Which is exactly why there’s no good reason for her to go confessing things to JD. It’ll just cause problems for nothing. That’s the advice I want to give Jenn—if she’d sit still long enough for me to say it.
“Not now, Stanton.” She walks out of the kitchen with me right behind her. Her mouth is grim, her eyes are weary and dull with remorse. She looks stressed, but what’s worse—she looks guilty.
“Jenny, just give me a second.” But she’s already in the living room, moving among a sea of people—each one nodding and smiling and making conversation. The sky outside is the color of gray smoke, quickly turning to charcoal, so everyone’s inside. In the living room, JD’s eyes light up when Jenny walks into the room. She stops short, gazing at him with an expression I can’t read.
“Don’t say anything, Jenn. Not yet,” I say against her hair.
Ruby walks around the house with a microphone, playing bridal bingo. “Okay y’all, who knows the month and day when JD and Jenny went on their first date? Mark it down on your card.” She leans down toward the tiny, gray-haired Mrs. Fletcher, who’s deaf as a post and yells into the microphone. “The first date, Mrs. Fletcher!”
Mrs. Fletcher nods, then writes down today’s date.
“I’m just gonna be honest,” Jenny says to herself. “The truth will set you free.”
No, I know from professional experience that the truth can land your ass in a jail cell. It’s how the truth is presented that makes all the difference.
She’s moving forward before I can grasp her arm.
“There’s my girl,” JD says from his seat.
I watch her swallow hard as she sits in the empty seat beside him. And she looks like she might actually puke when she says, “There’s somethin’ I need to tell you.”
“Hey, JD,” I try. “You want to go outside and throw the ball around?”
He holds up a finger at me and his dark eyes squint as he looks at Jenny with a mixture of concern and curiosity. “What’s the matter, beautiful?”
“Alright, get ready for the next one, everybody!” Ruby announces into the microphone. She stands between JD’s and Jenny’s chairs. “Jenny’s gonna give it to y’all!”
And it’s like a train wreck. A slow-moving, unstoppable crash.
Ruby lowers the microphone to Jenny’s mouth just as she confesses, “I kissed Stanton last night.”
Everyone stops—stares—no one moves. Even old Mrs. Fletcher heard it clearly. “Ha!” She whispers with delight to her aged bingo companion, “I knew that boy wasn’t lettin’ go that easy.”
But’s it’s another voice that captures me—that clutches something deep inside me—and twists.
“You kissed her last night?”
The words are whispered with condemnation . . . and disbelief. But it’s the look in Sofia’s eyes that almost brings me to my knees. Anguish. Pure undiluted pain that she doesn’t even try to hide.
And it’s like I can read her mind, see her thoughts. She’s thinking about our time at the river—connecting the dots. And she’s assuming that I used her. Turned to her to finish what Jenn started. It’s all right fucking there on her face.
“Soph . . .” I step toward her to explain, to take that look away—but she turns her back on me, walking out of the room.
With the audience still silent, Ruby clears her throat and speaks into the microphone. “Cake . . . and liquor . . . will be served on the porch, if y’all will follow me.” She motions with her hand.
The room quickly clears out, leaving only me, Jenny, JD, our parents, and my older brother. JD’s brown eyes watch her like he’s waiting for her to continue, but can’t decide if he actually wants her to. He doesn’t seem angry. He’s shocked. Wrecked.
Like . . . like a puppy that just got kicked.
He takes a deep breath and says, “Jenny . . . I know I’m not excitin’. I don’t have a flashy job, I’m not the star quarterback, I’m a simple guy. I like . . . simple things. Quiet things—like holdin’ your hand, and watchin’ TV with my arms around you. I’m just a man who loves you more than I’ll ever love anythin’.” He straightens up. “But I’m not gonna fight for you. This isn’t high school or some movie—we’re adults. You need to decide what you want. Who you want. And it needs to be now.”
Jenny’s fingers wrap around one another beseechingly. “I already have decided. I want to be with you, JD—I love you.”