Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 21 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 21 – “I Thought I Didn’t Need Her”
I left Jimmy’s house after breakfast and headed home, exhausted. The shock of Jimmy’s confession was wearing off, and in place, I felt the heavy weight of a problem that had to be faced. It was Jimmy’s problem, I knew, but I was tied to whatever happened to him and the connection was turning into a tight knot I didn’t think could be loosened.
At first I had hoped to avoid Mom. I didn’t want to face her, to admit I had a problem. But as I pulled into the driveway and saw her car, I thought it might be nice to see her waiting for me. I hadn’t called home last night, but that was our new pattern. I knew she didn’t like me spending the night at Jimmy’s house, but more recently, Mom had stopped insisting on a curfew. I had forced it on her. I stubbornly stayed out, night after night, sleeping at Jimmy’s house until the very last possible hour before I had to be home, and each time that hour creeped later and later into the night. I never called her those nights and every morning, first at 1:30 or 2:00 am, then later, I walked into our house with no explanation, daring her to challenge me. Mom made her point by waiting in the kitchen, keeping awake until I got home. I’d walk past her, barely acknowledging her effort and I’d climb the stairs and fall on my bed for the couple more hours until my work day began. As I lay in bed, I’d hear Mom in the kitchen, putting her mug in the sink. Then I’d hear her too, climb the stairs with heavy feet and close the door to her room.
I smirked on those mornings, knowing I was the one in control. Finally, I’d say to myself. Mom is treating me like an adult. She’s accepting me. I’d tell Jimmy that it was fine if I stayed late at his house. I was proud that I’d broken her.
But I felt different this morning. I walked into the kitchen, feeling heavy and broken myself and foolishly hoping to see Mom sitting with her coffee, waiting for me, but she was not. A false hope lifted me briefly as I turned to look in the sink, but there was no late-night mug in it, a sign of her hoping I’d be home. I heard the shower upstairs and I realized with shame that Mom had given up waiting up for me. Was this the first time she had given up? The sound of Mom getting ready for work, keeping to her own schedule, hurt. I had left her already, I realized, with regret. My things were still in the house, we still had our monthly dinners out, but I had left her and she had stopped fighting me, and I suddenly wanted to be a child again.
I was tired and worried about what to do. I realized I had been hoping that Mom would have been in the kitchen and maybe, in a wild moment of letting down the wall, I would have told her about Jimmy. Maybe I would have asked for her advice. Maybe I would have leaned on her and maybe she would have held steady. I hated myself and I realized what it felt like to be alone with a problem.
When Mom walked in the kitchen and saw me sitting there she might have understood there was something wrong, but I saw in her face her own wall of pride. She was showing me that she was fine with the way things were, that she did not need me.
“Hey,” I said, tentatively.
“Good morning,” she answered. “Shouldn’t you be at work already?”
“I’m not going in today. I called in sick.”
“Oh, I see.” Her tone was even but I could tell she was thinking Jimmy and I were up all night partying or worse. I wanted to tell her the real reason that kept me out so late this time.
“Well, if you’re sick, I hope you feel better soon,” she added.
I got it. She was being cool to me and I ached with a need to talk to her. When had I stopped talking to Mom and when had that opportunity disappeared? On which night, when I had ignored her, could I have reversed our pattern and talked to her before I went to bed? Now it was too late. All I wanted was to tell her that if she had time I would make her breakfast, or coffee or anything because I only wanted to sit with her at our table and be there in the kitchen with her the way we once had done. I understood then that the two of us had been a family after all.
Mom walked briskly over to the coffee maker and banged around in the kitchen the way Stevie used to do, getting the things she needed. I realized that she was rushing and banging around to show me, to show me, I saw, that she had something important to do that had nothing to do with me.
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
Chapter 15 – It’s Not What You Think
Chapter 16 – A Different Route
Chapter 17 – Choosing Balance
Chapter 18 – A Mother Sees
Chapter 19 – Taking More
Chapter 20 – Robbing the Future
© 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.