Chapter 5

When they returned to The Elizabeth, Jessica dried off and put her bathing suit and sun dress back on. Following her lead, Bruce/Hanson also got dressed.

"Ah, you guys are no fun," Ashley complained but she ended up putting her bikini back on, leaving only Elvin alone in the nude but he didn't seem to care – although Jessica did.

They ate a late lunch on the boat as they slowly made their way back to the dock, Jessica not being all that talkative or interactive and Ashley complained that she was being a fuddy-duddy.

Once the boat was docked, Bruce/Hanson went into the house where Jessica had gone earlier. He found her sitting on her bed in the guest room, sulking.

"I can't do this anymore," she announced when Bruce/Hanson took a seat next to her. "I'm going to go tell Ashley the truth right now. It will be easier with my clothes on."

"Don't," Bruce/Hanson said. "Keep some of your dignity."

"As if I have any left," she said, rolling her eyes.

"Look, let's just go back to Hillsboro," Bruce/Hanson suggested. "You can figure things out there."

"We can't just leave," Jessica protested.

"Why not?" Bruce/Hanson asked.

"It will be rude."

"You're obviously not enjoying yourself here," Bruce/Hanson said. "Why keep torturing yourself?"

"What would we tell Ashley and Elvin if not the truth?"

"I'll say I have to show up for some last minute business dinner for my father tonight," Bruce/Hanson said after a moment of thought.

"So, the lies continue," she sighed.

"You have nearly a month before school starts," Bruce/Hanson reasoned. "That will give you time to break up with Hanson. You can say this was the last straw."

"I'm so tired of all this," Jessica said unhappily. "It's getting so I can't even keep up with the lies anymore."

"Pack your bag," Bruce/Hanson said. "I'll go deliver the news downstairs. I'll tell them you're mad at me for making you leave early."

"You really don't have to keep doing this for me, Bruce," Jessica let him know. "I already put you through enough."

"It's okay," he said with a smile. "You can buy me an ice cream when we get back to Red's."

He got off the bed and went downstairs but Jessica didn't move from the bed. Ten minutes later, Bruce/Hanson returned.

"Ashley thinks that's why you were moody on the boat," he said.

"I was moody on the boat because I was a fake nude," she said with annoyance.

"I know," Bruce/Hanson replied. "Come on, let's pack and up and get out of here."

"What'd they say?" She worried.

"They think I'm an asshole," Bruce/Hanson shrugged. "I guess I got naked for nothing."

"I'm sorry I did this to you," she sighed.

"Just keep looking moody and pissed when we leave," Bruce/Hanson advised. "Come on," he said, noticing she hadn't budged from the bed yet. "Let's go."

Jessica let out a sigh and finally got off the bed, throwing her bag onto the bed and stuffing her clothes into it while Bruce/Hanson did the same on his bed. He grabbed his closed bag and went to the other bed and took hers.

"Okay," he said. "Academy Award time," he grinned as he headed for the door. Then he started yelling as he went down the stairs, making it sound like he was going off on Jessica as he flew out the back door, letting it slam behind him.

Jessica chewed on her lip for a moment before she made her slow descent down the stairs. Ashley rushed to meet her at the bottom.

"Are you going to be okay?" She worried. "Maybe you should stay here. Let that jerk go on his own."

"No, it's fine," Jessica replied, tired of all the charades. "I wasn't very nice to him. He has every right to be upset."

"He's not violent is he?" Ashley asked pointedly.

"No, of course not," Jessica said, giving her college roommate a hug. "Thanks for everything. I'll see you back at school."

"Feel free to come back up," Ashley said hopefully. "We'll be here almost every weekend."

"Thanks," Jessica smiled as she headed for the back door.

Elvin was in the driveway talking to Bruce/Hanson by the black Charger. Jessica still had a hard time looking at either of them having seen them naked earlier.

Bruce/Hanson jumped in the car when he saw Jessica approaching.

"Come on!" He yelled out the window. "We're already going to be late."

"You drive safely!" Ashley reprimanded the driver when she reached the car behind Jessica.

"Don't worry about me," Bruce/Hanson snapped.

"You're a jerk," Ashley decided.

Jessica nodded goodbye to Elvin before climbing into the passenger seat. She barely had the door closed before Bruce/Hanson was peeling out down the driveway. He slowed down when they were out of view of the house and he glanced at Jessica.

"That was kind of fun," he grinned. "I should have done theater in high school."

But Jessica was brushing a tear away from her cheek before as she stared out at the lake until it disappeared from view.

"My life sucks," she said.

It was a relatively quiet ride home, a time of reflection for both of them, Bruce trying to take in everything that had happened between them at the lake, including their fake nudes. Jessica, meanwhile, was beating herself up for all her lies and the trouble they caused, as well as having to face the truth when she got back to school.

Somehow keeping the lie alive (even if she and the mythical Hanson had broken up) felt disingenuous and slimy.

"Despite everything, I had fun hanging out on quality time with you," Bruce offered half way home.

"I'm a nut case," Jessica concluded.

"Don't be so hard on yourself," Bruce told her. "I think you're terrific."

"We can't be friends now that you saw me naked," Jessica said sadly as she stared out the window.

Bruce wasn't sure if she was being serious or not.

Jessica didn't say anything when Bruce dropped her off at her house and she was missing from Red's Tastee Freeze the next few days she was scheduled to work but Bruce decided to leave it be and let Jessica figure it out for herself. He didn't hold it against her if she was embarrassed to be seen by him after their fake nude weekend.

Jessica returned to work several days later but she avoided Bruce and she didn't have much to say to him even when he tried to be lighthearted and humorous.

At first, Bruce chalked it up to her being embarrassed and humiliated but after a few days he realized that his feelings were hurt. He didn't deserve her cold shoulder after all they had been through together.

Bruce and Jessica ended up closing the stand one night along with their co-workers Ben and Kim but those two left first and Bruce followed Jessica to her car.

"Why are you being so distant?" He asked.

"I already told you why," Jessica said with annoyance, trying to get into her car but Bruce positioned himself in front of the door.

"Because I saw you naked?"

"And visa versa," she replied. "I saw your junk."

"So what?"

"Now it's the first think I think of whenever I see you," she admitted.

"That's a bad thing?" He joked. "Aren't there worst things to be thinking about?"

"It's something I can't forget," Jessica explained. "It both haunts and taunts me."

"Aren't you making way too much out of all of this?" Bruce frowned.

"It just screws everything up," Jessica stated. "It's not the same between us anymore."

"It doesn't have to be that complicated, Jess."

"It already is," she insisted.

"Why?" He asked with confusion.

Jessica looked away, blushing slightly. "Because having fantasies about your junk is inevitable now," she sighed. "It's hard being around you when all I'm thinking about is what I saw."

"Is that how you feel about Elvin too?"

"I'm not interested in Elvin," Jessica said, shoving Bruce away from the door, climbing in and closing the door behind her.

"What are you saying, Jess?" Bruce wanted to know.

She didn't answer as she started the car and drove away, leaving him behind in a cloud of parking lot dust.

The truth was Jessica didn't know what she was saying. She didn't know if she was interested in Bruce romantically or if he even liked her.

Was she driving away because all of this was to real for her? Did she actually have feelings for her fake Hanson? It was driving her crazier than she already was and that's what made it a gigantic mess.

Bruce didn't bother Jessica during the next few shifts but after a few days he couldn't let it go any longer.

"You still owe me an ice cream," he said near the end of a shift.

"I do," Jessica realized, going to the machine and dumping a load of soft serve into a cup for him.

She joined him at the picnic table behind the building reserved for Staff with a cone of her own.

"When do you leave for school?" Bruce asked.

"I'm not going back," Jessica announced.

"What?" Bruce asked with stunned surprise. "You can't drop out just because you told your roommate a lie."

"That's not it and I didn't drop out," she explained. "I transferred."

"To where?" Bruce asked.

"Green College," Jessica told him. "Where I belong."

"Isn't that a step down?" Bruce asked, repeating what Ashley had asked of fake Hanson.

Jessica smiled. "It's a step in the right direction," she said.

"I agree," Bruce responded, licking his ice cream spoon and happily grinning at her.

"What?" She wanted to know.

"I think about you too," Bruce quietly confessed. "What I saw."

Jessica blushed but this time she didn't look away. "I don't want to be a fake nude," she said.

"You're not," he assured her. "Listen, if we're going to keep working together and now go to college together, we might just as well figure this out together."

"Figure what out?" She tested.

"Us," Bruce replied knowingly. "No fake boyfriends. No fake lives. No fake news. No fake nudes."

"Deal," Jessica stated. "Tomorrow, you buy the ice cream."

Bruce smiled. "Being real is much healthier than be fake," he said.

"So you mean the next time we're nude together it won't be fake nudes?" Jessica teased.

"Not at all," he assured her with a smirk.