A father’s tears and fears are unseen, his love is unexpressed, but his care and protection remains as a pillar of strength throughout our lives. ~Ama H.Vanniarachchy
There’s nothing like a father’s love for his children, that paternal hand that stands firm on a child’s shoulder and heart no matter if their physical presence is with the child or not. In my fifth segment of Gifted Ones: Scarcely Human (the book I’m blogging), the loving impact of Jess’s father remains, even from the grave. Love knows no boundaries. This segment ends a portion of the romance genre and will soon enter into the sci-fi genre as Jess learns the reality about the characters that surround her.
On a separate note, a little tidbit about what it’s been like blogging a book so far: I actually started writing this piece of fiction almost three years ago. Thirty percent of what I’ll be blogging was written before I published my Patty Cakes book. It’s interesting for me to piece it together slowly, while adding quotations and songs. It’s giving me a vastly different insight into this piece that I hope will strengthen the plot, especially during the editing phase. So basically what I’m saying is: the choice to blog this book has been a terrific learning experience so far.
If you’re interested in reading the book from the beginning click here: Gifted Ones: Scarcely Human
Otherwise, thanks so much for stopping by! Happy winter!
Rough draft below:
Love in Various Forms
Later that night at nine minutes past ten, Jess was sitting at home at their oak kitchen table, atypically studying for a pre-calculus quiz. She chewed on the end of her pencil, put it down, and tipped her wooden chair back and forth as she tried to stay focused. Her pounding headache didn’t help. Before her mother went to bed she’d given her a hug and a steaming mug of apple cinnamon tea and had told her how proud she was to see her doing her homework. It filled Jess with more than an ounce of remorse. Most of the time her mother didn’t know about the trouble she got herself into, unless the school called. Her mother had been trying her hardest to make her life ‘right,’ after her father’s death, and Jess knew she wasn’t making it easy for her.
Jess rubbed her drowsy eyes and had barely closed her pre-calc book when she heard a fierce banging at the front door. She jumped up startled and hurried to see who had knocked so late on a school night. Her mother didn’t like visitors on school nights any more than she liked avocados on her pizza. And she hated avocados. Jess glanced through the peephole and saw Michael, wearing the same clothes he had worn earlier in the day, even the skin tight white t-shirt despite the cool, crisp night-time air. She knew he’d come back late after his football game against the Lion’s team.
Jess’s heart sank at the deeply annoyed expression on his face. His mouth was sealed shut, his jaw locked, his teeth clenched together, his eyes swirling like a territorial animal. Jess cringed. She heard the click of the deadbolt as she unlocked the door. Michael pushed it open before she had the chance to open it herself.
“What were you doing with him?” Michael spat, his brazen eyes dug a hole straight into hers.
“What are you talking about?” Jess’s eyes widened, her jaw dropped. Her heart began to race. She’d never seen Michael this upset.
“You were with Axel…I heard from more than one person you canned school and took off with him today. You weren’t at lunch, remember? Or did you forget?” Michael walked through the door and pushed past Jess. She moved off to the side.
She took a step forward and followed him, her nerves shaken. She wiped her palms down the side of her bluejeans. “I-I…had a ridiculous punishment for partying, remember? I-I…had to clean the school grounds and…”
Michael shuffled up to Jess, his towering frame glowering down at her, jowls clenched together. “Yeah I know that, Jess. I also heard that you skipped the punishment and took off with Axel. I tried to call you.”
Jess’s head began to pulsate again. She clutched her forehead with her right hand and winced in pain. In her mind the sight of a cabin flashed, but all she could remember was driving home with Axel. “He drove me straight home, Michael. We barely talked. He told me Mr. Magique felt bad for my punishment and asked him for the favor. That’s all, Michael. I swear. And you know how quickly my phone battery goes dead.” Her head began to spin. She felt faint and stooped over.
Michael caught her in his arms. “You okay?” His facial expression changed to one that seeped with kindness and concern.
“I feel weak. My head’s pounding.” Jess’s vision flashed before her like a snowy TV screen.
Michael picked her up and carried her to the almond-colored leather couch in the living room that was situated off the kitchen and laid her down.
“I’ll be right back.” Michael went into the kitchen and opened the white-trimmed cabinet that contained a set of crystal glasses.
Jess heard the tinkling sound of water from the kitchen sink. The refrigerator door opened, then closed. She heard something being sliced. Presumably lemon, she hoped, her favorite addition to a glass of plain boring water.
Michael moved swiftly and was back by Jess’s side. When she saw the glass of water as she thought it had been poured, she laughed with relief. “Feeling guilty for giving me such a hard time over nothing?” she asked.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured, “forgive me?” He let his fingers slide through her hair curling the locks in between his fingers. He caressed her cheek. After a few sips of water, he asked, “Feeling better, I hope?”
Jess nodded. “Why did you freak out on me like that, though?” She poked the lemon under the surface of the water and watched as it bounced back to the top of the glass.
“I am sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. Jealous I guess.” Michael leaned over and kissed her softly.
She moved her head back. “Jealous? Really? I have one word to say to you.”
He stared at her now, amused, and raised his eyebrows quizzically. “Seriously, Jess. You know one word. And now what would that one word be?” His face sparkled with animation.
“Peggy,” she mouthed.
He threw his head back and laughed out loud. “Not her again. I barely talk to her. I told you before, Jess. She has her own skeletons. I mean, come on.”
Jess placed a finger over Michael’s lips. “Shhh, my mother.”
Michael glanced toward the stairs. “Oh right, sorry.” He pulled a pack of gum from his jeans. “Piece of gum?”
“More gum?” she asked. “Do I have bad breath?” Michael had been offering Jess gum a lot lately, and he hadn’t been offering fruit flavored, but rather pungent smelling mint, any kind of it, peppermint, spearmint, wintergreen even. Every flavor she hated.
“No, it’s not that,” he said, softly as his fingertips slid up the left pocket of her torn jeans. He felt the lump that protruded there and attempted, without success, to slip his fingers into her pocket. She sat upright giving him easier access. His fingers slipped into her pocket. He pulled out a whitegold chastity ring and glanced at the engraving on the inside. To Jess with all my love, Dad. He slipped it over the tip of his pinky. They both knew the power her father had over them from the grave.
Jess watched his expression. She knew the ring helped them both take their relationship slowly. Jess’s father had had a powerful faith when he was alive. Jess didn’t fully understand it, but she always kept some religious item her father had given her on her physically, either in her pocket or she wore it. He’d given her plenty of jewelry and other cherished tokens, but the ring was the most dear to her heart. The ring had been the only gift her father had given her that was engraved. To Jess, it felt like a piece of him that was still alive, like his voice could still be heard.
Do you really want to know why I’ve been offering you gum?” Michael asked.
“Yeah,” she breathed. Her entire body came alive when Michael buried his face in her hair. He kissed her neck. It tickled and she laughed.
He cupped her face with his hands. “Your smell, your taste, the way your skin feels when I touch you, drives me crazy.” He held up the chastity ring and twirled it on his pinky. “If I concentrate on the smell of the gum, it helps me keep my feelings for you under control. In some way, I feel like your father would respect me for it.”
Jess stared at him, surprised. “Why would you care that much about my father’s respect when he’s not even here?” The sweetness of it made her heart ache and want him even more.
Michael cleared his throat. “Most guys I know want their girlfriend’s dad to respect them.”
“Well, maybe you could chew a flavor I actually like then,” she said.
“Uh, uh, um,” Jess’s mom, Susan, stepped out of the shadows and toward the coach.
“Geez, Mom! A little privacy,” Jess snapped. Michael let go of her.
Susan tightened her white terrycloth robe. “You know––”
Michael stood up and spoke with the utmost reverence. “I know you don’t like visitors on school nights, Mrs. Cooper. I’m sorry. I just wanted to make sure Jess made it home okay from school today. I had a football game, and I couldn’t get a hold of her, and…”
Susan looked confused. “Why would you have to make sure Jess got home okay? Why wouldn’t she get home okay?” She tightened her robe again.
Michael looked at Jess as if he wished he could retract his words.
Susan’s shiny black hair had been pulled back into a ponytail. Her Vogue glasses hid her glaring eyes and gaunt, tired face. She looked like an older version of Jess, except for the weight she had lost after her husband’s murder. Her shoulders poked out of her robe like a hanger.
Jess put her hand up toward her mother to protest. “It’s okay, Mom. We had something to work out. He’ll go.”
Usually Michael hugged Jess’s mother or kissed her on the cheek, but this time he apologized again and went to the door right away. He glanced back at Jess and grinned. “I’ll pick you up in the morning.” He didn’t wait for her to reply. He opened the door and was swallowed up by the moonless night, leaving the door slightly ajar behind him.
Jess’s mom went to the door and looked around outside, her breathing grew erratic. She shut the door, opened it, and looked again. She locked it as her hands trembled. She went back to Jess. “Everything’s okay with you, right?” she asked. “I’m too tired to deal with anything tonight.”
“Everything’s fine, Mom.” Jess was relieved the school hadn’t called her mother.
Maybe Mr. Magique did realize what an injustice and ridiculous punishment he’d given me.
Susan gave Jess a kiss on the top of her head and without another word walked out of the room, up the spiral staircase, and into her bedroom, closing the door quietly behind her.
Jess didn’t like the look on her mother’s face after she’d shut the door. It was filled with concern and dread. She knew it wasn’t because of Michael. Her mind had looked like it was somewhere else, a far distance away. Jess had seen that look of dismay before, but only since her father’s murder. She knew from the depths of her heart that her mother was hiding something from her, but she didn’t know what. Whatever it was, though, was something dreadful. She felt certain of that. It was something that made Jess’s stomach churn.
Hope to see you for my next Friday Reads in a few weeks!