I have found that pictures can provide huge inspiration. I remember seeing an image a few years ago and deciding that was Annabelle the night Robin met her…
In my mind, Robin is just one of the men who see the stunning siren walk into the venue where a PR event/cocktail party is being held by a New York media company. Robin is there with his flatmate, who works for the company. Seeing that Robin cannot keep his eyes off Annabelle, his flatmate (who knows that Annabelle is known as the blonde on the arm of one of the hottest musicians in the charts – Dean Mathers – until their recent split) tells Robin that he does not have a chance with Annabelle.
Determined not to be put off, Robin makes a beeline for Annabelle. He has no idea who she is and he has never heard of Dean Mathers.
Now although the picture above was the original inspiration for Annabelle’s breath-taking entrance at the party where Robin sees her for the first time, I knew there were a few details that I had to address. Annabelle has been very low and lost since her break up from Dean. The last place she wants to be is at a party, but in her new role for Sony, she is expected to be at these social events. There are signs of how troubled she is on her arms and legs and other parts of her body. So I realized that her stunning dress actually needed full length sleeves as well as being long and nowhere near as revealing as the dress above. Annabelle has deliberately chosen the dress because it hides her injuries, but the dazzling gold is eye-catching.
Then comes the worst start. Robin attempts to flirt with Annabelle by sidling up to her and remarking, “You do realize that your dress isn’t in fashion, don’t you? You the only woman in the room not showing off any cleavage.”
Annabelle is quite rightly unimpressed by Robin’s overly personal and direct comment. She gives him that look of “Go away please Creep!” Coldly she replies, “I don’t need any advice on how to dress,” and turns to move away.
Realizing immediately that Annabelle does not see any humour in his comment, Robin tries to keep her attention, “What about my tie? What do you think of my tie?”
Irritated by Robin’s persistence, Annabelle states, “It’s just a black tie.”
“Is that all you can see? There’s a lot more to this tie than that.”
Bewildered, Annabelle turns Robin’s tie over and reads the garment care label, “100% silk, delicate dry-clean only”.
Robin looks into Annabelle’s eyes, “Don’t judge too quickly on first impressions. There is a lot more to get to know.” When Annabelle is still hesitant, Robin holds out his hand and suggests, “Can I go back and start again? Hi, I’m Robin Grainger. It’s nice to meet you.”
Accepting his handshake, the beauty replies, “Annabelle. No, there is no going back, we can only go forwards.”
Gambling the progress he has made during an awkward conversation, Robin boldly asks, “Does going forwards mean you will consider coming back to my place?”
It is just one scene…but it included lots of references that tie into other conversations in the book. It is Dean who has always said to Annabelle, “No regrets. There is no going back, you can only go forwards.” The night she meets Robin, Dean is still at the centre of her thoughts. It is the care label on Annabelle’s dress that he uses to show her he is not going to let her down.
I am finding as I am imagining and writing, Annabelle is profoundly aware of the differences between Robin and Dean.
It is Robin’s direct confident manner that Annabelle is bowled over by and she soon find herself swept off her feet by the self-assured, strong-willed, decisive and dynamic man, who is a contrast to often disheveled and unkempt Dean, who suffered from stage-fright and turned to alcohol to settle his nerves and cope with pressure. Annabelle has spent years with Dean, her first boyfriend, who grew up like her in the Bronx, and talked about guitars, motorbikes and tattoos…and has habits that distress Annabelle, meaning she often has had to care for him when he made himself ill. She cannot help see the contrast in the clever, well-read English man who dresses well, eats well, and is thrilled to have met Annabelle.
It is so much fun to go back and think about these characters in more detail. I love Chris Ward as much as everyone else who has read Annabelle’s story. But for now, I am dwelling on Annabelle before she ever meets Chris. This is a stage in her life that fascinates me, and I am amazed at how much fun it is to work out the intricate detail.