Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 48, the final chapter of Jessica.
Chapter 48 – “Hearts Were Mending”
Stu’s shirt was soft on my face. I was shocked to hear myself cry heaving sobs into his sleeve. It was strange to be in his arms. He said nothing, just held me patiently and waited for me to finish. When I could finally speak, I looked up into his face and was embarrassed by our closeness. We quickly pulled apart.
“Hey,” he said and he brushed a strand of hair off my face.
“Hi,” I answered, feeling shy and exhausted.
“That was some cry, Jes. How many years have you been holding all that in?”
“Oh,” I laughed hesitantly. “Probably ten or so.” It was another attempt to be funny, but the weight of my problems made my words sound flat.
“Well, I’m glad I could help you bring that all out. Not a good thing to hold so much inside, Jes.”
“Ha, well easier said than done, Stu.” I pulled myself away and brushed my hands down my sides and smoothed out my jeans. “Maybe you know how to keep it all together, but I’ve got the most messed up family and a boyfriend who’s lost in another world, Stu. I mean I know he’s your brother, but we were something together, you know? And now I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to that.”
“Hey look. No one’s judging you. I don’t always have it together and my family isn’t exactly a model to go by. I’ll tell you what, let’s not compare like that. Why don’t we grab some food and I’ll take you back to the hospital with me to see Jimmy before visiting hours are over. What do you say?”
Stu’s eyes were locked into mine. His smile was sweet, tentative.
“Okay,” I answered.
Jimmy was asleep when we got to the hospital. I could see that under the covers his arms were restrained. My heart jumped at the sight of his sweet sleeping face. How could that face belong to someone who needed to be tied down?
Stu announced he was going down to the cafeteria for some coffee. “You stay here and keep Jimmy company, okay?”
I sat in the chair next to Jimmy’s bed. I didn’t want to watch him sleep. I wanted my Jimmy back, awake and alert. There were many things I wanted to talk with him about, but I wondered if we would ever have the chance. A nurse came in to check on Jimmy.
“Oh, hello,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone was here with Jimmy. He had a rough day. I doubt he’ll wake up tonight.”
I wished I had something to tell her so she would know how close Jimmy and I had been. “I’m his girlfriend,” I announced, but I knew it sounded foolish. I could reach out and touch Jimmy, but I felt far away from him.
“Well, Jimmy’s been out of sorts. But I’m sure you know that.”
I said nothing. I just wanted her to leave. I saw no way to reach him, but I longed to be alone with him.
“Okay, well I need to check his blood pressure. He’ll probably sleep through that, though.”
I watched her wrap the cuff around his arm, pump the bulb and measure his pressure. She wrote on his chart, slipped it back into the slot at the foot of his bed and looked at me.
“Don’t upset him, Miss. He’s been through a lot and it’s been a long day for everyone.”
What about me? I thought. I wondered if this was the nurse he’d hurled his dinner at. If there had been a cup nearby I might have tossed it at her.
After the nurse left, I pulled the chair closer to Jimmy’s bed. In the last minute I had made a decision.
“Jimmy,” I whispered. “Wake up.”
Jimmy didn’t move. I reached out and cupped his face in my hand. I felt the stubble from his beard and wished I could feel his face brush up against mine. “Jimmy,” I said, louder. “It’s Jes. Wake up. I want to see you awake.”
“Wake up!” I called, even louder. No one had had a worse day than me. It was my turn to take what I needed. And I needed to see Jimmy awake and alert. I needed my old Jimmy. Jimmy stirred and mumbled a string of sounds. I moved my hand to his shoulder. “Come on, baby. Wake up, Jimmy. Please, talk to me. It’s Jes, baby. Open your eyes.”
Nothing worked. Stu came back with his coffee and Jimmy stayed asleep that night. We drove back to the house in silence. When we pulled into Stu’s driveway, Jimmy’s driveway, I reminded myself, Stu shut off the car and we sat.
“What do you think is going to happen to Jimmy?” I asked.
Stu turned to me. Despite the darkness, I could see the sweetness in his eyes.
“I don’t know, Jes. He’s not in good shape. I think he has a long road ahead of him. I hate to say that to you. I know how hopeful you’ve been. I know you thought you were close to him, but the truth is, we don’t really know what Jimmy has been thinking or going through all this time. Maybe we knew him once, maybe you were close. I’m sure you were, actually. But that wasn’t the real Jimmy. The problem is, we don’t even know who he is. I’m going to meet with the doctor tomorrow, Jes. I will call you as soon as we finish, but I think you’d better prepare yourself for bad news. Maybe you were thinking about a future with him. I’m sorry to say that the only future I see for Jimmy involves a lot of doctors and a lot of therapy.”
“Stu, Jimmy’s all I have to hang onto. If I can’t reach out to him, I’m lost.”
Stu reached out to me. “You’re not lost, Jes, you’re right here with me.”
I left Stu and drove home. These were the roads I had traveled so many times after being with Jimmy, but now everything had changed. What did Stu mean, I’m right there with him? And why didn’t that bother me?
Dad’s car, thankfully, was gone when I got to the house. I didn’t want to think about Mom and Dad and what might have happened between them. All I wanted was to go to my room and go to sleep, but then I remembered Stevie. God! It was too much to manage. As I turned the key in the back door, I prayed Mom would be sitting at the table, waiting for me.
And the miracle was that she was.
“Mom!” I called out. “I’m so glad you’re here. Is Dad gone?” I didn’t want him there. Mom was right. He couldn’t just jump into our group, not yet at least.
“Yes,” Jes. I sent him back to New Jersey. But I promised him I would keep him in the loop about your health, Jes. He does care about you, even though he’s been gone all these years.”
“Yeah, okay,” I answered. I didn’t want to talk about Dad. In the time it took me to put the key in the lock and open the back door, I had decided I would tell Mom about Stevie.
“Mom, stay here. I’m going to change out of these clothes and then I want to talk to you about something important. Can you stay here?” I asked.
“Of course,” she answered. “I’m not moving.”
I came back down to the kitchen, sat across the table and looked at Mom.
“Mom,” I started. “I’m going to tell you about Stevie.”
Mom’s face dropped.
“Oh God!” she yelled. “What’s happened? Is he dead?”
“No, no, Mom! Hold on! I found him and he’s living right down the road, but he’s sick, Mom. Really sick. He needs us, Mom, more than you ever thought he could.”
We talked late into the night. I told Mom all about Stevie and about Stu and the rocks and Stevie’s cancer. I kept the part about Stevie and the gun out of my story.
“I want you to come with me to see him tomorrow. I think seeing you will make a difference.”
Mom looked like a heap of fright and ruin. But she pulled herself together. “I’ll be ready whenever you want to go.”
We visited Stevie the next day. He was asleep in bed, but when the nurse, one I didn’t recognize, saw us, she pulled us into the kitchen.
“Hi, I’m Susannah. I always follow Carrie’s shift. She told me you might come today. Stevie had a good day yesterday and he’s resting now, but he’ll be up soon, I think. Why don’t you stay until he does? Carrie told me about your family. I hope you don’t mind. I think he’ll be glad to see you. Both of you. I’m sorry to be so forward. I’m a big believer in getting to the point, and with Stevie, I think you need to be that way.”
Susannah’s words were rushing past us. She’d never met Mom, but seemed to know all about her. I worried that Mom would think she was nosing into our family, but Mom didn’t seem bothered. Her eyes were fixed on the door leading out of the kitchen and into the living room where her lost and sick son lay.
“We’ll stay, Susannah. Thank you,” she answered.
We waited next to Stevie’s bed and after an hour, Stevie woke with a start.
“What?” he yelled.
“It’s okay, Stevie,” I answered. “It’s just me, Jessica.”
Stevie looked at me. There was no point in avoiding the obvious.
“And I brought Mom…”
Stevie and Mom stared at each other. There were years of words lost and never to be recovered. And the pain from the past was pointless to remember. The only moment was then and they both knew it.
“Mom!” Stevie cried. “I’m so glad you came.”
Mom and I stayed with Stevie for the rest of the morning.
“He’s getting tired now,” Susannah interrupted. “Why don’t you come back again tomorrow?”
“I’ll be waiting for you,” Stevie added. “I want to tell you all about my new self. I know we don’t have much time, but we have tomorrow.”
I called Stu. I surprised myself by wanting to talk to him. After I told him about our visit with Stevie, he sighed.
“You have a lot on your plate, Jes. But you are stronger than you think. I know you’re worried about losing Jimmy and about losing Stevie soon too, but I want you to know that…”
“What?” I asked.
“Like I said yesterday, Jes. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.”
I climbed into bed and felt the comfort of a new peace settle over me. My parents were still apart. Jimmy was lost to me, perhaps forever. Stevie was dying. But hearts were mending. I could see the future and I knew wouldn’t be alone.
The End – Thank you for reading.
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