I have two main characters that we spend the bulk of Unfaithful with -- Buffy and Aki -- in additon to meeting our bad guy. Both main characters are completely different, and were thrust together by circumstance.
Akihisa Jiro is the typical bravado-filled alpha-male... or at least he tries to be. He just graduated somewhere in the middle of his class from the FBI Academy in Quanitco and was assigned as the on-site agent for an Indian reservation somewhere in Backwoods Podunk, Oregon. The very idea of reservations and herding people of a different race into one area and forcing them to live in squalid conditions makes his skin crawl. He still remembers his grandparents' stories about their time in the internment camps in California during World War II. When a body is found on the Res, dead under very mysterious circumstances, he sees it as his ticket out as long as the case is juicy enough.
Oregon State Police trooper Buffy Peckington has lived in the area all her life -- born in the hospital just a few miles from where she lives now -- and married a local from the Confederation. Two days before the book begins, she was dealt a blow that rocked her world. Her husband is gone with no explanation and no cause of death. Nothing from the Army but an apology and an urn. She is forced, by Aki's actions, to return to work sooner than she would have liked. But when it looks like her husband's death and the death of this John Doe may be linked, she can't just crawl back into bed, her face burried in his pillow, and never leave like she wants to.
Both characters present their own unique challenges, but I think the absolute hardest is the villain. I need to write him somewhere between functioning sociopath and determined jingoist willing to break a few eggs for the greater good. He's proving to be harder than I had expected. (Yes, I know, cryptic and unhelpful, but... spoilers.)
But, maybe I just need to get this first draft done so I can focus less on the events and more on character development and motivations.
A week after the flood crested, the river had receded enough to begin cleaning up. All of the men of the village and quite a few of the women collected the fallen trees and branches—most of which would be put to use in fires and repairing buildings damaged in the rain. Stones were collected to begin rebuilding the mill and bridge across the small river. The now-slow-moving current allowed anyone to swim across, and in places even wade through, helping the villagers reconnect with their friends and family on the other side of the river.
For Isabel, though, life was the same as ever. She and 3-year-old Sophia were busy every day in the neighboring forest collecting food to supplement Edmund’s income. Everything their father made went to the local alehouse keeper, so Isabel did what she could to supplement the family’s income, selling the eggs and fish she and Sophia collected that they didn’t need to feed the family of five. If she had wanted to, Isabel could have called all of the fish in the river and driven them into town to sell, and was tempted to do just every once in a while. She knew, however, that would not help her convince her uncle she was not a witch.
That week after the flood, Isabel and Sophia spent more time in the forest than usual, trying to stay away from the public eye. One of these days, she knew, Peter would begin telling everyone what he had seen her do, and then her life would be forfeit. She only prayed that she would have enough foreknowledge to be able to flee the village before her uncle came to collect her.
Isabel and Sophia were returning to the village one late afternoon with a collection of fish, eggs, herbs, and other assorted foodstuffs when a stranger stepped out of the underbrush onto the path in front of them.
Isabel pushed her little sister behind her and stood ready to defend her little sister if necessary.
“What do you want?” she asked, perhaps a little more harshly than she had intended.
“To thank you for saving my sister,” Peter said, his brown eyes locked on hers. There was an emotion there that Isabel could not read.
“I… I do not know what you are talking about,” Isabel stammered.
“Do not worry,” he said, holding up his hand. “I simply wanted to assure you that I will not tell anyone about what you did and Mary is still too emotional to remember much. Your secret is safe.”
Isabel had no idea how to take this new information. Why would the badger’s boy, who did the odd jobs around the village his father refused to, help her in any way? Especially after what happened between their families.
Peter and Mary’s father had once sold her father a few rare supplies he needed to finish a dress for a noblewoman, but then claimed to the magisters that the tailor shortchanged him. The local solicitor and mayor heard the case and ruled in the favor of Isabel’s father, and the badger had never let anyone forget it. After a time, the badger was told to stay only on his side of the river, and was never to return to Isabel’s side.
“Why?” was the only thing she could think to ask. “Why are you doing this?”
“Why are you even asking? You saved my sister’s life,” Peter said, taking a hesitant step toward her. “You are amazing.”
Isabel looked over her shoulder at Sophia, who was looking up at her with wide, fear-filled eyes the same color as their mother’s had been.
“We should get back home. Edmund will be worried if we tarry too long.”
Peter smiled widely and for some reason Isabel felt her heart leap at the sight. “That is why I am here. Your brother has hired me to be his caddie. He told me to come find you and bring you home.”
“You?” Isabel asked. The thought of being reminded day in and day out that her life was forfeit if she, or now Edmund, did anything against this boy filled her with dread. However, she had learned to trust Edmund’s decisions in the past three years, and if this was his decision, she would have to live with it.
“We will be able to see a lot more of each other,” Peter said. “I do hope we can become good friends.”
Isabel looked at him strangely. Why would this boy—knowing what she was—want to have anything to do with her? While they rarely saw the badger himself in Mass, Peter always made sure that his younger siblings were in every Mass unless they were practically dying of the plague. Why would such a righteous person want anything to do with someone as “touched by Satan,” as her uncle always put it, as her?
Shaking her head, she allowed Peter to lead the way home. Whatever the reason, they were not able to discuss it with Sophia around. Maybe one day, they would find themselves alone somewhere where they could speak freely.
Photo credit: James Allan
Isabel laid awake on the musty straw-filled pallet between her baby sister and 10-year-old brother long into the night. Her older brother, apprenticing with their father in his tailor’s shop, worked diligently on a suit for the mayor by the light of a single candle while their father slept off his nightly overindulgence.
Mama had been gone for three years now, dying in the process of giving little Sophia life. The midwife, the accoucheur of the neighboring town, Father Gerard, and, ultimately, the Lord were not able to save Mama. At 14, Isabel had suddenly found herself the lady of the house. Before her mother’s death, Isabel’s father had been trying to encourage her to marry the local lord’s son, Arthur, who everyone knew fancied her greatly. While the feeling was not completely mutual, she did have some feelings for Arthur. However, after the birth of little Sophia, the local lord terminated their courtship and Isabel was left to care for the home. Their father turned to drink out of grief, and had spent the better part of the last three years allowing his once-profitable business to decline. Isabel's older brother, Edmund, had stepped in and was becoming a well-respected tailor in his own right.
If what happened earlier that day, though, reached their uncle, the town’s Protestant priest, Isabel knew bad things would happen to her. Father Gerard, her mother’s brother, was always searching, always looking out for the evil influences of witches. Witches were trying to turn the innocent and unwary hearts of the village away from God and toward the Devil. They were infiltrating every aspect of life. They were turning men’s hearts away from their wives and children with their wonton behavior. They had superhuman powers given not by God, but by the Devil himself. Yes, if Father Gerard knew that she had a special way with animals and could hold her breath for what seemed like forever without her lungs even beginning to burn, he would light the bonfire to roast her himself, with no sympathy for her age, sex, or even who her mother had been.
Isabel sighed and got up from the pallet, doing her best to leave Sophia and Jacob undisturbed. She walked over to Edmund and offered her help. Edmund, who had just turned 19 that week, had been forced to take over the family business when Mama died, and was currently scrimping and saving every half-penny he could spare after taking care of the family in order to have enough to provide a home for his love, even taking on mending and other “women’s work” in order to make a few extra coins to hasten the day he would be able to provide a home for himself and his beloved and finally marry her.
“Go to bed, Issie,” Edmund said. “It is too late. Sophie will be hungry in a few hours, and you will need all your strength to get Papa cleaned up and presentable in the morning.”
“Ed, I may have to leave soon,” Isabel said quietly. “There was a girl in trouble at the river today. I... I couldn’t let her drown.”
“Again?” he asked with a sigh, putting down his needle and thread to give her his full attention. “Did anyone see you?”
Isabel nodded. “The girl’s brother, Peter. The badger’s children? It was Mary who fell in.”
Edmund sighed again. “Father Gerard does not care for their father, and the animosity between Papa and the badger is well known. Perhaps he will not listen to the rumors. But, Issie, you must control these urges. I know you are special, and I have been able to protect you as Mama asked, but it is getting harder and harder to do so. You need to stop this. Sophia and Jacob need you. I need you.”
“But she would have died, Ed,” Isabel said, finally allowing the fear and stress of the day show. “I don’t care who her father is, or what their family has done to ours. How could I let a little girl drown? What would the Lord say if I simply refused to help when I know that I can?”
Edmund sighed and looked at his younger sister.
“With all this charity in your heart, you should have joined a convent, but I don’t think they would accept a witch,” he said with a hint of a smile. “I will do what I can to keep Father Gerard off of your trial, and it will be a few days at least before the river is able to be crossed again. I will see about speaking to Peter when we can cross the river.”
“You know I’m not a witch, don’t you?” Isabel said, her bright aqua eyes brimming with tears. If her own brother believed she had evil in her heart, how would she ever convince a tribunal if her secret came out?
“You know I don’t,” Edmund said, putting an arm around her shoulder. “I’m sorry. It was just a bad joke. I will protect you always, just as Mama wanted.”
“Thank you, Ed.”
“Don’t think anything of it,” Edmund said. “Now, go back to sleep. I will speak with Peter as soon as it is possible to do so.”
So, I'm supposed to write something about myself. Well, I am a Christ-follower, first and foremost; then a wife, now of 14 years; then a mom to a very busy almost-10-year-old; and then a writer. All of that, unfortunately, means my writing sometimes gets pushed to the back burner.
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