Is Caroline Bingley green with envy as she notices Mr. Darcy’s attentions to Elizabeth Bennet? Does Emma Woodhouse wish unspeakable horrors on Harriet Smith because of Harriet’s crush on Mr. Knightley? After Willoughby, does Marianne covet Elinor’s more sensible behaviour? We could go on for ages, but it’s only for this month so don’t miss a post!
Jealousy is a complicated thing. It’s a tale as old as time and it will never go away. We all experience it at some time or another. And we are all on the receiving end of it now and then, whether we know it or not.
Sometimes we almost like it—not when we feel it ourselves, but when we know someone is jealous of us. It can be flattering… until it’s taken that step too far.
When I wrote my Persuasion retelling, SWAY, I couldn’t leave jealousy out. Of course Ava (my Anne) would feel jealous when she has to watch her ex Eric flirt and date her sister’s best friend. Of course Eric (my Captain Wentworth) would feel jealous when he sees Ava with a brand new boyfriend. They’re only human (er, characters), and we all feel it. Often, we can’t help it.
I tried my darnedest, though, not to take their jealousy that step too far. Although my Eric had to be bitter, and sometimes thoughtless and mean, I didn’t want him to resort to truly ugly remarks about Ava or her boyfriend. It would have been possible, and human, for him to do so, but as a character I don’t think he could’ve come back from that. Readers wouldn’t have let him.
Same with Ava. Anne Elliot is a notoriously patient, caring, and understanding character. I wanted to take Ava into the realm of believable and relateable, with faults of her own aside from letting herself be persuaded. She couldn’t just be long-suffering. She felt jealousy too, but she recognized it, and tried to tamper it.
Here’s an excerpt from SWAY, when Ava learns just how close Eric and Lacey (Louisa Musgrove) are getting. It also features Ava’s sister Mari (Mary Musgrove) and her best friend Lexi (Mrs. Smith). This is Ava feeling the jealousy, but trying not to let it rule her thoughts and emotions.
“You should have been there yesterday, Ava,” Mari said. “Eric did the funniest thing. We all went down to the beach and…”
I tuned her out. Mari was always regaling me with the many wonderful aspects of Eric Wentworth. He had taken on godlike status in her mind. She didn’t seem to realize how little I wanted to talk about him. Or see him.
“Lacey just about died,” Mari continued. Lacey nodded her head. “She ran out of the water and—”
“Hey, let me tell this part,” Lacey interrupted.
I cranked up the volume of the Andrew Lloyd Webber song that had been stuck in my head ever since we started practicing it for a Philharmonic performance next month.
“Ava, are you even listening?”
I blinked. “What?”
“Is this weird?” Lacey asked. “Maybe we shouldn’t be talking about it.”
Oh how I wished they wouldn’t.
“I thought you’d be okay with it,” she continued. “Mari told me you would be…” She trailed off when Mari shot her a dirty look.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
Mari and Lacey exchanged glances. “Lacey and Eric are—” Mari began but Lacey cut in.
“We’re sort of together.”
My throat suddenly felt thick. “Oh.”
Lexi nudged me again.
“You don’t mind, do you?” Lacey asked. “Because it was a long time ago when you two dated but I don’t know if you’re still hung up on him or—”
“No!” I lowered my voice to a normal level. “No, it’s fine. Of course it’s fine. That was like, eight years ago. Ancient history. Just a bit of leftover bad blood working itself out, that’s all.” I grabbed my soda and swigged, hoping to banish the weird lump that had formed in my throat.
Lacey’s face lit up with a huge grin. “You’re the best!”
“See, I told you she’d be okay with it,” Mari said. I grimaced around my straw. “They’ve gone out almost every day this week. Lacey’s in looooove.”
Lacey blushed and giggled. She didn’t deny it.
“So soon?” Lexi asked. She didn’t know Lacey, or the fact that she was the fall hard, fall fast type. I hadn’t heard of one relationship where it had taken her longer than two weeks to hit the L word.
“You haven’t met him,” Lacey said to Lexi. “He’s absolutely perfect.”
Lexi glanced at me.
“He is so sweet,” Lacey continued. “And kind and funny and…”
I wanted to put the magazine over my face and smother myself so I wouldn’t have to hear anymore. Lexi arched an eyebrow, her lips bunched together to keep from laughing.
“…and his voice! It’s so dreamy!”
Dreamy? Lexi mouthed. I smacked her with my magazine. Lacey was too busy gushing over Eric to notice.
“And those lips! Yum! He’s the best kisser ever.”
My smile died. I could still remember the taste of Eric’s lips, the way his mouth moved with mine. How his hands felt when they caressed my skin. The weight of his body pressing into me. How I used to melt into him.
I pushed those memories away. They were bad news.
“Oh, sorry,” Lacey said. “Too far, right?”
Lexi studied me, her eyebrows lowered. You okay? she mouthed.
I nodded. Eric was dating Lacey. Good for them. We’d moved on from each other ages ago.
But that didn’t stop me from wishing I didn’t have to be around to hear about all of this newfound looooove.