Character Introduction #6: Shayla and Jessica

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.

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

Call Me Emily

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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