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The Girl I Like Is My Sanctuary


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#1 Jackattack

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Posted 07 October 2008 - 07:53 AM

Hey everybody! Here it is, Sanctuary at last! :)

New readers: This is the fourth story in a series. It has three prequels. Technically, if you know the books, you can get by just reading this one, but it will be a lot clearer and more enjoyable if you read them all in order. The first one is called The Girl I Like Was Struck By Lightning, and can be found here.

I really love this scene (as most Rob fans do) so please tell me how I've done!

Chapter One



My mom was laughing at me.

Oh, she might think she was hiding it, but I could tell. Just because she wasn’t actually laughing out loud didn’t mean she wasn’t laughing. But then, it wasn’t really anything new for me. My mom had been laughing at me a lot lately – sometimes out loud, usually silently. And always for the same reason.

Mastriani.

I know this is just ink on a paper, or text on a computer screen, or something, but please, read that word with a full mental growl. And a glare. And maybe an arm-crossing.

Yeah. Now, try it again.

Mastriani.

Quite possibly the bane of my existence, certainly the reason my mom always laughs at me, a very big thorn in my side, at times the most annoying human being I’ve ever met, psychic, not very girly, too young for me in the eyes of the law, too good for me in the eyes of most people in my town, and my girlfriend.

That’s her. Jess.

Only, I prefer saying Mastriani to saying Jess, because Mastriani is just, as a word, so much easier to say angrily, to growl out, to scold with, to yell, and you get the point. Jess is more suited to saying nice things, like declaring my feelings.

And I can’t do that.

See, the whole name issue – aside from the fact that Jess very often needs to be yelled at – really stems from the ‘my feelings’ thing. And the ‘eyes of the law’ thing. And the previously unmentioned ‘I’m irrationally scared of myself/Jess’ thing.

Because, well… The thing is, I’m pretty sure that I’m only two steps away from falling in love with Jess. And that’s illegal. And kind of terrifying.

Which is why I was planning on breaking up with Jess that night.

Of course, ‘that night’ was Thanksgiving. And somehow, during a particularly stupid moment, I’d invited her over for dinner.

Which meant I would be breaking up with her on Thanksgiving, after inviting her over to my house to eat with my family – or at least, my mom and her boyfriend, and don’t even get me started on him – which I was fully aware was a very shitty thing to do.

Actually, I hadn’t even really been the one to invite Jess. I mean, I physically told her she was invited, but Mom was the one who originally offered. She actually really likes Jess – and she told her, too, when Jess showed up just before dinner, toting flowers and smiling at us.

“We just don’t see enough of you. Do we, Rob?” Mom had said, somewhat pointedly, as she let Jess in. She was, of course, completely ignoring the fact that even seeing Jess rarely, on occasions like Thanksgiving, was still illegal for me. Technically, I guess I could invite her over and it would be fine, but I knew very well that no kind of encouragement I gave Jess would be interpreted as just the friendly kind. Granted, she had good reason to interpret it differently, but still.

Mom’s comment, and the fact that Gary had already been there for about half an hour, didn’t exactly ease my guilty conscience; instead, I just got more sullen and glared at Jess. “You could have called,” I told her grumpily, “I’d have come and picked you up.”

She waved my comment away – figuratively, of course. “Why should you have gone to all that trouble? My mom was fine with me taking the car.”

If anything, that annoyed me even more. “Mastriani,” I said – and just like I said before, it was much easier to sound scathing saying ‘Mastriani’ than it would be if I’d said ‘Jess’ – “I think you’re forgetting something.”

“What?” Jess asked me, confused, as Mom headed off to put the flowers in a vase.

“You don’t have a license.”

Jess rolled her eyes, and followed Mom, and that pretty much set the tone for the entire dinner. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Everyone else had a great time. It was just me that was not at all happy. And for some reason, Mom interpreted the cause for my anger to be nervousness.

Which brings me back to my original statement: my mom was laughing at me.

She even took time away from Gary and Jess to talk to me before dinner, while I was in the kitchen getting the drinks. Or tried to, anyway. Normally, I like talking with my mom, but Jess is one topic I don’t like discussing with anyone. Especially since Mom actually liked her.

And since, right that second, as I was pondering all of this, she was complimenting my mother’s pumpkin pie.

“Gosh, Mrs. Wilkins,” Mastriani said, “That was the best pumpkin pie I ever had.”

“You really think so, Jess?” Mom asked. I knew that the praise meant a lot to her, since she hardly ever cooks for anyone other than me. And of course, the fact that Jess’s parents owned a restaurant and were pretty famous around town for their cooking had something to do with it.

“Yes, ma’am,” Jess said sincerely. Who could blame her? My Mom’s pie really is amazing. “Better than my dad’s, even.”

“Well, I doubt that.”

And then Gary had to butt into the conversation. “Isn’t your dad a gourmet cook?”

a--h----.

Okay, so maybe he didn’t deserve that. But a lot of the things Gary says make me think a--h----. They didn’t, at first. I actually liked him, at first. Back when we were just co-workers. Before I introduced him to my mom.

“Well,” Jess said, not seeming to mind the comment as much as me, “I don’t know about gourmet. But he’s a good cook. Still, his pumpkin pie can’t hold a candle to yours, Mrs. Wilkins.”

See, there was another problem. Jess liked my mom, too. They actually got along very well. And I know that Jess genuinely liked her, because she doesn’t do idle flattery. Not unless she’s being sarcastic.

Kinda like me, actually.

“Go on,” Mom said, blushing. “Me? Better than a gourmet cook? I don’t think so.” She wasn’t being fake-modest. She’s just unaware of how truly amazing her pumpkin pie is.

“Sure is good enough for me,” – a--h----! – Gary said, and he started dancing with her.

Ugh.

I’m not stupid, believe me. My mom hasn’t been married to my dad since I was six – she’s bound to have dated people. And she has. I’ve met them before.

But I never introduced her to any of them. And none of them ever came over for Thanksgiving dinner. Actually, this was both my mom’s and my first time to invite people over. Which kind of says something, doesn’t it?

I left the room. I couldn’t take it any more. And not just Gary, either. Jess. I know I invited her, and everything, but I wasn’t exactly feeling happy about having her over. Especially since I needed to break up with her soon. Soon being sometime before she went home.

I flopped down on the couch in the living room and turned on the TV, glaring at it without really processing the images. I could hear happy voices in the background, and they just pissed me off even more.

And then Jess came in.

“Hey,” She stood there, looking at me for a moment, then sighed and sat down next to me. “Why so glum, chum?”

It finally occurred to me that I was watching football, a sport I am not fond of, and I changed the channel. “Nothing.”

“Is it Gary?” Jess asked. “I thought you liked him.”

God, this was awful. She had the incredibly annoying ability to get right to the heart of things. Not all the time, and she couldn’t usually tell what I was thinking from my face – which I am incredibly grateful for, most of the time, since a lot of it usually involves her – but tonight at least, she had gotten part of it on the first try.

I flipped through the channels faster, barely even pausing long enough to see what new channel I’d landed on before switching it again. “He’s all right.” Please, please drop it, Jess.

“Then what’s the matter?” She asked, and I snapped without thinking.

“Nothing, I told you.”

“Oh.”

Great, now I felt even more like a jackass. It wasn’t Jess’s fault I was in such a bad mood. Well – it sort of was, but not in that she caused it, just that I was upset about her. And, I had to admit, Gary too.

But I couldn’t apologize, because then she’d just ask again. Jess can be a lot like one of those dogs, you know, the little ones that bite your ankle or pants or something, and just hang on and refuse to let go, even when you’re shaking them around the room.

So I just sat there in silence, flicking through the channels and trying not to feel guilty or hear the sounds from the kitchen. But when I heard the playful splashing coming from the kitchen, I just had to let some of it out. And besides, Jess wanted to know, right?

“It’s just,” I said, still staring at the TV, though I’d stopped changing channels. Animal Planet. A cheetah was chasing some kind of gazelle. “she has to work tomorrow, that’s all. I mean, the whole reason we stayed here instead of going to Evansville with my uncle is that she had to work tomorrow.” And I got the feeling Mom wanted an excuse to stay, so that she could have Gary over for dinner. But that wasn’t the point.

“Oh,” Jess said again quietly, and I started flipping through the channels again.

“I just hope he isn’t planning on staying late. Mom’s got the breakfast shift.”

Of course, Jess probably knew this, seeing as her dad owned the restaurant my mom worked at, but again, that wasn’t the point. I was venting. Maybe it was pretty bad of me to vent to the girl I was planning on breaking up with sometime within the next hour or so, but I was too angry to really care.

“I’m sure he’s going to leave soon,” Jess said with a smile, which just made me feel guiltier. “Hey, why don’t we volunteer to do the dishes, so they can, you know, visit?”

Visit.

I made a face at that, but I turned the TV off and stood up anyway. It wasn’t like I was watching it, or anything. But when we got into the kitchen, it was pretty obvious that Mom and Gary didn’t exactly mind being left to do the dishes. They were both grinning, and there were suds everywhere.

“Mom,” I said, not-quite gritting my teeth. “Isn’t that your good dress?”

“Oh, yes it is.” Mom looked around, “Where is my apron? Oh, I left it in my bedroom…”

“I’ll get it,” Jess offered, and I might have been suspicious of her wanting to snoop – of course she did – were it not for my Mom.

“Oh, aren’t you sweet?” She asked, and sprayed Gary right in the chest.

I felt ill.

After Jess had gone, and a small fight over the nozzle had ended, Gary turned to me, and asked, “So that’s your girlfriend?”

Now I really regretted ever mentioning her to him at work. I hadn’t thought they’d ever meet. Of course, I’d also never thought he would ask out my mother, so I guess all bets were off now. I just nodded.

He grinned at me. Gary had a tendency to do that, as though we were friends. We hadn’t even been friends before he started dating my mother, just coworkers, and now – now it was out of the question. But he didn’t seem to get that. “Well, congratulations.”

I had to physically try not to clench my hands into fists. I stuffed them into my pockets instead. “Congratulations?”

Gary grinned again and winked at me. “Yeah. You’ve got yourself a real catch there – just make sure you don’t let her get away.”

Considering everything, that was very possibly the worst thing he could have said to me. I bit my cheek so as not to say anything and just nodded stiffly. After a couple more seconds during which I didn’t say a word, Gary started talking to Mom again, leaving me to simmer on my own.

How dare he! I hadn’t asked for his opinion! I could let Jess get away – I could throw her back in if I wanted! And what was with that stupid fish thing anyway? How did that even start? Asshole!

Mom was laughing at some joke of Gary’s when Jess walked back in, and luckily, my Mom took the time to look at my face and see that I wasn’t exactly having fun, so she said, “Rob, why don’t you show Jessica the progress you’ve made on your bike?”

I have no proof that she realized that she was basically inviting us to go make out, but I have a sneaking suspicion she did. As I said, my mom really likes Jess, and she trusts me enough to be okay with it.

Well, it was either that or she wanted time alone with Gary, and that idea was just disturbing.

So I led Jess out there, silently, and then I started to work on my Harley a little. Jess kind of watched me for a few minutes, and then she said, “Is this just because I drove here?”

I blinked up at her. For the few brief seconds I had gotten to work on the bike, all my guilt and anger had melted away. I’d almost forgotten she was here. “What are you talking about?”

“This,” Jess said, “I mean, if I’d known you were going to be so crabby about it, I’d have called you to pick me up, I swear.”

This instantly made me angry and stressed again. Partially because it reminded me I was breaking up with her tonight, and that this was probably the best time, but also because it reminded me of something else. A phone call I’d overheard.

Yeah. I didn’t mention that, did I? Didn’t mention that I’d walked past the kitchen when she was on the phone with her mom, assuring her that she was safely at her friend’s house, but warning her that Joanne refused to let her just take the history notes, so she had to stay here while she copied them, and…

That was when I’d walked away.

“No, you wouldn’t have,” I said, twisting the wrench.

“What are you talking about? I just said – ”

I sighed. “You didn’t even tell your parents you were coming here, Mastriani,” I said, not looking at her. “So cut the crap.”

“What do you mean?” She asked. “They know where I am.”

I put down the wrench at that, knowing that if I tried to continue working on my bike during this conversation, I’d probably break something. I folded my arms and looked her right in the eyes. “Then why, when you called to tell them you got here, did you say you were at somebody named Joanne’s?”

I could see Jess’s face fall as she realized I knew she’d been lying to me. Yeah, that had hurt, by the way, the lying. I’d actually thought, at first…

Right. Time to do it, then.

“Look, Mastriani,” I said flatly, “You know I’ve had my doubts from the start about this – you and me, I mean. And not just because I’ve graduated and you’re still in the eleventh grade – not to mention the whole jailbait factor. But let’s be real. You and I come from different worlds.”

Jess looked outraged. “That is so not – ”

I interrupted her. “Well, different sides of the tracks, then.”

“Just because I’m a Townie,” she said, “and you’re a – ”

I interrupted her again, trying to ignore the memory of Gary saying, Make sure you don’t let her get away, or my Mom’s words in the kitchen before I’d managed to escape: I just wanted to say that I know things have to be difficult for you, with Jessica, but I think you made the right choice. You two are made for each-other, Rob, and I’m glad you’re willing to fight for that.

I held up a hand. “Look, Mastriani.” Cold, distant, and blunt. “Let’s face it. This isn’t going to work.”

Jess’s face went blank, and for a minute, I thought that it was all over with.

And I wondered just how this had happened. I mean, I wasn’t lying earlier; I really did have my doubts about the two of us, but even so, I had been willing to fight for it, in Mom’s words. I had been optimistic about it, just a few months ago. How had that turned into this?

It was stupid of me to ask, because I already knew. It was, yes, a variety of things – the jailbait thing, the different sides of the tracks thing, the her not introducing me to anyone in her family or even telling them I existed thing – that were all pretty big deals, but mostly, it had to do with the fact, as I’d said earlier, that I was only about two steps away from being completely and utterly in love with her; and that was really not a good thing.

But then Jess’s face went from blank to angry, and she put her hands on her hips and cocked her head to the side. I was suddenly a little afraid.

“Does this have something to do with that Gary dude?”

I turned back to the bike. Why couldn’t she just leave now? “No. This is between you and me, Mastriani.”

Jess ignored me. “Because I noticed you don’t seem to like him very much.”

I closed my eyes, trying very, very hard to stay calm. “You’re sixteen years old. Sixteen!

Jess continued ignoring me, speaking very calmly. “I mean, I guess I could understand why you don’t like him. It must be weird to see your mom with some guy other than your dad. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to take it out on me.”

I still couldn’t look at her – but I had to at least try. “Jess. You’ve got to see that this can’t go anywhere. I’m on probation, okay? I can’t get caught hanging out with some kid – ”

I know that had to hurt, but when she interrupted me, Jess’s voice didn’t sound at all mad. I kind of wished she were. I would have preferred it if she just punched me, as she is known to do to guys that annoy her, and stormed out.

“What I hear you saying,” She said calmly, “is that you don’t want to see me anymore because you feel that our age and socioeconomic differences are too great – ”

“Don’t even tell me you don’t agree,” I warned her, “Otherwise, why haven’t you told your parents about me? Huh? Why am I this dark secret in your life? If you were so sure that we have something that could work, you’d have introduced me to them by now.”

I hadn’t meant to sound so bitter, but it didn’t matter anyway; Jess just ignored me again.

“What I am saying to you in response, is that I believe you are pushing me away because your father hurt you, and you can’t stand to be hurt that way again.”

What?

I turned my head to look at her over my shoulder. She looked serious. I said the first thing that came to mind. “You’re nuts.”

Jess just took a step closer, shaking her head. “Rob,” she said, “I just want you to know, I am not like your dad. I will never leave you.”

Where the hell was she getting this? “Because you’re a freaking psycho,” I told her, but she still didn’t get angry.

What the hell?

“No,” Jess said, as I turned around fully to look at her. Maybe she’d hit her head on something coming into the barn. Why else would she be acting so weird? “That’s not why. It’s because I lo– ”

Two steps away.

“Don’t!” I shouted, suddenly realizing what she was about to say, and feeling completely frozen with fear. I shoved the rag I use to wipe off my hands after working on the Harley out in front of me, as if it could shield me from what she was about to say. “Don’t say it! Mastriani, I am warning you – ”

It was a feeble attempt to distance myself from her, from the whole situation, and of course it didn’t work. Jess just continued on like I’d never spoken. Again.

“–ve you.”

I wadded up the useless rag and threw it across the barn, not looking at her. “I told you not to say it.”

It. I love you. She had told me she loved me. Jess Mastriani had just told me, Rob Wilkins, that she loved me.

“I’m sorry,” Jess said, perfectly innocently. “But I am afraid my unbridled passion was simply too great to hold in check a moment longer.”

She loved me.

One step.

I couldn’t help it; I reached out, grabbed her by the shoulders, and yanked her towards me until I could reach her lips and start kissing her.

And kissing her.

She loved me.

My eyes were closed, and I wasn’t aware of anything else in the world at that moment. I was kissing her, and that was all that mattered. I didn’t care that I had been trying to break up with her. I didn’t care that I had plenty of perfectly good reasons to do so. I didn’t even care that we were getting more and more into the kissing and it was not only against the law, but my mom knew we were out there and besides, we were in a barn in the middle of the night in November, and I had never planned on getting very far with Jess.

But Jess did. The next time we pulled back for a moment to breathe, she said, “I think I should go home now.”

I didn’t want to stop kissing her. I didn’t want her to go home. She loved me. I did not want her to go.

But she was right. I rested my forehead on hers, staring into her eyes and still breathing hard from the combined effects of our kissing and the shock of hearing that she loved me!

I couldn’t stop saying it to myself.

“That,” I told her, still panting, “would probably be a good idea.”

I waited outside while Jess went inside to say goodbye to my mom. I didn’t want to spoil the moment by seeing Gary. I was no longer upset. Confused, yes, and having no idea where this was going, but not upset. How could I be?

“Well,” Jess told me, as she got into her mom’s car, “Seeing as how we aren’t broken up anymore, do you want to do something Saturday? Like go see a movie or whatever?”

I knew she was making fun of me, and I needled her right back, but I wasn’t annoyed, “Gosh, I don’t know. I thought you might be busy with your good friend Joanne.”

“Look,” Jess said, “My parents have a lot to deal with right now. I mean, there’s the restaurant, and Mike dropping out of Harvard…”

Okay, now I was kind of annoyed. “You’re never going to tell them about me, are you?”

Jess couldn’t quite meet my gaze. “Just let me give them a chance to adjust to the idea. I mean, there’s the whole thing with Douglas and his job, and Great-aunt Rose, and – ”

“And you and the psychic thing,” I added, not too bitterly. I didn’t resent it for nearly killing her several times, or anything. “Don’t forget you and the psychic thing.”

“Right,” Jess said. “Me and the psychic thing.” She sounded just a tinge bitter, too.

“Look,” I said, straightening up. “you better get going. I’ll follow behind, and make sure you get home okay.”

“You don’t have to – ” Jess started, but I cut her off.

“Mastriani,” I said, but this time I was smiling. “Just shut up and drive.”

For once, she listened, and I followed in a very good mood.

She loved me.
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#2 kop

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Posted 07 October 2008 - 06:20 PM

I FREAKIN LOVED IT!!!!!!
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#3 cats4ever

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Posted 07 October 2008 - 06:27 PM

That was awesome!!! :P I loved it.

Even though I don't actually remember that Rob kissed her again...

But I guess he did. :P:P:P:P:P:P:P:P:P:P:P:P:P:P Since you wrote it. :P I love these smilies!!!!:P :dog:
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#4 Princess_Missy

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Posted 08 October 2008 - 04:05 AM

I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!!!!!!
I really did!!!!!
You are amazing!!

I can't wait for the next update!

Love Melissa :heartbeat:
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#5 rockdiva007

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Posted 08 October 2008 - 07:55 AM

This is very, very good. It's really well written - the character voice sounds exactly like what Rob would say!

Love,
Parasmita (P)
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#6 JENNY THE GOSSIP GIRL

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Posted 08 October 2008 - 05:59 PM

I forgot that i put my name koko. Sorry if i stole your name kop! One of my various names. ( I LOVE HOT COCO!)
Great store
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#7 PrincessMiffy

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Posted 14 October 2008 - 01:35 PM

BUMP
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#8 RainCloud

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 03:31 PM

Awesome update!! This is one of my favorite Rob scenes and you did it so well. I absolutely love this version because it just so cute!!!! Update soon please

:icon_sunny: Kaitlin

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#9 mychemro*kiss*

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 01:57 AM

C'mon! Don't stop now! *waits patiently*

Mani :mgbumblebee:
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#10 mychemro*kiss*

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 11:18 AM

I'm rereading the books. I forgot how good they are! I'm on Sanctuary right now, and so basically, I can't wait to here what Rob's thinking for some parts!
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#11 Jackattack

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 08:21 AM

Hey guys, I'm back! Sorry for the incredible delay... School/life got in the way. :(

Koko: THANK YOU! :icon_sunny:
Alison: Thanks! And no... he didn't kiss her, stop, and then kiss her again. I just meant it like. "he kissed her... and kept on kissing her for a really long time" But thanks for the faith in me! :)
Melissa: *SQUEE*. That says it all. :)
Parasmita: Thank you so much! I love hearing that I got the character voice right.
Jenny The Gossip Girl: Thanks. Hey... you can be Coco, Kop can be Koko. Ta-da, all confusion gone! :)
Kaitlin: Thank you, thank you, thank you! Oh yeah... I have to pass something along for you. Umm.... Oh yeah, Jade from ff.net wants to give you props for the title; she says she loves it. :)
Mani: Hey, you're actually patient! That's rare! ;) And yeah, I reread the books too, before I statred TGIL, just to prepare, and I had the exact same reaction. :)

On a side note... It's still early, but I need a title for Missing You. I've got a couple so far:
The Girl I Like... I Miss Her Too Much
The Girl I Like Can't Find Herself
The Girl I Like Missed Me
The Girl I Like Is Missing With My Heart

...but any suggestions or votes you can give would be great.

And on to the story (finally):

Chapter Two


The thing is, it didn’t last.

My good mood, I mean. It didn’t last very long. Maybe it would have, had we been able to get Jess home without any problems, but that’s kind of beside the point, because before we even made it back into town, we were stopped by a police barricade, and the police always tend to put me in a bad mood, ever since I was arrested – and, of course, since Jess’s psychic thing began to make me a recipient of their questionings. Such as Johnson’s. Although, I really didn’t have to worry about him anymore, which was kind of a shame, what with his replacement, Krantz, being such a total –

Barricade. Right.

I knew right away that this wasn’t related to Jess, though. Because even if some cops had set up a barricade to catch her driving home without a license, on Thanksgiving for chrissakes, – god knows why, but I wouldn’t put it past Mr. ‘Iron Fist’ Krantz – they wouldn’t have needed an ambulance. And they wouldn’t all be traipsing in and out of the cornfield to our right.

I pulled up behind Jess’s mom’s car, still looking to the right, and trying to see what was going on in the cornfield. I didn’t really want to know, actually, but I was in the grip of that kind of sick curiosity most people get at car wrecks – you know, how they all slow down and stare at all the blood and smashed metal.

I didn’t actually see anything through the corn, but I had a pretty good idea what was going on, regardless. I mean, it’s happened before, plenty. It’s common knowledge that most of the people – especially girls – that go missing in Southern Indiana are eventually found dead in a cornfield somewhere. And for all these cops and EMTs, and forensics guys and who knows what else to be out here on Thanksgiving, they had to have something big going on.

Like, for instance, a body.

crap. Well, I was definitely coming down from my little ‘she loves me!’ high now. I sighed, and got off my bike, pulling off my helmet. The cop that had pulled Jess over was talking to her, and it seemed like we weren’t going to be leaving any time soon, unfortunately.

Jess was, apparently, giving the officer her explanation for being out here in the middle of the night, as she was just jerking a thumb in my direction and saying, “That’s him,” when I got into earshot.

I walked over to Jess and the guy, hands out of my pockets even though it was pretty cold out and my hands were cold despite the fact that I was wearing gloves. I’d already had a policeman pull a gun on me, relatively recently, and I’d rather it not happen again just because some rookie mistook my cold hands for me reaching for a weapon, or something.

“What’s going on, Officer?” I asked as I got closer, trying to be polite and calm like I wasn’t at all worried – but I couldn’t help but shoot a nervous glance at Jess. She still didn’t have a license, and even if that wasn’t their express reason for being here, that didn’t mean the guy in front of us wouldn’t think to ask for it. We had, after all, been going at least eighty – in a forty-mph zone. Add that to the lack of a license, and Mastriani could get into some serious trouble.

“Oh, we got a tip a little while ago,” the officer told me, “Regarding some suspicious activity out here. Came out to have a look around.”

I automatically tensed – dealing with Johnson for, what, six, seven months? And with Krantz for these last two, had basically taught me to consider everything a cop said as accusatory, because that’s how it always was with both of them. Accusatory, or blank, or, occasionally, sarcastic – but to my surprise, Officer Roadblock’s tone was simply matter-of-fact. In fact, even when he continued on, asking Jess, “You seen anything strange? When you were driving out here from town?” his tone was just curious; even though he was basically questioning her, he obviously didn’t suspect her of being guilty of lying (which, I have to admit, she usually does) or hiding something, or even breaking any laws.

Well. That was a breath of fresh air.

…Especially since she actually was breaking the law this time around.

“No,” Jess told him, shaking her head. “No, I didn’t see anything.”

I rubbed my cold hands together, trying to warm up my slowly-numbing fingertips. I envied Jess, sitting inside her mom’s car, toasty warm except for her window being rolled down. She was currently looking around semi-nervously and rubbing her hands together – but when, after a pause, Roadblock spoke again, her eyes snapped back to him.

“When you drove through, coming from town, what time would that have been?” he asked.

“I think it was after eight… but it was definitely before nine o’clock,” Jess said, and Roadblock nodded, ‘hmmm’ing and writing that down in a little notepad. I waited, hoping that we might be getting out of there soon, blowing on my hands to try to warm them up more.

Jess was still looking around, although now her eyes had gone from the sky and the cornfields to focus on the men tramping in and out of the cornfield. I watched her absently, more concerned with my cold fingertips – at least until her expression changed, focusing on just what those men were carrying in and out of the cornfield.

“Who is it?” Jess demanded of the surprised Officer Roadblock, her voice high and worried.

Well, crap.

“Nobody you’d know,” he told her, not looking up from his scribbles – and suddenly, Jess unbuckled her seatbelt and quickly hopped out of the car, slamming the door behind her. She didn’t even bother to turn it off.

crap. crap. crap.

Roadblock looked up, shooting me a worried glance, but I was too busy focusing on Jess.

“Mastriani,” I said carefully, feeling a bit like I was trying to talk down someone ready to jump off a twenty-story balcony. “What are you doing?”

Of course, it didn’t work. It never does, when Jess gets that look in her eyes. I had known that of course, but I’d figured it was worth a try.

She ignored me, though, just brushing past me and Roadblock to head towards the flurry of action, where the floodlight was.

Roadblock suddenly got very flustered. Obviously, this had never happened to him before. I, on the other hand, just sighed. “Wait a minute,” Roadblock called after Jess, stuffing his notebook and pen back into his pocket. “Miss? Um, you can’t go over there.”

I sighed again, told him, “Sorry about this,” and followed Jess.

I caught up with her, just as a big burly police officer, who had intercepted her, was saying, “Nothing to see at all. You go on home like a good girl.” He noticed me, and smiled, “Son? This your little girlfriend? You be a good boy, now, and take her on home.”

I didn’t particularly want to ‘be a good boy’, and I doubted Jess liked being called my ‘little girlfriend’ either, but the officer looked nice enough and besides, he had the same goal as me; namely, get Jess out of there before either they asked to see her license and Krantz found out, or got involved in yet another police investigation and Krantz found out and subjected her to long and grueling questioning… again.

Well, okay, maybe he just wanted her out of there, but whatever.

“Yes sir,” I told him, grabbing onto Jess. “I’ll do that, sir.” I leaned in close to add, “Are you nuts, Mastriani? Let’s go, before they ask to see you license.”

However, despite this excellent point, Jess didn’t move, and her I-must-go-butt-into-things-that-are-none-of-my-business-and-will-probably-get-me-in-a-lot-of-trouble face only intensified.

I swear, if I didn’t almost-love her…

Hm. Love. She loves me.

How is it that me almost loving Jess is enough to get me going along on all of her crazy schemes, risking my and her life, frequently riding my Indian through not-the-best terrain, and in general breaking or at least not cooperating with the express wishes of the law – whereas her, actually being fully in love with me (and willing to admit it), isn’t enough for her to tell her parents that I even exist, let alone listen to me about anything relating to the law or her psychic thing?

I was pondering this, and had yet to come up with a better answer than, She’s a girl, when Jess pulled free from my arm and continued walking into the cornfield.

I looked at her, briefly considering just hoisting her upside down and walking off with her – previous attempts told me she couldn’t get away – but last time I’d done that had also been the first time a gun was aimed at my head. True, I was pretty sure that these guys had the same goal as me, at least when it came to getting Jess out of there, but they might not approve of the method, and besides, last time I’d thought that Johnson had been of a similar mind as me, and look where that got me.

Not to mention the fact that Jess really doesn’t like being picked up upside-down and carted around.

So I just sighed deeply – again – and followed her around various guys in suits and into the corn.

We were just approaching what I guessed was probably the body, seeing as that was where everybody was standing, when Jess stopped, so suddenly that I bumped into her, and bounced back with an oof loud enough to make several people glance our way, looking confused and saying things along the lines of, “What the…” “How the hell – ” and so on.

“Miss,” one of them said to Jess, standing up and walking towards us. Well, at least he recognized that this was all Jess’s fault. “I’m sorry, miss, but you need to stand back. Marty? Marty, what are you thinking, letting people through here?”

One of the guys we had barreled past on our way in rushed into the little clearing, panting heavily. I wondered briefly what had happened to Roadblock and Mr. ‘little girlfriend’ and ‘good boy’. Did they both just figure someone else would take care of the problem (AKA Jess)? “Sorry, Earl. I didn’t see her, she came by so fast. Come on, miss. Let’s go – ”

Jess cut him off (she had a habit of doing that when she was like this), pointing down at the body on the ground. “I know him.”

Up until that point, I had managed, despite knowing that it was there, to completely ignore the dead body right under our noses, but at that, I couldn’t resist leaning over Jess’s shoulder and looking – and immediately regretting it. “Jesus,” I whispered softly.

God, there was blood – everywhere. And that arm should not be in that position... Feeling rapidly more sick the longer I looked, I averted my eyes to focus on Earl’s stunned face, forcing myself to pay attention to what was going on; it was highly preferable to vomiting all over the crime scene, anyway.

Yeah, I really don’t do well with blood. Never have.

“That’s my neighbor,” Jess said, “Nate Thompkins.” Oddly enough, my first thought on hearing this was, Nate? Hey, that’s the stupid code-name she gave me over the summer. Yeah, I know. Very considerate of me, right? Well, at least I didn't say it out loud.

Earl’s eyes widened visibly, and he and Marty exchanged a significant look.

“He went to get whipped cream,” Jess continued, her voice audibly shaking now, “A couple of hours ago.”

Oh, god. My eyes moved from Earl – skipping quickly over Nate – to look at Jess worriedly, and I rested a hand on her shoulder. I mean, Jesus. Why does this always happen to her?

A few seconds later, the county sheriff – identifiable by his red plaid jacket; he usually wore at least one plaid item of clothing for some reason – came rushing up to us, took one look at Jess, and said, “You’re the Mastriani girl.”

Jess nodded, and he added, “I thought you didn’t have that psychic thing anymore.”

…And there it was. The inevitable ‘hey, you’re Lightning Girl!’ moment. It was really getting old by now, especially with how people also tended to get very angry soon after that moment, and blame Jess for various things, or pressure her, or – my favorite – question her for two hours straight and make me wait outside with her parents for half that time, even though she wasn’t even a suspect.

Okay, so maybe I resent it. Just a little bit.

“I don’t,” Jess said, wiping a tear from her eyes, and my hand on her shoulder tightened a little, completely by instinct.

I just… I didn’t like seeing her crying, and I wanted to fix it, but I couldn’t fix it, because Nate was already dead – hell, I couldn’t even look at him without feeling like I was about to vomit. And, of course, I was getting mad at the sheriff for making her cry, but he was really just doing his job, and…

Damn it. Why couldn’t things, just once, go smoothly? I mean, couldn’t we have at least found out about Nate tomorrow? I kind of wanted to bask in the whole she’s-in-love-with-me thing. That is sort of a big deal. But no, Jess’s neighbor just had to get killed and dumped in a cornfield, and the police had to get a tip, and we had to meet them, and now Jess was crying and I was getting seriously pissed; but I didn’t even have a decent villain – other than the person/people who had killed Nate, but of course I didn’t know who they were, and I needed a solid, visible, identifiable presence. I kind of missed Johnson – yet to be pissed at. And that was kind of vital.

Because without said villain, I was just stuck standing here, with one comforting hand on Jess’s shoulder, and the other balling into a fist at my side, and my eyes avoiding the ground to stare at the corn and police officers and the back of Jess’s head, and my stomach churning with nausea and worry and anger all at once and arrgh.

“Then how’d you he was here?” The sheriff offered, nodding down. My eyes almost followed the movement, but I stopped myself.

“I didn’t,” Jess said, still shakily, but a little bit better than a moment ago. Then she continued, “He’s my neighbor, and his dad came by earlier tonight to look for him, and told us he never came back from going to get whipped cream. And th-then,” she almost stuttered. Jess doesn’t stutter. This made me… it made me kind of gulp nervously and glare even more at the corn at the same time. I didn’t like it. “I went over to Rob’s for dinner. I was just going home.”

“I see,” the sheriff nodded, “Well, that’s good to know. He wasn’t carrying any ID, least that we could find. So now we have an idea who he is. Thank you. You go on home now, and we’ll take it from here.”

Jess turned her head and looked almost longingly in the direction of her car as the sheriff walked away, but she didn’t move towards it. I hadn’t really expected her to.

Instead, she turned to Marty. “How did he die?”

Marty looked for help, but the sheriff was talking to someone else. “Look, miss,” he said, “You better – ”

“Was it from those marks?” Jess interrupted.

Marks? What marks? All I’d seen was blood, and that mangled arm, before I’d looked away. He – marks?

Partially because I really didn’t want to contemplate the word marks any longer, but also because I was seeing something that officially reversed the night from the high point it had reached during Jess’s barn confession, I grabbed her hand and tugged. “Jess. Come on. Let’s go. These guys have work to do.”

“What were those marks, anyway?” Jess asked a very uncomfortable-looking Marty. “I couldn’t tell.”

“Really, miss,” Mark sighed. “You’d better go.”

Jess, of course, ignored him – and me – just standing there with a distant, unhappy, look on her face.

Oh god. I really was seeing it. It wasn’t a vision; he was really there.

crap.

“Mastriani,” I said, utter desperation creeping into my voice as Marty scurried away and he came closer. “Let’s go.”

Finally – finally! – Jess turned around, but by then it was too late, and our doom was bearing down on us in his typical ‘look, I’m a super-cool FBI Agent!’ long black coat and badge, looming in a long, thin, stick-like way over our heads – I say our because yes, Krantz is several inches taller than even me. Like, six.

You might say I’m being melodramatic. Well, stop saying it. Compared to Krantz, Johnson was my best friend, and that’s saying something. We really hadn’t hit it off, what with his completely ignoring me and trying to take Jess away (again) during our first meeting – and things had only gone downhill from there.

Yeah, Krantz was just the icing on the cake as he loomed and smiled in what I know he thought was a reassuring, endearing way, but that just managed to be very disturbing and make me tighten my hand around Jess’s.

“Hello, Jessica,” he half-smarmed, half-condescended, “Remember me?”

Don’t despair, Rob, Jess is in love with you. That’s good, right?

…Yeah. Yeah, she loved me. And Krantz was here. And her neighbor was dead. And…

Well.

Yippee.
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#12 mychemro*kiss*

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 09:22 AM

Hahaha. I love how Rob is so sarcastic and funny. It sort of makes me give up on Edward and start pining for Rob. Just joking. Not really, but just joking. Go Rob! Beat up that corn mentally!

Ha, it'sokay about the not Updating thing. I do it all the time. *aoughs at updated stories* *shoves them away*

Mani :mgbumblebee:
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#13 Jess and Rob for life

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 06:23 PM

Hey are we allowed to vote for
our own titles
I so I vote for The girl I love ... is mising with my heart
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#14 Princess_Missy

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 07:21 AM

Hey, sorry I didn't comment earlier. But sometimes, life gets busy.
I loved the update, and Rob. You write him so well!!!!!

My vote goes to: The Girl I Like Is Missing With My Heart.

UPDATE SOON!!

Love Melissa :heartbeat:
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#15 cats4ever

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Posted 25 October 2008 - 03:24 PM

Rob sort of reminds me of Jacob, you know from Twilight? And New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn. I've always loved the sarcastic comments in books that I like. They are always funny and well yeah...they are awesome. Which that reminds me...that chapter was awesome. Like always. Hehe. Maybe I should stop saying that. You probably get bored with my saying the same thing every single time, Vicky.

And...the title that I liked the most is The Girl I Like Can't Find Herself. :heartbeat: :P You can't possibly think I forgot about smilies couldn't you? I mean if you even thought of it. Which I didn't, :mgicecream: they are my favorite after all! :fish:

Update!!!! And soon.

Alison

PS. Did I already mention that update was awesome? :love7: She loves him! :love7:
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#16 mychemro*kiss*

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 09:55 PM

Hey! I thought of a title that has eight words!

The Girl I Like Is Missing Inside Her.

I don't know. That's just what I thought.

Mani :mgbumblebee:
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#17 Jackattack

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 05:05 PM

Well, I'm back again! How are y'all doing? :mgwave:

Sorry about the delay, blah blah blah... You've heard it all before.

Mani: Yeah, I love writing Rob sarcastic... :) And thanks for cheering him on. It was a long battle, but Rob beat the corn into submission, don't you worry. ^_^ And thanks for the title suggestion! I'll add it to my list... Although I think I'm gonna add 'self' to the end, so it makes a little more sense. :)
Cierra: Sure, you can vote for your own titles. Although I'd rather you not vote on here, but I'm coming to that...
Melissa: Thanks for the review and the vote!
Alison: Everyone seems to be comparing Rob to Twilight characters lately. Hmm... Thanks! And of course I don't mind hearing about the awesomes! It's a sure thing I can always count on: Alison will say my new chapter is awesome. :) And duh, I didn't forget smilies! I'm still crazy about them. :a_smil08:

Regarding the title for Missing You:
I know that a lot of you have already voted on here, so I'm really sorry to do this, but could I ask you to please go vote at my account on ff.net? I've set up a poll there, with a list of all my titles, and it's just so much easier to keep track of. The poll is at the top of my profile, just click on the link to get there. Thanks!

And now... on to the newest chapter!

Chapter Three


Jess, on the receiving end of Krantz’s pleasant greeting, reacted in a perfectly normal way that I’m sure has happened to him plenty of times before: she jumped and screamed, pretty darn loudly.

That got us several glances, but no actual acknowledgment from any of the police officers around us. Gee, thanks, guys. Glad to see you’re willing to jump to the help of those in need.

Krantz himself flinched a little at the noise, but he mostly ignored it, which I was glad for. I was actually hoping that he might just ignore us completely, but of course that was never going to happen.

“Oh. Oh, Dr. Krantz. It’s you. Hi.” Jess said, a little breathlessly, when she realized that it really was just Krantz, not some creepy tall FBI guy who insisted on following her around and attempting to get her to admit that she had psychic powers, so that he could exploit said powers and lock her up somewhere far away from home in the process.

Hey, wait a minute…

“Hello, Jessica,” Krantz said, from under the depths of his woolen hat, before looking me up and down, sort of like a lizard. You know, quickly and jerkily.

“Mr. Wilkins,” he reluctantly acknowledged me with a nod. He’d started doing this ever since he showed up at my house to interrogate me about Jess one day, about a month ago, and I sat there staring blankly at him and not saying a word for thirty minutes straight. I would have kept it going longer, but my mom came into the room. “Good evening.”

“Evening,” I said shortly in reply, and let go of Jess’s hand in favor of her arm, which gave me a much better pulling grip. “Sorry.” I’m not sorry. “We were just leaving.” Leave us alone, you ass.

I don’t know whether or not Krantz got my ‘hidden’ meanings, but he didn’t seem pleased, either way. Well, actually, he seemed pretty amused, laughing creakily, “Slow down. Slow down there, young man. I’d like a word with Miss Mastriani, if I may.”

You may not. You may not! “Yeah?” I said, restraining myself a little. “Well, she doesn’t have anything to say to you.”

Jess was quick to back me up, looking nervous. “He’s right,” she added, “I really don’t. Bye.”

“I see.” Krantz almost looked amused. See, his expression so rarely changes, that it’s pretty hard to tell, which is why I’m thinking about converting to the belief that evil robots exist and he is one. Either that or he was in some horrible accident and his face is constructed entirely from plastic. “And I suppose it was only by coincidence that you stumbled across the crime scene.”

Jess and I exchanged a surprised glance at this, suddenly realizing that for once, it was a complete coincidence. Well, fancy that. And yet we were still questioned.

Shocker.

“As a matter of fact,” Jess told him, “it was. I was just passing by on my way home from Rob’s.”

He looked very skeptical – I could tell because his eyebrows rose about half a centimeter. That and his basic expression was skeptical. He must have been programmed/rebuilt with this job in mind. “And the fact that I overheard you tell those gentlemen over there that the victim happens to be your neighbor?”

Jess looked indignant, but still a little sick at the reminder. I felt my hand, the one not holding her arm, tighten into a fist again. Would it kill him to be just a little sensitive? Still, she rallied admirably with an insult back at him. “Hey, you’re the government operative, not me. You ought to know more about this than I do. I mean, I’d feel pretty bad if a kid got killed during my watch.”

Pause. No expression change.

Krantz wisely changed the subject. “Jessica,” he said, “I want to show you something.”

And he reached into his coat and pulled a photograph out of it, which he handed to Jess. She examined it briefly, frowning, before her eyes widened, and she glanced over to where Nate lay (covered by a trap now, thank god) really fast. “So it is gang related?” she asked, looking a bit queasy. I sympathized.

“No,” Krantz said, tucking it back inside his coat and buttoning it up again. Then his skeptical look shifted into what might have been an ominous expression, as he tapped the pocket he’d just put the photo in. “This was a warning,” he said importantly, then nodded at the tarp that hid Nate. “That is just the beginning.”

Jess looked at him, wide-eyed. “The beginning of what?”

“That”, Krantz smirked significantly, “is what we’re going to find out, I’m afraid.”

Then he turned around, and walked away, leaving Jess and I standing there, Jess looking like she wanted to call after him.

Can I just say: what the hell?

I mean, I’m used to his coats and his plastic face and his titles and everything, but seriously? This was just like some of the overly dramatic spy books I’ve read. I mean, saying that is just the beginning is, well – stupid. Just stupid. It might be accurate, for all I know, but it’s still just incredibly stupid.

And let’s not even mention his whole thing where he said, That, and then paused for those oh-so-necessary three seconds before continuing with, is what we’re going to find out, I’m afraid. Very dramatic. I’m sure he did well in drama class in college.

But seriously, I almost pity the guy now. That was just so wanna-be Bond, it was sad. Even if it did seem to work on Jess. Which (I’m not really sure why) it did. Maybe it was something to do with him just walking off. You know, leave ‘em wanting more.

Well, ridiculous as it was, I think I liked this new technique of Krantz’s, simply because he did that: he walked off and left us alone.

We followed his example, getting on our assorted vehicles, and driving home – or, driving Jess home, anyway. Very slowly, this time. I think neither of us really wanted to get there and see her poor neighbor.

But get there we did, eventually, and we drove up just as Jess’s neighbor was opening his door to several officers. God. I looked away, following Jess right up to her driveway, and waiting until she was pulling in before I drove away, waving goodbye to her.

Would it be wrong to say that, even with everything that was going on, I hoped that one of her family members would see me and Jess would have to tell them what was going on? Because I did.

Oh, not that I was going to march up to the door with her and kiss her goodnight right in front of them, or anything. And, you know, if I called her house and her mom answered, I wouldn’t announce myself as Rob or anything. I wouldn’t do that to Jess. But if her parents just so happened to see me out the window, and just happened to notice that I was saying goodbye to Jess, and then asked her about me, and she sort of had to tell them who I was, well…

I would be fine with that.

Of course, it didn’t happen, and I went home after waving to Jess, to find that Gary had already left (for which I was grateful, since I hate him), and my mom had left with him for a drive and would be back in an hour or so (for which I was less grateful, since I hate Gary), thanks to a note they’d left on the kitchen table.

What this meant was that I was alone at home on Thanksgiving night, at nearly eleven o’clock, left to ponder several things. Namely:

1) Somehow me breaking up with Jess for both of our own good turned into her telling me that she was in love with me, and me responding in a very non-breaking-up (if incredibly enjoyable) way.
2) Jess’s next-door neighbor was dead, apparently due to some gang thing, and we somehow accidentally got involved.
3) Krantz could laugh.
4) My mother’s love life was better than my own – and thanks to me, too.
5) Jess was in love with me.
6) I was almost in love with her, too.

I helped myself to an extra piece of my mom’s excellent pumpkin pie before I went to bed. I felt that I deserved it.
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#18 Princess_Missy

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 12:56 AM

That was a great chapter!!
Don't leave us hanging for ages like that again!!!!
I love Rob :heartbeat: He's cute!!

UPDATE SOON!!!

Love Melissa :heartbeat:
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#19 Jackattack

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 04:12 PM

Melissa: Thanks! And don't worry... I have another one here for ya. :)

Let me just repeat once more...
Regarding the title for Missing You:
I know that a lot of you have already voted on here, so I'm really sorry to do this, but could I ask you to please go vote at my account on ff.net? I've set up a poll there, with a list of all my titles, and it's just so much easier to keep track of. The poll is at the top of my profile, just click on the link to get there. You don't need an account to vote. Thanks! Click here for the profile/poll.

Chapter Four


I do not like the mall.

Never have, probably never will, and I’ve always known that – but today it was really hammered home, way more than I needed.

I woke up in the morning with a smile on my face and a very pleasant dream involving a certain girl on my mind. By the time I got downstairs, twenty minutes later, I was scowling, a less pleasant reality with the same girl on my mind.

I grunted in response to my mom’s happy “Good morning!” and plopped down into a seat with ferocity, then began eating without another word, Mom watching me with raised eyebrows.

Things continued like that for about ten more minutes, until I’d made my way through all the easily reachable food and was left with nothing to stuff my face with. Luckily, I’m a resourceful guy. I went for the dishes.

It was only when I was in the middle of rinsing my plate, when my mom, who had followed me, said, “You know, Rob, I’ve noticed that lately you only do the dishes when you don’t want to talk to me. About Jess.”

Really?

I looked at Mom, and she nodded, silently confirming.

Really.

I looked back at the plate, at my mom, at the plate again… Then I very deliberately turned my back on her and began washing it again. Just because she’d figured out what plate-washing meant, didn’t mean I couldn’t keep right on doing it. It was a very convenient way to avoid conversation, almost as good as eating.

Great. At this rate, I was going to turn into maid or a pig, all because of love. And this is what they get all worked up about?

…All because of her love, that is. Not mine. Because I’m not in love with her.

Okay.

“Rob,” my mom said, “I think we need to talk.”

I didn’t look at her as I began to dry off my plate, and I wouldn’t have, either, but her next words shocked me enough to make me look up, wide-eyed.

“About Gary.”

What followed was… incredibly, incredibly, incredibly awful. I really don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just say that we ‘discussed’ (Mom’s word, not mine. I would have chosen ‘I was forced to listen to mom deeply examine my feelings about’) Gary for a hour or so, and in the process, also ‘discussed’ a bunch of other topics, from my job to my dad to my mom’s job and even Jess a little bit (I was forced to tell her about Jess’s neighbor, but luckily not the love thing). It was really an amazing conversation, I guess, unless you’re me and really wish that your mom had never told you her boyfriend made her feel young again.

But whatever.

Basically, our ‘discussion’ ended with me being very confused, guilty, and supportive, and my mom – who I think might just be an evil mastermind. I mean, she’s so good, she could take down Krantz without breaking a sweat, and that’s saying something – giving me a hug and getting me to drop her off for work. Of course, then when I picked her up this afternoon, she also managed to convince me to come get fitted for a tux for my uncle’s wedding with her; something else I didn’t want to do with her.

I mean, I love her, but come on – she’s my mom. The only reason I didn’t manage to get out of it was because the tux thing really was necessary. But I tried, trust me.

Only, I was wishing I had tried harder when I noticed a certain person at the mall – yes, the mall. I do not like the mall – walking towards us.

Well, actually, two people. One of whom I fondly refer to as The Brat. The other… I guess she’s technically my girlfriend now.

I tried to steer my mom away to the left, and a display of some weird glittery things (I think they were bracelets), but it was too late. She’d already seen Jess.

“Jessica!” Mom called happily, and I saw Jess turn – yes, I had recognized her by the back of her head. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to study it, what with detention and following her around on her psychic gift quest things. I’m also not too shabby at a bird’s-eye view, because I’m so much taller.

The moment Jess saw us, her face fell, and I couldn’t help but flinch a little. Because, well… ouch.

“Hi, you guys,” Jess said in a fake-chipper voice. “Wow. Fancy meeting you here.”

She kept on giving me some very odd looks. I’m pretty sure it was because I was at the mall.

I do not like the mall.

I was so busy thinking this that my warning bells didn’t go off until too late, and my mom was already talking: “Isn’t this funny? I’ve been trying to convince Rob to let me take him to get measured for a tux for my brother’s wedding since… well, forever, it seems like. And today, when he picked me up after work, he finally agreed. So here we are. And here you are! Isn’t that funny?”

I would like to note several things here. Firstly, my mother had apparently gone crazy lately. Why else would she be doing this to me? I’d always been a good son…

I decided to blame Gary.

Secondly: I was officially dead. Why? Well, you see, I’d been planning on breaking up with Jess last night, and inviting her to my uncle’s wedding would be kind of counter-productive to that particular goal. Not to mention, it wasn’t like her parents would ever let her go out with someone on Christmas Eve anyway. Especially if she was lying – she couldn’t very well use the homework excuse on Christmas Eve, after all.

But Jess wouldn’t think of it like that, I knew. She would just be mad that I hadn’t invited her. Especially what with me trying to break up with her last night. It’s not like I’ve even ever admitted that we’re dating. Which, I think I have good reason, both legal and personal, not to; after all –

Okay. My point is: I knew she would be mad.

And I was right, of course. Jess kind of chuckled along with my mom, saying, “It sure is.” Then, with a brief (but very, very nasty) glare for me, she told Mom, “I thought Earl was already married.”

“Oh, it’s not Earl,” Mom told her. “It’s my little brother Randy. He and his fiancée are tying the knot on Christmas Eve. Have you ever heard of anything so romantic?”

Oh, *#&$%%.

Thanks, Mom. Thank you so much for that.

I was very careful to look at the floor, and not at Jess, as she replied with a very cold smile, “How nice.”

“Oh, but Jess!” Mom actually reached out and grabbed Jess’s hands, the smile dropping from her face, and for a second I was filled with fear that she might start whipping out my baby photos or something. She was really acting weird today.

Luckily, it was nothing as awful as baby photos. Mom just said, “Rob told me what happened to you two on your way back home last night. I’m so sorry! It must have been awful. I feel so terrible for the boy’s parents…”

A quick glance up from the floor told me that Jess’s icy smile was melting a little. “Yes,” she agreed, “It was pretty bad.”

“If there’s anything I can do,” Mom offered, “I mean, I can’t imagine how I could help, but if you think those poor people could use some home cooking, or something, let me know. I do make a decent casserole…”

“Sure thing, Mrs. Wilkins,” Jess smiled at her. “I’ll let you know. And thanks again for dinner last night.”

“Oh, honey, it was nothing,” Mom said modestly, finally letting go of Jess’s hand. “I’m just so glad you could share it with us.”

I thought that maybe we’d be lucky, and that would be it; in fact I was just about to suggest that we go do that tux thing now, when disaster struck. Again.

“See, I told you that was Jessica,” A loud voice said, accompanied by one woman dragging Jess’s mom over to us. I guessed that this was the famous Great-aunt Rose, by Jess’s horrified expression, and the way The Brat kept casting nervous glances between the two of us. “Who is your little friend, Jessica? Aren’t you going to introduce us?”

I blinked at that, looking down at Great-aunt Rose from my two-foot height advantage, but I didn’t say a word. Something instinctive told me not to even try.

Jess’s mom put down her bags with a heavy sigh, and smiled at my mom. “Oh, Mary. It’s you. How are you?”

“Hi, Mrs. Mastriani. How are you today?” Mom smiled, and The Brat and I exchanged quick glances of dread. We might hate each-other, but we knew when to put aside our differences and work together when facing an even greater enemy. Like Skip, or Mom and Mrs. Mastriani in the same room as Jess and I.

I wanted her to know about me, yeah, but that didn’t mean I wanted to be there when she found out. And I definitely didn’t want my mother there. I’m not crazy.

“Fair to middling,” Mrs. Mastriani looked somewhat pointedly at Great-aunt Rose, who was too busy looking me up (and up. And up. Yeah, call me little) and down to notice. “Hello girls. Any luck with the sales?”

“I got a cashmere sweater at Benneton,” The Brat said gleefully, holding a bag up triumphantly, “for only fifteen dollars.”

“It’s chartreuse,” Jess told her, and I was pleased to see her face fall.

Hey, I call her The Brat. I really don’t like her.

Mrs. Mastriani hesitated before saying, “I’m sure it’s very flattering.”

Great-aunt Rose interrupted the conversation to glare at me, and demand in a very grating voice, “And you are?”

I wiped my hand on my pants – don’t ask me why, I just got the feeling that Great-aunt Rose would appreciate it – and held it out (and down) to her. “Rob Wilkins, ma’am. Very nice to meet you.” Yeah, right.

She lifted her nose at me snootily, and I pulled my hand back. Well, fine then.

“And what,” she demanded again, even louder this time, “are your intentions toward my niece?”

Well, actually…

Jess looked even more horrified and embarrassed, my mom looked surprised, Jess’s mom looked confused, and The Brat – really deserving her title here – looked like she was about to burst out laughing. So much for the ‘we know when to band together against the bigger enemy’ thing, I guess.

Once again, I was forced to thank God (and my mom) for giving me my ability to have a perfectly blank face and calm voice, even in the weirdest situations. Because right now definitely was one.

“I have no intentions toward her at all, ma’am,” I said politely, only half-lying. I really don’t have intentions… or at least ones that I know. But I couldn’t say that: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I don’t know what my intentions toward your niece are; I’m a little confused about it. I do know that I enjoy making out with her, taunting federal officials with her, and occasionally getting declarations of love from her, even if I’m not willing say it back… Does that help?”

She would be beating me about the head (or as close as she could reach) with her suspiciously heavy-looking purse before I got halfway through.

Unfortunately, despite my very polite answer, Jess’s Great-aunt’s question made Mrs. Mastriani examine me closer, frowning. “Wait a minute,” she said, “I know you from somewhere, don’t I?”

Why yes, you do. We spent an hour together waiting for Jess to get out of questioning at the police station a few months ago, at about two in the morning. It was very pleasant, sitting on those hard benches and having you occasionally look at me like I was a serial killer about to whip out a knife at any moment. Maybe we could do it again sometime?

Jess obviously knew what her mom was thinking of too, because her eyes got really wide and she glanced around nervously, grabbing her mom’s arm and trying to pull her away. “I’m sure you’ve just seen him around, Mom.” Jess looked around wildly, before her eyes lit up and she blurted out, “Hey, look, Santa’s back! Don’t you want to take my picture sitting on his lap?”

This successfully distracted her mom, along with everyone else, who stared at Jess as if she was insane. Which, she could be. It’s possible… Probable.

“Not exactly,” Jess’s mom said in response to her question, raising her eyebrows, “Considering you’re no longer five years old.”

Then The Brat actually helped Jess out, instead of just laughing at her. It was very shocking. She said, “Aw, come on, Mrs. M. It would be so funny. My parents would crack up if they saw a picture of me and Jess on Santa’s lap. And to get her back, I’ll make Jess come to temple and sit on Hanukkah Harry’s lap next week. Come on.”

Mrs. Mastriani looked at my mom helplessly, but Mom was just laughing and cheering them on. “Oh, go on,” she said, “It’ll be a hoot.”

So Jess, The Brat, and her mom did. Then Jess came back to get the bags Mrs. Mastriani had been carrying earlier, and said goodbye to my mom. While she was doing so, Great-aunt Rose leaned up and hissed menacingly at me, “Watch yourself, young man. I’ve seen your type before, and I’m warning you: Don’t you even think about laying a finger on my niece. Not if you know what’s good for you.”

A charming woman. Really.

I didn’t even bother looking at her, though, because I was a little too busy glaring at Jess. She was too busy ignoring me and talking to my mom to glare back properly, although she did manage to give both me and her Great-aunt each a two-second glare, before she said a last goodbye and walked off to join everyone else in the line, taking Great-aunt Rose with her.

What’s that – why was I glaring?

Well, you know how earlier, I said I wasn’t crazy? I guess that was a lie, because I was really hoping that Jess would introduce me to her mom. It wasn’t like Mrs. Mastriani would start yelling or anything, not with my mom, The Brat, and the Great-aunt there. Granted, Great-aunt Rose herself might yell, but not Mrs. Mastriani.

But no. Jess was more willing to be laughed at by a large group of her classmates – who were right then passing by and seeing her in the line with all the little kids – than to introduce her mom to me.

I just kind of stood there, for a few seconds after Jess walked off, staring after her, before I noticed my mom watching me with a look of dawning comprehension on her face. She glanced back at Jess, then at me, then sighed.

“Oh. Oh. Rob…” Mom trailed off, looking worried.

“It’s nothing,” I tried to tell her, but she’s not stupid, after all. She just looked at me, and shook her head.

“It’ll work out, honey,” Mom told me, before deciding that now would be the perfect time to get my tux fitted – in other words, this was getting awkward and we both needed a distraction.

I stood through the annoying measuring and pinning and God knows what else, and escaped as soon as I could, leaving the store to wait outside for Mom to finish paying and figuring out when to pick it up.

Jess and The Brat had just reached the beginning of the line, (it was that long) and were just moving up to pose on Santa’s lap when I approached the photographer, pulling out my wallet. Neither of them could see me, luckily, and neither could Jess’s mom or her Great-aunt, because the camera was set up behind this weird pile of fake snow that pretty much hid the guy taking photos, I guess so he didn’t scare kids or something.

“Hey,” I said, catching the guy’s attention. “I’ll give you ten bucks if you give me an extra picture of that girl.” I pointed at Jess, and held out a ten-dollar bill.

The photographer, a pimply guy who couldn’t have graduated from Ernie Pyle yet, barely took two seconds to agree, grabbing the bill from my hands. “OK.”

He took two photos, and handed the first one to me, and I headed out from around the pile of fake snow just in time to meet my mom coming out of the shop.

“Oh, there you are, Rob,” she said, “I lost sight of you.”

I just shrugged, and carefully folded and slid the photo in my hand into my pocket before she could see it. Then we headed out of there, towards the parking lot.

I stuck a hand in my pocket and felt the photo of Jess and we walked, knowing that when we got home I wasn’t going to throw it away – hell, I’d probably just sit there and stare at it for half an hour. At least it was better than her yearbook photo.

Yeah. I’m definitely crazy.

And I do not like the mall.
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#20 mychemro*kiss*

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 12:17 PM

Hahahahahahahaahahah. OH MY GOD! I canNOT stop laughing! It was too funny. I can't believe I missed two Updates! That was amazingly hysterical and also, I tried to vote, but I need an account first. *shrugs*

Haha, he DID pay off the photographer. And I felt so bad for him!!! All those glares from Jess AND Aunt Rose AND the fact that she didn't introduce him...

*smacks Jess over the head with a (softback) book* What is WRONG with her?

Mani :mgbumblebee:

P.S. Whoa, you have a lot of FFs on FanFic.net
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#21 Jackattack

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 01:38 PM

Hahahahahahahaahahah. OH MY GOD! I canNOT stop laughing! It was too funny. I can't believe I missed two Updates! That was amazingly hysterical and also, I tried to vote, but I need an account first. *shrugs*

Haha, he DID pay off the photographer. And I felt so bad for him!!! All those glares from Jess AND Aunt Rose AND the fact that she didn't introduce him...

*smacks Jess over the head with a (softback) book* What is WRONG with her?

Mani :mgbumblebee:

P.S. Whoa, you have a lot of FFs on FanFic.net

Thanks!

Really? You need an account? I did not know that. Okay, I guess nevermind about that then. Oops.

Yeah, I feel really sorry for Rob in this part, both in the actual book and in my version. Poor guy... :( I fully approve of the Jess-smack. ;)

As for the photographer.... Hehehe. That was fun. :lol:

Vicky

PS - Yup! I write a lot of fanfic. It's a good writing excercise, plus it's just fun.
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#22 Jackattack

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 02:38 PM

OK guys, so I was apparently wrong about you being able to vote on ff.net without an account. I'm sorry. As an alternative, I've made a poll in a new topic here at MCBC. Sorry about continually bugging you all about titles. I promise this is the last of it. :)

Please go vote there: my poll
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#23 cats4ever

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 05:19 PM

:mgbumblebee: Ok, well that was awesome. Of course like it always is! I will always say an update is awesome when I like it. No, love it. (in a update love way.) If you know what I mean. I can't wait until you post the Rob's part of Missing You. Because I want to see your opinion of his point of view. Hehe. :icon_flower: :P

Alison
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#24 Princess_Missy

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 06:01 PM

Fantastic!! As always!!
I love Rob! He is so cute!!
And yes, Jess does need a whack on the head!!

PLEASE UPDATE SOON!!!!!!!!!

Love Melissa :heartbeat:
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#25 Jackattack

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 08:39 PM

Hey everybody, I'm back! With a chapter, of course... Which I hope y'all enjoy. :)

Alison: Thank you... :) And aww. :heartbeat: Yeah, I can't wait for MY. Although, I just reread it, and some of it's gonna be a bit of a challenge. But a fun one. That I am excited for. And eager to write. :user:
Melissa: Thank you too! Yes, he is! And yes, she DOES! :074: Shame, Jess, shame.

Without further ado...

Chapter Five



Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to have to ask your mother to pretend to be a high-school student named Joanne on the phone – just so you can talk to your girlfriend?

Very. Very is the answer. Very, very, very humiliating, especially when she’s just become enlightened on the Jess-hasn’t-told-and-isn’t-planning-on-telling-her-parents-about-me-any-time-soon front and is trying to be sensitive. At least I didn’t have to tell her myself. I would much rather just not call Jess than do that. Because even if I know it’s true, like hell am I going to admit that my girlfriend is ashamed of me. I wouldn’t have even asked her in the first place, but I’d already called once and Jess’s mom answered, so I had to hang up without saying anything.

No, very isn’t extreme enough. Excruciatingly humiliating, is more like it.

But, can you believe it, she actually did? She didn’t even say a word about it, either. I mean, she listened through my entire long, halting, excruciatingly humiliating speech about it – and she didn’t say a word. She couldn’t stop herself from giving me that pitying, worried look she’d given me at the mall, but even so. She just nodded, and said, “Okay.”

Have I ever mentioned how freaking much I love my mom?

Anyway, so I called and then Mom took the phone and asked for Jess, saying that it was Joanne. I guess I’m lucky that Mrs. Mastriani didn’t recognize her voice from the mall, but my mom’s one of those people whose voice sounds very different over the phone.

And then Mom smiled at me, squeezed my shoulder, and walked out of the kitchen to give me privacy.

Again: Wow.

I took the phone, and immediately began to pace. It’s a habit of mine. When I’m on the phone, I pace. Yes, I tend to do it more when I’m nervous or upset or talking to Jess, but I do it other times too. Really, despite what my mom sometimes intimates.

But this time, even I have to admit, I was nervous because of Jess.

Well, can you blame me? After that whole scene at the mall… plus her neighbor was dead. That had to make a person upset. And, you know, it was probably too cold, what with the surprise snow that had made most of the roads unfit to drive on, so she was going to say no…

Okay, so it was mostly the mall thing. Well, I’ll admit it: I was hurt. I really was hurt by how she had acted – but I have this annoying, and really weird, thing about Mastriani: I can’t stay angry at her. You won’t believe how often and how hard I try, but I just can’t do it. Plus, her horror at the thought of her mom knowing who I am meant that I got a pretty nice photo of her, so it wasn’t all bad.

Oh, yay. I’m rejoicing about my fortune in practically stalking my girlfriend (even if I refuse to admit she is out loud) who refuses to tell her parents that I exist even though she says she loves me.

That last sentence was really sad.

Anyway, I had a point and it was that I wasn’t mad at Jess. In fact, I was more worried about whether she was mad at me – after all, I hadn’t told her about my uncle’s wedding, which I know pissed her off. I don't even know how I managed to call, I was so worried – and maybe I shouldn't have called. Because, you know, it was directly opposite to my goals, even if I wasn't quite positive what they were right now. I was sure that they stated that calling – and therefore encouraging – Jess Mastriani was officially a Very Bad Idea. But I didn't care. I was nervous, yeah, but I was still calling.

And, despite my nervousness, I got this weird feeling when I heard Jess’s voice, saying, “Hello?” A kind of… little warm tingling.

Oh, shut up.

“Mastriani,” I said by way of greeting.

“Oh,” Jess said, “Hey.” I briefly considered being offended by the way Jess had greeted me; it almost seemed like an ‘Oh well, I guess I can talk to you’ sort of thing, except that I knew it wasn’t. I could hear the smile in her voice over the phone.

“Listen, about tonight,” I said, probably coming off as much more calm than I actually was. “You still want to do something?”

I solemnly swear that I did not hold my breath.

Jess seemed very annoyed by this question, immediately beginning to babble: “What do you mean, do I still want to do something? Of course I still want to do something. We’re going out, right? I mean, aren’t we?”

Whoa. To say I was taken aback by Jess’s apparent panic that I didn’t want to go out with her would be an understatement. Saying I was pleased would be, too. “Well,” I said, still surprised, “I don’t know. I mean, yesterday at the mall, you seemed to wig out a little.”

And there’s another one. Although, Jess seemed to disagree. “I did not wig out,” she insisted. “That was not wigging out. That was just… I mean, come on. That was weird. I mean, your mom, my mom. Whatever.”

It would have been less weird if you’d introduced me properly… Well. Actually, it would still have been weird. But even so. And who was she trying to kid, anyway? Jess had, most definitely, been wigging out.

But I wasn’t really eager to get into an argument about it right now. So I just said, “Right,” in what I am sure was a less-than-convinced voice. “Whatever.”

“But of course I still want to go out tonight,” Jess said eagerly. Or urgently. I wasn’t really sure which. “I mean, if you want to. Go to dinner. Or a movie.”

A movie? Would they even be open today, what with the snow? And exactly where could we get dinner? Mastriani’s was most definitely out. See, this was why I didn’t ever take her out on ‘normal’ dates. Well, this and the fact that I preferred just going on long rides on my Indian, and going to Chick’s, more than I did movies anyway.

I could lie and say that I was considering this, and that was the reason why I said, “Well…” the way I did, stretching out the word so that it sounded like I wasn’t sure what my answer would be… but as I said, that would be lying. The truth is, I was just messing with Jess.

Hey, I think I deserve a little fun! It had been highly gratifying to hear how worried she was about me canceling, and I just couldn’t resist. Besides, it wasn’t like I didn’t plan on saying yes. Eventually.

But, before I got the chance to have some more fun with the situation, Jess said, “Hold on. I’ve got another call,” and I was left with a quietly beeping phone.

Hey! She wasn’t supposed to do that!

However, after the first couple of minutes of being annoyed, my thoughts started to drift to who the other call might have been from. It was obviously for Jess and probably important of interesting, because otherwise I know that she would have absolutely no qualms about making them wait while she talked to me.

So, my ego asked, who the hell is more interesting than me calling about a date?

Well,
my jealous/maybe a tad insecure side replied, it’s probably another guy.

But who would call Jess? As far as I knew, Mark was still in jail, and no other guy had expressed any interest in Jess for some time, except for…

Oh, no. If he had actually called her, I was going to be very angry – at both him and his sister. He was supposed to be scared away already.

I started pacing again, faster than before.

It wasn’t like Jess even liked Skip anyway… But her mom did, and I know that she spent a lot of time with him over the summer, and maybe she…

God!

I put down the phone on the table and stared at it. For a minute, I considered just hanging up, but what was the point? Jess would just call back anyway, and then she would want to know why I hadn’t waited for her to finish with her other call. And what would I tell her then?

Hell, I didn’t even know if it was Skip who had called her!

But if he had, he was going to be sorry…

Suddenly, the low beeps I could hear from the phone stopped, and I quickly put it up to my ear. I started to say, “Hey,” when I realized Jess was already talking, and I stopped to listen.

Her voice was really faint – it sounded like she was holding the receiver away from her ear – and she obviously wasn’t talking to me. Plus I just heard the end of a sentence: “-not all right.”

“Mastriani?” I asked, and then when she didn’t answer, I repeated myself again, louder. “Mastriani!”

There was a pause, and then I heard her again, more clearly, like she was holding the phone properly. “Hello?”

“Mastriani, it’s me,” I said, kind of annoyed by now. “Remember? You put me on hold.”

“Rob.” She sounded like she’d forgotten all about me. Just who had called her? “Rob. Yeah. Sorry. Look, I can’t go out tonight. Something came up.”

Oh.

I swallowed heavily. “Something came up,” I repeated slowly, no longer pacing. Just… standing there. That whole... little warm tingly thing, from earlier? Yeah, that was gone.

“Yes,” Jess said. “I’m really sorry. It’s Seth.” – Who the *#&$%% is Seth? jealous/insecure Rob piped up – “The cops couldn’t get to him, and there was a shootout, and now one of them is in critical condition, and those people still have Seth, and I’ve got to find him before they kill him, too.” Oh. Okay. Seth was not an issue then, was he? But…

Wait. Wait a second here. It was a psychic thing.

That might be the first time I ever thought Thank god about that.

“Whoa,” I said, “Slow down. Who’s Seth?”

Jess sounded distant and odd, even though I was pretty sure that she was still holding the phone properly. As she spoke, I realized what her voice was reminding me of: over the summer, when that *%^## Karen Sue had told her that Shane was dead, and she went into shock. And also, more recently, when she’d dreamed about where Heather Montrose was, and she’d been totally in a daze…

Great.

“Dr. Krantz thinks there’s a connection,” Jess said, not really explaining anything. “A connection between Nate, Seth, and the synagogue.”

I had no idea what had happened to the synagogue, but at the moment I didn’t care. I was much more concerned with Jess, and – “Wait a minute. Dr. Krantz? When did you talk to Krantz? Was that him just now?”

“I’m sorry, Rob,” Jess said, sounding tired and still distant. “Look, I’ve got to go – ”

I just interrupted her. “What’s the connection? What does Krantz say?”

Silence.

Okay, now I was getting seriously worried. “Mastriani!” I snapped, “What’s the connection?”

“It’s the symbol, okay?” Jess said, sounding put-upon. “The one that was on Nate’s chest. It’s the same thing that was spray-painted onto the headstones at the synagogue.”

Well, that helped me know what had happened at the synagogue a little, but… “What does it look like?” I asked. “The symbol?”

I was getting a hunch – not even a hunch really, just a feeling – that I might know what was going on. Maybe.

“Jeez, Rob,” Jess said, now sounding distant, tired, and annoyed, “You were there in that cornfield with me, remember? Didn’t you notice what Nate had on his chest?”

I swallowed, brief memories of the guy lying there flashing up into my head and making me feel sick. “No, not really,” I told her quietly, running a hand through my hair. “I didn’t… I didn’t actually look. That kind of thing… well, I don’t really do too well, you know, at the sight of…”

I couldn’t say it. I just trailed off. But Jess seemed to get my meaning, because she sighed and when she spoke her voice was softer – and telling me what I’d wanted to know.

“It was this squiggly line. With an arrow coming out of one end.”

I pictured that in my head, trying to remember why it seemed so familiar. “An arrow.”

“Yeah,” Jess agreed, “An arrow.”

And then, just like that, it hit me. I knew what the symbol was, which meant that I knew who was behind this, which meant that I knew what was going on – and it made me sick.

But I had to be sure. “An M?” I asked Jess, “The squiggly line. Was it shaped like a M, only on its side?”

Now Jess was starting to sound annoyed again. “I don’t know. I guess so. Look, Rob, I don’t feel so good. I gotta go – ”

I barely even noticed, shocked by the proof that I was right. I was right. I was right and this was – oh, this was big. In a bad way.

I interrupted Jess yet again. “It’s not an arrow.”

And just like that, Jess was back. The tiredness and distance was gone from her voice (although she still sounded a little annoyed), replaced by alertness and curiosity. “What do you mean, it’s not an arrow?”

“Jess,” I said, knowing she’d realize just how big this was, if I was using her first name, “I think I might know who these people are. The people who are doing this stuff.”

I could hear Jess suck in a breath in shock across the line, and then she spoke: “I’ll meet you at the Stop and Shop,” she told me, “Come pick me up.”

“Mastriani – ” I tried, but it was no good. Jess was back in control now, and no longer passively listening. “Just be there.”

And then she hung up.

“crap!” I swore, hanging the phone back up and continuing to pace, hands in my hair. This was… These guys… Jess…

crap!
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#26 Princess_Missy

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 02:05 AM

*squeals*
God, I love Rob!! :heartbeat: !!
I can't wait until the next update.
Don't make us wait too long!!!

Love Melissa :heartbeat:
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#27 Jackattack

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 02:15 PM

Melissa: "Don't make us wait too long", ha! Here it is!

Chapter Six


After swearing a few more times just to let out some steam, I went upstairs and asked Mom if I could borrow the truck.

“Why?” She asked, even though I’m pretty sure she already knew – or at least, knew that I was picking Jess up, not that I was taking Jess out to discuss murder and kidnappings.

But of course, I didn’t enlighten her. I just shrugged and said, “Jess.”

Which was probably a good thing to say, if the way Mom’s face lit up in a big grin was any indication. I mean, if I hadn’t already known that she really liked Jess, that grin would have confirmed it. And I felt kind of bad, because it was obvious that Mom thought that Jess and I were actually going to go out, like on a date, and that she was really pleased about it. And I guess she had reason to be. I mean, she really likes Jess – and she likes Jess and I as a couple, enough so that she openly endorses it despite the whole illegal thing; even enough to take part in the deception of Jess’s parents, which I know couldn’t be comfortable for her. And so she probably thought that me asking to borrow the truck to pick up Jess was a good sign for our relationship.

And yeah, some other people might have thought it was meddling or something, or annoying that their parents were so into their love life, but that’s not how I see it. Mom just really wants me to be happy. And she can see that Jess makes me happy.

So, did I feel guilty about lying (by omission of the truth, at least) about my reasons for wanting the truck? Hell yes. Did I do it anyway?

Hell yes.

“So, uh, can I?” I asked, and Mom nodded.

“Sure. If I need to go anywhere, I can just call Gary. Have fun!”

She tossed me the keys, and that was it.

Or, you know, it would be, if she didn’t stop me at the door with the question, “Are you going to talk things out with Jess?”

I turned around slowly. “What?”

Mom looked a little sheepish, like she knew that maybe this was kind of personal, but she went on anyway, “About meeting her parents. You should, Rob. I don’t like you being some secret.”

I could see in the way that she was looking at me that the whole lying-to-Mrs.-Mastriani thing had really upset her. But, I could also tell she would do it again if she really thought it was necessary.

But I couldn’t make her do that. I couldn’t do that to my mom. I shouldn’t have even done it this afternoon, but I just wanted to talk to Jess. But still – just because Mom was willing to do stuff for me that made her incredibly guilty, that didn’t mean I should ask her to.

So instead of telling her that I already had tried, quite a few times, and always got either distracted by kissing or I love yous and the like, I just said, “Okay. I promise.”

And then I left, Mom smiling again and looking all satisfied. And me feeling like an ass.

Obviously, all of this boded real well for the drive. And yes, that was sarcasm.

It wasn’t much fun getting into town, even with the truck; I would’ve been crazy to try the Indian. Still, it didn’t take me too long to get to the Stop and Shop – only about twenty minutes longer than normal.

Jess was waiting outside, kind of stomping around in little circles, rubbing her arms. As soon as I slid to a halt – and I mean slid literally; the car met with some ice – she ran over and hopped in the passenger side, smiling at me. “Hey.”

In a bad mood from the Mom-induced guilt, and the drive up here, and what I was going to have to tell her, I just sort of grunted, and began to drive.

Jess raised her eyebrows at me, but before she could say anything, I shook my head. “Just wait, okay? I’ll tell you once we get there.”

She looked a little confused. “Get there?”

“Chick’s.”

Jess just nodded, and we drove the rest of the way in silence. I admit that I was a little surprised that she was agreeing so easily, but I decided not to question it. You know, gift horse, mouth.

And it didn’t take long until we got there, and I have to admit: sitting on a barstool in Chick’s, the owner in front of me, I felt a whole lot better.

See, Chick has been a friend for a long time… I probably couldn’t even tell you since when. And I’ve been hanging out at his bar for a lot longer than was ever really legal, even if I wasn’t, you know, drinking or anything. But still. It’s kind of like a haven, stupid as that sounds.

So, I’d figured that I could have this not-so-great conversation there. Plus, Chick probably knew as much if not more about it than I did, so that was another great reason.

And it was pretty much perfect in there. The bar was totally empty – not even Eddy and Ben (the bartender and fry cook) could make it in – which guaranteed us privacy.

So, while Chick was busy making himself a meatball sandwich, Jess explained to him everything that had happened, (I finally learned what she was talking about with the synagogue earlier) and how the symbol kept cropping up, and she drew it on a piece of napkin for us.

Chick and I both took one look at it, and exchanged a glance. I had been right. “Oh, sure,” Chick said, “The True Americans.”

“Are you sure?” Jess asked, “I mean… you really know what this is?”

I might have been offended that she didn’t trust my friend, except that a lot of the time, I don’t trust Chick myself. He occasionally likes practical jokes, and he can be… But the thing is, when it comes to important stuff, he’s always pretty reliable.

“Oh, yeah,” Chick confirmed, taking a bite of his sandwich and dislodging a meatball onto the napkin, before he brushed it away. I was just as glad that I had said no when he asked if I wanted one. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s it, all right. They all got it tattooed right here.” Chick pointed at the webbing in between his thumb and index finger. Then he squinted at the drawing. “Only you got it sideways, or something.”

He rotated it until it faced the right ways up, and you could clearly see the snake. “There. Yeah. That’s how it’s supposed to look. See? Like a snake?”

Jess still looked confused, so I added, “Don’t tread on me.”

Only, apparently she didn’t pay attention in U.S. History class, because she turned to me, and said, “Don’t what?”

“Don’t tread on me,” I repeated. “Remember? That was printed on one of the first American flags, along with a coiled snake.” I picked up the drawing, pointing out the head. “That little thing on the end isn’t an arrow. It’s the snake’s head. See?”

Jess squinted for a little bit, and then went, “Oh, yeah,” but I’m pretty sure that she didn’t. See, that is.

“So, these True Americans,” she asked, “What are they? A motorcycle gang, like the Hell’s Angels, or something?”

Chick and I exchanged righteously indignant looks. “Hell, no!” he cried. “Ain’t a one of ‘em could ride his way out of a paper bag!”

I sighed. “They’re a militia group, Mastriani. Run by a guy who grew up around here… Jim Henderson.”

Jess still looked confused. It was kind of c– I did not almost just think that word. No way.

“Oh…” She said, and paused for a long moment… before slumping down on the bar on her elbows. “Okay,” she apparently gave up. “What’s a militia group?”

Chick rolled his eyes. He doesn’t like militia groups. “You know,” he told Jess, “One of those survivalist outfits, live way out in the backwoods. Won’t pay their taxes, but that don’t seem to stop ‘em from feeling like they got a right to steal all the water and electricity they can.”

Jess still looked confused. It was kind of nice to be the one in the know, for a change. “Why won’t they pay their taxes?”

I explained: “Because Jim Henderson doesn’t approve of the way the government spends his hard-earned money,” I said sarcastically. “He doesn’t want his taxes going to things like education and welfare… unless the right people are the ones receiving the education and welfare.”

“The right people?” Jess glanced from me, to Chick, and back. “And who are the right people?”

Chick shrugged. “You know. Your basic blond, blue-eyes, Aryan types.”

“But…” Jess fingered the carvings on the bar, “But the true Americans are the Native Americans, right? I mean, they aren’t blond.”

Caught in the middle of a bite, Chick didn’t let that dissuade him from explaining to Jess. I dispassionately observed the masses of half-chewed meatball and bread that he was displaying as he spoke, and reflected that maybe it was good that we weren’t too similar. I doubt Mom would have appreciated it. “It ain’t no use arguin’ semantics with Jim Henderson,” Chick told Jess, “To him, the only True Americans’re the ones that climbed down offa the Mayflower… white Christians. And you ain’t gonna tell ‘im differently. Not if you don’t want a twelve gauge up your hooha.”

Eloquently put, Chick. Congratulations.

“Oh,” Jess said, with a look of dawning comprehension. “So they killed Nate…”

“…because he was black,” I supplied.

“And they burned down the synagogue…”

“…because it’s not Christian,” I finished again.

“So the only True Americans, according to Jim Henderson,” Jess said, “are people who are exactly like… Jim Henderson.”

I considered applauding, but Chick had me beat with his, “Give the girl a prize,” grin, complete with a reshowing of the sandwich-in-teeth.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Jess went from confused to hitting the table angrily. “I can’t believe this,” she yelled. “Are you saying that all this time, there’s been this freaky hate group running around town, and nobody’s bothered to do anything about it?”

I blinked at her. “And what should someone have done, Mastriani?”

As expected, she yelled, “Arrested them, already!”

Chick shook his head. “Can’t arrest a man on account of his beliefs,” he told her. “A man’s entitled to believe whatever he wants, no matter how back-ass-ward it might be.”

I love the way Chick talks.

“But he still has to pay his taxes,” Jess tried.

“True enough,” Chick said, “Only ol’ Jim never had two nickels to rub together, so I doubt the county ever thought it’d be worth its while to get after him for tax evasion.”

“How about kidnapping and murder?” Jess asked angrily. “The county might think hose worth its while.”

“Imagine so,” Chick frowned, contemplating this. “Don’t know what ol’ Jim must be thinking. Isn’t like ‘im, really. I always thought Jimmy was, you know, all blow and no go.”

I smirked. “Perhaps the arrival of the Thompkinses, the first African-American family to come to town, offended Mr. Henderson. Aroused in him a feeling of righteous indignation.”

Chick stared at me, “Ooh. Righteous indignation. I’m going to remember that one.”

We were sharing a grin, when Jess suddenly stood up. “Right. Well, that’s it then. Let’s go.”

For at least the fourth time, Chick and I exchanged a glance.

“Go?” Chick asked, when I was too hesitant to. “Where?”

Jess stared at us as if it was obvious. She had a very good make-you-feel-like-a-kindergartner thing going for her. “To Jim Henderson’s place,” She said, her voice clearly expressing the duh. “To get Seth Blumenthal.”

I may love Chick, and all, but that does not mean I appreciate the way he sprayed his mouthful of beer out all over me at that statement. Seriously. Sprayed. Like a whale.

“Oh, man,” I said, reaching for the napkins.

“Yeah, Mr. Chick,” Jess agreed, “Say it, don’t spray it.”

“Nobody,” Chick said, over us, “is going to Jim Henderson’s place. Got it? Nobody.”

See, I knew there was a reason I chose to come here.

“Why not?” Jess asked, and the sad thing was, she really meant it. “I mean, we know they did it, right? It’s not like they tried to hide it, or anything. They practically hung up a big sign that says ‘We Did It.’ So let’s go over there and make ‘em give Seth back.”

At this, Chick burst out laughing. “Give the kid back,” he chuckled, “Wheredja get this one, Wilkins? She’s a riot.”

But I couldn’t find the humor in the situation. I just looked at Jess.

“What?” She asked, “What’s so funny?”

I shook my head. “We can’t go to Jim Henderson’s, Mastriani.”

“Why not?”

I sighed. “Well, for one thing, Henderson shoots at the water meter-men the county sends out. You think he’s not going to try to take us out?”

“Um. Hello? That’s why we sneak in.” Jess obviously didn’t get it.

“Little lady,” Chick said, stabbing an emphatic finger at her. I was a little surprised that she didn’t protest the term, but then this was Chick. He’s not exactly small. “You don’t know squat. Didn’t I hear you say these folks already shot up a cop earlier today, on account of not wanting to give up some kid they got hold of?”

“Yes,” Jess conceded, but of course she couldn’t leave it at that. “But the officers involved weren’t prepared for what they were up against. We’ll be ready.”

“Mastriani,” I shook my head. “I get where you’re coming from. I really do. But we aren’t talking the Flintstones here. These guys have a pretty sophisticated setup.”

We all paused respectfully to let Chick belch out a healthy amount of meatball-smelling air. “Yeah,” he agreed with me once he finished, “You’re talking some major security precautions. They got the barbed wire, guard dogs, armed sentries – ”

What?” Jess, well, screeched. Ow. My ears. “Are you kidding me? These guys have all that? And the cops just let them?”

“No law against fences and guard dogs,” Chick shrugged, “And a man’s allowed to carry a rifle on his own property – ”

“But he’s not allowed to shoot cops,” Jess pointed out furiously, “And if what you’re saying about these True Americans is accurate, then somebody in that group did just that, earlier today, over at the trailer park by Mr. Shaky’s. They got away – with a twelve-year-old hostage. I’m willing to bet they’re holed up now with this Jim Henderson guy. And if we don’t do something, and soon, that kid is going to end up in a cornfield, same as Nate Thompkins.”

Okay. Now Chick and I couldn’t really laugh at her anymore. Because… well, because she was right. But the thing was, we couldn’t really do anything. And that wasn’t funny. That wasn’t funny at all. We exchanged look number seven: You’re right, but what can we do? Nothing.

Jess shook her head determinedly, putting her hands on her hips. I had a brief barn flashback, and decided that I much preferred that experience to this. For one thing, we weren’t alone this time, so if I suddenly decided I couldn’t stay away from her, we would have an audience. For another, this time it was highly unlikely that the hands-on-hips preceded a declaration of love. Much was the pity.

“Look,” Jess said, “I don’t care how secure their fortress is. Seth Blumenthal is in there, and it’s up to us to get him out.”

Yeah. Now I felt sad and guilty. Thank you, Jess.

Chick shook his head at Jess. “Little lady, Jimmy’s crazy as they come, but one thing he ain’t is stupid. There ain’t gonna be a scrap of evidence to connect him with any of this stuff, except the fact that he’s head of the group that claimed responsibility. Bustin’ in there – which’d be damn near impossible, seeing as how we can’t even approach Jim’s place by road. It’s so far back into the woods, ain’t no way the plows can get to it – to rescue some kid is just plain stupid. Ten to one, that boy is long dead.”

I groaned at this, and let my head fall into my hands. Why? I mean, really. Why?

“No,” Jess told Chick, “He isn’t dead, actually.”

“Now how in the hell,” I heard Chick ask, “could you know that?”

Oh, great, time for this again. I lifted my head from my hands to add, “Because. She’s Lightning Girl.”

Yeah. Yeah, Chick did not know just who Jess was. It was kind of nice, having a friend who didn’t know. Although, he probably should have, since we’d had a conversation about it, along with Jed and Wylie, shortly after the first time Jess and I went out. Well, actually, less of a conversation than them teasing me about Jess and revealing to Chick that she was Lightning Girl. But I guess he was too caught up in the teasing to remember anything else.

Figures.

Chick looked Jess over slowly, possibly attempting to remember said conversation or see if she had antennae or something. Apparently, whatever it was turned out good for him, because he was nodding as he said, “You think we should go busting in there and get that kid out?”

Hey. Wait a second. That was not the right tone of voice, there. The right tone of voice would have been a definite NO. Something that told Jess that we were not gonna do this. No way, no how. Instead, Chick sounded like… well, like he was considering it.

No, Chick! No! Resist!

“Busting,” Jess grinned, “is not the word I would use. I think we could probably come up with a more suitable form of entry But yes, I do.”

“Wait.” Okay, I had to stop this in its tracks. “Wait just a minute here. Mastriani, this is insane. We can’t get involved in this. This is a job for the cops – ”

She cut me off. “ – who don’t know what they’re up against. Forget it, Rob. One cop already got shot on account of me. I’m not going to let anyone else get hurt, if I can help it.”

There was something weird going on again, in my stomach. I was just as glad I hadn’t had that sandwich, because I’m pretty sure it would want out. “Anyone else,” I said, “What about yourself? Have you ever stopped to think these guys might have a bullet with your name on it next?”

And therein lay the rub. I did not like this idea. Because Jess was going to get herself *#&$%%ing killed, and I could NOT let that happen!

“Rob.” Jess sounded surprised that I hadn’t figured this out. Duh voice, version 2.0. “Jim Henderson isn’t going to shoot me?”

Now, this I’d like to hear. This I would really like to hear. “Why not?” I asked, a weird mix of exasperated, desperate, and confused.

Jess shrugged. “Because I’m a girl, of course.”

Because… What the HELL? “*#&$%%!” I swore, leaping up from the bar. I really, really needed to hit something… Goddamnit!

Yes, I did. I stormed over, and punched the jukebox. And I’m pretty sure it hurt, but not positive. I wasn’t really paying attention. I was pretty focused on maybe needing to kidnap Jess myself, to keep her out of this and therefore alive. It would be easier, this time. I had the truck instead of my Indian. I just needed to figure out where to take her…

Apparently, Chick objected to my abuse of the jukebox, because he looked at me indignantly. “Hey!”

Chick. Chick could help me. Chick was on my side. I spun to look at him, begging him, “Can you help me out here? Can you please explain to my girlfriend that she must be suffering from a chemical imbalance if she thinks I’m letting her anywhere near Jim Henderson’s place?”

Jess stared at me, a wide-eyed and somewhat exultant look on her face, which confused me a little. Just what had I said? What had I said that could make her so… Oh. Oh, crap. I’d said it. I had actually said it. I couldn’t believe it.

I had actually called Jess my girlfriend. Out loud. In front of Chick. Who was a witness. Who had just seen me call Jess my girlfriend.

Which pretty much meant that I was doomed. There was no way in hell that Jess was gonna let me break up with her now, and I’m pretty sure that I didn’t actually want to.

Yeah. Doomed. So, so doomed.

And on top of it all, Chick wasn’t going to help me out. He just stroked his goatee, and said, “You know. It isn’t the worst idea I ever heard.”

I couldn’t do anything but stare at him, horrified and betrayed. Hey, Chick, I came here so you would agree with me!

“Hey,” Chick said, very defensively. “I ain’t saying she should go in alone. But a kid’s dead, Wilkins. And if I know Henderson, this other one hasn’t got much time left.”

True. Bad, but true. I ignored Jess’s gloating look, focusing on Chick as he continued.

“And you might say,” Chick added, “this is a homegrown problem, Wilkins. I mean, Henderson’s one of our own. Ain’t it appropriate that we be the ones to mete out the justice? I can put in a few calls and have enough boys over here in five minutes, it’d put the National Guard to shame.”

And the thing was, I knew he could. Because, after all, hadn’t I done much the same thing when I’d gone to rescue Jess from Crane? Yeah, I knew that what Chick was saying was a possibility, and I have to admit his argument about it being a homegrown problem was kind of convincing.

But not if it meant it was going to put Jess in danger. That was just not gonna happen. And so I brought out my best argument: “Even if we did agree this was a good idea,” I said, quickly adding, “which I am not doing, you said yourself it’s inaccessible. There’s nearly two feet of snow on the ground. How are we even going to get near the place?”

Instead of conceding the truth of my argument, like I’d expected, Chick just grinned at us, crooking a finger to tell us to follow him, as he went off towards the back door.

Jess followed, and I trailed after her with a sinking heart. We went down the hallway into the garage, me getting more worried with every step. Chick’s grin, when he walked over to an object under a tarp, was not reassuring. And when, with a really bad accent, he said, “Viola,” and pulled the tarp back to reveal two shiny new snowmobiles, I could have hit him.

Because he was trying to kill my – publicly acknowledged, even! – girlfriend.

And she was turning around and giving me a big grin because of it, and I just knew that I was going to have to agree to this insanity, and…

God. God. God, Jess, I swear you drove me insane. I’m whipped, or something.

Because why the hell else would I be nodding?
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#28 mychemro*kiss*

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Posted 10 November 2008 - 12:10 AM

*literally BURSTS out laughing*

Oh, my Frank Gerard. You have GOT to be kidding me. THIS is what Rob's thinking this whole time, even ifit isn't really ROb, just your version?

I always wondered. :P

I missed to Updates! and now I have none to read... * sad* So get to it! Quickly before I cry!

Jess the Shocker :blink:

P.S> Along time ago, my username was jessinia, which is my real name, so last Summer when I changed my name, I changed my username. But I've decided that I LIKE my old username, so I'm keeping this account but using my old name.
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#29 ruby_babiiAJ

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Posted 10 November 2008 - 08:01 PM

"I’m whipped, or something."

Hahahaha. THAT one got me laughing. Lol. And the rest of the two updates I missed are awesome too. = D
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#30 ~booknerd~

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 02:29 PM

*New Reader*

I actually don't read many fanfics (I mostly haunt Fiction and Poetry, where my stuff is), for a couple of reasons. First, people usually do stupid things to the characters I love or they don't understand them at all. Second, the writing is not usually that great (no offense to fanfic writers, some are really good).

Neither applies here. You really capture Rob's voice and I love how everything that he does makes sense, even if they're not explained in the actual books. And, of course, your writing is awesome.

Truthfully, this is one of the best fanfics I've ever read.

Anyway, I'll be reading. Keep up the great work!

Emily :icon_flower:

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#31 Princess_Missy

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 07:25 PM

I second that^^
Great update!! Just like Rob!!

Another Update!!!!?

Love Melissa :heartbeat:
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#32 *LaLa giRrrL*

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 01:35 AM

Update?
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#33 cats4ever

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 04:14 PM

Awesome. Like always.

Update?

Alison
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#34 ~booknerd~

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Posted 26 November 2008 - 01:57 PM

*bump*

Emily :icon_flower:

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#35 mychemro*kiss*

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Posted 29 November 2008 - 06:02 AM

Hey, you! WIth the keyboard! Let's get with the typey typey, ey?

Jess the Shocker :blink:
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#36 Jackattack

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 03:15 PM

Jess the Shocker: I have decided to keep referring to you with this name. If you prefer another, lemme know. I might switch. If I feel like it. ;) Oh, your Frank Gerard indeed. :) So glad to have made you laugh. :)
ruby_babiiAJ: Well, I'm very happy to make you laugh, too. :) Thanks.
Emily: Ooh, a new reader! What fun! And you're one that doesn't normally read fanfic (trust me, I'm with ya there with the objections to a lot of it) - that makes the fact that you like my writing/series even better. :) Thanks very much!
Melissa: You seconded?! Thanks. :)
*LaLa giRrrL*: Yes indeedy. Here 'tis.
Alison: Thank you... as always. ;)
Emily (again): bump back... yes, I'm writing!
Jess the Shocker: All right, all right! Geez... *shakes head* :user: There, you happy?

Here we are! By the way, this is a long one, guys, to make up for the long wait. :)

Chapter Seven



Okay. I won’t lie. As angry as I was – why, Chick, why? Why did you have to finally get those snowmobiles this year? – and as certain as I was that Jess was going to be in some way, possibly fatally, injured – about 75 percent sure – when I saw those snowmobiles, well… I wanted on one. Bad.

And yeah, there was a little part of me that, all through the ride up to Jim Henderson’s House of Doom, was hollering, Hell yes! This is awesome!

But, you know, the rest of me was very mad.

And, when we finally pulled up in front of the barbed-wire fence that marked the edge of the True American’s property, and just sat there, engine switched off… the mad part was very much in control, along with his trusty sidekicks annoyed and resigned.

Oh yeah, and I was cold.

What? I’m not whining – it was chilly out there. Late November, up deep in the Indiana woods, sitting in recent snowfall – my bones were freezing. And my fingers. And toes.

Okay, so I don’t really like the cold much. Can you blame me?

“So what are we waiting for, again?” Jess asked from behind me.

I considered growling. I was especially mad at her. But, growling would probably prompt more conversation, so I went for the classic one-word answer instead: “Reinforcements.”

But, of course, everything prompts more conversation from Jess. “Yeah,” she said, “I get that part. But can’t we just, you know, go and wait inside?”

Ha, she was cold too. Well, she deserved it.

“And what are we going to do,” I asked, resigned to the conversation, “if we find Seth?”

“Bust on out of there.” Jess was possibly attempting to sound motivating, but she still just sounded cold.

“Using what as a weapon?”

Jess paused for a moment, thinking… “Our rapier with?”

I rolled my eyes. “Like I said.”

Jess made an annoyed noise, and sort of shuffled around a little bit on the back of the bike. I’m not sure why. I mean, it wasn’t going to make her any warmer. It was just as good to just sit still – like I was doing – mentally fluff up your feathers, and wait it out. Your toes would freeze exactly the same amount, and you would have a lot more energy and be a lot less noticeable than you were if you wiggled all over the place.

It makes no sense to me, anyway.

Actually, you know, a lot of that sort of stuff makes no sense to me. You know, girl stuff. Even Jess does it, so I figure that it’s some sort of requirement for the entire sex. Like going to the bathroom in groups together, or always wanting to talk, or seeming to over-exaggerate some things. I mean, yes, Jess! I get that you’re cold, really I do. But can you stop with the little sighs and shuffles and rubbing your arms and…

Agh.

“Listen,” Jess said suddenly, and I had to resist a melodramatic sigh myself. “Rob, I – ”

“Mastriani,” I interrupted. I just didn’t have the patience for this right now. I just didn’t. “Now now, okay?”

“What?” she asked, sounding all offended. I rolled my eyes again. “I was just going to – ”

“I am not going to tell you,” I informed her firmly.

“Tell me what?”

Exasperated, I burst out into a little speech that apparently took even Jess by surprise, judging by her long pause after I finished: “What I’m on probation for. Okay? You can forget it. Because you’re never getting it out of me. You can drag me out to the middle of nowhere,” I ranted, “on some lunatic mission to stop a murdering white supremacist. You can make me sit for hours in sub-zero temperatures until my fingers feel like they are going to fall off.” – they did – “You can even tell me that you love me. But I am not going to tell you why I got arrested.”

And I won’t tell you, either. Because, Goddamn, that is way too humiliating. If I can’t stop myself from going out with Jess and doing pretty much whatever she asks me to – god, I’m whipped – at least I can keep from being laughed at by her. I can do that much.

As I said before, Jess paused for a long moment, considering this. Then she said, “I didn’t tell you that I loved you because I wanted you to tell me what you’re on probation for. Although I do want to know. I told you that I love you because – ”

She had to stop there, however, because I had spun around and covered her mouth with my hand. “Don’t,” I told her. “Don’t start on that again. Remember what happened last time.”

Yeah, I’d lost all control and pretty much attacked her. But seriously, do you have any idea what that does to me, hearing that Jess is in love with me? I mean… Jesus.

“I liked what happened last time,” Jess told me, not bothering to move my hand out of the way, so it actually sounded more like, “I iked wu app-ed as ime.”

I took my hand away. “Yeah,” I scowled, “Well, so did I.” Did I! “Too much, okay? So just keep your I love yous to yourself, all right, Mastriani?”

Of course, Jess completely ignored me. She does that a lot. “Rob,” she told me, hugging a little closer. “I – ”

Luckily for me, and probably for our safety – I doubt I would be very aware of any sentries or whatever if I was busy eating Jess’s face – we saw (and heard) a figure moving towards us in the trees.

“crap!” I whispered, and snatched up Chick’s flashlight, pointing it at the shape. “Who’s there?”

You would not believe who it illuminated. No, not a True American. Not any sort of reinforcement. Not even Bigfoot, though I think I would have preferred him to the reality, and they might just be distant relatives, considering the man’s freaky seven-and-a-half-foot height (just guessing here).

Yeah, you got it. Krantz.

“crap!” Jess echoed me.

“Shhh,” the devil incarnate hushed her, “Jessica, please!”

“Well, whatever,” Jess grumbled. “What are you doing here?”

As she spoke, I took the time to look him over, raising a skeptical eyebrow. The guy was rolled up in so many layers of gigantic puffy winter clothing, that from a distance, he really could be mistaken for Bigfoot. Well, not really, since it was camouflage color, but you get my meaning. He was way over-prepared. I think I preferred freezing my fingers off to looking that ridiculous.

“I followed you, of course.” Krantz said. Of course. “Is this where they’re holding Seth, Jessica?”

“Would you get out of here?” Jess spoke for both of us. “You’re going to ruin everything. How did you get out here, anyway?”

At that, I frowned and glanced around. She had a point. And it better be something that worked both ways, because he was not getting a ride back from me.

“Never mind about that,” Krantz said, “Really, Jessica, this is just too ridiculous. You shouldn’t be here. You’re going to get hurt.”

It’s a mark of how much the man annoys me, that as soon as I heard him say that, I was filled with the urge to snap, “No she won’t!” even though that was exactly what I’d just been thinking.

I’m going to get hurt?” Jess laughed. Not happy laughter, though. She sounded kind of bitter. Hmm. “Sorry, Doc, but I think you got it backward. So far the only person who’s got hurt is one of yours.”

“And Nate Thompkins,” Krantz added. “Don’t forget him.”

Jess looked briefly upset – or, more upset, anyway – and I once again cursed the scarecrow’s lack of tact.

“Nobody’s forgetting about Nate,” she whispered fiercely. “We’re just going to take care of this in our own way, all right? Now get out of here, before you mess everything up.”

“Jessica,” Krantz said. “Rob.” He didn’t even look at me, but I suppose the fact that he acknowledged my presence at all was progress, even if he did it in the middle of the conversation. “I really must object. If Seth Blumenthal is being harbored on this property, you are under and obligation to report it, then stand back and allow the appropriate law enforcement agents to do their – ”

“Oh, bite me,” Jess interrupted, instantly gaining my everlasting respect and admiration.

“I b-beg your pardon,” Krantz stammered, obviously shocked.

“You heard me,” Jess told him. “You and the appropriate law enforcement agents don’t have the slightest clue what you’re dealing with here, okay?”

She was my new hero, all right.

“Oh,” Krantz said, “And I suppose you do.” He really couldn’t pull sarcastic off like me. But I gave him points for effort.

“Better than you,” Jess asserted. “At least we’ve got a chance of infiltrating them from the inside, instead of going in there blasting away, and possibly getting Seth killed in the crossfire.”

“Infiltration?” Krantz exclaimed in tones of horror. “What are you talking about? You can’t possibly think you have a better chance at – ”

“Oh, yeah?” Jess asked. “What number comes after nine?”

I could have laughed out loud. She was giving him the Grit test. Krantz, getting the Grit test.

You see, the Grit test is this thing that some of the Townies in high school do, asking their victim two seemingly simple questions. If you get them right, you’re a Townie, no problem. But if you answer them with the more pronounced Southern accent that most of Grits have, then you’re mocked and shunned. It’s a favorite of the Ernie Pyle cheerleaders. I had never heard Jess give it to someone before, of course. She treats us all the same – but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t aware of it, and to hear her using it on Krantz was, quite simply, hilarious.

Maybe it would have bothered me, but, you know, Krantz was going to be confused (always a plus), and anyway Jess had never done it herself, so it wasn’t really a big deal. I’d never really gotten the Grit test myself, being kind of scary to most of the Townies who regularly did it, so it wasn’t like it brought back any traumatic memories or anything, either.

“What?” Krantz asked, “What does that have to do with – ”

“Just answer the question, Dr. Krantz,” Jess told him firmly. “What number comes after nine?”

“Why, ten, of course.”

“Wrong. What are Coke cans made out of?”

Krantz was shaking his head in confusion. “Aluminum, of course. Jessica, I – ”

“Wrong again,” Jess told him. “The answer to both questions, Dr. Krantz, is tin. I’ve just administered a Grit test, and you failed miserably. There is no way you’re going to be able to pass for a local. Now get out of here, before you ruin it for the rest of us.”

Krantz was horrified, and probably a little embarrassed, and for some reason – I have no idea what – he turned to me for help. Maybe he considered me the voice of reason. Then again, it could have just been that I was the only other person there. “This is ridiculous,” he said. “Rob, surely you – ”

However, I never let him finish his sentence. All the time Jess and he had been talking, I’d been keeping an eye out, and now it paid off. I saw a faint light coming towards us, from around Jim Henderson’s house.

“Bogey,” I said, “at twelve o’clock. Krantz, if you don’t get the hell out of sight, you’re gonna find yourself with a belly full of buckshot.”

Proving himself utterly useless (knew it), Krantz just stood there nervously, looking around. “W-what? What are you – ”

Before he could finish his sentence, I’d leapt off the snowmobile and shoved him back into the trees. He made a muffled flump! as he landed in the snow on his back, but before I could grab Jess and follow, the light I’d seen – a lantern, as it turns out – came closer, enough that we could see a large guy wearing a red-plaid jacket, holding it and a rifle, and accompanied by a huge dog.

The dog saw us first, and started barking and running over to us. Luckily, the guard yelled, “Chigger! Down!” before he leapt the fence.

In between thinking, Oh crap, oh crap, over and over, I took a moment to consider the name he had chosen for his dog. Chigger, seriously? He named his gigantic guard dog – which I could now see was a German Shepard – after a little mite? Even worse, one of those little mites that live under your skin and make it all itchy and blistery? I mean, that seemed to be downplaying the whole ‘menacing’ factor, there.

I dunno. Maybe it’s just me. After all, Chigger is an original name, unlike Fang or Patches (I repeat: seven years old!) or something. But it just didn’t strike any fear into my heart. Actually, it made me want to chuckle a little.

I didn’t, though, because the next thing I saw, the guy was putting down his lantern and pulling something out of his pocket, most likely another gun. And that brought the Oh crap right back.

“Hey,” I said, my hands in the air, and eyeing Chigger. Scary name or no, he was a really big dog. “Hey, don’t shoot. We don’t mean any harm. We just want to talk to Jim.”

But instead of a gun, the man pulled a Walkie-Talkie out of his pocket and spoke into it. “Blue Leader, this is Red Leader. We got intruders over by the south fence. Repeat. Intruders by the south fence.”

“We aren’t intruders,” Jess said indignantly, and then seemed to remember our cover, going, “I mean, we ain’t intruders. We want to join you. We want to be True Americans, too.”

See, the plan was that we would go on up ahead, while Chick gathered up a whole bunch of guys to follow us and hide around the compound. Then, we would get ‘captured’ and pretend to want to join up with Jim, and once we found Seth, we would scram, and all the people hiding around would help us out and stop anyone trying to shoot holes in us.

Not the best plan, I know, but – well, actually, I’m not defending it. I disapprove too.

Red Leader never answered Jess, instead listening to Blue Leader, who, with a burst of static, replied, “Copy that, Red Leader. Tag and transport. Repeat, tag and transport.”

Which basically translates to: get them on in here, and then we can decide if we want to kill them or not.

Well, at least we were in. Sort of. If we could stop them from shooting us.

Red Leader stuck his Walkie-Talkie back in his pocket, then pointed his rifle at us and beckoned us in. “Git on over here,” he grunted.

It really wasn’t too much fun climbing that fence. I mean, I’ve done it before, but never with a gun pointed at me and a hungry German Shepard just waiting for the go-word. And, you know, it was barbed wire, and that makes everything more difficult.

Still, I made it up without too much trouble, and then held most of the barbed wire down for Jess. She still ripped her jeans on it a little, but we made it into Jim’s mostly unscathed.

“Git on, then,” Red Leader said, waving his rifle in the direction that we were supposed to go.

I hesitated, glancing back over the fence. “What about our ride? Is it safe to leave it there?”

I wasn’t, of course, asking this merely out of fear for the ride. If that had been my only concern, I would have done it before I climbed the fence. No, I was asking mainly to find out if Red Leader and Chigger had realized that there was a third person there. Much to my relief, though, it seemed that my throwing Krantz into the snow (that had been a fun moment, right there) had done an adequate job hiding him from view, too, because Red Leader, instead of mentioning (or shooting at) him, just laughed and spit tobacco juice out into the snow.

“Safe from what?” he asked, “The coons? Or the possums?”

Thus relieved that the guy I hated was safe – see, I really am a good guy – I was ready to get going. So when Red Leader again jerked his gun and told us to “Move,” Jess and I did so.

And did so. And did so. It was really a long walk to the house, hampered by the snow, and made even more uncomfortable by the rifle at our backs. Oh yeah, and knowing that Jess and I were stuck up here, without any backup.

And it was still cold.

Still, eventually we reached the buildings – just a ranch-house, a barn, and a couple trailers – and Red Leader led us to the big barn, flinging the door wide, and revealing the True American HQ to us.

I was actually a little impressed. Well, not that I thought any of it was good or anything, but you know, it wasn’t as badly run as I’d expected. At first glance.

Yeah, at first glance things looked kind of organized, what with the long tables and all the men (mostly blond) sitting there, eating dinner, with their huge DON’T TREAD ON ME flag hanging behind them, women and children serving them food.

Of course, they were all pretty dirty, and didn’t exactly possess the best table manners. And they weren’t really dressed nicely, either. And the women were all wearing pretty stupid dresses, the kind that I’d seen on a couple of girls who belonged to some local religious sect. I’m not really sure what they worshiped, but apparently it involved snakes and not wearing jeans. And all the kids looked pretty dull, kind of just hanging around and picking their noses, not even noticing us.

Actually, on second thought, it looked more like some twisted family reunion than a military headquarters. Well, except for the guns.

“Jimmy,” Red Leader said to a man who I presumed was Jim Henderson. Yeah, I’d never actually seen him before. And it was kind of amusing to do so, actually, since he was about a foot shorter than me, and kind of greasy-looking. Definitely not great military campaign leader potential, no matter what the numbskulls around us thought. “These’re the kids we found sneakin’ around by the south fence.”

Jim seemed very annoyed by this, maybe because it interrupted him right as he was about to take a bite of some pretty decent-looking chicken. “What the hell you want?” he snapped at us.

I probably should have said something there, but I was just a little bit too shocked. Jim Henderson’s voice was pretty damn loud, sort of like those tiny dogs whose barks are so incredibly deep and loud, like they belong to something three times their size. It was a little stunning. Plus, there was this whole situation – it was just so weird. It kind of rendered me speechless for the moment. So Jess stepped in and spoke for me.

“Gee, Mr. Henderson, it’s a real honor to meet you. Me and Hank here, well, we just been admirers of yours for so long.”

Great. So now I had to pretend to be Wendell. Oh, joy.

Henderson sucked at the chicken on his fingers, raising his eyebrows. “That so?”

“Yes,” Jess nodded, “And when we saw what ya’ll did to that, um, Jew church, we decided we had to come up and offer our, um, congratulations. Hank and me, we think we’d make real good True Americans, because we both hate blacks and Jews, and stuff.”

Oh, god. I tried not to wince. But I was still too busy trying to figure out what I would say, so I just ignored the shocked silence that had descended into the barn, and hoped that Jess would answer Henderson’s next question better.

“Why?”

Jess took a deep breath. “Well, you should take us because Hank here, he is really good with his hands. He’s a mechanic, you know, and he can fix just about anything. So if you ever got a tank, or whatever, and it broke down, well, Hank’d be your man. And me, well, I may not look like it, but I’m pretty swift on my feet. In a fight, you wouldn’t want me on your bad side, let me tell you.”

OK, Jess hadn’t done too badly there. Sort of. Maybe.

“That ain’t what I mean,” Jim said in a bored voice, chewing on a little piece of chicken. “I mean, why do you hate the blacks and Jews?”

…crap.

With that question, I knew Jess would fail Henderson’s little test miserably, and she did not disappoint.

“Oh.” First of all, she obviously hadn’t been expecting it, which meant she wasn’t prepared, which meant that all that followed was just pulled out of the air. “Because as everyone knows,” Jess said, “the Jews, they made us that Holocaust thing, you know, so they could get their hands on Israel. And black people, well, they’re taking away all our jobs.”

And just like that, Jess was out. Jim Henderson looked away from her, clearly dismissing her, and his eyes landed on me, along with the rest of the room’s. “What about you?” he asked me. “Or do you let your woman do your talking for you?”

All the True Americans had a good chuckle over that, even the women, sexist idiots that the whole bunch were, but it was obvious that I had to choose my words carefully, if I wanted to keep us from being shot. Jess had already killed all her credibility. It was up to me to convince them that we were exactly like them.

I can just thank God that by then, I’d had enough time to figure out what to say, drawing heavily from public access cable TV. And, of course, their own attitudes. “To be white,” I told Jim Henderson, “is an honor and a privilege. It is time that all white men and women join together to protect this bond they share by their blood and faith. The responsibility of every American is to protect the welfare of ourselves – not those in Mexico, Vietnam, Afghanistan, or some other third-world country. It is time to take America back from drug-addicted welfare recipients living in large urban areas…”

I paused dramatically to take a breath and glance around. Shockingly enough, Jim & Co. seemed to be lapping this up. “It’s time,” I continued, “to protect our borders from illegal aliens, and stop the insidious repeal of miscegenation laws and statutes. We need to do away with affirmative action and same-sex marriages. We need to prevent American industry from slipping into the hands of the Japanese, Arabs, and Jews. America should be owned by Americans – ”

At this, one of the tables started clapping and cheering, followed by others, and the silence surrounding my words was broken. Obviously, the majority of them approved of me – but I couldn’t relax yet. As Jim climbed to his feet, the crowd fell silent, and I knew that if he decided to, they wouldn’t hesitate in shooting me, no matter what I’d just said.

He stared at me for a long, tense moment, then dramatically pointed a finger at me. “Get… that… boy… some… chicken!”

The cheering began anew as a woman shoved a plate full of the fried bird at me. I took it awkwardly, with a ‘shy’ smile, trying not to wrinkle my nose at the smell. I hate fried chicken.

Jess, standing next to me, asked out of the side of her mouth, “Where’d you come up with that horse crap?”

I answered the same way. “Public access cable. Would you get this chicken away from me before I barf?”

She whisked it away, just as I was surrounded by a whole bunch of pleased True Americans, welcoming me into their midst.

Not long after, Jess was yanked away by some lady with a kerchief on her head, and I was left alone.

Alone, in a group of fifty or so racist, xenophobic, dirty white supremacists, who kept offering me tobacco and chicken, and who thought that I was one of them, but who, I knew, would turn on me in an instant if I said the wrong thing.

I had a feeling that Mom expected my night to be going a little differently.
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#37 Jackattack

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 10:27 PM

Well... No one's commented yet... here. But on FFN, it's a different story, and so I give you chapter 8.

This chapter is dedicated to FoggyMoon (on FFN), who: a] was my very first reviewer (and I'm talking about when I first posted TGILWSBL, here), b] has stuck around ever since, c] has reviewed EVERY SINGLE chapter excepting one - which was posted about an hour before the one after it, so that doesn't really count, d] wrote me THE BEST REVIEW EVER for the last chapter I just posted, and finally, e] inspired me to continue on and write this as soon as I read said review.

So seriously, go FoggyMoon!

Oh, warning - not so many cute moments here... Sorry. But it just wasn't a very cute scene. *shrugs*

Chapter Eight


So, eating dinner with the True Americans was… well. Harrowing is a good word. A harrowing experience. Apparently, after my big entry speech, I was accepted into the group right away, they were so impressed. The downside of this was that I was everybody’s favorite new best friend, especially Jim Henderson’s. He sat me down next to him, and then the next half-hour or so basically consisted of me being as non-politically correct as I was able, and pretty much directly opposing my own views on every single issue we discussed.

I actually envied Jess a little, when I saw her come by, looking rather sulky and serving potatoes, but then they were looking at me again, waiting for my opinion – or, Hank’s opinion, anyway.

I’m not going to lie to you. It was pretty bad. From just the smell of a) the chicken, B) the people, and c) the barn itself, I was feeling a little ill, and that’s not even factoring in the subject matters we were discussing, or the opinions we were expressing. It was pretty much horrible. I did not enjoy it, not one bit. In fact, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

But Hank loved it. Hank, their newest recruit, was one of the most vehement assholes there, and even Henderson was obviously very impressed by him. I was, despite feeling pretty sickened, rather proud of myself. I had no idea that I’d had such acting talent.

In fact, I was actually starting to relax, when they brought Seth in.

I had no idea what prompted it; maybe it was something I’d said that was just slightly out of whack, or maybe they still hadn’t forgotten Jess’s terrible failure earlier – or maybe this was just routine procedure for them, I don’t know. But about a half an hour after I’d first been offered Jim’s chicken, the guy, Red Leader, who had brought us in, came into the room with his rifle pressed into a little kid’s neck.

The room instantly went quiet, everyone turning to look at the two. Red Leader forced the kid – obviously Seth – forward, right up in front of Jim Henderson and me. The only sound in the room was Seth’s sobs – until Jim stood and spoke up, his too-loud voice filling the room.

“Americans,” he began, and pretty much instantly, everyone turned adoring faces up at him. It was a little creepy, really. They all had this sort of glazed look, and were just gazing at him like he was the only thing on earth.

“We’ve made some fine new friends tonight,” Jim said, slapping a hand down on my shoulder. I tried to look proud, rather than disgusted. “And I for one am grateful. Grateful that Hank and Ginger found their way to our little flock.”

I saw Jess glancing around as if confused, and then the moment she realized, when about half the room turned to look at her, that she was Ginger. Her eyes widened, and she shot a dark glower at me.

Ha. Serves her right. How many times had she given me stupid fake names? Although, actually, I hadn’t picked the name Ginger to annoy her. I’d just remembered that she had called herself that, over the summer, when we were pretending to be those two kids from Central Chicago High, or whatever it was. She’d liked the name then, God knows why. Apparently, though, in the months that had passed, she’d changed her mind.

Oops.

“But however impressed we might be by Hank and Ginger’s professed dedication to our cause,” Henderson said, my heart sinking with every word and muffled sob of Seth’s, “there’s really only one way to test the loyalty of a true American, isn’t there?”

Everyone around us muttered affirmative noises. I swallowed. For some reason, it sounded really loud – but not as loud as Seth’s continued tears, which everyone else was just ignoring.

“Hank,” Jim said, turning to me with – my stomach clenched – a benevolent, almost fatherly smile. “You see before you a boy. Seemingly innocent enough looking, I know. But innocence, as we all know, can be deceiving. The devil sometimes tries to fool us into believing in the innocence of an individual, when in fact that individual is laden with sin. In this case, this boy is soaked in sin. Because he is, in fact, a Jew.”

Jim paused dramatically for a moment, then continued. “Hank,” he said again, “Because you’ve already, in the short time I’ve known you, so thoroughly impressed me with your sincerity and commitment to the cause, I am going to allow you a great privilege I’ve heretofore denied both myself and other men. Hank, I am going to let you kill a Jew.”

Somehow, even though I had been expecting something like this, just hearing that spoken aloud shocked me. I stared at him. At the knife in his hand, that he’d just pulled from his boot and was offering to me with a smile. At the tears on Seth’s cheeks. At Jess, standing in the corner, face utterly blank and dead.

And then, just like that, I snapped out of it. I’m not going to lie, and say that suddenly I knew what to do, nor am I going to be a complete sissy and say that it was Jess that inspired me. Except… she sort of did. Not really. But I just couldn’t bear to see that look on her face, and that was what snapped me out of my daze and made me realize that I had to do something.

“Well,” Jim said, “Go on. Take my knife. Really. It’s okay. He’s just a Jew.”

I turned my head fractionally to look him in the eyes, and I was completely disgusted by what I saw there.

It wasn’t hatred, or disgust, or even mistrust. No, it was the exact opposite, and that was what made it so horrible. Jim Henderson was looking at me – no, at Hank – and he trusted him. He honestly believed that I – that Hank – was going to pick up that knife and kill Seth Blumenthal, right then and there. He probably thought that the only reason I was hesitating was because he was a innocent-looking little kid – which was why he’d ‘reassured’ Hank. I could see it all in his eyes.

And, honestly, that’s what sealed the deal for me. Knowing that a guy like that thought that I was so much like him that he expected me to kill someone just because they were Jewish – even though, for the sakes of our cover, it meant I’d done a great job, there was something just so personal about it. Far too personal. It made me mad, that he believed that of me. That he could, even if I was just acting. It made me really, really mad.

So I reached out and picked up the knife.

“Thataboy,” Henderson smiled triumphantly at me. “Now go ahead. Show us you are a true believer. Stick it to the pig.”

I nodded. And then – well, then I did the only thing I could do.

I reached out, threw an arm around Jim’s neck, put the knife up to his jugular vein, and said, “Anybody moves, and Jimbo here gets it.”

Shock. That was all there was, on everybody’s faces, even Seth’s – who obviously hadn’t known that I was one of the good guys. Everyone’s, but Jess. She beamed approval at me, as she walked forward and slipped the rifle out of Red Leader’s hands. “Thanks,” she grinned, “I’ll take that.”

“Okay,” I said, trying to sound a lot more confident than I really felt. “Okay, now. Everybody just stay very calm, and no one is going to get hurt.” Really. No one was. At least not by knife. I might be mad, but that didn’t mean that I was willing to be the cause of a whole bunch of bloodshed. Hell, no. My aversion to blood itself was enough to prevent that unless absolutely necessary. Plus, Jim was our bargaining chip. We were dead without him.

“Me and the girl and the kid and Jimbo here are going to take a little walk. And if any of you want to see your fearless leader” – this was obviously sarcasm, as one look at Jim’s face showed fear aplenty, so much that his face had gone deathly white – “live through this, you’re going to let us go. Okay?”

I waited, and when no one said anything to the contrary, I nodded. “Good. Jess. Seth. Let’s go.”

And then… we left. Just like that.

Okay, so maybe not. Jess led the way, rifle held threateningly in the air, with the big dog Chigger by her side – not sure how she’d accomplished that, but I figured that any ally was a plus – and Seth followed her, and Jim and I brought up the rear, walking down the whole length of the barn at a very slow, awkward pace, Jim yelling all the way.

Oh, yeah, he was yelling. And it was actually very annoying, because his voice – which I was convinced sounded like he had a microphone under his shirt or something, it was that loud – was right under my chin, going: “You may think you’re gonna get away with this, but I’ll tell you what. The people are gonna rise up. The people are gonna rise up and walk the path of righteousness. And traitors like you, boy – traitors to your own race – are going to burn in hellfire for all eternity – ”

I interrupted him here, annoyed. “Would you,” I asked, “shut up?”

And he did. It was somewhat surprising. Very pleasing, of course. So pleasing, in fact, that I made a very stupid mistake for just one second: I relaxed.

Really, I’d been much too cocky this whole time, too confident. I had been sure that the people wouldn’t rise up, to use Jimbo’s words. But, up until that instant, I had been careful. I’d been on the lookout, just in case. Just in case they did. After all, they outnumbered us, about sixteen to one – and that was counting Seth.

But right in that moment, when Jim Henderson finally shut his trap, I relaxed – and I paid for it.

The next thing I was aware of was something hard and heavy colliding with my head. As I fell to the ground, surrounded by little shards of glass, I dimly recognized the woman who’d dragged Jess off earlier, standing above me.

And then the pain in my head became too much, and everything went black.
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#38 kop

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 05:49 PM

You updated! loved it!
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#39 ~booknerd~

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 06:30 PM

Woot, updates!

Haha, I always wondered about this part from Rob's point of view. It's interesting to see what he's thinking... or at least, what you think he's thinking.

I love the snowmobile scene, too--it's one of my favorites in this book. :D

Emily :icon_flower:

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#40 cats4ever

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 08:01 PM

This is one of the parts that I like. In a least Rob's. Always so sarcastic, and funny. Which is anyway, like Jacob. (Have I mentioned that already?) Your update(s) were awesome. :happy11:


UPDATE!! :mgbumblebee: (SOON??!?!?) Have a nice Thanksgiving? (If you celebrate Thanksgiving that is...) Rob told Jess that he 'technically' loves her!!! Yay. Update and like now. :P

Alison :P
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#41 Princess_Missy

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 03:18 AM

Woohoo!!!
I loved both of them!! I love hearing the books from Rob's POV.
It makes things so interesting, and you write him perfectly. *Squeals a really girly squeal* I love Rob!!!

UPDATE NOW!!!!!

Love Melissa :heartbeat:
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#42 *LaLa giRrrL*

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 06:33 PM

i'm so greedy, i want another update NOW! haha
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#43 Jackattack

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 01:01 AM

Hey everybody! I'm back! And with the last chapter! That's right, the last one. Once I start on Missing You, I'm going to post the link to it here, but until then, be warned. This is the last you'll see of me for a little while!

Don't forget to get your last votes in for the next story's title! Voting will close once I start writing.

...And now on to responses:

Koko: Thanks! Hope you love this one, too. :)
Emily: Hee, yeah. I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes, snowmobiles. Sigh. Lucky Rob - and especially lucky Jess. ;)
Alison: Aw, thanks. Yes, you have. :) Thanks! I did have a great Thanksgiving, actually. Here's your update. :)
Melissa: :lol: You made me laugh. :) Thanks, I do too.
*LaLa giRrrL*: :lol: Here you go! :D

Enjoy, everybody!

Chapter Nine



I woke up with the headache to end all headaches… okay, so it really wasn’t that bad. It had certainly worn off a little, which made sense, seeing as I woke up in the hospital, a day later.

Yeah, that’s right. Some lady clonked me on the head with a mixing bowl and I missed out on all the action. I’m tough, all right.

When my eyes opened, my mom was right there, smiling at me. “Rob, honey,” she said lovingly, “if you ever get yourself landed in a hospital again because you lied to me, your head is going to be the least of your worries.”

All in the same sweet, ‘oh, yay, you’re awake’ tone of voice. My mother is a strange, scary woman.

“Hi Mom,” I grinned, and she relaxed a little, coming over and grabbing my hand.

“How are you, Rob, does your head hurt?”

“Nah,” I shook it, ignoring the faint twinge. I’m tough, dammit! I might get taken out by some farmwife, but I am not going to complain about my head hurting.

Mom eyed me. “Uh-huh. Should I call a nurse, or is it passing?”

Stupid motherly abilities to see right through me. I hereby curse them. “Nah,” I said again, honestly this time, “I’m okay. Mom, is Jess – ”

Mom smiled at me. “Jess is fine, Rob. She was right here when you started to wake up. She’ll be back in a minute.”

I raised my eyebrows, confused. Not that I think Jess is too insensitive to give me some time alone with my family – it’s just, well…

I cleared my throat, and asked Mom to pass me some water.

We were joined not too long after by both of my uncles, and Gary, which was an interesting experience. For one thing, it was my first time seeing Gary since my ‘talk’ with my mom about how I was acting towards him, and so I was trying to uphold my promise and be nicer to him – but I did have a headache, and besides, my uncles were there. And they were my mom’s brothers, and were having a very amusing game of ‘subtly/not so subtly (depending on the uncle) tease/test/mock Gary’. It was hard not to join in.

Of course, then they got bored with it – or, actually, Mom’s death glares probably got to them – and they decided to mock me instead, going for my biggest weak spot, mocking-wise: Jess.

They hadn’t even asked how I was doing. Seriously, shame on them both. They’re grown men!

…God, I love my family.

Then my mom caught my attention, saying, “Oh. Here she is!”

I looked up and saw Jess by the door. I couldn’t help smiling at her immediately. “Hi,” she said, walking closer to my bed.

I looked her up and down, just making sure that she wasn’t hurt. Really. Not checking out her skirt, or anything. Just checking to make sure if she was okay. I mean, she looked, uh – more than okay, but you never know.

“Well,” Randy said, “What say we check out this cafeteria I’ve heard so much about, eh, Mary?”

Yeah, he’s the non-subtle one. He’s also the one who decided to get married on Christmas Eve, and make me get the Icy Glare of Doom from my girlfriend. And get fitted for a tux.

At the mall.

I’m just a little peeved at Randy right now.

“Oh,” Mom said, not very subtly herself, “yes, lets.” Then she gathered up Gary and Randy and Earl – who shot me a wink – and left the room, closing the door with a definite click behind them.

Well, they’d practically told me to kiss her! So, you know, I was perfectly within my rights to do so. For a long time.

…A really long time.

Look, I was just glad she wasn’t dead, okay? And the skirt didn’t help.

“Rob,” Jess said eventually, lifting her head from my shoulder, where she’d been laying it after we stopped kissing for a breather, “I have to tell you something.”

Well, crap. That sentence is one of the most dreaded for any human male to hear, coming in close after, We have to talk. I decided to just cut her off at the pass, so to speak.

“I didn’t ask you,” I told her, “because I didn’t want you getting in trouble with your parents.”

Jess blinked at me for a moment. “What are you talking about?”

I shrugged. “Randy’s wedding.” Duh. Annoying ‘romantic’ uncle, making problems for the rest of us. “It’s on Christmas Eve. No way are your parents going to let you go out on Christmas Eve. So you’d just have ended up lying to them, and getting in trouble, and I don’t want that.”

Ouch. Personal.

But did Jess care? Oh no. Here I’d just bared my – well, not my soul, but at least my reasoning, and all she did was roll her eyes and say, “Rob. Get over yourself. That’s not what I was going to say.”

Just when you think you know a person… I couldn’t think of what else she’d been going to say. Something about my probation again? I’d been hoping that my little speech up in the woods would have put her off that topic of discussion, at least for a little while.

“It wasn’t?” I asked, “Then what?”

“Besides,” Jess shook her head. “My parents would so totally let me go out on Christmas Eve. We don’t do anything on Christmas Eve. It’s Christmas Day that we do church and present opening and a big meal and everything.”

While an interesting look into the inner workings of Jess’s family's holiday traditions, that wasn’t really the point at the moment. “Fine,” I said, beginning to feel a little irritable. I blame the head wound. “But don’t tell me that you’d tell them the truth. About being with me, I mean. Admit it, Mastriani. You’re ashamed of me. Because I’m a Grit.”

Holy hell, where had that come from? I mean, I know where it came from, but why did I say it? I mean, directly like that! It was a very stupid thing to say. Plus now I felt kind of vulnerable. And, you know, that was basically another way of admitting that I – almost – loved Jess back. And what with the way she somehow managed to garner my mom’s seal of approval and scrapes up dates with me without me even doing anything, or tells me that she loves me to keep me from breaking up with her – well, I just knew that she would instantly figure out all second, third, and even fourth levels of meaning in that statement, all conveniently interpreted as declarations of my feelings.

But for once, Jess didn’t do anything of the sort. Instead, she glared right back at me, and countered my accusation with one of her own. “That is not true,” she said fiercely, “You’re the one who’s ashamed of me! Because I’m a Townie. And still in high school.”

I gaped at her. I mean, well, that was just ridiculous. Me, ashamed of her? Because she was a Townie? Had she even heard what I’d just said?

No Grit would ever be ashamed of dating a Townie. It just doesn’t work that way. They get ashamed of us. Sure, I might have acted a little weird, a little bit ashamed, when I first brought her down to Chick’s, or something, and maybe some of the other guys gave me the whole are-you-crazy-she’s-a-Townie speech, but we never really meant it. If anything, it was more defensive; a defensive mechanism against the usual Townie taunts and snobbery. But, deep down, all of us – even, to some extent, me, I’m ashamed to admit – would be proud to go out with a Townie. It’s like a bragging rights.

It’s sick. I know that. Just another example of how messed up this town is, screwing with our brains like that. Especially when any Townie that would ever go out with a Grit (minus Jess) would probably just be ‘slumming’, anyway. And yet, it was something we would get proud about. Because it meant that someone had looked past the prejudice for a little bit. Looked past it, and seen that really, us Grits aren’t so bad. Not so unsophisticated, not so criminal, not so stupid.

Well, okay, there are exceptions (cough-Hank Wendell-cough).

But the point still stands. We’d be proud of that, no matter what we said. And if we weren’t proud because the Townie saw us for who we really were, then we’d be proud that, despite all they said, the assholes were still attracted to us. It was like a revenge. You know, ‘you might cross the street when I’m walking up it towards you, but you still like to watch me in gym class’ or whatever. Although, now, it would be more, ‘fixing your car’ than ‘in gym class’. But that’s not the point.

The point is, somehow Jess had completely misinterpreted the situation. Somehow, she’d gotten our roles mixed up, and thought that I was ashamed of her, and I had no idea why.

I mean, really. Who had brought her to Chicks, introduced her to his friends? Had her over for Thanksgiving dinner with his mom? Held conversations with her in his workplace, in full view of all his co-workers and his boss? Me. As opposed to her, never introducing me to her parents; any of her family, actually. And The *%^## only knew me because of the psychic thing and her stupid brother, Skip. And, of course, let’s not forget that Jess had taken a picture on Santa’s lap, in the mall, in full view of tons of people who would never let her forget it, just to avoid her mother possibly recognizing me.

And I was ashamed of her?

Still… she sort of had a point. Just not with the Grit/Townie thing. But, the age issue… well, it was a little embarrassing. Especially since I could get in some big trouble for it, even though it was kind of stupid. I mean, we were only two years apart. But in high school, and probably the next few years after that, someone being just two years older (or younger) than you can make a world of difference.

So… “I will admit,” I admitted to Jess, “that the fact that you’re still in high school kind of sucks. I mean, it is a little weird for a guy my age to be going out with a sixteen-year-old.”

Jess looked disgusted. “You’re only two years older than me, nimrod.”

Hey!

I couldn’t really take offense at the whole ‘two years’ thing, seeing as I had just been thinking how stupid that was myself, but I could certainly contest ‘nimrod’. And I did.

“Whatever,” I said, moving my arms to massage her shoulders. “Look. Do we have to talk about this now? Because in case you didn’t notice, I’ve suffered a head injury, and calling me a nimrod is not making me feel any better.”

Of course, I said this (and started the shoulder-massaging thing) with the goal of resuming certain activities that did make me feel better, on mind. Not that I need to guilt Jess into kissing me. It was just fun.

Well, it would have been, had she fallen for it. But she didn’t. Of course, it did make her guilty, but instead kissing me again, she just bit her lip. “Well… What I’m about to say probably isn’t going to make you feel better.”

Great. “What?” I asked cautiously. By this point, I’d just given up entirely on trying to figure out what she wanted to talk about beforehand.

Which was probably a good thing, because I’d never have expected what she said next.

“Your dad.” Jess looked very guilty. “I saw a picture of him in your mom’s room, and I know where he is.”

Well. Crap. Guess the game was up. I mean, now that Jess knew – I mean… Well.

This sucked.

“Oh,” was all I said, but it prompted her to start babbling nervously.

“I didn’t mean to pry, really.” Jess assured me – and for once, can you believe I actually believed her? I’m serious, I did. “I mean, I totally didn’t do it on purpose. It’s just, like I said, I saw his picture, and that night I dreamed about where he is. And I will totally tell you, if you want to know. But if you don’t, that’s fine, too, I will never say another word about it.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little. I mean, I don’t know why Jess assumed I wouldn’t know – but her anxiousness over it was kind of cute.

Okay, fine, I find my girlfriend cute sometimes. What’re you gonna do, strip me of my ‘manly’ license? I’m still a mechanic who drives a motorcycle.

“Mastriani,” I told her, “I know where he is.”

Jess’s mouth dropped right open, and she gaped at me. “You know? You know where he is?”

“Doing ten to twenty at the Oklahoma Men’s State Penitentiary for armed robbery,” I said, nodding. “Real swell guy, huh? And I’m just a chip off the old block. I bet you’re real eager to introduce me to your parents now.”

Well, I hadn’t meant to sound so bitter about it, but whatever. It was how I felt. And, you know, that might’ve been why Jess was so worried about me meeting her mom at the mall. That would have been after she’d had the dream, assuming that she’d seen a photo of my dad during Thanksgiving dinner, which was the only logical time she could have.

“But that’s not what you’re on probation for,” Jess said, very fast. I was a little touched that she was so sure, since she really had no reason to be. “I mean, something like armed robbery. You don’t get probation for stuff like that, they lock you up. So whatever you did – ”

“Whatever I did,” I interrupted her, suddenly feeling not so amused. I don’t particularly like talking about my dad, and the probation thing was way old by now, “was a mistake and isn’t going to happen again.”

I let go of her arms and crossed my hands behind my head, avoiding Jess’s eyes. This whole conversation was really striking a little too close to home.

“Rob,” I heard Jess say, “You don’t think I care, do you? I mean, about your dad? We can’t help who our relatives are. I mean, if I don’t care that you were arrested once, why would I care about – ”

And it was right about there that I snapped. I don’t know what it was that prompted it. Maybe it was the whole conversation leading up to it, or the fact that I was currently lying in a bed wearing only a hospital gown, or that I was still annoyed by having been knocked out by the bigot Betty Crocker and lay unconscious while Jess was left alone in a barnful of her friends, or something else entirely, but I just snapped.

“You should care,” I told Jess, “Okay, Mastriani? You should care. And you should be going out on Saturday nights to dances, like a normal girl, not sneaking into secret militia enclaves and risking your life to stop psychopathic killers…”

Following this outburst, I kind of sank back into the pillows, a little exhausted. But Jess didn’t care. I had made Jess angry.

“Yeah?” she asked, “Well, guess what? I’m not a normal girl, am I? I’m about as far from normal as you can get, and you know what? I happen to like who I am. So if you don’t, well, you can just – ”

I stopped her there, pulling my arms out from behind my head and grabbing her arms again, because, well, she had a pretty good point. I mean, that had always been what I liked about Jess, after all. That she wasn’t normal. “Mastriani.”

“I mean it, Rob,” Jess snapped, struggling to get free. “I mean it, if you don’t like me, you can just go to – ”

“Mastriani,” I said again, and this time I dragged her face down close to mine, to get her attention. And also to prepare for what I was about to do next. Because I kind of lost all intelligent, and not head-over-heels-for-Jess, brain matter at some point. Which was why I then told her, “That’s the problem. I like you too much.”

And then, I pulled her down the last inch or so, until we could resume the highly pleasurable, less-thought-involved activities of before.

Yeah, that I’m definitely blaming on the head wound.

Jess pulled away from me suddenly not long after, though, when we heard the door open, and a shocked female voice go, “Oh! Excuse me!

Jess, after scooting off me and standing up, smiled at them casually. “Oh, hey, Douglas. Hey, Tasha.”

I, on the other hand, hadn’t really recovered from the kissing session yet, so my “Hey,” was a little bit weak. Which kind of sucked, since I knew Douglas was her eldest brother, and I probably wasn’t making such a great impression.

“Hey,” the girl next to him said, catching my attention. I’d never seen her before, but it was easy to guess who she was. The Thompkinses were the only African-American family here, after all, and Nate’s shy sister Tasha was briefly mentioned in the article in the paper about his death. I wondered what she was doing here with Doug – yeah, I know I don’t know the guy, but saying the full name Douglas just doesn’t work for me. I like Doug better; I can at least call him that in my head if I want.

“Jess,” Tasha said, “I just… I came to apologize. For what I said the other night. My father told me what you did – you know, about catching the people who did… that… to my brother, and I just…”

“It’s okay, Tasha,” Jess reassured her. “Believe me.”

I couldn’t help but add my own comment, trying to put her at ease a little bit. You couldn’t really help but like her. “Yeah,” I smiled. “It was a pleasure. Well, except for the part where I got hit with a mixing bowl.”

“Mashed potatoes.”

“Mashed-potatoes bowl, I mean,” I joked, and Tasha, despite looking a little bit freaked out by Jess and I, seemed a little more relaxed.

“Really,” Jess told her. “It’s okay, Tasha. I hope we can be friends.”

“We can, Tasha said, tears in her eyes. “At least, I hope we can.” She and Jess hugged, and while they were hugging, I noticed Jess whispering something in her ear.

When Tasha pulled away, she looked a lot happier. “Oh,” she said, grabbing Doug’s hand. “I won’t. Don’t worry.”

The look of insane worry on Jess’s brother’s face was almost comical. “You won’t what?” He asked worriedly. “Jess. What’d you say to her?”

“Nothing,” Jess employed her famous nothing-face, sitting down on my bed next to me. It looked like her brother didn’t buy it any more than I did.
But before he could say anything, a voice behind him said, “Knock knock,” and a stream of people flowed into my room.

Jess’s dad, her mom, her other brother, The *%^##, and Skip, as well as Claire – who I remembered from all the drama practices in detention, and who, if I remembered it right, was Jess’s brother Mike’s girlfriend.

Yeah, this was awkward. Also, how had everyone gotten my room number? They obviously weren’t here to visit me. And judging by Mrs. Mastriani’s reaction when she saw me, she hadn’t even known I was here, which begged the question, who did they think Jess was visiting? Please not Joanne.

“Just stopped by to see if you wanted to grab a bite over at the restaurant…” Mrs. Mastriani’s sentence trickled off, and she stopped and stared, as she recognized me again.

crap-crap-dammit.

But then… something happened. I’d go so far as to call it a miracle. “Mom,” Jess said, smiling, and not moving away from my side. “Dad. Glad you’re here. I’d like you to meet my boyfriend, Rob.”

Just like that. And, to sound incredibly corny in a million different ways, when I spun my head to look at her – pulling a muscle in my neck while I was at it, I moved so fast – I swear everything else in the room had just melted away. I wasn’t even aware that the rest of the people in the room were in the room, let alone what their reactions to Jess’s pronouncement were. Of course, I recovered, and when I did, I was very polite and very, very aware of all of them – from The *%^##’s stunned face to Skip’s crushed one, to Mike and Claire’s shocked and slightly amused ones, to Doug and Tasha looking worried, and worst of all, Jess’s mom, her mouth flapping in shock and obvious horror; Mr. Mastriani was surprisingly calm about it – but for the moment, I’d forgotten all about them.

I guess it’s appropriate to end this story with an epiphany. I’ve had a couple others along the way, but as this was happening, I knew that it blew all the others out of the water. They were nothing compared to this.

It was stupid. Just me opening my eyes.

One step.

I looked at Jess, and took it.

I was there. My confusion was finally cleared up, and suddenly I was more determined than I’d ever been, because it had finally dawned on me just how much caring for Jess ‘too much’ was.

Aw, forget too much. Just – forget it. Too much, nothing.

Because it was suddenly painfully clear that Jess really did love me, really wasn’t ashamed of me, and, oh yeah, one more thing.

That I loved her too.

Yeah. That’s all it took. Her telling her parents about me. It was all I needed to realize what was going on here, what’s still going on, what will hopefully be continuing to go on until I die.

I mean – I mean. We’re in love with each other.

Jess and me.

We’re in love.

And even if I’m not quite ready to admit it out loud – I have some issues in that area, I’m beginning to think – I know it’s true. God, I don’t think I’ve ever been so sure of anything in my life.

Jess said that, and I just turned and looked at her and thought, I’m in love with her.

And that’s that.
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#44 Princess_Missy

Princess_Missy

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 04:16 AM

*Squeals in really high pitch girly voice*
HE LOVES HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Can I just say, That I love this story(s) to no end?
And I love your writing to no end?
I LOVE THEM!!!!!!
I would write this whole comment in caps if it wasn't against the rules.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

... We won't see you for a while?
Why not? ...
I can't wait until Missing You!!!!!

Love Melissa :heartbeat:
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#45 ~booknerd~

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 06:10 PM

Eee, such a cute way to end the chapter.

Rob... :heartbeat:

I'm so excited for your version of Missing You... there's so much that happens to Rob in that story that we don't get to see, so it shall be interesting to see what you think happens.

And the ending, of course. ;)

Can't wait!

Emily :icon_flower:

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