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17 cherry tree lane

Chapter Text

October 1990

Closing the door slowly so it wouldn’t creak, Jamie trudged down the carpeted steps to the basement, finding Dani already reclining back against the couch cushions, legs stretched out across the pull-out mattress as she distractedly swirled a glass of red wine in her hand.

“Sorry, ‘bout Miles,” she ducked her head with a bit of shame as she crossed the room and joined her, accepting the glass that was wordlessly poured for her, “Am I getting that sweatshirt back before I leave?”

Dani just smirked into her glass and shook her head, “It would be rude of me to return it to you without washing it first.”

“Yeah, I recall my favorite Blondie shirt has been in the wash for, what? Almost four years now?”

“It’s my favorite too,” she pursed her lips together, attempting to hold in a laugh.

“You have the exact same one!” Jamie shook her head incredulously, remembering when they’d gotten tickets to see the band in concert the summer after their first year of college. They’d left with matching t-shirts, but Jamie got much more use out of hers than Dani.

“But you wore yours way more often than I did, so it’s softer!”

The brunette just sipped at her wine, wondering just how many articles of clothing she’d lost just from Dani digging through her suitcase and claiming them for the time being. She always got them back, but the Blondie shirt was something she hadn’t seen in years unless Dani was wearing it. She didn’t mind too much. She had others that she’d thrifted since the band broke up back in ‘82.

“Gimme yours then. I’ll wear the fabric out then you can give me mine back,” she teased, jutting a foot across the small space to kick at Dani’s shin over her flannel pajama pants. But Dani just shook her head, reclining back against the cushions with her head turned towards her.

“No, cause then it won’t be yours,” she mumbled with the slightest grin on her face, “I like yours. It reminds me of you when you’re not here.”

”Clingy,” Jamie thought to herself as her lips curled into a fond smile, “You say that like I’m never here.”

Dani was quiet in return, but Jamie could see the cogs turning behind her forehead. Knowing Dani, she was probably trying to figure out how to tell her that it felt like she was never here. In comparison to when she still lived in town, yeah, Jamie knew that she was hardly around; Only stopping back in town for a weekend every month at the least.

Dani would come to visit her in Des Moines too. Sometimes for a day trip into the city, leaving the kids with Eddie, Judy, or Karen. It was rare, though, especially now that Miles and Flora were both enrolled in weekend activities.

Jamie didn’t feel, in any way, that they were drifting apart. Not in the slightest. But she knew that they weren’t twelve anymore with nothing better to do than to lay in their backyards and point out shapes in the clouds. Life gets in the way. But at least she was here, sipping wine in Dani’s basement and bickering over an old t-shirt. And she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

“Hey,” she muttered, shifting a little closer to Dani, who just stared distractedly into her wine glass, “I’ll try to come home more often. Promise.” She took the pinky finger of Dani’s free hand, linking it with her own before dropping a kiss to her knuckles as always.

Dani just shifted closer, resting her head against Jamie’s shoulder as an arm draped over hers. In the quiet of the basement, the sound of Jamie setting her wine glass down on the end table was much louder than it actually was, piercing through the silence like a bullet.

But Dani didn’t flinch at the sound. She just curled into Jamie’s side, breathing in the faint menthol that lingered on her oversized Tears For Fears t-shirt. Picking her head up, she placed her own wine glass down on the opposite end table and reached across Jamie’s torso, lifting the t-shirt sleeve enough to trace her fingers over the moonflower tattoo that had been wrapped beautifully around her bicep since Jamie’s 18th birthday.

June 1978

“Are you insane? That’s a tattoo, Jamie, that’s permanent.”

“Christ, you sound like Suzanne,” the brunette rolled her eyes at the memory of her foster mom chastising her just this morning. The woman had very conservative opinions on tattoos, but apparently no qualms when it came to her pervert husband trying to watch Jamie and the other girls get dressed for school.

Jamie still thought it was bullshit that she got in trouble for kneeing him in the groin when he snuck up and groped her while she was doing the dishes when she was sixteen. And people wondered why she never wanted to be there.

“It’s just a tattoo, Dani,” she sighed, taking a puff from her cigarette as she leaned against the railing of Dani’s front porch steps, “On my arm, no less, it’s not like I got something inked onto my face.”

The blonde sighed through her nose, holding her knees to her chest as she sat opposite Jamie on the steps. “Is it a moonflower?” she asked after a bit of silence, tucking long blonde hair behind her ear after the warm summer breeze blew it in her face.

“Yeah.”

“Why that one?”

“Dunno,” Jamie shrugged, flicking ashes to the ground, “I think it just might be my favorite flower. There’s just something so authentic about a flower that only blooms for a few hours. Kinda reminds me of our own mortality, y’know? We’re here for a moment, and then we’re gone. Some longer than others. So...just best to do what you can with your time while you’ve got it.”

Dani just bit her lip, watching as Jamie stared ahead at the subdivision street, littered with kids fresh out of school for summer vacation. Her best friend had always seen the world so much differently than she did. Jamie was smart. Too smart, even. Sometimes it seemed like she could single handedly solve world hunger if she thought hard enough about it.

She couldn’t help but feel bad. Jamie was the type of person who would backpack across Europe after graduation, live a nomadic lifestyle and never look back. But instead, she was here; Sitting with Dani in their small Iowa town, headed to an Iowa college that she didn’t even want to go to in the first place. All because Dani had asked her to.

“You’re thinking too hard, Poppins,” the brunette flashed a bit of a toothy grin in her direction, stomping her cigarette out on the concrete step, “What’s on your mind?”

“Nothing, just…” she sighed, quirking her lips to the side as she traced her eyes over the gauze that covered the tattoo around Jamie’s bicep, “What would you do if you could do anything?”

“Anything?”

“Anything.”

“Would you laugh if I said I wanted to go to work?” she chuckled. The Johnsons had told Jamie not to come in on her birthday. No matter how hard they were struggling to keep their heads above water and brainstorm ways to pick up business, they knew that Jamie had worked hard enough lately, doing volunteer shifts on top of her normal work. They told her that she at least needed to take her birthday off. And they gave Dani strict instructions to keep her away from the store all day.

Dani just giggled in response, shaking her head, “You know what I mean,” she reached over and shoved her shoulder, “What do you want for your future? Do you wanna...find a partner? Travel?”

“I wanna go roller skating tonight,” she shrugged.

”Jamie.”

“What’s the future matter to me right now anyway?” the brunette laughed through an annoyed groan, “A nuclear bomb could come down from the sky and wipe out the entire possibility of tomorrow. I’m not gonna stress over the future when it’s not even guaranteed.”

Dani’s jaw clenched with frustration. Jamie had always been so stubborn.

“Look,” the brunette sighed, tying her hair into a ponytail to save her neck from the humidity-induced frizz, “I’m just taking things one day at a time. So today, my birthday, I’ll remind you, I just wanna go roller skating with my best friend. That’s all I want. Okay?”

Jamie reached across for her hand, wiggling her fingers as an invitation until Dani grabbed onto them with her own.

“And hey, since you want me to think about the future, I sure wouldn’t mind you bringing me a burger and fries on your lunch break tomorrow,” she smirked, squeezing her hand tight. There were perks to your best friend being a waitress at the diner just a block away from the flower shop.

But Dani just rolled her eyes, chuckling at Jamie’s obvious ignorance to her point, mumbling a quick, “We’ll see.”

October 1990

“Makes more sense now,” Dani mumbled against Jamie’s shoulder and traced her fingers against the fully bloomed flowers on her arm, not paying any mind to the goosebumps that were rising under her touch.

“What does?” Jamie nearly gritted through her teeth, willing herself to stop breaking out in goosebumps and fucking shivering under Dani’s delicate fingertips.

“What you told me about the moonflowers. The whole...mortality thing,” she sighed, retracting her hand back into her own lap, “I always assumed Eddie would just...be around forever, y’know? He’d been around forever. I never...I never considered the possibility of a life without him around.”

Jamie silently thought back to the day of the funeral. Dani’s low voice ominously hinting at Eddie’s death being her fault was playing in her mind over and over again. But Dani always took too much internal responsibility for things. Things would happen naturally and she would find a way to blame herself for them. Karen’s fault, Jamie had concluded long ago, considering the woman had been blaming Dani for anything under the sun since they were kids.

So whatever happened with Eddie, she was positive that it wasn’t really Dani’s fault at all.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Jamie leaned her head down, pressing her cheek to the crown of blonde hair at her shoulder and watching as Dani chose to fiddle with her fingers instead. At least goosebumps couldn’t break out on her fingers.

“I’m really sorry, Jay,” she mumbled and pulled her hand away again, tucking her thumbs into her fists to prevent herself from biting at her nails; A nervous habit that she’d been desperate to stop once she got her braces off.

Another moment flashed into Jamie’s mind from the other day, when Dani had so cryptically given her an unprovoked apology before the funeral. She still had no clue what that apology was for.

“I always held you back, didn’t I?” Dani muttered almost inaudibly as her fists tightened in her lap.

“What are you—“

“You...You could have done so much. So much. And you could have gone so many places. You could live anywhere right now, Jay. But you’re sitting here in nowheresville, Iowa because of me.”

“You saying the four flower shops I’m running aren’t good enough?” Jamie attempted to joke with her, poking gently at her arm before Dani picked her head up, looking entirely unamused.

“You know what I mean. You could be doing anything anywhere right now if it weren’t for me dragging you to college. God, you didn’t even wanna go to college. You told me that all the time, and I made you come along with me because I don’t know how to be without you.”

“Dani, where do you think I’d be right now if I didn’t go to college?”

She shook her head and brushed her blonde hair from her eyes, sniffling quietly, “I don’t know. Not Iowa.”

“Well, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t gone,” Jamie pulled back enough to look her in the eye, running a hand over hers with gentle fingers on her knuckles, “Seriously, if I hadn’t learned what I did in school, I wouldn’t be running this business right now. There’s no way. Even if Phil had still passed it down to me, I probably would have sold it for hardly anything.”

Dani was quiet, looking down at their hands with a few sniffles every couple seconds. She was so tired of crying. But as much as she hated crying in front of Jamie, there was no one else who could cheer her up so quickly.

“If I’d stayed here while you went off to school, I’d have probably started hanging around the wrong kind of people, following in my fuckin’ dad’s footsteps because I wouldn’t have had you around to be the angel on my shoulder,” Jamie kept trying to get her to look her in the eye, but she just wouldn’t. “I mean it, Dani. As much as I hated the idea of it at first...and as much as I hate to admit it...going to college was one of the best decisions I ever made. You didn’t make that choice for me, either.”

It was quiet in the room, save for Dani’s sniffling that was now muffled into Jamie’s shoulder since she pulled her into a hug. She rubbed her back softly as she breathed in the strawberry shampoo, giving Dani the time to think about what she was saying.

“You ever think that I don’t know how to be without you either?” left her lips so quietly that she wasn’t even sure if she’d said it out loud. But Dani pulled back from the tight hug, wiping under her tired, red eyes, looking at her with confusion evident on her face.

“You were…all I knew,” she continued, bringing her bottom lip between her teeth nervously. She was never big on participating in emotional conversations with Dani. Just listening when she needed an ear. “Y’know Denny died, Mum left, Dad got arrested and me and Mikey got split up. But...I dunno, you were just a constant in my life. You were always there, even if it wasn’t right outside my window.”

“I was fucking terrified of the idea of you not being around. And I always thought...I dunno, you always had Eddie, but I didn’t have anyone else. And maybe I was scared that you’d forget all about me,” she squeezed her eyes tightly shut as a heavy flush came over her cheeks. She’d never told Dani this before. She never thought she would have to.

“If you think I could ever forget about you, you’re not as smart as I always thought you were,” Dani let out a bit of a watery laugh, her voice thick with tears as she cupped Jamie’s flushed cheek.

The brunette just chuckled, ducking her head. “Can you blame me? I mean, you were one of the most popular girls in our high school. You had plenty of other friends.”

“You and Eddie were my friends. Everyone else was...merely an acquaintance.” Dani let another laugh bubble up from her chest before she playfully mumbled a comment about Jamie being an idiot.

“I mean it, though. I’m here cause I wanna be. Not cause I feel like I’m...tied down to you or something. If anything, I’m here for the shops,” Jamie smirked, poking at Dani’s side, “You’re just an added bonus.”

With a final sniffle and a hint of a smile, Dani just shoved her shoulder and moved to lay down after turning off the lamp on her side of the couch. Jamie followed, settling in on her side as Dani fluffed up the pillow under her head.

“Can I ask you something?”

Blue eyes met hers as Dani settled into the pillow and under the blankets, getting as comfortable as she could on the old, thin mattress. “You know you can ask me anything.”

Jamie bit the inside of her cheek, knowing that that statement wasn’t entirely true. Maybe it was, but she knew for sure that anything she asked Dani wouldn’t always come with an ideal answer. She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth again; Her own little nervous tick.

“No woman’s gonna wanna kiss you if you chew your whole bottom lip off,” Dani would tease her when they were teenagers as she cupped Jamie’s jaw in her hand, her thumb tugging gently at her chin to coax her lip out from between her teeth.

”Well, you’re not gonna have any fingers left for someone to put a ring on if you keep biting them,” she would retort with a playful smirk. Of course, she’d had to come up with new material ever since they were nineteen when Dani was engaged for a mere two months before she got married.

Jamie was grateful for the darkness of the basement, because Dani’s thumb gently pulling at her chin to ease her lip from between her teeth still made her blush just as deeply as it did when they were sixteen.

“The other day before, y’know...the funeral,” she started, feeling her skin go cold when Dani took her hand off the line of her jaw, “You told me you were sorry…?”

“Oh,” Dani let out, “I was just sorry that I didn’t...I didn’t call...when it happened. And you had to hear about it from my mom the day before and I just…” She shook her head, sighing into the darkness between them, “It was stupid. And so wrong of me, but...I didn’t…want you to know. And my mom was...she actually invited you without me knowing. She didn’t tell me until...after she talked to you.”

“What?” Jamie went a bit rigid with shock, unsure of what to make of what she was hearing. She wasn’t sure which part was more staggering; the fact that Dani apparently didn’t even want her to come to the funeral or the fact that Karen Clayton, of all people, was the one to invite her. Even if it was only a day in advance.

Dani took in a deep breath, taking a few moments to gather her thoughts before trying to explain, “I wasn’t in the right state of mind after the accident. And I...I figured you and Eddie never really got along anyway and you probably had a lot of work to do, so I just…”

“Dani, I would’ve dropped everything to be here for you, you know that.”

“That’s the thing, though, Jamie, you shouldn’t have to drop everything for me. You’ve always dropped everything for me,” her voice raised just enough to surprise them both, “I mean, jesus, you used to go out and get ice cream for me in the middle of the night when I was pregnant with Miles. During finals week, no less.”

Nothing had ever been more frustrating to Jamie than her friendship with Dani. Because she could never tell her how she really felt. She’d been stuck with these unrequited feelings for more than half her life, having to watch as Dani gravitated towards Eddie despite Jamie being everything that Eddie wasn’t. But she could never tell Dani. As much as she hated how hung up on her she was, she knew that she would lose her entirely if she told her the truth.

“I don’t do it cause I feel like I have to,” Jamie whispered, unsure of what else to say. But at this point, it felt like they were going around in circles, chasing each other around a ring but never catching up and reaching the same point.

“I know you don’t, it just...hardly seems fair, you always coming to my rescue when I hardly return the favor.”

“We’ve had this conversation already. Many times,” Jamie quirked her lips into a bit of a grin, though she was grateful for the dark that hid its lack of authenticity, “Dunno what I have to do to get you to believe me.”

September 1973

Jamie leaned up against the sink in the girl’s bathroom with a cigarette between her lips, keeping an eye on the door as the sound of a toilet paper roll endlessly unraveling filled the tiled room.

“I can’t believe this. The one time I wear my white jeans to school,” Dani sounded understandably frustrated in the stall in front of where Jamie stood.

“Could be worse, you coulda been wearing a dress,” the brunette shrugged, blowing smoke towards the open window. Their first class of the day had already started, so thankfully the chances of them getting caught hiding out in the bathroom were slim to none.

The rustling of toilet paper continued to fill the silence between them until Dani groaned from behind the locked stall.

“I don’t have a change of clothes, what am I gonna do?”

Flicking the cigarette into the sink, Jamie just crossed her arms over her chest, wondering how to help. She’d gotten her first period last summer not long after she turned twelve. In the privacy of her own home, fortunately enough. She couldn’t imagine having it suddenly show up for the first time at school. When you’re wearing white jeans, no less.

Sighing, she untucked the Rolling Stones t-shirt she’d borrowed from her dad from her own blue jeans and slid the denim down her legs. “Here,” she stepped towards the stall and hooked them over the top of the door, pulling her shirt down so the hem reached her upper thighs.

“Jamie…”

“Put’em on, I’m not letting you hide out in the bathroom until school’s over. And gimme yours.”

“You are not putting on my blood-stained jeans, Jamie Taylor.”

“I’m not gonna put them on, I’m gonna throw them away,” she chuckled, “Trust me, that stain is not coming out.”

The blue jeans slowly slid off the top of the door, replaced by the white ones that Jamie tugged down and started to crumple up.

“Oh, gross,” a voice made her head tilt up as the bathroom door opened. But her eyes immediately rolled back when she saw Lisa Peterson standing there with a hall pass and disgust on her face at the sight of the blood stained pants.

“Hey, Lisa. Don’tcha hate when Aunt Flo comes early?” the brunette shook her head with a chuckle as if she’d just made a silly little mistake, “And in my favorite white jeans, can you believe that?”

“Yeah right, like you would ever own white jeans,” Lisa crossed her arms over her chest.

“Y’know, for the pep squad captain, you don’t have a lot of pep,” she scrunched her nose curiously at the other girl, “But you might wanna pick another bathroom. It’s a bit of a mess in here. Pretty heavy flow this month, as you can see.”

“God, you are so disgusting, Jamie,” the redhead made a face of pure disgust when Jamie held up the white jeans to show her the stain, immediately turning on her heel and leaving the bathroom.

Snorting to herself, Jamie tossed the pants into the trash can, leaning back against the sink as Dani slowly came out of the stall. “Good thing we’re the same size,” she smirked, looking at the blue jeans.

“You’re crazy. Lisa’s gonna tell everyone about that,” Dani brushed past her to wash her hands, shaking her head as the flush refused to fade from her face.

“So?” Jamie just shrugged, “Besides, even if she does, I can just let it slip that her bra is stuffed with tissues. Problem solved.”

Blue eyes stared her down with a regretfully amused smile before Dani couldn’t hold her laughter in anymore. “You’re not seriously gonna leave this bathroom wearing your dad’s t-shirt as a dress, are you?”

“Certainly am,” Jamie turned and draped an arm over her shoulders before they started for the door, “Who knows, I might just start a new trend.”