It’s not really something to respond to in that way. You need to go get changed so we can go,” Jack said.

 

Julie looked at him and picked up he bag.

 

“I have homework, sorry,” she said.

 

Tommy sat next to her and looked at his hands.

 

“I would really like for you to come and do this, okay?”

 

She looked at him and her eyes filled with tears.

 

“It won’t make them any less dead.”

 

He sighed and nodded.

 

“I know. That wasn’t my plan,” he said and stood up. “It’s fine. I’ll cancel.”

 

Jack watched him walk out and he sat down next to Julie.

 

“There was no reason for you to do that. He never asks anything like this and it is important to him.”

 

Julie wiped her eyes and crossed her arms, not saying anything.

 

“He wasn’t doing this to replace your parents. He was trying to keep you from losing more.”

 

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

 

Jack sat back and sighed.

 

“You’re 14. He wants you to grow up and have pictures and memories. He doesn’t want to replace your parents, but he doesn’t want you to grow up and not have the things you would have had with them. It’s not about making it like they are still here; it’s more about giving you pictures to commemorate your life, our lives, as it is now. Years from now, he’s hoping you will look back and know you were loved. He wanted you to have pictures, Jules, memories.”

 

Tommy walked in and looked at them.

 

“I can’t cancel without losing the deposit, so I guess I’ll just eat that. I’m going out for a drive.”

 

Julie looked at him and shook her head.

 

“No, give me a minute to get ready and I would like to go and have our picture taken.”

 

Tommy was surprised.

 

“Why?”

 

“Because I’m a teenage girl and I’m allowed to have mood swings, so let it be,” she said and ran upstairs.

 

Jack grinned at him and shrugged.

 

“Just go with it.”

 

******

(Preset day)

Stephanie wiped her eyes as she listened to the story.

 

“So how come I’ve never seen this picture? You just have Julie’s picture from that time.”

 

Jack smiled.

 

“We had the picture of the three of us framed and put on the wall in the house. It was there for a while, maybe six months and something really bad happened.”

 

Stephanie wasn’t sure where this was going.

 

“Did someone take it?”

 

“I wish,” he sighed. “I hit a drought. Tommy and I both did, but with him, it wasn’t that big of a deal. For me, it was tragic.”

 

“A drought? A sex drought?” Stephanie asked and he looked at Bee.

 

“Shh, she doesn’t need to hear this.”

 

“You have got to be kidding me,” she laughed. “But how does the picture fit into your ‘drought’?”

 

He blushed and shrugged.

 

“Julie actually figured it out after one of her friends pointed it out.”

 

“She was 14 and knew about your um, exploits?”

 

“No, of course not,” he said. “I mean, she knew when I brought women over, but not about the drought of 2002.”

 

Stephanie tried really hard not to laugh.

 

“You named it?”

 

He looked her dead in the eye.

 

“It was profound.”

 

She nodded and bit her lip to stop from giggling.

 

“Anyway, Julie came home one day and told us her friends were talking about us. I thought they were talking about my looks, because you know, I’m me.”

 

Stephanie nodded.

 

“Naturally.”

 

He rolled his eyes.

 

“You can laugh.”

 

She shook her head.

 

“Never. I will never laugh about the great drought of 2002.”

 

He looked at her and flashed his dimples.

 

“Very nice. And it wasn’t the great drought, just the drought.”

 

“Sorry,” she laughed and then coughed to mask it

 

“Anyway, apparently, because of the picture, everyone thought Tommy and I were a couple. The way we were posed made it look like we were Julie’s parents and the stupid photographer had me put my hand on Tommy’s shoulder and it looked very suspicious. When we brought women home, they saw the picture and ended things.”

 

“And you didn’t think about that?”

 

“Well no,” he sighed. “I mean we never thought about it because it wasn’t true and we were just trying to give Julie a nice memory.”

“And you did,” Stephanie smiled.

“Well, the drought ended when the picture came down and it never came up again.”

Stephanie was quiet and he rolled his eyes.

“Fine, let it out. Go ahead and laugh.”

She looked at him and walked over to kiss his cheek.

“That story might just start another drought.”

He looked horrified.

“What? Why? What did I do?”

“There’s nothing that gets a wife going like hearing about all the sex her husband used to have before he met her,” she said and walked to the couch.

“But I was just telling you a story from long ago. I love you and don’t want a drought, please,” he said and moved to her.

She giggled and looked at him and he crossed his arms.

“Very funny.”

“Oh Jack this is the best story ever,” she said and broke out in a fit of laughter. “I’m sorry, but I’ll never understand how you and Tommy didn’t realize what a handsome couple you made. How could people not assume you were together?”

“Well, looking at me, it’s clear that anyone would want a piece of this,” he said and sat down next to Bee. “But I’m out of Tommy’s league, really.”

She rolled her eyes and he grinned.

“You know, some women actually like to think they’re the prettiest in the relationship.”

Jack pulled her onto his lap and held her as she pouted.

“You are by far the prettiest in our marriage. In fact, you bring things to the table that no woman has ever brought before.”

“The stomach for your arrogance?”

He laughed.

“Maybe, but I was thinking about the ability to make me feel lucky to be alive. You make me happy to be in this world and I look forward to each and every moment with you. You’re brilliant and sexy and beautiful and tolerant. You are the most amazing mother and doctor and I adore the way you work with chocolate,” he wiggled his eyebrows and she laughed.

“You’re pretty beautiful yourself,” she said.

“Well yeah,” he said and they both laughed as they kissed.

 

My favorites… Bill

As I’m winding things down, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on each and every character I created throughout this series and I’ve come to the realization that I have made quite a family. The idea of where this series began and how it has evolved is quite amazing to me and I can’t imagine what the story would look like with any one of them missing.

That doesn’t mean I think they are perfectly developed or have no more story to tell, but I feel like they have all contributed to the growth of the series and the evolution of the family.

I’d like to take some time and go through the characters and spotlight some of my favorite moments. Some are monologues they said, others are things they did, but all are moments that speak to who they are at their core.

This family is my family, the good and the bad. I identify with parts of all of them and I’d like to think those of you who read the series identify with them, too.

I am going to place a separate entry for the villains, but I have a unique take on them and how the came to be.

For now, I’d like to start with Bill because he is the character who I think Is incredibly complex and real. He is so strong and brave but when it comes to his family, he is vulnerable and sensitive and romantic. One of my favorite books for Bill was book 9 “A Son’s Anguish” and it wasn’t because of the introduction of Chris, but it was a moment of great realization for Bill. He had to face the possibility of losing Julie and it wasn’t to an evil force, but to a medical issue and he couldn’t fight that. It was a time in Bill’s life where I was able to explore a different, more sensitive and vulnerable side and it was an amazing journey to take with him.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

“Everyone I spoke to, including your brothers said this would be temporary. You will get your voice back. In the meantime, I’ll make sure you have pen and paper to write down anything you need to say. Your surgery went great and once your kidney heals, you should feel so much better,” he stroked her cheek. “I’m so sorry you have been in so much pain.”

She shook her head.

“Yes you have. You just never complain,” he grinned.

She rolled her eyes and he smiled.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me. I know you and you never take time for yourself. You always make sure everyone else is okay, but now it’s time for me to take care of you.”

She looked around and he handed her a pad of paper and a pen. She wrote and showed him.

He sighed. “You are not a burden. You are my wife and the love of my life. You are the mother to my children and this is simply another hurdle we will overcome. I love you and I need you to trust me. Can you do that?”

She wrote again. “Always.”

“Good answer,” he grinned and moved to the side of the bed, lying on the covers next to her. “Now all you need to do is rest and let me hold you and for once, you have to listen to what I say.”

She playfully smacked him and he grinned and wiggled his eyebrows. She turned gently and placed her head on his chest. He put his arm around her and linked his other hand through hers. “So here’s how I see it.”

She sighed as he spoke. “You and I were made of tougher stuff than most people. I think that’s why we fell in love,” she looked up at him and smiled. “Okay, so it might also be because of our amazingly good looks,” he felt her smile and he continued. “I know we have both spent time in our lives wondering why. Why are we put through so much heartache and sadness? What did we do to deserve this and why can’t we just be happy?”

He ran his fingers up and down her arm. “But I think I’ve figured it out. It’s because whoever designs the grand scheme of things knew we were stronger than most. We were made to show the world what is possible when you truly believe in your soul mate. Because of that, I am able to be here with you, holding you and loving you. Because of that, we have the most beautiful children. Our son is kind and caring and already knows how much he is loved and wanted. Our baby girl is the embodiment of strength and tenacity just like her mom. They will both be a handful, but I think we have shown we can deal with that.”

She exhaled and kissed his chest as he spoke. “I also think it’s why we were given the blessing of our two boys.”

She looked up at him, her eyes swimming.

“The doctors said that because of them, your kidney issues flared up. If not, you could have died and we would never have had the chance to save you. They were sent here to make sure you made it. They were the ultimate gift to us. They gave us the gift of time and even though they had to leave, I will never lose sight of the blessing they were. They gave me back my wife and I can’t put into words what that means.”

She reached up and stroked his cheek. “I know, I should stop talking, but I need you to hear me. You can do this. You can get through this and I am right beside you, always.”

She smiled and he leaned down to kiss her, holding her and watching her sleep.

 

 

A few thoughts

When you’re here, my world is a lot less scary.

This was one of the first lines I wrote for Tommy and Brittany. I go back to it a lot because it stands for something I really feel grounded the series.

Of all the fear and loneliness and doubt, the ultimate connection between them was simple.

Their world was better with the other in it.

It’s kind of my safe place, too. My world became a lot less scary when I began to bring these characters to life. Tommy and Brittany and Jack and Stephanie came from a place in my life that was still full of optimism and hope. I had been through a lot of sadness and struggle and in creating their love stories, I remembered that nothing is impossible.

Bill and Julie came as a result of my parents. Their story of love and commitment was far from perfect, but there was always love and respect. One of the lines I use for Bill and Julie came directly from my mom when I was worried they were going to divorce. (I think I was 7 or 8).

“When you’re stuck, you’re stuck.” also “What you see is what you get.”

It was so true. Sarcasm and truth was always the standard in my house and it’s the standard in my writing. There are times I must laugh when I want to cry and there are times I am brutally honest because it’s what is needed.

Who I am doesn’t change no matter the company and I think that’s also important. Being a genuine person is important and trusting- what you see is all we have.

So, since creating this series and these characters, I have felt safe. I have felt like I have a voice in this world and I hope, more than anything, these characters have brought solace to some of you. Laughter at times, heartache at others and overall, a sense of comfort and family.

Moving forward, book 17 begins the end of the series. It’s been a challenging time for me as an author because I don’t know that it’s right. I do know the part of the story I have been waiting to tell for all this time must come out and it’s going to be a game changer. There are loose ends that will be forever tied and there will be characters who will inevitably have to end. It’s been a whirlwind of emotions as I’ve been writing and as much as I can’t wait for you to read it, I’m nervous about what you will think.

I will be posting a preview to book 17 soon, and I hope you are ready to get on the final rollercoaster with me.

As Brittany says in book 17

“You can live a happy and productive life and just like people with any kind of ailment; it simply becomes a part of who you are, but it is never all you are.”

I believe that. I believe in this family and what they can do. I believe in my readers and the strength you bring to the table. I believe in love and hope.

When you are all here, my world is a lot less scary.

 

 

Release day number 16!

So we are just a few hours from the release of book 16, “A Father’s Heart” and I am excited, but also nervous. This book takes the family in a little bit of a different direction and it’s something I have been wanting to do with for a while. All of the issues they have all faced have been incredibly trying and it has taken a lot out of each of them. There comes a time when the stress and constant worry gets to be too much and something has to give.

I ended book 15 with a turning point for the family. The accident involving Bill and Josie was, in a way, the result of the built up guilt that plagued Jack and as a result, hurt Tommy and Julie. The aftermath of this tragedy spurs changes in the family that need to happen. Things reach a boiling point, and this time, the evil isn’t coming from the outside.

The issues that must be faced come from within.

The benefit of writing a series that has gone on this long is that we have been able to watch this family grow. We know who they are deep down and we know what makes them hurt. We also know the truth behind the walls they put up. We know their vulnerabilities, their fears and their insecurities.

We know that Jack feels a sense of fear that he isn’t truly a member of Tommy and Julie’s family. It isn’t anything based in any truth, but it’s a nagging issue Jack has always suppressed. Certain things have happened in the last book that will push Jack and Tommy and Julie to the breaking point and it isn’t a foregone conclusion that they will be able to get past it.

We also know that Julie will need her family; now more than ever. The rift between Tommy and Jack has hurt Julie in a way she didn’t see coming. She is a strong woman, but everyone has their limit. What she has been through in the past few books would challenge anyone’s sanity, and with this latest crisis and her brothers not supporting her the way she needs, her world begins to fall apart.

We see Stephanie dealing with a personal crisis that stems from her own medical issues as well as the devastating news about her Uncle. That, mixed with her husbands issues have caused a lot of her old insecurities to resurface. There is a lot more to the story that will come to light in book 16 and it is more than Stephanie could have ever imagined.

Mike and Jade are at the highest point of their romance. They are heading down the aisle after so many setbacks and it’s a time for love and hope. They are incredibly connected and excited about the journey they are taking and the impending arrival of their twins. Their story takes center stage in this book and what happens to Jade comes out of left field. Mike finds himself dealing with an enemy unlike any he has faced before.

Brittany is the wild card. She has been through more than any other character in the series and there is a large part of Brittany that I have always glossed over. It has been a point of pride and admiration to others how Brittany has made such a success out of her life after such a horrific assault. That is true, but there is a lot to Brittany that she has never dealt with. The time has come for her to figure out what happened to Barbara, and if there is a way to somehow merge her past with her present. That is a story I have been waiting to tell and it will soon begin to unfold.

There is also Evan and Elizabeth and their impending arrival. Book 16 pushes them to the forefront and they are thrust back into the center of the story. We are revisited by Jason and Amber as Evan and Liz will need their family.

The story is evolving and growing and I’m more excited than ever to show it to all of you. Please enjoy “A Father’s Heart” and know that you all have my deep appreciation for your support!

 

My Inspiration

I love to read. I have always loved to read. I remember growing up and waiting every month for the release of the new Sweet Valley High book and tearing into it, only to finish it in a day and have to wait an agonizing 29 or so more days for the next installment. I still have all of the books in the series in bookcases in my den. It was when I fell in love with romance. It was when I began to connect to a family that became my friends. The characters grew and changed as I grew and changed. I fell in love when the characters fell in love and I cried when their hearts were broken.

I grew up and we grew apart, but my love and appreciation for what the Wakefield family gave to me at a time in my life when I needed that escape was never lost on me. I went to college and entered the workforce and always kept in my mind that connection I felt with books. The escape I so needed.

I missed that life. I missed that escape and the thrill of living vicariously through a family that was close to my own, yet worlds apart. I was far from the blonde and tanned beauties that starred in the series and I had very little experience in my small Michigan town that mimicked the beautiful Southern California town of Sweet Valley.

What I did have, was an imagination and an idea. As I went through the ups and downs of life, the imagination and idea evolved and when I was at the lowest point in my life, when I lost someone incredibly dear to me, I made a decision.

I began to bring my family by choice to life.

At first it was a form of therapy. I wrote to give myself an outlet. I wrote to say the things I couldn’t. I wrote to remind myself of what I wanted in life. I wrote because it hurt not to write.

I have been through a lot since I began this series. I have received terrible reviews that almost made me stop writing. I have received beautiful reviews that I keep close to my heart. I have grown to know these characters as if they were my family and I can’t imagine my life without them. I laugh with them and I cry with them. I feel terrible when they suffer and I’m so proud of them when they succeed.

I think back to the Sweet Valley High series and the more than 200 books I have collected. I think about the joy they gave me and I wonder what my life might have looked like without them. I’m not sure it would have been so great. I dealt with a lot of anxiety growing up and having a place to feel familiar, to feel safe and to escape to was everything to me. It helped me figure things out. It was a constant in my life and it was a huge influence in my formative years.

Over the last 20 or so years, I haven’t really looked at the books that made up so much of my childhood. I sometimes pull one off the shelf and I see the folded page and I know there was a time in my life that one would be hard pressed to pry that book out of my hands. I also know that I can go back to any one of the books and be transported to a time in my teen years when life was so much easier, yet I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.

If I had only known then…

But, such is life.

Come by tonight for an update to where I’m taking this series in the next arc. I want to share my plans and my reasoning and I hope it sheds some light on the method to my madness 🙂

-Robin

Below is a small part of my collection 🙂

IMG_0277

Sergeant Kastan and Corporal Stein

Interview part two:

Bill: I feel silly about this. I don’t know that people really care to hear about me alone.

“You have no idea how much people admire you, do you?”

Bill: I just think there are a lot better people to admire than me.

“Well I’d like to ask you a few questions, if that’s okay.”

Bill: Sure.

“You have alluded to wanting to join the Army to make a difference in the world. Was that the only reason?”

Bill: Well that’s the pretty answer I suppose. (he smiles). But if I’m honest, it’s not the main reason. I had a crappy home life and I guess I was looking for a way out. I knew, finishing my degree would be one thing, but then what? I would still be at home and I couldn’t handle that. I needed to get out of that environment. I needed to get away from my dad.

“But you like being in the Army, don’t you?”

Bill: I loved it. I still do, but my life looks very different now than it did when I enlisted. I had nothing; no obligations or bills to pay. I had none of the blessings I have in my life now. I have a family and they are everything to me.

“What if you were called back to active duty?”

Bill: I am active, but I know what you mean. If I was asked to leave again I would honor my commitment to my Country because it’s who I am and I’m a damn good soldier. With the mess I’ve made of my leg and my transplants, I probably wouldn’t be medically cleared for combat. I wouldn’t want to go, but I owe it to my friends; those I lost; to do what needs to be done.

“You’ve always been a man of your word, haven’t you? That’s important to you?”

Bill: Of course. My word is my bond and if you can’t count on that, then you have nothing. I think it also stems from never being able to trust anyone’s word growing up. My parents never told me the truth about anything and really, the life I thought I lived with my parents was a complete and utter lie, so I think I have some issues with trust. (he smiled and then sighed)

“That’s a nice segue. Can you tell me what your life was like when you were a kid?”

Bill: Why?

“Because you are a remarkable man and I think the readers would like to know how you were able to get through that and be so kind and giving.”

Bill: I don’t know. I don’t know that I would classify myself as kind and giving. To most people, I’m probably someone they are afraid to get to know. I have a lot of baggage and I don’t open up easily. I also tend to be very protective of those close to me. That can be a turn off for others who want to get to know me. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to talk about my parents.

“Okay. Are you upset by these questions?”

Bill: I’m a private person and I don’t like to talk about things with people I don’t know. Besides, there is no point in dredging up things that can’t be changed. It’s not like my parents were just distant. My father was an evil terrible man. He doesn’t deserve our time.

“What if I told you that someone reading this might be going through a similar circumstance and how you got through it might be helpful to them. Maybe you have more of an impact on others than you realize.”

Bill: I’m no role model. They would be better off looking to Jack or Tommy.

“Why?”

Bill sighed.

Bill: Because they stepped in when it was needed. When Julie needed her family, they were there. When my mom needed me, I left. I’m just not someone to look up to.

“I think many people would disagree, but I’ll let it go. Do you mind if Mike joins us?”

Bill saw Mike and he smiled, relieved.

Bill: Of course not, although if you think I’m difficult, getting him to talk is like pulling teeth.

Mike chuckled as he sat down.

“Hi. Thanks for coming in,”

Mike: Jade said I had to.

Laughing.

“Well thank her for me. How are things going in your life now?”

Mike: Fine.

Bill grinned.

Mike: What’s so funny?

Bill: You are a worse interview than I am.

Mike blushed.

“You two are great friends. Did it start off like that?”

Bill laughed and Mike rolled his eyes.

Bill: No. I thought he was spoiled.

Mike laughed.

Mike: He was so hard on me. I almost filed a complaint against him.

Bill: You were this pretty boy who everyone loved. I was surprised they didn’t make you a Corporal just by your smile.

Mike shook his head.

Mike: The Sergeant has always been jealous of my good looks.

Bill: Hardly.

They both laughed.

“So what changed? You both are so close now.”

Mike: I spent five minutes with him and saw the kind of soldier I wanted to be. He is the best teacher and I knew, while under his command, I was with the best. I grew up with a career Army dad and my respect for those who serve was always high. With the Sergeant, I saw firsthand what commitment meant. I saw how he treated the regiment and I saw how he treated me. He earned my respect and my friendship.

Bill sighed:  You’re making it sound much better than it was. I had a job to do and I did it. You need to stop making me into something I’m not.

Mike smiled: And he is humble. You don’t know how it was, that first tour. We were gone for a year and it was shit. We had no idea what we were doing or if we were ever going to get home. So many of us were seriously lacking faith and discipline.

Bill: You weren’t.

Mike: Because of your leadership. You made me want to be a better soldier. You took charge when I knew the fear you had about never seeing your wife again. You handled taking over after Nick was removed from his command and you became our leader.

Bill: I was an idiot who never saw what Nick really was.

Mike looked at him and Bill sighed.

Bill: Sorry.

Mike: I think I win in the whole ‘being blind to things’.

Bill: I didn’t mean it that way. I’m just saying that I wasn’t anything special. We all had trouble and we all left people behind.

“Tell me about the second tour.”

Bill and Mike were quiet.

Bill: I lost eight men. They are all that’s important from that mission.

Mike nodded.

Mike: They are all that matters.

“What about your relationship outside of the Army?”

Mike: You mean how my ex-wife almost got his entire family killed?

Bill sighed: You had nothing to do with that. I need for you to let that go.

Mike: Are we almost done with this?

“Yeah. One more question. How would you each describe your ideal day?”

Mike: Watching Jade laugh.

Bill: Watching my children play and holding my wife in my arms.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Who should be next?

Brittany Rose Williams

Interviewer:

A lot of people want to know about your choice of profession. It’s not just the fact that you are HIV positive, but it’s almost as if that pushed your decision to go into obstetrics. Can you tell us about that? I mean what advice would you give to young women in a similar circumstance who want to go into medicine?

Brittany: It’s hard to answer that because it isn’t a simple answer. I think you have to put yourself in the position I was in. I mean, everything in my life changed in an instant. I was this famous singer who was loved all over the world and I had nobody to help me. Much of it was of my own doing after I left the hospital. I stayed away from everyone and everything. I sat in my home and calculated my next move. I had money and connections and neither helped me. It was when I got the diagnosis of HIV that I flew to Paris and saw Stephanie. If it weren’t for her, I truly think I may have simply given up.

“What do you mean?”

Brittany: I didn’t know how to move forward from that piece of paper; that diagnosis. I didn’t know how I would ever hide this and I knew, in order to survive, for me at least, I had to do just that. Stephanie gave me hope that I could get this disease under control and she helped me believe that maybe I could start over.

“So how did you? Start over?”

Brittany smiled: One day at a time. I put all of my energy into getting accepted into an accelerated medical program in London that pushed graduation and specialties up by two years. It was all my life would be over the next six years and that was just what I needed. I cut my hair and for the first three years, I wore a brown wig. I had to hide myself because I was so recognizable, but it was soon obvious that I fit in as one of the class and nothing more. Who would ever guess that the top selling vocal artist was now in med school? It was the perfect cover and the perfect place for me to hide. It’s where Brittany became who I am and where Barbara was buried.

“But there must have been drawbacks to med school. I mean, getting through classes where you needed to practice on students must have presented a problem.”

Brittany: Yes, it did. Before I was accepted into the program, I was interviewed intently by the board and I had to divulge my HIV status.

“That must have been hard.”

Brittany: I feel very strongly about full disclosure. I entered into medicine knowing I would have to be open about my diagnosis, but there was a lot I could still control. I did my labs at times that were prearranged with the techs and I had a lot of friends who helped when I needed to use a guinea pig. It wasn’t really the school that gave me issues, but the professors and specialists when I moved up in the program.

“What kinds of issues?”

Brittany: Mainly questioning my choice of specialty. I was told over and over that I would never get a job because the risk to the hospital was simply too great. I was a liability before I even stepped foot in an office and it was a fight I hadn’t really planned on taking on.

“How did you get through it?”

Brittany: When I graduated, I began volunteering at women’s centers and helping women with trauma and sexual abuse, as well as women who were HIV positive and pregnant. I never divulged what happened to me, but I was able to give the women I saw a sense of dignity and hope for the future. When I finally began to make a name for myself, I was asked to assist on a difficult case of a woman who was extremely high risk and in her third trimester. She had been told to end the pregnancy because of the danger to her health and she refused. I was asked to consult to try and convince her to have the abortion, but we ended up meeting and talking and I thought she would be a candidate for an experimental procedure I had been working on. I convinced her to try the meds and it worked. She was able to carry almost to term and she delivered a healthy baby and lived to be a mother.

“And that helped open doors for you?”

Brittany: In a way. It allowed me to finally have the credibility my disease took from me. Before that, people saw my HIV before they saw my capabilities and after, they came to me because of my skills and nothing else. It allowed me a place in the conversation and I got my first job as an obgyn for HIV positive women.

“That was in London?”

Brittany: Yes, I only worked in London until I came to Michigan to help Jack and Stephanie. I hadn’t set foot on American soil since my attack and I don’t think I ever realized just how far I went into hiding. Some of it was conscious and some not so much.

“You had your own practice in London, didn’t you?”

Brittany: Yes. I was lucky because I had enough money to buy office space. I hired my own staff and was very up front with my patients. You would be surprised by how tolerant people can be. There is a ton of prejudice and I had many doors slammed in my face when people learned of my HIV, but there were others who were educated and knew I was the best choice for them. I had many years of great work there.

“But you decided to come back for Stephanie?”

Brittany: Yes and no. I didn’t have to move all the way back here to help them, but I think in some ways I felt like it was time to face my past. I just never realized how much my life would change by coming here.

“Are you happy you came back?”

Brittany smiled: I have Tommy and Naomi in my life and I found a brother I never knew existed. I have nieces and a nephew and more family than I ever dreamed of. How could I not be happy with that?

“You also uncovered some pretty dark secrets.”

Brittany: They needed to be uncovered. I was wrong in how I hid from the truth of what happened to me. I allowed those men to live their lives free of punishment. I gave in to my fear and I was wrong. As painful as it was and still is, the right thing to do was to get justice. I also helped expose Janet and Chris for the monsters they were.

“Is there anything else we should know?”

Brittany: This life is hard. I’ve seen the absolute worst and I’ve lived through it. I think, if you believe in your worth, things will eventually turn around. If you had asked me in 1999 if I would be sitting here today talking to you like this, I would have told you it was the most ridiculous idea ever. I know I will never stop running into people who think I’m crazy for going into this field, or for giving up music, but really, I can only worry about what works for me and my husband and daughter. I owe it to them to be happy. I owe it to me to be happy.

For the first time in a long time, I have everything I could ever want.

 

Who would you like me to ‘talk’ to next?

The Women…

If you were ruler of your own country what would be the first law you would introduce?

Julie: “Jelly donuts would be on every menu.”

Stephanie: “Clothing should be made out of chocolate.”

The other women looked at her funny.

Stephanie: “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”

Brittany: “Men wouldn’t be allowed to shave their chests.”

The woman grimaced.

“Gross.”

Brittany : “If I ruled my own Country, I would want that.”

Elizabeth: “Sprinkles would be mandatory on every scoop of ice cream.”

They all laughed and looked at Jade.

Jade: “All babies would have a loving home.”

They all got misty eyed.

Julie: “Well now I feel selfish.”

Jade blushed.

“Sorry. I’ll be better next time.”

In the evening, would you rather play a game, visit a relative, watch a movie, or read?

Brittany: “Depends on what kind of game.”

Julie looked at her.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Tommy and I have some fun games we play together.”

Julie covered her mouth.

“Gross.”

Stephanie: “Watch a movie.”

Jade: “Read.”

Elizabeth: “We all sound pathetic. Ask us something you asked the men.”

Okay. When you think about all of the men, what’s the first thing that comes to mind.

We’ll start with Jack.

Brittany: “Dimples”

Elizabeth: “Height”

Julie: “Gross. He’s my family.”

Jade: “He’s amazing to watch in surgery.”

Stephanie: “I’m a lucky woman. He has amazing attributes.”

They all laughed and Julie looked horrified.

Okay, Bill:

Stephanie: “His tattoos are sexy.”

Brittany: “That’s my brother. Gross.”

Elizabeth: “He has nerves of steel.”

Jade: “He has beautiful hands.”

Julie: “You should see what he does with those hands.”

They all laughed and Brittany shivered with disgust.

How about Mike?

Brittany: “The way he cares for him mom is sexy.”

Stephanie: “The way he looks at Jade is heartwarming.”

Elizabeth: “He is hot.”

They all chuckled.

Julie: “The way he steps in and helps all of us is beautiful.”

Jade blushed. She was incredibly lucky.

Shall we try Evan?

Elizabeth laughed.

“He will be mortified, but absolutely.”

Brittany: “He is an amazing friend.”

Stephanie: “He is great at delivering babies in malls.”

They all laughed.

Jade: “He is so sweet with his little Guinea Pigs.”

Julie: “He’s sensitive and brooding.”

Okay. How about Tommy?

Julie: “I’m out of this one. Gross.”

Jade: “He treats me like family. It’s amazing.”

Stephanie: “He is incredibly passionate.”

Elizabeth: “He seems like he would be adventurous in bed.”

Brittany smiled at them.

“He is passionate and incredibly adventurous.”

Okay, what would you change about yourself if you could?

Stephanie: My height- or lack thereof.

Brittany: My health.

They all rubbed her back and she shrugged.

Julie: My insecurities when it comes to being a good mother.

Elizabeth: My stubbornness.

Jade: My boobs.

They all stared at her.

“What? You have the best boobs, or chest,” Julie said.

Jade blushed and shrugged.

“Doesn’t Mike like them?” Liz asked her.

“He does, very much.”

They all laughed and Jade hugged her sweater around her.

Stephanie grinned.

“What did the men say about us?”

“Yeah, tell us,” Julie said.

“Nope. You’ll have to ask them.”

They all smiled.

“Oh, we will,” Brittany said.

Okay, final question.

What is your sexual fantasy?

They were all quiet for a minute.

Elizabeth: “I’d love to make a sex tape, just for us, but Evan would never do it.”

Stephanie: “Have you asked him?”

Liz blushed.

“No. Maybe I should?”

They all smiled and nodded.

Julie: “I always wanted Bill to arrest me and I would resist.”

They all giggled and Brittany shook her head.

“I’m going to have nightmares.”

Stephanie: “Well, we kind of had an amazing time with chocolate, but I would love to be blindfolded and let Jack do whatever he wanted.”

Julie wrinkled her nose and sighed.

Brittany: “I have always wanted to have sex on the beach with the water rushing around us. I just can’t get over my issues enough for that to happen, but maybe one day.”

Julie looked at her.

“Like my brother would ever get naked in pubic.”

Brittany grinned.

“Oh, he’s been naked in public; we just haven’t had sex on the beach, yet.”

“Seriously? Gross.”

“Jade? How about you?”

Jade: “I’m sort of inexperienced, but I know I could have more fun in bed if I let myself go. I need to work on that.”

Brittany shook her head.

“No you don’t. You only need to do what you want.”

They all nodded and Jade smiled.

She wanted to do more.

She would get there.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Who else should I interview/ What should I ask?

 

Interviews of the men

Some fun for all of you. Here is an interview with all the men.

1.What song do you listen to that others wouldn’t guess or you’re embarrassed to admit?

Jack: “I’m not embarrassed by anything. I love all music and if it’s good, then I’ll listen to it.”

Tommy: “You’re so full of shit. I used to come home and you would be blasting Barry Manilow in your room. You never admitted to it, but Copacabana was your ‘go-to’ song.

Jack: “The ladies loved it. They said I was ‘sensitive’.

Tommy: “Pretty sure you played it when there was no ‘lady’ in sight.

Jack: Whatever.

Evan: “I love Barry White. I’m not embarrassed, really, but when I listen to it, I am definitely in the mood for Elizabeth.

Bill: “Dj Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince”.

All of the men burst out laughing.

Bill: “What? I can’t help it. I used to play ‘You saw my blinker, bitch’ on repeat during high school. Besides, I always wanted to be sent to an Auntie and Uncle in Bel Air.”

Mike: “Motley Crue. Best band ever.”

2. Give me an example of something you’re afraid of. How did you overcome your fear?

Tommy looked at Jack.

“We know, you’re not afraid of anything.”

Jack (smiling): “Jealous much? I can’t help it if I’m perfect.”

Bill: I almost failed when I took my first physical for the Army.”

Mike: “Seriously?”

Bill: “Yeah. I couldn’t swim. I was terrified of the water.”

Tommy: “But you got over that, didn’t you?”

Bill: “I did. I had no choice.”

Evan: “I’m terrified of flying. I’ve never gotten over it and it bothers Lizzie.”

Tommy: “I’m afraid of driving over tall bridges. I’ll do it, but I hate it.”

Mike: “I’m afraid of snakes.”

3. “What’s the first thing you all noticed about the other’s significant other?”

We’ll start with Stephanie.

Men: “Killer figure.”

Jack: “Back off.”

They all laughed.

“Brittany.”

The men looked at Tommy and smiled.

“Amazing legs and gorgeous hair.”

“That’s my sister. Stop it,” Bill said.

Tommy grinned.

“She does have amazing legs and hair.”

“Okay, how about Julie?”

Tommy and Jack looked at the other men.

“Don’t you dare.”

“Okay, Jade.”

“Her chest,” all of the men said together.

Mike glared at them.

“Seriously?”

“Okay, let’s move on.”

They all laughed.

4. What’s the worst lie you ever told? Did you get caught?

Jack: “I told Tommy he was handsome. He found out the truth when he looked in the mirror.”

Tommy smacked his arm.

Bill: “I told Julie I loved her cooking. I was caught when it made me puke.”

Evan: “I told Elizabeth I never wanted to see her again. I’d say I got caught.”

Tommy: “I told Jack he was smarter than me. Obviously he knows that was a lie.”

Jack smacked Tommy.

Mike: “I lied about my age when I tried to join the Army the first time. I got caught and had to wait a year.”

5. What’s your favorite sex position or most unusual place you’ve had sex?

Jack: “Not with Stephanie, but probably the school gym was the most unusual.”

Bill: “The car was awesome.”

Tommy and Jack glared at him.

Bill: “We have two children. You both need to move on.”

Evan: “An airplane on the tarmac. I knew we weren’t flying, so I was good.”

Tommy: “In the water”

Mike: “Every moment with Jade.”

They all ‘awed’

6. What is the weirdest thing about you to most people?

Jack: “My height.”

Bill: “My blonde hair.”

Evan: “My silence.”

Tommy: “My hairy chest.”

Mike: “There is nothing weird about me.”

The men all looked at him and rolled their eyes while he smiled.

______________________________________________________________________________________

The women are next. Anything you want to know?