"One, two, three
Counting out the signs we see
The tall buildings
Fading in the distance
Only dots on a map."
The dance had been a terrible disaster. The past week- no, the past month- had been a disaster. Scratch that. Every moment, every intake of breath that Jenny had experienced since the last time her lips had brushed Nate's had been total and complete torment.
But seeing him tonight-- oh, seeing him holding Vanessa's hand-- had flayed her already bruised heart so badly that Jenny could hardly believe that she was here in her room, standing, breathing, clutching onto the edge of her door in bewilderment.
The way he had yelled at her, the way she had screamed back. Jenny closed her eyes for a flash of a moment as the words pounded in her ears.
"You set this up, didn't you, Jenny? I thought you were different from those girls, from Blair, from everyone I know. But I guess I was wrong."
"Don't act like you're a saint, Nate! Really? Getting together with Vanessa just like that? I had to find out from Gossip Girl-- don't even try lecturing me. You don't see me with some random guy, do you? Or do you just date any girl that gives you a second glance? Maybe I was wrong; maybe I'm just another girl to you. If that's the case, then you're just wasting my time."
Blair had pulled her away after that, an amused expression crossing her features. Jenny looked at the older girl as if she were expecting some sort of reprimand; instead Blair had simply said, "It's good to see you back, Little J."
Jenny had to admit, she had felt pretty Blair-like setting all this up. Convincing the minions that Nate was their territory, that Vanessa was ruining Penelope's chances of being with him; sewing the dress in the nick of time; artfully painting the invisible ink on the back of the dress to spell oh-so-truthfully: Manipulating whore. Jenny had felt the smallest tinge of guilt in her stomach as the special lights, held by Penelope and her posse exactly an hour after Nate and Vanessa had arrived to ensure that as many people would witness Vanessa's humiliation as possible, had reflected on Vanessa's dress in front of everyone. The invisible ink had become no longer invisible, much to everyone's amusement, including Jenny's. The taste of revenge was so sweet; at least, until Nate had grabbed Jenny by the arm and pulled her a little away from the crowd to yell at her.
She missed him. She hated him. But most of all, she loved him, every inch of him.
Jenny opened her eyes slowly, casting them about her dimly-lit room. Dan and her dad were still out; Jenny slipped out of her heels, jacket and tights and shook her hair out, fluffing it a little as she walked toward her closet, ready to slip into her pajamas and have a good cry in bed.
And then she saw it-- an envelope perched dangerously on the edge of her desk, just above where her trash can was, extremely close to falling in. The handwriting was familiar, and when Jenny got close enough to read it, her heart stopped. Jenny's mind went blank for a moment as she stared at it, and then she recalled that Vanessa had stopped by Jenny's room to borrow a pair of heels just before the dance. Jenny had been plotting with Penelope at the time and had texted Vanessa that it was fine, sure-- Rufus and Dan had already left the home by then, but Vanessa had her own key. And Jenny clearly remembered her desk being free of anything before the dance.
Oh, Vanessa thought she was just so clever.
Jenny gripped the envelope and sank down onto her bed before pulling out the letter, hands shaking and cold.
It was late. Midnight, to be exact. Jenny knocked on Nate's door persistently, her knees shaking; all she had grabbed was her jacket and heels to wear with her dress, the one that she'd worn to the dance. She hadn't had time to pull on her tights or anything. After reading the letter she had simply bolted out of her house, run out to be with him, to find out the truth.
He had to be home. He had to be. Jenny hoped to God that he wasn't with Vanessa.
At last a tired-looking Nate opened the door, his shirt unbuttoned and his hair ruffled. He really did look like he'd just been in the middle of undressing -- hopefully without another person-- and he stared at Jenny in disbelief before taking in the fact that was freezing cold.
"Come in." He invited in a monotone, and Jenny's heart sank and rose at the same time. She followed him into his room, her heart beating irregularly, and she closed her eyes when he closed the door behind him.
"Nate," she breathed once she'd stepped into the warmth of his home. She stood there just staring at him for a moment before pulling out the letter from her jacket pocket, her hands shaking. "I- Vanessa had this, and she gave it to me, and I... Nate, I don't understand, why would you give this to her to give it to me? Why would you give her a letter telling me that you want to be with me, when you went to the dance with her?"
"I never gave it to Vanessa..." Nate said slowly from his position of leaning against the door, his arm crossing in front of his bare chest as a confused look crossed his face. "I mailed it to you before I left for the Hamptons. A long time ago, the day after the fashion show. I didn't hear from you for weeks, Jenny. You never wrote back."
Her eyes were entranced with his own. Jenny sank down and sat on his bed in total disbelief before looking back down on the letter. Jenny's mouth pouted a little, and she pressed her lips together. She was angry with him. She was angry with him. She couldn't let Nate have his way. "I moved into Agnes' place. I didn't get any of my mail until Thanksgiving, when we all had dinner. Dan told me to check my mail but I didn't bother until the next day..." Jenny trailed off, the tension thick between them.
"And Vanessa was there." He said quietly, uncrossing his arms, and Jenny closed her eyes for a moment before opening them again. She unfolded the letter and was silent for a few seconds before she spoke again.
Jenny tried to speak in a strong tone, like she didn't care, but she couldn't. Her voice was quiet and shaky and weak as she repeated, "'These emotions are too strong to pretend that they don't exist.' Did you... did you mean that?"
"Yes." His answer was short and clipped and quiet, and Jenny didn't know what to say. Her eyes were watering a little at the tone of his voice and she turned her face away.
She hated how easily he could make her cry.
He was angry. He had to be. And Jenny was far too tired to argue. She got to her feet, the letter held tight in her numb fingers as if it were an anchor.
"I'll go then," she said in reply, just wanting to get out of here, just wanting to go home. He didn't move away from the door. Jenny paused in front of him, her soft hand reached out and brushed the arm of his sleeve, and then it dropped to her side weakly.
The room was silent. The city was silent as they simply stood there, his scent wrapping itself around her head. Jenny closed her eyes to prevent any tears from slipping, kept her voice quiet so it wouldn't break. "Please move, Nate. Let me go."
"I can't." Jenny almost melted at the stubborn obstinacy in his voice, and she couldn't say a thing. "I should move-- I want to move-- but I can't. I can't let you go, even though I should... I ruined everything for you, Jenny. Your brother, everyone, they didn't want us together." She heard him sigh, and Jenny almost shivered at the sound, her mind flashing back to the night outside of Agnes' apartment, where they'd fought and kissed. "Tell me you don't want me anymore. Tell me to stay away. Tell me you don't need me, and I'll move."
Her response was immediate, not even a heartbeat after he had finished speaking. "I can't, I won't."
And not even a second after that,t hey both said at the same moment: "I can't stop thinking about you." Nate smiled a little, and they both glanced down at the letter, realizing they were quoting it. Jenny looked into those bright eyes and smiled for what felt like the first time in a month.
His phone rang then. They both looked at it, Jenny's eyebrows raising when she saw Vanessa's name flashing across the screen. It felt like a slap of reality bruising her cheeks, and her eyes immediately filled with tears. Nate shifted a little toward his phone and away from the door-- and automatically Jenny slipped around him, her fingers grasping the doorknob.
Quick as a flash she felt hands on her waist, catching her close to a body behind her, keeping her in her spot. "Don't leave. Please don't. I need you and I'm sorry and-- oh, don't go." She felt Nate press his face against her hair and Jenny closed her eyes, a little sob sneaking out of her mouth; her fingers searched for his and gripped his hand clumsily, needily.
"I'm scared you're going to hurt me, Nate. More than you a-already have," she whispered, wiping at her eyes uselessly. She felt him press his nose into her hair a little harder, felt his sigh brush against her neck, and she almost collapsed at the thought of having to share him with anyone.
Nate turned Jenny around gently, carefully, looking into her eyes. He brushed her tears away with his thumbs, his hands cupping her face easily. Some moments passed before he leaned in, and his lips pressed against hers softly, taking her in, repairing her heart. Nate pressed her against the door lightly, and her arms wrapped around him tightly.
Before Jenny left Nate's home an hour later with sore lips, his jacket over her shoulders, and the warmth of his fingertips lingering all over her arms and neck and hair, she wrote him a note, tucking it neatly underneath his sheets to suprise him:
"Like a shell upon a beach
Just another pretty piece
I was difficult to see
But you picked me."