A/N: New Readers, welcome. Hope you enjoy.
My version of Jax & Tara (as teenagers)...its kind of a love you, hate you, love to hate you, hate that i love you Angsty-lusty-lovey-make-a-me-crazy rollercoaster ride so get READY. And don't expect an INSTANT happily ever after. Please* DO expect one...Just not an insta-love one (the term "slow burn" comes to mind...well slowish)
- Veritable Old Lady Crow
DISCLAIMER: I OWN NOTHING.
"Don't forget my smokes!"
Tara Knowles couldn't believe her father actually had the nerve to remind her to buy him cigarettes after the migraine he'd given her last night. Part of her was surprised he was even conscious after the bender he'd went on this past week.
Tara quickly snatched up the keys to the Cutlass the second her father started rambling off a list of things she needed to buy from the store like she was his fuckin housekeeper. Sad as it was she was more of a round the clock nanny. Still, that didn't mean she'd let him dictate how she took care of business. She was the only one doing anything where the Knowles residence was concerned.
She made sure he didn't drown in his own vomit every night.
When her immune system failed her she took herself to the doctor.
She remembered to pay all the bills and take his precious car for a tune up.
Arthur Knowles rarely sobered up long enough to complete his shift. And to Tara's growing disgust and embarrassment the fact that he even kept his job at all had nothing to do with upper management being in the dark about his work ethic or lack thereof. As it turned out the Oswald's weren't just good businesspeople. They were also very charitable. And their charity of choice was the Knowles family. Tara knew the truth even if he would never cop to it. Elliot Oswald pitied her. He felt sorry for the little girl who lost her mother to Cancer and her father to the bottle. And Tara hated being anyone's charity case.
But that didn't stop her from taking the much needed help.
The Oswald generosity came in handy more often than she wanted to admit. It was the reason she was currently walking through Monroe Market's parking lot on a late Saturday morning.
Today was day one of her escape plan.
She need to get serious about her savings account if she had even a prayer of getting the hell out of Charming, the most deceptively named California town in existence.
A light beep sounded from above the double doors as they slid open. Tara bypassed the row of checkout lines at the front of the store, heading towards the back where the employee office was located. She didn't bother tapping on the door. She pushed it open, dropping her bag on the floor in front of the one rusty locker that was still available. Having a drunk father who liked to yell and throw things meant studying or keeping sane required a certain level of tolerance for noise. So normally it was easy for Tara to block out her surroundings completely.
But the redhead squawking away on the phone at the desk in the corner was impossible to ignore.
"It's alright, honey….trust me! You won't be the first townie to have a baby before tying the knot. It'll be fine. She'll come around…baby names?" Tara briefly turned to glance at the loudmouthed woman who was absently twirling the curly phone cord around her finger. Whatever paperwork on the desk clearly wasn't as important as her gab-session.
"Have you found if it's a girl or a boy?" the young woman cawed. Tara's eyes flitted down to the shiny, little rectangle latched to the top of her way too-tight V-neck sweater. It was a silver employee tag that read: Karen Monroe, Head Manager.
"You're right I'd want to be surprised too," Karen continued. "…but wait! What about Tristan? That could work for a girl or a boy…it is not! ...well I like it….maybe I will! Better yet I am. Tristan is officially off limits, you hear me Carlie? That's gonna be my future child's name."
Tara rolled her eyes at the ridiculousness of the loud phone conversation behind her. She turned away from the woman who couldn't have been older than twenty-five. As she pulled her long, chocolate brown hair up into a messy, high ponytail she wondered if Karen or pregnant Carlie even knew what it meant to take care of another person. At least her father could change himself when he pissed his pants. With a baby you had to do every damn thing.
"Oh trust me, honey we are a longgg ways from that! I want to finish my degree. And Elliot is just getting started with the family business…wait hold up a second."
Tara heard the light tap of the phone's receiver as Karen sat it down on top of the stack of papers covering the corner desk. She also sensed it when Karen walked up behind her. Her silhouette reflected against the locker just as Tara slammed it shut, her bag and sweater tucked away inside of it. A pointy fingernail tapped lightly against her shoulder.
"Excuse me," Karen said above Tara's ear. "Can I help you with something?"
Tara turned around to face her. Karen looked her up and down, disapproval all over her face as Tara said, "I work here now."
Karen's eyes zeroed in on the freshly engraved employee tag Tara had latched to the top of her shirt. "Who hired you?" Karen asked, her nose wrinkling. Wow, Tara thought. And they say I'm stuck up.
"Elliot… ... he said he spoke to your mother about giving me a part-time job here," Tara explained. She jutted her chin up refusing to show her humiliation at the admission. "She agreed to let me work here three weekdays after school and alternate weekends…she didn't tell you?"
"Elliot got you a job here?" Karen somehow managed to look ten times more evil when she posed the question. Before Tara could even think of a response, the she-devil spoke again. "Are you even legal?"
Tara bit her lip to stop the grin threatening to spread across her face. Tara recognized the look even if it wasn't one directed at her very often.
"I'm fifteen," she said, fighting to hide the amusement in her voice. "I'll be sixteen in a few weeks but either way it's still legal for me to have a job here." And we both know what you really meant to ask is if I'm old enough to be fucking your boyfriend.
"Oh. Okay." Apparently her age was enough to smooth out most of the wrinkles etching into Red's forehead. "Go find Keith. He's out on the floor somewhere, probably stocking the shelves. He'll give you the run down. I've got paperwork I need to file."
Without another word Karen headed back towards the desk and sat down, picking a paper up in one hand, the phone in her other. Tara didn't know whether Karen looked her way again as she was already headed out the door to find this "Keith" person. But when she heard Karen tell her friend Carlie that she'd "talk to her later", she heard the light beep of the phone keys as Karen dialed another number.
Tara giggled under her breath when she heard Karen's say "Is Elliot there?" just as she pulled the office door closed. As she walked through the aisles in search of Monroe Market's assistant manager Tara wondered just how much trouble Elliot Oswald was going to be in for gifting a leggy, teenage brunette with a job to finance her college fund. Sometimes doing things out the goodness in your heart backfired big time.
Especially when it involved doing favors for any female that isn't the one you're dating.
Tara's first day of work had gone by pretty fast. There hadn't been a hitch in her shift all day. It was just after ten in the evening. Karen, the Head Manager with the generous boyfriend had suggested Tara stay until closing to "learn the ropes a bit more" Tara knew it was bullshit but the joke was on her. The only Saturday night plans she'd managed to ruin was a science project due Monday morning. A project that required two people but somehow she'd end up doing solo.
Out of all the shitty lab partners she could have gotten her science teacher had the bright idea to pair her up with Jackson Teller, the guy who was too busy being the Prince of Charming to show up to class. Jackson Teller was like a fuckin Solar Eclipse. He rarely showed his face but when he did—God, why were the assholes always the gorgeous ones?
It was closing time. The entrance doors were already locked, all the lights were off, save for the few hanging above her head where the row of checkout lines were. All the aisles were fully restocked and all but one registered remained unclosed.
Tara chewed her lip, absently brushing at the trail of dirt with the broom in her hand. She'd been thinking hard—trying her damndest to come up with a flaw Jackson Teller had that wasn't his personality. But then a loud tap on the glass doors behind her broke her from her thoughts.
Tara turned around to see three very familiar faces standing outside the store. Gemma Teller, her son the teenage heir to the SAMCRO biker throne and his new favorite flavor Wendy Case.
"Where's Karen?" Gemma asked through the glass.
"She went home," Tara answered. Then before turning back around she added, "We're closed," just in case the locked doors and the sign outside displaying their hours wasn't indication enough.
"I know it's late," Gemma said behind her. "But I just made last minute plans for a pancake breakfast tomorrow and their some shit I need to buy. I have a list so I'll be in and out in ten minutes the most."
Tara wondered if she'd be talking so sweetly to her if she wasn't locked out. Knowing her track record with Gemma Teller she highly doubted it.
"Sorry," Tara said not feeling sorry at all. Not even bothering to turn back around, she added, "We open at 11 a.m. on Sundays."
"Go get Karen." Tara could hear the familiar venom easing its way into Gemma's voice. "She knows the situation."
Is this lady hard of hearing? Karen's not here. Tara's voice would have had its own brand of venom in it when she reminded Mrs. "Fuck-the-rules-I'm-SAMCRO-bitch" of what she already told her.
But just as she turned around, Keith materialized from somewhere in the back.
"Mrs. Teller!" Keith's voice was practically singsong as he rushed over. He quickly turned a key into the lock on the glass double-doors and they swooshed open. Then as if he were afraid her staring at him too long would turn him into stone he quickly hurried off to continue whatever it was he'd been doing before.
Naturally he had just enough time before his marathon-worthy sprint to toss the demand "Head over to register 4! Ring them up there!" over his shoulder.
And in the Queen of bikers walked.
Prince Teller followed closely behind her, his arm thrown across Wendy's shoulders as he leaned to whisper something in her ear. Whatever he said earned him a seductive grin as she angled her body towards him and pulled his face down for a kiss.
A kiss, that it seemed, they had no intention of stopping any time soon.
Great. What would her first shift be without the opening scene of a soft-core porn flick in the middle of the section she'd been trying to sweep?
Gemma finally noticed her teen helpers were too busy making out in front of the store's entrance instead of continuing to trail behind her. Sliding the shopping basket in her hand up her arm, her other hand flew to her hip.
"Hey, Wendy!" Wendy's lips pulled away from Jax's with a light pop. "How about you spend less time with your lips attached to my son's face and more time helping me get all the shit on my list before little Ms. we're closed shuts off all of the lights and locks our asses in here?"
Wendy giggled as she walked towards Gemma, reaching inside the basket for the grocery list she'd placed inside of it. "As you wish," she said giving her a curtsy. Then she grabbed jax's arm and pulled him along with her towards the poorly-lit bakery aisle.
Jackson had yet to even look in her direction.
And that wasn't even the problem.
It was the fact that Tara actually gave a shit. It was the fact that she couldn't figure out why she gave a shit.
Tara hated Jax and his whole biker family. So why was the fact that he didn't even acknowledge her twisting her up so badly she wanted to pick the nearest cash register up and launch it at the back of the handsome Outlaw's pretty blonde head?
Why did she care? She didn't like him at all.
And she had a boyfriend.
She'd been dating David Hale for going on four months. So what if he didn't want his family to know about them yet. He'd find a way to warm his parents up to him dating the drunk's daughter eventually. She didn't mind being his dirty little secret. It was kind of….well…hot.
Of course it wasn't as hot as him showing everyone how much he was into her in public—like in the middle of a supermarket.
All up close and personal in the frozen dairy section, steaming the aisle up until all the ice cream melted. Or on top of the checkout counter. Naughty lover's special, no coupon scanning required. She'd bet good money that the infamous Jackson Teller would be more than willing. He'd probably make her—
Nope. Tara shook her head to clear the crazy that had somehow crawled in through her ears.
She would never want anything to do with Jackson Teller.
Jackson... was a jack-ass.
"You okay, Sweetheart? You look a little…red in the face."
And his mother was a passive aggressive bitch.
"I'm fine," Tara replied. Her voice held the perfect tone of I'm a professional, fuck you very much. "My night would be just about perfect…if I could finish closing out the store like I'm supposed to." Tara hoped like hell Gemma assumed the redness in her cheeks was from anger instead of embarrassment at being caught ogling her son when he swaggered off.
Gemma pulled a pack of cigarettes from her purse. Clearly she had no regard for the "No Smoking" rule either.
"I shop here all the time," Gemma commented. She brought the cancer-stick to her lips. Lighting the tip, she took a measured pull. "And this is the first time I've seen you working the store."
How did all of this woman's statements always manage to come out like a question?
"Today was my first day."
"Did they show you how to ring up with coupons?"
Gemma reached for an abandoned sales paper on the magazine rack at the end of the checkout ramp. "Well there's actually a few in here that I could use."
Tara wanted to alter the taunting smile on Gemma's face with the barcode scanner behind the counter. A few missing teeth and Tara would have something to be amused about, too. Lucky for her Gemma didn't have long to look through the pages before Wendy and Jax came flying from the aisles, the two baskets in Jax's hands a cluttered mess of the stuff on their grocery list.
Through the corner of her eye Tara saw Jax roll his eyes at the sight of her mother flipping through the magazine on the counter.
"Come on, Ma." It was a neat trick the way he managed to whine at her AND pepper kisses along Wendy's collarbone as she leaned back against him. "You got a wad of bills in that luggage you call a purse. We don't need coupons. Can we just pay and go? We're meeting up with Ope' and Donna."
"This here is the Knowles kid's first night on the job," Gemma explained, an evil cheer in her voice. "She needs to get used to handling coupons. Figured I'd help further her education."
Jax pulled his lips away from Wendy's neck to look at Tara full in the face for the first time. "You're my lab partner, right?"
You'd think you could remember that when you're supposed to be doing a research project with me.
Tara couldn't believe he was actually pretending he didn't know who she was. They were friends once—Junior High school wasn't that long ago.
"We're partners for the class project too…the one due on Monday."
"Shit" Jax winced. "I completely forgot about that. What's it about again?"
"Don't worry about it," Tara answered sharply. She averted his indigo-gaze to flip through the magazine for all the coupons for the products Wendy had begun placing on the rolling checkout belt. "I'll take care of it."
"You sure?" Jax asked. Tara could tell by his tone that he wasn't about to try and convince her to accept his help. She'd be willing to bet he'd been coasting through high school with everybody doing his work for him since freshman year. That irked her almost as much as the fact that he couldn't seem to remember her when she'd been in the same three classes as him since school started a month and a half ago.
"Trust me," Tara said, looking up at him. "It'll be better for both of us if I did all the work."
"I think she's calling you stupid, Jax," Wendy fake-whispered against his neck.
"Fine," Gemma interjected. She sounded more bored than bitchy for a change. "Forget the coupons. Just ring everything up. I really do want to be in and out in ten minutes or less."
Tara did exactly what she asked as quickly as she could managed. Gemma wasn't the only one eager to put an ending to this late night shopping event. Jax grabbed four bags in each hand, Wendy trailing behind him as he walked away without so much as a goodnight.
"She's might be a bitch," Tara heard Wendy saying to Jax as they walked towards the exit. "But she's a smart bitch….I used to sit behind her for every exam when we had classes together last year. Easy B plus if you can copy most of the answers before Nerd-vana hands in her test paper…"
"She's a nerd alright," she heard Jax respond. "But you're the smart bitch for capitalizing on that shit…"
They weren't whispering.
And they weren't speaking loudly for her benefit either. They were simply having a conversation about her as if she wasn't within earshot. Like her overhearing them didn't matter.
Because she didn't matter.
At least at home she mattered. Even if her father was too drunk off his ass to notice.
Jax's throaty chuckle mingling with Wendy's girly giggle was the last thing Tara heard before the double doors slid shut, the end of summer wind whooshing inside making the unbound pages of the magazine fly across the floor...along with the dirt scattering from the neat pile she'd swept it into.
Mr. Whitman was giving his first exam of the semester on Monday. And she'd be damned if she let that idiot copy off of her.
Tara was too preoccupied with plotting a way to avoid sitting in her assigned seat in the row next him to catch it.
If she'd been staring after him like she'd done when he was in the store she might have caught it. She might have seen when he turned his head to look back at her. She might have caught how he kept his head craned in her direction just long enough to run into his mother when she stopped short in front of him to stub the cigarette in her hand out on the parking lot ground.
And if she'd squinted just a little she may have even caught the fraction of a second where his eyes were filled with a begrudging interest that rivaled any look of desire he'd aimed Wendy Case's way all night.
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