The rain hit the large picture window pane with a plop and slid down to the sill, Julie Gaffney watched every drop from her seat on the couch with tired eyes. The storm was intensifying the way her emotions were. The reflection to the right of her eye line painted a picture of Dean Portman and Fulton Reed pacing back and forth across the room in contemplation of their next move. Dean stopped mid stride and looked at Fulton, a look of realization masking his anger.
"What if we go over there tonight when he's sleeping?" Dean mused, a small smile threatening to form of his pale pink lips. Fulton shook his head, no. They were bash brothers not hit men.
"We can't do anything directly. We need someone that can't be linked to us." Dean nodded in agreement, Fulton always was the brains of the operation. His eyes looked up at the sudden movement across the room. The old floor creaked under the pressure of the petite feet of Ashlee Banks. She looked from each occupant to the next and joined them in the living room, curling up in the oversized chair next to Julie. Dean studied her for a moment. If he could only be faithful to her, he'd be the luckiest guy in the world. There she was, the most beautiful girl he'd ever had the privilege of laying his eyes on, clad in a pair of his shorts and one of his old t-shirts. She was a goddess and she was all his, if only he wanted just her.
"What's going on?" She questioned, wrapping an arm around her knees. Dean was knocked from his thoughts and ran a hand through his mess of tousled brown hair.
"We're going to kill Scooter." Dean said matter-of-factly, starting a new pace back and forth opposite of Fulton's long strides. Ashlee nodded, looking over at Julie with wondering eyes. She didn't even look like she was alive; she sat against the back of the couch, one arm resting in her lap the other slung over the back to provide her with posture as she stared behind her out the window. She didn't move, in fact, she didn't even blink from where Ashlee was sitting.
"What happened?" She finally asked turning back to Dean and Fulton. They both stopped and looked at Julie. She seemed to notice and turned back towards the center of the room.
"I'm pregnant." She whispered; a small tremble still left in her voice from crying all morning. Ashlee's mouth formed into an o shape and she sat quietly waiting for someone to respond. Since she wasn't really close with any of her brother's friends beside Dean, she felt it wasn't her place to push the matter any further.
"That's not everything! He also kicked you out!" Dean practically yelled, throwing his hands up in the air like a crazed monkey.
"He didn't kick me out, I left." Julie sighed, returning her gaze to the window. She didn't want to deal with this now; she couldn't deal with this now. Her memories were filled with thoughts of that morning, the soft ping of falling water echoing in her mind as she remembered. She had gotten up early, a small humming in her mind that this was going to be the morning that changed her life forever. She got dressed, had an incident with morning sickness but still managed to make breakfast before he woke up. She would bring him breakfast in bed and tell him her good news and then they'd be one big happy family. Things didn't exactly go as planned, Julie thought coming back into the conversation Fulton and Dean were having,
"What if I talked to some people down at the club, you know, someone we don't know?" Dean pondered.
"No, we're not going to do anything." Julie's small voice cut in. Her hands, clasped firmly together to give her the strength she so desired, she cleared her throat. "We're not going to do anything because he's going to change his mind. Everything is going to work out. He's going to see that this is his baby too and that he can't just abandon us like we never existed." Her voice sounded sure but her mind told her she was being foolish. The image of Scooter's eyes that morning filled her mind. How disappointed he was. How he saw his whole life just dissolve with her two little words. She knew he didn't want this baby and she wasn't going to force him, she wasn't going to make him hate her and the baby in the process. She was on her own and that was fine, she could deal with that but what she couldn't deal with was the fact that he didn't even care she left. He'd watched her pack a bag in her rush to get out of his eye sight and not once did he stop her or tell her they would work it out. He sat stone-faced as he had been when she told him the news and watched her walk out of their apartment. Dean sighed heavily behind her and looked as if he could punch something,
"Julie, he's dirt. He doesn't deserve you. If he even tries to come in here, I'm going to kill him with my bare hands." Dean said, "He's a fucking varsity asshole for fucks sake." Dean yelled retreating to his room. Ashlee looked at Fulton and then at Julie before jumping to her feet to patter after Dean down the hall before he slammed the door in her face. Fulton was left staring at the broken Julie with worry plaguing his eyes. Julie could feel his eyes staring at her and she turned, wiping away a few stray tears that had involuntarily fallen from her eyes.
"I'm fine. I'll be fine." She promised. She wasn't going to cry anymore, she wouldn't let this be the end of her. She had friends, she had people that cared about her and she had another life that she had to start thinking about besides her own.
"Fulton, I hate to ask more of you guys…" She whispered, looking down at her hands. Fulton came to sit next to her, unsure of how he could make her feel any better.
"But, I need a place to stay. I can't go home." Julie's eyes told him she was desperate and he nodded,
"You can have Adam's old room; some of his stuff is still in there but…" Her chest tightened, and she felt a pang of worry slip into her mind. Adam Banks, star player... She hadn't seen him in years.
"Are you sure the other guys won't mind. I don't want to be a problem for anyone." Fulton shook his head no. She had practically lived with them plenty of times before. During high school everyone did everything together, it would just be like one big sleep over again, like the old days.
"When have you known Charlie, Guy or Averman to turn out a friend? Besides, this place could use a girl." Fulton laughed a little, trying to clean up the beer cans from the coffee table and the chips that were spilled over the mess of garbage that lay on the lamp stand next to him. She smiled for the first time that morning and stood to take her bag into Adam's old room.
"Thanks Fulton. You're the best brother any girl could have." She placed a soft kiss on his cheek and moved passed him towards the hall. He sat there for a few minutes more before standing and heading to the kitchen. He stood at the window for a few minutes before glancing down at the table next to him where Averman had discarded the morning paper. It was still open to the entertainment page and the Stars on Ice show. The headline read, "Olympic Gold Medalist, Tammy Duncan" and he felt his heart ache. Maybe he was just holding on to a childhood crush but he had to know for sure. Would she even remember him, would she care that he had spent the last 10 years thinking about her and where she was and what she was doing? Not a day went by that she didn't cross his mind. He hadn't seen her since that last day of 8th grade, right before they left for the Junior Goodwill Games. Tossing down the paper, he grabbed a quick can of soda from the fridge and headed to his bedroom for a quick nap before he had to go to work. Just three more days and he'd finally be over Tammy Duncan.
Guy Germaine slumped up the stairs, his legs too tired to fully extend. His first job that morning had been rough, nothing was going well, he hadn't slept and he wasn't done yet. He still had to make it through his afternoon shift at the diner. Averman would be leaving from his morning shift just as Guy was getting there for the evening and it was up to him to close the diner that night. He had to stay awake, he thought. He made it to the second floor landing, feeling the lack of sleep consuming his body before he heard an argument going on from the apartment down the hall. Craning his neck around the corner, he saw a man yelling at a small brunette and throwing his hands in the air in an intimating fashion. The man was probably in his late twenties, brown hair and looked like a business man. He was dressed in slacks with a dress shirt that was buttoned up except the last two buttons at the top, revealing a patch of chest hair Guy knew he never quite formed. He absently looked down at his own chest before turning more to look at the arguing couple. They must be new to the building, he thought.
"How dare you turn your back on me? I gave you everything when you had nothing. No one would even know who you were if it wasn't for me! I made you!" He spat as she tried to defend herself but she couldn't even speak to get a word in before he slapped her across the face with a resounding smack. Connie felt the blood rush to the spot where she'd been struck and she grasped at the skin. Guy had seen enough. His Father had taught him that much before leaving him and his mother, that you never hit a lady, even if she was asking for it.
"Hey! I'm sure whatever's going on you don't need to do that." Guy yelled coming into the conversation and standing toe to toe with the man.
"Why don't you mind your own business, kid?" The man said with a thick Brooklyn accent. Kid? Guy thought, a few come backs coming to mind. Who did this jerk think he was?
"Because I could just as easily call the cops on your ass but I'm giving you a chance to walk away." Guy said not backing down one bit. The man looked to the side at the girl,
"This isn't over, Connie. You'll regret double crossing me." The man said moving away towards the stairs. Guy sighed once the man was out of sight and turned to the girl. He was glad he hadn't had to fight; he was too tired to even throw a punch.
"What was that about?" He asked, more to himself than anyone else before turning to be face to face with only girl who had even had his heart. She was there, standing right in front of him, just a few inches away. Connie Moreau looked up at him, eyes darkened with plenty of make-up and tear stains running down her soft complexion. She hadn't wanted him to see her like this. Her cheek was already beginning to swell and she'd have to check to make sure she still had all her teeth.
"Connie?" He asked, now really confused at the situation. She nodded a little, trying her best to remove the make-up from her face. She had recognized his voice before she even saw him coming around the corner of the old hallway. She had memorized the way his mouth moved when he talked. She could remember everything about him from his scent to the way he used to rub his hand along the small of her back to show her he was there to protect her. She looked up at him now, a grown man with a next day scruffy shave but the same curly blonde locks she had run her fingers through so many times.
"I had no idea you lived here..." She tried to keep the conversation light, her cheek still stinging from where Marc had slapped her. She guessed, she had deserved it, she did after all run out in the middle of the night with his best friend without so much as a word.
"Yeah, a bunch of us live here, we have the third floor. What was that all about?" He asked her again as the smile left her face. He looked to make sure the guy was gone. She hesitated, he would look at her different if she told him what was really going on in her life. That she was a dancer, showing her body to other men every night to pay for the small apartment she now rented and to keep what little food she could in her refrigerator. The bulk of her money went to a greater cause. No one cared if she had a high school diploma, no decent job at least that could pay for her to live on her own and support her cause. You had to have a college degree if you wanted to go anywhere in this world.
"He's my former boss. He's a little angry that I quit." She told him half the truth, hell, she hadn't seen this man in almost 5 years, and it wasn't the time to be telling him of her shady lifestyle. He smiled down at her, a small tinkle in his eyes, the same one he used to give her when he told her he loved her.
"It's been a while." Obviously he'd shared her thought.
"Yeah, I missed you." She whispered as a smile playing on his lips. What he wouldn't do to be able to be with her again. She probably had a boyfriend though, no girl like Connie stayed single for long. He could contest to that the month they broke up in freshmen year and all the dates she got asked on. He glanced down at her hand, no ring, that was a good sign. His mind caught back up with his body and he looked away at the sunlight pouring in the hall window, the rain had finally broken, he thought. He smiled, not only at the new found weather but at a memory that passed through his mind of the last time he had seen this girl.
"The last time I saw you was graduation night. " Her face turned a little red and she smiled nervously. She was no virgin but thinking about making love to him always caused her face to heat up.
"We had fun that night." She laughed recalling the same memory. They had decided that night that it was best they try life without the other one but not before they had spent the night together one last time. It wasn't the first time they had made love but in was so much more special to both of them because they knew the next day they would say goodbye for what could be forever. Connie's mind wondered if her life would have been different if she had told him no, they couldn't break up, she needed him too much. She needed the security that only he could provide. Of course her life would have been better but then they might have hated each other. Guy might not have finished school or he might not have gotten the hockey scholarship he enjoyed through college. They would be barely getting by on what they could earn working three jobs and just making it to the end of the month. Her job may not have been classy but she made good money. She couldn't waste time trying to think how things could have been but how they were now. She looked up at him and smiled again, this was the most she'd smiled in 5 years.
"Maybe we could get together sometime. You know have dinner or something." She asked, hoping against hope he'd say yes. He looked down at his feet; he was going to say no. Her face lost its smile and she nodded as he responded.
"Sure. Why don't you stop up to my apartment on Friday, everyone else will be gone." Connie's expression changed and she smiled brighter than she had.
"Yeah, I will." She said, giving him a little wave and retreating back into her apartment. He smiled at her before her door shut and he sighed heavy. He was still in love with her, but was she in love with him?
Julie stood in the doorway of the room she would be calling home for the next few weeks, a tight feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was probably just morning sickness; she told herself, quickly entering the room and closing the door behind her. She needed to be alone with her thoughts right now but she wasn't positive this room would help. The room was painted blue with a green bedspread, screaming that it was guy's room. She could smell the faint scent of Adam Banks in the linens and around the room. A soft musky smell of sweat and tide laundry detergent, mixed in with another smell, she could only assume to be his choice of cologne. His old hockey gear still sat in the closet as she opened in to deposit her bag for the moment until she felt ready to unpack it. Julie had to remind herself, she was just barrowing the room and that she wasn't going to be changing anything. It screamed for a little bit of a girl's touch. Just as she gingerly sat down on the bed, there was a knock on the door and it opened with a click. Guy stood in the doorway, a smile on his face,
"Hey Jules." She tried to smile, the corner of her mouth turning up just a little bit. "How you doing?" He asked moving the strap of his back pack up on his shoulder again. She looked around the room one more time,
"I don't know, it's still all so….weird." She pulled her knees up on the bed and to her chest, hugging them against her. Guy nodded a bit, coming in to sit next to her on the bed. They had never really been close until their junior year in high school; it was like he was the kid brother she'd never had.
"You know who I ran into downstairs?" He asked, still feeling that same weird feeling in the pit of his stomach. She shook her head, no, looking to him to continue.
"Connie, she's living downstairs." Julie's eyes widened a little bit,
"I thought we'd never seen her again, I mean, her Mom kicking her out the way she did…"
"Wait, what?" Guy asked unaware of the events in Connie's life after they had decided to go their separate ways. Julie hesitated, maybe he wasn't supposed to know that. Connie had told her in confidence on a midnight phone call almost 4 years ago. She bit her lips before continuing.
"Connie moved out the day after graduation, I thought she would have been to California or New York by now. She never told you?" Guy's eyes wondered the blue wall for a moment in contemplation, trying to piece what little information he had of Connie's life since that last night but he couldn't get a clear picture, some things were still missing.
"No, we really didn't talk after graduation." He said getting up to head from the room, "Julie, look, you can stay as long as you want. " His mind was distracted with thoughts on where Connie had been and now what that man had to do with the missing time. "I got to do something..." Guy trailed off. Julie sensed this distraction and hoped that she hadn't let something out that she shouldn't have, the last thing she needed right now was to cause an explosion of tempers in this place too.
"Okay, thanks." She hadn't even got the words out of her mouth before he shut the door. God, could people get any weirder around here?
Ashlee Banks lead the way to the door, her hand laced tightly with Portman's.
"So you'll call me later?" She asked her eyes looking up at him hopefully. He shrugged a little,
"If I get a chance, you know, busy." He said nonchalantly. She nodded in understanding, opening the door with her left hand as her right followed his arm up to his shoulder and then his neck, pulling his lips to crash down on hers.
"Can you not do that in the doorway?" A familiar voice sounded from the hallway. Dean's eyes opened and his lips moved to the side, an annoyed look already appearing on his finely defined face.
"I can kiss my girlfriend anywhere I want to. I can't help when visitors come over." Dean mocked; putting certain italic on visitor. Adam Banks entered through the door behind his sister and looked around the apartment with a slightly, I'm better than you attitude. Ashlee sighed, a hint of annoyance beginning to form in her voice,
"Adam, what are you doing here?" He looked at her with a surprised look,
"I still have some of my stuff here, I came to get something." He seemed to be surprised she was asking him.
"And to check up on me…" Ashlee finished his sentence. Adam took in a breath but didn't let it out.
"I suppose nothing I could say would matter to you anyway." He sighed. Ashlee didn't respond, instead she looked back at Dean,
"I got to get to my afternoon classes, if I don't hear from you tonight; I'll stop by later in the week."
"Okay..." Dean smiled a little. Ashlee stopped to look back at Adam once, glaring at him before she stepped out into the hall and started down the old stairs. Dean and Adam watched her go before looking back at each other. Adam let the breath out he was holding and pushed passed Dean towards his old room with a shoulder block.
"Hey, Adam!" Dean tried to talk to him but he ignored him and swung open his old room's door, barging in and slamming the door behind him before noticing Julie standing in the corner, shirt pressed against her bare chest and staring back at Adam with a state of shock on her face.
"Oh, god, Julie! What are you doing here?" He asked turning around and facing the door as she quickly put her shirt on, she though the guys would knock before storming in on her. This was an unexpected visit.
"I'm sorry. I…I'm staying here for a few days….I'll leave." Julie said going to pass him and retreat into the hall and the nearest dark hole of embarrassment she could find. Way to run into him after 3 years, she thought, quickly throwing on her shirt.
"No, I…." He caught her arm in his hand before she could open the door and turned her towards him, "I'm sorry, I didn't think anyone was in here." She looked up at him in the intimate stance in which they had found themselves. If she was being honest with herself there had been times she'd dreamed he'd pull her close the way he was now but Adam seemed always interested in the well dressed, manicured girls in school, Not his best friend, the goalie.
"I thought you were living with Scooter?" Adam asked, his eyes wondering to hers. Julie didn't say anything but moved out of his reach to avoid further contact.
"I was but we're… we're going through something right now. He needed some time alone and I needed a place to stay. It's fine if… if you don't want me staying in your room, it was just the only room here that isn't occupied…but obviously it is now..." Her eyes turned down as Adam silently wondered what the hell was going on around here. Everything had changed since the last time he was here.
"No, No…I just came to get something….You can stay here…I mean, in my room. I'll just get what I need and be out of your hair." He said grabbing something out of one of the drawers in the closet before heading for the door. What if this was his big chance to finally tell her how he felt, he thought, stopping before he could reach for the door handle and turning back to her,
"I'm sorry if I scared you. I didn't mean to. It's just Dean and Ashlee.. I know he's going to hurt her and she won't listen to me. Thinks I'm just taking my big brother act too seriously." Julie slowly sat down on the end of the bed to listen to him.
"You look like you could use someone to talk to, cake-eater." She tried to joke to lighten the mood but it felt forced. He sighed, gripping the door handle and not looking at her.
"No, I don't really want to talk about it but I do feel like a cup of coffee. You want to come?" He asked. She smirked as much as she could, and took his hand that he reached out to her.
"Sure, a warm cup of hot chocolate sounds good right now."