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Escaping the Friend Zone

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“Congratulations,” cheered the small group.

The gang sat scattered around the Forman’s living room. Krista, from Jackie’s high school cheerleading team, was also perched slightly uncomfortably on the couch between Fez and Bob. Just a moment before the group let out the exclamation, Kitty had entered the room with a cake. She was now on her way to bringing it in front of Jackie.

The cake had “Congrats Grad!” and a graduation cap on the top of it. Jackie beamed down at the cake before blowing out the candle. When she had asked all of her friends to get together for a goodbye party, she hadn’t expected a graduation party to be included in the festivities.

Jackie looked over at Hyde. He was looking directly at her and winked when their eyes met. She figured he was behind this. They had celebrated her graduation together, but all the way in Providence, it had just been the two of them. She had college friends, of course, but they had all been celebrating with their own families.

“Thank you so much!” Jackie said after blowing out her candle. She placed her hand on Hyde’s thigh comfortably. “I really did mean for this just to be a goodbye party for us.”

“Nonsense, it’s not every day one of our kids' graduates from an Ivy League school,” Mrs. Forman said.

“Technically, she graduated a week ago,” Hyde said with a smirk. Mrs. Forman made an annoyed noise and Jackie hit him on the leg.

“I still don’t understand how that’s possible,” Eric said. “You dated Kelso.”

“She also stopped dating him,” Mr. Forman said glaring at Eric. “I always knew you were the smart one, Jackie. Congratulations.”

Jackie blushed and looked down. She had also always known she was the smart one. Donna spoke a big game but Jackie was the one doing homework on the weekends and pilling on the extracurricular activities. She was happy the gang was finally acknowledging her as something more than an annoyance.

“I’m still so sad you’re leaving for Chicago right away!” Krista exclaimed. “You just got back from Brown.”

“I know but my job starts next week and we want to get settled into the apartment before it gets too hectic.”

“Oh, it’s so exciting! You’ll be telling us our news!” Mrs. Forman said.

“She is the youngest anchor in the region,” Hyde bragged.

“I still can’t believe you’re going to be on tv before me,” Kelso said.

“You have to understand the news to report it,” Donna said.

“Burn!” Fez yelled.

“Michael, we’ve always known I have a face was made for tv,” Jackie said flipping her hair.

“You’re going to be great, Jackie,” Donna said. Since Jackie and Hyde returned a week ago she had been oddly quiet towards Jackie. They had left as close friends but the four years away had put distance and a strain on their relationship. Donne looked towards Hyde with whom she seemed to be more comfortable. “And what will you be doing? Being a good house husband?”

“I’ll figure it out,” Hyde said with a shrug. “I have a few buddies from the restaurant in Providence who know some people in Chicago.”

Everyone but the Formans chuckled. Jackie looked over at Hyde. She knew he was uncomfortable with people knowing that she would be supporting him. She didn’t mind since he had paid all of the bills for the past few years while she focused on school. They had discussed him possibly going back to school but she knew he wouldn’t want everyone to know about that yet. But she also didn’t want them making fun of him for his employment or lack of employment that is. Before she could stop herself, she felt her anger bubbling up.

“Hyde’s been doing all the work these past four years,” Jackie said annoyed. “He deserves a little time to figure out what he wants to do now.”

Hyde remained silent but he squeezed her arm lightly. He still didn’t like talking about his future. She still didn’t understand how after all these years he didn’t see his own potential.

“Yes, he does,” Mr. Forman said with a nod.

“Anyway, should we cut this cake?” Jackie asked.

“Yes,” Mrs. Forman said. She scampered off to the kitchen with the cake to start cutting it up. Donna muttered something about helping and wandered into the kitchen to help. Jackie felt a little guilty for jumping down Donna’s throat again.

“Yay cake!” Fez said. When he noticed he had everyone’s attention he gave a guilty smile and then added, “When do you leave?”

“We’re taking off first thing in the morning. The Comino is already packed,” Hyde said.

“Why are you leaving so early it won’t take that long to drive up there?” Eric asked ignoring the glare both Hyde and Mr. Forman gave him.

The room was silent for a moment before Jackie said, “We’re going to stop by the state prison to visit my dad.”

“Oh,” Eric said.

“That’ll be awk-ward,” Kelso said. “You haven’t seen him in years.”

“It’s time,” Jackie said. “I got a letter from him last month and some circumstances have changed.”

“Ohh what circumstances?” Fez asked.

“Here’s the cake,” Mrs. Forman said at the same time.

She entered with multiple plates each full with a large slice of cake. Donna was trailing behind with even more. Jackie used their entrance as an excuse to ignore Fez’s question. When her dad left, she had been forced to open that part of her life to her friends but she wasn’t ready to have her family drama shared so publically again.

“Yay cake,” Jackie exclaimed. “It’s a good thing we’re moving a few hours away or else you’d have me becoming a fatty, Mrs. Forman.”

“I’m sending you up with some cookies,” Mrs. Forman replied. “And you have to come back for dinners every once in a while. Chicago isn’t close but it’s much closer than Rhode Island.”

“Yes, Mrs. Forman,” Jackie and Hyde said in unison.

The group fell into idle chatter about Jackie’s graduation and new job. Slowly people started leaving until it was just Mr. and Mrs. Forman sitting in the living room with Jackie and Hyde.

Mrs. Forman was yawning and Mr. Forman was nodding off in his chair. It wasn’t much longer before Mrs. Forman finally gave in and let them head up to bed leaving Jackie and Hyde alone.

“We should probably go to bed too,” Jackie said. “We have an early morning tomorrow.”

“Let’s do one more thing before we do,” Hyde said.

“Steeeeeven,” Jackie complained.

“Just one quick thing,” Hyde said. “I want to take you somewhere.”

“Take me somewhere?” Jackie asked. “It’s almost midnight in Point Place where could you possibly want to take me?”

“It’s a surprise,” Hyde said.

Jackie fell right into his trap. Not a moment after the words left his mouth, Jackie was squealing excitedly about the prospect of a surprise.

“A surprise!” Jackie exclaimed. “What kind of surprise? Like a present?”

“Of sorts,” Hyde replied. He stood up and held his hand out to her. “I promise you’ll get something shiny and I’m pretty confident that you’ll like it.”

Jackie smiled as she took Hyde’s hand and stood with him. They made their way out to the Camino with Jackie pushing Hyde to tell her where they were headed. Hyde refused to respond but the answer was obvious when they started heading towards the edge of town.

“The water tower?” Jackie questioned. “Why are we going there?”

“You’ll just have to wait and see,” Hyde said smiling.

“Steven, you know that I hate waiting,” Jackie said pouting. “And plus, you should have warned me. I would have changed into pants.”

“I don’t mind,” Hyde said smiling while looking down at her skirt.

“That’s just because you want to look up my skirt, you perv,” Jackie replied.

They fell into a comfortable silence with the familiar sound of the radio humming in the background. Jackie would occasionally give Hyde a pointed look that he would ignore. Jackie continued with the same tactic as they parked and headed up the water tower ladder. Jackie reveled in the familiar feeling of the metal grate under her as she took her seat. They had come up here often enough in high school, but since graduating they hadn’t been up once. She smiled looking over at Hyde. They had come here on what she considered their first date, after all, they had their first kiss on this water tower.

They stayed sitting pressed up against each other staring out at Point Place for a while. Hyde had his arm around her and she was nestled into his side. Jackie smiled and took in the moment. It was a nice pause between college and her upcoming job. Sitting on the water tower it was easy for her to remember them years ago before life had fully hit them before they had fallen in love. Those two people still had so much to look forward to, Jackie thought fondly, looking back at the more than half a decade she spent with Hyde.

“I love you,” Hyde said.

It was rare for Hyde to openly state his feelings. She knew how he felt, but getting him to tell her was usually like pulling teeth. She looked over and realized that while she had been looking at the skyline he had been looking at her.

“I love you, too,” Jackie said kissing him softly on the lips.

“Jackie,” Hyde said. He took her hands and shifted his body so he was facing her. “You mean so much to me – more than you’ll ever know and more than I’ll ever be able to repay you for. Ever since you badgered me into going to prom with you, I haven’t been able to get you out of my head. That night, we came up to this water tower and I realized that you were so much more than what people saw. I know, at times, it’s taken me a while to catch up to you and tell you how I feel, but you’re my family, my inspiration and my love. Jackie, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”

Hyde reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring box. He pressed it into Jackie’s hand and looked deeply into her eyes. With his shades off, his insecurity was obvious. Jackie was on the brink of tears. She had made plenty of comments to him about marriage but she never thought he’d propose without being pushed into a corner. Jackie slowly opened the box and gasped. The ring was beautiful and exactly what she wanted. It had a silver band with a sizable diamond at the center that was encircled by tinier diamonds. Her mouth fell open.

“Jackie?” Hyde asked. “Are you going to respond?” Hyde asked when she didn’t say anything.

Jackie looked up at him shocked. She was crying and had tears streaming down her face.

“Yes!!” Jackie said. “Of course I’ll marry you, Steven.”

Jackie pulled the ring out of the box and put it on her left ring finger before carefully putting the box to the side. Then she threw her arms around Hyde and pulled him down for a deep kiss. Hyde let out a relieved breath when they broke apart. Jackie went right back to pull him in for another kiss.

“Do you still have those blankets in the back of the Camino?” Jackie asked against Hyde’s mouth.

“Yeah, why?” Hyde asked confused.

Jackie gave him a suggestive look. Hyde responded by immediately pulling her towards the ladder and down the water tower. As soon as they were at the car, Hyde had the blanket laid out in the back of the Camino. Jackie crawled into the flatbed first. When Hyde came in after her, she tugged at his shirt to pull him down on top of her.

Hyde was kissing Jackie deeply but moving way to slow for her. She pushed his t-shirt above his head breaking the kiss to get it off him and immediately went for his belt.

“Someone’s in a rush,” Hyde said.

“I really want to make love to my fiancé,” Jackie said undoing his zipper and starting to push his pants down his waist. “And touch him and feel my fiancé inside me. Mmmm fiancé.”

Hyde chuckled and pushed her shirt up and over her head. As soon as it was removed, Jackie was back to kissing him. Hyde was reaching for her panties and pulling her skirt up as he went. With both her barriers removed, Jackie pushed his boxers down and out of the way.

Still partially dressed, Hyde knelt between her spread legs and aligned himself with her entrance. He slowly pushed in making Jackie gasp. Since they had been staying with the Forman’s they hadn’t had sex in a week and even before the engagement she had been craving him desperately. Jackie pushed her nails into his back urging him on. She moaned as he picked up the pace. Before long, she was getting close but she wanted it to last a bit longer.

“Flip over,” Jackie said breathlessly and lightly tapping on his chest. “I want to be on top.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Hyde said holding her tight and flipping them so she could ride him.

Jackie pushed her knees into the flatbed of the truck and ground her hips down in slow circles. She planted her hands on Hyde’s chest and gasped. She had her eyes closed but she felt his hands traveling up her sides. She opened her eyes when she felt him urging her to lean over him. When she did, he put his hands on her face and kissed her deeply.

“I can’t wait for you to be my wife,” Hyde said pulling away.

Jackie came at the words. They had used dirty talk plenty of times, but nothing had ever worked so well. She felt love, pleasure and excitement bubble up in her all at once. She moaned his name loudly and a second later she felt him coming.

She collapsed down on top of him and he lightly lifted her off of him and placed her by his side. He reached for a nearby blanket and threw it over them.

Jackie laid in Hyde’s arms looking down at her ring. She held her left hand close to her face as if to memorize every detail of the beautiful piece of jewelry on her hand.

“It’s so pretty,” Jackie said. “How did you find such a pretty ring?”

“Jackie, every time someone you know gets engaged you describe in incredible detail the exact ring you want,” Hyde said rolling his eyes.

“I do not,” Jackie said hitting him lightly on the chest.

“How else would I know what a princess cut is?” Hyde asked rolling his eyes. “The first time you said it, I thought you wanted a tiara. The sales lady laughed at me.

“I would also like a tiara,” Jackie said and then smiled. “I can wear it to the wedding.”

Hyde groaned, “You’re going to make me wear something ridiculous too aren’t you.”

“Yes,” Jackie said. “What are your thoughts to entering on horseback?”

“No,” Hyde said.

“Pleeease,” Jackie said pushing out her lower lip and pouting.

“No,” Hyde said firmly.

Jackie rolled her eyes, “Just wait, I’ll wear you down. I have plenty of time before a wedding. I’m thinking mid-spring.”

Hyde rolled his eyes as Jackie started chatting about color schemes and who to invite. Jackie didn’t stop until her stomach growled.

“Can we go get burgers?” Jackie asked. “When you said we were going to get something shiny, I thought you meant burgers. Now I’m starving.”

“If that’s all you wanted I can take the diamond ring back and just roll some tin foil up into a ring,” Hyde said laughing.

“Don’t you dare,” Jackie said clutching her left hand to her chest. “I’m wearing this for the rest of my life.”

“Promise?” Hyde asked with a grin.

Jackie responded with a similar smile, “I promise.”