[A/N: I was sitting around today, enjoying my day off from school, and I was leafing through my huge RENT book, just thinking and crap. I realized that all I've been writing is post RENT stories, so I figured, why the hell not write a pre RENT story? Okay, so maybe it's not a totally pre RENT story, but eventually everything will be explained. Deals with pre RENT themes. There ya go! Here's my little addition. Feedback is always awesome, and I swear this one will be continued this time.]
Note: Takes place a year after the play ends. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: All credit belongs to Jonathan Larson. 3 Thank you.
"Abby…come on sweetie, you have to eat."
"No! This place has yucky food!" she whispered, her blonde hair falling slightly into her face. I sighed.
"Please don't be difficult. How about some of my burger?" I suggested, cutting off a small section and handing it to her.
"Okay." Abby took a tiny bite of it and smiled. As much as my 3-year-old daughter could be a handful, she had her angelic moments too. "Mommy, your phone is making the funny sound again," she giggled.
I pulled out my cell phone and smiled back at her. She was referring to the song it always played every time somebody called it, which happened to be a cheap knockoff version of "Frosty the Snowman" for the holidays. Thanksgiving was Friday, after all. "Jenna Walsh."
"Jen, it's Kelly. Did you fax me over the sketches before you left?"
"Yeah, they should be on your desk. I won't be back in the office until Tuesday," I reminded her, holding Abby's glass of lemonade so she wouldn't spill it all over herself.
"Okay. Have a great Thanksgiving."
"You too." I shut my phone off and placed it back in my bag to find Abby pouting at me. "What did I do now?"
"No more phone calls," she said, taking a french fry off my plate.
"No more phone calls, I promise," I said.
The waitress came back over and paused by the table, smiling at Abby. "Sorry, I'm taking over Maria's shift. Is there anything else I can get you both?" Her brown curls were piled messily on top of her head, and Abby giggled again as one fell into her face.
"No thanks. Just the check," I replied, handing Abby a napkin to wipe her face with. When the waitress wasn't leaving, I noticed her staring at me.
"I'm sorry to stare, but you look familiar."
I shook my head and shrugged. "Maybe from another time. Another place, you know?"
The waitress shook her head. "No, but I really feel like I know you from somewhere."
"Maybe I just have one of those faces." I glanced down at her nametag before realizing that I did actually know this person. "Maureen."
"Maureen Johnson, right? Mark's girlfriend?"
She blushed at this. "Yeah, but more like ex girlfriend now. I told you I knew you! Jesus, let me think…"
I decided to help her out. "Jen."
"Jen?! Oh my god, how are you? I haven't seen you in forever."
"Three years," I added. "Long time, I guess."
"Wow, so what are you doing back in the city?"
"Never left. I'm apartment hunting basically, and I promised Abby I'd take her to see the parade."
"Have you seen—"
I cut her off. "No, I haven't, and please don't tell them I'm here. I was going to stop by later on, but I don't want everyone knowing ahead of time," I begged her.
"No, of course I won't." She pulled out her ordering pad and scribbled something down on it. "Here's my number. I know some places around here that are selling apartments for decent prices. What are your plans for Thanksgiving?"
I ripped a small piece off and wrote my own number on the bottom and handed it to her. "Oh, um, I'm not sure really."
"Why don't you come over and have Thanksgiving with all of us at the loft?" Wow, she didn't hesitate at going in for the kill at all.
"I don't know, Maureen. Let me get back to you on it?" I said, as Abby started squirming in her seat.
"Sure." She pulled the check out of her apron and placed it on the table. "It was really great to see you again."
"Yeah, it was." She waved at Abby before turning her back and walking away.
"Mommy, who was that?"
"Just an old friend of mine."
"I liked her hair. It's pretty."
"Yeah." I preoccupied myself with taking the money out of my wallet and setting it on the table. I stood up and grabbed my purse before helping Abby hop down. "Ready?"
"Want to go and meet some more old friends?" I questioned her. I knew now that Maureen would have an extremely hard time keeping her mouth shut, so it was either now or never, and I had definitely put it off long enough.
"As long as we get to come back to the Life…Life Café," she read, clutching on to my hand. I adjusted her scarf around her neck and nodded.
As we walked through the East Village, I didn't remember this side of town ever unnerving me as much as it did today. I guess having a toddler really changed your perspective on things—that, and revisiting your past.
"How much farther?" Abby whined. I bent down to scoop her up, and rested her on my hip.
"Uh huh." She started to twist my shoulder length light brain hair with her gloves.
"Hey, it's beginning to snow," I said, smiling as I twirled her around. She giggled and clapped her hands together, trying to catch a few snowflakes unsuccessfully. God, it really killed me when she did that. She reminded me so much of him that even now, 3 and a ½ years after I left, it still came as a shock. She was a complete mirror image of her father, even down to her eyelashes.
"Can we make snow angels?"
"I don't know. We'll have to see." I paused in front of old weather-damaged apartment building and hesitantly climbed the stairs all the way to the fourth floor. I paused before apartment 4B.
"Can I knock?" she whispered in my ear.
"If you want," I whispered back. She smiled and reached out her gloved hand and knocked, which didn't make very much sound at all. "Mommy, you try."
"Okay." I set her down and knocked twice. After waiting for a few minutes with no answer, I grabbed her hand and turned away. "I don't think anyone's home, baby."
"Oh." She yawned and shrugged. "Oh well."
"Oh well, huh?" I laughed.
"Jen?" Shit. I guess we weren't out of the woods.
I turned around and smiled half-heartedly. "Hey Mark."
"You're back? I mean—you look great," he said, smiling warmly at me. "Sorry, I was just on the phone in my office."
"Oh, that's okay. I was just stopping by to say hi?"
"Hi after three years?"
I smiled again to find Collins come out into the hall, enveloping me in a hug. "It's been a long time."
"Yeah, it has," I said, returning the hug. "Still teaching?"
"I'm glad. Hi Marky." I gave him a hug too.
"Are you hungry? Thirsty?" Mark asked.
"No, but being invited in would be great," I said sarcastically, ruffling his blonde hair, just like the old days.
"Ah, the sarcasm drips from her voice. Now this is the old Jen we've really missed around here," Collins chuckled.
"Excuse me," Abby said, tugging on his pant leg. "What's your name?"
I shook my head at her. She was so outgoing, and not afraid of anything in the least.
Collins bent down to her level and stuck out his hand. "Thomas B. Collins. What's your name?"
Abby giggled and put her much tinier hand in his larger one. "Abby Nicole Davis. It's nice to meet you Mr. Collins."
I saw the looks that crossed both of their faces, even though I wasn't directly staring at either one of them.
"Well, Miss Abby, would you like to take a walk in the park with me?" Collins suggested, holding at his hand.
"Sure sweetie, as long as you promise to listen to Collins, okay?"
"Uh huh. C'mon Collins!"
I mouthed a silent 'thanks' and Collins nodded as he headed down the stairs with Abby.
"So uh, do you want to come in?" Mark asked, breaking the void of silence. I nodded and stepped into the loft as Mark shut the door behind both of us. It was complete déjà vu—down to the beaten up couch that had housed so many memories. The only things that I picked up right away were that the walls were repainted, and a light carpet had been lain down in place of the wooden floor. I took of my coat and scarf, and Mark immediately took them from me and hung them on the coat rack.
"I'm sorry to drop by like this—I know I probably should have called first," I added, taking a seat on the edge of the couch.
"No, of course not. It's really great to see you again. Abby's beautiful."
"Do you want a beer?"
"I guess it couldn't hurt." He set one in front of me and popped the top off.
As he took a seat across from me on the overstuffed, equally beaten up chair, I could tell that he had a lot of questions, especially about Abby.
"I don't mean to be blunt or anything, but is Abby Roger's?" he asked, taking a swig of his beer.
"How many other Davis' do we know?" I laughed, throwing my hair over my shoulder. "Yeah, she's his."
"Does he know?"
"Let's think about this logically Marky. If Roger knew, who do you think the first person he'd share this with?"
"Yeah, I guess that was a stupid question, but you never know, Roger's been known to battle his demons on his own."
"I suppose. Is he—"
"No, not dead. Far from it. He's out at practice right now with the guys. He should be home in about twenty minutes, so if you want to bolt before then I can set the timer on the stove," he smirked, checking his watch.
I threw a pillow at him and it creamed him right in the face. "You're so amusing."
"So I've been told, once or twice."
"Is he still shooting up?"
Mark shook his head. "He's been completely clean for over two years. It'll be three years in February. He's changed, really he has. Exactly like the old Roger we knew growing up. And he's single."
I rolled my eyes at Mark. "Gee, thanks for adding that in."
"Hey, I figured you want to know."
"Thank god he's off the drugs now. I really thought if I ever came back here he'd be dead, and then I'd regret never coming back in the first place." I tucked my feet underneath me and took a sip of my beer.
"I know. It's been hell, but he's pulled through. He's really focused on his music right now."
Mark cleared his throat. "Were you pregnant when you left?"
I nodded. "Almost four months."
"I wish you would have said something."
"I'm glad I didn't. I didn't want to raise Abby around all that shit. I didn't want her to know her father when he was hooked on drugs."
"Are you going to tell him?"
"Looks that way," I smiled, glancing down at my hands.
"Don't worry, I'm sure it'll be fine."
Mark stood up to adjust the heater and sat back down. "Did you ever finish your degree at NYU?
I shook my head. "I realized I was pregnant by the end of August of '93—"
"That's right around when you left."
"Yeah. I packed up my things, dropped out of NYU, and headed back home to Scarsdale. My parents weren't too thrilled about me "wasting" their precious money, so it was pretty tense between us for a few months. I was 22 years old with no degree, no job, and an ex boyfriend who was strung out on heroin. Abby was born in March, and I ended up transferring to Quinnipiac. I took two classes to finish up my Journalism degree a week, mostly on the weekends, so I could spend time with Abby during the week. My mom was really great about watching her—even Erica gave up her Friday nights to watch Abby sometimes."
Mark nodded. Erica was Jen's younger sister. "How old was Abby when you went back to school?"
"About five months. The commute was killer—about an hour each way, so I ended up staying on campus overnight from Friday to Saturday and come home Saturday night. I finally graduated in June of '95, and by then Abby was a little over a year old, so I was offered a job with a fashion magazine in the city. I bought an apartment and found a wonderful daycare for the first few months, and then hired a babysitter instead. Abby's three now, and I've been working at the magazine for about two years."
"Wow, that's really great. So you basically set the tone, huh?"
"I guess so. It hasn't been easy—far from it. You try studying for exams with a seven month old with an ear infection screaming," I laughed. I realized that I had missed these people more than I could give them credit for. "What about you and Roger?"
"I've just been editing scripts and working part time at a production company. The people are unique, and I get to do what I love, so I'm happy. Roger's been busy with the band, playing a few gigs around town. He's been doing pretty well, actually, at least after Mimi."
"She was his girlfriend. She died back in February." He held off on telling Jen why Mimi had died, figuring that was a conversation Roger and Jen should have on their own.
"Oh." It was silent again.
"Anyway. What are you doing around here?"
"I was actually apartment hunting. My landlord upped the rent way too much and it's definitely not worth it anymore, so I was looking for a place. No luck so far," I added.
"Yeah. Our building's full too, although you could always stay here," he offered.
"Thanks, but I think that would be a little too awkward for me, you know, with Roger and Abby and everything…"
I heard the key scraping inside the lock and felt the color drain from my face. Mark must have taken noticed, because he smiled sympathetically.
"Hey, it'll be okay. I promise."
"Don't make promises you can't keep," I added. This was just Roger—my first boyfriend that I lost my virginity to, the guy I went to prom with, who I ran away with to New York. Everything had started and would eventually end with him, and if it fell apart and ended today, then at least I'd know. Right?
Roger walked in and placed his guitar by the door, taking off his leather jacket as he shut the door behind him. His hair was lighter than I had remembered, but it suited him. Who was I kidding? He looked good. He didn't seem to take notice of anything right away.
"How was practice, Rog?" Mark questioned, as if I wasn't sitting on the couch at all.
"Same as always. Gig next Friday at CBGB's…" He had turned around, and his eyes automatically settled on me, a pure look of "What the fuck are you doing here and who let you in?" written across his features. "Jen?"
"If you need me, I'll be downstairs at Maureen's." Mark stood up and bolted, leaving Roger and I staring at each other from across the room.
"Yeah," I answered. As we both continued staring at each other, I had to admit I wasn't sure if it was right for me to be here. I had wanted to come back so many times before—and now that I was here, I felt out of place—like I was treading in deep water.
Roger waited for the loft door to close and Mark's footsteps to retreat before saying anything to me. "I didn't know you were coming."
"I didn't think I could." I noticed a pained expression cross his face, but I didn't regret it.
"Oh." He walked into the kitchen briefly before coming back into the living room. "You look good."
Was that supposed to gain bonus points with me? Funny how I thought the same thing about him moments before. "So do you."
He looked horribly uncomfortable, and before our conversation could carry on any further, the loft door opened again. Collins entered, carrying Abby on his shoulders.
I smiled as Collins put her down. She toddled over to me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "Hi baby."
"Collins took me to the fountain and we threw pennies in it and he told me to make a wish," she rambled.
The look on Roger's face had advanced to shock by now as he took in the scene in front of him. "Well Collins is a very smart man," I added. Collins shook his head and shrugged.
Abby looked up at Roger and ran—more like bounced over to him. "Hi there."
Roger looked amused and bent down to her level. "Hey," he greeted.
"My name's Abby Nicole Davis, what's yours?" she questioned innocently, looking at the tattoos on his arms. I bit my lip and sighed. I hadn't exactly planned on telling him this way, but now there was nothing else for me to do.
He looked, well, kind of pale, but quickly regained his composure. "Roger…Davis."
She giggled at this. "We have the same last name. Cool."
"Yeah. We do, I guess," he replied, looking at me and raising his eyebrows. I pulled my hair back into a loose twist and slumped back against the couch a little.
"Hey mommy, Collins said he's gonna take me downstairs to…Maureen's house."
"The lady with the pretty hair," Collins added, smiling. "Ready?" He held out his hand and she took it.
"Bye Mommy. Bye Roger."
"Bye," Roger added, waving a little.
Roger crossed his arms over his chest and looked at me. "Did I miss something?"
I nodded, still biting my lip. "You've missed a lot, depending on how you look at it."
Spinning on that dizzy edgeI kissed her face, I kissed her neck
and dreamed of all the different ways
I had to make her glow
"Why are you so far away?" she said
"Why won't you ever know that I'm in love with you?
That I'm in love with you?"
A/N: Did that completely suck? You guys tell me, because it was just an idea floating around in my head.
NOTE: Jen is Roger's girlfriend from high school. They, along with Mark, graduated together. Mark went off to Brown University for a year or so, and Jen and Roger ended up moving into the loft with the help of Collins, Jen's old professor from NYU. Basically, I had Collins start out at NYU, then bounce over to MIT, then back to NYU for the course of the play. Eventually, Roger got involved with The Well Hungarians and drugs. Jen left about two years before the actual start of the play, pregnant with Roger's baby. She was pretty good friends with everyone, with the exception of Joanne of course, but no one has heard from until now. Hope that clears a few things up and gives a little background.
NEXT UP: Jen confronts Roger; the gang celebrates Thanksgiving.