All About Forever
(Special thanks to M3, for inspiring me with this chapter)
(day after Thanksgiving)
Eric sat on the wooden bench at the Point Place mall being bored out of his skull as Jackie went into store after store trying on various pieces of clothing and accessories. Not that she wouldn't look good in the soft cashmeres and robust suede's, but just sitting here doing nothing except watching the people go by was not his idea of a good time. He was thirsty so he figured he'd go to the food court to get a soda. There was a photo booth by the food court, the kind that you see at country fairs where two people usually two best girlfriends about seven years old or a teenage romantic couple were the main occupants of these stalls. He heard Donna's laughter coming from behind the blue curtain. Donna never laughed in that wild and carefree sound when they were together, she was always too busy picking on him for being insensitive to a woman's needs, who was Hyde, Gloria f***ing Steinem? Eric thought about sticking his head through the curtain, the old, pre-Pricemart, virgin, Eric would have, but now it didn't seem right. He walked away from them so he could get his drink at the Fatso Burger station. He hoped they didn't see him when they finally emerged all smiles. Since when does Steven Hyde smile? And you'd think Eric of all people would be happy for him, but he couldn't. He took the plastic top off the soda and gulped the rest of it down. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Donna looking through a Christmas decorations circular as Hyde stood in line at the pizza line. Why was he torturing himself like this? He threw the empty soda cup in the trash and headed back to the last store Jackie was at. No doubt she was probably still in there. He had to turn around and see Donna and Hyde one last time as he put the tray on the table, two slices and two bottles of Coke. Sooner or later she was going to stomp on his heart and he was going to laugh in his face when it happened. An older woman of about thirty-five grabbed him by the arm to hand him a flyer from the jewelry store that was coincidentally right next to them.
"Do you have a girlfriend?" she asked
He hesitated for a moment before responding with a "Yes."
"We have a great layaway plan—nothing says love like our diamond heart collection."
Jewelry. No one would love a piece of jewelry more than Jackie Burkhart. There was a rumor that she ate a sundae in five seconds at the Hub because she thought Kelso had put a ring in it. But jewelry is what got him into 'trouble' with Donna, because god forbid he wanted a future with her.
Still, he and Jackie just started dating. He put the flyer on top of a glass counter that had free space on it as he went back to where he started this journey sitting on the wooden bench.
"Eric," Jackie came out of the boutique with two shopping bags, "I saw you sneak away earlier." she kissed him on the cheek.
"I was thirsty," he offered to carry one of her shopping bags
"No, there's stuff in here that you can't see."
"Jackie, I told you, you didn't have to buy me anything just so I'd go shopping with you."
"I know that, Eric. Sleigh bells ring are you listening—" She silently sang
Eric smiled, "I'd ask you if you'd like to go get something to eat, but Hyde and Donna are in the food court—so we can eat else—"
"No, Eric, they don't own this mall—and yes, I'd like to get something to eat, shopping takes a lot out of a girl,"
Eric liked Jackie's use of the word girl, not because she wasn't a woman, because she most definitely filled that sweater quite nicely, but because she didn't take herself so seriously as "I am Woman, here me roar, ERA supporter, secret man basher Donna Pinciotti".
"Are you sure?" he didn't want to argue with them and he hoped that they would just ignore himself and Jackie.
"I think it's bull*** that you think Donna gave you confidence," Jackie put the shopping bags in her one hand and held Eric's with the other, "All she did was make you afraid of HER."
Instead of Jackie's statement making him feel like a loser who collects Star Wars memorabilia for enjoyment, it was the first step towards a real empowerment.
"Thank you." he whispered
"Would you get me a diet soda?" she put her bags down and started to search her purse for change.
"Jackie, yes, and put your money away."
He actually held out her chair for her. Michael only did that if a) he actually remembered and b) if he thought there was the slightest chance of getting in her panties.
"I think THEY just looked over at us." Jackie said with a minor concern
"Well, let them look. Do you want pizza or a burger?"
"Neither. French fries—and make sure the soda is diet."
"I know, I remember."
Eric was going to have to go the jewelry store before they left this mall. It was expensive, it was going to take most of his Pricemart money, but he was going to buy her the silver rolo link bracelet with the dangly heart after all. He knew that she'd love it if the heart were engraved with her initials. It felt good to be rid of Donna, it was like a cancer of his soul, that he finally had removed and felt much better. When Eric went to get their lunch, Donna decided without Hyde to go up to Jackie's table. For some reason it seemed to her that they should all be friends and the whole thing was rather childish.
Hyde had told her not to go over there, but Donna still wanted to make things right between everyone. They've known each other since they were
"Donna, I can't believe after what you said to me before Thanksgiving that you---forget it. Just leave before Eric sees you."
Donna sat down across from Jackie, "I'm very sorry for what I said, Jackie. I didn't think you loving Eric was possible."
Jackie did her infamous smirk, "I'm in no mood to explain it to you, Donna, just go, because you'll never get it."
Donna stood up, "I guess coming over here was a mistake."
"I guess it was."
Eric saw Donna leave his and Jackie's table as he came back with a large order of French fries and two sodas (one diet).
"What did SHE want?"
"To tell me that she was sorry then said she didn't think me loving you was possible."
Eric took a French fry and broke it in half.
"She has some audacity since she started letting Hyde go into her panties."
"I'm surprised she hasn't gotten herpes yet."
Eric laughed over that one. His and Hyde's friendship was done.
"They're so predictable—do you want to wager on how long they'll be together?"
"Not for money." Eric raised an eyebrow
"We don't need to bet on their breaking up to express our love."
'Express our love'—what a beautiful thing to say, did Donna ever once use words like that? (well there were those wedding vows---)
"That's right." He allowed himself to not be insecure for one minute
"Come on, Eric," she couldn't eat any more fries, "Let's go back to my house."
"Okay," he could come back to the mall later on today during the drive between leaving her house and going to work at Pricemart to pick out the bracelet for Jackie; he waited until he was out of Donna and Hyde's view before he kissed Jackie on the lips.
"Why'd you wait?" she asked, she knew, but she wanted him to say it.
"Because I didn't want you to think I only kissed you because Donna and Hyde were there."
"I wouldn't think that Eric. I am not Donna, you don't have to worry about me yelling at you over stuff the way she did."
She held his hand.
"I love you, Jackie."
He never thought THEY'D be the ones together, but he was so happy that it worked out that way.
"I love you, too, Eric. OH! Shoes! Fifty percent off BEFORE Christmas! Do you mind?"
He smiled, "No, Jackie, go ahead."
"And no peeking in the bags!" She tapped his cheek before going into the shoe store as Eric used the opportunity to go to the jewelry store and look at her bracelet up close.
A sterling silver rolo link chain with a dangly heart that would have an engraved cursive "J" on one side and a "Love, Eric" on the other. It was going to cost him three Pricemart paychecks in total but she was worth it.
"She's a lucky girl to have a boyfriend like you." The sales assistant said
"I'm the lucky one," he quietly replied to the sales assistant as he left the jewelry store. "I'll be back later." He softly replied.
'What does she see in ME?'
Eric wondered when he saw Donna and Hyde on the other side of the mall with their arms around each other looking like they both needed a shower.
'This is odd' Eric thought, he actually liked to cuddle after sex. Who knew a man could enjoy just HOLDING a woman so? Donna brought out the worst in him. In Donna's twisted thinking she did want traditional gender specific roles, except she wanted to be the man and she wanted her boyfriend to be the woman! 'Yeah, Hyde's really going to go for that one, ex-cupcake.'
"What are you thinking about, Eric?" Jackie asked not removing her head from Eric's chest, he wasn't as muscular as Michael, but she felt safe.
"That I like being with YOU, Jackie." He played with the ends of her hair.
"Yeah, I have a great personality."
"And your bodies pretty sexy, too!"
"I know," She said in her Jackie way, she wasn't really a snob, just as he really wasn't a geek, they were just labels, "I couldn't believe Donna this afternoon!"
'I really don't want to talk about Donna.'
"Jackie, I really don't want to talk about Donna, she's my past," 'You're my future? Do I say that? No. Not yet.' "And she only wants to rile you up."
"I didn't mean anything by it, Eric."
He tried his best not to twitch or squeak his voice in panic, "I know,"
Eric moved from his position, so that he could kiss her neck, fishing for more words to say, but with Jackie unlike Donna, there was no need to justify his being as to not piss the red head off, with Jackie, he only had to be himself. They made love one more time before Eric had to go back to the mall to get her bracelet and before heading to Pricemart to deal with Red. They didn't say much about the break up, was it because Donna was with Steven "abandoned by both of his parents, so we're going to give him a break, let him get C's on his tests, Hyde"? So, let him have Donna, cut him a break and don't bother about his son's broken heart and act like being with Jackie, to Red, was just another stupid high school fling and eventually they would break up? Until Eric met another girl at the office he eventually would work in? Someone who wasn't from the area but from some 'faraway' place like Maine? BUT what if did not want to stay in Point Place, WI? What if he wanted to be the one to be from the 'faraway' place? But would Jackie be by his side or----? He listened to the sales lady gush about how great a boyfriend he must be, the same lady from this morning who didn't remember him, and only saw dollar signs. Maybe, he should go and pick up an alternate gift just incase it really wasn't a good idea to give Jackie jewelry? There was a sale on scented soaps and bubble bath gift sets. The sound of his layaway receipt being printed woke Eric up from his thoughts. The lady put a ballpoint pen in front of him for him to sign his agreement to have the bracelet paid by off by December twenty third. Buying jewelry was like putting your heart on the line. Jackie was not Donna, but—was she forever? He's made this mistake before.
Jackie dumped the contents of her shopping bags. She did buy Eric a sweater. It was a light sage green and 100% cashmere, Jackie was not an insecure woman but even she wondered if this was too expensive? Should she take it back? It would bring out his green eyes beautifully, but maybe it was too much too soon, lord knows she bought Michael so many things and what an ungrateful pig he turned out to be. Eric was not Michael (thank god) but still it was too soon. She folded the sweater neatly and put it back in the bag. She could go back to the mall tomorrow in the morning and buy him a Star Wars t-shirt or a bottle of cologne. He was very respectful of her in bed but that didn't mean they were going to be together forever. 'We are just kids'. She thought. She made the mistake of thinking her and Michael would wind up together forever and him a lawyer! Which was very unrealistic considering Michael was a doofus and all. They couldn't drink legally, join the military, or get married—if the US Government thought they were kids, maybe they all were just kids. Too young to think of such permanence. And Eric was ONE grade ahead of her in school, which wasn't much at all once you enter adulthood, but when you are living through it, it's a gap as wide as it is far.
Eric was five minutes late, it wasn't his fault there was a line in the mall store he bought his alternate safe gift at. It wasn't his fault that there was a car accident a few blocks down. He zipped up his smock and punched in his time card, only to bump into Red.
"You're late." Red said with his usual stern face
"Eric, I don't care, you are getting docked five minutes, dumbass!"
'F*** you, Dad!'
"Now, go to the back and put sales stickers on the items for tomorrow's early bird specials, which YOU will be working."
"You can't tell me what to do forever."
"Eric, I can FIRE you in three seconds if you don't shut your smart mouth."
Eric was almost tempted to say to Red 'Go ahead fire me.' but then he thought of the bracelet he bought Jackie, the bracelet he was hesitant on giving her. The bracelet that was not fully paid for.
"Fine." He replied quietly as he cursed his father out in his head.
There were something's in his life that would not, probably never change, and that was getting his father to treat him like his friend.
But Jackie. 'Maybe? Maybe not.' 'She loves me. She loves me not.'
Kitty was in her usual chipper mood as she made breakfast; Eric wanted to sleep in today. He didn't want to leave the house at seven in the morning so a bunch of idiots can pick up a toaster for half off the usual price. Hyde who didn't have to be up early, was up early, putting the butter on his toast as Kitty poured the orange juice in small glasses.
"Good morning, Eric!" Kitty said
"Yeah." He mumbled to his mother.
He was too tired to eat the usual eggs, bacon, and toast. He broke a piece of the bacon in half. As Red came to his spot at the table in his brick red Pricemart blazer holding the morning paper. No one touches Red Forman's newspaper!
"So, what are your plans?" Kitty asked, when everyone else had their breakfast plates in front of them.
"Work." Eric replied, as Red did not look up from his newspaper.
"Donna and I are---"
'Oh f***! Shut up!'
"going to see a movie."
"Good for you, Steven!"
Eric wanted to say something, anything that would give him the upper hand, that he was better off without Donna, and not that Donna was the one better off without him. But he didn't. He let it hang in the air until his stomach could handle picking at his eggs. The last thing he wanted was a fight at the dinner table. And everyone rushing to the aid of the Good 'Son'. The biggest mistake was the Forman's taking Hyde in.
"Did I mention I'm going to work on an early Saturday morning?" Eric moaned
"Yes, and you will do it." Red replied as he turned the page of his newspaper.
'but I won't like it.'
3 Hours Later
Jackie found herself in the Forman basement at ten o'clock in just enough time to see Hyde and Donna leave out the front way to wherever it was that they were going. Eric called her last night and told her that his shift was over at noon and he doubted Red would make him stay longer as no one wanted to pay the overtime to a bunch of high school kids. Fez came by with a bag of licorice and sat down on the lawn chair to watch ABC Saturday Morning.
Poor Fez, he was like Ringo Starr, a friend to all The Beatles, even when the others around him hated the other's guts.
"What time is Michael—"
And before Jackie could finish asking the question, there was Kelso in a blue and green colored sweater, tight jeans, and sneakers—and naturally he didn't NOTICE her in the room when he came barging in through the back door.
"Guess who had sex with Pam Macy last night!"
It shouldn't have hurt, but it did. It shouldn't have mattered, but it did. Jackie cleared her throat.
"Everyone's had sex with Pam Macy, Michael! —and Laurie Forman."
"BURN!" Fez said in a flat imitation
"Shut up, Fez. We're over, Jackie, what do you care?"
"I don't! I just don't want to see you go out with a nice girl who will put up with your infidelities," He looked confused like a deer trapped in the headlights, "your cheating ways, Michael!"
"Jackie after my experiences with you, I'm sticking with low maintenance whores."
"Me?! You're going to blame ME!?" She grabbed her purse off the floor and swung it at him.
'Ooooh how sexy!" Fez said excitedly
"Jackie!" Kelso backed himself into a corner, "Why don't you to Pricemart to be with your forever boyfriend!?"
Kelso didn't get the irony that he was fighting with Eric but still hung out in his basement and ate the Forman's food.
"You know what, maybe I will! Eric has more respect for me in his little finger than you do in your whole body, you moron!"
She swung her purse at him again before throwing her coat on and leaving the basement. She blinked her eyes to stop them from crying as she grabbed a big stick that was on the ground and 'carved' J.B. Heart E.F. in the shallow snow. The letters were smeared and bumpy despite her usually neat writing hand. She had a lump in her throat as she tightened her scarf around her neck as the wind picked up and washed it all away, leaving no trace.