I Still Love You
A free short story, following characters within the Starting Out Series
© Jane Lark
Not to be replicated without the permission of Jane Lark
Jason gripped my thigh briefly as he drove. It was a gesture that said, it’s gonna be okay.
I looked over at him, but he wasn’t looking at me, he was watching the road as he drove toward Portland and Billy’s and Lindy’s. He looked good as a Zombie groom. But it was bit bizarre driving looking like that. I laughed suddenly, it broke out of my throat for no reason––or not for no reason, I’d thought of Saint’s laughter.
That had been the most precious thing I’d ever heard.
Jason glanced over at me. He knew I didn’t want to go tonight, I found noise and lots of people a bit too much at the moment and there were people I didn’t like going. But he had been imprisoned with me in the house for weeks, and I knew he wanted to go, I was going for him. But I hadn’t decided if I could cope with sleeping over there yet.
I smiled at him. He was getting warn-down by me… by my sickness. “Hey, I am going to try to get Saint to laugh again tomorrow and you have to get it on video on your cell.”
Jason winked at me, “and he’ll be glad that we did not film that first moment when he was looking like a pumpkin.”
Another laugh slipped out of my throat but it was tamer.
God my meds were making me feel so… empty… inside. I had been to hell and come back, but now I felt like I was in limbo, still not really living at all, and there was a new threat over us that I hadn’t shared with Jason yet, because I didn’t know how the hell to tell him.
His hand reached over and squeezed my knee again. He must have seen the thoughts in my eyes and realized they’d turned sorrowful.
“Look, I won’t drink if you want to go home.”
“We could have brought Saint with us then it would have been okay to sleep over.”
He looked away from me and gripped the wheel. “Rach, it is going to be noisy and busy, he wouldn’t have been able to sleep, he’s fine with Mom and Dad, and don’t you think we need a break…”
That punched me. I did not want a break. I did not want to be without Saint. He was mine. It also pissed me off a little that Jason was happy to leave him.
I didn’t argue, though, I just stared ahead. I felt like things had got broken. That Jason and I had got a little broken when I’d got sick. That was what was making it so hard to tell him about what I needed to tell him.
“Rach, you can be a good mother and have breaks. It’s fine to have breaks. It doesn’t mean we don’t love him, and…” he took his eyes off the road and glanced at me. “You need breaks.” He looked back at the road. “You need to just be able to chill out and be yourself sometimes.”
God. “I don’t even know who me is anymore.” I’d been to such extremes in the last few months. “I’ve lost her somewhere.”
He sighed and glanced at me again quickly, then looked at the road. “I know. That is exactly why you need some time to not worry about what Saint wants or needs and just be you, so you can find her again.”
I wasn’t sure I’d ever find her again.
“Just give that person a chance tonight. Let’s stay over. Please? You need a break, I need a break. I want to just spend some time with you…”
It was said because he cared, but my head shouted at me that it meant he didn’t really want Saint.
“He does want Saint!” My sanity shouted back at my stupid bipolar brain.
I shut up, and looked at the road, not answering, I still wasn’t sure. We spent the rest of the drive into town not talking. Things were definitely a little broken between us, and I was not a person who knew how to fix stuff. Jason was the fixer I was the breaker, and if he didn’t want to fix things… then we were broken.
But wasn’t that just what he had been trying to say, that he wanted to stay over tonight because it would be good for us.
But things needed to be good for us with Saint.
The letter I had opened yesterday morning rammed its way into my mind. I shoved it out again.
I was a good mom. I was good for him. I was the best thing for him. I was.
When Jason pulled into the street where Billy and Lindy rented a place, the street was crowded with parked cars. “How many people did they invite?”
He smiled at me “A couple of dozen I think. Oh, come on, Rach,” he said to my expression of doubt “You’ve met some of our old school friends now. You know half these people. Don’t be a coward. You were never a coward…”
He parked up. Then turned off the engine freed his belt and looked at me. “So are we going in?”
I laughed but it sounded a little nervous. “You do know you look stupid trying to talk all serious to me when you are made up like a Zombie…”
A smile parted his lips. A proper smile, that was trying to speak to me, not the shallow acknowledgement of my existence he’d been giving me earlier. “Rach. Let’s just go in and try to have a good time.”
“Well sound a little like you want to have fun. Let’s go and have fun.”
“Sorry. Yeah.” I didn’t think I really knew how to right now.
He got out, and slammed the door, and I got out, and shut the door. I didn’t ever really get mad now, my meds were like this heavy weight on my emotions that pinned down extremes, my brain was too full of drugs to get angry, or excited…
He was waiting for me on the sidewalk a few feet away, and when I walked toward him he opened his arms and then he hugged me. He didn’t say anything, though, just held me as I wrapped my arms around his waist and held him too.
I didn’t know what to say. He was the fixer.
“No crying,” he whispered over my head, “you’ll ruin all that awful makeup.”
“I’m sorry, Jason.”
It wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t okay. He was struggling to cope with me, and I didn’t know how to help him because I couldn’t cope with me either, and now there were was more to hit us… How was he going to deal with that?
His mom had said to me, a couple of weeks ago, when I had told her I was worried about Jason falling out of love with me, that he had married me knowing I was sick… But he hadn’t. I hadn’t told him I had bipolar until the day after we’d got married.
“Come on, my Zombie bride.” He gripped my hand, then lifted his free arm Zombie like. “Let’s go in like Zombies.”
I knew what he was trying to do, he was trying to just push everything that had happened in the last six months aside… “I feel like a Zombie on my meds anyway.”
He grinned at me. “You’re perfect for the part then.” He pulled me on.
We walked up their short drive, and up the steps onto their porch, the place was small but cute. It was one floor and four rooms, two bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room, but it had its own backyard.
Billy opened the door, dressed as superman, and we both lifted our arms and started moaning like Zombies as we walked forward, hands raised.
“Oh my God! There’s a Zombie invasion!”
He backed up and let us in, and Jason was still playing Zombie, so I did too as we walked into the living room. I saw Lindy and she smiled at me, lifting her hand. She was with her old school friends.
“You look good!”
“Wow you two look amazing!”
“They are awesome costumes!”
“Who did your makeup?”
“It’s all Rach’s genius,” Jason said, as we got surrounded. This is why I had not wanted to come. All the girls he’d been at school with still fancied him, and when I was feeling vulnerable, I didn’t like him being around them. “To half of them I was still the out of town girl that Jason had weirdly attached himself too in the scary big city. I think they thought he was going to get bored of me.”
“Rach,” Lindy gripped my arm and pulled me aside. “You look amazing!”
“Come into the kitchen and I’ll get you a drink, and you can tell me all about trick or treating.” She knew I wasn’t comfortable about being here, she also knew I didn’t get on with their old school friends all that well. Some of them I did, but a lot of them I didn’t, because they all had years of friendship on me, and they used it like a weapon, talking about the past.
“What do you want to drink, are you sticking to soft drinks?” Lindy looked over her shoulder.
“I should do, but can I just have a little dash of vodka in a massive glass of oj.”
“Sure.” Lindy started making it.
“How are you?” I leaned on the counter watching her, it was still only a few months ago she’d lost her mom to cancer. It was crazy really, she had hated me when Jason and I had got together, but as she’d been engaged to him she’d had a pretty good reason to hate me, and now she was the closest girlfriend I had.
My melt down had pushed Jason away and instead made his ex my friend. But seeing as she was now with Jason’s best friend, there would have had to have been some relationship between us otherwise life would have been painfully awkward for Jason, so this was probably really convenient for him. But it had come out of the fact that both of us were suffering. She’d been supporting her mom, and working out where Billy fit in, and I knew more about hardship than all the people in this house put together, and so Lindy and I had started talking.
“I’m fine.” Lindy answered as she put my oj down. It would just look like orange juice if Jason saw it.
She sipped from the glass she’d poured for herself.
“Not really, though,” I said to her smiling.
“I miss Mom,” she whispered. Looking at the door like she expected Billy to walk in. “Don’t tell Billy, I am just trying to be happy for one night. He needs to have fun. But I feel guilty for having fun, I feel like it’s too early. I feel––”
I reached over and gripped her hand. “It is ok to feel down. You have a good reason to.” I didn’t. “You thinking of your mom is a good thing. Keep her with you. She was precious. Keep every memory safe. Did she used to take you trick or treating?”
“Oh yeah.” She laughed, “She was the queen of Halloween makeup. I used to get a ton of sweets. We were eating them for months. But you’d be good competition for her. You and Jason look amazing. God you haven’t even told me yet how you got on, what did Saint have on?”
I smiled. “Oh no. I haven’t told you yet, you won’t believe it Saint laughed at the trick. Proper laughed, a real giggle, it sounded amazing. I didn’t want to leave him, but Jason really wanted to come out.”
It was Lindy’s turn to grip my hand. “Are you okay?”
I straightened and shook my head, then stupidly I started crying. She came around the counter, and hugged me, as the tears ran down my face ruining the makeup.
“What is it?”
I pulled away and reached to rip off a bit of kitchen roll, and blew my nose. “I should be really happy, and I can’t be. You have a good reason to be unhappy, I don’t and yet I can’t pull myself out of it.”
“You’re sick. You can’t help it.”
“But Jason is getting bored of it.”
I looked her in the eyes. “He is, Lindy, he isn’t the same…”
Maybe she wasn’t the best person to say that to, but she was the only girlfriend I had, and anyway, she knew her and Jason hadn’t been right––because she and Billy were right––and Jason and I were right.
We had been right.
We’d just got broken.
I looked at Lindy. “Sorry it’s your party and I’m ruining that now. I told you I shouldn’t come.”
“You should’ve come. Jason’s right, you two need to get out more.”
“Will you sort my makeup so people can’t tell I’ve been crying?”
“Sure come here.” She pulled me around to the sink, and then used some kitchen towel to clean my face up and then smear what make up was left over the tracks of my tears. When she finished, she handed me my oj and a bottle of beer for Jason, then picked up a beer for Billy. “Come on, let’s go and face the music, literally, we’ll put some songs on, and we’ll dance and we’ll force the blues away. We’ll just keep giving the boys beers and they’ll get so drunk they’ll never realize we’re depressed.”
“Yeah.” That was why I had come to like Lindy, because Lindy and I had been doing a lot of pulling each other up out of the blues.
“Come on, let’s go party, and remember Jason must love you lots, after all he left me for you and that is saying something…”
“And Billy is praising the Lord that he did, seeing as he has always been in love with you. So even if Jason and I split it is all for the best, at least we brought you and Billy together.”
“You two are not going to split up.” Lindy said looking back at me as we walked into the living room. Fortunately she couldn’t say more, though, because the boys saw us.
Click on this for a soundtrack… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKRRg150OYU
There are more parts coming later!!!
and if you want to read the beginning of Jason’s and Rachel’s story it runs throughout The Starting Out Series
Book One I Found You
Book Two Just you
Book Three I Need You
and the story will continue in 2015 in I’m Keeping You