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August 12, 2013

Alexandra Richland: I am worried about Trenton Merrick

I am worried about Trenton Merrick. 

One of the two principal characters in the romantic thriller, Frontline, Trenton remains a mystery even to me, the book’s author. I created him to be a quiet, enigmatic, brooding man on the surface. It’s those traits that first intrigue Sara Peters, the book’s other principal character, and inspire her initial curiosity towards him.  

As the story progresses and different situations expose different sides of his personality to us (“us” includes me—remember, I’m on this journey with all of you!), whether the situation is romantic, sexual, suspenseful, or even deathdefying, Trenton remains stoic in the face of it all. He even refuses painkillers when injured. 

I am a registered nurse by profession. I see how people respond to news of their progress: joy when the news is good, determination when things are on the fence and more tests are required. I’m lucky enough to see patients who have no hope on arrival at my hospital rally to make a full recovery. They carry a new perspective on life out the door with them when they leave. That experience is worrisome, but in the end, it’s joyful.

I’m also unlucky enough to see hope vanish in a patient’s eyes when the news isn’t good, when further tests or treatments ask not only too much of their bodies but too much of their hearts and minds. They leave with a different kind of perspective, if they get out of my hospital at all. Some of them don’t. But that experience is only worrisome for the patient at first. In the days that follow, as family members filter through to say their goodbyes, I’ve seen their worries and fears wash away beneath the first trickle of relief, by the hope that they’re going some place even better than this one. The human spirit thrives in these moments and the experience is life affirming.   

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When Trenton appeared in the opening chapter of Frontline, he immediately reminded me of a patient I helped treat who was admitted with a wound similar to his. This patient wouldn’t tell me anything about how it transpired. None of the members of my team, from rookies to senior staff with decades of experience, felt that he was telling us the truth.

There is protocol to follow at hospitals. If a child or teenager is admitted with a wound a nurse deems “suspicious”, we call the police or social services. But this was a fully-grown man—well-dressed, shined shoes, coiffed hair—who wouldn’t say a thing about how he managed to come about his injury beyond that it had been nothing more than an accident. He answered with quick, one-word replies, never made eye contact, and asked three times how much longer our treatment would take. I couldn’t help but wonder what his hurry was. What drove him to want to leave the hospital so quickly after receiving such a malicious injury? He seemed driven by something very powerful.

As the automatic doors of the emergency ward slid open and he walked back out into a hot summer night in the city, where danger might have been waiting for him just across the street, he didn’t show any signs of fear. If he left my hospital with any kind of a different perspective, I don’t know what it was. 

I’ve received messages from people asking me to write a chapter from Trenton Merrick’s point of view—to get inside his head and show them around. Dust, a short story that chronicles Trenton’s humanitarian trip to Haiti immediately following the devastating earthquake, appears in the appendix at the end of Frontline, and was my attempt to do just that. But despite the insights it offers, it doesn’t bring any of us closer to the mystery behind this man.  

Trenton is bold, brave, and defiant. He’s also stubborn and occasionally even stupid, according to Sara. But no matter how many words I try to use to describe him, Trenton can’t be summed up so easily. Like the man who strode out of the emergency ward that night, freshly bandaged, ready to meet whatever, or whoever, life threw at him next, a shroud of mystery surrounds Trenton that I can’t see through. Frontline is my attempt to try. 

What is Trenton’s focus, his quest, his ambition? And what, like the man that left my hospital that night, waits for Trenton in the darkness? That mystery intrigues me and inspires me. I look forward to exploring his character more in the rest of the Frontline series, and I’d like to invite you to come along on the journey.

About the Author:
Alexandra Richland spends rotating twelve-hour shifts working as a registered nurse at a Toronto hospital, indulging in her love of science and medicine, and caring for patients with their own unique tales to tell. When she is not on duty, Alexandra escapes into her own imagination. Therein lies a fantasy world of thrilling adventure, gorgeous men, classic Hollywood glamour, exotic getaways, and a seductive dose of romance. Alexandra captures these stories in her popular novels, The Starlight Trilogy and Frontline, and her short story, Gilded Cage. Say hello to her on Facebook and on Twitter.
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