Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 24 of Jessica. Jessica is nineteen-years-old and she’s trying break the pattern of loss and unhappiness that has defined her childhood. What she wants most is to build a life with Jimmy, but Jimmy is trapped in a dangerous family dynamic. When she 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 24 – “Striking a Nerve”
As I searched my mind for a way out of Jimmy’s mess, my thoughts returned to Dad. It was a betrayal, I knew, to bypass Mom and even consider Dad, but ever since the night with Jimmy at the lake, I had begun to look at the situation differently. I saw now that Jimmy was weak. He was under Stu’s foot and too afraid to do anything about it. Mom would have told me to call the police, but I wanted to protect Jimmy. I decided to find Dad, hoping he could help me get Jimmy out of trouble. Dad had left our world, but he was the one who had always worked deals. Maybe he could think of how to work one with Jimmy. I’d never asked anything from Dad during the seven years he’d been gone. He owed me something.
I called Dad’s Philadelphia office and got his New York address from the receptionist. I rearranged my work schedule so that I was off two days in a row, in the middle of the week. I desperately wanted to tell Jimmy that I thought I had an answer, because he was a crazy jumble of nerves. He was going to work, but he felt paranoid there, afraid of being found out. Although their first job had been easy and they had not been caught, their corporate customer had not called them for additional work. Jimmy was sure they were taking a closer look at him, the guy who’d had access to their office. And the Philadelphia break-in was looming. I had to act.
I told no one where I was going. I left the house in the morning, the way I usually did, but instead of going to the diner, I got on the turnpike and headed to Manhattan. I made a list of what I would say to Dad and I practiced in the car on the way up. I felt strangely powerful as I drove. How ironic, I thought, since I was going to see a father who had left me and had never looked back, a man who had routinely forgotten my birthday and might not even agree to see me. And I was going to tell him about my boyfriend who was a thief, and ask him to somehow fix the problem. But I had thought so much about Jimmy and Stu and their schemes that somehow all the panic and emotion had fallen to the side. Now I was just dealing with a problem, big, but remote from me. I didn’t understand the change in me, but I felt the strength of it and I was sure that if I came up with an answer for Jimmy, we would walk out of it together.
I didn’t think Dad would want to see that his daughter wasn’t a college girl, that she was only a waitress in a diner. I knew I needed to make a good impression. The day before I left, I went into Mom’s closet. I tried on several of her bank skirts and blouses and put together an outfit that worked. I looked the part.
Dad had a secretary sitting at a desk outside his office.
“May I help you?” she asked.
“Yes, I’m here to see Mr. Taylor,” I answered. I felt confident.
“And you are?” She looked me up and down.
I looked straight at her. “You can tell him his daughter is here to see him.”
A minute later, Dad came out of his office. Dad was forty-six years old. I hadn’t thought about his age until then and I realized how young he had been when he left us. He still looked young to me. He was fit, I could tell he spent time working to stay in shape. His hair was only a little gray on the sides.
“Jessy,” he stammered. He was pale. His mouth was slack. “What are you doing here?” It was a gut reaction. My nerve had worked to my advantage. I had completely shocked him. He didn’t know what to say.
“Dad,” I answered. “I need to talk to you.”
“What is it, Jess? What’s happened?” He looked horrified, almost. He had started to sweat and pulled absently on the knot of his tie. His reaction surprised me. I had spent the last few years erasing this man from my memory and it had hardened me. I looked at him and I felt strong, despite my reason for being there.
“I need to talk to you privately, Dad. Can we go inside your office?” I asked.
Dad almost jumped to the side to let me walk past him and through the office door. He closed the door and told me to sit down.
“Jessy, I can’t believe I’m looking at you right now. You have grown up and you caught me completely off-guard. What on earth are you doing here? You should have called me first. I don’t like surprises like this. But tell me why you’re here and I will listen to what you have to say.” I had rattled Dad, but he was recovering his strength. He was in his own element, sitting behind his desk and his composure was returning.
“I have a problem, Dad. A big one and I know I haven’t seen you in a long time, but I wanted to come to you and ask for your help because I thought you could help me see what to do.”
I took a breath, glad for a chance to collect myself. I was afraid to say anything more because I was sure my voice would crack. I knew I had only begun, but the force of my efforts had begun to lessen. I was the one who was sweating now, who was losing composure. I was suddenly desperately thirsty. What a fool I was! I thought I could match Dad’s power, by dressing in Mom’s bank clothes, by acting strong.
“You’d better tell me what this is about,” he said. The tone in Dad’s voice reminded me of the way he had talked to Stevie whenever there was a problem and I felt the power of this dynamic return. As I talked, my voice became shaky, I felt the panic rising. I took a breath and began to talk and in the span of a half-hour I had told Dad the entire story.
Dad didn’t interrupt. He let the whole story spill out of me. When I finished I saw that Dad had transformed into a completely different person from the man who met me outside his office, for his face became blank and then set in determined concentration. At the end, he asked questions, took notes and we sat in silence.
“I don’t know why you expect I can help you, Jess,” he started. “I have no idea why you came all the way up here to present this to me,” he added, “and it sounds to me like your friend Jimmy doesn’t have a choice except to go to the police and accept what happens.”
“Dad,” I started. “You always told me you were a big deal-maker. I have nowhere to go except you. Jimmy’s brother is a real jerk. He’s intimidating and he’s already pushed himself on me and he’s too hard to handle.”
Dad’s mouth drew tight. I had hit the nerve.
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”
Chapter 22 – “It Was Up to Me”
Chapter 23 – “Separate and Icy”
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