Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 1 of Jessica, a story about a nineteen-year-old woman who is trying break the pattern of loss and unhappiness that has defined her childhood. What Jessica wants most is to build a life with her boyfriend, Jimmy, but Jimmy is trapped in a dangerous family dynamic. When Jessica 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 1 -Jimmy
I used to love to drive the two-lane road that led to Jimmy’s house. I raced through every twist and turn, but it was never fast enough. My heart pounded every time I saw Jimmy and when I felt my body against his, I knew the joy that ripped through me would make all the other things that pushed down on my heart melt away. Jimmy was the center of my life.
As I was racing towards Jimmy, I was also running away from my house, just an empty frame that was once filled with happiness. There was a time when Dad would walk in through the side door with a loud “Hello! Who’s here?” and Stevie and I, small and excited, would drop what we were doing and shout, “We are!” Mom would laugh and call out “Me too!” with a wink to Stevie and me. And Dad would stand there looking at her with one of his warm and open smiles that told us there was something real between Mom and Dad.
None of us was like that now, not me, not Mom. And Dad and Stevie were long gone. Whatever the special thing was that had held Mom and Dad together then had unraveled or dissolved or exploded into nothing and one day when I was twelve, Dad walked out the same door he’d been coming through all those years. He left and he didn’t come back.
For awhile it was just the three of us, but we were already broken by then and hanging onto nothing or reaching for something that was gone. Stevie hung around for a few years, but they were ugly and sad years full of anger and shouting and on most nights they left Mom sitting alone at the kitchen table staring at the wall. As soon as Stevie graduated high school, he left our house and never came back either except for the one time at Christmas that gave Mom and me a moment of false hope until the shouting began. Then Mom and I were left again to pick up the pieces, but we never did figure out how to carry on the right way.
I thought I had found another way to feel right and that was with Jimmy. He was broken like me and together we had built ourselves into something. We’d met two years earlier in high school and from the start we could sense the need in each other and feel the comfort of being together.
Mom didn’t like Jimmy. “He’s not steady, Jessica,” she’d tell me. “You can do so much better than that.” She thought Jimmy was holding me back.
Mom couldn’t see what Jimmy and I were building. She thought I should be going to college to build something for myself. “You’re throwing away your future, Jessica,” she’d tell me. But I didn’t want to go. I was making money and I was saving it for Jimmy and me.
“How would you pay if I went to college anyway, Mom?” I’d asked her.
Mom’s face pinched tight. “Your father has the money for your college education.”
My father. I hadn’t talked to him in seven years. He didn’t care enough to stick around while I grew up, but he had money for me to go to college. I didn’t want it.
“Tell him no thanks,” I answered.
Jimmy wasn’t weak, he was hurt like me, but I thought he’d had it worse. At night Jimmy would pull me close and I could just feel his body pulling strength from mine. “Don’t ever leave me, Jes. I need you,” he’d say. Those words gave me joy and purpose and I lived for that feeling. If he needed me, I was there. I believed in him. Jimmy was my family.
Jimmy had a job in Farmington, fixing computer equipment. He didn’t want to work for his brother Stu, building decks. “Stu’s always telling me what to do and it’s never good enough for him,” he’d tell me. “Let Gene follow him around and take his orders. I don’t need him.” So Jimmy let Stu take over their younger brother’s future and Jimmy stayed clear.
After high school I got a job waitressing at the Springs Diner in East Lake. Every night I drove to see Jimmy after we both got off work. We spent most of our time at Jimmy’s house, but on warm nights we’d head to the lake. We had each other and we had a future. I already knew I wanted to marry Jimmy. I was just waiting for him ask.
At night, Jimmy and I would sit in the front seat of his truck, parked far away on the other edge of the lake, down a barely visible dirt road we knew about and felt we owned. He’d pull out a six-pack that he’d taken from his brother Stu and flip up the top for me before he handed me the lukewarm beer and I would think he was so gallant, doing that nice thing for me. I knew the small things were just as important as the big ones. But Mom never could see that Jimmy was good. She only saw weakness. I didn’t see weakness. I saw a life and it was in reach.
Jimmy lived with his dad and his two brothers, Stu and Gene. They weren’t much of a family. They were just four people living in the same house. It hadn’t been the same for them since Jimmy’s mom died. His dad fell to pieces after that. He could have pulled Jimmy and his brothers close to make them strong. Instead he gave up. Stu was sixteen back then. Jimmy was ten and his little brother Gene was eight. “That’s when Stu started running my life,” Jimmy told me.
Last week I drove the long way to work past Jimmy’s house. I liked to take the long way so I could pass his house and see his truck parked in the driveway. It made me feel close to him. Seeing his house and his truck in the driveway reminded me of what was great between us and what lay ahead. Jimmy and I were working toward the same thing, us.
Only five hours earlier I had crawled out of his bed and gone back to my own house to sleep until dawn and to get ready for work. My radio was blasting that morning. I was living in the moment of that music and I turned it up louder. The sound was full, with noisy guitar and screaming lyrics and I felt strong and bursting with power as it played. I liked the same kind of music Jimmy liked and I played it loud the way he did because I could feel it draw us together.
As I drove towards Jimmy’s house, I knew that soon he would be getting ready for work. I smiled when I thought about how he might do the same thing in a couple hours, play his music loud and think about me.
I was singing as I turned my head to see his truck in the driveway. I was sure I would see his red pick-up, but the spot where he parked was empty. My stomach tightened. I wanted to stop but I would be late to the Diner. Where was he? Why hadn’t he told me what he was doing?
That was the beginning of a flood of uncertain feelings and anxiety that flowed through me and took hold of me, like a lost log in a raging river, bouncing against rocks and the river banks, becoming tangled in branches and debris, and moving towards an unnamed place.
Thank you for reading. All comments are welcome.
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