When I write about Stefanie’s world in the Tandro books, I think about these words. At the start of book one you are immediately drawn into Stefanie’s grief and anguish as she spends her days nursing her son Lyndon in the hospital. By the end of the chapter you realise she has been offered a chance to save him…but the fallout will have huge moral and emotional consequences for her and her family.
When thinking of the main story line for Tandro, I wanted to create a character who had very high expectations of herself and never felt she was good enough or matching up enough to her own high standards. This makes her moral dilemma even more difficult for her to come to terms with. Should she spend a day sexually with another man, from another universe, in order to get the medical treatment she needs for her son?
Not only is Stefanie someone who places high demands on herself to be a good person, she is also someone who has a lot of hidden desires that she has not been able to express.
In Chapter four you hear more about the background to Stefanie’s inner dialogue and the pressures she places on herself. This is in contrast to her friend Rachel, who, when faced with the same dilemma, had no hesitation in accepting a proposal from Hedler and Tandro. Here is an except from Chapter four where Stefanie and Rachel are discussing Jovil, the agent from Tandr who has asked to spend the day with Stefanie.
“Jovil? Oh my God, Stefanie! Have you seen him? He is stunning. Literally, stop you in your tracks, leaves you breathless. And, not only that, he is more than high up, he is practically royalty. A direct descendent of their ruler, Hedler, and is in charge of their whole research programme here. It will all make a lot more sense to you once you spend time with them. You lucky bugger. I think just about any woman or man would be flattered to have been chosen by him. And Robert has met him too? He must be a very self-confident man that husband of yours to let you be with him, even if it is for Lyndon.”
Rachel was becoming animated in her gestures now, eyes twinkling as she poured more champagne into Stefanie’s glass.
Stefanie could feel her heart beat thumping against her chest, her breathing becoming more laboured. She felt her hand move to cover up her neck, where she knew red, tell-tale blotches of excitement would be showing, and hoped they would be masked, as opposed to enhanced, by the glow of the nearby red lava lamp. Rachel’s words were making her feel dizzy. She had been picked by someone who takes your breath away: the most powerful one: the one in charge!
“Well, he probably won’t make me feel breathless Rachel. I feel utterly disgusted by the whole thing,” retorted Stefanie, folding her arms in a defensive manner.
“Don’t hate me for saying this Stef, but, I think perhaps the lady doth protest too much? You think you should feel disgusted, but maybe there is a part of you that is a little intrigued too?” Rachel reached out to give Stefanie’s arm a gentle squeeze. She was treading carefully.
“I do feel excited, yes - excited that we might be able to save Lyndon, but not that we have to do this hideous exchange meeting in order to save him.”
Rachel leaned forward, again a little too close to Stefanie’s face, “What’s all this ‘we’? You will be doing this. Trust me, it ain’t no threesome situation.”
“I know that! But Robert is going to have to deal with this too. Did you not feel that way for James: horrendous guilt when you….well, left to be with your alien man?”
Stefanie’s voice trailed off at this point. Even saying the word ‘alien’ felt absurd, making her feel vulnerable and foolish. At what point would the walls of this wooden cabin fall away to reveal a whole television camera crew laughing and applauding at her stupidity, falling for the latest reality show set –up: an eager T.V presenter reaching out to her, microphone in hand? Got ya there didn’t we Stefanie Millican! Robert didn’t think you would fall for it but you have been a star to watch all along.
Rachel sighed and seemed aware that Stefanie was drifting away. “Alien man? Hmm… yes I guess Bermoss is an alien in the sense that he is from another planet. But, I can tell you, honey, he is all man and even more, much more. And, to answer your question about James - I have thought about this a lot and I am inclined to say no. It could have been one of the female Tandro agents who chose him and I’m sure he wishes it had been that way round. They are stunning girls too! But, I don’t feel horrendous guilt because it is a gift in more ways than you might think. More than anything, I can sleep at night knowing that my little girl is sleeping and breathing easily now in the room next to me and has a bright and amazing future ahead of her. It doesn’t actually matter one damn bit how I made that happen either.”
Rachel gulped down the rest of her drink before continuing in a softer tone:
“We are mothers Stef, and you know as well as I do how oxygen-sucking it is to sit in a hospital every day as helpless as a bloody fly, waiting to hear if some new experimental drug has worked. Well, unbelievably, I got to be the experiment and it worked! One hundred per cent worked. No, five per cent improvement or potential reoccurrence on the horizon either!”
Rachel was in her element now as she delivered her victory-justifying speech. The red and green glow from the lava lamps combined with flickering candlelight shadows, which were dancing around Rachel’s bouncy red hair, created an alluring scene: one that was having a heady effect on Stefanie.
Rachel’s speech hadn’t finished though: “And, believe it or not, I think it may even end up being a gift for my marriage too! James and I had been drifting dangerously towards being much more like friends than lovers for some time and even before Annabelle got sick I had been seriously questioning our future together. I’m also pretty sure that James had a fling…an affair. I’m not sure how serious it was, someone he worked with.”
“You think he had an affair? You didn’t confront him?”
Stefanie squeaked, unable to hide her shock. Rachel’s smile was no longer so convincing and this stoic resolution to accept her husband’s indiscretion surprised Stefanie. Robert and she had always maintained that any kind of sexual, or even emotional betrayal would be a deal breaker in their marriage. She would have put money on Rachel being the sort of person who lived within the same moral framework. Then again, no one really understood what went on in a relationship other than the two people in it.