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Never Judge a Book by its Cover
Jack Bradshaw grabbed his bag and as he was walking out of his History class he ran right into Mackenzie and she fell over and dropped all of her books and her bag flew open along with all of its contents.
“I’m sorry,” he said as she turned different shades of red, “Let me help you up,” he grabbed her hand and lifted her to her feet. He also picked up her books while she hunted down all of the items in her bag that had spilled onto the tile.
“It was my fault—I really should watch where I am going.”
“No, It’s fine, I should’ve too,” Jack said. “Can I take you out for a smoothie to make up for it?” he asked.
Her eyes lit up and she bit her lip in a cute way. Her blonde curls shook as she answered, “Sure, I guess you can.”
“Great” he said, relieving her of her books and walking with her to Sam’s diner where they served great smoothies.
“So, you are telling me that you have never been to a Styx concert?” Mackenzie was asking Jack as they were downing their third smoothie.
“No, but haven’t they broken apart already?”
“Duh,” she rolled her eyes, “but there are other ways, man.”
He just smiled at her, she was fun to be with, and they had basically wasted the whole afternoon talking about music and that was fine with both of them.
“So, you’re a musician?” Mackenzie asked him.
“Yeah, I play guitar.”
“Really? I play drums,” she used her slender fingers as drumsticks and beat on the table.
Jack laughed as he listened to the rhythm, “Not bad, for a girl.”
She gave him a look, “You know what? You suck. Therefore I am going to take you out on Friday to a real Styx concert.”
He just shrugged, “okay.”
“No boyfriend?” he asked.
“No boyfriend,” she affirmed.
“Just making sure, you can never be careful with all these big bad boyfriends now a days.”
Mackenzie burst out laughing.
“So, Mr. Bradshaw?—” She pronounced the last syllable as though it was a question.
“I’m Mickey,” she leaned in close to Jack when she said this.
“Really, like the song? Like Mickey Mouse?”
“Yep, my little sister couldn’t say my name when she was a baby, so it got shortened to Mickey.”
Jack smiled, “Okay, Mickey. So, Friday. You’re taking me to a Styx concert?”
“Yes,” she looked down at her watch, “I’ve got loads of homework that I should be working on.”
Jack held her wrist up so he could read it, “yeah, unfortunately, me too.”
He stood up and put enough money to cover the smoothies, and a tip on the table. “I’ll walk you home.”
As they rounded the corner to her dorm, Mickey looked over at Jack, “you know, you are not exactly what I expected.”
Jack half smiled, “Never judge a book by its cover." She raised her eyebrows and he said, "You're not exactly what I expected either."
“Really?” Mickey grinned, “and why is that?”
“Do you want the truth? Or do you want what I say to make you feel good?” He smiled as he spoke.
Mickey thought about it. “Any other guy would have done one or the other and of course you can pretty much tell which they are going to do,” she paused, “but Jack has to ask permission first.”
Jack shrugged, “I’m no super hero, but I’ve got manners.”
Mickey smiled, ignoring his last remark, “I always say it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”
“Where’d you hear that from?”
“Around.” She looked at the door in which they had stopped in front of. “See you Friday night.” She gave him a half smile and walked into her room and shut the door behind her.
She knew exactly how to play his game.
Jack sang along to an old Styx CD while he got ready for the concert, “You know it’s you, babe, giving me the courage and the strength I need, please believe that it’s true, babe I love you.”
Jack had put on jeans and a black button up t-shirt. He figured he should look half-decent. He looked at the clock on his bedside table and decided he’d better leave now so that he wouldn't be late.
Three knocks on Mickey's door and a redhead answered the door; her face was poised, excited, and then upon seeing him, fell flat as if expecting someone else. “Mickey’s getting ready, come in and you can wait.”
Jack shrugged, “okay.”
“Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me…” Mickey’s voice flowed through the apartment and Jack smiled.
The redhead did not seem to think it was as funny, she rolled her eyes and said, “she’s been singing that CD all day.”
Finally, after about ten minutes, Mickey exposed herself to her guest and her roommate. Jack grinned at her appearance; Mickey looked great. She was wearing a miniskirt and a blue tank top with knee high boots. She also had a cute baseball cap on her head that somehow managed to pull the entire outfit together.
She grinned when she saw him, "Let me get my coat," she smiled as she noticed him watching her get it from a closet.
“Ready?” She asked, he nodded, “okay, let’s go.”
She climbed into the driver’s seat of her jeep and Jack slid into the passenger side. “Are you sure you must drive?” He had asked her when she insisted she must, “of course, it’s a surprise where I am taking you.”
Jack rolled his eyes, but was actually pleased that she was so bold. He sat back and relaxed as she drove through the city. She turned on the radio and shook her curls as she danced to an old song.
He laughed at her, “You like all old music don’t you?” She just smiled, “I like everything.”
He watched her, the way her blonde hair sparkled when the light hit it just right, the way that her whole face lit up when she smiled, and yet how deep down she knew, just as he, that regardless to everything, they would just be friends.
She told him about her cousin that was coming up from Florida—Tyler Rose was his name. He was transferring from Flagler and she wanted Jack to get to know him.
“Tyler Rose? The soccer player?”
“Yeah, you know him?” She glanced sidelong at him.
“Yeah, back in elementary school when we lived in Florida for awhile. We were on the team together.”
“Oh cool. Did you actually get along?”
Jack laughed, “Yeah, Tyler’s cool.”
Mickey pulled onto a back road- she parallel parked swiftly and smoothly and smiled. “We’re here.”
Jack looked around at the desolate street, “Where exactly is here?”
“It’s the back of Midnight, the club, and tonight,” she looked at him, “they are having a Styx tribute band playing here.”
He just shook his head and laughed, he had been to several clubs, and even though he wasn’t twenty one yet, they had never stamped him so he was able to purchase alcohol.
Mickey looked at him, “They don’t check ID here,” she assured him, “You ready?” They both looked at the illuminated numbers on the dashboard. It read, 11:22.
“Sure,” Jack shrugged, “I’ve had Styx in my head all week.”
She laughed and her eyes danced as she looked at him, “Let’s go then!”
Mickey jumped out of the jeep and ran around to Jack’s side, next to the building, he held her arm and escorted her inside through the back entrance.
As soon as they were inside, they were greeted by the loud chorus of Mr. Roboto, a Styx classic, and Mickey’s favorite song. Mickey grabbed Jack’s hand and led him to the dance floor.
They danced among the others, who were sweating and tired, but still couldn’t pass up the chance to dance to their favorite songs. Jack stood a foot taller, but he knew how to dance, at least what was appropriate and inappropriate for a guy to do. Mickey fit perfectly into his arms as they moved to the music and sang the lyrics as they danced. They room was foggy and hot but everyone was having a blast.
Jack could hardly tell the difference between the tribute band and the real Styx. The music pumped in the speakers and Jack felt the way Mickey moved as though she was at perfect ease.
The song was nearly over when Jack felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned slightly and found Kat standing there, no Drew to be found, and he felt his heart flip. He hadn’t known he would find her here, and was surprised by the indifferent expression she tried to maintain.
“Jack!” She screamed over the music, “how are you?”
He shouted back, “Hey, I’m good! This is Mickey,” he gestured to Mickey and then to Kat, “Mickey this is Kat.”
The girls hardly acknowledged each other.
Jack pretended to look around for Drew, “Where’s Drew?” He asked her.
She just shrugged, “He has to get up early to volunteer for a beach clean up, but he said I should stay.”
Jack nodded. His thoughts were confirmed—Drew was a jerk. He looked at Mickey who was now glaring at Kat. They were finally acknowledging each other. Kat had a look of indifference as she looked back at Mickey.
Mickey laid her hand on Jack’s chest to get his attention. She leaned in close and pressed her lip to his ear, “I’m thirsty,” she whispered, even with the loud music. His body shivered and he smiled as she said, “Can you get me a coke?” He nodded at her as she glared up at him innocently.
He glanced over his shoulder as he walked away and saw Kat glaring at Mickey and Mickey smiling at him, she winked and grinned when she caught his eye.
Jack came back and couldn’t find Kat. “Where’d Kat go?” he raised his voice over the music. Mickey shrugged as they went to the bar and sat down so that she could drink her coke.
It was a little less rowdy and not as stuffy by the bar. Mickey made a point of drinking her coke slowly and looking around. Jack admired her bravery. He liked that Mickey was afraid to do what she wanted to do.
When they finally went back to the dance floor, nothing had changed except the song. People were still dancing crazily and this time Mickey slid her hands across his chest as she was putting her hands around his neck. It made his hair rise on his neck. She pushed her body against his and it was as if they were the only two people in the room, no one else mattered. The song changed to a slow one and Mickey and Jack stood not moving in the middle of the dance floor. Mickey laid her head on his chest and they stood comfortably together almost as one.
Then a short, blonde guy broke the spell by coming up and asking if he could cut in with his dance with Mickey.
Mickey asked Jack with her eyes and he nodded, he couldn’t just say no, he wasn’t her boyfriend.
Jack went to the bar and ordered a coke. He sat watching Mickey as she danced with the blonde and five other guys. He shook his head as he looked around, pretending not to be jealous. He found Kat. She was also dancing with a couple people.
He sat there feeling miserable for a few somgs until some girl with a blue mohawk asked him to dance and he found himself saying yes.
Jack watched Mickey while he danced with mohawk girl. The guys were still dancing with Mickey, but they were getting rowdy.
One of them tried to grab her, enticing the others to shriek with laughter.
Jack saw it too and told mohawk girl that he had to go, making her blink and drop her hands to her side.
He quickly appeared by the side of the short blonde haired guy that he had let Mickey dance with earlier.
Jack grabbed the man’s arm just as he tried to lift up Mickey’s skirt and punched him square in his face. The man cursed as he held the side of his face where it had already started to bruise.
Jack looked at Mickey, “You okay?”
She nodded, but had stopped dancing. The song had changed and it was a fast paced one, “Come here.” He grabbed her by her belt loops and pulled her to him. He put his arms around her and held her close. He felt her relax as he gently swayed to the music even though it wasn’t slow. As the realization of the last few seconds finally suck in a ragged sigh escaped him.
Mickey looked up into his eyes and read him as though reading a book. “Jack,” she whispered, “thank you.”
He nodded and felt the urge to kiss her, he bent down and their lips met sending sparks down to the tips of their toes. They broke quickly, embarrassed.
They pretended that nothing had happened, all the while continuing to dance until well into the night.
As the club attendees started to slowly drag themselves away and there were only a few dozen people left—Mickey finally asked to go home.
Jack carried Mickey to her jeep while she giggled sleepily at him. “Jack,” she started.
“Shhh… wait until the morning,” he soothed her.
He set her gently into the passenger seat and buckled her seatbelt. He climbed into the passenger side and drove towards home. He was driving and replaying the evening and thinking how crazy it was that they should end up together. He looked over at her sleeping figure and smiled softly, thinking that maybe this was right.
So, of course, he didn’t see the truck. He didn’t see that it was in the wrong lane, speeding down the road entirely too fast. He didn’t see the look on the drunken banker’s face as he hurtled into the intersection and smashed into the white jeep’s passenger door.
He did see Mickey’s door cave in crumpling the sleeping figure in a way that didn’t make any sense. Then all was black.
Jack felt smooth, cool fingers running over his arm as he stirred from a deep sleep. He blinked rapidly as he tried to open his eyes due to the bright light. When he finally was able open them he saw his mother sitting in a plastic chair next to him, tracing his arm with her fingertips, she was looking at her lap, and tears were flowing down her cheeks.
She grabbed his hand and squeezed it and when he squeezed back she glanced up into those eyes and started sobbing. She laid her other hand over their joined hands and wept.
Jack tried to comfort her but when he tried to speak his voice was raspy. Then he finally realized where he was. He looked at the IV on his arm and he heard the beeping that signaled his heart rate. He was in a hospital. The nightmare he had feared had come true.
He tried to clear his throat a couple of times before he spoke, “Mom,” she looked up at him with sad eyes, “Mickey?” he asked.
His mother shook her dark hair, “Oh, honey. She hasn’t woken up yet.”
He felt his heart crumple in his chest and his mother smiled a very sad smile, “honey, I am so sorry.”
“Where’s dad,” he managed to say.
She frowned, “detained in business I’m afraid.”
Jack curled his hand into a fist, though he regretted it when pain shot down his arm.
“Oh honey, I’m sorry.”
Just then a nurse bustled into the room, “Oh, he’s awake again.” She went to a cabinet and pulled out a tube. “You need your rest, love,” she told him as she poured the medicine into tube.
Jack’s eyes grew heavy, but he fought to keep them open.
Before he fell asleep he heard the nurses low whisper to his mother and then his mother squeezed his hand and sobbed while sitting in that plastic chair.
A few days later when he was released from the hospital, Jack hurried to Mickey’s room to see her, finally. A plump nurse noticed him walking down the hallway and asked him where he was going.
“To see my sister,” he lied.
She nodded and asked, “Who’s your sister?”
“Mackenzie,” Jack told her, “Mackenzie Ryder.”
The nurse nodded again, “room 212.”
“Thank you,” Jack hurried down the hall and stopped at the window of room 212. Mickey was sleeping just as he last saw her. Only now she was terribly injured, she was bruised and bandaged and she looked so helpless.
Jack stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, “Mickey,” he called to her as he walked to the bed, “I don’t know if you can hear me, I read somewhere that people can hear you even when they aren’t conscious, but I want you to know that I am so sorry. I know it wasn’t our fault, and that I couldn’t have stopped that drunk man, but I wish it had been me rather than you.”
He sat down in the chair, “I am sorry, so sorry. You have to make it.” He stopped talking and just looked at her face. Even with the bruises and the cuts she still looked beautiful and he knew that he would never speak to her again.
“I love you, Mickey.” he whispered and squeezed her hand as his mom had squeezed his, and she squeezed back.
He felt tears on his cheeks and he wiped them away angrily. This was because of drinking and it wasn’t even his fault. He wished he could blame someone, but the other man had been killed in the accident; is a miracle that Jack had been in such good condition. He could have died. He looked at Mickey’s pale face and shuddered, it wasn’t fair; he should be in her place.