Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 35 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 35 – “It’s a Dead Yard”
I saw Mom’s note in the kitchen the next morning. Please take your prescription. I will call you later. I stiffened at the reminder. “She can’t tell me what to do,” I told myself and sighed with frustration. I had already taken my pills and I wanted credit for the decision. I knew I needed a clear mind to find the house with the car port and the rocks and learn what they meant. I also needed to get through my work shift without Millie thinking I couldn’t handle my job. I knew at least I was making sense, even if everything around me was muddled.
I jumped in my car, determined to find answers before I went to work. I felt sure of myself as I backed out of our driveway, and my spirits lifted. I had no plan, but I was sure I would know what to do when I got to the house with the car port. Minutes later I turned up the long and narrow gravel driveway. My tires crunched the stones and announced my arrival.
The old house was set back in the yard. It looked bad and uncared for from the road, but it looked worse up close. I parked directly behind the brown sedan with the duct tape on the side mirror. What about the rocks? I had forgotten to look and I turned my head back to see, but if there had been any, they were too far away.
The grass was patchy and the yard was littered with junk, left and forgotten for how long? A rusty metal bucket sat on its side next to a tree. A broom with only half the bristles lay on the ground, the remaining bristles bent and useless. What must have once been a flower bed was loaded with tall, overgrown weeds. The bushes were wild, and an aggressive vine had overtaken the front shutters.
As I turned off the ignition, I saw a figure look at me through the front window. I felt a trickle of sweat run down my back. What was I doing? I tried to balance my resolve with caution. How strange and scraggly the man in the car had been! Was this a mistake? This person could hurt me, I realized stupidly, and I shivered to finally understand what should have been obvious.
I got out of the car and headed to the house, driven by my need for answers. The door opened before I had a chance to ring the doorbell. I recognized the face right away as the same face I had seen in the taped up-side mirror of the brown sedan. But there was something else in his eyes. I stood and looked at him with my mouth hanging open.
“Stevie?” I croaked.
“What the hell, Jes, what are you doing here?” he asked.
“What is going on, Stevie? This is you living here, driving that car? You’re living a mile and a half from Mom and me? You’re living in this beat-up house? What the hell is going on here?”
“You shouldn’t have come here, Jes. I didn’t want you to find me living here.”
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Why was Stevie living here? I thought he wanted to get away from Mom and me, from our town. I thought anything except this.
“Stevie…” I didn’t know what to say. My feet were frozen at the door, but I wanted to get in that house, to see something, anything that would explain.
“You can’t come inside, Jes. I’m not going to talk to you. You never should have come here. Just because I’m living close to you and Mom doesn’t mean I ever wanted to see you. You don’t understand, but I’m not going to explain it to you.”
I had to think of something to say. Stevie had been gone four years and as I looked at him I couldn’t decide if he looked older than twenty-one, or younger than that because there was something childlike and needy in the way he stood. He was terribly thin and pale. His hair was dirty and stringy and his clothes were old and worn. He looked beaten, I thought, like the four years had wrung him out and left him to live in this disgusting place. But when I looked in his eyes, I saw a shaky fear. I saw eyes that were lonely, I thought, eyes that were part of a face that had always been misunderstood. And in this scared, lonely and defiant face I saw my lost brother. Stevie was an angry, trouble-making kid when he left us and now he was worse off than Mom and me. I wanted to ask him what it was that really made him leave us. And what it was that put him in the place he was now. I didn’t have the courage.
Instead I said, “Stevie, you don’t have to let me in, but I have to ask you something and it isn’t about you or your life. It’s about my life, which is falling apart right now because everything is all messed up and I don’t understand half of what has happened in the last couple days. I know you must know something that could help me because my boyfriend Jimmy told me about you but I didn’t know it was you, Stevie. And I saw his truck over here one day and those rocks, you have to help me know what it all means or I will go crazy Stevie. I’m already half-crazy. You have to help me.”
“Jes, I don’t know a damn thing about your boyfriend and, if his truck was over here, well lots of people come and go from here and I don’t know who half of them are. I’m telling you the truth, but I don’t have anything left to tell you.”
Stevie had started to sweat and he looked even weaker and paler, like he was going to fall down from standing up too long. And then I thought there was something more to Stevie I didn’t know.
“Are you okay, Stevie?” I asked. Stevie’s eyes widened and he tilted his head. He reached for the side of the door frame and crumbled as he slid down and sat.
“What is it?” I cried. Of all that could have happened to me after I turned up his driveway, I never could have imagined I’d be watching my brother collapse in an exhausted and sick heap.
As soon as I called out, he raised his arm and stretched it out with his palm facing me. “I’m fine, Jes. I’m just tired. Now please go. I can’t talk to you like this.”
“Like, what, Stevie? What is this? Tell me what’s going on with you. Are you sick or something?”
“Look, I wasn’t expecting you to come here and I’m not feeling well. You can tell that much just by looking at me, so please go.”
I gave in. I knew he wasn’t going to let me into the house. “Okay, Stevie, but I’m coming back tomorrow to check on you.” I felt both tenderness and alarm for my brother, when, up until that moment I had felt only anger. I reached down and touched his shoulder. It felt like the bones of an old man and I wondered how frail the rest of his body was. “Okay?” I asked.
“Come at 4:00. I’ll be better by then.” I walked over to my car and turned the key in the ignition and he called out to me, “Go ahead and turn around in the yard, Jes. It’s all dead and you’ll never get out of here backing out.”
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”
Chapter 29 – “Who Says I’m Not Okay?”
Chapter 30 – “What’s so Great about Balance?”
Chapter 31 – “I’ll Call You When It’s Over”
Chapter 32 – “Sorting It Out”
Chapter 33 – “Truth and Lies”
Chapter 34 – “The Car-Port House”
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