Chapter Forty-Five

Steve was still asleep when Jessica woke up the next morning. He slept right through the alarm, but she didn't mind. He probably needed all the rest he could get. She'd woken up multiple times during the night, a couple of which were because she'd started to have a nightmare. The other times were because she'd moved and hurt her back again.

She got ready as quietly as she could, taking her clothes with her to the bathroom when she went to take a shower.

Steve was awake when she got out, but he was still in bed, sleepy-eyed.

"Morning," she said, rubbing the access water out of her hair.

"Mm. I thought you'd be gone by now."

It was eight o'clock.

"I'm waiting for your mom to get here. I'll call in and let the school know I'm gonna be late."

That was a perk of being eighteen and in school. She could sign herself in and out or call in if she wasn't going to be there. As long as it wasn't a regular thing, her mom wouldn't even have to know about it, and she wasn't planning on doing it often at all.

"If you wait for her, you might be out all day."

"She said she'd get here as early as she could. But, I mean . . . if she's not here by nine, I'll go in anyway. Okay? I mostly just don't want to go to first period."

"Avoiding Billy?"

She groaned and nodded. "I have to sit right next to him."

He always talked to her, and she just didn't want him to right now, not after what he'd done.

"Anyway, I'm gonna go fix me something to eat. Did you want something now or are you going to try and sleep some more?"

"I'll come down with you. We can eat."

She nodded, waited to make sure he could get up on his own, which he could, and then went downstairs while he went to the bathroom. She was in the middle of making scrambled eggs when he made his way into the kitchen to plop down on a chair. He grimaced and grabbed his head as he realized he shouldn't have sit down so quickly or as hard.

She placed a plate of eggs and toast down in front of him and he grabbed her wrist to gently pull her down to his level. He stole a quick kiss from the side of her mouth, which caused her to smile and blush just a little. Yes, he could still do that to her.

"Love you," he said.

She smiled even brighter. "Love you too."

She fixed her own plate and sat across from him and started eating.

"Can I use your jacket today?

"Well, sure. But why?"

"Because you're not gonna be there."

She would still have a part of him with her.


Steve's mom was back before nine. She came in as Jessica was finishing up the dishes from their breakfast. Steve had moved to the living room, and a short yelp was what had alerted her presence.

"Mom!" Steve exclaimed.

"Your face. I'm – I didn't know it was this bad."

Wow, she was full of tact. Although Jessica probably would've had the same reaction if she had suddenly come across Steve looking the way he did at the moment.

Jessica walked into the living room and took in the scene. Steve's mom had moved to the couch, where Steve was, and was moving his face side to side. Steve didn't seem to appreciate it, but he allowed it anyway.

"He's supposed to see his doctor. He needs to make an appointment."

"Jess!"

"Well, you do. You're gonna."

Mrs. Harrington looked at Jessica and gave her a small, appreciative smile.

"Thank you for staying with him. I'll make sure he gets an appointment."

"Okay. He hasn't had any medicine today, but he's allowed one pill every four hours as needed. Just make sure he's in bed or here on the couch because it makes him tired. Uh, he just ate breakfast, so he should be good for a while."

"I am right here, Jess," Steve said. "I could have told her that."

"But you wouldn't have. You weren't even going to mention the doctor." She grinned at him because she knew she was right. "Anyway, I'm gonna go get your jacket from your room."

Mrs. Harrington followed her up the stairs.

"Is there anything else I need to know?"

"Uh . . . I know light and sound hurts his head. He can still get dizzy and nauseated if he moves too fast. He might not heal all the way for ten to fourteen weeks."

"Wow."

"Yeah."

Jessica had never had a problem with Steve's mom aside from the fact that she followed her husband everywhere instead of taking time with her son, but she was glad the woman had decided to come home this time.

His mom was beautiful and could be warm or cold depending on her mood, but Jessica still didn't know why Mr. Harrington would want to cheat on her. They were supposed to be committed to each other, that's what a marriage was supposed to be.

"I'm going to be bringing his assignments by after work tonight and then right after school tomorrow. I'll help him stay caught up."

"Thank you. Again."

"No problem. He's – he's really worried about having to miss a full week and how far it will put him behind in his classes."

"It's good he has you then," Mrs. Harrington said. "I'm glad he chose you."

Jessica didn't really know what to say to that. She was glad he'd chosen her too. She didn't know what she'd be doing right now if she and Steve hadn't gotten together. She probably would've still been waiting for him while he was with some other girl because he didn't think she liked him.

She was so glad they were open with each other because communication was key with any relationship.

"I have to get to school, but I'm glad you're here. Steve will enjoy the time he has with you while . . . while his dad isn't here."

She grabbed his jacket from his closet and hurried back downstairs so she could start off for school.


Jessica got to school just as second period was starting and signed herself in, received an excused tardy slip and made her way to her locker. Everything was fine until she had to pick her bag up. It was heavier than it had been over the weekend, and once she placed it over her shoulders, she realized it was going to be a problem. The bag kept hitting the bruise on her back. She even tried walking with it over just one of her shoulders, but the constant leaning to the side wasn't that comfortable either.

That day was going to be a great one.

Getting through the classes were fine when she could sit through the whole thing, but she knew gym was going to be problem. Luckily she didn't have to worry about that until after lunch.

She sat with Nancy and Jonathan at lunch even though she and Nancy were still a little careful around each other. It was nowhere near as bad as it had been because, as Jessica had thought before, it just didn't seem as important after everything that had happened.

Nancy asked about Steve and Jessica gave her the rundown. Jonathan seemed concerned as well and he even asked about her back. They had lockers near each other and he'd seen how much trouble she'd been having if she let the bag rest on her back.

"It's a huge bruise, but it'll be okay."

"You gonna be able to go to work?"

"Yeah, I have the ticket stand, so . . . I should be good to go."

They talked for a few more minutes before Jessica went through the lunch line just to get milk, pudding, and a fruit cup. Steve would not have approved, but he wasn't there so she was able to get away with it. She'd had breakfast and she could eat something at home before going to work later, so she'd be fine.

"How is Will?"

"Well, he was up and ready to go to school this morning, but mom didn't let him go. He, uh . . . I think he just wants to get back to normal, so . . ."

"Yeah, I get that. I . . . it's never really going to be normal for us after what happened, but having as much normalcy as we can is always good."

Jessica took her time getting her things together once the bell rang to end lunch. Nancy and Jonathan left before she did so they wouldn't be late, so she was by herself when Billy came up to her.

He announced himself by grabbing her bag from the ground and hefting it onto his shoulder.

"Hey!" She really didn't have time for this. "Give it back."

"Where's your next class?"

"What? None of your business. Why?"

"I'm gonna walk you there," he said.

"I don't need you to walk me to class. Give me my bag."

"So everyone can see you struggle with it?"

"And whose fault is that, Billy?"

"Jessica, I know," he said, almost growling. "So let me do it."

That stopped her short. For one, he'd actually used her name, so he'd listened and remembered not to call her princess. And two . . . this was some messed up way for him to help her because he'd been the one to hurt her in the first place.

She sighed and shook her head. "Fine. Only because it's heavy."

"Well, if you'd stop at your locker between classes . . ."

"Nobody has time to stop by their locker after every class."

"Right."

They began walking side by side and the people crowding the hallway knew to move out of Billy's way. Some of them watched on in interest and Jessica suppressed a groan when she realized what it must look like. Steve wasn't there and Billy, the new guy, was carrying her book bag for her. What it looked like was that Billy was showing interest in a way a guy might do and that Jessica was allowing it. People who loved to gossip were going to have a field day with this.

Jessica glanced sideways at him. He was steadily moving forward, eyes straight ahead as if he knew where they were heading, which he didn't.

"I'm going to the nurse," she said. "I need an excuse for gym class."

"Why?"

"I wanna sit out today. I can't do . . . whatever we're doing . . . with my back the way it is, and walking the whole time won't be much better. It literally hurts when I stand up too long or bend over or whatever else I try to do, so . . . thanks for that."

Billy clenched his jaw but didn't say anything for a few seconds. But then, "You know if you go in complaining about a bruise on your back, the nurse is gonna wanna see, and she's gonna ask where you got it."

Jessica huffed a little. "Scared I'm gonna say it was you?"

"Not really. Just sayin'."

"Well, don't worry. I'm not going to say I have a bruise. I'm gonna tell the nurse I'm cramping and don't feel like participating today."

At the mention of cramps Billy gave her a look of amusement. "Use that excuse often?"

"Never really had to, Billy. I've never been shoved into a table before."

Billy's expression closed off again. He said, "Whatever," and then started walking ahead of her.

He waited outside the nurse's office once they got there even though Jessica said she could take it from there. It only took her a minute to get the excuse from the nurse and then she was back outside with Billy, walking towards the gym.

She took her bag back at the entrance to the gym. She wasn't going to fool with the locker room since she wasn't dressing out.

"I'll meet you back here after class. I'll be waiting when the bell rings."

"Billy –"

"You're hurt," he said. His shoulders grew tense. "I hurt you. So let me do this."

Once again she found herself giving in, this time because he'd openly admitted he'd been the one to hurt her and he was showing his guilt this way.

"Fine, just . . . if you're not here when I get out, I'm heading out anyway. I don't like being late without a reason."


Billy was on time, as he'd said he'd be. He met her after gym and walked her to her next class. This happened after the rest of her classes that day as well. He even walked her to her locker so she could switch out the books she'd need for homework.

"We're supposed to have Othello done by Wednesday when we get to class," Billy said.

"Oh. Thanks for letting me know."

Once she was done getting everything she needed she went to lift her bag, thinking because it was the end of the day she could just take it herself, but Billy grabbed it again.

"You have basketball practice," she said. "I –"

"I still have twenty minutes."

She sighed but didn't argue. The bag would hurt her back if she carried it.

"Okay."

They were pretty quiet until they got to the parking lot and Billy stopped walking.

"Where's your car?"

"I'm using Steve's right now. I've been staying with him since . . . since the fight." She shook her head. "I had to take him to the hospital that night. He has a concussion from you hitting him. You probably would've broken his cheekbone if Max hadn't stopped you. He's not allowed to come back to school for at least another week."

She only said that to see what Billy would do. All he did was tighten his grip on the strap of her back pack. His knuckles turned white.

She led him to Steve's car and took the bag from him once the back car door was open. She placed it on the seat before turning around.

"Look, I appreciate you dragging my books around. It – it was nice of you. The bag really was hurting my back. But if this is just a way to make yourself feel better –"

"It isn't."

Billy stood there shifting from foot to foot, almost fidgeting, which Jessica didn't think she'd ever see him do. She hadn't known him long, but he'd always seemed too confident to do anything close to looking uncomfortable.

"I know I shouldn't have gone off like that. Not on any of you."

"Then why did you?" she asked quietly.

Billy shrugged. "I was angry."

"Hm. You need to find a better way to deal with that," she said. "What if Steve hadn't been there? Would you have done that to me? Or Max? One of the other kids?"

"No, I –" Billy's voice was rough. "I don't know."

"Well . . . you might wanna figure it out or it's gonna get you in real trouble one day."

She closed the back door only to open the driver's side one.

"You have basketball practice. You shouldn't be late."


When Billy got into the locker room, he ignored the people looking at him and went straight to his own locker, which just happened to be near Tommy's locker. He knew what the small minds of his team members must've been thinking, him having walked Jessica around for half the school day. Tommy just reinforced the fact when he began talking.

"So you're finally moving in, huh?"

Billy looked at him with the unimpressed, bored expression he'd perfected over the years.

"I mean, I don't blame you, Harrington not being here and all."

"What are you on about?"

"Why else would you be carrying Henderson's bag around?" Tommy pulled his shirt off and shoved it into his locker. "I mean, I still can't believe she let you. She's usually prickly with stuff like that."

"Yeah, well . . . like you said. Harrington isn't here. No big deal." Billy tossed him a half-amused smirk. "So, tell me, am I gonna have to worry about being ambushed for moving in on his girl?"

"Why would you ask that?"

"You're the one who told me about that football player last year. Do I need to watch my back?"

Tommy scoffed. "As long as you keep your hands to yourself, you'll be fine. Guy last year, he tried getting physical and she didn't like it. That's why that happened."

If Billy had been an animal, his ears would've pricked up in interest.

"What d'you mean she didn't like it?"

Tommy shrugged and quickly looked away. "Like I said, she's prickly."

"I think you mean something more than that."

"Look, all I know is that a bunch of us were hanging out and she went off with the guy. There was a rumor that he may have slipped something in her drink, but it was never proven. She missed a half a week of school, and when she came back she went off on the guy in the middle of the hallway."

Tommy changed into his gym shorts, tossed his jeans in his locker with this shirt.

"It should've knocked her down a peg or two, but she still walks around like she's little Miss Perfect." Tommy shrugged. "Maybe when all is said and done, she actually likes it a little rough."

Who would've thought this little Podunk town would have a problem with people slipping things into girls' drinks? It was a problem in California if you hung out with certain crowds, but Billy never had. What use did he have for drugging someone? Why would he need to? He knew how to get what he wanted from girls, and he wanted them as active, consenting participants. Why would you want a girl who was just laying there, not even knowing really what was going on?

"You into raping girls, Hagan, or do you just really hate her that much?"

Tommy stopped short. "No, I would never –"

"Yeah? Well, you sure sound like you're into it." Billy stepped forward, glowering at him. "I think you're just still hung up on the fact that she got Harrington to stop hanging out with you."

Honestly, Tommy talked about Steve so much Billy wondered if the guy wasn't a little bit in love with him and heartbroken about Harrington choosing Jessica. Or it could've been the other way around.

"Or maybe you just wanted a piece of her for yourself."

Billy changed quickly and slammed his locker door shut. He had not needed to know about whatever had happened to Jessica and was kind of disgusted that Tommy had just paraded the fact that obviously something not good had happened to her. If Billy had already been in a bad mood, he probably would've hit the guy just for the way he was talking.

Billy could be a dick, and he thought all the girls in Hawkins were cows – okay, most of the girls – but at least he knew they were safe with him – or, well, physically, anyway, most of the time. He could be rough with them, but he never tried to hurt them. He had grabbed Max too hard a few times and he had definitely messed up with Jessica the night of the fight, but he could honestly say he'd never attacked a girl.

It was something he had promised himself a long time ago that he would never do.


Okay, so writing for Billy can be confusing as all get out. lol. I feel he only apologized because he was still a little out of it at the Byers place, and that this is really how he would do it. Like if he felt bad, he wouldn't say anything, he'd just do something nice-ish to make up for it. Even if the way he does it isn't very nice - like just grabbing the bag without asking. lol