Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 12 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 12 – Empty Bedrooms
I decided to say nothing more about the rocks to Jimmy or Stu. Maybe I could figure them out by myself. But I couldn’t decide what to do about Jimmy. After I finished apologizing to him on the phone, I felt a flutter of angry nerves in my stomach. I wasn’t good at being mad at Jimmy even though I’d lived with a brother who flew off the handle all the time and with parents who, at the end of their marriage, argued constantly. I had learned nothing from any of them. Nothing except how to recede when voices were raised. Was that night at Jimmy’s my fault? Jimmy certainly made it seem that way to me. But it couldn’t be. He was the one who had shut me off. A small, nagging thought started to dig its way through to my brain. I had just been handled.
Mom was still at work. I wandered upstairs with no purpose and walked into her room. It was a violation, but I ignored the strange feeling, like an itch on the inside of my arm that I couldn’t locate to scratch with satisfaction. I wanted to direct my aggression at Mom and away from Jimmy. I figured if I couldn’t get anything out of Jimmy about his mood or those rocks, maybe poking around Mom’s stuff would make me feel better. I wanted a diversion and I thought this was a good one.
I never understood why Mom kept her room the same since Dad left. He had been gone seven years and it seemed pathetic to me to keep it that way. I wanted to tell her to move on, the way she already had with Stevie. Why should it be any different? She finally gave up on Stevie’s room about a year ago. I came home to find her packing his things into boxes and hauling them down to the basement. Now Stevie’s old room was a guest room. The bed sat in this newly decorated room, with a blue bedspread on top of sheets pulled tight at the corners. I’d only gone in there once, when Jimmy pulled me through the door frame and made love to me on the bed. We laughed our heads off later when we thought of what Mom would say if she knew. I carried this fact with the brazen power of youth and I thought I might use it on Mom someday when I was mad at her, tell her, “Yeah, Jimmy and I had sex on that bed, Mom,” in an offhand way. But I hadn’t yet. It felt right when I argued with her in my mind and released those words, but I hadn’t actually spoken them.
I sat on Mom’s bed wondering where she might have kept things that would be interesting to snoop through. I started with her top drawer, the place where I hid things in my own room. Nothing interesting, underwear, pantyhose, nothing I wanted to see. I opened the drawers, one by one and each one was more unexciting than the one before it. Mom was so neat. Everything was organized and folded. No drawers were overstuffed with clothes from every season. I should take notes, I thought, but the idea of trying to be like Mom made me shudder.
Nothing, the whole dresser was one big disappointing bore. I walked into the closet and stared at the shoe boxes on the top shelf, each box holding shoes that had been put back in their original box. I opened a few of the boxes, closed them back up and put them in their place. I turned around to look at what had been Dad’s side and it was practically empty, with a couple of garment bags hanging over by the end. How weird my mother was, I thought. Why wouldn’t she spread her things out to both sides? When Dad left, everything he took, he wanted, the rest he left behind, like us, I thought. He was a snappy dresser and he loved his clothes so when he left, he cleared out his entire side of the closet except for a hideous Hawaiian shirt that someone from Mom’s side had given him after a trip to Maui. Mom had left it in the closet for the longest time. I couldn’t remember if Dad had laughed when he got that shirt, which he had never worn, but if he had, I think it was probably the kind of laugh that when you’re a kid you don’t realize it’s meant to give an entirely different meaning, like “What idiots your side of the family is.” I looked over at the garment bags, thinking about Dad’s stuff and remembering that Hawaiian shirt and then I saw that the shirt was still hanging there on the other side of the garment bags.
I accomplished nothing looking through Mom’s things and I felt worse than I had before I started to snoop. I walked out of Mom’s room and went down the hall and into Stevie’s old room. It was a room that had no meaning to me anymore, except for that time with Jimmy. We had never gone in there again because truthfully, it was more fun remembering what we did in there than going in there again.
Stevie had been a rough and messy kid in that room and, before Mom cleared the place of Stevie’s things, the walls and floor were dinged and scratched and marked up more than in any other room in the house. Mom had been such a careful homemaker in every room except Stevie’s, where, particularly when he was older, she let it alone, in a powerless passive-aggressive stance. It was as if she had been saying, “Go ahead and let your room fall apart. You’ll get no help from me when it does.”
I couldn’t help see the irony in that because the room did fall apart, just like our lives and when Stevie left, and Mom went in there to clean it up and make his bed, it did no good.
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
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