Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 41 of Jessica. Jessica is nineteen-years-old and she is trying break the pattern of loss and unhappiness that has defined her childhood. What she wants most is to build a life with Jimmy, but Jimmy is trapped in a dangerous family dynamic. When she learns the truth about Jimmy, it’s up to her to save him. To do this, she must turn to the one person who has hurt her the most, her father. A series of events pushes Jessica beyond anything she can imagine and forces her to define happiness and love in a different way, and at a heartbreaking price.
Chapter 41 – “What Are Rights?”
I listened to Mom and Dad with mixed loyalties. Mom was right, I had chosen Dad over her because I thought Dad would know what to do. He was used to tackling problems and had the money and connections to act. I hadn’t considered going to Mom because I didn’t think she was strong enough to help. And she was biased. She never liked Jimmy and thought I could do better. I didn’t think she would try to help Jimmy. I thought she would tell me to leave him in his mess. But maybe Mom would have recognized that I was in my own unstable mess. Maybe she would have seen through Jimmy’s delusions and through mine. I wasn’t sure anymore. I went to Dad because I knew he was a fresh set of ears. I had banked on his making no judgments. And I had played him a little, with no guilt, because that’s exactly how he lived his life. But I hoped he would feel guilty enough about leaving us that he would help me.
If Dad had any kind of hope of making friends with Mom, it was gone by the time we finished eating. Mom went through her list of grievances and Dad sat and took it. He looked meek, but I wondered if he was simply using a strategy to deal with Mom. I hadn’t hoped for a reconciliation. I was actually alarmed at the idea. I had spent years wishing for Dad to come back to Mom. Now that he was sitting in our kitchen, it seemed wrong and I was relieved to see that Mom and Dad were on separate ends.
Eventually, they got to the business of me, my medical history and what they proposed to do about my treatment. I hated my medicine, but I knew it was working. It had only been a few days, but I was beginning to think more clearly since I’d begun taking it regularly. I thought that adjusting the medicine was the answer and figured that’s where our conversation would lead. But I was wrong and was surprised at Mom and Dad’s sudden unity. They had disagreed about a lot of other things, but it was obvious that Mom and Dad were both thinking that the best thing for me was to get away from Jimmy and my job.
“There’s a very reputable center outside of Pittsburgh. I spoke to the director this morning and they have space for a short-term residency,” suggested Mom.
“Is that the Briarwoods Center?” asked Dad.
“Yes,” answered Mom. “They treat all types of disorders. Jessica could go there, have her medications sorted out, get herself grounded, set some goals and be released in six months.”
I was horrified at the suggestion. No one, not even Dr. Hutchins, had proposed I go away. I hated the idea that Mom had discussed my condition with doctors at a treatment center, without mentioning it to me. I felt insulted and manipulated.
“Wait a minute!” I shouted. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m back on my meds and even back working. I admit I had a sort of breakdown, but that’s between me and Dr. Hutchins. You have no right to pack me up and send me away. I’m not a child and I can make my own decisions.”
“You’re right, Jessica,” said Dad. “But we are still your parents, and we can help you get better. A few days ago, you were convinced that Jimmy and his brothers were part of a robbery scheme and that Jimmy was being set up.”
“But you believed it too, Dad! You fell for Jimmy’s story just as much as I did.”
“I believed you, Jessica. I trusted that you were giving me the right story. I don’t blame you for telling me the wrong thing. But you can’t just claim you’re cured because you started your medication again. You came to me for help a few weeks ago and I did what I thought would help you. Now it’s clear you’re in a completely different situation, but you still need help, Jessica. And you need to admit that, just like you did when you first came to me.”
“No,” I answered. “I’m not going. I have too much to do here. Jimmy’s still in the hospital, I have work, and…” I hesitated. I was thinking of Stevie, but I knew I couldn’t tell Mom and Dad about him, not yet at least.
“And what?” asked Mom. “I’ve already talked to Dr. Hutchins and to your boss at the Springs Diner. Dr. Hutchins is the one who suggested Briarwoods. She’s sent other patients there and they have had excellent results. And the Springs Diner will hold your job for you until you come back, if you want it.”
“You have no right to take over my life!” I roared. “I’m an adult and can handle my own responsibilities. And how is it the two of you are suddenly a team, working against me? It’s not right and I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do!”
“Jessica, calm down,” said Mom. “You are part of this conversation. But your father and I watched you fall apart and we have the right and responsibility, and the resources, to make sure you get back on your feet. Why don’t you talk to Dr. Hutchins? You have trusted her in the past. She can explain what’s available to you at Briarwoods. See what she has to say.”
“Your mother is right, Jessica. We may not be together anymore, but we agree on this,” said Dad.
A cornered animal had a better chance of escaping the trap Mom and Dad had set for me. At least an animal had instincts to help it act. I was exhausted and had nothing. The dull pain in my head had begun to sharpen and throb.
“Thanks a lot!” I screamed. “That’s your answer? This is not help you are offering me. This is a way to get rid of a problem that has been disrupting your lives.”
“Hold on, Jessica!” answered Dad. “You know that is not true. Why do I have to keep reminding you that you came to me for help? I walked away years ago, but I will not walk away from this. Your mother and I can help you. We are still a family in that sense and I’m telling you, you need to think long and hard about what would happen if you refused our help.”
“Are you threatening me, Dad? Is that what you’re doing?” I was so fired up I didn’t know what I was saying. I was at the edge of an argument that could determine where my life would head. I wanted to scream whatever came into my head. I felt I had the right. Mom had her rant list. Why couldn’t I go through mine? Tell Mom and Dad both how I feel, how I felt all these years about being either abandoned or ignored.
Mom jumped up and her chair fell back hard on the floor. The sharp noise jolted us.
“Enough!” she yelled. “I know I did my share of yelling earlier tonight, but screaming at each other now is not why we are here. Nothing is going to happen tonight or tomorrow, or the next day, Jessica. We are here to talk about what’s best, all of us, for you. Your father is right, we are still a family in this most basic way.”
I suddenly hated being an adult, listening to Mom and Dad yell and being part of it all.
My head hurt. I took a drink of ice water, set my glass on the table and rubbed my forehead. My cold hand felt good against the throb of my head and brought me some clarity.
“Pick up your chair, Mom and sit back down. Instead of listening to you tell me what to do, I will tell you what I am going to do,” I said. I had their attention, but I was bluffing. I had no plan. All I really wanted to do was go to bed. Maybe that was enough for tonight. I had to come up with something to keep them from sending me off. I wanted to see Stevie and convince him to talk to Mom and Dad. And I felt frantically disconnected from Jimmy. I had to see him again. I longed to belong to him again.
“I am really angry that you have made plans for me without talking to me first. Just because I’m what you keep calling “unstable” doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings…and rights. You have no idea how I feel. My whole world has come apart and all the two of you are doing is ‘managing’ my life. Yes, Dad, I did come to you for help. But that was to help Jimmy with a legal problem. It had nothing to do with my mental health so don’t twist it into that. And Mom, all you have done lately is nag me about taking my medicine and I feel like it’s only because if I don’t, it makes your life hard. Like it has nothing to do with how I am or feel or what’s going on with me. So both of you, stop turning this around to be your problem. It’s my problem and all I’m going to do tonight is go to bed. Don’t either of you dare make another move to reserve me a spot at a treatment facility, or talk to my boss or to Dr. Hutchins. Those are my affairs and I resent you for doing that behind my back.”
I was finished. “I’m going to bed.” I stood up and left the kitchen, leaving Mom and Dad to chew on my words.
Thank you for reading – all comments are welcome.
Click below to check out earlier chapters.
Chapter 1 – “Jimmy”
Chapter 2 – “Stevie”
Chapter 3 – “A Photo and a Letter”
Chapter 4 – “The Life Within”
Chapter 5 – “Jimmy’s Truck”
Chapter 6 – “The Springs Diner”
Chapter 7 – “Dinner and a Game”
Chapter 8 – “He Made Me Nervous”
Chapter 9 – “I Called Dad on My Thirteenth Birthday”
Chapter 10 – “Connections and Time”
Chapter 11 – “The Reverse Apology”
Chapter 12 – “Empty Bedrooms”
Chapter 13 – “Job Description”
Chapter 14 – “The Car I Saw”
Chapter 15 – “It’s Not What You Think”
Chapter 16 – “A Different Route”
Chapter 17 – “Choosing Balance”
Chapter 18 – “A Mother Sees”
Chapter 19 – “Taking More”
Chapter 20 – “Robbing the Future”
Chapter 21 – “I Thought I Didn’t Need Her”
Chapter 22 – “It Was Up to Me”
Chapter 23 – “Separate and Icy”
Chapter 24 – “Striking a Nerve”
Chapter 25 – “Help Has Its Price”
Chapter 26 – “Who Asked for Help?”
Chapter 27 – “You’ve Done Enough”
Chapter 28 – “The Plan”
Chapter 29 – “Who Says I’m Not Okay?”
Chapter 30 – “What’s So Great about Balance?”
Chapter 31 – “I’ll Call You When It’s Over”
Chapter 32 – “Sorting It Out”
Chapter 33 – “Truth and Lies”
Chapter 34 – “The Car-Port House”
Chapter 35 – “It’s a Dead Yard”
Chapter 36 – “I Just Want To See Him”
Chapter 37 – “I’m Not Going Anywhere”
Chapter 38 – “He’s Here Now”
Chapter 39 – “Not Everything Changes”
Chapter 40 – “Anger’s Release”
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