A/N: I suppose this could be a prologue to my other FG story, "The Resurrection", except that I wrote this after I'd already begun the other one. So I don't want to go back and add this on (at least not yet). But it can be read alone too… however, I warn you, if you read it on its own, it mighty seem pretty dark and pessimistic.
The red numbers flashed 3:00 and with the softest of sighs, Jenny resigned herself to the fact that she would be getting no more sleep tonight. Carefully, she slipped out from beneath the covers, her bare feet seeking out her slippers as they reached the cool carpet. Tom rolled over in his sleep, one arm flung haphazardly over his chest, the other reaching underneath his pillow.
Then he let out a strangled sound that would have been more appropriate on a pig farm than in her bedroom.
Jenny used to think it was cute. Now it just was. Give her another twenty years or so, and she was pretty sure she'd have a whole new list of adjectives for it.
His end of the sheets had become entangled about his waist from the sudden flip. One sweatpant-clad leg stuck out from under the covers, his bare toes reaching for the ceiling. Gray sweats and white t-shirt-and all the glory that was Tom Locke. His tastes had always run on the simple side, and once or twice Jenny had questioned whether she should not be offended that with this preference, he chose her.
But she'd pushed the idea aside before it became too firmly entrenched in her mind. After all, Julian, prince of the outrageous, had chosen her as well. Between the two, she supposed it balanced out.
Julian, she thought with a regretful smile, sending a backward glance over her shoulder as she left the room. He probably would have worn silk pajamas. Or au natural, naked under satin sheets-black, just like ninety-five percent of his wardrobe.
Now that was the Shadow Man she remembered.
Padding down the hallway, and down the stairs, until she reached the kitchen. Almost flicked the light switch, finger poised just beneath the little knob, but then she rethought it. Sometimes the darkness was better.
And this was how it had to be. This was the only way it could have turned out. That's what she'd keep telling herself, just as she'd been telling herself for the past seven years.
Tom. Tom. Tom. That's whom she had chosen. Whom she had wanted.
Jenny picked herself a glass out of the cupboard and drifted over to the refrigerator.
Of course, she had been sixteen years old at the time, and he had been her boyfriend. He had seemed like the most important thing in the world, as was the case between most sixteen-year-olds and their boyfriends. It was an issue of heated debate between parents and teenaged daughters since the beginning of time. Or at least since the beginning of the concept of dating.
Soda...no, no caffeine. Milk...blah, too bland. Orange juice...ugh, it was the kind with pulp-the kind that Tom liked.
But she couldn't beat herself up entirely for what had happened, for how things had turned out. What had Julian really expected her to do?
So the prince of darkness-the beautiful, drop-dead gorgeous, sinfully sexy prince of darkness-shows up pretty much on her doorstep one day. And not just any day, but on her boyfriend's birthday, at her boyfriend's birthday party. Then he's not exactly endearing with his whole "I love you so I'm going to put you through hell until you give into me" mentality.
Fruit punch, Jenny decided eventually, pulling out the container. You can never go wrong with fruit punch. She poured herself a glassful, as she juggled the two objects in her hands, using the light from the open fridge as her guide.
Sure, he was a good kisser-a great kisser, in fact-but he kind of tricked his way into those kisses. And he declared his undying love in the same breath that he threatened both her and her friends. She supposed he had the right substance...but his execution left much to be desired.
But she wondered if thing would have been different if he had waited, simply waited. If he had come now and made the same offer he'd made seven years ago-would she have been so quick to say no?
Would she have said no?
Or maybe if he'd never appeared at all, things would have worked out all right between her and Tom. Maybe she could have felt satisfied with what they had now. Or would things have been worse...because Julian had changed Tom. He had taught Tom to appreciate Jenny more than he had ever done before, to not take her for granted.
But how long had that lasted, really? Even the best taught lessons could be forgotten over time. Her current and limited grasp of Spanish was a testament to that fact.
Jenny sipped the juice slowly, taking a seat at the kitchen table. From somewhere outside, she heard a car door slamming shut and dog barked in the distance.
The world continued to move on, oblivious, around her. As it had been for the past few years. As it had been even before that. And when she left her house some five-odd hours from now to get to work, she would rejoin it, and she would pretend that she too was a part of that oblivion. That there was nothing out there, bigger and better and more powerful than anything on this world.
And when Jenny finished this glass of juice, she would go back upstairs, back to her bedroom, and back to her Tom, and pretend oblivion. That there was nothing better out there.
But right now, she had three-quarters of a glass and all night left to face reality.