Chapter 1: You sure?
Fall of Angela's junior year. Jordan and the guys, minus Tino, are in the loft rehearsing with the band. Midway through their practice, unnoticed by the boys, Angela pushes open the door to the loft. Before entering she stands there behind the door, hesitant, deliberating over something. She's come all this way across town to get there, but now, actually crossing the threshold is daunting, but with a long breath she does so. Mid song, the band never notices her as she crosses the room; she looks small, standing there waiting to be noticed.
When Marco whips his head up from his guitar, he spots Angela, and pauses — she looks crushed. The only one who's seen her, he stops playing and kind of taps Jordan to catch his attention; Jordan looks, then he too stops playing, triggering the others to taper out as well. Jordan looks from Angela to the guys, who, seeing how upset she is, are trying to mind their own business — retuning, shuffling around, whatever — but are definitely intrigued, and under the cover of disinterest are casting surreptitious looks in their direction.
This can't be good. It's evident to him this is not a normal Angela upset. For one thing it's unlike her to seek him out at the loft uninvited, and the expression on her face and the carriage of her body are, different, in some way. Though she's standing straight in front him, she has the look of being crumpled. Jordan pulls out the plug to his amp, and quickly glances in the direction of his buddies before unstrapping his guitar and walking over to her. When he's right beside her he ducks his toward her and speaks the words a little under his breath, "What's up?"
Looking first at the faces of his band mates, Angela averts her eyes, dodging their looks, then glances up at Jordan then away again, wanting not to be conspicuous. "Can I," she swallows, and her large doleful eyes catch his for an instant before she lets them drop, "talk to you?"
Jordan studies her — she's so solemn he doesn't know what to make of it — and nods. Wordlessly, and without turning back to his friends, he sets down his guitar, takes up his jacket, and follows Angela out the door and down the stairwell, taking care to pull the heavy industrial door closed behind him. A few stairs down she stops and with her back still to him kind of shudders.
"Angela, what happened?" It's like her to overreact to things, to let things get to her more than they should, but this doesn't look like that, and the not-knowing is getting to him.
"Okay, so…" She turns slowly towards him, and it looks to Jordan as though she's having trouble meeting his eyes. "This," she pauses again — there's a crease in her forehead he's watching deepen in front of him, "isn't something I want to say; but …" Her eyes fall to the ground.
With her head bowed, he stands even taller than her than normal, and he looks down upon her, his eyes narrowed on the sad and speechless figure of his girlfriend. He's concerned, but as he's a little thrown, he's a bit removed as he asks, "You okay?"
She raises her head slightly, lifting her eyes to meet his. "I'm pregnant." The words were impossible for her to say. She waits a minute before averting her eyes. Jordan's expression does not falter, he just looks. She clears her throat and continues, "I just took my second test. And I'm pregnant."
Instinctually, Jordan looks up the stairs back to the loft — the door is still closed. He tries to let it sink in; he swallows, and turns back to her. "So," he speaks, and his voice is heavy and raspy, "what do we do now?" Silently she shakes her head. She doesn't look as though she'll cry, but he's never seen a person more able to than she is in this moment in this dim rundown retrofitted warehouse. He asks again, "Are you okay?"
Angela scoffs darkly, "Hmph. Excellent."
Jordan exhales and scratches the back of his head, twisting his body away from hers as he does, "Shit." Turning back he studies her, "What can I do?" Angela can't say anything, she's at a complete loss. Sensing that, he takes charge, tugging her elbow, "Com'on; we'll get out of here." Angela allows herself to be guided down the dark staircase towards the street exit.
Outside on the street she and Jordan stand leaning against his car. She stands with arms crossed, blankly staring off, indifferent to the chill in the air and unaware he's covertly eyeing her from the side.
"Have you told your parents?" he breaks the silence.
She shakes her head.
Telling her parents seems like the last thing he wants to do, but Jordan already feels out of his depth, and knowing his tendency to say the wrong thing, not to mention completely shut down, he figures her getting her parents involved isn't the worst plan. Besides, no matter how she complains, the Chases are close; they were going to find out. Might as well get the help now when they need it. And Jordan hates secrets. But, what would they say...?
"Do you want to go do that?" He's more than half hoping she'll say 'no'.
"I want to disappear." The sound of Angela's voice is so low, so distant. He looks at her, and she's bleak. Just, empty. And far away.
"Come here." He holds her, tightly, trying to reach her through the divide, but with his head set atop hers, trying to be of comfort, he himself feels hallow, and genuinely freaked himself.
Outside the Chase house, Jordan and Angela sit, motionless, in his car. He turns to her, "We gotta do this, huh?" Angela nods. Hooking his thumb off the bottom of the steering wheel, he asks, "You're sure? — We don't wan' tuh go through with this, if it's not really happening."
A heavy metallic echo sounds through the car as Angela opens the passenger door; she steps out, and her voice is dry and detached, "It is."
Jordan follows Angela up the side path, past the garbage bins and the kitchen windows, and trails after through the backdoor into the Chase's home.
Passing through the hallway from one room to another, Patty spots Angela, o more than a few feet in from the door. " Hi Honey."
Jordan, painfully uncomfortable, lingers in the background, willing himself into nothingness as Angela hesitates, mustering the will to speak. Angela swallows, and tries to get her mother's attention. "Mom—"
But Patty, who is mid-project on something, looks a little crazed in her focus and she moves quickly past them. It's only then she notices Jordan's also there, and while mildly surprised to see Jordan inside the house, as it's not missed on Graham or herself that he's mostly out on the street, in his car, waiting for Angela when he figures either one or both of them are at home — she suspects the case is different when they're out — she continues her movements around the house without taking any special notice of their demeanor. "Oh, Jordan, hello." Patty moves on, speaking quickly, "Angela, I need you to—"
Angela stands her ground miserably, "Mom." Angela has not succeeded in catching her mother's attention, and she has no alternative but to try again; Jordan hangs back, extremely tense and unsure. "Mom." Angela's voice is grave. And flat. Patty stops, turns, looks, sees, and now waits. Angela proceeds, "Is Dad here?"
Uneasy now, Patty looks from Angela to Jordan, unable to interpret their expressions "… He should, be home soon…"
There is silence as they wait.
In the Chase's living room, Angela and Jordan sit beside one another, Patty and Graham across from them. They have just heard the news.
Looking slightly pained, Graham asks his daughter, "You're sure?" Angela nods.
"Well," says Patty, "you'll need a blood test, to be sure. Have you done that?" Her parents look at her, Jordan too sneaks a sideways glance, she shakes her head.
Graham sounds fractionally hopeful, "So, we don't know for sure."
"I took two tests." She looks down, away, then back to her mother, "And…"
Not beating around the bush, Patty asks, "How late are you?"
Graham and Jordan, and Angela are close to mortified; Angela looks to Patty for a reprieve, but seeing none, murmurs an answer. "Almost three. Weeks." Graham exhales, Patty breathes in, Angela tugs at her earlobe, Jordan does not move.
By this point, Angela's emotionally dead, Jordan's frozen, Graham's at a complete loss, but Patty is all business. "So, if the condom didn't protect you from pregnancy, it didn't protect you from STD exposure."
"Mom." Angela doesn't want to hear about any of this; she certainly doesn't want Jordan to. She's aware that it's unrealistic to expect to get out this without suffering some humiliation, but she's hoping to avoid outright mortification.
Patty simply talks right over her, "Jordan, you've had other partners." It isn't exactly a question. Jordan looks up, then nods. "Angela, you'll need to be tested."
Horrified by her mother's candor, Angela makes a plea for discretion, "Mom."
Patty isn't having it, "Angela — no."
Slow to speak, Graham asks, "Have you thought at all about what you—" Angela is on the verge of silently crying, or if she already has been, it is more conspicuous now. Jordan does not react; rather, he reacts, but does not act. He is not sure of himself in these circumstances, but in a moment more he takes her hand anyway. Unlike what he'd been thinking, her parents take no note of it.
Time passes, they discuss options. Abortion. Adoption. No one speaks about keeping it, to keep. Angela, Graham, Jordan and Patty look horror-stricken and exhausted; they've been talking for a long time. Angela and Jordan are not sitting all that close together, and have experienced this conversation very differently.
In time, Graham speaks up, "Well, I guess we should eat something." The three others look at him like this is the most bizarre thing they have heard. Graham, however, is operating under the philosophy that food makes people feel better, and that regardless of this — setback — not everything's changed. "Jordan," Graham's making the effort, "would you stay for dinner?" Jordan doesn't know how he should, or wants, to respond to this, or what his obligations now are.
Eventually Patty stands up to follow Graham into the kitchen; she sounds and looks exhausted, "We'll let you talk." As an afterthought, she turns, "Jordan, when will you be telling your father?"
Hearing his name, Jordan looks up, but he doesn't say anything. Angela tries to intercede, but doesn't end up actually saying anything. Jordan finally speaks, after a quick clearing of his throat and a glance in Angela's direction. "I don't know." Patty isn't crazy about this answer, but she decides to let it go, for now, and exits into the kitchen.
Angela isn't able to move until several moments after her parents have left the room.
"Uh…" she exhales. "I feel so— This shouldn't be real. I feel like such a..." She doesn't know how she feels and she trails off. She looks over to him, taking in his countenance. "You don't have to stay."
Even as he asks, unsure if her words are to be trusted, Jordan looks and sounds a little relieved, "Do you want me to stay?"
Angela is flatly apathetic — she can't think about dinner invitations, "I have no idea …" She sighs, and runs her hands through her hair, then lifts her head slowly … "I guess there's a decision to be made." Looking to him she asks, "Any thoughts?"
Considering, he is slow in his response, "Nothing— Nothin' I'd say at this point." He questions her, "You?"
Although speaking aloud, she is more just voicing her thoughts than speaking to him; she does not look at him when she speaks, "I don't want to be pregnant." She rubs at her forehead, "I don't want to be a parent, or to have a child. " In a moment she speaks again, her voice is dry and low, "I'm scared." She takes a minute to look at him; there's a pause before she adds, "And I'm ashamed."
"You don't have to feel that way about it." Jordan too sounds tired, like he's been living with this for years. This might be the worst news he's ever had, this might have been the most uncomfortable conversation he's ever been a part of, but he's trying to make the effort to keep it together and to face it head on. They'd been careful, and it had happened, so what good was it be embarrassed or to worry about what they couldn't change.
Angela continues, bitterly, still mostly to herself, "This only happens to fools when they don't mean it to."
His voice is rough, though his demeanor is not, "You shouldn't think about it that way."
"All I can think is … regret." He lets this sink in. Angela looks at him, her face is open, her expression is somber. His eyes shut. Abruptly, she breaks the silence with, "I'm scared to have an abortion."
He clears his throat a little as begins, "Wull, it sounds like you have some time…"
Finding no comfort in this, she obligingly agrees, "Right…" No longer wishing to be lost in her thoughts, Angela shifts and regroups; looking toward the kitchen she says, "I'm going to go in, you should go home." She looks at him with sincerity, "Thank you for sitting through that."
Unsure if he's really been reprieved, "You sure?" She nods then reaches for him; they hold each other tightly. "I'll talk to you soon?"
Angela nods and tucks her hair, "I'll see you tomorrow." Jordan gives her a tight-lipped sideways smile, then moves past her and leaves through the front door.
Chapter 2: We've got you
Driving home, Jordan doesn't even see the street, or the cars around him. It's all a blur. Did he really drive home all that way? He can't remember any of it. Pulling up his driveway, he's still in a daze. When he enters his house, the phone's ringing; he walks by it with every intention of letting it ring, till he thinks better of it when he considers who it may be, and he turns back and picks up. "H'lo?" His voice comes off gruff after having been silent for so long.
"Jordan," says Shane on the other end. "Tino there?"
Immediately losing interest when he realizes it isn't her, Jordan sounds a little out of it when he answers, "Haven't seen him."
"He said he was going over there." Shane adds, casually bored to have to be giving Catalano a play by play, "He heard about your lady showing up to the loft. Wanted, you know, to ... check in." It's just occurred to him that maybe he cares too, and so he asks "… Everything cool?"
Jordan's only waiting to get off the phone, "Huh?"
"Cool?" Shane repeats.
Distracted, Jordan only responds with, "Not really." Jordan's patience is out, and he cuts off any further conversation, "I gotta go. Tell Tino— Tell Tino I'll find him tomorrow."
"Yeah man; but he's probably on his way there now." Jordan doesn't love hearing this, and it puts him on edge — it's too soon to talk it out. Shane's waiting to hear something from him. "You're really not going to say anything?" In answer, Jordan hangs up the phone. He surveys the room, and after a moment, deciding he won't be there when Tino arrives, he heads back to his car.
At the Chase's, after Graham's gone upstairs and Angela and Danielle have changed for bed, Patty sits alone at the dining room table, trying to concentrate on some files she'd brought home from work. She drops her head into her palm and inhales deeply as she tries to keep it together.
Angela, now in her pajamas, comes hesitantly down the stairs to speak with her mother. "Mom?" As she moves to the table and rests her shin on the seat of a chair shes's slowly pulled out, she starts to speak a number of times before actually fixing on a thought and verbalizing it. "What do you think I should do?"
Patty shifts so that she can see her daughter, her head still in hand. Looking at Angela, Patty lifts her head and drops her arm to the table; she speaks as warmly as her frayed nerves allow her, "I'm still thinking about that Angela."
Angela shifts into actually sitting in the chair as she gathers the courage to entreat of her mother, "But, you must—" She pulls her legs up, and sitting with her knees up under her nightgown, she starts again, "You were adopted, put up for adoption; do you," she treads cautiously, "have an opinion on that?"
Patty looks at Angela, and speaks levelly, "My parents evidently didn't feel equipped to raise me, for whatever reason, so, I was adopted."
"But," Angela searches for insight, "how do you feel about that?" She double tucks her hair, "I know you tried to find them; are you angry?"
Patty doesn't mind this line of questioning, but she wants Angela to be clear on the answers, "Angela, your grandparents loved me. I grew up." She looks at her daughter, "Abortion was illegal then. It existed, but it was dangerous, and carried severe risks. Are you asking if I'm happy I was born?"
"But," Angela continues querying, "do you ever think about her? Your, 'birth' mother?"
"I did. When I was young, and when I was your age, and when I was pregnant with you girls. I don't know if she was young, or grown, or troubled, or alone– I don't know."
Angela thinks about this for a long time. Her mother waits, watching her as she processes everything. "Mom?" Patty waits. "Just, thank you for—" Angela cuts herself off; not ready to say it, and not sure if saying it again will make any of it worse. Her eyes narrow as she asks, "Are you really angry? I know you told me to be careful, I know you tried to talk to me, but, I really thought we were being careful—" She starts to cry. "I thought I was being safe."
Patty just feels terrible. She reaches out and touches Angela's hair, "I know, I know."
"I'm so sorry."
Patty pulls her in and Angela caves into her. Holding Angela tightly, Patty strokes her head, "Angela, it's going to be okay. We will make a decision, and you will be okay. We love you. Daddy and I love you. And we know it was hard to tell us, and brave to tell us so quickly."
After some time, a little calmer, and muffled a bit by her mother's arm, Angela asks, "Do you hate Jordan?"
Patty takes a moment for effect before saying, "We don't 'hate' him." Wryly adding, "Very much."
Angela straightens up, looking her mother straight on through teary eyes, "No, but really?"
Patty reaches out and wipes away a tear from beneath Angela's eye. "No."
After leaving his place, Jordan had simply gotten in his car and driven. To where? He hadn't had a destination. There was nowhere to go where the facts would be any different. But purposefully or not, he ended up on a residential street in a renting neighborhood just outside the city, outside his sister's house.
On the dark street, Jordan sits in his car chain smoking. There's a knock on his window and Ben, Lisa's boyfriend is leaning over to see into the car. "Coming in?" Jordan looks like hell. After a few moments he collects himself and follows Ben inside.
Inside his sister's house, Jordan drops onto the sofa. Ben brings out two beers from the kitchen and hands Jordan a bottle. Jordan drinks nearly the whole thing in one stretch. He still says nothing. Ben is a little thrown.
Watching him, Ben says, "Lis'll be home soon." Uneasy with Jordan's absolute lack of conversation and his stormy countenance, Ben adds, "Do you want me to call a few places, try to find her?" Jordan doesn't say anything, he just pivots the bottleneck between his thumb and index finger. "Can I do something?" Ben waits, and he watches the guy he's come to think of as his kid brother, "Is it your dad? Are you okay? School? Work?"
Jordan drinks what's left of the beer, then says, "Angela's pregnant."
In empathy, Ben rests his hand on Jordan's shoulder.
When Lisa comes home and finds Ben and Jordan sitting on the sofa, she immediately notes the mood. "Jordan." When her brother doesn't answer her she turns to her guy, "What is it?" Once more her entreaty is unanswered. Lisa looks again to Jordan, "What's wrong?" When no answer is given her she makes her own inference and prepares herself to be furious, "What did he d—" Jordan shakes his head.
"It's not your dad." Ben looks to Jordan for permission to tell. Getting no response, he takes that as his consent; "Angela's pregnant; by Jordan."
"Oh God." She sinks beside Jordan on the couch, and taking the beer from Ben's hand she takes a big drink. "How did this happen?"
Jordan shakes his head solemnly, "I dunno."
Rubbing the center of his back she asks, "Did you just find out?"
"She told me. We told her parents."
"All today?" Ben asks, newly impressed by just how shitty Jordan's day must have been. Jordan nods; Lisa resumes rubbing his back. "What did her parents say?"
"What are they supposed to say?" Lisa retorts wearily. To Jordan she asks, "Did you make any decisions?" Jordan shakes his head. "J, I'm sorry to ask, but, weren't you safe?"
"Every time," he answers dismally.
"What can I do for you? What do you need?" Lisa asks as her brother pushes the ball of his palm against his eye and down his face.
All he can say is, "I don't know what to do."
She bites her lips against each other and looks to Ben as she strokes Jordan's head. Because he's upset Jordan's allowing this kind of prolonged tenderness he'd normally shrug off. As the thought comes to her, Lisa asks Jordan, "Does Angela know how to get ahold of you here?" Jordan shakes his head. "Should you call her?"
Leaning back, sinking into the sofa with her hand still at the back of his head, Jordan looks blankly from Lisa to Ben, "Should I?"
Ben, who's returned from the kitchen confirms, "That would be decent," as he stands over Jordan switching his empty bottle for a fresh one. Jordan lifts his eyes, looks up at him through his eyebrows, then exhales and stares off. He takes a drink. Jordan's not sure of himself, and he doesn't want to say anything. Sitting on the sofa arm beside Jordan, feet on the cushions, Ben proceeds earnestly, "People get through this. It'll be okay."
"We've got you," Lisa confirms. "Want me to call Tino?"
Jordan deftly shakes his head. Ben pulls out rolling papers, a lighter, and a plastic canister of green. Setting to his task, Ben queries, "How's she doing?"
At home, Angela's curled up on her bed, lying quietly in her dark room. Her head pillowed by her fist, she focuses only on the slow rising and sinking of her bent arm as she breathes in and out. Her eyes are dry, but they and her expression are empty.
Lisa's gone to bed, and her boyfriend and brother are still seated on the mid-century sofa in the now dimly-lit room. Ben takes another hit, and looks at Jordan, "Did you know this was a possibility?" Jordan makes a face that says, 'What do you think? I'm not a complete moron,' as he took the question to mean 'did he know intercourse could result in pregnancy.' Ben's meaning is clarified by his next question. "Did she tell you she was taking the test," he passes to Jordan, "or that she was late?" Jordan shakes his head. Ben nods as he exhales his smoke.
"Why?" Jordan's eyes narrow, "What does that mean?"
"Nuthin'." Rubbing at his eye, Ben makes his point, "She's been living with this longer; presumably alone."
In the morning, just after seven, Ben wakes Jordan, setting a cup of coffee in front of him on the table before the sofa where Jordan slept. Where he has slept plenty of nights before, though he'd never accept the offer to stay there permanently. Standing above him, Ben says,"Gotta get to school." Jordan rubs his eyes, making no indication he's moving from the sofa anytime soon. "You need to be there." Taking a drink from his own mug, Ben tutors Jordan, "If she's there and you're not—" Jordan considers this, then scratches his head and rises.
Chapter 3: Couldn't deal
As it is late and the first bell has already rung, the student parking lot is almost full when Jordan gets to campus. He parks his car and walks briskly toward the school's front entrance. Passing by a few scatterings of straggling students, he takes the front steps two at a time, covering the distance from his car to the main entrance in very little time.
Upon entering the main hallway Jordan runs into Joey who's absolutely not in any rush to get to homeroom.
"Hey! Catalano!" Jordan pauses. "What's the word? You disappeared yesterday. What happened?"
Distracted, hands in his pockets, Jordan jerks his head down the hall, "I gotta go."
"Unless you've got class together, you've already missed her." Joey signals the bell with his index finger, it rings as if on cue, and Homeroom has begun. "D'ya have class with 'er?" He sees in Jordan's face that he doesn't and so makes a little head jerk for Jordan to follow him; "Coffee?" Thwarted, Jordan looks once more down the hallway, loses steam and nods.
Jordan and Joey slip into the teachers' lounge, grab two mugs from the dish rack, and pour themselves coffee, a thing they've done many times before. Jordan goes to work adjusting the sugar ratio in his coffee while Joey scopes the muffin options. "Love faculty meetings," says Joey through a mouthful of cranberry muffin as he grabs a second. "So," he turns to Jordan, "you gonna talk?
Jordan turns away as he shrugs it off, "It was nuthin'." Joey might be buying this, though he may also suspect Jordan's lying; he doesn't press it.
Washing the muffin down with his black coffee, Joey asks, "Got a smoke?"
Jordan nods and pats his pockets to locate his supply; "Tino around?" Jordan finds a pack in his jacket, and another, nearly empty and somewhat crushed one in his back pocket. Surprised to find two, and that he'd been careless enough to leave a pack in his back pocket, he tosses the second to Joey.
Joey catches it with one hand as his other lifts his coffee mug to his lips. He takes a swig as he closely inspects the faculty bulletin board. "Yeah..." he grabs a tag off a flyer looking for a housemate, "he's still going after Cassie." He pockets the scrap of paper containing his math teacher's home number.
Less than interested, Jordan asks,"Cassie who? _ What? That teacher?"
"That student teacher," Joey corrects him. Packing the cigarettes, Joey proceeds to rationalize it, "Twenty-two. About the same as going with a freshman. Only," he pauses for effect, "the results stand to be, much more, 'substantial'."
Dispassionately, Jordan dismisses any prospect of that playing out in Tino's favor, "It'll never happen." Jordan finishes his coffee, leaves his mug in the sink, and drops a few dabs of Binaca in the back of his mouth as he heads toward the door. "If you see him, tell Tino I'm lookin' for him."
As he pushes the door open, Ms. Kryzenowski is entering from the other side. She stops short, confused to see the boys in there, but Jordan breezes past her without pause, and Joey, in good humor, says, "Catalano, I told you this wasn't Study Hall." And after flashing a wry grin at Kryzenowski, he too pushes past.
When the bell rings releasing first period, Jordan's waiting outside his second period American history class. Once the room has cleared he lopes in and takes a seat, waiting for Angela. He straightens up when she enters the room and sits beside him.
"Hey," she says as she drops her backpack and takes her seat.
"Hey," he answers, watching her. Leaning in across his desk he asks, "How're you?" She scans the filling room before answering, but no one is paying any attention; she nods to indicate 'she's fine'.
Putting her feet up on his chair, she slumps down in hers, and lays her head in her arms across her desk. Looking ahead, he covertly reaches out and wraps a hand round her ankle, just barely rubbing her calf beneath her pant leg. She opens her eyes and looks at him as he watches her.
In a later period, Jordan sits beside Angela on the gym floor leaning against the north wall during PE. He sits with his knees up, wrists hanging casually over each knee. "... Did you wait this morning?"
"I looked for you, but I didn't know if I should." It isn't a big deal to her, "I took the bus."
"I crashed at Lisa's; couldn't do it." His voice lowers by a fraction, "What happened when I left?"
"Nothing. More of the same."
He nods. "They didn't seem to take it too bad." He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting, but, there was no shouting, no threats. Everyone had maintained a level of calmness. Her house was so different from his.
"I guess." Yelling or not, she knew her parents were disappointed. And heartbroken. "Have you, told anyone? Other than your sister?" He shakes his head. "Tino?"
She's quiet. When she speaks, she sounds detached although she's making an effort to maintain some level of animation. "You can. I guess." She dryly amends this with, "Not that I want everyone to know, but …" She looks up, "Sharon'll know. And Rickie. _ It's fair."
He nods slowly, "Right." As an afterthought, and for a reason he's not quite sure of, he says, "Thanks." They sit, side by side, looking ahead of them, inert amidst the chaos of gym class. A rogue volleyball catapults their way and Jordan reanimates long enough to lean forward and knock it out of their path. Leaning back once again, he pivots his head in her direction to ask, "Are you hating me right now?"
Angela is too earnest to equivocate, "Not yet." Hearing herself say this she knows she can't leave it like this; she too lifts her knees, and places her hand atop his, entwining their fingers. Jordan accepts the gesture, but looks away, then shuts his eyes. "This is almost paralyzing," she reflects.
When he should have been in Life Sciences, Jordan walks through the counseling office and pokes his head into the AP's office; Wilson looks up from his work. Setting down his pen, Associate Principal Wilson greets him with familiarity, "Jordan—" This is meant both as a greeting and as a 'What can I do for you?'
Jordan sounds surprised to see him, like he hadn't just purposefully gone there, "Oh. Hey."
Wilson smiles, generally amused by Jordan Catalano most of the time, "Hi." Good-naturedly tapping his pen against the desk, he asks, "Anything going on?"
"Naw," says Jordan, still lingering in the doorway.
Wilson looks up at him for a second, then shuffles the papers he'd been working through, stacks them and puts them aside. Friendly as ever, Wilson says, "Hey," he gives a quick head-jerk, "step in here a second."
Jordan steps into the room, "What's up?"
"Pull up a chair." Jordan came here; he sought Wilson out, but now he's acting like he'd been called in. Jordan doesn't do this. Wilson discretely punches some buttons on his phone to divert all calls to voicemail, then leans back casually in his chair, "How're your classes?"
Jordan idly raps his fingers on the desk, "Good." He's looking around, taking in things around the office, like he'd never been in there before. Wilson's patient, keeping things light and conversational, giving Jordan a chance to share anything he came to say.
"Good. Any of them interesting?" Jordan doesn't respond; Wilson continues good-naturedly, unbothered by the kid's silence, "What am I saying? Of course they're interesting." Jordan halfway makes the effort to crack the obligatory smile, but it quickly dissolves. Wilson continues, "Work's good?"
"Yeah." Jordan cracks a knuckle one-handed. Looking bored, he asks, "This gonna take much longer?"
"Oh, you can go." With the intention of communicating to Jordan that he's totally free to leave, Wilson picks up his stack of papers again to resume work. "Just thought I'd check in since you were around," he looks back down at his papers. Jordan grips the arm rails of his chair, but doesn't actually move to rise. Wilson looks up, appraises the situation, and holding his papers mid air, he asks "... Anything you wanna talk about? Anything else going on?"
Jordan makes no answer, but instead takes a lighter from his pocket to fiddle with, to which Wilson shakes his head and extends his open palm to confiscate it. After a moment Jordan resigns himself to the stupidity of high school and tosses it to him. "I'm gonna be late." He rises. "Later."
Wilson lets him leave. As he's out the door the bell rings, and Jordan pats his hand on the glass window of the AP's office as he heads down the hall.
Mr. Wilson's eyes follow Jordan as he leaves; when he's out of sight, Wilson twists in his chair to rifle through a filing cabinet until he pulls out Jordan's file and makes himself a note.
At lunch Jordan's under the bleachers with Shane. Jordan looks mildly freaked out, and Shane watches him, thinking about the situation. Jordan pulls out a cigarette, then searches his pockets until he realizes his lighter's been confiscated. In frustration he snaps the cigarette and throws it to the ground.
Shane, who's been mulling things over since Jordan broke the news, tosses his lighter to his friend a second too late. "Keep it." Then, casually voicing what he had been thinking, he says "... She's the same person."
"I know. I just—" Jordan doesn't know how to say it. Any of it.
"So, does she hate you?" Jordan doesn't reply. "…Look, that girl's crazy about you. Just, you know, talk to 'er."
"Did I say I wasn't going to? Did I say that was a problem?" Losing steam, he exhales in that Catalano way… He shakes his head, "This is so messed up." Watching him, Shane doesn't know what to say. Jordan looks around then cuts the silence with, "I gotta get outta here." Shane watches Jordan walk away, heading to the student parking lot.
In the Chase's kitchen after dinner, Angela and Danielle stand before the sink doing the dishes. From the dining room pass-through, Graham and Patty watch Angela. They speak in low tones so as not to be overheard.
"So, what do we do?" Graham asks.
"We support her, and help her come to a decision."
"I don't get why we're not making the decision." Looking from Angela to Patty he asks, "Why aren't we making the decision? She's sixteen."
"Because." She starts again, "Because–" but cuts herself off and looks at him, "What would you decide?" In response, Graham flicks both hands up; his mouth opens, but he is at a loss for words. "I know," she concurs. "Exactly." She looks again at Angela, "If we can't see a clear solution, how can she?"
"That's my point. Exactly. She can't do this on her own." Patty lifts an eyebrow at that last part, which drives Graham to ask, "Is she on her own? How involved is Jordan?" Patty shakes her head.
All she knows is, "He was here with her last night." She adds, "Shows character."
"Oh; yeah," Graham says in irony. "Besides the fact that I want to kill him, and you can't get a full sentence out of him if you try, he's great. The best. Remind me to buy him a beer." While never turning aggressive, Graham'd finished that last part a bit louder than he'd intended, and in result, Angela and Danielle turn their heads to find their parents spying on them.
Seeing them, Angela just looks, but Danielle clearly thinks they're crazy, "What're you doing?"
Now charged with the awkward task of making it seem like their actions are completely normal, Patty and Graham come into the kitchen quickly. Patty enters upbeat, "Girls—"
"Thanks for doing the dishes," Graham finishes.
Danielle's eyes narrow, "You told us to."
"Oh. Well… Thanks." Hand on her shoulder Graham kisses the top of her head.
Looking from one parent to the other, Danielle's suspicions multiply "... What's going on? You've been weird all day." She does not get a response.
Sounding world-wearied, Angela excuses herself, "I'm going upstairs." Angela knows why her parents are acting weird, she knows why they were watching them — her, but until they bring it up, she'd rather just leave it.
Angela's in her room on the phone with Rickie. "Wow," he says after hearing her news. "Do you want me to come over?"
Rubbing her face into her palm, Angela says, "No. That's okay."
Rickie is quiet, "I don't know what to say… Are you freaking out?"
"Shock," she says flatly. "I'm in shock."
"Well, for sure... Can I do anything?"
She shakes her head before verbally answering, "No. Thanks."
After a moment Rickie says, "I'm having trouble believing it..."
"I'm in touch with that emotion," says Angela in wry concurrence.
Late that night Angela pulls her robe tight at her collarbone as she descends the staircase in her dark house. She moves quietly to the back of the house where she slowly — careful to not make a sound — unlocks the back door.
Though she had not been expecting him, Angela is not surprised to find Jordan Catalano slouching there under the warm glow of the porch light. She opens the door to him, "Hi..."
"Hi." He walks past her, heading into the kitchen; she closes the door behind him and slowly follows.
Unnecessarily explaining why she'd been there to let him in, she says, more to herself than to him "... I thought I heard something..."
He doesn't feel the need to respond to this, and in offering the only explanation he has for being in her house after midnight, he says simply, "I couldn't deal."
With more familiarity with her house than he's really earned, he takes a seat at the kitchen table. Momentarily, Angela crosses the room and sits silently beside him.
For something to do, she grabs an orange from a bowl on the breakfast table and goes to work peeling it. Her movements are routine and remote, and she is appreciative of having a task that distracts but does not overwhelm. Without looking at him she offers him a piece, which he refuses by a slight shake of his head. She eats it instead. As she lifts another wedge to her mouth he holds out his hand; she surrenders it to him and then eats another herself. They sit quietly side by side. A clock in the living room chimes.
Though time has passed, they have moved very little; they're still sitting quietly in the dark kitchen, alternating between staring off and looking down at their hands. The orange has been consumed and the peel has been absently picked apart into tiny pieces by Angela and the larger pieces stacked into a pile by Jordan.
After a bit, Jordan exhales, "Okay." He moves to rise; he hadn't come to figure things out. He'd come, just to — come. She was the only person who was feeling anything close to what he was feeling... And he couldn't sleep, and he couldn't forget about it, and he couldn't change it — he couldn't be at ease, so he came there. It had worked. For moments at a time. Anyway, he didn't feel worse, which, given everything, was saying something.
Angela is slow to respond, "Kay." He rises, and so she does as well. He walks towards the hallway and when he reaches it he turns back to her.
"Things are gonna work out." It was a declarative statement he'd made, but something about it came off as a question, maybe even a plea, though his delivery had been gruff and monotone.
Standing by the table, ankles crossed and arms folded around herself, Angela is unconvincing in her agreement, "Mm hm." Deciding to believe, he nods.
"I'll see you tomorrow." In answer she pulls a wisp of hair across her face covering her mouth with it, nods, and smiles. He crosses back to her, gently kisses her, then slips out of the dark house.
Chapter 4: This is nuts
In the morning, Angela, dressed for school, stands in a tired daze in the kitchen. She's leaning against the counter, her head bent down over it. An untouched glass of orange juice sits beside one of her hands. Danielle passes by her towards the door, but noticing Angela just standing there, Danielle turns back, "Angela." Angela doesn't even flinch at the sound of her name, she's completely consumed by whatever's on her mind. "Angela," Danielle tries again. Fueled both by obstinance and irritation Danielle's now set upon getting her sister's attention, "Angela!"
Shaking herself out of it, Angela flips her head up to face her sister. "What, Danielle?"
Danielle points defensively at the clock, "The bus. Geez, what is with you?" Angela ignores her sister, and slowly resuming action, dumps her untouched orange juice into the sink. "You're supposed to drink that," Danielle harps as Angela lifts her backpack.
Not feeling all that compelled to mollify a twelve-year-old, Angela brushes past her with a flat, "It tasted funny." Even water is tasting different...
"You didn't eat anything either," Danielle adds as she trails after Angela who's collected her school things and is making towards the door.
"You're not supposed to skip breakfast."
"Worse things have happened," is all Angela says as she shuts the front door behind them.
The walkways and student parking lot of Liberty High School are full of movement as students arrive for their morning classes. Jordan and Shane hang back in the school parking lot leaning against Shane's car while Shane rushes a copy job on his English homework. Looking up from the pages he spots Angela crossing the lot with Sharon and a few other girls. Jordan sees her too.
"She looks good," Shane comments. He hadn't exactly expected tears or self-flagellation, but he was surprised to see her looking so normal. Some might say happy, even.
'She does. She does look good,' thinks Jordan.
"Smiling," Shane contributes.
Unsure if Shane means anything by this, or if there's anything to 'mean', Jordan reverts to his default and goes on the defense, "So?"
But Shane hadn't meant anything by it — certainly not that she was happy to have found herself in this condition — and Catalano's aggression rolls off his back. What he'd meant to do was buck his friend up by pointing out that nobody's life was ruined. Yet. "She doesn't look like she'll throw herself off a building or anything."
"Well, then," Jordan responds in frustrated irony, "everything's great."
"You know, I'm just sayin'..." but he doesn't get much further, there really isn't much point in it. Shane watches Angela's face temporarily brighten as she laughs a little at something her friend said. He doesn't like to admit it, because something in Shane still drives him to treat her like an outsider, but when she smiles like that, objectivity is forced upon him and he has to admit she is pretty. Beautiful even, maybe. If you don't mind that baby-face thing. Or that she is always so serious. He doesn't mind her for Jordan, because he seems to like— whatever she's about, not to mention that Jordan Catalano monogamously occupied gives the rest of them a better shot with the less baby-faced, less earnest crowd, but, he's never actually got the attraction himself. Not that he wasn't sorry to hear what was happening, and not just on his buddy's behalf. His own mother hadn't been especially young when she'd had her children, but since the divorce she'd pretty much raised three boys on her own — everything his dad had, which was a considerable lot — went to the step-bitch and the new half brother and sister, and Shane didn't wish his mother's life on anyone. Least of all little Angela Chase, who'd only recently been obliging enough to finally give Jordan the go-ahead. Not that she'd be on her own. Well... he doesn't think. Actually, he's not too sure what Catalano'll do, or if there'll be much of anything for 'im to do. He looks over at his friend.
Jordan is caught up in his own train of thought, watching her as she passes through the lot, unaware that she's being observed. 'This is the worst mistake I've ever made. What the hell are we going to do now?' He watches keenly as she adjusts her backpack strap and tucks her hair. 'She's sixteen. ... She's never going to forgive me.' He presses his forehead, 'I should've just left it as it was after Rayanne. Leastways she would've been alright. But I had to go after her.' He shuts his eyes, 'I can't say the wrong thing. I can't mess this up worse.' He winces. 'Angela...' Regrouping he scratches the back of his head, 'Why did this... It could have been so many other things to go wrong. It didn't have to be this.' He shakes his head, 'I have to be ready. If she wants to have it, to keep, I have to be ready for that. Shit. I am not ready for that.' He turns his head away, 'She's pregnant...' A part of him thinks about that, about how she— He shakes his head again, 'Pull yourself back together. You need to be someone who can be counted on. You need to be there, for real, listening, and talking, and doing things; or you need to not be there at all. If you do that — if I do that,' he swallows, 'it'll be the worse thing I've ever done. I'll be worse than him. And she'll know... That it was a mistake; being with me was a mistake.'
Watching as she disappears from view, Shane speaks up, "Catalano." He looks over to his friend when he doesn't respond, "Cat." Distantly Jordan redirects his attention to Shane. "How does it feel?"
"You know, the fact of it: I get that it's all very very shitty, but, you know... Your pretty prepster girlfriend's walking around school with your, kid." He looks at Jordan, "Is it, hot?" He's not trying to be an asshole, he's genuinely asking, "Do you feel, satisfied?" Jordan looks at him, shakes his head solemnly then heads off to catch up with his girl.
He never caught up with her in the morning, but after second period Angela and Jordan left class together and made their way to the second floor fire escape on the south side of the building. Sitting in the windowsill, she looks up at him where he's leaning down upon the railing. She knows it's going to come off as abrupt, but there's no way around it, "What do you think about abortion?" She squints into the sunlight as she tries to read his expression when he turns his face to her. He doesn't say anything. "Do you think it's wrong?"
He answers carefully, not wanting his answer to necessarily be taken as anything more than that. "No."
"Do you think that's what I—" She cuts herself off, rises, and starts again, "Do you think that's what should happen?"
He looks away, "Dunno." He picks at piece of peeling paint, and chucks it to the ground below. He casts a quick glance in her direction, "Adoption?"
"I don't know." They each look away. The bell rings; through the windows the hall begins to empty out. They make no move to go to class.
There's a rap on the window. Associate Principal Wilson stands waiting, "Inside please. Get to class." When they don't move he benignly calls their names, "Mr. Catalano. Ms. Chase." Angela's slightly surprised she's known by name to the AP. Jordan coolly moves aside for her to crawl through first, grabs her bag, and follows after her back into the hallway. "How we doing?" Wilson greets them. He inspects their expressions, not really expecting to get an answer, but definitely detecting that something's not right.
Playing the game, Jordan gives him an emotionless "Excellent," then hands Angela her backpack. Looking Wilson in the eye, he takes her hand as he moves down the hallway to her next class. Wilson stands, watching them as they leave.
After school Angela asks Sharon to skip the bus and walk home with her. Angela holds on to her backpack straps as they walk. From time to time the girls stop walking when the conversation demands it.
"Does Jordan know?"
Angela nods, "Mm hm."
"What'd he say?" Sharon catches herself. "I'm sorry; what am I saying? Are you alright?" She answers her own question before Angela can, "Of course you're not alright." She pauses, and empathy fills her voice, "I'm so sorry." She tries to smile, "Angela ... What can I do?"
"People keep asking me that, but, I don't know what I should be doing."
"Yeah ..." Sharon commiserates. They walk a little more. Sharon turns to her, "You're not going to keep it. Are you?"
At this there's a pause, Angela looks over at her, "I really don't know yet." She stops for a moment, looks down at her feet, "I can't see that though." She looks back up, tries at a smile, and continues walking.
"Angela," Sharon moves to catch up, "What about college? What about..." She stops for emphasis, "Angela, you know I'm not the biggest fan of Jordan's, but even you can see that having a baby with Jordan Catalano isn't..." She stops herself, tilts her head, "This is isn't helping?" Angela shakes her head. "This, isn't, why you told me."
"I told you, because, this is what's happening. In actuality."
Quieter, she's ready to be there for her friend, "Yeah." She reflects on it all, "Scary."
Angela begins walking again, "If I wasn't so full of regret, I'd be terrified."
"So, how is Jordan taking it?"
"He's super excited," Angela remarks dryly.
"He's not being a jerk?" Angela shakes her head.
In the back parking lot of Louie's, leaning back against a wall, Jordan and his buddies stand around hanging out as the sun sets. Jordan is not doing that great. He's squatting and holding his head in his hands, a bottle sits between his feet.
Shane reaches out, "Man, it'll be cool. Don't sweat it."
"No," he says ruefully, "it's not cool." Jordan slams his fist against the metal sheeting behind him. It thunders his frustration.
Shane tries to reason with him, "Talk to her."
'Talk to her,' he'd said. Shane said it like it was easy, like it was nothing. He said it liked it'd change something. Jordan may not want to talk about it, problem is: even if he does, talking won't fix this. Shane's trying to help, but mostly 'cuz it's uncomfortable to be there with Jordan this down. Jordan just glares 'Talk to 'er,' he scoffs to himself, shaking his head. It's not Shane going through this; he doesn't get what this is — how this feels, what's at stake.
But he speaks again it's with a much lowered voice, and the way in which Shane leans in for confidence it's clear he does get at least some part of what's brewing in Jordan Catalano's head, "Look," and he averts his eyes to lessen the intimacy inherent in this declaration, "there's still a long way to go ... til you're your old man."
And that's it. Not all of it for sure, but Shane hit the nail on the head with that. This thought, this worry, has taken hold, it's been haunting Jordan, and just like everything else, it's unshakeable. Jordan doesn't want to be consoled. He doesn't want some seventeen-year-old screw-up — best friend though he may be — telling him thing's are gonna work out. There's no telling any of this is going to be okay. Jordan takes an embittered swig from his bottle, and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, "But this is where it starts."
Jordan is in a dark place. He's angry. He's scared. He does not want to mess anything — or anyone — up. He does not want to be his father, resentful of parenthood and bitter, drinking just to stomach it. But he cannot see himself out of it. He'd never thought much of his future, but now, now it all just seems over. And not even because of the prospect that there'd be a kid in his life, that'd be his, 'cuz, he's pretty sure he knows Angela, and he doesn't think she'd choose to do that. (Though that doesn't mean she won't.) So even though the two remaining paths on the table seem each to have pretty definitive end points, it's all too big right now and he can't see past this, or see himself through. Which is actually messing him up more than anything, because if there's anything Jordan can ordinarily do, it's take the long view of things, looking past trouble to when things will be cool again. He's been trying to do that with this, telling Angela, and himself, that it will all work out, and it's working,mostly, it's just right now. ... He gave himself over to feeling sorry for himself, and now it's messing with his head. He needs to keep drinking—
Shane takes the bottle from Jordan's hand, just as he's going to take another swig, "Then cut yourself off, and stop being pissed."
"Zen, Catalano. Be Zen," says Laurence.
"Right," Shane advises. "Chill out." Jordan shuts his eyes and drops his head again, holding it in his hands.
Summer Beall, a sophomore, with black eye makeup and outlined lips, wearing a tiny skirt and an even tinier tank top steps out into the parking lot from the back entrance of Louie's. She stops to light a cigarette, and as she lets the flame in her lighter die and exhales her first drag, she nods her head at the boys, "Hey Jordan." Jordan scowls, looks away, then stands and paces, turning his back on the others.
"Move along Baby, he's off the market," Kirk says, assuming the role of brushing her off.
"I just—" Summer begins a retort.
"Listen," Laurence steps in, "does he look like he's going to give you the time?" He adds for his own amusement, "Does he look like he's going to give you anything? Keep walking." She flips them off, looks once more to Jordan who has not turned back around, then stamps out her smoke and reenters the building.
"Look'a that Cat," Kirk pats Jordan on the shoulder; "You're cracking up and still in high demand. _ Just some perspective."
Jordan's at his limit, "This is nuts." Too many people were telling him how to feel, too many people seemed to be after him for something. He just wanted to be alone. Or drunk. He wanted it to be over. He wanted to forget it. He didn't want to be the guy who always messed things up, who always did things the wrong way.
Kirk sees Jordan getting to the point that only Tino can bring him down from, and he scans the parking lot and checks the time on his pager, "Where's Tino?" Every guy there has a guess as to where Tino could be, but no one knows. The reality is, if you're not there with him, you never know for sure where he is. The poetic mythology that sprung up around that kind of existence is and fed by Tino, who luxuriates in his unknowability and his unwavering penchant to say 'yes.' And a back room drunken spelling bee with Korean war vets is every bit as compelling as riding with an ad hoc biker club. His high school buddies may be his best friends, but by no means are they the only gents on his dance card. Everybody in Tino Mourlot's life plays second fiddle to his insuppressible YES. Still, with Jordan's circumstances what they are, it seems like he'd be around.
A two door '83 Toyota pulls into the parking lot. Lisa's not sure that Jordan's even there, but after trying Tino's and the filling station, she's giving it a try. She herself had spent many nights here not all that long ago. She spots her brother before she's parked.
"Lisa!" Nate finally animates from where he'd been leaning against the wall. At his sister's arrival Jordan slumps back down to a squat. Right now, he is not interested in being saved.
Pocketing her keys as she crosses the parking lot with purpose, Lisa is focused only on Jordan as she approaches the boys. "I haven't heard from you," she says flatly.
"Nuthin' to say," Jordan says.
"Well," she says, not allowing him to shrug her off, "I drove almost forty minutes to get here, so say something." She sees the alcohol and can tell he's been drinking for some time. She is unimpressed. "This is what you've been doing since I saw you?" She looks around, surveys the scene: he's drunk, he's lost, and he's in a parking lot. "Come to dinner." He shakes his head. "Come eat dinner and spend some time with me." He bites his thumb, but makes no move to rise. She lays it out for him, "You're not a wallower. And this," she takes the whiskey bottle out of Shane's hand, "is not a problem solver. Get up." Capitulating, Jordan rises, and she gestures sharply for him to lead the way to her car. As this happens — now that the Catalano intervention has come to a close — Kirk can't contain himself and throws himself on Lisa, playfully hugging her from behind. Lisa Catalano is universally esteemed by Jordan's crowd, and her looks are just the start of a long list of the reasons for it, and since she went rogue and ended up domestic as hell, seeing her was getting to be something like, well, like seeing Tino. This too, the bear hug, barely distracts her from her focus on Jordan and she pushes her brother ahead of her, then twists out of Kirk's grasp to follow J to her car.
Chapter 5: How do you feel about that?
It feels to Angela that every person Jordan ever drank a beer with knows what is happening. Hyperbolic or not, it definitely seems like too many people know for it to remain any kind of a secret - inevitably it would, or could, 'get out.'
The inference that all of Jordan's friends - and who could count that number - now seem to be privy (so good luck keeping it in the 'inner-circle') pushes Angela to brace herself for a conversation she'd never dreamed she'd be having. Which is how she finds herself a day later sitting with Brian Krakow on his front porch.
"Brian," she starts, "I don't know how to..." She flips her hair to regroup; emitting not a laugh exactly, but kind of, she acknowledges, "This is weird; but... " She speeds it up, "I didn't want you to hear from someone else... Cuz that's always what happens, and-" She just says it, "I'm pregnant."
Brian Krakow's reaction, or non-reaction, does him credit. He doesn't make a face, he doesn't voice an opinion or make a judgement; he's smart enough to know that what's done is done, and that what's undone is still happening, in that moment, and for her, in every moment. Brian swallows. In its own way, this was the perfect reaction. He heard her, he's taken in the gravity of it, and he's letting her know that he's there.
Angela takes his reaction to be all these things, by this point no longer surprised that Brian Krakow can handle the difficult stuff. Agreeing with his unspoken recognition of all the implications an unplanned pregnancy carries with it, Angela speaks a soft, "Yeah."
Brian is a little dumbstruck. Of all the things he'd worried over on her behalf when she'd started out with Jordan Catalano, this had never been one of them. He does not know what to say. His mind churns through a hundred different reactions, self-editing each one. 'What to say without coming off as condescending or patronizing? What to say that would be supportive without casting it in a firmly negative light? Who was he to make that call?' He knew she'd never wish this for herself, but now that it's upon her, he doesn't want to dictate how to respond to it. "How do you feel about that?"
"You don't have to congratulate me," she says. "I don't feel particularly proud." With her head bent down, she looks up and over to him, "So, no lecture on precaution and responsibility?"
"Would that change anything?"
He wants this much to be clear, "I don't think you're stupid;" adding quickly, "He might be." Brian smiles to break the ice and to establish he hadn't meant anything severe by it. "Look, Angela, nobody knows more than I what it feels like to make a mistake, or to have regrets. Not the same situation, I know. But..." He's having a hard time getting his meaning across, getting tripped up instead in distorted comparisons between his countless, but primarily minor, regrets to what must now be hers. He tries again, "I know there isn't anything, I can do... But..."
She makes an effort to smile, "Thanks." In a moment, indicating her house, she says, "I better get back. _ I can't really afford to get behind." She doesn't yet know what the next weeks - or months (there's a mental block when it comes to years) - will look like, but getting behind in school now, when everything is relatively the same as it ever was, would not help anything, particularly with her parents. It partly seems absurd to her that she is expected to think about things like homework and exams while her sixteen-year-old life collapses around her, but on the other hand, she is partly glad for it, a marker that not everything's changed - the world hasn't ended completely, and that all this, major as it is, isn't the center of everything. It isn't all there is.
Brian nods, "Okay." With a slight, tight-lipped smile she rises and crosses the street to her house. As she does, he calls after her, "Angela-" She turns back, "I'm, you know- I'm around. If…" Pressing her lips together, she nods, then smiles, then turns slowly on her heel and continues up her front steps. He watches, but makes himself look away before too long. She is not his to look after. And he's not sure if he's ever felt it more pronouncedly than now. Or if absolutely nothing's changed; she'd never been his. And an interrupted half-moment of ambiguity under a street light so many months before counted for absolutely nothing. He knew that. He'd mourned it and then moved on. Still though, this was Angela Chase...
When their conversation ended, Brian had felt relatively clear on things; lending support and withholding personal emotions seemed like the best tack, but a night is long when it's only you alone in your room knowing what you know about the girl across the street, and there are many hours between that moment outside his house and now, sitting in the peer tutoring room waiting to see if Jordan Catalano will show. Over the past months Jordan and Brian had become friendly; they'd hung out a few times, Jordan'd brought him to his first party, and Tino practically wanted to adopt him, but a few laughs and a couple games of pool had nothing over years of - whatever - with Angela Chase. Rationally, Brian knows it isn't his place to be angry with Jordan Catalano, but that doesn't stop his reaction when Jordan enters the room and takes his place across from him. "Wow."
Brows arched, Brian only shakes his head. "Just didn't expect you to really show up," he remarks.
"Why?" five steps behind, Jordan's confused, but a little of that Catalano defensiveness is there, reacting to Brian's sardonic conversation. Brian continues, telling Jordan, "I know." This means nothing to Jordan until Brian continues, brows furled in incredulity, "You didn't think I wouldn't know, did you? That everybody won't soon know?" For emphasis Brian's voice lowers, "I know."
"Good for you," shoots Jordan in icy irony. Jordan looks Brian squarely in the eyes, "So that you 'know', she's the one who doesn't want people to know. So..."
Brian's not backing down, "What are you going to do?"
Jordan's in no mood to take self-righteous criticism, but especially not from a condescending virgin like Brian Krakow. His words are sharp, "Don't act like you..." He starts again, laying it out, "This isn't about you. You don't know anything about this."
"I know it's not hard to avoid this," Brian shoots back.
"Yeah," Jordan's tone has lost its aggression, and with this change he comes off sounding tired; he's owning it as much as he can, "it's not hard. But something still went wrong." Brian opens his mouth to say more- "Krakow, I swear to God, another word and I'm taking a swing."
Brian's answer is without passion but stern, "I'll hit you back." Looking Jordan straight on, he means it.
Jordan's halfway impressed. He thinks over everything running through his mind, everything he's been keeping himself from saying, everything he'd stopped himself from doing, it could all come out at this moment; Brian Krakow could be the lightening rod for every messed up thing in his messed up head- What he comes up with is, "Are we going to do this?" He means the math tutoring. Nothing here was Brian Krakow's doing. And if he was angry, so what? So was Jordan. He continues in muted irritability, "Cuz I've got other things I should be doing." Brian has to think about this for a long moment, then capitulates and grudgingly slides Jordan's notebook from across the desk and begins to study what they should be working on. Watching him, Jordan takes this for what it is, a strained truce, "Okay."
The following morning Jordan and his buddies are in their math class, disregarding the lesson. The instructor has completed the demonstration for the day and has given the class the task of completing three sets of exercises from their textbook. While some students get right to work, most engage in light conversation while answering questions only intermittently. Several students are listening to portable CD players or Walkmans. The teacher, Mr. Fauver, has no problem with the loose work ethic in his class. Students who want help come to his desk and ask questions, which he gladly answers; those who don't care or who figure they'll get it done later, he lets them be, reading his newspaper when there's no student at his desk.
In the back sits Jordan, Laurence, Joey, and a few more of their friends. Tino's taking his math course through extension this year, and Nate and Rich are actually in calculus. Shane does not go to math. Ever. He fails every year, pays two hundred dollars for summer school, and walks away with a C each semester for doing nothing but showing up hung over.
Mumbling, talking and joking, the boys make no effort to even give the appearance of working on the assignment, except for Joey, who at a later point half stands to reach over to another student's desk to grab her answers to copy. When the girl reacts in protest he smugly kisses the air in her direction and slumps back into his desk to copy the problems. Through their conversation Jordan is talking a little, chuckling some, but shortly he lowers his head to his desk, listens for a little while longer, and then falls asleep. When his buddies see that he's out, the conversation turns to him.
Leaning in, in something just above a whisper Laurence asks, "Did you know he was sleeping with her?"
"Yeah," says Joey gruffly, not bothering to look up from his task.
"You did?" Laurence is surprised.
"Well, yeah. He's been with her forever, or, whatever," Kirk adds. "She's nuts about him."
"And," says Joey, "he told me."
Laurence is incredulous, "He did not. What'd he say?"
"Not," Joey triggers his finger at Laurence for effect, "to give you any details." Joey looks back down at the paper he's copying, "He didn't say anything ... broad strokes only."
Laurence shakes his head, "Didn't think she would. Didn't think she was the type."
Kirk leans back in his seat, hitting his pen against the edge off his desk, "That's the power of Catalano."
"A little too powerful," reflects Laurence.
"Yeah," scoffs Joey, who's now busy drawing a dirty picture on the girl's homework page before he hands it back to her.
Really thinking about the Jordan-Angela situation, Kirk says, almost to himself "...Sucks."
"Will she keep it?" Laurence wants to know.
Kirk shrugs; looking at his dozing friend he's compelled to ask, "Jordan? A dad?" It seemed unlikely. Sometimes carrying on an actual two-way conversation proved too much for him; how could that guy, great as he is, be someone's dad?
A nearby student's listening in on their conversation, Laurence notices and aggressively kicks the kid's desk.
"What're you lookin' at?" Joey interrogates. "Are we talking to you?"
"Turn around," directs Laurence.
"Get a life," Kirk piles on. The person has long since faced straight forward and is now frozen, mortified, trying to ignore the negative attention, but is unable to really do anything about it.
Joey gets up and leans in on the person's desk; clearly intimidated with Joey looming over him as he is, the kid tries to shrink in on himself. Joey speaks clearly, his words low and measured, "You didn't hear anything."
Sitting on the other side of the classroom, Rickie quietly observes the interaction, watching Jordan, his friends, and the kid. When Joey looks over in his direction Rickie ducks his head down, but continues to covertly observe their behavior.
The desk kicking and subsequent commotion jostled Jordan awake, and now temporarily roused, he groggily raises his head and kind of looks around the room. When nothing catches his interest he once again lays down his head and falls back asleep. His friends watch him. Even they see how hapless he seems. "Yeah," Kirk scoffs. "She's not going to keep it."
After school, because Jordan didn't have work and because it was warm and sunny, Angela and Jordan drove out to the river. They sit on a log by the riverbank, his car parked close by. It's a pretty day, warm and bright. She's driving her bare feet into the mud as she mulls something over... Pausing for emphasis, but without looking up from her endeavor, she breaks the silence to say, "We're not keeping it. We're not keeping it to raise for ourselves."
Driving a twig into the wet earth at his feet, he glances sideways at her, "You don't want to do that?"
"We can't do that. We're not ready for that." She rubs her eye, "We are nowhere near ready for that." Covering her bases she adds, "And we're not staying together because of an unplanned pregnancy."
He skips over the self-deprecating reference to their relationship - he has no use for that, "Should we talk about it?" He bites his thumb, "Just to be sure?" He is sure. He does not want a kid. He needs to be sure she's sure. Everything'll be a whole lot worse if they're not honest with each other, and themselves.
She looks at him, shielding the sun from her eyes, "Is keeping it something you want? Is that what you've been thinking?"
He swallows; "To be honest," he pauses to study her face, "I don't think so." Having said this, he looks up towards the sun, bites his lower lip, and makes the decision to actually be honest. "No." He continues, "But, it doesn't seem like we should discount any decision without thinking it over."
"Don't think that I haven't considered it. I've considered everything; to the infinity. Please don't think that I'm taking this lightly."
"I didn't mean it like that." He adds, "I know you're not." He rises and absently paces a few steps now and then.
"Well, okay..." Taking him at his word to explore every avenue, she begins to think it out aloud, "So... if we did keep it, how would that work? Where would we live? Where would the baby live? Would we live together? What about school?" She kind of scoffs, "I can't see you living with my family." Adding quickly, "Not that I think you're saying you want to live with my family." She looks up at him in mild panic, "Am I totally freaking you out?"
Jordan only shrugs. "You're thinking out loud. It's okay." He chucks a stone across the river, "The situation kinda merits a freak-out."
She studies him a while, trying to discern his mood and how much he means what he's been saying "...Okay... So then," again she glances at him, "continuing: Your place?"
"No." His back's to her as he watches the river, never turning back to her to answer, "Not around my dad."
She nods, "Right." Most of what she knows about Jordan's father is that there is something to know. Now and then Jordan makes a comment like this that makes it seem like she knows the stories, but he's never said much about it. But there's a scar she's felt at the back of his head, and on the inner forearm of his left arm, there're two burn marks the size of an eraser tip, or, a cigarette. She didnt need to know the stories; when Jordan said to stay away from his father she took him at his word. She continues, "An apartment seems," she pauses to choose a neutral word, "'unlikely' ... Anyway," she resumes her animation, "I really don't think that we should keep it. Reluctant, forced parenthood doesn't sound like a good solution."
Turning back towards her, he nods once decidedly, "Right."
"Right?" She needs to be sure he means it.
"Yeah. ... But," he bends down to pick up another rock from the embankment, rolling it between his fingers while he avoids making eye contact, "it's our kid; it's us."
"We're 'us'. It's a bunch of dividing cells."
Eyeing her, he speaks slowly "... You might change your mind."
"Not so much that I'm realistically going to keep it, to raise."
"You don't need to keep making that distinction." He doesn't know what made him say it. Was it for her, or for him? Neither one of them needs this reminder; they've been living this truth all week.
They're quiet for a long time. Angela absently tears at the grass at her feet, ripping it up blade by blade. She holds one tight between her thumbs, continuously snapping it slack and taut. Jordan paces a bit more, scratching the back of his head. He lightly kicks the trunk of a nearby tree with the ball of his foot, pivots, then turns back to speak his mind.
"You're still angry, and so you're trying to distance yourself from this. But," he considers his phrasing, "eventually you'll feel differently. And, I don't think you want to make these big decisions on, immediate reactions." He glances at her, unsure how she'll take this.
"You think I'm going to get crazy emotional and choose teenaged motherhood."
Jordan studies her - he doesn't know what she'll do. "I think you're not always going to be as angry about it as you are right now. _ Would that change things?" Angela is silent as she looks up at him, thinking over the question he's raised. Would it?
Across town, Rickie and Rayanne are rifling through the aisles of a cramped vintage clothing shop. Off and on they pull items from the jammed racks, hold them up, make evaluative expressions, and either put them back or hang them on the rack ends in the aisles for later reference.
"So," starts Rayanne, finally bringing it up, "has she taken care of it yet?"
Rickie glances at her; he hadn't been the one to tell her, but he'd figured she knew. He knows Rayanne's asking because she cares, but, he can't see Angela wanting him discussing it with her. He also doesn't think Rayanne will let him get out of answering. Actually, he knows this. "I don't know if that's, I mean, I haven't heard that that's the plan. Or if there is a plan, yet."
Rickie's uncomfortable with this unsanctioned discussion; "I mean, I don't know; she hasn't talked to me about that, part of it."
Blunt as ever, "What other 'part' is there? Really. What is she thinking? Angela Chase, cannot have Jordan Catalano's kid. That is, just, not how the universe works. Why isn't Patty-Cake putting the kibosh all over this?" Rickie doesn't know what to tell her. Rayanne continues, muttering, "Tino's still sticking to his whole iron curtain policy for Catalano and me; it's a shock he even told me it happened."
Interested himself, Rickie inquires, "He hasn't said what Jordan's thinking?"
"Not a word."
"So, you think she should...?" Rickie's not sure what he feels about this form of 'taking care of it,' but this is as obvious as anything to Rayanne.
"Absolutely. Angela needs to be away from Patty, and to actually live a life before she can be a mother. And, she's too ...moony, for the other." Rickie considers this. To change the subject, Rayanne holds out a 60's shift dress she's found for his evaluation, "For Travis?"
Tilting his head in consideration, Rickie declares, "He doesn't have the legs."
She makes a face; "That's all the support I get for working at this whole straight-and-narrow thing?" She pulls the dress on over her clothes, then steps out of her jeans, turning to show off the dress and inspect herself in the mirror; "A cross-dressing-boyfriend crack?"
Standing behind her in the mirror, sweeping up her messy hair in order to really form an opinion on the dress, Rickie can't not draw attention to the foreign word she's just uttered. "'Boyfriend.'"
"Shut up; so what? _ You can't be the champion of normalcy and domesticity Vasquez, and then throw it in my face when I oblige."
Trying on a vest or newsboy cap, Rickie says, "I'm not throwing anything in your face. You know I'm proud of you." Reconsidering the dress he adds, "You'd need heels."
"Forget it then." She peels the dress off, and Rickie throws something over her as she'd neglected to step back into her jeans before pulling the dress off. She makes a face at him, "I know even you're not that big of a prude." Dressed again she cocks her head, "Satisfied?" She tosses the dress atop the racks and starts down another aisle, not looking behind her as she speaks to him, "Adam doesn't mind your puritanical streak?"
Following after her, Rickie gets back at her with a playful gibe, "You could probably pull the dress of with boots; if you were taller."
Rayanne turns back to make a face at him, and after doing so continues walking backwards down the aisle until she bumps into someone; she turns, and both she and Rickie find themselves facing a very pregnant hippie in her early twenties. They stop short, suddenly reminded of things other than clothes and boys and making fun.
In the evening, Danielle pushes open Angela's door and without a word, all the while eyeing her sister, dispassionately drops the phone on Angela's bed. Angela looks up from her textbooks, and looking at her sister who's blankly watching her, she asks, "What?" Danielle says nothing but narrows her eyes a bit; she knows something is off. In no mood for this, Angela reaches for the phone and, holding it away from herself, gives Danielle one last chance to say something; when she doesn't Angela says flatly, "Get out." Danielle looks at her a moment longer then turns to exit. Lifting the phone to her ear, her hand still covering the mouthpiece, she softens and says to Danielle, "Thanks." Danielle gives her a tight-lipped smile before shutting the door behind her. Angela moves her hand away, "Hello?"
"Hey," Jordan answers. "So," he says, preparing to say something he's been thinking over ever since they left the river; "I have something to say, and, sorry, or whatever, if it doesn't come out right. Okay?"
She nods, "Okay. _ I'm listening."
He breathes in, "Okay." Jordan proceeds as straightforward as he can, voicing the thoughts as they come to him, "I don't want to be surprised." She waits to say anything until she knows he's finished; he continues, "I want to know what's going to happen. I know you do too, and you're still figuring it out; that's not what I'm getting at." He repositions the phone to his other ear; "I figure, what's gonna happen 's gonna happen. Cuz, this is real - it is happening. So, whatever happens, I'm gonna have to be cool with it and, get it done. Which-"
Angela finishes for him, "Is hard enough."
"Yeah. Right. So, on top of that, I don't want to be thinking one end is happening and then it turns out to be another." He rubs his forehead, "I'm making this your choice, mainly, and, this is what it is. But I don't want it to be one thing, if I've been thinking it's another." He takes a breath, "Okay." With this he is not looking for her agreement, but is letting her know he's said his piece.
"I get it. _ I'm doing my best."
"You're afraid I'm going to keep it last minute."
He speaks frankly, "It's possible. And if it happens, then that's what happens. _ But it's not just that."
"I get it. I just, don't know anything, yet."
Chapter 6: It'll be okay
Two nights later Angela lies awake, nestled warmly in her bed, staring blankly towards her window. She is tired, but her eyes cannot stay shut. In the darkness she lies completely still, feeling her frozen weight sink into the downy cocoon of her covers and bed. For an instant her room brightens just slightly; outside a car has flashed its headlights. Then once more. She waits. A minute later there's a small clink against her window. She lies still for just a moment longer, hugging her pillow beneath her head, so comfortable, so fatigued, she doesn't want to stir. But when the second object hits her window her eyes shut, she breathes in, then rises, and reaches for her robe.
Pulling her messy hair back with a rubber band, Angela creeps stealthily downstairs to the back door. Turning the deadbolt Angela unlocks the door and wordlessly holds it open for Jordan to slip past.
Seated across from one another, him on the sofa, her on the floor, the coffee table between them, Angela and Jordan move like they're only half awake. They're voices are muted, their movements are slow and delayed, and in the Chase's dark and still living room, lit only by a single dim lamp furthest from the stairwell, they sit, playing dominoes and speaking in lowered tones, about anything but what's plaguing them. They both look and sound run down.
With his calloused thumb Jordan pivots a domino from the row of five he's palming in his right hand and lays down the three-six, neglecting he'd had the chance to score two more points — were either one of them bothering to keep a running tally — had he only spun the tile the other direction. "I can't sleep," he remarks dully, sinking back into the sofa.
"... I know..." With as much focus as she can muster Angela studies the tiles, considering her next play. "I'm exhausted. But, I can't stay asleep." A moment more she lays down her domino, "Fifteen."
"You just say 'three'. It's three points." His words come slowly, and absent of intonation.
"That's not how I pla—"
"Shhhhh…" Jordan cuts her off. They freeze and listen. As if automated their eyes turn toward the stairs. When they hear nothing more they resume their game and Jordan takes his turn, leaning forward to make his play and strategically cut the number count open on the table. "If only Demitri'd come over and lecture," he says off-handedly, straightening out his tile, "I'd sleep for sure."
It wasn't particularly hilarious, but Angela chuckles; not much has been funny lately. She welcomes the release, and the unexpected lightness of the sentiment.
Just then the lights flash on. They both freeze and look up the stairs towards the light and the intrusion.
Above them, it's Patty who appears, pulling on her robe and speaking in a sharply hissed whisper, "What is going on? Angela?"
"Mom—" Angela's never been this alarmed, her face burns. Though perhaps discovery was inevitable, she has no words for her defense or excuse, and frozen, Angela only looks back at her mother, her mouth agape and immobile.
"Angela —" Patty, having descended the stairs in record time moves into the living room with unmistakeable purpose. "What is this? It's one in the morning."
Still in bed, Graham calls out low enough not to wake anyone still asleep, but loud enough to be heard below, "Patty?"
Patty, so upset she can't distract herself long enough to answer him, also cannot find the words to articulate the fury, the betrayal, the utter inappropriateness, the— "This—" She starts again, "This is unacceptable." She looks first to Angela then to Jordan, "This is a violation of trust. Angela." It's evident the surprise of her discovery has rendered her so angry she's visibly trying to curtail her response so as not to overreact. Her sharp words, though loaded with emotion are calculated, and quickly deliberated over in her head before spoken aloud. "You do not have free reign of this house. Jordan, you can't be here." Again emotion stops her. She swallows what she does not mean to say, and looks squarely at her daughter. "How are we supposed to trust you?"
Through this Angela and Jordan remain motionless; there's nothing for them to do but sit there and be censured. As Patty pauses now to collect her thoughts, and they await the inescapable stricture, they both look more than tired. They are more than weary; they are hopelessly depleted. Late at night, two thirds of them in pajamas, stalemated by more than one misery and more than one unanswerable question, Angela and Jordan are solemn as they look back at Patty Chase. And for the moment, they appear quite young.
Patty exhales, and allows her indignation to deflate; she doesn't want to yell at them. Covertly she scans the room for signs they've done anything more than play a board game. Satisfied, she continues, calmer and more pragmatic. "How long has this been going on?" They look up, unwilling to give a number but acknowledging that this is not a one-time occurrence. Patty sighs again, and takes a seat in the armchair. She's at a sort of loss as to what to say or how she should react. "Listen —" she's ready to level with them, "I know the situation is not the norm, but, your father — Graham — and I can't look the other way and treat you like adults. What you're going through is hard, and lonely, I suspect. We understand that. But this cannot continue." She looks at them, "Do you hear me?"
Angela nods slowly, "Yes."
Patty looks to Jordan; "Yeh."
Turning back to Angela, Patty impresses upon her, "I need to know where you are." To Jordan she says, "And where you're not." She couldn't be more earnest in these directives, but she's too worn out to be scary and threatening, and beneath the unflinching sternness of her words is Patty Chase's maternal nurturing. With eyes widened for emphasis she gives them both a look to be certain they've received the message. Satisfied, she rises, pulling her robe close to her at the collar. "You have three minutes." To Angela, "In four I want you in bed." Partially joking she adds, "Alone." Patty ascends the stairs, "Goodnight."
Once more two figures sit quietly in the dark room. The girl, still seated on the floor, exhales, a bit sunken in. She and the boy exchange looks — 'What now?' They've been discovered and their late-night commiserations have been terminated. Somewhere a clock chimes.
At school the next day, Angela's eating lunch, kind of, with friends by the back railing overlooking the sports fields. When the bell rings she smiles her goodbyes, collects her paper sack and backpack, and, as she passes by, spots Jordan and his buddies under the bleachers. Angela makes a detour and ducks under to check in.
When he sees her approaching, Jordan grounds out his cigarette. As she comes upon them Joey heads off from where he'd been talking with Jordan to join Shane; Nate gives her a silent head nod and she smiles at him as she ducks under a bar to reach where Jordan stands. "Hey," he says, looking down at her. "You in trouble?" She shrugs. "Grounded?" Jordan asks.
"Not that I've heard."
"I'm, uh, goin' to Lis's tonight. She asked if you'd come; for dinner."
"Tonight?" He nods. Angela tightens her lips as she thinks, then makes a determined, understated nod. "Sure. I mean, I'll have to ask." He nods.
"'ll swing by 'round five. Thirty."
"Okay," she makes a small head jerk back to the main building, "Gotta go."
"Yeah," he gently shoves her, "go learn sum'in." She slips him her untouched sandwich as she leaves, hurrying to make it to class before the second bell.
Later, Angela, Jordan, Ben, and Lisa are in Lisa and Ben's small living room, sitting on the floor around the coffee table, eating dinner. They're laughing at something that was said, but not freely; it is somewhat reserved.
DrinkIng her wine, Lisa eyes Jordan to read if he wants her to stop as she begins to broach the subject, "Okay..."
"You know." Angela says, laying down her fork.
"We're really sorry," contributes Ben. "We know it's a hard position to be in, and—"
"We just wanted to reach out and offer whatever help we can."
"Thank you," is Angela's sober response.
Jordan drinks his beer.
"'Cuz," Lisa speaks warmly, "I was on my own at sixteen. I know what it can be like."
"Mm hm," Angela tucks her hair.
"I just—" Lisa looks about the room, choosing her words as she does so, "I thought that maybe—" She changes tack, "I've got friends; I don't know if you know anyone else who's been there..." She takes another drink, then lays it out, "I wanted to put it out there, in case — if you wanted someone to talk to, about any of it."
"… Thanks. …" Angela's appreciative of the gesture.
"Jordan says you told your folks," Ben says.
Angela nods. "Yeah."
"And that was okay?" Lisa looks to Ben for a second then back to Angela, "We talked about it," she's not making a big deal of the offer, she's casual and down plays it — at no point is she sentimental or saccharine, "and if you need it — now, or later — if you need a place to stay, you can come here."
Angela's humbled by this offer, unnecessary as it is. "I'm okay. Thank you." She pushes at her food with her fork; "My parents aren't thrilled, but, it's okay."
"You're lucky." Angela understands Lisa hasn't said this facetiously and so she has to stop and think about this statement. Angela knows even less of Lisa Catalano's story than she does Jordan's, but Rickie Vasquez is the only other person she knows who one day never went home, and she knows that at its very best, the story can't be good. Jordan drinks his beer.
Noting that in the course of this exchange Angela's conversation has dwindled to just a few words and Jordan hasn't said anything, Ben shifts the tone, saying, "We don't have to talk about it."
"It's okay," Angela smiles. "I just, I don't know what to do, yet." Without moving his head in her direction, Jordan looks at her.
"Sure," Lisa says, serving her brother seconds without him having to ask.
"Thank you though." Angela smiles again.
Compelled to lift the mood, Ben offers brightly, to no one in particular, "More?"
After dinner, Lisa's in her bedroom grabbing an oversized sweater. Jordan raps on the open door and leans against the threshold. "Hey."
"How'ya doing?" She asks as she pulls on her sweater. Jordan rolls his eyes. Lisa speaks in a lowered voice, speaking closely, "I think I made her uncomfortable." Jordan waves it off.
Beer in hand, Ben passes by the bedroom, stopping in when he sees them talking. "What's happening?" Lisa smiles, shaking her head. Ben claps his hand on Jordan's shoulder; Lisa, pulling her cardigan to her, crosses the room, and gives Ben a small kiss as she exits the room to return to Angela. Ben takes a drink. "You hangin' in there?"
Meaning the beer, Jordan asks, "Got another?"
Ben smiles; yes, he'll get Jordan another beer, but, though he may have been the one to get J stoned the other night, this can't be the game plan. "Not getting you drunk."
"I've been drunk." He speaks flatly; now he just wants a beer. How many times had he been drunk since he'd heard? That night with Ben, in the lot outside Louie's when Lis'd found him, one day at school — Jordan hadn't planned that, but Joey'd had it on him, and it'd made more sense than that Thoreau guy he was meant to be studying. Jordan isn't under any delusions that he's gonna solve anything - or escape anything - through alcohol, but what's it hurting?
Ben asks, "Any idea what's going to happen?"
"Nuthin' good." Jordan heads for the kitchen.
Back in his car, he and Angela sit parked on Lisa's street. His hands on the wheel, Jordan turns from the window to her, he sounds doubtful, "Was that not helpful?"
"'Helpful'?" she repeats, a little surprised that was the intention; "It was nice." Angela looks at him, wanting him to really understand, "My parents aren't going to kick me out."
"I know." He does. "She just… That's her experience. Basically. _ Wull, you know," he gestures, "not the same." He shrugs, "She didn't know what else to do."
In response to nothing in particular, Angela leans forward against the dashboard, exhaling in frustration, "Uhhhhhh..." Jordan watches her. Momentarily she shifts, just slightly, so that she can see him as she speaks. "I just keep thinking that whatever decision I make now is based on what I want for my sixteen-year-old life," she lifts herself up. Fiddling with the glove compartment handle she continues, "but that as I grow older—" He reaches over and touches her hand to get her to stop messing with his car. Her hands now unoccupied, Angela sets them uncomfortably in her lap; "Like, having a kid now seems, crazy. Not possible. But, seven years from now…"
He's messing with a cigarette he knows he can't light; "You'll be, what? Twenty-three." He looks at her dubiously, "Would you want a six-year-old?"
"Maybe..." She does not sound convinced. The second part comes off stronger, "People do it."
"Yeah; they do…" He can't deny that people do it; is she saying that she would be one of them? He waits.
She shakes the thought from her head; "What I'm saying is, in six, seven, years, maybe it wouldn't be as big a deal to have been pregnant, to have had a child."
"Meaning, what? Adoption?"
"Maybe." She looks at him, "What do you think about that?"
"'Adoption?' I don't know—" He looks out the window then back to her, "It's kind of hard to tell how that'll turn out. You can't guarantee what that'd be like."
"They have thorough screenings, don't they? Agencies and whatnot?"
"I guess. But, look at the foster system; they say that's screened." Seemingly prompted by nothing, he reaches and removes his keys from the ignition; "Not everyone makes a good parent."
"I think you can interview them; get to know them some," she offers.
"Okay." He's said it because it seemed like she wanted him to, but he isn't finished: "But, my old man seems okay enough on paper; he can make a good impression if he wants to. People," he gestures, "like him."
"I haven't found that to be true"; he looks at her. "So, you're against it? You don't want to consider it as an option?"
"It's just, something to think about." His voice is rigid, a bit gruff, "I'm not gonna rule out anything you want to consider."
"Are you saying this is all my decision?"
"No. Not 'all'. If you don't want it. But, mostly. Yeah." He looks at her, "Why? Is that wrong?"
She doesn't answer. She presses her hands to her face, rubbing her eyes. Taking a deep breath and exhaling, she drops her hands. Re-centered now she looks at him, "I asked you once about what you would do if this ever happened."
He nods, "I know."
Her eyes narrow as she tries to recall, "What did we come up with?"
Jordan shakes his head, "Being careful?"
"Oh. Good." With a wry smile, "Good job us." But quickly after her moment of self-deprecating irony, she deflates and turns to him defeated, "It's too much."
"It's gonna be okay." Did he mean that, or had he just said it? It's getting harder for him to tell.
She turns to him, "Are you scared?"
Jordan shuts his eyes, then turns his head and looks at her. "We'll figure it out." He speaks her name, but he's out of things to say, "Angela _"
In the silence he's created he studies her profile, gazing at her intently. Softly he brushes hair away from her face, "I'm sorry," he almost whispers. She softens a bit and he continues to stroke her face, her neck. He moves in closer, lips brushing over her ear, following her jaw line, grazing her neck; slowly she turns towards him, her eyes meet his for just a moment before he moves in for a kiss. Surprised by her willingness given how she'd been feeling just seconds earlier, she returns the kiss and it progresses quickly. When his hand moves past the hem of her skirt he breaks away, and with a quick glance in her direction, Jordan inserts the key in the ignition, starts the car, and drives them quickly down the street.
Minutes later Jordan pulls over on an empty side street. Before the engine's died he lunges into a kiss and she melts into him. "Come here—" he gets out between kisses. He pulls her on top of him so that he can push forward her seat, making room for her to crawl into the back. Kissing him, she tugs lightly at his collar as he follows after her. Without breaking the kiss he shrugs off his jacket then holds her face close to his, gripping her head, pulling her hair. Angela looks at him steadily as she pulls off her sweater. He takes her in, so small, so beautiful, and precious, and— God he wants her. Reaching up through her skirt from behind, he yanks down her underwear and tights, so brusquely that they dig into her flesh a bit. She's kicked her shoes off already, and with one more tug at her tights she is free. Deftly he undoes his buckle and pants; there would be no fumbling with barriers tonight, nothing keeping him from her, all of her. Kissing her deeply, holding her to him, he pushes into her, more forcefully than she was prepared for. She cries out for a moment, but when she's quiet again he pushes in further, moving into her while pulling her to him. The pain is startling as her body adjusts but she's desperate to be with him and she grasps at his back, pulling him closer. Moving rhythmically deeper in, he pushes her knees up, holding her tightly; with the force of his pressure against her never relenting, she succumbs, holding him fast, yielding to his pleasure, then slowly she guides him towards hers. All this week she's felt so alone and she's desperate to feel him there, strong and warm right there with her, his hot breath in her ear, his soft lips on her mouth, her neck, his teeth grazing her jaw; she feels herself pulsing and it drives him wild — he wants more of her; there is nothing more to have, he has her completely, she's given herself wholly and he wants to sink into it all, completely enclosed; their tandem movement awakens her and she feels herself opening up, letting him in as everything else falls away — her name, her mind, the feeling in her toes and limbs; everything there is is right there where they are desperately together, loving one another. He's never been this at home in her body before, he's never felt her body this way, or felt so much like she was his — no reservations; his mind floods with the thought as his body feels it intensely: she's his. Without direction from Angela her hips open impossibly wider and she gasps when he reaches a place she never knew was there. He lifts her, getting evermore closer, and she lifts her hips to meet him, to keep him there — right there… This, surge, of intensity is new to her, she has not felt this before, and he feels the difference in her, this absolute and fierce capitulation: receiving, pulsating, devouring — he cannot stand it and he lets everything go; falling into her as his strength and determination melt away, he feels so surrounded, so safe wrapped in her arms, her legs, lost in her sweet hair and warm skin, his arms gripped firmly round her slight waist as her heavy panting wanes in his ear. Still holding tightly to his neck, as her last shudders of desire and pleasure subside, her body collapses and she gives way to it all. She begins to sob, first silently and then violently. He holds her face, presses his to hers; she cannot be soothed. He rolls over and pulls her into his arms. She continues to sob and he does what he can to console her.
"Angela. … It's okay. …" She's inconsolable. She has allowed herself to feel, and now she is feeling everything. "Come're." He can't calm her down. She can hardly breathe. He pulls her in tighter and buries his face in her hair. "It'll be okay…"
Chapter 7: Would you?
Saturday afternoon, Angela's submerged in a bathtub soaking, staring off into space. She does not react to Danielle's knocking. "Angela! You've been in there forever! Angela!"
Very quietly, her lips just above the surface level, Angela says, "Go away."
"You don't own the bathroom."
"Danielle. Go. Away."
Danielle slaps the door.
She walks away grumbling, loudly so that Angela can hear her, "I'm so glad I'm not a manic depressive, like some people." Angela sighs and submerges herself completely under water.
Later, when the Chase's doorbell rings, Danielle is there to open it. When she sees Rayanne Graff she turns without a word and shouts up the stairs. "ANGELA!" She turns back to Rayanne, speaking dryly, "Haven't seen you in a while."
"Missed that winning charm Shorty."
Danielle rolls her. Rayanne waits.
Angela, her wet hair twisted up in a towel, now standing behind Danielle, opens the door wider to see who is there. When she sees that it's Rayanne, she stops, and stares blankly. Anticipating her inevitable ejection, Danielle huffs and turns away on her heel. Now just the two of them, Angela's expression does not alter.
This was not their first time talking; that was hard to avoid altogether when there were so many friends in common. Which, somehow seemed to have multiplied rather than reduced: Sharon, and whatever there was between Rayanne and Brian Krakow. But Rayanne Graff on her front porch was new. Not to mention Rayanne without a buffer.
Standing there, faced with Angela's absolute stoicism, Rayanne's fidgeting betrays her nerves. Determined though, she stands her ground, drumming her fingers against the door jam on which she leans. Angela's continued blank expression does little to relive the awkward silence.
Rayanne breathes in, picking at the doorframe a little as she speaks, "Hey." She knows it's going to take more than that to get Angela to speak to her now, and so she jumps in, barraging Angela with rationalizations, and fortifying herself against any likely accusations. "Look, you weren't with him at the time; but, I get that I owed you something that he didn't, and so it was bigger than just the deed itself– But that was forever ago. And, I guess you got past it..." Rayanne thinks better of this and skips past that possible misstep; brow cocked, head tilted, and months later, she finally asks, "Can you forgive me so that we can talk about this?" Angela never forgiving her had hurt. And more than that she had seen it as nothing less than unfair. Forgiving one – no, dating one – and writing the other off was to her ridiculous. As was the notion that a person would ever find Catalano the more stable and reliable half of any pairing.
Rayanne had been too headstrong, too defiant to ever outright apologize, though she had attempted reconciliation more than half a dozen times, and when each time she'd been met with Angela's icy apathy, she'd finally stopped trying. But she still missed Angela Chase. Anyone who really knew her could see it, though no one ever mentioned it. And whether Angela now takes it the wrong way or not, Rayanne is going to do what she can to help Angela see what she feels should be obvious.
Angela says nothing about forgiveness, she only asks, "Who told you?"
"Who didn't? Tino, Sharon, Rickie." Angela looks at her.
When she's completely honest with herself Angela knows there's been a hole in her life since she'd cut Rayanne Graff out, but knowing this doesn't change any of the facts that had lead her to that decision, and when she'd really stepped back and analyzed it, she'd seen it was so much more than what had happened with Jordan that had clinched it. And she didn't want Rayanne now swooping in where she no longer belonged. But, after another minute, Angela finds herself pulling off her towel, and walking out onto the porch, detousling her hair at the scalp as she does. She's not asking her in, but, Angela no longer has the energy for enmity, "I don't have anything to say about it."
"Then," Rayanne follows her a few steps, "can we sit? And not talk about it?" Still wary, Angela eventually sits on the front steps, and gingerly Rayanne follows.
"… I like your hair like that. It suits you. Very you." It is unclear whether this is an apology for the implicit message given so long ago that Angela was not good enough in and of herself, or if this is merely a compliment for the blonder, razor cut do, or simply just something to fill the void. Regardless, Angela does not want it.
Angela doesn't want to hear who she is from Rayanne Graff. Not anymore. Maybe it had never been right to change her hair because someone else told her it wasn't her, but these days she knew who she was, and the idea of it now was just absurd. In the past months, with school, with friends, with Jordan, she'd come to feel more at home with herself, mostly, and having someone else tell her who she is – it just isn't where she is, even now, when everything feels so uncertain.
Rayanne had hurt her. So had Jordan. But with Rayanne, she had come to realize, it was one thing after another; Rayanne was out of control and destructive and unpredictable. Perhaps, in a way, those were all qualities she shared with Jordan, but that part of his life never touched Angela, never tangibly. And Rayanne had expected forgiveness without true remorse. And more than that, it was Rayanne's assumption that Angela needed her which Angela had been unwilling to reconcile with.
Jordan at least had apologized. Sloppily.
And he never told her who she should be.
With Rayanne gone from her life the world was duller, less exciting, less in-the-moment, and less– But it felt safe. It felt manageable and foreseeable, and Angela had weighed the two and moved on.
When she responds, her tone is level and sedate, she can't make herself emotionally involved. "I'm not sure you know who that is." She looks at her briefly, "It was forever ago."
Rayanne breathes in, picking at the deck planks as she speaks. "I know exactly who you are." Whether she's changed any since last fall, or if in all the real ways she's the same as she ever was, Angela can't be certain, but she will not allow it to be Rayanne's purview to determine it; she looks away, down the street. Rayanne continues, making her point, "I'll bet you're trying to convince yourself to keep it."
Initially, Angela's aggravated that Rayanne's still playing the role of sage, but her curiosity bests her, and she turns to her ex-best friend, "Would you?"
Rayanne shakes her head, then with a little more thought her lips purse and shift to the side, "I don't know. But, it's not the same, me and you." Truer words have not been spoken and their quiet that follows only confirms it. Rayanne looks behind her back toward the house, "You on lockdown?"
Angela shakes her head. "They're trying to cope."
"Must have had an embolism at first though?"
"Yes. And no."
Rayanne nods, "Very Chase." This time, it didn't seem that wrong for Rayanne to know her family, to know what reserved devastation and curtailed disappointment could look like. In the quiet, sensing Angela's hostility level lowering, Rayanne braves speaking what till now she never could, "Miss you."
"Listen," Angela says, "Sharon's been calling and calling, but, I just don't want to talk about it. Until, a decision's made."Was she really conveying a message to her lifelong friend through the former friend she'd lost all faith in? How did they get here? It was all too unreal.
Rayanne nods, choosing not to skip a beat after the ignored confession, "Okay. Anything else?"
Angela shakes her head. "No." She runs her fingers through her still damp hair, and with that, she's finished. But something makes her not want to close the door so completely this time. "Walk with you to the bus stop?"
A slight and measured smile spreads across Rayanne's face, this gesture is more than she'd expected, "Sure."
That night Angela and Jordan are at The River Diner. Outside the sky is dark. They're both eating eggs, Jordan's coffee cup is empty; he's halfway through his meal, but Angela, who again isn't feeling great, is more picking at her food than eating it. She lifts a bite with her fork and brings it to her mouth, but instead of eating she speaks, "I've decided on adoption."
Jordan puts down his fork. "I've given my input." He scratches the back of his neck, "I'll back your call."
She looks at him, "You don't secretly wish you were backing an alternate decision?"
"No." He gestures, "Not if this is what you want."
"What I 'want', is to not be making this decision. To not be pregnant." She clarifies as she sees how this could be misinterpreted: "To never have been."
"Second to that?"
"I think that adoption is the choice." She pushes her food around a bit, "The other just seems… selfish?" He reacts silently to this, but continues their conversation.
"Told your parents?"
"In the morning I will." She pushes her plate away from her and rests her head in her folded arms. Jordan lifts his cup to his lips only to remember it's empty. He sets it down and looks around the diner. Angela's voice is muffled as she voices an afterthought. "It smells in here." He looks at her for a moment, lying on the table, eyes closed, unable to eat, then flags down the waitress before resuming eating himself.
Having crossed the diner's parking lot, Jordan opens the car door for Angela and then walks behind the car to the driver's side. As he does he speaks, "Love you." It isn't sentimental, and it isn't said in a 'Let's stop and take note of this moment' kind of way. It's also not said quite at full volume.
Angela, who had been getting into the car straightens back up and looks across the car roof at him. She's not pissed, but solemn and even-toned. "That's an awful choice for the first time you say those words." Her response surprises him because he doesn't think he's said it as a consolation.
He is out of his depth and trying to figure out how to navigate through everything, trying not to get angry out of frustration. Jordan has been working very hard through this whole thing to stay very even-keeled, and it is with measured focus he says, "I don't know what to say, to you." He looks away, rubs his forehead, and then looks back, "Look, I'm sorry."
"Maybe it's not fair; but, 'I love you', right now, after what we just decided – it's…" She's searching for a word that won't come off too harsh, "It doesn't feel right." Angela sounds tired as she reopens the passenger door, "I don't want to be loved," she gets in, which he does as well, "I want to have been smarter." She doesn't quite slam the car door, but its sound produces the right amount of impact to punctuate her statement.
For more than just the ill-timed 'I love you', Jordan says, "I'm sorry."
Weary, but also in earnest, as she fastens her seatbelt she says, "You don't have to apologize. _ I'm not going to apologize."
Jordan starts the car and shifts into gear, "Deal."
Outside the Chase's, Jordan's brought Angela home. Having been sitting there a while in Jordan's parked car, Angela's about to get out; she opens the door, pauses, looks back at him, then resettles into her seat and shuts the door. Jordan waits expectantly for whatever it was that compelled her to stay.
She looks at him. "Have you told your father?"
He didn't exactly see that coming. "No."
"Are you going to? At some point?"
Eyes narrowed, he looks over at her, considering how to explain, "It's not like with your parents. I don't mean just closeness. Look, I sleep there, park my car there, but that's really it. I pay for everything I have – mostly. I don't owe him details."
"This isn't a detail. This is—"
"What would telling him prove? Would it help at all?" He gestures, "It's not a secret – I told the people who matter. Right?"
"I could tell 'im. I don't want to – and not in the way you didn't want to tell your parents."
"What would he do if he knew?"
Jordan looks at her, it's obvious, "He'd know."
She swallows. Then nods. "Okay." Clarifying, "It's fine." Re-clarifying, "Don't say anything."
Pulling down a stick of gum that had been tucked in the driver's side sun visor, Jordan plays with it but does not put it in his mouth. "You're parents are handling this really well." He ducks to look through the windshield at the house. "But, guess, seeing you later is out. That's over…"
Angela confirms this, and responds to his first remark, "My mother's freaking over whether to tell my grandparents."
"'Cuz that's going to help."
Mocking her mother's inflection Angela says, "This is a family of communication. Honesty. Forthrightness."
In the same sober tone she's used the entire conversation, she says, "Okay. Goodnight."
"'Night," he nods.
She moves to get out again, but again she pauses, but keeps the door ajar this time, "I didn't mean to waylay you."
Jordan squints slightly – he does not know this word, but he understands her meaning, "It's cool. You didn't."
"'Kay." She smiles a tight-lipped smile then exits the vehicle.
Later, Jordan and Shane are sitting alone in the loft. Jordan's sprawled on the sofa while Shane, who's air-drumming at different points throughout their conversation, sits at the drums.
"So, she's still…"
Jordan's eyes are shut, "Yes."
"What's going to happen?" Shane prompts.
"Nuthin'. Nuthin's gonna happen. She'll have the–"
"Baby-" Shane interjects, only partially surprised to hear this is what has been settled upon.
Jordan shifts his eyes towards his friend, then sighs and continues, "Yeah. Then, it will be over."
"Giving it up?" Jordan nods. "Simple," Shane says with pointed rhetoric.
"Uh huh," confirms a completely detached Jordan.
"So what now?"
"I dunno," Jordan chucks a button he's absently pulled loose from his shirt; "Look, don't uh, don't te—"
"Catalano. I got it." Jordan sighs and holds his head. Shane points out, "People are gonna– I mean, people already do, but, if she stays in school, people are gonna know. Everyone." He drums a quick beat, "What's she gonna—"
"I don't know."
"Man," Shane shakes his head, "of all the girls…"
"Don't," Jordan cuts him off. But Jordan can't let it rest and in spite of himself he asks, "...What does that even mean?"
"I'm just saying, of all the girls to get… Angela Cha—"
Exhausted, Jordan exhales, "It's not her fault."
"Yeah, Man. That's not what I'm saying. Not at all. It's just, it's sad. Or something."
Jordan sits up. "I need a drink."
"I hear that."
Straightening up, Jordan says, "Look, just– Try not– It's not a secret, but–" he gestures, "she's concerned."
"Yeah, I got it. But," he scratches his head with his sticks, "that's not going to stop people from talking."
"Just sucks that it's her." He absently drums a short beat; Jordan scowls – he isn't clear why this distinction is being made. Is it a dig? "I just mean… It sucks," Shane finishes with a final strike at the drum.
"I know it sucks. She knows it sucks. Her parents know it sucks. The kid across the street knows it sucks."
"Ohhhh!" Shane lets out as he crosses to the compact refrigerator, "I forgot about Krakow! Man, watch out."
"Shut up," says a detached Jordan Catalano.
"I'm not kidding," Shane tosses a beer to Jordan and cracks open his own. "That kid'll die trying to get at you."
Time has passed, and the loft has filled with people. It's party-like, but not full-blown. It's mostly just people hanging out. Jordan's sitting with a friend messing around on his acoustic guitar, not really paying attention to everything around him. When Laurence gets up and Cynthia Hargrove spots Jordan alone, she crosses the room to address him.
"Catalano." He nods an acknowledgement as she leans against a nearby chair. "I heard a story about you." He doesn't respond. "Several times today…" she waits for a response. "Is it true?" She waits again, "Because, there've been rumors about the two of you before, and they turned out to be wrong…" She reads his silent reaction, "But this time it's true..." Jordan blinks very slowly. "That's not cool," she says, watching him, "I watched her run away from you that night at the house; scared."
"That was a long time ago," he does not look up from his guitar.
"Yeah. And why'd you break up that time?" she asks in mock naïveté. "And now, she's pregnant, and what? Sixteen?" Jordan continues strumming, he's not going to look up. "So, a dad..." she drums her fingers. "Are you super excited?"
Jordan lifts his eyes, having had enough of Cynthia's light but pointed conversation, "What'du'ya want?"
She's raised an eyebrow, "What are you going to do?" Her tone is conversational more than confrontational, "Are you going to be an ass about it?"
"What's it to you?"
"Just making sure she has someone on her side."
He strums decidedly, "There're no sides." He looks away then back to her, "Since when do you care about Angela?"
"I care about guys who use girls and treat them like trash," she offers. Again, she's not exactly accusing him, it's more like she's doing due diligences.
"Well," he says, "that's not the situation."
"I always wonder about you," she says, with almost a smirk as she studies him.
"Yeah?" he asks, unimpressed. "How?" He doesn't exactly care. She's been out of his life for a long time now. Jordan messes with the tuning heads, just to have something to do.
"You've always had a very odd code of Catalano conduct," she remarks. After taking a drink from his beer, she reverts to an earlier thought, "When the kid's her age, she'll only be thirty-two. … I'll bet she was two when her mother was that age." She drinks again from his beer, this time more for the dramatic pause, "She was probably hoping to double the entire time she's been alive before becoming a mother."
Jordan stops and looks her straight on, "What is your problem, Cynthia?"
She shakes her head at him, "You're a train wreck."
No longer willing to take this from her, his tone changes, "Back off."
"Look," she says, "no one calls you on any of this. Tino loves you too much; and, he thrives in chaos. And everybody else–"
Gruffly he interrupts her, "Yeah? What's it to you?"
She's keeping this friendly, smiling not sneering as she says, "Absolutely nothing; self-destruct."
Nate approaches, wraps his arm around Cynthia's shoulder and interjects, "Hargrove, lay off. Our guy's fragile."
"Nothing about her…" she observes.
"Huh?" Nate asks good-naturedly.
"This is all about him?" she gestures in Catalano's direction. Jordan lets them talk it out, he wants nothing to do with any of it.
"No one said that," Nate placates her. "It's cool Baby, be a feminist."
"Hopeless," she shakes her head.
From across the room a guy shouts out, "Cynthia!"
Jordan raises his eyes to see who's calling her. He doesn't much care, especially now, but she had been the closest thing to long-term before Angela, and he's vaguely interested to see who she spends her time with. Cynthia flatly ignores the guy, knowing he'll be waiting when she's ready. She tries once more to get through, "Jordan."
Nate cuts her off, "He's got it. Believe me, he's got it." Jordan sighs, gets up, and walks away.
Shane approaches and kind of sidles up to Cynthia, sort of trying to play it off like he'd been part of the conversation and is there out of concern for Jordan.
"God Shane, in your dreams." She pushes him off; Nate laughs. Shane either is, or plays it off as, unfazed.
Chapter 8: What's your problem?
On Monday, loafing in the school hallway, Shane spots Angela and hurries to walk with her. "Hey, Angela."
She's a little thrown, "Oh; hey." Shane never seeks her out. Acknowledging her when she's right in front of him sometimes seems too much.
"How'ya doin'?" he asks as he steps into pace.
"Uh, you know." She tucks her hair, "Fine."
He leans in slightly as they walk, briefly creating a more intimate space between them, "We're rootin' for you."
Eyebrows raised she glances at him, "I'm not dying."
"Yeah. Yeah," he nods slowly.
Wondering why he's still walking with her, she strains to carry on the awkward conversation, "How are you?"
Speaking through a fist pound with a passing friend, Shane answers, "Well." The correctness of his grammar, and the way in which he says it catches her off guard and she smiles, stifling a small 'hmph' of laughter. He glances at her, wondering what's amused her.
As they progress down the hallway, somebody looks at Angela, and though it's not definite that it has anything to do with the pregnancy or that anyone out of the loop knows about it, Shane takes a step and lunges forward to intimidate them. "What're you looking at?"
In response, Angela looks down and quickens her pace. Shane, thinking nothing of it catches up and continues the conversation, "You know, I used to think you were weird."
She glances at him – Did he really just say that? – then ahead of her down the hallway, wanting out of the conversation, "Oh yeah?"
"Think it was the hair. Or that you hung out with Rayanne Graff."
"Don't you hang out with Rayanne Graff?"
Shane shrugs. He inspects her for half a second, then continues looking ahead, "I like the blonde."
She finally just stops walking and turns to him, "I don't get it; are you hitting on me?" She doesn't actually think that's what's happening, but she's not sure what is happening – Shane never just strikes up a conversation with her.
"No. No." She's still confused and mildly irked, but satisfied enough, she continues walking. "I just, I don't think we ever–" he gestures as he speaks, "I don't think we ever gave you a fair shot. Or, made you feel like we did."
"And, it just seemed time to make that right."
She's really just saying it, "Thanks."
"No sweat." He's kind of proud of himself; she's waiting for him to stop trailing her. "So, no hard feelings?"
They continue down the hall. Aaron Osten, a guy who from time to time Angela notices watching her, calls out from amongst his friends, "Chase– Wanna do me?" Directing the second portion more to anyone who's listening, although it's clearly meant to be heard by Angela, he goes on, "I love a girl who's game for ski—"
Angela doesn't have time to react; before Aaron completely gets out 'skins' Shane has already swung and punched him across the face. As it's caught him by surprise, the blow knocks Aaron down. For good measure Shane goes to kick him but Angela pulls him back. "STOP!"
Shane does but spits on him instead. "Punk!" He does another psych-out stomp of intimidation.
Horrified, but more stunned, Angela looks around, 'Did that really happen?'
Shane is giddy. Angela is mortified.
Jordan and Shane stride down the Liberty south hallway, and stick their heads into Angela's third period to see if they can find her. Someone seated nearby her spots them and at their prompting nudges her; Angela looks up. With a head jerk, the person points towards the door where she sees Shane and Jordan gawking in.
'Okay?' Jordan mouths. She nods, annoyed that they are there and at the whole situation, anxious for them to leave. Jordan continues, 'What happened?'
Angela points to Shane with her pen, 'He was there.' Shane brandishes his muscles like a weapon, very pleased with himself. Angela's eyes widen and she gestures, indicating that 'this is crazy'. Jordan gets that she's fine, wants to be left alone, and isn't in need of her own personal SWAT team. He's resting his hand on Shane's shoulder to say they should move on when Principal Foster comes up behind them.
"Mr. Catalano. Mr. Trudenowski. I don't remember you being so anxious to take this course when you were enrolled in it." Now Angela's teacher's become aware of the scene in the doorway, and she, Angela, and half the class are looking in their direction. Foster gives the instructor a cursory smile and sternly guides the boys away, "Walk with me gentlemen; say goodbye to the class." Jordan gives Angela a head nod and Shane does a quick salute before they turn and leave. Following behind them Foster asks dryly, "Heard anything about a fight in my hallway?"
During fourth period Angela gets called into the office. As she enters she sees Jordan sitting outside Foster's door, but as she is signaled in immediately she does not have time to speak with him. She does give him a look with exaggerated wide eyes to punctuate how not okay she is with the situation. Jordan doesn't look very concerned.
Standing in his doorway, Foster beckons her in, "Hello Angela."
"Hello…" she enters the office with trepidation. He offers her a seat and closes the door behind her.
Still relatively conversational he says to her, "I heard there was a fight you might have seen today in the halls."
Angela's discomfort grows, she looks around, "Mm hm."
She clears her voice a little and speaks up, tucking her hair, "Yes."
He moves closer, leaning against his desk, "Do you know between whom?"
"Yes?" He leans forward, "Do you know their names?"
"Uh," she tucks her hair again, unsure whether she should say, "Shane. Trudenowski. And um, Aaron Osten."
"Do you know what it was about?" he fishes.
"It happened really quickly."
"I heard. But do you know why it happened?" Angela doesn't say anything. He rises, pacing for impact, "I heard a comment was made? A comment — perhaps, perhaps not — directed towards you." He pauses for her reaction. When he gets none his tone changes, "Angela, I'm going to call your parents."
She looks at him. She thinks about what to say, about how unreal this is all becoming. She settles on, "They know. My parents know. I don't know how Aaron Osten knows, or how you know, but I told my parents."
Meanwhile, Jordan's still sitting in the office. While Angela's in talking with Foster, Associate Principal Wilson passes through, spots Jordan, and stops. Looking down at the slouching adolescent, he's ready for Jordan to level with him, "Kid." Jordan lifts his eyes, "You gonna tell me what's going on?" Jordan stares blankly; he's not worried about this trip to the office at all. Wilson casts his glance in the direction of Foster's office, "I know who's in there." He looks back at Jordan, on whom he has had no impact.
"Good for you."
Unfazed Wilson says with a nod, "What's with the mouth?"
"Nuthin's going on," he retorts, defiantly aloof.
"Ah," nods Wilson in mock understanding; "So, this is just one of your run-of-the-mill run-ins with the law?" Jordan's expression challenges him to prove otherwise. "Okay," Wilson accepts this explanation for now. "That the same for Angela?" he says, brows raised.
Jordan shrugs, "I'm not her guidance counselor."
"Except, guess what — I essentially am, and here's what her file consists of: an act of civil disobedience last year in regards to a literary publication," he pauses for that to sink in, "and a reprimand for cutting study hall, the same period auto shop gives you what amounts to a free hall pass." Wilson means to have had an impact, but Jordan doesn't cave.
Angela looks dully at Principal Foster, "Can I go? I didn't start the fight; I didn't encourage it, I tried to stop it. I don't have any reason to think there will be more." She adds, "I'm not even friends with Shane."
"But your boyfriend is."
In a lowered tone she mutters, "Not that that's your business." He cocks an eyebrow at her, which only encourages her to speak up. "Where's the administration when innocent kids are attacked in the halls?"
"Excuse me?" He folds his arms, "Are you, talking about yourself?"
"No." She reiterates, "I'm not. Real kids – good kids – are routinely harassed, on this campus, and this is what you choose to follow up on?"
He's not amused by her accusation, "We follow up on what we know about. What isn't reported, well, we can't do anything about that. Do you have names you'd like to—"
"Well, you see my point." He looks at her then pulls a pen and the notepad of counselor requests from his desk, "Angela, I'm going to send you to your counselor, call your parents in—"
"Why is this the school's business?" Instead of a response he looks at her, stoic, and she realizes she's not getting out of it, "Fine. Call them."
Jordan stares up at Wilson defiantly, "So?"
"Two, minor infractions, and now a fight?"
"You think she was out there throwing punches?"
Wilson pauses for the obligatory half-smile, then gets serious again, "I think something is going on." It is no longer a suspicion, but Jordan doesn't falter; "I think you're in trouble."
"I wasn't even there," Jordan says, making sure he comes off bored.
"Well, you know that wasn't what I meant. And you know I must have heard the story." Jordan doesn't flinch. Wilson tilts his head, "Why don't you come into my office."
Purposefully being difficult Jordan says flatly, "Foster said to stay here."
Wilson turns back to the office administrator, "Arlene, Mr. Catalano's going to be waiting for Principal Foster in my office." The secretary and Jordan both are equally unimpressed.
Not rising, Jordan says dryly, "You gonna fix this?"
"Come on. Let's talk." Jordan's blank stare doesn't leave much room for hope for that. "Or don't talk," he says, staying pleasant. Wilson gestures, waiting for Jordan to rise and head to the office, "But I'm gonna listen."
Rising, Jordan says under his breath, "You think that changes anything?"
Jordan progresses down the hallway with determination – though he's partly composed, he's partly pissed, and also weary and defiant. His strides are long and quickly paced as he looks ahead singularly focused. He stops at a small group of guys hanging at their lockers outside the gym. Jordan doesn't know exactly who he's looking for among them. "Aaron?"
Aaron looks him over, "Yeah?"
"What's your problem?" At this point, Jordan's not really aggressive as much as truly stumped.
"What the hell are you talking about?" steps in Aaron's friend, brusque, but casual.
Undeterred, Jordan's focus is only on Aaron as he's trying to make sense of something he does not understand, and does not like, "Ragging on girls? Girls you don't know. What's that about?"
"What, Angela Chase?" As Aaron continues his buddies simultaneously talk amongst themselves; "I already got a fistful on that—"
"Who's that?" one asks after Angela's name.
"Some junior's kno—" another begins.
Jordan's reaction to the friend's comment distracts him from responding to Aaron's reference to Shane, "Back off." His response is stern, but collected, and immediate.
Gathering that this offense can only mean one thing, the second friend chuckles, "Oh! Congratulations!"
"Yeah, thanks," snaps Jordan gruffly, now turning back to Aaron, not so much combative as sober – trying to keep from making a scene, "Keep your mouth shut around her."
For his own amusement, Aaron's mouthier friend continues bating Jordan, "Wonder who the father is..."
With no hesitation but bordering on aggression Jordan turns to him, looking him straight in the eye, "I am. Still wanna give her a hard time?"
"Yeah," the friend chuckles, "I do wanna give her a hard time."
"I bet she'd take it," remarks Aaron. He's said it more for a laugh from his friends, which he successfully elicits, than because he's really that big of an a-hole, just as his buddy's previous remark was made more for Jordan's benefit as pay back for telling them what to do. They're not unbelievable jerks, they're guys.
"Watch it." Jordan's grabbed Aaron by the shirt collar. His explosion has taken him by surprise and self-consciously he loosens his grip.
"Get off me!" threatens Aaron. Jordan realizes people are looking, and almost instantaneously he regains his composure, releasing Aaron with a force that pushes him backwards, but not so hard that he slams into the lockers, which had been Jordan's initial aim. There might be the most momentary indicator that Jordan's both mortified and pissed that he's made even the smallest spectacle, but he quickly resumes his apathetic stoicism and heads off toward the nearest exit.
After the last bell's rung, a solemn Jordan finds Angela at her locker, "Hey."
She looks from her locker to him, dazed, and a little sullen, "Hey." She doesn't know where to look, her expression is sunken, "Everybody knows."
"I know. Sorry."
Realistically it isn't everybody. Most people don't know Angela's name much less something that personal about her. Her friends hadn't told anyone, and Jordan's friends, though greater in number, likewise had done nothing to spread it around. The events of the day to the contrary it was hardly the talk of the school, though maintaining that perspective was proving difficult.
Though she can't quite muster the appropriate tenor, she attempts a rhetorical 'cest la vie' attitude, "What're you going to do." Shutting her locker she adds, "Your friend Shane's crazy." Jordan kind of smirks. "It has not been a good day."
He nods. "They call your folks?"
Nodding too, Angela dryly mimics the counseling secretary, "'Couldn't be reached.'"
"Still coming over?"
Remembering that had been the plan, she runs her fingers through her hair, "Oh; uh, yeah." She reopens her locker to leave behind a book she probably wouldn't have gotten to anyway. While her back is turned, Jordan takes the opportunity to speak.
"I'm sorry — 'bout what happened today. 's messed up." He bites at his thumb, "I took care of it."
Angela pats his belly as she moves from her locker to head down the hall, "No you didn't."
Catching up with her, he confides, "I really didn't think people would—" He starts again, "I didn't think they'd say things." She raises her eyebrows at him signaling he must be crazy if he didn't see this happening.
She does a hair tuck, and smiles faintly, "Don't worry about it." She smirks slighlty, clearly teasing him, though the levity in her tone is lackluster, "You've never been very good for my reputation."
With a wry smile, he takes her hand, "You mean you didn't have one till me."
"Some might say that."
He swings her arm, "We've gotta get outta here." They head toward the student lot.
At Jordan's, Angela's hanging out while he gathers gear together for a show he's playing that night. As he collects equipment and packs a plastic milk crate, she plays at strumming his acoustic guitar. She's learning the chords, but it is awkward and her fingers won't do what she means them to.
Watching him untangle his amp cord, she goes back to what had happened at school, "This is exactly what I was afraid would happen if word got out."
He looks up, "So, next time? Let 'em say whatever? Just shrug it off?" He goes back to his task, "We don't really do that."
She exhales in frustration, "Uuuhhhh." Closing her eyes, she momentarily puts her head in her hand as she tries to think of how to communicate this to Jordan. She speaks slowly and with emphasis: "I got called into the principal's office. Principal Foster is now involved in this." Seeing she still hasn't made an impact she adds, "They called my parents." He's listening to her, but doesn't see in it what she sees. She gives up and returns to the earlier point of conversation, "Anyway, of courseyou do. You shrug everything off – school, your dad, fights with me. Most things you shrug off."
Breezily he remarks, "I don't think this should be one of 'em."
She looks at him, "Yeah; I'd prefer not to be the subject of every conversation at school, but, that's not really the problem. The real problem being that I'm pregnant, not people knowing that I am. I don't want you, or your friends, turning me – this– into a reason to fight."
"Nothing was 'turned,'" he says offhandedly as he quickly does a last minute tune on his electric guitar.
Her response is even-tempered; she's neither worked up nor agitated, "Aren't things bad enough?" As an afterthought she says, "You've never struck me as someone who welcomed drama into his life." This catches his attention, but he continues with his task. The thought occurs to her, and she looks at him, "Are you mad? Is that what this is about?" He catches her eye line for a second. "'Cuz I'm mad. I'm furious."
Keeping busy he says, "I'm not mad at you."
She bites her lower lip, "I know that."
He looks up at her. She half smiles. When she looks down again to work on her fingering, he keeps looking at her. There she is, in the midst of what is undoubtedly the worst thing she's ever personally gone through, trying to teach herself an open C chord on his guitar. He watches her bite her lower lip. And brush a strand of hair away from her face. He breathes deeply. What had happened today at school? Had he overreacted? Did it mean something if he did...
Still thinking things over he moves back into action, packing up his white electric guitar. As he does so, Jordan casts a sidewise glance in her direction, "Angela?" He says it as casually but as earnestly as he can. "If, if you want to keep – the baby – I'll do that. I'll do that with you." He bites his thumb and looks a her once more, "We can make it work, or, whatever." He shrugs, "Figure it out."
Stunned, she stops strumming, "Where is that–" As far as the decision they'd made the other night, it really hadn't gone any further than that. And though the words had been spoken it still feels a little not-set-in-stone. But where had this come from? She considers her words, "I thought we decided we didn't want to. That we couldn't, and shouldn't, do that."
"We don't have to change the plan. I'm just saying, if it is something you've been wanting to do, we can do it." He knows he's shocked her, but more than that he's shocked himself. He really doesn't know what exactly motivated him to say it. He's pretty sure he doesn't mean it. But something happened that day to prompt him to say it. She's quiet.
"Jordan. I don't want to."
"I thought, that you didn't either."
Telling the truth he looks her in the eye, "I don't." She doesn't know if she should believe him and he sees it. "I don't. I just..." He gives up, "Never mind. Forget it." She's still not sure if she should believe him. "Forget it," he says again before he resumes his task. She shuts her eyes and when she reopens them she watches him, her chin in her hand. When he catches her she returns her focus to the guitar, though she's still focused on what he said. He looks up again, "Play a sharp." She looks at him once more, then purses her lips, and tries at a sharp. He sets his crate and guitar case by the door, "Are you sure you wanna go tonight? It's no sweat if you skip it."
"No, I'm going."
Single-handedly cracking his knuckles, he considers aloud, "Maybe I should blow it off."
"Why?" She looks back down, "Nothing'll change tonight regardless. Plus," she strikes the guitar loudly, "they need a guitarist; they're not Ben Folds Five."
"I don't know what that is. Anyway, every guy in the band plays guitar." Crossing the room to find a clean shirt, he pauses to fix her fingering. She works a little longer, then lays down the guitar.
"I don't want to do this."
Pulling on his fresh shirt he asks, "What? Go?"
That wasn't what she'd meant; "I don't want to have the baby." Her eyes never leave his face as she continues, "At all."
He stops. He stands there, looking back at her, and nods. "Okay."
Dryly sober she confirms, "Really?"
"Is this about today?"
"No." Her eyes narrow, "Are you sure? 'Cuz, what you just said before..."
He drops his shoulder, "You can't do it – the one, or the other – if it's not really what you want."
"But, what do you want? I don't want to not know what you feel. Jordan. It's not fair for me to not know what you're really thinking."
He looks at her, mulling his words over, "If I were in your place... I wouldn't do it – have it."
"Yeah..." she's nodding, listening to what he's saying, then stops— "Damn it." She lies down on her belly, her face pillowed by her hands. Jordan watches her for a moment and sits too; laying back, he stares up at the ceiling. "I can't figure the right thing to do."
"How much longer do we have?"
"...There's still time." She swallows. "You can do it up to three months; but the later you wait, it gets more—" She shuts her eyes as she inhales deeply; "I don't want to drag it out." When she turns over on her side she's compartmentalized things for the time being, "I'm going home and take a nap first." She rises, pulling him into an upright position on the bed. "You can still pick me up on your way?" He nods. "Okay," she gives him a small wave and a tight-lipped smile as she exits to walk home.
Backstage at the small venue the band is playing, Jordan and Angela stand apart from the other band members and the couple of friends hanging with them. They speak closely together while the boys, giving Jordan and Angela their space, banter and jostle one another a ways off. All but one – Rich, who occasionally looks over at them – ignores the couple completely. When Marco calls to Jordan that it's time Jordan disentangles himself from Angela, and looking past her he kisses her on the temple, then heads off to join the boys as they walk down the narrow corridor to the low stage. Rich does a head nod and says 'Hey' to Angela as he passes by.
As they walk to the stage looking straight ahead, Joey leans into Rich, "What was that about?" The passageway is crowded and the club is noisy, their conversation is not loud enough the others to overhear.
"'What'?" Joey scoffs. "That little moment, with Jordan's girl."
"What?" Rich does not get the accusation.
"You've been staring at her all night," Joey says casually.
Rich blows this off, "Whatever."
Joey's eyes narrow, "What're you after?"
It's no real skin off Joey's back, but still he says, "'S messed up the way you're lookin' at her."
Rich shrugs, "She's pregnant."
Rich leans in, "That doesn't trip you out?"
"Whudda'ya mean?" Joey thinks it sucks, and it's the last thing he'd ever want to deal with himself, but nothing about it trips him out. There is nothing mysterious or fascinating about it to him.
They're on stage now, plugging into amps, and tapping on mics, exchanging murmured words as they pass one another during the routine acts of preparing to play. The other three band members, Jordan included, take no notice as they're occupied themselves. During the rest of their exchange, Jordan says 'hi' to the crowd.
"Look'a 'er," Rich nods in Angela's direction who has moved into the crowd and is standing toward the back. "Totally nice. Totally crazy about him. And – potentially – having his kid."
"Man, shut up," Joey cuts him off.
Shaking his head at Rich, "You're an idiot. This isn't good. Catalano's freaking out. Whatever fantasies you're having about her – stop. Her life's messed up enough without you creepin' on her."
Rich chuckles as he tunes his bass, "That is so not what I said."
"Whatever man, I know how you are. Forget it." Bemused, Rich shakes his head and turns away. Joey takes his place at the drums, a role he now shares with Shane ever since Marco'd been talking about leaving which'd pushed Joey into playing some rhythm guitar and singing lead on about a third of their songs.
At Jordan's signal Joey strikes his sticks and the band begins their set. Jordan starts off with The Clash's "Lost in the Supermarket", then moves on to a dark rendition of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues", moving from there to Nirvana's "Dumb". At that point Joey takes over the next few songs, bringing up the beat and the mood, still playing some covers but mostly their own stuff. While he's at the mic Shane steps in on drums and Jordan takes a backseat for a while.
After their set, Jordan gets drunk. Rich and Marco are long gone, and Joey and Shane are still inside the club drinking and chatting up some girls in very short skirts. Angela's stepped outside for some fresh air, and Jordan emerges, drink in hand, to join her. She gives him a tight-lipped smile of acknowledgment when he stands beside her. Between drinks Jordan takes out a cigarette; through her peripheral vision Angela watches as he lights it, takes a deep drag, and eventually exhales. He takes another drag.
"Jordan, can you not, smoke right now," she says quietly. Jordan looks at her a good long time, then exhales away from her face, and stubs out the cigarette.
"I called Tino; he'll take you home," he shares as he takes another drink.
She watches him as he stares off; Jordan getting drunk isn't entirely new, nor is his penchant to brood, still, she suspects something's up. Her subdued reply of, "Okay," only seems to irritate him, it looks as if he winces momentarily.
He gestures, coolly explaining himself, "Last thing I need is to drive you home drunk."
By the time Jordan's forgotten twice that he's already finished his drink, two times bringing the empty glass to his lips only to be disappointed, Tino's made it to the club.
Pulling up to the curb he calls out to them through the lowered passenger window, "Hey kids, someone call for a handsome cab driver?" He sees clearly that they're not exactly in a joking mood, but he takes that as the very reason to continue, "See, that's funny cuz–"
"No one cares," Jordan grunts as he walks a few steps closer. Tino raises his eyebrows though he isn't surprised by J's irritability. Catalano gets that way, more so when he drinks.
Angela moves towards the car but stops when she realizes Jordan isn't following. She turns and looks back at Jordan. She tugs on his arm, pulling him towards Tino's Cadillac. "Com'on," she says gently, "let's go for a drive." Jordan glares down at her, and when that doesn't seem to faze her or scare her off, he sort of deflates into a slouch and allows himself to be shepherded to Tino's car. He climbs in through the passenger door Tino'd reached over and opened for them, smashing his glass on the ground as he does. Angela climbs in after, stepping over the shattered glass and shuts the door.
As she fastens her seatbelt Tino asks before starting off, "Where's your gear."
"Uh, it's in his trunk," Angela answers for him. "Is it alright there?"
Tino asks Jordan, "Want me to grab it?"
Tino shrugs. "It'll be fine," he assures Angela.
As Tino shifts gears and pulls onto the road, Jordan, eyes already shut, grumbles, "Thanks for making it to the gig."
Focusing on the road Tino grins, "Yeah, well, funny how hearing the same post-punk, garage-tinged set over and over kind of kills the soul. Besides," he continues, "I barely show to my own gigs, why'd I show to yours?" He glances at him, "You think you're special or sumpin'?"
Tino's kidding him, but Jordan just wants quiet, "Shut up," he mumbles.
Leaning forward a bit to see past Jordan to Angela, Tino winks at her, "He's really known for his sparkling conversation." Then the car is quiet.
Tino's playing Lou Reed softly in the background; they settle in. To Angela, Tino asks, "We takin' a drive?" She nods and nestles in against the passenger door. She doesn't want to go home, and she doesn't want Jordan to keep drinking, and it's warm and pleasant in the car. The sky is so clear, and the moon hangs low and golden in the darkness. She doesn't know the song playing on Tino's tape deck, but she's quietly falling in love with it. She doesn't ask the name, doing so would only spoil whatever this is she's feeling.
It somehow feels safe here in this car. Nothing ever seems to touch Tino, and having someone like that on her side felt– it made things seem possible, and maybe not so absolutely terrifying. Tino glances over to see Jordan dozing softly between them. Meeting her eyes he halfway smiles at her then looks back to the road. "He's not like this all the time." Angela doesn't know to what he's referring exactly, Jordan's drinking? In general, or since all this? "How you doing?" he asks her.
Angela's slow to break her silence, but her voice is steady and warm as she breathes in, "I'm okay."
"He feels terrible."
"Yeah, we'll, I've really been meaning to blame him for that whole biology thing," she says in dry irony. They had been safe, and she knew absolutely that this was the last thing he'd ever want to have happen, so, if a mistake had been made, it was a mistake. Nothing more. Nothing she could fault him for. Jordan wasn't to blame for the biological imperative of reproduction.
Tino smirks appreciatively. He always liked Angela Chase, but there were times, every so often, when she really did him in. Pragmatism was Catalano's M.O., but when she picked it up every now and then, it was dazzling. A person prone to worry giving it up to fate was a conscious thing and it had to be admired. After a moment he adds on, "I always suspected Catalano was a god." Though he can't see her, in response Angela makes the requisite tight-lipped smile.
Jordan jolts awake, finding himself alone in Tino's car. He rubs his eyes open; through the windshield he sees Angela sitting with Tino on a bench. They're parked in the lot on the highest point in Oak Park. From there the grass slopes down to picnic tables, a couple basketball courts, play equipment, expanses of grass and trails, and in the distance a baseball field. Taking occasional sips of coffee from his paper cup, Tino's regaling Angela with stories from his former life as a baseball prodigy. She's laughing when Jordan comes and sits beside them.
"It's Sleeping Beauty!" Tino greets him. "Boy," he says in mock commiseration, "I've heard the first three months can really mess with your sleep cycle." He grins as he hands over his coffee. Jordan rubs his head, still buzzed, and takes a drink. "Just told 'er the summersault to third story."
Jordan rolls his eyes, he still can't believe Tino'd pulled that. "No one thought that was funny."
Tino rises and shakes his head at Angela, one more time of hundreds telling her to dismiss whatever Jordan Catalano says that doesn't tow the line Tino wants to be towed.
"Okay," Tino rallies them, "what're we doin'?" He looks from Jordan to Angela, and decides they need a distraction. "Got it. Bottle rockets." They look at him blankly. "For that, we'll need Angela's BFF Shane." He wags his brows at her, "Chase, 'ya ever blow anything up? Present company excluded."
Jordan, hands jammed in his jacket pockets, paces a small circle modestly ignoring this last remark. When Tino doesn't move on, Jordan scratches the back of his head, and turns back to his friend, "I think the answer is 'no.'"
"See, Chase," he points at her, "that's your problem."
"That's my problem?" she says dubiously but willing to entertain him a little further.
"Well, you're biggest one, yeah," smiles Tino. "But we'll take care of that and then we'll get to the small stuff; why? You got something else going on?" He flashes her a wry but warm smile. Kidding Angela Chase is what he does. Nothing, apparently, is going to change that.
Walking a few steps with Angela Tino stops, jumps and swings from a low hanging tree branch as he brainstorms, "What's there to blow up in this town?" She moves on, folding her arms to keep warm. When Tino drops to the ground again it takes him no time to rejoin her. Tilting his head down to hers he says, "We'll leave the women's health clinic; you might need that down the road." Jordan drops his head back. Tino claps him on the back as he passes by. "So, ya in?"
She tucks her hair, smiling faintly as she moves toward the car, "I think I'm just gonna go home."
Tino accepts this, he'd only been half-serious at most anyway, and as he follows after her he continues, "Speaking of which," which of course no one was at all, "how's all this," he turns, wagging his finger between them, "going?" Before he risks being too serious, though the question had come off casual enough, he adds, "Wedding bells ringing? Niagara anyone?" Neither Jordan nor Angela is offended, or irritated, or self-conscious; it's Tino. His way of saying the right thing is saying all the unspoken wrong things.
There's no tension as the three of them reach the car. There isn't anything, but a vague feeling of camaraderie, and room to breathe. Opening the car door for Angela Tino queries, "Why's everyone so down in the mouth? Geez, what, is somebody having a baby?" He grins at her as she slides across to the middle.
"You're not always funny," Jordan says to his friend as he takes his place holding the passenger door.
Tino pats his shoulder reassuringly as Jordan too climbs into the car, "Yeah I am." He shuts the door after him and makes his way to the driver's side, "Just keep drinking." Angela begins to wonder just how much Jordan has been drinking.
Tino's sitting on the curb a few houses down from the Chase home, smoking a cigarette while Jordan and Angela say goodnight. They are lying on their backs on the hood of the car, bundled up in their coats, looking up at the stars. By this time Jordan has sobered considerably.
Angela breathes in, giving voice to what she's been mulling over, "...I just don't see how this is a decision that can be made. You know? _ God... I feel immobilized. Like, incapacitated." She turns her head toward him, "Do you feel that way?" He looks at her, and blinks. Turning back to the stars she continues, "I mean, how is this done?" She breathes. "It feels like we've been living with this forever." As she tries to explain herself she sits up for clarity, "I mean," Jordan too slowly sits up, "I'll feel like I know what my choice is, and I'll like, live with it for a little while, and then, I don't know... everything changes and I see it all differently and feel differently about it."
"I know." Throughout her monologue Angela's been absently tugging at the papery wristband from the club that night. It's stretching, but not tearing, and pulling at it is leaving a mark on her wrist. Jordan deftly takes hold her wrist, holds it still, and tears the band off.
Rubbing her wrist she smiles briefly; "So... I guess, we're not going to find the answer tonight?"
"Not to this."
She pulls her coat in tighter at the collar so that it lifts and covers her tucked chin; she gives him a small smile, "The show was good. I like when you sing." She moves in for a small goodnight kiss and it takes him by surprise. He'd been feeling kind of separate from her, and this sudden contact is powerful and he returns the kiss with fervor. They remember each other together. The kiss, although a good one, is somewhat melancholic and short-lived.
His face lingers very close to hers and he looks her in the eye, "Goodnight."
"'Night." She slips off the car, and walks up the front path to her house while he walks around to the passenger's side door.
As she walks toward her house, Tino says, "Cherie; je suis désolé de ce qui se passe, tout va bien se passer." She smiles, gives them a quick wave, and lets herself into the house.
Standing now beside Jordan, also watching Angela disappear into the Chase home, Tino is not looking in Jordan's direction when he says. "I heard what happened."
"Yeah?" Jordan looks at his friend, "Which part?"
Pulling out his keys and moving round to the driver's side, Tino hands over the rest of his cigarette for Jordan to finish, which he gladly takes; "The part where you go primal on the soccer kid in the main hallway."
"Right." Jordan doesn't want to talk about. He shuts the car door behind him as he climbs in, "She's pissed."
Waiting to start the ignition till he's made his point, Tino asks rhetorically, "What about Angela Chase, exactly, says to you 'violence solves problems'."
"Shane hit 'im."
"Right," Tino nods. "You just slammed him against a locker. Totally different." Tino smiles. Jordan's super irritated.
Tino starts the car and at the end of the street he points in one of two directions. One of which will take them to any number of destinations: Jordan's, Tino's, the loft, Nate's; the other would take them back to the club and to Jordan's car. Jordan votes for his car.
Several blocks later Jordan offers, "I told her we could keep it. If she wanted, Angela. I said that today."
Tino looks right at him, "'d'ya mean it?"
"I mean, yeah, I said it." Tino processes this.
"JC, never let anyone tell you you're not a nice guy."
No ones' ever told Jordan he was a nice guy, and lately he's been feeling even worse. Tino's words reach him, and he sits there, covertly thinking them over... But Tino isn't finished; this is not what Jordan was meant to walk away with. "Catalano, this is not about being nice. If you don't want it, you can't say it."
"Wull, if she wants it, I can't do anything about it."
"Maybe. But you just told her you want it. You can control that. Now she's operating on bad intel. Can't go around giving misinformation Kid, you gotta speak up." Tino steps on the gas, taking a left just as the light switches from yellow to red. He continues, "You gotta listen, sure. But when it's her, listening to you, you gotta speak the truth." Stopped now at a red, Tino looks at his friend, "What do you want?"
Jordan opens his mouth to speak but he can't get it out. He says something else instead, "She doesn't want to anyway. Keep it. She doesn't want to do that."
"Well, sure," Tino says this like it's the most obvious thing in the world; "she was never going to do that." Jordan looks at Tino, this is news to him. And how could Tino, who, when it came down to it, didn't really know Angela all that well, be so sure? The light changes. Tino's not bothering with support for his claim, he's moving on, "You gotta speak your truth." He flashes his lights at someone who tried to cut him off, "Always." Jordan rolls his eyes, Your 'truth' is whole lot easier when you don't have a sixteen-year-old girl and— depending on you, and when you don't have half the world, including your old man, telling you what a screw up you are. It feels strange that everyone is turning to him now when usually he was the person everyone wrote off. When had anybody ever waited to hear what he had to say, about anything? Well, expect maybe for her.
Later, on his way home from picking up his car, Jordan exits a convenience store after purchasing cigarettes. Making for his car he passes a group of people as they're heading in. Jordan recognizes one of them as a guy he's friendly with and gives him a head nod, but as Jordan's not as friendly as he would be without all of this on his mind, he continues on towards his car without stopping. As he does so, someone in the group recognized him as someone she wants to speak with.
With a pat on the chest, Rayanne Graff breaks away from the boy she'd been walking with and approaches Jordan.
Having spotted her, Jordan heads away, "Don't. Don't start."
There's no way she's not saying this and she makes no effort to mask the irony as she says, "Right." Rayanne stays with him as his stride quickens, "Catal—"
Veering away from her again, he avoids making eye contact, "Look, I've gotten it from everyone already. Krakow. Cynthia—"
"Yeah?" Her eyebrow cocks, "What'd sleazoid Hargrove have to say about it?"
Jordan eyes her, "Like you've got it together enough to tell anyone what to do."
"Right," she nods slowly, affecting pointed understanding, "'cuz I forget how put together your life is." She tilts her head in mock naïveté, "Tell me more about getting your girlfriend pregnant."
Jordan turns on her, "Look, you're not even friends. She wouldn't want you sticking up for her. That's like, what? Ironic?" He means this, "You've got to walk away now." He keeps moving. "It's under control."
"I feel so relieved," she says dryly.
"Yeah? Well, you're not really the one who needs to be relieved, are you? Just—" he sounds weary, but adamant, "leave it alone." He unlocks his car.
Rayanne is not satisfied, he can't just ignore something like this, "That's not—" she begins till he cuts her off.
"You. You leave it alone. Just—" He sighs, standing behind his open door. Jordan gestures, "I'll tell her you asked about her." He gets in.
"Don't do me any favors," she grumbles. He shakes his head: she's hopeless.
Chapter 9: The dream has gone, the baby is real
After school Jordan pulls up outside his house and parks on the street – parking in the driveway or in the garage just isn't worth the heat his dad may give him if today's a day he decides to care about his car being blocked. In the side path leading back to the detached garage and small backyard stands his father, shirtless and smoking a cigarette as he works at pruning the lemon tree that grows there. Jordan spots him but heads straight toward the front door, giving his dad little more than a brief head nod of acknowledgment. Head ducked, Jordan means to avoid any real interaction or having the yard work unloaded on him.
But, cigarette in mouth, mid clip, his father calls out to him, keeping him from mounting the porch steps. "Hey, what's going on?" He isn't angry, but there is a purpose behind this interrogative – he is not just asking.
Jordan pauses and looks over to his dad, "Nothin'."
"Something," his father retorts. Taking a drag and eyeing his boy, Jeff Catalano reveals, "Your sister called for you." He exhales and waits for Jordan to react. When he doesn't, Jeff continues, "When was the last time that happened."
It didn't. It never happened. She did not call this house. If Lisa Catalano, or anyone really, wanted to find Jordan, there is a method. Call work. Call Tino. Call the loft. Call Shane. Try Louie's. Give Nate a call. Jordan's not always around, but he's not off the grid. If a person puts the word out they're looking for him, he'll get the message. What he does after that depends on his mood. And that was exactly the problem Lisa'd been facing. Jordan hadn't been calling her back. When Ben had driven all the way out to Three Rivers to stop by and see Jordan at work, he hadn't been there – schedule change. So when five days passed without a word she picked up the phone and dialed the numbers to her father's house. Jordan was impressed, but none the more motivated to talk.
Dropping his shoulder Jordan suggests dryly, "Maybe she forgot."
"'Forgot'?" Jeff scoffs. "I like that." He nods a sardonic smile, "Maybe she forgot she ran away. That's great." With that Jeff abandons his superficial amusement and gets down to business, "What does she want."
"You talked to her," Jordan evades.
"Yeah," Jeff says, scratching the back of his head as he squints into the sun to survey his work on the tree, "what a wealth of information that girl is. Almost like talking to you. So?" He looks at Jordan, "I got my fatherly cap on, try me out."
"You don't want to know."
"You're probably right about that; but, as long as I'm askin'," his tone now shifts mid sentence into a stern imperative, "go ahead and tell me."
Without ever really being a surprise, Jordan's father perpetually surprises him — Jordan can never be sure what he'll care about and what he'll take in stride. Or what might set him off. Jordan's fairly confident this isn't going to do that, he's too far removed for it to incite any sense of rage, but still Jordan does not want to say it. Angela'd asked since he wasn't a girl what he had to be afraid of in telling; it wasn't fear and it didn't have anything to do with being a girl. A disappointment maybe.
But, could you really disappoint someone who expected nothing from you? Maybe it was that he didn't want to prove him right. Jordan has no desire to be the kid with the wrong answers, the bad record, the mediocre arm — the pregnant girlfriend. And, he did not want his father ever thinking he would turn to him, that this was him turning to him, that this was one of those moments. 'Cuz, it wasn't.
But mostly, Jordan doesn't want to find out this was what'd been expected of him. That this, according to his old man, was the inevitable end of Jordan Catalano - messed up, low-life screw-up.
Jordan sizes his father up, weighing the costs and benefits of telling the truth. He's tired and in the end makes the decision to just say it and see what happens. "My girlfriend's pregnant." He waits.
His father looks at him, then without much reaction at all, returns his focus to the tree, "That happens." With his forearm he wipes the sweat from his brow, "Shit." He looks once more at his son, "Do NOT get married."
"Yeah," Jordan says, scratching his scalp, "that's, not a problem."
His father's glad to hear that. He shakes his head slowly, "You got to be careful." Leaning on his clippers he asks, "Which one is this?"
This really irritates Jordan, "Angela. You know her."
He nods, thinking he knows who he means, "Right." Jeff looks over to Jordan now, looking to be clear on one thing, "She do this on purpose?"
"That doesn't mean anything."
"I guarantee she did not do this on purpose."
"Good. Not much to get out of you anyway. So. You sticking or you bailing?" Jeff Catalano has this way of talking to his son like they're buddies or comrades, without ever letting Jordan feel like they're friends. The familiarity is there, the warmth is not.
Jeff turns back to the tree and resumes pruning it, "Having stuck twice, bailing's not that bad." He adds as he clips off another branch, "'Course, sometimes the kids don't stick. Take your sister."
Jordan will not 'take his sister'. He has no patience for his father's revisionist history and in general refuses to engage in the topic at all. He moves on. "There's no plan yet."
"Yeah, well, keep me out of it." Jeff kicks a branch out of his path.
"Really?" Jordan smirks in irony. Big surprise there.
"Hey," says his father, calling him on his attitude, "I done my time. Don't kid yourself, I been here everyday. I'm trimming a damn fruit tree - I'm domestic as hell."
"Hey Kid," he says, "watch the mouth. You've been hanging too much with your boy Tina."
"This done yet?" Jordan turns his eyes up to the sky, his fallback is disinterest.
"Yeah; we're done." Jordan starts to walk away, but he only gets a few steps closer to the house when his father calls out to him again, "Hey!" Jordan turns back and waits, expressionless, while his father deliberates his words, "... She has this baby, that's it - you're in."
Dryly Jordan asks, "What happened to 'bailing'?"
Jeff takes a final drag on his cigarette and looks at him, "She'll let you get away with that?"
In spite of himself Jordan thinks this over, "She might..."
Tino called it hero worship. Jordan knew he wasn't any kind of a hero to Angela Chase, but he also could not deny that he doesn't know just exactly what Tino means by it. Though she's a lot better about it now, he's well aware that there's still a part of Angela that has him on a — what's Tino call it? Pedestal. Hell if he knew why — he doesn't deserve it, that he knows — and it can keep her from asking for what she deserves. Not always, not all the time, God knows she can stand her ground when she chooses, but still it's there, and he wasn't above abusing it from time to time. He knew, for example, if he stays quiet and lets her talk herself in a circle he can get out of doing or saying something he doesn't want to have to do or say. He could, he knew also, use it to just slightly pressure her into something or out of something. Hell, it'd been almost a year now and he'd just told her he loved her, and on his terms; though, that hadn't exactly gone over.
He tried not to take advantage, and he really doesn't want to be in control, he likes them best when they are just friends, on the same page. Still, when something in someone is telling them to defer to you, it's not easy to wholly turn that down. It had never taken them to such a dark place, especially not since he'd figured out that he couldn't make her want to sleep with him. And that even if he could, it wasn't what he wanted; he wanted her to want to. But now... something tells him, if he manipulates her, if he wanted to, he could get out of this. Walk away.
Something's telling him he could make it happen, and emerge pretty much unscathed in her opinion of him. He wouldn't, of course. Like he'd said, not even he'd done that. But now that it's in his head, he more than wonders if he could. And that makes him hate the ol' man all the more.
Sensing Jordan's self-righteous resentment Jeff turns on him, "Fine. Just listen: What you think of me –" and Jordan's father knows what his son thinks of him – sure, he sometimes chooses to treat Jordan like a pal, and Jordan lets it happen; they can bullshit and have a few laughs, they can have a beer – Jeff knows what's between them, he knows his transgressions, and he knows that at least a part of his kid hates him. Still he's able to look Jordan dead on and say, "I never walked away."
Jordan meets the look straight on then turns back and heads to the house. He stops though, once more and turns back to add, "Doesn't make you a hero. What you did, doesn't make you a father."
"Doesn't make me an up-shit-creek expectant teenager either," he coolly fires back. "You're okay," he adds with benign resignation. "You're always okay." Jordan's had enough and before he loses it he disappears into the house.
Jordan retreats into the bathroom and stands leaning into the aged wall-mounted sink, which dips just a bit from his applied weight. Hesitantly he lifts his eyes to looks into the mirror and studies his reflection. His eyes shut close and he breathes. He looks again, staring at himself. Wondering, just what he's capable of. Touching his forehead to the cool glass his eyes close once more. His breath temporarily clouds the mirror as he exhales... Jordan's eyes snap open when he hears the back screen door slam shut and his father moving through the back of the house. He straightens up, feels for his keys and heads out the front door, down the porch steps and to his car. Starting the engine he drives to the only place there's left to go.
When Tino sees him there's no question he's not there to talk. He follows him without a word to the garage and flips on the amps. Tino hands off his guitar to Jordan. Jordan doesn't take it but sits instead at Tino's recently procured second-hand drum kit. Little more than a novice Jordan can't do much more than keep a beat, but he's striking hard and it's working, in more ways than one. Tino straps on the guitar and just goes nuts. They play with mute intensity until Jordan's hands are raw and bleeding, till he can no longer hold the sticks and sweat is dripping down his face.
Mid-afternoon after school the next day, Jordan and Angela sit at the Chase kitchen table, which is covered with schoolwork. Though Angela is trying to do homework all she's able to manage is the repeated clicking of the clip arm of her pen with her thumbnail, over and over again. "I can't concentrate," she says as she continues staring blankly at the open pages of her textbooks.
Jordan, who'd been leaning his forehead against the ball of his shredded palm, trying to make sense of his assigned reading, gives up and shifts his head into his arms, now folded across the table. He turns his head to look at her. "We should decide."
"I know." She tosses down her pen. She looks at him, and after a long silence she finally says, "I don't want to keep it." Jordan waits to respond and just listens. "But I feel awful for saying that. And I keep convincing myself that I can do it – that I can have the baby. That it's not as impossible as it seems."
With apprehension he seeks clarification, "To keep?"
"No." She looks at him, Why does he keep bringing this up? Jordan's been afraid from the beginning that this is what she'd settle on, and though he does not want it, he also does not want to be blind-sided. He can't see that his questions only bring something up that she keeps thinking they've laid to rest. "We've talked about this. Right?"
"Right." He straightens up some, head gingerly in hand, "'No.'"
"Absolutely?" She has to be sure.
"Not keeping it." He doesn't want to be callous, but agreeing to this – it cost him less than he'd 'a thought.
Convinced, Angela continues, "Then I don't want to have it. But then—"
He stops her before she goes another round, "Angela—" He can't hear her talk herself into a circle again.
She does stop, and looks at him steadily. "You want the abortion."
He's not ready to say. What he does say is, "I don't think you should have it out of guilt." Jordan's never been big on guilt.It's a useless emotion. Anyway, he's heard her; she's said it all along, every time they've talked it over – she does not want to do this.
She looks at him. "But isn't it" – giving birth, adoption – "the right thing to do? Then isn't it right to feel guilt?"
"Are your parents…?" He wasn't sure what the Chase's take on all this was. Were they pushing an agenda?
She shakes her head, "No." They really weren't putting pressure on her either way. They were asking questions, answering questions, talking through scenarios, but there was no pressure towards a particular path of action. None that she felt or was aware of. She looks at him, "Would you be mad—"
She continues, because she wants to be sure he'd answered the question she'd actually been asking, "—If I didn't have the abortion."
"No," he says again. He'd known that had been the question. He didn't think she'd ask him if he'd be mad if this all could just, stop.
"If I gave it up for adoption?" she presses.
Jordan re-situates himself as he answers; "I don't feel great about it. _ But, I wouldn't be mad. And," he gestures, "I can see how it could be good, you know? It just seems… too hard to tell – how it will turn out. But," he scratches his head, "I can see how it would look different to you. And how it might be," he gestures again, "appealing. I can be behind that." Jordan leans back some and looks at her, "Are you thinking about this seriously?"
"'Seriously'?" He hadn't meant it that way. What he'd meant was, has she begun thinking out the logistics, the everyday. What would carrying a baby to full term actually look like. For both of them?
"School?" He offers as an example. "Would you keep in contact with them — the family?"
Not that things hadn't been all along, but that one thought just made it all a little too real. "Uhhhh." She almost cries, but instead she blows her hair out of her face and regroups. Jordan loves that about her.
"Look," he says, "this all sucks. All of it. And I get that you don't want to make a mistake. But we can only do what we can handle. If having it— If that isn't something— " He starts over one more time, "It doesn't seem right to force yourself to do it. _ Nobody's going to blame you."
By the time Jordan left Angela was struggling to keep her eyes open. Exhausted, she retreated to her room and lay down.
Angela awakes from her nap to find Danielle standing in the doorway watching her. Danielle, eyes narrowed, looks at her and earnestly asks what she's been thinking for days, "What is going on?"
Still a bit groggy, Angela props herself up and rubs her eyes, "What do you mean?" But Angela knows what she means. She sits up and pushes the hair away from her face, "Nothing." Danielle shoots her her most incredulous look, she's tired of the evasions and she wants the truth, but Angela won't do that. "I'm just tired," she says.
"That's not it," Danielle insists with solemn self-assurance. She moves into the room slowly, watching Angela for a sign she's not welcome; "Why are Mom and Dad acting so weird?" She looks around the room then right at Angela "Are you alright?" Angela nods. "No, but really?" Danielle prompts. She isn't interested in perfunctory answers.
"I'm okay." Angela tucks her hair as she watches Danielle watching her, concerned and curious. "I'll tell you about it," Angela promises, "at some point."
Danielle sits at the foot of the bed. Without nagging, and with a graveness in her tone, she presses, "Why not now?" Angela's expression speaks for her, and Danielle sits there quietly with her older sister, realizing all she can do is this.
Still tired, Angela, now in her pajamas and robe, slowly descends the stairs and passes through the dining room into the kitchen. Standing at the stove, Graham looks up as she shuffles into the room and sits crossed legged in the breakfast alcove.
"Hey there," he says. "How're you doin'?"
"I don't know." She adds, "What are you making?" Graham chuckles.
"I don't know yet."
"Dad?" Angela pauses before continuing, "I don't know what to do."
He turns to face her, "Angela." Graham shuts off the burner and crosses the room to sit beside her. He looks at her, "Rethinking things?" She nods. "Adoption? Or having it?"
"I don't want to keep it, but I don't— Adoption seems right. It seems like the right thing to do. When I think about Mom, and her mom – not Grandma – it's like, 'Wow, that's amazing.' And I think, you know, 'Eight more months, that's not such a big part of my life. I could do that'. But," her voice breaks, "I really don't want to."
"You don't have to."
"But— I'm afraid. And, it seems like, like abortion is what you do when you can't tell people you're pregnant. And—"
Graham stops her; "It's what a person does when they can't have a baby. Period. Angela," he pats her knee, "it's not about whether you tell people. It's about not being prepared, or able."
She exhales, and softly, almost like a confession, Angela lets slip, "I don't think I can."
"You don't have to." Graham is warm, and comforting, and strong, and his words allow Angela to let go. She crumbles and Graham is there to hold her.
Her words come out muffled as she manages to say, "I can't have a baby." She cries and he holds her tighter, despite that his hold of her is a little awkward.
"You're okay," he says as he pats and squeezes her shoulder. Eventually Angela composes herself and straightens up. When she's done so Graham speaks again. "Should we talk to Mom?" Angela wipes her face and nods. Still firmly holding her shoulder he turns his head towards the hallway and calls out, "Hey! Patty." He looks back at his daughter, "Are you sure this is what you want?"
Angela nods. "Yes."
"You've talked to Jordan about this?" She nods her head once more.
Patty enters the kitchen and takes in the scene. Angela lifts her eyes, "Mom—"
The phone in the loft rings. Nolan, a buddy of Jordan's picks up the receiver, "Yeah?" _ "Who's this?" _ "Oh. Yeah. Hang on." Nolan rests the phone down and moves through the loft, stopping when he spots Jordan sitting by the windows with some friends. "Catalano." Jordan, who's messing around on Rich's bass, does not hear. "Jordan." Jordan looks up; "Phone. It's your girl." At this Jordan's expression changes just slightly; this could be the call – he'd told her to decide. He looks to Rich and Nate who are both looking at him, then hands over the bass to Rich as he rises and crosses briskly to the phone.
"Angela?" She doesn't respond right away. He doesn't panic. "What's going on? _ Angela?"
"Do you have second?" she says, readjusting the phone against her ear.
"Yeah. _ What's going on?"
"I've decided." From her voice he knows this time she has. 'This is it' he thinks. He holds his breath and he waits. "I'm having the abortion." Jordan's eyes shut.
When he remembers where he is he looks around and moves into action, pacing and rubbing his head, "Have you, uh, made the plans?" Because he doesn't want to be too maudlin, his voice comes off a little gruff. It doesn't give her pause.
"No. It's late."
"It will still be a few days," she says.
"There's a waiting period," Angela explains. "In case."
"I thought you'd want to know though, as soon as I knew."
"Yeah," Jordan affirms. Pivoting, he catches Shane and Nate sneaking glances in his direction and he turns away, trying to shut out that he's having this conversation in the middle of the crowded loft. "So, uh, what now? _ What do I do?"
"… How do you mean?"
"What do I do?" he says again. "Do I go with you?"
She shakes her head, she's not there yet; "I don't know." Pushing the hair away from her face she says only, "Can I get back to you?" Her voice is getting flatter. He nods, and twists up the phone cord. "It's kind of expensive," she unwillingly adds.
"Okay," he says, breathing in and nodding.
"I don't think it's right to make my parents pay for it. I'm not sure they would anyway."
"No," he says, trying to get ahold the situation. "They shouldn't do that." Bracing himself he asks, "How much?"
"I don't know exactly; more than three hundred. _ I don't have that much. I don't have half."
"Yeah. Okay." Shit.
"I'm sure my parents would loan it to me."
"I'll try to figure something out."
Weary of the melodrama Angela lightens her voice and changes the subject, "What are you doing?"
He stops pacing and looks around, "Nothin'." Jordan drops and swings his shoulder, "How many numbers did 'ya try?"
Chapter 10: This night has opened my eyes
Angela and Jordan are sitting in the waiting room. Just, waiting. Jordan's arms are crossed at his chest, and he's slouching in a way that sends his outstretched legs, crossed at the ankles, jutting out into the walkway. Angela's beside him, methodically running her hands through her hair. She's listening to a compact disc player and keeping her eyes cast down.
She pulls one earphone away and offers it to Jordan, "This is a good one," she says quietly. Moving slowly he shifts a little and takes the earphone, leaning in towards her so that the cord will reach. They listen quietly to the song.
"Yeah," he nods.
"The volume okay?" she asks, raising her eyes to meet his.
"Yeah." As they listen, Angela draws her feet up and pulls her knees towards her. While listening Jordan absently tugs at a loose thread at the back of her jeans, tattered from being stepped on. She lays her cheek on her knee.
"Angela?" Before them in a pair of sturdy white athletic shoes stands a woman in her late forties dressed in colored scrubs and carrying a clipboard. Her brown hair is short, cut close to her head, and her countenance is warm if distant. Angela does not react. It is unclear whether she's heard or not. Jordan nudges her and pulls away his one earphone. She looks up, pulls at her earphone, and drops her feet to the ground. Angela looks at Jordan, he looks back. It's time. Then she rises, handing him the disc player. "You can bring that with you, if you like," the nurse says to her.
Looking down Angela defers to Jordan, 'Does he want it while he waits?' "Take it," he says. She does. Jordan lifts his eyes to her, and looking after her he asks, "Okay?"
"Yeah," she says with a conscious head nod.
"You want me to call your mom?"
Directing her question to Jordan the nurse asks, "Are you the ride home?"
He clears his throat, "Yeh."
"Okay," she smiles coolly. "It'll be a little while." To Angela she asks, "Ready?" Again Angela nods.
"I'll be here," he says.
In the waiting room Jordan sits, watching people pass by. Every now and then new patients enter, are called in, or pass through on their way out. But mostly it's waiting: people sitting there waiting next to other silent people who are also waiting.
More than two hours in a male nurse, about twenty-six, also carrying a clipboard passes through. He stops at Jordan who eventually looks up. The nurse is good looking and fit. Standing over Jordan he asks, "Who're you here with?"
It takes Jordan a bit to pull himself out of his thoughts to register the question and then to speak, "Huh?"
"Who are you waiting for?" he asks again.
"Oh. Uh," Jordan clears his throat, "Chase, Angela."
"Angela…" he double checks his charts, "Okay, she's in recovery. Shouldn't be more than, another hour, tops."
Clearing his throat again Jordan asks, "She okay?"
The nurse references his charts once more before answering. Jordan watches him as he does. The guy is young, handsome, and he doesn't have a ring on his finger. Jordan wonders what he's thinking, what he thinks of him and all the other guys like him. Why this is the job he chose. "She's fine," he says. For Jordan's benefit he takes another second to add, "There's a lot of waiting." Then he moves on.
Jordan leans forward in his seat, still waiting. The newspaper he'd tried to occupy himself with has been discarded by his feet. Without his noticing, Tino enters through the heavy glass doors, spots Jordan, and approaches his friend.
"Hey." Jordan looks up, there stands Tino holding out to him a large paper coffee cup. "Sugar. 'With coffee and cream.' Minus the cream."
Jordan takes it, partly thrown to see his friend there before him, and then again, not at all. It's Tino, to a T. He nods, straightens up from his hunched over position, then leans back in his seat.
"How's it goin'?" Jordan raises his brows to say 'Look around — this is how it's going'. Tino nods, surveying the room of waiting companions and a few yet-to-be-called patients; no one is talking. "Got time for a smoke?" He tilts his head in the direction of the exit.
"Nothing but." Jordan rises and Tino pats him on the back as they exit.
Out on the sidewalk Jordan lights his cigarette and inhales, "Been here four hours."
Tino exhales, "I know. _ You okay?"
"Thought they'd come in the end. Her folks." There had been some discussion over who would actually be there for it. Obviously Patty wanted to be there, but Jordan had felt that it needed to be him. And it would be strange for it to turn into to some family outing with Jordan, Patty and Graham all sitting side by side in some sterile waiting room. Angela didn't particularly care, but on his behalf she spoke to her parents and got them to agree that it should be Jordan. Patty'd taken her in for the initial appointment, but now it's him out there, waiting for time to pass.
Jordan'd found the money. Mostly. It hadn't been easy. He had some saved, but most of what he makes goes toward gas, insurance, and his smoking habit, and what's left goes to food, beer, and expenses like car repairs and his guitars. He works, but the money doesn't go much further than his basic monthly needs. It took all he had saved, plus an advance on his paycheck, plus what Tino'd lent him, and the last minute thirty dollars his dad had handed off, to cover what Angela's birthday and babysitting money could not. And still, it'd turned out, they'd fallen short. In the end, they'd still had to borrow from her parents. Which Jordan, the only one between them with a steady income, also said he'd cover — upfront at least; Angela insisted that she pay him back, that they'd split it fifty-fifty. Before the appointment Jordan'd figured his part was easy — all he had to do was pay — he could take this disproportionate cost. But that was before all these hours of waiting. He'd been told to expect a long day, that it would take a while, but he hadn't known what it would feel like as the hours passed.
"Wishin' they had?" Tino asks.
Jordan shrugs. "Called 'em; twice."
"It happen yet?"
Tino nods. He isn't going to ask how Jordan's doing. You don't ask Jordan Catalano those kinds of questions, unless you want him shutting down. Anyway, Tino knows how Jordan's doing. He also knows he doesn't have to ask it just to have something to say. He doesn't have to say anything. He's there. That's all he has to do. It isn't for him to provide commentary or insight on this moment. This isn't his life happening right now, he's merely a witness to it. Bearing witness to the loss, the relief, the ambivalence.
The boys smoke their cigarettes. And drink their coffee.
Before Jordan heads back, Tino, still holding what remains of his cigarette, takes hold Jordan's head and pulls it closer, and kisses him briskly upside the head. Jordan takes it in stride.
He reenters through the glass doors, flashes his ID to the reception desk and resumes his wait.
Like he's looked up every other time the inner office door has opened, Jordan looks up now and this time sees it's Angela passing through. He stands when he sees it's her, the refolded newspaper and two now-empty coffee cups set about his feet.
"Hey, pretty girl," is his quiet greeting as she approaches. Silently Jordan takes the disc player from her, shoulders the bag she'd left with him, and wraps an arm around her shoulder. "Let's get out of here."
Tired, and barely audible Angela says, "I have to go to the pharmacy." Jordan nods, kisses her atop her head, and with what vitality he can muster leads her out the glass doors.
In his car on the drive home, Angela leans her head against the cool window and stares quietly out. As he drives, Jordan takes occasional glimpses in her direction. They remain quiet.
Curled up, Angela lies asleep on the Chase's couch. Jordan sits silently near by. Waiting again.
Patty walks through and wordlessly looks in on them. She smiles vaguely at Jordan; he looks awful. Jordan looks away. Nothing in him lets him feel as though he should be being smiled at.
Though the sun is still up the sky outside has grown darker. Angela still lies sleeping when Jordan rises and slips out the front door. It takes three tries before the lighter sparks and he can light his cigarette; inhaling that first, long-awaited drag he looks around him blankly and sits on the Chase's porch steps.
Brian rides by on his bike. He stops, watches Jordan, then lifts a hand in a slight gesture of 'hello'. Jordan nods in return. Brian doesn't know the exact circumstances, but even from across the street, he has a sense of the mood. Brian tightens his lips. He wants, perhaps, to cross the street and sit on those porch steps too. But that is not his place and instead he sets his bike to rest against his own porch and enters his house.
Jordan takes another drag from his cigarette. The Chase's front door opens behind him, and Graham steps out onto the porch. He stands there silently with Jordan for a while. They may hedge looks at one another, but they do not speak.
"That's uh," Graham breaks the silence and Jordan looks back at him, "not good for you, you know. Smoking."
"Yeah," Jordan clears his throat; he hadn't seen that coming. "But," he shrugs his rationalization, "I enjoy it." Graham was not expecting this as a response. He is struck by the absolute youthfulness of a remark such as this. And for a reason he could not identify, it almost makes him like Jordan more for it. What kind of a kid goes through something like this and comes out the other side with the defiance of invulnerable youth still in tact? Graham wonders if it should have aggravated him, this complete and acknowledged disregard of personal well-being. But it didn't.
Graham shifts his weight to shift the conversation; "It went okay today?" Jordan shrugs. Not out of ambivalence. How do you say something like that went? It just — did. Graham continues, "This clearly wasn't— This wasn't an ideal situation. But you two handled it well." Jordan scoffs in response but he isn't being cavalier. 'Cuz, as much as Jordan'd tried to hold it together, he never felt like he was 'handling' anything.
Jordan stands. "Thanks, uh, for —" he exhales and tries for the words. "I appreciate," he gestures with his cigarette, "being the one to go." Graham nods. Jordan takes another drag. "I'll get you the money as soon as I can."
Graham nods again. "You're a good kid, Jordan." He looks at him, "We don't hate you." Jordan wasn't expecting this, and doesn't know exactly how to react. For the first time he looks more like a kid than an adult. "You don't have to stay out here," Graham tells him. Jordan indicates his cigarette for the reason he's outside. Graham nods, and goes back into the house. "The door's open."
Some time has passed. Jordan's cigarette is gone but he's still on the porch, or has since returned to it. Angela, still a bit groggy, shuffles outside to where he sits.
"Still here," she says.
Jordan looks up. "How ya' doin'?"
She sits beside him. "I'm okay."
"Good." He glances at her and she at him. She tucks her hair. Jordan nudges her with his knee. "You wanna talk about it?"
She sighs, and pulls her hair away from her face. "It was awful. And scary. And fine."
Jordan listens to her and watches. 'Awful. Scary. Fine.' It was hard to know what that was. All he'd done was sit there and watch a swinging door. "Wanna take off school tomorrow? Do something nice?" He tugs lightly at her pant leg, "Whatta'ya think?"
"I think I'm on thin ice as it is." He purses his lips; that makes sense.
They sit quietly. "So what now?"
Angela answers mutely, "Exactly. 'What now?'"
Warily, he looks at her, "Is everything... ruined?"
Her head is resting on her knee as she looks at him and thinks, but she lifts it as she answers. "Not everything."
"Is this something–" He bites at his thumb and lifts his eyes to meet hers, "Can we get past this?"
"I'm sixteen; I better get past this," she's aware the conviction with which she's said this unsettled him and she feels him looking at her and is compelled to reassure him, "I'm alright. …"
"We'll be okay." He's said it, but it might be just words – Jordan's mood is a little ambiguous.
But she nods decidedly, "I agree." And then makes a mild attempt at humor, "But it might take a lot of Robert Smith to get there." He cocks an eyebrow at her, that's where her head took her? He wasn't even quite sure he was placing the name correctly. God she was funny. Without warning he leans quickly into her and catches her lips in a brief kiss. She smiles faintly into him. Then he's back sitting where he'd been. "Think I'm gonna go back inside," she says finally. "I don't feel so excellent." She squeezes his wrist, "Thanks for sticking around." Angela slowly rises. After a beat he does as well.
"Angela..." His eyes narrow, and though she's looking at him, open and receptive, he doesn't say whatever he is thinking.
Lisa sinks down and slouches onto her sofa beside her brother. When he left Angela's place he'd ended up here. Resting her head on his shoulder, she lightly pats his back. "How is Angela?"
Jordan subtly shakes his head. "I don't know."
Lisa looks at him. It isn't sympathy on her face but it's too close to it for his comfort and so he jerks his shoulder a bit to nudge her off. He's still a little dazed and deadened, but he's enough of himself not to want to be coddled. Unfazed by her little brother's taciturn tendencies, Lisa smiles faintly and readjusts her position. Clouding it in a now slightly more upbeat demeanor she makes the effort to ask after him, "How are you?"
"I didn't think it would feel exactly like this." His defenses are up and he comes off as irritable, but it isn't irritation Jordan Catalano's actually feeling.
She tugs lovingly at his hair, "I know."
"It's…" he does not want to put it in words.
"It's big," she affirms in commiseration. "It is. But J, it isn't everything."
Jordan blinks slowly. And breathes.
A day or so after, Jordan and Angela are sitting side by side on her made bed, leaning against the headboard; Angela's stereo is playing in the background. Jordan's legs are outstretched, while Angela's knees are up and she's holding them close to her. Facing Jordan, her cheek rests atop her knees. Her bedroom door is at least partway open.
"I love you," he says after some time of just listening to the music. This isn't a revelation to him. He'd known it for some time. And while he had been putting off saying it out loud, he hadn't been withholding it, and so saying it now is not dependent on what they've just gone through. It is not a consolation. At this point it just seems past due, mute almost, 'Cuz how could she not know? And in that case, just say it. Mincing words was never his style. No matter the subject.
Her smile is distant but her response is sincere. Never lifting her head from where it rests she answers, "Me too." Head still on knee, she moves slightly to give him a small kiss on his arm. She takes a deep breath and then slowly exhales. Jordan absently picks up some kind of keepsake box on her bedside table and she watches as he browses through ticket stubs and other odds and ends. The CD changes tracks. He nudges her with his elbow. She bites her lower lip as she looks at him.
With outstretched fingers Jordan reaches and rubs the back of her head; she momentarily lays her head on his shoulder. "This isn't very punk," he says, commenting on the music.
"But it's good. It's nice."
Jordan can't help but chuckle a little, "'Nice.'"
"It's punk-light. Punk-esque."
He smiles then nods his head in the direction of his acoustic guitar leaned up against her wall. "How's that goin'?" He'd loaned it to her the other day to practice on.
"It hurts." He turns his head to her in momentary alarm before her actual meaning registers: the guitar strings on her fingertips.
Her eyes catch his, "Just so you know, this was the right decision. _ If you don't know it for sure, I do." He nods distantly; he does know this. He knows too that in a day or two more he won't feel it like he does now. Like Lis'd said, it isn't everything. Stretching her legs she lifts her head and asks, "It's time to move on, huh?"
"I guess it's time to start."
She gives herself a minute, then nods definitively. "Okay." In dry irony she remarks, "Good year."
Angela bites down on her lips. Absently he takes hold one of her hands and runs his fingers over her finger tips. She looks at him and asks, "We'll be okay?"
"Sure," he says in understated exaggeration, still working his fingers through hers. "Just, gotta get calluses."
She swallows a smile; it is uncanny sometimes the words that emerge from Jordan Catalano's lips. Though ephemeral, his eloquence is effortless. She looks at him, full well knowing the answer before asking the question, but asking it nonetheless. "Still my friend, right?"
"You bet. I've got your back." She 'hmphs' appreciatively. And to keep her amused he asks, "How long, ya think, 'till Krakow'll speak to me again?"
For what seems like the first time, Angela cracks a smile, though the tenor of her voice alters little, "I'd say at least another two, three months."
"I better get some homework done then," he says wryly as he lightly pounds his fist upon her shoulder. She again 'hmphs' appreciatively as rises to head out. Pausing at the door Jordan asks, "Up for hanging out with people tomorrow?"
She purses her lips: life has to start again sometime, "Sure," she nods slowly. He nods once too in confirmation and then turns away.
From the hallway, about to head off, Jordan ducks his head back in, "So, uh, hey." She looks at him,"That whole, 'love' thing?" His glance flickers and lingers in her direction. "Big."
"Real," he adds.
With an understated nod and a small smile, she agrees, "Yeah."
Then without being too committal he confesses, "Maybe should've said it before. Before before." She listens. Again he glances at her then confides, "'Cuz, it didn't just hit me. ..." Having spoken his piece Jordan pats the door frame, "Later." And with that, he's gone.