It had been more than a year since Jackie had last set foot in Point Place, after the whole fiasco with Steven, Chicago – his wife – the name-calling, horrible mistreatment and subsequent falling out with Donna and the rest of the gang she decided enough was enough. Her heart was broken into such tiny little pieces she thought she would never be able to mend it properly, least of all in that place where they all knew her problems and failings and already had the perfect mental image of who she was.
She couldn't stay, not where she was the disgraced princess who everyone left when something – or someone – better came along.
And so, in July of 1979 she left.
Jackie packed everything she still owned, sold the big and empty mansion where she lived – with all the furniture she didn't care about – and went to New York, where her grandmother, the great Beulah Adara Meyer-Burkhart, left her an apartment in the Upper East Side and a recommendation letter from the mayor before she died in January 18th, 1979 of a heart condition.
Once there she called the Forman's, telling them she was safe and in the apartment. They promised to visit for her birthday in September.
She applied to Columbia University and; after checking her extracurricular activities, her charity work and how her grades hadn't slipped once during her father's trial and their loss of money, status and connection; got into their engineering program with an academic scholarship and a drive to prove everyone – including herself – wrong about what she was.
Her freshman and sophomore years were difficult, to say the least, she hadn't been at school since graduating high school, the undergraduate program was hard and the professors were condescending and her peers didn't want to work with her on group projects but Jackie was smart – and stubborn and a fast learner – so she strong-armed her place in the top ten of her classes in her first semester. Her birthday was a quiet affair, the Forman's came and stayed in her spare bedroom, they went to see a Broadway show and Mrs. Forman left way too much food in her fridge. She spent her first Christmas in the city alone with Chinese takeout and store bought Sheppard pie – that was, in her opinion, a horrible degrade after years eating Mrs. Forman's one. Once she came back for the January semester Jackie managed to get into AP classes and then the top of said classes; which forced her Physics B professor to offer her a spot in his research team.
She finished her first year of college at the third spot of the best grades, a researcher position in a prestigious research team – that evolved into a summer unpaid internship in the Universities laboratories. Once she went back to school, in the fall of 1980, she chose mechanical engineering as her major and managed – again – to get into AP classes.
And so everything got harder and stressful and Jackie thought about quitting so much she decided to keep a tally in her bedroom wall if only to remind herself of how much she could accomplish if she didn't listen to those thoughts.
"One emotional breakdown at a time," she would say before putting another vertical line made by a pink marker in a whiteboard attached to the wall her study table resided.
She didn't have any friends, and really it was for the best. The vast majority of her classmates were men – annoying, entitled and sexist men who only wanted her notes or her ass on their bed – and the women she did meet were in the same field as her, making them more competitors than anything – meaning any friendship would be ripe with tension and she really didn't want that type of friendship anymore.
Of course that changed when she met Olivia Moore; a blonde haired and brown eyed chubby girl with a kind heart and horrible sense of fashion. She had a quiet voice and a sunny disposition, loved everything nerdy and would not – could not – take no as an answer.
The day started like any other, she went to her morning classes, had lunch in the campus cafeteria, had an unhealthy amount of coffee and then Jackie went to the library after afternoon classes and sat in her hidden corner, near the engineering section and, while nibbling on a muffin and iced coffee started on her homework before researching for the project her lab was currently working on, there she would stay until it was almost eleven at night before finally going home. That's when Olivia sat down in front of her, garish bright green cardigan horribly contrasting with her skin and the orange shirt underneath momentarily pulling her out of her work.
"Sorry," the girl said, sheepish smile in place as she noisily spread her books, notebooks and pens around her space.
Jackie didn't deign to answer her, choosing instead to roll her eyes and continue to read her book and annotate the more interesting and important parts in her research notebook.
"Are you an engineering major?" the girl asked after a few moments of silence after Jackie closed her book on thermodynamics.
"That is so cool! You don't see many women in that field" she exclaimed a little too loudly, earning her a 'shh' from Jackie and the few other students who heard her; "Sorry."
Jackie rolled her eyes – again – but stayed quiet, opening up another book and annotating the important and interesting facts she found for further review afterwards.
"I'm a pre-med major," the girl started, forcing Jackie to sigh and close the book, knowing the girl wouldn't stop talking even if she didn't respond.
Plus, Jackie could use social conversations after only talking about engineering, math and physics; Mr. and Mrs. Forman's day-to-day or Betsy and her development since leaving Point Place the year before, and the girl seemed to want to offer it.
"Yeah, working towards finally getting into med school," she explained, fingering the biology book in front of her "I always wanted to help people you know? And I could be a nurse but…"
"You wanted to prove something, right?" asked Jackie, a smirk slowly forming on her mouth.
"Yeah, how did you know?" she asked before shaking her head "Who am I kidding? Every girl around here chose these courses for those same reasons, there's nothing to prove in being a nurse."
"But a doctor is a men's job."
"Exactly. I'm Olivia," she said, hand raised towards her "Moore, Olivia Moore."
"I'm on my junior year you know? And it's so hard, classes' made up of mostly dudes who are extremely gross. The girls are cool but-"
"Vying for the same thing that you, there isn't enough space for all of you because of those same men and universities don't take the same amount so-"
"We have to be the best, always, and we can't all be the best. Therefore we all hate each other even though we're all really proud of where we managed to get."
They shared a laugh, bitter and tired but, it was a laugh – and Jackie hadn't had one of those, unless pried from one Kitty Forman, in a long time.
"Academic life sucks."
"I think life sucks in general," Jackie said back, clicking her pen non-stop "But at least we're not at home, crying."
"Yeah we're just deteriorating our social lives and mental wellbeing in order to prove something to someone who probably doesn't even care or worse, to ourselves which is just," Olivia stopped for a bit, carding her hand through her blonde hair "So depressing."
Jackie laughed again, putting her head on the back of her chair and sighing again "It is depressing," she said, putting her hands on her head in exasperation "Oh God, our lives suck."
Olivia laughed and looked down to her biology book before returning her small almond colored orbs to Jackie "Thanks, I hm, I really needed this."
"I think I did too."
Jackie thought that would be the end of it, they each finished their studies and went their way; Jackie to her apartment and Olivia to her dorm. But the next day Olivia was there again, this time her golden hair in a messy bun and she used a blue oversized sweater, her backpack overflowing with books and, in her hand, two cups of coffee.
"Hi," she said, smile shy, as if waiting for confirmation that she could sit down.
Jackie wanted to say no, tell her off, mock her and make sure Olivia would never want to look her in the eye again; after all the heartbreak and fake friendships and people who left her Jackie wanted to say no. She wanted to be the one who left first, not the one left behind with only a broken heart and injured soul. The last time that happened, when Donna said she didn't know why she was her friend, it felt as if her very soul was on fire, burning away at her lungs, preventing the air from coming inside and letting her breathe. She really, really wanted to say no.
So she said yes.
Life with Olivia was fun; the two girls – who only had ambition and incredibly judgmental opinions on everyone who wasn't them in common – found that friendship was easy when one didn't expect the world in return. They would meet, every day, at the library after afternoon classes, taking turns to who would bring coffee and snacks, and they would talk about their classes and the people who annoyed them, their classmates and – in Olivia's case – roommates who were obnoxious.
It was in a cold early December night, when the power in the library went out and they were stuck together with no way to keep studying. Olivia had a bottle of cheap booze inside her purse.
"Really?" Jackie asked, perfectly manicured brow raised.
"Friday night Jackie, after here Teddy and I promised to get wasted and quiz each other for upcoming tests."
"You hate Teddy."
"Sober Teddy, drunken Teddy is the most amazing human being on planet earth."
They both laughed and Jackie nodded, taking off her low heels and dark purple cashmere jacket before sitting Indian style in her chair, "Well, open it."
That's when their life stories started to come out.
Olivia was born in Brooklyn; she came from a poor family and was the youngest of three. Her mother was a drug addict who died from an overdose when she was four, after that her oldest sibling – Amy – raised her and took care of their father, a construction officer with a heart condition.
"That's when I decided you know that I wanted to be a doctor. Save people like my dad, prevent people from becoming like my mom."
"That's honorable," answered Jackie after taking a swig of the awful liquid "I just wanted to escape, until everything went south I was content to just coast on by my pretty face."
"You do have a really pretty face," said Olivia, taking the bottle from Jackie once again.
"I know!" the girl said, a dazzling smile on her face "Thanks though, haven't heard that from someone who didn't want to get in my pants in a while."
"How'd you know I don't want to get in your pants?"
"Do you?" she asked "Want to get in my pants?"
There was a silence between them, Jackie had the bottle – that by now was reaching its middle – and Olivia looked her up and down before sighing.
"I like girls."
Jackie didn't respond, only passed on the bottle and grabbed the girl's hand. Then she told her all the crap in her life.
That's when they truly became friends.
The day after Jackie went to Olivia's dorm room and knocked on her door, only to have Teddy, a tall and dark skinned woman dressed in a men's shirt and nothing else, open the door.
"Who are you?" she asked, hands crossed on her chest.
"Jackie, I'm friends with Olivia."
"Oh, you're the reason she had no booze when she came home?"
The woman glared at her and Jackie shrugged.
She tsc'd before opening the door further and gesturing her in "She said she told you and you weren't an ass, that evens out my lack of booze yesterday. Welcome to the crazy bitches club."
The crazy bitches club was something completely different than what Jackie thought it was. They basically continued doing their usual routine, classes and library, but now they had lunch every day – with the addition of Teddy – and every Friday night they watched a Disney classic, got drunk on cheap booze and quizzed each other on the subjects they were currently studying. Teddy however provided an additional change in their routine; she made them both promise weekends were forbidden territory – no school, no studying and no talking about studying.
"So what do you wanna do on the weekends?" asked Jackie from her place in one of the luxurious couches on her living room.
"Have fun you weirdos," she answered while on the opposite side of the same beige couch "What do you do when you're on vacation or there's no school?"
"I work on my research," Jackie answered "God I feel like such a loser, I had such an active social life before dad went to jail."
"Well," Jackie continued "Before I was constantly cheated on and got left behind by my friends."
"I've been working since I was ten, didn't have time to actually have much fun" Olivia said from one of the two green, gold and beige armchairs.
"Oh wow, okay, when people look up the definition of depressing in a dictionary a picture with you two will show up," snorted the taller girl.
"Asshole!" exclaimed Jackie while Olivia simply rolled her eyes and chucked the matching pillow at the taller girl's head.
They spent the next half an hour in an embarrassing pillow fight before Teddy finally stopped them all "Okay okay, enough. Jesus."
"You just want to stop because you lost," giggled Olivia, now also sitting on the couch.
"It's a pillow fight!"
"Yeah, that you lost," laughed Jackie, smoothing out her hair.
A week later she got a call, out of state and – although it was something that she expected, after all Mr. and Mrs. Forman always called every two weeks and they didn't the week before – she was surprised to see who was on the other line.
"Jackie? It's, hm, it's Eric."