Chapter 15 - Well, hello there.
A/N: *knock knock* Anybody there? I don't know how 3 years and 8 months managed to elapse between the last chapter and this one. But when I dug out my old laptop and realised that this chapter has sat there two-thirds of the way finished for the last 2 and a half years, there was no way I could leave it there any longer. So I tried to put myself back in the frame of mind I had in 2007/2008 when I was immersed in writing this story, and I hope you all like the end result. Hopefully it does not take me another 4 years to write the next chapter, but no matter if my old readers are still out there or I am trying to lure in an entirely new audience, I am just happy to know that the Jackie and Hyde of this story aren't sitting on a hard-drive somewhere gathering dust.
Happy reading. :)
Warning: Mild Language.
Disclaimer: Own nothing.
APRIL 30TH 1981
Jackie and Jerry arrived at a surprisingly plush, well-to-do neighbourhood with perfectly mowed lawns as far as the eye could see. It was hardly the environment Jackie had envisioned skunk-smelling, shaggy-haired, shower-phobic Johnny Robins living in. But if this 3,000 square feet palace was where she would be bringing her friends to meet her faux boyfriend in a few months, then Jackie would just have to make do.
The girls found Johnny outside his garage, lounging on a recliner chair, wearing a tattered, black wife-beater – and not a whole lot else.
"Baby, what did I tell you about showing your balls in public?" Jerry asked sweetly, strutting over to give him a deep, open-mouthed kiss and settling herself on the edge of his chair.
Johnny thought for a moment. "It's not worth it unless there are more than five people in the street."
"Exactly," she crooned, leaning down for another kiss.
Jackie sighed at their sick, ooey-gooiness. She stood with her arms folded and her eyes shielded behind a pair of ridiculously over-sized sunglasses, a safe distance between her and Johnny's disarming odour.
Johnny seemed to notice Jackie after Jerry stopped counting his remaining teeth with her tongue. "Hey, Jackie," he grinned. "Where've you been? I was beginning to think you didn't like me."
"Wow, you were just beginning to think that? I thought you were quicker than that."
"Be nice!" Jerry ordered. "That's no way to talk to our boyfriend."
"Yeah, about this whole thing... why the hell am I a part of this?"
"Well, Johnny, you were the first guy who came to mind." Johnny smiled. "You're the only guy I know who's so retarded that he'd believe I really was his girlfriend if I said so."
Jerry sighed, standing up to walk around the chair to get her bag. "Okay, that's enough you two. Jackie, you get the scissors; I'll take care of these nails."
Groaning, Jackie stomped over to Jerry, snatched the scissors from her hands, and knelt behind Johnny. "Ugh," she said, turning her nose up. "I'm going to need sterile gloves and a gas mask to sift through this mess."
The girls commenced their male grooming and, sensing this could be a long process, began reciting all the details he would need to pull of this charade: how he and Jackie met, how he wooed her (Jackie insisted he say "wooed" when retelling this story to Donna) with musical compositions, by spelling out words of affection in the sky, and with horse-drawn carriage rides on the beach. They would have to hammer these exact details, and more, into his mind every day for the next ten weeks until Eric, Donna, Hyde and Lucy had came, seen, and left. It was doable, Jackie assured herself. A psychology major and an expert in manipulation, Jackie rationalised that this was a healthy activity which would allow Jackie to live out her life-long desire to be on the arm of the perfect man and be seen as the epitome of a woman in the eyes of those around her. And if it prevented questions being asked about her love-life before Johnny, then that was a dandy bonus. Because she didn't think the accidental slap on the ass from a 70 year old man with Parkinson's disease in line at the DMV would live up to the salacious hype she had concocted every time she returned to Point Place and was grilled about her romantic escapades.
"Hmm?" Jackie murmured.
Johnny craned his neck to look down at her. "You getting anywhere with this?" he asked, noticing she wasn't cutting anymore.
"Oh yeah, yeah. Just daydreaming."
Johnny nodded. "So… what's the deal with this guy who's coming? The one you dated." Jackie glared at Jerry, lips pursed.
"You mean the guy who I told Jerry not to tell you about because when you met him, I wanted you to ask 'Who are you?' and not recognise his name when he told you, leading him to ask if I had ever mentioned him, and you responding with, 'No, Jackie never mentioned you. Were you close?' And he would be devastated and suicidal that he clearly meant so little to me that I never thought him important enough to talk about! You mean that guy, Johnny?"
"S-Should we maybe take the scissors away from her?" Johnny whispered, frozen in terror at the demon kneeling behind him.
Frowning, Jackie cut at his hair all the more forcefully. "All you're supposed to know, and all you need to know, is I don't want to be the fifth wheel when my friends arrive and so I need a guy to show off when they're around so I don't feel like a complete loser."
"Well, what about me, Jackie?" Jerry said. "I'm renting out my boyfriend here-"
"You traded him for Donny Osmond tickets!"
"-and I don't know anything really about the guy you're so eager to show him off in front of."
Jackie got off her feet, now having cut enough hair that she didn't have to crouch down to reach the last of it. "There's nothing to tell. Yes, once upon a time, there might have been, but we haven't been a couple in years. He's with someone else now, and he's happy doing what he's doing."
"Yes, but is he happy doing who he's doing?" Jerry asked.
Jackie let her arms fall to her sides, amazement lighting her face. "You're as bad as the first guy I dated, you know that?" she said, laughing.
Jerry had by this point ceased work on Johnny, choosing instead to lie back on the pavement and enjoy the sun. With her eyes closed, she spoke again; "You had a thing with this guy for years, and when it ended, you moved a billion miles away just to get away from him. Come on, Jackie." Jerry sat up, putting up a hand to block the sun. "Why did you leave Wisconsin?"
Jackie looked at Jerry, then at Johnny's hair, and quietly started brushing the stray hairs away.
Well there goes that plan, Jackie thought as she flopped down on her bed.
She had just returned home from an audition to host a Point Place cable access show. The job was ridiculously out of her league, but the very fact that she had been invited for a face-to-face interview filled Jackie with a refreshing feeling of hope and motivation to make 1979 a year to remember - for all the right reasons for a change. However, Jackie's performance had failed to impress the judges and she honestly couldn't blame them: she kept forgetting her lines, even after she had been forced to resort to cue cards, she kept dropping her props, and she couldn't even remember the name of the station! 'Point Place TV' - who knew that could be such a tongue-twister?
But Jackie didn't care about losing the job. Jackie didn't care about a whole lot of things these days, except for avoiding the pitying looks of her friends; and this job had been her one opportunity to prove to them all that the spoiled little girl with MIA parents and no prospects could stand on her own two feet and accomplish something on her own.
Jackie rolled around on her bed for the next few minutes, trying desperately to shake the negative thoughts out of her head, until the clatter of envelopes broke her out of her pity party and made her go downstairs to see what fresh pile of junk and bills Mr. Mailman had left for her today.
She bounded down the stairs and felt her head ache all over when she saw an envelop with the Point Place High School logo across the top.
"This can't be good", she muttered to herself. She snatched up the envelope and was pleasantly relieved to find that inside contained no disciplinary letter - or worse, a beg for charitable donations - but rather a student survey titled, "What comes next?". Jackie gave it a quick scan and realised it was one of the school's ways to figure out how many of its graduating class were going to college, had lined up internships, were actively seeking jobs, or were undecided (i.e. sitting on your ass, getting fat and growing enough body hair to clog a water dam).
The survey reminded Jackie of a half-finished application she had lying somewhere under her bed. She had started to fill it out one day in school just so she could shut up the psych-feminist guidance counsellor who kept harping on about "College! College College!". Unsurprisingly, Donna was on her Christmas Card list. But once she got home, she had fired the application under her bed out of sight, and never gave it a second thought.
Jackie was all set to mark 'Undecided' on the form when, for no specific reason other than whimsical curiosity, she decided to dust off the long-forgotten application and see exactly how far she had gotten.
Half an hour and several fruit drinks later, Jackie was sitting on the floor of her pink palace bedroom, perusing her application form and smirking at the obvious frustration with which she had filled out the first page under the annoyingly watchful eye of her guidance counsellor. But Jackie had to admit that filling her mind with thoughts of college presented her with a pleasant distraction from the rampant negativity that had been running through her mind in recent weeks. Flicking through the unfinished pages of her application, Jackie felt a momentary crash when she realised the deadline date had come and gone before Christmas (and the less Jackie thought about that time, the better). Fortunately, there was still a bit of time before the 'Late Entry' deadline would come up, and Jackie decided on a spur-of-the-moment whim to finish off the form, hunt down the weakest of her weak-willed teachers for some glowing letters of recommendation, and leave the rest up to chance.
After 3 days and a few threats of restraining orders, Jackie had her finished application all ready to go. Looking down at the finalised document, Jackie asked herself over and over, 'What am I doing? What am I doing?'. College had never EVER been an ambition of hers, and even on the remote chance that Jackie got accepted onto the reserve list and given a last-minute spot on one of her preferred courses, who was around to help her pay the tuition? Her mother? Think again. Her father? Sure, he must be crapping out gold in his jail cell. Jackie was not left with very many options, but 'To hell with it!' was her train of thought at this very moment. She may get accepted to college, she may not. She may have the money to pay the tuition, she may not.
But whatever happened, it was going to be by her own doing. Those pitying looks could go screw themselves.
JULY 12TH 1981
"Am I ready? How do I look?" Jackie patted down the sides of her tightly-fitted, strapless, black dress.
"Perfect. You've got a total Farrah thing going on."
"Thank you, Johnny, but I was asking for Jerry's opinion."
Johnny rolled his eyes and wandered away somewhere.
"You look beautiful, baby," Jerry assured her, coming up to hold Jackie by the shoulders. "Now, open the door before they ring that goddamm bell again."
Jackie threw her hands up. "They're from Wisconsin! Working doorbells get them excited!"
Jackie turned, grabbed the doorknob, breathed deeply, and opened the door to a soaked Eric Forman who didn't appear to have his eyes open, and who was shaking his finger and bobbing his head like one of those bobbly-head toys.
"I pray, for your sake and mine, that this is the right house – and that I am not about to get another glass of vodka and tequila in my face!" Jerry stood at Jackie's side, a hand on her hip with an unimpressed expression to match Jackie's cock-eyed one.
"If this is your ex…" Jerry seemed unable to finish her sentence. The trail-off said it all.
"No. This is my friend's ex who, if she was at all smart, would still have him as her ex," Jackie informed her. Eric's eyes lit up when he opened them.
"Hey! It's Jackie!" Eric screeched. That irritatingly nervous squeak in his voice hadn't dissipated over time.
"Eric, why are you so wet?"
"Well, it's-" Eric shook off the water from his hair. "Can I come in?"
"…Sure…," Jackie said, wiping a drop of V&T away from her eyebrow. She stepped back to allow Eric through and ducked her head out to see the others, but she figured they must have parked out of view.
"As I was saying, I went to like 30 houses looking for you guys. Thanks, Jackie, by the way, for insisting we come find you in a strange city instead of you coming to meet us at the airport." Jackie waved her hand in a 'whatever/what are you gonna do?' manner. "So, at every house I went to, I asked if there was a John here, and they all responded by throwing vodka and tequila in my face and by calling me a disgusting, common bum."
"I can see where the disgusting part came in," Jerry said, fanning the air in front of her nose.
"It was a long flight!" Eric shouted in defence, that irritating squeak still present.
"I can't believe they threw their drinks at you," Jackie marvelled.
"Don't feel bad about it. They were kind enough to only throw from one of the glasses they were holding."
Johnny walked down the hallway and grinned. "God love suburban housewives." He had returned with a towel, which he tossed to Eric. "Here, buddy. Go wash up."
Eric eyed the half-naked man who was showing the half Eric was in no way in the mood for seeing. "Uhh, thanks," he muttered, moving his eyes to the chandelier.
"Johnny! Where'd your clothes go?" Jackie exclaimed.
He frowned. "Huh?" He looked down and chuckled. "Oops."
Jackie groaned. "Johnny, we've been over this. When you go to the bathroom, you only need to unzip," she said, miming the action. "You do not need to take off your pants completely," she said, miming again. Johnny followed her movements with perplexed eyes. Actions and movements were how Jackie and Jerry had installed the idea of acceptable social behaviour into his brain, and Jackie was praying that it would all come flooding back before the Cruiser's battery died and 75% of her guests started pounding on the door.
Jerry the Saviour stepped up. "I'll take care of him," she promised pulling him away and out of sight.
Jackie looked at Eric and gritted her teeth into a smile, banging her wrists together. "So… what do you think?"
Donna, Hyde, and Lucy's entrance was a blur in Jackie's mind.
Donna was still tall, confident, and smiley – she noticed that.
Lucy was still a 5ft 7in, curvy, light brunette with Osmond-like teeth – Jackie sure as hell noticed that.
Hyde was… Hyde was Hyde in Jackie's mind. Employed? Independent? Easy on the eyes? Yes, yes, and "fuck me, yes!" But he was still the same Hyde he'd been since he was 10. The glasses, while not on his face, were clipped to the top of his t-shirt. The hair and the sideburns were still intact and proof that "Wake up, remove pillow" was a sufficient hair-care routine for some people. Even AC/DC were still gracing the front of his t-shirt.
Fortunately, Jackie needed not worry about how she looked in their eyes. Her hair had a definite Farrah thing going on; her face was smooth and flawless; her dress made accentuated everything she wanted to be seen and everything she wanted to stay hidden; and her "boyfriend" was now clothed, groomed, and scented to look the part of the perfect man.
The group, Jerry included, had gathered in Johnny's living room and were sitting in a make-shift circle: Jackie and Johnny squeezed into a fluffy armchair; Donna was sprawled out along one of the sofas, her feet on top of Eric's knees; Hyde and Lucy took the two other armchairs; and Jerry perched on an edge of the coffee table, one leg over the other and her chin in her hand as she listened to the back-and-forth exchanges concerning the sordid lives of these Point Place reunited.
"…And the next thing I knew, there was Eric, standing on the beach," Donna finished, sharing a smile with Eric.
"Aww," Jerry cooed. "You guys are such a great couple."
Jackie and Hyde sniggered quietly enough that Eric and Donna didn't notice, but loudly enough that Johnny and Lucy were staring at their respective partners with tickled faces.
Jerry turned to Jackie. "So, what about you two? You guys must have some sweet stories to share." Jackie beamed at Jerry's verbatim recital of what Jackie told her to say as a cue for the perfect romantic story.
"Oh, we have the best stories! Don't we, honey?" Jackie asked, patting Johnny's knee.
Eric bounced in his seat. "Oh! Tell them about the one where I walked in here and Johnny had his pants off!"
Jackie's gritted smile returned as five interested faces turned to look at her. She looked to Jerry for help, but she knew as soon as she did that it was a mistake. Jerry stuttered for a moment before starting:
"Johnny was just… uh, showing off his… big… dick."
You gotta love a good dead silence every once in a while. At least they aren't giving me the freaky looks anymore, Jackie numbly thought.
Jerry continued. "I mean, this is guy is h-u-n-g: HUNG! You should see Jackie trying to walk to class some mornings! It's like…" She got up and started moving around like a penguin, to the amusement of Eric, Donna, Hyde and Lucy; to the utter humiliation of Jackie who slid further and further down into her seat; and to the… well, Johnny didn't seem to notice any of this.
Donna and Lucy doubled over in laughter, while Eric and Hyde faked a few chuckles before looking at each other and dying to ask, "How much do you hate this guy?"
Jackie jumped up and dragged Jerry onto the arm of her chair. "She's kidding. This girl's a real kidder," Jackie said, emphasising the last word with a slap to Jerry's arm. "So… Hyde." Hyde's head shot up at the sound of her calling him by his last name, but his expression remained as aloof as ever. Jackie had on her face the biggest fake smile ever known to Man, but she was counting on a little bit of jetlag and a big ol' bottle of vodka from keeping Hyde from noticing. "I'm sure you must have some great stories to tell us all! And by 'us', I mean the three of us. And by 'the three of us', I mean Jerry". Jerry stopped gulping her glass of vodka long enough to give Hyde a beleaguered thumbs-up, then returned her attention to her drink.
Hyde grinned a little and replied, "There really isn't much to tell. Work's good, family's good, home is...", he let his eyes linger on Lucy for a moment, "better than ever", he finished. Not too long ago, Jackie would have felt that last remark sting like a direct insult, but tonight she could see that there was no malice behind Hyde's words. The look she had witnessed between Hyde and Lucy was one that she had never seen him give in the past and, if it was possible, that made his words sting just a tiny bit more. She let the fake smile fall away from her face, and in its place it was replaced with a soft, contemplative smile. Of course, to every other Point Place resident in the room it was simply a sign that they could exhale and relax around the reunited ex-lovers.
"Well, that's really nice to hear", she said, finally making real eye contact with Lucy. Of all the emotions Jackie had readied herself against feeling this evening, 'calm' or 'serenity' were not topping the list. But in this room of old friends and new company, ex-boyfriends and pretend partners, Jackie let all the pressure go and at long last let herself stop running from the fear of confronting where she and Hyde now stood.
To be continued...
A/N: So what did you think? I would love to know!