Jack Ryder (Young Adult)
Jack Ryder was adjusting to life after college just fine. He was a fun-loving, but had an easy nature about him that just made things easy to deal with. Few things ruffled his feathers. He spent long hours painting and survived off pizza and food trucks.
It was through his love of pizza that he met Sophia.
She was a sweet girl, not usually his type, but for some reason they continued to run into each other and Jack just found himself sliding into an easy friendship with her. There was nothing wrong with Sophia and perhaps that was the issue. Jack had flirted with danger since the first time he’d laid eyes on Natalia Novak when he was a kid. Since then, he’d had a thing for girls who were bad news. His little ‘arrangement’ with Emma Steel in college was just another testament to that.
Sophia was different. Sophia was pretty normal. She didn’t come with any weird baggage.
Somehow, their good-natured friendship was kicked up to eleven one evening at the club Jack frequented. They’d bumped into one another and after a few drinks… well, things happened. Jack didn’t feel particularly guilty. He was with Natalia, sure, but this was Jack. He just took life as it came at him. Deep relationships and the sort just didn’t really ‘factor in’ to his lifestyle.
The bartender, who recognized him over his past year or so as a regular, felt the need to question his behavior even if Jack didn’t.
“Don’t you have a girlfriend?”
“I guess,” Jack responded, not really feeling it. He did, but did he want to? Natalia was acting crazy, crazier than usual for her, and that was saying something. He was beginning to feel like he’d bit off more than he could swallow. “It’s complicated.”
“That’s crap people say on social media when they’re not committed.”
Jack sighed. “I guess. Maybe I’m not, then.”
Jack had never been terribly close with Juliet McMaster, but she was Catherine’s twin sister, so it wasn’t like they were strangers. They shared some things in common, like a love of mystery comics and Jack enjoyed reading her exposes in the paper. It wasn’t unusual for them to engage in casual conversation when they bumped into one another at the laundromat.
Somehow, though, Jack ended up slipping and spilling his fears and concerns about Natalia.
He’d always sort of suspected that Juliet wanted him and Catherine to ‘hook up’. They’d always been close, even though the twins were slightly older and friends of Jessica’s before becoming his own. It just never happened. Besides, Catherine was all about weddings, marriage, and seriousness… and Jack just wasn’t like that. He couldn’t ever fathom being like that.
His joke had always been that he thought of himself similar to the late, great Dominic Cosaro–a man of his own, who did as he liked. That was definitely a life Jack could get behind.
Juliet’s advice, of course, was to talk to Catherine.
If Catherine had ever harbored some secret flame for Jack, she’d kept it close to the vest. They still hung out often and their friendly banter hadn’t lessened any over the years. Jack had been there when she’d gotten knocked up and now she was here, trying to guide him in the best way to deal with this Natalia debacle.
“Infatuation rarely leads to love, I guess,” Catherine remarked a little sadly. “We all knew that as soon as you two were official, the charm would wear off. Don’t get me wrong, Nat and I are cool… but we all know how she is.”
“Trust me, I know better than anyone at this point! It’s like she’s lost her mind. She’s still harping on that Emma stuff from college. I’m not about getting in the middle of some girl pissing contest, you know?”
At this, Catherine laughed, “and yet you’re always somehow caught right in that spot. That’s what you get for ‘living dangerously.'”
“Well, maybe I need to stop. I mean, there’s this girl, she’s really nice…”
“Oh boy,” Catherine said, stopping her motions on the foosball table and giving all her strength to the eye roll that followed, “let me guess… ‘she’s different’?”
“Shut up and play, Cat. I’m schooling you.”
Living downtown wasn’t the safest option, but it was the one best suited to Jack, who liked being close to the action. Unfortunately, this put him as a prime target for a string of burglaries that had been hitting his area the past month or so. Being the brave type, he didn’t take the attempted theft lying down, and had dispatched the would-be thief just as the police arrived.
No one was surprised when they figured out his sister was the fire chief, Jessica Ryder.
Being downtown also meant that Natalia dropped in quite a bit. It was always at odd hours, though, and rarely ever with notice. She’d stay the night and leave in the morning. As much as Jack questioned their relationship, there was no questioning Natalia’s appeal. It was easy to dismiss when she wasn’t visible, but in person, it was nearly impossible.
Natalia’s dark mystery always worked in her favor.
It didn’t help that she knew exactly what buttons to push. Jack had always been a willing and obedient follower for Natalia. She was used to him falling in line at the flutter of her eyelashes.
Unfortunately for her, that veil had long since faded. Jack was ready to pursue his own interests separate from his childhood infatuation.
“I just don’t feel like it’s working out, Nat,” Jack began cautiously after extricating himself from Natalia’s embrace, “I mean… it’s fun and all, but I just don’t feel like being serious right now.”
“What are you even talking about?”
“It’s just one of those things, you know? And you’re kind of freaking me out a little.”
“Jack… are you seriously trying to break up with me?”
“Er, yeah, I–”
“You ass! I should turn you into a damn toad! Where do you get off treating me this way? You’re an idiot!”
“Nat, come on,” Jack pleaded, not wanting it to go down this way. “We can still be friends–”
“Friends? FRIENDS? HA! You wish. This is ridiculous. I can’t even believe you right now.” Natalia threw her arms up in a dramatic sweep and took a few calming breaths. “You’re going to regret this, Jack Ryder.”
“Natalia, this is–”
“Shut up! Just shut up.” With that, she stormed out.
That was certainly not how Jack had pictured things going. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, his worry increased a little.
It was quickly overshadowed by the realization that now he was free to pursue who he’d like without being scrutinized too harshly. There were no guarantees that he wouldn’t eventually be turned into a toad, though. That one was still very much a possibility.
Actually, knowing Natalia, is more like a promise.
Whew! Jack has been slowly falling ‘out of love’ with Natalia for a while. She’s just too serious and volatile. That doesn’t make a good mix for his personality. Then he got the ROS ‘Beer Goggles’ and ran into Sophia. It was supposed to be a one-off thing, but he kept spinning up wishes for her! They didn’t stop, either. Immediately after dumping Natalia, he spun up another one to kiss Sophia.
Jack’s romantic life has been an interesting one. The number below would have been five had he and Emma ever crossed the lines of friendship:
He’ll likely be clearing those old loves, though, if his wishes for Sophia are any indication of his current feelings. He’s borderline obsessed. I’m beginning to think he’s just an obsessive guy. Sophia is cute, though, so I’ll allow it. I’m a little sad he won’t be ending up with Cat, but it’s probably for the best in the end!