Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 13 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 13 – Job Description
As a young girl, I watched Dad leave for an office every day, dressed in a suit, his hair still wet from the shower and combed into a slickness that was part of a veneer that drew me to him when I was little. But I never understood what he did and if I asked, he always answered in generalities. He would smile at me and reach out to touch my arm or smooth my hair, like I was a doll to keep nice. He’d say he was in charge of bringing home the bacon, that he worked in the salt mines, that he always put his nose to the grindstone. I had no idea what any of that meant and, because he always seemed in a hurry to be done with his answer, I felt forced to accept his clichés. Despite his affection, I felt oddly insulted when he talked to me like that because I wasn’t a doll and I asked because I wanted to know.
Other kids at school had real answers when we asked what their dads did. When it was my turn, I often shrugged and said Dad worked in an office and if someone said, “But what does he do there?” I’d be forced to say I didn’t exactly know. All I wanted was a company, a title, something I could use. I couldn’t explain why it was important to me, but to him, I was a silly girl who didn’t need to know. Dad was gone from our family by the time I had the confidence to get a real answer, to show him I had a head for understanding.
After he left, I tried to picture him heading off to work from a new place, with his wet hair combed back into the style I remembered. I felt desperate for an image to hold in my head and hoped he was only somewhere temporary, that one day soon I’d be seeing him leave just for the day from our house, with the understood promise of return. I realized that I’d take any of the things he used to say on his way out the door, no matter what kind of tone he used with Mom. It might be, “Tell Stevie that garage better be cleaned by the time I get home.” Or, “I’ll be home at the regular time, but I’m playing tennis with Charlie, so I’ll be eating later with him.” I’d take anything.
But now our lives were changed and the routines were different. Our only connection after Dad left was the check he sent every month. Now I had a Mom who worked and I could say, “Yeah, my Mom works in a bank.”
I caught Mom off guard one day, about six months after Dad left. She hadn’t talked much about our new life and, although she took care of us, Mom kept herself apart from me and Stevie, staying busy with her bank job and in the house. That day, I found her upstairs in her room folding laundry. She looked tired, but satisfied with the moment, as if folding our clothes into neat piles was creating an important order in our lives. “Hey,” I said as I stood in the doorway. I felt tentative there, halfway in the room, halfway in the hall.
“Hey, Jes.” Mom smiled.
I took a chance. “Mom, I’ve been wondering something. Will Dad always have enough money to send us every month?”
She turned and looked at me. She had a sad, but sweet expression on her face. I knew I had caught her in a rare moment and hoped she would tell me something about what would happen to my life.
“Honey, your Dad is not coming back, but he will always make sure we have enough money. You don’t need to worry.” She said this with a kind of entitled confidence and I wondered, how did she know this? What kind of words do divorcing parents use to exchange this kind of information?
“Is he working in New York now, Mom?” I wanted to know something about where Dad was.
“Yes, Jessica. He moved up north to be closer to his job.” I wanted to know more, if there were other new parts of his life, but I was afraid to ask.
“Oh,” I said. “But Mom, what is Dad’s job? I don’t even know. What does he do and how do you know he’s always going to send us money?”
Mom looked straight at me and her face tightened. I was finally getting answers and I felt both sad and grateful at her effort. “Your Dad is a lawyer.” I caught the distinction. My Dad, no connection to her. “He works for Prince Computers. He makes plenty of money and it’s his job to pay for his family, even if he doesn’t want to live with us anymore.”
I suddenly understood that a job was more than just going to an office and I hoped Dad knew this too.
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
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