[Note: I know I said Uni would be on, but this kind of poured out of me one night. It may not be fleshed out totally but I was just typing as it came to me. I dedicate this to hookedonfanfics and Huds2n for inspiring me. I don't think I did this part of the story much justice in Bridging the Gap. Let's hope I get it right this time, eh? Hope this tides you Roadies over until then;)]
The house was dark, drafty and beginning to plummet in temperature as the south easterlies brought a cold chill to Knight's Ridge. Janet sat on her couch, legs curled in beneath her, her tear streaked face was quickly drying with the chill but every time it got close, a fresh batch would flow.
How could one night have caused so much damage? How could one decision have shattered everything good in her life in one fell swoop? She closed her eyes and prayed she was only dreaming. That she would wake up and everything would be back to normal – Eddie would wake up next to her and eat breakfast with her before he headed off to work with the bag of lunch she made him. She opened her eyes but all she saw and heard was the creek of the door that separated the living room and the foyer swing open.
Like a relentless tape recorder, the events that transpired in the hospital room and the night before that played over and over again in her head until it was burned into her brain. Rooster's quivering pasty body over her. Ugh, she recoiled repugnantly at the image. How she disgusted herself! How could anyone have been drunk enough to sleep with Rooster Russo? She had to have been totally smashed to have even considered it. No matter the case, it happened. And that was something she was just going to have to live with for the rest of her life. But as repulsive as her act was, and the regrets that haunted her since it happened, she wept over something a lot bigger. Her relationship with Eddie was officially over. She'd always known it was too good to last. She'd always known that Eddie deserved better than her. He deserved someone kind, someone who didn't have so many insecurities, someone loving… faithful. She was none of those things. She knew that better than anyone did. Someone in love wouldn't do what she did to the person they loved. His harsh words came ringing back to her and cut her like a knife. Surely, all his buddies knew about what she did by now and were possibly just waiting outside Sully's with tar and feathers, torches and pitchforks just the second she got back to work. She laughed derisively at the thought. She deserved so much more than that.
As she continued to beat herself up, her phone began to ring. Let the machine get it, she thought grimly, I could care less whoever it is. Right enough, the phone went to voice mail.
Janet, it's your grandmother. Your grandfather and I have been trying to reach you for the past week. We're starting to get worried about you. Give us a call when you get this, dear. We may not live as long as you may. Call me. Love you.
Janet stared at the answering machine. She'd completely forgotten about her grandparents. The last time Eddie took her to Providence, they were picking out china patterns. They'd been so happy for her, because they saw how truly happy she was. What was she going to tell them? That she slept with another man she doesn't even like to get back at Eddie for kissing his ex-girlfriend? She cringed at how childish that made her sound. Nevertheless, that's what happened.
She got up and took her wineglass along with her bottle of Chardonnay into the kitchen and this time her cell phone rang. She reached into her pocket and saw a number she didn't recognise. Clicking it on she said "Hello?" he voice was hoarse and scratchy.
"Miss Meadows? This is Sacred Heart Hospital," a soft voice greeted on the other end of the line.
"Yes, how can I help?" Janet asked somewhat impatiently. That was the same hospital Eddie had been admitted in. What could they want with her.
"We're sorry to bother you like this Miss, but Mr Latekka has put you down as his emergency contact," the lady went on.
Janet's eyes widened. Why on earth would he do that? They'd been going out just a little over six months. It hardly seemed like something a guy like Eddie would just do on a whim. "Uh…"
"Yeah, I'm here. So why are you calling me? Is Eddie alright?" she asked.
"Oh yes, he's recovering splendidly. We just had a few forms we need you to come down to fill out on his behalf. He broke his phalanges trying to fend his attackers off and cannot fill them out himself. Can we expect you in tomorrow morning?"
Good question. "Uh sure, if I can't make it in, I'll make sure someone else can," Janet replied ready to end the call.
"Uh, that's a problem. You're his emergency contact and so legally only you are privy to his information. We cannot allow anyone else to have access."
"Why not, I mean he's not in witness protection or something," Janet said exasperatedly.
"I'm sorry, hospital privacy regulations," the lady replied apologetically.
"Fine," Janet sighed, her tongue heavy as she agreed to it, "I'll be there at 7 am."
"But Mr Latekka won't be up that early, in case you want to visit him," the lady said quickly.
Janet almost scoffed out loud as her chest tightened within her in pain, "That's kind of the idea," and without waiting for a reply, she hung up.
Janet dragged her feet into Sacred Heart Hospital the next morning. Partially because she was still half-asleep and partially because she didn't want to be there. Mostly because she really didn't want to be there. He wanted her out, that's exactly where she intended to stay. All it took was 30 minutes. 30 minutes of filling out forms, and she was done. She could spare herself the pain of having to deal with anything concerning him.
"Janet Meadows," she announced at the desk with a yawn.
"Good morning Miss Meadows," the nurse greeted cheerfully, "I'm Julia. I spoke to you on the phone last night?"
Janet nodded mutely. The less she said, the less the nurse would feel like she had to talk and the quicker she'd be out of there.
"Why don't you take a seat and I'll get the forms together," Julia said with a chipper smile.
Nothing is worth smiling about before eleven, Janet thought irritably, why does she have to smile like that? Does she have any idea how miserable I am? Maybe if she did, it'd wipe that smile off her face.
To her ill fortune, there was no seat available except the one right outside Eddie's room. She dropped down into a chair and crossed her legs over, idly drumming her fingers on the armrest.
The nurse organised the forms quickly enough and handed them to her with a smile, "Here you go…"
"Janet," Janet said quickly before she completed her sentence, "Just call me Janet." She had no idea why she felt the need to clear that up if she knew she was never coming in here again, but she just couldn't stand to be called Miss Meadows. The nurse nodded politely and left.
She looked at the first forms, Alrighty, here we go, she thought examining the insurance form. She began to fill them out one by one and they all seemed to go on forever. Official forms asked the most ridiculous questions sometimes! How was she to know when Eddie last got his tetanus shot? Suddenly it came to her – he was up on her roof one afternoon a few months ago, cleaning out her rain gutters and cut himself on the side of his stomach. She remembered having to cajole him into going into the hospital for his tetanus. He whined more about the shot than he did the fact that he got sliced by a rusted piece of sheet metal. She remembered how childishly he behaved and how she bought him a comically large lollipop to tease him.
She smiled ruefully now as she thought of it and filled in the last of the form. With a sigh she stacked the forms into a neat pile and attached it to the clipboard she was given. She stood up and met with Eddie's brown eyes. Eyes that once held so much love in them when he looked at her, now stared back at her coldly, the colour of a stormy dessert. "Hi – I was just – they called and said they needed me to come down here and… I was just leaving," she muttered quietly looking down, uncomfortable under Eddie's eyes.
"Why did they call you?" he asked coldly, his arms folded across his chest. He was standing under the doorframe of his room in his hospital gown and booties. If it weren't for those contemptuous eyes of his, she would maybe allow herself to smile a little at the sight before her.
She swallowed hard, "They wanted me to fill out some forms and so I thought I'd come in here before you could wake up."
"Guess you bit the bullet on that one," Eddie smirked coldly.
"Yeah. Yeah I guess I did," Janet replied nodding. Why defend herself? He was prepared to hate her no matter what she said. "Well I hope you feel better."
"A little late to be hoping for that don't you think?" he narrowed his eyes at her, "Tell me something Janet," he said walking towards her slowly. She looked around and saw no one had yet noticed their little confrontation, or whatever this was turning out to be, "Did you really think you could come back in here after what you did?"
Her heart twisted within her again and she glanced down at her feet before she looked back up at him, "I came in here because you put me down as your emergency contact. They needed forms filled and I came in here to do the needful and be done with it." Eddie opened his mouth to speak but she went on more calmly, tears welling up in her as she spoke, "Look Eddie, I heard what you said the other day. You want me out of your life, and I'm going to give you exactly that," she held up her hand to keep him from saying anymore, "I'm leaving. Just go get some rest and I really do hope you feel better soon." She walked past him to the desk and left the clipboard on the counter and exited the hospital the way she'd entered.
Eddie's mind was reeling. What nerve! After all she'd done, she still has the cajones to show up and fulfil her duties as his emergency contact? That role was reserved for someone who actually gave a damn about him. Someone who loved him and he could trust. Someone who would remain faithful and value his love in return.
He sat up in his bed, took the TV remote, and began to flick idly through the channels. When he realised there was nothing worth watching, he flung the remote across the room in temper. I hate this place! I hate being in here! Why do I have to be in here? Russo should be in here! Lausche should be in here with Cataldo. Why aren't they in here!
Julia came in, wide eyed, "Is something wrong Mr Latekka? I heard a…"
"Yeah something's wrong," he said harshly, "Your damn TV sets don't have anything decent going on, the morphine is wearing thin and the food here taste like scum off the bottom of that refrigerator the cook has in that kitchen of his."
The young nurse looked close to tears, or at least she might've been if Eddie had thrown one more vile accusation her way. Her bottom lip trembled and she quietly closed the door behind her after she murmured, "Let me know if I can get you anything."
Eddie covered his face with his hands and kicked himself mentally. She didn't deserve that. He was mad at the situation. He was mad about being cooped up in a hospital room when he had a business to run with Nick. But most of all he was livid at Janet. For all the reasons he told himself and so much more. He was disgusted with what she did, but even more was his disgust towards the feelings that raged within him every time he saw her face. He couldn't explain it. It was utter contempt and anger towards someone he knew he couldn't feel those things for. It was as if he couldn't hate Janet. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't hate her. But every time he thought about what she did he'd physically recoil in disgust.
How she broke his heart! If this was love, he wanted no part of it. What good came from loving someone so fiercely? All she did was walk all over him and his heart. It was as if the last six months meant nothing to her. It had to have meant nothing if she could just throw it all up for a loser like Rooster Russo. The only other explanation he could think of was that she had no idea how much he loved her. This thought made him sit up straighter in his bed. Was there a chance she didn't know how deeply he cared for her? Eddie quickly pushed that thought away dismissively. No, no there's no way she couldn't have known how I felt about her. It was clear as day from where I was standing. She couldn't have been confused about my feelings. She just wanted to get back at me for the nothing she saw me do with Rory. That's vindictive. I can't believe I ever trusted her with my heart.
But even as he played these thoughts in his mind over and over, desperately trying to convince himself that he was right and played no part in the demise of their relationship, Eddie knew full well that the nagging feeling in his chest wasn't going away. Not until he gave the possibility that Janet never knew how much she meant to him a fair go.
Janet came home with newfound determination. She knew exactly what she needed to do. She unlocked the door and marched into her bedroom. She plopped on the bed, took her laptop out, and placed it on the bed in front of her. She surfed for hours on all the job recruitment sites she could get her hands on and looked for a new job. She always wanted a better more challenging job. No time like the present to make good on that dream of hers. She browsed through a few more and decided she was going nowhere. She decided to take a break and get herself a cup of coffee.
As she made her way into the kitchen, her doorbell rang. She hadn't been expecting anyone so she was surprised to find Hannah standing at the door, "Hey Janet!" she greeted cheerfully extending a long thermos of black coffee to Janet.
"You read my mind," Janet said dully, ushering her friend in.
"So, I have the day off. Ray has taken Sam fishing so I'm all yours for the rest of the day," Hannah announced holding out her hands.
"Well good. You can help me look for a job," Janet took a sip of the coffee and walked into her bedroom.
Hannah frowned, "Why? Did Sully lay you off?"
"Well then what? Did you quit? I thought you loved that job!" Hannah said surprised, intrigue growing in her big blue eyes.
Janet inhaled sharply and blew out. This was going to be hard. Hannah was the first friend she'd made when she moved to the Ridge so many moons ago. She was not going to take this well, "I'm going to tell you something, but you have to remain calm, alright?"
"Okay you're scaring me," Hannah looked genuinely worried.
"Just don't drink this all in at once. Don't gulp it all down. Just digest slowly," Janet rambled.
"I'm ready to take a sip. Now what is it?" Hannah urged.
"I'm looking at moving away from Knights Ridge. But I have to secure a job before I can leave. That's why you can't say anything to anyone about this yet," Janet put a finger over her lips to signify secrecy.
"What? What the hell are you talking about?" Hannah asked scoffing at the mere thought, "Stop messing with me like that."
"I'm not," Janet shook her head slowly.
Hannah's face grew serious, "Okay. Now I'm mad. What the hell is the matter with you? Where is this even coming from?"
"I just need to leave Knight's Ridge for a while Hannah. And I don't have to run things by you all the time. This was my decision and I made it. I'm leaving."
"And what about Eddie? Huh? How are you going to explain…," Hannah's eyes widened in shock, "Ohhh my God. He's the reason you're leaving isn't it? You're leaving because things didn't go down well when you told him about Rooster."
Janet looked down and that was answer enough for Hannah. Against her will, tears pooled in Janet's eyes. She was so sick to death of crying. What good did crying do? It only made her feel more sorry for herself and self-pity was something she could do without. Hannah sat next to her on her bed and pulled her into her arms.
"Oh Janet," she said rocking Janet slightly, "He'll come around. He's just mad because his ego was a little bruised. Don't worry. He'll get over this soon enough and everything will go back to what it was. You'll see."
"You weren't there in that hospital room Hannah Jane. You didn't hear the hatred in his voice. The contempt in his eyes. He is no way near okay with this. And I cannot blame him I deserve every morsel of it. I hurt him in the worst possible way."
"No," Hannah said firmly though her own tears, "No, you do not deserve this. Whatever you did Janet, you made a mistake. We're all human. We all screw up sometimes. Hell, Eddie and I hooked up in high school after Nick left," Hannah bit her tongue the second those words escaped her mouth.
Janet pulled away and looked up in surprise. Wiping her tears she looked at Hannah, "You… you what?"
"One night. We got together. He was mad at Rory and I was upset with Nick," Hannah explained slowly, knowing that one false move could cost her, her friendship with Janet.
"One night?" Janet repeated, "Why didn't he ever tell me about that?" she wondered aloud.
"Because it meant nothing," Hannah said quickly, "Absolutely nothing." She reached for Janet but Janet stood up, out of her reach.
"If it meant nothing, why didn't he tell me?" she asked and turned to Hannah, "Why didn't you tell me?"
Hannah didn't know how to answer that in a way that didn't make her sound like a spineless jellyfish, "Because I thought you might read too much into it. I never liked Eddie. You have to know that. We just got really drunk one night and we…"
"Okay you know what? I've heard enough. Get out," Janet said anger boiling within her.
"Janet," Hannah started.
"Get out!" Janet screamed and pointed in the direction of the door. Hannah stood up and shakily walked out of her house.
Janet sat down slowly on her bed, buried her face in her hands and like summer tempest came her tears.
"Okay so walk me through this one more time," Sully said to Rooster later that day at the tavern. They were busy trying to get the new electronic cash register to work. "So I push down on this and… Rooster! You just broke it."
"I did not! It was defective when you bought it," Rooster protested.
"That's what people tell me about you," Sully snarled.
Janet walked in right in the middle of their spat. Rooster looked up at her and grew noticeably uncomfortable. His eyes didn't leave Janet as she turned her attention to Sully. "Hey Sul, you got a minute?"
"Sure sweetheart, anything to get away from this dingbat," Sully said turning away from the register and lead Janet to a booth. He noticed she was a little jittery, "You alright there hon? You seem… nervous."
Janet smiled slightly, "Uh, no, no not nervous. Just... unsure? Anyway I needed to talk to you about my future here."
"Okay," Sully said slowly, cautiously, "Is this about a raise? Because I'd love to help you out honey but I just hired…"
Janet held up her hand, "Sully no. This is about me handing in my resignation."
Sully looked taken aback, "You're not happy working here?"
Janet smiled, "No, honey. I love working here. I just… I'm ready for a change, that's all," she tucked her hair behind her ear, "But you don't have to worry because I'll work for you for the next two weeks and I'll even train the new person you hire in my place."
"Forget the two weeks, why are you quitting?" Sully asked concerned.
"I'm just ready to move on," Janet said in a far off voice, "Which brings me to my next request. Can I get the number of that guy who came to visit you a few months ago? Darryl Hicks?"
"Yeah I'll go get it for you," Sully said walking over to the bar and came back with a book. "Here," he tossed her a business card. "Look sweetheart, I don't know what you're planning but if you need anything, just let me know. And you'll always have a job here waiting for you." Something about the way he said that and held her eyes told her he knew she was leaving town.
"Thanks Sully," she enveloped him in a fierce bear hug and he hugged her back.
A few weeks later Janet was getting ready to make her move to Philadelphia. Sully's buddy Darryl had secured her a job at his radio station. Nothing high profile but the notice she gave him, she counted herself lucky to have a job at all.
She began packing her bags and making arrangements for the movers to get her things and they would meet her in Philadelphia in a week's time. She stepped back and looked at her bags. The amount of clothes she had, she considered just shipping it all by cargo as well.
She was just about to dive back in when the phone began to ring. Abandoning her packing she hopped over some of the packaging material strewn about in the foyer and leaped for the phone, "Hello?" she said breathlessly, then smiled, "Well hello my grandmother, what can I do for you?" she said in a polite melodious voice. Her face grew serious and she rolled her eyes, "Nanna we talked about this. I already have a job in Philly. I can't move to Providence. I start work on Monday!"
"I know dear, but your grandfather and I would love to see you again," her grandmother pleaded.
"I know," Janet sighed, now glancing longingly at her luggage, "I will visit you over Christmas. Its just a crazy time for me right now with the move and the new job and it's a little unnerving to move to a new city. I will visit you both soon though, I promise."
"Alright well just remember we love you and we want you to be happy…" the grandmother paused, "Even if it is nearly 300 miles away…"
"Nanna knock it off," Janet smiled ruefully, "The emotional blackmail won't work."
"It won't?" her Nanna asked quizzically, "Gee it always did in the past."
"Mm. Must have been one of your other grandchildren," Janet smiled, "I have a tonne of packing to get done and the movers will be here tomorrow. Okay love you. Give Granddad a kiss for me. I love you both. Bye." She clicked off her phone and sighed shaking her head. She loved that she kept busy. Every second spent planning, working or packing meant one less second she had to wallow in her non-existent love life.
Janet's infidelity was like a punch in the gut every time Eddie thought about it. But he had to admit, that he wasn't hurting as much now when he thought of her. In fact, thoughts of her created a dull ache within him. He fretted for her and he wanted to work things out with her. Just talk through things. He was no fool, and so he had no preconceived notions about going back to the way things were. Janet betrayed his trust and it would take a long time for her to start earning it all back. But he couldn't stand not talking to her. Not having his best friend around was killing him. He wanted to talk to her. He wanted to see her again.
"Hey Eddie! What can I get you?" a flirtatious young waitress greeted Eddie as he walked into Sully's a couple of days. He was dreading this moment since that fateful day in the hospital room. He knew if he saw Janet his emotions would bubble to the surface again, and he didn't even want to think about what he'd do if he laid eyes on Rooster. The very thought of him made him seethe with anger.
"Uh, coffee would be good," he said checking out the bar and grew relieved to find Janet was not working that shift. He thought it rather strange but didn't dwell on it. Since she was absent, he took the opportunity to take his spot by the beer taps. Dropping down on a bar stool he leaned against the counter and waited.
Soon enough, the waitress delivered a steaming mug of coffee, but not before she brushed her hand against his, pretending like it was an accident. A year ago, he would be downing shots off this girl's belly button. Tonight her forwardness annoyed him. She flashed him a megawatt smile and sauntered off to the other end of the bar.
Eddie blew into his mug and sipped it carefully, as Sully stepped out, "Eddie! Good to have you back in here, son. How're the bruises healing?"
"Virtually gone," Eddie replied half-heartedly and bit his tongue from adding 'The bruise really worth healing, I fear, never will'.
"So what'll you have to eat?" Sully took a rag and wiped his hands on it before he began to swab the counter.
"Not really in the mood to eat, Sul," Eddie replied dully. He didn't know why he came to the bar to begin with. Maybe he just wanted a coffee. Or maybe after all those weeks in the hospital and then on bed rest, he wanted to feel a little normal again. Sully's was the epitome of normal in his life. A nagging feeling within him fought the urge to not ask about Janet. She wasn't always on shift when he came in but Friday mornings were in fact their thing. He'd hang around the bar concocting one excuse over another to stay a while longer until it was lunch time and then Sully would kick him out on account that the lunch crowd was going to stream in. It wasn't exactly Fiddler on the Roof but it was a nice tradition.
"Are you sure? We have a new Navaho half sandwich on the menu," Sully invited pointing up at the specials board.
Eddie raised his eyebrows and then said, "Nah I'm okay. No matter what I order they'll get it wrong," he nodded towards the back where the chef and servers were.
"Oh c'mon kid, give 'em a chance. I mean they're no Janet, but they're training. How can they learn if you don't eat here?" Sully asked.
"Did you hire again?" Eddie asked politely, not really caring what his answer was.
"Had to. We're a bartender and server short," Sully said and turned his back on Eddie before Eddie drilled him for more information.
Eddie's brow furrowed, "Uh, oh yeah? Who'd you lose?" he asked tilting his head slightly, curiosity filling his chocolate brown eyes. Sully mumbled under his breath. "Come again?" he asked leaning in slightly. Sully's voice was muffled and Eddie practically leaned over the bar this time before he asked, "Say that name again."
"Janet," Sully relented turning around to face Eddie. Sully tried his best to stay out of their way. He wanted no part of whatever was obviously going on with them.
Eddie's eyebrows shot up into his hair, "Jan – Janet? My Janet?"
Sully wondered if he realised how possessive he just sounded and answered, "Janet Meadows. She quit a few weeks ago."
"Why?" he asked aloud to no one in particular.
"Beats me," Sully shrugged, drying a tumbler, "One day she's thriving the next day she's quitting."
Eddie was shocked. And confused, "Did she say why she quit?" he dared to ask, hoping he wasn't the reason she was now jobless.
"Eddie, I've said too much already. Why don't you just go over and talk to her?" Sully reasoned, desperately trying to back out.
"Sully please, just tell me why she quit," Eddie said in a low voice, but couldn't mask the desperation.
"She's leaving the Ridge," Sully said reluctantly, slowly.
Eddie's blood went cold, his stomach dropped and he lost all feeling in his legs, "She's… she's what?" he rasped.
"You heard me," Sully said, not wanting to repeat himself.
Why the hell hadn't anyone told him about this? She'd been planning to move away for weeks now and she didn't think to say anything? "Did she say where she was going?" he heard himself ask.
"No. She said she got a job somewhere else and she was ready for a change. That's all I know, I swear to you," Sully said holding up a hand.
"Do you know when she's leaving?" Eddie demanded.
Sully began to shake his head but the fire in Eddie's eyes adviced him differently, "He begins her job on Monday," Sully turned his back to Eddie and continued, "And if you are smart you'll go over there and stop her from leaving. She will be leaving any minute now." But when Sully turned around he found he was talking to no one.
Janet eyeballed her luggage and tapped her foot on the floor impatiently, "I guess we're all packed Bernie," she said hunkering down to cuddle her baby Labrador. He was almost flaxen wheat. And she couldn't stand the idea of putting him up for adoption. She scooped him up and looked around her house. All the furniture was as it was, waiting to be shipped to Philadelphia. She sighed and dropped Bernie to the floor just as the doorbell rang.
She opened the door and was surprised to find Hannah Jane standing in the doorway, holding a bouquet of wild flowers, "May I come in?"
"I guess," she replied stiffly. She accepted the flowers when Hannah handed them to her.
"Janet look, I'm so so sorry about what happened with me and Eddie eleven years ago. And I'm even sorrier that he didn't tell you about it. And I'm sorrier still about the way I told you. You didn't deserve that." Hannah's eyes pleaded her case with Janet.
"No I didn't," Janet replied.
"But I refuse to let this be the reason we stop talking to each other. I mean wearing the same outfits to the same event, breaking your sunglasses at the lake, ruining my leather purse at a carnival…these are things I imagined me losing you over!"
Janet cracked her smile. Damn it. It was too late; Hannah already caught her smiling and broke out into a warm grin as well. "I paid you back for that purse," Janet retorted, but she was smiling now.
"Oh Janet, I'm so sorry," Hannah's eyes welled up with tears and she and Janet embraced each other. "I love you so much. You're my best friend. I would never have ever hurt you intentionally."
"I know. I guess I was just mad that all those times we mocked Eddie about those bimbos he went home with every night…. And you wound up being one of them!"
Hannah grinned and then laughed, "Alright, alright. The difference is that I was piss-drunk and it took a whole bottle of vodka to do the same thing those women give away at their most sober."
"Point taken," Janet said smiling, "I knew Eddie got around a lot before we ever dated. God knows, I encouraged him a lot of the time. But I just never thought he'd ever… with you… you know?"
Hannah nodded and raised her brows. Then looking down at the luggage she sighed, "So I guess you're really leaving huh?"
"Yep," Janet followed her gaze, "I guess so."
"Well just promise me you'll call every now and then and check in. Let me know what's going on. Sam's going to want to hear your voice every now and then too."
"I promise," Janet hated goodbyes. But she knew she had to go through it, "I'll miss you," she said hugging Hannah one last time.
Hannah chuckled through her tears and sniffed, "I'll miss you too."
Hannah helped her carry her bags to the car and loaded them all up. When she got in Hannah handed Bernie over to her and Janet put him in her back seat. "I'll call you once I get to Philly." They waved and Janet pulled away. She glanced in her rear view mirror and caught Hannah wiping away her tears.
Eddie was tailgating every car he got behind. He was driving like a maniac until he finally got to Oakwood and pulled over outside Janet's house. Hannah was standing on the kerb looking stunned. "What're you doing here?"
"Where's Janet?" he demanded ignoring her.
"She just left," Hannah exclaimed pointing in the direction Janet drove off in.
"What you mean – where'd she go?" Eddie asked.
"She must be on the freeway by now," Hannah said, excitement bubbling within her. What could this mean? Why was Eddie here asking about Janet? "Why are you here?"
"I'll explain later. I have to go," he said not waiting for a reply as he drove off, leaving a cloud of smoke behind.
Eddie was driving on the highway now, scouting around for Janet's license plate. He couldn't see anything with the traffic weaving in and out of his way. "Dammit! Get the hell off the fast lane grandma!" he yelled sticking his head out of his truck.
He ducked his head so that he could see through some other guy's windshield. Suddenly out of the corner of his eye he spotted her. She was in the far right lane. Perfect.
He indicated right, moved over two lanes, and began honking when he got close enough to her car. He squinted and grinned when he saw her wave her arm over her head.
"What! Pass me!" she grumbled. She was in no mood to put up with road rage today. Bernie began leaping around in the back seat and barking. "What is it boy?" she asked glancing back. The obnoxious driver behind her continued to honk and the more the horn blared, the more Bernie got excited.
Eddie caught up right next to her, stuck his arm out of the truck, and rapped on her passenger's door, keeping his eye on traffic the whole time.
When Janet heard someone knocking on her window, she almost veered off the road in fright. Now, she was livid at the jerk who had the audacity to not only honk at her after she told them to pass her, but to pull up next to her and annoy her was just pushing it. When she was sure, she had an idea of proximity of the car in front she glanced to the side to come face to face with her pest. Her eyes bulged out of her skull when she saw Eddie motioning her to pull over.
She furrowed her brow and slowed down just before the exit. She pulled over and Eddie pulled up behind her. In fury she got out of her car and slammed the door shut behind her, causing Bernie to whimper timidly.
"What the hell are you trying to do? Get us both killed?" she demanded walking up to him.
"If that's what it takes, yeah," he said with a straight face and slammed his door shut.
"I can't drive when a maniac is tailgating me and distracting me," she retorted. Eddie looked around and squinted as the hot sun caught his eye. He rubbed the back of his neck as they both stood in silence for a moment. Janet, still slowing down her pounding heart. She looked around herself, at where they were and saw vehicles just zooming past. Shaking her head she raked a hand through her curly dark blonde hair.
"So what, you were just going to leave?" Eddie asked finally, still squinting down at her.
"Is that why you're here?" she asked in disbelief, "To ask me that?" He nodded. "Yeah I'm leaving Eddie. I got a job in…"
"Philadelphia. Yeah I heard," he nodded and looked around again. What was he looking for, she wondered. He shrugged his shoulders, "Were you ever going to tell me you left?"
"I didn't think you'd care. If I remember correctly, I was told to go find some place to rot," she said weakly. Her chest still twisted in pain every time she repeated his words to herself.
A dull ache overtook Eddie. What a monstrous thing to say. He grimaced, "I was mad at you when I said that. I didn't mean it."
"You had every right to feel the way you did. I'm not even holding it against you," she said hoisting her sunglasses on top of her head to hold her hair back.
"Are you leaving because of me?" he asked quietly.
"I'd be lying if I said no. You're part of the reason I'm leaving," she acknowledged.
"And the other part?" he asked stepping forward to her, "Can you accomplish it back home in the Ridge if I weren't a factor?"
She looked down, tears stinging her eyes, "It doesn't even matter, does it?"
Eddie took her hands in his. The initial contact sent a warm shiver down her spine, "It matters to me."
"Why are you doing this, Eddie? Why now?" she asked tears spilling onto her cheeks.
"Because I've learned that it's better to do things late than never do it at all. And live with the regret," he said brushing away her tears. "Why are you moving?"
"Because it's the only way I can't start anew. I can build a new life and a new beginning. I can't be around you and not hurt. And I can't be around you and know that my being around you hurts you," she groaned inwardly. She wasn't making any sense.
Eddie watched her, a pained expression on his face, "I think you're full of it."
"Excuse me?" she said stepping back.
"You heard me. You can build a life anywhere. Even back home. And a new life too. With new beginnings. I think you're leaving because you're scared. You're scared that we have something bigger here and you're not up for the fight it's going to take to bring us back to where we were."
"You know why don't you just hop back into your truck and take yourself back home, okay? I don't need your psycho-babble crap. I'm not afraid of anything," she snatched her hands out of his and turned to leave.
"Oh yeah? Prove it," he challenged.
"What?" she asked turning around.
"Prove it," he shrugged, "You come back home. Fight with me," his eyes gazed down at her soulfully as he shook his head slightly, "Because I know I want to fight for you."
Janet stared back at him through her tears, "You do?" she whispered.
"I do," he said nodding, his eyes holding that familiar light in them that affirmed the fondness he once had for her. A fondness she desperately wanted back.
She walked over to him and twined her arms around his neck as he held her close. After a long moment, he pulled away and smiled down at her, tipping her chin up to meet her eyes, "Let's go home."