I have taken many, many liberties with this. I wasn't too sure about the whole timeline of Kirsten's abortion, or even whose baby it was, but that's the idea of fanfic, right? I also embellished a lot. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong, and please, if you like it let me know! remembered sitting outside her house, looking down on the twinkling lights of Newport Beach, wondering what other families were doing. Whether other families had a drunken mother, a rebellious sister and a father who couldn't not have his own way, and who used a controlling voice and a range of dirty tricks to ensure it. Like the time she and Jimmy were sitting out here, intertwined, making out. Her father wasn't meant to be at home; it was rare that he was. He'd come home early and stormed outside. "I want none of that near my house. You'll conduct yourself less like a little whore and more like a lady. Cooper, get off my lawn or I'll call your father." Hastily departing, Jimmy had stolen one more kiss from her and gone, a shadow driving down the driveway, while Kirsten was drawn back into her own world, cajoling her mother to consume more than spirits from a bottle and studiously avoiding her father, who was glowering at her every time they passed each other. And Hayleigh just stayed in her room, smoking pot and listening to loud rock music, mainly to annoy their father.
"I don't know why she plays that trash. Kiki, run up and tell her to turn it off." Caleb shot a dirty look at the ceiling, his words allowing no leeway to deny this latest request. Hayleigh opened the door at Kirsten's knock, the smell of smoked grass mingling with that of the more recently burnt.
"Dad wants you to turn it off. And why are you smoking that? You can smell it out here in the hallway- he'll find out." Hayleigh shook her head in disgust.
"And what's he going to do? Kick me out? I'd leave- gladly. I'll turn the music down if you try some. It makes imagining a life away from here so much more believable." Kirsten sighed, debated. She didn't do drugs. She wasn't like 'that' but if she wanted to avoid an argument with her dad, she'd need Hayleigh to turn the music down. The only direction it would go if she didn't smoke would be up.
"Fine." Hayleigh laughed, clapped her hands and ushered Kirsten into her room, who went straight to the hi-fi system and turned it down to barely audible. Hayleigh took a bag out of her drawer, shook out some grass and proceeded to set up her bong. "Do I have to do it out of that?" Kirsten asked, looking at the bong with aversion.
"Fine, you can have it rolled. You have to use more to get the same hit though. I've got to buy some more tomorrow anyway. I heard Dad yelling outside, what was that all about?" Hayleigh firmly rolled the paper, licked it. Kirsten smiled ruefully.
"Jimmy and I. We were making out on the lawn." Hayleigh nodded.
"And I guess that didn't fit with his idea as you of a virginal saint. Meanwhile, I could probably have sex on one of the pool chairs, and he wouldn't even notice." Hayleigh handed Kirsten the joint.
"You know he would. You're his 'little angel'." Hayleigh snorted.
"Yeah. Right. Here, breathe in as deeply as you can, then hold it in your lungs for as long as possible." Kirsten held the joint up to her lips as Hayleigh leaned in to light it. She breathed in the smoke, noticing the difference between this and cigarettes. She'd only ever smoked when Jimmy wheedled her into it, after school outside the mall. She'd always made sure she got home before her father so she could wash her hair and change her clothes, lest he smelt the cigarette smoke on her and demand an explanation. Kirsten shut her eyes as she tried to keep the smoke in her lungs, finally expelling it in a curling stream of smoke. She relit, and breathed in again.
"So, how heavy was this making out on the lawn?" Kirsten smiled. She knew Hayleigh couldn't have resisted asking. She breathed the smoke out again, left the joint unlit while she considered an answer.
"It was heavy enough." Kirsten shrugged, but Hayleigh wasn't content.
"So have you and Jimmy had sex yet?" Kirsten sat up, stared at her.
"Hayleigh!" Hayleigh gave her an innocent look, half shrugged. In truth, it wasn't the first time Hayleigh had asked. She'd always been interested in Kirsten and Jimmy, and Kirsten was sure it was more to do with the crush she had on Jimmy than any interest she had in Kirsten.
"Well? I'm your sister; you have to tell me these things. Here, take another hit while you think, otherwise you'll lose the effect." Hayleigh again leant over and relit the joint while Kirsten breathed it in. She shut her eyes as the smoked eddied and swirled in her lungs, remembering a few months earlier.
She and Jimmy had been going out for almost six months before he started talking about sex. In all honestly, Kirsten was more than ready, but she always had the idea of her father somehow finding out lurking in the back of her mind.
"But he won't find out," Jimmy had argued. She'd finally agreed, on the condition that there was no way in hell they were doing it at her house.
"We're not doing it at a house." Jimmy had clasped her hands, looked into her eyes as she felt herself being lost in his. "This is special. We're going to book into a fancy motel and let ourselves forget about our families for a while. Or at least forget about your father." Jimmy smiled, and they both leant in to kiss. Kirsten rested her forehead on his shoulder, and he put his arm around her, pulling her closer to him.
"Sounds great," she said, as the bell rang and people started moving to class around them. A week later, Jimmy met up with her on the steps outside, pulled her away from her friends and into an embrace.
"Hey." She said, turning her face up to kiss him.
"So, what do you have planned for this weekend?" He asked. She tilted her head up to the sunlight as she considered.
"There was a Golden Girls marathon Hayleigh and I were going to watch." She smiled as he started to protest, and leant up to kiss him again.
"I'm kidding," she said when they broke apart. "Nothing planned. What do you have on your mind?" They resumed walking, fingers interlaced.
"I booked us into the Versace for the weekend. Do you think you can get away for a few days?" Kirsten smiled, almost giggled.
"Sure. I can call one of the girls and tell them I'm there. Dad's out of town for the weekend anyway, so I probably won't have to do that, but just in case."
"Is this ok?" Jimmy asked, stopping her as she was about to get in her car. "I mean, I'm not rushing you. I love you, you know that. I want to spend the rest of my life with you." He looked so earnest that Kirsten opened the door to put her bag in, then turned back to him. She walked up until their bodies were pressing together, making him take his bag off. "Jimmy. This is what I want. This is fine. I love you." She stretched up to kiss him, her hands moving up to rest on his shoulders, his hands resting on her lower back. He laid butterfly light kisses down her neck, before they hugged, holding each other as tight as they could, unwilling for this moment to finish.
"I have to go, I'm expected home. Dad's working from home while Mom's… sick. So he's been watching us like a hawk." Kirsten looked up into Jimmy's eyes, a gentle smile curving her lips.
"God, you're beautiful…" Jimmy said, smiling back at her before leaning down for another kiss, which was interrupted by Hayleigh.
"Guys, stop getting hot and heavy in the car park. Kirsten, come on, let's go." She jumped in the passenger seat of the car, leant over and blew the horn. Kirsten shook her head and Jimmy snuck one more kiss, which turned out to be longer than they'd both intended.
"See you this weekend." He picked up his bag and walked over to his car. Kirsten smiled as he looked back, knew what he was thinking about. Only two days to go.
"Kirsten!" Hayleigh brought Kirsten back to reality, as she let out the smoke that she'd been holding. She was starting to feel a buzz now, like a deep throbbing beginning in the base of her spine, and moving upwards. She took another quick draw before crushing the dooby into the ashtray Hayleigh claimed she used as a paperweight. "So have you?" Hayleigh's voice demanded an answer, and again, Kirsten blocked her out in favour of her own thoughts.
"Reservation under Cooper, Mr and Mrs." The woman at the desk looked up, probably noting their age and not believing for a second that they were married, but for the amount the rooms commanded, she didn't care. Kirsten smiled at the use of Jimmy's last name for both of them. It was the plan, to get out of school, get married. She wanted to earn an art degree and open her own gallery, while Jimmy was going to go into portfolio management, making rich clients even richer.
"Room 419, your bags will be taken up. Have a nice stay." The woman handed over a swipe card, which Jimmy handed to Kirsten as he signed the bill. He put an arm around her shoulders and placed a kiss on her forehead as they walked to the elevator.
"You really sure about this?" he asked as they were ascending. Kirsten turned around and walked him back until he was against the wall, and she was as close as she could be to him. She kissed him softly, drew back just as he was expecting more.
"Yes, Jimmy." She kissed him again, drew back. "I wouldn't be here otherwise." She punctuated each word with a kiss, smiled as the lift stopped and he looked flustered. Their room was towards the end of the hall, with a view over the ocean that stretched further than the horizon. There was a four poster bed in the middle of the room, which Kirsten put her handbag on before going out onto the private balcony to look at the view, and breathe in the fresh, slightly salty air. Jimmy joined her after he'd tipped the man who'd brought their bags up. Kirsten turned around to Jimmy, the dying sunlight creating a halo around her blonde hair. She drew him close, feeling secure in his arms as she leaned back against the balcony, the wind tickling her back as the sun gently warmed it.
"Love you." Jimmy said.
"Love you." Kirsten said, and they held each other on the balcony, content to bask in the last of the sunlight in each other's arms.
That night was the first time for both of them. At one point Jimmy stopped, looked down at Kirsten, whose eyes were shut, hair fanned out on the pillow, face sweaty enough to make it glow. He lowered himself down so his breathe tickled her ear as he spoke.
"I love you so much." Kirsten smiled, and without opening her eyes drew her legs up further, persuading him to continue until they were both as breathlessly satisfied as is possible for a first time, and lying, legs and arms entwined, lips almost touching, eyes firmly locked.
"That was good." Jimmy said. Kirsten smiled, her hand moving to stroke his back while his were on her stomach, moving lower. Her blue eyes caressed his, and in a moment he had rolled over to allow her on top, her hair hanging down around his face, tickling his cheeks as they kissed. She moved down to nibble his neck, down to trace the scar he had on his stomach from a sailing accident, down to take him in her mouth. She looked up at him and their eyes met, hers coy and his half-shut in ecstasy. It was an image he would never be able to get out of his mind. Unbeknownst to Kirsten, every time now that he slept with Julie, or any woman, that image leapt, unbidden, into his mind. A 16 year old Kirsten looking up at him while she went down on him, the perfect girl committing an act her father would absolutely not approve of, and enjoying it.
Kirsten let out the smoke, smiled at Hayleigh and stretched up so that she could feel her tendons and bones moving deliciously back into place. Before Hayleigh could protest again, she answered.
"Yes, Hayleigh. We've had sex. If you tell Dad, you know he's going to kill me."
"It's between us. How long ago? How was it? Where did you do it?" Hayleigh tossed the magazine she'd been thumbing through aside, and cupped her face in her hands and she lay stomach down on the bed. Kirsten leaned back in the chair, shaking her head.
"I'm not discussing this with you."
"Come on, just a little bit…" Kirsten relented, more from pot-induced judgement than anything else.
"Fine… It was a while ago, a few months. Jimmy booked a room at Versace for the weekend. It was good."
"Just good?" Hayleigh asked. "You've got to give me more than that."
It's between Jimmy and me." Kirsten said as she got up.
"Yeah, and everyone else he told. I hope he used a condom." Hayleigh's words floated after Kirsten as she left the room. She paused outside the closed door, feeling her stomach turn to ice, ruining the buzz of a few minutes ago. No, they hadn't used a condom. Had never used a condom in the many times they'd had sex since. They hadn't been with anyone before, and she'd managed to get the pill off a friend. If Caleb knew she was on the pill, which he invariably would find out about if she went to the doctor and got a prescription for herself, he'd banish her from Jimmy and probably from any males in the area. She was about to run out though, and needed to get some more. She was thinking of going on a quick trip to Mexico, where prescription pills were readily available without a prescription.
"Kiki." Her father's voice boomed up the stairs, startling her. "You mother needs a hand to get to bed, and I'm busy." Kirsten sighed, walked to the bathroom to rinse the pot smell and taste out of her mouth out before helping her stumbling mother to bed.
Four days later, Jimmy caught up with Kirsten in the hall.
"Hey, haven't seen you in a while." Jimmy leant against the locker next to hers as she put textbooks she wouldn't need til third in her locker.
"I've been sick. The 'flu," she warned as he leaned in to kiss her.
"I'll take my chances." He smiled as they kissed.
"So, you want to come over after school? Study? My parents left this morning, they're staying in Palm Springs for the week, so we'll have the whole house to ourselves." Jimmy smiled, reaching a hand out to tuck her hair behind her ear.
"Hmmm. Whole house to ourselves. Just what were you planning on studying, Jimmy." Kirsten smiled as he looked bashful.
"I'll meet you at your place. I have to take Hayleigh home first. Dad's on another business trip, so I won't be missed." Jimmy grinned, kissed her again, and broke off when the bell rang.
Kirsten let herself into Jimmy's house, dropping her bag in the foyer.
"Jimmy?" She called, her voice echoing.
"Out here," he yelled back, and she followed his voice out to the spa. He was sipping a beer, had chilled some vintage wine for her.
"Hope you didn't bring your swimmers," Jimmy smiled, lifting his sunglasses up to see her more clearly. Kirsten smiled, waited while he poured her a wine.
"Thanks." They clinked glasses, each taking a sip.
"So, you coming in here?" Jimmy floated back from the edge, allowing her to see, through blurred water, that he wasn't wearing anything.
"Yes." Kirsten started unbuttoning her shirt. "I think I will."
Kirsten woke up, feeling the weight of Jimmy's arm over her. She stretched and looked at the clock.
"Jimmy, wake up, we're late." She pushed him off her as he started mumbling, breaking through the surface of sleep. She grabbed his robe, and dashed to the bathroom, stepping into the shower before the hot had properly started coming through. Jimmy stumbled in a few minutes later, sat on the edge of the spa to watch her. "Just enjoying the view." He called out.
"I can't believe I fell asleep here. If Dad decided to come home last night, or if Hayleigh called him…" She opened the door and stepped out into a towel he handed her. He stepped past her into the shower. "What's the worst he can do? He can't stop us seeing each other. And at least he likes me. Besides, he has to know that you're going to have sex sometime. I don't know how he hasn't thought about it yet. He probably thinks you're going to be a virgin until you get married."
"I'm using your toothbrush." Kirsten called back to him. He laughed.
"I think you could call us married already after that."
Still together in their senior year, Kirsten and Jimmy walked around, looking at the prospective university proposals. They wanted to go to the same place, rent a little flat together somewhere far away from Newport Beach.
"I don't mind Boston. A lot of rich people in Boston I can persuade to let me handle their finances. Or Chicago." Jimmy said. "There's a big art scene in Chicago."
"And you know that on whose authority?" Kirsten smiled as he shrugged, gave him a quick kiss. They passed by anything that would leave them close enough to come back on weekends, and grabbed glossy brochures for anything that would require a flight, or a long car drive to get to.
"So you sure you don't want to come with us? Its four weeks. That can be a long time. I'll miss you." Jimmy smiled, tried his best to look charming. His family was going to Australia for a month, visiting his father's cousin.
"You know I'd love to come, but Dad would never let me. Besides, I've got an assignment I need to finish for our final grades. Hold these." Kirsten thrust her brochures at Jimmy, ran to the nearest bathroom and made it just in time to throw up. She'd been getting sick lately, needing to throw up often, even when she hadn't eaten anything. She'd also skipped a period, which were usually as regular as clockwork. She put it down to nerves over having to make life decisions like which college she'd attend, and what to major in, and how to tell her Dad she was going to move in with Jimmy somewhere halfway across the country, rather than live in a residential college at a university closer to home. But tomorrow, after she saw Jimmy off at the airport, she was going to buy a pregnancy testing kit, and hope it didn't tell her what she thought.
"You okay?" Jimmy asked when she came back.
"Sorry, I've got a stomach bug I think. So, you know you're going to have to buy me a great present while you're over there."
"I'd bring you back the country if I could. Although, apparently, it's quite big, and I'm not sure I'd get it through customs." Kirsten laughed as Jimmy slid an arm around her shoulders, pulling her towards the Yale stand.
Kirsten sat on the edge of the closed toilet seat. She felt like falling off. She'd said goodbye to Jimmy at the airport four hours ago, and was now trying to comprehend what she was seeing. The line was pink. Pink meant she was carrying a baby- her and Jimmy's baby. The lines of the four tests she'd tried before this one were all pink. Obviously no error in the tests, only in her own judgement. Why had they never bothered to use a condom, even after she stopped taking the pill? Why didn't she think she'd get pregnant? Why was Jimmy on his way to a country that was on the other side of the World when she needed him the most? A knock came on the bathroom door, making Kirsten drop the test.
"I need the bathroom, you've been in there for an hour." Kirsten got up and turned on the water to clean herself up. Her eyes were bloodshot, and her cheekbones were beginning to look gaunt from losing weight from all the throwing up. She angrily wiped tears from her cheeks before turning around to pick up the pregnancy tests that littered the floor accusingly. She stuffed them in the paper bag the pharmacy had given her and opened the door.
"What's in the bag?" Hayleigh asked.
"Nothing. You needed the bathroom." Kirsten muttered, pushing past her. She got to her room, tossed the bag in the bin and slumped on her bed. She knew she couldn't talk to Jimmy for another twelve hours. Knew she couldn't tell Hayleigh, couldn't rely on her not letting it slip to their father. Knew her mother wouldn't be able to cope with the news alone, and would definitely tell Caleb. Her friends wouldn't be able to keep it to themselves, and it would get back to Caleb somehow. And she knew if Caleb found out, all hell would break loose. There was no one she could talk to.
If she counted back from when she'd last got her period she knew she was at least a month and a half along. She'd be showing soon, especially with the weight she was losing from throwing up. It wouldn't be fair on Jimmy to call him as soon as he landed and deliver this kind of news. Their plans of moving away couldn't be carried out, and his dream of portfolio management wouldn't give them quick enough outlay to set up as much as they'd need with a baby on the way. Kirsten had no doubt that if she decided to have the baby, Caleb would throw her out, cut her off from the family without a second thought. Not that she minded about the money, but not being able to see her mother or her sister… Even Caleb again… Kirsten realised she was crying, wiped her eyes with her hands that she had unconsciously curled around her stomach. She stretched out for the phone on her bedside table and dialled operator services. In less than ten minutes she was booked in for a counselling session and, if she decided to go ahead, a termination. She lay back down, curled herself into a foetal position and wept.
After the counselling session, Kirsten went ahead with the termination. The counselling was nothing more than a ten minute session, carried out because the law demanded it to be. They didn't demand how good it must be, or whether the counsellor would be interested. Kirsten was forced to sit in a hard-backed, uncomfortable chair while a smoking fifty-something woman asked her questions of a form written by people who would never understand what it can feel like to choose to have your child aborted.
The termination was nothing more than three pills, and something like a pap smear, but which took longer as it was the part where the foetus was sucked out. The pills sent her into early contractions, and she sat up in the hospital bed, a waif-like figure cringing every time she felt the pain rippling from her abdomen through her body. The doctor was businesslike, the women at the desk who took her payment- cash, were businesslike, and she was out of there in two hours, having lost $800 and her first child. And somehow, she knew her relationship with Jimmy would never be the same again.
Kirsten was lying on her bed sipping straight vodka and filling out an application to study art history at Berkeley. She heard the phone ring, assumed Hayleigh would get it. Their parents were away at Palm Springs, their father building new business relationships while their mother was pampered.
"Kirsten, its Jimmy." Hayleigh appeared at the door, cordless phone in hand. Kirsten sighed. She knew she'd have to deal with him sooner or later. Problem was, part of her still loved him. She knew she owed him an explanation, but she couldn't tell him about the baby, or lack of. It was a stupid mistake that she'd dealt with. Kirsten reached out for the phone, knocking their prom photo off the bedside table at the same time. Hayleigh bent to pick it up.
"Leave it." Kirsten said before putting the phone to her ear and forcing a cheerful voice.
"Hey…" She said.
"I thought you were coming to see me at the airport?"
"Sorry Jimmy, I got caught up with some college applications. So, how was Australia? You didn't pick up their accent."
"It was amazing, it's such a beautiful country. The people are great, and their beaches are just… well, it was amazing. Speaking of which, I got you a great present. When can I see you?"
"Well, I'm doing something tonight, but tomorrow? We could meet down at the pier?"
"Sounds great. Love you."
"Bye." Kirsten hung up before he could notice her lack of reply. But she knew he would've noticed. She took a long drink from the vodka, and turned back to her application without giving another thought to the prom photo still lying facedown on the floor.
"So, someone might get the opinion you're avoiding me." Jimmy chewed the edge off his balboa bar and turned so he was facing Kirsten. She remained looking out over the ocean, balboa bar untouched, hair tousled in the wind. She looked down at the water below, choppy and cold. Dismal.
"I'm sorry, Jimmy. I really am. But… With school ending soon, and moving away… College… We have to make so many choices, and I figure-"
"Wait. You're not breaking up with me, are you?" Kirsten let the question hang, knew Jimmy was waiting for her to turn around, meet his eyes, tell him they were fine, weren't breaking up. She couldn't bring herself to do it.
"Maybe just a break," she said finally, throwing her balboa bar in the bin before turning to face him.
"What..? What exactly happened when I was in Australia?" Jimmy's eyes searched hers, looking for answers she knew she could never give him.
"I just figured some things out. I… We were dreaming, Jimmy. I'm going to Berkeley after school, and you're probably going to Boston, or Chicago. We're going in different directions. We won't have anything in common after school. We'll be in different places. It'll be difficult." Kirsten looked down again, not wanting to meet his eyes.
"What happened to our plan? I could go to Berkeley… I'm sure there's a course there I could do. Kirsten, I just want to be with you. I love you so much."
"I'm sorry Jimmy. I just need… Some time." Kirsten wiped her eyes, realising she was crying. She walked away without looking back at Jimmy, not wanting to see if he was crying as well.
They kept seeing each other, but rarely. After that afternoon, nothing was the same. Jimmy tried to see her, but Kirsten found ways to avoid him. She moved without telling him, and later heard from Hayleigh that he'd been at the house, begging to know her whereabouts. She felt bad, but she knew if she'd stayed with him, she would have told him and she knew it was a secret that was too big for him, too scary to comprehend if things had turned out differently. She knew he'd hate her for making a decision that big without talking to him. Hate her for denying him his child.
She was two years into her art-history course when she heard anything from Jimmy. It was late Wednesday and Kirsten was putting the finishing touches on an assignment. She was feeling less like the old Kirsten, the one who killed her first child, and more like a new Kirsten, who was always in control. She took a mouthful out of the wineglass she was holding and stood back to admire her work. She'd been thinking of Jimmy lately, the way it ended. She knew now it was best for both of them. A clean break. As far as she knew, he was still in Newport Beach, hadn't made it to Chicago although he commuted there regularly to take classes in a portfolio management course. He was doing the thing he'd wanted to do. And she was far from Newport Beach, doing a course her father didn't approve of in a city he didn't like. And she loved it.
The phone rang, breaking her thoughts. She dropped her wine, spilling it onto the polished floor.
"Damnit." Kirsten said, grabbing the phone as she leant down to mop some of it up with the newspaper that was sitting on the table. "Hello?"
"Hey Kirsten, its Jude." Kirsten's flatmate was almost inaudible to the background sound.
"Hey, Jude, where are you?"
"I'm down at Stetson's Bar. There's a big group of us down here having a few laughs. And drinks. They're not really mutually exclusive. There's someone Jake wants to introduce you to. Just get down here. And hurry!" Kirsten smiled. Jake was Jude's boyfriend and, he claimed, a magic matchmaker. He'd been trying to find someone for Kirsten since she'd met him, and so far hadn't succeeded. He was starting to take it personally.
"I'll just get changed and be down soon… No matchmaking though. If last time didn't work I'm pretty sure this time won't. Tell him I'm quite happy flying solo."
"Yeah, and that'll get him to back down. See you soon!" Jude hung up, and Kirsten put the phone back, sighing as she saw how far the wine had run.
Half an hour later, the floor was clean, Kirsten had managed to fit in drinking another glass of wine, she was wearing clothes that hadn't seen better days, unlike her previous outfit, and she was locking the front door on the way down to Stetson's. It was only a ten minute walk away, and the night air was fresh, filled with the scent of jasmine. She felt the vague stirrings of happiness. She was starting to build up a group of friends, people so far removed from Newport Beach that she could be living in another country. She was passing her course, and loving it. The only thing she was lacking was a boyfriend. It had been over two years since she separated from Jimmy. She'd slept with men since she moved- always using condoms, but hadn't connected with anyone. She was trying not to emotionally engage. She would invariably hurt someone else's feelings if she did.
"Kirsten!" Jude was outside, smoking a thin, unfiltered cigarette and putting her phone away. Kirsten smiled, took the cigarette from Jude and took a drag before handing it back.
"A was just going to call you again. You look great. Is that a new outfit? God you're too thin." As usual, as she did most of the time but especially after a few drinks, Jude was talking five hundred miles a minute.
"So, what's going on?" Kirsten asked.
"Well… You might have forgotten that it's your birthday tomorrow, but we haven't. It's not like you turn 21 every day, right?" Jude ushered Kirsten through the bar door. Inside, a group of her friends, and their friends, and some other people that probably just decided to join in had gathered all the tables together and were sitting around it.
Kirsten gasped when she walked in. Everyone was already too tipsy to synchronise and yell surprise, but there was a collective yell that went up as she walked in.
"You guys, this is great. Thanks." Kirsten turned and hugged Jude. A drink was pressed into her hand and she started circulating, talking to people she knew. Now, this moment, she was happy. More than several drinks into the night, Jake finally brought his friend over and made introductions.
"Kirsten, this is Brad. He's a lawyer." Kirsten smiled, nodded, reminded herself to be polite. What she didn't understand was why Jake thought she'd feel more comfortable with a man that looked as though he'd stepped out a spa- someone that could easily fit into her old world.
"Well, I'm training to be one." Brad smiled, moved in to gently kiss her on the cheek.
"So, how's that going for you?" Kirsten asked. She was cursed with the ability to make conversation, no matter who she was talking to and whether she liked them or not. It was a remnant of growing up in Newport Beach. Jake gave her a wink and left. Listening to Brad, Kirsten finished the last of her margarita, and immediately another was pushed into her hand. She knew she was on her way to being hopelessly drunk but took the proffered drink, turning to smile at whomever it was that gave it to her. Blue eyes met slate grey as she looked at a dark-haired, heavy eye browed man. She didn't know him, and yet there was something there.
"This is my friend Cohen. Well, Sandy Cohen." Kirsten offered her hand, smiled as they touched. Sandy nodded his head to someone, and in less than a moment, Brad had been whisked away leaving Sandy, Kirsten and two spare bar stools.
"Seat?" He asked. She gratefully sat down, glad the wall was beside her so she could lean into it.
"So, you've had a few." He said it more as a statement than anything else. Kirsten nodded. "I think so."
"So… It's your 21st. Always a special occasion."
"It's not going to happen again," Kirsten agreed.
"So, I was talking to Jake. He said you were doing art history?"
"Yeah, it's interesting enough." Kirsten realised he wasn't the sort that needed polite conversation. "I love it. It's exactly what my father didn't want for me and, surprisingly, exactly what I want to do."
"So you've got grief in you family, too." Kirsten smiled, nodded. She jumped as her phone rang, vibrating in her pocket.
"Excuse me." She handed him her drink, made her way outside to answer.
"Jimmy." Kirsten leant against the wall outside, knowing she was vulnerable to him because of the amount of alcohol chasing itself around her system.
"Well… Happy birthday. I was going to call tomorrow, but I thought you might be doing something." His voice sounded almost the same. Older, of course, but there were the same inflections, the same hoarse tone.
"A few friends organised a party for me tonight." Kirsten slid down the wall until she was crouching. She didn't feel like dealing with this now. She'd been happy. She'd been over it tonight, she hadn't thought about Jimmy or the baby in years.
"Well, that's great to hear. Listen, Kirsten, I've also got some news…" Jimmy cleared his throat. Kirsten still knew it was because he was about to say something he thought the other person wouldn't like.
"I'm getting married. There's a woman I've met called Julie Cooper. She's… Well, she's pregnant, and we're getting married." Kirsten felt her voice catch in her throat. She knew this was the last link to 'back then', and it was firmly untying and floating into the wind, and she didn't know how to feel about it. She knew how she had to be on the outside, though. The new Kirsten- cool, calm, collected and, at this point, drunk.
"That's great, Jimmy. That's really great, I'm happy for you."
"I just… You and I were-"
"It's okay Jimmy. It's okay." There was silence then, and Kirsten felt the first tear slip down her cheek. Angrily, she wiped it away. She wasn't 19 and pregnant again. She wasn't still in love with him, and she'd done all the crying she could already. It felt like she'd spent most of last year, crying. If not over Jimmy or the baby than over every other little trigger.
"The weddings on the 26th. At Newport. I'll understand if you don't want to come, I know that you've been trying to avoid this place… Me. But it would mean a lot if you could be there."
"Jimmy, I wouldn't miss your wedding for the world. I'll be there." Another long silence.
"'Bye." Jimmy finally said, before he hung up. Kirsten was slower to close her phone, realising it was the first time she'd ended a phone conversation with Jimmy and he hadn't told her he loved her. She slowly got up, relishing the dizzy, untouchable feeling of the alcohol. She stayed against the wall to steady herself.
"So, who made you cry on," he checked his watch, "your birthday?" The husky Bronx accent made her smile as she realised who it was.
"It's my party, I'll cry if I want to." She said, wiping her eyes, and putting her phone back in her bag.
"Aptly quoted. Do you feel like going back inside?" Sandy Cohen offered her his hand.
"I'd rather go home, I think. But you could walk me?" She took his hand before he took it back, smiled up into his eyes. There was something about this man that she liked. Something safe, steadfast. Someone kind. Something she had been craving. She linked her fingers with his and leaned into him.
"So, you have family problems too?" Kirsten asked.
"Yeah, my dad was never there, my mother worked all the time… Still does work all the time. I don't think she's noticed that I've moved out yet…" Kirsten laughed, felt as buoyant as she had ever felt. Happiness was finally hers.