Writer's Note: Quite a few people have been unhappy about the fact that Jesse's gender isn't established until towards the end of the story. It makes me a bit sad that people were frazzled, but hey I understand.
So, as per your requests: Jesse is female.
However, Jesse is and was always meant to be written as a normal (though observant) person. She's not meant to be a stereotype, she's not auto-enchanted by Sam or Dean & she was meant to have pretty gender-neutral traits. I just wanted her to be a good, gutzy friend.
P.S. Reviewers have mentioned that Jesse is a male name (and 'Jessie' is the feminine version). I have to admit, I didn't know that! I've met several female 'Jesse''s, so I just thought it was a gender neutral name. I didn't mean to actively mislead those who knew better.
Thank you! ~ Alex
We didn't really get to know Sam until like 2 weeks after he'd started coming to Falls Isle High. He kind of blended in with all the other randoms that populated our huge high school. A thousand kids to one class; it was pretty common to graduate after four years and still not know some of the people in your own class. But when Sam Wesson started sitting near me, having been moved by the teacher (another kid was misbehaving in the back, so the teacher swapped Sam out for him), it wasn't a big deal; wasn't really news to me. We didn't say much to each other.
There was a moment, though, in class. A teacher of ours couldn't answer my question about how museums started in the first place after we had watched a documentary about the Natural History Museum in New York City. It was a class filler activity; everyone knew that… Mr. Harriss was a lazy guy. After I had asked the question, and received a noncommittal answer from Harriss, Sam smiled in my direction. I'd never really seen him smile; he was always sort of staring off into space. To the untrained eye, it looked like he was taking all topics the teacher taught very seriously, but no. He was just staring off into space. I felt like I had perfected that look myself over the course of the past year; I knew that look. But he didn't seem sad or anything, just far away and pensive. He didn't wear any weird clothes, except that sometimes they were ripped or sometimes too large on him. But that wasn't really something to be judgmental about. He didn't fit those classic high school stereotypes or anything.
I guess now that I think of it, he could've been a jock; he was really tall… Probably great at sports, now that I think about it. But he never tried out. I figure anyone that can spend such a long time daydreaming in class… They probably have thoughts that go beyond team spirit.
So when he looked at me and smiled, I was surprised that his face lit up like it did. He had dimples and his eyes were alert, sort of twinkly. I had only ever seen them glazed over and bored; hand covering his chin and mouth in the, 'thinking man,' pose at his desk. He leaned in towards me and, curious, I leaned in closer to him.
"Um, so the way museums started out is kinda cool. They were originally called Cabinets of Curiosities in the 1920s and private home owners would buy really weird things… Like… Twin fetuses and the skeletons of a donkey with a human skull growing out of it… And put them on display and then charge people money when they took the tour."
I smiled, kind of jazzed that I had hit an interesting fact with my question. Still skeptical, I asked, "Really? A skeleton of a donkey with a human skull growing out of it?"
"Most of the exhibits were hoaxes; it would be like a skeleton of a donkey and then someone would just like… Glue a human skull somewhere on its body and then call it a natural phenomenon."
"Eh sounds like a nasty job," I replied, smiling. Sam's smile grew wider in reaction to my appreciation for this nugget of information. "That's kinda cool, though, thanks."
Sam, recognizing the moment was over, nodded good-naturedly and leaned back against his chair.
A few days later, I saw Sam in line at the cafeteria. He was a few people ahead of me, including a guy who was actually taller than Sam. He turned for a second while I was watching and I saw his profile; he was a lot older than Sam: that was why. He must've been a senior… And I noticed he wasn't carrying a backpack, which was weird. Sam's was full on his back with a few more books to spare under his tray.
When I finished paying the cafeteria lady, I looked up after Sam and noticed that the guy was walking away from Sam while Sam was crouched on the ground, tray on the floor, and picking up pieces of food as well as the books he'd been holding, scattered out around him. Curious, and a little irritated on Sam's behalf, I walked over to help.
"Hey," I said as I crouched down to pick up a couple books Sam would've had to reach for.
"Oh. Hey," Sam replied. "Thanks."
I continued to help him get his stuff together. Finally, Sam was ready and able to stand up and go on his own again.
"No problem. Was that guy you were standing next to in line being mean to you?" I asked, finally. Sam kind of rolled his eyes.
"Yeah but it's okay, really."
"No, I mean, it's not that okay…" I replied, looking into his eyes sincerely.
"Yeah it is. Trust me," he replied glibly. His words seemed final.
"Where are you eating?" I asked, trying to casually switch the subject. Sam looked surprised.
"Um… I don't know…"
"Okay you want to come hang out with my friends and I in the student lounge downstairs?"
And so we did. He was kind of quiet the first day; I could tell he was just listening to our conversations, getting to know us by the idle things we said.
A few days later, he started talking. Little stuff: jokes, agreements or disagreements with opinions that were thrown out and discussed. Gossip was a huge thing to talk about and I noticed that Sam stayed away from them. I didn't know if that was because he didn't know the people we were talking about or by principle, but it was fine. There was one day, though, about two weeks in, that surprised me.
"My sister came back from college today for spring break," Pete commented randomly. He had a sad tone to his voice, as if it was an unfortunate event. He was a nice guy, a good friend. He tended to dramatize his life a little bit, but didn't we all?
"Is that really bad?" I prompted, as expected.
"Yeah. She listens to terrible music and her friends are all back for spring break, too, so the house is always full of her irritating friends…"
"My brother listens to terrible music," Sam interjected. I looked at him, surprised.
"You have a brother?" I asked. Sam nodded kind of shyly into his food in response. I continued looking at him, kind of expecting more of an answer. Sam looked up at me.
"What's his name?" I asked.
Shelley, a friend of mine, leaned in next to me.
"Older or younger?"
"Does he go here?"
Sam shifted in his seat, looked down at his food and nodded.
"Seriously, what's his name?"
"I can't believe you've been eating with us for like two weeks and we never knew you had a brother walking around the school… We never see you with him," Pete commented. Sam looked at him nonchalantly and shrugged.
"He's older. You guys probably don't know him. We don't see each other very often around the school."
"His name's Dean Wesson?" I asked, just to make sure. Sam looked at me again. There was the slightest hint of irritation that flashed in his eyes before he smiled.
"Yes. Dean Wesson."
"Sam and Dean. Interesting combo. My parents went with Pete and Esther," Pete began, capturing the conversational spotlight again.
"Oh god your sister's name is Esther?" Shelley responded. Pete nodded and gave Shelley a look to indicate that he also thought it was a terrible decision on his parents' parts. I laughed and looked back at Sam. He looked satisfied as he continued eating his food and listening to us.
As time went on, Sam just became a staple friend that was always present with us in the cafeteria. He was shy, but we coaxed him out pretty well. We got to know that he appreciated salads and parfaits (which we mocked him for, but then Pete had a taste and got on the parfait-band-wagon). He knew a lot about computers – he was always willing to help me out on Lexus Nexus because I never knew how to navigate that damn database. He liked J.D. Salinger and Sylvia Plath (we knew this because he was reading Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar for his class and broke the mold inside our group by saying that they were actually really good books). He even went shopping with us once and bought himself a plain slate-grey hoodie and a pair of pants that I was positive wouldn't fit him. Luckily, we never saw him wear them after that (it must've been an impulse buy; even guys fall victim to the phenomenon). But he wore the hoodie a lot. That day, though, was one of the first days that my friends and I started to worry. Sam tried on the hoodie and when he took it off in the store, his undershirt lifted up with it and we all saw an unmistakably huge, dark, serious-looking bruise. I don't think we even saw all of it because it seemed to trail all the way up to his ribs. It was really awkward, because Sam wasn't even acting like it hurt, and none of us had the audacity to immediately point it out. If it had been Pete, I feel like Shelley and I would have exclaimed in the store and gone to lift up his shirt to get another look at it; demand an answer that we were sure would be an entertaining story. But that was because we knew Pete. Sam was a really closed book… And as we all kind of ignored that we had seen it, it occurred to us all that we actually didn't really know all that much about Sam.
I tried to forget about it, though. Count it as a one-off. Maybe it was just, I don't know, a terrible accident on his bike. But the following week, I couldn't pretend like that day hadn't happened when I noticed that he was limping. It was really subtle, but I could tell. When he sat down with us, I leaned in towards him.
"Hey are you limping?"
"Yeah… Sprained my ankle running."
"You just… Run at home?" I asked, surprised. "Why don't you try out for track?"
"Because, like I told you, I move around a lot and I probably won't be here long enough for it to make a difference."
"Well ask your parents how long they intend to stay – you should at least try, right?" Not for the first time, Sam's eyes flared up at me in irritation for a brief second. I recoiled slightly in surprise. I honestly never knew why, or what I had said.
"No about asking your parents or no about at least trying?" I prompted tenaciously. He dropped his food down on the chair quickly, turned back to me and, with a raised voice, told me:
"No to both, okay?" And then he left for the vending machines to grab a coke or Gatorade or something. I didn't really know how to combat that, but I was still so curious. Sam came back and sat down with a sigh. He looked at me and he looked kind of embarrassed.
"Sorry I got mad."
"It's okay," I replied quickly, simply in response. Sam looked as if he thought the conversation was over, and he was looking up at us expectantly.
"Why can't you ask your parents how long you're going to be here?" I blurted out. There was an awkward pause until Shelley backed me up.
"Yeah because we want to know how much longer we have you for… You can't ask just for us?" She added. I looked at Shelley and gave her a small smile, and turned back to Sam. Having heard Shelley's flattery, he seemed at ease. Compliments, flattery goes so far sometimes… Shelley was being honest, too, so that made a difference.
"No my dad's not around much."
"What about your mom?" Pete asked with his mouth full of the sandwich he'd just jammed into his mouth.
"My mom's dead," Sam replied bluntly.
"Oh. Sorry," I responded, kind of shocked. Sam shrugged.
"No it's okay. She died when I was really little. I don't really remember her."
Sam's words put me at ease that time. We never mean to stumble into such intense revelations; most high school students advertise their life's tragedies… So it was a little weird not having heard that one. But, I reminded myself, this was Sam. He was kind of special.
"So it's just you and your brother most of the time?" I asked, trying to get an idea of Sam's home life. Sam gave a small shrug and nod.
By now, I realized that this, getting an idea of Sam's life, was like pulling teeth. I didn't get it – was he just really boring? Is that why he didn't answer anything beyond a monosyllabic affirmative or negative? Most importantly, if his older brother and him were the only ones around together most of the time…
"Are you and your brother close, then?" I asked, dying to see Sam's answer. It was going to help me a lot, his answer, in trying to figure out whether or not Sam was getting hurt at home. Sam gave another shy shrug and nod. He looked up.
"I guess," he responded. I tried to catch his body language and gauge the truth. I knew that he was lying, but I didn't know which way. Something had shadowed through his eyes when he'd looked at me, but I couldn't catch it.
A week later, I heard some of the school's most popular guys in the hallway talking about how Dean was an asshole. I assumed it was Dean Wesson, as 'Dean' was such an unusual name to begin with. Apparently Dean had gone out on a date with one of their girlfriends. He was reckless, having gotten into a couple fights outside of school so far… He was really disrespectful towards teachers. Drank a lot. Just all around, a total asshole. It made me wonder. Most of all, it made me worry.
Sam had a lot of small, easily unnoticed injuries that I'd absentmindedly recorded in my head since that day in the mall. If his brother was such an asshole and Sam seemed so avoidant – so distant – in the midst of his injuries… I wondered if there was something wrong there. Especially if Sam and Dean only ever saw each other most of the time at home. The set-up that we'd pulled out of Sam seemed to indicate anything other than a typical functional family situation.
A week later, Sam came into school with a bloody eye: as in, he had been punched in the eye, and the capillaries had filled with blood. It looked gruesome. He looked like the Terminator or something. None of us were so awkward with him by this time to cover up our disgust and concern when he approached us in the student lounge for lunch.
"What the hell happened to you?" Shelley exclaimed; it was the first time she'd seen him that day. He smiled, a little embarrassed.
"It's fine. Just got in a fight."
"Who the hell gets in that kind of a fight?" I asked, pointing at his eye, indicating the extent of his injury.
"Does it hurt?" Pete asked. We went on for awhile and then eventually moved to other topics. Eventually, the bell rang and I made my move.
"Hey, Sam, can we talk for a second?" Sam looked up innocently.
"Yeah sure. What's up?" He asked. He now seemed really serious, really dedicated and willing to work with me. I think he sensed that I was nervous. I walked over to a corner of the room where it wasn't easy to be overheard.
"Listen, did… Um… Did your brother do that to you?" I asked honestly, looking at his eye, worried. Sam brought his head back and cocked it to the side in confusion and before he could censor himself, he started saying:
Then a look of understanding flushed through him.
"Oh! No! No no no no…" He replied fast, rushed, almost urgently to me. I looked at him; my turn to look confused.
"Sam – if your brother is hurting you…"
"Ha!" Sam laughed honestly, which struck me as even more weird. "No, listen, he's not. It wasn't him. It was just a fight. It's fine."
"No no… This conversation's over, okay? I'm fine. My brother's fine," he responded, a little skittishly. Before I could add anything, he'd whisked away and gone to class. I took a deep breath; that could've become a really heavy conversation...
I was almost positive something was still wrong, though. I just… I just couldn't place it.
Thank you for reading! Please review! ~ Alex Kerr