Thursday, 30 July 2009
Hidden Feelings, Inner Thoughts.
A while ago, a bunch of us on another blog had a brief discussion about whether contemporary men have a deeper side to them. Well, of course they do! But then again, I would say that. It’s what I enjoy writing the most. I’m interested in the internal stuff; the internal dialogue and the sense of self. Perhaps it’s because of the work I’ve done in the past - the theatre is a place where emotions are always on show and you're surrounded by actors and singers whose job it is to show their deeper feelings to an audience by means of music, dialogue or soliloquy. Very often, as in real life, the persona a character presents to the outside world bears little or no relation to what’s really happening deep inside. In the case of ‘the hero,’ how he deals with this persona and these feelings is what interests me.
When it comes to ‘sense of self,’ Tony Valentino, my hero from A Different Kind of Honesty, has had to deal with more than most. As an undercover FBI agent, he’s spent much of his time ‘being’ another person – in his case, a full-on, player-type named Joey Pescolloni. While Tony and Joey were two different kinds of men, what interested me was how the real person inside – Tony – coped with this dual personality and double life. Well, the truth is, he coped fine. Most of the time.
“It was like being both, me and Joey, all at the same time. Him on the outside, me on the inside... “
Tony has accepted that he has to carry everything inside, rarely expressing his real, true self. That comes with the job, a job that can involve personal loss and major life changes. But Tony’s a professional. He’s trained to work that way, he can handle it. At least, he thought he could handle it, until the day he met Maggie Lawless and knew right away that she was ‘the one.’ In a world of secrets and half-truths, Tony has no choice but to keep the truth about himself hidden from her, and that means the relationship’s over before it’s barely begun. When he meets her again six months later, he knows he must explain.
“Maggie, I need to talk to you. About what happened before.”
She swung around to face him, forcing her brightest smile.
“You know, you don’t have to say a thing about that. I can guess how it was.”
“Can you?” He raised an eyebrow in surprise. She said nothing and he took a step towards her. “Maggie—”
“It’s okay.” She cut him off, unable to bear hearing him say her name if all he meant to do was to tell her what a mistake he’d made. “These things happen and then they’re best forgotten. I understand that.”
Tony drew a breath. “No, wait a second...there are things I should explain to you. Things you might not have understood......Yes, I asked you to dinner because it suited Joey, but as soon as we started talking, I mean, really talking—” He dropped his hands to his sides, facing her, breathing hard. “I was lying to you and I didn’t want to. But I had no choice.”
To say he’s met with a mixed response is an understatement! But now Tony has to let Maggie to come to terms with what happened between them all those months ago, and deep inside, he knows what choice he wants her to make. He wants her back. But Maggie may not feel the same way.
In the excerpt that follows, Tony goes to visit an old friend, and we find out a little more about what’s going on inside.
‘Tony slowed the silver Taurus to a halt and killed the engine. The clock on the dash showed ten after one. He glanced in the rear and side view mirrors, but didn’t see any other cars on the road. Besides, he’d done a couple of tortuous circuits of the area before finally pulling into the Linares’ driveway.
He got out and walked up the path in the full afternoon sun, noting Ramon’s old station wagon in front of the garage. Behind that, parked in front of the Taurus, stood a brand new red Ford Fusion he hadn’t seen before. He checked through the driver’s side windows. A map lay open on the passenger seat, and on the backseat, a light blue sweatshirt with a faded surfer logo and a woman’s red jean jacket. Next to those, a couple of small mineral water bottles with sports caps, one empty, and a copy of the week’s Time Out. As he walked around the car, he saw a sticker in the rear window that read ‘Star Car Rental, NYC, NY.’
Tony thought a moment. Ramon hadn’t mentioned any houseguests. It occurred to him the car might be a set up, but he dismissed the idea almost immediately. The types who might have wanted a couple of short-and-to-the-point words with him weren’t that subtle.
Shrieks and yells burst from the garden behind the house and he jerked his head up. A woman’s laughter and shouts of encouragement floated over sounds of children squealing and he recognized Nina Linares’ voice. Letting out a long breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding in, he closed his eyes and ran a hand over his forehead, wondering when the hell he’d forgotten how children’s games sounded. A knock on glass startled him and he looked up to see Ramon wave from the window and jab his finger towards the front door before he disappeared from view.
Tony walked over to the porch steps and turned to look back along the road he’d just driven. Very few houses sat out here and those that did were mostly obscured by bushy shrubs and mature trees. He didn’t see anyone, and it was doubtful anyone could have seen him. There were no cars parked on the street.
Despite the sunshine, a misty blue haze hung around the top of the hills beyond the valley, the way it always looked every time he’d visited. He’d last been here a couple of months back; before that, several years ago, before he’d gone undercover. The landscape had a Mediterranean look about it, the reason Ramon and Nina had chosen it as the place to make their home and bring up their three children.
Ramon sauntered down the front steps, relaxed in his weekend clothes instead of one of his tailored office suits.
“I heard the car. Glad you made it, my friend.” He clapped Tony on the shoulder. They shook hands then Tony returned his gaze to the view.
“Always looks so still. And the air tastes so good. Makes you think about what you’re breathing in the city.”
Ramon nodded his agreement. “Nina chose well. It reminds her of the mountains she knew as a child in Spain.”
“She still want to go back?”
“Ah, maybe one day.” Ramon shrugged, stroking his neat beard. “When we’re old and grey.” He looked at Tony. “What about you? You going to make that return trip to Italy you keep telling me about?”
“Sure, soon as I can. You know my folks went back there?”
“No, I didn’t know. To be near your brother and his family?”
“Paolo the hot-shot Rome lawyer, yeah. Seemed like the right thing for them to do, this time of their life. My dad decided he wanted to die where he was born. He’s not dead yet, though,” he added with a smile. “I’ll visit soon. When this case is over.”
“Relive a bit of your youth, huh?”
“Yeah. Last time, I was seventeen. Worked on my uncle’s farm a whole summer. Drove my aunt crazy, running around with the village teenagers at night.” He gave a short laugh at the memory. “She was all for sending me home, but my uncle bailed me out.”
Ramon nodded. “She’d be proud of you now, though.”
Tony turned to him in surprise, but Ramon kept his look directed at the distant hills. Tony looked at them too.
“Something else about that summer...I fell head over heels in love with the village beauty. Infatuated. She’d have nothing to do with me, though.” He smiled. “I don’t think she ever knew.”
“And it broke your foolish teenage heart?”
“Into a million pieces. And you know what? I can't even remember her name."
Ramon laughed. “C’mon. Nina is cooking paella to die for and there’s a cold beer out there with your name on it.”
“Sounds good to me.”
Ramon headed up the steps to the front door. Before he followed, Tony took one last look at the blue hills. He thought about the village beauty all those years back. Now there was another girl in the picture and it looked like she didn’t want to know either. Only this time, he hadn’t forgotten her name. This one was inked on his heart like a tattoo. And removing it would hurt like hell.’
A Different Kind of Honesty is published in print and e-book, and is available from The Wild Rose Press.