No Matter What
Chapter 5: PresentJack and I walked inside and everyone was asleep. I guess we hadn’t realized it was past ten. We ended up going to my room downstairs.
Jack and I weren’t ready for bed yet, so we stayed up talking.
“Jessica,” Jack started. “You’ve been more than honest with me today and I feel like we can fully understand each other.”
He looked around the room and noticed a yearbook sitting out. As he started looking at it he commented on a few pictures.
“Did you ever get in trouble in high school?”
“Plenty, I spray-painted the lockers at my high school, and I even pulled a couple fire alarms. I got a two week suspension for each fire alarm and a few days for the lockers.”
“Why did you do that?”
He shrugged and closed the book, “I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to prove I was cooler than everyone else. I even made up the hideout where all my friends and I would skip school to take our girls to go . . . well, you know.”
“Did you bring many girls there?” I questioned.
“Will you be upset if I told you how many?”
“No, I’m just interested.”
“I’ll only tell you that I took many girls up there just to mess around, but I only took one for getting serious. She was the only one, I promise.” We sat there for a minute. “Was Alex your only?”
“He was the only one.”
There was another silence.
“Jess, I know we haven’t been down that part of our relationship yet, but I want to let you know that when we do, it will be worth much more than my last relationship.”
I smiled, “Thanks Jack.”
The next morning I woke up before Jack. I waited about twenty minutes before he opened his eyes.
“Hey.” He yawned.
“Morning,” I said, “How are you feeling today?”
“Great.” He sat up. “I’m glad we talked yesterday.”
“Me too,” I agreed. “What’s on the agenda today?”
“I thought since your dad invited me to a baseball game we could go pick out a ring later tonight.”
“Sounds good,” I said. “I guess that gives me time to go to the library and finish some errands around town for mom.”
We got dressed and then Jack left with my dad while I left for the library. When I got there, I went to the section I needed. Just as I was going to take the book of its shelf, someone else took it.
“Hey-” I looked at the person. Of course it would be Alex.
“I’m sorry. You can have it.” He raised his head to look at me too. “Jessica? What are you doing here?”
“I should be asking you actually. What are you doing here?”
“I was researching something. Surprised huh?”
“Little bit.” I said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a library.”
“Well now you can go tell the world it’s a miracle!” He laughed and so did I.
A librarian hushed at us which only made us laugh harder.
“We probably should go somewhere else.” Alex guessed.
“Yeah, you’re right. I should go.” I took my book and headed out.
“Jess, I meant did you want to go somewhere else with me?”
I turned around. “What did you have in mind?”
“I thought we could take a walk to visit Summer.” He mumbled her name.
“Sure.” I said.
We drove to the cemetery together. Alex parked the car and we got out.
As we walked side by side he said, “Jess, I’m still so sorry for what happened that night. I wish I hadn’t. I don’t even know what I was thinking, if I even was.”
“Alex, it’s over, the past is over, stop apologizing.”
“That’s the thing, I can’t.” He tried explaining, “If I wouldn’t have went to the party that night, you and I would still be together.”
I didn’t respond to his comment, however, I wanted to say, what I’d been thinking all these years, desperately.
I spotted Summer’s headstone. I sat down next to it and read what her parents put on it.
-A beloved daughter & best friend-
She will be remembered for her humor,
love and dedication.
I started tearing up.
“Jess, are you okay?” Alex asked. I shook my head as he came to sit by me. Then he pulled me close to his chest.
I cried into his tee-shirt. “It’s not fair. It was my fault.”
“No, Jessica it’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything.” He said hugging me tighter. “I bet wherever she is right now she doesn’t think that.”
“I was the one who wouldn’t talk to her. If I just answered her message she wouldn’t have died.” I wiped my cheeks with my sleeve, “If I hadn’t dragged you to that party, she would still be here going to college and giving me advice on what to do about you.”
Alex caught my eye when I said that, I hadn’t meant for those words to pour out of my mouth, but they had, and somehow, I didn’t regret it.
Finally, Alex spoke, “If you think that’s the reason, you’re wrong. It was icy and the roads were bad. No one is to blame.”
“I still can’t believe she’s gone.” I tried.
“I know.” I could have sworn right then I heard a sniffle from him.
He let me cry for a while until I calmed down. “Come on. Let’s go to my house, no one’s around, I’ll make you some lunch.”
Alex helped me get up and we left.
“What about my car?” I asked able to keep calm.
“I can drive you back later.” He answered.
Coming up to Alex’s house I saw he was right, no one was home.
He parked his car in the garage. I walked into the house that was so familiar with that certain green apple smell I had picked out just the other day.
Alex came in behind me. “Are you better now?”
“I’m better,” I promised. “I didn’t mean to burst out in tears back there. It’s just-”
“You miss her.” He finished.
We went to the kitchen and Alex recommended his home-made pancakes.
“You can read and cook?” I joked.
“Ha-ha, very funny. Here,” he gave me two eggs. “Put these in a bowl.”
I took them and put them in a glass bowl. Alex added milk and the pancake mix.
When Alex started to blend the mix in with the other ingredients, it flew out of the bowl. Almost half the gooey mix splattered on us and half on the floor. I shrieked.
“Damn! I am so sorry Jessie.” He grabbed a towel and handed it to me.
“It’s okay Alex, you look the same. Plus, a towel isn’t going to do any good.”
We finished making the rest of our pancakes and Alex said, “You’ll probably have a lot to explain when you go home, so if you want you can take a shower here and borrow some of Maria’s clothes.”
I went into the bathroom and took a quick shower. When I got out I grabbed a towel from the shelf and wrapped it around me. I found a hair dryer, dried my hair, and when I was done, I opened the bathroom, running right into Alex.
“Um,” He said, his eyes traveling down to the towel. “I brought you some of Maria’s clothes.”
“Thanks.” I took the clothes from him, not missing eye contact.
We still hadn’t moved away from each other, and his lips were right there. They were inches in front of me, distracting my thoughts. I wanted to kiss him so badly, but I knew I shouldn’t. Alex continued to look at me, his eyes moving to my lips. I grabbed a handful of his shirt without thinking and kissed him full on the mouth. He kissed back without hesitation. His hands on my back pulling me against him made it feel so good having his lips on mine, I couldn’t help it. His tongue had slipped into my mouth, making me go over the edge.
I heard myself groan and start to drop the towel, the only thing holding it up were our bodies pressed together. I grabbed on tighter to him, but then, Alex froze. The kiss didn’t last for more than two minutes before Alex pushed me off of him. “Jess, you know I want to, but we can’t.”
“I’m sorry,” I took the clothes from his hands and walked back to the bathroom.
“Jessica,” Alex tried to follow me into the bathroom, but I shut the door on him. He knocked. “Jess, open up.”
“Go away.” I said as I pulled on the pair of jeans.
I heard the doorknob twist. Soon Alex was standing next to me again. “First of all, this is my house, I can’t leave. Second, locking the door won’t do any good because all of the locks in this house are messed up.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking.” I said, pulling a shirt over my head.
“It’s fine Jess. Let’s just put it behind us.”
I walked passed him to the front door, “That’s the problem,” I stated as I turned back to him, “Obviously I can’t make up my mind. Just let me go.”
“At least let me drive you to your car. Then I’ll leave.” He said.
The car ride to my library was only ten minutes, but it felt more like ten hours.
“How are we going to finish the summer like this?” I asked after a moment of silence.
“We’re not going to do anything. I’m going back to school for the rest of the summer so we don’t run into each other again.”
“You can’t do that. It’s not fair!” I objected.
“To which one of us?” Alex eyed me.
I honestly didn’t know where I was going with that. “Everyone,” I pointed, “You and your family.”
“I’ll pretend that’s what you meant. I’m not staying. They can deal with it. I’ll see them at Thanksgiving.”
“You can’t just go Alex.”
“I can Jessica, and I will.”