"What? Oh, I'm sorry Tom. Were you saying something?" Jenny Thornton asked, trying to keep a guilty look from coming to her face. She knew that Tom had been trying to say something important to her, but she couldn't keep her mind on his words.
Tom Locke ran a hand through his dark hair and sank down right next to Jenny on her living room couch. "Jenny, you weren't listening to me at all, were you?"
Jenny sat stiffly for a moment before relaxing and leaning against Tom's left side. She smiled sadly, thinking about how the feel of his left side once meant safety to her senses. But, after everything she had gone through in recent times, Jenny wasn't sure if there was such a thing as safety. "I was, Tom, honest. It's just that -- I mean -- I dunno." It was tough but even after returning to California from the hells of the Shadow World those six weeks ago, Jenny still had a hard time putting her feelings into words.
But Tom didn't need to hear the words. "Were you thinking about him again?" he whispered, his voice dropping when mentioning the "him".
Not for the first time, since the first game, did the impulse to lie had run forth through her mind. But, like everytime before, Jenny found that she couldn't lie -- especially to Tom. She owed him that much at least. "Yes," Jenny whispered back, dropping her head down, letting her amber hair -- no longer pulled back the way Tom preferrered but rather loose and carefree the way Julian liked it -- fall into her face. Jenny felt Tom's body stiffen, just like the way it did everytime he spied Jenny twisting the golden band on her finger, Julian's ring, or saw her stare into the dark shadows of night. Everytime he knew that that Julian was crossing Jenny's mind. "Oh, Tommy, I can't help it. I just feel so guilty -- It's all my fault, you know."
"No, it's not, Thorny," Tom whispered as he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close to his chest, "It was never your fault. You didn't ask for Julian to drag us into the Shadow World or to make us play any of those games. You didn't ask for any of it, and you didn't force him to sacrifice himself. We all would have done it for you, Jenny. I would have done it for you -- and it wouldn't have been your fault if I did."
Jenny let Tom's whispered words of comfort wash over her. She knew that Tom had a point, but she still couldn't help feeling guilty over letting Julian give up his existance for her. And, though she knew she could never mention it to anyone, she couldn't help but miss Julian. Ever since they left the Shadow World for the last time, the time she had to say goodbye, Jenny brought back a new feeling wth her. Well, it wasn't a new feeling -- instead, it was a feeling that Jenny had known was there before but had been supressing in favor of her love for Tom and her other friends. But, especially with Julian gone forever, Jenny knew she could no longer deny it. Somehow, someway, Jenny had developed feelings for the youngest Shadow Man.
It was a different emotion, though, than the one she shared with Tom, her boyfriend of the last nine years. With Tom, everything was so safe and normal. Julian, on the other hand, had brought out the wild side in Jenny. It was Julian who had set her soul free. It was Julian who brought about all the changes in Jenny. It was Julian who really taught her what love was.
That's not saying that Jenny didn't love Tom -- cause she did. But it was different than before. And that difference was something that Jenny had been trying to discern ever since they had all made it back to California.
"I know, Tommy, I know. It's just so..." So what? Jenny had no idea. She let her sentence drop as she lifted her head up and used her white blouse to dry the tears she had tried to suppress. Not that it mattered, though. Jenny felt that all she did was cry anymore.
"I hate him!" Jenny jumped back on the couch in fright as Tom stood from the couch and punched the air with his fist. "He did this to you, Jenny. And I hate him for it."
Slowly, underneath all of her confusion and worries, Jenny felt anger at Tom's words. She wasn't sure what scared her more about the anger, though: was it the fact that it was anger at Tom for saying negative things about Julian. or the fact that the only other times that Jenny had ever been this angry was when she thought Julian was hurting Tom. Jenny shook her head quickly to get rid of the thoughts, but spoke her mind before she forgot them entirely. "Are you sure it's Julian," Jenny began, ignoring it when Tom flinched at the mention of Julian's name. Or maybe it was volume of Jenny's voice that spooked him, "that you are angry with? Just because I changed doesn't mean that he did it? I changed because I needed to. Didn't you ever notice that? Didn't you ever see..." Jenny finished the end of her sentence in a whisper as she drew her legs to her chest and began to cry again. "I'm sorry if you don't like what I've become, but there is nothing anyone can do now."
"Shhh, Jenny," Tom said, sitting down again, thankful that the rest of the Thornton family had left earlier that evening to go to the movies. "I didn't mean it. Really. I know that after what we have all been through with Julian and his games, we were all bound to change. It's just a little hard on me to accept the fact that Julian made you change at all."
"Well, he did. He made me see that I didn't need to be a part of Tom-and-Jenny to survive. I could be just Jenny and survive. Be my own master. And you can be Tom and survive. Maybe then you'll realize that I wasn't made to just be there for you -- I'm a person too and I wish you would see that. Maybe," she began, trembling as the words she tried to keep inside for so long came spilling out, "the reason I changed so much is because I needed to. I did, Tom. I needed to." Then, without even looking back at Tom, though knowing full well that the expression his normally handsome face would be wearing would mirror her own horror-struck face, Jenny walked over to the sliding door and peered outside, watching as a white owl flew through the night sky.
"Jenny," Tom tried, as he walked over to where she was standing and slowly took her hand in his, "I'm sorry."
But Jenny was ignoring him now, instead watching the owl soar throught the starlit sky, spreading his broad wings and flying back and forth in a mesmerizing pattern. It was so beautiful... And it put wild, half-formed ideas into Jenny's head. Ideas about a fantastical place full of magical creatures and goblins. And wishes. You can't forget the wishes. "I wish..."
"Jenny, are you O.K.? What are you looking at? What are you thinking about right now?" Tom's usual laid-back attitude was gone as he questioned Jenny while, at the same time, trying to look out the window at the sky.
"I wish..." That owl really was beautiful. And such a snowy white color, shining brighter than the moon. Was it glowing? Or was Jenny just imagining it? She couldn't tell -- but she also couldn't take her eyes off of it either.
"Jenny, are you thinking about Julian again? Julian is dead, Jenny, you need to remember that. He's dead and gone and can never hurt you again. I'm here, Jenny, I'm here for you. Tom, not Julian. Tom. Your Tommy. Isn't that what's important Jenny?" Tom's voice rose, as he tried to take her attention from whatever it was on.
"I wish..." What did she wish? And why did she keep repeating "I wish..."? Jenny tried to clear her head again. She felt like she was falling backwards, but she knew her feet were still rooted to her living room floor. What was going on with her? She hadn't felt this physically distant since the last kiss she had shared with Julian. Julian...
"Jenny, what's wrong? What do you see out there? Jenny, do you hear me?" Tom reached his arm foward and grabbed Jenny, whirling her around to face him. "Jenny?"
"I wish... I wish... I wish the goblins would come and take you away, Tom," Jenny spat out as she jerked herself out of his grasp.
"Jenny?" Tom took a step back and stared at her in horror. This wasn't the Jenny he knew -- there was a fire in her cypress eyes and it frightened him. And what was this about goblins? "What's going on, Jenny?"
"Right now!" Jenny shrieked before collapsing to the ground and clamping her eyes shut. Once her eyes were closed, all ideas of goblins and wishes were gone, leaving only a huge migraine in it's place. Wow, that was weird. What the heck just happened here? Fighting the pounding rhythm in her head, Jenny got to her knees. "Tom, what just happened. Was it another earthquake?," Jenny murmured, remembering one of the only other times she had felt this weak without Julian as the cause. "Tom?"
But there was no answer. Opening her eyes slowly, so as not to aggravate her sudden headache, Jenny gasped at the sight. Where Tom had been standing only a minute before now stood an ugly little goblin. Jenny stared at it for a moment before doing the only thing she could think of -- she screamed.