a short story
The night air was sweet and damp - stars shining brightly across the midnight-blue sky.
She slipped the sign around to "closed" - locking the door.
She walked over to the cash register, pulling her hair up and pinning it with a clip.
Checking the receipts for the day, she heard a loud bang on the front door. Looking up with a start, she saw her closest friend since 7th grade. Hallie Toms.|
Holding her hand over her heart she smiled, walking over to unlock the door.
"Why did you lock it? Didn't you remember I was coming?" Hallie asked. Whipping her nude shoes on the front mat.
"I'm sorry" she apologized. "I've just been so busy. I guess I forgot."
"I can imagine."
Hallie watched as Jessica walked back to the cash register. She found it hard to believe at times that two short years ago, Jessica opened this shop. The shelves on the walls and tables were covered with various homemade knit, crocheted and sewn items. Along with a wide selection of homemade jewelery.
She was proud to see her best friend enjoying such success.
"So, have you talked to Kevin yet?" she asked. Examining a pink flower print skirt.
Jessica looked up - her heart racing.
She walked to the back room, returning with her purse. The keys tangling from the side pocket of her purse. Her coffee in her right hand.
"To be honest, I haven't. I'm not even sure I know how to."
"Does Chuck know how you feel about him?"
"I don't know. He's been a close friend for so long" Jessica tried to divert her attention from the problem by searching for the key to the front door.
"Jessica, sweetie, I know it's not going to be easy. But if you're not in love with Kevin anymore, it's not fair to either of you to keep pretending you are" she put her arm around Jessica's shoulders.
She knew Hallie was right. She'd known for some time that she no longer felt the way she use to about Kevin. In two weeks, it would be Easter Sunday - their three years anniversary. She had to tell him before then.
Chuck and Kevin had been friends since first grade. What would become of their relationship when the truth was revealed?
"Kevin and I have a date tomorrow. I'll tell him then"She finally spoke - a faint smile on her lips.
As she drove across town to her apartment, Jessica wondered how her last date with Kevin would go. And even more, what would Chuck think when he found out she was in love with him?
In the morning the streets were fresh and clean after a good nights rain. The sun was shining brightly.
Jessica woke around eight-thirty. She ate quickly, then grabbed a quick shower.
All morning her heart was pounding. She never felt so nervous before.
She dressed in a black and yellow flower print skirt, dropping just below her knees. She wore a black blouse and matching black flip flops. Pulling her redish-brown hair into a sloppy bun.
Stuffing her phone into her purse she heard a knock on the front door. Swinging her purse onto her shoulder, she opened the front door.
"Chuck! What are you doing here?"
"Good morning to you too" he smiled.
He stood before her, dressed neatly in his police uniform. His sleek black hair perfectly combed back. His deep tan seemed very pronounced in the dim lights of the hallway.
"I just came by to see if your were alright" he said. Seeing she was to startled by his visit to talk.
"I'm fine. Why would you need to check on me?"
"I got a call from your friend, Hallie this morning. She said you were in trouble" he looked confused.
"Hallie called you? To come see me?" she asked. Finally getting the picture.
She was trying to get them together. Trying to get her to confess her true feelings for him.
Jessica made a mental note to call Hallie after her date with Kevin.
"Well, you don't seem to be in any trouble. Although I don't know why your friend would call and say you are" Chuck said, staring into her eyes.
She gazed deeply into his, feeling feelings she hadn't felt in a long time. Suddenly craving Chuck's companionship. And almost, sensing he felt that way too. But she couldn't be sure.
"Well, I should probably get going" he said finally, lost in the depths of her eyes.
Almost forgetting he was on duty.
"I was just on my way out. You can my walk me to my car if you want to" she suggested. Her cheeks burning.
A warm smile spread across his face.
"I'd be honored."
Waving goodbye to him, she knew now more than ever that Kevin had to be told the truth.
Jessica met Kevin outside her shop at 11:30.
They first went to a movie, then he took her to the fanciest restaurant in LA.
After finishing their meal, they sipped gracefully on their drinks. She knew this was the time.
"Kevin, there's something I've been meaning to tell you.
"What's the matter? You didn't like the movie?" he asked.
Although she knew he was teasing.
"No. I actually loved that movie. It's more serious than that."
Kevin leaned back in his chair, into a more comfortable position. The sleeves of his dark blue dress shirt neatly rolled up. The sun reflecting off his glasses.
He could tell there was something wrong. He'd sensed that weeks ago about her. Hopefully he'd find out what was troubling her.
"Kevin, for about a month now I've had these feelings. And I've been doing a lot of thinking. And believe me, this is the last thing I expected to happen" she began, choosing her words carefully.
Kevin listened patiently. Urging her to continue.
"Kevin, I feel...I feel that I don't love you, not like I use to. I don't know any other way to say it."
Kevin picked up his drink, took a sip, carefully setting it down.
"So you're not in love with me. That's what you're trying to say?"
His voice was calm and steady.
"I don't want to hurt you."
She reached across the table, putting her hand atop his.
"Jessica, can you tell me something?"
"If I can."
"Is it because you're in love with someone else?"
She looked away, seeing a woman with red hair walk by. Wearing a forest green dress.
"Would that someone be Chuck Kennedy?"
"How did you know?" she asked excitedly. Almost jumping from her chair.
"About a month ago, Chuck came to me. Confessing that he had feelings for you. More than just being friends. He felt guilty about it, knowing how close you and I were" Kevin said straight forward.
Jessica was silent. So Chuck did have feelings for her. She couldn't be sure before - but now.
"If you and Chuck really care for each other, you should be together!"
"But what about you, Kevin?" she asked. feeling tears forming in her eyes.
"When Chuck came to me, I started thinking maybe we weren't meant to be. I knew you didn't love me anymore. Whenever you and Chuck were together I could see the love, the affection in your eyes. I could see it in Chuck's too" he gave a little laugh.
She smiled weakly, suddenly feeling better. Suddenly feelings as if everything was falling into place.
"Go to Chuck. Tell him you love him" Kevin smiled grasping her hand. Giving it a light squeeze.
He got up to pay the check, and when he came back, Jessica took both his hands in hers.
"I'll always keep a warm spot in my heart for you!"
A year and a half later, Chuck and Jessica were married. With Kevin as the best man. They moved to Palm Springs, were Chuck was promoted to lieutenant.
Six months after the wedding, three days before Easter Sunday, Jessica went out to the mailbox, finding a letter from Kevin. Chuck wasn't home, so she went ahead and opened the letter.
Sitting at the dining room table - smiling, she read:
"Dear Chuck and Jessica,
By now you've been married for six months. And like I said, after your wedding, I moved back to my hometown. There's so much I want to say, but so little time to say it. So I'll make it brief.
There's a secret of kept for years from both you and Chuck. Seven years ago I was diagnosed with Pancreas cancer. At that time, they told me I had about a year to live. But I somehow managed to last six more years. I promised myself that neither of you would know of my disease, until I was gone. So if you're reading this, I'm dead!"
Jessica, with a light gasp, let the letter slip from her fingers. Tears swelling in her eyes.
She bent down to pick it up-finishing the letter.
"That's why, Jessica, when I found out you and Chuck loved each other, it was so easy for me to let go. Although in truth, I loved you with every beat of my heart until my dying breath. As much as I loved you, I knew I could never marry you. I knew I could never give you the happiness this life promises.
So promise me, Jessica and Chuck, that you'll live every moment as if it were your last. Love and cherish each other unconditionally. And always know, that you both mean the world to me. And don't forget to live and fight for that finally destiny to which we are all created for. The best of luck, with all my love,