Chapter 18

Chapter 18

A Chapter by J.L. Greeson

“Oliver seems really nice, by the way,” Jenny said as they began their walk. Her hands were in her pockets to keep warm but even though they were walking at a gentle pace, he could see her skip a little, meaning she was still anxious.

Andy smiled though. “Yeah, he’s always been a charmer. But also a goof.”

She giggled. “Well that was going to be inevitable. Whoever fell for you could never be serious. Because, really it’s not like you’re goofy or anything.”

“You know it’s that sarcasm that’s caused problems, missy.”

“Problems?”

“Because you taught Max it and its weird when he uses it because he is Mister Serious.”

She smiled, but looked away to hide the tears springing to her face which made Andy frown. That was until she smiled brightly up at him again. “So how’d you meet?”

Andy blushed but then began telling her the story. As he did, he realized just how much he really did miss her. She listened intently, never interrupting him and only asking him a question here or there when he paused. He remembered the time he had sat with her and told her his history and she had done the same, setting him at ease then and also now, because he knew anything he told her she would respect and enjoy. It’s why everyone had loved her once they got to know her. Even with her light teases which was her’s and Andy’s signature bond, he knew it’s because he welcomed it, hence she did it. Part of that amazing empathy she had to never want to hurt anyone.

However, what surprised him was that his story took up enough time that they had reached her apartment building. Once there, she used a keycard to enter her building and then headed down the stairs to the garage where several cars were parked. Most were boring, but Andy smiled as she walked to a semi-sporty red car with a couple stickers on it.

“Nice ride,” he said. “Traded in red hair for a red car?”

“Nah, I’ve always had red cars. But got a little bored with the red hair and missed my natural color,” she said unlocking her car and climbing in. She then looked over when she realized Andy had paused opening the passenger door and was gaping at her. “What?”

“You’re not a natural red head?”

“Nope. This is my natural color.”

“What?”

She rolled her eyes and said, “Get in. You can be in disbelief as long as you give me directions.”

He did and started to buckle his seatbelt. “So how did you keep it red?”

“Dyed it.”

“Really?”

She smiled as she turned on the car and then made a motion with the stick in the center console. “Glad to know he is good at keeping secrets.”

“Max knew?”

“Of course. He even helped me one time.”

“Wow,” Andy said. Collecting his thoughts, he watched Jenny move the stick as she drove out of her garage. “What is that?”

“Told you, you’d like my car. I’ll tell you, but first, Mathews you said?”

“Yes. On, ironically North Trade Street.”

“Thanks,” she said pulling out onto the main road, which was also named Trade. “This is the gears to my car. I shift them into position to get the engine to run correctly at different speeds. All cars have them, but most are automatic. This is what they call a manual or stick shift.”

“Meaning you manually adjust it?” When she nodded, he said, “How?”

She spent the next couple minutes explaining to Andy how she used it and to the best of her ability, how it worked with the car. After he began to understand, she changed the topic though. “You both said Jordan brought someone with him too?”

“Yeah, her name is Alicia Herschel. She’s really good for him. They met on Beauli when he was sick. She made him some tea which cured his illness and then kept him company until he was feeling better. She’s a sweetheart. She can easily go from super chill to super energetic and keeps him on his toes.”

“Oh good. I’m so glad.”

“Yeah, she’s been nice to get to know. You should be able to meet her too.”

“I hope so. I’d like to meet her and get to know Oliver too.”

“I really want you to as well, Jen.”

She smiled but then focused on the drive. He guided her as they got closer until she saw the sign for the bar and then found the parking lot. As they got out, Andy checked the time on his phone and nodded. “Almost an hour exactly.”

“Did you doubt me?”

“Never, girly.” He then put his arm around Jenny’s shoulders and began walking inside. He grinned too, because she didn’t pull away from him like she would have before and he could tell it was because she missed him. He did let go of her to hold the door open for her. He was going to point her in the direction of their typical table, but she was already heading that way which made him smile.

Jenny had headed towards the table seeing Jordan sitting there and staring at his phone. He however, looked up hearing someone near and he immediately smiled at seeing Jenny walking quickly towards him, Andy in tow. He stood up right as she reached him and she threw her arms around his neck. Jordan reciprocated by holding her tightly to him. They stayed like this until he felt her tears and so gently he squeezed her and whispered, “It’s good to see you, Jenny.”

“Oh Jay,” she whispered back. “You have no idea how good it is to see you.”

He squeezed her again before letting go and as he did, she did too, wiping away tears, but smiling. He looked her over and said, “You look great, Jen.”

“Thanks,” she said, her dimples showing. “You’ll be happy to hear that I try to keep up a somewhat regular routine to stay healthy. No fighting, but I do a little more meditation now.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I find it helps keep the stress down.”

“That’s great, Jen.”

They both turned seeing Andy come back to the table with a pitcher of beer and some glasses. He then nodded. “Told you I found her.”

“Technically your boyfriend did,” Jenny said.

“Details. Did you know this is her natural hair color?”

“What?” Jordan asked sitting down next to him.

“Don’t start,” she said taking off her jacket and sitting across from the two. “Yes, this is my natural color. Yes, I dyed it red while I was on board, and only Max knew and yes, I asked him to help.”

“Crazy right?” Andy said, sitting next to Jordan and pouring drinks.

Jenny rolled her eyes making both chuckle and her smile. They clinked glasses and she said, “By the way, Jordan, I’m happy to hear that you found someone you really care about as well. Especially enough to bring her here.”

It was the first time she could recall Jordan blushing, but it made her happy to see both of her friends so happy. However, she focused back on Andy who nodded, since they knew Jordan wasn’t as expressive to dive deep into his feelings right away.

“So,” Jenny said. “Can you please explain why you won’t let me see him?”

Andy and Jordan met gazes, but their expressions fell. Andy then let out a sigh. “Like I said, Jenny, I want you to. But you need to know what he’s been through so you aren’t freaked out when you see him.”

“Freaked out?”

“He’s a mess,” Jordan said. When her eyes widened, he added, “But not because of you.”

Andy’s eyebrows raised and he quickly added, “Oh god, Jen. No it’s definitely not you and I never meant to give you that impression.”

“I appreciate it as your friend, but how can he be a mess and doing everything to come here without it being my fault?”

“Because it’s not, Jenny,” Jordan said softly. “Trust us both on that.”

She let out a deep sigh. “Then what’s happened?”

When Andy hesitated, Jordan said, “It did start about three months after you left technically.”

“Though we didn’t find that out until just recently,” Andy added.

“Once his parents and SA got the machine up and running again, they found that something in the machine faulted. All of the data was corrupted and erased any logs that could help them try to rebuild.”

“Worse than that, it erased the data on any of the events that happened with bringing you home.” When Jenny bit her lip Andy added, “Meaning he began worrying about what happened to you.”

“Then why keep me from him?” she asked. “If he’s worried about how I am, then now that we’ve met, wouldn’t it be better to erase that fear?”

“It will,” Andy said.

She looked between the two, about to protest when Jordan said, “But this was before everything that happened to make him a mess, Jen. Because he travelled here and there with us, and he was good. He was more open, more relaxed than we’ve ever seen him. It’s why we never knew he was that worried about you until recently.”

“And to add to that point he did say if you were okay, then that would at least put him at ease to let you be okay.”

“Even if you never recognized him again, as long as he knew you were okay, he would move on, though he admitted not knowing what that would look like.”

“Max is worried I won’t remember him? Why?” When both shrugged, she bit her lip again.

“But seriously, Jen. Even learning that, he wasn’t like how he is now,” Jordan said. “He was worried yes, but not broken.”

“In fact, he was hopeful. He told Oliver and Alicia everything that happened with more hope than I thought was possible. Especially considering that was in the back of his mind.”

They both paused reflecting on that moment and everything that happened in between then and now. They then looked back to Jenny, who was watching them but her eyes were watery making them feel guilty. They then nodded to each other before Jordan said, “When he and his parents and SA got the machine working again, he set out to find us because we made him promise to not leave without saying goodbye.”

“The downside was, we didn’t have good times and due to our own problems, we didn’t see the big picture until it was almost too late.”

They both told her about Tazo and the mutiny leading up to meeting Max and then landing on Comerut and about what they had learned.

“A war?” Jenny said.

“Between Imperialists and nightmare creatures who believed they were the only genuine species capable of ruling the universe. And from just that trip, Max could tell just how bad it was,” Jordan said.

“So he took back control and got everyone on the Meikai to safety. At least that we know of initially,” Andy said.

“I hope they’re all okay,” Jenny said softly.

They both smiled at that gentle empathetic response, but then quickly refocused on the story to avoid those what-if scenarios that comment elicited. “After we made sure everyone was safe,” Jordan said, “he secured us a ride with Darryl to be dropped off as close as possible to Solerna; the moon he, his parents, and SA escaped to, to work on the machine. Darryl felt that was a planet called Acrac, but it already had problems even though it wasn’t directly apart of the war.”

“To understand this next part though, you need to go back a little Jordan,” Andy said trading a look with his friend. “But if you want I can explain it.”

Jordan shook his head. “I can do it. But thanks.” He took a long deep breath and then focused on Jenny relaxing at seeing her apprehensive look with her eyebrows knit together. “It has to do with Alicia. Because you need to know what we learned about her and who she-”

“Yes, yes,” Andy said. “But explain how you met her first, Jordan.”

Seeing Jordan blush made Andy smirk and Jenny smile. “I’d love to hear it, Jay.”

He smiled at her and then began to explain how he met Alicia and how she came to be more than friends with him and join him on the Meikai. “Because she ran off from her servitude, her owner put out a bounty for her recapture. With the war on, it at first seemed like a nuisance and not so much dangerous. Until… until the Imperialists bought it out.”

“Why though?”

Jordan hesitated and so Andy said gently, “Because what we all learned was Alicia’s mom was a governor’s daughter who fell in love with a man on a space station and tried to run away with him to avoid Imperialist scorn for having betrayed her heritage. After Alicia was born, they left her with her owner and ran, but were later hunted down and killed. The Imperialists then gave up finding Alicia until they found her bounty.”

“Why did they want her though?” Jenny asked. She watched the two men’s faces pale and break her gaze, her stomach twisted but she then felt pain as it dawned on her. “Because she was a governor’s granddaughter. They wanted to experiment on her, make her into a weapon because they lost Kaylee.” Wide eyed both men met her gaze and she sighed. “It’s easier to put two and two together when you are under the same threat. It’s why he went ballistic after all hearing I was on Squallor.”

“Wish you could have warned us about that before this whole craziness unfolded,” Jordan said.

“Did you know about her parents?”

He shook his head. “Not until all the damage had been done.”

“Even though the war hadn’t hit Acrac yet,” Andy said. “The Imperialists were there undercover. Probably trying to figure out how to invade quickly once it got there. After Darryl dropped us we needed a ship and so did a lot of refugees. So sadly, we resorted to steal one since we doubted anyone would take us into the war.”

“While we were scouting, we asked Alicia and Max to lie low,” Jordan said. “Partially because we knew they’d take Max too.”

“And they did, Jen,” Andy said softly.

“What?”

She looked between the two wide eyed, but then Jordan said, “They ambushed Alli and Max on their way to the ship we decided on. They both tried to fight, but in a group of Imperialists, Max wasn’t the best anymore.”

“Plus they cheated,” Andy said. “Knocked him out, beat the s**t out of him, captured him and tortured him.”

“Tortured?” Jenny asked, a tear snaking down her face.

“Apparently the officer who captured him, wasn’t just anyone. It was someone he knew. Kaylee’s fiancé. It’s why he told Max all about Alicia’s parentage. He hoped to drive him crazy on their way back to the emperor. But not before he did more damage.” Andy felt himself tense as the memory came back. He gritted his teeth. “They invented a device where they could trap him in his subconscious. With a version of Kaylee who hated him and everything he did to her. She was able to go through a series of scenes, killing him, however she pleased.”

“It still haunts him,” Jordan said softly. “Thunderstorms he can’t handle. The cracks I think remind him or her powers that she used on him.” He looked up and saw Jenny holding her head with her arms on the table. She was silent, but he could see her shaking and saw the drops on the table. He wanted to comfort her but didn’t know how. It’s why they had to tell her, though both friends hated to hurt her.

After several moments, Jenny lifted her head and wiped away tears. Her nose was red, but her eyes were still clear. She then took a deep breath. “How long was he under the control of the device?”

“About nine hours. Enough to cause lasting damage.”

“And how did you save him?”

“We didn’t,” Andy said meeting her gaze, anger still coursing through him, but sadness mixing in when he met Jenny’s eyes. “I mean we got him out of there and away from them, but we didn’t save him from the device. We couldn’t. Something about it made it so only that guy who put it on was the only one who could take it off him.”

“Then how?” she asked, tears slipping down her face.

Andy swallowed hard but kept her gaze. “You did, Jenny. And I know that sounds crazy, but that’s what he said.” She began shaking her head, but both men touched her hands. “Jenny, please just listen to us.”

“Both of us, and Max, know it wasn’t really you,” Jordan said. “But he said that as he was battling his subconscious, that’s what helped him. His subconscious created a version of you to battle out the device. Because deep down he knew, that Kaylee couldn’t exist, if you did.”

“That version of you, saved his life,” Andy said, but squeezed her hand as tears fell down her face. “That version also promised to see him. I think speaking his fears and showing him that fear to his face. It’s why he’s still haunted by it. Why he’s been so desperate to see you and why it’s hurting him right now.”

She squeezed both their hands, but Jordan said, “He’s past hurting though, Jen.”

Andy suddenly pulled away staring at his friend. “Jordan, wait. We-”

“We promised to tell her everything, Andy,” Jordan said furrowing his brow and facing his friend. “How can we tell her all that but not where we are now?”

“Because all that was hard already. We don’t need to tell her-”

“Andy. Even if she gets mad, she needs to know this.”

“Jordan, Andy?” Jenny asked quietly.

When the two glanced at her, Andy got nervous and quickly broke her gaze. Jordan looked at his friend. “We have to, Andy. It would be worse not to.”

Biting his lip Andy refused to meet either of their gazes. Taking that as his reason not to further argue, Jordan looked back to Jenny, who was pale. “Jordan?”

“Ever since we got here, Jenny, he’s been suffering. Part of that’s because of the torture, Jenny. And-”

“Because he couldn’t find me, right?” When Jordan nodded, she bit her lip and turned from him.

“He’s losing this battle, though. He was okay for about seven months, stressed and in pain, but then still looking, eager to find you. But that’s when we really understood the whole internet and social media stuff and tried looking for you there. When that didn’t turn up, it was like a switch. The fear he’d had for you and the logic from knowing the machine had failed, I believe gave him the conclusion you didn’t make it back. So he stopped trying. And I don’t mean just from searching for you. I mean on everything.”

“Jordan?”

He sighed and glanced at his friend who to his surprise was also crying silently. This too, surprised Jenny, but before either could say a word, the older man just shook his head. “I’m sorry, Jenny. Truly, truly, I’m sorry. It was just too miserable to see him in pain anymore.”

“Andy,” she said wide eyed. She looked between the two and then wrapped her arms around herself. “You two can’t mean-”

“I’m sorry, too, Jenny,” Jordan said. “Because not only did we stop him from feeling that way… we let him by promising him we’d be okay if he-”

“You two did what?”

Both couldn’t meet her eyes as she stared them down. Her eyes were wide and she was shaking, but she dared not say more. When neither man said a word, she pressed the back of her hand to her mouth to suppress the sobs so as not to alert the rest of the bar.

After a few moments, Jordan said softly, “Again, I’m sorry. But this is why you needed to hear everything. So you know what you’re really walking into-”

“I c-can’t,” she said between sobs.

Both Andy and Jordan grew wide eyed and looked at her as tears flowed down her cheeks and she shook. They then glanced at each other, their eyebrows furrowed. Andy then looked at her and said, “But, Jenny, you were begging me, just hours before this, to see him.”

She continued to cry and then to Andy’s surprise, Jordan moved over to Jenny’s side of the booth, gently pulling her into his chest. She continued to cry and so Jordan just held her and met Andy’s gaze. He sighed seeing the anger in it. “This is why we did this,” Jordan said. Seeing Andy’s fist clench he added, “It’s normal after hearing all of that for her to change her mind.”

“But- and I’m sorry for this, you can’t, Jenny.”

“Andy-”

“No, she can’t Jordan!” He slammed his fists on the table, but then released them seeing some gazes from other patrons across the bar. He then turned back to see Jordan glaring at him, but Jenny was still crying. “I’m sorry, but selfishly, I need you to see him, Jen and I know that’s unfair after all this, but I swear to you, Jenny… I truly do believe at this point there is absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, he or I can do to save him. I truly think you’re our last hope because you’re the only thing that will erase all his fears, all his trauma, and all his doubt. And again, I’m sorry to put that on you, but if you can at least save him from dying, that’s all I ask of you.” Seeing his friend tense, Andy felt pain, but focused on his little sister. “Because you’re the only one who can, Jenny.”

Before Jordan could reply, Jenny lifted her head off his chest, sobs gone and said, “I know, Andy. But that’s why I can’t.”

She pulled away from Jordan who was now watching her with an eyebrow raised. “What do you mean by that, Jenny?”

She wiped away the few remaining tears and said, “Because if I remember correctly, the only times when he was this bad, you two always said I was the only one who could help him. Even the times it was bad because of me.”

“Jenny, I don’t understand. Knowing that, then why can’t you see him?” Andy asked.

“Because of what I just said. If, I remember correctly.”

“What?” Jordan asked.

For the first time in a while, Jenny looked at both of them. She then said, “Because something did go wrong with the machine.” When both Andy and Jordan grew wide eyed, Jenny just shook her head and then started rolling the sleeve of her left shoulder up, to expose her upper arm. She then showed both of them. “Notice something wrong?”

Andy frowned, but Jordan said, “Your scar is gone from the Bimaff attack.”

She nodded and pulled the shirt back down, but then pulled it up from her right side torso. “And this one too from the Turliose attack.” They both grew wide eyed, but Andy furrowed his brows. She then began gathering her hair back and pulled if off her left side, turning so that Jordan could see. “More alarming, the birth mark’s gone.”

Jordan stared at her, but Andy felt a suddenly felt a knot growing as she let go and looked back at him. She then let out a sigh. “The reason I say the machine went wrong is because of that fact, but also, it put me back in the same time and place I left.” Both men stared bewildered at her. “Now granted, that played in my favor. No one knew I was gone, I didn’t have to explain it to anyone, I could come back to my life no issues.” Tears fell down her face silently. “But with no physical evidence, I’ll admit, I began to wonder was any of it real.”

“But, you recognized me right away,” Andy said gently.

“And me,” Jordan said.

“Because the fuzzy memories, or the descriptions in my head matched. I mean, the memories I have, I’ve been fighting on whether or not they are memories or part of my imagination.

              “Imagination?” Jordan asked.

              She bit her lip. “Like a story. Because that’s what all this has become for me. So when I saw you, I felt like a burst of hope that maybe this wasn’t all in my head. Because I don’t want it to be. I want to have you two be real. You two are my best friends and joke and care for me. And Max… even as a story character, he means everything to me… So I played along because seeing you Andy, seeing you Jordan, it meant all the hope I’ve had for this to be real was maybe coming true. But now knowing what a state he’s in… I don’t want to try and help him, as much as I want to, only for him to ask about something we did and for me not to remember it. Because it sounds like that would break him.”

              Andy felt his anger finally leave him, but so did his sudden hope of saving Max. Her words felt heavy now and he could feel her fear knowing what she said would be true. However his friend was smiling gently at their little sister. “What about this makes you want to smile?”

              Jordan glanced his way, briefly, but then looked back to Jenny and touched her shoulder so she’d look up at him. When she did, he said gently, “Can we read it?”

              She blinked, but Andy frowned. “What are you talking about?”

              “You said like a story, right?” Jordan asked. Jenny nodded and smiled softly. “So let us help. We’ll read it and tell you if it’s right or not. At least the parts we know about, because I’m sure there’s private memories with just you and Max, that we may not know about.”
              Jenny smiled. “I hope you don’t mind, I also wrote about you two. And the stories you two told me about how you met each other.”

              “Really?” Andy asked, now smiling. When she nodded, he felt warm again. He then grinned at her and Jordan. “Then we have a plan?”

              He nodded. “We read your stories to confirm or deny what’s real or not so as to confirm or deny your memories. Then if we confirm them, will that help your fears with meeting Max?”

              Jenny nodded. “If at least those are real, then I can help him like I want to.”

              “Deal,” Andy said. She smiled at him warmly. He shifted around to the other side of the table, squeezing next to her and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. Jenny leaned into him and he squeezed her gently. “Sorry, by the way. For asking so much. And for failing him.”

              “You didn’t,” she said. “Hearing all that, he’s still here because of you two. Trust me on that.”

              Both Andy and Jordan smiled at her and each other. They sat like this for a while silence, both seeing the light at the end of the tunnel again. Then Jenny talked through and emailed them the stories she had written before the trio settled their tab and walked out of the bar. They walked to Jenny’s car and then paused.

              “You good to drive home?” Jordan asked. “I know it’s been a lot today. Emotionally speaking.”

              Jenny nodded. “I’ll be okay. Call me, when you guys are done.” They nodded and she then said, “Even if-”

              “From all evidence,” Andy said. “It won’t be bad news we give you, Jen.”

              She smiled and nodded. “Can’t wait to hear it, Andy.”

              “Take care, until then,” Jordan said.

              “You too.”

              The three then hugged each other tightly before she said goodbye and got in her car, driving off. The two watched her go before Andy’s phone suddenly began ringing. He pulled it out of his pocket and answered. “Hey Olli.”

              “Hey, Andy. How’s it going?” his boyfriend asked.

              “It’s done. For now at least.”

              “Soooo?”

              “Are you on your way back?”

              “Nearly home. I wanted to give you as much time as possible.”

              Andy smiled. “Thanks, Oliver. We’ll see you soon.” After he hung up, he looked at Jordan. “What do you think?”

              Jordan smiled. “I’m glad she’s okay. And because she’s going to be okay, I think he’s going to be okay, too. Once this is all said and done.”

              “You have hope?” When his friend nodded, he grinned. “Thank the stars we found her.”



© 2019 J.L. Greeson


My Review

Would you like to review this Chapter?
Login | Register




Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

13 Views
Added on September 13, 2019
Last Updated on September 13, 2019
Tags: Journey to Earth, Clarity Constellation, Friendship, Hardship, New Beginnings


Author

J.L. Greeson
J.L. Greeson

NC



About
I am an enthusiast about writing. I don't necessarily know if I want to be a published author but writing stories and bits that exist within my head and imagination is one of my favorite past times. I.. more..

Writing
Chapter 1 Chapter 1

A Chapter by J.L. Greeson


Chapter 2 Chapter 2

A Chapter by J.L. Greeson