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17 cherry tree lane

Chapter Text

May 1980

Jamie wasn’t sure when she’d stumbled into the large coat closet. She just knew that the woman enclosed in the darkness with her was ready to rip the ridiculously puffy pink bridesmaid dress off of her body; And Jamie would have no choice but to thank her for doing so. Because not only was this woman providing her with a much needed distraction from this soul-crushing wedding, but Jamie would rather be wearing a trash bag than this bubblegum pink monstrosity Karen had picked out for all of Dani’s bridesmaids to wear.

“What’s your name again?” she panted, getting a bit overheated in the small closet. Why was the coat closet at the town community center so small anyway?

“Theodora,” the woman, Dani’s older cousin from Boston, whispered a champagne scented breath, clutching the hideous pink dress in urgent fists, “But Theo’s fine.”

Jamie just nodded, letting Theo press her against the nearest wall in the confined space. “Right,” she huffed, brushing curls from her face where they’d fallen out of her updo on the dance floor. It wasn’t exactly comfortable in the coat closet, but she’d done worse things in tighter spots. And she would much rather be here, sweaty, cramped, and surrounded by the scent of mothballs than out there.

This was the day she’d been dreading since Dani came back to their dorm with a rock on her left ring finger. And to make matters worse, Jamie was the one who had to act happy for her, and convince her that it was a good thing, despite feeling the exact opposite.

It had all moved so fast. Dani had hardly known she was pregnant for a week before Edmund proposed. And from there, Dani was juggling coursework and wedding planning; A wedding that was due to take place just after their final exams for the year.

Jamie, while trying her best to help her best friend through it all, had been as absent as a maid of honor could be. It was probably the only time in her life she’d been grateful for Karen Clayton. The woman had everything under control, and Jamie’s only responsibilities were to show up and convince the Johnsons to offer a discount on the flower arrangements.

(Aside from one dress fitting where she spent the entire time silently wishing death upon whoever decided that off-shoulder puffy sleeves were in style.)

And, god, the pink was a nightmare on its own.

She was better off in the coat closet. Even though the entire guest list had already seen her in all her Pepto Bismol glory at the altar of their quaint little hometown church. She may not have been the only ridiculous looking one at this wedding, but she certainly felt like it.

At least Theo didn’t seem to mind the gaudy dress on her. Then again, she was forced into one herself. Oddly enough, their mutual hatred for their bridesmaid attire was the reason they bonded in the first place.

Theo hadn’t been Jamie’s first choice. Not when her younger sister Nell was basically just a brunette version of Dani. She was a sweet girl, and almost exactly their age. And the only thing that stopped Jamie from making a move on her was the man she seemed head over heels for as they spun around the dance floor. But Theo certainly wasn’t a bad second option at all. At this point, ¾ of a bottle of champagne and a pretty older woman was exactly what Jamie needed to distract herself from the day.

As strange as it seemed, Jamie thought that this would be so much easier if Dani seemed genuinely happy, rather than putting on smiles that everyone assumed were real. Everyone but Jamie, that is. She knew her best friend better than anyone else.

It may have just been a selfishly hopeful, drunken hallucination, but Jamie could tell that the “happiest day of Dani’s life” was just another nightmare for the blonde. And if she could, she would pause everything just so Dani could catch her breath.

But Dani was playing the role of the happy bride perfectly, save for the moments where Jamie caught her zoning out, likely deep in thought about how this was really how her life ended up; and so early on. She wasn’t even twenty years old yet, and here she was, married, three months pregnant, and just fresh out of her sophomore year of college.

She tried not to think about Dani, though. She’d left the main event hall for a reason, and that was for Theo to give her the distraction she needed. The least she could do was let her.

“Uh...J-Jamie?” the voice of the person she was trying to forget came along with a quick knock on the door after a few minutes, “The, um...my mom said the toasts were supposed to start five minutes ago...”

Running her fingers through her hair as best she could, Jamie just cleared her throat as she pushed Theo away. “Yeah, I’ll be right there, I was just...just looking for something!” She didn’t know how Dani knew she was in here. And god forbid, she knew that she was with her hot cousin.

“Yeah, o-okay…” Dani’s voice sounded timid on the other side of the painted white wood.

Jamie leaned back against the wall, catching her breath. She could barely see Theo in the dark, but she could make out the slightest bit of sympathy on her face. “What?”

“Nothing,” she shook her head, reaching up to adjust the pearl-beaded bobby pins in her own dark hair, “Just sucks having to watch the woman you love get married to someone else, huh?”

Her jaw slacked a bit, both in surprise and offense, not that Theo was wrong. But she wasn’t about to admit to that. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We’re just friends. I’m happy for her.”

“Honey, I’ve got a masters degree in psychology and I’m working on getting my PhD. You wouldn’t be downing champagne like you need it to live and hanging out here with me if you were happy for her.”

“What, a bridesmaid can’t have a little fun of her own at a party?”

With the bit of light coming from under the door, she could just barely make out a finely shaped eyebrow raising accusingly on Theo’s forehead.

“I am happy for her,” the younger brunette rolled her eyes as she lifted her own skirt and ripped the pantyhose down her legs. What was the point of wearing them under a floor length dress? Or at all? “She’s my best friend,” she huffed, suddenly feeling much more overheated in the little closet than before.

“Better get out there and sell that ‘best friend’ speech, then,” the playful smugness in Theo’s voice came through so clear that Jamie didn’t even need to turn the light on to know she was grinning wickedly. But her voice softened as Jamie stood back upright and tossed the pantyhose aside, “Does she know? That you’re gay, I mean?”

The younger woman just sighed and nodded her head, reaching up to tuck curly locks back into her barrette, “Yeah.”

“How long have you been friends?”

“Almost nine years,” she lisped around the bobby pins she’d placed between her teeth, holding onto them until she could put them back into her hair.

“Have you been in love with her for that long?”

“No, only like six ye—“ she stopped, freezing as she realized she’d been tricked into admitting the truth. And in the awkward silence that followed as she tied her hair back up and placed the bobby pins in as best she could, she ignored the barely visible smug grin on Theo’s face.

“Oh, fuck off,” she scoffed, unable to help the laugh that bubbled up from her chest as she kicked off her white heels and let herself out of the coat closet.

She brushed the loose curls she couldn’t tame from her forehead and trudged barefoot back into the event hall, already seeing Eddie’s younger brother Carson giving his best man speech at the table for the wedding party. And after rounding the long, decorated table, she plopped down into her chair beside Dani’s, offering the nervous looking blonde a hint of an apologetic smile.

The room full of people applauded Carson’s heartfelt speech, giving the blushing teenager the support he needed after being the reluctant center of attention. But soon, all eyes were on Jamie, who suddenly couldn’t remember a single word of the speech she’d been forced to write. But she stood up anyway after the microphone was passed down the table to her, clearing her throat awkwardly with her glass of champagne in her other hand.

“Hiya,” she breathed into the mic with a tightly closed grin as her eyes flit around the hall of (mostly) strangers, giving them a bit of an uncomfortable wave of greeting, “Um...for, uh…for those two don’t know me, I’m Jamie. I’ve known Dani…Danielle...and Edmund since...well, since we were eleven after my family moved here from England.”

Jamie never really had a problem with public speaking, but she could tell that at least half the people in this room were judging her already. “I remember the first time I met Dani...elle,” she added on quickly at the end. This wasn’t going to go well, she could already tell, “I guess we didn’t really meet, but she rang our doorbell, shoved a jell-o mold into my arms and ran off.”

That got a low rumble of laughter from the crowd, at least.

“And after that, we met properly and, uh...I guess we became pretty fast friends. But...she already had a best friend. One she’d known since before she could walk or talk. And that best friend was this guy,” she pointed to Edmund, who had a satisfied grin on his face as some people clapped for him. “These two…” she trailed off, flicking her tongue over her lips as she thought of what to say. The fog in her brain from the alcohol wasn’t doing her any favors.

“They’ve…” she sighed, “Sometimes things just...happen the way they’re supposed to, I guess. And these two...well, it just seems like they were meant to be together for life, doesn’t it?” She breathed a heavy laugh as the crowd in front of her hummed with agreement. Thankfully her comment didn’t come out sounding as bitter as she felt.

Running a nervous hand over her forehead, she looked to Dani sitting in the chair beside her with the first genuine smile she’d seen all day. It wasn’t the large, toothy grin she’d been putting on during the day’s events. Her lips were closed, curling up at the ends just enough to be considered a smile. It was small, but to Jamie, that just meant it was reserved for her. Not like the wide and glittering insincere smiles she was sharing with everyone else.

“I just...I just hope you know how much you mean to me,” she muttered quietly, though it rang loudly through the event hall from the speakers, “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. You’ve been there for me through everything, and you deserve…every bit of happiness that this stupid world can offer. Even when you don’t believe you do.”

A blush came to Dani’s face as Jamie spoke directly to her, her smile spreading farther across her rosy cheeks. And for a moment, in the drunken haze of Jamie’s mind, it was just the two of them. There was no room full of friends and family, no Eddie beaming with newlywed bliss, no plum-sized fetus concealed under Dani’s frilly white dress. Just them.

But Jamie managed to snap herself out of her little daydream just before the “I love you,” at the tip of her tongue could escape. Instead she cleared her throat, filling the awkward silence once more before chuckling into the mic and looking over at Eddie. “And O’Mara, if you ever hurt my best friend, in any way, I won’t hesitate to rip your spine clean out your asshole, got it?”

Dani and Carson seemed to be the only ones amused by her closing statement. The rest of the hall filled with appalled gasps and murmurs as women clutched their pearls and held silky gloved hands over their mouths. But at this point, Jamie couldn’t even bring herself to care.

“To the bride and groom,” she raised her glass, downing what was left of the champagne before sitting back down, grinning a bit dazedly down at her salad as the music from the band started back up.

Dani leaned over, sending a rush of electricity down her spine when she whispered into her ear. “How much have you had to drink, exactly?” she asked, toying with the sagging puffy sleeve against Jamie’s arm.

“Maybe a whole bottle by now,” the brunette shrugged, “But to be fair, I’m drinking for the both of us.” She kept her voice low, knowing that no one else in the room knew that Dani was pregnant aside from her mom, Eddie, and Eddie’s parents. “Hope I never have to call you ‘Danielle’ again in my life. Didn’t feel right.”

Dani just breathed a bit of laughter, shaking her head as she sipped her sparkling cider. “You’re not gonna sneak off with my cousin again, are you?”

Her heart dropped to her gut. But Dani didn’t seem mad. Just curious and slightly amused, if anything. “S’pose I don’t have to. How’d you know we were in the coat closet anyway?”

“I, uh…I saw you run off with her...after you were dancing together. I came to look for you and heard a thump coming from the coat closet,” her face quickly turned the deep rosy color of Jamie’s dress, “I just kinda put two and two together.”

“Smart,” Jamie just refilled her own champagne glass with a silent nod, slightly raising it as if to make a toast, “Well, glad to see one of our brains isn’t completely fried by alcohol and final exams.”

November 1990

After Halloween night, sleep didn’t come easily for Jamie. Every night since she arrived back at her apartment on Friday, she tossed and turned as her brain went into overdrive. If she wasn’t lying awake thinking about how badly things had gone between her and Dani, it was plaguing her dreams, turning them into nightmares that just woke her up again. And the longer time went by, the worse it got.

And Dani…

Dani was relentless.

She was likely skyrocketing her own phone bill with how many times she had called over the last week. Jamie received at least two calls a day at work; Though, she always insisted that her assistant take a message. She’d been avoiding thinking about her feelings on the matter or any kind of solution to fixing it. It was just easier.

But she never received any messages from her at work. Which made sense. Dani wasn’t one to burden anyone with her problems, even if it was as simple as getting Jamie’s assistant to jot a message down over the phone. At home, however, Jamie would return from work each day, drop her coat on the hook and listen to what seemed like hours worth of messages from the blonde.

”Hey, it’s me. I, um...I know you’re angry. And you have every right to be. But...Jamie, you’ve never avoided me before...I just wanna make things right again. Please call me.”

Beep

”It’s me again. I know I messed everything up, and I’m so, so sorry. Please call me back, Jamie, I wanna fix this. I need to fix this.”

Beep

“Jamie, if you’re there, please pick up. I really want to talk to you. I miss my best friend, okay? Call me.”

Beep

“Jamie, it’s been four days, this isn’t funny anymore. At least call me back to let me know you’re okay.”

Beep

“Aunt Jamie, when are you coming to visit us again? We miss you very, very much and we’re having pizza for dinner on Thursday night! Mummy can even order your favorite!”

Jamie remembered rolling her eyes affectionately at that one, scoffing as she took a quick swig of tequila. “Cheap shot,” she had chuckled to herself, not even surprised that Dani would use Flora as bait. But she was surprised at herself that she didn’t fall for it, considering those kids were her weakness.

On Friday night, just a week after Halloween, Jamie was surprised to see that her answering machine was only blinking with one message, rather than the multiple ones she’d been receiving every day.

With a sigh, she dropped her keys into the little bowl by the door and shed her jacket, running a hand through her hair as she made her way to the answering machine, preparing herself to hear Dani’s voice again once she pressed play.

”Hey, Jamie, it’s Carson. I just need to talk if you don’t mind giving me a call. Nothing serious, I just need some advice.”

The machine beeped, signaling that she had no other messages to listen to. It was a little bit worrisome, considering how often Dani had been calling over the past week. But it was what Jamie deserved for not picking up all week. She’d been avoiding Dani like the plague, she had no right to be even the slightest bit upset that she hadn’t called today.

Maybe she wasn’t upset. That wasn’t the right word for it. It worried her, wondering if Dani was okay. Or if she’d really decided to give Jamie some space. It wasn’t like Dani to just give up. That woman used to argue with her college professors about her grades, not letting up until they raised her score to something she thought she deserved for her work. No, Dani wasn’t the type to just give up when she was passionate about something.

But Jamie pushed the thoughts of her out of her head like she’d been doing all week. She pushed away the memory of Dani’s fingers against her neck, the scent of the red wine on her breath, the way she cried and told her what she thought Jamie wanted to hear. She pushed it all down; Instead, giving her attention to Carson O’Mara over the phone while she made herself a stir fry for dinner.

“Mate, your parents are two of the most accepting people I know. You’re their son, they’re gonna love you regardless. You’re one of the lucky ones,” she balanced the phone on her shoulder, being careful not to pull the cord too far as she worked around her small kitchen. “Well, your brothers are morons anyway, you shouldn’t care what they think.”

She frowned sympathetically as Eddie’s younger brother vented to her over the phone. He’d come out to her when he was fifteen. Though, it had been an accident. She had been jogging around the neighborhood one night during her first summer home from college and caught him kissing a boy by the woods. But she told him then and there when he stared at her, terrified that she would rat him out, that if he wanted it to be a secret, then the secret was safe with her.

And now, eleven years later, she was still the only one who knew. And Carson had become a surrogate of a little brother, filling the Mikey-shaped void in her heart.

“I don’t think they would see it as an added stress, though, Car. Your parents are not to type who would accuse you of ruining Thanksgiving just because you brought your boyfriend home. I mean, Christ, they were more supportive than my own father when they all found out about me.”

She shook the pan around on the burner, letting the vegetables sizzle for just a little longer as she leaned against the counter, sipping at her wine. “Well, in the end it’s up to you. But you know you wanna bring Bobby home. It’s just a matter of trusting your family to be cool with it. I know they will be. And hey, I’ll be there. You know we’ve always got your back, kid.”

Placing her wine glass down, she turned off the burner and stood on her tip-toes to reach one of the plates in the cabinet above her head. “I mean, if you don’t go through with it, there’s always Christmas. Or whenever you feel comfortable. But you’ve been together since you were eighteen. His family knows, right? And they’re fine with it.”

A heavy knock at her door nearly made her drop the plate she had grabbed right onto her foot. She caught it just before it could fall past the counter, but it managed to tip over her drink, leaving a mess of broken glass and red wine on her marble countertop.

“Shit. I gotta call you back. But think about it, Carson, I mean it. You’re gonna be thirty in a few years, I don’t want you looking back on your life and regretting anything. Trust me, it’s...it’s not a good feeling,” she kept the phone balanced between her shoulder and her ear as she picked up the larger pieces of glass and tossed them into the trash. All the while, the knocking at the door kept going, incessantly.

After hanging up with Carson, she groaned, trying to at least pick up the glass before she did anything else. “For fuck’s sake, I’ll be right there!” she yelled over her shoulder towards the door, but it did nothing to stop the knocking.

Frustrated, Jamie tossed the dishrag that was hanging over her shoulder at the mess of spilled wine before stomping over to the door, fully expecting to spend the next minute and a half cursing out her downstairs neighbor again after an exaggerated noise complaint.

“Jesus, what?” she practically hissed. But instead of the frizzy grey beard of the man who lived directly below her, she was met with a mane of blonde hair and angry blue eyes.

And if looks could kill, Jamie would have been six feet under in a matter of seconds.