Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 15 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 15 – It’s Not What You Think
Stu started coming into the Springs Diner regularly, always during my shift. He’d walk in with a swagger, stroll over to my section and pick a table without waiting for the hostess to seat him. As he sat, he’d look casually around the restaurant, always the same, until I could feel his eyes burning into me. I didn’t like Stu eating at the diner. Not after he’d made fun of me driving past their house in the mornings. But I had to wait on him and every time was the same. As he stared, I tried to keep my body from shaking with nerves. I ignored the sweat on my forehead and upper lip, hoping he wouldn’t notice that I looked like I had been working out instead of standing there waiting to take his order.
“Hey Stu, here for breakfast?” I tried to sound casual, cheerful. He’d look me up and down like he was thinking about what kind of girl his little brother was hooking up with and I wanted to tell him to quit it, that Jimmy and I weren’t just hooking up, we were in it for the real thing. But I somehow knew Stu would have laughed at me for saying that even if I was sure it was true.
He always said thanks after I brought over his order, a little too loud, as if to prove he was being proper. He’d start eating and I’d think I was through the worst of it, but every time I cleared his plate when he finished, he’d sit back and stare me down. He’d come up with some unanswerable comment like, “Well don’t wear yourself out too much working tables here, Jes. You don’t want to be too tired in case Jimmy calls you later, you know?” He’d laugh and give me a mocking look to make sure I got what he meant. Even though I didn’t want it to show, I could feel my face getting hot.
One day after he ate, I went to grab his plate and he reached over and put his hand on my arm. I felt the grip of his hand. It was tight at first, but then I could feel him loosen his fingers and let them slip with the sweat from his palm. I was sure he moved his hand like that on purpose. I could feel him grinning at me without even looking and I was disgusted at the suggestion that we were connected in such a way. I stopped with a jerk and called out, “What?” in a shaky voice that gave away my nerves. He leered at me with a controlling smirk.
Stu let go of my arm and laughed at me the way an animal might laugh at its prey before the kill. “Whoa, you’re a jumpy one, aren’t you?” he asked.
I defended myself even though I felt overmatched. “I’m just busy, Stu. Are you done?”
He laughed at me again. His laugh wasn’t the kind that made you want to join in. It was the kind of that made you feel like you were on the outside of the joke, or maybe you were the center of it, but it didn’t matter because either way was wrong. He acted like the two of us had just shared a joke, the kind you’d want to keep private except for the laughter. I worried that my boss and the other waitresses were getting the wrong idea about Stu and me.
Stu grabbed the check, stood up and tossed a tip on the table and, before he walked over to the cashier he said, “See you at home, dear,” as if it were perfectly natural for him to say so.
I hated Stu for talking to me like that and I knew that every time he did, he was chalking up a victory for himself. I was stupid and I didn’t know anything except that Stu was messing with me. I had never been anything else at their house except Jimmy’s girlfriend and up until a few weeks ago I had barely talked to Stu or his brothers.
“Isn’t that Jimmy’s brother?” my friend Cindy who waitressed with me asked one day. And when I said yes I didn’t even have to look at her to know that her eyebrows went up, like she was judging me in some way.
“It’s not what you think, Cindy,” I answered.
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
Thank you for reading – all comments are welcome.
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