Jett Jackson is a jerk. A total and complete jerk. I hate him, I swear I do, and if I ever see him again, the bastard will have just cause to run and hide in fear of his life. I can't believe what he did to me. He hurt me, so bad. He lied to me. He hurt me, and I will never forgive him. Never.
"Wow, there's a lot of anger in those few sentences," I thought to myself as I
closed my old diary. I didn't have to read the rest of the entry to remember
what had me so upset that day, that week. I remember it perfectly, like I was still the heart-broken sixteen year old that had curled up in her bed and cried while she penned the entry.
I had developed a crush on him the first time I talked to him. He was so not
what I expected a big television star to be like. I thought he'd ride around our
town of Wilsted in a long black limousine while hired floozies fed him strawberries that had been dipped in champagne. But on the first day of school, he showed up on a bike. Nothing flashy, just a regular ten speed mountain bike like the rest of us had.
Jett didn't swagger down the halls and act like he was the biggest thing to hit town, even though he was. As I watched him stride confidently down the hallway occassionally glancing up at room numbers, I saw what it was that every girl in America had always seen. He was beautiful. Not just on the outside, he walked with a careless grace and a goodness that seemed to radiate from the inside out.
My breath caught in my chest as I watched his caramel toned face break into an infectous grin as he jogged down the hallway towards the locker across from mine. JB Haliburton and Jett had been best friends since infancy, and it showed how much the two boys had missed each other while Jett established himself as the African-American child star to talk to if you wanted quality work. His following was amazing: he had been featured in all the teen magazines as the reigning heartthrob of the moment and it had been written that he recieved more fan mail than any other prime time star in his age demographic.
I didn't have a crush on him just yet. It was after science class I think. He had just tore around the corner at full speed, he was being chased by a mob of fans and ducked into the girls room, where I was.
"What are you doing here? This is the girls' room," I said, or something to that affect.
"Unh, I'm uh . . . they're chasing me," he mumbled, trying not to looking around.
"Even if you are the famous Jett Jackson, you can't be in the girls' room," I said.
"Aw, come on," he moaned as I reached for the doorknob.
I almost ratted him out, and told the fanatical mob where they could find him. But he looked at me with those chocolate brown eyes and, well... okay, I wasn't strong. I was only 14. Somehow or other we became friends. Just friends, and I wanted to be so much more than that to him.
Snapping myself out of the telling reverie I concentrated on the task at hand, packing. I was going back to Wilsted for my five year reunion and the biggest item in the newsletter that came with the invitation was that Jett Jackson was in between films and *would* be in attendance.
The year that we graduated hit the town economy hard. When Jett had the production of his hit television series moved to the quiet town, a majority of the crew associated with the show stayed in L.A or moved back there after a couple of weeks. Wilsted was too small, too quiet, too slow. There was no action there. Instead of relocating experienced equipment handlers and production crew the producer hired the townspeople. The towns out of employment rate was at an all time low while the show was being shot there, and being the locale for a major television series was doing wonders for the town as a tourist attraction. Travelers came from miles around to get a look at "The Famous Jett Jackson's" house and home town. They were willing to pay all manner of money to see a taping of the show, and when they came they needed places to stay. Wilsted's hotels and inns provided shelter while local resturaunts, especially those toting signs such as: Jett's favorite burgers and fries! or 'Home of the Jackson Snack Attack Pack! ', filled the bellies of gullible tourists. When we graduated, Jett announced he was leaving the show, and that he was moving to L.A near his mom, and that he was going to attempt to make the transition from child actor to adult actor. Unlike so many before him he succeeded. But with the ending of the show, the tourists stopped coming, and half the town was without jobs.
"Like I said then," I thought venemously, "Jett Jackson is a major jerk." Although honestly I was looking forward to seeing some people. JB, he started out Jett's best friend, but he became my friend too. I hadn't heard from him since we did our four years of undergraduate school together and then there was Riley. Riley Grant, co-star on Jett's television show. When she first came to Wilsted I thought she was the biggest snob I had ever met, but eventually she became the best friend I ever had. She was fast becoming the hottest commodity in Hollywood. Portraying her carefully picked roles with honest emotion, she had true skill and had been nominated for an Oscar the year before. She looked great in her slinky red dress walking down the red carpet. She called me from the bathroom and told me she had to lose 20 pounds to fit into it, she had just bumped into her favorite actor and she felt nauseous. I told her that she looked great and when she sashayed her twenty pound lighter fanny up to the podium to accept her award she had better mention me. She didn't win but in the post-ceremony interviews she said my name and waved.
Smiling I grabbed the last few items I needed for my drive home. Presents for old friends, an old yearbook. I was excited; not even the thought of him being there could dampen my excitement. Miz Coretta, Wood, Booker. Jett's great-grandmother, his sheriff father, and the deputy friend of the family. Jett. And then there was Jett. It always came back to him in the end. He hurt me so much that now, five years later the pain still brought tears to my eyes. He was supposed to be my friend. And more. But he lied to me, and he hurt me so very much.
It was our junior year, just a few weeks before the prom. I had been asked by a few different guys, but not the one I wanted to ask me. I was patient, biding my time. I had went to the mall weeks before with Riley and Holly, JB's girlfriend at the time, to pick out dresses and found the perfect one. All I needed was the perfect date. The perfect date was making no move to ask me so I did the only thing I could do. I asked him. He said yes. He said that he would be there and he stood me up. I forgave him for that, he had to work but I couldn't forgive him for what came next.
He avoided me for days, or I avoided him or he worked, I'm not sure. I just didn't see him. Then he called me, and asked me to meet him in front of JB's store. I agreed. I had decided I would forgive him. It wasn't his fault that he worked demanding hours. He told me that he liked me as much as I liked him, and we danced . . . slow danced, nice and close right in front of the store. I think there was music, or we made our own. I'm not sure I was so caught up in the moment. The gold flecks the sun was putting in his eyes, being in his arms, and not as a friend. It was the most romantic moment of my life.
I knew how romantic Jett could be. I had seen him with other girls. Girls I wanted to kill, beat up, or maim for having his attention. I wouldn't really, but my jealous side, well it had plans for them. I remember one girl in particular, Tara Essex. She was the younger cousin of Nigel who played Artemus on Jett's show. They spent every day together that summer before our junior year. Every where we went: JB, Riley, Jett and I, she came with us. He liked her so much. I hated her. I was jealous: she had what I wanted and she knew it. I would watch the way he was with her. Always touching her, caressing her hair, holding her hand. He would tell us how they used to fall asleep on the phone at night. I wished it was me, and then it was.
We danced in a sunray. Our lips inches apart as he held me close to him, his eyes never leaving mine. And then the next day, at the farewell to Silverstone celebration we shared the most intimate look. Then there was nothing. I was so lost, so confused. He told me just the day before that he liked me the way I liked him. We danced in the sunlight in the middle of the day with Booker and JB standing by watching us. I was in love with him. He acted as if it never happened. He never mentioned our dance, or what he said to me. He never mentioned my asking him to the prom and telling him how much he meant to me and when I tried to bring it up, he acted as if he didn't know what I was talking about. The next year, our senior year, Tara came back. They were the IT couple of Wilsted high. He tried to maintain our friendship, in a way. But I pushed him away, when Riley or JB said that Jett and Tara were coming, I stayed behind. He didn't try overly hard to maintain my friendship.
Shaking the tears back,I grabbed my bags and headed for the car.Just because the class newsletter said Jett Jackson would be there, just because there's a population of about 500 in Wilsted, and just because there's only about thirty kids that graduated with us does not mean that I will see Jett. And besides, our class members aren't the only ones who would want to see Jett. There's the people who worked on the set of Silverstone, the fans, and general well-wishers. And then there's Riley. Her fans'll come out full force to say how she should've won that Oscar and if those show-biz-Hollywood types didn't see it, well, they were stupid. All of Wilsted would come out to greet their kids. And its not like Jett would go out of his way to speak to me anyway... he didn't before. He's probably married with seven rugrats playing on the rug in front of fire with the mantlepiece that has all of his awards on it.
"As I live and breathe, Kayla West, is that you?" Rolling my eyes, I grabbed my duffel bag from the seat behind me and bound up the steps of my families farm house.
"Forgot what I look like already, Ma?" I laugh wrapping my arms around the small woman.
"As often as you come around, how could I?" Wincing at the gentle chagrin and sarcasm lacing the words, I led my mother back towards the house.
"I'll try to come around more mom, but law school is a killer. I have to . . . "
" . . . to study." she finished, mimicking my voice.
"Well it's true!" I protested. "I'll try and make more of an effort to find my way back here on the weekends."
"Its not too much to ask is it, Kayla? You're only a couple of hours away now. I get so lonely since your father passed."
My freshman year of college my dad was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors found it too late, it had progressed too far. He died the day before I came home. I stayed for finals. Finals, like they matter when your only father is dying.
"I'll try mom, I promise." Dropping my bag by the door, I led my mother to a chair. "Right now, though, I'm gonna run over to the Halliburtons'. Say hi to JB."
"Pick me up some eggs and milk, okay?"
"No problem, Mom." I knew coming home for this stupid class reunion was a really, really bad idea. And if I didn't know I should've known. Since my daddy died four years ago, I haven't really spent much time here. I tried to get my mom to move once, but she didn't want to. And with my sour memories of Jett and then of Daddy dying, well, I didn't like coming home much. It hurt.
"Hey, JB!" I called bounding through the open door, and then stopped, looking around. "Whoa, major expansion."
"Kayla!" I grinned as JB rushed towards me and enveloped me in a big bear hug. "We couldn't keep the population explosion at bay forever," he explained. „And people need to eat."
"That kinda sucks. I like to think of Wilsted as the same. Never changing." I ran my hand along one of the metal shelves, remembering the little cans of soup and boxes of cereal they had once held. Now Rice Krispies and Campbell's were lined up neatly, labeled with bright neon stickers advertising prices lower than could be found in the city.
"Everything, and everyone, changes in four years, Kay," JB said, pausing significantly on the „everyone" part. "Here for the high school reunion?"
"Yeah. I can't wait. Is Riley here yet, do you know?"
"Well she hasn't stopped by here yet if she is," he grumbled, turning towards the store counter. That was just another reminder that you can't go home again. One drunken night in college JB and Riley had a random hook-up. The next day JB came over declaring undying love and affection. He said that he had had a crush on Riley for years and that now seemed like a perfect time for the two of them to get together. When Riley turned him down, he became bitter and resentful.
"Whats that you just said about everyone changing, JB?" I questioned dropping a quarter carton of milk into a hand held basket.
"I'm over that whole episode, Kay. I am. How's grad school?"
"That was smooth Haliburton, I barely noticed that swift change of conversation."
"I mean it, Kayla. I'm over Riley. I'm engaged now to the most wonderful woman ever."
"Who is this paragon?" I asked setting my basket on the counter.
"Kayla West!" Turning, I saw a beautiful pregnat woman with dark blond hair waddle towards me. "Hug me, if you can!" She giggled tugging me over her bulging middle to press her cheek to mine.
"Holly! No way! I didn't even know you were still in Wilstead, and boy are you still here!" I laughed rubbing my hand over her stomach, and taking in the diamond twinkling from her left ring finger.
"When I find a home, I stay there."
"The Army brat thing left you wanting roots, huh?" still grinning, I edged my hip onto the store counter to prepare for a long conversation like the ones that we used to have in our high school days.
"The Peace Corps kid didn't?"
"I'm just trying to finish school, man. After that we'll see."
"How about Wilstead? Do you think you'll ever find your way here to stay again?"
"Unh . . ." I began, turning my gaze towards the ringing bells that signified a new customer coming in.
"Friends. My friends. My real friends." A laughing, jovial voice boomed as a tall carmel toned man walked through the door."JB!"
And there he was. Just like that, a vision from the past. My heart jumped at the sound of the voice that was familiar to so many, but especially to me. His voice haunted my dreams. His laugh came to me unexpectedly when Im just sitting do anything. But with the sharp pull of joy at seeing him again, the pain quickly surfaced again.
"Do I think that I could ever find my way here to live again, Holly?" I said hollowly, gazing blankly at the man, but seeing the boy, that I once thought I had loved. "No. I can't wait to get out of Wilstead."