Time in Willow Creek: 8 months, 2 weeks
Author’s Note: Hi. This chapter contains coarser language than you’re used to from me. Heads up. 🙂
It had been more than a week since Hillary had been with Don. She was bored—again—and went to his house on a whim late one afternoon. Naturally, they usually planned their rendezvous. Don was a professional and didn’t need any conflicting meetings. Hillary knew this, but she thought showing up unannounced would be a pleasant surprise for him. Although he had gotten upset with her the last time they were together, she thought that maybe he needed some time to cool off so he could miss her. She had been enjoying this tiny bit of power he allowed her to have over him; she hadn’t realized she wasn’t in control. So, she hailed a cab and gleefully rode over to his house. She paid the driver, skipped up the steps, and rapped on the door. To her surprise, someone who was not Don answered.
“Look, sista, I just got here so you must be real early or real late. Either way, you gotta wait,” the woman said.
Hillary should not have been surprised to see another woman at Don’s house. Still, she found herself caught off guard. “I…ummm…no, I’m not on Don’s schedule today, heh. But…is it ok if I talk to him for a second? I promise I’ll be out of your way quick.”
The woman sighed and let her in. Don was in his room awaiting her return. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Some girl wanna talk to you.” She sat on the bed next to him. Hillary said one second, and this woman was expecting one second. Don was surprised when Hillary walked in the room, but he didn’t let it show although he was curious as to why she was there.
“What do you want?” he asked.
She wasn’t quite sure, honestly. “I just thought I’d stop by…and see how you were…”
The other woman sighed heavily and rolled her eyes. “You dealin wit babies now, Donnie? Psssh. I need a drink.”
“What are you doing here, Hillary? You know we don’t do this.”
She sat next to him. “I was thinking about you and—
“Are you stupid? I’m not gonna keep telling you how this shit works! Donnie don’t do the love thing!”
She knew, but still she found herself feeling hurt.
Don saw the pain in her face. He felt sorry for her, but yet he couldn’t believe how naive she had been. “I KNEW you weren’t cut out for this! Go find you some chump to cuddle up with! Get outta here with that relationship shit!”
“But, Don, I wasn’t—
“GET THE HELL OUT!”
She glared at him one last time and left his house in a huff. She stood on the sidewalk for a minute and tried to gather herself. He was right. She wasn’t cut out for casual sex—especially not with someone as notorious as Don Lothario. She was a relationship person; that’s what she wanted. No matter who she was with, she would always want more.
In the corner of her eye, she saw Jase’s house. It was glistening in the golden light of twilight. She didn’t hesitate to go there. It was like a light house that guided her back to safety. She needed comfort and someone who cared. He was in the kitchen making a sandwich and noted her long face. He’d seen it a million times before and wasn’t phased by it.
“I take it you’re not with Jesse anymore?”
She plopped down on the couch. “No.”
He snorted. “What was wrong with him? He only had a four pack?” His back was toward her while he spread mayonnaise on the bread.
She sighed. “No. He was wonderful.” She was listless.
Something didn’t add up. He finally turned around and took notice of his friend’s demeanor and ceased production on his sandwich to tend to her. “What’s happened?”
She began her sordid tale about how wonderful Jesse was and how she was jealous of Juliana and Kevin thus beginning her trysts with Don. Jase didn’t know any of this before and was sick with worry for his friend. Getting involved with Don was the last straw. He couldn’t understand how and why she had gotten so desperate. How could he make her see what he saw in her and that she should be with him?
“Hill! Seriously? Don? Really?? Come on…what’s going on with you?!”
“It’s what I deserve, Jase!”
“What? How do you deserve to be treated like last year’s fashion by a shithead like him?”
“I don’t deserve to be loved!”
He was shocked to hear her make such an announcement.
“I go out with jerks because I know they won’t love me!”
He shook his head in disbelief. “Hillary! How could you believe that?”
“It’s true! The only thing I’m good for is ruining people’s lives.” She hung her head shamefully. “I’m fat, and ugly, and nobody wants me! That’s what my daddy says.”
“That’s bullshit, Hill! He’s never said that!”
“I know he feels that way! You know how he belittles me!”
Jase felt lost. But at the same time, a lot of things about her made sense. “Hillary…you can’t believe that. You just can’t! I think you’re beautiful! I think you’re one of the most kind people I know. And you care so much for the people you love. And your confidence! Hill, when you’re feeling good about yourself, you really know how to turn on the magic! You’re…I think it’s sexy.”
She was used to him complimenting her, but he said some things she never heard him say before and knew he was very serious.
“Look,” he continued, “I know you don’t like to hear me talk like this, but you need to hear it. I love you, Hillary! I love you just the way you are. You want someone who loves you? I’m right here! What are you so afraid of? Give us a chance!”
She turned away from him. “I can’t do that to you, Jase! I’ll hurt you! I won’t do it!”
He grabbed her hand and gently pulled her back to face him. “You’re not going to hurt me, Hill! You know why? Because you love me too! I’ve seen it!”
That was a new one. She never denied caring quite strongly for her best friend; everyone knew that. But, she would never admit to actually loving him whether she did or didn’t. She couldn’t allow herself to go there or she would destroy both of their lives.
He continued, “Remember that time I was in the hospital?”
She always remembered. That was the first time she ever knew she loved him. She had never been more afraid than the moment she walked in his room and found him laying unconscious in a pool of blood; he lived with them off and on throughout his childhood and teen years. Jase was a bit of a klutz and was always discovering new ways to hurt himself. One night, he had gotten up to go to the bathroom and tripped over the computer he was building. He hit his head on the corner of his desk. Hillary heard the clamor and ran to see what was going on. All she could think about was how awful her life would be if he weren’t in it. She remembered that time because it was also the first time she ever let a shiny new penny distract her from what she knew. After Jase was better, she met someone who took her breath away; she had been distracted ever since.
“You were by my side all night. You missed school! And when the doctor sent me home and ordered me to take it easy for a few days, you were there too. You took such good care of me, Hill. You didn’t have to, but you did! You have such a large capacity for love, but you won’t let anyone love you.”
She was conflicted. She knew she loved him but wasn’t convinced she loved him in the way he deserved. He was her best friend. If there was anyone she didn’t want to hurt, it was definitely him.
“Let me love you, Hill. Let me love you.” He leaned over slowly and planted a sweet kiss on her lips.
It was magical. Even more magical than kissing Jesse. The tenderness of the moment began to massage her hardened heart, and she wanted more. She wanted to believe she could open her heart fully to him, but she was still afraid. She wanted to say no to what was happening between them, but it was so refreshing she couldn’t help but say yes. She felt safe with him. If she wanted to, she could give him her heart and he would hold it gently in his hands for as long as she wanted him to. She knew this, but could she actually do it? That was the question in her mind, and she didn’t have an answer yet. But, for the moment, she simply wanted to enjoy the preview of what love felt like. She kissed him back, and he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer to him. He wanted to give her everything he had and never let her go.
She enjoyed being in his arms; she fit so perfectly between them. No one had ever held her like he held her. His embrace was intentional and loving. It was also kind of nice not having a hand crawl up her shirt trying to unhinge her bra. Hillary felt free for the first time. She wasn’t concerned with what Jase was thinking; he was all in and she knew it. She didn’t have to try and impress him with fancy tongue tricks. He loved her, and that was enough.
There was a moment when Hillary silenced the conflicting thoughts in her head. That was the moment she took control of their evening. She was happy and didn’t want to be concerned about whether any of it was right or not. She loved the way it felt and was going to feel it until she couldn’t feel it anymore. She suggested they move to the bedroom. Jase was serious about not letting her go and held onto her as they struggled to their feet without interrupting their make-out session.
Jase wanted this so badly. He felt she did too, after all, she initiated it. But, unlike her, he was thinking rationally. They were about to take a ginormous leap that would propel their friendship into a completely different realm. If they went through with it, there was no turning back. Nothing would ever be the same for them. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Her conflicting thoughts took themselves off mute and began screaming at her. She knew that was the moment—the escape—she was supposed to stop, go home, and think. If she wasn’t sure about what she wanted, she certainly did not need to take that step with him. But she was high and didn’t want to come down. She made herself believe that she deserved this after being rejected by Don earlier. So, against her better judgement, she said, “Yeah. Hell yeah.”