Yesterday Hallie talked about her sisters--and all the writing prompts that come from them.
I have three sisters,Nina, Nancy and Liz. (Less famous, but none the less just as fascinating.) But I don't so much write about them as about sister relationships.
Which (because this is What We're Writing Week and I get Tuesdays!) brings us to WHAT YOU SEE--my new Jane Ryland book about surveillance, hidden cameras, and clandestine video. (It comes out October 20. But you can order it right now, just saying.)
WHAT YOU SEE--which illustrates, of course, that What You See is not always the truth---is the first real up close introduction to Jane's younger sister Melissa, who, because she's like that, insisted on being called Lissa for her entire life until recently, when she decided Melissa was more appropriate for a partner-track lawyer, and so eschewed nicknames.
Melissa, because she's like that, is also getting married the weekend of WHAT YOU SEE, and has come to Boston to pick up her flower girl, 8-year-old Gracie, the daughter of her fiancé Daniel and his ex-wife. And take her back to Chicago for the festivities. (Jake and Jake are going to the wedding! But more on that another day.)
Jane is embroiled in her first story in a long time--trying to clinch a job at Channel 2, and the murder she's been assigned to cover might just be her ticket back to TV. It's noon, in summer, and she's in Curley Park, just outside Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where law enforcement and EMTs are now converging on a murder scene.
But in the midst of it all, Lissa, I mean Melissa, calls Jane. After some explanation of how her fiancé is stuck at the airport in Geneva, she drops the bombshell. "We can't find Gracie," Melissa says.
And so--a snippet of Chapter 8.
“You can’t find Gracie?” Jane closed her eyes briefly, trying to blank out the crowd and the whirling red lights of the ambulance and the muttering undercurrent as gawking onlookers dissected the scene before them, voices dimmed in respect or horror. Melissa had finally gotten to the point, but that didn’t mean Jane understood it.
“What do you mean, ‘can’t find’ Gracie?”
“What part of ‘can’t find’ do you not understand, Jane?” Melissa’s voice, taut and demanding, grated through Jane’s cell. Melissa was relentless when things didn’t work her perfect way.
Jane poked an available finger into her non-phone ear, trying to block out the wail of an approaching siren. Failed. She looked up, frowning, scoping out the situation. The EMTs still knelt by the victim. Why did they need another ambulance? She couldn’t shoot any video while she was talking on the phone. She turned her back on the whole thing. She’d give Melissa thirty seconds. Thirty charitable seconds.
“I understand ‘can’t find,’ Melissa.” Jane kept her voice careful, no need to add to her sister’s distress. “You mean Gracie’s late coming home for lunch or something? She’s not where she’s supposed to be?”
“Her mother—have you met her? Robyn with a y? Is going nuts,” Melissa said. “She’s the neediest person imaginable. But anyway, Gracie. She comes home from school for lunch. Thanks to Daniel’s incredibly generous child support, they send her to Brookline Charter, close to their—well, anyway.” Melissa was interrupting herself now, no need for Jane to try.
Jane kept her eyes closed and head down, the only way she could focus and not be distracted by little things like, say, her job and a murder. Both of which she was now, to her certain detriment, ignoring.
“. . . but they haven’t come home,” Melissa was saying. “Robyn called the school, but she says they said Gracie left with her stepdad as usual, and that was that. We’ve called him, but he’s not answering his cell.”
Jane’s call-waiting beeped in, an insistent little chirp that demanded her attention. Channel 2. Of course, wanting to know what she’d discovered. “I’m on the phone with my sister” was not a good answer.
“Hang on,” Jane said.
Jane winced, frustrated with this whole juggling thing. If Gracie was really gone, truly gone, whatever “gone” meant, naturally that trumped anything. But Gracie was with her stepfather, right? And Melissa always overreacted.
“This is Jane,” she said.
“Jane? You there? What’s the scoop? Is there a suspect? Can you confirm a murder? This is Derek at the assignment desk, BTW. It’s been more than fifteen mins since we got you past the rookie cop—you need any more help?”
“I, um—” He was kidding, right? Jane didn’t need any help.
“You got video?” Derek kept talking. “Interviews?”
“Definitely,” she said. She looked up, squinting. Noontime shadows made dark puddles at each onlooker’s feet. Two of the EMTs were standing now, the other pointing the medical examiner to the man sprawled on the brick walkway. They clicked open the legs of a collapsible metal gurney. The crowd stepped back, as one, as if the medics needed additional room for this delicate procedure.
“Listen, Derek, no cops are talking yet. The ME is here. They’re moving the victim now. Gotta get a shot of this, gotta go, I’ll call you back.” She hung up before the editor could give her more instructions. Or more criticism. Jane had this, no problem, she simply needed to do it her way. Back to Melissa.
“Lissa, it’s me, I’m sorry, I had to—”
“She’s fine.” No more stress in Melissa’s voice?
“What?” Jane tried to process what her sister said. “She’s what?”
“Fine. She just called, she’s fine. She’s with her stepfather. Robyn’s husband, Lewis. Evidently the left hand didn’t know—anyway, I’ll keep you posted on the drill for the rest of the day soon as I can.”
“Great,” Jane said, happy Melissa was not there in person to witness the massive eye roll. But Jane had been the good sister, on the outside, at least. Now she could go back to her real life without a guilty conscience. “Glad it all worked out, Liss.”
“So we’ll see you tonight, then? And finally get to meet your Jack?”
“Jake,” Jane said. Counting to ten, backward, got to nine. “Jake Brogan.”
“Jo-king,” Melissa singsonged. “TTYL.” And hung up.
The woman was a partner-track lawyer, for God’s sake. Who would say ttyl out loud? But at least Gracie was fine. Another personal life disaster successfully solved.
Now to get her professional life back. She picked up the video camera and headed for the action. The ambulance doors were still open. She hadn’t missed a thing.
HANK: But of course, it's only Chapter 8.
So let's talk about sisters and weddings, just like Jane and Melissa. Jane's the maid of honor. What's your favorite sister-wedding story? Or what's your favorite FICTIONAL wedding? (I think I vote for---The Philadelphia Story.)
And pssst. I have an ARC. So one lucky commenter will win the advance reading copy of WHAT YOU SEE!