The New Year Beckons

Every End Is But Another Beginning…

Winter, Year 4
“You are finished,” Jack hissed. Daniel glanced up, worry filling his eyes as he surrendered.
“I concede. You are the superior warrior, as much as it pains me to admit it.”
“That was great!” Dale called from the wings. “You guys are good!”
“Thank you!” Jack grinned and helped Daniel up off of the floor. “Thanks for the help, Dan. I really love these parts but there’s always room for improvement.”
The group agreed to take a breather before carrying on with rehearsing lines for individual pieces. Jack firmly believed that they should always rehearse together, even if they were working on different projects; it helped them all to adapt to a variety of roles and he felt it made them strong as actors.

His heart almost stopped in his chest when he saw Marcella talking to Daniel. That in itself was fine; Jack wasn’t the jealous type and never had been. What hurt was seeing Marcella flirting shamelessly with Jack’s best friend.

The moment seemed to pass so quickly, Jack wondered if he’d imagined it. While he wasn’t jealous, he was beginning to feel more paranoid then ever. With two cheating ex-girlfriends in his past, there was always a tiny part of him that was afraid Marcella would do the same. Quietly, he cursed Rebecca and Hayley as he watched Marcella and Daniel talking. It unnerved him that Rebecca was also watching intently but he tried to convince himself that it was rumoured that Rebecca was in love with Daniel; a fact everybody but Rebecca seemed to know.

Feeling slightly reassured but also not really wanting to witness anything untoward, Jack disappeared backstage, muttering something about a drink.
“Thanks for helping me with my lines,” Marcella purred. “I have a little something for you.”
“This is wonderful! I wasn’t expecting this!” Daniel’s face split into pure delight.
Marcella’s eyes widened. “Dan? You…you feel the…same?”
Daniel panicked. “Wait, you weren’t acting?”
Marcella flushed and bid a hasty retreat through the curtains.

“Well done!” Rebecca said, sarcastically from the audience. “That was some performance.”
Daniel groaned. “You saw that?”
Rebecca smiled slightly. “The whole thing. I didn’t know she had a thing for you.”
“I thought she was acting.” Daniel sighed heavily. “Oh fuck, what am I going to do? Jack’ll kill me if he finds out about this.”
“Relax, I won’t say anything.” On seeing Daniel’s skeptical look, Rebecca rolled her eyes. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m not a complete bitch, you know. It wasn’t your fault, so I won’t say anything.”
Daniel nodded. “Thanks. Don’t you think maybe we ought to tell Jack? I mean, if Marcella’s flirting with other men…”
“The least said, the better.” Rebecca said. “Look, I’m not saying that to protect her. Frankly, I think she’s a bitch and Jack could do better but I’m in no position to comment. I screwed him over too so he’d never believe me if I told him. Anyway, it could be her hormones talking.”
“True.” Daniel nodded thoughtfully. “Jack’s not exactly thrilled about the baby. Maybe things have been strained between them since then?”
“Exactly. And Marcella knows about your daughter, so maybe she’s attracted to you right now because she knows you’re taking your role as a father seriously.” Rebecca shrugged. “Maybe a nesting instinct, I don’t know. All I’m saying is, there’s hardly anything to say right now. Judging by how quickly she got her arse out of here, I’d say she feels guilty enough about what just happened. She doesn’t need you to go telling tales to Jack and she doesn’t know I was here. So I think the least said, the better.”
“Agreed.” Daniel smiled. “Thanks, Becks. That’s probably the most intelligent thing you’ve ever said.”
Rebecca rolled her eyes. “Talk about a back-handed compliment. But thanks anyway.” She smiled. “I have my moments. Now lets get the rest of those slackers back in here.”

Daniel felt waves of guilt as Jack and Dale returned to the stage. Even though he’d done nothing wrong, not telling his best friend about Marcella’s advances, however clumsy, felt wrong. He tried hard to focus as Jack began to rehearse his monologue and Rebecca tried hard to distract him.

Later that evening, Marcella and Jack returned to their flat. Jack was generally feeling anxious about the baby and Marcella did everything in her power to reassure him.
“Look Jack, it’ll be fine. You’re worrying too much about all of this.” She sighed. “Why don’t you go along to one of those parenthood classes I told you about? Maybe it will reassure you.”
Jack wasn’t sure and closed his eyes, trying to process everything. His mind kept flashing back to Marcella flirting with Daniel at the theatre. Neither of them had said anything about it since and Jack was determined to act like he hadn’t seen it. It was, however, taking his mind away from Marcella and the baby, two situations he had no idea how to handle.

Jack excused himself and stepped into the shower. Leaning on the wall, he closed his eyes and let the warm water wash over him, cleansing himself of the paranoid thoughts he’d been having that day. He was definitely beginning to develop some severe trust issues with women and it made him uncomfortable.
His thoughts turned to the baby they had due next year. Becoming a father was not something Jack had ever considered. He was almost 40 and very aware that his bachelor lifestyle he’d so enjoyed up to now was coming to an end. Already, Marcella was living in the flat with him, something he’d never done before. Next would be their baby and then what? A cat? A dog? A tiny little hamster?

Marcella pushed him out of the door the following morning to attend a parenting class. She was getting frustrated with Jack’s lack of interest and commitment to this baby.
Anyway, she had to make some plans and she didn’t want him in the flat while she made them.

In Jack’s current mood, a New Years Eve party was definitely not what he’d had in mind so when he returned to the flat to find a party in full swing, he was stunned. He tried to plaster on a happy face as he mingled.
Part of him couldn’t stop staring at Zoe De Luca. He didn’t really know her that well; he’d met her for the first time at the engagement party of his friends, Jared and Andrea and he knew she was Jared’s sister. They’d made eye contact a few times at the party but never spoken and tonight, there was something captivating about her.

As the countdown began on the television, Jack slumped down onto the sofa. He felt exhausted and it wasn’t quite midnight yet.
“Are you okay?” Ellie asked. Jack only really knew Ellie vaguely, via Rebecca and Daniel but Dan thought the world of her and said she was incredibly different to Rebecca.
“Yes and no,” he replied. He smiled in spite of himself. “That wasn’t very helpful, was it?”
Ellie smiled back. “In a way, it was. It said everything and nothing at the same time.”
“True.” Jack laughed. “It’s Ellie, isn’t it?”
“I’m afraid so!” She smiled a little self consciously. “I’m guessing the party wasn’t your idea?”
“No, it wasn’t.” Jack sighed. “I had hoped for a quiet night in, really.”
Ellie nodded sympathetically but said nothing more. Jack found she was good company and he didn’t feel the need to force a conversation. No wonder Daniel got along so well with her.

The party was still going strong even as the clock struck twelve. Rebecca managed to take centre stage as she danced, slightly drunkenly, to the music somebody had put on the stereo. In an alcohol-induced daze, Jack watched her with fascination. There was something captivating about her movements, something he’d all but forgotten since they’d parted ways. Christ, he didn’t even like Rebecca much these days. She was one of the reasons he was becoming so suspicious of everything Marcella did! Why was he watching her dancing so seductively in his living room?
The new year wasn’t getting off to a good start.

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