“How’s your hand?”
Despite her best attempts at being polite, and avoiding a glance at his left hand for too long, Jessie couldn’t keep from asking. Because she cared, of course. Because she’d been worrying about him since she read the police report, yeah. But also because she was genuinely curious about the damage a hammer could do.
Jason was a good sport. He expected questions by this point–in fact, he would’ve been confused if Jessie hadn’t asked. So he smiled weakly and twiddled what he had of his left fingers; he could see Jessie’s shoulders drop in relief.
“It’s alright.” Jason shrugged. “It doesn’t hurt no more. And I’ve gotten pretty good at using my right hand for stuff, so my grandma doesn’t need to help feed me now. Which is nice.”
The two of them laughed. But something in the quality of their laughter darkened the mood and they fell silent again.
“…speakin’ of food.” Jessie pulled her backpack around and began to fish through it. “Y’hungry? ‘Cause my dad stopped at TCBY before droppin’ me off here and I, uh, picked you up a cup?”
“I mean, ya don’t have to eat it if you’re not hungry–I just figured you might want one since, y’know, it was on the way and I remember you sayin’ once that you and your mom always–” Jessie stopped short, visibly surprised at her own stupidity. The color drained from her face, her shoulders tensing as she pulled the yogurt out of Jason’s grasp. “Fuckin’ Christ…”
“Jessie, it’s really okay–”
“No, Jason, it’s not. It’s not fuckin’ okay, it was fuckin’ stupid is what it was.” She tossed the cups back into her bag in a rage. Tyrone’s voice rang in her ears–stupid. Jason shook his head slowly, reassuringly.
“Jessie, really. Like, I talk about her every day in group, yanno? It’s okay.” He waited for Jessie to raise her eyes, and when she did he was satisfied, and then immediately looked away. Something about her being here, and being so close, was almost triggering him. It reminded him more of that night than talking about his mother.
“Have you heard anything about her?” He could feel Jessie’s hesitation though he continued to stare at the ground. Talking about Margery made her feel uncomfortable–it made the entire town uncomfortable. The only person it didn’t affect was himself, and he was almost disappointed it didn’t. After all she had done, the mere thought of her should’ve made him panic and cry and shake and scream–or make him mad at the very least. But by this point he was just tired.
Jessie, afraid Jason would go off any minute, took a nervous glance towards him.
“Jessie, I’ve been away for a long time. I’m not allowed to watch the news, I got my damn computer taken away–I’m not allowed to go to the bathroom at school without someone standing outside the door making sure I don’t do anything bad. I haven’t been treated like a normal person by anyone since then. Please just… talk to me like I ain’t crazy.”
She pursed her lips. He was right.
“…she, uh… like a day after you went to the hospital, there was a buncha cop cars in the church parking lot investigating the basement. Pastor Greg said on the news he didn’t know who did it and people started donating to get the church repaired and that was kind of it for a while?
“But a couple weeks later Tim came forward, sayin’ your mom, uh… he said your mom had raped him. He called her crazy and said she was abusin’ you since your dad died–his parents got him a lawyer and brought her to court. The cops even told me I was gonna get called as a witness but she confessed before anything big happened. And they arrested her, like… on the spot.” She paused to look over at Jason. He sat silently, completely unmoved. Maybe he knew, or maybe he just expected as much. But his silence, though unnerving, was better than a hysterical alternative. She sighed heavily. “I dunno how long her sentence is. She might get off sooner on good behavior or whatever. But I’m sure she’s there for a while. She did fuck up pretty bad.”
Jason nodded, his jaw clenched. He may have been quiet, and his face unmoving, but Jessie knew him well enough to know when he was pissed.
“Hey. Jas.” She rested her hand on his knee. Lightly, warmly. In that one small gesture, Jason could feel her reassurance.
“I just… I want you to know that I didn’t go to Homecoming without you.”
“I mean, I went because I’m part of the Pep Club and I had to set up the decorations and make sure everyone left with an adult but, like…. I didn’t go go. I wasn’t there with no one.” Jason shrugged his shoulders indifferently.
“Well… it would’ve been okay if you did, y’know. I wouldn’t have cared. I was in a hospital, I was kind of expecting you to go with someone else.” His jaw clenched again. Jessie pulled her hand away, afraid she was invading his space, but nodded after a moment.
“I know. But I didn’t. I sat on the bleachers all night thinkin’ ‘bout you. Like, if the people there were treating you okay, and if your room was comfy, and if they was lettin’ you do arts and crafts like they do on TV. I was scared, Jason. And I was really… lookin’ forward to being there with you.”
Jason’s posture softened. He felt a long-lost blush creep over his cheeks. Just like back on the swings.
“I’m… I’m sorry I went crazy.”
“We all went kinda crazy that night.”
“But I’m sorry. I fucked a lot up that night. I feel like none of us are gonna be the same now.” He held up his left hand. “I mean, I only have eight fingers now.”
He stopped a moment. To actually look at his hand. His bruised, ugly, fucked up hand with just three crooked fingers and two sad stumps.
And something about it made him crack a smile. And he hung his head and started laughing–slowly at first, then a full-on cackle. Jessie felt compelled to laugh, too, and the two of them were doubled over on the grass as they howled.
And something about that made Jessie remember just how much she had missed Jason. Soft-spoken and sweet and dorky. She leaned over and hugged him tight. Jason hugged back. They both kept laughing.
“But you’re here and we’re happy.” Jessie smiled. “And I still have all my fingers, so it’s not all that bad.”