Chapter 6: Jessi Got Game (based on Episode 7: Kyle Got Game)
I couldn't stop analyzing the fact that I'd seen Professor Kern's face in my dream before ever seeing his image in that newspaper. My tutor, Brian Taylor, had seemed to recognize him in my drawing. He then claimed to not know the man. This man had been missing for months. Was he the man who was murdered in the woods suspiciously near where I woke up? Is it possible that Brian knew this man?
"Jessi? Are you alright?" Nicole asked as she headed toward the girl's bedroom, her voice conveying mild concern. Jessi quickly closed the laptop where she had been researching the professor and slid it under her bed to hide it. She had not yet told Nicole that she now knew the name of the man in her drawing. All Nicole knew was that Jessi had drawn a man that she'd seen in a dream.
"Yeah. I'm fine," she replied.
Nicole knowingly tilted her head and looked at her. Her eyes moved toward the drawing of Kern, which was still in Jessi's left hand as she sat on her bed.
"I just…" Jessi hesitated.
"You wish you could remember more about your past. Of course you do," Nicole replied understandingly. "But I… I don't want you to obsess."
"What should I be doing instead?" Jessi asked, sincerely wondering what would be a better use of her time.
"Oh, well… Lori is upstairs in her bedroom," Nicole suggested. "She hasn't been spending as much time with Hillary lately. I bet she would enjoy spending time with you."
Jessi shook her head in disagreement, hating that idea. Lori was still Jessi's least favorite person in the world, despite her kind gesture of sharing her birthday with her last week. Besides, going up to the girl's bedroom sounded insanely boring. What would they do?
"Or um… I was going to get started making dinner. You could help me?" Nicole kindly offered.
Jessi didn't like that idea either. "What's Josh doing?" she asked.
"Oh, he's out with a few of his buddies playing basketball," Nicole answered, gesturing with her head toward the front of the house.
"I'll go join them," Jessi announced. She immediately stood up and began to head in that direction.
I enjoyed showing off my skills for Josh and all of his friends. I calculated all of the variables, including wind resistance, and then successfully got the ball into the basket every time. Some of them gasped in awe, and before long it seemed that everyone was hooting and hollering to cheer me on. They wanted me to try even crazier shots, even further away, and test my limits. I enjoyed showing off for them, and enjoyed experimenting and testing my own limits too. It was getting more and more difficult to successfully get the basketball into the net, however. In the back of my mind, I was starting to worry. If I failed, even once, everyone would be so disappointed. I loved the rush I felt from impressing them all, and it grew more and more exhilarating as I continued to do so with more spectacular feats. But here I was, realizing on some level that failure was perhaps my biggest fear in the world.
Jessi sank another shot and then saw her friend's boyfriend approaching. He smiled at her.
"Sweet shot!" Charlie called out as he neared her. He was clearly impressed.
"That's nothing! She nails it every time," Josh commented.
"Oh yeah?" Charlie replied, not quite buying it.
"Show him, Jessi."
She found herself filled with an overwhelming desire to impress all of them, and decided to go for her trickiest shot yet. She bounced the ball off of four surfaces before it slid into the net gracefully.
"Oh! That was insane! How'd you do that?" Charlie exclaimed.
"Angle, trajectory, velocity, wind," Jessi explained with a smile.
"And all this time I've been chucking a ball through a hoop! It sucks that you can't join our team," he said.
"Why can't I join you?" Jessi asked, confused.
Before he had a chance to answer, Amanda arrived.
"There you are," she said to her boyfriend, with a tone of voice that implied she'd been looking around for him. She then turned to her friend. "How you doing, Jessi?"
"Fine, but I was about to find out why I'm not allowed to join Charlie's basketball team," she answered.
"Oh…" Charlie said, trailing off. He seemed unsure about how to inform her of this information. Jessi wished he'd just tell her and not worry about hurting her feelings. It was slowing him down a frustrating amount.
"You can join a team, at the beginning of the next school year," Amanda explained. "You can't join Charlie's, though, because his is only for boys. You'd be joining the girls' team… or in high school I guess we call them women's and men's teams."
"I'd have to wait till the next school year?" Jessi asked, already feeling impatient. "And why do they separate men and women?"
"Because usually, women suck," Charlie answered tactlessly.
"Because physically, men and women have different bodies," Amanda said, adding nuance to his answer. "Women are shorter and the very best women are slower than the very best men. Because of these differences, competing against one's own gender is more fair."
Jessi scowled. Suddenly, she found herself wishing she had been born male.
"I'm just as good as the men in our school, though, right?" she asked, feeling a bit insecure.
"You're better," Charlie said in all honesty.
She wasn't sure how to feel about all of this information. She wanted to join Charlie's men's basketball team and impress all of the guys. She didn't want to be trapped in an inferior body and stuck only being allowed on the inferior teams.
She went back inside, no longer in the mood to shoot baskets and hear Josh and his friends hoot and holler.
As she made her way indoors, she tried to convince herself that being a part of a team wouldn't be fun anyway, and that she was more suited to shooting baskets on her own.
Later that week, Jessi was in her room, still doing her own research on William Kern. She was trying to put the pieces together when she stumbled across a news story that was only a couple hours old. The human remains found near Victor Falls, the dead body Detective Breen had talked to Nicole, Stephen, and her about, had been officially identified as none other than the missing biochemistry professor from the University of Washington. She found herself shocked and upset at this development. She realized a part of her had been hoping that she'd be the one to solve his case herself, and that when she found him, he'd be alive and able to provide her with many answers about her past.
When she closed the laptop and left her bedroom, she was not hiding her emotions. As she entered the kitchen to help Josh and Lori set the table for dinner, Nicole noticed that something was wrong.
"Jessi? You look so sad," she commented with concern.
"I'm just disappointed," Jessi answered honestly.
"About what?" Nicole asked, a bit surprised.
"Professor Kern is dead."
"Who?" Lori asked, getting involved in the conversation.
"He was the man I saw in my dream."
"You dreamed about a real guy? Like from your past?" Josh asked with extreme interest.
"I don't know anything except I dreamed about a man, and then I saw his face in the newspaper a few days later and realized it was the same guy."
"Why didn't you tell me this?" Nicole asked, clearly feeling somewhat hurt that Jessi hadn't confided in her.
"I didn't want you to know."
Taken aback by this answer, Nicole seemed to be trying to carefully formulate a follow-up question, but Josh beat her to it.
"So why are you disappointed that he's dead?" he asked.
"Because I had been hoping he'd have answers for me."
"He still might," Lori provided. The three other people in the room turned to look at her. "What? Just because dead guys don't talk doesn't mean his death might not provide answers for you. Where did they find his body?"
"Right where I woke up. Near Victor Falls."
"His body was the one they'd found there?" Nicole asked in surprise.
At that point, Stephen came downstairs.
"Is dinner served?" he asked.
The other four members of the family gave each other meaningful glances.