My mother's most challenging child was always my father. When he wanted something, he'd pout about it. When he won a game, he gloated. When it came to responsibility (a.k.a. PARENTHOOD), he wanted no part in it.
Which is why he took off about a year after I was born.
It was fine, really. The only thing that's ever tied me to him is my last name: Smithson. Took me until I was seven years old to realize that I wasn't my step-father's son, or that he was my step-father, or that Corey was my step-brother, and not my actual brother.
Whatever. My basic premise in even mentioning my father's absence in my life is the fact that I did not learn to be a man from him. Growing up, my manhood lessons can be traced to one person.
Jackie Elizabeth Blue.
She knew it was a long-shot, but Jackie decided to try, anyway. "Hey, there," she greeted the girl, this pretty thing with smooth skin and a tight ass.
"Hi," she responded, smiling slightly and taking in Jackie's appearance. Jackie knew she was obvious, but that was good; it let people know right where she stood. "I'm Katie," the girl continued shyly, batting her eyelashes up at Jackie.
Heart fluttering, Jackie murmured, "Jackie Blue." Somehow, the control of her eyes escaped her, and Jackie found herself, once again, undressing this girl with them. "I was wondering if—"
"I'm busy on Fridays," Katie interrupted, pulling something out of her purse distractedly. Jackie felt her spirits sink, and she blushed. How could she have been so fucking stupid? Of course a girl like this would—"But," Katie continued, scribbling something down on the scrap of paper she'd dug out of her bag, "I like to experiment on weekends." With a sly, sultry wink, Katie handed the paper to Jackie before turning to exit the school.
Jackie looked down at the paper and—score! A phone number! And—better—a small side-note scrawled in the same bubbly handwriting: I stay up late.
Donning a confident smirk, Jackie stalked over to where Gabe was waiting, mouth agape. "What the hell is wrong with me?" he whined as she proudly displayed the number. "You're a lesbian, and already this week, you've gotten more numbers than I have my whole life!"
"And it's only Thursday," Jackie purred, pocketing the girl's phone number. She lightly pat Gabe on the shoulder and sighed. "All in sport, dear Gabriel, You know I'm only playing around. I'm holding out for—"
"The One," Gabe finished for her, rolling his eyes and pushing off from the wall he was leaning against. He followed her as she prowled down the hall. Gabe Smithson had always followed her willingly; there was definitely something about your image that became edgier when your best friend was the class lesbian. And Jackie had no qualms about being labeled as such. "It's who I am," she always said, "Why be offended by the truth?"
Jackie Blue was a popular name at Winchester High. People knew who she was. Maybe it was her stature, her stance, her mannerisms. Nobody messed with Jackie. Even when the biggest a-holes in the school were faced with the ultimatum of either fighting Jackie or eating a can of worms, they'd take the worms, thank you very much.
Gabe was probably the only one who found the humor in this. The funny thing about this was the fact that Jackie had never been in a fight with anyone. Gabe even thought of her as a pacifist. The whole tough-guy image had formed around a nasty black-eye she'd sported for three months of eighth grade. Jackie spent the entire first day at school with it allowing kids to think whatever they wanted, answering teachers' questions with a cheeky, "You should see the other guy." She waited until she and Gabe had walked all the way to his house before telling him that she had come out to her parents the night before. Her dad was a real big Jesus-loving guy, and Gabe needed only imagine how the bruise on his lesbian friend's face came to exist. The thought turned him cold, but she assured him that she had everything under control, and it appeared that she did. The black eye was really the only sign of violence from her family…in fact, it was really the only sign of anything from her family. The last real sign that Jackie ever received from them that showed they even cared about her. That she even existed.
Well, she and Gabe didn't talk about that, and they both preferred it that way. Instead, Jackie stayed at Gabe's house most of the time. Gabe's mother—Mrs. O'Donnell—welcomed Jackie's company, satisfying the small piece of her that had always yearned for a daughter. And Jackie rarely disappointed, providing Gabe's mother with mountains of gossip, advice on clothing, and even the occasional A+ English paper that would cause her to squeal and take them out for celebratory ice cream. Sometimes this also inspired her to criticize Gabe's school work, but they all knew which of the two was really the better student.
Jackie arrived at her locker and slowly entered in her combination. Gabe watched her, nervous. Sometimes, Jackie had trouble with the simplest numerical occurrences; paying for purchases, making measurements of any kind, and—lately—her locker. She never talked about it, but Gabe assumed it was a learning disorder. With increasing frequency, she'd been forgetting her locker combination. Sometimes, Gabe hinted the numbers to her (God knows he was around her locker often enough to know the thing backward and forward), but it made her even more frustrated, so he avoided giving her clues. "Did you ever think that maybe playing around is the perfect way to find The One?" Gabe inquired as she fumbled exasperatedly with the dial. "You'd find her, eventually, but you'd have some fun on the way."
But Jackie was already shaking her head. "You're making it way too complicated. When I find her, I'll know. I shouldn't have to hurt myself and other girls in the process." She slammed her palm against her locker and growled. "Will you just punch the fucking numbers in? I quit."
Gabe jumped to it, opening her locker in ten seconds while she glowered jealously at him. "I really hate you, you know," she informed him, swapping her books out and grabbing her thick, black sweatshirt.
"Love you, too, Jax." He pat her heavily on the back and inquired, "Are we going to Paulie's?" Sometimes, on Thursdays, the duo went to his cousin's restaurant to eat a meal on the house. "If it's not too cold for you?" he added with a challenging grin.
Slamming the door shut, Jackie met his eye and nodded curtly. "If you're not afraid that your balls are gonna freeze off," she teased, and they were off.
There was a place between empty and full in a gas tank…between freezing and scalding in bathwater…between midnight and noon…an untouchable place that was Jackie Blue's only way of successfully explaining her friendship with Gabe Smithson. They ran the entire five blocks distance to Paulie's, backpacks bouncing freely on their backs as they dashed across the street. As their cheeks turned pink and their mouths ran dry, Jackie appreciated the spark she had always seen in her foolish, naïve best friend. People watching them might easily have confused them for a pair of laughing boys, if not for Jackie's uniform skirt; moving as quickly as she was—she was always faster then Gabe—Jackie's short haircut and lack of make-up would be misinterpreted. They smiled and raced, pushing, shoving, and wrestling each other to get ahead. When they neared Paulie's Restaurant Café, Jackie got ahold of Gabe's shirt collar and tugged, regaining her near-constant lead. Stumbling over each other, they managed to clumsily enter the establishment, turning heads and receiving glares.
Their server—Daphne—was another of Gabe's older cousins. She seated them and made small-talk, inquiring politely about school and Jackie's new job—helping deliver furniture for a local business. Jackie and Gabe took the small booth at the back that they'd both agreed was their favorite. "So, what about Amber Lynn, then?" Gabe prompted, knowing the effort was futile and yet still amused by his friend's fascination.
Jackie groaned and rolled her eyes. "You just don't get it, do you?"
"Well, I know you space out completely during physics thinking about her. I don't blame you; she's—"
"Not just a pretty girl, Gabriel." She willed herself to divulge, but couldn't find the words, so she gave up. Gabe let it go.
The bell over the entrance to the building jingled lightly, indicating someone's appearance, and Jackie watched the girl over Gabe's shoulder. "Candy Fischer," she breathed, examining the expression on Gabe's face. "Didn't she ask you out a few weeks ago?"
"Last week," Gabe corrected quietly, spinning his fork idly between his hands. "I forgot Paulie hired her." After a few minutes of Jackie's scrutinizing his face, he awkwardly mumbled, "This was a bad idea. What if—"
"Oh, shut up," Jackie cut him off neatly. "Can't let the 'what if's control your life." Daphne returned to quickly take their orders, and then disappeared again. "Corey's got karate tonight?"
"It's Thursday, isn't it?" Gabe grumbled darkly, his good mood melting away for every additional second he was trapped in the same room as Candy.
Jackie ignored the unnecessary attitude and said, "I'll drop him off on my way to work." The mention of work increased the frown on Gabe's face, and eh nodded.
Daphne flitted back over to their booth and quickly explained that her shift was up and another waitress would be delivering their cheeseburgers shortly. As she exited the diner, Jackie leaned across the table and teased, "Hey, pouty-puss, your cousin's hot!" Untouched by her attempt to cheer him up, Gabe swatted her away and leaned back in his seat.
They sat in silence then, and Jackie silently pondered Gabriel's mood swings. He was a grouchy individual sometimes, but he could also be the funniest bastard she knew. A boy who called her Jax instead of Jackie and had acted as a younger brother to her for most of her life. A conundrum, was Gabriel. He entertained, amused, amazed, and confounded her. "…two burgers?" a small voice inquired quietly over the duo's shoulders. They both glanced up, and Candy Fischer blushed immediately. "Oh, Gabriel," she squeaked softly.
"It's Gabe," he corrected her sourly; as far as Jackie knew, she was the only one allowed to call him by his full name.
Candy flushed a deeper shade of red than she had previously achieved, and mewed, "Sorry." Her gaze moved to Jackie, and her eyes widened. As she set down their food, she thought aloud, "Is that why you turned me down? You have a girlfriend?"
Now it was Jackie's turn to blush. Clearly, Candy Fischer was more of a social outcast than she had thought; there were probably all of five students at Winchester High that didn't know who she was and what she preferred, sexually. She opened her mouth to amend the poor, confused girl, but Gabe cut her off. "Exactly right. Sorry," he tacked on, seeming reluctant to say anything more. Before the silence could get awkward, he crammed his burger into his mouth and began rapidly chewing, his face screwed up the way it always did when he was lying through his teeth.
Resigned, Candy walked away, despite looking as if she wanted to say something else. Jackie glared at Gabe. "You know that's how rumors get started."
"You should really just eat your burger," he said, ignoring her statement. "These are really good—"
"You ass," she responded with a huge, disbelieving smile, reaching across the table and smacking his face lightly. "Don't ignore me, Oscar the Grouch, I am talking to you. And I'll be yelling pretty soon if you don't explain yourself."
Around a mouthful of burger, Gabe managed to articulate, "Thiff if the beft burger—"
"Well, fuck it, then," she growled, taking her first beefy bite. "But the firft fing I hear about me being your girlfriend, I fwear I'm gonna kick your aff fo hard—" A blob of ketchup fell from her mouth onto her skirt. "Aww, fhit."
Gabe tried to keep it down, but the laughter escaped him easily, and then they were both cracking up. Jackie was pleased; it had always been easy enough to turn him around when he was in a bad mood. "Alright, alright, whatever," he said as he continued plowing through his burger. "Just don't judge me."
And Jackie decided that she wouldn't.
When they got to Gabe's driveway, Jackie lovingly patted the hood of her truck, which she hadn't used that morning for the ride to school because she only had enough gas to last her the ride to work. "I'll see you soon, Free Willy."
"You're the only person I know who talks to their car," Gabe often told her, and she would shake her head and tell him that their history teacher—Mr. Duvall—probably spoke to his car, considering he talked to almost every other inanimate object. It was a running inside-joke that they shared, and it would send them both into a fit of giggles nearly every time.
"What time do you have to be there?" he asked her now, unlocking the front door.
"Well, I know that Reggie doesn't want me there before four thirty." Gabe smiled; Reggie was Jackie's unofficial nickname for Reginald Phillips Furniture Warehouse—her place of employment. She had "too many bosses" (in reality, it was more like four or five), and according to Jackie, their names all sounded the same. So, she called them all Reggie. And they all called her Blue. Fair trade.
"Corey doesn't get home 'til five," Gabe informed her in monotone, leading the way to his bedroom. The feeling of routine fell gently around their shoulders, blanketing them in repetitiousness. While Gabe untied his shoes, Jackie fell back onto the cot she usually stayed on, kicking off her boots half-heartedly. "So you should probably just go on without him."
"I'll wait," Jackie yawned, closing her eyes. "They like me better on days they don't have to pay me as much." Gabe pulled off his sweatshirt and began unbuttoning his uniform shirt.
"Another day less to be living, Gabriel," she sighed, stretching a bit before getting up off the cot, she began unzipping her skirt.
Gabe really tried to concentrate on changing his own clothes…but, as he'd recently discovered, it was difficult to concentrate on anything when Jackie was getting undressed.
He knew it was wrong, that she was his best friend, that she was gay—but, watching her step out of her skirt, sliding her stockings off… the shape of her butt under the pair of black short-style underwear…he couldn't help but stare as she unbuttoned her blouse—the most perfect breasts cupped in a navy blue bra, practically bursting from their containment. And Jackie was fit. A tight stomach, strong arms, thick calves—
"Stop drooling, would you?" Jackie growled…but there was an impish glint in her smile. Gabe sometimes suspected that she teased him on purpose. "And put your boner away; you can play with that later." She yanked on a pair of bulky jeans, and any sexiness evaporated with the sweatshirt she pulled over her head.
Gabe blushed. "Shit, Jax, I'm—"
"A horny shithead? Yes, you are," she agreed. Jackie knew she was hot. She knew what she liked physically in other girls, and she saw it in herself frequently. And she knew that she turned Gabriel on; it was inevitable. But he knew—of this she was sure—that it was out of bounds. "So, if you're done ogling me," she began, and he jumped back into changing his clothes. Jackie swiftly folded her discarded clothes and tucked them neatly under her cot before exiting the room. "I'm making a snack; want some?" she called back over her shoulder.
Gabe—struggling to push images of Jackie's naked torso from his mind—politely responded, "No thanks. Think I'm gonna check what's on the TV."
Ten minutes later found them sprawled out on the living room couch, limbs intertangled and breathing matched. Neither of them really registered the way they fell so comfortably together—flipping through channels and talking quietly, Jackie slurping a soda and munching on potato chips, offering some to Gabe every few minutes.
A/N: I'm actually surprisingly far into this one, and I really hope people give it a chance. It's a little bit different...but that's not to say it won't turn out to be a good love story.
I'm not making any promises about a happy ending, though. So...sue me?
Please review. Honesty is immeasurably valuable.