Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 22 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 22 – “It Was Up to Me”
Jimmy was so tightly wound into his brother’s scheme, I thought he would fall apart if he didn’t tell me what was happening. But Jimmy wasn’t talking when he picked me up that night after work and drove us to the lake
again. He backed the truck up to the edge of the lake, flipped down the tailgate and, without asking me to sit with him, he climbed up, opened a cooler he’d filled with beers, grabbed a can for himself and stood, looking out at the lake. I watched as he tilted his head back and emptied the can and, with a grim face he threw it down in the flatbed and crushed it with his boot. I’d seen Jimmy crush cans many times, but usually in fun or to make room in the trash. This was different and it scared me the way he smashed his foot onto the top. And right after that he picked it up and threw it into the lake. I wasn’t sure what I was watching. Was Jimmy falling apart or was he gaining strength? I watched the can bob in the water, still within reach and I wanted to get it and set Jimmy right, but then Jimmy grabbed a second beer, drained it, smashed it and threw it into the lake along with the first one.
After the second beer, he settled a bit and sat down on the tailgate with his legs hanging down. I went to the cooler to grab a can for myself and I heard Jimmy say, “Get me another.” I pulled another out and handed it over. I let the ice and water from the cooler drip onto his arm and I saw a piece of ice still sitting on the top of his can in a little puddle of water. He could shake off his own can, I thought, I don’t care. “Here,” I said, as I sat down next to him. I couldn’t help feel a little mad at the way he was treating me, after listening to him talk the whole night before, supporting him, helping him.
I looked out on the water, thinking we were ruining the peace of the place. We had only had good times at the lake and now I was looking at the water and seeing the cans still floating, but farther out, beyond my reach and it was like they meant something bad. I opened my can and took a sip, thinking I would be driving us home in the truck if he kept drinking. Jimmy drank, but slower this time. I breathed a little better hoping he was just trying to brace himself. And that’s when Jimmy started to talk.
Stu had decided they should break into corporate offices in Philadelphia and he expected Jimmy and Gene to help. They’d worked the suburbs for the last few months and Stu wanted to start somewhere fresh. He thought the jobs would be easier in the city.
Jimmy looked desperate. “I said no to him, Jes, but he’s pressuring me to go. Says he’ll blame all the other burglaries on me, since I’m where they started. He’s got Gene wrapped around his finger, but I don’t want to go. Plus this time he wants to go in armed. Shit, Jes, I’ve never even held a gun before. I don’t know what Stu’s thinking. These other jobs, we’ve just broken in and snuck around like kids, carrying nothing more than a bunch of tools to break in with.”
I was starting to understand how complicated Jimmy’s mess was. He was in way over his head and I had no advice. I wanted to return to two days before when I knew nothing about the burglaries. Jimmy was a mess and I had no one.
“Don’t do this, Jimmy,” I pleaded. I was afraid for him, for us. I saw my whole future being destroyed.
“I don’t have a choice, Jes! I’m fucked no matter what I do!”
I had no answers. I looked at the water but my eyes were not focused. I finished my beer, wanting another, but stopping. Jimmy was already on his fourth and I knew I wouldn’t be able to match his pace and drive his truck. He was through talking. He had walked down to the edge of the water and was sitting alone. I felt the chill of this distance and wondered if he really needed me. I felt put off by this. I was involved. I had a stake in what happened.
I felt something change in me that night. I looked over at Jimmy and saw him sitting alone and looking broken and, I realized, weak. I knew it then. He was going to say yes to Stu and I was going to have to stop him.
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”
Chapter 21 – “I Thought I Didn’t Need Her”
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