The engagement party was finally over and Janet could retreat to her house. Well it used to be a retreat, a place to find solace from the unkindness and insensitivity she was subjected to on a daily basis. But now it was haunted, even tainted by Rooster, a jar of moonshine and her mistakes. Her home was more of a hiding place now, a series of rooms and corners whose sole purpose was her isolation. A place she desired and dreaded with equal measure. She had kept up a brave front all day, lied to Hannah, avoided Rooster, made sure everyone had a drink in hand. It was the keeping busy that made the day possible. Every time she had a moment to herself to think her mind went back to her and Eddie in the hospital, her and Rooster in her bed, all the horrible things that Eddie said kept replaying in her head. "Go find a place to ROT!" His words mixed with flashes of Rooster kissing her and then waking up next to him in bed assaulted her mind until she felt physical pain. But when it was finally over and she walked thru her front door, her walls and reserve finally crumbled and the tears came, hot, torrential tears. Exhausted Janet wrapped her self in one of Eddie's flannels, the soft worn fabric, the blue and grey plaid and the faint scent of Eddie was a comfort. She finally crashed on her sofa, wishing she could stomach a few shots to numb the growing pain. Finally surrendering Janet cried herself to sleep hoping she would know what to do tomorrow.
Eddie tossed and turned all night, despite the pain in his muscles and bones. He felt like a caged animal, wild and hungry for blood. All he wanted to do was get out of his damned hospital bed and beat Rooster to a bloody pulp but he was tethered by a thin plastic tube to his bed. The idea made him laugh to himself, the only thing keeping all hundred and ninety pounds of him in bed, was a tube, a clear plastic tube. Something so small and unseen but there, powerful. Eddie wanted to keep the anger for Rooster close, it forced the pain and the sadness he felt for Janet out of the forefront of his mind. When he would allow it to seep back in, the thoughts were the same. How could she? How could she give another man his world, his home his peace. The first and only girl her had ever really cared about and even possibly loved. And she threw it all away. Eddie never understood the concept of heartbreak, but now he felt so empty and lost. And like a rush of wind, all the sadness that Janet had managed to chase away for him all came back. His love for Janet, lingering in his body like a song you only know the melody to but not the words. A hum that flowed through him. Something so small and unseen but there, powerful.
The morning sun is a bitch, a cold hearted bitch. Janet was lingering in between awake and asleep. Her body ached from the sofa, her heart ached for her Eddie and her mind ached for her stupidity. The door bell rang, the sharp piercing twang echoed off the walls, for a split second Janet allowed her self to pretend it was Eddie, with bagels and coffee and an eager kiss for her in the doorway. She smiled in spite of herself. Wrapping his flannel around her tighter she made her way to the door.
"Good, Morning Janet." Hannah cheerful voice turned Janet's stomach. She was there with coffee and an armload of bridal magazines in hand. They did have a wedding to plan after all. It took about two seconds for Hannah to realize Janet's condition. "Janet, what's going on?" Tears sprang into Janet's weary eyes and then it all clicked into place. "So I guess Eddie didn't take it well after all?"
"No… Hannah. He didn't. He said hateful awful things and I deserved every single one of them." The tears flowed without restraint. Hannah set down her coffee and magazines, wrapping her arms around her best friend.
"It's going to be ok Janet, I know Eddie he is not going to stay mad forever." Hannah tried to console Janet the best she could, it was odd for Hannah being in this side of the hug. Historically it had always been the other way around, Hannah crying and Janet consoling. "You need to go back and talk to him, now that he has had time to mull…"
"He is so beyond mulling, It told me to go and find a place to rot and that he was rejecting me. The tone of his voice Hannah, I have never seen him like that before."
"Its because he loves you."
"No he doesn't. If he really loved me we would not have been kissing Rory two days ago."
"Janet, he does love you, he is just to stupid to realize it.
He spent hours just staring out the window, grateful that he was the only patient in his room. He had not slept all night, just thinking about Janet. How she laughed, how she smelled like summer and sugar, how the light caught her hair the first time he kissed her at Sully's. He though about how she made him feel and how being close to her was usually the most important thing to him. He would spend hour after hour working at Best Friend Windows waiting like a kid at Christmas for the day to be over so he could find her and just sit near her, hear her voice, hold her, kiss her. The more he thought about how much he needed her, how attached her had become the angrier he would become. What was he going to do now?
"There he is! How are you doing there buddy?" Big O made his way to the hospital room, bag of food in hand. "I brought you a sub from Murph's. Meatball your favorite." Owen noticed the distant look in Eddie's eyes and the fact that he looked worse today then he did yesterday.
"Thank O, If you don't mind I'll eat it later. The pain meds, you know killed my appetite." Eddie voice was low and raw.
"Eddie, what goes on you seem… off?"
"Well, I got my ass kicked O."
"Yeah, but that's not what I am talking about. This is more of a soul thing then a body one."
"Janet and I… we broke up yesterday." He stared off into the window, tears breaking the corners of his eyes.
"You what?" Owen was beyond shocked. "What happened?"
Eddie wanted to tell him about Rooster and how Janet cheated, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"I told her about kissing Rory, and it all fell apart after that."
"Eddie, man I am so sorry. Janet she has always been so sensitive when it comes to you. Give her time, she will forgive you. That girl, she loves you."
"Nahhh man, its over and done. And really its for the best. Like I told you in the beginning, I ever knew when it was going to end and now I do." Eddie fought back the tears that wanted to come "Anyway, did they arrest Matt and his goons yet?"
"Yes, Steve picked them up this morning. I want to see if Ray posts bail."
"Hannah Jane! Please be reasonable. I just couldn't leave three members of my crew rotting in jail."
"Ray, they beat the crap out of Eddie, he could have died!"
"Latekka is a big boy and he clocked Matt a few weeks back. What goes around comes around."
"NO ray. No. Matt and Eddie was one on one. This was a three on one beat down. I can't believe you sometimes." Hannah was in a rage, over the years Eddie had always been there for her and Sam and for Ray to bail them out was unacceptable.
"You're really mad at me Hannah Jane." ray was in shock. He was usually able to subdue Hannah before she got to this point and he felt like he was losing control.
"Ray, you should go. NOW!"
"Hannah Jane." He pleaded trying to take her hand.
"Now Ray OUT!" Ray realizing her had over played his hand stormed out slamming the door behind him.
"Mom, are you ok?" Sam asked coming down the stairs?
"Yea, Rockstar. I'm good. "
"I think Ray was in on it."
"Sam, no. Ray wouldn't…"Hannah couldn't bring herself to finish the sentence she knew would be a lie.
"Yes, a he would. I want to go see Eddie, will you take me."
"Of course, get your jacket."
"Hey there Sam." Eddie's personality did a 180 when Sam walked into his room. "Hannah" he nodded
"Eddie, how are you feeling?" Sam was fascinated by the cuts and stitches.
"Like I got hit by a Mack truck buddy."
"Do they have you on pain meds?"
"Yeah they do." Sam smiled at him, and it made Eddie actually feel better.
"You know, they arrested Matt today. I was delivering my papers this morning and I saw Steve haul him out of his house. It was awesome." Eddie just nodded.
"Hey Rockstar?" Hannah finally spoke. "Can you give Eddie and me a few minutes" The smiled dropped from Eddie face.
"Sure Mom. See you later Eddie."
"Hannah, don't I really dot care to hear it."
"Eddie, I really don't care what you want." Hannah could feel her temper rising, her mama bear coming out and she knew that wouldn't work with Eddie. "What Janet did… it was awful. But Eddie you put her on that path."
"What?" Eddie was beyond pissed "I put her in bed with Rooster? You know Hannah you have got some stones!"
"Eddie, you know Janet. She has ALWAYS been a ball of insecurities where you are concerned. Rory shows up, you lie and go radio silent and the you KISS her. I mean really on your front porch for ALL of the Ridge to see. So Janet called Rooster, her friend who she trusted. The friend who always told her how amazing she was and how lucky he was to know her. And then you know what he did Eddie? He got her drink on moonshine. He was sober and she was loaded and sad and heartbroken and thinking that you were in bed with Rory. She though that you and she were over. Does that sound familiar?"
Eddie felt sick, the idea of Janet in that state of mind, in that condition. "She was drunk?" he was finally able to choke out.
"She was wasted Eddie, she barely remembers what happened." Eddie closed his eyes, tears burning. "and what you said to her, how could you?" Hannah voice was seething " Janet doesn't have a mean bone in her body. You should have seen her this morning. I haven't seen her like this… since her parent died." Hannah knew she was playing dirty but it felt necessary.
"Hannah, I don't know what you want me to say." Eddie was already haunted buy what he said to Janet that morning. And the thought of her in pain now was overwhelming.
"Well you better think of something."
"No Hannah no, Its over." Eddie was trying to convince himself.
"You are really something else Eddie. Janet is the best thing that could ever happen to your sorry, whoring, waste of life ass. And the worst part is that SHE doesn't think she is good enough for YOU!" Hannah stormed out of his room, leaving Eddie with a heavy heart and a cluttered conflicted mind.
Three days later, Janet was back behind the bar at Sully's. Hell, that is what the last seventy-two hours had been for Janet. Food nor drink would soothe her, sleep would not find her. They days and nights were long, never ending stretches of pain. She would replay every moment she and Eddie had ever spent together good or bad. She wandered around her house, aimless without purpose or plan. She finally couldn't take the confinement anymore and made her way back to Sully's. She had called in for three days, something she had not done in the almost ten years she had worked there. She had said she had the flu and when she finally walked in, Sully almost believed the lie. She looked sick and rundown. She did her best to avoid Rooster but he was relentless.
"Janet, you cant just ignore me." He whined
"Um, yes I can." She walked passed him, like he was made of glass. He grabbed her arm and pulled her to him.
"Janet please, just talk to me."
"You want to talk! You watched me get drunk on moonshine and you took advantage of me. I trusted you, you were my friend, I thought you would look out for me because I have ALWAYS looked out for you. If you don't leave me alone I am going to have to quit."
"That wont be necessary." Sully's voice was booming angry behind them. He had heard everything. "Rooster you are fired. You can pickup your last check on Friday." Janet was shocked.
"Your fired, now take your hands off of Janet and get the Hell out of my bar."
Rooster released Janet's arm, took of his apron throwing it to the floor and stormed out of Sully's.
"Sully, thank you but you didn't have…"Janet's voice was choked and she was holding back tears.
"You're like a daughter to me Meadows, he's lucky I didn't kick the crap out of him. Now get back to work."
Eddie was finally back at 32 Gelson. It felt good to be un-tethered to his hospital bed and back at home, in his own bed. If only it wasn't tainted by Janet, she was ever where. Her things hanging in his closet, soap in his bathroom, her favorite cereal on his counter, the new sheets she bought for his bed, her books scattered in his room. He couldn't escape her and the worst part is he didn't want to. He liked to touch her things, imagine her using them, wondering if she would ever hold them again. Wondering if he would ever hold her again. Eddie finally gave up the fight, the wandered down to the living room and sat on his sofa.
"Eddie can I get you something?" Phil had felt so helpless, not being able to go to the hospital.
"Nah Phyz, I'm good thanks though."
"So… Owen told me about you and Janet."
"I really don't want to talk about it."
"I know, I know. But if it makes you feel better Pizza Girl said that Janet is a mess. She has been working non-stop since Sully fired rooster…"
"Sully fired Rooster?" A small spark of joy burst thru Eddie, well at least she won't have to be around him everyday.
"Yeah, something about customer complaints. Anyway she has been working non-stop, wont talk to anyone except Hannah. You know she is living at Hannah's now."
"She's what? What about Big Cat?'
"Well Hannah got smart and realized that ray was in on your beat down. They broke up and Janet moved in."
Eddie, got really quiet. Janet loved her house, she must not want to be there after what happened.
"A lot can change in a week."
"It sure can."
"You sure know a lot for a guy who never leaves the house."
"I don't think this is a good idea guys." They all stood in the parking lot at Sully's, it had been weeks and they really wanted to get Eddie and Janet in the same place at the same time.
"What you're never going to go to Sully's again?" Owen questioned patting Eddie on the back.
"You guys were friends before, maybe you can be friends again." Nick offered nudging Eddie inside.
Eddie reluctantly walked into the bar, his place. No it was their place now. Nearly everything that made Janet and Eddie, Janet and Eddie happened in Sully's. Those long nights, when he hung back and watched her close up the bar, they would talk and drink a few shots. When he realized that he liked her and asked her out on a maybe date, when his first kissed her and watcher her twirl. When he kissed her at homecoming, hell they even had their first fight about going to Providence in Sully's.
His eyes darted around the room, looking for her, longing to see her. Now that he was so close he was hungry for her. They locked eyes and she saw the pain flash across her face. She looked… sad, even empty. She had lost weight but not in a good way, she looked gaunt. She was the first to break eye contact. Seeing him was just too much.
"Why don't you guys go get a booth and I will grab the drinks." Owen offered trying to break the chill of the moment.
"Hey Owen, what can I get you guys?" Janet put on the façade that had served her well these last weeks.
"Around of shots and beers and an order of wings."
"Coming right up O" Janet was trying her best to hold it together.
"Janet.' Owen lowered his voice to a whisper "Are you ok?" Oh crap, he was trying to be nice.
"Yeah." She was able to choke out."
"I don't know what goes on with you two. But you need to talk to him."
"He didn't tell you?"
"Nope, just that you broke up." The realization that after all that she had done Eddie was still protecting her, her resolve finally broke. And the tears ran down her face.
"Owen, I… Excuse… " Janet ran out through the back of the bar.
"What did you say?" Eddie had watched it all go down and he was a mix of emotions.
"Eddie, I already feel like crap. Let it go."
"You made her cry." Eddie accused thru gritted teeth.
"I don't think it was ME that was making her cry."
Eddie stormed away form the table making his way towards Janet.
The pain was overwhelming, Janet's body could bare anymore. All she wanted was some relief and just when she thought there was some light at the end of this dark awful tunnel something else would happen. She braced herself against the wall hand on her knees, unable to hold up her own body weight. Sobbing.
He watched her for a moment, she looked like a broken bird, he ached for her. God he ached.
"Jem." His voice shocked her.
"Eddie." She wiped away her tears and straightened up " Please just go away." he voice pleading
"Come on Janet, le me…"
"Let you what Eddie?" Her eyes filled with tears again. "let you what?"
He took a few steps towards her and he could see her body tighten. He opened his arms to her, and she walked into them, resting her head against his chest. His arms wrapped around her and they both let out a collective sigh,. She cried against him, deep sobs and tears slid from his eyes and fell onto the top of her head.
"Eddie, I am so sorry, you have no idea."
"Shhh, baby. I know. I am sorry too. I wish we could go back."
"I do to Eddie, I do too but we cant."
"I should have told you."
"About Rory?" Janet whispered
"No, Jem. I should have told you that I loved you."
Janet's heart broke, Eddie loved her. Everything that she needed to hear he finally said but it was too late.
"I wouldn't have believed you, even if you did.
"Janet?' His voice was raw.
"I would have always believed that you deserved better then me, someone like Rory or…"
"Janet, that is so not true. You are the most amazing woman I have ever known, you are so special and perfect. I was just scared… of needing you. I am used to being the person people need but needing someone not so much."
"Eddie I wish I could take that night back."
"Hannah told me what happened."
"She told me about the moonshine, and Rooster and what he said to you… All the things I should have said."
"Eddie, please I can't…"
"Can't what.. Do this?' eddie could barely get the words out.
"No, I can't." Janet started to cry again.
"Either can I. Janet maybe we can try to be friends?" Friends the word hung in the air "Janet we were friends for years, and I cant imagine my life without you in."
"Friends, no Eddie we cant. Our friendship was me watching you take random girls home and pouring you shots. And I cant do that again.
"Janet…' he was begging
"Look, let try to not be enemies. Ok lets try that." Janet did her best to smile.
"Ok Janet, Ok." Sensing that there was nothing else to say Eddie turned to walk away.
"Eddie, Thanks for not telling the guys what happened"
"It's no ones business." And with that Eddie was gone.
The rest of the night was a blur, and when 2:00am came it was Ikey who hung around to make sure Janet got home ok.
"Ikey, you really don't have to"
"I know Janet, but Eddie didn't want you here alone and he was in no condition to do it."
"Is he in a lot of pain?"
"Yeah, and not just his ribs, You know what I'm sayin."
"Ikey, I can't.."
"Ahhhh, no worries, I am just gonna hang in the booth and wait for you."
"Thanks Ikey, you're a really good friend."
"Not really Janet, but I am trying. You know… "
"Good Morning Sam" Janet said from the stove as she flipped a batch of pancakes.
"Mmmm smells yummy."
"Blueberry, sit Hannah, they coffee is already made and on the table."
"Girl did you sleep yet?"
"Honestly, no. Eddie came into the bar last night.'
"Yeah, at first it was awful but then we talked."
"Talking is good, very good. "This was the first glimmer of hope and Hannah was excited.
"We decided that we couldn't be friends, but that we didn't have to be enemies either."
"Oh, J am sorry." And the glimmer was gone.
"It's ok Hannah, really. It was for the best. I mean where was it going I doubt down the aisle. Better that its over now and move on."
"You don't really believe that do you? I mean Really?" Janet ignore the question and pretended to check the second batch of pancakes on the stove.
"Mom?" Sam interrupted "Is it ok if I go to town after breakfast?"
"Sure, are you going to take your bike/" Sam on his bike always gave Hannah a moment of pause since his accident.
"Ok, just be Careful."
"Thanks for the pancakes Janet. Its fun having you here. You are a huge improvement on Ray and the twins." Hannah and Janet laughed.
"So what are you going to do about Ray?"
"I really have no idea. There are two very different side to Ray. The one he shows me and the one you all see. But when he bailed them out the two side collided and I saw him for what he really was."
" I know I still cant believe he posted bail"
"Deep down I know he had something to do with it and I can't shake the fear… what is ray capable of? And then there is Nick looming out there."
"Yes, He and Aubrey broke up."
"When did this happen?"
"Oh Janet, you didn't hear, Aubrey kissed Ronnie at the engagement party and now she is confused?"
"RONNIE Holy Crap!"
"I know, like can we have a little more drama, If it weren't for Pizza girl and Phil I wouldn't even believe in the possibility or existence of love."
"Well thank god for Phys and PG."
Sam pulled his bike up to Best Friend Windows, he was on a mission. He had to set Eddie straight about Janet once before and he was going to do it again.
"Hey, little man. What goes on?" Nick asked happy to see Sam.
"I am not here to see you today Nick. I am here to see him.' He said pointing at Eddie.
"Yup, what goes on with you and Janet?"
"You and Janet?" Sam said really slowly, Nick laughed "What goes on? I mean you love her right? You got over yourself and she forgave you for whole BBQ thing. You make her happy and she makes you…human. So I don't get it?" This kid has some stones, and he loved getting into other peoples kitchens, he must be Nick's kid Eddie thought before answering him.
"Well Sam, that's because you are eleven."
"So, I am eleven and you know what I can tell you more about Janet then you can tell me."
"You have no idea what's going on. You are out of your depth with this one"
"Yes I do. You, Janet, Rory, Rooster." Nick could not believe his ears, something had gone on with Rooster and Janet." . I live with her Eddie, she cries all the time. And this morning she was up at 7am making pancakes. Janet Meadows is never up on a Saturday before 11 and today pancakes. She makes pancakes when she is sad and thinking about her parents. And they were blueberry, her moms favorite. So what she made a mistake, you have made hundreds of them…"
"Sam that's enough I am serious." Eddie was losing what was left of patience.
"You don't deserve her, and the worst part is she doesn't think she deserves you." Sam turned around leaving Eddie and Nick with their mouths agape,
"The stones on that kid Nicky, you sure he's not yours"
"Ya think? Eddie what he said about Rooster." Eddie tightened at the sound of his name.
"Put it in the vault Nick"
"No, I am serious, vault. And I don't want to talk about it."
"Hey Owen, what can I get you"
"Wings Please you know how I like them?"
"Coming up!" Janet had always liked Owen, he was sweet and kind and always saying the right things.
"So how you doing kid?"
"Hanging in there. How are things with you and Allison?"
"There, um better, not great but better. Things take time you know." She caught on that he was meaning her and Eddie too.
"yeah Owen but you and Allison what to put the time in. You guys are in love and have kids. It makes a difference."
"Please don't Owen or I am going to cut off your extra bleu cheese crumbles." Janet chuckled
"Ok Janet, I surrender. So are you going to Spring Fling?"
"Um yeah! Everyone goes to Spring Fling in the ridge."
Hannah and Janet walked thru the Spring Fling Festival, It had been six weeks since the engagement party, and the feeling in the air set the mood for change.
"So what do you think J, subs or funnel cake?" Janet thought for a moment.
"I am thinking fried Oreos and beer!"
"Good, call my friend, good call. "The two friends linked arms and made their way to the Oreo line when Janet spotted Rory. Tall, perfect, blonde, beautiful, scantily clad Rory
"On second thought maybe subs." Janet whispered.
"yeah , Subs sound good to me." Hannah said having Janet's back. And then in slow motion, Janet and Hannah watched Eddie hand Rory a beer and a lump formed in Janet's throat.
"Hannah I think I am just going to head out." Janet's voice cracked.
"Janet, do go."
"No I can't…" As Janet turned to walk away she ran right into rooster.
"Janet, I have been looking for you can we please talk?" the anger she had for him had been building for weeks fueled by seeing Rory and Eddie she finally couldn't hold back anymore.
"No Rooster, we can't TALK! So stop calling me and sending me texts, don't come by after my shifts anymore, stop coming to my house. LEAVE ME ALONE! "Janet was yelling and drawing attention from the crowd including Eddie. "You are really freaking me out now. Everywhere I go there you are and I have had enough of it!"
"Janet, please you and Eddie are done, there is no reason why you and I cant give it a try."
"No Rooster, Enough…" Janet turned to walk away and Rooster grabbed her arm.
"Janet please just talk to me, I can make you see that we are perfect…"
"Rooster, let me go you are hurting me."
"Rooster, get you hands off of her NOW." Eddie growled.
"Oh, look Hail Eddie to the rescue." Rooster released Janet. "but where were you when she really needed you? Oh that's right you were with her." Rooster was yelling now and pointed at Rory "Well I was there for her, I am the one who loves her. And you are just the guy who used her until something better came along."
Eddie had enough, he punched Rooster square in the jaw sending him reeling backwards and falling to the ground with a thud.
"You call what you did being there for her. Letting her get wasted like that and taking advantage of her. And let me tell you one more thing there is nothing or no one better the Janet, you're the only one who seems to think so. If you go near her again Russo, this will look like a happy memory…"
Janet just stood there as the whole town looked on. Eddie extended his hand to her "Come on Jem lets go"
In a daze Janet took his had and they walked away together.
"I don't want to take anymore, let me just take you home ok. You are shaking."
"I cant believe that just happened."
"Yeah, that was not ideal"
"Why didn't you tell me that Rooster was still bugging you"
"Eddie, we have not really been speaking."
"Well then Ikey or Owen."
"I was embarrassed."
"Russo should have been not you."
"Eddie, he didn't rape me, I trusted him, I got drunk, he took advantage. I didn't say no, I even kissed him first. He is not the villain I am."
"No Janet regardless, he should never have taken you to bed. You were sad and broken and drunk. And I am so sorry that I am the one who got this ball rolling. I should have just told you Rory was in town…"
"Oh, Rory, you just left her at the fling."
"You were on a date Eddie, that's messed up."
"We were not on a date, she was with Mike Harris."
"Well I just assumed that you were on a date."
"And that is the problem you assume things. You need to ask not assume. Do you really think I would be dating six weeks after we broke up?"
"Well yes, I just assumed you were."
"There is that word again. You have changed me J. I cant imagine going back to the life I had before you.
Tears formed in the corners of Janet's eyes. "Either can I"
"So why are we apart?"
"I thought that's what you wanted."
"I want you Janet, all I want is you."
Eddie brushed away a tear from her cheek and touched his lips to hers, their gentile kiss started a spark that caused a fire as his mouth captured hers. Breathless and wanting more Janet looked into his eyes and whispered.
"Well that you can have.