AN: Bah, alright, so that wasn't the last chapter. More loose ends to tie up, apparently. Happy endings to spell out, or demolish. Fine, fine. Just hope it doesn't string it out too long :} but seriously, this is teh actual last and final chapter.
Flotsam and Jetsam
"Hey, Jo!" Mrs Bailey put down her gardening fork and sat back on her heels, startling Jo as she emerged out of the bush.
"Is Evan in?" Jo asked, feeling like she'd been caught breaking and entering, though she was only in the front garden.
"No, he went fishing with the guys this morning," Mrs Bailey replied, her eyes steady and thoughtful on the girl standing awkwardly in front of her.
Mrs Bailey started pulling off her gloves, keeping her eyes on the soiled fingers to give Jo some space. "Sheriff tells me he got into a fight with your boyfriend. He wouldn't tell his mother, of course."
There was only silence, and Mrs Bailey had to look up.
"What was that about?" she asked delicately.
"Me," Jo replied quietly. Unhappily.
"Must make you feel pretty special," Mrs Bailey said, piling her gloves on top of the small mountain of weeds she'd harvested.
"No, not really," Jo said, her voice very soft, her eyes downcast, her face breaking.
Jo ducked away from the approaching hug and ran down the street to escape her sympathy.
Evan sat next to Fly on the pier, fishing. Fly looked like he'd been poured into place, sitting immobile for hours, but Evan couldn't get comfortable. Finally he lay down on his back to take the weight off his ribs.
"She really messed with your mind, huh," Fly noted, gazing at the scattered reflections on the water.
"Spose." Evan's reply was muffled by the arm his mouth was resting on.
"So what are you gonna do about it?"
He sighed and made the effort to lift his chin above his forearm. "Dunno."
A burger wrapper floated pat the lines and Fly dug it out of the water in disgust.
"Would you take her back," Evan asked him, "If she just wanted you as a holiday fling?"
"Shit yeah," Fly grinned.
Evan's answering smile was short lived.
"Go get her then," he muttered quietly. She's all yours. She's everyone's, apparently. He frowned to himself, knowing he wasn't being fair, but unsure what was fair, at the moment.
"So she used you for sex," Tod said, abandoning his line and joining them, "Get over it already."
"Is she asking?" Fly said in an interested sort of voice.
No, he thought, but before he could reply Tod said "Well there's gotta be some reason why they're coming over."
The girls advanced in formation up the pier, Adie in the lead, til they were barely metres away. The boys greeted them with silence, but paid them the courtesy of dragging their eyes away from their lines and watching them stand there. Jo pulled her cuffs lower with her fingers, and stared at the grey, weathered planks.
"So, are we going to do this beach thing or what?" Adie said, trying not to grimace.
Fly gave her a weirded look. Who would want to lie around on a boring hot beach when you could fish. But Evan wouldn't stop looking at him til he sighed and began winding in his line.
"Wow that sounds like so much fun," Fly said deadpan in a mock happy tone that flew right past the girls. Adie looked at the others with a flash in her eyes that bordered on triumphant, and led them down to the sand.
Straight away, Evan struck out into the surf and Jo followed him close behind. He kept on til he was past break line, then trod water as he cast his eyes back to the beach.
Adie was getting Fly in trouble for not applying her tanning lotion evenly and thoroughly to all exposed skin, and Fly was getting redder and redder the more of her skin he had to apply it to. Ellie had egged Tod into an expansive monologue on types of bait and Tod had no idea she was quietly laughing at him the entire time.
Hearing Jo's chuckle, he glanced at her, quickly, lest his eyes get snagged and caught.
"What is this, like 1916?" she said, and he saw they were both still wearing their shirts, covering their marks. He laughed quietly back, and it seemed to unlock her, let her relax.
"I know what I was looking for," she said, quieter still, and he let his eyes rest on her, lightly, warily. Encouraged, she went on. "I was looking for what we had last summer. That's what I want."
His eyes slid off her and out to sea. "That wasn't real, Jo. It was all a lie."
"Felt pretty real to me," she murmured, but he shook his head. The water seemed heavier somehow.
He didn't know her then. Or, he'd only known the good side. But he'd never asked for anything, any kind of exclusivity, any long term considerations. So why did what she told him yesterday have him thrown? Was it that she'd lied to him about her boyfriend? Acted like such a tramp at school? Used him the summer before? Nope.
He realized that what really got him was that she hadn't even tried to help herself, with Cam. She hadn't wanted to let him, but nor would she even front up to it herself. That had him beat. He had thought her stronger than that. It was a side to her he hadn't even guessed existed. And the problem was, it scared him that he understood, a little. If it had just been him, he wouldn't have told anyone either. It scared him that what he didn't like about her, she had made him see in himself too. That was what he couldn't get past. He didn't see why it was any reason to ignore her, but there it was.
When Evan ducked into the diner to get them drinks, he found Ellie had followed him into its gloomy interior.
"Just wanted to say sorry," she said, "For being so cold with you, before."
He shrugged, hands filled with cold sweating bottles. They'd only told him the truth. Alright, so they didn't have to have been quite so bitchy about it. But it was more than Jo had done.
"You've known her forever, right?" he said.
"Her and Adie, yeah," Ellie smiled, "Us three kinda grew up together. Adie didn't used to be such a bitch. It's high school that did it, somehow."
"She's had a pretty messed up year."
They both knew he was talking about Jo.
Ellie sighed, her weight settling unconsciously on one leg, her finger tracing the cracks in the vinyl seats. "That Cameron was such a slime bag. And she just couldn't see it. She couldn't see it with any of them."
"All men are bastards," he murmured, watching her finger explore.
"She tell you that?" Ellie asked, glancing at him, and he nodded. Her eyebrows jumped a little. "I never thought I'd hear that come out of Jo's mouth. Not last year's Jo anyway."
"She had a soft spot for all the guys, huh?"
"You could say that again." Her eyebrows raised in a mixture of annoyance and disgust, and the face made him laugh. She laughed back self-consciously at first, but Evan shoved her good naturedly and she shot him a look and let herself laugh for real. As he laughed, he realized that was last year's Jo. This year's Jo had barely liked him, at first. But she did now. That was something. He wasn't sure what, but it was something.
Jo ran into the diner and stopped dead.
Ellie and Evan laughing. Together. His face had lost its frown, his eyes were lit up as he looked at her.
Ellie and Evan.
She backed off silently and ran.
"If you were washed up on a desert island, who would you choose?"
"Huh?" Jo asked, pulling her face out of the hot sand, and peering at Adie.
"Who'd you want to be with?" Adie persisted.
"I dunno," Jo muttered, "MacGuyver."
"I reckon, I'd go with Fly," Adie said, watching Fly cast a surreptitious line into the breakers. Jo shot her a look to see if she was serious.
"He applies a mean sun tan lotion," she mused, "and he could fish for my dinner."
"Perfect," Jo muttered. What more could you want in a guy? "Who would you pick for me?"
"You?" she laughed, "What would you want with a guy. You'd only spend the whole time running away from him."
Jo gritted her teeth, got up, and went back to the diner.
Ellie and Evan looked up as she came over, both still smiling.
"Hi," she said.
"Hi," they answered.
She slid into the booth and took a breath. "So looks like my friends like you better now, huh."
The grin they gave each other made her feel sick.
"What can I say? They got no chance," Evan said.
"Anyone that's around him for long; hell, it's just a matter of time-" Ellie played along, chuckling.
"Like a spell or something-"
Evan's laughter died away, seeing the quick look of pain that shot across Jo's face.
"Yeah well I guess it's your turn, huh?" Jo said quietly, facing Ellie but not looking at her, "Guess I've done my dash."
"Ew, don't be gross." Ellie said, getting up to leave and messing her hair on the way out. "Spaz."
Jo's gaze seemed to be fixed to the table. Evan took her hand. He didn't like to see her unhappy. Seeing her happy mattered to him more than all that other stuff, he realized suddenly.
"So," he said.
"So," she replied.
"Guess she's not that keen on me after all." His fingers caressed hers, but she didn't take the bait.
"What about you?" he asked eventually.
"What about me," she muttered.
"Don't be a tool," he sighed, his caress dying away. She grimaced and looked up at him finally.
"I like you fine," she said quietly, "More than fine. But that doesn't matter really does it? I stuffed it."
He frowned at her, beginning to understand her frown. "You've only stuffed it if you give up on it," he said, equally quiet, but firm. "You giving up on us?"
Her eyes caught and held onto his, and the steadiness of his gaze finally drew the answer out of her. "No."
"Kay then," he said, smiling, his hand firm around hers once more, "We're good."
"Good…?" she asked, though she was almost afraid to.
"Yeah, good," he replied, "Aren't we?"
The worry in her eyes prompted him to lean over and kiss her, mimicking the caress of his fingers but slower, firmer.
"Yeah," she whispered, eyes dancing, pressing her smiling lips together quickly to still the buzz, "Yeah, I'd say good."
Their foreheads rested together, leaning on each other as they laughed, and Evan had the feeling that he'd finally found her. The real Jo. And she was good.