Disclaimer: Don't own the characters. Or other things 'Once and Again'.
Summary: Katie/Jessie. After the kiss. (Not THE kiss, as in the show kiss. But a different kiss, as in my previous story kiss.)
Author’s Notes: A sequel to ‘Perfect in an Imperfect World’, you should read that one first. Picks up where it ended. Still haven’t seen beyond mid season 2. And probably never will :-(. This story continues to rely on the TWoP recaps. Timeline is... after the play, before the christmas, eps. Oh, and it's in Katie’s pov.
Warning: Slash, of the female kind. That is to say, a shippy between two girls. If you do not approve, you do not read.
I stare at her in silence. She keeps the smile up all the while. And I don’t know what to make of it, “You don’t hate me?”, I whisper hopefully after a time.
She shakes her head and stands up. Still smiling. That beautiful smile. Jessie’s an angel. There is no other word that describes her better. She’s an angel, with a blonde hair. And a good heart, which radiates this warming glow around her. And I’m drawn to that warmth. How could I not be? How could anyone not be drawn to her?
“I don’t hate you”, Jessie says, shaking her head again, “Katie.”
My name has never sounded more beautiful, than when she pronounces it. It sounds like... like not even my name. When she calls it, she doesn’t call for me. Or she does, but not for the me I was. She calls for a girl that didn’t exist before I met her. For a girl, only she knows. In mere months, she’s completely changed me, just by being there. Sometimes I don’t even recognize this girl I am now. Some of my thoughts and feelings are alien to me.
Like this compelling need to protect Jessie. I have never felt this way about anything. I’m scared to death of hurting her, breaking her into tiny pieces. Cause she looks so fragile. Like a glass sculpture.
A glass sculpture... of an angel... with a glowing heart... oh, God! I’m pathetic!
I squint my eyes and shake off the mushy feelings. And giggle at my own weirdness.
“What?”, Jessie asks confused. Her smile becomes strained. She thinks I’m laughing at her. And that hurts her. And that hurts me.
I take a step closer to her. She flinches back a step. God, how insecure she is. How totally adorable, “Then what do you feel?”, I quickly ask, changing the subject. Or not changing. Just scrolling back a line or two.
She sits back down on the bed, but keeps her stare fixed on me. A little sadly I note the smile is completely gone now. I succeeded in driving it away, “Don’t know”, she mumbles, and bows her head.
I resist the urge to rush to her side, and bury her in my arms. It wouldn’t do. I’ve already taken too many liberties. I didn’t have the right to kiss her. I didn’t have the right to pour all these emotions on her.
“What do you feel?”, she quietly asks me back.
“I... I...”, I don’t know either. Love? Love, ‘Love’, I form the word with my mouth. But I don’t say it out loud. For some reason it refuses to leave my lips. And Jessie can’t see my mouth moving, cause she’s busy studying her own hands.
“Not so easy, is it?”, she says, lifting her gaze, “Giving name to your most private feelings?”
Just say the damn word!, “I have the hugest crush on you Jessie”, what? Way to chicken out, Katie. I’m sure it’s for the best, though. Easy does it.
“A crush?”, Jessie repeats incredulously, raising her eyebrows
“A crush”, I say and nod. Crush is good. It’s sweet, and innocent, Jessie’ll appreciate that, “Your turn”, she still only looks at me. For the longest time, making me anxious, “Just say what’s on your mind. Nothing more to it.”
“I’m not”, she starts talking with a surprisingly confident voice, “NOT interested.”
What? I frown and shake my head furiously, “What does that mean?”
“It means I don’t hate you”, she says.
Okay. So we’ve established she doesn’t hate me. But I think she kinda liked it too, cause otherwise she’d be way more freaked. And she’s so not freaked. She’s reacting so much better than I feared, “Does it mean you want to do it again?”
Jessie bows her head for a second, and then glances at me under her brow, “Kiss you?”, she asks, pushing a few stray hairs behind her right ear. She smiles shyly and nods, “Yeah, maybe.”
I sigh out of relief. Didn’t even realize I was holding my breath. I can’t keep away the grin that creeps on my mouth, “How about right now?”, I ask deviously.
Jessie’s smile grows, and she starts to giggle. Her laughter always gets me. It’s so rare when she laughs out of happiness. When she laughs because she wants to laugh, not because people expect her to. I can always spot the fake ones. And that’s why the real ones are so much more precious, “I love it when you laugh.”
“Yeah”, she blushes, “You told me already.”
Oh. Right. I did. So what? I can tell you it as many times as I want to, “Yeah, and I’ll tell you again. I love it when you laugh Jessie”, I say grinning wickedly. She turns even brighter red and bows her head again, “Or blush. I love that too.”
“Shut up”, she mumbles.
“Kei”, I reply.
Silence falls into the room. Jessie crosses her fingers. With her head held down like that it looks like she’s praying. I walk up to the bed, and sit down next to her. She glances at me briefly, and then returns to the prayer. I’m not a big fan of God and the whole concept of afterlife, but just looking at Jessie makes me hope there is a heaven. For her. Cause she so deserves eternal happiness and all that stuff.
I place my hand on Jessie’s shoulder, and start fondling her hair. She doesn’t react to my touch, doesn’t shy away, nor lean into it. I like it that she’s comfortable with my touch, but it’s a little disappointing that she doesn’t crave for more. Cause I have to fight to keep my hands from grabbing her and pushing her down on the bed. Fight to keep them from running all over her body.
“You know what?”, Jessie finally talks, after the silence has lasted over five minutes.
She turns her head and there’s a nervous smile on her face, “I think I might have a crush on you too.”
And then her stepmom knocks on the door, and calls her for dinner.
The thing that’s most special about Jessie, is that you can be totally quiet with her, and it isn’t awkward. I’ve never felt that way around anyone else. I’ve never felt so safe with anyone else. It’s like, she... only needs to be there and everything is better. Things that were boring before, seem so much more interesting.
Like silence. I can stand around and stare at her without saying a single word, and I could spend hours doing it. She’s such a mesmerizing person. The way she has this compulsive need to please people, to be perfect, to be liked. And then another part of her loves solitude so much. Loves to be alone, hidden away from the world. Two very conflicting qualities. What you get when you put them together in a person, and place her in the midst of all these changes, is a thing of beauty. A girl so precious, she breaks my heart. I cannot understand why others don’t see it. Don’t see her.
The door opens and Sarah walks in. Her eyes are blank, and her face is cold. Freezing, “So what’s up?”, she bitterly says, and lets the bathroom door swing shut. We’re alone. She knows it’s over, even though I haven’t told her so yet, “Why’d you wanna see me?”
I take a deep breath and brace myself. Sarah has a tendency to get nasty, when stuff doesn’t go her way, “I think it’s better if we...”
She cuts me off, “Don’t say it!”, she yells, “God! Do you think I’m retarded or something? I know what’s going on.”
“You do?”, I ask in a quiet tone. Of course she’s angry. She has every right to be angry.
“Yes!”, she walks up to the mirror, and turns on a faucet, “I do have eyes Katie.”
She bends down and splashes some water on her face. I watch her through the mirror. And it hurts to see her hurt. I did like her once. A lot, and in a special way. But I never loved her. Not in the way I love Jessie.
“I’m sorry”, I continue apologizing.
She pulls out a couple of paper towels, and presses them lightly on her face, “Yeah, well”, Sarah says, “That’s life”, she turns around and glares at me, “So things progressing with little miss Perfect? Is that why you’re being all official about this?”
“Don’t call her that”, I answer, “Jessie’s done nothing wrong.”
“Neither have I.”
No she hasn’t. Suddenly I feel awful about the way I treated Sarah. I knew from the start it would never last. I knew I could never love her, and still I let her think so. Ler her fall for me, “No you haven’t. It’s all me.”
She looks at me quietly for a few seconds. The glare isn’t as vehement anymore, “Then how come I’m the one getting hurt?”, she asks in a pitiful voice.
I shrug, “I am sorry Sarah. Like you said, that’s life.”
She sighs and throws the towels away, “You know, it’ll be just the same with her. You’ll use her, and you’ll dump her”, she says and walks to the door. There she turns around and looks at me once more, “And you’ll hurt her”, she finishes and pushes her way back to the corridor.
“You’re wrong”, I whisper to the empty room when the door has swung shut again, “She’s different”, she is. I won’t hurt Jessie. I’d die before hurt her. She’s like no one else in the world. And I love her.
“Hey Jessie-girl!”, I shout to her and jump down the last stairs. School’s out, and I’m feeling giddy.
Grinning widely I reach my arm to touch her, but she takes a step back to avoid it, “Don’t”, she says looking around the hall, at all the people. Fearing their looks, and their presence, “Not here.”
“Why not?”, I throw back. What does it matter what they think? What does it matter what anyone thinks?, “I was just gona hold your hand”, and maybe pull you into a kiss. Cause I don’t care what they think. I so don’t care.
But Jessie cares. She looks like a deer caught in headlights, ready to run away. Escape to the safety of her attic-room. And if Jessie cares, I care. I won’t push her into anything. I’ll do everything her way. And in time, she’ll be comfortable with anything. I hope.
“We can’t hold hands”, she shakes her head while gaping at me, “No one can ever find out. Ever.”
Oh, come on!, “We can hold hands Jessie”, I laugh incredulously, “Don’t be ridiculous.”
Jessie doesn’t see it the same way, though. She stares at me with her big eyes and shakes her head again, “No. We can’t.”
“We’ve held hands before”, I answer, getting a little annoyed. There’s discreet, and there’s TOO discreet.
“Don’t talk so loud”, she hisses and once again looks around the hall, at the students rushing on their way. None of them are looking at us. None of them are interested in us. But to Jessie’s eyes they are all listening to our every word.
“Jessie...”, I drag her name out, “They don’t care. No one is listening to us”, I try reasoning.
“You can’t know that”, she goes on.
“Well, what do you want us to do? Never touch each other again?”, I say trying to make it sound as stupid to her, as it sounds to me.
“No...”, she whispers, “Just not here. I DON’T want anyone to find out Katie!”, the last words are a desperate plea. It’s really important to her. It’s everything to her. If I made her choose, she would not choose me.
“Okay...”, I sigh and try to smile encouragingly, “Okay, Jessie. Whatever you want. But we could hold hands...”
“No we can’t!”, she raises her own voice now.
And of course she does it at the worst possible moment. Sarah is just walking down the stairs, behind me and hears the words. And Grace is walking up to Jessie from behind her, and doesn’t hear them. But she hears Sarah’s words, as the girl walks by, grinning evilly, and makes sure the stepsis catches the finely hidden undertones, “Trouble in paradise?”, Sarah says, “Already? Go figure”, she continues and brushes past Grace.
The stepsis stops a few steps short and gawks at me. My eyes flip between her and Jessie, who looks mortified. And she hasn’t even seen Grace yet. Things aren’t looking good, “She knew already”, I whisper quickly, “And she won’t tell.”
“You sure?”, Jessie stutters.
I nod at her, and smile again. God, how can she be so vulnerable! How desperately I want to protect her from everything. From every single bad thing, “Grace is here.”
“Where?!”, she shouts and swings around. I can just picture the horror on her face. I can only picture it, cause I’m staring at her back.
“Uh... hi”, Grace mutters, slightly embarrassed to be there, “You about ready to go Jessie?”
I’m sure Jessie’s about ready to die. But she’s not ready to answer. I take a quick step next to her, and smile at Grace, “Hey, think you can give me a lift too?”
“No!”, Jessie yells again. She’s on hyper-drive. Her every move is rushed, and every word shouted. She’s just making things worse, “I mean, no. She’s taking me to therapy.”
Grace looks at me and then at Jessie. She shakes her head once, “Oh, yeah. Sorry”, she smiles apologetically.
“Oh, hey, no problem”, I try to sound indifferent. I would’ve loved to have gone with them. Just to be around Jessie is heaven. But if it’s not to be, it’s not to be, “Well, I see you later”, I say, searching for Jessie's eyes, and not finding them, cause they are cast down.
“Bye”, she mumbles, and looks just like a little child moping when she doesn’t get her way.
I exchange looks with Grace, and start walking away.
It’s so frustrating, dealing with Jessie. So hard, cause everything has to be done so carefully. And just right. But in the end, I guess it’s worth it. Of course it is. I mean, it’s Jessie, for crying out loud!
I’d go through Hell.
To be with her.
Author’s Notes: A continuation to ‘Perfect in an Imperfect World’, you should read that first. Still haven’t seen beyond mid season 2. And probably never will :-(. This story continues to rely on the TWoP recaps. Timeline is... between the school play, and Christmas. Jessie’s pov.
The sun, it’s so bright. And annoying, the way it blinds you, when you stare at it. Or even when you don’t, and the light just reflects from somewhere and hits you directly in the eye. Even in the middle of the winter, when it’s supposed to be way far... or was it way close, but in a weird angle... I forget... but it still blinds me. Even more so, because of the newly fallen snow. Stupid thing. That sun.
Grace hasn’t said a word. Grace doesn’t talk too much. To me. And that’s one of the few good qualities she has. She doesn’t chatter endlessly, like her mother for instance. Grace only talks when she has something to say. And I kinda respect that.
Even though she could say something now. Should say. Like what she... saw... and heard... and figured out. She had to see something abnormal in the scene. Like my lame overreaction to EVERYTHING! God!, I’m such a freak. So why doesn’t she say anything?!
I steal a quick glance at her. She’s totally concentrated on the driving thing. Or lost in her own messy head. It’s hard to tell from Grace, “Please don’t tell anyone”, I whisper in a whiny voice, when I can’t take this not knowing anymore.
She glances back at me, with a confused face, “Tell anyone what?”, she asks, shaking her head, and turning her attention back to the road.
I can’t tell if she’s just playing dumb, or if she... in fact, is dumb. I look at her for a second longer, and then turn my eyes out the side window again. But the sun is still out there, and I have to squint my eyes, almost close them altogether, to be able to do that.
It’s almost like with Katie. Sometimes I look at her, and everything just goes blurry. And then I have to look away, even when I don’t want to. I wonder, if it’ll always be that way? Or, if it’s just the first... crush thing. It has to be. It has to be all in my head, cause other people can look at her just fine.
“What you saw in the hallway”, I say, deciding to take it a little further. She has to have figured it out. Grace is quite clever in many ways.
“Oh”, she stutters, “You mean, about you lying to Katie where you were going?”
My head flings around and I scowl at her. She’s doing her best to hide a smirk, but I see it. Lingering there, on her ugly mouth!, “No”, I hiss, “About the whole thing.”
This time she doesn’t even try to hide the smile. When she glances at me, I get the urge to throttle her, “Oh! So you mean the you dating a girl thing?”
I glare at her and shake my head once, “See... this is why you don’t have any friends, Grace. You’re such a bitch.”
“What?!”, she yells. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to make her mad. With this knowledge in her possession, “I so have friends.”
Yeah? Like who? Mr. Dimitri?, “And I’m so not DATING Katie”, I mumble defensively.
“Of course you aren’t”, she bites back, “Cause that wouldn’t fit your perfect Barbie-world. And I have friends.”
“Whatever”, I respond.
Why the Hell did dad have to get us mixed up with this family of sickos? Couldn’t he have found some eighteen-year-old teen slut to get married to? I would’ve so much more preferred that to... this.
“Just, please, don’t tell anyone”, I whisper again, after a minute of silent driving.
“Yeah, all right. I get it already. You don’t want anyone to know”, Grace’s still pissed off. Whatever, she started it, “And I have friends.”
I knock on the garage door, and wait for an answer that never comes. Either he is passed out, again, or he isn’t there. You never know with Eli. He might even be there, sulking, and just not bothering to answer. You never know.
So I knock again. And this time the door flies open, startling me, “What?”, Eli asks with a groggy voice. His hair is all messed up, and he’s wearing a dirty T-shirt.
“What?”, I frown and brush past him, inside the garage, “That’s how you greet me now?”
“Jessie...”, he sounds annoyed. I’m sure I interrupted a real important sleep-session, “What do you want? I’m really tired”, he says, and to prove his point, yawns.
I sit down on a chair, indicating that I won’t be leaving, “When aren’t you?”, he’s my brother, for God’s sake. And he treats me like a stranger. Like I’m this huge inconvenience to him. Which I guess I was a time back, but not anymore. I don’t force my company on him anymore. That often at least, “We’re supposed to be heading for mom’s in an hour.”
Eli shakes his head and shrugs, “Yeah, and?”, he acts like it isn’t news to him. But he can’t fool me, cause I know him.
“And I thought, I’d come wake you up.”
“Mission accomplished”, he gripes, and finally moves away from the doorway. I follow him with my eyes, as he walks to the bed and flops down on it again. I can’t believe what a lazy bum he has become.
“Eli”, I say after a while. He doesn’t react to my voice in any way, “Have you noticed anything weird with mom?”
“Sure”, he answers and sits up again, “Mom is weird by definition.”
I return his joke with a mock grin, and press my eyes to the floor. Things are so easy to Eli. He doesn’t worry about stuff, not the way I do. He doesn’t over analyze everything in his head. He just deals with things as they come about.
“Why are you here Jessie?”, Eli asks.
I glance at him. This time he seems to actually be paying attention to me. He might actually be listening to my response, “I don’t wanna be... in there. With those people”, I shrug.
“Fight with Grace again?”, he sighs and starts rubbing his forehead.
Just watching him tires me up as well. I can’t believe this is the same guy who was, like a huge basketball star last year, “No”, I mutter and he chuckles, “We’re just so different. It’s so unreasonable to expect that we get along”, I go on, while Eli yawns again, “She was totally evil to me on the way home.”
“Aww. Was she now?”, he starts teasing me with a grin, “You want me to go tell her to lay off my little sis?”
I laugh. I love my brother. Cause when he’s being my brother, he’s the best brother in the world. He makes me laugh, and he protects me. He makes me feel happy. But I see him less and less these days. Most times he’s acting all youth rebel-y. Without a clue. Like the world’s out to get him. Lost in the self-pity journey.
“Would you?”, I kid. And he smiles. Doesn’t grin or smirk, smiles. The way he sometimes does. It’s his way of letting me know, that I am special to him. He makes the distinction between me and a stranger.
“Sure”, he says quietly and stands up, “You go ahead. I’ll be a few minutes. And then we can hop over to mom’s.”
“Okay”, I also stand up. And then stop to look at him for a few more seconds. For some reason, without thinking twice about it, I open my mouth again, “Eli”, I say, and he looks at me confused, “You would love me, no matter what, right?”, he only frowns and looks even more confused, “You know, even if I was like a... a psychotic murderer or something?”
I don’t know what he makes of my weird question, and I don’t dare to explain it any further. In fear of making it too obvious, “I can’t see how you could be any less lovable than you already are”, he finally answers with a grin.
I exit the garage with a goofy smile on my face.
We pull into mom’s driveway. Mom’s? It’s our home too. But at some point it has become more mom’s than ours. And the other house is the Manning house, and that place feels even less like home. Me stuck up in the attic, and Eli crammed into the garage. Not that I’m complaining. The attic is pretty much the best place in the house, cause it’s so secluded. Apart from the others.
“Your friend is here”, Eli says, turning off the car.
“What?”, I glance at him, “My friend?”
He nods out the front window and exits the car, “Yeah, that girl. What’s her name?”
And then I see Katie for the first time. How could I not see her before? Sitting on the steps. I must’ve looked right through her. And usually I can spot her from even the biggest crowds.
I open my door, and step out, feeling nervous again. I always feel nervous when Katie’s there, and we’re not alone. Even more so now, than before. Afraid they’ll see how I feel towards her.
She stands up and smiles, “Hi”, she stutters to Eli, who only waves his hand. And then she turns to me. She is as nervous as I am, “Hey Jessie.”
“Hey”, I reply quietly and wait as she walks up to me. I want to hide, climb back into the car and lock the doors. But instead of doing that, I accept her hug, “What are you doing here?”, I whisper into her ear.
Eli looks at us for a moment, then turns and heads inside, “Waiting for you”, Katie states, pulling away from me.
It’s that simple for her. She has feelings for me, she wants to show them, and to Hell with everyone else. It should be that simple for me too. But it isn’t, “Why?”, I ask and disentangle myself from her. She fights back weakly, not wanting to let go, “And why out here, and not inside?”
“I had to see you”, she says and looks disappointed by my reaction. And why wouldn’t she be? Why am I treating her so cold? Why can’t I show her how I feel?, “And it felt too weird going inside. You know, cause I’ve actually only met your mother once. And she probably wouldn’t even remember me, cause it was after the play and...”, words are pouring out of Katie’s mouth. I lose track of them. I lose sight of her, when the world starts to blur and I have to turn my eyes to the driveway. She finally pauses to breathe. But even then it’s only for a second, “And I just had to see you”, she finishes.
“Okay”, I say and lift my gaze. She’s squirming around, expecting an answer. Expecting me to put her mind at ease, “So... why?”
For a second I think she’s going to start crying. But at the last moment she pulls herself together, and manages to hold back the tears. It still hurts me as much, though. How can I treat her so badly?, “Why are you being like this Jessie?”, she asks in a teary voice, “Cause you said you liked the kiss”, she’s completely at a loss. Led astray by my behavior.
“I did!”, I suddenly yell. And then realize where we’re standing. It’s not the place to have this conversation.
And as if to verify my thoughts, mom appears in the doorway, “Jessie?”, she asks in confusion, “Aren’t you coming in?”
“Umm...”, I start mumbling, trying to think of a correct solution to the problem, “Yeah. Of course”, I smile at her, and then at Katie, who’s still standing there, waiting for my verdict, “You wanna come in, Katie?”, I ask her, “Cause I did like it”, I add more quietly with a nod.
And it’s like she comes to life again. The nervous smile changes into a happy one, and the squirming stops. She follows me up the path, to the door, where mom is still weirding herself out.
“Hello...”, she utters to Katie
“Oh”, I stop for a second and do the introductions, “Mom, Katie. Katie, mom”, they shake hands, and Katie smiles at my mom, who looks more than a little lost. The way she has looked for some time now, “You met her at... the play?”, I start telling her, and then turn to Katie for confirmation.
“Yeah”, the girl answers, “But it was only for like...”
“Oh yes! I remember”, mom suddenly blurts out, and looks quite proud of her achievement, “You’re the girl who made Jessie’s costume.”
“Umm...”, Katie is unsure what to answer at first, “Well, no. I’m actually a friend of the girl who made Jessie’s costume.”
“Oh”, mom replies, disappointed.
“And she didn’t so much MAKE the costume, as she did... you know... acquire it”, Katie’s eyes flip between me and my mom, as she’s trying to make sense.
“Right”, mom says, and nods, “Well, come on inside.”
I lead the way, hoping we can make an escape to my room straight away, “We’re gona go up, mom”, I say, throwing my coat on the hanger.
Mom doesn’t answer at first, so we head for the stairs, “Okay. Are you staying for dinner Katie?”, she finally talks, when we’re halfway up.
I stop and turn to look at her. There is a sad smile on mom’s face. I hate it when she gets this way. I hate it, because I don’t what to do. And then I always end up avoiding her as much as possible, so I can pretend everything’s fine. Denial is such a pretty thing.
I glance at Katie, who’s looking to me for an answer. I nod slightly and she smiles, “Sure Mrs. Sammler”, Katie says, “Thank you.”
I don’t know if I should be talking to her about it. Or not talking. If I should be with her, or leave her alone. I don’t know if she wants me worrying about her. Cause that could only make her feel worse. But she has no one else. I don’t think anyone else would even notice the change.
I close the door behind Katie, when we reach my room. She takes a few tentative steps inside, and looks around, “Your mom’s nice”, she says and turns around, towards me, “And so’s the room”, she adds with a smile.
I lean my back against the door frame and look down, “Thanks”, I mumble, in lack of a better response.
“So what’s the deal?”, she blurts out, when I refuse to look at her, “Cause I get this feeling you’re totally screwing with my head, just for the heck of it”, there’s a biting tone to her voice. My head jerks up, and I’m ready to deny the outrageous claims, but Katie’s not finished, “And I know you’re way too nice to do that.”
I swallow hard, and try to gather my thoughts, “I’m not screwing with you”, I start timidly, “This is just SO hard, you know?”, she keeps her stern look fixed on me. Doesn’t give any sort of affirmation, “I do like you Katie. In THAT way...”
“So what the Hell is the problem?”, she cuts me off.
I don’t know what the Hell the problem is! It’s me probably, I’m usually the problem, “If anyone finds out...”
“So what if they do?”, Katie jumps in again. She’s really angry, “You’ve gotta stop obsessing with what everyone else thinks, Jessie. It’s not healthy.”
“It’s easy for you to say”, I whisper quietly. I don’t like how she’s being all control freaky. I may not be as self-confident as she is, but my thoughts still count, “I’m not as strong as you Katie.”
Silence takes over the room. I look away from her. Outside, it has started to snow again. Occasionally a white flake hits my window, gets stuck to it, and then melts away. After a minute Katie talks again, “I’m not as strong as you think”, her voice isn’t angry anymore. It’s quiet, insecure. Like mine, “When you treat me like this, it hurts.”
“Treat you like how?”, I try to defend myself. Okay, so I haven’t been that open to her, but it’s not like I’m ignoring her or anything.
“When you lie to me”, she says and her voice breaks. When I turn to look at her, I find her eyes glistening with tears, “And try to hide me, like I’m something disgusting.”
I gape at her, fighting back my own tears. I had no idea I was being that horrible to her, “I haven’t lied to you...”, I try again.
She looks even sadder. And really disappointed, “I know you didn’t have therapy today.”
Oh yeah. I did lie to her. And about something SO stupid! I look away in shame, “How...”, I start to ask.
“Cause you told me so yourself yesterday!”, Katie’s shout draws my eyes immediately back to her.
Now the tears are openly sliding down her face. She stares at me bravely for a moment, and then turns away, “I’m sorry”, I mumble. She walks to my chair and sits down. And wipes away the tears with her hand. And breaks my heart. I feel so small right now. Small and helpless. Useless.
“And it shouldn’t even bother me. Cause I know you didn’t mean anything bad by it”, she fights the words through desperate sobs, “But it does bother me.”
Oh Katie! I rush to close the distance between us, and kneel in front of her, “I won’t lie to you again”, I whisper, placing a hand on her lap, “I promise”, somehow the lying part seems the worst. I shouldn’t lie to her. Not about anything, “But we can’t let people find out. I can’t handle that. I can’t”, I say and start shaking my head.
Katie looks down at me with her big soggy eyes. She brings her hand closer and starts caressing my cheek, “God, you’re so beautiful”, she says, and smiles through the tears, “I can’t believe how beautiful you are.”
I lean into the cold touch of her hand. Katie’s hands are so cold. I wonder why that is. But it’s just perfect now, that I’m blushing from her words. When she tells me I’m beautiful, I believe her. When others tell me, I don’t. She has this way of convincing me of everything.
Slowly she slides down the the floor from the chair, never breaking the contact for a second, “Katie...”, I say her name, “We can’t let people find out”, I lift my hand too, and move it onto her face. Softly I start to dry out the tears, that are still left there. I can’t believe how beautiful SHE is. SO much more beautiful than me.
“I won’t tell, if you won’t”, she says quietly, “But you gotta stop with the overcompensation. We can touch each other in public.”
Her words barely register in my mind, but I still nod. All I can see is her face. Her eyes, her nose, her lips... And before I know it, my head has jumped forward, and I’m kissing her. For the second time. Only this time, it’s more intense. Passionate. This time I can’t get enough of her. I bring my arms around her back and crush her with my hug. Crush her lips with mine. Her right hand has lowered its way on to my neck. I can’t believe how cold her hand is. Compared to her face. It’s freezing cold.
I push myself forward, and Katie almost loses her balance. At the last moment, she manages to steady herself with her other arm, and thus prevents us from falling down. The sudden motion breaks up the kiss. I quickly try to start it again, but she avoids me, turning her head away.
“Jessie”, she says, short of breath. I look at her in confusion, “Slow down.”
“I don’t wanna”, I grin at her.
She stares at me wide eyed for a moment, and then starts to laugh, “Okay. I get it”, she says, “This ‘picture of innocence’ is just a cover to lure in unsuspecting girls like me. And then when you get us alone, you turn into this sex-beast?”
I turn purple red, and quickly look away. There are no words to describe how embarrassed I feel. When I try to stand up, Katie’s hand stops me. She pulls me back down from my arm, “Don’t”, I say.
“Oh, come on!”, she whines, “It was a joke!”
I know that! I know that, “I know that”, but I can’t help it if I feel awkward talking about sex. I can’t help it I’m a total prude. I can’t help it. But, my God! How exiting the kiss was! How exited I was. Am. Still. Because of it, “I know that”, I repeat, and give her a smile.
Katie smiles back.
And then we’re kissing again.
Author’s Notes: A continuation to ‘Perfect in an Imperfect World’, you should read that first. Still haven’t seen beyond mid season 2. And probably never will :-(. This story continues to rely on the TWoP recaps. Timeline is... around the Christmas episode. Katie’s pov.
“Where are you spending Christmas, Jessie?”
“With my mom... why?”
“No reason... I just thought...”
“Well... I could stop by? If it’s okay with you...”
“I don’t know... maybe if you ask real nicely.”
“Are you serious? I’m not gona start begging, Jessie.”
“Well, then you’re just gona have to think of something else to do on Christmas... Katie.”
“Can I, please...”
“Aw! Don’t be mad!”
I make my way up the path, to the door. Grasping the bag in my hand tighter.
Only one girl has the ability to make me this nervous. And get away with it. Only the girl I love with all my being. It’s crazy. Things are happening SO fast. I’ve only known her for, like, two months. And already it feels like I can’t be without her. Like I’d die if she decided I’m not what she wants. Needs.
I take a deep breath and push the doorbell.
Thing is, Jessie wants me all right. But she doesn’t need me. In fact, she thinks I’m the last thing she needs. She thinks her life is messed up enough, without bringing the whole gay issue into the mix. That’s why I’m always treated like a not-so-close friend, when we’re around her family members. Which isn’t often. There was that one dinner with Karen and Eli. Other than that, I haven’t pretty much seen them for more than a few seconds at a time. Any of them. Save Grace, who sometimes bumps into us at school. Bumped, before the holidays.
Quiet footsteps voice through the door. They stop. There’s a short pause before the door opens, and I’m greeted by Jessie’s smiling face. I smile back.
That’s why this... visit is making me so anxious. Cause she is actually allowing me to interact with people. And I’d hate to screw up things, and give her more reason to hide me in the closet. So to speak.
“Hey”, she says.
“As promised”, I shrug and step inside, when she makes room for me, “And look!”, I exclaim cheerily spinning to face her, “I bear gifts.”
She glances at the plastic bag, I dangle in front of her, and grins, “Wow”, she shakes her head, “You must be the deluxe model.”
“That’s me”, I reply and slip out of my coat with Jessie’s assistance, “New and improved girlfriend. Now with three extra prezzies.”
“Three?”, she frowns, and disposes of my coat, throwing it on a chair.
“Yeah”, I frown back, “One for you. One for your mother. And one for your brother”, I count them with my fingers, “Three.”
“You brought a present for Eli?”, she furrows her brows. I nod, “Why?”
“Becaaause...”, I start dragging out the word, and shaking my head, “It’s Christmas?”
She laughs a little, and starts towards the living room. I follow her, “I can guarantee you, he doesn’t have a present for you”, she says.
Jessie’s behavior is so encouraging. So relaxing. She seems comfortable, and not at all high-strung. Like in the past, when we’ve been around people.
The living room. Karen is just picking up an ornament from the floor, where it has supposedly fallen from the Christmas tree. Eli is slouched on the sofa, staring at some black and white movie from the tv. There’s a half finished monopoly game on the floor, and a half crushed gingerbread house on the table.
“Katie’s here”, Jessie announces, walking in the middle of the room.
I stop at the doorway, feeling a little out of place, “Hi everyone”, I chirp waving my hand as they turn to look at me.
Eli just bends his head into an unnatural position, refusing to move the rest of his body, “Hi”, he says and returns to the tv.
Karen, on the other hand, smiles warmly, “Hello”, she says, and quickly hangs the fallen ornament back on the tree, before turning back towards me, “Welcome.”
I smile back at her. An uncomfortable silence falls into the room. Only the tv’s distant voice breaks it. A perfect example, how things are better with only Jessie. Silence is never uncomfortable with her. But in a crowd... hoo boy, “Oh!... Katie brought gifts”, Jessie suddenly pipes up, and turns to look at her mother, “She brought a gift for Eli.”
“She did?”, Karen frowns at her daughter, and then looks at me again, “Why?”, she shakes her head.
Oookay... how weird is that! What the Hell is so incomprehensible about bringing a gift to a guy?!
“You brought a gift for me?”, Eli has again bent his neck the way I thought only owls could manage.
“If you ask me why, I’m gona have to hurt you”, I quickly intercept, nodding my head.
Luckily he seems to appreciate my sense of humor, and grins, “But I don’t have anything for you.”
“Don’t worry. I kinda guessed that”, I say and pull out a wrapped box from the bag, “It’s just chocolate anyway”, I finish and hand it over to him.
He grabs it, “Thanks”, he says, “I like chocolate.”
“Yeah? Who doesn’t?”, I say. I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like chocolate. Some might say they don’t, but they’re always lying, “I mean, it’s chocolate. What’s not to like?”
“Exactly!”, the brother gets all exited and straightens his back. He turns to my direction and spreads his arms, “There’s sugar. And candy. And all the different variations”, he says and shakes his head, “It’s perfect.”
“Oh!, plus there’s also that rush you get when you eat like...”, I say, pointing a finger at him, “A LOT of it.”
He starts laughing and nodding his head. I grin back at him, and steal a glance in Jessie’s direction. The two Sammler women are gaping at us, “Yeah”, Jessie stutters out in confusion, “The rush is you hurrying into the bathroom to VOMIT”, she says pressing the last word to extremes.
I leer at her for a few seconds, and then chuckle, “Gross!”
“Oh! That’s gross?”, Jessie gets all outraged. She turns to her mother for back up, “THAT’S gross?!”, but the woman only shakes her head, and so Jessie flings back around towards me, “You’re the one who thinks chocolate is mankind's greatest achievement.”
“Well... yeah”, Eli answers, before I get a chance. He’s smirking at his sister now, “Cause it is.”
Jessie glares at him and flops down on an armchair opposite from the couch, “Shut up, chocolate-boy”, she mumbles barely audibly.
I fight to keep the grin away from my face. Jessie is SO adorable when she gets upset. About the stupidest little things. I don’t even know what she has against chocolate. I sit down on the other chair, that’s between the two siblings. But just a tiny bit closer to the sister, cause that’s the way I like it.
There’s another silence, only this time it’s not as awkward. It’s quite comfy. I stare at the tv for a moment, trying to come up with a name for the movie. It looks familiar, but I can’t pinpoint it. Karen walks up from behind me, and makes her way to the couch. She smiles at me as she sits down. Her eyes stay on me.
“Nice gingerbread house”, I comment, when the woman’s stare gets too piercing, “Are you gona eat it?”
No one answers at first. Then Eli talks again, “No way. Jessie’s like that witch from the story. You try to eat her house, and she’ll put you in the oven, and cook you for dinner”, he starts laughing. A pillow flies across the table and he grabs it with one hand, “Happened to this little boy last night. Hansel. Or Jamie. Whichever”, he mumbles the last words quietly.
“Shut up!”, Jessie cries.
On the couch, the mother has pressed her head down, in an attempt to hide a wide grin. It’s useless though, as the bursts of smothered laughter shake her body. Jessie stares her way, feeling betrayed at first, but slowly I notice a smile working its way onto her pretty, pretty face. And I smile too. The scene is quite adorable in its own way. No matter, if I’m feeling like an outsider. It’s just nice to see Jessie so obviously happy.
“Oh, here’re your presents”, I interrupt, handing Jessie a larger box from the bag, and Karen the exact replica of Eli’s present, “You got chocolate too... sorry”, I smile apologetically to her, “I suck at gifts.”
“No, it’s great! You can never have too much chocolate”, Karen argues. How sweet of her, “I’ll go get your present”, she says, and makes a hasty exit.
“I have a present for you too”, Jessie says looking at me with her big eyes, while she rips away the paper from the box. I smile at her, “But it’s upstairs. I’ll give it to you later.”
“Okay”, I nod my head.
“I just didn’t want you to think...”
“Okay, Jessie”, I cut her off, and start laughing.
She smiles back. And has finally revealed the golden carton box inside the wrapper. Pushing a few strands of hair behind her ear, she lifts the top of the box. Her initial reaction is an openmouthed stare, which slowly turns towards me. I frown at her weird expression.
“I love it!”, she suddenly squeals, and lifts up the white turtleneck sweater, I got for her, “I love it!”, she repeats, jumping up from her seat.
She comes over, and gives me a hug, “I didn’t want to give you anything too relationshippy, you know?”, I whisper into her ear, so the brother won’t hear anything.
“It’s perfect”, she whispers back. Okay. Whatever. It’s just a sweater. But if she likes it, then who am I to argue? Slowly she pulls away, and straightens her back, “Like you”, she continues in a normal tone. Her eyes linger on me for a few seconds, before something behind me catches her attention, “Look mom!”, she chirps, smiling happily, and modeling the shirt in front of her, “Look what Katie got me.”
There’s a shortish gap in the flow of praise that my gift is receiving. Then Karen comes up closer, “Oh, it’s very nice Jessie”, the woman comments in a weird voice. In a very weird, non-convincing voice, “Here you go”, she goes on, and hands me an envelope.
I look up at her. An envelope? The Hell? Nervously, I flip open the unsealed top, and pull out two movie tickets, “It’s... umm...”, wow! So NOT what I was expecting.
“Mom!”, Jessie whines. She’s still standing in front of me, and is outraged by the gift, “Movie tickets?!”
“What?”, Karen shakes her head. She looks slightly confused, “Everybody likes movies. Right?”, she says and turns a hopeful look towards me, “They’re good for any show.”
I notice how Jessie’s about to protest some more, and so I quickly jump to intervene, “It’s great. I love movies. Thanks”, words start to jump out of my mouth. Thank God my automated response system has always been reliable. Even when I’m too befuddled to think of a good reply, my mouth always spews out acceptable words. Well... not always of course. Just most times, “In fact, it’s very great. I’m gona copy this gift idea from you”, I go on, and smile at the woman, “I mean, everybody loves movies. Like you said.”
Karen smiles back, and nods her head once. I kinda like Jessie’s mother. Sometimes she looks like a lost puppy, “No... I prefer chocolate”, Eli pipes up from the background, “Much better present for a stranger.”
“Yeah, okay Eli”, Jessie says, “We all know you like to give out candy to little kids in the park. Come on Katie. I wanna give you your present”, she takes a hold of my hand, and pulls me up from the chair.
“Okay”, I say, and glance at the tv once more. And then it hits me, “Oh, hey! It’s a wonderful life!”
Eli turns to look at me, “That it is”, he says.
And we’re off.
“I love this so much!”, Jessie again chirps from the front of the mirror. She’s been looking at herself in the sweater for almost a minute already. I had no idea she’d go so totally berserk over the present, “I think it’s the single most best thing I got for Christmas.”
I smile at her, even though she doesn’t see it, and start to fiddle with the silvery bracelet again. It has the tiniest heart on it. I can’t believe she’d buy something like this for me, “I could return it, and get something nicer”, I comment quietly. I mean, I get her a cheap sweater, and she goes out and spends a small fortune on jewelry... it’s not fair.
“No!”, she shouts, and my head jerks up. She’s turned around and is staring at me with the most furious face, “I love this.”
“Fine”, I mutter, “But next year, you HAVE to let me give you the better present.”
Jessie’s face goes blank. And then she turns towards the mirror again, “Next year?”, she asks in a low voice.
“Yeah? That’s the year that comes after this one”, I say, trying to sound casual. So, she’s not thinking about the future, so what? It doesn’t mean anything. Not a thing. Lots of people live in the moment. I used to do that. Before I met her, and started dreaming of all kinds of lives we could be living.
She’s quiet for a time. Still staring at the image of herself. Finally, when I think she’s just gona not say anything, her mouth opens, “Sure”, she says, and nods, “But I think I got the better deal here. I mean, anyone can give their girlfriend a cheap bracelet. But this sweater... it really speaks in volumes.”
And there goes all my anxiety flying out the window. Because of a single word, hidden in a sentence, and said like it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Girlfriend. And it is out of the ordinary. It’s the first time she’s said it to me. Called me that.
“It does?”, I ask her, deciding not to make a big deal of it, “What’s it saying?”
Jessie finally agrees to leave the mirror, and comes sit by me, on the bed. She’s smiling, like she does, when she’s happy, “Lots of things”, she says, “But they’re private things. I can’t share them.”
“Not even with me? Your girlfriend?”, I say with mock hurt.
She giggles shortly, and lies down on her back, with her feet dangling over the edge, “Well, okay then. It’s saying, how you want to keep me warm, so I won’t get sick”, she talks slowly, with her eyes cast on the roof, and a dreamy look about her face, “It’s saying, how you like me in white. And... other things too”, she finishes and glances at me.
I smile, and lie down next to her. On my side, facing her. I pick up a few strands of her hair, and start to play with them, “Jessie...”, I say her name tentatively. Her head turns, and she looks at me questioningly, “Do you think we’ll still be together next year?”
“Sure”, she answers, and turns to stare at the roof again, “I mean, it’s only a week away.”
I groan, and tuck her hair slightly, making her wince at first, and then start laughing, “I mean next Christmas.”
She stops laughing, and turns my way again, “We better be. Cause you still owe my plenty on the present competition”, she says and grins wickedly.
“But I thought you said, my present was way better?”
“I was just being nice”, she says, “I mean, come on. A sweater?”, she barely manages to finish the sentence, before she’s laughing again. This time harder. I pick up a pillow and smack her in the head with it, and the laughter only gets louder. And pretty soon I join her. Cause it seems like fun.
There is no end in sight to Jessie’s amusement. It would go on indefinitely, if it weren’t for her mother’s interruption, “Umm... girls?”, she asks, immediately getting Jessie’s attention. The girl jumps up into a sitting position, and the laughter is gone, “Dinner’s ready.”
I roll over and find Karen smiling awkwardly at the door, “Mom...”, Jessie is shaking her head, and frowning, “God! Ever hear of knocking?”
“On an open door?”, the woman replies with a frown, “What’s the point?”
“The point is that...”, Jessie starts babbling, and stands up. She flails around on her feet, “You just... you can’t...”, she gets lost in her own head.
I sit up too. And start fixing my hair, which got all messed up rolling on the bed. If Jessie would just think before talking, things would be so much easier. There was nothing weird in what we were doing. Nothing at all, that millions of girls that are just friends, haven’t done before us. She’s making the situation abnormal by freaking out over nothing.
Finally she stops fidgeting, and takes a deep breath, “We’ll be right down”, she says bowing her head.
I stare at Karen, who only looks confused. The way she so often does, “Okay”, she says and disappears out into the corridor.
I smile at Jessie when she turns my way. She knows she was freaking out again, for absolutely no reason at all. And now she’s mentally kicking herself over it. So she doesn’t need my stupid advice, “Could I BE any more embarrassing?”, she says.
“I think it’s totally adorable”, I answer with a chuckle. She glares at me and sits back down, next to me. But doesn’t say anything, “Jessie”, I again say her name, so as to change the subject. I want to make her forget it. There is no point in dwelling on something that is over and done with. And she turns towards me again, very much like only minutes before. Only this time, we’re sitting, and not lying, “What’s up with your mother?”
“What do you mean? Nothing’s up with her”, she gets all defensive.
And I don’t know whether I should drop the whole subject, or go on, “She just... I don’t know, looks so sad. Even when she’s smiling.”
At first I think she’s gona blow up, start screaming at me. Her eyes grow so big, and her mouth hangs open. I almost start to take back my words, when something in her changes. The mouth closes, and the eyes turn away, “It’s just stuff”, she says, shaking her head. Her words are so weak, I have to strain to hear them, “She... she goes through these periods... of depression.”
I don’t answer. I don’t know how to answer. How much problems can you load up on one girl anyway? Slowly I reach out, and take her hand into mine. She still keeps studying the carpet on her floor.
“Her life isn’t exactly perfect at the moment”, she goes on after a time, “There’s like, no one who cares about her.”
“What do you mean? There’s you”, I say softly, starting to regret I brought up such a depressing topic, “And your goofy brother.”
“Mom and Eli...”, Jessie says, and her voice falters a little. I lean closer and lift her chin with my other hand. There are tears sliding down her face, “They don’t get along. At all”, she says shaking her head, “They fight ALL the time. And I treat her like she’s got leprosy or something...”, fresh tears spill from her eyes, and I pull her into a hug. She buries her face into my hair, “I don’t mean to. I want to help her, but I don’t know how.”
I start stroking her hair, while she cries away her sadness. I have no idea what to say to her, how to make it better. So I don’t say anything. I just let her cry. Cause sometimes that’s all you need to do, to feel better. There are times when words are useless, and you just need to be quiet.
And there are times, when you have this compulsive need to say something, “I love you so much”, I whisper into her ear, when she finally stops weeping, after almost two minutes.
“I know”, she answers, pulling back. She wipes her eyes dry, and stands up.
I didn’t expect a return, and I don’t get one. But I don’t let it bother me too much. Sometimes you have to take things as they come. She’ll say the words when she’s good and ready. When she is sure that she does love me.
“Let’s go to dinner”, she goes on, and heads for the door.
< end, for now >
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