Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 11 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 11 – The Reverse Apology
Jimmy didn’t call me the day after we sat at his house and watched basketball, the day I saw Stu and asked him about the rocks, and when I drove home, past their house, I saw Jimmy’s truck parked in its regular place and thought sure he would be calling as I walked in the door of my house.
The rocks were still stacked outside in the grass and this time I counted five of them. I couldn’t remember how many I had seen before, even that morning or if the number had changed. I wondered why Stu hadn’t answered me that morning, why he had cut me off. I was sure Stu knew about the rocks.
My stomach was jumpy as I walked into the house and I was trying hard to listen for the phone, thinking maybe I wouldn’t hear it if I didn’t try, but the house was silent. I went to my room and showered and changed clothes. This was my routine. Shower, fix food, wait for Jimmy’s call, meet Jimmy. And most times I would already know earlier when I’d see Jimmy.
I stood in the kitchen looking at the phone and in my head I went through the motions of calling Jimmy, checking in, joking with him the way we usually did, making the kind of plans that made me almost float through the late afternoon and night. And even if they were the same exact plans as the night before and had been almost the same for weeks and months, I felt lifted by the comfort and sameness of this schedule.
I was still uneasy when I picked up the phone to call Jimmy and I thought I was stupid to have sweaty palms and a knotted stomach. I didn’t know how to get back to the easy feeling and thought that I should just keep moving and call his house.
Jimmy answered and he said, “Hey Jes” and I was trying to hear something different in his voice, something that would tell me what had been happening the night before. “Hey,” I said back and then there was quiet. Just like when I had called Dad on my thirteenth birthday, when I had called and didn’t know what to say, just like that I had nothing to say and I wanted Jimmy to say something to me.
“What are you doing?” I asked pathetically. I felt somehow desperate but I didn’t know why. Nothing had really happened to make me feel this way.
“Nothing, just hanging out,” he answered.
“Oh,” me too. I wanted him to say come over, but he was silent. “Everything okay, Jimmy?” I asked. I didn’t want to ask. I didn’t like hearing my voice.
“Yeah, why?” he asked me. His voice was tight. I didn’t want to keep going. We had mostly only had good times. I didn’t know how to read Jimmy in any other kind of scene.
“I don’t know,” I started. And then I kept going. “You were so quiet last night. I thought maybe something was wrong and then I saw Stu at the diner this morning and he was acting strange and I asked him about the rocks and he cut me off and, Jimmy, you didn’t even get up and kiss me last night and you barely said hello or goodbye to me.” I trailed off. I don’t know why I stopped there, but I was hoping Jimmy would have jumped in by then, given me some kind of comforting “I’m sorry” kind of phrase, but when I stopped he was still silent.
Then he spoke, but I wished he hadn’t because he roared at me the way Stevie used to roar at Mom, as if it wasn’t my right to make a statement like that, to complain.
“What the hell, Jes? Am I supposed to apologize to you for not talking to you every second of the time we’re together? I told you I was going to watch that game on TV and you decided to come over anyway. You knew that. And I had just barely gotten back from work when you came in and, what the $#@& are you talking about rocks?”
I thought he wanted me to answer him, and I was in a panic trying to think of something to say that would steer him in another direction. I wasn’t used to Jimmy talking to me like that. I felt myself flinching, my shoulders pulling tight just like I had seen Mom’s and I hated being like her. I hated feeling the same way she must have felt because I’d always felt sure I was a million times better than Mom was at handling things. I knew how to walk through my life. I knew what I was doing. I didn’t nag and then cower the way Mom did, the only way she seemed to know how to get a reaction.
“Jimmy,” I started, not knowing what I would say next. “I just wanted to see how you were and what you were doing tonight.”
“Well I’m great and what I’m doing tonight is just sitting here on this $#@&-ing couch trying to unwind and not have to apologize for working my ass off every day.”
“I’m sorry Jimmy.” The words came out and they didn’t feel right but they came out without me even knowing that I was apologizing to Jimmy for the night before. I thought Jimmy was going to ask me more about the rocks and I wanted to know, but all he said was, “Look, I’m tired tonight. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”
We hung up and I stared out the window and that’s when I noticed the tightness behind my eyes, like I’d been staring at some kind of print that was too tiny to see.
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
© All rights reserved. All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.