Jessie stirred and mumbled something in coherent. Jonny shook her shoulder gently.
She groaned and turned in direction, but didn't open her eyes. He smiled. She was so beautiful when at peace and absolutely breathtaking when on fire. He traced the line of her jaw with one gentle finger. She smiled, but didn't awaken at his touch. He nipped at her earlobe, causing her to gasp in surprise. Her emerald green eyes opened a notch.
"Wha..?" she grumbled.
"I need to talk to you," he said.
She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling, struggling to keep her eyes open. Jonny chuckled. All the little idiosyncrasies he had found ever since they had begun their new relationship endeared her even more to him. He kissed the tip of her nose and pulled something out from underneath his pillow.
"Jessica Bannon, this is your wake-up call," he murmured in her ear, waving the small velvet box in front of her face.
In a second, she was wide-awake. With trembling hands she took the box from him and opened it. A gold ring with a large stone winked up at her.
"Oh…my…god," she gasped.
"Will you marry me?" he asked, unable to keep his voice from shaking with terror.
"J-Jonny," she managed to say. "I-I…"
Like a shot, she was out of the bed and picking up her scattered clothes. She dressed hurriedly, not looking at him. The box laid on the side of the bed where she had been. Jonny thought his heart was braking apart at that moment. He sat up and rested against the headboard, watching her pull her shirt over her head.
"I guess that's my answer," he said softly.
"I need time to think, that's all," she said, stopping in her movements.
Jessie looked at his face, saw the pain she had caused and felt like weeping. His eyes, the color of the summer sky, had dimmed, losing the sparkle that she liked to think that she had put in them. A line formed between his eyebrows as he regarded her with detachment, not wanting to show her how much he wanted to weep himself. He thought that she had loved him just as he did her, but her reaction proved that theory wrong.
"I love you," she said. "You know that."
He only nodded.
"Jonny," she said, climbing onto the bed and looking deep into his eyes, "I love you, but I don't know if I can grow old with you. I don't know if the reason I feel so strongly towards you is because we just discovered it so suddenly or if it's something solid enough that we can build a new life on. I don't want to destroy our lives by making the wrong decision."
"You doubt us, is what you're saying," he said calmly and coldly. "Jess, if you doubt us that's enough to tell me that maybe the reason you love me is the former. Maybe you were on the rebound and I happen to be there with my heart on my sleeve, or you feel an obligation to love me because we went through so much together. I love you with all of me, but I'm not going to let you ruin my life either."
"I'm not sure about a lot of things, but one thing is for sure--I didn't fall for you on the rebound. Hadji was gone from my life when I fell in love with you. I think he was for a long time, I just hadn't realized it..."
"Oh spare me," he interrupted cruelly, wanting to hurt her as much as she hurt him. "Whatever it is, the love you say you have for me isn't as strong as I thought it was."
Jessie felt like her whole life was falling around her ears, but she knew she had inflicted it on herself. Still, she held on to the notion that what she was doing was right. She couldn't marry him with that thought hanging over her head…that she didn't love him enough to spend the rest of her life with him. She cared for him as a friend, and even more so as her lover, but she didn't think it was enough. Her parents' marriage failed because they didn't realize until late that their love wasn't enough to keep them together and she didn't want that to happen in her marriage.
Quietly, she left his room and made her way out the door. Jonny laid back down in his bed and closed his eyes.
Two weeks had passed since Jessie had left him, and for two weeks he heard nothing from her. He hadn't spoken to Race or his father since then, so he was sure that they suspected something was wrong. For all he knew, Jessie was staying at the Compound.
He had moved mechanically and numbly since she had left, feeling nothing was worth doing anymore now that she wasn't in his life. He had no doubt that they were finished, especially after her words concerning her feelings. He had never felt more torn apart, more empty. He had always considered her the best part of him, and now that she was gone, he was nothing.
Bandit whined at Jonny's feet and he automatically reached down to pat the dog's head.
At least I know he loves me, he thought with a touch of black humor.
Jessie sat on a bench in the park, her hands jammed in her coat pockets. She looked terrible. There were dark circles under her eyes, and she looked gaunt and tired. She was staying at a hotel in Bangor, far enough from Jonny's apartment so that they wouldn't run into each other, but close enough to make her want to run home to him every second. But she stayed away. She had too many things to sort out.
She continued on justifying her actions, despite the pain she felt. She didn't want to do anything until she was sure. However, at this point, she didn't even think he would take her back if she wanted to go back. She had hurt him too much, but she loved him enough to want to try again when she made up her mind. Unfortunately, she didn't get any further in her thoughts than she had when she left. All she could see was their explosive parting and the end of her dreams.
A girl and a boy sat on the bench across from hers. They were in their teens and to her eyes, shared a friendship akin to what she had with Jonny at that age. The way that the girl and boy interacted told her that they were not romantically interested in each other, but there was an undercurrent of things to come.
She stood and walked down the path that led back to the city, her mind in turmoil. A couple passed by her, their heads nearly touching as they talked about something that seemed very important to them. Fuzzily, she could see that the woman was pregnant. Her hand fluttered to her stomach, wondering what it would feel like to carry her first child…their first child.
She was so focused on her thoughts that she didn't see a young boy running towards her. He bumped right into her, his little face as surprised as hers.
"Sorry, lady," he said.
Jessie smiled at him. He looked as though he was about six years old and had blond with green eyes. Her smile wavered. Their son would probably have the same characteristics as this boy. He ran off and she stayed glued to her spot for chasing the boy was an older redheaded girl.
"Aw, jeez," she muttered.
She moved on until she was at the street. She passed by an elderly couple, laughing quietly to themselves. The camaraderie made her want Jonny even more. She could easily picture the two of them, wrinkled and gray, still sharing a laugh. She could see it as clearly as she could see her hand, as easily as picturing her wedding day.
"I'm an idiot," she said loudly, causing people passing her to stare bemusedly at her.
She began walking towards the apartment, her steps sure and quick. She needed to see him. She knew now what she wanted. She only hoped that he would want the same thing as she did.
Jonny didn't feel like answering the door when he heard the knock. If it weren't for Bandit suddenly getting excited, he probably wouldn't have. His bulldog only barked like that when someone he knew was at the door.
"Jessie," Jonny breathed at the sight of her. She looked terrible, but it was a sight he had been wishing for, ever since she left.
"You look terrible," she said.
"Did you think I would look great after what happened?" he returned sarcastically.
"I guess not. Can I come in?"
He shrugged and went back to sit on the couch, leaving her standing at the door. She followed him in, her eyes downcast.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"So am I."
She looked at him. He seemed engrossed in the painting that was hanging in the hallway. She walked towards him and knelt at his feet. She rested her palms on his knees and looked him in the eye.
"I’m so sorry."
He met her look with a blank stare. "I heard you the first time."
"I love you."
She was met with silence.
"I'll marry you."
Suddenly, his eyes sparked, but not with the light that she had seen so often in his eyes when he looked at her. She had angered him with her words. With barely controlled fury, Jonny took her hands and removed them from his knees.
"Do you think that it would be that easy?" he spat. "After what you said to me, you think that you can just come back here and tell me you love me, then you'll marry me, and I'll take you back? Do you know what hell you've put me through? I spent too many nights wondering what you were doing, thinking you were out with some other man who you were sure about. Jessie, it's not that easy."
"I know. And I’m sorry. I apologize. I don’t know what else to do or say other than I love you and I was wrong."
"You're asking me to swallow my pride and take you back. I can't do that. You told me you doubted your love for me. How can I take you back with those words hanging between us?"
"Because I'm taking those words back. I was stupid, Jonny. I was scared and I reacted in the worst way possible. My parents' divorce…"
"We are not your parents."
"But they're who I learned from. Don't you see? I don't want that to happen to us, so I left."
"You hurt us anyway, so I don't see how your leaving prevented us from falling apart."
She stared at his socked feet. There were as steady as he was, not moving, not even twitching. He was a rock that she could lean on and rely on. She put a hand on his left foot.
"I could see us growing old together," she whispered. "I want it to happen. I want to share my life with you. I needed time to realize that. I didn't want to go into a new life with doubts in my head."
"You shouldn't have had any doubts."
"That's just not possible," she said. "Are you that certain about us?"
One look into his face told her that he was.
"I'm not like you," she said. "I'm not as steady as you are. That's why I did what I did. I wish you would understand that."
"I don't expect you to be like me, but my opinion of you has changed. I have doubts now," he said. "What'll stop you from leaving the next time you're unsure is what I’m thinking. What'll stop you from abandoning me and our children when you decide that you doubt the life that you're leading?"
She shook her head. "I'm never going to leave you again."
Her simple words wouldn't have convinced him, if not for the look of determination on her face. But too much had happened in the time she was gone. He couldn't forget it and so he shook his head.
"I can't marry you, Jessie. Not anymore."
"Jonny…please don't say that," she said desperately. "Think it over."
He nodded, but said, "I will, but I don't think that I can marry you anymore. I love you still, but not after this."
She stood and walked out the door for the second time in a month, her mouth set in a grim line. She was going to make him fall in love with her all over again. And she would not be leaving this apartment the next time she came back.