3

It was weeks before Emma spoke to Jake again. She refused to see him, not that it was hard, since she rarely saw him anyway. Jake's mother, Kelly often spent the afternoons she wasn't working, with Delia. They drank iced tea in the summer, and hot chocolate in the winter when it was snowing. Delia sighed as she poured Kelly another glass of tea. "Emma's been pretty upset lately. Jake hasn't said anything, has he?"

Kelly shook her head. "I can't think of the last time they spoke. Well, he did give her a ride home a few weeks ago."

"Something isn't right." Delia sighed. "They used to be inseparable."

"Jake's seventeen, Delia. In two years, he'll be in college. I think they've finally gone their separate ways." Kelly said softly.

"I hope not. I remember thinking that someday they would get married, and have kids, and all that jazz."

"They probably aren't thinking about each other that way because they grew up together." Kelly stated.

"I hope that's the case." Said Delia, sipping quietly at her tea.

*

Delia sighed as she stretched. She'd been stretching by herself for almost fifteen minutes. Class had been canceled, but that didn't stop Delia from going and practicing, even if she was by herself. It gave her time to think about Jack. She didn't know what was going on between them. They'd gone to dinner two weeks before and she still hadn't heard from him. Bach was playing in the back ground and she stood and began to dance. She started out simple, practicing all the basic positions that she had memorized so long ago, first through fifth, over and over again, and then a plié. She practiced her turns and leaps, and then stretched some more. She worked an arabesque, gradually raising her leg to make a larger, more impressive angle. She practiced a Brisé, and various other movements. She was hot and sticky before she realized that Jack was sitting on the spectators bench, watching her.

She flushed and stopped her movements, dropping to the floor to stretch her flexible limbs under his gaze. When she was finished she picked up her skirt and blouse from where she had left them, and began to unlace her Pointe shoes. Carefully she put them away in their bag and pushed her tights up to her knees. She slipped her skirt and blouse on over the soft brown of her leotard, and then slowly walked over to stand in front of him. He smiled gently, but she could see that something was wrong, something wasn't right about his voice. "I'm sorry I never called you back."

She dropped to the floor again in front of him, bending and rubbing her feet. "Is everything alright, Jack? You sound . . . different."

He sighed. "Do you have class soon?"

She shook her head. "Do you want to go for a walk?"

He nodded briefly and got up so fast that she wasn't sure he had been sitting at all. He held out a hand and easily lifted her from the floor, keeping his eyes locked on hers. "Get your coat, I'll meet you out front. It's starting to snow."

She traveled almost in a daze to her dorm room and got her wool coat, hat, and scarf from the hook. She put on some warm boots to keep her feet warm and then hurried back to the front of the building. Jack was waiting, leaning as promised against the stone wall that surrounded the street facing side of the school. He was wearing a warm coat too,, but no hat or gloves. Delia looked up and saw he was right. Tiny little flakes were dropping from the sky. Without thinking anything of it she walked over to him and slipped her arm through his, pulling him out the gates and out onto the sidewalk.

He spoke first. "That day I gave you your book back, you ran from class, crying. Why was that?"

"Oh," Delia said, surprised. "I didn't make the fall performance."

"That's it?"

"Well, it's a lot more complicated than that. There will be a lot for scouts at the fall performance, and it just means that I have to wait until spring for any of them to see me."

He was quiet for a moment. "Doesn't that mean you have time to get even better?"

Delia started laughing and soon she couldn't stop, at least until Jack shot her an affronted look. She smiled. "It's not that. I think you're right. Just the way you said it made me laugh." She let her smile soften into a shyer, more Delia-like smile. "May I ask now what was bother you?"

He nodded. "My dad died a week and a half ago."

"Oh. Oh, Jake." She pulled him to a stop right there in the middle of the sidewalk, and hugged him tight. She laced her arms around his neck and pulled him close. "I'm so sorry."

He shrugged away from her touch, leaving Delia shocked and the tiniest bit hurt. Tough Jack looked like he was going to cry. "It's not a big deal."

"Like hell!" Delia snapped. "He was your father."

"He's been in jail since I was four." Jack said, easily keeping his voice even. "He killed a black man because he looked at my mother the wrong way."

"Oh," Delia said in a small voice. "I'm sorry. I just cant imagine losing my own father."

Jack smiled softly and scooped her hand up in his. "Thanks."

"I wish you would have called me anyway. I would have liked to know, to have been there to support you."

"The funeral is in a week." Jack added. "Would you consider coming with me . . .as my girlfriend?"

*

When Emma was seven she fell from an apple tree, the same one under which she and Jake would share their first kiss, and busted her lip, spraining her wrist, and bruising a rib or two. She had been rushed to the emergency room by her parents, accompanied by Ralph, Kelly, and Jake. They'd had to wait fifteen minutes before she could be admitted. Delia was so frustrated that she burst into tears. Finally the doctors took her in, stitched up her lip (it took five stitches), took a look at her ribs. The doctors told Jack and Delia that she would be fine, as long as she didn't climb any trees for a while. Both parents, and Jake, swore they wouldn't let her until her ribs were all better.

Jake spent a week in Emma's room, playing with her, watching movies with her, getting her food when she was hungry, and making sure that she didn't do anything that might hurt her. He wouldn't remember it eight years later, but he swore never to let anything bad happen to her again.

*

I had always heard that when someone dies, they see their lives pass before them, they get to live through it once more in brief flashes of memories. But as I sat next to her bed, holding her soft hand in mine, I wondered what happened when someone you see someone die, someone you love? Do the times you share together pass before you? Or do you sit and watch as the doctors close theirs eyes and a pull a sheet over their body.

*

After going several weeks without speaking to Jake, Emma was so frustrated with his lack of . . . curiosity that she decided she wouldn't speak to anyone else until he did. But she found that nearly impossibly with seven different teachers calling on her and her friends trying to pry details of her "Love life", as they called it, with Jake from her lips. She was so frustrated that she tried to skip health one. Tried was the operative word. She scrambled from the girls bathroom and hurried to class. She didn't have the guts to do that sort of thing, even if she talked about it, or her friends did it. To pay for her crimes she was late. Five minutes late, to be precise. Mr. Lately didn't say anything, he only proceeded to reach into his desk, pull out a pink detention slip, sign it, and direct her back to her desk. She sat down heavily and only paid the tiniest bit of attention to the lesson. Who needed health anyway?

Health was her last class of the day, thank God, and as she walked out of class she found herself falling into line behind the many kids waiting to be let into the theater, where detentions held place. She didn't have any homework, she rarely did, so she sat down in one of the seats and took out a notebook. She began to doodle absently on the cover, adding to the maze that was already there. She was still drawing nearly ten minutes later when someone took a seat next to her. She knew him by his smell, the smell of his aftershave, mixed with his mother's perfume, sweat from football, and cake and cookie batter from Home Ec.

"Em? What are you doing here?" He turned toward her and she was forced to look up at him. His sandy-brown hair was tousled, like Kelly had ran her fingers through it like she had when he was little. His cheeks were red, probably from the chilly air outside.

"Its detention," she said, like it was the most obvious thing, only because it was.

Yet his expression turned from surprised to confused. "You're never in detention, Em."

"Oh, so you want me to explain it to you? Why don't you start to explain some things to me." She said coolly.

"Or you could tell me why you've been avoiding me for the past month." He interjected smoothly. "Come on, Em. I didn't mean to hurt you, if that's why you're acting like this. I went out with the guys. I didn't go to homecoming and dance with someone else. I figured there would be someone who wanted to ask you."

The truth was there had been someone who wanted to go with her. "I did get asked," she admitted. "But, I wanted to go with you, and I didn't know you were going to say no, so I told him maybe some other time."

"Who Was this?" Jake asked curiously. "Is he a froshie too, or maybe a sophomore?"

"No, actually." Emma said with a flush. "A senior. Kurt Reynolds."

"Kurt? You almost went to homecoming dance with Kurt Reynolds?" Jake didn't seem like he was surprised. He sounded angry.

Emma shrank away from him, hurt. "Yes. Why?"

"Kurt is a—well—he's an ass, Emma. He's not any good at all. Trust me, you're a smart girl to say no. He likes to wrap girls around his little finger, and then stab them when they least expect it. He's a typical senior."

"How are you any different?" she asked, scooping up her things and moving to the back of the theater before she could respond.