"Can you pretty pretty please drop me off at Issa's house later" Maybelle asked putting an extra sweet layer to her tone causing Jess to roll his eyes. That hasn't worked on him for a long time. She always results to putting on this sweet innocent child like act whenever she wants something. It works on their parents sometimes, mainly their dad. It used to work on Jess but now he can see right through it.

"You're not 8 anymore May. The cuteness wore off, so change your tactic." He said looking over his shoulder as her pulled into dirt driveway in front of their old house.

"I am still plenty cute" Maybelle huffed. "Just ask Jason on your team"

Jason huh, Jess mused, he was the sophomore kicker on Jess' varsity team. He knew she was only saying this to get a rise out of him, but it was still hard for him not to give a reaction. It was true, Maybelle had grown up and much to Jess' dismay most of the guys in her grade had noticed. Even some from the grades above. But they were wise enough to know pissing Jess Aarons off by going after his kid sister. These underclassmen though, they require a little bit of schooling.

"I'm not dad, so I'm not going to lecture you or whatever," Jess stated calmly while pulling the shift into park "but, stay away from those dudes on my team. I'm in the locker rooms and I hear what those freshmen twigs brag about. I don't feel like getting suspended for breaking some underclassmen's collar bone because I hear them mentioning you."

Jess in one smooth motion reached to the back of his wrangler grabbing is backpack, and swiftly opened the his door to hop out. "And to answer your question, no I won't drive you to Issa's - Have mom do it"

Maybelle still firmly planted in her seat, huffed yet again. She really was becoming a teenager wasn't she? Jess remembered seeing Brenda and Ellie go through this phase but he was younger so it didn't really affect him. He just noticed that they became more and more moody and started looking more and more like monsters with the amount of makeup they piled up on their faces.
Seeing this happen to May was different. She went from being probably the most adorable pain in his ass to just being a pain. She had changed a lot through the years also, she was now 13, she has lost her baby fat, grew taller, and she now had much longer flowing light brown hair. She could even do her makeup pretty well, a lot better than Brenda and Ellie did when they were her age. Jess guessed that maybe his older sister who lived through the awkward stages probably helped May learn to avoid that and skip to just being a teenager. She'd grown up and as much as it angered Jess she had most of the boys in their school's attention.

He hated having to be on alert about May now. It was never an issue before. Jess had made high school his territory. When he got to high school he decided to join the varsity football team for fall and the track team for spring. Through that he became friends with the popular upperclassmen and got invited to all of the parties met all the girls worth meeting. With that he was able to make a name for himself through those four years. Everyone knew him, even the artsy kids since he was in art club and took honors painting. That school was his, he wasn't a dick about it or anything but he knew him and his group ran things there. That place was his, he was even in the running for class president. It was perfect until May pranced in. She was like a doe stumbling into his jungle and the vultures were watching.

He made it clear to the guys that she was untouchable territory. Freshmen girls were upperclassmen's bread and butter. But apparently not clear enough for everyone. Maybe Jason gets a few rounds of full court suicides next practice. He was the captain after all. It is his duty to make sure all on his team are in top shape. Especially the ones going after his sister.

"Jess! Are you not listening to me?" Maybelle yelled.

"Yeah what's that again?" He hadn't realized he had been so in his head.

She rolled her eyes again, another move she has nailed down along with the huffing. "I said Mom can't take me today since she'll be too occupied with Brenda and that guy she's bringing."

Maybelle reached to grab her bag and finally left the car so Jess could lock it. Jess checked to make sure that he didn't leave anything then started walking down the long driveway.

"Oh that's today, I completely forgot" He remembered his mom mentioning that Brenda was bringing someone she met while at college but he didn't really care to keep up with it. This would be like boyfriend #5 that has met the family and Jess really didn't feel like having a discussion with Brad whatever his name is about his business major and how great joining Lambda Chi is and how being in a frat is totally about the philanthropy and not about the parties with basically naked sorority girls every other day.

"Yeah Brenda gets in around 5 and dinner is at 6ish. I think mom is cooking, or she might have Rosie do it. Either way she can't take me to Issa's after so please."

Jess couldn't help but stare at the old Burke house that has remained abandoned for years. Even though so many years had passed it still sent a shiver down his spine seeing how empty and cold that house was. The place where so many of his happiest memories were made. He tried not to look and allow that emptiness churn his stomach but he couldn't help it. So many years and still just looking at a house makes him feel that punch of sharp emptiness.

"Jess, are you ok?" Jess looked down and stared into the chocolate brown eyes of his sister Maybelle. "Are you thinking about-"

"I'm fine May," Jess interrupted "Yeah fine I'll drive you to Issa's but Jen is coming with me too. She's supposed to come over later"

"Fine whatever." He knew she didn't like Jen, his mom didn't either. Jen's not good with family interactions. "Thank you! I owe you one" She then headed up the stairs to the door, leaving Jess to stare at the house.

Come on Aarons, snap out of it he told himself, and with that he shake of his head and walked into his home.

"Mom, we're home" he called out, knowing his dad was probably at the shop. His dad turned the products of the farm into a market. That market turned into a major local grocery which spurred up shops all around the state. The shop became quite successful, causing talks of it nationwide. Aaron's Market. All the girls who want to go all natural or vegan and will pay out their asses for kale smoothies or whatever lose their minds there. Jen is definitely one of them. But with the change of pace Jess and his family's funds expanded tremendously. They never moved only upgraded every aspect of the house. The change did not change the fact that Jess' dad was often missing in action. He always had meetings or business trips or basically living in his office only focusing on expansion and increase.

"Ok honey, clean up you know Brenda's coming" his mom called from her room.

"Will do"

Jess felt his phone vibrate. He looked at the phone it read NEW MESSAGE FROM VIC. Hey babe when can I come over tonight again?

Shit. Forgetting that his sister is coming really fucked up his scheduling.

Victoria was his girlfriend of a year. She was pretty cool, brunette, tall, pretty, tan and she had these light green piercing eyes that made Jess just want to kiss her until her mouth swells. She was always a nice escape from all of the shit going on in his head. He'd stress about his family, or whatever fucked up thoughts pass through his mind and Vic would always be there to pull him out of his thoughts in any way possibly. She once went down on him in the storage closet by classroom. She was a spontaneous wildfire. She's be a great escape from right now.

He would gladly have someone at this dinner with him. Vic would be perfect. She'd probably sneak some vodka into their drinks and they'd take a shot every time Brenda's date said something douchey. Jess knew asking his mom to set a place for Vic would fall flat. Maybelle disliked Vic, his mom hated her. It was probably a mix of hearing the rumors about Vic from other mom's and the fact that during homecoming she ended up throwing up all over the limo causing Jess' mom to pay the limo drive $300 extra for clean up.

Sorry not right now, I completely blanked and forgot my sister is bringing her boyfriend

His phone vibrated again:

K! But you owe me.

Jess went up to his room laid back on his bed and just stared into the ceiling. His rooms has gotten bigger over time. Another courtesy of Aarons Market. His parents saw no problem on spending top dollar for expanding rooms, changing colors, furniture, and what not. Jess got both him and Maybelle's old room, combined it and painted the wall red and black his furniture changed a bit, nothing special.

Stripping his clothes, Jess headed to the shower. Whenever he's in the shower in a day like this he loved the feeling of the water on his skin, it felt cleansing, as stupid as that sounds. He loved the touch, the chill, all of it. I helped him think.

Stop fucking around Aarons, we have an art project to focus on. Jess remembered what announced the assignment was "You will pick a photographer, sculptor, or writer that embodies something real something that embodies you. Use their work to inspire your own in a different media. Write an essay on it as well. " What the fuck can I do with that? Jess thought. There's nothing more, nothing shapes me.

Jess forgot he was in the shower for a bit, he stepped out cleaned off and got ready. He was not going to dress up. The president was not coming just Brenda. He decided to just though on the senior tshirts they gave them at an assembly and some basketball shorts.

He found the nip of jack tucked away under his bed, took a shot of it and started listening to some music.

"Dinners ready!" his mom called. Waking him up from his slumber. He didn't realize he dozed off.

"Yeah, Coming!"

When he got there everyone was already around the table except for his dad of course, but that was just the normal. No one really noticed he arrived yet, they were too busy talking amongst themselves. His mom was talking to Brenda's dude, and Brenda was talking to Maybelle while braiding Maybelle's hair. That was always one of Brenda's favorite thing to do treat Maybelle like a doll. And Joyce Ann was just sitting in her chair playing with her fork. Jess cleared his throat and everyone stopped and turned to him.

"Hey Jess," Brenda smiled "You've gotten taller, and stronger, little brother, I'm impressed" She smiled.

"Thanks, it's nice to see you" Jess replied blandly, only because she definitely saw him earlier that month.

"This is Scott. Scott, Jess"

Jess observed the new guy sitting in his chair at the table, though he wasn't going to bitch about that. Scott seemed like the typical guy Brenda would bring to the house. Tall, lean, tan-ish, blonde curly hair neatly slicked back. Scott extended his arm to Jess and Jess briefly shook his hand.

"Hey dude nice to meet you" Scott greeted with a perfect smile. He seemed older than most of Brenda's conquest. He was at least late twenties. Brenda was turning 21 next months. But hey who was he to judge, that's for his dad.

Jess decided not to be a dick about it. "Sup"

"Sit down, Jess" his mom said "Take your Dad's seat"

Jess really didn't know how he felt about that, sitting in his dad's seat seemed wrong, even though his dad was definitely not going to be home, he didn't even really know where his dad was now, he just assumed he was at some out of state conference. But still, sitting in the seat seemed wrong but again Jess didn't question it. Dinner went o.k, nothing was really awkward. Turns out Scott was a grad student. He was Brenda's TA when she was a freshman, but they reconnected recently when they ran into each other at a local bar. They bonded over the fact that they lived near each other growing up, but never met until just recently. Maybelle and his mom were eating the story up, Jess didn't see the big deal. Brenda went to a local school she was bound to run into other people who lived near them. Jess opened his mouth to state that right as the doorbell rang.

Random, no one really stopped by at this time, people rarely stopped by unannounced they didn't live in that type of neighborhood.

Shit, it couldn't be. Victoria? She knew there was a dinner going on but Jess wouldn't put it past Vic to do what she wants when she wants and what she wants could most definitely be Jess.

"I'll get it!" Jess said as he got up

"No, I've got it," his mom said calmly

Jess really didn't know how his mom would respond to Victoria being there. Victoria had been there before its not anything new. But Jess didn't know how she would feel about Victoria showing up then, she got really anal about dinners epeciallly ones with guests.

"Jessss! Come here please" his mom called out in an overly nice tone. Jess headed to the door to see his girlfriend standing in front of the door.

"Victoria's here" his mom said with a smile trying hide her rage with a smile. She was not one for scenes, especially in front of new guests but Jess knew he was in for it later.

"Umm yeah, hey Victoria I didn't know you were coming!... Oh wait your here for that project.. the English one." Jess smirked at Allison. "Wanna know what we'll work on it in my room, thanks for dinner mom, it was amazing." Before his mom could object Jess planted a kiss on his mom's cheek and took Victoria hand and lead her upstairs.

Once they got into Jess's room Victoria shut the door and looked at Jess with a smirk on her lips.

"So... English project, huh?"

"It was the first thing that came to mind"

"You know we don't have English together, right?" she smiled seductively

"Whatever" Jess said before he crashed his lips in to hers. She put her hand up his shirt the moved them up to his hair and grabbed it aggressively. Jess turned her over to his bed and laid her down while his hands explored. The more he went the further he blacked ready to escape all of his thoughts.

Then the was a big bang on his door.

"Jess," his mom called angrily from behind the door, Scott must be gone Jess thought. "I think it's time for Victoria to go home."

Jess looked at Victoria sympathetically.

"Fine Mom," Jess grunted. Then he looked at an angry Allison "sorry i'll walk you out, let me put on my shirt"

She still looked pissed. "Sorry" Jess repeated

Jess heard his mom walk down the stairs. "If your mom wasn't being such a bitch" Victoria said under her breath.

That actually got Jess mad, but he didn't feel like getting into a fight with her

"Whatever," Jess said as he finished putting on his shirt "Lets go"

Jess lead Victoria to her car.

"Im sorry babe, really" Jess apologized again. Victoria still looked kind of pissed still, so she looked around then she caught sight of the Burke's home.

"I actually came for other reasons that we didn't get to talk about" Victoria said pulling out a cigarette and a lighter "You know, I don't just want you for your body" She winked as she lit the cigarette and placed it firmly between her lips.

"Oh really" Jess smirked. "What other reasons did you come here for then"

Vic dragged a puff then let the smoke leave her mouth "It's my parent's they keep just fighting" She said the word as she made a frustrated hand motion with each syllable. "It's like I know you both don't love each other anymore but for the love of god could you tone your shit down so your children don't have to hear you're loud ass voices. I mean I put in headphones and I still hear my dad's awful voice no matter what. I don't even know how Frankie is dealing with it"

Frankie is Vic's younger brother. Jess met him a couple of times he's a little weird . Like the type of kid who only socializes through video games.

Vic pulled another drag of her cigarette. "You know she thinks he's cheating on her with our neighbor " she laughed sadly.

Jess just listened when it came to Vic talking about her family. That's all she needed. She talked, Jess listened. That was their relationship. She needed him, he was there. Simple.

"If it makes you feel better my family is definitely turning into a shit show." He said running his hand through his hair "We're just good a putting on an act."

She smiled at him softly and looked at him with those eyes. She pulled one more drag and then dropped her cigarette and stepping on the flame. "You know this is why we love each other, we make fucked up look good"

Love

"Well I should go before your mom tries to fight me"

She leaned into kiss him but Jess went of a kiss on the cheek and then a hug. He hated the taste of cigarettes.

"Hey," she said over his shoulder . "Didn't that freak used to leave there?"

Jess released her and looked behind him at the Burke's house.

"Um I don't know" Jess said trying to figure a way to avoid the subject.

"No she definitely lived there I remember her getting off the bus with you." She laughed slightly.

"God she was a freak, I remember I used to do dumb shit like push her in the hallways and write funny notes in her locker," Jess remembered Leslie talking about the notes. Someone would always write her notes like Go away freak, and Drop dead lame ass. You could tell getting the messages killed Leslie, but she would never say anything "God I was so obnoxious when I was younger, but honestly I'm glad she's gone."

"She's dead Vic, don't be a bitch" Jess said calmly.

Victoria's eyes turned into little slits.

"Oh, now I remember, she was your little girlfriend,"

"No she wasn't" Jess interjected, but it was too late.

"You guys would always run into that forest right after you got off the bus." She said cooly, dangerously. She reminded me of a snake. "What did you do Jess? Did you fuck her"

"We we're 12, don't be sick"

"Then what did you do back there? Tell me, I am your girlfriend after all"

"I don't even remember," Jess didn't want her to know, Jess didn't want to tell anyone, he always tried to keep Terabithia between him and her.

"Liar"

"You need to chill Vic, go home I'll talk to you later"

"Whatever," She said as she past Jess angrily got in her car, and Jess watched her as he speed away. Jess walked up the stair to his room, and laid his head down. Taking another shot of another nip. He wished he could honestly have a joint. But while he's training for football they're not allowed anywhere near that. One failed drug test and you're off the team and Jess really was hoping to play for some team in college. Somewhere far away. Maybe USC. They have a good team.

"Jess, come down stairs please" Jess's mom called after him

Jess suspected she was calling him to yell at him again, he trudge down the stair to the family room where everyone, including Brenda were gathered around the television watching the news intensely.

Jess's mom gave looked at him like she was going to cry.

"Jess.." she tried to start to say something but nothing came out.

"Whats, wrong" Jess asked questionably. Noticing Maybelle was crying and everyone looked upset and confused.

Jess turned to look at the TV to see what they were watching but all he saw was some teenager in the hospital covered by the oxygen and surgeons, He could not see her because everyone surrounding her, all he could see her long blond hair.

The caption read "Back From the Dead: Suspected Dead Teenager found after Escaping Kidnapper"

"Jess, I don't know what to say..." her mom said

"What are you talking about?" Jess asked confused

Maybelle turned and looked at him with tear marks on her red, puffy face "That's her! It's Leslie. She's not dead!"