Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 47 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 47 – “The People We Lean On”
I sat with Carrie for the next hour and watched her check on Stevie and take his pulse. She handled my brother with a tenderness I didn’t expect and I only hoped the next nurse on duty would be as careful with the brother I was going to lose. Is this what happens when you’re close to losing someone? Nothing else mattered to me then, not me, not Mom and Dad, not even Jimmy. I had spent so many years being angry with Stevie. What a waste to find him so late!
“I’m going to have to leave soon, Jessica. Donna will be here to take over. She’ll take good care of Stevie.”
I had been hoping Stevie would wake up. I wanted to talk to him and I wanted Carrie with me. But who knew if he’d feel like talking to me? I was losing my nerve and I needed her.
Stu would be visiting Jimmy right now, but he’d probably be home in the next hour. Maybe I could go see Stu and convince him to come back with me to visit Stevie. In the time it took for the idea to run through my brain, I had already decided that’s what I would do. Stu would know what to say. Stu would help. I was sure of it.
I drove back to Jimmy and Stu’s house and waited in their driveway for Stu to return from the hospital. Of all people, I never thought I would be asking Stu to help me with anything. My thoughts returned to their kitchen the night Stu kissed me. I was such a mess back then, but I still wasn’t sure about him now. How could I have gotten the facts so wrong? The Stu I was beginning to know would never have tried to kiss his brother’s girlfriend, would he?
Stu pulled up a few minutes later. He smiled when he saw my car and I felt a flicker run through my stomach when our eyes met. Was he glad to see me? There we were, both of us, dealing with brothers in desperate situations, but somehow I felt lightened by the thought. I walked over to his car as he was getting out.
“Hey Stu. I hope you don’t mind me waiting for you to get back. I wanted to find out from you how Jimmy was and I was thinking maybe we could talk about Stevie.”
“Hi Jes, no that’s fine.” Stu put his hand on his back and stretched. “These car seats are the worst,” he explained. “I think my back is permanently twisted from driving this piece of junk.”
“You should sit in my car. I’m sure it’s worse.” I was glad for something to talk about. I felt a nervous sweat under my arms.
“Come inside and we’ll talk.” Stu had an ease and confidence about him I had never noticed. My only memories were of him invading my space, here at the house and at the diner. Nothing was making sense.
We settled in the kitchen and Stu grabbed a beer from the fridge. “Want one?” he offered. I wasn’t supposed to drink while I was taking my pills. A wave of responsibility spread over me. “No, I’d better not.”
“Okay,” he answered. He poured me a glass of water and brought it to the table. “In case you get thirsty,” he explained. He sat across from me and twisted the top off his beer.
“How was Jimmy today?” I asked.
“Well, physically he’s gotten better. Lately, he has been up and around at the hospital, although he’s confined to his hallway and his room. The nurses are keeping a close eye on him.”
Stu paused a moment. “But today he didn’t show an interest in me and he didn’t say a word while I was there. I’d like to say he recognized me, but I can’t even say that. I have a meeting with his doctor tomorrow morning.”
Stu drank from his beer. “Something happened yesterday, Jessica. Jimmy threw his dinner at one of the nurses. First he picked up his plate of food and threw it across the room, then he started with the silverware. And last came a coffee cup, which hit the nurse in the head.”
I took the news, but I had nothing to say. I’d seen Jimmy get mad before, but he’d never hurt anyone.
“The nurse called for help and a couple people came in to restrain him. They sedated him and he hasn’t spoken to anyone since.”
“Jimmy must have been so upset,” I reasoned. “There’s no way he would have tried to hurt anyone, Stu.”
Stu shifted in his seat. “Well, the nurse said he was threatening her and that’s why he threw his dinner. That’s what they told me, anyway. I guess I’ll get the full story from the doctor tomorrow.”
He finished his beer and took it to the sink. As he rinsed out the bottle, he turned back to me and said, “Well, tell me about Stevie. Did you get to talk to him?”
I told him the full story about Carrie and Dr. Mathis and how I was afraid Stevie had taken the gun to the shed because he knew I was coming to see him.
Stu grabbed a second beer from the fridge. Seeing him open the second one, I changed my mind about drinking. “Can I have one of those after all?” I asked.
“Sure thing. You sure it’s okay, though?”
Hearing about Jimmy at the hospital and then retelling Stevie’s story had changed my mood. “I don’t care anymore, Stu.”
He twisted off the top and handed me the bottle. Okay, here you go, Jes, but take it easy, okay? I don’t think I can handle another person in need of medical attention.”
He’d meant it as a joke. I knew that. But my confidence was going. I tried to answer his joke, “Okay, well if I start becoming delusional, just lock me in your room and call for help.”
I’d meant my reply as a joke too, but it was too much. My throat tightened and I brought the bottle to my mouth, hoping the cold beer would numb me going down. Stu hung his head and I think he felt ashamed by the words we had both spoken. Tears stung my eyes.
“I’m sorry, Jes. Don’t listen to me. You’re so together. Look at all you have been handling. I shouldn’t have joked about it.”
A panic rose in me. I didn’t want Stu to see me cry, but my face twisted in defeat and a moment later I was in Stu’s arms, crying into his sleeve.
Thank you for reading – all comments are welcome.
Just jumping in? 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?”
Chapter 42 – “Visiting Stu”
Chapter 43 – “Control”
Chapter 44 – “Balance of Power”
Chapter 45 – “Stevie’s Battle”
Chapter 46 – “Small Gestures”
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