On the Gulf Coast: Meeting My Characters
I drove into Ocean Springs, Mississippi, the small Gulf of Mexico town where JP Blackmon and Abby Price, from In the Arms of a Stranger, endured a dangerous encounter with some baddies. I’d had the radio turned up so I could listen to Steve Goodman’s classic “The City of New Orleans.” It seemed appropriate on my little road trip, especially since I planned to drive on to New Orleans, only an hour and a half away, the next day.
I’d called Abby Price during a quick stop, eager to talk to her after JP told me she wanted to talk to me. I really wanted to see her. Abby is a more outgoing person than JP. I guess school teachers tend to be more outgoing than someone like him. Anyway, a chat with Abby was going to be great. Especially if I got to see JP again.
I headed to our meeting place, Front Beach, which I’d heard so much about from a local I know, in the late afternoon. It’s pretty crowded in the summer and on weekends, but this is a weekday, so there are few cars parked along the road. And there they are, leaning against Abby’s small SUV. Well, JP’s leaning against it, Abby’s leaning on him. Front to front. I feel kind of guilty looking at them, knowing what I know about them.
Okay, let that go or I’ll be blushing when I talk to them. I park, get out and walk toward them. They separate and JP greets me with a friendly hello. He’s wearing another pair of worn jeans today.
Abby gives me a quick, friendly hug. “It’s good to see you,” she says. “Come on, JP has to make a phone call, so we’ll walk on down to the beach.”
I glance back. JP is engrossed in a phone conversation.
“He’s okay, isn’t he?” I ask. “No lasting effect from his injuries?” Injuries I gave him when I came up with the plot.
“He’s great, really. It’s taken a little while, and maybe he pushed more than he should, but you know men.”
I know men. A husband and two sons have taught me a lot. They can be hard headed. And I knew JP, but I haven’t, as he said just yesterday when he and I met, been “poking around” in his life since the book ended. He’s living his life Abby now and it’s private. Or should be, given what I wrote.
But I do remember how they are together. Leaning against a car, front to front, is pretty mild for them. They’re not into public displays, so I know that if there had been people around, they would have at most held hands. Does that mean that as an author, I’m a bit of voyeur? I banish the thought.
“What’s next for you guys?” I ask.
“New Orleans. I’m taking him to the Café Du Monde. He’s never had beignets and café au lait.”
“He’s going to love them. He likes donuts.”
“I know. When he surprised me with the ones he bought, and the milk…” She sighs, remembering I guess.
I remember too, remember how the donuts and milk episode ended.
“So, what’s up?” I ask.
She glances back at JP, who’s still on the phone, then back at me. “I thought you were wrong, you know.”
I raised my brows.
“About him. Us. About, well, someone that vital, with that kind of life, and me and my kind of life. I didn’t know if…well. I just didn’t know.”
“He’s not perfect. He drives me crazy sometimes, especially when he’s being overprotective. But that’s his nature, and he’s getting used to the fact that I’m pretty capable myself.”
“Abby,” we hear JP say. He’s walked up behind us and we didn’t hear him. Didn’t hear a thing. I guess it’s his training. “You want to join us?” He looks at me. “We’re going to find a nice spot to watch the sun set.”
Join them? I did that enough in the book. I don’t want to intrude now. “Not this time, but thanks for asking.”
“We’ll see you around then?” Abby asks.
“Yes. I’ll be around. I have this blog tour. For the book, you know.”
“Will you need us?” She takes JP’s hand.
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Well, just let us know. You can count on us.”
I’m not so sure JP’s as eager to have me around, but we say our goodbyes and they walk down to the Gulf, hand in hand. He laughs at something she says and pulls her close. The sun is now a golden ball on the horizon, casting a kaleidoscope of colors across the quickly darkening sky.
A Gulf Coast sunset and a quick visit with two of my favorite people. I’m a happy writer.
Have you enjoyed a Gulf Coast sunset? If so, where? If not, where would you like to go? Leave a comment and enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win.