Not Everything Is As Perfect As It Seems
Some images are slightly NSFW
Winter, Year 6
Maggie is 53, Jack is 41, Marcella is 38, Ellie is 27, Rebecca is 27, Hollie is 27, Hayley is 27, Ethan is 26 and Sean is 1
It was still mild for early winter in Willow Creek. Marcella and Jack had been enjoying a quiet afternoon, watching a film on the television while Sean napped. Jack liked these afternoons with no arguments and no stress. With the amount of work he had lined up, he relished the quiet days.
Marcella waited a while until Jack seemed suitably engrossed in the film.
“Jack, I wanted to talk to you,” she began. Jack grunted in response so she continued. “About the wedding.”
Jack stiffened. “Mm? What about it?”
“Well, we haven’t started planning anything yet. I mean, we haven’t picked a date or a venue yet. I can’t organise the flowers or the caterers or cake until we do, nor can I do much about the guest list or my dress. I really would like your cooperation, Jack.”
Jack sighed. “Whatever.”
The following morning, Marcella tried again at the breakfast table. “So, have you thought any more about a wedding venue, Jack? What about Henford Castle?”
“Castle!” Sean chimed in.
“That’s miles away.” Jack replied briefly before turning his attention to Sean. “Now, who’s not going to throw his food on the floor today, Little Man?”
Marcella sighed again. She’d get Jack talking properly later. She had Maggie and Hollie coming round that afternoon to talk about dresses so she decided to make sure Jack was around.
She hopped online to get a vague idea for venues. She was frustrated that Jack wasn’t showing much interest in this wedding. She really wanted him to contribute something; anything to prove that he was interested in getting married.
While Jack was showering, she wrapped Sean up and got him out into the garden. She loved playing with her son and watching his little accomplishments made her feel so proud of him. It was easy to forget her frustrations with Jack at times like that.
The doorbell rang just as Jack stepped out of the bathroom. It was Rebecca, arriving for a quick chat before filming later in the week. They were working on a Western/Sci-Fi film which was a little bit outside Rebecca’s usual scope and Jack had agreed to help her out.
“Good to see you, Becca,” Jack said as he closed the door behind her.
“Not as good as seeing Ellie though, eh?” Rebecca said slyly.
“What are you talking about?” Jack felt his heartbeat quicken.
“Don’t you start. I went through this with Ellie at my Halloween party.” Rebecca smirked.
“Ellie told you?” Jack looked stunned. He hadn’t expected Ellie to tell anyone; she’d promised she wouldn’t. But to tell Rebecca of all people.
“Ha, I knew that’d get it out of you. No, she played as coy as you are.” Rebecca laughed.
“Shh!” Jack hissed. His face changed into a scowl. “Rebecca, that was cruel!”
“It’s not like you to be cheating, Jack Goldsmith. That’s normally my domain.”
“Still is. At least, that’s the word on the hill,” Jack shot back.
Rebecca grinned. “Look, I’m sorry. That was a bit mean. I promise I won’t say anything to Marcella, okay? I won’t tell a soul if you and Ellie want to creep around, having naughty little trysts behind closed doors, okay?”
Sighing, Jack shook his head. “It’s not like that.”
“But you are sleeping together?” Rebecca persisted. Jack didn’t answer. “Holy plumbob, you’re in love with her!”
“What?” Jack’s eyes widened. “Where did you get that idea from?”
“You’re being respectful of her feelings. You don’t want her feeling like the naughty bit of stuff that’s doing for you what Marcella won’t. You’re really, genuinely in love with her.”
Suddenly, Jack could hear Marcella talking to Sean in the kitchen right as the bell rang again. “Shh, just please don’t say anything!”
Rebecca nodded before turning a charming smile on to greet Marcella.
Marcella arrived to greet Maggie and Hollie. She wasn’t pleased to find out Jack had invited Rebecca over to rehearse any more than he was to find she’d invited the women over to talk weddings.
Ignoring his frown, she instead pulled out her phone to show her friends the pictures of the dress she’d been thinking of.
As Marcella led her guests into the lounge, Jack bid a hasty retreat. Rebecca’s phone had rung and she’d dashed out the door with a brief goodbye to Jack so rehearsals and work stuff was off for the day. He really didn’t want to be around wedding talk, so he escaped to the garden with Sean.
He stepped into the garden to see Sean coming away from the plants and beginning to splash paint on the ground.
Sometimes, he was convinced the toddler knew something was wrong in the family. Maybe it was just Jack’s paranoia but it really felt that Sean knew he and Marcella weren’t getting along too well at present because he always seemed to pick the bad days to play up and misbehave.
“Come on Sean, say ‘sorry’.” Jack was trying to teach his son some manners but so far, it was a waste of time. Still, he had to try and it was better than listening to Marcella and her friends talking about weddings and expecting him to produce enthusiasm.
He was also still a little shaken from Rebecca’s announcement and assumptions. Was he really in love with Ellie? After the emotional rollercoasters he’d been on with women, falling in love seemed incredibly unlikely. Although, he realised that Ellie was by far the easiest to talk to and he could be honest and open with her. He never felt suspicious of her motives like he had with Rebecca and Hayley and even sometimes with Marcella.
Maybe, for once, Rebecca’s intuition was spot on.
Ethan had also dropped in on the pretense of needing to speak to Hollie. Marcella felt quite awkward, sitting between the former couple. She was listening intently to Maggie, however.
“So he’s changed the subject every single time?” Maggie asked. “Marcy, I don’t think he’s really interested in this wedding, do you?”
“I think Maggie’s right.” Hollie agreed. “You proposed after all, didn’t you? Maybe he just needs time to get used to the idea?”
“Time?” Marcella shrieked. “We’ve been engaged for over a year, Hollie!”
“Maybe you need to talk to him, Marcella.” Maggie said quietly. “He might be struggling with this and I really think you should talk to him. Let him speak and see how that goes?”
“Or you could doll yourself up in some sexy underwear and seduce him?” Ethan suggested. “That would be more likely to work.”
“I wasn’t aware your opinion was asked for?” Hollie frowned. “Ethan, stop stalking me.”
Marcella sighed. This wasn’t what she’d had in mind at all.
That evening, after Sean had gone to bed and Jack was finishing up some emails, Marcella decided that Ethan might have had the right idea after all. She’d also been thinking for a while about having another baby; after all, Sean was a year old and she was 38. She really wanted to have another child before it was too late.
She also thought that it might help encourage Jack to speed up the wedding preparations, since she didn’t really want to have the wedding when she was starting to show…
Her plan was successful and certainly caught Jack off-guard. Afterwards, she wrapped her arms around him as he settled down to sleep.
“Jack, we should probably talk,” she began.
Jack groaned. “Marcy, I’m really tired. Can we do this tomorrow, maybe?”
“Sure.” She kissed him lightly before settling down to sleep. Nobody could say she hadn’t tried.
The following morning, Marcella was triumphant to discover she was indeed pregnant. She was greatly relieved; it finally gave her something to work with to nudge Jack to working on the wedding plans.
She found Jack in front of the television. “Jack, I need to talk to you.”
Jack switched the television off. “Is this what you wanted to say last night? I’m sorry about that, I was just-“
Marcella waved him away. “I know what you were, Jack. It doesn’t matter. This is important.” She took a deep breath. “Jack, I’m pregnant. Isn’t that fantastic?”
Jack didn’t answer but instead, buried his head in his hands. Marcella was surprised.
“Jack? What’s the matter?”
“Are you serious?” Jack asked. “Marcella, yesterday you were nagging me to talk to you about the wedding. Now you’re telling me you’re expecting another baby?”
“Well, yes. Listen, I was thinking; I’d really like to have the wedding before I start to show too much, you know?”
“Wait a minute.” Jack suddenly sat up. “This is what last night was about, wasn’t it? You wanted to seduce me, butter me up and then give me this kind of news! That’s why you wanted to tell me afterwards, when you knew full well I was nearly asleep!”
“No, Jack!” Marcella shook her head vigorously. “That’s not it at all. Where are you going?” She asked as Jack stood up.
“Out.” He replied. “I have an engagement today. I’ll be out most of the day and probably into the evening.”
Marcella winced. “Where will you be?”
Jack shrugged. “Not sure. It’s an agency thing so it could take a while. Don’t wait up.”
She sat quietly in the lounge until she heard Jack leave the house. Sighing, she pulled out her phone and dialled Maggie’s number.
Jack hadn’t been entirely honest with Marcella but he hadn’t completely lied either. He had been in meetings about work all day but they’d finished mid-afternoon.
That evening, he was meeting Ellie at the Royal Willow for a date.
“This is wonderful,” Jack whispered to Ellie. They were sitting in the front row while Justina Berry played the piano on the stage.
“She’s incredible, isn’t she?” Ellie whispered back. “I knew her at University for a while; she’s so talented!”
After the concert, Jack waited in the bar to order them some drinks while Ellie went to the bathroom.
“I’ll have the same as the gentleman, please!”
Jack cringed slightly when he heard Rebecca’s voice behind him. One of the last people he wanted to see when he was out with Ellie was her sister.
“The photographers, Rebecca. Seriously?” Jack sighed. “I really don’t want to be photographed tonight.” He lowered his voice. “I told Marcella I was working on work stuff tonight.”
“Well that’s all right. I’m your costar, so if you’re photographed with me, it’s looks like you were telling the truth.” She grinned. “So you’re here with Ellie, then?”
Jack nodded. “Yeah but I don’t really think she’ll be too pleased to see you or the cameras when she comes back.”
“So take her out of here,” Rebecca replied simply. “Go down to the riverbank. It’s pretty quiet there and you two can get some time alone.”
“It’s gorgeous out here,” Ellie remarked. “Great idea, getting away from the cameras.”
“Well ironically, it was Rebecca who suggested it.” Jack held Ellie and they swayed gently to the music coming from the theatre. “She knows about us, by the way. She tricked me yesterday into telling her by making me think for a moment you had.”
Ellie smiled. “Don’t worry. She tried her luck with me at Halloween when she caught us looking at each other. She won’t tell anyone though if we don’t want her to. She’s got enough on her plate at the moment.”
Jack leaned in to kiss Ellie. There was something incredible when he was with her; intoxicating but not unfamiliar. It was an unusual combination and not one Jack was familiar with but he’d noticed it the very first time he’d kissed her. It was just like kissing a best friend, only better.
Only of course, he was. Ellie had easily been one of his closest and most genuine friends for years.
The next day started with a row blowing up between Jack and Marcella.
“You were out late last night!” Marcella snapped when Jack walked into the kitchen.
“I told you, I had work-related commitments all day. I did say I’d be late.”
“Not fair though, is it? You left this house in a rage yesterday after I told you I was pregnant. Then you don’t come back until the early hours and don’t even kiss me!”
“I didn’t want to wake you!” Jack was exasperated. “And I’ve been thinking about this pregnancy thing; you told me you were on the pill. You assured me it wouldn’t be a problem.”
Marcella suddenly reddened slightly. “Um, well I might have forgotten to take it once or twice.”
“I don’t believe it.” Jack let out a deep breath. “You lied to me and trapped me again? Just because you want to get this wedding sorted out. Sod this.” He began to storm out of the kitchen.
“Where are you going now?” She demanded.
“Work. In case you’d forgotten, they’re expecting me in Del Sol Valley this afternoon for filming.” And with that, he left the kitchen and Marcella heard the front door slam. Again.
Their argument still rang in his ears as he arrived at the set and changed into his costume for the scenes. He was getting tired of Marcella tripping him and catching him in her plans; it began to feel like she was always plotting something and he was exhausted.
By the time Jack made it home, he was inundated with messages from his agency. They were delighted with his recent performances and could hardly believe he was still with them. At this point, he was their biggest star.
He’d also been invited to a tile placement ceremony on the Starlight Boulevard; he was being added to their Walk of Fame!
The following morning, Jack arrived for the tile placement ceremony. As the cameras were poised and everyone was getting ready, he realised something wasn’t right.
Marcella had travelled with him but she wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
He didn’t have time to worry about it for long. The ceremony started and he placed his star on the walk to the sounds of roaring cheers from fans. It was probably one of the greatest moments of his life.
He then posed by the tile for photos. Questions were fired at him one after the other and, among the din, he distinctly heard someone commenting on Marcella being inside the venue rather that out on the pavement with him.
Suddenly, he didn’t have it in him to care any more.
“Jack!” Hayley pushed her way through the crowd and flung her arms around her ex-boyfriend. “Congratulations! I can’t think of anyone who deserves this more than you!”
Surprised didn’t begin to describe it but Jack accepted the hug without argument. “Thanks, Hayley! Lovely to see you here, thanks for coming!”
“No problem at all. There was no way I was missing out on this opportunity to celebrate your career with you!”
The surprises continued when Rebecca pushed through the crowd to hug him too. “Well done, Jack! You really deserved this, you’ve worked so hard!”
“Thanks, Becca,” Jack said, laughing. “And of course, I couldn’t have done it without you!”
“Well, obviously!” Rebecca laughed with him and tightened the hug.
As Hayley and Rebecca glared at each other through the crowds, Jack realised the press were going to have a field day with the two of them.
He decided he needed to leave before a fight broke out. As soon as the press turned their attentions on his two exes, he was gone.
He escaped all the way back to Willow Creek, where he’d arranged to meet Ellie for dinner at Sparkling Palate. Unfortunately, there were some photographers around and it didn’t take long for them to be spotted.
“Are you braced for the potential backlash?” Jack asked, slightly nervously. “Because if those photographers snap a photo of us, they’ll print it and I don’t know if either of us will be able to explain it away.”
“Getting together to discuss charity?” Ellie suggested but even she knew the answer to that before she’d finished the thought.
“On the day I get a tile on Starlight Boulevard? While it’s something I would actually do, the press will never believe that. I think we’re done for this time.”
Jack had to try though. He approached the photographer and, as politely as he could, explained he was having a business meeting with the organiser of one of the charities he raised money for and would they all kindly leave him alone to enjoy some peace.
“I think that might have actually worked,” Ellie said in astonishment. They’d received their meal and so far, the photographers had indeed left them alone. There wasn’t a sign of them in the restaurant any more.
“Me too. I didn’t expect it to, either. You’re a genius.” Jack beamed at her. Then his face fell. “I don’t know what I’m going to say to Marcella, you know. Especially after today.” He’d told Ellie about the baby and the argument and he was at a loss as to what to do.”
“Look, I wouldn’t normally say something like this,” Ellie began, choosing her words carefully. “However, today was the biggest day of your career for you. This was a huge honour and something you’ve worked hard for. You do have a right to be upset with Marcella over her not taking the pill; that was deceitful. I’m not sure why she’s so angry with you right now but I don’t see why you should have today spoilt by her today.” She took a deep breath. “Why don’t you stay at mine tonight?”
“You mean?” Jack stopped eating as it suddenly dawned on him what Ellie was suggesting.
“Yeah, I do.” She leant forward. “If we don’t do something tonight, Jack, I might explode.”
Ellie got her wish. She didn’t need to offer twice and by the time they fell into bed, all their worries about Marcella, the photographers and the baby had melted away.
Later – much later – Jack held Ellie close to his body. He nuzzled into her cheek and brushed the hair away from her eyes with his lips.
“I think I love you,” he murmured before he could stop himself.
“I think I love you, too,” she replied.
Without another word, they both fell into a peaceful slumber, wrapped tightly in each other’s arms.