Jerome walked out of Mrs. Andrews's classroom at the end of the day, heading down the hallway on his way to Anubis House. Suddenly, he heard a rather interesting snatch of a conversation.
"…for the hundredth time, Mara, I'm not interested in her…"
That was Mick, he knew, and he was obviously talking to Mara. But what could they be talking about? Jerome decided to find out.
He subtly followed them at a distance until they stopped. He quickly ducked through the nearest door and found himself in the girls' bathroom. Why did he always end up in there? At least it was empty, and what better place to eavesdrop?
He pressed his ear against the door in time to hear Mara say "No, I'm sorry Mick, but this is just not going to work. I know you'd rather be with her than with me and I'm cool with that."
"Mara, no, you don't -"
"Just forget it, Mick. We're done, okay?"
Jerome heard footsteps going away. Mick stood there spluttering for a few seconds, and then he too left.
Jerome could hardly believe what he'd just heard. Mara had totally dumped him! He was about to let out a celebratory whoop when the bathroom door opened and a girl he believed to be a year below him was standing there.
She stared at him. "What are you doing here?"
"Um…a bet." Jerome said the first thing that came to mind. "Now if you'll excuse me I have to go collect my money from Alfie." He dashed out before the girl could say anything more. Congratulating himself on his cover story, Jerome began making his way back towards Anubis House.
As for Mara, now that Mick was out of the picture Jerome could make his move! But how? More importantly, when? Should he do it now, when she was upset and needed a shoulder to cry on? That could work, she seemed angry enough at Mick for it. But then, maybe she did still want him back. You never knew with girls. Jerome decided it would be safer to wait a while.
Jerome opened the door to Anubis House, satisfied with his plan. Where was Alfie? He figured he ought to give him a heads up about the "bet."
It was a Saturday, and about a month had passed since Mara and Mick's breakup. Jerome had decided that day would be a good day to sweep Mara off her feet.
They were all eating lunch at Anubis House and Jerome was working on his plan while the others talked.
"You're awfully quiet today, Jerome," Patricia declared. "What's the matter, get dumped by your girlfriend?"
"What girlfriend?" everyone, including Jerome, said in unison.
"Oh, I don't know," Patricia said. "You just seem the type to have a secret girlfriend is all."
"Well, I haven't got a girlfriend, secret or otherwise," Jerome informed her. Not yet, he thought.
Just then the phone rang and Trudy went to get it. Jerome wasn't really paying attention, but he heard her say "Yes, I'll tell him right away. Good afternoon." Then she hung up.
Trudy popped her head in the kitchen, looking solemn. "Jerome? Come here, please, there's something I need to tell you."
"Okay," Jerome said, standing up. He looked around at the others, who seemed as bemused as he was. He followed Trudy out into the hall and looked at her expectantly.
She took a deep breath. "Jerome, I have some very sad news for you. Your mother just died."
His brain went numb. He didn't know what to think. He heard himself asking how it happened.
"Car accident," Trudy said, looking surprised at his calmness.
"Oh. She was probably drunk, then," said Jerome.
Trudy looked shocked. She began to talk, but he didn't listen until he heard her say something about a funeral.
"I'll not be going," he said.
"I'll not be going to the funeral."
"Don't be silly, Jerome, of course you're going! This is your mother, after all!"
Not much of a mother, was she? Jerome felt like yelling. Instead he repeated "I'm not going," and stormed off to his room, slamming the door.
He sat down on his bed and put his face in his hands. His mother, dead. He should be sad, shouldn't he? She was his mother. But she'd abandoned him, left him at boarding school when he was five. He'd never seen her after that. He didn't even remember her at all. So why should he be sorry for her death? All the hatred he'd ever felt for the parents who hadn't wanted him came rushing to the surface and he slammed his fist on the bed.
There was a knock at the door. "Jerome? Can I come in?" Mara. He didn't really want to see anyone right now, but on the other hand who was he to ignore an opportunity to talk to Mara? "Yes," he said.
She pushed open the door and walked in. "Trudy told us what happened," she said tentatively. "I'm so sorry."
"Don't be," Jerome said. "It's not like I even knew her, hardly."
"Yes, but she was still your mother," Mara said gently.
"She was my mother in the loosest sense of the word," Jerome said, starting to get angry again. "What kind of mother abandons her son at age five? What kind of mother never bothers to see him again, or even keep in touch? What kind of mother could walk into a room and not even be recognized by her own son? When a mother dies and her son isn't even sorry, you know something's wrong."
Mara looked shocked by his outburst. "I know this is really hard for you, Jerome, and I just want to let you know that I'm here for you."
Jerome felt tears stinging his eyes. This was all wrong. Mara was supposed to be the vulnerable one, not him. He was supposed to sweep her off her feet, not the other way round. He thought that maybe the situation could still be saved. Should he just kiss her now? No, she wouldn't like that, he should probably say something first. But what?
"Mara," he began, "I want to say that you've been an amazing friend to me lately. You care about me and about what I have to say. With anyone else, I can't talk about how I feel because I'm afraid they'll laugh at me. With you, though, I can, because I know you won't laugh. I know you'll listen and it just feels so normal to talk like that with you. I know that I don't always show it, but I really appreciate everything you've done for me. And I also want to say that I like you. I mean, I really, really like you. I might even say that I love you." He held his breath, waiting.
Mara looked at him like she might cry. "Jerome, I – I don't know what to say…"
"Don't say anything," he advised her, and then he kissed her.
It was wonderful, and it felt right. Both of them knew that they'd found the person they were meant to kiss. After what seemed like ages, Mara pulled away.
"Jerome," she said softly, "promise me you'll go to her funeral."
"Will you come with me?"
"Of course, if you want me to."
"Then I'll go."
"And I love you, too."
As they kissed again, Jerome realized that he'd just been swept off his feet. Maybe it was better that way. After all, if he'd done the sweeping he probably would've botched the whole thing.
A/N: This is my first published attempt at fiction writing so I would really really really appreciate reviews! :)