Title: A Sparrow's Kin
Rated: PG-13, minimal amount of coarse language.
Author's Note: I thought it was about time to get a piece of work in that had to do with love, but not the love that everyone's been writing about. Love comes through friendship and family as much as anywhere, and I thought Jen's character was the best to demonstrate through with this concept.

I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naive
I'm just out to find
The better part of me
I'm more than a bird...I'm more than a plane
More than some pretty face beside a train
It's not easy to be me
Wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
About a home I'll never see
It may sound absurd...but don't be niave
Even Heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed...but won't you concede
Even Heroes have the right to dream
It's not easy to be me
Up, up and away...away from me
It's all right...You can all sleep sound tonight
I'm not crazy...or anything...
I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naive
Men weren't meant to ride
With clouds between their knees
I'm only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me
It's not easy to be me.

Superman - Five For Fighting

“I’m afraid that’s not how you do it, Lindley,” the dark haired male chuckled at her rather saddening attempts to flatten the mutated cookie dough she had spent all afternoon tackling. This dough would never be transformed into actual cookies unless a miracle was for once in her life bestowed upon her.

“And who are you, the Pillsbury Doughboy? Well, Jack, you can just stuff it and take your psychotic ‘he he’s’ elsewhere,” she snarled hastily as she poked the unwanted gaps accumulating at the surface of the dough.

“Hey! I much prefer Chef Boyardee, thank you very much. Now, Betty Crocker, would you like to learn from the master?” his devious grin forced her to take her best shot at smiling in return, which easily spent her last bit of energy.

“Be my guest.”

He eased in aside her before jumbling the soft heap about and beginning his own war with its refusal to cooperate. This may have not been the average idea of fun for the other college freshmen at Boston University, but it was their kind of fun. This was the life. It was just Jack, grams, and the cobwebs of their new and unclean house to keep her company.

Then of course there was Joey and Pacey. Joey was usually around for their outings as long as she wasn’t drowning in one of her gruesome swamps of Worthington homework. And of course Pacey was usually found anywhere there was a drop of seawater accompanied by a sea craft. Sure they were more on the scarce side of her life, but they were there nonetheless. But Dawson on the other hand was leaning more towards the nonexistent side. She had barely even spoken to him since he left for USC, except for the occasional phone call. And just recently those phone calls had seemingly disappeared ever since his father, Mitch died in the tragic car accident. He still needed to give himself time to heal his wounds, and she needed to give him that space to breathe while he did it.

It was ironic the way everyone was always telling her how destiny and fate would keep the people she loved close to her as she barged through her life. But it was nothing like that. Destiny and fate had nothing to do with it. She just thought of it as luck. It was simply pure and fortunate luck that more or less, she still had her sidekick gang from high school around for the ride.

“There,” the male comrade grinned haughtily as he not only completed rolling the cookie dough neatly, but also had them in identical spheres spaced out on the cooking pan. She could see the breaths of victory dancing between his gleaming teeth.

“Now what?” she snorted, not bothering to acknowledge his visible satisfaction in defeating her attempts.

“Jen, I believe that now I have confirmed my doubts of you having blonde roots. We bake them in the oven! What else would we do?” he teased her, bumping his hip against hers in a playful collision. She simply grumbled, growing impatient. Why did she have to learn to cook? All she wanted was some cookies to eat. It wasn’t like it was going to get her anywhere in life. Not unless she was planning to hitch up a job at a fast food restaurant and incessantly repeat the dreaded phrase of ‘Would you like fries with that?’

“Good afternoon, children. I trust you slept well,” the low-key tone of her grandmother in no way startled her. The elder woman had slipped quietly down the staircase from her midday nap and had sidled up behind them to detect what they were up to.

“Well, don’t trust it grams. I woke up with not a single speck of that comforting crustiness in my eyes. Therefore I can safely assume I was tossing and turning to the living end,” she smiled to herself mildly. Jack growled gently at her sarcasm before dotting the tip of her nose with a speck of ivory powder.

“Morning, grams,” the male snagged the frailty of her grandmother into his overly powerful embrace.

If there was one thing she was happy to provide for Jack, it was the family he had never had. Therefore she didn’t mind sharing her one source of love and support. He had made sure to return the favour by being the single male in her life who held a promise he would never desert her, hurt her, or judge her. Jack was safe. He was her comfort zone, this safety and security where she could be granted an unconditional and honest love. That was the only kind of love she had never discovered until he pried his way into her barriers and had somehow entangled himself within her, making a nest for himself in her heart. It was unfair and unjust she believed to let herself love anyone the way she loved him, especially after all the backfired blows of pain she had taken through her life.

“Yes, well, Jennifer. The Lord will not grant sleep if you do not grant him your prayers at night,” her rose patched lips pronounced a delicate, almost tender simper.

“Yes, well the Lord will also not grant me sleep if I dream about men wearing nothing but their happy suits all night, either,” she smirked, catching Jack’s immediate grin from the corner of her eye.

“Jennifer!” her grandmother squealed in an almost exasperated tone. She loved nothing more than scaring the living daylights out of her grandmother, not because it was a challenge, but because it was too easy.

“Oh, honestly grams, you take everything so seriously,” she chuckled in a waggish demeanor.

“Do you blame her?” Jack cut in as she fidgeted with the unfamiliar controls on the oven.

“You know, I really wish I still had my Easy Bake Oven,” she sighed on the brink of disappointment.

She rolled her eyes at the way Jack and grams smiled to each other through their eye contact. It was as if they had this alternate portion of their world enclosed with all these secrets that she, herself, could never even begin to understand. What they had was past her intelligence. Perhaps it was an alliance against her. Now that would be dangerous.

She forced the front door of her house to budge open, her lips firm with an overwhelming jealousy. Her hitched up backpack was aimed towards the kitchen table, though instead it ricocheted against one of the chairs and slumped to the tiled floor. For a moment she contemplated if Jack deserved her jealousy. She had every right to be jealous. His promises were filled with empty air. He had abandoned her for the population of male pigs that were part of his stupid fraternity. It had sunk in that she was no longer on his priority list and the new fraternity he had been accepted into was what he revolved around. There was no more time for her, and no space to make for her. He had declined to even walk to and from school with her today. He was leaving her a loner, feeding her to the wolves. Well good for him. Now he could join the never-ending lineup of nifty runaways in her life that at one point were actually meaningful to her. He deserved a trophy.

“Grams!” she called out, hopeful for the other’s simple presence to use as an easy pick-me-up for her disgruntled mood.

She would have to go on a hunt for her grandmother since she did not receive a response. Her strides easily carried her up the silent staircase. She didn’t like it. She loathed it, actually. She would always attempt to contort her feet while she ascended or move in different patterns to try and find a creaky area. But, to no avail. She missed all the familiar sounds of Capeside more than anything. The sound of silence, the sound of wood crackling as it was burnt into ashes, the sound of morning sunlight as it crept over the floors. Though she walked hand in hand with city life, Boston could never really add up to Capeside’s significance.

Her breath eased out in a slow motioned exhale, studying the perfection of her grandmother’s slumbering frame as she slid into her room. Each day she had become more in dying need of sleep, growing more tired with her age but indeed no weaker. Her grandmother was strong, a woman worthy of the dignity she had gained.

Her supple chest inclined and paused momentarily before declining back to its resting state again. Her soft strands were accented by the silver highlights that brought out her features, which had grown creased and pallid but nonetheless beautiful. Her eyes were heavy lidded in sleep, but when they were opened they had a lambent richness to them that she herself loved to try and reflect in.

Gingerly she penetrated a tender kiss upon the wrinkled plainness of her grandmother’s forehead. She loved her; every pitiful piece of her heart loved her as incapable of loving as everyone had at one time thought she was. But, this old and lone woman had enough courage to teach her to love, and for that she would be eternally grateful and in debt. Her grandmother claimed that some God religiously had this true existence filled with miraculous history. Whatever God she couldn’t come to terms with and comprehend, if there was such a thing, it had blessed her with this woman.

“Hello, is Jen there?” a male voice questioned on the other end of the receiver.

“That’s Princess Jennifer to you,” she responded blandly.

Charlie Todd. She didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or scream. After she had caught him with another woman, the last thing she wanted to do was listen to his seductive voice. He was fatuous to have believed he could play her on one end and have another girl on the other end when she wasn’t around to suit his hormonal male needs. The funny part, she almost trusted him. The sad part, she almost loved him. But now, screaming at him made so much more sense then letting him get to her.

“Jen, why won’t you talk to me?” his voice was overflowing with innocence. Goddamn his innocence. It was just as useless as his so-called affections for her.

“Would you like those reasons listed in order of significance, or alphabetically?” she muttered in a playful tone that uplifted her love of mutilating his guilt to the highest extent.


“Why, Charlie? Maybe if you say pretty, pretty please with cherries on top I’ll explain to you exactly why I won’t talk to you since you have a one track mind that is powered by your southern regions so you wouldn’t even begin to understand that maybe the reason I won’t talk to you is because you have used me and made me feel like the damaged goods I’ve always been and because you’re just like every other guy who sips his martini with the distressed blonde and makes her fall into a blinding love,” her voice was domineering, rambling on with a destruction that caved her insides.

“You loved me?” he was easily startled.

“No,” she seethed regretfully.

“For god sakes, give me a chance to explain, Jen,” he growled in protest.

“Me give you a chance to explain? A chance to explain what? How you’re so incredibly sorry about what happened, it was all a mistake? How she just happened to trip over you and your lips magnetized magically to one another? Save me the bullshit, Charlie Brown. Maybe Snoopy would be more interested in forgiveness,” she braced the receiver casually beneath her chin, shuffling through the fridge with a calling out hunger.

“You don’t understand.”

“No, Charlie, you don’t understand. You don’t understand what it’s like to have thought you found this ordinary guy that just maybe might not be so ordinary, and maybe, just maybe he would love you like your stupid childhood fantasies always promised. The prince in shining armor, rushing to save and kiss his princess. I don’t know how kids can be raised on those falsehoods, because eventually, you realize that prince was just a greedy troll trying to get his warty hands on your next door neighbour, the wicked witch of the west,” her orbs grew ablaze with a new hunger, one that was fiery with a need to prey upon her anger and other emotions.

“Jen, what do you want me to say? I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. What we had was better than that though, and I promise you that it’ll all change. I care so much about you,” his tone started to grow defenseless, perceiving he had lost the battle before it had even begun.

“Bye, Charlie. Let’s just pretend that nothing ever happened,” she smiled through the receiver before gently settling it back in its cradle. Maddened saline brimmed her lids in an unusual disgust in herself. She wasn’t worth much of anything at this moment. Perhaps she never would be.

The way he sipped at his coffee so plainly, completely at ease with his environment though she was staring ominously at him from the opposite side of the table was sickening. More than sickening. It gave her nausea, wishing that the orange she was wrestling out of its fitting peel would shape shift into a grenade that she could kill him with. That way she at least wouldn’t have to stare at his beautiful, calming face. Jack didn’t deserve her pensive emotions over his neglect of their friendship.

“I talked to some of the guys from the frat yesterday at the meeting after school. They said you’re welcome to hang out with me anytime there,” he murmured, his words full of pity and mercy. Damn him.

“No thanks,” the words rolled off her tongue in a contrary fashion, wishing she could migrate beneath the table until he eventually ended up leaving. The way he was making her feel like some frail creature in need for his compassion was unnecessary. It was unwanted. She was just mildew growing on him and now he was ridding himself of her for a fresh start he was going to make; one that didn’t include her, his once upon a time perfect mismatch best friend. She was just a temporary installment until he could find a better best friend to replace her, she supposed.

He nodded, understanding in the least though probably not content with her response. Now she would be the villain, when he was the one who started the fire. But this is how it always had been and she was unforgiving. If he didn’t want her, then she would stay unwanted. He had bored her heart to an extent she had never thought possible for her, or for anybody. She wasn’t as strong as she had hoped, or been visualized as in the past.

He gingerly sipped at the thick, black abyss of liquid in his mug once again. He seemed gladsome of the gap that had grown in their friendship. The one of course he had created. She needed to vomit.

“Anyways, you ready?” he questioned, tossing his lightweight pack over his shoulder.

“No. You go ahead. I’m going to leave a bit later this morning for classes. I’ve got some work to finish quickly before I leave,” her lie was well rehearsed.

“Oh, well, want me to wait? If you’re only going to be a few minutes…”

“No, go,” her tone was hoarse and cynical, not exactly the way she had meant for him to receive it.

He left in an eagerness that only confirmed the repress he ached to scream back at her, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t simply because he knew she had earned the right to be angry and hateful towards him after he had stated he required ‘his own wings’. I guess he couldn’t fly with her anymore.

“Jennifer?” her grandmother half inquired, half concluded as she glided down the steps in her cardinal the moment Jack had departed.

“In the gorgeous flesh,” she smiled in her good morning greeting, the citrus juice of the orange she had finally readied to eat spilling into her mouth with each bite.

“I thought I just heard Jack leave.”

“You did,” she replied flatly.

“Well, then, if you don’t mind me asking, why are you still moping around?” her grandmother’s brows arched quietly.

“No reason. He seemingly has rejected me for that frat gang of his, and I figured since he hasn’t wanted to walk to and from school with me the past while, I wouldn’t give him the pleasure of it today,” her rounded shoulders shrugged off the deepening pain that logged in her chest with her words.

“Well, as long as you’re here, I thought that maybe we could talk,” the elder female’s tone bounced off the walls in an almost jovial temperament, but there was an unsealed insecurity looming within it.

“Grams! You finally got a boyfriend from that quilting club you’re in?” her features brightened with glee, enjoying the teasing fest.

“Jennifer, you wench, it’s more important than some olden day romance,” her grandmother snapped matter-of-factly, drifting weightlessly about the kitchen as she poured herself some herbal tea. The sound of simmering tea plunging into her mug was warming in a discreet manner.

“Okay…” she trailed cautiously, blinking with a hindered silence at the elderly woman who was dimly lit with an angel’s love and affections. The silence grew from comfortable to a static silence. Fear coursed through her veins.

“Grams?” she stressed relentlessly at the expressionless gaze her grandmother exchanged with her.

“I haven’t been feeling so zippy lately, Jennifer. So I had a checkup with the doctor and he…” her voice had a distant tremor to it.

“He what? I don’t want to pry it out of you grams, but I will. So spit it,” she demanded with a starving for the truth.

“I have cancer.”

If lightning struck, she wouldn’t have known the difference between life and death. A startling realization of the actual circumstances came to her, and this horrification was unaccustomed to her state of mind. She was unarmed with the emotions she needed at a moment like this. She should’ve been angry, or weeping, but she wasn’t. It was an ultimatum between which emotions to express, so she simply chose neither. She was indecisively calm and at ease, numbing inside out.

“How bad is it?” she made the mistake of asking.

“I don’t know, Jennifer. I’ll be getting all the treatment I can afford but that’s not a question I can answer with much expertise.”

“Are you dying?” her voice was syncopated.

Her grandmother’s restless optics grew unsteady at the question she was forcing upon her, and the brightness her eyes usually held ended up dimming to hollowness.

“The Lord will choose.”

“Your Lord can rot in hell,” she grimaced.

The angst crooning of a female vocalist cemented her ears with cursed words as it was released from her speakers. Her small, unfinished bedroom had become her lock away prison. Nobody had imprisoned her; she had captured herself in this self-punishment. She refused to step out that door into her nightmare. That nightmare had become her life, and ruled her out of it. After she had found out the tragic news, she had stomped up to her bedroom like a toddler throwing a daily tantrum and had been there all day since. She was unwilling to come out no matter how much her grandmother’s muffled pleas from the other side of the door had bribed her. Jack didn’t even know yet. Nobody knew yet, except her and that goddamn Lord grams bowed down to. What if that God was the cause to her grandmother’s awaiting death? What if it was God that was beating off every single person in her life who ever meant anything to her? Now they were taking away the one thing they had no reason to mess with. Her grandmother had been her savior, and now God was taking that love and affection away so she in turn was left with nothing. If she didn’t have her friends, and she didn’t have grams, whom exactly did she have? She would be alone again, alone in a pit of coldness, darkness, and most of all emptiness.

Promptly, as if summoned, the familiar hooting and hollering of Charlie’s voice boomed from her speakers. Her lids started to grow thin, engorged with an altering burn that returned to her insides and soothed the numbness. The burning of hatred is what she had identified it as. Unfortunately, she had forgot her radio was tuned in to the Boston Campus station where Charlie broadcasted.

“I hope you all enjoyed that angry chick music. That was my dedication to a certain girl, she knows who she is. Onto some more dedications from you, our top listeners here on the Boston Campus...”

She shrieked as his words were fuzzed out when her quaking, yet violent grasp sent the radio plummeting out her open window to whatever was willing to make a bed for it below. Her nefarious scream continued until her window was slammed shut with a responsive bang. Scalding tears descended in their disoriented path down the smooth exterior of her cheeks, frightful if she would punish herself for these unknown tears that she was weeping. Her emotions had humiliated her, and now were failing her. She thrashed onto her bedspread, sobbing with pain stricken tones that had broken through the brick wall she had built around them. Her lips parted in a web of saliva, clawing at the soaking blanket upon her mattress until her features were marred with failure. She had broken into flimsy pieces that nobody was willing to pick up and put back together. She was dying inside.

She had finally released herself from her bedroom that night, but not until grams had more than likely gone to bed and given up on her, and Jack more than likely was still out at his fraternity house. She had made a safe exit and after her aimless wandering down the vacant city sidewalks, she found herself standing before the overwhelmingly beautiful yacht where Pacey was easily found.

Soft lights danced across the docking waters, the sea salt stinging her already burning eyes. Shadows wept over her body, the late night air thick with uneasiness. She struggled to hoist herself onto the lightly rocking floor of the sea craft, but she failed as she did with everything else. She didn’t have the strength or willpower to make any physical movements.

“Pacey!” her shrill call was hopeful that it wouldn’t have to be repeated, and luckily, he had indeed heard her and his familiar frame eased into the darkness of night as he stepped up from below deck.

“Jen?” his mature features showed deep concern and unnoticed concentration.

“I…I had nowhere else to go,” her confession numbed her, attempting to focus her vision through the foggy tears that were situated in her eyes unknowingly.

“Come here,” his baritone voice was almost demanding, but she wanted him to be demanding so she was allowed to be obedient and break down.

His calloused, hard-worked hands extended out to her as his stormy blue spheres danced over her dreary expression. She accepted graciously as he lifted her upon the deck of the yacht carefully, sensitive to her every movement. She sniffled her thanks, trembling with a chill before him.

“For god sakes, Lindley, you’re trembling,” he abruptly took on the job of taking care of her with a new determination. The windbreaker jacket he wore was tugged away from his body and replaced upon hers. He silently cupped her hands within the barrier of his own and exhaled his warm breath upon them in hopes to ease their icy state. Though his hands were rough as they rubbed over hers, they were unmistakably tender and delicate.

“It’s cold,” she swallowed.

“I know. Get in here,” he tugged her off without question down the few stairs that led to the lower regions of the boat where his homely bedroom was situated.

“Aren’t you going to ask me?” she murmured heartlessly as he rushed to boil some warm water for her.

“Ask you what?” he replied hoarsely in the midst of his hunt for a blanket from the closet.

“Why I’m here,” she offered, easing onto his mattress in depletion and an uncertain sickness. There was a brief pause in silence before he craned around to peer at her.


“Why not?” she observed as he discovered a thick, wool blanket at last and advanced to her. He swept it around her curled up body in one swift motion, scratching in habit at his lower abdomen as he searched her depthless gaze.

“Because I have no reason to question it. When someone I love comes to me in the middle of the night, her face stained with tears, a whole bloody mess, and she tells me she has nowhere else to go…I figure I should give her the benefit of the doubt. I’m not heartless, Lindley, and believe it or not I actually worry a whole damn lot about you,” his sincerity overshadowed her own pain momentarily.

“What if I want you to know why I’m here?” her fingertips rubbed along the crinkles of the heating blanket, tugging it closer to her chilled frame.

“Then you’ll tell me,” he shrugged in a knowing manner, busily making her a hot cup of coffee before bringing it over to her and sitting aside her lazily. She pushed it away at first, but he enforced it to her lips until the boiling liquids stunned her cold insides.

“It’s grams. She has cancer. She’s dying, Pace. And Jack is too self-indulged in his fraternity to care about either of us. When I found out, I didn’t even know what to do. I didn’t do anything. I was just empty, completely empty. It was like I didn’t know how to cry. Everyone’s being taken away from me and I don’t know how to stop it,” she swallowed effortlessly, her throat closing in on her as she struggled to inhale a ragged breath through her tears.

His expression had been glazed over by love and devotion. His blue orbs sparkled with a glimmer of hope he offered to her in a hidden way. He said no words, for no words could really ease her pain and he seemed to have already known that. So he did the only thing he could do, which was hold her, tell her everything was going to be okay, and ease her pain to the best of his natural ability. As his fingertips stroked her scalp through her golden coils, she found herself drifting into an almost peaceful slumber against the heat radiating off his embracing body.

“Ahoy, mate,” his familiar grin greeted her awakening eyes, his dimples sneaking into the corners of his mouth.

“Ahoy, Witter annoyance,” she smiled meekly, her voice groggy as she observed him get a few things together before checking his watch.

“Feel free to the contents of my micro-sized fridge over there, and feel free to a skinny dip if that so pleases you, and if there’s anything else you need I wrote down my work number over there on the table. I have to head off to work though, but I’ll be back this afternoon. Is there anything else you need, Lindley?” he paused his depart to inquire.

“No, no. I’m fine. Thanks, Pace, for everything,” she smiled with a genuine gratitude. He returned her smile before advancing to her, simply a cozy heap on his bed.

“If there’s anything, Jen, you tell me. You can stay here as long as you need, and I just wanted you to know that…” he trailed with uncertainty.

“You love me?” she guessed plainly.

“Yes, I love you, and I will take care of you, so don’t forget I’m here,” he sighed against her flesh as he placed a tender kiss upon her forehead.

“I know, Pace. I know.”

She had taken him up on his offer. Oh, she had done more than that. While he was busy at work, she had gotten herself into a very naughty injustice. Every time she exhaled, she could taste the alcohol against her lips. It was strong, acerb, a taste that was really unheeded. It wasn’t the taste of it that had mattered; it was the sensation it gave her. It gave her the sensation of flying. She felt weightless, unsure of her own footing as she braced herself against the small counter to force another shot glass of rye whisky down her aching throat. It soothed it by numbing it, making her lifeless and senseless. She never would’ve guessed Pacey would have all this stowaway liquor filed in his cabinets. It had become hers for the taking.

Her head had grown heavy with a dizzy rage, knowing there was a severe headache there though she couldn’t truly feel it. She was fueling her emotions and the basic muckiness of her upturned life with this miracle working substance. She had forgotten how much she had loved it, needed it, and hungered for it.

When she poured herself another, her trembling grasp rebelled and the bottle of liquor went plummeting to the wooden flooring with an obnoxious crash. Although the bottle didn’t break, she became mesmerized as the thick, amber liquid gurgled its way out into a scented puddle.

She groaned miserably as she crumbled dizzily to the floor, ignoring the spilled substance that was now spreading through her clothing as she fell upon it. Her chokes became less subtle, growing violent and harsh with sickness.

Everything became one massive whirlwind, every sensation in her body lost until all she felt was the cold darkness that surrounded her in a moments time, struggling to keep her senses until her battle was lost.

“Jen! Jen! Listen to me, Jen.”

Pacey was knelt aside her descended body with the dampness of a cloth draped over her fevered forehead, while she was weak with the aftershock of the alcohol that pulsed through her veins. She awoke faintly to his hovering frame, feeling too ill to speak, or move, or even bother to use her intelligence for any other cause. Her chest erupted with a tremor as she coughed hoarsely, easing up into a sitting position with his assistance.

“What the hell did you think you were doing getting into my liquor cabinets?” his voice was impatient and tempered by her antics. Her innocent gaze mingled momentarily with his before clutching her stomach.

“I think I’m going to barf.”

“The hell you are. Not on my floor,” he muttered before guiding her swiftly towards the bathroom. She lunged viciously for the toilet before her insides swelled and sent her into spasms as she released the upset contents of her stomach. She quaked, keeping her face nuzzled into the pit of the toilet as she struggled to breathe in the state she was in. She felt his comforting frame clutching her from behind, as she remained sprawled out over his bathroom floor in a disgusting display.

“I’m sorry.”

“Hush, Lindley,” he responded softly to her apology, massaging her back adoringly. Thank the Lord for him.

“What do I do?” her penetrating gaze descended to the sight of him dressing her feet in a pair of thicker socks he had let her borrow. Pacey had been overly concerned for her after her little drunken performance the previous day. He was following her like a shadow, just waiting for the moment when she would do something stupid again. What else would he expect from her?

“I can’t tell you that, Lindley,” he murmured as he teased the socks up her calves before pulling her pant legs down. He was crouched below her as she sat ineffectually on his mattress.

“Sure you can,” she argued with disappointment as his sky blue eyes inclined to mingle with hers. He smiled broadly; tunneling a hand through his tightly knit brunette coils.

“No, but what I can tell you is that running away never solves your problems. I of all people should know. And I can also tell you that even while you think you’re being the one abandoned, your grandmother is going to have to deal with the reality that she is pretty sick and the one thing she loves most in this world, her granddaughter isn’t there for her when she needs her most. I’ll also tell you that Jack is a human being like each and every one of us, and he deserves to be granted a few mistakes, and no matter how much he broke your heart he’s still going to have a harder time forgiving himself then you will him. And I can also tell you that you have more people in this world that love you than I’ve ever had, and giving up on them and yourself so easily is a shame,” his voice was completely calm, unfazed, and plainly untouched.

“You think I should go home?” her eyes widened unsurely.

“No. I think you should do what you feel is right, Lindley. And if that means hanging around with me until you’re ready to go back, you’re always welcome to join me for burp fests and tuna,” he chuckled before jerking up her chin with a quick flick of his index finger.

“And if I did decide to stay longer?” she stressed.

“I would still love you as much as if you decided to go back like I think you should, Jen. Your decision is not going to change how much I care about you,” he stressed in return.

“Then would you mind if I asked for an escort back to my hellish life?” she sighed.

“I would be glad to offer my services at no charge. But let’s save that for tomorrow. Stay here for the rest of the day, and hopefully by morning you’ll have sobered up,” his eyes smiled, cupping her features as his lips penetrated a soft and protective kiss upon her forehead.

“Thank you. Thank you, Pace.”

As he had promised, now that she was sobered up, she found herself traveling a path that was leading back to her house. It wasn’t anything to look forward to, and she had tried to prolong the day out to the very best of her ability…but here they were. Every attempt she made to switch their direction, or distract him into turning around, he had caught her and set her firmly back where they were heading. All she could do was hang her tail between her legs and whimper. Maybe if she connived a way into getting them lost. After all, they always said men didn’t stop for directions. But stunningly, she was exiled from her thoughtless plans when she felt his body smother her from behind towards the door that was unmistakably hers. They were here already? No, they couldn’t be.

“Here we are, drama queen.”

Never mind. A new sickness filled her. It was fear more than anything; the fear that she would now have to face Jack and grams, sooner or later. Hopefully it was the latter. She didn’t know how, or why, but Pacey was going to make her do this.

“I am not a drama queen,” she stalled by the door, studying the plainness of it.

“Why so modest?” he smirked deviously before pressuring her inwards, as reluctant and hesitant as she was.

“If you weren’t an eyewitness to the most pitiful moment in my life, I’d suffer you to the death penalty,” her voice was hoarse, yet kept to a bare minimum in volume. She didn’t want to alarm anyone who was home, namely Jack and grams, or furthermore for them to alarm her.

“Oh, you mean when you were regurgitating all over after your discovery of my liquor? What’s my charge, judge?” he teased, his strong hands firmly planted on her shoulders to create a barrier for any escapes she tried to make.

“Unjust mockery,” she smiled sweetly as they made their quiet ingression into the homely ambiance.

“Ah, you know I can’t get enough of you, Lindley,” he chuckled until he was hushed violently by her.

“If you open your fat yap again, I swear…” she trailed, brows knitted together in concentration as she surveyed for any life. Maybe, or even hopefully, both Jacks and grams weren’t around. Then she would have some time to settle and think up exactly how she was going to face them.

“Sorry, sorry, Lindley. I didn’t know I had to put in the extra effort of being quiet. It’s not like we’re breaking in or anything!” he shouted with booming laughter that was deep and hearty, causing her eyes to explode open as she struggled to grip her moist palm against his unzipped mouth.

“You idiot!” she kept her stern expression plastered to her face until his innocent pout caused her to break her façade and grin.

“I guess I should leave,” his voice was muffled between the gaps in her fingertips.

“Yes, you should,” she rolled her eyes.

“Your welcome,” he readjusted, enjoying his cocky persistence of manners.

“Thank you, Pace,” she glowered.

“For what?” he grinned as he cupped a hand over his palm in a playful antic.

“For watching over me last night.”

“What?” he was startled. Obviously he had expected a different answer.

“For watching over me last night because you were scared for me,” she repeated with a glint of a smile.

“I would never. I have better things to do, like sleep myself.”

“Really? Never ever?”

“Okay, okay. You’re lucky I fear your wrath, Lindley. So I watched over you while you were sleeping last night. I was worried about you. The last thing I needed was to have to explain to everyone how you got kidnapped by trolls and taken off to Munchkin Land,” he shrugged, proving submission.

“How close did you watch?”

“I think it’s about time you mosey on into this nice house of yours and talk to your grandmother and Jack. That was the point of all of this, wasn’t it?” he commented, changing the subject like a pro as he elevated on his toes to peer over her head in fake searching mode.

“They’re not here right now. How close?” she ignored his subject change. He sighed restlessly and remained idle and quiet before her.

“Close enough to count every breath you took,” his features became solemn.

“Thank you,” she responded quietly, her eyes on the brink of happiness.

“Yeah, yeah. I should hush up before you become eyewitness to my most humiliating moment.”

“I think I already have.”

“Well, we can be partners in crime then, eh?” he smiled down fondly upon her before cupping her features in his masculine hands. His lips fed upon her delicate flesh, blessing her cheek with a sorrowful kiss that was the ultimate telltale of their everlasting friendship.

She blew at the frazzled wisps obstructing her vision, deeply exhausted and emotionally unready to face either Jack or grams. She just wasn’t ready. It was easier to forget about the way Jack had been souring their friendship then trying to repair it. And it was definitely easier to run away from her beloved grandmother having cancer and pretending she hadn’t even heard about it, rather then facing it head on. Everything was harder now. But she on the other hand wasn’t growing stronger, so somehow, there was a leak.

As she flung open her bedroom door in an unconcerned fashion, a stranger stood centered in her bedroom, clasping lightly to a picture that was normally stationed on the dresser by her bed. Her gaze started to grow hard and cemented, hatred wildly flaring and scalding her heart.

“What in hell are you doing here, mom?”

She sat in the darkness of the living room upon the sofa while the intruder stood in the corner. She observed as her mother without warning advanced upon her, having prayed that she would’ve remained on the opposite side of the room. The silence was bitter, uneasy to swallow. Her hard stare miffed her mother in an uncaring way. She refused to muster a word. Any words, whether angry or polite would be spoiling her. She had no right to be here and just crash land in her life again. She wouldn’t accept that, especially if she didn’t have to.

“Work’s good in New York, sweetie. I finally got myself into the sales business like I had hoped. I’ve made the apartment a bit cozier. Remember that orange couch you hated because you said it hurt your eyes? Well, it’s gone.”

Silence followed.

“I couldn’t believe it when your grandmother told me about you getting accepted into college. That’s wonderful. I was so pleased. And I was surprised to hear Jack did too. I bet you miss New York though, eh? Boston’s nice though, much healthier than Capeside. Capeside was too empty for you.”

Capeside was too empty? Never. Capeside was the fullest thing she had ever experienced because it was over pouring with love, friendship, and commitment. Of course her mother couldn’t understand.

“Well, your grandmother just went out to pick up something to eat and Jack’s supposed to be home for supper as well…in case you were wondering. Hopefully there’ll be enough for you. She wasn’t sure when you’d be back.”

Sweetly surrendering silence.

“Jennifer, honey. Don’t you want to talk?” her mother was heavy with awkwardness. Goddamn her. Goddamn the way she acted as if she was her mother, the way she had this way of pretending like she hadn’t discarded her from her life, the way she always made her feel like the guilty one.


Her temper stricken gaze inclined shallowly, blinking away the rebellious incomings that simply looking at her mother brought. She couldn’t stand the sight of her, the way her hair twisted like tentacles around her cheeks, the way her fingers were stained from the cigarettes that had clung to her weaknesses, or the simple smile that she wore as if everything were perfect in her life. Everything except for what was before her. She was the one thing of imperfection her mother had ever possessed, and therefore her mother had made the decision to rid herself of that burden. But now, she came back. Why the hell did she even bother?

“Jennifer, why won’t you even talk to me? I’m your mother for god sakes and you didn’t even miss me after all these years,” her voice was edgy and defying. The nerve.

“You are not my mother.”

Of course her phrase was pointedly spit out in an acerb tone that would lash at her mother. She didn’t even deserve that. She didn’t deserve to have anger bestowed upon her. Her mother deserved to have nothing but the same pain she had felt when what rejected her was what initially brought her into this world. This world was a bitch. A bitch she didn’t feel like taking out for a walk today.

“Jennifer, listen to me. I am your mother whether you like it or not, and no matter how much I explain and try to get you to understand, it makes no difference because you could never understand my point of view…”

“No, you could never understand,” her words were sharp as she interrupted, her cold gaze once again descending as she started to grow hypnotized by the various patterns in the carpet.

“Jennifer…I came here because your grandmother called me and said that there’s been some problems here the past couple weeks. You’ve been running off, and she said that you hadn’t taken well to her sickness and…”

“Oh, so that’s why you’re here. You were summoned. I should’ve figured you would never come at your own free will. Well, I’ll make this easier on the both of us. Go back to New York; you have my permission, because I don’t need your help or your sympathy. Grams and I will do just fine without you,” her chest began to spasm with angry breaths, clutching with rising anxiety to the softness of the sofa beneath her, molding it to fit her closed palms.

Out of nowhere, the front door flung open as her grandmother entered the house without notice. The soft ringing of metal sounded from the loosely dangling keys she had been clamping onto, an uncertain gaze elapsing as she stood idle with a bag of warmly scented food stuffed beneath her arm.

“Jennifer! Child, where have you been?” her grandmother’s features washed over with relief.

She condemned herself to silence at the dinner table. Her grandmother had demanded an explanation for her sudden ‘leave of absence’, which she gave. She simply said that Pacey was having some problems that she needed to help him deal with. She wasn’t stupid enough to admit she couldn’t handle her own life. Her grandmother let it go at that, oblivious to what was really deteriorating her insides. And then of course there was Jack who didn’t ask for any explanation at all, and welcomed her back with a much-expected ‘Hey.’

Here they all were, closed in on one small dinner table. Jack sat to her left, grams to her right, and her mother straight across. She had an overwhelming sensation of claustrophobia. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t feel. She was numbing again, zoning in and out of what was reality and what wasn’t.

“Jennifer, did your mother tell you her news?” her grandmother’s warming voice caused her to gasp with alarm as her placid gaze rose from the greasy chicken that dangled lazily from her fingertips.

“News?” she swallowed in a casual sense. Jack seemed to be satisfied with cluing out and working in overdrive at swallowing slabs of meat.

“Oh, right,” her mother abruptly retrieved her napkin as she removed a mess on her lips that wasn’t there. It was a habit her mother had when she was about to announce something of importance, which instantly pressured her into fear.

“Well?” she murmured to her mother’s hesitation.

“Jennifer, your grandmother and I were talking, and we both think it would be a sensible idea for you to come back to New York for a few weeks. Just to come home for a bit, you know to visit, get away…” she trailed quietly.

“Because I can’t handle it here?” she snapped in response.

“Now, now, Jennifer. She didn’t say that,” the light touch of her grandmother’s hand fell upon her own before she had time to lose her temper.

“You agreed to this, grams?” a new anger surfaced. It seemed as if Jack had now grown uneasy and stilled his hunger for the discussion.

“I did not agree on anything. I simply said I thought it would be a fine idea, but it was your decision,” she supplied at a hushed voice.


“No? That’s it? You haven’t even given yourself time to think about it, Jennifer,” her mother’s brows arched in confusion.

“I don’t need to. No. I’m not leaving her,” she stood up with complete weakness while bracing herself against the table, buckling at the knees as saline furiously seeped into her eyes with haste.

“Easy, Jen. They’re right. You should think about this first,” Jack suddenly entered the argument. So now he was willing to pay attention? This was his chance to get rid of her too. Everyone wanted to get rid of her. She wasn’t worth their time, energy, or even love. This was hell in the making. Everyone was abandoning her. Everyone.

“You don’t know anything about this, Jack. Stay out of it,” her glare rose above his sitting posture.

“I know that she’s your mother and she deserves a chance,” his brows furrowed with his own miserable temper.

“No you don’t!” her voice elevated to an uncalled for scream, bleeding with tears that were so hot they caused her eyes to ignite with a burning sensation as they remained settled there. She dared not shed them. They all quieted, staring at her with dark eyes that were spinning out of control.

“Jack, while you have been chugging down beer and playing pool with your frat buddies, you failed to notice that she could be dying!” her hand gestured shortly to the beloved grandmother that they had both called their own, though through blood she was only hers to call her own.

“What?” his gaze sidetracked to their grandmother’s. He then elevated to conquer her sense of power, as she no longer stood higher.

“Yeah, that’s right, Jack. She has cancer. Welcome to our damned life. The one you have apparently taken yourself out of,” she remained firm, her tears becoming unsettled in her eyes and plundering down her flushed features.

“I didn’t know,” he responded guiltily, a sudden sense of emotion fulfilling his lost gaze. His eyes mingled with hers, a myriad of emotions, and somewhere in the jumble, she couldn’t mistake love as one of them.

“Well, now you do,” was all she could able herself to say, turning her back to them all as she left the household without further explanation or apologies. She was gone too quickly for anyone to even bother asking.

It was just a party. It was anyone’s party. She found it, and being a local college party, everyone from everywhere was invited. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know any of them, or that none of them knew her. It was just another hideout for her, another excuse to runaway.

She had been there ever since she walked out on her family after dinner, and she had lost track of time. It could be any time of the night…or day at that. She didn’t know. She couldn’t know, for she was senseless.

Her body rampaged in dance, in any kind of motion she could manage to the fiery hisses of the blaring music. The alcohol pulsed through her veins, taking control and dominating every sensation in her body. It felt as warm as her blood, but it was more exhilarating. It was more sinister, and it crept through her like a friendly demon, always willing to make her troubles subside. Perspiration clung to every ounce of exposed flesh, causing her body to gleam off the reflection of lights. The alcohol definitely favoured her, but sooner or later she would face her debt to it. For now freedom was worth the final price.

She didn’t know who was cluttered around her, joining her in a celebration of ritual partying. If they were as unflatteringly messed up as she was, they were probably all just like her and therefore there was no point in trying to distinguish or get to know her own clones.

Everything seemed distorted. All she felt was this blur of static flooding her mind. It was compressed, closing in on her until the pain of it numbed every thought or regret she had held onto. It jarred her back and forth between the fuzzed out atmosphere and the blackness that soon followed. It was a game now between reality and fantasy. Her fantasy would’ve been to just black out and let it all pass away, rid her of this punishment. But it wouldn’t let her go. It grasped onto her, an entrapment of her own fears and furies. As soon as she felt the relief of the blackness, it sent her plummeting back into the dozens of college freaks bombarding this party. It wouldn’t go away. It kept bringing her back.

She felt herself fall, fall to the saving embrace of an unknown shadow in her vision. This shadow, it had unmistakably come to her rescue, and it threw warmth around her. As she crumbled weakly into its hold, it carried her into the night streets that were disappointed with coldness. It washed her over, retrieving her senses as dimly set as they were.

Her heavy lidded gaze was startled by the brightness of a lingering fire. The crackling of the wood sounded meaningful in some ironic way. She was clumped into a blanket on a couch, and a slight recollection of what happened invaded her memory. She was home. Someone had brought her home, where she didn’t want to be anymore.

Her miserable groan was accompanied by the ill sickness in her stomach. She would vomit sooner or later, for this was the dreaded time of paying her debt to the demonic alcohol that had claimed her. Claimed her didn’t seem like the right expression. More like owned her.

As she drew up into a sitting position, she felt a subtle heaviness on her shoulders. A jacket was draped over them, and it was a familiar jacket. It was Jack’s, his fraternity jacket to be exact. She withheld the gut instinct to throw it into the nearby fire, for its musky aroma was just that of him, and she brought it unknowingly to her moist features. Inhaling it was like a balm to her body, her senses, even her pain. Like he used to be not so long ago. She allowed herself to be intoxicated by its familiar scent, hugging it against her in the vision that it was her hungered for best friend. Her companion.

“You’re awake.”

Her eyes widened promptly, permitting the jacket to fall limply back upon her lap at the awakening arousal of the familiar tone.

“Jack…I…” she trailed, swallowing with utter lack of intelligence.

“You almost got yourself hurt,” he supplied firmly, in a hoarse tone that caused her to flinch.

“Like you’d care,” she managed before her gaze swiftly fled his wrath.

“You know I would. Jen, what are you doing to yourself? Please tell me, because I sure as hell can’t figure it out.”

His figure was dark in the entranceway of the family room, his glare too penetrating to ignore like she desired.

“Just forget it, okay?” the blanket that was still protecting her form was pointedly drawn over her head, but she sensed his angry steps before he had even reached her. He tore the blanket from her, towering over her with superiority.

“I found you at a college party, so drunk it was a miracle you were even standing, and so weak I had to carry you out of there. And then the past while you’ve been running off without explanation. Care to explain?”

“Maybe because I don’t give a damn about anyone else if they don’t give a damn about me! Maybe because you don’t want me anymore and the only other person in this world who does may be dying!” her tone ricocheted off the walls in anger.

“Is that what you think?” his brows became heavily furrowed.

“Go to bed. We’re going to wake up grams and my mom. Just…just please leave. I’ll be okay now. Thank you.”

“You didn’t answer me, Jen. Is that what you think? Do you think I don’t want you anymore? That I don’t love you anymore?” he was highly demanding of her.

“Yes, if you must know, yes.”

“Then I’ve been doing something wrong,” his gaze softened thoughtfully.

“Jack, just go,” she murmured quietly.

“If you want me to love you more, Jen, I’m sorry but I can’t. It’s impossible. I could never love you more than this very moment, because I love you with my complete being.”

His dark gaze had softened considerably, and had become hazy with guilt and powerful emotions she dared not even to attempt to comprehend, for her own were baffling enough. Her fingertips fidgeted with the blanket’s ridges, uncertainty dwelling.

“Jack, it’s okay…”

“No. It’s not, Jen. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anything else in this world, and that scares me more than you could ever know. I feel as if I can’t live without you, like I am nothing without you and that’s why I’ve been trying so hard to be what I can be without you. I’ve tried. I’ve tried so hard that it doesn’t make sense to me anymore, because there’s something about you that just keeps me coming back. But no matter how much I tell you I love you, it doesn’t make up for me not expressing it so that you felt like the center of my universe, Jen…because you are. You…you’re everything,” he was so subtle, so sincere, so emotionally unstable that it caused her to flourish with love just basking in his mere presence as he lowered before her on the couch.

As he embraced her, he silenced her into a defensive mode she thought foreign of. She didn’t mean to fight him, defy his affections and thrash violently with a sudden rage of tears, but she did.

“I’m sorry,” he confessed.

“No! I don’t need you,” she squirmed from his resistance.

“I know you don’t, and that’s what scares me, Jen. Knowing you don’t need me but I need you.”

His words were uneasy as she fought them. She promised him a battle and she followed through until he overpowered her, his embrace swallowing her whole until she was so stilled that she felt paralyzed. He permitted her to break down, to cry until there seemed like no tears were left. A prolonged silence followed as he rocked her frail form within his loving embrace. The velvety surface of his fingertips tucked back her frazzled hair, his lips penetrating her fevered forehead in complete love and devotion. Her tears spilt onto his parted lips as he kissed her cheeks so lightly, it was as if butterfly’s wings had touched them.

“Jen, here’s what I’m going to do,” he whispered to her awaiting lobes, their close proximity the only thing allowing her to hear him.

“I’m going to hug you and tell you I love you. I’m going to tell you I’m sorry I broke your heart. I’m going to tell you that I don’t know how things are going to turn out in the end, even though I know that’s not what you want to hear. And I’m going to tell you that no matter what happens, I’m always going to be here regardless.”

As her shattered gaze found his, she found it was depthless. So depthless she couldn’t deny his love anymore, and she welcomed it with a new wanting and need. She had never in her right mind surrendered herself like this to anyone who had hurt her so deeply…but it was unavoidable that she would with him. And as the fire spurted its last cluster of sparks, the rich, liquid warmth that elapsed was almost complimenting.

“Goodbye, mom,” she smiled meekly, finding herself in an embrace with the single stranger she had loathed since birth perhaps. No, that wasn’t true. Since she left.

“Goodbye, Jennifer,” her mother responded quietly.

The mild and brief embrace was an awkward affection, one that was shared too little by them to have been practiced and perfected.

“You’re stuck on staying here, aren’t you? So I take it that even if I ask you one more time to come back to New York with me, I’ll get the same answer.”

She couldn’t downright dismiss her effort, so all she offered in response was a simple smile of silence rather than a voiced answer.

“Right…well, take care of Jack, and your grandmother.”

“I’ll try my best,” she exhaled deeply as she stood outside the front door of her grandmother’s house, watching carefully as her mother started piling her suitcases into the trunk of her car.

“That’s my girl,” her mother mustered between her packing.

“You sure you don’t want me to get them out of bed? I’m sure they’d want to say goodbye to you.”

“No. I’m not good with goodbyes,” her mother smiled lazily in response before advancing towards her.

“Mom…I’ll miss you,” her gaze was plastered onto her mother’s, for once a steady gaze that was unwavering though undecided.

“I’ll miss you too, Jennifer. It’s going to be hard while your grandmother is going through treatments, but you’ll manage. You’re a strong girl,” her mother smiled warmly, an obscure warm that tickled her insides.

“Thank you.”

“Thank you,” her mother countered.

As her mother drove away, it didn’t seem so weird or so desired. She almost missed her for a moment, yet she wondered if that feeling would pass. She had felt the male sidle up behind her, easing his brawny arms in a smooth sweep around her midriff as his chin rested over her shoulder. He had probably witnessed what had happened, and just chose not to comment on it.

“Morning, nitwit. What do you say we blow breakfast traditions and have some of those cookies we baked the other week? Grams won’t be up yet so the coast is clear.”

“She’s gone, Jack. My mother is gone,” she concluded to herself in a thoughtless way.

“I know, Jen. I also know that you’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.”