Actions

Work Header

and what comes next for us

Chapter Text

Jessica Davis is quite a heartbreaker. Well, thats what she’s heard. And as she watched Justin crumble in front of her, she considered that they might be right.

Justin stepped closer. “What? Are you really breaking up with me?” He squinted at her, completely perplexed. He was in shock over what he was hearing, and was desperate for answers. “After everything we’ve- that we’ve been through?”

She relaxed her shoulder and took a deep breath. She hated this part. She hated hurting people, watching the sadness hit their face like they just watched her kill their cat. But it needed to be done. She couldn’t stay like this. She needed to move on. From her trauma, from Bryce, and from Justin.

“I’m sorry, Justin. I do-“ She starts, ready to give him her speech that she’s been planning for the last week.

She gets cut off by a hurt and confused Justin Foley. “I thought you loved me? He shook his head in confusion. “What about all that shit that we said? At the station? At Monet’s?” He asked.

She wished he knew how hard this was for her. How much she loved him. “I do love you! Of course I love you!” But.  That was what she was going to say next. Because as much as she did love him—to the moon and back, that is, she couldn’t do this. “I just.” She paused. Breathe, Jess. “I can’t do this with you. Not anymore.”

He didn’t respond, so for better or for worse, she continued. “I need to move on. And even though I do love you.” She looked into his eyes. “ Truly , I do, Justin,” she said with emphasis. Jess wanted to make sure he knew that she hadn’t just done this whole thing to hook up with him.  She continued, the tone of her voice was shaky, not nearly as confident as it usually was. “But when I’m with you, I cannot help but look at you and see everything that’s happened.”

Jess thought she’d be okay loving him, sleeping with him. Even though, everytime she looked at him, looked back the boy who let her get taken advantage of. The boy who lied to her, who kept her from knowing the truth about her own body. And as much as she loved him...how could she live with that? How could anyone?

She knew he had changed. He was getting better everyday. Justin was (hopefully) sober and he seemed happy with football and his new found family. He deserved to be happy, to be loved. Just...not by her, like that. Of course she still wanted him in her life.

Justin just gaped at her. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He was going to lose her, again . He wanted her to be happy. That was all he really wanted. But God . When he found out that she could be happy? And be with him? The girl he had hurt? His one that (he had thought) got away? That was the best thing Justin had heard in years.

But now, he’s told that none of it is possible. He understands. But it burns . Here come the tears.

And when they come, glossy and messy out of Justin’s eyes, Jess feels like the worst person in the world. She feels evil. An evil, merciless heartbreaker.

Justin looks deep at her, searching for answers. “But- you said...” His voice cracks; It’s a terrible, heart-wrenching show to watch.

Jess’ mouth hangs open. She doesn’t know what to say. She wishes that she could just...make it better. But their romance needs to be over, for if not both of their sakes, than for hers.

She looks at him, crestfallen. “Justin...I really didn’t mean to hurt you.” She mumbles, apologetically.

Justin has his hand on his face, hiding half of it from her. “I was right. I knew I never deserved you.”

“No! Justin- that’s not true.” She states (Although, some people would agree with him). Her heart breaks a little more at his words. Though she knew this couldn’t be easy, why did it have to be so painful? So crushing?

“I-“ She starts, then swallows. She needs to say the right thing. “I still want to..you know...be friends.” She says sheepishly, and it comes out more as a question.

Justin looks at her. Jess finds his expression unreadable to her, which is unusual. Is he disgusted? Does Justin want absolutely nothing to do with her after this? She wouldn’t blame him. Or is it just sadness? Jess knows that this is not going to be easy for him. Fuck, it’s not easy for her either, but she cannot believe how attached this boy is to her. Jess considers that he may not ever be able to let her go.

Justin runs his hand through his hair and loudly huffs while Jess continues to stare. With the grey sleeve of his Liberty High School hoodie, he wipes away any tears left. He’s not looking at her. Instead, he’s looking at the rug by his feet, which stands between his and Clay’s beds. Can you just-“ He starts, then decides that this isn’t a question. He wants her out. “Just go.”

Jess gives a curt nod, and grabs her book bag from the chair she had set it on. She turns around, aware of his eyes on her, and starts to walk toward the door.

When she reaches the doorway, she pauses. Jess places her hand lightly on the frame and opens her mouth. Not to her surprise, nothing comes out. She has nothing to say until she finally gets out: “I’m sorry.”

Jess strides out the door, her wedges clinking noisily against his wooden floors as she exits.

And this time, she doesn’t turn back.

 

•••

 

The slam of her bedroom door when she gets home could rival some serious earthquakes.

It shook the house so much that her mother called for her to be more careful from the kitchen. To which, Jess replies with a huff.

Thank God she escaped her mother, and her Dad isn’t home, but if he was she knows he wouldn’t have let that fly. But Jess made sure that she gave no one a chance to talk to her, because she ran up her stairs faster than she did when her dad asked her about the trial last year.

Finally, when she’s in the safety of her lilac-colored room, she flops onto her bed. What a lousy apology. She thinks.

But what else could she have said? Sorry Justin! Even though I’ve told you for the last 6 months that I love you and I’d do anything for you, I’m breaking up with you!”

God, What a bitch. She cringed.

Though, Jess didn’t lie. She really did love him. She meant every word of what she ever said to him, good and bad.

Her throat started to ache from holding back the sob that she held. Her lip started to quiver, but she pushed it down.

How can she do this without him? He’s such a big part of her life! Maybe she made the wrong choice? Is is too late to run back to his house and beg?

The tears streamed out. Her winged eyeliner (which she spent forever on that morning) smudged as she swiped her tears away with vigor.

She needed this more than she knew. Although Jess hated it—showing weakness—crying always helped her grow. When she broke up with Justin—well, more like when she decided she didn’t ever want to talk to him again, she cried for longer than she wants to remember.

She had took a shower, succumbing to her anger and grief. She let the sobs roll throughout her body. Jess didn’t even care if her parents heard (they didn’t).

Jess had cried for what remained of her relationship, for herself and what had happened to her. And then she cried for how terrified she was of not knowing what would happen next.

But eventually, after what felt like forever, she was okay. Not good, but she wasn’t drowning. There was finally days where she could feel normal. She could get dressed in her clothes, run errands for her parents. Never could she sleep in her bed.

Her door creaked open with a squeak. No one could ever sneak around in this house, trust her, she’s tried! Though this time it wasn’t a boy she was sneaking through her window. It was her mother.

Her mom leaned into her room with her hand on the door knob, like she was inspecting her room. A sympathetic look formed on her mom’s face as she saw Jess’ tear streaked face. Albeit Jess had gotten good at not looking like she had just went through a breakdown, her mother saw right through her. “You okay, baby?” She asked with so much love for her daughter in her eyes.

Jess nodded at her mom and faked a smile. “I’ll be okay.”

She didn’t know if her mom believed her, but she didn’t push her to tell her what happened. Thank God , Jess thought. She never even told her about reconciling with Justin in the first place. Her dad would probably grab his shotgun if he ever saw “that Justin Foley” ever again.

“Okay.” Her mother nodded. “Well, if you ever want to talk.” She strides over and kissed her daughter’s brown curls. “You know where to find me.” She smiled. “You can tell me anything, Jessica.”

She was truly blessed in the parents department.

Jess nodded. She didn’t want to talk about it now, but maybe one day she would. “I know.” She smiled, keeping up the act.

Her mother left, thankfully shutting the door with a loud click of the lock (so Jess didn’t have to get up and do it herself).

Jess flopped back on her bed and sighed. Once again, she didn’t lie. She did what she had to do. Soon, hopefully, she would be okay.

 

Chapter Text

 

Here Jess stood at the head of the table of HO, her group, girls— not just girls— who had gone through what she had.

She formerly had some problems with the group, mostly Casey, a hotheaded survivor who was also pushing for change. Though Jess understood Casey, they were quite different.

When Jess had first formed HO, she was angry. She wanted change. She wanted to hurt those who had hurt her. And who could blame her?

Though now, a less angry Jess stood with the group of survivors once again. She wanted change, but maybe she could do it differently this time?

“...and with our new members, I hope we can make this club bigger than it ever was.”

Applause sounded from the members around her, along with those outside of the circle as well. Jess, snapping out of her daydream with a twitch, began to clap as well.

Casey gave Jess an approval searching look, to which she nodded and let them continue. “I think we should start with ideas for the next fundraiser.” They clasped their hands together. “If we’re gonna be bringing down the patriarchy, I think we’re going to need some money for supplies.” Casey joked.

Jess and the rest of the members chuckled, some clapped.

Tyler raised his hand tentatively and only brought it halfway up.

“Yes, Tyler?” Casey asked. They’ve been trying to be better to him. To include him more and to make up for the way they had treated him.

Though nervous by the eyes of people on him, Tyler started. “I-I have an idea.” He turns his eyes to Jess, who smiled at him.

“Maybe we could talk to Mrs. Singh about like, counseling. I know it really helped me, and maybe it could— you know, like, help other people.” His voice rose and becomes more confident as he finished and he smiled at the end.

The members nodded and agreed, and so do Jess and Casey.

Jess clapped. She’s so proud of how far he’s come. Tyler had started as a scared boy, in shock of what had happened to himself, just like she did. And now both of them were here, happy.

“What a great idea, Tyler. Maybe you could bring it up to her?” Jess suggested,  motioning her hand toward him.

Tyler continued to smile at her comment. “Y-yeah! I’m sure I could do that.” He swallowed nervously. “I actually see her this Wednesday! I’ll tell her then.” He nodded.

Jess liked what the club was becoming. She wanted to change her activism, and didn’t want people getting hurt this time. She wants the survivors to be able to come to her, look to her when they’re ready to come forward. To be trusted by them, to be able to help them.

She still wanted to make bigger change, like what she did at Homecoming. But she wanted to be able to protect herself, and others.

 

•••

 

Jess sat with a large cookie placed in her mouth while she finished her calculus homework. Her usual hot chocolate sat adjacent to her calculator.

Though she couldn’t stop thinking about an interaction (could she even call it that?) she had 20 minutes ago with one Justin Foley. For once, she wished he didn’t work here! It was her spot! Well, and Alex’s, and formerly Hannah’s, but that was beside her point.

Jess had walked up to the counter, ready to order her signature hot chocolate when they had locked eyes. Jess immediately looked down at her feet. Oh fuck .

She really didn’t feel like talking to him. Yeah, it had been a couple weeks and this was probably very petty of her, but she decided to go to the other employee to buy her beverage. Thank God, he wasn’t the only one working the cash register.

But beside that, in her mind, nothing can top hanging out in Monet’s whenever she’s stressed, or in this situation, has a very hard unit test that she didn’t study for. And she actually needed to pass this one so she could, you know, graduate.

Jess sighed, putting her head on the polished wooden table. She was stuck on a particularly hard question that her teacher had definitely explained in class, maybe even twice.

Jess brought her head back up and fixed her astray curls. She started to look at the problem again, maybe she’d get it this time! Though her concentration is killed when her phone dinged a tone for a very specific person. Followed by a second ding.

 

ex-blonde boy: hey is that you in the Monet’s booth or.

 

ex-blonde boy: if that isn’t you i have thoroughly embarrassed myself.

 

Jess looked up to see a shocked Alex Standall standing at the top of the stairs. He was staring at his phone, then at her. Then he realized that this was definitely the right girl and not some Jess look-alike that somehow had the same exact wardrobe. And then he smiled, dimples and all.

Jess giggled at him, shaking her head and typed:

 

female #2: no lmao!! that’s me in the booth 😭

 

Alex slid his phone into his back pocket. He continued to smile as he walked slowly over to her booth, dragging one of his feet because of his limp.

“I didn’t think I’d see you here,” he said.

Jess put her phone back on the table and turned her attention to him. “I didn’t think I’d find myself here either. But you know me.” She chuckled. “I could always use a hot chocolate.”

“I also have, like, a ton of math homework and you could not believe how loud my brothers are sometimes.” She put two fingers to her temples and rubbed. “They never shut up. You’re so lucky that your brother is in college.” She continued.

Before he can respond, she added: “Sit down! We don’t talk enough,” as she kicked out the other chair across from her. Probably not the most polite thing to do, but this was Alex.

“You can have my brother any day you want,” Alex groaned, holding his chin up with his hand.” I would get emancipated if he still lived with us.”

Jess bit her lip and giggled at the boy. “I’ll never understand why you dislike him so much.” She hadn’t spent too much time with Peter Standall, who was usually off at college. Though she had spent an awful lot of time with his family over the last two years. “He seemed fine to me when I met him.”

“Oh yeah? Try being constantly compared to him for 17 years and having your dad take him out for father-son bonding and getting left at home,” Alex harshly seethed.

Silence came from the other side of the table as Jess just looked at him. She didn’t know how to respond, had she never been through it.

His face softened as he sat up. “Shit. I didn’t mean to dump that all on you.” Alex surely didn’t want to make Jess upset. Ever. In fact, if there was anything Alex  could do to make Jess happy, he would do it in an instant. No questions asked.

“I know you didn’t know.” Alex continued. “I don’t really talk about him.” Nor did he like to.

“I’m sorry though. Here I was complaining about my brothers being too loud.” Jess let out a nervous chuckle before she changed to a lighter subject. “I wasn’t lying about that part though. They’re terrible.” She groaned as she mockingly put her hands over her ears, which made him giggle.

“But anyway.” Jess obnoxiously slurped her hot chocolate. “Can you help me with this?” She pushed her homework to him.

Jess continued to rant as he peeks at said homework, which he knew he will be no help to her with.

After looking at the homework for a couple unhelpful seconds, he pushed it back towards her. “Nope. Remedial math sophomore year fucked me up.”

A grimace formed on Jess’ face. She knew exactly what he was talking about. Though it didn’t take long for her to continue her own thought.

“I don’t even know why she assigned it! The exam is literally tomorrow. She said that it would help prepare us for the exam ,” Jess said with mocking air quotes. “Like, why couldn’t she have just made it not mandatory!”

“To be fair, then you definitely wouldn’t do it,” Alex teased with a smirk. He really did know her too well.

Jess simply shook her head in annoyance. “Whatever,” she growled and shot Alex a glare as he snatched her mug.

The mug tipped all the way back as he finished every last drop and placed it back on the wooden table. And to add insult to injury, he smirked at her.

Snatching the mug back from him, Jess looked into the newly empty mug. Hey! Did you really just finish it all?” Jess’ mouth was open with shock at her best friend. How dare he!

Alex continued with the same smug look on his face. “I was thirsty.” He shrugged.

Though seeing the other girl’s bothered expression changed his answer. “Oh my god! I’ll just give you money for another one if it’s such a big deal.”

Although Jess appreciated the gesture, she wasn’t the most thrilled to go talk to him right now.

The boy saddened at her frown. “Hey...what’s wrong? If you want I can just go get it. I’m sorry I drank your hot chocolate I just really didn’t think it was such a big de-“

“Justin’s working today,” said Jess, abruptly cutting him off.

For Alex, this only caused more confusions. Why would that matter? To his disgust, she loved Justin. She should by be happy to see him- oh. “Oh no.” He did not. This is not happening. The amazing, perfect Jessica Davis did not get her heart broken by Justin Foley again.

Alex’s desire to kick his ass was even higher than usual. Alex wiped his head to look at the counter. And to his disappointment, there Justin was. Who happened to be staring right back at him with an expectant look while he cleaned a mug with a towel.

The Monet’s patrons did not need to see this fight any more than she did. And she had seen it. Twice. “Oh my god! Stop staring at him like that!” Jess whispered angrily with her fingers pinching the bridge of her nose.

After glaring at Justin with his famous resting bitch face, Alex faced Jess and started his tangent. “Did he dump you? Do you need someone to beat him up? Because I’ll do it. I will.”

Jess dramatically shook her head. “No! No! Please. You know that will only make it worse. And...you have no reason to. Because I dumped him,” Jess sighed.

Alex immediately softened. He didn’t know what to think. 1, the girl he’s been trying to get over forever is single willingly. And 2, his best friend finally got out of the relationship with the guy he doesn’t like. Well, he used to like him. It’s complicated.

So, he started off easy. “Why?”

Jess knew what to say, but it’s different when it’s your ex-boyfriend slash best friend. “It’s just.” She paused. “It’s not that I don’t love him. But....I can’t be with him, you know?”

Alex nodded, urging her to continue.

“I think when I first got with him, after we broke up and everything, being with him seemed like the final thing I needed. To conquer everything that had happened to me. It was like a big fuck you! to Bryce and everyone because we were together after everything,” she explained, motioning with her hands.

“But after a while, I was getting healthier and happier and I just...realized that it was holding me back. He was holding me back.” Jess ran her fingers through her hair. “God! That sounds so shitty.” She laid her head in her hands.

Alex was totally not eating this up. “It’s not shitty. I understand.” But it wasn’t in the way that he was gonna sweep her off her feet immediately. Alex knew that it was probably not going to happen, and he didn’t want to deal with her awkward rejection. “I’m happy for you.” And this time, he actually was.

At his statement, Jess smiled. “So...you still owe me a hot chocolate.”

 

•••

 

Sitting in her bed, her lilac sheets pulled back after her dad had tucked her in, Jess grabbed her phone from her nightstand.

 

female #2: hey btw!!

 

female #2: i wanted to ask u something :))

 

ex-blonde boy: what’s up.

 

female #2: so ik you teach tyler how to fight and stuff and that u work out a lot know and i was wondering if maybe you could help me? 😗✌️

 

female #2: it’s just...at the homecoming game i really wished i knew what i was doing.

 

female #2: could u teach me how to fight?

 

ex-blonde boy: oh

 

ex-blonde boy: you want me to do it? i think there’s classes jess.

 

female #2: of course i want you to teach me! you’re super good at it!!!

 

ex-blonde boy: idk but i can try...i’ll bring zach maybe?

 

female #2: sure!! that sounds like a plan!!

 

female #2: when are you guys free?

 

ex-blonde boy: idk about zach but i’m free saturday

 

ex-blonde boy: he probably is too lmao

 

female #2: okay great!! thank u again :D

 

ex-blonde boy: u never said thank you the first time?

 

female #2: whatever 😭😭 u know what i mean!!

 

female #2: here

 

female #2: thank you alex!! :D

 

female #2: now go 2 bed and actually sleep this time

 

ex-blonde boy: what are u talking about

 

ex-blonde boy: i sleep!

 

female #2: sure

 

female #2: goodnight alex

 

ex-blonde boy: sweet dreams, jess :)

 

Chapter Text

Saturday morning came way too early for Jess, who is definitely not a morning person. How her mother wakes up at 6 AM every morning to jog will never make sense to her daughter, who would rather get as much of her beloved beauty rest as possible. Though today, she had plans.

She doesn’t love to gloat, but in her expert opinion, she looks very cute in her pastel sports bra (that contrasted perfectly with her complexion) and her leggings. It’s probably more than enough to work out in, though Jess is not the master of gym etiquette. Maybe she’ll ask Alex about it. If he’s not...distracted.

To say Jess hadn’t thought about him is untrue. Clearly, their relationship hadn’t worked out. But she didn’t feel any bad feeling toward him for what had happened between them. She more blamed herself. She was the one who cheated, which she regretted more than anything. They had been so good together, and she just....wasn’t ready. Not ready to be with him the way she wanted. Which is no excuse in her mind for cheating, of course.

Any time spent with Alex was treasured by Jess. She truly loved being around him. The months she wasn’t were hard. She had Justin, of course, and he was great. But nothing could have compared to having her best friend by her side.

So, her excitement to see her two favorite boys was the fuel to get there on time.

 

•••

 

“Alright baby,” Her father cooed as he pulled to the front of the gym. “This is it.”

Jess snapped out of her daydream at the sound of his deep voice. “Hm?”

“We’re here. Tell me what time I should pick you up,” he repeats as he unlocks the passenger door.

The door swings open as Jess steps out, her bag over her shoulder. “I will! Thanks for the ride.”

As she turns to shut the door, her father stops her. “Wait.”

He smiled, and she could already guess what he’d prepared when he found out she was working out with two boys. She let out a heavy, annoyed sigh. “What is it Daddy?”

“Just remember,” he started, pointing a finger at his eldest daughter. “If those boys give you any trouble, send them to me and I’ll handle them.”

The whole thing was ridiculous to Jess. “You know Alex and Zach wouldn’t do anything like that,” she huffed.

Her father shot up. “Oh! Yes! Especially that Standall boy. Maybe he’s the real troublemaker!” He let out a loud laugh.

Jess rolled her eyes at her father’s ability to laugh at his own jokes like that. And his ability to threaten to beat up her ex-boyfriends, which he did way too often.

“Bye! I’ll text you when to pick me up.” The car door slammed behind her as she turned to face the gym.

The gym itself was a wonder to her, though she did recognize the ring in the center, along with some weights along the wall.

“Female!” A very familiar voice called out.

Brown curls pulled into a high ponytail whipped around to face the noise with a gasp. “Male!” She smiled, happy to know he remembered the joke. “Well, males. Males plural .” She corrected, including Zach in their inside joke.

Her attempt at inclusivity had no prevail, as Zach simply looked back and forth between them with a deeply confused look on his face. “Wha?

Jess started to break out laughing, while Alex smiled to himself.

“I seriously don’t get what’s so funny, guys,” Zach frustratedly huffed.

Alex leaned against Zach and gave him a pat to ease any tension. “It’s just a joke that Jess, Hannah, and me had.”

Zach shook his head lightheartedly. “Well. I think we should begin anyway.” He turned toward Alex. “Let’s get this girl some gloves!” He grinned, leading her to the back.

Jess ran her eyes over the set of rental gloves on the back wall, her eyes immediately falling onto the purple pair.

A loud huff escaped the boy from beside her. “You are not going to chose those,” Alex said playfully.

“What?” Jess formed a smug grin. “Purple is my color,” she gloated, her hands crossed over her chest.

Zach sighed. He was aware of how their bickering goes and decided to go get his own gloves, rolling his eyes at them as he left.

“Uhh... your color?” Alex asked. “You know who else looks great in purple?

Aware with what he was getting at, the girl decided to play with him. Just a little. “I don’t know,” she responded, slyly. Her hand was brought to her chin in a contemplative pose. “Who?”

In his defense, he did look good in his purple-ish suit at the Winter Ball. Almost cute enough to have won her heart, according to Jess. Almost, of course.

His mouth fell open, then into a small smile at her cockiness. “Wow! Me, obviously!” He shook his head playfully.

In response, Jess simply shook her hand at him with a scrunched mouth. In spite of his disagreement, she happily snatched the purple gloves from the back wall.

To her surprise (and her luck), they were a perfect fit!

“You know..” The velcro along the gloves scraped as she tightened her purple gloves. “..maybe we can get you a pair of these someday!”

“Those would not fit me,” he said flatly as he also fastened a grey pair of gloves.

Jess gave him an exaggerated eye roll and stared at him, her gaze communicating a “No, Really?”

Her gaze was finally met after several long seconds. “What?” Alex asked.

“No shit! I’m talking about a bigger pair.” Jess extended her arms for emphasis, though the gloves made her look a little...silly. “Obviously,” she added.

He gave a small smile and head shake at her strange gesture. “Sadly, I checked already.” He looked back up at her. “No purple gloves,” he said disappointedly.

“That can’t be possible!” She uncomfortably crossed her arms over her chest. Her gloves hindering the position. “I will look for you,” she decided.

Alex opened his mouth, ready to argue with the girl. “But I jus-“

Her purple boxing glove was pressed against his mouth. It didn’t have exactly the same silencing effect as her finger, but—hey!— these were desperate measures.

“Nope!” No one could stop Jess when she  decided something, not even Alex, who let out a long sigh. Someone’s getting purple boxing gloves for his 19th birthday.

Zach walked back into the area where the two stood. His gait was still unusual, though he was off of his crutches. He was finally back from retrieving his gloves, along with a pair of punching mits (that Alex forgot that he needed). He threw the mits at Alex, who awkwardly caught them between his gloved hands.

“I knew I was forgetting something,” he sheepishly said to the taller boy.

“Yeah but like. This is the 4th time, dude.” Zach shook his hair. “You’re lucky I’ve just gotten used to it,” he said with a smile.

The mits finally made their way tucked under Alex’s arm. “What would I ever do with out you?” Alex asked sarcastically.

“You certainly wouldn’t have done any of your PT. And I like to think I was a decent teacher,” Zach gloated.

“Someone else might have let me drown when I fell off the bike!” Alex fake gasped. “How generous of you,” he said sarcastically.

Zach’s eyes widened. “Especially after what happened in the locker room.” He clicked his tongue. “That would have been awkward.”

Shock filled Alex’s face at the mention of what happened in the locker room. Which—of course— Jess just had to take notice of.

Jess walked over to the side of Alex. “What happened in the locker room?” She asked with a confused, yet intrigued look on her face.

Alex kept his tight lipped expression while Zach turned to explain the infamous story. “Well, we were fighting in the-“

Alex shot up, his face as red as a tomato. “I think we should start now!”

“Well since it’s kind of hard for me to teach you, and Alex is better at it, I’ll just be watching and helping you guys out,” Zach explained.

The walls of the ring bounced as Alex climbed in, and extended his hand to help the girl behind him.

The pair’s hands connected as she eagerly reached for his hand. What a gentleman,” she joked.

Zach tossed the mits to Alex, who put them on and bent his knees. “So, since you’re new, maybe we start with just a jab?”

Jess used her boxing knowledge to realize what a jab was. “Like a punch?”

“Yes! Just like that,” Alex praised. “Just bend your knees a little bit and put your arms like mine.”

The position he was implying was knees bent, arms up in front of the face with the elbows bent. Jess mimicked his pose perfectly, with her purple gloves up to protect herself.

Alex held up one of the mits up, though he held it low so the shorter girl could hit it. “You’re right handed, right?”

“Yes!”

“So you just need to attach your hand to the mit,” Alex explained. “Not this slow, obviously.”

“I assumed,” Jess giggled.

The mit shook in Alex’s hand. “Now, you try.”

Jess connected her right glove to the left mit he was holding. She started slow, though she eventually sped up to a faster pace.

As she drove her jab forward, Alex started to step back to give her more space. “Hey! Not bad,” he praised with a smile.

The praise from the boy made Jess beam. She was surprised that it was actually a lot of fun.

Zach called to the two from behind the ring: “Remember to return your hands to your face when you jab. You don’t want to give anyone the chance because you have your guard down.”

Jess quickly re-squared her gloves in front of her face. “Oh yeah! I completely forgot.”

“Do you think you’re ready for a different punch?” He changed the position of the mit from facing towards her to facing the floor.

“I think I can handle it,” Jess gloated, a goofy smile forming on her face.

 

•••

 

“Hey Jess, wait up!” Zach called out to her, who was making her way to the gym’s exit.

Jess’ head whipped around to face the tall boy.

“Great work today! I was surprised when Alex told me about...” Zach gestured with one hand because the other was placed on the strap of his duffel bag on his shoulder. “...you wanting to learn how to fight.”

“I was also surprised that you wanted me  to come as well...I know we haven’t been that close in a while,” Zach said, apologetically.

A frown formed on Jess’ face. “I know. I think I had let some of my beliefs get in the way of something you love. That really wasn’t cool of me,” she said sadly. “And it shouldn’t have been just Justin that made me realize that sports often help people. I know it helped you a lot too...well, before...the leg.” Jess gestured to the black cast on his leg.

Zach gave his cast-clad leg a small shake. “It’s getting better! I don’t think I’ll ever get that scholarship, though,” Zach huffed, dejected.

Jess smiled up at the boy. She really did feel bad for him. Especially because none of it would have happened if she hadn’t started the... “interruption.” “I’m sorry about that, by the way. It was kinda my fault because if you were just playing then-“

“No, no,” Zach interrupted. “It could have happened in game. Or...anywhere. It was his fault, not yours.”

She nodded in response. Maybe his football career was over, but he still had potential. Zach was smart, kind and loyal. “But look on the bright side! Maybe now you can be the world’s best marine biologist.”

Zach gives a small, low laugh. “Then my mom would finally be happy, I guess.”

A silence filled the air before Jess spoke. “Hey Zach?” She asked, her gaze focused on kicking the matt in front of the gym’s exit with her toe.

“Uh..yeah?” Zach responded, confused.

Her eyes finally looked back up at him, and she realized that she had to look almost all the way up due to his height. “I really missed you, you know,” she sighed. “We were getting closer Junior Year and without you...and Alex...it was never the same. You two are like, my best friends.”

Although he didn’t show it, her words meant a lot to him. “Y-yeah you too!” Zach gave a soft smile.

Zach tugged on his shoulder strap and started to back away. “I guess I’ll uh- see you around?”

If Jess could help it, then they definitely would be spending time together. She had meant what she said.

 

•••

 

Her gaze followed as Zach’s amazing Audi drove down the street. Her dad still wasn’t there, and she double checked if she had texted him to come get her. It was getting late and she was exhausted from all of her training.

Mid-yawn, Jess again heard Alex calling her name. “Do you need a ride or something?” Alex limped over with that special grin on his face. The grin that was saved for her.

“I’m actually...not sure? My dad hasn’t texted me back,” she frowned. Jess turned to face him. “What about you?”

The rattle of his car keys gave her an answer. Which he followed up with one of those polite half smiles.

“Ah.”

The sunset was peaking into the gym windows, landing on every surface and unfortunately, right into Alex’s eyes.

He shaded his eyes, creating a fake visor with his hand. “I don’t really want to go home yet though.” He glanced down at her and asked: “Do you maybe want to...see a movie?”

That was something she wasn’t expecting. If she didn’t know better, she might have thought he was flirting. The heat in her cheeks rose. Even though they were getting back to there “usual” friendship (whatever that was), the last time they had went to the Crestmont together was last year.

It’s not like that went well either. He had wanted to hang out with her at work and had ran into Justin on his way out. Perfect Timing.

Then she remembered. That was then. This is now.

Jess looked up to him and smiled. “Count me in, Standall!”

 

 

Chapter Text

Jess yawned into her palm as she stood outside of The Crestmont. A puff of her breath formed in front of her. It was late and almost Mid-December.

She was very familiar with the establishment, being it where she worked some days out of the week.

Tonight, Charlie St. George was working the ticket booth outside. He was clearly not enjoying it, as he shivered with his light coat zipped up over his uniform. Jess knew how he felt. Those ticket booths are never heated.

The customers in front of Alex and Jess moved away, allowing Charlie to see the pair. He shot up as he saw them. “Oh hey! Jess!” He called out. “Aren’t you off today?”

Approaching the booth, Jess talked to Charlie as Alex browsed the movie choices. If she had her way, she would never let Alex chose on his own, but she was distracted.

“I’m on tomorrow. Alex and I just wanted to come see something,” she answered, gesturing to Alex. The boy in question was most definitely zoning out, mumbling to himself about what movie they should see.

Charlie nodded and asked: “So what are you guys thinking of seeing?”

Jess turned to her best friend. She really didn’t think her plans through, and this one wasn’t an exception. Jess usually looked online to find her movie hours before the showtime. Though today, she was leaving it up to him to chose their movie. With her guidance, of course. “Alex!”

Startled, the boy turned to her. “I think we should see Frozen 2 ,” he decided triumphantly. “I’ll pay.”

She couldn’t say she wasn’t impressed. He actually had decent taste compared to some other movie dates she had been on. Jess had decided long ago that she had seen enough Fast and Furious to last her a lifetime. “Hm. Good choice,” she praised. “But you will not be paying.”

“So,” Charlie said as he printed out their tickets. “two tickets to Frozen 2.” The tickets dispensed out of the device and Charlie tore them apart with a satisfying rip. “That’ll be $20.” He handed them the tickets.

Both Alex and Jess reached for their wallets, which annoyed them both.

Jess rolled her eyes. “I already told you-“

“But I want to pay,” Alex cut her off. “You buy my drinks all of the time. Just see it as me paying you back.”

Charlie’s eyes darted back and forth between the two, who were bickering for all to see.

Finally, Jess let out a loud huff and fixed her hair. “ Fine! You pay,” she grumbled in defeat. The small smile that formed on Alex’s face was adorable, and she couldn’t help but notice it as he jokingly nudged her side.

“You can get me next time,” he promised.

Although different, and almost two years later, the scene seemed eerily familiar to  Jess. There they were—Alex Standall and Jessica Davis— at the movies. Though she was glad for the lack of the awkward 1st date and strained friendship.

She thought of how they had changed since then. Not entirely for the better, and not entirely for worse. They don’t claim to be perfect. Time was a double-edged sword for the both of them.

And if the déjà vu wasn’t enough, Alex nagged her with: “Let’s go, Jess! I don’t want to miss the trailers.” The small smile that followed was worth the world.

“The trailers of a kids movie?”

Alex huffed. “Whatever.” He rolled his blue eyes. “I like them.”

Jess giggled at her friend, then led them to the snack bar. It was weird being on the other side of the counter for once. She didn’t really come to see movies often. She had came when skipping school with Alex—and a couple time in between— but Jess got sick of being there so often. It was never as fun to come alone.

As much as she hated to admit it, she didn’t have a lot of friends. She had Justin, who was always great company (when he wasn’t working), but otherwise she lacked. Ani could have been a close friend and Jess was thankful for her...help. So could have Nina and Chloe, but Nina graduated and Chloe...it was complicated.

Jess had wondered if her lack of friends could be because of her opinions and her activism. Although she would choose her beliefs over acquaintanceships, maybe it was because others were intimidated by her. She’s not a fool. The snickers of other girls in the bathroom had been a sound that made her stomach knot. Eventually, she just got used to it until the snickers turned to people parting like the Red Sea for her. If only she could savor the simple moments of her sophomore year—having small friendships, having crushes, dating without baggage.

So here she was, seeing a movie with her favorite person to see movies with. Which movie they chose didn’t matter.

Finally—the cinema was always busy on weekends—they were next in line. Jess already knew what Alex was going to order. “Sour Patch Kids, please.”

A smile cracked on her lips as she heard his infamous order. Everytime, she thought.

His conversation with the cashier faded as Jess considered her options. “A drink with that, sir?” She should probably get a drink and a popcorn. “No thank you.”

“And what would you like?” The cashier asked Jess. Though she knew of her, Jess felt bad that she didn’t remember her name.

“Umm.” Jess browsed the screen holding the candies one last time. “I’ll get Raisinet’s, please.” It was a good choice, in her opinion. She liked chocolate. She liked raisins. Put them together.

The groan that Alex made was an obvious try to make her aware of his disgust. “Really? You have a whole...” He gestured to the candy behind the glass. “...array of good candy to choose from and you chose Raisinet’s ,” he scoffed.

Jess’ mouth dropped open in shock, which soon turned to a smile. “Wow! You know, Alex, I would never have guessed you had such a strong dislike for them.” Jess paid and the cashier took a box of the candy from the glass and handed it to Jess, who popped them open immediately. “Have one.”

As the two stepped away from the counter, Jess’ ring-decorated hand was extended, ready to drop the sweet dried fruits into his hand.

He rolled his eyes and made a disgusted face. “....Fine,” he finally huffed. “I’ll have one.” Alex let the fruits drop into his palm and ate one hesitantly. His disgusted face continued, but it was clear that he didn’t hate the taste.

“What do you think?”

“They’re okay. I guess,” Alex shrugged. “Raisins are still gross.”

Jess squinted at him in response. “But- But that’s why the chocolate is there,” she explained, determined to make him understand.

Alex shrugged again. “Whatever. Chocolate does really do anything fo me either,” he said nonchalantly.

Now it was Jess’ turn to scorn in disgust. “What?” Her voice was shrill in disapproval. “How! How, Alex? In the two years that I’ve known you, you haven’t liked chocolate? It’s chocolate! I’ve been drinking it since you met me!”

“I never said I hated it! I just like Sour Patch Kids better,” Alex admitted. The boy really did enjoy his sugary treats. “And we should head in now. The previews start in 2 minutes.”

Jess giggled and shook her head. “You really are weird.”

 

•••

 

The two dumped their empty candy boxes in the trash as they exited the theatre. “I had no idea it was going to be that good!” Jess exclaimed, stretching her arms that were sore from sitting.

“I know. Sequels aren’t usually as good as the original,” he stated flatly. The snack bar once again caught Alex’s attention. “I should get another box of Sour Patch Kids,” he mumbled.

Jess shot him a look as she cracked her back obnoxiously. “Really? Doesn’t your mom watch what you eat?”

Alex smirked. “I have my ways. Plus I’ll just burn off all the calories tomorrow.”

“What? You plan to work out after today? I don’t think I can feel my arms,” she groaned.

“Trust me. You get used to being sore twenty-four seven when you work out as much as I do.”

This was true, but it set off a thought in Jess’ brain. “Why do you work out so much?” Jess inquired. She was serious. Jess had known Alex Standall for over two years now, and exercise was clearly not a previous interest. “I mean,” She said with her eyebrows raised, looking away from him. Her tone started to turn from genuine interest to somewhat loaded.

Jess knew she shouldn’t have brought it up after seeing the look on Alex’s face. Maybe he’s insecure about it? She’s confused. He has no reason to be insecure, and he’s never had any reason to be, according to her. She’s oblivious to her previous words, words that had looped in his mind all summer after their breakup.

The look on Alex’s face screamed awkwardness, like the question is a lot more personal than it needs to be. Like it’s full of judgement.

After a moment, the silence was broken by Jess, again. “You don’t have to answer. It’s fine.” But Jess could never anything go. Stubborn was her middle name, after all. Her mouth opened and closed. “It’s just weird to me that like, after we broke up you just started doing it all the time.” She looked down at the floor. The theatre was near empty by now, the other movie-goers had left and only the two of them along with few others remained. “I don’t care or anything...but you never cared about working out before,” she said, her dark eyes wide and her eyebrows raised.

For someone who had reassured him that she didn’t care, Jess seemed to care very much. The reason for his sudden athletic passion hung on his tongue, not ready to he said. Maybe not ever. It was fueled by insecurity that her words had played apart in. Her non-attraction to him. When she had told him that, he had thought that he could make himself look how she wanted. He knew that if he told her, she would feel awful, and that’s the last thing he would ever want.

Jess continued, snapping Alex out of his thoughts. “...did I do anything? It’s just that the timing is... interesting. And I know we didn’t leave it on the best of terms, of course,” Jess rambled, with a nervous giggle.

He was tired of hearing it. Alex couldn’t tell her, but she wouldn’t let it go. If things were easier, and they were both a little less fucked up, maybe they could talk about their feelings calmly.

He slammed his eyes shut. “You know what, Jess? It’s not about you,” Alex snapped, finally. “Maybe I just- like to work out!” He shrugged. “But no! Of course, it has something to do with you.” His eyebrows were furrowed, like they get when he’s mad. “Maybe I like not feeling weak and pathetic , Jess.” There’s volume and bite behind every word, and Alex regretted it immediately. His ears burned with shame and embarrassment.

Hurt formed on her face, which is no longer a common emotion she shows. Usually, she’s the one on the offensive. But right now, Jess just looked like she’s been punched—without the bloody nose or bruise. Unlike him, she burned with a mix of hurt and anger. The anger covered up the hurt, but not well. When did they develop such tempers? When did this all go wrong?

Clearly, she was aware it’s not all about her. She knew the world didn’t revolve around her, but Alex had been one to be greatly affected by her. She was sad that she had not always affected him in good ways. His use of words saddened her. Doesn’t he know that he’s not either of those things? But Jess isn’t one to let go of her pride, clearly.

The apologetic look on Alex’s face was stuck. His mouth was opening and closing like it did at his birthday party, which was another shitty memory for the both of them. But at least Junior year was simple. No words came out, until he managed: “Jess-“

Silent, but still pissed off, Jess huffed: “Whatever. Let’s get your fucking candy and go.” She was deflecting and closed off, wondering what caused such a reaction. It’s no secret that Alex had issues with his anger. He’d blown up at her multiple times, but she assumed that him yelling at her in the library would be the last time and that his anger was just a side affect of his steroids. That it was all just a little roid rage and would stop when he stopped taking them, which she assumed her did. She hoped.

After their disagreement, Alex had no appetite for Sour Patch Kids left. “It’s fine. I don’t. I don’t need it, anyway,” Alex murmured. He was avoiding her eyes, and she was doing the same.

“Okay. I’ll take you home.”

 

•••

 

Car ride silence is awkward. Especially for a girl who is practically incapable of silence. It helped that she was annoyed, but she was itching to say something. To do anything.

After a minute of fighting herself, Jess gave up. “Can you put some music on? Or something,” she sighed.

His eyes looked away from the road to her. She was leaning against the window of his mom’s car, meaning that she was literally the farthest humanly away from him—excluding the trunk.

“Uh...sure,” Alex responded, feeling around the console for his photo. They were at a red light, but Alex wasn’t taking his eyes off the road, which made the corners of Jess’ mouth turn up.

She watched him search like he was an old man looking for his cheaters for a moment. “Here,” she said, passing him his beloved phone.

Seconds later, Hatsune Miku’s classic “Miku” played through the stereo, from the aux cord connected to his phone.

Apparently, Alex’s interesting music is enough to make Jess’ mood a little lighter. She is not immune to the chance to tease him. “Really?” Jess let out a chuckle, which became a smile. “I thought you claimed to have ‘amazing music taste’,” she teased, with air quotes.

“Miku, Miku, you can call me Miku~”

He seemed shocked by the music that was playing, even though it was his. “I don’t even listen to her anymore.” An obvious blush formed on his pale cheeks. “It’s just-I haven’t taken it out of my playlist.” Alex had his eyes on the road, but he kept sneaking glances at the girl beside him.

The vocaloid song plays over their conversation like background music. “Hear your music running through my mind~ ,” Miku continues. Jess has to admit, she doesn’t mind it. She’s just always known Alex as a rock guy.

Jess lets out a hmph-like sound. “It’s cute. And hey, I’ll take her over your emo music any day,” she retorts, knowing he’ll argue back. But before he can blush even more at the it’s cute comment or get ready to fire back at her, probably pointing out her old Troye Sivan obsession, they reach her house. Jess is half disappointed to have to go inside.

The way his car—well, his mom’s car— slowed in front of her house is eerily familiar. It’s a bad kind of déjà vu. Remembering the time your best friend dropped you off after killing someone isn’t something she’s eager to remember.

Alex looked disappointed too. “I guess I’ll see you later,” he sighed. She still hasn’t let him talk about what happened in the theatre. Probably because she thinks it’s easier not to. Easier to leave it on a good note, talking about their music and teasing each other. Like friends do.

When she opened the door, Miku’s singing the chorus yet again. She reaches for her bag, which makes her remember their workout this morning. God. That feels like forever ago, she thought. She needs a shower. And time to analyze what the fuck happened earlier.

But besides that, Jess had fun. “We should do this again sometime, she says with a faint smile. “Like, hang out.”

To her confusion, Alex looked surprised by her words. “Oh. Um.” He cleared his throat. “Sure,” he said, with a smile matching her own.

He has a nice smile , she thought. She wished he would smile more.

Then, just how she had Homecoming night (without the rejection), she shuts the door and walks inside.

 

Chapter Text

Ring-covered hands pulled dark curly hair into a neat ponytail. Jess had her usual stink face on as she ducked her head back down underneath the movie seat. A very disgusting seat, in her expert opinion. Jess gagged as she saw its condition. “Jesus!” The girl scorned. “How hard is it to throw out your gum?” Although she knew she was fortunate to have a job at the Cresmont, scraping some stranger’s gum from the bottom of the theatre seats was a job no one wanted to do.

Her gum-scraping partner was less fazed by the work. Charlie was even whistling. “I think it’s kind of satisfying,” he said with a smile on his face from the row of seats behind.

His comment was met with a disgusted face from Jess, that definitely implied dude, what the fuck?

“Like, those pimple popping videos on insta!”

One of Jess’ eyebrows rose, giving him an incredulous look. “You’re gross.”

Three pieces of old gum fell into Jess’ bowl with one strong scrape of her bench scraper, which pleased her. A smirk formed on the girl’s face.

As Charlie started up his usual babble about his life, Jess’ phone buzzes in her back pocket. She usually didn’t open Snapchat notifications, as she got many.

Jessica Davis was quite popular, again. It wasn’t the same kind of popularity, she wasn’t a pretty cheerleader with a popular jock boyfriend. Not that she minded, though. She preferred to be known for her accomplishments, like being student class president and HO.

Jess swiped the notification open, which happened to be from Alex. She placed her tool at her side, paying more attention to her phone in her hand.

She was disappointed, when it turned out to just be a picture of the side of his face, accompanied by the caption: streaks.

After the weird night that was last night, Jess still wanted to hear from him. They ended the night fine, but the conversation they had still hung over their friendship.

She let out an awfully loud huff, accompanied by an eye roll. Jess wanted more. An explanation, maybe?

Charlie noticed her small fit she was in. He tilted his head. “Hey uh, are you okay?”

Jess bit her cheek. “I’m fine,” she sighed. “It’s just...Alex.”

His eyebrows rose at the mention of the name, along with his eyes widening. Though—after a second— he went right back to his scraping, like nothing.

Confused, Jess stuck her head forward a bit. “What?”

“So, I like, kind of heard him snap at you last night,” Charlie confessed. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop or anything. But I mean, it’s not like either of you were super quiet.

Shit , Jess thought. She fought the very strong urge to roll her eyes. Were they that loud? Well, was he that loud? Jess sighed for the upteenth time in the last 5 minutes. “It wasn’t a big deal.” She leaned back against one of the folded seats.

Charlie didn’t respond. Instead, he seemed ready to intently listen more.

Jess took his cue, “I think there’s still something up with us. That might just be how it is but”—Jess paused—“I don’t know. He’s my best friend .” And her ex. Her ex twice, now.

Their boss would be disappointed if he saw them now. Jess sat with her legs sprawled across two of the seats in the aisle below, having a heart-to-heart with her coworker, who had his legs pulled up to his chest, paying close attention. They had both abandoned their gum scraping duties.

“And not just like, your best friend that just happens to be the closest to you. I’ve known him for—what?—two years and I can’t imagine my life without him.” She picked up her scraper, resuming her work. “I mean, we didn’t talk for a while”—her voice reduced to a whisper—“because of what happened, but, God, I wish we did.” Jess let the scraper go limp in her hand. She leaned back on the cinema seat, again. “ I should have done something. I was a shitty friend,” she concluded, her teeth lightly grinding together and her eyebrows raised.

Like the thought has taken over her, her eyebrows drew together. “And honestly, a shitty girlfriend, too,” she said. Her words were traced with remorse, and a twinge of shame. “God. I kind of suck.”

Her silent partner shot up. “No you don’t! We all make mistakes, Miss Davis.”

“Thanks, Charlie.” Jess gave a small smile at the formality.  She had told him to call her by her first name months ago, but sometimes, he reverted back to his respectful ways. Though, the naïveté in his statement wasn’t as comforting. She couldn’t expect extremely life changing advice from Charlie, and that was okay. He was a kid. When she was a sophomore, she had just the same views.

He didn’t know that some mistakes are more than mistakes. That some mistakes aren’t quite as forgivable.

“I didn’t mean to dump all of my problems onto you,” she said with a dry, singular laugh. “I have a lot of shit in my life.”

“And. I don’t really have anyone to talk to. I mean, about this kind of stuff.” She frowned. It was true. She had Alex, and she used to have Justin, but she clearly could not talk to Alex.

Luckily, Charlie didn’t seem to mind letting her vent. “It’s cool. “We’re friends. Even if we only hang out at work,” he said, smiling.

Jess snickered. She liked the idea of being friends with Charlie. He might be almost two years younger than her, but he had proved himself to be trustworthy. And he clearly had a lot of respect for her, and Justin, as well.

She had been thinking about Justin a lot. She missed him, of course. Though, she knew it was for the best. It was an impulsive decision to try to make their broken relationship work, although it was one she didn’t entirely regret. She did love him, and back then, she felt lost without him.

It was crazy to her how much had changed since April.

A lot had changed for the better, of course. Jess became a leader, and a strong, needed one, at that. She did what was right for herself, or what she thought was. But at what cost? Her relationship suffered, and so did her morals. Was it right to chose to be selfish and focus on her self?

Jess sighed and let her curiosity get the best of her. “So, uhm. Have you talked to Justin at all? Recently?” Jess had tried to ask as nonchalantly as she could, though to no avail.

“Justin?” Charlie asked, focused on his work.

Jess’ eyebrows rose in confusion. “Umm, yeah?”

Scrape! “He seems fine.” Scrape! “I’m pretty sure he’s busy”— Scrape!—“ with basketball season and work.” Scrape! “You know, I bet he misses you at his games. I remember how you always tried  to go to his football games,” Charlie recalled.

His words struck a nerve with her, making her feel guilty. “Yeah...,” Jess trailed off, her eyes looking away. “I feel bad.”

Silence filled the room as the two said nothing. Jess didn’t know to say at all.

After a minute, she sighed. “He’s probably better off without me, to be honest.”

“I....don’t know. You really made him happy,” Charlie said, not looking up at her. “And it seemed like he made you happy, too.”

Jess sat, reliving the memories. Good and bad ones. Good ones like cheering him on at his basketball games sophomore year and him crawling through her window to see her last summer. Though, as she reminisced, many bad ones came to the surface of her mind as well. Sleepless nights over his lies. Or, lie singular. Justin had kept a catastrophic secret from her for months, a secret that could change everything. A secret that did change everything.

She’d be lying if she said that she didn’t think of what they would be like if he stopped Bryce, or he had told her sooner. Nowadays, though, she tried not to dwell.

Jess frowned. “Whatever,” she huffed. “I just hope he doesn’t hate me or anything. I mean, it’s not like he hasn’t hurt me before,” she continued, her eyes wide. She got a little passive-aggressive at the end, and to her, it was rightfully so. Honestly, Jess didn’t mind being a little mean.

After her mini-rant, she noticed that Charlie’s bucket of old gum was almost full. Jess looked back down at her own, which is only covered by gum at the bottom, plus her bench scraper.

Though, of course, Jess saw this as another challenge. The sides of her mouth curved into a smug smile as she reached for the scraper. “You’re on,” she challenged, with a dry laugh. Her competitiveness was something she hoped to never let go.

Her “opponent,” looked a little confused. “What? What do you mean ‘you’re on’?”

Too slow , Jess thought as she smirked to herself. She needed the head start if she was going to win this pseudo-competition.

So far, she was doing pretty good. If her boss came up with this idea, work would have probably been way more fun. She scraped the gum off the seats with almost full ease.

As he saw her make her way down the row of seats with haste, Charlie finally realized what she meant. “Oh!” A determined look filled his face. “You’re not going to beat me that easily!”

Surprisingly, Jess was pretty far down the row by now. The scrapes of the gum falling was all they could hear, too. Even as she finished that row, they still both had a lot of work to finish. Especially, to make up for the time spent chatting.

 

•••

 

Jess let out an unhappy grumbling sound as she walked out of work. “You know I would have won if I wasn’t distracted! I want a rematch,” she argued. “I’ll prove it to you.”

Charlie just giggled at her in response. To him, it was amusing. Plus, he looked up to her. She was a pretty amazing person, even if Jess argued it was only from afar. “I’ll see you later, Jess.”

A gray car pulled up in front of the Cresmont, which Jess inferred that it must be one of his parents. “Bye!” She called out to him as he climbed in.

It was 6:00 PM, as the theatre closed early on Sundays, like many establishments. Also, 6 PM meant sunset, which meant cold, so Jess hurried to where her Mom’s car—which she was allowed to drive today—was waiting.

As she hopped in, she immediately turned the heat on. Then, she checked her phone. She hadn’t had time to check any of her social media for a couple hours, and her notification were starting to pile up.

Jess scrolled past several snaps from guys, and some girls—who probably were just looking to get with her, some she had hooked up with— and others to get to a new snap from Alex.

This time, he sent a full face photo with his brows furrowed in mock anger. It was captioned: did you really just leave me on opened.

That wasn’t the last of them, though, the next snap was a photo of Alex with his mouth open in shock. This one was captioned: wow i know you use your phone in work all the time and i’m bored.

Jess found it amusing how he was hitting her up like nothing ever happened. He remembered, right? He couldn’t have forgotten, as it was literally yesterday. Maybe he was just continuing to ignore it, like what they usually do with their past.

She figured she should respond, so she turned the front flash on for her phone and sent a snap back. Jess’ snap was captioned: someone’s a bit of a drama queen!! i just got out like, five minutes ago. >:0

He didn’t waste any time in responding. Though, this time, his message sent as a chat.

 

standnone: i am deeply offended

 

#1rockmom: okay mr standnone 😭

 

standnone: shut up. 😐

 

As she read his recent message, she let out a singular laugh. Alex wasn’t one to use emojis, but he sometimes made exceptions. It was also quite funny how his emoji choice resembled his resting bitch face.

 

standnone: i was like, 14 and i thought i was clever

 

standnone: and it’s still pretty good. standall,,, standnone

 

#1rockmom: i KNEW it!!

 

standnone: yes, #1rockmom, you got me.

 

#1rockmom: LISTEN...i was 13 and i loved my rock pets

 

Jess, or “#1rockmom,” giggled at their messages. 14 year old Alex must have been quite the person. She imagined a pimply, scene-clothed, angsty teenager. She also wondered if he would have been friends with a bullied, weird, sad 13 year old like she was. Jess didn’t know, but she hoped so.

Messages from Alex slowed for a minute, though, she saw that he was still typing. A long message? Or was he contemplating what to say?

Her fingers gripped the steering wheel until a message made her phone light up once again. Two messages, though she skipped over the first one to read the second.

This message was a text message, not a chat— that read:

 

scarlett: hey love. come over tn?

 

scarlett: i miss you <3

 

Jess couldn’t help but bite her lip at the message from her dear friend. Well, friend with some benefits.

After her and Justin’s breakup—which was about to be three weeks ago— Scarlett had shown quite the interest in her, though, she wasn’t the first one. Lots of girls at boys at Liberty High held an attraction for their student class president.

It had been a long time since Jess had been with a girl, but she definitely liked them. She liked Scarlett a lot, too. Though, it was too early for Jess to be in a relationship.

But a little fun? That couldn’t hurt.

 

jess: i’ll be right over!! ;)

 

Finally, Jess changed gears and drove to “her friend’s” house. Her phone sat in the cupholder on the console, so she didn’t see the two messages she had received.

 

standnone: i want to talk to you, btw. i was a dick yesterday and i wasn’t sure how to bring it up. i’m sorry :( call me?

 

scarlett: come through the window, btw

 

scarlett: [image attached] 🥰