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Authors: D.M. Hamblin

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BOOK: Once Broken
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“Jack, we should talk.”

“Okay. What about, exactly?”

“Well getting to the point, what are your views on sex? Are you waiting until you get married or something? It’s okay if you are. I need to know. Because this … this is some kind of torture!”

She fidgeted. This is the second date of my life and he wants to know my views on sex. I only know right now, this minute, I want him. But I can’t. Not yet. Not now. Not here. Ugh, how do I tell him I’m a virgin?

“Hello? Jackie, anyone there?”

“Yeah. I’m here, but Tony … I … I don’t know what to say. I like you a lot but we should wait.”

“Are you a virgin?”

“Yeah.” The word escaped her mouth before she could lasso it.
Oh my God, this is so embarrassing!

After a moment, Tony said, “That’s cool, you know. No need to be embarrassed. I needed to know where you stand.” He hesitated. “Hey, I forgot to give you my surprise.” Reaching into the backseat, he pulled out a long-stemmed red rose.

“Oh.” She held it to her nose. “I love roses. This one is perfectly bloomed. What a hopeless romantic.”

“Yup, that’s me. So, let’s break open the picnic basket.” He retrieved the basket from the backseat and set it between them, opening it to reveal the contents one item at a time. A wine glass for each. A chunk of sharp cheddar cheese. A bowl of green grapes. Crackers, and sliced pepperoni. And a bottle of Mateus. After a quick kiss, he uncorked the wine and filled their glasses. He handed her a small plate with a bite of cheese, a few grapes, and crackers.

“A toast. To you, Jackie—a most intriguing woman.”

She blushed as they clinked glasses. I could love this guy. Oh, if Tara could hear me now, she’d say there’s no way in hell you can fall in love with someone in two dates. It’s no more than infatuation, she’d say. Infatuation? Then so be it. Whatever, I’m crazy about him!

Sipping wine and nibbling food, engaging in stimulating conversation and sporadic romantic flirtations highlighted by tantalizing kisses—and occasional movie watching—made the evening fly. Driving home, Tony asked, “What did you think of the movie?”

“Geez, I think we missed most of it.”

Tony laughed. “I guess we did. But I’d miss a movie with you any time.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere, Mr. Salvucci.”

Tony parked in front of Jackie’s house and they shared a steamy good night kiss. “Good night, Jackie Martin. I had yet another wonderful evening.”

“Thanks Tony, me too.” Her heart was full.

“We’ll talk soon.”

Once in the house, weak-kneed Jackie leaned against the door, sniffing the single red rose. Too excited to sleep, she pressed the rose in an encyclopedia. Then she settled on her bedroom floor, lit a cigarette, and melted into Carol King’s
Tapestry
album playing on the turntable. When she was ready, she slept soundly, dreaming of the day when she’d make love with Tony.

Chapter Six

J
ackie waited to hear from Tony again. She longed to be with him. She imagined all the things and places she wanted to share with him. She fantasized the week away, and the week after that, and the week after that…

*

September 1974

Jackie and Tara were having brunch. Jackie asked, her forehead furrowed, “Tara, why wouldn’t he call me again? We had such a great time.”

“Jackie, I don’t know what he’s thinking. I only know this kind of unpredictability makes you crazy. He’s no good for you.”

“Well, consider this. Maybe there’s something wrong with him. Maybe he got hurt and he’s in the hospital. His parents wouldn’t know to call me. They haven’t met me.”

“Jackie, I think we’ve had this conversation. You thought something was wrong with him before, but nothing was. I’m sorry, but I’m your best friend and I’ll just say it. Chances are he’s blowing you off. I don’t know why. The guy’s an idiot. He’d be lucky to have you as his girlfriend. But personally, I think you deserve a lot better.”

“You’re sweet, Tara.” She lit a cigarette and leaned back into the booth. “Why does he do this to me? Like David says, usually I’m very logical. It’s as if he’s some sort of drug that numbs all my logic. I only know I feel wonderful when I’m with him. Does that make any sense?”

“First of all, logic has nothing to do with emotions. You’re not stupid, Jackie. And you know I love ya, but you’re kinda screwed up.”

“Yeah. I told you I’m taking a class called Death and Dying, right? It’s pretty interesting. My professor is awesome. She’s got a master’s in social work and works with hospice patients. We’ve been learning a lot about grieving and I can see I’ve got some work to do. Maybe it’s that. I don’t know.” Tears welled in her eyes.

“What a strange class, I have to say. But I’m glad you’re in it.”

Jackie chuckled, wiping an escaped tear. “Yeah, you remind me of my friend Vinnie from algebra class. I told you about him, right? He’s part of the group that meets for morning coffee. Anyway, when I say I gotta go to Death and Dying, he laughs and says it’s not something one needs to learn. When the time comes, we’ll know what to do.”

“You’ve mentioned him before. What’s up with him? Are you interested?”

“Oh, no. He’s a freaking riot though. I love hanging with him. He’s as hilarious as Ellen. But he has a serious girlfriend. Even if he didn’t, I’m not sure we’re each other’s type.”

“Too bad. You gotta meet someone nice. Anyway, since you like that class so much, here’s a suggestion. Maybe you could help yourself even more if you see a therapist?”

“So I’m not stupid, I’m crazy?”

“You know that’s not what I mean! You have issues. You get by, and you convince everyone who doesn’t know you that you’re happy. But those of us who do know you, see your struggle. My mom was telling me about my cousin Lauren who had some issues because her mother died when she was a kid. She was a mess and went to therapy to work them out. She’s doing so much better. I mean Jackie, if anyone has a reason to go to therapy it’s someone who lost a parent so young and had no help dealing with it. Anyway, like I said, it’s a suggestion.” She patted her friend’s hand in support. “How about going to Sammy White’s tonight? It’s been a while. It’s Friday. If Tony’s there, I’ll tell him what an asshole he is.” Tara giggled. “I’d like to see Ellen too.”

“Okay, we’ll go. Ellen should be there but I’ll check with her. But if Tony’s there, I’ll be the one calling him an asshole!”

*

Tony wasn’t at the bar that night. A month passed. With her friends’ encouragement, Jackie tried to let go of the memory of having such a great time with Tony. She struggled to understand her feelings. Was it confusion caused by Tony’s mixed messages or was it his elusiveness?

Finally, when she least expected it, she spotted Tony leaning against the bar at Sammy White’s, talking to the bartender. She watched him.
Why didn’t you call me? I like you or I thought I liked you… you bastard! Oh, maybe there’s some reason. He’s so handsome. Maybe it’s the sex thing. He’s such a jerk. I wonder if he saw me. If he comes over to me, I’m not talking to him. Maybe I’ll go talk to him. Maybe I’ll tell him off. He drives me mad, like my friends say.

Jackie’s mind and heart swirled with options.
He saw me…
She slapped Ellen’s arm, while her eyes followed him across the room. “Ellen, don’t look now.
He’
s here!”

“Hey Jackie!”

“Have we met?” Her trembling body and flushing face belied her cool demeanor.

“Huh? Of course we’ve met! I’m sorry I didn’t call. But


“Hey Ellen!” She turned to her friend. “This buffoon thinks I’m someone named Jackie.” She turned back to Tony and said “I’m sorry, you must’ve mistaken me for someone else,” and walked away.

Following her, he shouted over the music. “Jackie! Wait! Hear me out! Please!”

Jackie turned, her brown eyes blazing. “What, Tony? What could you possibly have to say?”

“Well, I was in the hospital for a while. I had a kidney stone that—”

“Tony, I … I’m sorry”. “But you still should’ve called. I was worried… angry… You should’ve called! I could’ve come to see you or sent you a card.”

“You were on my mind constantly. But I couldn’t call while I was weak and recuperating. I would’ve destroyed my macho image.” Tony smiled. “Seriously, I’m sorry I didn’t call.” He put his arm around her shoulder. “But I’m so glad I ran into you tonight. Because honestly, I was afraid to call after so much time had gone by. But seeing you tonight has reminded me…” Tony waited a moment. “Jackie, I made a mistake. Am I forgiven?”

“I guess, although I’m not sure why. Have you recuperated?” She relaxed and lit a cigarette.

“Yeah. But I’m still drinking cranberry juice, see?” He lifted his glass for her inspection. “But for all intents and purposes, I’m back to normal.” He motioned a passing waitress. “Want a drink, Jack?”

“Sure. A vodka gimlet.”

Once drinks were delivered, they gravitated to a corner table where they spent the remainder of the evening dancing, playing, and joking about a lot of nothing. The evening felt like an instant as it always did when she spent time with Tony. Walking her and Ellen to her car, he said, “Jackie, I’m glad you forgave me for being a ‘buffoon.’ You’re something, you know?”

“I
do
know. The question remains, do you?” Jackie wasn’t sure of the origin of that surge of self-esteem.

“I sure do. Listen, I’ll call this week. I promise.” A good night kiss sent Jackie home burning with desire.

*

Tara tried to understand, but said, “Sorry Jackie, I don’t believe him. If he wanted to call you, he would have. Nothing
really
stopped him, except his foolish pride,
if
you want to believe that. And that’s plain stupid. This guy is full of excuses.”

“That’s what Ellen said on the way home last night. I know it seems that way, but isn’t it conceivable that he didn’t feel well enough to pick up the phone? And when he did, he felt too much time had gone by. Why not?”

“Because it was a damned kidney stone, for crying out loud, it wasn’t a brain injury,” Tara said, exasperated. “Jackie, I know you’re into him. I get it. But I’d have told him to take a hike. You’ve got tons of guys checking you out. David is mad about you! But no, you want this freaking Casanova. The one you can’t have. I hope it works out for you. But this guy


“Ooh, I
hope
he calls this time!”

*

Jackie was euphoric when Tony called two days later.

“How are you?” Jackie asked.

“I’ve been better.”

“Oh, are you sick again?”

“Not exactly.”

Jackie’s heart sank fearing bad news. “Well, what is it?”

“I don’t know how to say this exactly.”

“What?” Jackie demanded.

“Well … uh … when I told you I was sick and that’s why I didn’t call you, it wasn’t exactly the truth. When I was in the hospital I met a nurse I started dating. Her name is Sue Ellen. I didn’t think we were steady or anything which is why when I saw you last week, I figured it was okay to call you. But Sue Ellen’s friend saw us kissing in Sammy White’s parking lot so Sue Ellen gave me an ultimatum. And well,” he hesitated. “I want to keep dating her right now. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you

.”

Dumbfounded, her only word before slamming down the receiver was “Asshole!”

*

“Jackie is that you? What’s wrong? Are you crying? I’ll be right over.” Tara grabbed her coat and keys and raced to Jackie’s house. She found her friend on the front steps, arms wrapped around her legs, cigarette in one hand and her head buried in her knees. Nikki, a neighborhood Siberian husky, kept vigil beside her.

“Jackie, what happened? Tell me. But
please
don’t tell me it has anything to do with freaking Tony!”

Jackie lifted her head revealing her red face, puffy eyes, and tear-stained cheeks. “It does. You were right.”

She handed Jackie a beer she took out of her pocket. “I figured we’d need these. The rest of the six-pack is in the car. Start talking.”

Jackie told her story.

“It’s official, I hate him! So now he’s off to torture some other poor woman. Good luck to her! It’s only up from here.”

Tara lifted her beer to toast. “How about giving David a chance? He adores you and that’s what you deserve. What about it?”

“Oh,” Jackie moaned, leaning back against the railing and tossing her long straight hair. Taking the last drag of her cigarette, she shook her head. “No more men. Not now. I can’t handle this stuff, Tara. I’m good at a lot of things but relationships aren’t one of them. It hurts too much.”

Tara put her arm around her friend’s shoulder. “It shouldn’t be this hard. We’ve been friends a long time, Jackie. At the risk of beating a dead horse, remember I told you about my cousin Lauren? My mom told me she saw a therapist at the outpatient clinic at the hospital. You’ll be able to afford it; they charge sliding fees. It could be good for you to talk to a professional.”

“You and your mom are awesome. A shrink, huh? Ugh. Got another beer?”

After a few beers and consolation from Tara and Nikki, Jackie went to bed—tossing, turning, and wondering why she was always dancing solo.

*

The following day Jackie was a woman on a mission. She decided to seek help to understand her attraction to unavailable men. Gathering her courage, she made an appointment at the clinic Tara had recommended.

She entered the waiting room for her first appointment with Barbara Leighton, her assigned psychotherapist. After registering, she took a seat and fidgeted. A thin middle-aged woman with short blond hair entered the room. “Jackie Martin?”

“That’s me.” She rose to meet her.

The woman reached out her hand to Jackie. “I’m Barbara Leighton. It’s a pleasure to meet you. My office is down the hall.”

Passing the white noise machine, they entered Barbara’s office. The room felt comfortable with the sun streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows and reflecting off the soft-blue walls. A large fichus tree basked in the rays in the corner of the room. Feeling less nervous, Jackie settled into a taupe upholstered armchair across from Barbara’s matching chair. She crossed her legs and noted the box of tissues on the table next to her.

BOOK: Once Broken
10.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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