“You plan to do that in a dress?” Steven says as I open the hood to his car.
I give him a look while taking in what he’s wearing. “Better than an ugly Ted Nugent t-shirt.”
Steven doesn’t dignify that with a response. Music was such a touchy spot for him. So I turn back to the car and appraise the situation. For some reason, Steven couldn’t get the car started. After assessing the engine and seeing no obvious damage, I begin to theorize why this could be. I move to the front seat and turn the ignition. There is a series of clicking noises, but the engine won’t turn over.
I check the windshield wipers. As expected, they move very slowly. Furthermore, the dash lights appear to be very dim. Sighing at the simplicity of the situation, I pull out of the car and cross my arms.
“You need a new battery,” I state.
“What? It’s not that old,” Steven says annoyed.
“Then it should jump start,” I move toward the Forman’s garage. “Do you know if there are any jumper cables around here somewhere?”
I find the cables and turn back to the El Camino. I knew the battery in my Lincoln was fairly new, so I pull it up the driveway so that it is close enough to his car to jump start it. I connect the positive and negative cables to each car and Steven watches silently.
“Please tell me you know how to jump start a car?” I ask.
“Yes,” Steven says, then realizing that I expect more of an answer he continues, grinning at me slyly. “I just like watching you do it.”
“Jerk,” I say but I do it myself, nonetheless.
By the time I finish however, I hear Fez coming up the street toward the Forman house, whistling one of his weird native songs. I glance at Steven.
“Well, I better get going. My dad wants to have dinner with me,” I shrug.
“Jackie its not even three thirty yet,” Steven furrows his eyebrows.
“Fez is here anyway. And this way I can come back later.”
My back is to the driveway, so I can’t tell if Fez is in our line of view yet, so I don’t take the risk of kissing Steven goodbye, although my body is screaming for me to do just that.
Slowly, I turn to head for my car, but before I get very far, Steven grabs my arm, and while glancing over my head, kisses me briefly on the lips. “See you later. Now go,” he says, keeping his gaze behind me.
I turn, and can feel my cheeks burning bright red in pleasure. Just as I reach the door to the Lincoln, Fez turns in the driveway. “Hey, Fez,” I say quickly.
“Jackie,” Fez nods.
I sit in the car and see that Steven disappeared into the garage and was casually putting away the jumper cables. Fez goes to join him. Certain that all was settled, I turn the ignition and head for home.
When I pull into the garage, I hear the phone ringing in the house, and I quickly run inside in hopes of picking it up in time. My father isn’t home yet, so it’s up to me.
“Hello?” I say out of breath as I pick up the phone.
“So, I called him. Like you told me to,” the voice of an angry redhead vibrates through the phone.
“Donna?” I ask.
“Yes, Jackie. It’s Donna. And I called Eric. And he didn’t talk to me.”
“Wait, what do you mean?” I ask her, sitting down on the couch. I hear the garage door open. My father must have just gotten home.
“I mean, when I called, Mrs. Forman answered and when I asked if I could speak to Eric she said that he was, uh, ‘in the bathroom’ and that he wouldn’t come out,” Donna sounds mad, but I know her well enough that she was just acting that way to cover how hurt she felt from that stupid phone call.
“Are you sure?” I ask, shocked that Eric wouldn’t want to talk to Donna. “He’s been moping about you all summer.”
“Yes, Jackie, I’m sure,” Donna’s voice sounds annoyed now.
“Okay, don’t worry Donna. I’ll figure out what’s going on with him. Call me tomorrow,” I say. Then we say our goodbyes and hang up.
I hoped Donna would trust me enough to still call me tomorrow. I knew better than to call her myself, because she wouldn’t answer. If she really wanted to talk to me, she would have started answering my calls a long time ago.
“Hey, Dad,” I say to him as he walks into the living room.
“Hey, Jackie honey. How was your day?”
I reflect on my manicure and pedicure with Kitty and my afternoon with Steven. His trusting me to work on his car. His insistence to kiss me before I left.
“Great!” I smile. “And yours?” I ask my father.
He sits next to me on the couch. He rubs his mustache. “Not too well. Jackie, I don’t want to do this, but I’m going to have to go back to work. But I already arranged for Lena to make you something for dinner.”
I ignore the flare of pain that knocks the breath out of me. He was ditching me again. I put it aside and convince myself that he was trying. At least he was trying. And anyways, this way I could go back to the Forman’s now.
“Actually, Dad, that’s okay. I’ve got some stuff I’ve got to go do anyways,” I give him a quick hug, and before he can say anything else I rush out the garage door and head back to the Forman’s house.
“Where’s Eric?” I storm into the basement to find Steven and Fez watching television.
“Uh oh,” Fez glances at me, and then back at Steven. “The old Jackie’s back. The bossy, domineering one. Except, I don’t see Kelso. So why is she mad at Eric?” Fez asks me.
“Because Donna called him and he wouldn’t talk to her, that’s why,” I cross my arms and sit on the couch.
“You guys,” I hear Eric’s voice from the upstairs, and then I hear him come racing down the stairs. “Donna called. I missed it,” he says anxiously, coming to sit on the top of the couch near the phone. He stares at it.
I scoff and glare at Eric. “More like you ignored her. When she called me she said that you were too busy in the bathroom to talk to her.”
“Forman, how are you always managing to screw yourself over?” Steven asks him in disbelief.
“Yes, Eric, its like you manage to always burn yourself. You don’t even need us,” Fez was getting too much pleasure out of this.
“So, are you going to call Donna back? Because she sounded really hurt and angry on the phone,” I say condescendingly.
“Uh, yeah,” Eric says sounding very distant. After a moment he picks up the phone and begins to dial the number written on the piece of paper he is holding.
I feel a pang of jealousy. I hadn’t ditched Donna. I’d been talking to her all summer. And yet, she never gave me her number, I had to find it all on my own. She calls Eric once, the guy who played a role in her leaving, he doesn’t even talk to her, and she leaves him her number.
But I push away my jealousy. I realized that if I had learned anything this summer, it was how to put others first sometimes, when their own situations were truly worse than my own.
“It’s ringing,” Eric says in a sing-song voice glancing between the three of us. “It’s ringing,” he repeats. But then his face falls. “Oh my God, its ringing,” and he quickly slams the phone down.
“And Eric chickens out again. Quack, quack, quack,” Fez shakes his head in Eric’s face. I try not to laugh at Fez’s error.
In my periphery, I see Steven shake his head. “Forman. What’s the problem?”
“It’s just,” Eric shakes his head. Despite his cowardliness, I knew he was kicking himself in the butt because of what he had been, and still was, putting Donna through. “I want to tell her to come home, that I miss her, that… I love her. I mean, it’s too much to say over the phone.”
I could practically see the wheels turning in his brain. Now I was feeling kind of bad for him. So I thought I’d give him some advice.
“Look, Eric. Just write her a letter. That’s how I broke up with Michael,” I tell him. Then I try to make him laugh. “Yeah. I was able to take my time and come up with good synonyms for,” I hold up my finger. “Cowardly, won’t marry me loser, run away to California jackass.”
Eric clearly doesn’t understand that I’m trying to help him. “Jackie,” he sighs. “I’m charismatic in person. I’ve got these awesome hand gestures. And I kind of like, waggle my eyebrows when I talk,” he smiles at me derisively.
“Wait, you do that on purpose?” Fez asks, and it takes every ounce of my being not to laugh.
“Thanks, you guys. That’s helpful,” Eric gets up, clearly fed up with us. “You know what? That’s it. I’m going,” Eric says determined. “I’ll just show up in California, and like, blow her mind.”
I could tell, actually we all could tell that he was getting serious because then he went on to make one of his Star Wars comparisons. We all groaned. But he kept talking, getting more and more riled up. But then, wasn’t his plan going to accomplish what I was going to try to get done anyway?
Before the conversation could continue, however, Eric and Steven were called upstairs for dinner.
Eric runs up the stairs, but Steven stays down with Fez and me. “Tell Mrs. Forman I’ve got work,” he yells up at Eric.
“Work!” Fez exclaims. “I’ve got to go.” Fez stands and heads for the door.
“But, Fez, I thought you worked this morning?” I ask him.
“I did, but I just remembered that I’ve got to go to the mall. Today is Fenton’s challenge.” Then, before I could say anything, he was gone.
I exchange looks with Steven. “We’ve got to stop him,” I say.
“Agreed,” Steven says, getting up out of his chair. “But we have something else we have to take care of first,” he walks toward the shelves over by the stairs.
“But Fez is going there right now,” I say anxiously.
“Yes, and he has to walk. We don’t,” he shoves something in his pocket before I can tell what it is. “Let’s go,” he says.
“Where?” I ask, exasperated.
“You’ll see,” is all he says.
I grab my purse and follow him outside. “Oh, no. You have to tell me. Because I’m driving. You need a new battery for your car,” I cross my arms.
Steven stops abruptly, and I almost run into him. He turns and glares at me, but I detect a hint of amusement in his expression. I give him a winning smile, knowing that I’ve won.
“Fine. We’re going to the airport,” he says, and then he heads towards my car and climbs in the passenger seat.
I follow a moment later and climb into the driver’s side. Now I know why he didn’t want to tell me where we were going. “You’re such a good friend to Eric,” I say as I pull into the street.
Steven doesn’t say anything. Instead, he just looks out the window.
We drive to the airport in comfortable silence. The next time I ask a question isn’t until we’re in the airport parking lot.
“So, how are you going to pay for his ticket?” I ask him, crossing behind the car to walk next to him.
Steven pulls out the mysterious item from his pocket that he had put there before we left. Or should I say, items. It’s a wad of cash. “It’s Forman’s secret stash. Scooby Doo thermos.”
“So you had this brilliant idea to spend Eric’s money on something he doesn’t even know if he wants to do yet?” I ask uncertain about this plan.
“Look, Jackie. Forman wants this. He’s just too twitchy to make this decision on his own. So, its up to us to do it for him,” he says as we approach the entrance.
I am once again am truly surprised to see Steven do something like this. I always thought he was just some burnout who would rather burn in Hell then admit to having any emotions. But truth be told, Steven had the biggest heart of gold of all.
Before we step inside, I grab his arm and pull him down, having the sudden urge to kiss him. Sliding one hand down to grab his hand, I use the other to cup the side of his face. When we pull away from each other, however, I don’t let go of his hand, and he doesn’t let go of mine either.
The parking lot to the mall was full, except for a few spots in the very back. It was probably because of the giant sign plastered across the mall’s entrance that read “END OF SUMMER BLOW OUT SALE! BARGAIN PRICES AT ALMOST EVERY STORE!”
“So, let me get this straight. Fenton challenged Fez to wear these embarrassing tight leather pants tonight and walk through the parking lot?” I ask.
“Yes,” Steven nods. “And apparently, Fenton said that he would do it if Fez, did, but we both know that’s not going to happen.”
“Oh my God, this is so weird,” I exclaim as we get out of the car. “Well, we better go see if we can find him in time. Before things get ugly.”
“Literally,” Steven shakes his head.
We head toward the mall, but unfortunately we don’t find any foreigners running around in leather pants. We decide to walk around to the other side of the mall in hopes of possibly finding him there.
When we finally see a large gathering of shoppers, I feel my stomach fill with stones. We were too late. We start to run toward the group. We push our way to the middle of the circle they had formed, and indeed, standing in the middle is Fez, wearing nothing but the tight leather pants.
I cover my mouth with my hand. Steven moves forward to pull Fez away, but somebody else makes it into the circle first. It’s a middle aged man, short and slightly overweight wearing a gray suit with a striped tie.
“Fez?” the man exclaims. “Is this your idea of a joke?”
I have a bad feeling of who this man is. I look up, and as expected, I see the outdoor entrance to the jewelry store. It was his boss.
“Mr. Weathers!” Fez exclaims. “Oh, no, its just this guy Fen…” his voice falters on Fenton’s name as he looks behind him and finds that Fenton is not there.
“Fez?” another person pushes their way into the middle of the circle and stands next to Mr. Weathers. Blond hair. Pearls. Stephanie. Crap. “What are you doing?”
“I…” Fez starts. Then his shoulders slump. “Aye.”
“Oh, thank you for coming Mr. Weathers,” a third person steps into the circle with Fez. “When I told you one of your employees was prancing through the parking lot making fun of your store wearing only a pair of tight pants, I didn’t think you’d believe me.”
Fenton spoke to Fez’s boss, but was looking straight at Fez. I feel a flare of anger at the incredulity of this guy Fenton. He had sabotaged Fez to get him –
“You’re fired!” Mr. Weathers says aloud, his voice matching up with my thoughts. “And you, how would you like a job at my jewelry store?” he says to Fenton.
“Why, I would be honored,” Fenton places his hand on his chest and even goes as far as to bow in front of Mr. Weathers.
Steven must decide that this is enough, because he leans forward and grabs Fez by the arm. Then he starts to pull him away from his now ex-boss.
“And we’re over!” Stephanie shouts. Okay. Now ex-girlfriend as well.
The crowd parts for us as we hurry back to my car.
Fez climbs into the back seat, not saying a word. “I’d sit with you man,” Steven makes a face. “But you’d need to be wearing more clothes,” he says as he lets himself into the passenger seat.
“Which reminds me,” I say. “We can’t just take you back to the Forman’s dressed like this,” I look at Fez in the rearview mirror as we pull out of the parking lot.
“Aye, just take me home. My clothes are there,” Fez says sadly.
I drive to Fez’s host parent’s home, and we follow him inside. Thankfully, his host parents were not home when we got there.
“Fez, I’m sorry about Stephanie,” I say to him through the door as he changes in the bathroom.
“Can’t fool with the devil man,” Steven pipes in. “You always lose.” I glare at Steven. He clears his throat. “But yeah, its sucks that that happened man.”
Fez walks out the bathroom still looking depressed, but thankfully fully dressed. “I think I’ll just stay here,” he shrugs. “You guys can go back to Eric’s without me.”
“No Fez, you have to come,” Steven says. “We got Eric a ticket to go to California, and you should be there to give it to him.”
“You did?” Fez asks.
“Uh huh,” I nod, hoping this will take his mind off of things. “And he leaves really soon, so you have to come to say goodbye.”
“Okay,” Fez says, shrugging. “I guess I’ll go then.”
“Great!” I clasp my hands together and we climb back into my car. This time Steven sits in the back with Fez, but gives me a quick wink when I glance at them in the rearview mirror.
After we’re on the road Fez speaks up again. “You know, it’s okay that I got fired anyway. I would’ve had to quit with school starting soon. And Stephanie wasn’t really my type either. And Fenton…he can just suck it. Mr. Weather’s isn’t a good boss, to be honest.”
Steven laughs and pats Fez on the shoulder. “That’s the spirit, man. That’s the spirit.”
I lead the way down to the basement, and was happily pleased to find that Eric hadn’t stumbled back up to his room, but was instead sitting upright on the couch watching television. I give him a cheeky smile as I walk past him and sit in Steven’s chair.
“Forman, there’s a flight to California in four hours and you’re on it,” Steven, who was behind me, hands Eric his ticket. And then, to avoid sentimental value, he adds, “Before you get all gushy, we didn’t pay for it. We stole the money from your secret stash…in the Scooby Doo thermos,” he says proudly.
All Eric says is “You know about Scooby Doo?” I suppress an eye roll.
Fez, who was now sitting on the back of the couch says “Well it was a good try, but you should have known that eventually, I would need to take some cocoa on the go.”
Eric just looks down at the ticket for a moment. “Well, thanks guys,” he looks up at Steven. “But my parents will kill me.”
I jump in. “No, Eric. We’ll cover for you.”
After some more speculation, Eric finally jumps up. “You’re right. I’m going to do this.” He hops over the couch. “I’m going. I’ve got to go pack.”
“Hey, let me help, I love putting together outfits,” Fez runs up after him.
When they’re both gone I change the channel on the television and then sit next to Steven on the couch.
“Finally,” he says.
“Yeah, I thought they’d never leave,” I tease him, but lean in to kiss him anyway. He wraps his arm around my neck, but I pull away after a moment, having something I was just dying to say. “You know, Steven, it was really nice of you to get that ticket for Eric.”
Steven doesn’t meet my eyes. “This usually works a whole lot better when you don’t talk.”
And immediately I get it. I do. Why Steven keeps avoiding this topic of Eric going to California. Because when he goes to get Donna, Michael comes back too. And this…this comment he just made, it wasn’t like him. Not the Steven I knew.
It was the Steven before this summer began, and he was reverting now, back to the way things were two months ago. Because I now understood that this sudden change in his behavior was his way to protect himself from getting hurt.
Because…because he thought I was going to go back to Michael.
The thought strikes me in the chest like a bullet. I couldn’t believe Steven thought me so shallow. But then again, if my past actions meant anything, it wasn’t a bad prediction. At least for him. But I knew better now. Yes, I was nervous about Michael’s return as well. But for a different reason entirely. I was happy now, and one thing I had learned was that happiness balanced on a thin line and one slight breeze could knock it off balance and send it plunging down and away from you. I worried that Michael was going to be that breeze, causing my happiness…which I would admit, was Steven…to slip out of my grasp, and away from me forever.
But as for Steven’s concern about Michael, it was pointless. I knew in my soul that I would never go back to him. But no matter how I tried, I wouldn’t be able to convince Steven of such. He would have to see for himself.
So I let the comment go, knowing what he really meant. I just shrug, and resume kissing him. He eagerly returns the kiss, wrapping his arms back around my body. Then he pulls me onto his lap, and I shift my weight so that I’m facing him forward. The kiss intensifies. I tighten my hands in his curly hair and his beard chafes roughly against my face. He wraps his arms around my waist, and after a moment rotates me onto my side, putting my back to the couch. He leans over me, locking my legs between his knees. I feel my pulse begin to quicken, but I soon relax when he rests both of his hands on the arm of the couch. And I know he’s waiting to see if I’m okay and for permission to continue. This was one of our most intense…make-outs…if you could call it that. But he still respected my wishes and would not force me into anything. And I respected him, in turn. I wrap my arms around his back and grab fistfuls of his t-shirt while craning my neck up to kiss him.
“Steven,” I whisper against his mouth.
“Jackie,” he returns, and I feel my heart swell.
Because I loved the way he said my name. Steven wasn’t a man of many words…but that made the few he did say that much more powerful. And it was only my name. But it was how he said it.
Even on that one Halloween where he made fun of my middle name and I got mad at him. But I hadn’t been all that mad, really. Because although I hated my middle name, and he teased me relentlessly for it, when he said it…I hated it a little bit less.
“Steven Hyde,” I say against his lips.
“Jackie Beulah Burkhart,” I feel his mouth smile, as though he had read my thoughts. I knee him lightly in the stomach.
And he was fun to just hang out with too. Which was how all this had started. Before this summer I had been always pining for Michael, admittedly even when we were broken up. Even when I had pestered Steven for that brief while, I wasn’t truly seeing him. But now I was. I was seeing him.
And then how he would do anything for his friends. Just now going to get the ticket for Eric. Or that one time that he pulled the alarms all night for Eric when Donna went to the hotel with Casey.
And he had always been that way for me too. But he had covered it with his constant jabs at me. He took me to prom when I was a sophomore. When Michael was cheating on me he tried to get him caught. When Michael expected me to pay him back for his van, Steven had helped me in proving that Michael owed me even more than I owed him. And he was a friend when I thought I had no one. He was my Sizzler partner. He was my shoe shopping partner. He was my “someone great”.
And oh my God I was falling hard for him.
And he had a heart of gold. I’d once been called a gold digger. Maybe I was. But I didn’t care. Because now I had found my pot of gold.(Note: The title of this chapter is a direct quote from this article: article/70s-show-took-tv-adolescence-down-basement-where-i-207254.)