Character Introduction P.S. : Shayla and Jessica

It occurred to me as I drifted off to sleep that I didn’t leave you with any excerpts to demonstrate the relationship that Emily has with Shayla and Jessica. I was so caught up in what those characters mean to me I forgot. So, to pull you back from reality and into the story again, here are a couple of dialog exchanges that will give you an idea about the dynamic between Emily, Shayla and Jessica.

First, to set the scene, this exchange is in the beginning of Call Me Emily. Emily is preparing for her first day at University as well as settling into her new apartment. It’s late afternoon, and following a long day of orientation, Emily slips into the bath.

Chapter 2

Putting the Past Behind Me

I heard the phone ring.

I grabbed the edge of my bath towel to dry my hands and reached for the phone.

“Hello,” I said groggily.

“Don’t you call back your best friend?”

“Jess, hey!  I’m sorry I was just about to.”

“Yeah, likely story. Were you already sleeping you lazy lump? It’s like five o’clock,” she said.

“No, taking a bath. I was just thinking of all the things I want to do to this apartment.”

“Why, what’s wrong with it? I’m sure it’s a lovely shade of white,” Jessica joked.

“Exactly. You know I can’t stand boring for a second. This place won’t feel like home until I add some of my own touches.”

“And for you that means more than the average college student.”

“Jess, you do know me.” I said.

“Of course I do silly,” she said.

“So tell me, how are things? How’s the weather up there?” I asked.

“Oh it’s fine, cold though. But since classes started, I’m getting used to it.”  She said.

“So you met him, huh?” I asked knowing exactly what she would say. I had known Jessica since grammar school. She was settling in fast which meant only one thing.

“What are you talking about Emily?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about. You met someone. So spill it. I’ll need all the details, thank you.”

“Ok, so there is this one guy,” she said.

“Go on,” I made a circular gesture with my hand even though I knew she couldn’t see me.

“I met him in my sociology class. He’s a veterinarian medicine major.”

“And what about the rest of him?” I asked. I know it was shallow, but come on, everyone wants to know.

“Oh, well, not like that’s the most important thing. But, he’s tall, with kind of sandy blond hair and yes…a cute butt.”

I smiled to myself thinking about Jessica flirting with a guy. She was kind of shy but she never had trouble finding the nice ones. Apparently the shy thing worked for her.

“I’m so glad you met someone. That’s great,” I said.

“So, what about you?” I knew she was asking if I’d met any guys. But, she asked with a slight hesitation.

“Yeah, she’s kind of short with blond curly hair and she’s from Michigan.”

“Cute Em, that’s not what I meant.”

“I know. No, I haven’t met any guys,” I said, exasperated.

“You’re still coming home for Thanksgiving aren’t you?” she asked changing the subject from guys. Thank you Jess.

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In this scene, Emily goes back to the Valley for Thanksgiving break. She’s home only minutes when Jessica and Shayla arrive.

Chapter 9

Home for Thanksgiving

“So, I’m sure you kids want to catch up to your friends, but be sure to be home for dinner.”

“Sure Mom.” I knew she missed us and I wouldn’t miss dinner with her for anything. At the same time, I knew Jessica would be in town and probably Shayla too. I couldn’t wait to see them. I looked around and ran my tongue across my teeth. I needed to clean up before I saw anyone. “You know what Mom? I feel scummy from such a long drive. I think I’ll take a bath. Do you mind?”

“Go ahead honey,” she hugged me and added a little kiss on my cheek. “It’s good to have you home,” she smiled, holding my shoulders. She switched gears quickly yelling for my brothers. I took that as a good indicator that I could slip into a hot tub without being bothered. I grabbed some jeans and a tee-shirt and retreated to the bathroom. Passing the linen closet, I grabbed a washcloth and towel and locked the bathroom door behind me. As I inched my way into the piping hot tub, I thought about my week ahead. I was looking forward to seeing my friends and family. It was good to be home. I yawned and closed my eyes letting the hot water seep in and surround me. Just as I thought I could easily drift off to sleep, I was startled with a knock at the door.

“Guys, I’m in the tub,” I shouted without opening my eyes.

“It’s not your brothers!” a voice shouted back at me.

“So let us in,” said a second voice.

“Jess? Shayla? Grab the key above the door.” We kept the key there in case my little brother locked himself in; as he used to do. I quickly got out of the tub and wrapped myself in a towel.

“Hey Em! You didn’t have to get out,” Shayla said with a smirk. Jessica just smiled at me.

“No big deal. I just needed a quick soak.” We gave them each a quick hug. “How did you know I was here?” I asked perplexed by their quick arrival.

“Please, Brad saw you guys drive by and called me.” Shayla’s cousin could always be counted on to keep the town up on its gossip.

“So what are your plans while you’re home?” Jessica asked putting one of her fingers to her chin.

“No real plans. My mom wants me home for dinner tonight. But other than that, I’m free. What’s up?”

“So, she won’t mind if we steal you?” Shayla asked.

“No, we don’t have anything going. What do you want to do?” I couldn’t wait to fall back into hanging with Jessica and Shayla. I really missed them. I wanted to find out how they were doing in school, how it was going with Jessica’s new guy, and how all the gang was.

The three of us took off shortly after that. A bunch of people we knew were getting together in town at the coffee shop. There were a few people I would love to see and a few I wouldn’t mind avoiding, but that was another story.

As we drove out of the valley I watched the blur of the pasture fences, the occasional farmhouse and the mountains in the distance. Everything passed my vision like a slideshow. It was fall now, and the valley looked different than when I left it, but still every bump and turn mixed with the scent of fresh, damp hay smelled like home. I felt myself sigh and my chest tighten. I don’t think I bargained for how much I would think of Christian.

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Character Introduction #6 Jessica and Shayla

This character introduction might be the most fun I’ve had telling all of you about my characters.  Shayla and Jessica are ever present in the whole Emily series as it spans the four books.

Jessica is Emily’s best friend from way back. They’ve known each other since grammar school, so to them it feels like sisterhood. Jessica is a soft and sweet soul. She’s the friend that is always there even when she’s not. Much time can pass and Emily and Jessica hardly skip a beat; jumping right back into conversation as if the phone was never hung up. Jessica goes to college in Washington State, miles away from Emily, but during the summer break they meet back in their home town and mischievous events occur.

Speaking of mischievous. Shayla fits into that word like a hand does to a glove. For as far back as anyone can remember, Emily, Jessica and Shayla were inseparable. Jessica the calm and Shayla the instigator. If you ever need a laugh, a lift or a smile, Shayla is your girl. She’s fun to the core, and you can’t help but unconditionally love her – although you wish for conditions every moment you are around her. Emily considers herself the buffer between Jessica and Shayla, but no buffer is every really needed. The dynamic between the three of them is priceless and beautiful.

And now comes the part of the post when I tell you what these characters mean to me.  As I have mentioned in past character introductions, many of my characters have no basis in my reality. They are fiction through and through. I’d be lying if I told you Jessica and Shayla fell into that category.

Jessica is based upon my friend Larise. A truly wonderful person who spends her days enlightening the minds of second graders and her nights tending to her beautiful family. She lives far away and we rarely are able to talk, but when I hear her voice or see her handwriting I can’t help but be pulled from whatever I’m doing and placed smack back into the last time we communicated; as if no time had passed at all.

Shayla is based upon my friend Shannon. Shannon is another truly amazing person who has the power and energy of a small child yet she’s perfectly evolved.  She’s funny. – I mean really funny, but soulful at the same time. She’s almost hard to describe, but to really nail it I’d have to quote the reaction everyone has to her. It goes something like this: “I just love that girl.” and “You can’t help but love Shannon.”

What’s been amazing about the writing process is that even though I have been apart from these two amazing women for far too long, I felt like I saw them every day while I brought my stories to life. We recently reunited, and when I finally pulled them into my arms and gave them a well deserved hug, I felt like I missed them less than I would have had they not lived in the pages I spent the last few years writing.

So, thank you Larise and Shannon for being at my side while I rounded out this story of love and friendship. Because you both are truly my love and my friendship.

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Character Introduction #5: Trish

Trish moves into the story just as Emily is starting to really get into her design classes. She is introduced in Call Me Emily but her character really evolves in Emily Calls It. Trish is one of those deeply evolved friends you meet when you yourself have far to go. She’s cool, calm and collected and always seems to make good decisions. (Something Emily longs to do.) Trish is older than Emily, but only by about four years. She’s from the East Coast and is attending California West University to get her second Bachelors degree. Trish is quite beautiful; model-like in fact.  But it’s not her beauty that invites you in, it’s something else. She’s warm and caring, but sarcastic and funny at the same time. Trish is supportive of Emily and wants her to date and have fun. But she also has a little bit of big sister in her, and keeps a close eye on Emily and her relationship with Graham.

When I created Trish I didn’t base her on any one particular girl, but instead I thought back to several of my college friends that helped guide me during those fairly tumultuous years.

Below is an excerpt Call Me Emily. This is one of the first exchanges that Emily and Trish have that lends itself to a deeper friendship than the kind that simply passes once a shared class has ended. Their friendship takes off after this.

Chapter 12

The Balancing Act

Back in the classroom that Thursday it was a busy day in Design 101.  Midterms meant projects for design students, so although it was a relief to not have to study in the traditional sense for this class, the project was intense. Trish and I were partners on a model of an office building. Everyone was paired up that day painting and gluing. My fingertips were covered and I wondered if the white paint would ever come out from under my nails.

“So this Graham, he’s good to you?” she asked in a way only a person who had a few years on me would.

“Yeah, of course.” I shrugged and a coy little smile snuck out of one of the corners of my mouth.

“You’ve never felt like this before?” she asked as she held one of the balsa wood columns in place.

“I don’t know, it’s early.” But the truth was I hadn’t felt this way. The intensity was unparalleled. Trish smiled a smile that I’m sure came from experience and moved our conversation back to our project.

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Charater Introduction #4: Joel

Character introduction #4 is dedicated to Joel. Fourth to appear in the story,  Joel could be mistaken for Emily’s love interest. And to speak to that, I’d have to say, you’ll see. Joel is a character that appears throughout the first three books. He’s Ethan, Emily’s brother’s best friend. He and Emily cross paths regularly in Call Me Emily and even more frequently in Emily Calls It. And don’t forget his regular appearances in Emily’s Calling. Joel is the quintessential nice guy from the south. He’s tall and muscular but also smart as a whip, and he passed on an athletic scholarship to accept an academic one. While Ethan is fully submerged in Southern California life, Joel still maintains his southern character and charm.

As the story progresses and Emily gets involved with Graham, you wonder if she’ll ever see the potential relationship that lurks in Joel. And if and when she does, was she right to make that leap? The presence of Joel and the introduction of new male characters makes you question who will be the guy for her, and if she will make the right choice.  Here’s an excerpt from Joel and Emily’s first meeting. After the first day of school, Emily starts decorating her apartment to make it hers. She begins by painting the kitchen. Just when she’s finishing up there’s a knock at the door.

Chapter 4

Joel

Cleaning up, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the microwave. What was that on my forehead? I leaned in closer to see a big streak of green paint. And the spatters across my shirt and down my right arm. How did I do that? As I pulled down the last of the tape, there was a knock at the door. Great! Who could that be? And furthermore, I was not dressed for visitors. I set down the big mess of tape and went to the door. Through the peephole I saw a couple of guys faced away from the door. Oh, no, neighbors. I opened the door and decided to get it over with.

“Hey Em. What’s up? You renovating or something?” My brother moved past me, not waiting for a response.

“No, just painting the kitchen,” I said looking up at the second guy.

“Hey. I’m Joel,” he said with a slow, deep drawl. I immediately paid attention.

“Oh, this is my sister Emily,” said Ethan, turning back to us.

“Come in. Oh, and forgive the mess.”

“We were just heading out for a run and decided to stop by. Want to come?” Ethan asked.

“I need to finish cleaning up,” I said, looking down as I tried to smooth out my shirt. It was a hopeless attempt.

“Wow, Em, this looks great,” Ethan said.

“Thanks.” He walked toward the wall. “Oh, be careful, it’s still wet.” I warned him.

“Yeah, you’ve got yur-self a nice place. My apartment’s plain,” Joel added. With every word I wondered about his possible hometown. It definitely wasn’t Texas, but where? I didn’t ask.

“You’d have to know my sister. In no time she’ll completely change this place.”

“I could use some tips,” Joel said.

I smiled not really knowing if he was posing a question or stating a fact.

“Well,” Ethan said looking from me to Joel then back to me, “we better go.”

“It was a pleasure Em’ly,” Joel said leaning up against the front door.

“Nice to meet you too,” I translated to California style.  Then I glanced at my brother, whose sober frown indicated he didn’t approve of our little flirtation.

“Bye Ethan. Maybe I’ll see you on campus tomorrow.”

“Actually, did you want to see that new Tom Cruise movie Saturday night?” he asked. I wanted to reply with something smart like, Saturday night? With your little sister? But I figured he was going for nice, and so far this alone thing wasn’t that great.

“Yeah, sure.”

“Cool, I’ll call you with the times.”

“OK, I’ll see ya,” I smiled a smile only he would understand and shut the door. OK, I knew three things for sure:

First, my brother didn’t like it when his friends flirted with me – despite the fact he’d been doing it for years with my friends. And, I liked it a little that he was so annoyed with me. Second, it was nice to have someone flirt with me when I was covered in paint splatters. And third, I knew Mom must be on his case to not leave me alone too much. But alone I was and I had plenty to do. Back to my reading assignments I went.

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