The door made a desperate hiss as Jenny tentatively pushed it open, fingertips lightly pressing against the polished wood. She peered inside, neck craning for a closer view of her step-mother, who was currently comatose on the mattress. After Rufus had taken a few days away from the family - "To think," he said - Lily had been a wreck. Jenny's heart twisted; she couldn't figure if she should be angry with Lily or sympathetic.
"Lily?" Jenny tried again, biting her lip. Sometimes, Lily would appear asleep but then lift her head a moment later. She did nothing but lay in her bed. "Are you awake?"
Still, there was nothing. Jenny released a deep breath, half-relief, half-fear. No one had said a word about Lily's current state; Jenny guessed it wasn't the first time her step-mother had acted this way, and she was still a stranger in the home, after all. She wasn't nearly as worried about Rufus. She knew he'd come back in time, for he did love Lily, and he'd not taken she and Dan with him.
The home was semi-divided, the Humphreys verses the van der Woodsens. Jenny had made herself the enemy of Eric, thus making herself the enemy of Serena. Dan was snapping at Serena every time she so opened her mouth; Jenny suspected he wasn't nearly as uncaring by her and Nate's trysts than he appeared to be, but she kept her mouth firmly shut.
It was about time they cut their losses and drew a bold red line down the middle of the penthouse.
Jenny slowly clicked the door shut, careful not to wake Lily. She breathed evenly now. Despite their differences, both sides of the "family" would take their turn in checking on Lily, to see if she was being a danger to herself. Jenny loathed when it was her turn; she didn't know what to do or say if she came upon a depressed Lily.
Before she could even take a few steps, Jenny's phone buzzed incessantly in her pocket, heralding a summoning of her presence. She knew who it was even before she flipped open the screen. Damien was requesting she meet him again.
Jenny debated answering, tossing the phone quickly from hand to hand. Tonight, she simply wasn't in the mood to risk. She wanted to curl up in bed, read a book, watch TV, warm and content and innocent.
With the slightest hint of contemplation, she answered, "Hey."
"Jenny Humphrey." Damien's voice was satisfied, as if he found great personal joy in the fact that she merely answered her phone. "If you're up to it, tonight...?"
It was a trick question. Jenny knew she had no choice; if she refused, Damien would make her pay for it. It had happened only once before - she'd had a project for school she wanted to finish - and he had made her go in alone the next time. Jenny drew in a shaky breath.
"Of course I am," Jenny scoffed. "I'm always up for it." She found herself fervently relieved he couldn't register the forced cheerfulness in her voice.
Jenny could practically picture Damien's curved smirk. "That's my girl," he laughed approvingly. "Be there at 11-ish." With that, there was an ominous crackling on the other end, and the call was dropped.
Jenny closed her eyes; deep breaths, straightened shoulders, dry eyes. No use thinking about it.
"Jenny? You home?" There was a pause; a giggle. "Mom?"
Jenny melted into the paint. She turned white as the stucco wallpaper, blended into her surroundings, a pale, invisible ghost to watch and learn but never partake. She simply did not exist, see no, hear no. She made herself believe it long ago.
"Okay, let's go." Serena laughed again, blissfully unaware of Jenny's presence.
Jenny knew Serena was with Nate, and she said not a word. Still, she was silent.
Neither of them saw her as she blended into the wall, melted into her surroundings. They continued on their stumbling journey to Serena's bedroom, a tumbling flurry of kisses and laughter and blonde hair.
Jenny did not exist to this world.
"You kissed me again." Blonde hair, soft on her fingertips, red lipstick and blue eyes, mirroring and watching and caressing. Slow-dancing in a crowded, lonely room, warm and cold and every type of euphoria.
No use thinking of that, either.
- - -
Jenny once had a dream she could alter the way things ended.
It started with her goals to be a fashion designer. Jenny never truly gave up on that idea; she kept her sewing machine and, although seldom, she used it from time to time. In her dream, Jenny could alter it. Jenny could go back to the time when she ran into Nate's arms and he kissed her and he laughed with her. He'd held her and said, "It looked so great!"
Jenny had a dream she could've changed it; she could've gone back to those times and not ran after Vanessa and stay just a bit longer, run her fingertips through his blonde hair.
If Jenny had checked her mail sooner than Vanessa could have gotten to it, perhaps everything would have been different.
If Jenny had stopped Vanessa before the sabotage was complete, perhaps Nate would still be hers. Nate would still love her. Jenny wouldn't have to watch as he loved someone else.
Jenny had a dream she could change everything, and although it never came true, it was liberating to pretend.
- - -
"I don't know if I want to do this anymore," Jenny said to the mirror later that night.
The mirror didn't answer her; her reflection merely blinked helplessly back at her, as if to tell her it was impossible. Her reflection cried, big, fat tears sliding slowly down its cheeks, and then it told her, "I don't want to go."
Jenny shook her head. She reapplied her mussed mascara and blinked at herself in the mirror. Before her reflection could argue, she replied, "I love the danger."
Her phone buzzed again in her pocket; 10:30. Time to go.
She didn't hear her reflection tell her, "I don't know who I am anymore."
- - -
The darkness spilled over the streets and nothing seemed real. Why pick the coldest, blackest place in New York? Wasn't it supposed to be the city that never sleeps? Jenny shivered in her marshmallow jacket, tucking her chin into the warm fabric. The air tasted like rain.
Damien pulled up next to her in a sleek black limo, stepping out with suave self-importance that only he could master in such a way. "Jenny," he greeted.
Jenny swallowed thickly. "Damien." She nodded in a semi-friendly way and followed where she dared not go alone.
As they neared their destination, Jenny said quietly, "I want to take up fashion designing again." It seemed the closest truth she'd ever told as of late.
Damien didn't hear her.
"I don't want to do this anymore," Jenny went on, quieter, in only a voice a child could use. Her bottom lip trembled. "I want to go home."
Damien ignored her this time. The smell of rain grew stronger, filling every sense with the dank, rich scent. Clouds muffled the moonlight and a flickering streetlight went off with a farewell hiss.
Jenny turned and ran.
- - -
Jenny stumbled through the door frame at half past midnight, colliding with Dan in the living room. Eyeliner and mascara ran astray down her cheeks and she must've looked the picture of despair. Her hair was soaked with rain, and the smell of it was all around her, cleansing and fouling her.
"Jenny!" Dan's eyes widened. He seemed unsure what to say. "What were you doing out?"
Jenny closed her eyes. It hurt, it hurt, it hurt. However much it hurt, she was numb. Images permeated behind her eyes. "Stop! Please, don't do this!"
"Something happened last week." Jenny drew in a breath. Was Nate in the room? - her skin certainly prickled like he was. She caught his wide blue gaze across the room.
Jenny fell into Dan's arms, her hair swathed in front of her eyes and her mouth, dripping cold, angry drops down her chin and onto her marshmallow jacket.
"Damien raped me."
The taste of rain spilled onto her tongue as she gave in to the welcome darkness, climbing over her eyes and dimming her thoughts.
What a beautiful night in the city that never slept.
What a bittersweet memory of blonde hair and slow-dancing in a crowded, lonely room.