"No, I can't wait to get out of Wilsted." I said, speaking to Holly, but I might as well have been speaking to the wind. Holly had moved, faster than you would have figured a pregnant woman could move, over to hug Jett.
"Watch your vitals, this one's a soccer player or something. He's using my lungs as a ball, but he could just as well use something of yours!" Holly grinned, holding my hand over her bulging middle. It was firmer than I had expected. I wasn't sure what I had expected a pregnant woman's stomach to feel like, but this wasn't it.
* * * *
"Either you have some serious gas, or there is really a baby in there. " My best friend was having a baby. He was lucky; he was doing what I always wanted to do. Start a family, settle down. He was doing it in style too. I can still remember the day he called me, in a dead panic to tell me the news. He had been walking down the street with his mother and they passed the jewelry store. In the window was a princess cut diamond solitaire, all he could do was stare at it.
"It was calling to me, man. I didn't know what to do. I knew that I would be seeing Holly later on this evening and all I could imagine was the look on her face as I slid that baby onto her finger. It would be perfect too. I wouldn't drop it, I wouldn't fumble, I would just slide it on and say, 'Baby, will you marry me?' and she would go 'Jay-Bee! Of course!'" It was five in the morning, JB was drunk and he was yelling into his phone.
I had been alone, of course, asleep. I had just finished my last movie and was thinking of taking a break; maybe find my "one". JB calling me and asking me to come with him when he bought the ring, and be there to remind him that Holly loved him and wouldn't say no while he waited until it was time to ask her, was perfect timing. It was my Nana's fifth wedding anniversary; she married her old high school friend, Nathaniel, on Valentines Day my senior year of high school, and my mom and dad were throwing them a party. The timing couldn't have been better. I could go home for a few days, rusticate, decide whether or not I wanted to do the film that was starting its preliminary shooting in June or take the rest of the year off.
So I was there. It was one important day in the life of my family and friends that I didn't have to miss. Holly said yes, obviously, and I had a good long heart to heart with the woman who knows me best. Miz Coretta to most, but she was Nana to me.
"It's nice to have you home, Jett. I've missed you something terrible, child." No matter how old I'll get or how famous I'll always be child here, to her. It's comforting.
"It's good to be here, Nana. I've missed you guys. I feel like I'm missing so much out west. Especially since I moved out there to be closer to Mom, and she came back out here."
"I always knew that Jules and Wood were forever. Once that girl settled some of those roots and got some of that wildness out of her, I knew she would be back." Miz Corretta spoke with the wisdom of years, and I smiled.
"I didn't," I
"Would you not have made the move to California if you knew your mother was coming back home? Are you happy Jett?" Miz Corretta covered my hands with hers, and I remembered with a pang when my hands had been small enough to fit in hers. Now she looked incredibly small next to me. Things change.
"I'm happy; I'm doing what I love and making money at it too. . ." I trailed off, not sure I wanted to continue.
"Boy, money is not everything. We taught you better than that. You act because it's what's in your heart, nothing more. You're too young to do things just because of the number of zeroes on the check."
"No, I know that, Nana. It's just that, not everyone can say that. I'm lucky. I just feel like. . ."
". . .like you're missing out on something," Miz Corretta finished for me.
"You know me too well, Nana."
"Well, it don't take a lot of figuring to see where you're coming from. Your best friend is getting married in a few months. His fiancé is pregnant, he's settling down, happy. And you, you have your flashy cars and your career but who was the last girl you were in a relationship with? Someone who really cared about you and not some little starlet out to further her own wanna-be career? When's the last time you were with someone you really cared about?" I knew what she was talking about. Tara Essex, we dated for a little over two months. One summer. She was my first love, and my first gold digger. Tara wanted to act, not because she loved it, or even because she had a respect for the stage. She wanted to act so she could meet a celebrity and be a Hollywood wife. Her cousin Nigel, my co-star on the now off the air television series Silverstone, was not the vehicle she needed to get her where she wanted to be. However, his young protégé on the show--me-- was just what the Enquirer ordered. I thought I loved her, I thought she loved me. I was wrong on both counts.
After Tara I dated another actress. Jenna Marie. She was five years my senior, at 23, and had been playing the token role of the sex-pot, sultry teenager for ten years. With new Hollywood popping out teenage ingénues, who were still in their teen years, Tara's market was quickly being swept out from under her. She needed something to keep her name in the papers. Her masseuse mentioned her name to my masseuse and the next thing I knew we were being set up on a semi-blind date. Semi because we both knew who the other was. The only thing about her that I can say is, well, she's a better actress than anyone ever gave her credit for. She had me convinced that she was just a small town girl at heart who was chasing her dream wherever it lead her. That was until I walked into her apartment, (she had given me a key) and I saw her rolling around her bed with another woman and a man besides and they all had needles hanging out of their arms. I still feel that same surge of horror now when I think about it.
I didn't date too much after that. I just let my agent set appearances up whenever he thought I needed them, with whomever he thought I needed.
"I make bad decisions when it comes to women, Nana." I chuckled sadly, the dimple that appeared in my left cheek made a mockery of the movement.
"I don't think it's that. You just need someone real, someone not all caught up in that lifestyle. When's the last time you heard from Kayla West?"
"Kayla West. Now there's a name I haven't heard in years. What makes you think of her?" Kayla West… beautiful skin the lightest shade of brown, long, wild, curly, black hair, molten gold eyes. She was an artist and you could almost tell by looking at her. She dressed simply, but vividly. She wore every color of the rainbow and she wore it well, and her eyes were always soaking up everything around her. She stared like she was trying to memorize every aspect of every moment so that she could capture it just so on her medium. She never painted on canvas. She painted on walls, and fences, and the occasional barn, but never just canvas. That was just too conventional for that girl.
"Well, JB said that she's just a couple of hours away now. She's in grad school up in the city."
"Is she majoring in art?"
"No, although she does still paint some. She wants to be a lawyer."
I smiled. "That's funny. I don't really see her like that. She was always so sweet, so gentle. All the lawyers I know are all cell phones, and slick talking."
"Don't let the time and distances fool you. Kayla West is and was a spitfire. That girl had a mind and an opinion and she was certainly not about to let anyone stifle either of them. She wants to be a child advocate, now. Protect the children." I knew Miz Corretta approved. I was impressed. Beautiful, peaceful Kayla, in a pantsuit, talking jargon on a cell phone… I almost laughed.
"That makes sense. I can see her doing that, hair flying behind her as she carries her briefcase as a banner of justice for the under aged and abused." Kayla West. Just thinking her name makes me smile.
* * * *
My hand was still on Holly's very big belly as they laughed at my statement. "Both!" JB and Holly said at the same time. "Come on in, buddy. Check out the changes." Moving from the warm embrace, JB reached for Jett's duffel bag. "There better be loads of presents from exotic lands in here. You're just in time though. Kayla's here."
"There's a voice I haven't heard in awhile." Smiling, I eagerly turned to look towards the young woman standing in front of the counter. She hadn't turned around when I arrived but it was definitely her. The same golden skin, the hair was still just as wild as remembered and tumbled down to the middle of her back. The smile. . . Kayla West hadn't smiled at me since junior year, and she certainly wasn't smiling now.
"Thanks, JB. It's nice to know that no matter how much things change, they'll always be the same." Her brown paper bag was held to her chest as she turned around to face me. "Jackson." That was it. She sailed towards the door, stopping briefly to hug Holly and tell her to call her before she left next week. Then without another word the door slammed shut and Kayla was gone.
* * * *
"Hey, Mom, I have your stuff," I called, jogging up the steps to my old family home. I was trying hard to keep the anger out of my voice. That jerk had had the audacity the actual nerve to check me out as if I were one of the Jett Jackson groupies that would actually enjoy his perverted, depraved gaze on me.
As if. I hate him.
"Kayla. If you're not more careful your mom is going to send you right back to the store. I'm sure she only sent you there because she actually needed it…unless she sent you for something that can't be smushed so in that case. . ."
"Riley!" I ran towards the statuesque blonde. "I missed you!"
"What's up, chica?" She gave me an ecstatic hug, bright blue eyes shining. "What's got you in such a tizzy?"
"Jett Jackson." I didn't bother to try to smother the anger out this time. His name came out as nearly a growl. In my world his name is just as bad as your standard four-letter-word. Ironic, really, seeing as "Jett" is four letters long.
"And suddenly we're back in high school. Wait, put your hair in pigtails and sit down. We can give each other facials and talk about who we want to take us to prom."
"Shut up, Riley." I put the bag down on the counter. I didn't want her to make light of it, not now.
"Oh, best friend major bad." She held her hand over her mouth and smiled apologetically. Since Jett stood me up for our prom junior year and I boycotted it senior year since I just knew that the two love birds would be made King and Queen, the prom was one thing Riley and I never spoke about. "I'm assuming he's back in town?" At my unhappy nod she continued. "So I guess you saw him, and he was acting his creepazoid self?"
A ghost of a smile covered my face. Riley and Jett were friends. Really good friends. They ended their six season stint on Silverstone on good terms and after graduation the two had decided to be roommates in California to save money while they searched for their next steady income. Jett Jackson wanting to save money wasn't wise. It was cheap. If anyone can afford their own luxury apartment suite in California it's a boy who had been the star of his own television show for eight seasons in primetime. "Don't pretend, Ri. Go see your friend. When's the last time you saw 'the famous Jett Jackson' since you got your own place?"
"I see him every now and again in the circuit. But he's not really into all of that. I'll be right back though, Kayla. I'll get some stuff to make s'mores and we'll totally dish. I met one of your fave actors a couple of weeks back. I have pictures and a present for you." One last hug and she was out the door. I watched her go and sighed, shaking my head. I didn't want to act like I was seventeen again, not when I had worked so hard to grow up.
* * * *
"Does anyone here know why that girl hates me so much?" Jett asked, his hands spread apart as he looked from one friend to the next. "What on earth did I do to earn the wrath of one Kayla West?"
"If that's the way you're acting these days Jackson, its no wonder your new movie got no award show love."
"Riley!" Despite the fact that my best friend hated the very oxygen in this man's lungs, nothing felt more comforting than being held in his arms in one of his trademark hugs. When he went to hug someone, he took a step back, as if to gather strength and speed, then he swooped in from below and lifted, spun you around a little before setting you back on the ground. A perfect hug. "Congrats on the Oscar nod. Sorry I couldn't have been there. Working."
"That's an acceptable excuse, I guess." With a mock pout, I hugged Holly, letting my hand linger on her stomach. "Okay, what in the heck kicked me?"
"There's a baby in there Riley. It's my little soccer player."
"Huh. I just thought you had gotten fat!" Riley laughed, quickly adding "Kidding, kidding. You're gorgeous and all glowy sort of. Does the nausea give your skin that wonderful peach complexion?"
"She's the picture of perfection, and that is not a soccer player in there. It's a prima ballerina practicing her positions," JB said, with a little more force than necessary, wrapping his arms around his future wife from behind.
"So I'm guessing Mommy wants the boy and Daddy wants the girl? Isn't it normally the other way around?" I pushed my hair out of my face. " But considering that it's you two, the normal way in itself would be weird-o-rama."
"Har-de-har-har," JB said sarcastically. "I guess we know why you haven't been cast in any comedy films." He moved off to stock shelves. In the awkward silence that followed I studied the man that now apparently hated me. JB really didn't change. He looked the same as he did when I first arrived in Wilsted. He was only a little taller and most of the baby fat had been converted into muscle. He was more confident now, but then having a masters degree hanging on your wall from one of the most prestigious business colleges in the world, and knowing that you graduated first in your class… well, that's enough to cause any man's step to have a little spring in it. He was working minor miracles with the way he was expanding the Haliburton's grocery store. There were now little "country markets" in all of the major cities in the U.S thanks to JB.
That thing in college is the reason why he can barely look at me these days. He's embarrassed. Although if anyone should be, it's me. He's the one who has the wonderful life; all I have is a small apartment with raggedy furniture and no one there to greet me when I come home. I guess that's why I work so much. If you don't have any down time, you can't really know how lonely you are.
"Anyways, Holly, Kayla and I are going to have an old-fashioned girls only gab fest. You should totally come. I'm here to pick up the necessary encroachments. " I headed towards the shelves. Why was I acting like such an airhead? Mentally I kicked myself. I shouldn't feel so awkward around him anymore.
"That sounds like good times," Holly said thoughtfully. "But I'll bring my own yummies since my snack cravings have taken on the form of sardines and chocolate sauce and I just don't see two non-preggers eating that on purpose."
"Okay, gross. Remind me to never do the pregnancy bit." I made a face.
"Don't you have to get close to someone to have a baby? You'll never have to worry about that. You're the regular ice queen herself. No wonder you and Kay are so close." JB poked his head out from behind a shelf, his expression bitter.
"That's harsh JB. I'm not an ice queen—"
He cut me off. "What would you call someone who puts her career ahead of her love life?"
"Let it go, JB." I was disgusted. "You're engaged, about to be a father. We don't need to re-hash all the fun little deets on why you hate me. I think everyone here knows. And as for Kayla, I thought the two of you were friends. She's not an ice queen. She's just a woman who's been hurt before and she's not ready or willing to risk it again."
"She has to sometime. People change, Riley." He didn't look at me, punching little price stickers on cans of soup.
"Do they, JB? You couldn't prove it to me by the way you acted towards me since I walked in that door. She needs time."
"She's had five years, and with a friend like you constantly in her ear telling her that it's better to be alone than to find someone to love you, its no wonder that she doesn't even try!"
"I'm out." I didn't want to hear his whining anymore. It was an insult to his fiancé, standing there with his child inside her. "Jett, tell Miz Coretta that I say hey and congratulations to Wood and Jules on your new little brother." Taking the change from Holly, I took my bag and headed back towards Kayla's. Someone once said that you can never go home again. But if you have a greeting like mine waiting for you, why would you want to?
* * * *
Authors Notes: Okay. I haven't updated in a year. Actually, I haven't updated in 13 months. So yeah, there's really nothing that I can say here that will make that okay. But I can attempt to give you the reasons: 1. my comp is an evil hunk of plastic and wires and whatever the heck else comps are made of. It may have been possessed by demons at some point. Either way, I took it to Mr. Comp. Fixer-guy and he just didn't fix it. jerk. (oh, and I *still* do not have my comp back) 2. Writers block is something that rhymes with witch. 3. my spring semester was just considerably harder than I had previously anticipated, and well…boys suck, *shrugs*. So I'm back with a steady comp, and a steady internet connection. I remember why I missed this story. The next installment shouldn't take a year. I think I can have one for you relatively soon. Like even before the new year starts.
I just want to say thanks a million to you lovely people who reviewed me. Im glad that you like it, and I hope you liked this part as well. If you don't like the way im writing something…do tell me.
Authors notes 2: yeah, I never put the disclaimer up there. The famous Jett Jackson is not my creation. Nope. Not at all.