Welcome to Day 10 of the A to Z Blog Challenge. Today’s task is to write something dealing with the letter “J”. I’ve decided to write about my two Jakes–the one I married and the hero in my novel, Fire Angel. Let’s start with the man I married. That gorgeous creature in the picture with him is our beautiful, talented daughter, Angela. She’s had Daddy wrapped around her finger from the minute she was born. If you look closely, you might notice a family resemblance. Not only does Angie look like her dad, she has his personality too. She’s a loving mother, a caring individual, and a dedicated employee–all qualities she inherited from her dad. She can also be stubborn, cranky, have a little too much liquid fun on occasion, but she’d do anything for you if she could–just like her father.
Jake is a nickname given to him in his preteens by his older brother, Ron. To this day, few people have earned the right to use his nickname–his best friend, Fred, is one of the few who do. John, his real name, and I met at university, and it’s unlikely you’d find two people, based on first impressions, who’d seem least likely to form a lasting relationship. Unlike my husband, I’m not necessarily the party type. I’m an introvert who prefers to stay out of the limelight, not really a people person, but opposites attract. I learned to enjoy the things he did,met wonderful people who will always hold a special place in my heart, and he learned to appreciate some of the things I enjoyed. Coming from a small city in the late sixties, fancy restaurants–meals out for that matter–were rare. He took me out to dinner, to a fancy restaurant. It was my first real grown-up date that didn’t involve a movie and a box of popcorn or a high school dance. He treated me like a lady, something he still does today.
What drew me to John is hard to put into words. He was different from anyone I’d ever met. He seemed larger the life. He was fun, exciting, and a great kisser–not all men are. Over the weeks and months, our relationship grew stronger, and there was no question we’d fallen in love. We were married two years later, at the start of my final year, just after he graduated and started working full-time. That was over 42 years ago. We have three wonderful children and five incredible grandchildren. What I admire most about my husband, my Jake, is that he lets me be me. Is he perfect? Far from it, but who is these days? The only perfect man who ever walked the Earth did so over 2,000 years ago, and we crucified him!
With John’s support, I was a stay-at-home-mom for ten years. When the children were all in school full-time, I chose to become a teacher. For a year, he was chief cook and bottle washer to three kids aged 5,6,and 7, working full time with long hours as an accountant, while I lived in Kingston with my wonderful sister-in-law and her family to attend Teacher’s College. How many men would do that–let their wife go back to university for a year and look after everything alone?
When I retired from teaching in 2010, he supported my decision to supply teach, and then, when I chose to stop and take up writing full-time, he was my staunchest ally. Few women are lucky enough to have a soul mate, a man who will allow her to be and do whatever she wants to do. He is a great father, supportive and caring, and his daddy-qualities have become Grandpa qualities. He works hard and plays hard, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jake, the hero in Fire Angel, was modeled after my Jake. The plaid shirts he wears, his stubborn determination to prove himself are all things I see on a day to day basis. I see many of Jake’s traits not only in John but in my three children. He can be stubborn and unreasonable in his zeal to protect, but when push comes to shove, he gives Alexis her space–he may not like it, but he won’t stop her from being who and what she is. In the end, that’s what we all want–someone to love who loves us for who and what we are, not for what they wished we would be.
Excerpt From Fire Angel:
“So, you believe this guy is a pyromaniac, a victim of bullying of some kind who has decided to fight back? You say he’s putting a lot into getting the scenes ready, but so far, you have no proof that he’s getting any pleasure out of setting these fires. That aspect is critical in pyromania. The sociopath part I can buy; I’d pretty much come to the same conclusion, but the other? Give me time to look at the scenes and feel them out; once I do, I’ll let you know if your theory is valid.”
Jake looked at her quizzically and frowned.
“You’ll be able to tell from looking at the fire scene whether or not he enjoyed himself? I’ve never heard another fire investigator make that claim.”
Somewhat stung by his disbelieving tone, Alexis pushed away from him and stood.
“That’s the reason I’m here, isn’t it? Because I can do what no one else can?”
The pleasant feeling that had existed between them vanished. He wasn’t the first to be doubtful of her abilities. Why was it that people always mistrusted what they didn’t understand?
Jake stood and called Maya to follow him.
“You’re right; I don’t know enough about what you do to be skeptical. It’s late and it’s been a long day for both of us. Since you’re hell-bent on being independent, I’ll meet you at the station in the morning. You have GPS in your car; set the address; it’s not hard to find. We can show your note to the chief and have it tested while you look at the evidence.”
She stood to walk him to the door. Before she could hand him his jacket, he put out his hand to stop her.
“Alexis, don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad we have this opportunity to reconnect, but I have to ask—why are you here? Why did you take this case? The more I think about this maniac, the more I realize what danger you were in on the highway with that monster out there with you, and I don’t mean the moose. Even this cabin might have been a bad choice.”
He reached for her and held her shoulders, forcing her to look up at him. “When you left, I was angry at your uncle because he wouldn’t look for you. I’ve searched on and off for years. I’m good at my job, but Alexis Pruett had vanished. You obliterated all traces of yourself. Some of us cared about you, and you hung us all out to dry.” He let go of her and ran his hands through his hair, something he seemed to do when he was frustrated or confused.
“I need to know; why now? Until today, I didn’t even know that you were still alive! It was my idea to send for you, based on the article in the paper about the way you brought the mob to its knees, but if I’d known it was you, I’m not sure what I would have done. I know that you’re good at your job, but surely there are others who are equally skilled. You do realize that he still lives in town?”
Alexis stood away from him and raised her chin defiantly. This was why she chose to stay alone. Men! Why did they assume they knew everything? That they could fix everything? He had no right to question her. She’d done what she’d done to survive!
As far as the job went, he’d asked for the best and that’s what he’d gotten. That hair-trigger anger of hers, the one she tried so hard to keep under control, flared. She glared at him, her hands on her hips, so incensed that she trembled in her fury.
“You don’t really know me, you just assume you do. For all intents and purposes, Alexis Pruett is dead; I’m not her! I’m not that scared little girl anymore. I’m here to do this job, and once it’s done, I’ll go back to Frisco where I belong. You sent for me because of what I do; let me do it.”
She began to pace, unable to stand still.
“It’s true that I’ve done my best to bury Alexis Pruett, and I really thought I wouldn’t be recognized, and do you know why I was? Because I apparently look like my mother, a woman I barely remember; I don’t even have a picture of my parents to remind me. While I didn’t expect to be recognized, it’s happened and I’ll deal with it. So what if the arsonist is someone I knew sixteen years ago? Knew is the operative word. I’ve investigated fires in San Francisco; there is always a possibility that a perp is someone I or one of the other investigators knows; it goes with the territory. We don’t live in a bubble, a ‘fire or arson investigators only’ community. Some of us have families; we’re neighbors, citizens, volunteers. We shop, we go to the movies—we’re just as likely to rub elbows with criminals as anyone else.”
She picked up her bottle of beer and took a mouthful, her fingers nervously picking at the label as they always did when she was upset. Slowly, her breathing returned to normal.
“I could apologize from now until Doomsday for hurting you and anyone else you think might have been concerned about me, but it wouldn’t change anything. I left, and I’m glad I did.”
Interested in reading more? Fire Angel is available wherever e-books are sold. Fire Angel
Don’t forget to check out the other “J” entries on today’s A to Z Blog Challenge