Chapter Seven

Jane had driven for twenty-five minutes and had just pulled into a little cul-de-sac that had perfect hedges when Jesse asked again where they were going. Again, she didn't answer, opting instead to pull into a parking spot in front of some house, open the car doors and lead Jesse on to the porch.

Jesse had expected her to knock, but instead she pulled a key from her pocket and placed it in the door, turning it and only then knocking a few times before opening it. She stepped into a living room, pulling Jesse alongside her.

There was a sound of footsteps, and an older man with graying hair entered the room. Jesse's heart stopped; he recognized him instantly. Jane's father. Donald Margolis.

"Hi, Dad," Jane said, gesturing. "This is Jesse. Can we use the library? And do you have anything good in the fridge?"

Donald blinked.

"Jane, I was under the impression that you had your own home. One, in fact where I let you live rent-free."

"Yeah, but we need to use the library," Jane replied with a smile. "You didn't throw out those old books Mom had, did you? The ones with the… weird stuff?"

"You mean her anthropology textbooks?" Donald asked. "No. They're still up there. Why do you need them?"

"There's a thing," Jane told him, before walking forward and disappearing into the next room. Jesse heard a refrigerator door open and when she returned, she was holding a box of donuts. "Thanks for the donuts."

"You're… welcome," Donald told her dryly.

"Come on, let's go upstairs," Jane said, grabbing Jesse's arm.

"Uh, hi," Jesse said, waving to Donald as he was pulled. Admittedly, this was less awkward than the way that he had met her father before… but not by much.

He followed Jane up a flight of stairs and through a door that led to what Jane had called "the library" but could also be summed up as some sort of study or computer room. There was a laptop in it – he assumed it belonged to Donald – and two full bookcases filled to overflowing with different kinds of books.

"Now," Jane said, "I'm not saying I believe you. But… if I did. There's some kinda stuff here that seems to be up that alley. I mean… people believed it. My mom studied this kinda stuff for her thesis."

"What's a thesis?" Jesse inquired, but Jane didn't answer. She was busy picking up books and busily flipping through them.

"So what happened? Did something actually come to you and, you know, offer you three wishes or something?"

Jesse glared.

"No. It wasn't the goddamned genie from Aladdin. I just… I said it, and then BOOM! It… it happened."

Jane scratched her head.

"Well, what did you wish for?" she inquired. Jesse let out a sigh. The fact that she was actually accepting his bizarre-yet-true story was unlikely enough that he hadn't taken a second to consider what he would actually tell her if she asked this. He couldn't tell her all about Mr. White, about what they had been like… Hell, even speaking the man's name seemed too painful now, too raw considering that in this world he didn't even live and breathe anymore, that he was shut tight and sleeping inside a coffin.

"I… There was this guy I knew. And a lot of bad shit came out of me knowing him. So… I… wished I never met him again," Jesse explained. "But… so much… I mean… God, Jane, he's dead. I found out he's dead."

Jane put the book she was looking through back on the shelf and looked at him.

"Are you sure this isn't some kinda… psychological coping mechanism? I mean, maybe… you found out he's dead… and…" she lowered her voice, made it softer. "And then your ex and her son, too. And you decided… there had to be another world out there. Another one where they're alive if only you can get back to it."

Jesse shook his head.

"Okay, on some level, that makes sense," he admitted, "And, like… I'm pretty sure that it happens. That people summon up shit that they're… like… aliens or something or they totally lose their memory because their family died, or something. But how would I come up with a whole life where I knew you…" He paused, but was unable to stop himself from continuing, "Where I loved you… If I had never met you before I ran into you the other day?"

"Jesse," Jane started. "The brain… well, I wasn't a Psych major during my… exceedingly brief stay in college, but it can do crazy things in crazy circumstances. Stockholm Syndrome. Schizophrenia. The mind… can make all kinds of things real that aren't."

Jesse stepped forward, reaching out his hands to take both of Jane's in his.

"I know… it sounds crazy. I know that it can't be true. But part of you… I have to trust that part of you knows that I'm telling the truth. That part of you just knows, or is at least… can at least give me the benefit of the doubt. Can you give me that Jane, please?"

Jane sighed and looked at him. He was afraid she would shake off his hands, tell him again that he was nuts, or even worse call for her dad and have him throw Jesse down the stairs or out the window or something.

"You know, Jesse," she said instead. "I'm honestly not all that convinced. But... I also like you. There's something about you I like. So… I'm willing to take this crazy little ride with you, and if I get to see reality get warped, well, I suppose that's worth the price of admission."

Jesse stared at her.

"Really?"

She shrugged.

"Sure," Jane told him. "My life gets boring now that I'm clean. Guess I need something to keep me occupied. 'My anti-drug'." She laughed. "Guess we better get reading, right?" She picked another book off the shelf and handed it to him. "You better pull your weight, or I'll kick your ass." Jesse opened the book and got to work. They had to figure this out somehow. There had to be an answer.