Every time she turned around, she saw him - in the halls, in the cafeteria, outside of class. Her life was careening out of control, and there seemed no stopping it. And though rumors of Missy's "miscarriage" spread through the school like wildfire, that was little consolation.
The important thing was that she'd made it through the day. But as she stood at her locker putting away her books, a voice from behind her said, "You know he really is a good guy."
She turned and found herself face to face with Courtney Benedict. Though she and the university president's daughter didn't hang in the same circles, Katie had to admit she liked Courtney. The other girl had an easy going manner that seemed to put people at ease.
"Jack. He's one of the good ones. Look Katie, I know your relationship with Jack is none of my business. In fact, I wouldn't blame you if you told me to go to hell, but you're making a big mistake by not giving him another chance. If there's anyone you should be pissed at, it's Missy."
"You're right; it is none of your business," Katie said turning and shoving her geometry book in her locker. She was tired of thinking about Missy, Jack, and their "baby". But … she'd never really talked about it. She couldn't go to her mother with this and her friends would never understand.
"How am I supposed to trust him?" she asked.
"What do you mean? All Jack is guilty of is having a past. And believe me; Missy is definitely in his past."
"You're telling me there are things you don't wish you could change."
Katie shifted uncomfortably. Of course, there were.
"Why are you telling me this? I know you like Jack. Why not make a play for him yourself?"
"It's never the right time for us. Besides, he wants you. Call me selfish, but I don't want to be anyone's second choice.
"Look, he's been through a lot this year, and I want him to be happy. You make him happy. I've gotta go, but promise me you'll think about what I said."
"Sure," Katie said, defeat washing over her.
She watched as Courtney walked away. While they'd been talking, the halls of Truman had emptied considerably with only a handful of students remaining. But she wasn't ready to face the world quite yet. So after grabbing her coat, Katie closed her locker door, and leaned against it. Then she slid to the floor.
With her hands in her lap, she thought about what Courtney had said. It made a lot of sense. Punishing Jack because of Missy was unfair. Plus, it said a lot about him that he'd stood by her though doing so had been inconvenient.
And then there was Ray. What other guy would risk getting his ass kicked for her?
Sighing, Katie pushed herself up from the floor and scanned the hall. It was completely empty now. Slinging her bag over her shoulder, she quickly ran down the stairs, tugging on her coat as she went.
A cool breeze with a touch of warmth greeted her as soon as she stepped outside but she barely noticed it as she dashed across the parking lot to her mother's car. After starting the engine and flipping on WPSU, the local college radio station, she drove to Jack's house.
But when she arrived, instead of getting out of the car right away, she sat for a while staring at his front door. After a time, she climbed out and strode up the walk.
Nervously, she rang the doorbell.
She could hear footsteps on the other side of the door, and a few seconds later; a thirteen year old boy opened it.
"Yeah?" he asked giving her a quizzical look. He was shorter than Jack but with the same color hair and eyes. He was cute and within a few years, would definitely be a heartbreaker like his brother.
"Hi. You must be Bobby," she said giving him an uneasy smile. "I'm Katie. Is Jack home?" she asked, trying to see around him into the house.
"Sure. Come in."
She stepped into the vestibule, almost knocking over a coat rack in the process. From her vantage point, she could see into the dining room with its large mahogany table covered with term papers.
"Jack," Bobby yelled up the stairs. "Jack."
"Katie is here to see you."
For a moment, he said nothing, then "Just a minute." A few seconds later, he appeared on the landing. Slowly he descended the stairs, stopping in front of her.
An awkward silence fell upon the room as Jack, Katie and Bobby stood looking at each other uncomfortably.
"Why don't we go in the living room," Jack said to Katie, ever so slightly tilting his head in Bobby's direction.
She turned and followed him into a room with worn carpet and scarred furniture.
"Do you want to take your coat off?"
"Thanks," she said as she slipped out of it, folding and placing it on the couch as she sat down.
The large circular clock on the wall ticked away as they sat in silence, sneaking peeks at each other out of the corners of their eyes.
"So?" Jack said breaking the silence.
"So," she repeated.
"Any particular reason you dropped by?"
"Look McCallister," she began. "I feel like an idiot.
"A part of me wants to believe you're just another teenage bastard, but I know that's not true. You were right about a lot of stuff and after giving it some thought, if you're still game, I'd ….
"I know I'm not the easiest person to like, but …."
He kissed her. In one fluid motion, he'd leaned in and placed his lips on hers. A warm feeling like hot fudge oozing over cold ice cream spread over her entire body, and just like that, she felt whole, safe, and cared for.
"Whatever it takes," he said breaking contact.
"Whatever it takes."
As he leaned in for another kiss, she raised her hands to his chest, where she could feel his heart beating.
In that moment, his kiss, his touch, his smell, the beat of his heart, left her breathless.
Author's Note: Well this is it, the end. Thanks to all who took this journey with me.