Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 42 of Jessica. The story is winding down, but there are still some loose ends hanging! I hope you will follow me to the finish and tell me what you think.
Chapter 42 – “Visiting Stu”
I went to bed in a strange state – feelings of both panic and a new sense of power looped through my head. I lay in bed and tried to sleep. My head ached as I thought of Mom and Dad. They were still in the kitchen and I wondered what they would talk about, alone for the first time in years. They had separate lives, but they were alarmingly together in their decision to send me away. Despite thinking clearly now, I was in such a mess! Maybe it would be good to get away. I was bluffing when I said they couldn’t make me go. I didn’t know my rights and whether they had the legal power to do that didn’t even matter to me. It wasn’t fair to plan this behind my back. I would call Dr. Hutchins in the morning. Even though she had told them about Briarwoods, she would have to tell me what my rights were.
But I had to see Jimmy again too. No one understood how I felt about him, whether it was based on something real or not. Only Jimmy and I knew what we had. I needed to see his face, to look into his eyes and even though I didn’t want to, I knew I had to talk to Stu. I didn’t understand what had happened between us. How could I have misunderstood everything he said and did? All that time I thought he was trying to force himself on me. My head hurt every time I tried to untwist what I was sure had been real and what everyone was telling me was not.
And there was Stevie. I promised I would visit him tomorrow. I had not been able to think about him all night, but whether Stevie wanted it or not, I knew I was going to have to tell Mom and Dad about him. They had the right to know. I had the power to give it to them. We were still a broken family, but I was beginning to see how Stevie’s return, and his illness, might at least bring us together to define what we could be, broken or together, still something.
I had a lot to do tomorrow. I would get up and out of the house early. No one would stop me.
I stood in the kitchen the next morning and waited for the water in the tea kettle to boil. I waited by the stove, ready to pull it off the burner as soon as it was hot enough. It was barely 6:00, but I wanted to be as quiet as possible so I could get out of the house without seeing Mom. I looked out the kitchen window and I was shocked to see Dad’s car still in the driveway. What could that possibly mean? I didn’t want that and I didn’t want to think about it. Not now. I had too much to do.
It was too early to see anyone so I drove to the lake to wait. Maybe looking out at the water and remembering the peace I always felt there would help. I sat in my car and stared at the sun glinting off the water. Just being there made me feel closer to Jimmy and I thought when I saw him I could tell him about it. Maybe he would feel better too, remembering all summer nights we spent there, kicking back and having fun. I had to think of a way to reach Jimmy, but I could barely remember those nights myself.
At 7:00 I drove to Jimmy’s house. I knew Stu would be up and I wanted to talk to him before he went to work. I felt strange pulling into the driveway. Jimmy’s truck was parked in its usual spot and I desperately wished I was simply going to see him and would see his smile as I walked through the door. I longed to feel him hold me close, to feel his arms lock around my waist.
I knocked this time. Everything was different and a wave of sadness passed over me. Stu saw me and came right to the door.
“Jes, come in. I’m getting ready for work, but I was going to call you later. Here, sit down and have something. I made a pot of coffee and there’s a box of doughnuts on the counter.”
It made me nervous to see Stu so friendly, and nice. I didn’t trust myself. How could I have gotten everything so wrong?
“No thanks, Stu. I don’t want anything. I just came over to talk to you about Jimmy.”
“Okay, then I’m going to take all this coffee for myself. Stu grabbed the pot and poured the coffee into a thermos.
“I have to work on a deck this morning but I’m going to the hospital later. Do you want to come with me?”
“I do, Stu. I have to see him. Maybe nobody else understands Jimmy, but I think I do, even after all that has happened.”
I stopped. I felt confident about this small piece of my life, my connection with Jimmy, but who would believe it? I had gotten everything else wrong! Stu knew that.
“Well,” he said. “I’m afraid Jimmy’s not much better than the last time you saw him. I keep thinking that if I just go there, talk to him like it’s a normal day, maybe I will see part of the brother I know is in there.”
Stu picked up the box of doughnuts. “Last chance before I pack these up to take with me,” he offered.
“No thanks, Stu. I’m not hungry. I only came here to see if you could take me to see Jimmy. I have a couple other things I need to do today. What time are you going to the hospital?”
“Right after lunch, around 1:00. Can you go then?”
“Sure. I can meet you back here at 1:00.”
I didn’t trust that Stu was actually on my side, even though everyone was telling me he was. But I had so much to figure out today and I knew I had to move quickly. “Stu, I want to ask you about something else.”
“Sure, what is it Jes?”
“I know about Stevie. I’ve been to see him twice. How long have you been helping him?”
“How did you find out about him, Jes? He didn’t want anyone to know where he was or that he was sick.”
“I saw Jimmy’s car there once. And I saw him in his own car another time. I didn’t recognize him, but he startled me and I remembered him. And then I noticed the rocks outside this house. I saw a little pile outside Stevie’s house too. I thought it had something to do with the robberies, Stu. I didn’t know it was Stevie. Not until I went over there to try to figure it out. I was shocked to see that it was Stevie. He’s in bad shape, Stu. Were you ever going to tell me, or my family about him?”
I was mad about a lot of things, but I realized I was also mad at Stu for not telling me about Stevie. Were they such good buddies in high school that Stu would keep this secret from me? I didn’t even remember that they had been friends.
“Jes, I was, but you have to understand how desperate Stevie was to keep all this from you. We had been friends in high school for a while, but after ninth grade he went off with a different group. I wasn’t into the stuff he did. You know what he was like. Even then, I felt a responsibility to my family. Our father is no help to us. He spends most of his days sleeping off the nights he spends drinking. It’s all been on me. I knew I couldn’t be partying and acting crazy because I had Jimmy and Gene to take care of. About a year ago, I met up with Stevie at CVS, in line at the prescription counter. Gene was sick with bronchitis and I was there to pick up his medicine. Stevie had been much healthier then, but he still looked like he didn’t have it all together. To be honest, the first thing that ran through my head was that he was still living the party life, and I wondered if the meds he was picking up were part of that scene. I’m ashamed to say that now, because Stevie was pretty sick, even then. We got to talking and he told me about the cancer. I could tell as soon as he said it, though, he regretted telling me. And he begged me, ‘Dude, you can’t tell Jes or my parents. They’ve already written me off as a loser. I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me, especially not them.’ He made me promise, Jes. What else could I do? I wanted to help in some way. I gave Stu my number and told him I would drive him to appointments, pick up his medicine, whatever he needed. He didn’t call me for about six months. I figured he was afraid of the connection I had to you, even though he didn’t know you and Jimmy were a couple. Then one day he called and he was in bad shape. He told me he was out of his painkillers, couldn’t drive anymore, and asked if I could come to the house and take the prescription to CVS and bring his meds back to him. What else could I do, Jes? I was trying to help even though I was keeping it from you.”
“I don’t know what to say to you, Stu. I’m mad that you didn’t tell me about him. I know your family has had its own troubles, but maybe you don’t know what it was like living at my house. The last couple years before Stevie left were terrible. Our dad had already left us. Stevie was out of control then, I know. But I was just a kid and when he left, I felt like just as much of a loser and all alone. I’ve never shaken that feeling and it has shaped who I am today. If I had only known that Stevie was living right around the corner from us, maybe I would have felt better about myself and our family. You didn’t give me the chance to figure that out, though.”
Stu looked uncomfortable. Was I going too far? I hadn’t planned to talk about this then, but words were flying out of me. By keeping Stevie’s secret from Mom and Dad, even though it had only been a couple days, I was doing almost the same thing. Maybe I did understand. Maybe Stu was just trying to do the right thing.
For the first time in my life, I smiled at Stu. To my surprise, it came naturally. Maybe he had earned it. “Okay, well I have so many other things to think about today, I guess I can’t be mad at you right now. If you’re still willing to drive me to the hospital, I’ll be back at 1:00.”
Stu smiled back at me. He looked relieved. “Sure thing, Jes. Now I have to get moving, but you can let yourself out when you’re ready. Stay as long as you like. You know your way around.”
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”
Chapter 37 – “I’m Not Going Anywhere”
Chapter 38 – “He’s Here Now”
Chapter 39 – “Not Everything Changes”
Chapter 40 – “Anger’s Release”
Chapter 41 – “What Are Rights?”
© All rights reserved. All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited