Disclaimer: I don't own.
Warning: A little language.
AN: Thanks SOOOO much for the reviews! I'm pretty inspired, so keep 'em coming and I'll keep the chapters coming. Probably once a week. Kind of like a tv show. Go figure. :) Hope you enjoy! Thanks so much for reading!
The Secret of Katherine
Great. Now my mom is crying like a baby. Is it my fault she knocked the glass off the table? Then cut her hand when she went to pick up the shards? God, why didn't she just use a broom, like anyone with reasonable intelligence would? I look over towards the sink. She's standing there and my dad is holding her hand and pressing a towel into it. He keeps giving me these looks, and I know what they mean.
How can you do this to your mother?
I look away, back at the table. How could she do this to me? She's lied to me my entire life.
"Damn, Jackie, how deep did you stick that glass?" She whimpers, and Dad's voice immediately softens. "Alright, just calm down, baby. You're okay. Look, it's not as bad now. See? You always told me pressure was a good thing."
I roll my eyes. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help it. I hate her. I really hate her, and I want her to know it. "She probably did it on purpose, so you'd get all stupid over her the way you always do."
No one says anything, and I just keep looking at the table. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Dad whisper something to her, then stalk back to me. He puts his hand on the back of my neck, and I don't dare shake him off the way I did her when she wanted to brush hair off my shoulder a few minutes ago.
"If you say one more smart ass thing to or about your mother, that pretty car your driving? Yeah. It'll be scrap metal. So shut your mouth."
He takes his hand off me, and I glare up at him. "Look, can we just get this whole talk over with? I've got things to do."
Yeah. Like destroying every note, every dead flower, every present Tommy ever gave me. Like tearing up all the supposedly cute letters my mother's written to me since I was born.
Dad gives me a hard look. "Thin ice, Katherine." He looks away, probably at Mom, but I just look at the table again. I used to think it was so pretty, maple wood that my mom keeps in perfect condition, in spite of three kids and my dad. I hear him say something to her about cleaning her cut, and then he leaves.
I don't look up, but I feel it the instant she sits down across from me. She's looking at me, and that makes me shiver. I close my eyes. No tears. No. NO. I'm not going to cry just because she's looking at me!
"I don't blame you for hating me, sweetie," she says quietly. "Maybe we should have told you sooner. But if you just listen to us, I know you'll understand. You're a romantic, just like me, and that's what this is about. Love. It really is, Katie."
I look at her, and despite everything, my chest starts hurting. She looks so sad, pale and just...weak. Then again, she wants me to believe that a drunken night of infidelity resulting in an unwanted pregnancy and shotgun wedding is an amazing love story. I smirk. "Whatever."
To my surprise, she doesn't burst into another round of tears. She just gives me a tiny smile and a shake of her head. "You sound so much like your dad used to."
I swallow and look over my shoulder. God, what is taking him so freaking long?
After I clean Jackie's hand up, we settle in the living room. Katie's sitting in my chair, and Jackie's sitting real close to me on the couch. She's got her arm linked through mine. She's always liked that more than holding hands. Makes her feel like I'm taking care of her, I guess. Whatever. I just want to get this story told so Katie can get over it.
She will. Donna's not so amazing that she's gonna disown her mother. Katie loves Jackie. She's just forgotten.
Funny, I did that once, too.
"Okay," I say. "So we told you about our last breakup."
"And your first marriage."
I raise an eyebrow at my daughter. "And my sham of a marriage." Jackie's fingers press into my skin, and I move my left hand to her thigh. "Now, you should know that your mother and I did not hate each other." I look at Jackie, and she's giving me a disbelieving look. "Okay, we did, but we basically kept it quiet."
Jackie nods. "We managed to be pretty civil to one another."
"In fact, it was almost as if we were never together," I say. Again, Jackie looks at me and I shrug. "Not really, but we pretty much acted like it, at least to each other's faces." She doesn't need to know about my drunken rants about her. None of the old gang does. I always went out of town for those. Strangers are much better listeners. At least they were then.
Jackie nods, but she's sad now, and all I can do is squeeze her leg and look into her eyes.
My lips turn up. Can't help it. Those eyes, man, they just get to me.
Katie clears her throat. "Okay, so you were civil. How does that lead to drunken sex?"
I sigh. Should be used to interruptions by now. I just ignore her question. "I guess it really started the day I finalized my divorce."
I look at Jackie, expecting the usual tiny squeal and brilliant smile. We've only talked about it a few times in the past couple years, but in the beginning, whenever it came up, she'd do that.
Not this time. She just looks down at where her hand is wrapped around my forearm.
I take a breath and look at Katie. "Your grandmother Kitty told me a story that got me thinking."
Jackie and I look at one another. She looks a little confused. I've never told her this before.
Guess it's about time I do.
Point Place, mid April, 1980, the Forman kitchen
Hyde sat at the table, enjoying the lunch Mrs. Forman made for him. She was being a bit smothering, but hell. Why disappoint her? With Forman out of the house, she needed someone to fuss over, and he might as well be it.
He grinned, then took a huge bite out of his sandwich. Life was good. He was divorced, back to be the free and single man he was meant to be.
"Steven, would you like some more Tang?"
He managed to stifle a laugh and simply nodded.
She filled his glass, then sat down across from him. "So, Steven. How are you doing? I know this must be a hard day for you."
"Not really," he said without thinking.
She raised her eyebrows. "But you lost your wife, Steven. You must be hurting."
He shook his head and finished chewing another bite of sandwich. "Nope. Feel pretty good." When Mrs. Forman gave him a disapproving look, he shrugged. "What can I say? I don't even think I loved her. I mean, if I did, it wouldn't feel so good to be divorced."
Mrs. Forman huffed and stood up. "Well, it's nice to know that you take love and marriage so lightly." She turned and walked to the sink, where she began washing them at a furious pace. "What did I do wrong with you, Steven?"
She continued to mumble, and Hyde shifted in his chair. Better change tacks, or else Mrs. Forman would wind up giving him the cold shoulder instead of spoiling him. "Uh, well, maybe I feel a little bad," he said quickly. She looked at him hopefully, and he sighed as heavily as he could. "I'm just trying to hide it from everyone, even you. And that's wrong."
Mrs. Forman's face exploded in sunshine, and she clasped her hands to her chest. "Oh, Steven, I knew you were just pretending! Let me make you some cookies. That'll make you feel all better, won't it?"
He grinned. "Of course it will, Mrs. Forman." He took a drink, and when the sliding glass door opened, turned to see Jackie walking in, one of her hands behind her back. A slight tugging started in the bottom of his stomach, but he ignored it. "Hey."
"Hello, Steven," she said, stopping next to him.
He continued eating, but felt her eyes on him, and looked up at her. She wasn't smiling, wasn't frowning, but she looked as if she was preparing to say something. The tug in his gut became stronger, and he scowled. "Do you need something, Jackie?"
"Yes. Fez was cleaning out my closet..."
He chuckled. "You made Fez clean out your closet? What happened? Did you catch him in that tree with binoculars again?"
She glared at him. "No. He offered to do it. See, Fez is a good boyfriend. He does things for me all the time, unlike you."
He shook his head and returned his attention to his lunch, though he wasn't hungry any longer. Funny how she'd forgotten that he'd gone to jail for her, knocked a guy (actually, a dozen) out for her, risked a lifelong friendship for her, sneaked her into the basement for weeks when she was alone at her huge house, gone to that stupid dinner party... He clenched a fist. Yeah. That was all nothing.
"Anyway, we found this and I figured you'd like to have it back."
He looked. She was holding a black tee shirt, and he knew exactly which one it was. Swallowing hard, trying to ignore the twister in his stomach and the pain through his forehead, he took it from her. "That's cool," he said, his voice tinny and hoarse. He quickly cleared his throat. Whatever. Didn't matter. So what if he'd given it to her for a reason? So what if he'd never asked for it back?
He felt her eyes on him.
"Is that all you have to say?" she asked.
He looked at her, and for a moment, he thought she looked disappointed. He noticed that her fingers lingered on the edge of the shirt. His heart turned upside down, then back over again, but he shook his head. No. He was imagining it. He steeled himself. Gave her the most emotionless, controlled look he could. "What do you want me to say, Jackie?"
He knew what she wanted him to say. She wanted him to break down, to plead with her not to give it back, to tell her how sorry he was for hurting her, to say he was the biggest idiot in the world and he'd do anything to have her back. She wanted him to proclaim his undying love for her and threaten suicide if she stayed with Fez. And she wanted him to say all that just so she could throw her new relationship in his face.
He wished he felt like laughing.
Jackie rolled her eyes and waved her hand at him. Dismissing him. "Fine. Never mind. Mrs. Forman, I'm so glad you're here."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her flutter towards the sink. He tried not to listen. Tried not to stare at the shirt. Tried not to notice the tag, or the H+J written on it in red marker.
And of course, he failed at all of it.
"Well, thank you, Jackie."
"I need you to give me cooking lessons, Mrs. Forman."
The H + J seemed to become bigger, seemed to glow, and Hyde couldn't look away. And even though he tried to think of the pot in the El Camino's glove compartment, or the twelve pack waiting for him at the store, or the incredibly hot chick he was planning on hooking up with tonight, Jackie's name, her face, hovered there and destroyed the other thoughts.
"I don't know, Jackie. You won't even touch eggs."
"Oh no, I will this time, I promise. I want to do things right with Fez, and that includes cooking. He does it all the time, and I thought it would be nice if I could do it once a week."
He took a drink. Huh. She was willing to touch things that came out of chicken's butts for Fez. Great.
"Okay, Jackie. If you're really serious about it."
"Oh, I am."
He closed his eyes, but still saw the letters. She'd made him write those. Funny, when he'd given her the shirt, she hadn't wanted to wear it, but she had, the very next night. The first night they'd done it. She'd surprised him by sneaking into his room after midnight, wearing only the shirt. Afterwards, she'd asked him to write the H+J, begged him, really, with that damned pout. And she'd told him she'd keep it forever.
Guess forever ended today.
"Can we start today?"
Hyde glanced over at them. Jackie was giving Mrs. Forman such a hopeful look. Mrs. Forman answered her, but he wasn't sure how. The words were a blur.
He looked down at the shirt and saw Jackie's face that night, the way she'd looked at him with soft eyes and an inviting smile. The way she'd whispered to him afterwards, her breath tickling his ear, her words breaking through his Zen though he hadn't let it show.
"Steven. Steven. Steven?"
Whatever. He looked at Mrs. Forman, then at the door. Jackie was gone. He looked back at the shirt. Yeah. She was gone. With a slight grunt, he shoved the shirt across the table, so hard that it fell to the ground. Good. He couldn't see it anymore.
"Oh! Now I see what's going on. Steven, you're more upset about Jackie cooking for Fez than your divorce, aren't you?" She gasped and clasped her hands together. "You still have feelings for Jackie!"
He shook his head. "What? No. Of course not. I don't give a dam...darn about Jackie."
Mrs. Forman smiled and rushed to the table. She picked up the shirt and sat down across from him. "Now, Steven. There's nothing wrong with being jealous. You and Jackie were together for a long time, and I know you felt strongly about her."
He scowled. "I'm not jealous, Mrs. Forman."
"Oh, I think you are. And it's okay." She looked around, as if making sure the coast was clear. "I'm going to tell you a secret. I think Jackie is just trying to make you jealous. I mean, why else would she date Fez?" She gave him a conspiratorial look and leaned forward. "He's a sweet boy, but lets face it. He's just...odd. And poor, and a foreigner, so there's really no other reason for her to be with him."
Hyde stared at his plate. At first, he'd thought the same thing. But it couldn't be. She hardly looked at him anymore she was so damned wrapped up in Fez and his so-called worship.
"I did the same thing once, Steven. There was a dance I wanted Red to take me to, but he didn't want to go. So I decided to go with another boy, an amazing boy. He was tall, he had thick, dark hair, he was just beautiful. I told Red all about it, and he pretended that he didn't care." She reached across the table and placed her hand on top of his. "Do you know what he did?"
Hyde shook his head.
"Well, he showed up at the dance and beat that boy silly! And do you know what happened then?"
He shook his head again.
"He proposed, we got married, and look at us now! Happily ever after." Her smile floundered. "Well, almost, anyway. Close enough." She laughed and patted his hand. "So, see? It can work out. You just have to decide that you want her back..."
He slammed his hand on the table. "I don't want Jackie back!"
Mrs. Forman continued speaking as if he hadn't. "And wait it out. She'll give you an opening, Steven, trust me."
He rolled his eyes and stood up. "Yeah. Whatever. Thanks for lunch, but I'm out of here."
"Do you want your shirt?"
He'd turned to stalk out of the house, fully intending on sliding the glass door closed so hard it shattered, but stopped. His eyes closed.
"I'm gonna keep this forever, Steven. God, I can't believe something used could mean so much to me! And that is all because of you, Puddin' Pop."
He should leave. Take another road trip. Do something equally if not more stupid than the marriage to Sam had been. Get drunk. Get high. Get high and drunk and drive himself into a tree. Anything to get away from Jackie. And Fez. And Mrs. Forman, since apparently she was convinced he still loved her.
He should leave the shirt here.
Instead, he turned around, reached out and snatched it off the table. He didn't look at Mrs. Forman, but he knew she was smiling.
He'd burn the shirt later.
Milwaukee, WI, July 17, 1998, 9:50 am
I stare at Steven. He's not looking at me, he's staring at the coffee table. "Oh, Steven," I breathe, hardly able to keep the heat in my eyes from turning into yet more tears. I never knew...he's never told me...I mean, I always suspected, but...I move closer to him and hold his arm tighter. My other hand, the bandaged one, goes to his leg. "It really hurt you when I gave the shirt back."
Oh, my poor Puddin' Pop!
He looks at me, and gives me that smile, the half one, the soft one. I've never seen him give anyone else that smile, and it makes me go lightheaded.
God, I can't believe how I feel...all soft and melty and squishy...like I'm falling in love with him all over again. Knowing that even then, right at that moment when we both thought we were over one another, he wasn't...
I just want to kiss him until he can't feel anything but me, but an irritated voice stops me mid-lunge.
"So, what is this supposed to tell me?"
I can't look at her. She doesn't sound like my daughter. She sounds...
God, she sounds like Donna has the last couple years.
Steven speaks for me. "Katherine, I'm warning you..."
"Mommy, help me!"
Jake's voice flies into the living room, and he sounds like he's crying. I stand up. "I'll be right back."
A few minutes later, Jake and I are in the downstairs bathroom, and I'm cleaning up his scraped knee. He winces when I apply the peroxide. "I know it hurts, Jake, but it'll feel better soon."
He notices my hand. "Did you hurt yourself, too, Mommy?"
I nod and smile. "Yeah, I did. Looks like we're the bandage twins." I put a bandage on his knee, then hold my hand, bandage side up, next to it. "See? What do you think? Are we cool, or what?"
He giggles and lightly traces his finger over my cut. "Really cool." And he smiles at me, the smile he inherited from his daddy. The one that always tells me he loves me.
I hug him for a minute, until he squirms away, saying that Dylan actually asked him to play soccer and he has to go before Dylan forgets or something. But he gives my cheek a kiss.
I stand there for a moment.
At least he loves me, even if Katie doesn't.
It helps a little. But only a little. I want all my babies to love me. Is that too much to ask?