Withholdings And Confrontations
Two weeks before Christmas, Joan runs into Adam in Arcadia and wonders why he didn't tell her he was coming to visit. Third (and most probably last) tie in to my stories "Old Wounds" and "Time's A Great Healer". ONE SHOT.
This is the third (and last) tie-in to my stories "Old Wounds" and "Time's A Great Healer", both future fics that play nine years after Joan and Adam graduated high school. I am planning to write a sequel to those two stories, it'll probably become a trilogy at some point. And this is the third of the interludes that will set up part three.
A short note on the timeline. "Old Wounds" plays in January. "Time's A Great Healer" plays in March. The first interlude "Lightning And Thunder" plays in June, the second interlude "Dislocated" plays in August. This is December, two weeks before Christmas. The year is 2014, eight years after Joan, Adam and Grace's high school graduation.
thought I should post this now, it's been a while since I've written
it. I'm hoping for a few reviews from you, guys, because I have been
hit with major writer's block. I have now finished moving to my new
apartment and everything is finally set up and ready, so that I
actually have time again for puny things like fan fiction. But the muse
obviously stayed behind in the old apartment... I have been working on
part three of the trilogy, but I'm kinda stuck now. Anyone who wants to
nudge me into writing, go ahead. Maybe it'll help. Don't count on it,
These characters and settings are not mine. Nor am I claiming they are. They are property of CBS, Barbara Hall Productions, Sony or whoever else they might belong to. I'm not making any money out of this, although I wish I was.
I look up at his handsome face with the distinct nose as I have loosely slung my left arm around his waist as we're walking through downtown Arcadia. I take in his blond hair, which is, although short, just as straight and un-curly as mine—and I picture the piercing blue-grey eyes that go so well with it, because I can't see them from where I'm walking next to him.
A smile briefly crosses my face, because I remember how Brad showed me what it meant to have a crush on someone, to fall in love with someone, to be in love with someone. Somehow I feel the sudden urge to skip and bounce up and down in the middle of the street and dance to that pop tune that has been stuck in my head ever since I heard it on the radio this morning.
"Hey, how about we grab something to eat?" he asks me, totally out of the blue. He has a way with being spontaneous. This irritates me sometimes, but then I should be the last person to be bothered when someone is spontaneous or impulsive—because who could be more impulsive than myself? But maybe that's why it bothers me so much, because I suddenly realize how unnerving that can be.
"Jo?" he asks I, looking at me.
Jane, Jo, JoJo. Why is that people feel the need to give me nicknames when my name is already short and monosyllabic? Why can't people just use my real name?
I look at him, saying, "I don't know. I'm not that hungry. I thought we were going to prepare those chicken breasts that we thawed overnight." My mind is already at work on what to do with the meat now. Can I maybe fry it to be eaten the next day? Can I put it back in the freezer? Throwing it away seems like such a waste. I don't like throwing food away when it's still good to be eaten.
"Forget the chicken, we can have that any day. I feel like having something..." Brad stops in front of the Greek restaurant we were just passing. "...Greek," he finishes the sentence, pointing animatedly at the entrance.
He wanders over to the menu that is displayed in a glass case next to the front door, studying it. I'm not convinced. I don't really feel like having greasy hash with soggy French Fries and goat cheese salad. I peek through the window, maybe the cozy atmosphere will invite me in anyway.
I almost jerk backwards when familiar faces greet me from a table set for three across the room. But instead of hiding from sight, there's something that makes me cup my hands next to my eyes on the window pane to check if my visual senses haven't deceived me. But there they sure are: Tom, Grace and Adam.
My forehead wrinkles into a frown. Adam? Here? In Arcadia? And he didn't even tell me? I have to swallow suddenly. Why wouldn't he tell me he was here? Why would he be out to dinner with Grace and Tom and not even let me know he was in the vicinity. He had said he would be over around Christmas time, but Christmas was still almost two weeks away.
Brad's voice pulls me from my reverie. "Joan?"
I turn around to look at him, but I stare right past him. "Hm?" I ask him, confused.
"What's wrong, Jo? I asked you twice if you're game, their menu looks really good."
I feel his hand softly closing round my arm, guiding me towards the entrance. He's really good at persuasive but gentle subtleties, especially when he wants to get his way.
For the sake of avoiding further argument, I usually just give in. But not tonight. I turn away, so his hand loses its physical contact on me. "No, I don't want to have Greek tonight," I tell him. "Can't we just eat at home?"
"But I have this sudden craving for souvlaki and rice. Look, I already picked my dish from the menu."
Not only is he good at sudden spontaneity, he's also good at relentlessness. I know relentlessness, but I've never really seen it as a bad thing. Now I wonder if all those people that I was relentless with felt the same way I feel now: frustrated and getting angrier by the minute.
"Brad, I don't want to eat here. Please?" I try the pleading approach. That sometimes works. Not tonight though.
"Aw, come on, Jo, don't be a spoilsport." His voice becomes more threatening, like he's just waiting for an angry or snappy retort of mine to pick a fight.
But my mind is elsewhere, I'm not intent on fighting tonight, but I know I can't go into that restaurant right now. I try to come up with a quick solution that will please all parties. "Brad, let's go home and order in, you always say Acropolis makes a killer souvlaki. Then we can all be happy."
But once Brad has his mind set on something, he's not good with compromises. His gaze pierces me and I can just keep from stepping backwards, because there is a tiny glint in his eyes that frightens me. "I'm hungry, and I'm hungry right now," he almost snarls. He vaguely reminds me of a stubborn and spoiled only-child, but I know he has a brother two years his senior.
I draw in a breath and try to prepare myself for the blow that's inevitably going to follow. "I said I don't wanna go in there, and I'm not going in there," I tell him determinedly. "Eat whatever you want, wherever you want, but I'm not entering that restaurant."
I can see by the way he opens his mouth that he wants to utter a sharp reply, something to let the verbal sparks fly, but then he cocks his head slightly to one side and looks at me questioningly. "Why?" he asks very simply.
"I..." I wasn't prepared for that question. I was bracing myself for the onslaught, and not thinking up an explanation. I try to stay ahead of the game, try to think quickly. The first thing that comes to my mind is, "My aunt got food poisoning the last time she ate here."
"Your aunt? When was she here?"
'Damn!' I think. Brad knows I only have one aunt, and she hasn't been to Arcadia in years, always off on some trip round the world or other. "I mean my godmother. We always call her Aunt Ronnie," I quickly stutter.
The frown etches itself deeper into Brad's features. "Aunt Ronnie? You never told me about her."
I try to salvage what I can. "Yeah, well, she lives in Connecticut now, rarely comes to visit. I barely see her anymore. She came to visit for a day a few weeks ago, passing through on her way south." Boy, that sounds so lame, doesn't it? Since when had I become a right-out liar?
"Maybe she had the stomach flu or something. I'm sure the food in here will be just fine," Brad plows on. "Come on, Jo." He nudges his shoulder towards the entrance, expecting me to follow him.
"No, Brad, I said I'm not going," I tell him, my voice strong, determined.
He lifts his arms in frustration. "Fine," he says bitterly. "Play the killjoy, you're real good at that lately. I don't know why I bother anymore."
I am taken aback at his insult, his insinuation. What does he mean, I'm good at that lately? When was I a killjoy lately? Or is it just that I have become fed up with his urge to control every situation, to be the leader in every game we play? Is it because he's not good with people who oppose him and open their mouths when they don't agree with his suggestions or opinion?
I am too angry and stunned to reply anything, so I watch him turn on his heel and walk away. I don't know why I turn around and look through the restaurant window again. Tom is sitting with his back to me, Grace I can see in profile and Adam faces me from the inside.
I study Adam's face for a moment, watch how he absently rips a piece off his bun to dunk it in some leftover sauce on his plate, laughing at something Grace just said. He pops the bun into his mouth, chewing on it while he's still smiling. God, that smile is so disarming, so endearingly carefree just in this moment.
I wonder when I've last seen him this happy. Not anytime lately, that's for sure. Not that I've seen him lately anyway. The last time we saw each other in person after my trip to Chicago was in August or September. We ran into each other by chance, actually. I remember the kind of awkward encounter in the hospital, him having dislocated his shoulder. With pang of guilt I realize that I had been so engrossed in my own life and Brad that I never even thought of calling him in Chicago, asking how he or his father, who had been in the hospital as well with a slipped disc, were doing.
It had also been the first and so far only time he had met Brad. He hadn't known about Brad and me before that day, actually. It was sort of awkward. No, it was brutally awkward, who am I kidding? I still remember how he tried to hide his disappointment at seeing me with Brad—who was so obviously my boyfriend. He had never been good at hiding his feelings—and that was one thing that hadn't changed about Adam Rove. That I was sure of.
Suddenly, Adam lifts his head and looks directly at me through the window. I quickly step back from the window, feeling like an indulgent child, caught in the act. Had he seen me? I pray that he didn't, because it would make me look stupid, not to mention embarrassing.
What the hell am I doing anyway? I have a boyfriend. Maybe not the most perfect one, especially not after this fight we just had, but I know we will make up again and he'll be the sweetest guy you know and we will fiercely make love afterwards, holding each other before we drift off to sleep. That's our routine after almost any fight, and it always works.
Until the next one.
"Joan?" I hear an all too familiar male voice from behind me.
I spin around in a sudden movement to face him—Adam, having just stepped out of the restaurant, looking at me standing here in front of the window.
'Damn you!' I want to scream at him. But both my feet and my tongue are frozen. I finally get words out that say, "What are you doing here?" It sounds too accusing even to me.
He frowns, then says as a half-question, "Having dinner?"
"No, not here," I point at the restaurant. "In Arcadia."
Now he seems to see what I'm getting at, because his eyes cloud over with sudden understanding and a quiet, hidden guilt. "Joan," he says, trying to placate me.
"Don't 'Joan' me. What happened to 'Jane', huh?" I spit at him. "You come to Arcadia, have a nice dinner with Grace and Tom and you don't even have the simple courtesy of picking up the phone to tell me you're here? How long was it going to be until you'd let me know? A week? Maybe two? Or maybe you'd call from Chicago, saying, 'Oh, and by the way, I'm sorry I didn't look you up when I was visiting my dad over Christmas, I only stayed for three weeks'!"
I am too angry to stop before the words are out of my mouth, too angry to notice the hurt in his eyes as I'm just short of shouting at him out here in the street.
He wraps his arms around his torso in the cold winter air; I barely realize he's only clad in a thin cotton button-down shirt. In a huffy voice he tells me, "I got here this afternoon and Grace happened to call and invite me to have dinner. And just so you know, I was going to call you tomorrow. After sorting things out with Dad."
I feel immediately sorry, I hadn't meant to snap at him like that. What did he mean, things with his dad? "Sorting things out with your father?" I inquire, trying to sound carefully neutral.
"He had back surgery a few days ago," Adam tells me matter-of-factly, still sounding upset. "I have to take care of rehab options, see what we can afford."
I have to swallow, all the anger suddenly evaporating. "Adam, I didn't know," I try to apologize. "I'm sorry I went off on you. It's just... I had a fight with Brad and then I saw you here with Grace and Tom, and I thought... I don't know what I thought. It was stupid."
He briefly narrows his eyes as if he's trying to decide whether to accept the apology or not. "Look, why don't you come in?" Adam gestured at the restaurant door.
But I don't think I can take any more socializing today, so I decline. "Thanks, but I don't think that's such a good idea. I'll give you a call tomorrow or so if you want. Maybe we can meet up later."
He nods, saying, "Yeah, sure." He sounds his old, usual calm now, no irritation left in his voice. "We'll talk later."
"Okay," I tell him as I turn to go. "See ya."
As I walk away, I hear the restaurant door opening and closing, indicating that he must have gone back inside. Hand it to Joan Girardi to ruin Adam's night out. I sigh and adjust my scarf to protect me from the damp cold as I walk towards the nearest bus stop. I'm confused and angry and full of dread to return home and run into Brad, who might be waiting for me there in my apartment. I curse myself for having given him the key. For once, I don't want to make up with him, not today. I wonder if I should sleep over at Dad's place tonight.