Chapter 9: Confessions
For a long moment, both of them were speechless, starring at each other with wide, yet searching, eyes.
She looked different to Jess. Her skin was a little paler, her eyes duller than they had been. And yet, she still had the spark that ignited her imagination. It was barely there, like a flame about to go out, but it was there.
He also noticed the notebook, which she held carefully in her fingertips. By the look on her face, she had already seen too much. For a second, he was angry, angry that his secret was out. That was his notebook. It was private and she had no authority right to snoop in it. Then he turned a million shades of red at the thought: She knows.
Leslie was the first to speak. "Hi." Her eyes never lifted from his.
He couldn't seem to look away. "Hi." He said back, but his voice broke.
"So, you finally came around, huh?" She smirked at him now. He smiled back. "Yeah, I guess." He turned to look at all of the drawings, pinned up in every spot his eyes could see in the tree house. "You have quite the collection…no wonder I couldn't find any of them that day." It then hit him that she had been just as miserable as he was…and that she had even missed him.
"We have a lot of explaining to do." Leslie said suddenly. Jess looked at her again. "Yeah."
"Why don't you sit down?" She offered. In response, he sat across from her, folding his arms comfortably over his knees.
Leslie looked down at her shoes. "Well, how have you been this past month?"
Jess's mind once again raced. Terrible. Hurt. Miserable. Bitter. Sulky. Depressed. Sad. Lonely. Leslie, I can't survive without you.
She laughed without humor, and then looked down again, seriously. "I…haven't been…ok, Jess. I've been feeling lonely and terrible…ever since the fight."
She stopped, seemingly unable to go on, but she continued anyway.
"I wasn't thinking that night, and I'm sorry. I was hurting you by risking my safety, and I should be more careful. But Jess, you can't make me someone other than who I am. I'm very independent, but I'll admit that I need todon't know when to stop sometimes. So…will you been there one to stop me?"
Jess nodded, standing up. Leslie did the same.
Leslie smiled again. "Do you have anything to say…?"
Jess looked back to her hands, where she securely held his notebook. "Can…I have my notebook back, please?"
Leslie once warm smiled turned cold. "Is that why you came here?"
"I thought you came here for--?" Leslie huffed, shoving his notebook in his hands with such force that he was almost knocked off his feet. She sat up straight, and looked him in the eyes without the warmth of before. "I have to go." She then started out the door, without looking back.
I am such an idiot! The notebook slipped out of his grasp and clattered to the floor. He didn't even notice. By that time, he had run to the door. "Leslie!"
BOOM! The thunder cracked, and it was close. The rain began to fall lightly;, then it became torrential.
He saw Leslie stop, right in the middle of her run, looking up at the sky. In response, the thunder boomed even louder than before, startling her. She zipped up her sweatshirt and put up the hood. Realizing that she needed shelter, she turned back to the tree house, but knew she couldn't go back there. So she gave up, and let the rain fall, soaking her.
Jess put his own hood up, starting down from the tree house. He ran up to her, the mud sloshing under his feet. She had her back to him, but he grabbed her arm from behind. "Leslie, we gotta get out of here!"
She yanked her hand back. "Where? I'm stuck here, with you." She turned away again, but he grabbed took her arm back, this time with force. "I didn't mean what I said back there. I did want to see you!"
"Oh really…?" She had to yell over the pounding of the rain, which helped to dissipate her anger.
"I was too proud to admit how I've been the past month! The truth is…I've been just as miserable as you've been! I've missed you so much, Leslie."
Now she only just stared at him. All that could be heard was the rain falling around them.
"Why did you come back?" She yelled. " she said, as he returned her gaze. "Not now, but when I almost drowned in the river? How did you know that…that I needed you?"
They both just stood there for a second, panting and squinting through the rain, drumming like drums in their ears.
Leslie's eyes were getting to him again. She stared at him, waiting for an answer. Jess was hesitant. This was the moment of truth. She deserves to know…
He raised his hands in defeat. "Why do you think?" He asked, never leaving her eyes.
At first, Leslie looked confused, lost. Then, a look of shock came on her face.
I knew it…she'll hate me now. He turned to leave, heading to the bridge. He had only taken two steps when he heard, "Wait."
He turned around, not ready for her reaction. He was surprised when her expression was softer, no longer confused. She walked over to him, only a few inches away. "You've felt this the whole time…and didn't say anything?" She was smirking now. He sighed, looking down. "I was afraid…you didn't feel the same way."
Leslie took a step closer now. "Jess…" She put her hand softly on his arm. "You're wrong."
The rain was still falling, but all Jess could see was Leslie. At first, he couldn't believe his ears. "Really?"
She laughed. "I've known ever since you hugged me that day you got P.T. Ever since you invited me to church…when we created Terabithia…I've known all along. And I don't think I can survive another minute without you."
He looked up now, into her eyes where she was looking up at him. "So, let me get this straight…we've both like each other, but were both too scared to admit our feelings?"
"Pretty much, yeah." They both laughed. "And, Jess, I was kind of wondering…about your drawings…that's when it really hit me hard. Were they of me?"
She meant the notebook of course. "Well, who else would I be drawing?" Then in his thoughts, he added "And why did you pin up all of those pictures I drew? It looked like a mini-Jess-Sanctuary." He smiled at the thought. He said, "I was surprised to see my old stuff in the castle."
"I told you I was miserable!" She sighed. "I abandoned Terabithia like you did, and when you threw out all of your hard work…it seemed like such a waste. It was the only place I could come where there was still a piece that I could hold on to."
It thundered again, making them both stare up at the sky. "Come on, we really gotta go now." Jess took her hand, never letting it go, and they both ran back to the tree house, scrambling up to the shelter from the rain. Leslie was the first up, shivering violently. No sooner had Jess gotten up, that he realized something. "Trees aren't safe to stay in during a thunderstorm." Leslie huffed. "There you go again, Mr. Safety. What's better: a wide, open area, or a tree house? Take your pick."
Jess peeked out into the now muddy Terabithia. "The rain has slowed down…I think it's ok to go out there."
"Maybe we should just go home." Leslie suggested.
"No, not yet."
"Why not? It's crappy weather and—"
"Leslie, don't you remember? The dance!"
Leslie eyes widened. "I forgot all about that! Darn it…"
Jess got an idea, and took her hand again and with a slight bow asked, "May I have this dance?"
"What?" Leslie laughed, dropping her hand to her side. "There's no music."
"Well, so? I asked you to the dance. This will have to do."
"But…I can't dance."
"I will teach you what I know. Just follow my lead. You can step on my feet for all I care." He held out his hand to her again. "My lady?"
Leslie was embarrassed. She had never danced with anyone but her father…once at a wedding. But she trusted Jess…he wouldn't care if she was awful… would he?
She took his hand. "Ok." He smiled, and guided her outside, down to Terabithia below. "Well, we're already soaked, so does it matter?" They walked out to where they were before, all of the trees swaying in response.
"Are you ready?"
Leslie nodded. She slipped her hand into his again, resting her other hand on his shoulder. He put his arm around her waist, and they slow danced.
It was a little awkward at first, but the dance became natural for both of them. No words passed between them, nor did they need to. There was no music but the sound of the wind, and the rain, and the trees. The only thing they saw was each other.
And that was how the time passed.
Leslie was trembling. She became distracted under Jess's touch.
"What is it?"
"It's just so cold." She whispered. She pulled away, folding her arms to warm herself.
"Hey…" Jess rubbed her arms, trying to warm them, then he held her close to him in a protective hug. She held him tightly, burying her face in his shoulder.
The rain was just a drizzle now. Jess rested his head on hers, not knowing if he should say something, or just to savor the moment. The silence continued.
"Why are you always so warm?" Leslie said, shivering. Jess smiled down at her. "Someone's gotta warm those icy fingers of yours." And he took her hands between his own. "I gotta be of some use to you."
She giggled. They were eye to eye now.
"I still can't believe how far we've come. All this time…"
He rested his forehead on hers and sighed. "I know."
They both closed their eyes. It was then that he heard the music.
At first, he thought he was hearing things. But then it got louder. "Leslie, do you hear that?" He looked around, and Leslie did the same.
"Yeah, I hear it too."
They were looking in opposite directions. "Jess, look!"
And when he did, he saw someone come out of the fog.
It was a Terabithian.
No, not just one. There were dozens, all coming out of the fog and rain, each holding an instrument. There were flutes, guitars…all styled in a unique, Terabithian way. There were even a few they couldn't recognize. All were silent.
"Leslie, did you do this?" Jess whispered. She shook her head frantically. "I thought you did…"
One of the Terabithians smiled, and started playing her flute and began to dance in a circle around the King and Queen. The others followed her example, playing their own instruments, encircling them with the sound of the sweet music, and it blocked out the rain all together.
Jess looked at Leslie. "Wow…"
She nodded, in awe. "Yeah."
"Shall we?" He bowed, offering his hand for another dance. "Let's show them their King and Queen."
She giggled again. "Of course."
They danced again, this time without stopping. It wasn't cold anymore. Leslie rested her head on Jess's shoulder, and thought, I want this moment to last forever.
In a way, this is the end, but it is only the beginning of the end. Next chapter coming soon!