Jessica pulled on her threadbare jacket as she walked down the busy street of LA. She had just finished her shift at the coffee shop where she works on Thursdays. She checked her worn-out wristwatch to see it was almost 11:00 pm. She had no idea she would work late. The customers were a lot today, She was exhausted. All she wanted to do was to get home and fall into a dreamless sleep once on her bed but she knew chances of that happening were little to nothing. She'd have to do her usual clean up. It had become a part of her to clean up after her dad. It'd been her life since she was 10.
She could still remember vividly the incident that happened 7 years ago that changed her life to what it was today. In the cold of the night, her mind drifted to that day… the day she lost her mom. Though her mom was still very much alive and living a celebrity life somewhere in CA, to Jessica she was dead.
She returned from school 7 years ago to discover her mom was gone with only a note and memories of her left.
It was as if the busy street faded and she was back in the sitting room of their home 7 years ago. She could still vividly see the Pained expression on her dad's face with his eyes glistening with unshed tears and a piece of paper on his hand. He was sitting on the ground looking at the contents of the paper with his hands shaking as though he couldn't control them. She had gotten back from school to see him in that state. She had never seen her dad that way before. Immediately, she knew something really bad had happened.
She walked up to him and took the paper from his grasp. She expected him to react but she got nothing at all. With the paper out of his hand, he continued looking into the empty space like someone under a spell. She slowly took her eyes off her dad to read the contents of the paper. The words she read made her heart constrict. At first, she told herself not to panic that it was all a bad dream or maybe she read the words wrong. She read it all over again but it was the same with her mom's name at the end of the note.
Her mom walked away from their lives because her dad could no longer afford the celebrity lifestyle she wanted all because her dad's multi-million dollar company was crumbling. One would expect that as a wife and a mother, Mandy Brendon would take the initiative to support her husband in his trying times but no. She walked away like 12 years of marriage meant nothing to her. In the note she left behind, she said she couldn't spend the rest of her life with a poor man.
Her dad, Jax Brendon could not cope with the loss of his wife and company that he resorted to heavy drinking thereby abandoning his parental responsibilities. Thus, Jessica was left on her own with an alcoholic dad and no relatives to come to her rescue.
The cold brought Jessica back to the present as she pulled her poor excuse for a jacket tightly against herself.
She better hurry up. It's just a few more blocks before she gets to the crappy apartment she calls home. She thought to herself.
A few minutes later, she was home. She opened the creaky door of the sitting room and was immediately greeted by a foul smell. It was something she was used to so she didn't bother to cover her nose. She stepped into the house and closed the door. She took a few steps and as expected, saw her dad lying in a pool of his own vomit. He looked like he'd passed out but she knew better. She tapped him gently to see if he would wake up and luckily for her, he did.
"Mandy, is that you? A...are you back to me?" He slurred.
At times like that, he always thought of her as her mom but though it disgusted Jessica, she had to play along to pacify him.
"Umm...yeah...yes I'm back" she forced a smile.
"You will never leave again?" He asked doubtfully.
"No. I'll stay forever"
She really wished she could tell him the truth but it wouldn't help her at that moment.
"Come let's get you cleaned up"
she tried pulling him, urging him to stand up. It wasn't easy but she was finally able to get him to the bathroom where she cleaned him with a wet cloth. She got him to bed after that and went to clean the sitting room.
By the time she was done, it was past midnight.
So good for trying to get a goodnight rest.
She would have been somewhat happy if the next day would be different but she knew it'll be the same.
Life isn't fair to me, she thought to herself before drifting to sleep after settling on her bed.
"Mia… Oh my God I'm so sorry I'm late".
Jessica apologized to the Bartender at the pub where she works.
It was Friday night and the pub was filled with customers. Her shift started about 30 minutes ago but she arrived late as she had to walk a long distance before she could get a bus with the little money on her.
"It's okay Jessie" Mia smiled. "I'll be happy to fill in for you whenever the need arises". She added.
Mia was one of the people Jessica could call a friend. Although they were not so close, she knew a little about her life. They both had this connection of Kindred spirits.
Mia was an orphan. She spent all her life in foster homes where she didn't get good care. She barely finished high school. Once she clocked 18, she was out of foster care and began to fend for herself. Like Jessica, the bar was one of the places where she works. Jessica knew all of this but Mia knew nothing about her. Most times she felt guilty for keeping things from her but she couldn't tell her about her life. She'd only ever told her she lost her mom and her dad was sick. Technically, it was half of the truth.
"Thank you Mia. I'll continue from here. You can go now". She smiled gratefully.
"Okay. Take this Margaritas to those men over there". Mia pointed at two men sitting at one end of the room as she handed the tray to her.
"On it...now go have a goodnight".
It was easy for her to locate the men since the pub was fairly small. She walked up to their table to deliver the drinks. She carried them from the tray and placed them on the table. As she was about leaving, one of the men by her side grabbed her arm. She turned to look at him. He was an obese man with a bald head and eyes that looked too small to see with. He had a bushy beard and a protruding stomach. He reeked of alcohol and cigarettes.
"Sir, is there anything else you want?" She asked politely.
"Oh yes, honey. How much will it take for me to get you?" He traced his index finger over her Palm. She was irritated.
"I'm sorry sir, but we don't offer such services here". She forced a smile.
"Hmm… what if I said I wanted such services?" He slurred, raking his eyes over her.
"Sir, again, I'm sorry but you'll have to get that somewhere else". Her anger was rising but she had to keep it in check for the sake of her job.
"The customer is always right, you know," added the second fellow.
He was a skinny man with bushy dirty blonde hair and big eyes that looked to be popping from their sockets. He had this unkempt look about him.
"Ah, I see what you're doing Bob. I'm not gonna share this one with you" the other man replied. "She's all mine," he added.
"Nope. She's not yours. She's already taken and mine". A voice sounded from behind Jessica.
That voice is familiar. Jessica thought. She knew only one person who pops the "p" in his no. Her best friend Jamie.
Arms wrapped around her waist from behind.
"Gentlemen, if you don't mind, excuse my lady and do enjoy your drinks". He smiled as he pulled her away. She managed to force a smile.
Jamie came at the right time like he always does. That wasn't the first time something like that happened. Most times she'd lie she was a lesbian just to ward off men but today it escaped her. The first time she experienced it, she reported to her boss but the response she got was not encouraging. She merely told her to do whatever pleases the customers. She never expected such from Mrs. Garry, the chubby nice lady she worked for but then she quickly learned that her nice disposition was only a facade. She made a mental note to think of a new way to ward them off before it got out of hand.
"Thanks, Jamie" She offered a smile.
"What are you thanking me for?" He acted surprised.
"For rescuing me once more" she shrugged.
"I didn't rescue you. Only told the truth"
"What truth?" She narrowed her eyes.
"You're mine," he winked.
Her heart skipped a bit. Stupid heart.
"Not even in your dreams Jamie". She glared at him.
"Hey… chill. Was just kidding as always" he smirked.
"But seriously, you need…"
"Don't" she interrupted him. "Don't start with your sermon. I'm working so go find a place to sit till I'm done".
That's right. She wasn't ready to hear his sermon of "you need to quit this job. It's not right for you". If only he understood her predicament.
"Fine". He raised his hands in surrender. "I'll let you work". He added.
She stared at him for a moment then went to take orders from customers.
About 2 hours later, she was done with her shift and the pub was ready to close. She picked her bag from the bar, pulled on her Jacket, and walked over to where Jamie was sitting. He was using his phone so he didn't notice her.
"Hey...I'm done" she said and he looked up. "and...I'm sorry about earlier," she added.
"It's okay. I totally understand" he smiled. "Now let's get you home" he held her hand as they strode out.
He had made it his job to take her home every Friday night. The reason being that the place was a 20 minutes drive from where she lives and personally, he didn't like the part of town the pub was located.
They got into his car at the parking lot and pulled away from the pub.
"What would have happened if I hadn't arrived on time?" Jamie broke the silence in the car.
"I would have found a way to ward them off," she replied coldly.
"Ohh really? What if you weren't able to or Mrs. Garry had come out and offered you to them? Huh?" He was infuriated.
She was silent.
"Exactly my point". He continued. "There is nothing you or anyone there could have done. That's the main reason you should quit this job".
"Stop it" she glared at him coldly.
"It's not safe for you". He ignored her. "If you quit I'll get you a new job that has better pay and if I can't get one fast, I'll take care of your bills till I do". He added softly.
"I'm not interested in your offer".
"You have to be. I'm concerned about your safety" he raised his voice.
"Stop the car" she yelled.
He stared at her for a moment and she glared at him. He pulled the car to a stop at the side of the road. She immediately got out of the car and started walking away.
Jamie was shocked at first. He didn't expect her to react that way but then, he wasn't going to let her walk away. He ran up to her blocking her path. She tried bypassing him but he won't let her.
"I…" he breathed out. "I'm sorry okay. I didn't mean to upset you".
She was silent and didn't acknowledge him. After a while, he moved in on her and hugged her tightly.
"Jessica I'm sorry. I will never bring it up again".
She didn't like being mad at him but then, she hated the fact that he was telling her to quit her job and rely on him.
Who does he think he is?
It took her time to get that job and it had a good pay but then she didn't expect him to understand. All he ever had to do in life was to snap his fingers and he'd get what he wanted. He needed to know life was not that easy for everyone and she would never take advantage of him because of her predicament.
"Even if you won't forgive me please let me take you home"
"I can find my way home"
He eased from the embrace and stared at her in bewilderment. It was clear she was still mad at him.
"There's no way I'm letting you go alone at this time. It's midnight already. You'll have to let me do it or I'll do it anyway".
She glared at him then tried bypassing. The next thing she knew, he carried her to the car and locked her in the passenger seat. Before she could react, He was already driving.
Jamie didn't care if she was angry at him or not. All he wanted was to get her home safely. He'd be at peace then.
The drive home was deadly silent. They got to her place and she was ready to hop out of the car but he held her hand signifying her to wait. They stared at each other for a brief moment.
"I'm sorry about earlier".
"It's okay. I have to go". She needed some time away from him.
"Do you want me to come to help you?"
He knew she'd have to clean up her dad. He'd seen her do it once and he hated that she had to pass through that.
"No. I'll be fine. Besides it's late so you should be home".
She can't let him help her. People like him didn't belong there.
"Are you sure?"
He released her hand and she alighted from the car. He watched her go in before he drove away.
Although he had promised never to talk about her job anymore didn't mean he'd let her work there. He made a mental note to get her out of there.