Sean’s Birthday Brings Plenty Of New Surprises…
Summer, Year 6
Maggie is 52, Jack is 40, Daniel is 40, Marcella is 37, Rebecca is 26, Ellie is 26, Gerald is 26, Hollie is 25, Sean is 1
Marcella could hardly believe that a year had gone by so quickly. Sean’s first birthday had arrived and it marked almost a year since they’d moved to Willow Creek. She’d invited her friend and fellow mum, Maggie, over to reminisce.
They had an action film on the television but Marcella wasn’t really watching it. She was thinking more about her family. She was hoping to take Sean to the Arts Centre at the weekend to celebrate his birthday, since Jack would be working most of the week.
After Maggie left, Marcella sat down in the kitchen and contemplated her relationship with jack so far. On the whole, she felt it was going quite well. It was her career that wasn’t doing so brilliantly but the hoped to pick that up after Sean’s birthday.
Jack had spent the morning playing with their birthday boy and cuddled him close. It had taken him a while to really bond with Sean but being able to play with the little boy now really helped him to appreciate having a son.
Marcella was proud of how well she’d done in maintaining friendships with other mums in the past year. Maggie had introduced her to Hollie, Cristina and Isabella shortly after she’d moved to Willow Creek and Hollie had quickly become a close friend. Hollie used to live in Foundry Cove herself and was a frequent visitor to the Cove Community Centre and the mothers liked to meet up about once a week if they could.
She tended to end up feeling more than a little disgruntled though when she set off for home. It often felt that the other mothers had an edge over Marcella and she couldn’t put her finger on it properly. Maggie lived in a fabulous clifftop house in Brindleton Bay; she was the eldest mother in the group with five children, two of whom had moved out and the third due to leave for University that autumn; she was also a style influencer. Isabella lived in a lovely cottage at the edge of the lake in the countryside on Windenburg with her husband and two young children and was a freelance writer in her spare time. Hollie was a single mother now but still lived in a beautiful home in Newcrest with her two children. While Marcella loved the bungalow she and Jack lived in, it felt a little frumpy compared to the lovely homes her friends lived in.
Later that day, Jack was going to be having his director and co-stars over for rehearsals and Marcella always found it draining. Lately she felt worse because all the time Jack was working tirelessly on one project after another, she was keenly aware that she hadn’t worked properly for a while. Every time his co-stars came over, she felt guilty.
As the doorbell rang, she gulped the last of her coffee with desperation and hurried to the bedroom to change.
Jack answered the door as Marcella disappeared into the bedroom. it was his new director, Betsy McFadden. Jack had only met her about once at the studio, so it took a while to introduce himself properly. All the time he was talking, he was getting the feeling that she was not only hanging on to his every word but that she was definitely giving him a certain look.
Conflicted, Jack invited her inside just in time to see his colleagues walking down the road.
Jack was going to be working with his best friend, Daniel and his ex-girlfriend, Rebecca. Something about this setup always made Marcella uncomfortable and watching Betsy flirting outrageously with Jack was enough to make her furious.
Not for the first time lately, Marcella wondered if she and Jack were doing the right thing. She watched him casually talking and rehearsing lines with Daniel and Rebecca. He was always so at ease with them; something she noticed her rarely was with her any more.
At the studio the following day, Betsy continued flirting with Jack. It made him realise how much he’d missed harmless flirting and found himself enjoying Betsy’s attention, unethical though he knew it was.
Jack’s first scene was with Daniel and normally, they went off without a hitch. However, Jack was distracted and he fluffed his lines, tripped over and even lost a vital fight with Daniel’s alien character. He couldn’t understand what was throwing his concentration; he didn’t normally lose it like that.
His scenes with Rebecca were far more cohesive. In a way it infuriated Jack; Rebecca had made a fool of him when they’d dated briefly four years ago and yet in spite of that, they’d gone on to be good friends. Jack still found her attractive and as much as he hated to admit it, he did enjoy their love scenes far more then he probably should. It was the kind of acting Rebecca did best and it was easy for everyone to believe they were a couple.
Some of the promotional shots had gone out to the press for the series he was working on and the images of him and Rebecca had really set the social media would alight. For the first time in his career, Jack was actually trending. He was surprised by how smug he felt.
Finally, the weekend had arrived and Jack was free for a few days. He and Marcella took Sean down to the Arts Centre in San Myshuno, since he’d shown an interest in drawing at home.
Marcella was very proud of Sean’s first proper drawing and made sure to stash it away carefully to take home with them.
Marcella sat down in the lobby of the centre while Sean was showing Jack his drawing. She noticed after a while that somebody was watching her. She glanced up and met the man’s eye and smiled. She loved meeting fans.
After striking up a conversation with him, she discovered his name was Gerald and he was quite a fan of hers. She even suspected he was flirting with her and she enjoyed the attention.
It was quite a shame when it was time for her to take Sean home.
Jack had stayed back at the centre to sign some autographs and make a few appearances. Once he was done, he wasn’t quite ready to go home and drifted into the bar, where he bumped into Ellie. He liked Ellie; she might be Rebecca’s twin sister but they couldn’t be more different. Ellie was dependable, responsible and charitable. In fact, Jack had even done a charity stream for her cause, World United, last year.
They even went out for a walk in the city. Jack loved the Arts District; it had a great feel to it and was easily the most sophisticated district in the whole city, in his eyes. Jack found himself spilling out everything to Ellie; about his uneasiness with his living situation with Marcella, suddenly becoming a father, pressures of fame and finally, the engagement he’d never intended.
Instead of answering, Ellie simply pulled him into the warmest hug he’d ever had.
Jack knew he shouldn’t be doing this. He knew he should be standing out on a beautiful, clear night in the city with Ellie, thinking about kissing her; even contemplating an affair with her. With his life in Willow Creek being so stable, he knew he should appreciate what he had.
The only problem was, it wasn’t the life he’d wanted. He adored Sean, he really did. It had taken a year for him to really bond with the little boy but he did love him dearly. He also cared for Marcella, although to say he was in love with her might be a stretch. However, the house, the fiancée, the child – it was all far too domestic for Jack and not what he’d wanted.
Ellie understood that.
All the time he was with Ellie, he was being himself. He didn’t need to pretend to enjoy her company; he really did. He didn’t need to pretend to be interested in what she was talking about; he really was.
Ellie was bringing out the best in Jack and it had crept up on him without him even noticing. All the while they were talking, Jack started to see Ellie differently and he got the distinct impression she was viewing him differently too.
Something had changed tonight.
“Thanks for listening to all of this, Ellie.” Jack said finally. “I don’t know why I burdened you with all this.”
“Don’t worry about it, Jack.” Ellie smiled. “You needed to let that out. Nobody could be expected to bottle that up for as long as you have.”
To lighten the suddenly heavy and expectant air, Jack leaned forward and nuzzled Ellie’s neck, making her giggle.
“What are you doing?” she asked, still giggling as she gently pushed him away.
“Something I should have done a long time ago,” he replied.
Before he could move, Ellie had leaned forward and kissed him.
They stayed in each other’s arms until it was very late and the night turned colder. Neither of them knew where this was going to go, or even where it should go. All they knew was that it was the start of something.
While Jack was still out, Marcella had arrived home with Sean, fed him and read him to sleep. Meanwhile, her mind was still fixating on the mild flirtation she’d experienced at the Arts Centre.
It reminded her of her own fury when she’d witnessed Betsy flirting with Jack in the week. She suddenly realised that Jack had been honest with her when he’d insisted these things were simple, harmless flirtations and there wasn’t anything in it at all.
She felt a bit guilty; she’d been blaming Jack for a while for the harmless flirting and yet she’d just done exactly the same thing tonight. It wasn’t even the first time she’d done it, either; she suddenly remembered flirting shamelessly with Daniel when she was pregnant with Sean, right under Jack’s nose.
She groaned at the memory. She needed to apologise to Jack.
Marcella was already asleep when jack had returned home the night before and he was up early the next day. He planned to avoid her as much as possible until he was back at work. He’d been dreaming of Ellie after he’d fallen asleep the night before and he was wondering what he should do; he’d never felt like this before.
“So now, I feel incredibly guilty.” Marcella drained the last of her coffee from the mug. She’d invited Maggie over to discuss her problem, since Jack had disappeared before she’d even woken up that morning.
“So you’ve been accusing him of doing with other women what you’ve been doing with other men all along? And you feel bad about it?” Maggie finished her coffee and shrugged. “Maybe there’s something deeper here, Marcella. I mean, you proposed to him, right? He’s got issues with commitment, hasn’t he? You told me that yourself.” Maggie raised her eyebrows. “Isn’t it possible you’ve been getting paranoid because you think he’s going to leave you for someone else?”
“Well, no. Yes.” Marcella sighed heavily. “I’m not sure. I don’t think he would; he’s been cheated on twice himself and as I said to him when we got engaged, he’s probably only afraid of commitment because he’s never really tried it.”
Maggie raised her eyebrows even higher. “You said that to him?”
Marcella blinked and nodded. “Yeah, I did. Well don’t you think it’s possible? Rebecca and Hayley both cheated on him, so maybe that’s what his issue is with commitment. I’m not going to do that, so he doesn’t have to worry.”
“Even thought you flirted with his best friend, under his nose, while pregnant with his baby?” Maggie pointed out.
Marcella winced. “Oh my Watcher, you don’t think Jack thinks-“
“That you’re a hypocrite?” Maggie laughed. “I don’t know but I think this ought to be a conversation you two have, don’t you think?”
Marcella nodded and felt a knot twist in her stomach.
Jack had made himself scarce all day and a brief text from him later revealed he was rehearsing at the Royal Willow all day. Marcella distracted herself by playing with Sean in the garden, since the weather was so nice.
She was dreading Jack coming home.
By the time Jack did come home, it was time for a family dinner anyway. Marcella decided not to say anything and instead, she let Jack talk about the rehearsals he’d been doing all day. She tuned him out partway through as she thought back to her conversation with Maggie. Maybe it would be better if she said nothing for now.