Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 37 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 37 – “I’m Not Going Anywhere”
I drove to Stevie’s house the next afternoon at 4:30. Millie had agreed to give me the breakfast and lunch shifts again, this one time, but tomorrow I would have to work lunch and dinner.
Stevie was expecting me this time and he came to the door before I had even gotten out of my car. He looked a little better. He had shaven and his hair was shorter and clean. His eyes met mine in a tired, but glad kind of way.
“You look better today, Stevie,” I told him.
“Thanks. And thanks for coming back today. I know I must have scared you yesterday, but you surprised me so much by coming here. I didn’t know what to say to you, Jes.” Stevie opened the door wider and stepped back so I could go inside. His hand stayed on the door frame and even though I tried not to notice, I was sure he was doing that to hold himself steady.
The house was dirty and run-down, but I could tell someone had straightened up for my visit. We walked into the living room and I was shocked to see a hospital bed in the middle of the room.
“Sit down, Jes. I have something to tell you.”
I sat on the couch. I was so alarmed to see the bed in the room, I wanted to ask him about it right away, but I knew the reasons would come.
“I’m sick, Jessie. I have bone cancer and they can’t fix me. I didn’t want you to know. I don’t know why, except maybe it was because I was such a jerk to you and Mom and even Dad, I didn’t think I deserved to get your sympathy. I was having a really bad day yesterday and I couldn’t let you in. If you had seen the house, you would not have understood and I knew once you came in here, I’d have to tell you.”
I didn’t know what to say. I sat looking at my brother. He looked so unlike anything I imagined him to look like after leaving us five years ago, I couldn’t put the picture of him here and his name together.
“Why are you living here, though?” I finally asked. “There must be a better place for you to stay.”
“I have zero money, Jessie. I’m living here because a friend of mine from high school owns the house and is letting me stay here as long as I need to. You remember Stu?” he asked.
“What? Stu? He’s the person who is letting you stay here?” I couldn’t believe what Stevie was telling me.
“Yeah, he and his brothers have been helping me out. I could drive up until recently, but now I can’t even do that. They bring me food and come here to check on me.”
“Stevie, Stu’s brother, Jimmy. He’s my boyfriend. He’s been helping you? Why wouldn’t he have told me that?”
“I didn’t know Jimmy was your boyfriend, but Stu and Gene and Jimmy, they promised not to tell anyone. He never told me about you, I swear.”
It didn’t make sense to me, but I knew I couldn’t make sense of anything Jimmy had told me.
“But the rocks, Stevie. What do they mean?”
“Oh, those,” he smiled. “Just my way of telling them how I felt that day. The more rocks, the better my day. I think Stu used to do the same thing at his house, to tell his brothers how I was.”
“I need to rest now, but stay here for a little bit.” Stevie grimaced as he shifted himself on the couch. I wondered if he wanted to get into the hospital bed. The thought made me nervous. I didn’t want to see him struggle to get on the bed and I was embarrassed about trying to help him. Stevie saw me looking at the bed and he smiled.
“Oh, the bed. Ignore that for now, Jes. I don’t like to get in the bed unless I really have to.” Stevie looked and sounded like a completely different person. Not the bitter and argumentative brother I once knew. I didn’t know him as a sick person. I wondered if being sick took that out of him. I thought if it had, it was a dirty trick because surely Stevie would have figured things out and come back to us without getting cancer.
“I made a pot of tea and it’s sitting on the kitchen table, next to some mugs. If you bring them in, we can talk and you can tell me all about this boyfriend of yours.”
We sat in Stevie’s living room and drank our tea and I told him about Jimmy and his breakdown.
“That’s rough, Jes. And how are you doing?” he asked.
That’s when I told him about my own problems coping and about my medication. Stevie listened quietly. I wanted to ask him if he’d ever felt that way and what he did about it. I thought about the years we wasted. “A lot has happened since our family split, Stevie.”
Stevie nodded, drank the last of his tea and put his mug down on the coffee table. “None of it good, Jes,” he answered. “But we have today and that’s something.”
He was fading. I hoped he was just tired from today. I didn’t think he’d want me to notice. “Well, I’d better get going. Is there anything you need?” I wondered if he was going to ask me to help him get into the bed after all.
“I’m fine for now. Stu’s coming by later and he’ll help me with dinner and get me set up for the night, but thanks. I won’t get up, but you can find your way out. Make sure you turn around in the yard again so you can pull out safely.” Stevie was thinking about me, taking care of me, in a way.
“I’m going to come by again tomorrow, Stevie,” I told him. “I have something to ask you.”
“Okay, Jes. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Good,” I answered. “See you tomorrow.” I wondered if we were talking about Stevie dying. I hoped not.
I got in my car and turned around in the yard and headed back on the driveway. This time, I looked for rocks, but I saw nothing.
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”
Chapter 35 – “It’s a Dead Yard”
Chapter 36 – “I Just Want To See Him”
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