14 – Time Stands Still
Chapter 14 – Time Stands Still
Jackie was perched on top of a ladder holding up a "cloud" made of white balloons. Her assistants were on either side of the upper mezzanine attempting to tie off the ribbons so the "clouds" would seem to float. It was just a few weeks ago that she was decorating the mall ceiling with Christmas lights and garland – the holidays slipped away so quickly.
She hollered down to a mall employee, "Throw me a cupid!"
An inflatable cupid, complete with blow up bow and arrow went flying above and over her head. She groaned, "It is gonna be another one of those days!" Still she put a smile on her face and asked the employee to give it another try.
Eric Forman had been industrious and with excellent results. His Do Know and Don't Know lists finally had answers.
What I Do Know
1. Midge still had the accident
2. Carter is going to be in Donna's future
3. I'm still in 1990.
4. Hyde is in Los Angeles and W.B. is still sick
What I Know Now
1. Laurie and Fez never got together – UPDATE: Private Investigator found Laurie working as a waitress for slave wages in a Manitoba diner. Eric rented a car for Fez to go pick up his ex-wife and they came back as a married couple.
2. Where does Jackie live – UPDATE: Small apartment in the suburbs of Kenosha
3. Are Mom and Dad still pissed at me – UPDATE: A case of beer for Red, a new video camera for mom and the truth mended a fractured relationship with his parents.
4. Is my house in Point Place Heights still available? UPDATE: The renovations were completed and the old tenants vacated with cash in their pocket. Eric was now an owner to an empty house. All he needed was Jackie and a family to make it a home. (Maybe that should stay on his What I Don't Know board)
5. Where are Kelso and Brooke: UPDATE: Kelso is a motorcycle cop who likes to give drivers in a Lexus' speeding tickets and go out drinking with them at the end of his shift. Brooke is a stay at home mom.
Eric looked at the two lists and smiled. For some strange reason, it felt like he was finally actually living a life. The Sun-Times changed his termination status and offered him a balloon package of benefits with unemployment. He had two pending job interviews with the Point Place School District and one telephone interview with a Kenosha newspaper – the sky was the limit. Why didn't he do this before?
Not once did Donna try to contact him. Even with a listed telephone number – not one call.
He didn't care.
This it was Eric's do or die moment. He needed to go see Jackie. Maybe he only lived with her for 184 hours, but he has missed her for a month and 13 1/2 days! It was a cold lonely hell without her.
Eric looked in the bathroom mirror and smiled happily at his thickening hair. Fez's product was giving him some fuzz where before there was only flesh covered skull – Red Forman scalp. Still, he smiled at his reflection and shaved carefully. His suit was a well known brand that he knew Jackie would appreciate and he made sure his car was washed and shined. This evening had to go well! With his three packages safely tucked in the backseat – it was go time. This evening was the turning point and he didn't want to fuck it up.
Mylar heart shaped balloons wafted along the ceiling and the scent of chocolate filled the air. "Addie!" Jackie hollered from her perch, "Take that silver banner and wrap it around the fountain." The mall employee nodded her head in acknowledgment and carried the Valentine's Day banner towards the mall's center fountain.
Jackie waited expectantly as the wrapping commenced, but was distracted by a hum issuing from the service corridors between the mall stores. Suddenly, like a Jack-in-the-Box, the double doors burst open and a shiny silver car spun in a circle ala Marty McFly in "Back to the Future."
Jackie turned on her ladder uttering threats if that idiot ruined any of her holiday display… to find that the driver was walking towards her and looked vaguely familiar. Nice suit….flitted through her mind but the manager in her took over. "Whoever you are…you can take your little car and just drive out of my Valentine's Display immediately."
Eric could only grin. She looked so freaking lovely. Couldn't she see how the lights and colors made her skin glow? He waved, "Jackie Burkhart? I need to talk to you." His heart was nearly was beating out of control.
Jackie frowned, "Eric? Eric Forman?"
He pointed towards his chest. "Yeah, it's me!" he said excitedly.
She pointed towards his Lexus. "Would you get your damn car out of my Valentines Day exhibit?"
He stepped closer to her ladder and brushed away a floating pink cherub. "Only if you'll give me a few minutes of your time."
She looked a little apprehensive….like what the hell was Eric Forman doing driving into the center of the Point Place Mall? "Me? You came all the way from….wherever… to talk to me?"
He nodded quite aware of the crowd of mall employees that were gathering. "Yes. I wanted to tell you about us."
Jackie hooked a boot heel over one of the rungs. "Are you talking about Donna? You and Donna are having relationship problems so you drive in here like a maniac and want to talk to me? After all these years?"
Eric silently applauded her moxie. He laughed softly enough that she could hear. "No,…I wanted to tell you about us. You see, we; you and me…we have a house and two kids. – Ben and Harry." Eric smiled as he remembered those sweet little puffs of baby breath felt on his neck. "Ben…damn… he's the coolest kid ever. Remember in High School how everyone wanted to know the quarterback? Our Ben is going to be that kid and Harry – he has my eyes... and your hair and just learned how to walk!" The memory of those six little drooling steps almost made Eric tear up.
Jackie sensed something different in the way Eric's voice rose and fell as he told this story.
She stepped down another rung.
"I'm a school teacher, or I'm trying to be, and you work at the mall and you are such a perfect mother. We've been married almost five years and I am still so fucking in love with you I don't understand it… but I am."
She came down two more rungs.
Eric walked closer until he could touch the metal of the ladder, "You see Jackie….you are such a great person and you make me a better man than I ever thought I could be. If it wasn't for you, Fez and my sister would have never got married."
Her mouth fell open in amazement as Eric continued, "…. and I would never know what sacrifice and love were... and how they are both the same. Maybe I imagined all of it because god knows how many times people kept telling me that I must have hit my head or something…but I know it was real. "
Eric finally got close enough to clasp her elbow, "Do you believe in soul mates?"
Jackie's big eyes fluttered and she gasped. She did!
He stepped closer and said in a low voice, "Just give me a couple of minutes Jackie. I just want you to know I love you and I have something to give you. I'll meet you at the food court."
Eric bowed to the applauding crowd and left a speechless Jackie Burkhart holding onto her ladder for support. She just stood there watching Eric retrieve something from the backseat of his car and carried it to the food court.
She glared at her employees, "Show's over – everybody back to work!" What the hell was going on? Eric Forman...loved her?
Jackie dusted off her apron and fluffed her hair. She could see Eric sitting just outside of Panda Express smiling like he just heard some hilarious joke. How dare he come sweeping in here and say such romantic things! It was….it was unnatural!
She looked at her watch and saw that the mall would be closing in a half hour. Okay, he had this crazy story to tell - she could give him 30 minutes. "Do you believe in soul mates?" Did he know that story? She shook her head – this was crazy!
With hands on hips she strode over to the bistro table and tried to look formidable. "Make it snappy, the mall closes soon."
Eric indicated that she should sit. "I have three presents for you."
Jackie fell into the chair. Presents? No one ever got her presents these days. She was still suspicious. "What is this all about Eric? Really?"
Eric smiled gently, "If you want me to walk away right now, I will disappear out of your life forever. I know you'll do fine and I'll just be a lonely single guy but Jackie…" he covered her hand with his, "…together, we are fierce. I've seen us together and we are awesome."
Jackie was stiff confused. Presents?
He pulled out a small package from his brown paper bag and set the little box in front of her. Jackie looked at the ribbons and bows and looked back at Eric, "What is this?"
He grinned, "Open it."
Jackie untied the ribbon and a set of keys fell into the palm of her hand, Eric was still smiling. "I bought us a house." He passed over a tall cup of coffee.
Jackie swallowed hard, "You did what?" Was he crazy?
He set another gift wrapped box on the table and pushed it towards her. Jackie eyed him suspiciously and sipped the coffee. It was good, just like she loved it. How did he know? She lifted the top off the shoebox sized gift to find it was an XL size Madison College sweatshirt.
"It actually looks better on you than me." He chuckled, "I remember someone telling me that somewhere... a while ago."
Jackie was just a tad overwhelmed to say the least. "Eric, while I appreciate all this….a freaking house? Who buys houses for friends? Anyways…." Whatever she was going to say was silenced by a warm finger pressed against her soft lips.
"One last present. I'm either too late or too early…." He pulled out a pink Hostess snowball cupcake. "….whatever, but I didn't want to miss your birthday."
Jackie could feel her resolve crumbling. Why was he being so sweet to her? A cupcake? She could almost cry with all these mixed emotions.
Eric knew that this was it.
Balls on the line.
He repeated the words he said to her New Year's Eve night on the Burkhart porch. "Jackie….this moment. This time right here. Never ever forget me? You have made me a better man and I could never thank you enough. I love you so much. …there is nothing better than the way I feel when I'm with you… Promise me that you'll never forget that. Tuck it away in your heart?" Eric grasped her hand and covered it with his two warm ones.
A little shocked but more intrigued Jackie replied, "Okay, I'll have this cup of coffee with you and maybe you can tell me more about your friends Ben and Harry." Something in Jackie's heart just clicked like two jigsaw pieces coming together – was it the soul mates comment? Or was it that out of all the people in the world, Eric Forman remembered her birthday? Or was it the unexpected gifts? It was simply crazy!
Heartened, Eric added, "I could always come by the Food Court and we could chat."
Jackie picked up the set of house keys. "Maybe…someday…maybe you could ask me out on a date." Why did this seem familiar?
Eric smiled, "Maybe…someday….maybe I can ask you to marry me?"
She slid the Madison college sweat shirt over her head (very soft and comfortable) and smiled back, "Maybe…someday…maybe…I'll say yes."
At that moment, Eric felt like he was looking into the face of starlight and wishing on a star might not have been such a terrible thing after all.
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