The Girls Across the Bay Author Commentary

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Chapter 3: Setting the Scene

The first time my two protagonists, Madigan and Grace, come together in the first book of the series is Chapter 3.

Their relationship dynamics may seem complicated to a reader in the beginning. Sisters by choice, not blood. Women who shared a traumatic past, including a separation before their teen years, but remained in each other’s lives nonetheless. The chapter begins…

Madigan squeezed the folded lawn chairs under her arm, dragging her small cooler through the sand toward the large rock nestled into the face of a short cliff. They had claimed the spot as their own the year they met, both seven. The year they became sisters—not by blood—but by the bond they shared as misfits. Two innocent children, forced into a new life filled with manipulation, abuse, and desperation.

Their special spot on the coast in the small town of Tall Pines came to me all at once. The place from which they could see the neighboring city, Amherst, from across the bay. Their own prison, or so it felt…

Without a destination in mind, only knowing they wanted to get as far away from home as possible, they slipped away from Evette through the metal gate. Following the long row of tall pines toward the coast, the hum of the crowds faded as they reached the water’s edge and settled on the rocky shore that summer night.
It had been their first time seeing the ocean up close, and Madigan often compared the crashing waves and bubbling water along the shoreline to her own feelings about that night.
They were lost and scared. Finally, free. And together.

What better setting to introduce these women? Here, they reflect on their past. The trauma, separation, and emotions . They also discuss recent events, and an underlying apprehension to tell each other the full truth gives an inkling of the affects of their separation during the year Grace worked undercover.

Even so, this chapter serves as a new beginning.

They reunite in Tall Pines, the town they dreamed of living in as children. After Grace’s demotion, left feeling vulnerable and alone, she purchases a small, cottage-like home, minutes from their special spot. My inspiration for her white beach house came on a walk with my dogs, passing a beautiful house in a nearby neighborhood that I still visit on occasion.

Together again, and with time to revisit the past, their individual points of view in this chapter regarding what happened to them and the people who hurt them showcase some of the main differences in their personalities.

“The police came right down there.” Grace pointed to the rocky pathway she’d walked down.
“And Evette was waiting up there for us with open arms, you remember?” Madigan pointed to the ledge they’d both come from, by Rosebank Drive.
“She was crying. She was faking it.” Grace leaned back in her chair.
“I don’t think she was.”

Their differing points of view came naturally as I wrote this scene, but it also became clear that together, they could use their individual strengths to become something stronger. It was how they got through their time in the same foster home, and I knew it was how they would get through as adults.

I didn’t anticipate how they would both get in their own way, and that it wouldn’t be until the book I’m currently writing, Book 3, The Lies You Told, that they would finally use their skills together in a way they had only experimented with in the first 2 books.

This chapter also introduces the inciting event, the beginning of the central mystery…

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She stepped inside, and a bright red puddle on the taupe living room carpet caught her eye. Deep voices carried down the hallway, and she pulled on a pair of gloves before taking a step from the hardwood hallway onto the plush carpet in the living room.
Red roses and petals lay scattered around a blonde woman, her hair dyed red by the blood, and her body sprawled out like she’d fallen, or been pushed down. As she crouched, light from the lamp reflected off a piece of glass. The rest of the broken glass vase had rolled under the living room table. Another glint caught her eye: a diamond engagement ring.
The floral perfume of the roses mixed with the metallic smell of blood turned her stomach. The cycle of abuse. Apologies made. Promises broken.

Grace and Madigan knew the cycle of abuse only too well, and through the rest of the book, their past and present relationships are explored, both as a team and separately. The foundation of trust is both cracked and rebuilt.

But one thing remains. The bond they share.

I have a sister who is my best friend, too. I’m so grateful to have such a supportive, encouraging, and strong relationship with her, filled with humor, respect, and trust. I know that not everyone has this kind of relationship with a family member, but they might with someone else. Family by choice. All relationships are valid and it’s a great adventure to explore the bond Madigan and Grace share, and their journey together.

Thank you for joining me on this deep dive into the third chapter of The Girls Across the Bay.

Emerald O'Brien