I hope everyone is well! Sorry this chapter has taken so long to complete, I've been having a hard time writing it for some reason. Bad case of writers block hit and some parts were like pulling teeth to write. Despite this, I did enjoy it again once I got my rhythm back. Anyway….it's finally done :-D Woooh! A couple of reviewers felt Angela overreacted in the last chapter (and they are kind of right) So as such I've toned the melodrama a little in this chapter, I hope this is more true to the character…I think it is! In fact it might be a little anti-climatic after the last few chapters extreme drama…..that doesn't mean there isn't a cliff hangar or two. Cool! So I hope you enjoy this instalment. I love you all for sticking with me this long, the end is in sight….ish. Thanks for all the reviews and support.
Jason woke with a start as he tried to ascertain where he was in the semi-darkness of the dawn. His alarm continued beeping as he reached out a hand to smack it in his slightly delirious state.
"Dammit, I hate school days." he mumbled sleepily as he rubbed his eyes. The strange shapes in the room started to swim before his eyes as they readjusted to the light. It took him a further few seconds to realise where he was, the room he'd slept in since he was eight years old now seeming alien to him after living for so many months with Jordan . Jason exhaled loudly as he sat up in his bed, the familiar feeling of dread overcoming him. Ever since Rickie's wedding things had become increasingly more complicated in his life, a daily struggle not upset the delicate balance that had formed in the wake of his parents break-up. It was exhausting to spend his waking hours trying not to trouble either party by mentioning the other, a task that he was not always able to fulfil. At least living with Rayanne was enough to distract his mother most of the time. His Dad on the other hand was another story, one which he didn't like to contemplate too much. He had decided to stay completely impartial about it, because he understood why his father had done what he'd done, as much as he understood why his mother had left Jordan. There really was no right answer in this situation, just two very hurt and damaged people. There weren't exactly fighting though, just actively avoiding each another and Jason was certain they hadn't said more than three words to one another in weeks. In some ways it was much worse then it had ever been the year before after Jordan had found out about Jason, maybe this time the cut had run much deeper.
Jason pulled back the covers as he swung his legs over the side of his bed, the comforting and familiar feeling of his soft carpet under foot making him smile a little. In the currently unsettled circumstances of his life, he took pleasure in the small delights such as this that got him through the day. His alarm clock wailed loudly beside him, startling Jason a little.
"Stupid crappy snooze button" he grumbled loudly as he smacked it again. Immediate relief washed over him as the shrill noise was cut short. He found the small shock had woken him up considerably and because of this ,he released with a start ,something that had slipped his sleep drugged mind.
"Crap" he exclaimed in slight panic, jumping to his feet and running to the bathroom, pulling off his pyjamas as he went along.
Angela and Rayanne were still in their nightgowns and slippers as Jason raced down the stairs in a complete fluster. Angela almost choked on her coffee with laughter as she caught sight of her son, his wet hair sticking up in several different directions and his school shirt buttoned in total disarray, half tucked into his pants.
"Geez Junior where's the fire? " Rayanne joked as she took in the sight of him, pulling on his black patent shoes over his odd socks.
Jason threw his maroon school tie around his neck and haphazardly knotted it.
"Have you guys seen my navy pullover or blazer?" he said hurriedly as he grabbed a muffin and plastic bottle of orange juice off the counter.
Angela shook her head as she watched him scramble around the apartment in desperation with growing amusement.
"Honey, seriously. Why are you acting like your trying to find a nuclear bomb?" she said with a smile.
"Because I totally forgot I have a A.P Chemistry test today and I need to get to school ASAP to study. The stupid anally retentive assholes won't let me sit the test if I'm not properly attired." he replied grumpily.
"Ah hell it's one test Jay Jay and you're only a Sophomore." Rayanne said with a smile as Jason face lit up after locating his blazer.
"No no no…..I have to ace this one or it could bring down my entire grade average for the year, and if that happens I won't end the year on the honour role thanks to stupid French consistently bringing down my GPA. And if I don't end the year on the honour role…." he gulped dramatically, looking round anxiously for his pullover in growing agitation.
"Oh God he's starting to sound like Krakow" Rayanne groaned and Angela laughed in response.
"Try the dryer, your spare one might be in there." Angela said soothingly, trying to calm her soon a little.
Jason nodded in thanks, galloping off into laundry room.
"How long do you think it'll take him to realise he's read the time wrong?" Rayanne grinned at Angela.
"Probably a minute or two." she smirked. Just then Jason wandered back into the room looking much calmer, his pull over in hand.
"It's 7 am not 8 am isn't it." he said sheepishly.
"Yep" Angela laughed slightly and Jason gave her a half grin of embarrassment.
"I keep meaning to change the time on that stupid clock" he sighed.
"I hope it's the only thing you've forgotten this week…." Rayanne said pointedly with a smile. Jason looked back at her in confusion. Rayanne widened her gaze and gestured her head in the direction of Angela. Jason smacked his hand against his forehead as it dawned upon him what she meant.
"It's your birthday on Friday. Damn it" he said unhappily, looking at his mother remorsefully.
"I'm so sorry I haven't gotten you anything yet. I don't know where my minds been lately….I'm just so, distracted." he said wearily. Angela's face darkened as she knew immediately why he'd been in such a state.
"Don't worry, considering the circumstances….it's understandable." Jason didn't know what to say in response he just nodded and quietly put on the woollen pull over in his hand.
"So, I think I'm just going to set off to school early considering I'm pretty much ready." he said humourlessly after a beat, putting on his blazer and picking up his school bag.
"Okay, just one word of advise before you do? Fix your hair, you look like a homeless man." Angela said with a smile.
"Fine, you're probably right" Jason grumbled, strolling into the downstairs bathroom.
"Your kid is hilarious sometimes." Rayanne said with a grin and Angela rolled her eyes in agreement.
"Yeah, well I'm a little worried about him to be honest." She said humourlessly "I don't think he's coping well with the change."
"He'll be fine Ange, don't stress." Angela looked out the window doubtfully as Rayanne tried to catch her eye.
"Jason will be fine and so will you. Time heals all wounds."
"Yeah maybe" Angela replied quietly.
"You think maybe you should try talk to him? From what I hear Jordan's the one who's not coping" Rayanne said gravely.
Angela sighed tiredly as she gave Rayanne a sad half smile.
"Sometimes I think I should just give in and go back to him, but then, something always stops me. I'm not sure I can get passed it even though I know its killing him. Do you think that's cold?" she asked seriously. Rayanne opened her mouth to reply, but couldn't find the correct answer, her frown deepening as she thought about it fully.
"No, it's only been 2 months since you broke up so you're bound to be still a little pissed." she said noncommittally.
"But do you think I'm right to still be mad" Angela asked pointedly. Rayanne looked at her best friend a little uncomfortably.
"Well…." she began..
Just then Jason waltzed out into the kitchen and Rayanne quickly shut her mouth again.
"So…" Jason said cockily, pointing at his newly brushed hair "Better?"
"Very handsome baby boy" Angela said teasingly, standing up to give his cheek a kiss.
"Good luck today sweetie, I know you'll do fine." Giving her a confident smirk as he pulled his backpack onto his shoulders.
"See you guys later, behave yourselves" he said jokingly. With that he left the apartment, walking with purpose to the elevator.
As the large steel doors shut in front of him, he breathed deeply ,a sense of dismay washing over him. Taking out the iPhone in his pocket he re-read Beth's message with trepidation.
"Come meet me straight after the Chem test. I have to show you something. It's really important, Love you xxx"
His first terrified thought when he'd first read it had been that she was pregnant, but that had been quickly rejected in his mind. He knew for a fact she was having her monthly friend that week. Jason sighed again as he put the phone back in his pocket, well this was a great way to start the day.
It wasn't until lunch that Jason finally saw Beth, the teacher's extra vigilance over class tardiness and students wandering the halls prevented him from sneaking away. He gave her a quick smile , spotting her across the cafeteria as he waded through the crowds of students with his food tray.
"S'up beautiful" he said happily, giving her a quick kiss as he sat down beside her "Sorry I haven't seen you all day. I just couldn't get away for a minute"
"It's okay baby" Beth said with a smile as she touched his cheek, thoroughly glad to her boyfriend for the first time in days. They sat their contentedly in silence for a moment before Jason's curiosity got the better of him.
"So" he said more brightly then he'd intended "what was this big news you wanted to tell me". Beth shifted uncomfortably in the chair beside him, her eyes downcast. Jason's easy going gaze hardened as he looked at her warily.
"Beth?" he began more insistently.
"Promise me you're not going to flip out or do something stupid" she answered timidly. Jason frowned heavily but nodded in agreement.
Taking a breath, Beth took her phone out of her purse.
"My Mom was out with some of her old modelling friends last night in the Village, they went to a club where a couple of other celebrities sometimes hang out. You know, one of those kind of exclusive bars. Any way, they saw your Dad there."
Jason stiffened a little in his seat as he looked at her impassively, dreading the worst as he patiently waited for her to continue. The underlying fear he felt barely contained in his gut.
"Go on" he said quietly.
"He was over in a corner with Shane and a couple of other friends my Mom didn't recognise…." Beth said matter-of-factly.
"And?" Jason asked reticently.
"Jordan was really slamming down the drinks, and….Shane seemed to be trying to slow him down, but he just wouldn't."
Jason's stomach dropped a fraction as he began to see where this was going. Beth looked at him sympathetically before she continued on.
"My Mom had been recording her friend on her phone doing something stupid or whatever, but instead she caught this." she said quietly, pressing play on the video displayed on her phone.
Jason frowned as he squinted at the screen, the darkness of the club making it hard for him to see what was going on. All at once he saw him, his father standing irately face to face with someone in the background. The focus of the camera seemed to shift toward them as he pushed the other man aggressively, clearly shouting something at him. Behind Jordan, his friend Steven was trying to pull him back as Shane attempted to stand between the two very belligerent men. Though the club was noisy, Jason could just about make out the roaring voice of his enraged father.
"You better fucking take it back man, you fucking take back what you said about her"
The other man seem to laugh at Jordan's reaction, Jason recognised as some young heartthrob from a crappy boy band he'd forgotten the name of.
"What the hell do you care what I say about her, the bitch broke up with and is probably celebrating dumping your dumb ass by blowing some…".
The musician's taunt was swiftly cut off by a sudden thunderous right hook from Jordan. The kid went down in a heap on the floor and then all hell seemed to break out all around Jordan as more punches were thrown. The video in front of Jason began to blur in the ensuing chaos as screams and shouts could be heard. A few seconds seemed to pass before the video was blurred completely as Beth's mother and friends ran out the back exit of the club and out of harms way. As the picture final began to clear again, Jason saw Shane drag a subdued Jordan out of the club, his sleeve drenched in red from the blood pouring from his arm.
"What the hell is wrong with you Catalano" he heard Shane shout "Now I have to bring your stupid ass to the hospital". With that the video cut off and Jason looked at Beth in shock.
"Damn it" he hissed, covering his face with hands. Beth looked at him guiltily before she reached out and pulled him in close to her.
"My Mom said Jordan's arm got sliced open in the fight but the ambulance got there pretty quick so your Dad was okay."
Jason's tense shoulders relaxed a fraction as he lowered his hands.
"Does she know if anyone else got the fight on video?" he asked bleakly.
Beth shrugged as she gave him an apologetic look.
"I don't know, I'm sorry".
"Goddamn it Dad" Jason hissed again, raking a hand through his short, dark hair. Rising from his chair suddenly, he looked down at Beth with latent rage in his eyes.
"I have to go, will you cover for me in French long enough for me to get uptown?" he asked coldly.
"You promised you wouldn't freak out or do something stupid" she replied in exasperation.
"I'm not, but I just can't just sit here after seeing that. Please do this for me" Jason said more forcefully as his eyes flashed angrily. Beth pursed her lips as she held her tongue, deciding it was better not to argue with him about it.
"Fine" she sighed with dissatisfaction, refusing to look at him. Jason stood there awkwardly for a second, knowing he'd pissed her off. He nodded in thanks before grabbing his backpack silently and walking brusquely to the lunch room door, resolute in his decision.
It wasn't long before Jason had reached the door of his father's apartment. He'd been a little surprised just how easy it had been for him to sneak away from school, he would have thought with the huge tuition fee they forced his parents to pay they'd at least keep a more vigilant watch on their students. Obviously this was not the case. Taking a deep apprehensive breath, Jason unlocked the door and stepped inside. Shane nearly jumped out of his skin as he reached the top of the stairs in the kitchen.
"Jesus Junior, you scared the shit out of me! What are you doing here Jay?" he asked breathlessly.
"I know what happened last night Shane, where is he?" Jason answered grimly, an angry glare shot at his fathers best friend. Shane's face darkened as he looked back at Jason sheepishly.
"Upstairs, in his room".
Jason didn't reply as he pushed passed Shane without a second glance.
"Go easy on him Jay, he's been having a rough time lately and he's in pain" Shane said quietly, stopping Jason in his tracks.
"Whatever" Jason replied bitterly, stamping up the stairs with purpose.
Despite his lack of sleep over the previous 24 hours, Jordan was unable to sleep as he lay in his bed. The pain meds had finally kicked and the last of last nights alcohol had finally left his body. He should have felt exhausted, he had spent the best part of ten hours in the hospital getting his damn arm fixed. It had taken him less than two seconds to start that fight, and 16 stitches down the length of his forearm to fix the damage done in his drunken skirmish. Jordan didn't even fully remember why he'd gotten into the verbal altercation with the kid in the first place that had lead to him cold clocking him. But he knew how it had ended, once the douche bag had insulted Angela, Jordan was beyond rational reasoning. She may have shattered his heart, but that didn't mean he'd stand for an idiot like that talking trash about her.
Jordan ran his fingers over the raised bumps of his stitches under the bandages, almost enjoying the slight sting of pain he got. It was nothing compared to the ache in his chest he felt every waking hour since he'd come home to find her gone after Rickie's wedding. That was real pain. One which he'd been increasingly been trying to dull with the poisonous mix of alcohol and cigarettes, a habit which had unfortunately lead to the dispute yesterday. He wasn't exactly proud of his present behaviour, particularly as it didn't send a great message to his still impressionable son, but he felt he had not other option to reduce the anguish he felt. Jordan had tried calling her numerous times ,but she never picked up anymore. She wanted nothing to do with him, that was obvious. The last time he'd called, she'd finally answered that she wanted him to stop trying to contact her, so he did. Jordan had no choice.
The apartment felt empty without her there, Jason stayed over at least three times a week and Shane and Patty visited regularly, but it wasn't the same. He missed Angela so much it killed him. Jordan knew he looked like shit at the moment, the excess alcohol, lack of sleep and repressed appetite had made him gaunt and haunted looking. As he lay restlessly in his king sized bed, Jordan realised that was just what he was, haunted by his own immature mistakes.
The door suddenly swung open, causing Jordan to bolt up in his bed in surprise. Jason stood there for a moment, his jaw clenched in anger as he stared at his father murderously. Jordan looked at his son in bewilderment, his eyes wide as his heart slowed back to its normal pace.
"Jason what the hell? Why aren't you in school?" he said in annoyance.
"I had to come see you." his son replied simply, not moving from his spot in the doorway.
"And you couldn't wait till after 5pm ?" Jordan laughed in slight disbelief.
"Not for this, no." Jason said gravely as he shook his head. Jordan's eyebrows rose as he looked at Jason's serious expression.
"Emm..… okay, you know your Mom is going to kill you when she finds out you skipped all your classes after lunch". Jason shrugged as he walked with purpose into the room, dropping his backpack as he took a seat in the armchair opposite his fathers bed.
"I can handle it." he said nonchalantly "Plus she'll understand once I tell her why I bailed." Jordan couldn't help but notice the hostility in his sons posture as he stared at him unblinkingly. It was starting to make him uncomfortable.
"And why is it you bailed?" he asked quietly, dreading whatever reason was about to exit Jason's mouth.
"I know why you ended up in an E.R last night Dad." Jason said sulkily.
"Shit" Jordan exhaled loudly as he closed his eyes for a second in dread. This was just perfect.
Just a couple of blocks over, Angela and Rayanne were perusing the local deli for some olives for lunch. The process was a little slow on account of Rayanne's enlarged abdomen, which was edging ever closer to the size of an overblown beach ball.
"I've been thinking" Rayanne began as she tried a lightly spiced sample olive "when this kid is born, where are we going to put he or she in the apartment? I mean I'm sure bump can stay with myself and Brian in our room for a couple of months but…."
"You know subtlety really isn't your strong suit" Angela laughed as she picked up a large tube of hummus and dropped in their basket.
"Whatever do you mean?" Rayanne said innocently, giving Angela a smirk. Angela turned back towards her as she arched an eyebrow and smirked in return.
"Ray, if you need me and Jason to move back out, just say it. We can't all keep living in the same apartment forever" she said more seriously. Rayanne's smirk slowly disappeared as she looked down at the ground awkwardly.
"I wouldn't do that to you, plus as I've stated before, it is technically your apartment still." she said quietly.
"And I'd be more than happy to sell you it, as I've stated before many times" Angela said a little huffily, her ever present quick temper flaring for a second. Rayanne's sheepish expression didn't dissipate as she rose her eyes again to look at Angela.
"I know, but us living there was only meant to be temporary…..and well….Brian.." she trailed off. Angela looked at the every reddening cheeks of her friend with interest.
"He's found you a house" she said quietly with understanding. Rayanne simply nodded in response.
"Yeah he did, and it's beautiful….I mean , like perfect."
Angela's expression was unreadable as she looked back at Rayanne. Slowly a happy, lazy grin spread across her face.
"Good" she said with genuine happiness. Rayanne's eyebrows shot up as her worried grimace disappeared.
"You're not mad!" she said in surprise.
Angela laughed a little as laid her hand on Rayanne's arm.
"God no! Why would think that?"
"I don't know, its just, with you Mom now living in Long Island and you and Jordan…..I just don't want it to seem like we're abandoning you." Angela shook her head in disbelief.
"I'd never think that Graff, you and Brian are weeks away from having a kid and you need to have somewhere to call your own. You've no idea what's about to hit you" she grinned a little teasingly. Rayanne's face softened as a look of relief washed over her features. Sighing she turned back to one of the shelves and began to examine the stores selection of bread. Seeing one she liked, she tossed into the shared basket with a satisfied smirk.
"So ,you sure you'll be okay?" she said more seriously, looking at Angela once more with concern. Angela gave her an almost withering look as she rolled her eyes at her friend.
"C'mon Rayanne, it's not as if I didn't know this was coming. All things eventually come to an end, even the good stuff."
"I know ,but in light of everything that's changed recently." Rayanne started carefully. Angela scoffed loudly and turned away from her friend a little huffily.
"Rayanne, I'm fine. Stop worrying about me." she said coldly, taking their basket of produce up to the counter to pay.
Rayanne watched her with trepidation as she saw her best friend's shoulders tense up as she stood in from of the cashier. Her hands gripped the edge of the counter top as she tried to counteract whatever surge of emotion had overtaken her. Rayanne didn't know if it was anger or hurt, but one thing she was certain of was , Angela Chase was not coping as well as she was claiming. She knew for a fact she hadn't been sleeping well. Taking a deep breath and knowing what she was about to say was likely to infuriate her, Rayanne joined Angela by the cashier .
"You know it's not weak to admit you're still struggling a little." Rayanne said quietly. Angela's eye's fiery as she looked back at her. The glare softened though as a pained expression took over.
"It's been two months Rayanne, and I'm still as torn as I was when this all started. It's not supposed to still hurt so much" she whispered.
"Do you want my honest opinion Ange?" Rayanne asked softly.
Angela nodded, her eyes glassy as she waited for the answer.
"Jordan made a mistake, but you love him. The question is, do you love him enough to trust him again?" .
Her face became pensive as she thought about it.
"I don't know" she said quietly in response.
The sales assistant cleared her throat and looked between them uncomfortably as she handed back Angela's Visa card. Angela's cheeks went bright red as she caught the girl staring at her.
"Maybe we should talk about this some other time" she mumbled awkwardly, swiftly bundling the brown paper bag of food into her arms she turned quickly on her heel and walked brusquely to the exit.
Rayanne exhaled loudly in frustration as she watched her go, that was the closest she'd gotten to getting Angela to open up in weeks. She'd been pretty tight-lipped about what was going on in her head. Rayanne had of course seen her crying over the break up, but Angela had never really talked much during those times. Maybe it hurt it too much to say things out loud, like speaking about it made it real. Rayanne didn't know what to do, Angela's introversion was not going to help resolve the issue anytime soon. If she was being brutally honest, since the whole wedding palaver, she had time to reassess everything and had come to the conclusion that Angela was being a little unfair to Jordan. He really had done everything in good faith and had only lied because of his own insecurities. Truth be told, she had fully expected them be back together within a week or two. But it seemed like Angela had well and truly dug her heels in about it, they were over. She knew Angela wouldn't even answer the phone to him anymore and Rayanne almost felt sorry for him. Almost, because it was hard to sympathise with someone as immaturely stupid as Jordan. If even a tenth of the stories about his current behaviour in the gossip magazines were true, Jordan Catalano was seriously heading down the road of no return. Especially when it came to Angela.
As Rayanne exited the store after Angela, she nearly knocked herself over as she strode straight into her stationary friend. She gasp a little in pain as the breath rushed out of her lungs.
"Crap Rayanne I'm so sorry, are you alright?" Angela exclaimed in concern.
"I'm fine" she winced, gripping her swollen abdomen.
"You sure, I mean I hope that didn't rattle Bump too much" she said guiltily.
"Nah, Bump is fine" Rayanne returned with a pained smile. As she straightened up she gave Angela a wry smirk.
"I must say that for future reference, standing in the middle of sidewalk in front of a door, is not the best idea in the World".
"Sorry about that, I got distracted by a text Jason's school sent me." Angela said unhappily.
"Oh!" Rayanne said with interest "what did the little charmer do? Get caught in the boiler room? Flunk French again?"
"No" Angela said grimly "He's skipped school completely after 12.30. I just don't know why?"
"You're being oddly calm about this? I would of thought you'd be spitting blood with madness right about now" Rayanne said suspiciously.
"It's just not like him to skip several periods, especially seeing as Shop is his favourite class….." she replied distractedly.
"I wouldn't worry. It's probably nothing but juvenile rebellion, but if you're that worried, give him a call." Rayanne said nonchalantly, hoping Angela wouldn't be melodramatic about this and start panicking.
"Yeah you're probably right." she sighed, slipping her phone back into her purse "C'mon, lets go home and you can help me think of a cruel and unusual punishment for him."
Linking their arms together as they walked back towards the apartment, Rayanne grinned with glee.
"Oh goody, I love messing with your kid."
Father and son sat side by side on sun loungers on the patio as the late afternoon sun beat down upon them. In the bright light of the April sky shone upon them, Jason studied the pale profile of his fathers face. They'd been arguing non stop for the last few hours and it seemed the stress of the previous night was finally getting to Jordan. It was the first time in a long time Jason had had the opportunity to take a good look at the state of his Dad's appearance. The hard nights of drinking had left him with a slightly yellow tinge to his skin and dark circles under his eyes. Jason noted with concern the obvious weight loss from his face, as the sun cast deep shadows on the hollows of his cheeks. But it was the constant disconnected look in Jordan's eyes that scared him most. They were devoid of any hope.
Jason quickly broke off his pensive stare as Jordan caught his eye with slight suspicion.
"What?" Jordan said warily , glancing down at his wrapped up wound" Is my arm bleeding again?"
Jason shook his head vigorously "It's nothing". Jordan continued to gaze at him in uncertainty, not really believing him. Shrugging tiredly, Jordan reached into his pants pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes and lighter. Taking a deep drag out of the lit cigarette, he seemed to relax more as he settled in against the cushioned seat. Jason pursed his lips in disapproval as he watched the action out of the corner of his eye.
"I thought you said you'd quit them again" he said reproachfully after a beat, motioning to the offending cigarette with a frown. Chuckling lightly, Jordan just smirked blithely.
"Why, are you concerned your old man's gonna keel over or something" he said jokingly.
"No! I just don't understand why you're doing this to yourself when you hadn't smoked in nearly a year and now….well, now you're worse than Shane" Jason replied sorely. Jordan shrugged again as he blew out a long plume of smoke into the warm Spring air.
"I just need it" he said quietly. Jason simply shook his head in annoyance.
"Yeah, just like you need the booze" he hissed under his breath. Jordan's eyes flashed angrily at him for a second as he caught the whisper. He quickly swallowed the urgent impulse to berate Jason for his disrespectfulness. Jordan couldn't afford to potentially drive his son away, he kind of had a point.
"It takes the edge off the daily grind okay! It's not as if I'm shooting up heroin kid, so get off my back" Jordan said gruffly. Jason's jaw clenched in agitation as he looked off into the distance as the skyscrapers a couple of blocks south.
"Unbelievable" he muttered bitterly.
Jordan's frown deepened as he flicked the last of his still smouldering cigarettes but onto the flagstones.
"What was that Jay?" he said in a low and hostile tone " What's your problem now?".
"You are!" Jason shouted suddenly, throwing his hands up into the air with frustration.
"What did I do?" Jordan shouted back with equal irritation.
"Emmm lets see, got in a bar fight for one." Jason snapped. Jordan rolled his eyes in response.
"Oh come on, that was a drunken mistake."
"To add to the list of things you've done this month like drunk dialling my principle and throwing up at my JV baseball game, not to mention hitting on Davies recently widowed Mom at the Spring social and all that stupid crap the paparazzi keep catching you doing!" Jason spluttered in agitation.
Jordan's cheeks grew red in shame.
"Okay, so maybe I've been partying a little too hard lately…."
"That's not partying too hard Dad, that's self-destructing. And I can't keep watching you do this to yourself" Jason said with growing upset . Jordan looked at him with genuine remorse.
"I'm sorry Jay. I just can't seem to…readjust." he said quietly. Jason shook his head once more.
"I know Mom broke your heart, but you're not the only one that's grieving." he said more gently "She's hurting too, but this…..implosion, isn't going to help you get her back."
Jordan could feel that old familiar ache begin to build in his chest, that sense of desperation and loss.
"I know" he said sadly. A silence fell between them as the noise of the ever present police sirens rang shrilly from the streets below.
After a couple of minutes, Jason began to grow restless. With his initial concerns having been placated, he felt the sudden urge to go home. He would have a lot of explaining to do when he saw his mother, no doubt his school had contacted her over his blatant absence from class. Plus, if the truth be told, he didn't really feel like being in his fathers company much at that moment. Clearing his throat to catch Jordan's attention, he sat up a little in the chair.
"Listen, I gotta go. Mom's probably plotting my murder at this moment and I guess its time to diffuse the situation."
Jordan merely nodded in response, he just didn't have any more energy to talk. Jason rose to his feet, still looking at his father guardedly.
"So….yeah" he began awkwardly, not really wanting end things on a negative note "Are still coming to my game on Saturday?". Jordan's eyes brightened a little as a small smile wiped away his previous grimace.
"Sure, I wouldn't miss it." he replied with genuine pride. Jason grinned for a second in delight.
"Good, so I'll see you Saturday night for nachos and an Xbox marathon too."
Jordan chuckled, secretly relieved that Jason was trying to regain some normalcy to their relationship.
"Of course, it's our weekly routine." Jordan smirked. Jason smiled once more, but didn't add anything further. Patting his father on the shoulder he started to make his way back into the apartment to go home.
"I guess I'll see around." he said amiably.
"See ya" Jordan said quietly, his mood starting to dip a little. Shane had left not long after Jason had stormed in and wasn't likely to come back today, so now he was well and truly alone again. God did he miss his family.
When Jason finally did arrive home, he was confused to find his mother sitting at the breakfast bar in a clear state of serenity. Her calmness really unnerved him. Shouting, cursing and words of disappointment he could handle, complete nonchalance put him on the defensive. She was up to something.
"Hi" he said warily, dropping his backpack on the floor beside the kitchen table. Angela simply smiled at him distractedly in response before going back to the iPhone in her hands. Jason continued to watch her suspiciously as he walked to the refrigerator and took out a bottle of juice. Her lack of concern was really starting alarm him.
"So…how was your day?" he said carefully, taking a long gulp out of his drink as he watched his mothers reaction with interest.
"Fine" she said evenly, looking at him for a second before her eyes went once more to her cell phone. Jason frowned in confusion at her continued inaction. What was going on?
"Cool…..eh….I'm going to go to my room and do some home work ." he said flatly as he picked back up his back pack. He was halfway out of the room when his mother suddenly spoke.
"I doubt you have all that much to do considering you didn't go to class all afternoon".
Angela's looked at him pointedly as he turned and Jason sighed as he backtracked towards her.
"I can explain." he said sincerely. Angela's once serene expression was now replaced with a more stern look, her eyes hard and mistrustful as she stared back at him.
Despite his initial reservations over her nonchalance, he was definitely not enjoying the contained fury that was facing him now. How could someone go from 0 to rage in less than two seconds, sometimes he really didn't understand his mother.
"Look, something happened to someone I know and I had to go see if they were okay" he said honestly, proud that in his slight panic he hadn't exposed his fathers 'accident'. Angela studied his face for any signs of falsehood, she exhaled loudly as she saw he was telling some semblance of the truth. But he wasn't getting off that easy.
"Jason, the school told me that you were the only one out of your entire grade with an unaccounted absence. Therefore, almost everyone you knew was in that building. And neither Rayanne or myself were in trouble. So who did you go see?" she said seriously .
Jason gulped, feeling suddenly very awkward. His mother had always been able to cut through any bullshit story he'd tried to weave, so there was no way he was going to get away with being vague about what happened.
"I went to see Jordan." he said quietly, his eyes rooted to the checker tile pattern on the floor. Angela shook her head as dread washed over her, she'd been afraid this had something to do with Jordan. Her anger lessened a little as she saw her son's genuine discomfort and guilt. Whatever it was that Jordan had done, Jason had felt it necessary to risk a possible suspension to fix it.
"What happened?" she said more sweetly, trying to catch his eye.
Finally lifting his gaze, his face was awash with mixed emotion. Yet he had to tell her everything, his father would understand.
"Dad got into a bar fight last night and ended up in hospital. He's a little bruised in the face and has a nasty gash on his arm, but he's fine now" he mumbled quickly. Angela's face drained of colour as she took in what he'd said.
"Jordan was in a fight." she exclaimed. Jason nodded solemnly in reply.
"But why? What would possess him to do something so asinine." she spluttered . Jason paused before he answered, conscious he was about to open one hell of a can of worms.
"He was defending you." he replied simply.
Angela's cheeks paled further as she looked at him with wide, shocked eyes.
"Some guys made some snide remarks about you and Dad took offence." Jason added flatly, watching his mother carefully as an almost guilty expression flitted across her features.
"He shouldn't have done that. It wasn't worth the price." she said quietly, her gaze falling to the coffee cup in front of her hands as she avoided Jason's watchful eyes.
"Yeah well….he seemed to think it was" Jason replied more harshly than he'd intended. Frankly he was fed up of pussy-footing around issues when it came to his parents. Life had to move on.
"So….As you can probably guess in light of this 'fun' afternoon I'm a little tired. If you want me I'll be in my room" Jason said humourlessly.
"Wait" Angela said suddenly, rising to her feet "Is he okay?"
Jason's eyes were flat as he stared back at her.
"You broke his heart, what do you think?" he said quietly. Another rush of hurt and remorse flooded her chest as she looked back at her son in shame.
"I guess not" she replied dejectedly. They stood there awkwardly for a few seconds before Jason trudged out of the room without another word. Angela sighed as she watched him go and she wondered why she was letting this saga continue. Why was it she couldn't let things go? There was no doubt that she still loved Jordan fiercely, hence why it hurt her so much to think of him in pain, especially when she knew she was wholly responsible for it. Yet something always seemed to stop her from going back to him despite every pang of shame and guilt she felt as a result. One thing was for certain though, she really needed to talk to Jordan.
The next day when Angela woke up ,that lingering feeling of dread and regret seemed to radiate from every pore in her body. She tried to shake it as best she could ,but the last bit of bilious anger would not dissipate much to her chagrin. She conceded that she's just have to live with it for the moment. The day was bright and fresh as she rose out of bed, a welcome positive note to the start of her day. By the time she'd shuffled down to the kitchen, it was clear Jason had already left for school. Angele sighed in minor annoyance at this misfortune, she'd wanted to talk with him before he left, reassure him that she fully intended to talk to the vice-principal to rescind his week long detention in lieu of the special circumstances . Not that Jason would really care, it was clear he was more concerned about his father than anything else. Maybe that should be her first port of call for the day? To finally confront Jordan about his currently erratic behaviour, yet on second thought, she'd rather tackle the school policy enforcers. Angela didn't particularly like going to Jason's school, it had that odd mixed smell of musty paper and clinically clean bleach that schools always seemed to have. It made her reminisce about a time in her life that had not always been a happy one. Granted her high school years had not been the worst, but it tumultuous enough for her to think it wise not to reflect too deeply upon it all. Because inevitably she'd begin to think about Jordan and right now she couldn't think of him in such muddled and rose-tinted memories. It made things even harder.
A couple of hours later she stood outside Mr Belhams office with trepidation. He wasn't known as being the most understanding of men. Angela quietly hoped he wouldn't think her foolish for wanting to let Jason off the hook, they had a rigid policy about students missing classes. Angela was optimistic she could at least convince him to reduce the sentence by a week or two. But then again, as she'd realised before ,the vice-principal was not exactly a very empathetic person. It wasn't as if she could expect anything different from a 60 year old man, they got cranky easier. But it was to Angela's delighted surprise when the office door opened, she greeted by the relatively young face of Mr Bryant, Jason's former homeroom teacher.
"Hello Ms Chase, sorry for keeping you waiting." he said amiably opening up the door wider to welcome her in.
"That's no problem" she replied a little hazily, confused as to what was going on. Following him into the small office, she frowned visibly. Mr Bryant smiled as he saw this.
"Mr Belham has unfortunately been called away for a couple of days on family matters, so I'm filling in till he comes back" he said with a knowing and almost flirtatious smirk. Angela's cheeks flushed for a second at her own transparency. She really needed to work on being more subtle about things in formal situations. She smiled weakly before nodding self-consciously as she sat down in the seat opposite him. Laying his hands on the desk in front of him, he fixed her another friendly smile.
"So long time no see , how can I help you today?" he said simply.
Clearing her throat uncomfortably she took a deep breath before beginning.
"I want to talk to you about Jason's punishment for skipping school yesterday." she said evenly. Mr Bryant's smile faltered a second as he dropped his eyes.
"I see" he replied more seriously.
"Don't get me wrong, I completely agree that their needs to consequences to his actions but…..is it possible to reassess the severity of it" she said quickly, looking at the teacher pleadingly. Mr Bryant sighed as he clasped his hands together on the desk.
"You know we have a very strict code on behaviour here, Jason would have been aware of the repercussions when he left the premise yesterday." he said sombrely .
"And I understand you have to treat every kid the same under the rules of the school, but Jason doesn't really ever challenge them . He's a good kid and he only did what he did yesterday for good reason. All I'm asking is for you to reduce the sentence a little."
Mr. Bryant looked at her carefully for a second.
"We would be willing to do so only in exceptional circumstances."
Angela gave him a watery smile with relief.
"That's the only reason I'm here arguing for him to be honest " she said sardonically "If there wasn't a legitimate reason I would have just let him rot". George Bryant's face cracked into a conspiratorial smirk.
"I guessed as much." he said more lightly . He continued to look at her expectantly as he patiently waited for her to continue.
"So I guess you want an explanation" she said with a half grin.
"I hate to pry but…." Mr Bryant said uneasily. Angela shrugged before sighing unhappily.
"His father had an unfortunate accident and Jason, upon learning this fact, went to see if he was okay. While I concede he probably should have done this after school, the shock made him act rashly." she said simply.
Mr. Bryant began to look uncomfortable, realising that maybe he should have allowed her to defend her son without revealing private matters. Especially when he knew more than he let on, he had seen the gossip sites and he was sure whatever accident Jordan Catalano had, it had been utterly self-inflicted. He still felt a little bad for him though, he was a nice guy.
"I hope Mr Catalano is okay." he said with genuine concern.
Angela gave him a tight smile, hoping the teacher didn't see the strain in her face.
"He'll be fine" she said coolly. Mr. Bryant's discomfort increased as he looked at her guarded stare, it obviously time to change the subject.
"Ehmmm…I'll talk to Principal Michels this afternoon about Jason's punishment. We won't suspend him, but he'll have to do two weeks detention."
Angela's full smile returned as she beamed at him in relieved thanks.
"That's fine. I'll make sure he doesn't miss one minute of it." she said eagerly. Mr Bryant couldn't help but laugh at her earnestness.
"Now, is there anything else I can help you with?" he said with a chuckle.
"No, I think that just about covers it" Angela beamed, rising to her feet
"Thank you Mr Bryant."
He watched her carefully as she prepared to leave, suddenly feeling uncharacteristically gloomy to be seeing her go so soon.
"I hope you don't consider me too forward, but I'd really like to ask you a question Angela" he said abruptly, the use of her first name startling Angela to a halt. She blinked her eyes rapidly, confusion filling her mind.
"Sure….." she said quietly with trepidation, sitting back down in the chair opposite him with uncertainty as she wondered where this was going.
"So….." he began "I guess you'd like me to get to the point"
The air was warm and pleasant as Angela wandered up the block in a slight daze. The afternoon had not gone exactly how she'd envisioned and now she was struggling to concentrate on reality. The last 24 hours had been a surprising and confusing experience, and the trauma was only just starting.
Her breath caught in her throat as she realized she'd walked all the way to Jordan's building without thinking. Clearly in this state of full disclosure life was giving her today, her unconscious mind wanted to resolve every issue all at once. Before she could psyche herself out of going through with it, her feet had carried her into the lobby. Daniel the doorman gave her a familiar, friendly smile.
"Hello Miss Chase, it's been too long since I've seen you last."
"Hello Daniel, it's nice to see you. How's your family?" she replied sweetly.
"They're good" he said happily. They continued to smile at one another for a moment before Daniel motioned to the internal telephone.
"Would you like me to call up to Mr. Catalano so he knows you're here?"
Angela hesitated before answering. The more she thought about it, the more she was convinced Jordan would probably refuse her entry to the apartment.
"No that's okay" she said evenly, walking toward the elevator. "It's probably better if I surprise him". Daniel looked at her for a moment as if he was going to protest, but the older man quickly shut his mouth.
"As you wish Ma'am." he said more formally watching the elevator doors shut slowly in front of her.
It was the complete dank silence of the apartment that struck Angela first. She had never seen the place so quiet in all the months she'd lived there, so hushed was the atmosphere that she was convinced Jordan wasn't even home. It wasn't until she heard the tell-tale sound of his distant footsteps in the music room above that she was certain he was there. What surprised her further was the almost perfect state of the kitchen. The housekeeper usually came 3 days a week, but even still the room was too immaculate to be normal. It was clear Jordan hadn't been eating much by her estimations.
As she looked around the familiar room at the cream table and chairs, the black marble countertops and large open windows looking out onto the city, a pang of nostalgia stung her. She hated to admit it, but being here was like being home. Angela couldn't help the rush of memories that flooded her mind as she stood there sadly. Sunday mornings had always been her favourite part of the week. Jordan would make her and Jason pancakes, this little smirk on his post-coital glowing cheeks as he cooked. They were never that great, but she hadn't cared. Even when pancakes were bad, they were still good and even better appreciated when prepared with love and effort. It was those simple moments of contentment she missed most. Shaking the daydream away she made her way to the stairs without a second glance.
Her heart leaped into her mouth as she reached the final step, suddenly aware that this was the first time she'd seen Jordan in weeks. To say she was nervous was an understatement. Breathing deeply to calm her nerves, she reached out to the door handle, her hands shaking as her fingers wrapped around the cold metal. Taking one more deep, long breath she pulled down on the lever and pushed the door open. Inside Jordan sat with his back to her at the small electronic piano she'd bought him for his birthday. He was busy at work at the keys, too absorbed in playing basic chords upon it to even notice her presence. Watching his hands as he played the simple shapes on the ivory coloured keys, she smiled despite herself as she realised it was the chord progression she'd taught him. The root of any good popular song ;A minor, F, C and G. Angela nearly yelped as he suddenly started singing. Her fright was quickly replaced with anguish as she immediately recognised the song, it was one that would forever be imprinted in her mind. Always playing on Jordan's car radio in memories of the night he'd found her drunk and alone in that playground, the night she'd lost her virginity to him, the night before she'd left him all alone and broken. It was just one of those songs she'd always associated with them, good or bad, alone or together. Fate had a cruel sense of humour it seemed.
His voice was quiet and contemplative as he sang, like he meant every word. Angela knew this wasn't just singing for him, it was a confession of sorts.
"See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side
I wait for you
Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails she makes me wait
And I wait without you
With or without you
With or without you
Through the storm we reach the shore
You give it all but I want more
And I'm waiting for you
With or without you
With or without you
I can't live
With or without you"
Jordan could feel someone watching him , somehow he knew it was her burning stares into his back. He thought about turning to greet her, but decided nothing he would say to her would sound better than the song lyrics as they rolled of his tongue. Music to him was like what feelings sounded like and he had no better way to communicate his pain than this.
"And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away
My hands are tied
My body bruised, she's got me with
Nothing to win and Nothing left to lose
And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away
With or without you
With or without you
I can't live
With or without you
With or without you
With or without you
I can't live
With or without you
With or without you"
There was a lingering silence in the room as Jordan's shoulders suddenly slumped in apparent exhaustion. He stared as the piano keys wondering if she'd speak first, quietly hoping she would. He'd always hated awkward silences. Across the room Angela stood motionless, still transfixed in a bubble of wonder from his raw performance. She was unsure what to do, scared he'd be angry when she revealed herself and he knew she watched his private expression of anguish in secret. Angela was just about to slink silently back out the door when Jordan suddenly spoke.
"So I guess Jason told you what happened." he said blankly, slowly turning in his stool as he fixed her with a defensive stare. Angela looked at him sheepishly, suddenly feeling incredibly awkward at being caught red handed.
"Yeah he did" she said quietly, her eyes downcast in sudden self-consciousness. Jordan scratched at his head with his good hand as he waited for her to say something more substantial. Unwillingly to speak unless it was absolutely necessary. Thankfully for him, Angela finally got up the nerve to talk again.
"I just had to check for myself you were okay." she said kindly, her eyes finally meeting his, a look of intense guilt and sympathy in her gaze. Her heart thrummed in her chest as she looked upon the face of her former paramour for the first time in nearly two months. From what she could tell ,he hadn't washed or shaved in a couple of days, . Let alone slept judging by the black bags under his eyes. Jordan looked awful. Like the spark had gone right out of him, and it was all her fault. Her gaze dropped down to his thickly bandaged forearm, the once starched white cotton had a brownish tinge to it from the small patches of dried blood beneath . Jordan covered his arm with the sleeve of his shirt as he caught her staring, his cheeks reddening in shame.
"I'm fine." he said sulkily, turning back to the piano with a scowl. Angela stood behind him for a second in uncertainty. Her first instinct had been to hug him tight to her body, hold him until whatever demon that made him do these things to himself shrivelled and died. But she couldn't do that, it crossed so many boundaries that she herself had set between them. That didn't mean she could let him believe that she didn't care about him.
"No you're not" she said more forcefully, suddenly so close behind him Jordan shivered because of her proximity. He didn't turn back around despite this and glared angrily at the black and white keys in front of him.
"Yeah well ,you lost the right to care about my welfare 2 months ago, so just go." he said bitterly. Angela exhaled angrily, crossing her arms against her chest petulantly.
"No" she said firmly. It was now Jordan's turn to sigh in annoyance, slowly pivoting on the stool once more to look up at her with fiery blue eyes.
"Leave Angela" he growled.
"No! Not until we talk about this" Angela replied sternly, staring him down.
"Fine, I'll leave then." he retorted childishly jumping to his feet. Angela step into his path as he tried to walk passed her . He glared even more angrily at her as they stood toe to toe, angry bursts of breath hitting each other in the face. This was not going to end well with two ornery people such as themselves.
"Jordan, we have to talk about this" she said with dogged determination.
"Why" he spat back "It's not as if it'll make a difference."
Angela's pupils narrowed as she continued to glare back at him, her jaw tightening as her frustration grew. Jordan moved again to try to leave the room and she sidestepped once more to block his way. Jordan rolled his eyes and grunted in annoyance.
"Oh my God, what is your problem?" he shouted. Angela's widened in surprise as she looked at him in disbelief.
"What is my problem? My problem is this spiral of self- destruction you've been on lately, my problem is that I can't stand by and watch you destroy yourself because I care about what happens to you." she shouted back, throwing her hands into the air. Jordan continued to glare at her, his eyes boring into hers with unfaltering malice. Angela's own stare didn't lessen one whit as she matched him strength for strength.
They stood there for the longest time in complete silence in this battle of wills, neither combatant giving one inch. Yet despite his best efforts, Jordan could feel his resistance waning, his anger subsiding within. It just felt too good be in her company again, to see her sweet face and to smell the familiar scent of her skin. It was soothing to his soul. Even as he glowered at her, he couldn't help but notice the genuine strain in her face, the worry lines on her forehead. Angela really did care about him and somewhere deep inside him there bloomed a small shoot of hope for the future. She was standing literally 6 inches in front of his face, trying to reason with him just to talk to her. Maybe he could manage to do that at least.
Jordan sighed heavily before dropping his eyes and walking backwards to sit on the stool again.
"Fine, you want to talk, lets talk?" he said coldly, crossing his arms across his chest. Angela's eyes widened in shock, not believing he'd relented so quickly. She blinked rapidly in a slight daze before unfolding her arms and walking to one of the armchairs in the corner of the room . Dragging it across to face Jordan, she sat down and cleared her throat uneasily. She opened her mouth to speak, but was unable to find the right words to begin.
This was harder than she thought. Jordan was still just staring at her, his gaze thankfully though was now calmer. Taking a breath Angela just said the first thing that popped into her head, anxious to begin the conversation before Jordan changed his mind again.
"So….I guess I better starting talk then" she said sheepishly, leaning forward in the chair.
"That would be the idea yeah" Jordan retorted sarcastically.
"Look, I know what's been going on Jordan, I know you're not alright." she said sadly . Jordan laughed resentfully as he shook his head.
"You are a writer, you should know you shouldn't believe everything you read in the media."
"It's not from what I see in the gossip pages, or blog posts, It's what I overhear from Jason, or the intermittent calls I get from Shane ordering me to get back to together with you. It's seeing you like this" she said more desperately, gesturing to his arm and face "You're clearly not okay". Jordan's face darkened as he listened, enraged Shane had been secretly interfering in his life. He ran his fingers over the raised bumps of his stitches under the bandage, the slight sting comforting him a little.
"Fine, I'm not. But how did you expect me to be after you left?" he said sourly. Angela looked back at him in obvious pain. It was clear to him she felt responsible for his predicament.
"God Jordan ,not damaging yourself over me. "she replied worriedly.
"I'm not 'damaging' myself ." Jordan growled, scowling angrily.
"Then what the hell do you call this, huh! Look at yourself Jordan, you look like you haven't eaten in days and lets not ignore the fact you landed in the hospital 2 days ago!" she exclaimed. Jordan sighed angrily, as he ran his hand through his hair.
"That was…just a mistake." he said quietly, avoiding her probing gaze.
Silence fell between them once more as they both were lost in angry thought, looking everywhere around the room but at each other.
"We done here?" Jordan said unemotionally after a few minutes, finally looking at her again. Angela's eyes narrowed at him in aggravation.
"No Catalano we're not." she said huffily. Jordan rolled his eyes and sat back against the piano tapping his foot impatiently.
"Why? You got your answers." he glowered.
"Like hell I did." she snapped back.
"God, what do you want from me?" he shouted, suddenly bolting forward.
"I want you to stop hurting yourself Jordan, to start moving on with your life ,because this, what you're doing now, just isn't healthy" she said sternly.
"What, so you can stop feeling guilty about causing this?" Jordan said nastily. Angela's face crumpled as the barb cut her deep.
"I just want you to be happy Jordan." she replied dejectedly. The hurt in her eyes immediately made him feel remorseful for what he'd said. He still loved so much he couldn't upset her like that. There had been a time that lashing out would have made him feel a little better, now all it did was make him feel like monster.
"I can't, not without you." he replied with equal despair. Angela's breath caught in her throat at his honest expression of desperation. In the not so distant past such an admission would have been all she'd wished for, now…..things were different.
"Jordan…" she began solemnly, dreading what she was about to do " I can't be your excuse for not living a full life. We were great together, but we can't be that anymore. It just never works out."
Jordan felt the little sapling of hope that had bloomed in his heart wither and start to die as he digested what she'd said.
"So you're just going to give up on this?" he asked woundedly .
"I think I have to" she said hopelessly " Look at our history sweetie, we can never keep it stable long enough to have a proper relationship. One of us invariably does something to fuck it up somehow, whether its cheating, jealousy, lies or stupid decisions."
Jordan's eyes widened as he looked at her in incredulity.
"That's life Ange, sometimes it sucks but you have to keep fighting passed all the shit for the things you love. It takes work." he spluttered in frustration. She looked him thoughtfully, seriously considering everything he'd said. Jordan had a point, it was pathetic for her to give to easily. So why was she? What was she waiting for? Sitting forward in her chair, she surprised him by clasping his hands between hers and running her thumbs over his knuckles. The small act of affection made his heart start to beat a little faster, that dying hope in soul suddenly finding strength again.
"Jordan it kills me to do this, to be responsible for hurting you this much ,but I can't be with you until I can trust you again. I wish I could. So I think, its best if we both try to move on". Looking deep in his eyes, Angela forced herself to say the words she knew may hurt him beyond repair.
"Mr. Bryant, Jason's former home room teacher asked me out on a date today…and I said yes."
Jordan's optimism deflated as heard this. He pulled his hands out from her grasp, as he stared off into space sullenly.
"Fine, you want my blessing to move on. Do what the fuck you want?" he bit back. Angela looked at him miserably, wishing there was a way to make this all right. She just couldn't find the right answer at the moment.
"I didn't come here to get your blessing, I came here to give you some closure. I want you to be able to live your life again, to stop punishing yourself, because all this isn't just about what happened in Seneca Falls. I'm to blame as well for this implosion" she said sadly, catching his hand again. He looked at her again, this lost look in his eyes. Yet his hope continued to grow as he gazed deeply into the endless pools of green that lay in her eyes, for even as she said these words of goodbye to him, he could see she really didn't want to live separate lives. Jordan knew he had to keep trying.
Jordan breathed in deep as he turned his hand in hers and intertwined his fingers in hers, kissing the back of her hand with a sad smile.
"Now who's punishing themselves to harshly" he said almost flirtatiously.
Angela smiled gently back at him and for a moment it was like old times, simple and perfect. In that moment, they only saw the present and the complications of the past slipped away. Jordan began to inch closer to her and Angela was powerless to stop him, caught up in her own repressed feelings suddenly rushing forward to think clearly.
"Can I ask you something?" he mumbled quietly , his large eyes looking intently at her through his long lashes.
"Yes" she replied hoarsely, nodding with added purpose.
"Do you still love me?" he asked awkwardly, clearly feeling incredibly unsure of her answer. Angela smiled a little.
"So much ,sometimes it hurts." she replied honestly. Jordan's eyes shined with happiness as he heard this, further encouraged to venture on. She knew he was going to kiss her despite everything she'd said to the contrary about them being better apart, and yet she didn't care. She licked her lip in anticipation as he stopped just in front of her face, his warm breath making her shiver a little. Jordan's spirit lifted as he watched her pupils dilate, a sure fire sign she wanted him to close the gap between them. His raised his left hand to her face and brush her bangs away from her eyes. His hand dropped to her chin as he cupped her jaw, readying himself to make his final move.
Unfortunately Angela's phone suddenly start to ring shrilly in her purse and the spell was broken. Reluctantly Angela let go of his hand and gently pushed him away from her, conscious that letting him get too close was not going to help either of them. Clearing her throat she spoke in a low voice as she rose from the chair.
"I think it would be better if go now"
Jordan's face fell with rejection, his guard leaping back up as his scowl returned.
"Go then" he said sullenly. Adjusting the strap of her purse on her shoulder she looked down at him anxiously. Scared that her latest rejection of him would just take them back to the start again. Taking a deep breath, she decide to lay all her cards on the table. Screw whatever rational plan she'd made before coming here.
"Look you want me to be honest?" she said seriously, her face growing red as she felt unexpectedly self-conscious. Jordan's eye widened as he nodded his head slowly.
"Despite everything I just said about us not working and us needing to move on, it's a lie….….The truth is….I don't want to move on, I just thought it would easier for to have a clean break then wait for me to decide what to do and….. what I really think is maybe we just need some time apart so I can think clearly about….us" she rambled quickly and Jordan's face brightened considerably as he realised what she was implying.
"So you're saying there's still a chance ?" he said hopefully.
"Maybe" she replied seriously before a slight smirk graced her mouth "…..but only if you start showering again, because dude, you stink." she teased and Jordan's face broke out into the first real full smile she'd seen from him in months. To Jordan's great delight Angela's smirk shifted into that beaming smile he'd be daydreaming about for weeks and the shoots of hope for them grew into tangible chances.
"What do you need me to do, beyond basic grooming of course?" he said with a slight smile still on his lips .
"I'm not going to give any guarantee's , but if you're serious…..You have to stop getting drunk and doing stupid things" she said earnestly "You can't call me or see me, like, at all, for a month unless its an emergency. We both need a complete space from all this insanity. And whatever you do, don't write me a letter, it backfired the last time okay."
Jordan smirked for a second before nodding.
" I can do that".
Angela nodded too in response, feeling a little awkward as she stood there rooted to the spot. She had to leave before her resolve broke again. A respite would be good now they were back on reasonably friendly terms. Or so tried to convince herself.
"Good…well I'm going to go now, So…" she trailed off, looking toward the door. Angela was just about to leave when Jordan suddenly caught her arm gently. Her breath hitched as Jordan stepped in close to her all of a sudden.
"Wait here for a second, I want to give you something." he said softly, looking down at her beseechingly.
Angela gulped visibly as she nodded in acknowledgement and he left the room with a quick wink. Angela groaned internally as she cursed herself for her own transparency. She hated when she was so obvious about his affect on her, especially now.
'Get yourself together Chase' she whispered under her breath.
When Jordan returned he had a small wrapped present in his hands.
"I got this just before Rickie's wedding, it was supposed to be for your birthday, which I know is tomorrow….I was going to give it to Jason for you, but since your here…." he said sweetly, handing her the box as he dropped his gaze in embarrassment. Angela felt a rush of love for him as saw the effort he'd gone to. Opening it carefully, her heart did further flips as the paper ripped back to reveal a beautifully framed picture of them, Rayanne and Rickie from around when they'd dated as kids. Shane was in the background with Robbie looking broody, while everyone else was sitting in the back of Red with the top down .All pulling stupidly ridiculous faces. Underneath there was an inscription engraved on the wooden frame, with the words:
'Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.'
"Where did you get this picture?" she said with wonder.
"It was in a box of Tino's stuff when the cleared out his house after funeral two years ago. His sister Lu found and gave it to me a couple of months ago….I just thought you'd like it" he said quietly. Angela's smile widened as she looked down at it, reminiscing of a simpler time.
"I love it." she said with unadulterated happiness.
"Good" Jordan said contentedly. Angela walked right up to him and kissed his cheek tenderly, not daring to venture to his mouth lest it lead somewhere more intimate.
"Thank you Jordan" she said sweetly.
"You're welcome Ange, happy birthday." he said sincerely, his skin burning from where she'd touched him. Giving him one more beaming smile, she left the room without another word, clutching her present to her chest like a precious prize. Jordan stood there for a moment in complete state of bewilderment, not sure what had happened in the last hour was actually real.
"I do believe I'm back in the game" he said to himself with smile, whistling tunefully as he practically skipped to the bathroom to uphold the first part of the deal.
When Angela woke up the next morning after the best sleep she'd had in weeks, her initial satisfaction was suddenly interrupted by an urgent need to vomit.
"Oh God, not again" she cried out as she raced to the toilet bowl. The bilious liquid rushed past her teeth as she continued to retch uncontrollably .
'Well this is a great way to start your birthday' she thought to herself. She was a little concerned this was the sixth time in a two weeks that she'd thrown up and then mysteriously felt fine later an hour later. She was almost beginning to think the worst, you know, that she was…..pregnant. Yet that was impossible, she'd had her period last month and was due to start again on Monday. But then again, her last menses had been lighter and shorter than usual and women could bleed a little during pregnancy. She immediately pushed the errant thought out of her mind, it was preposterous!
'Angela Chase you are being ridiculous, it's only a stomach virus you haven't quite shaken' she chastised herself. The waves of nausea calmed and she slumped down onto the cold tile floor, relief coming in every deepened breath she took. Her thoughts wandered again to her growing suspicions over her condition. Looking down at her abdomen, she studied it carefully as she ran her hands over it, trying to ascertain whether it had become rounder or more protruded.
"This is stupid. I am not pregnant with Jordan Catalano's child….again" she exclaimed as she rose to her feet with conviction. Her recovery was short lived as another sudden rush of queasiness overran her senses and she hung over the porcelain bowl as her stomach contents exit through her mouth. She decided on reflection , maybe it wouldn't hurt to at least take a test to be sure.
It was close to 6 pm as Rayanne Graff sat uncomfortably on her couch, a long forgotten plate of lasagne on the table in front of her. The TV show she was watching wasn't really holding her attention, but it was enough of a distraction to take the edge off the irregular pains she kept having. They had been plaguing her since the day before ,after her little collision with Angela outside the deli. Rayanne was slightly concerned considering she now 8 month pregnant, but she was trying to stay sensible about it. The likelihood was it was nothing to worry about, at worst maybe Prodromal Labour contractions. Hence why she hadn't told Brian about her discomfort, he'd only overreact and panic and she definitely didn't want that. It would be humiliating. That being said, she nervous to admit it, but the pain was getting a little worse. At all times it was more intense than the Braxton Hicks she'd had a couple of weeks earlier and certainly more centralised than before. She resolved to tell either Angela or Brian about when they got home, even so they were merely aware of the potential situation. The throbbing was starting to subside a little just as the door bell rang . Cursing whoever was disturbing her time alone, she struggled to her feet . Shuffling across the carpeted floor , a quick stabbing twinge cut her in the abdomen that made her hiss in pain. She categorically had to tell someone about this soon.
To her great surprise, it was Jordan Catalano she found standing on her doorstep when she opened the door. Furthermore, a very clean and normal looking Jordan Catalano . Obviously Angela's talk with him had done them both some good.
"Hey Catalano, what are you doing here? I thought Angela told you to stay away for a while?" she said in confusion.
"She did" Jordan said with a wry smile "I'm just here to pick up something for Jason he wants me to give to Shane from Joey, it's all very complicated."
Rayanne gave him a smirk as she watched him look into the apartment for a second with apprehension.
"She's not here, so you're safe" she said teasingly, giving him a knowing look as she opened the door wider and gestured for him to come in . Jordan smirked a little as he laughed with slight embarrassment.
"I'll be just a second, then I'll be out of your way." he said politely, stepping inside.
"It's fine" she said nonchalantly "I'm not doing anything important."
"How you doing Graff, getting huge I see." he joked. Rayanne playfully smacked him on the back of the head.
"That's rich coming from the guy that until yesterday looked like a homeless meth head ." she retorted good-humouredly.
"I see you haven't lost your sense of humour in your transformation into manatee." he said with a grin. Rayanne shot him a withering look as she swiped at him again half-heartedly, missing him by a foot as he jumped back.
"Just get your butt up those stairs before this manatee crushes you, you big idiot." she said with feigned offence. As he bolted up the stairs, a rush of intense pressure seized up her whole lower abdomen. She gripped on a nearby chair as the pain spread upwards into her back and down into her groin, grunting as she tried to breath through the hammering discomfort.
This time the throbbing continued longer than before, rolling on and on until she was nearly bent double. Rayanne cried out as the pulsations reached their peak and levelled out again.
"Fuck! Rayanne are you okay?" Jordan said with alarm, his face pale with worry as he reached her.
"Yep, I'm fine. I'm sure its just indigestion." she said tightly as the previous agony passed.
"I don't know a lot about pregnant women, but that sure as hell didn't look like indigestion to me." Jordan said firmly "I think you need to go to the hospital."
"Jesus Catalano, I'm fine. Just go home okay?" she said huffily. Jordan watched her carefully, contemplating whether or not to listen to her.
"Jordan, seriously I'm fi…" Rayanne stopped mid sentence as another sudden kick hit her stomach area and she cried out loudly. There was a sudden feeling of warm wetness emanating from between her legs and down the inside of thighs. Rayanne scowled at Jordan as his face turned a nasty shade of green.
"Oh God Rayanne….." he exclaimed.
"Oh calm down you big baby, my waters have only broken." she said grumpily. Jordan gaped at her in shock.
"Rayanne that's not your waters coming from down there" he said in a strained voice, dropping his widening eyes to the floor in horror and panic. Rayanne's heart nearly stopped as she looked down to the increasingly building pool of liquid coming from her cervix to the floor. The pools a deep red against the stark white of the hallway carpets.
"Oh fuck" she whimpered in terror as realisation hit her. Jordan caught her as another thunderous round of pain ripped through her and all she could do was roar in response. Jordan began to shake in fear, what the hell was he supposed to do?
-Cliffhanger! Hope you enjoyed it all. I'll be back soon with the next instalment! Please review if you like, they make me happy :-)