Just like people, when characters are quiet for too long, I worry.
After writing this series for so long, the characters have a way of making their voices heard when I am simply living my life. Sometimes they start talking while I’m teaching a lesson and I make a mental note to write down what I’m hearing. Sometimes they yell when I’m trying to sleep. Mostly, they come to life when I’m driving.
Don’t worry, not literally. I’m always a safe driver. 🙂
There are times where one character is particularly loud, and I know they need me to focus on something.
Other times, a character stops talking to me.
That’s kind of what happened in book 22.
The focus of the story went from Desi and David to Evan and Elizabeth.
Then to Jimmy.
And finally, to Tommy and Naomi.
What happened to the happy young man who we all adored?
Having Jimmy turn into such a jerk was a calculated risk. I have always had a soft spot for Jimmy. I saw him and Naomi together from long before I actually had them go out. I knew that if I had him hurt her, in any way, I would be risking his place in the series.
But he had been quiet, and when I listened to him, I heard his anger and his frustration.
Now, I had to figure out what Jimmy had been doing with this anger for so many months. He put on a good front for his family and Mike and I know he figured Naomi would stand by him.
But when he began to spend time with Rebecca, he was taken in with her lies.
He just needed a reason why his life was so out of control. He needed to understand things. He took what she said as truth because it was different and it gave him an outlook that wasn’t so dreary.
He didn’t realize it was all lies.
An innocent boy looking for a way out of his anger caused irreparable damage to so many people.
I’m not really sure that he will be able to come back from that.
Rebecca had power because she had knowledge. By telling Jimmy about Megan, she gave him leverage he didn’t know he had and what it did to Tommy was break open a wound that never healed.
He hurt Naomi in ways she never saw coming.
He hurt Mike and Jade by bringing up the worst time in their lives and by sending the twins the rice, he destroyed any confidence they had in him.
But what couldn’t be taken back was what happened to Rachel and Brian.
Jimmy’s life is forever changed.
I hear him now, but his words are full of confusion and sadness and remorse.
I’m not sure where he goes from here.
The damage this did to Tommy is something I don’t think I even saw coming.
Megan has always been the one thing he hasn’t been able to reconcile. I’m not sure why.
Maybe it’s because she was a woman.
Maybe it was because she hurt Brittany so deeply.
Maybe it was because she was able to get to him.
Tommy has been nothing if not protective of his family. I think a lot of it comes from his parents being taken from him at such a young age. He likes to have control over things.
Most of us do.
But Megan hit at a part of Tommy he didn’t know how to protect.
And it left him incredibly vulnerable.
I wanted Naomi to learn about what happened, but I wasn’t sure how.
One of my favorite scenes from “Defining Moments’ is after Jimmy confronts Tommy. Naomi sees just how broken her father is and she does what she can to help him.
“We are in a conference room by Jimmy’s parents. Um, room 4352e. He said he needed a minute, but I think he needs you.”
“I’m on my way,” she said. “Don’t move.”
“Okay,” she said and hung up. She went to the water fountain and got him some water. She went back to him and put the water next to him before she sat down and wrapped her arms around his upper arm, leaning her cheek against his shoulder.
“I’m here daddy,” she said. “It’s going to be okay.”
I couldn’t leave it there. I knew the Megan story needed to be resolved, but I wasn’t sure where it would go.
Tommy was still quiet. I was trying to hear him, but it was hard.
Of all the characters, I have always been closest to Tommy.
I hope that doesn’t sound weird. 🙂
I heard Naomi and I heard Mike and I listened to the silence and it finally came to me.
We both needed to figure out how this story ends.
Tommy needed my help on this one and I guess I needed his, too.
So I began to write. I had to find a way to make him fight, in the midst of the worst moments possible.
He tends to shut down when talk of Megan comes up. His legs hurt. He has flashbacks.
He just stops dealing.
I was afraid he would give up. I was afraid he would just say that it was too much.
I mean, really, just how much can a person endure?
I needed him to fight.
So I gave him a reason.
Having Naomi brought into the torture gave me a whole new way to look at both characters.
Tommy would never give in if his daughter was in danger.
Naomi could also show how she has grown and her strength was just itching to come out.
But this fight wasn’t going to be fair and the two of them were no match for a crazed individual with nothing to lose.
He wanted nothing but to have Tommy suffer.
That’s a dangerous scenario.
Book 23 will go places I have never taken this series and that says something.
Here is a sneak preview of chapter 1:
“Let her go,” he said. “I’ll do whatever you want.”
The man laughed at him.
“I told you what I wanted. You need to die. But first, you can suffer a little,” he grinned and pushed the stun gun into Naomi’s side.
“Stop it you sick son of a bitch!” Tommy yelled. “I’ll give you whatever you want. Please!”
The man looked at Naomi and smiled.
“Your daddy loves you, doesn’t he? He knows if I do this, with all of your problems, your body won’t be able to handle it. Do you know what will happen? Your body will melt from the inside. It will hurt like the worst pain you’ve ever felt.”
Naomi stood there, crying.
“Naomi? Listen to me,” Tommy said. “Just breathe and listen to my voice. You’re going to be fine, okay? I love you and you’re going to be fine.”
The man let her go and walked over to punch Tommy in the face.
“No!” Naomi cried and ran to him when the man grabbed her arm again.
“Oh, how rude of me. Let me introduce myself. My name is Paul James, or P.J. I used to have a sister, but your dad destroyed her. Now I need to destroy him, so the best way I can do that is to mess with his mind. I am not going to hurt you any more than I have to.”
“If there is any decency in you, please let her go,” Tommy said as he felt the blood fall down his face. “Your issues are with me, not her. Do what you need to do to me, but leave her alone.”
The man looked at Naomi.
“Your daddy wants to be brave, doesn’t he? He knows what this would do to you if I used it. He knows I’m right because he’s a doctor and he saves children, right?”
Naomi tried to move and he held her arm
“Ow, stop,” she cried.
Tommy tried to get up, but he couldn’t move from the ties around his legs.
“Get your hands off her,” he said.
Paul ignored him.
“You see, that’s why my sister fell for him. She always loved helping kids, too, and she was the best. She had everything going for her, until your mom ruined everything.” Paul laughed and looked at them.
“She must be going crazy right about now. Both of you missing and no sign of what happened. That’s what goes on when there is good planning involved. You can do things for days before anyone can find you.”
Tommy pulled on the ties and one of them loosened. Paul turned around and smiled at him.
“Hey Naomi, how long ago was it that your dad almost died? When his heart exploded?”
She didn’t say anything and he turned to her, grabbing her face in his hand.
“I asked you a fucking question.”
“Get your hands off of her! I am going to rip you to pieces!” Tommy screamed.
“Si, six months,” she said through her tears.
“Right, so I bet a huge zap of electricity will probably do a lot of damage, huh?”
Paul moved away from her and faced Tommy.
“What do you think that will do to her? To watch you fry from the inside out? Do you think she’ll ever get over that?”
He walked closer to Tommy and tightened the ropes before he looked at the stun gun.
“Try not to wet yourself,” he said. Tommy saw Naomi looking at him.
“Mini Red? I need for you to listen to me for a minute, okay? I need for you to close your eyes. Please. Close your eyes.”
She shook her head and he saw the stun gun as the man put it against his side.
“I love you, baby. Close your eyes, okay? Do that for me, please.”
She cried as Paul shot the voltage into Tommy and his body went into shock.
“I’ll be back,” he said as he turned to her. “Better say your goodbyes, although I doubt he can hear you.”
He left and Naomi ran to her father.
“Daddy? Daddy can you look at me? Oh please, daddy look at me!” she cried and held his face as his eyes were open, but he saw nothing.