Struggles of the Heart

By
Jewel sat up in her room, all alone, on the window seat of her large bay window, watching the rain slowly trickle down the pane. The little drops of H2O resembled the ones that flowed from her own almond shaped grey-blue eyes. How long had she been crying? It had to be at least a week. She hadn’t come out of her room. She’d just sat there; crying.

Tommy was on her mind again. Then again, he was always on her mind. She couldn’t get him out, no matter how hard she tried. She couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t do anything. Her grades were falling drastically from all the school she had missed, skipping to go hang out with him. The old Jewel would have never done that. Yet the Jewel he made her enjoyed the thrill. The Jewel she was around him was different. Very different.

For the first time in a week she stood up on her wobbly, white legs and crossed the room to the bed. She just couldn’t decide. She looked at the two outfits on the bed. One was her old things; a white button down collared shirt, tan slacks and sensible heels. The other a black short skirt, platform leather boots, a red tank top that showed her belly button, and a spiked dog collar. Each held special memories.

Two different people clashed inside her. To be the intellectual, straight A+, over achiever, perfectionist, valedictorian-to-be, highly respected, high expectations, daddy’s little girl, student….or….the free, loud, happy, funky dressed, fearless, doesn’t-take-anybody’s-crap woman. Being one she could go so far, but the other….the other she could do so much. Wild and crazy things like dancing out in clubs till three in the morning or spending the night over at Tommy’s while her parents think she’s over at Alex’s.

She felt fresh tears flow from her tear ducts and to the corners of her viewing orbs. As she blinked, one fell and landed on the leather of a boot. She picked it up in her shaking long fingered hands and looked it over. Six inch platform heals with bright red flames painted all around the bottoms, size ten in women, only forty bucks. They were durable and made her feel so tall. But that’s not why she had bought them. Tommy had liked them. She remembered the day well.

It was the day he had first convinced her to skip school. She had never done it before, never even dreamed about doing it, so she was nervous. She kept looking over her shoulder like a paranoid freak. He had chuckled and told her to relax, that he had done this a thousand times. That only worsened her nerves. They easily slipped out and into the student parking lot. They slid into his black, low to the ground Lamborghini, and drove off at a break-neck speed. Jewel had clung to the seat cover, looking frightened. Tommy slowed down some, not wanting to scare her…too much.

They went down to the shopping center and spent the day just looking around. He had boldly put his arm around her neck, and she blushed. She had never been this close to a boy, man, before. Her parents wouldn’t let her date, not that anyone would ask her out. She was quiet, sweet, helpful and friendly, but not ‘date-able’. She knew for a fact that she was the go-to person if you needed help on home work or the best person to get as your partner for a school project, but that’s as far as her reputation ever went.

She had looked him up and down, taking in everything that he was. Short brown hair, the biggest, brightest blue eyes she had ever seen, strongly built with rippling muscles that made her blush more. He wore a white wife-beater shirt, a leather jacket and black jeans with silver chains hanging off of them. His leather Harley boots amazingly didn’t make a sound as they walked down the street. She looked away before he saw her looking at him.

“Pick a store.” he had said.

She immediately went to the women’s section of JC Penny, looking over the slacks and button down polo’s. Tommy had looked really out of place and obviously felt it. He looked through a few of the racks and scoffed. “You actually wear this stuff?”

Jewel had looked down at herself and nodded. “My mother says it’s what sensible young women wear.”

“Do you even own a pair of jeans?”

“One.”

Tommy had looked shocked beyond belief. “Girl, you need to loosen up.”

“I’m loose.” She looked down at her ballet flats.

He had raised an eyebrow. “Come with me.” He put his arm around her neck again and walked her to a store she had never seen before. Hot Topic. Her mother would have called it satanic if she had ever seen it. The man behind the register had piercings all over his face and it scared Jewel. She had started to back away when Tommy held her still. “What’s wrong?”

“I can’t shop there!”

“Why not?”

“My parents would kill me!”

“Your parents don’t have to know.”

Jewel was about to protest more when he dragged her inside. He slid his arm off of her neck and spread his hands out in front of him. “Take a look around. There’s some cool stuff in here.”

Jewel timidly looked around at some of the stuff. In her mind she was rating on a scale of one to ten how badly she would get in trouble if she wore certain things. Finally she picked up a green hoodie with a crazy looking robot in what looked to be a green dog suit saying, “I heart Taquitos.” She jumped when Tommy said something from behind her.

“It’s from an old TV show. Invader Zim, and that’s Gir. I’ll show it to you sometime. It’s really funny.”

She nodded, and draped the hoodie over her arm. She looked around, picking up t-shirts, and baggy jeans, things that would be less likely to get her in trouble. Then, that’s when she saw them. They were on a swivel shelf in the corner of the room, displaying shoes of all kinds. Flip-flops, boots, and ballet flats like what she wore at the moment. But one pair had caught her eye. She walked over mindlessly, and picked up the boots she now held her hands. Under her breath she had whispered, “They’re so shinny.” She looked them over, and started to put them back, looking down.

Tommy had stopped her. “What are you doing? Don’t ya like them?”

“They are very nice, but I can’t have them.”

“Can’t or won’t?” He had grinned at her.

“Can’t. My mother would kill me.”

“At least try them on.”

“What’s the point?”

“For fun.” He beckoned a clerk over, asked for her size and had the pair brought out. Jewel sat in one of the changing rooms, having changed her full outfit to some of the stuff that she had chosen. A black tank top with the words “You laugh because I’m different, I laugh because you’re all the same” on the front, a black and red plaid skirt, and the boots. She stepped out of the dressing room and felt embarrassed. Tommy had whistled when he saw her and grinned. The girl who had brought the boots looked her up and down. She walked over and picked up a pair of black fishnet stockings.

“Take these too and that outfit will be perfect.” She walked away.

“You should get it.”

“I don’t know. The skirt is really short.” The shortest thing she had ever worn was down to her knees, this only came half way down her pale thighs.

“Jewel, you need to learn to lighten up, forget what your parents think and just be who you are.”

“I am! I know who I am.” Even as she said the words she knew she didn’t sound convinced, and didn’t feel convinced. She didn’t know who she was. She had always just been.

“Look, I’ll buy the clothes, and if you don’t like them you can return them later. Alright?”

Jewel had just nodded and went to change. Tommy paid for everything and then took her through some other stores. These she felt more comfortable in, but still at the back of her mind, she questioned everything she did, wondering if it was her or Tommy doing this.

Jewel looked around her room now. Posters of rock bands, Invader Zim, gothic fairies and funny sayings cluttered the walls. She was an avid Gir fan, loved shopping at Hot Topic and felt fine with all the things she was hiding from her parents. Now she would leave the house dressed as her parents liked and when she got to school change into the things she really liked to wear. At first, everyone thought she was insane, but soon they got used to it. She finally felt normal, but now…things had changed so much.

Tommy and Jewel started to hang out more. He’d talk her into doing things she’d always secretly wanted to do, but never got the chance to. It was like living in one of her romance novels. It made her feel so alive. She was friends with one of the most popular and hottest guys in school. Her! It felt weird at first, because she felt so out of place. At first they hadn’t said anything at school. They meet in secret for obvious reasons. He was a known tough-guy, heart-breaker whose friends were good but womanizers. He told her that he just didn’t want her to get harassed by them.

She didn’t mind. She only had two other friends, her miniature cocker spaniel, Lady and Keely Wilson. She had named her dog after the movie Lady and the Tramp, which she had been obsessed with as a little girl. She was just glad to have another friend, someone she could talk to. He seemed really interested in her, uniquely. He listened to her and helped her out with her confusion about who she was. He set her free, and let her be her true self. It was an amazing feeling, being truly free with one’s self. It was an even more amazing feeling to be kissed for the first time.

They had been in a movie theatre, watching the latest horror film, because Tommy had wanted to see it. Jewel had learned to like horror films, but it wasn’t until after the movie was over, did she realize it. So, she sat there, fear coursing through her veins, hugging onto Tommy’s arm, trying not to show how scared she was. It was dark, so she didn’t notice that Tommy was watching her, not the movie. She didn’t even notice when he put his arm around her back, having gotten used to how he always draped an arm around her. When she jumped at the next surprise in the movie, he griped her chin and turned her to look at him. She stared at him, confused, and then stunned when he leaned over and brushed his lips across hers. He pulled away and looked at her.

“Was that bad?” he asked softly against her cheek.

“I…you…kissed me…”

“You’ve never been kissed before.” He could read it on her face.

“No…”

“Jewel.”

She looked back at him and he kissed her again, moving his lips slowly and softly, coaxing her to copy him. She closed her eyes and slowly caught the hang of it. She felt him run his hand through her long brown hair. She slowly pulled away and looked at him.

“What’s wrong?” He asked.

“Its just that…what does this mean?”

Tommy smiled. “Would you mind it if we were dating?”

Jewel looked away, remembering how sometimes she stayed up late and day dreamed about this sort of thing. She’d fall asleep thinking these things. “No…not really.”

He had laughed and pulled her closer, kissing her forehead like he always did. He was a very affectionate person, always hugging her and kissing her forehead. It had taking forever for her to not get too excited about them, but never had he kissed her lips before. She snuggled into him more, feeling at home.

Not long after, Jewel had realized that they couldn’t keep it a secret anymore, at least not at school. Their friends were starting to ask where they disappeared to after school and why they couldn’t hang out with them anymore. Finally, one day, while they were in the mall, eating in the food court Keely had caught them together. They had to explain everything to her, and surprisingly she wasn’t mad. She laughed and said, “It was about time Jewel got some friends.” And left.

The next day at school, Tommy had waited for Jewel at the front of the school and kissed her in front of everyone. Jewel had been astonished but ignored all the huge gasps around them. From then on they were inseparable. They went everywhere together. Tommy would walk her to class, hold hands with her, everything. Jewel often sighed happily during class, spacing out and skipping class with him.

But, things started to unravel…soon Tommy wouldn’t show up at school and neither would his boys. Everyone called them his boys, because he was their unofficial leader. And when Jewel asked him about it, he avoided the subject. They saw each other less and less, and Jewel grew lonely. Instead of going out to dance or a movie with Tommy, she’d spend her night’s home with Lady, watching TV, or trying to call Tommy’s cell.

About a month later, she found out what he was doing. She had been walking down the same street where they had met on. Her uncle and last grandparent had just died, very close together and she had gone into the Starbucks coffee shop down the street from school to cry and think. Tommy had walked over and asked her what the matter was. She thought about that as she walked past it and saw Tommy and some of his boys facing another group of teenage boys. They were arguing obviously, by the way they were standing perpendicular to each other. Jewel pressed herself up against a wall of a near by building, watching what happened. She knew one of the boys in the other group. His name was Jacob; he went to the rivals of their school. He looked like the leader of the others. He flipped Tommy the bird and walked off.

"Tommy!" Jewel called when Jacob and his boys had left. Tommy turned around, looking like he was going to maul whoever had called him, but then seeing it was Jewel, he relaxed....some.

"What are you doing here?"

"I was walking home from school...Who were those guys?"

"Just some people."

"Tommy what are you hiding from me?"

The next thing Jewel knew was that Tommy was being accused of murder. She saw it in the local paper, two weeks after that. She immediately believed he was innocent. At school people avoided them both even more now. Keely kept trying to get Jewel to break up with him. She wouldn't. She couldn't. Keely may have been her best friend, but Tommy....she was pretty sure she was in love with him. Though, now, Tommy was avoiding her. Finally, after a month of being ignored, Jewel went over to his house. His father answered the door. "And who are you?" He asked.

"Umm, Mr. McGrath, my name is Jewel...I was wondering if Tommy was home." She had been over at Tommy's house, even slept over, but his parents had always been out of town. She had never met them before.

"So you’re the one he won't shut up about. Come in." Mr. McGrath led Jewel through the house to Tommy's room, though she already knew it by heart. She knocked timidly on the door.

"Tommy?"

"Go away!"

"Its Jewel...please let me in."

Slowly the black wooden door opened. Tommy pulled Jewel swiftly in and shut the door. He hugged her fiercely. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to hear what you had to say?"

"What do you....oh....you mean about the murder charges." He pulled away and went to go sit on his bed. Jewel followed, lying down on the soft black cotton sheets, her head in his lap.

"Yeah. And what did Jacob want with you? And why have you been avoiding me?"

Tommy wouldn't look at her. It was a long time before he answered.” My boy's aren't just my friends. Downtown we're known as The Pack. We're a gang, Jewel. And Jacob...they’re rivals. A couple of weeks ago we got into a fight, someone pulled a gun, and someone was murdered. Later it turned out to be Jacob's brother, Coul. The police think it's me because they think I wanted revenge...Jacob murdered my sister, but never got tried for it. Now he's framing me...."

Jewel was silent, shocked by this news. She had known Tommy and his boys got into fights, but....a gang? They didn't have any special colors they wore, no signs...or had they just kept that from her, so as not to scare her?

"Jewel....I pulled the trigger...I had pulled out my gun, yes I own a gun, to get their attention, I didn't want another fight, we had just gotten over the last one. Someone bumped me and my arm went sideways."

Jewel sat up, jumped off the bed and ran to the door. "You...you own a gun? WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME? I thought you hated violence."

"I do, but...Look, I took over my father's old gang, and all of my boys are sons of his old members. I'm expected to keep this going."

"You’re a murderer." Jewel ran out the door, down the stairs, out the front door and home.

And now, a week later, Jewel was still confused. Tommy had called her, come by, e-mailed her, but she ignored him. How could he be a murderer? He was so gentle with her. By now she had realized, she knew they were a gang, but hadn't admitted it to herself. They always had black and blue on, always drawling an upside down cross design with the fangs of a wolf on it. She had even started to dance and dress like them, always in black and blue. She was a gangster's girlfriend, knew it, and yet...didn't mind it.
She looked down at the two outfits, both apart of her, but only one really appealing. She was in love with Tommy, she knew. No matter how hard Keely had said she wasn't, she knew she was. When her parents found out about him, thanks to Keely, they had freaked and grounded Jewel. She wasn't allowed to see him. Talk to him. Anything to do with him. The loneliness had been swelling inside of her since Monday, and now, Sunday she couldn't take it anymore. She didn't think Tommy was a murderer, she knew he was gentle. She realized now, though, the answer had been right in front of her this whole time that she was his, and forever would be his, no matter what.

This excited her. She finally understood how she felt, what she wanted, who she was! Not what others wanted for her and from her, but what she wanted and needed from herself! She picked up her phone and dialed Tommy's number. No answer. She tried his cell. No answer. The great excitement and understanding that she had just been feeling was slowly seeping away to impending sadness. Had she ignored him so much that now he was ignoring her? She tried calling him for the next four hours, but got nothing. She changed into one of his t-shirts that he had given her, her favorite pair of jeans and the boots.

"Please pick up, Tommy." Still nothing. Not even a voicemail. She finally fell asleep at about midnight, phone in hand.
She awoke to the sounds of pebbles tapping on her window. "Wha?" She walked over to there bay window and looked down. "Tommy!" She rushed to open the pane. "What are you doing here?"

"If I had to leave tonight to avoid going to prison for something I didn't do, would you come with me?"

"What?"

"I can't live without you, Jewel. I love you." He held up a ring. A diamond set in a silver band. "Run away with me."

"Tommy I...Give me five minutes!" The adrenaline rushed through her again, like every other time she did something rash and spontaneous. She packed some clothes, took all of her money and credit cards, her purse, and some other special personal stuff, and threw her bag out the window. Tommy easily caught it. She picked up Lady who was asleep on her bed, put her in her purse and climbed down the water drain to her back yard. As soon as she got down, she threw her arms around Tommy's neck and kissed him. He held her close, kissing her deeply, slipping the engagement ring onto her finger.
They sneaked back to the front of the house, got into his car and drove to the airport. From there Jewel maxed out her cards buying two plane tickets to France, for she was fluent in French, drew out as much euro as possible from her back accounts and then threw her cards away.

"How will we get a job and a place to live?" Tommy asked as they got on the plane.

"We'll figure it out on the way."

"That's something I thought I'd never hear you say." Tommy grinned.

Jewel leaned her head on Tommy's shoulder. "I love you, Tommy."

"I love you too, Jewel."





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