Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 29 of Jessica. Jessica is nineteen-years-old and she is 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 29 – “Who Says I’m Not Okay?”
Jimmy’s future was in trouble, but my life was unraveling fast and I knew it as soon as Stu walked into the diner. I’d hated Stu ever since he’d kissed me. That was the exact time when Stu knew for sure that he had something on me, something he could use against me when the time was right. He sensed it in my nerves, confirmed it with that kiss and I hated him for that.
Stu knew my secret, the one I’d never told Jimmy. “I know about you Jessie. I know you think certain things that aren’t true. And I don’t think Jimmy has the first idea about you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Stu,” I answered. And then I took a leap. Jimmy didn’t want Stu to know I knew about the robberies, but I had nothing else. “I know about you too, Stu and I think what you’re doing to Jimmy and Gene is probably the worst thing you could do.”
“What is that, Jessie? I’m taking care of our family. Is that the bad thing you are talking about?” Stu was looking straight at me. He had a strange expression on my face, serious, not mocking.
“I’m talking about all the break-ins, Stu.” There, I’d said it. “I’m talking about you using Jimmy, about you taking advantage of him. How dare you do that?” I was getting shaky. I was losing my focus.
We had been sitting at Stu’s table at the diner. It had been quiet that morning and only a few people had come in after Stu. I’d looked up each time but our head waitress, Millie sent the customers to a different section. She’d caught Stu’s eye, I think and I swore I saw her nod to him, like they had an agreement. I felt confused and I tried to remember the thread of our conversation.
“Are you feeling alright, Jessie?” Stu was asking me something like he was actually concerned. It made no sense and I didn’t know how to answer.
“I’m fine,” I said, but I was lying. Nothing was making sense and each time Stu said something I felt like my understanding of what was happening, what he was telling me, was becoming a confused mess of words. I tried to focus on Stu. I suddenly wanted to tell him that I felt sick, to get out of sitting there with him, to get out of explaining to him that I didn’t know what was going on.
“Jessie,” he started. “Have you taken your medication today? Can I do something for you? Get you something?”
My wall went up. He had no right. He was making assumptions, talking to me like he knew.
“Jessie,” he started again. “I know you take medication to help you sort out the real things and the things that make you feel muddled.”
“I’m fine,” I answered. He knew. I hated that tone. He was patronizing me. He knew something even Jimmy didn’t know about me. “I don’t need any medication,” I lied. I stood up to make the point and that’s when I realized how dizzy I felt. My forehead was slick with sweat and I had that sick, disconnected feeling that always came to me on the third day after I stopped taking my pills. Right on schedule, I thought sarcastically.
I don’t know how Stu found out about my prescription. Besides my doctor, only Mom knew that I’d been on medication. It was nobody’s business, I thought. Why should other people know that I sometimes got the story mixed up? Or that sometimes I thought people said things or told me secrets that they only trusted me to hear? I’d learned how to know when the facts got foggy, or if the things people said to me didn’t seem quite right. I knew when I needed to take my medication and, more important, I knew when I didn’t need it. No one except me could know such a thing and it was nobody’s business to tell me I needed it or I didn’t need it.
“It’s none of your business, Stu, whether I take a prescription or not and you have no right bringing it up like you’re a concerned friend. You know that’s complete bullshit.” I was saying things I only half-believed were true. I was hoping that if I heard myself speak the words, say them with some force, then Stu would leave me alone.
“Okay, Jessie, whatever you say. You know better than I do, I guess. I’m telling you this because I’m looking out for Jimmy. Ever since our mom died Jimmy has needed an extra eye out for him and you know our father hasn’t been much help. So it’s my job to look after Jimmy even if he doesn’t want me to, and if that means getting into your business, well that’s just how it has to be. Now let’s stop pretending and get things straight. Where’s your prescription? If you have it here I want you to take you medication now and Millie will give you the rest of the day off if you need it.”
I sat back down and I felt tears collect in my eyes and I looked over at Stu and it was like I was looking at him under water.
“You’ve been working so hard lately, Jessie.” Millie was over at the table and she had her hand on my shoulder. “Take the rest of the day off and sleep late in the morning and call me when you get up. You can work the lunch and dinner shift if you feel up to it.”
I hated what I was hearing. I hated that now Millie even knew this something about me, that Stu must have talked to her too. I couldn’t get things right in my head.
“Okay,” I surrendered. I was tired. I had been working hard. If we only left it like that maybe Stu would stop talking about my stupid medication.
Millie had my backpack. “Here, Jessie, see if your medicine is in your bag.” I knew it wasn’t. I’d confidently left it in my bathroom. “It’s at home. I’ll take it when I get home.”
“You want a ride, Jessie? You can leave your car here overnight. I’ll drive you home if you want.” Stu. What had happened that he was talking to me like this? Drive me home? I couldn’t understand what I was hearing.
I stood up again and reached over to Millie for my bag and I got my foot stuck next to the chair leg and just for a second, it could only have been a second, I lost my balance. I was fine and I got my balance back and I felt like I had the room in focus, but Stu and Millie saw my foot catch, and that was enough for them. Millie nudged Stu like they were confirming their belief about me. “You’d better driver her home, Stu.” Millie said it to Stu like I wasn’t even there.
I was quiet in Stu’s car, but I wanted to scream at him. We pulled into my driveway and Stu put the car in park. “You have your keys, Jessie?” he asked. I wished I had pulled them out of my backpack while we were driving because I knew they were probably mixed in a messy pile of junk sitting at the bottom of my backpack and I was sure if I couldn’t find them Stu would think that my brain was just like that mess, just like he’d confirmed with Mille. I didn’t want him to see me search through that mess.
I opened the car door and got out. “Right here in my bag, Stu,” and I reached in acting like I was sure the first thing I’d put my hands on would be the keys.
“Thanks for the ride, Stu. Appreciate it,” I lied. I still didn’t have my hand on my keys and I realized that Stu would probably actually wait to see me enter my house. My focus was returning. Maybe it was just that I was out of that diner and I moved my hand around in my bag with a greater purpose and finally put my fingers around the keys, pulled them and jingled them in front of Stu. “See?” I showed him. I felt strong, like I was proving something.
“Okay, Jes. Listen. I won’t tell Jimmy about this, okay? And tomorrow you just call me at my job when you need to go to work or go get your car and I’ll come get you.”
I got out in the house and closed the door behind me, glad to be alone. Mom wouldn’t be home for hours. I walked into the kitchen and got myself a glass of water, thinking maybe I would take my pill. I took the glass upstairs with me realizing it was kind of stupid that I got the water first before I got the medicine. When I got into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror I thought I looked okay. “Why would anyone think there was something wrong with me?” I wondered. My hand had been on the medicine cabinet. I was so close to reaching for the medicine that was supposed to give my focus, keep me balanced, allow me to know the difference between the real and the unreal when I saw my face and said out loud to nobody but myself, “I think I’m just fine the way I am, thank you very much.”
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”
Chapter 24 – “Striking a Nerve”
Chapter 25 – “Help Has Its Price”
Chapter 26 – “Who Asked for Help?”
Chapter 27 – “You’ve Done Enough”
Chapter 28 – “The Plan”
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