When Senior year had ended, the first thing he wanted to do was pack his bags. He decided to drive to California, and threw together everything with rapid speed. He kissed his mom good bye, accepted the Am-Ex Black card from his dad, and threw his bags into his new Benz.
The drive was exceedingly long, and required a night at two different hotels. He blamed the emptiness he felt those nights on the slightest case of homesickness.
By the time he had reached LA, he was... indifferent. He had reached that point of soul searching wear his entire body was exhausted, and he had an urge to fight off any bit of feeling that try to surface. He spent the entire summer in his apartment. The apartment that was much to spacious for one person and seemed to only serve to remind him of how few he had.
Going against all of the past promises he had made, he ignored all calls from anyone remotely related to his life in Akron. All of which were members from Vocal Adrenaline, and Shelby. Each time one of their names lit up his screen, he felt unsettlement in his stomach and a dulled pain in his heart. The one's from Shelby hurt the most.
He still answered the phone for his parents, of course. It kept him from being completely by himself. He always thought he didn't need his parents. He had managed fine while his parents were off at exotic locations, leaving him with a mansion and a maid. He had forever assumed that the only person he could ever need was himself. Isn't that what high school had taught him? He certainly didn't remember any other lessons.
When school finally started, things felt better. The stories of happiness and new friends he had been feeding to his mom and dad were slowly becoming reality. Sure, he wasn't quite as fixed as he was appearing to be; but then again, he had never let anyone know he was broken.
He met people like Scott, Jace, and Rhett who were all single, good-looking, rich, and proud. They were him. At least who he used to be. It wasn't as hard to slip back to the way he was as he thought it would be. Slowly, but faster than he had thought, he was becoming the typical college guy. He was going on dates, staying out late, going to parties, and had a group of close knit friends that were willing to drag him out of his apartment whenever he wanted to fall slightly back to where he come from.
Rhett was the first to notice that he didn't like talking about his past.
Scott was the first to find that he never mentioned ex-girlfriends. Even when he was drunk.
Jace was the first to decide that something had scarred Jesse St. James.
And one night, while Jesse had to stay at home to study, they decided to try and pull it out of him.
The night they had decided to follow through with it, Jesse was completely unaware. They slowly slipped stories of their high school years into conversation, hoping to ease him into telling his own. Against their efforts, he remained silent. The brought up reasons why past relationships hadn't worked out, thinking that he would throw in his own two-cents. He didn't.
They repeated the procedures at least once a week, but Jesse only laughed in the funny places and frowned at the serious ones. Eventually, they gave up. They felt if they continued any longer, it would become blatantly obvious as to what they were doing.
It already had.
Jesse wasn't stupid, and he had figured them out after the first night. While it probably would have been easier to just come clean, Jesse couldn't do it. He had experienced the consequences of his actions before, and the last thing he wanted was to relive that again. No doubt if they knew the kind of things he had been capable of, they would want nothing to do with him. And, despite his earlier beliefs, he wasn't sure how much longer he could last alone.
But luckily for him, his new friends liked having him around. They were bros. And if he didn't want to let them in on all of the skeletons in his closet, they were okay with that. He would tell them in time.
He was doing fine. Finally, he felt okay. He felt... genuine. For the first time in a long time, guilt wasn't the only emotion plaguing his soul. He felt like he was excelling in the theater program. He felt needed by his friends. And for possibly the fist time, he felt loved by himself.
He had been smart enough to know that it couldn't last forever. He was sitting in his music appreciation class. It was the last day of school before the winter break would begin, and his teacher was deciding to go ahead and warm them up to what they would be studying next semester. Already Jesse felt anxious. They had spent this semester studying the classics. Beethoven, Bach, etc. They had covered it all. Which is why their professor had decided to go ahead and do the intro to next year. "The New Greats and Game Changers."
He could sit through history lessons about Michael Jackson, The Beatles, U2, and Dolly Parton until his ears rang with mash-ups of their greatest hits. And that's where the conversation had started, but then it had taken a turn for the worse.
Jesse knew he was screwed the second Mr. Murphy mentioned Queen.
Rhett, Scott, and Jace all saw him flinch from their seats next to him.
Then someone had to mention Another One Bites the Dust.
They saw him grip his tightly.
Another classmate brought up Bohemian Rhapsody.
They watched as his jaw muscles clenched.
But the second the topic derailed to Hall and Oats, Jesse returned to his relaxed state.
They decided not to mention it.
But, Hall and Oats brought up the battle of the best male soft rock bands of the eighties.
Journey was the next name mentioned.
He began to tap his pencil on his notebook.
Don't Stop Believin'
His eyes focused on the board.
Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'
He ran a hand through his hair.
His eyes fell to his desk, and his head dropped.
Mr. Murphy dismissed the class right after that, and he was the first out of the room without even a glance at his friends.
They found him back at his apartment. The door was unlocked, so they let themselves in. There he was, looking the most unlike Jesse St. James as they had ever seen him. His curls were falling freely into his face and his t-shirt was un-ironed. His sweatpants appeared to have been slept in the night before, which they had. His eyes seemed slightly blood shot; but not like he had been high or drunk, though there was a bottle of scotch on the table in front of him. But, what really got their attention was what he was watching.
It seemed to be a show choir competition of some sort. And the DVD case sitting on the coffee table was labeled "Regionals 2010." It didn't make sense, until she appeared on the screen. Since Jesse had not acknowledged their presence, they just stood next to the couch he was reclined on. They watched in silence, and connected the pieces on their own.
Jesse was quick to hit pause when Vocal Adrenaline's name was announced as the next performance. He set down the remote and finally made eye contact with the group.
All it took was a glass of scotch each, and the entire story poured out of him. Everything. From the "Hello"s to the deceiving to the jealousy to the tape to the egging and to the Regionals performances. He talked about Care Bears and sexual tension. He mentioned "Run, Joey, Run" and "Total Eclipse of the Heart." He brought up how he had spent all of Spring Break realizing he had actually fallen for her. He talked about how he knew she was still in love with Finn and how much he hated thinking that she was using him even though he wasn't exactly honest with his intentions. He spoke of how he thought introducing her to Shelby would be helping her in the long run. How he thought she would forgive him. He mentioned how mad he had been at Shelby for adopting Beth after basically begging Rachel to leave her alone. And finally, he told of how scared he had become of how Rachel made him feel. Which, ultimately led to his rendition of "Another One Bites the Dust" and the egg incident.
And when it was finally over, he felt... relief. He had been walking around with a copy of every Queen and Journey CD every purchased on his back, but suddenly he felt he could sit up straight. There was silence when he was done, until Rhett patted him on his back. Then Jace and Scott followed suit. After a "bro hug," the three of them looked at each other and broke out into applause.
Jesse looked shocked, and they were quick to explain they were proud of him for finally opening up. Jesse actually began to smile, then laugh, then he was in hysterics. The laughter continued among the four of them until Scott sobered and asked the one question that was on all of their minds.
Do you still love her?
Without saying anything, Jesse had said it all. Planning was in order, but this time Jesse was part of the process. First, he called his mom and accepted her invitation to come home for Christmas. Next, he planned out everything with in put from Jace, Rhett, and Scott. Finally, he prayed to God that this would work out for him.
On the flight home, he felt... nervous, anxious, desperate, and hopelessly in love. He leaned back in his first class seat with his iPod blasting every motivational song he knew of (except for one...).
His parents picked him up from the airport, and he felt a little better. They wanted to talk about everything. What were his classes like? How was the apartment? What were his new friends like? And, of course, Had he met any girls?
Not in California.
He answered with a happy and casually air about him. His parents could see the difference in him. His eyes seemed brighter, the bags from sleep deprivation were gone, and his smirk looked more like a smile.
He stayed at home the few days. He didn't dare venture further than Akron, and even then he stayed close to home. He didn't want to risk running into any "high school friends" or Shelby. Luckily, he didn't. But now it had been a week, and he only had two more weeks left to follow through with his plan. He had gotten calls from Scott, Rhett, and Jace. All of which were reminding him of what he was there to do, and insuring that he had come to the right decision. So, afternoon of the eighth day, he borrowed his dad's car and made the drive to Lima.
He had almost turned around five times by the time he had arrived at the entrance to her neighborhood. And by the time he had pulled up to her house, the count had increased to seven. This was it though.
He felt... ready.
Ready to stop covering up the hole in his heart with bull shit from his head. Ready to stop being single. Ready to stop putting his future before everything. Ready to finally admit that he loved something. Ready to get her back.
And when he saw that her dads' cars weren't home he felt a little more confident.
He sucked in all of his fears and pulled out his phone. He sent a quick text to Rhett, Jace, and Scott. All contained the same message.
He pulled his keys out of the ignition and took a few deep breaths. It was now or never. There was absolutely no backing out. This was it. And with a quick motivational speech to himself, he opened the door and walked up to her porch. He allowed himself no time to convince himself not to go through with it. Instead, he pressed the doorbell and waited.
The thirty seconds it took her to answer felt like thirty days.
And at the sight of her, every plan he had made flew out of his head. All that he had to go by was his heart so, before she could speak, he began.
"I know that you probably don't want to see me, and you probably don't want to talk to me. I understand that, believe me, I do. If anything, you probably want to kill me. But, I'm begging you to hear me out. This is going to sound cliché and stupid, but it's the truth. And that's something you deserve to hear from me for once. Once school was over, I headed straight to California. I couldn't stand being here any longer. I couldn't risk running into you, running into Shelby, running into anybody who had anything to do with who I was during Senior year. I was a coward and a jerk. I drove all the way to California, all 2,000 something miles. That's a really long drive, so long that I could have thought about anything and everything that has ever happened in the existence of the world. And all I could think of was you. I finally made it to LA, and I thought that everything was going to be better.
"But what nobody seems to realize is that problems get bigger when you run away from them. They keep growing and growing until you hurt all over. They plague your every thought until you can't sleep without dreaming about what could have been. And then when you wake up, and the happier dreams aren't reality, it hurts more. There's not a thing in the world that doesn't remind you of what you've done. You can't watch TV, listen to music, or watch movies. And going it alone sucks. When school finally picked up, I met some guys who are currently the best friends I've ever had. And it took all of their effort to even attempt to pull me out of the whole that I had buried myself in. Finally, I was feeling okay. I could smile, I could laugh, I could go out of my apartment again. But then I was in music appreciation, and my professor started talking about Queen. Then, he mentioned Journey. He literally covered every song that signified something for how we ended. 'Another One Bites the Dust,' 'Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin',' 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' they were all there. And just as quickly as I had found it, I lost it again!
"I went straight back to my apartment, slipped on what was admittedly my worse clothes, and I did something I haven't done since I broke my arm in gymnastics when I was six. I cried. And when I finally stopped, I found the dvd from from Regionals. I guess I figured it was time I faced some of my demons. So, I sat in my living room with a bottle of unopened scotch and watched it. Everything up until the Vocal Adrenaline performance. The guys I mentioned earlier found me during the middle of it, and the whole story just came out of me. I had never told it to anyone, but there I was letting out everything I'd kept bottled up since what happened between us. And it felt good. For the first time in a long time, I didn't feel this incredible weight of guilt and secrets and lies. You have to experience it to understand it, but it's the best feeling in the world. It's why I'm here talking to you. I can't take all the baggage anymore. It's killing me. I have to come clean about everything, so I had to come here. I had to tell you that I love you, and that I'm so sorry for everything. You've probably heard all you want to hear from me, so I won't bore you with pity explanations. But, you have to know that I'm so incredibly sorry. I know what I did was awful, but I can't keep going without knowing what would have happened if I came back and begged for you to forgive me.
"So, here I am. I know that I've caused you more heartbreak than anyone ever should. I know that what I did was inexcusable and unforgivable. But I also know that we both love Barbara Streisand and Lionel Richie. We both love staying at home for movie nights, but we also love being the center of attention. We both have dreams so much bigger than this town. Dreams that are going to come true. I'm sure of it. We've both got what it takes to make it, and we've both got more nerve than anyone I've ever met. And I know that the path we're going to have to take to make it in this world sucks, but I know it sucks more when you're alone. So, I'm asking you to give me a second chance. Let me make it up to you. Because there's no doubt in my mind that we're meant to be together. I know that last time things didn't run so smoothly, and I take one hundred percent of the credit for destroying us. I love you, and I'm putting everything on the line right now. Say the word, and I'm gone. I won't bother you again. I swear.
"But, I can't help but think that we've been given that dramatic, epic romance that everyone wishes they would have. I can't think of one great movie out there where the couple didn't have an insane rough patch and unforgivable circumstances. But then John Cussack shows up with a boom box, Andrew McCarthy says he'll always love you no matter what, and Michael Schoeffling is leaning on his car outside of your sisters wedding. This is me, trying to make one of those moments. I just need to know, can you forgive me?"
When Jesse walked into his apartment in California he was bombarded with questions coming from Jace, Rhett, and Scott.
"How did it go?"
"Why did you ignore all of our calls?"
"What did you say? What did she say?"
"Guys!" Jesse interrupted. "I'm going to ignore the fact that you broke into my apartment-"
"We used the spare key," Scott corrected.
"-because I have someone I want you to meet." Jesse grinned and stepped out of the way of the door to reveal a petite brunette dressed in a skirt and sweater with her hand on the handle of a suitcase.
Rhett, Scott, and Jace exchanged excited glances.
"Guys," Jesse grinned, "This is Rachel Berry, my girlfriend."
Saying it made him feel... amazing.
Wow... that was heavier than what I usually write...
Oh... and I don't own Glee, Queen, Journey, Say Anything, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Barbara Streisand, or Lionel Richie!