Chapter Thirteen

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Take my hand and I'll take you down, down. Down into the pool where darkness is the only rule. Drink till it's dry, try and try but you're too heavy now to fly. –Jackson Killian

Chapter Thirteen

The next time I spoke with Jack was when I found him standing outside the mediation room door at the Sacramento County family court house.

Jack wore slacks—awkwardly, like myself. His collared shirt looked fresh out of the package, a faint yet still crisp crease running up the long sleeves. I could almost smell the yarny newness of his stiff sweater vest. Most amazing though—his shirt was actually tucked into his slacks, giving more shape to his slim build than I'd ever seen. The black Gatsby shading his eyes reminded me of James and made Jack look like he just stepped out of a J Crew catalog.

He was tailored and clean. Like some GQ fashion editor had dressed him.

We were both obviously dressed to impress. My blouse was pressed and tucked in, cardigan fresh and responsible looking. At least, I thought it was. I had blow-dried my hair and shaped my eyebrows in the hopes that it made me look together. I was even wearing a silk scarf around my neck I thought looked mature on the mannequin in the window at Express.

We both looked like pretend adults in new clothes.

I was uncertain and hoping that my conservative attire masked the tumultuous, roiling pudding-volcano I was on the inside.

Jack carried a notebook and a file folder with a few sheets of paper in it. His usual black pen was sandwiched between his hand and the stiff manila cardstock. There was no dent in his shirt or his pants to disclose a pack of cigarettes or a lighter.

He looked good, and when I stopped next to him, I noticed that he smelled good too.

"Hey." I was trying to be cool. Friendly. Over it.

He didn't greet me back, simply jumped right in with, "You ready for this?"

"I guess so. We never really hashed anything out..."

"That's what the meeting is for right?"

He was very deliberately keeping me at arms' length. The same chill could be felt in his words that I'd heard each time we spoke on the phone during his time in L.A. Different from his anger or his accusation, his bubbling over-the-top temper that had reared itself during our reunion—this was cold and controlled. It had a purpose. I was the enemy again.

My heart had been in overdrive for the last few hours. I'd woken ridiculously early and lain awake in bed, wondering what the morning would bring. Wondering if Jack might fail to show up at all. I'd not heard from him since he told me to "get over it," and I hated that, for the first time ever, I was trying to. As if I'd needed him to say those words to me.

I'd put his teapot into a box and took it to Goodwill. I'd taken a few CDs out of the green tub and returned it to the carport without pulling out a single notebook. I bought some fancy mascara and a new padded bra. I made an appointment with a therapist. These were little things, but they felt like big steps forward.

Big steps I should've been able to take on my own.

My sense of self had suffered new damage since that conversation, my ego caged up in my heart—throbbing and heavy in my chest. With every beat, I was reminded that my independent spirit was a myth. I'd never felt as pathetic as I did when I realized that I do what Jack tells me to do.

He said, "Get over it." And I was trying to.

He said, "Sleep with another man." And I'd agreed.

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