Hi guys. This is Jesse's chapter, but only the first half of his story. The second half should be posted soon. It was just too much to do in one chapter or in one sitting, which is how I like to write my chapters.
There's a lot of phone mechanics in this chapter, please just roll with them. I know. Thank you all so very very much for your insight and opinions, they mean the world to me. Also, thanks for being such dolls about the huge gaps in updates. I know that isn't very nice of me.
He jolts awake in the middle of the night, panicking and afraid.
It takes several long moments and deep breaths for him to calm down, and when he does, he notices its two in the morning. He groans and rolls back over.
Sundays are for sleeping in.
Jesse's life is brilliant. There's no other word for it. It's beautiful and fun and a little hard, a little frustrating sometimes but it makes it that much better.
He found out quickly that four straight national titles in show choir mean very little to the outside world, especially if that world is Los Angeles, the City of Never-Ending Talent. His voice is great – his voice is amazing, actually – but his acting skills weren't exactly up to par and neither were his skills in general studies.
He's had to change, these past few months. He could've gotten by just the way he was, but Jesse St. James has never been content with just 'getting by.' He's always been and always wanted to be the best and so he's had to learn how to work and how to want to work. And he likes to believe that he's a better person for it.
He's landed the role of Lumiere in the UCLA's production of Beauty and the Beast. It's not the Beast – it's not even Gaston – but it's something. Better than that; it's pretty damn awesome for a freshman.
Jesse really has it all.
But sometimes when he spins around Stella, the girl playing Babette, he wishes with all his heart that she was Rachel.
He should call her. He hasn't seen her since Christmas, since he made everything all right between them. He should check on her. She seemed so sad, so tiny. She vaguely hinted at everything that'd been going on and Jesse just knew he should've killed Finn Hudson when he had the chance.
He'd had a plan, last year. Actually, just a really spectacular plan, if he did say so himself. He was going to come clean to Rachel and then once she forgave him like he knew she would, he would whisk her away to Vocal Adrenaline where they would create a fabulous set list for Regionals, starring themselves, of course, and absolutely stomp New Directions into the ground. And somewhere along the way he would tell her that he was stupid in love with her and they would spend the summer together, laughing and singing and kissing and many other thoroughly enjoyable activities while he tried to convince her that UCLA was a much better choice than any New York school.
But it didn't turn out that way. Strangely enough, Rachel didn't take too kindly to betrayal. Smashing an egg on her head might've had something to do with it. But that absolute worst part was that he did nothing to try to get her back. It would've been work, and old-Jesse didn't do work that wasn't VA-related.
New-Jesse, had he existed last year, could've won her back. He would've made it right.
He consoles himself by remembering the hug Rachel gave him at Christmas just before he left. And then he smiles fades away as he remembers thinking that she had never felt so frail before.
"I didn't exactly expect you to answer, so this is okay. I know you hate having that little voicemail icon just blinking on your phone, taunting you, so I know you'll listen to this eventually. I just wanted to call and say hello, to ask you how you are. I am doing brilliantly, if you must know. LA's a dream – you still stuck on New York? I got the role of Lumiere in Beauty in the Beast, but my Babette's got nothing on you. But honestly, how are you? How's glee? Hudson still giving you trouble? Kurt still being a bitch? I hope, at the very least, you've punched Quinn in her suspiciously-perfect nose. You know you're the best, Rache, don't let anyone tell you different. Not even me. Call back!"
"…but seriously, Rachel, call back. I really do want to hear from you. Just…to talk. To know you're okay. I know I shouldn't say this, but I miss you. You promised you'd call and you never did. And I'm worried you didn't keep those other promises either. So please, doll, call me."
Jesse sets the phone down. Picks it back up. Expects it to start ringing at any moment: 'Rachel Calling'
But he's not too worried. He remembers back when they dated – they got into some pretty epic games of phone tag. Rachel was just so anal retentive that she had to return any and all phone calls she missed. He'd pick up his phone and "You-have-three-Unheard -messages. First-unheard-message. Sent-today-at-4:45-p.m:
'Jesse, I'm terribly sorry I missed your call! But why didn't you leave a voicemail, because how am I supposed to know if it was something important if you don't at least leave me a message? Although I suppose if it was really important you would've sent me a text. Although – oh dear, that's my second 'although' in a row, and you know, I once read the thesaurus front to back to avoid those kind of mistakes. I'll go with 'however.' Okay….however, I must say I'm grateful you did not text me, as yours are impossible to read. Really, Jesse, acronyms are no man's friend.'
'Jesse. You know how much this will bother me. Please call me back? You're usually so punctual – I'm wandering into the dangerous territory of those needy girls who call the hospitals and ask for the boyfriends when the reality is they just got stood up, but still. I'm not calling the hospital, I'm calling you. And you, Jesse St. James, need to call me back. Oh, this is Rachel, by the way. Of course.'
'Please?...Above all, I would really like to hear your voice.'"
He can't remember if he ever did call her back that night.
The day wears on, and something in him sinks just as the sun does. He figures it's just nerves – after all, it's his first big play this week, and plays are so much different than show choir competitions. But he's worked so hard for this. He's practiced and trained and fought and he knows he can do this. Jesse St. James belongs in front of audience.
He checks his phone from time to time but Rachel never calls back. He can't help but feel a little hurt.
The phone finally rings and he jumps to pick it up, but it's just Stella, informing him that the makeup and costuming calls and the scenes being performed from Preview Day on Tuesday have been posted.
"Are you nervous?" She says in her high voice that is just a smidge off grating.
Jesse opens his mouth to answer when a high pitched beeping erupts in his ear. 'Incoming call – Shelby Corcoran.' He stares at that name and all the bad (the worst) feelings comes rushing back in. He pushes the 'ignore' button and puts the phone back to his ear.
And sighs. "Yeah, I really am."
He ignores Shelby's call. She leaves a voicemail – he ignores that, too. He doesn't want to talk to Shelby Corcoran, he doesn't want to listen to her, he doesn't even want to think about her. That was the best part of graduating high school, leaving that woman behind.
He knows he owes her a lot – quite possibly his entire world, but Jesse has never been able to forgive her. Four years under her thumb had made him the best at what he did, but it wasn't until he met Rachel and the rest of New Directions that he realized that Shelby had also created this shelled-out, unfeeling boy. The one with the beautiful voice and beautiful face, the one who was nothing but a beautiful voice and a beautiful face.
He put his whole self into who he was and found out who he was was no one. Jesse thinks there is no worse feeling.
(Jesse will regret thinking that.)
He ignores three more calls and two more voicemails. When the phone stays silent for an hour after Shelby's last call, he figures she must've taken the hint and turns in for the night.
He stares at the ceiling for an hour, willing calm and peaceful thoughts into his head, but that little knot in his chest never loosens.
Monday brings five more calls from Shelby and no calls from Rachel. Jesse doesn't so much mind this – it is a hectic day, full of last minute fittings and rehearsals, a speedy run-through of the script, and cast photos for the program.
Jesse can barely breathe.
He nearly collapses onto the couch in his apartment. He is so very tired. Dimly he hears the phone buzz on the coffee table and groans. Shelby never gives up.
He grabs it up just as it stops ringing and with a bit of surprise notes the new name on the missed calls list: Stella. No doubt to gossip with him – Stella for some reason has convinced herself that he is gay and just doesn't know it yet.
And Jesse really cannot deal with that today. He also can't just ignore the new voicemail the pops up because Stella might have said something important about the play. So he dials one, presses 'speaker,' and throws the phone back on the coffee table and himself back on the couch to listen.
It isn't until he hears the wrong voice that he remembers Shelby's voicemails.
"Jesse, it's Shelby Corcoran. Listen, I know you don't want to hear from me, but you need to keep listening. I don't know exactly how to say this…I haven't really figured it out myself. And you know I wouldn't bother you for anything that wasn't really important."
There is a deep, shuddering breath, a sound that Jesse has never heard Shelby Corcoran make before. And his chest, where that knot of nerves lay, tightens painfully and he knows he doesn't want to hear this.
A whisper. "It's Rachel." And it's like he's been paralyzed. Like God has finally found a fitting punishment for all the bad things Jesse ever did: to sit here and listen to his worst fears come to life and not be able to do anything to stop them.
"Earlier this morning, Noah Puckerman found Rachel in her bathroom. She had tried to…commit suicide by overdosing on Vicodin pills. And…it almost worked. But Noah got her to the ER in time and they brought her back.
"She's stable now. Well…her condition is stable. I've just been to see her and she's…well, she tried to kill herself, okay? She's not…"
A deep breath.
"I just thought you should know. She wrote some letters before…one of them is for you."
And the voicemail ends there. The machine carries on, playing the rest of them, but Jesse doesn't move.
Not for a long time.
When he was ten, he asked for singing lessons. His parents gave him riding lessons instead. Jesse was so angry that he refused to listen to anything his instructor said and so, on his first ride, was promptly thrown off his mount.
He hit the ground rather hard; all the air in his body left in a violent gasp. But it didn't hurt. It was just so shocking.
Only later, when he had gotten to his feet, did his ears start to ring and his bones start to ache. Only then did his legs give out underneath him.
This is nothing like that.
The grief and pain that sets over him isn't mind-numbing like they say it is in books and movies. On the contrary, Jesse is quite sure his brain is going to explode at any moment and he's a little ashamed when he finds that that would be a relief.
It's just that he keeps getting part on the suicide part. Not the part where Rachel is okay – 'well, her condition is stable' - or the part where Rachel was saved. Not even the part where her savior was that asshole Puckerman.
And so he keeps forgetting and it kind of feels like she's died. Because when he strips it bare all that's left is Rachel and the suicide part. Her suicide.
There is just no way – that girl, who sat beside him so shyly on the piano bench, who spun with him on a choir room floor, danced ballet with him, sang with him, kissed him. That's Rachel.
This girl, who tried to kill herself – that's someone else. Something else. Some problem, not his.
He keeps circling back and it feels like she's dead. Like Shelby called to tell him when the funeral is, and if it's formal or if he could get away with wearing jeans.
And he imagines that she must've been cold, and alone, and probably a little afraid. That she probably got the first few pills down really quick then slowed down because it was so Rachel to only doubt herself when she was halfway across the finish line.
He imagines that she counted her heartbeats and her exhales, that she got frightened when they got slower but took another pill anyway.
He imagines that she wasn't sorry.
He honestly considers going to Lima, he does. But what can he do? How in the world could he help her? In all actuality, this was probably partially his fault.
He knows it's cowardly, but he doesn't want to read his letter. He doesn't read his dying ex-girlfriend's last words.
Mostly because he can't bear the idea that her last thoughts of him were painful ones.
Besides, he can't leave. His breakthrough at UCLA, his big role, his big chance – he can't miss that. Rachel would want him to stay, Rachel would understand. Of all people, Rachel would get it.
He just can't give up on this. It's his chance to prove that he doesn't need Shelby Corcorans or Vocal Adrenalines to make it. That he can do it all on his own and by his own merits.
He needs this.
His ears are ringing.
He is vaguely aware that he must be dreaming, because he's back at the Carmel High auditorium, wearing a bright pink shirt and sitting at a piano. Lamest dream ever.
"Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see. I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy.
Because I'm easy come, easy go, little high, little low.
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, To me."
There is an annoying vibration – his phone, on the bench beside him. He ignores it, trying to perfect his high note. But the notes aren't coming. He slams the lid shut on the piano and grabs up his phone and bagging, dialing for his voicemail as he leaves the building.
He stops. His name on Rachel's lips sound so much like an accusation. She doesn't sound like she's been crying, which he thought would disappoint him, but instead just brings him relief.
"I just want a full explanation for why you have done this. To me. I didn't do anything to deserve this, so I must conclude that you did it all for your own amusement. Which is…disappointing. I thought you were more than that. More than a lifeless puppet, like the rest of your team. I hate being wrong, ever, but this hurts more because…because I did love you. Really. And I don't want to be wrong about you. I want you to be everything I thought you were, even if it was a pretty high ideal. I thought you were the one guy who could actually reach it. Prove me right, Jesse. Explain."
His finger drifts to number four – still Rachel's speed dial. Explain. He could fix things. He could make it go back to the way it was before. Perfect. Jesse smiles and presses the number.
(Real life is not perfect. So Real Life Jesse never called back. Real Life Jesse rolled his eyes and deleted the voice mail and went on to crush an egg on Rachel Berry's head and all her dreams at regionals.)
He makes two calls the next morning. One to inform the director that he won't be there for Preview Day. The other to book a flight to Lima, Ohio.
Maybe for once, Romeo can save the girl.