By the time, I lift my
head again from the table, I see that Mr. Pinciotti has left.
Kitty is now sitting next to me. Everyone else is still in the kitchen. Reading my mind, she says “Bob needed to go home Jackie. Do you want someone to take you home?”
I couldn’t move at the moment. “Not yet,” I grab a cookie. My eyes start to well with tears. I glance around nervously.
Kitty reads my mind again. “Okay…Fez. I think it’s time you go home. Steven, why don’t you go downstairs? And Red, why don’t you go see if Bob needs anything?”
“I don’t know Kitty,” Red says.
“Go,” she responds, curtly.
Red and Fez exit out the back door and Hyde quietly moves to the basement.
“Eric…” Kitty says. “Are you – ”
Eric slams the door into the living room and disappears.
“Mrs. Forman, I know its selfish to think about myself in times like this, but…I don’t have anyone anymore,” this time the tears leak out of my eyes and down my cheeks.
“That’s not true, Jackie. You’ve got Eric, Steven and Fez.”
I shake my head. “I pretend not to notice but I know the only reason they tolerate me is because of Donna and Michael.”
Kitty pats my hand. “Well, you’ve got me. And your parents too.”
I just nod.
“Look. It’s late. Why don’t you go home and get some sleep, okay? And if you want, you can hang out with me tomorrow. Okay?”
I nod my head quickly. It was actually very reassuring seeing that she would hang out with me. It was odd. Maybe I wasn’t as popular as I thought. Now that Donna and Michael were gone, I could see that I had nobody left to hang out with.
Sure I was beautiful, had great hair and clothes, and was a cheerleader, but it wasn’t like that meant anything if I had no friends.
I begin to wonder why popularity was so important to me. Bitterly I realize its because it was the only way to get people to notice me. My parents were wrapped up in their own lives, and I really had nothing to offer.
“Yes, Mrs. Forman, I would love that,” I tell her suddenly.
Kitty smiles giddily. “Yay, don’t get me wrong, I love Donna. But she just does not like to do any of the fun girly stuff. We can bake goodies and go shopping,” Kitty says excitedly. “Okay, let me just run upstairs and check on Eric and then I’ll take you home.”
Kitty runs out the kitchen. I smile inwardly at myself. Maybe popularity had been preventing me from having anything to offer. Because giving up to hang out with Kitty…well, I had never seen anyone so excited to spend time with me before.
Nevertheless, when she returns she looks anything but enthusiastic. She walks up to me.
“Jackie, Eric’s taking this harder than I expected, so I’m just going to have Steven drive you home. That alright?”
“But what about Red?” I ask, alarms going off in my head. No way did I want Hyde driving me home. I was about to die of embarrassment.
“He’s with Bob, and Bob needs someone too,” Kitty moves to the basement. “Steven, will you come here please?”
No, no, no. “You know what, Mrs. Forman, I can just drive. Don’t bother Hyde. Driving will be good for me to, you know, think about everything.”
I stand and grab my purse just as Hyde arrives on the landing.
“Yeah, Mrs. Forman?”
Mrs. Forman is looking at me funny. Without turning away from me she says to Hyde “Steven can you do me a little favor?”
“Yeah, anything you need.”
I shake my head and step backwards to the door. Mrs. Forman hasn’t said anything yet, so I say something to make sure she doesn’t.
“Well, good night, Mrs. Forman,” I tell her. “See you tomorrow,” I say cheerily.
“I need you to drive Jackie home,” she tells Steven. “She’s not feeling well and I don’t think she should be driving.”
“Okay,” Hyde says reaching in his pocket to retrieve his keys. “Let’s go, Jackie.”
I follow him down to the bottom of the driveway where he keeps his Camino parked on the curb.
“Mrs. Forman is overreacting. I can drive,” I walk over to my car.
“Look, Jackie. I don’t want to drive you home either. But you know what I want even less? Mrs. Forman being disappointed in me. So you don’t have any other choice.”
I keep walking to my Lincoln. “I don’t care.”
Hyde runs up to me before I can reach my car and grabs my keys out of my hands. Then he turns back and climbs into his car. I just stand where I am.
“Let’s go,” Hyde says impatiently.
I cross my arms and sit in the passenger seat of the Camino. Once he has pulled out onto the street I hold out my hand. “Keys.”
Hyde gives them back. I put them in my purse and then lean my head on the window.
It was going to be a long summer.
I begin to think about Donna and Michael again. And then mostly Michael. Donna left because of Eric, but Michael left because of me. And slowly that empty feeling of being alone morphs into pain. He left because of me. He didn’t want me.
I begin to think about our last few months. I should have known we were growing apart. Michael started taking me for granted again and stopped caring about what I wanted and lived solely for himself. That didn’t work well with me, because, yes I know, I was pretty demanding.
I begin to think about how we ever worked to begin with.
I begin to think about how it was better that we went our separate ways.
I begin to think about how this was really then end of Michael and me. For good this time.
I begin to think how it doesn’t make it hurt any less.
“What, no quips about Kelso? Or Forman for making Donna leave? No pity party?” Hyde asks.
I ignore him and press my head harder against the window. I wasn’t in the mood.
“Okay, you know what, man? He probably left with Donna thinking they were just going to Fatso Burger,” Hyde says.
“I don’t think so,” I whisper.
“Okay, well, I’m sure he didn’t leave because of you. The guy is crazy about you.”
“It’s not even him. A guy who runs off after getting engaged is not the kind of guy I want to be with. It’s Donna who I miss,” I say, more to convince myself.
“Whoa, hold up… You guys really got engaged?” he asked disbelieving. “I thought you were kidding back there. Okay, even you’ve got to appreciate that good burn.”
I lift my head up and glare at him accusingly. “You know, you can be a real jerk sometimes.”
“That why they keep me around. Okay. We are here,” Hyde pulls over.
“Thanks,” I say quickly, jumping out and running up to my dark house.
Once inside, I begin to feel even more alone. My parents were both out of town again and the maid had already left for the night.
And I missed Donna.
And I missed Michael. I didn’t want to miss him. I was trying to convince myself that I deserved better than him. And that the boy I missed no longer existed. The boy who ran off was nothing to me. But it was one thing to tell myself this and another thing to believe it.
And Donna. I missed her, but I couldn’t decide if I should be happy for her or angry. I mean, how could she leave me like this? She knew I had no one else. What did she expect me to do? But of course, she wouldn’t be thinking about me. She left because her life was falling apart, so I couldn’t blame her. I would’ve left too. She was looking for her happiness.
And that’s when I get the idea.
My life was now falling to pieces as well. Maybe I should leave too.
When I wake up the
next morning, I’m lying face down on my bed, still in the clothes I was wearing
All the events of yesterday come rushing back, except this time the emotions don’t follow. And for once I can think about it clearly.
I was done with Michael Kelso. For good this time. I had given him a second chance, but he broke my heart again. And I wasn’t sad. I was glad that I was strong enough to move on.
Donna Pinciotti was my best friend, and I was happy that she had the courage to leave the place that had destroyed her life to find the place where she could be happy.
And as for me, I was not going to leave. Because, unlike Donna, the things that had destroyed my life had left me, so I didn’t have to leave them. And now that they were done making me miserable, perhaps there was something here to make me happy.
For instance, hanging out with Kitty today.
So after I shower, do my hair and make – up, I grab my purse and keys and head outside.
Only to remember that my car was still at the Forman’s.
I debate calling them, but decide against it. Eric was too miserable. Hyde was too annoying. Red would refuse. And I just didn’t want to bother Kitty. She had already done enough for me.
So I walk. It helps me to think further about all the decisions I had just made and how I would use these decisions to shape this upcoming summer. I would probably still hang out at Eric’s house. Fez was nice to me. And Eric and I could probably help each other. And I knew Bob and Red and Kitty would always be there for me even when my parents were not.
And I would do cheer-leading camp and then maybe I could become the captain of the varsity cheer-leading team when I started my junior year of high school after this summer. I would also quit that stupid job selling cheese that I took so Michael and I could stay together. Now that we were done, Daddy would give me money again.
This last thought makes me smile the most. If anything could solve heartbreak it was money. And lots of it.
“Well, look who’s smiling today!” Kitty says encouragingly as I step into her kitchen after my walk over there.
“Yeah,” I shrug nonchalantly. “I’ve done a lot of thinking, and I decided that I would use this summer to find me, you know?”
Kitty gives me a small smile. “That’s excellent. Now, if only I could convince Eric to do the same thing.”
And that’s when I said something that the person I was yesterday probably would have never said. “If you want, I could talk to Eric for you. You know, since we are kind of in the same situation and all.”
Kitty gives me a kind smile. “I would like that. But,” Kitty gives off one of her characteristic hearty laughs, “Right now I’m going to teach you how to make drinks!”
“Kitty, I don’t know that that’s such a good idea,” says Red, walking in to the kitchen from the living room, having caught the last bit of our conversation.
“Well, I’m not going to let her drink anything,” Kitty says in defense. “But in my experience,” she says knowingly, “making drinks has always been a healthy way to de-stress,” she winks at me.
Then Kitty pulls me into the living room and I can’t help but laugh along with her.
After an hour had passed, Kitty had taught me how to make a Harvey Wallbanger, Kamikazee shots, and an Amaretto Stone Sour.
“Wow, Mrs. Forman, this is relaxing,” I say as I finish making a Wallbanger.
“If you think that’s relaxing, just wait until you are eighteen and can actually drink them,” she grins.
A moment later Fez and Hyde walk into the living room from the kitchen.
“Whatcha boys up to?” Kitty asks.
“We’re forcing Forman to get out of bed,” Hyde says, heading for the stairs.
“I brought candy,” Fez says encouragingly following Hyde up the stairs.
Kitty looks at me when they’re gone. “Something tells me that Steven’s aggression and Fez’s candy won’t get Eric out of bed. Do you think now would be a good time for you to go impart your words of wisdom on him like you offered?”
“Sure,” I hand her the drink I just finished making. “Thanks for your time Mrs. Forman. Enjoy,” I say before heading up toward Eric’s room.
From outside his room I hear Hyde speaking. “Come on man, we’re going to Funland and you’re coming with us.”
Funland? Seriously, they were going with this tactic again? Even after it didn’t work the first time when Eric and Donna first broke up? They needed help. I come sauntering and tell them as much.
“Ugh, you guys need help. Do you honestly think Eric’s in any mood to go to Funland? You go there when you want to have fun. And you feel too guilty to have fun, right Eric?” I turn my attention from Hyde and Fez to Eric’s sunken figure in his bed.
Eric nods dully. “Yes. Exactly.”
I give a knowing look to Hyde and Fez before turning back to Eric. “Look, Eric, I know exactly how you feel. I miss Donna too, and like you feel guilty about her leaving, I feel guilty about Michael leaving. So, I too just want to drown my sorrows. And thanks to your mom, I know exactly what to do.”
This catches Eric’s interest. “Does it involve Funland?”
I roll my eyes. “No.”
“Then I’m in.”
“We’re going in my car,” I say as Eric, Hyde and Fez follow me out of the Forman home. “I’m not walking back here again.”
Eric sits in the passenger seat next to me and Fez and Hyde sit in the back.
“Now that I’m thinking clearly,” Eric starts. “I realize maybe I shouldn’t have agreed to your plans until I knew what they were. Especially if they have to do with my mom.”
I ignore his comment. “Eric, guess what your mom literally just finished teaching me how to do?”
“How to make a man miserable? Oh, wait you already knew how to do that, right? That’s why Kelso’s gone,” Eric says crabbily and turns to look out the window.
That one hurt. “Yeah, well you’re no better. Donna left because you’re a big sleazebag who was too proud to take back the girl who was too good for you.”
“Alright, let’s not kill each other,” Fez says from the back.
I sigh. “Okay, Eric. Your mom taught me how to make drinks.”
“So?” he doesn’t look at me.
“Sooo… my house is empty and has a basement full of liquor. I’m going to make us all drinks,” I say with a smile. “How does an Amaretto Stone Sour sound?”
All of a sudden all three guys were smiling.
Once I finish making us all drinks, the four of us sit together on the bar stools in my parent’s wine cellar.
Eric finishes his drink. “Jackie, why would my mom teach you this? She had to know that you’d just go home and make yourself a drink.”
I smile deviously. “Easy. I was sad, and no one can seem to stand it when I’m sad. It’s probably because I’m so beautiful,” I flip my hair over one shoulder. “And she thought I was too innocent to stoop to underage drinking.”
“Innocent,” Hyde scoffs. “You’ve done a lot more that underage drinking.”
I glare at him. “Some of that is your fault.”
Hyde leans back in his seat. “Alright, Forman. You ready for Funland now?”
Eric’s silent for a moment. Then he shrugs. “Why not? I haven’t been there since I was like, ten.”
Fez smiles, taking one last gulp of his drink. “This is better than candy.” We all look at him surprised. At first he looks confused, but then his face turns to despair when her registers what he’s just said. “Aye,” he grabs his bag of candy. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,” he says to the bag. Then he looks up. “Let’s go, there’s nothing to see here,” he says with a dignified air.
“Jackie, since all we have is your car, you’re going to have to pay for gas,” Hyde says. I must have given him a strange look, because he continues to explain himself. “Look, whatever gas you put in there, I’m guessing it’s not cheap, and we don’t have the money for it.”
But I wasn’t worried about gas. I was surprised that they were going to let me go with them. Especially Hyde. I figured they were just going to ditch me now that Michael and Donna weren’t here to vouch for me.
But then I realize, that all this time today, they hadn’t ditched me. We were working through all our problems together, like we always had, even though we were down to four instead of six. Maybe I was more than “Kelso’s girlfriend” or “Donna’s friend”. And for that I was eternally grateful.
“Yeah, I’ll pay for gas,” I nod and follow them up the stairs.
It wasn’t until we had all climbed back in my car and I had turned the ignition that I realized something. And I felt really stupid. “Wait. I actually have no idea how to get to Funland.”
“Didn’t you pay any attention when we went earlier in the year?” Hyde asks from the backseat. “Or were you too busy with Kelso?”
I flush angrily. “Yes, in fact, I was wasting my time with that jerk. You happy? Now, who’s going to drive?”
Eric shrugs. “Like I said, I haven’t been there since I was ten. So I don’t know how to get there either.”
“And I can’t drive,” Fez adds.
“You’re all a bunch of invalids,” Hyde mumbles, opening his door. “Move, Jackie,” he opens the driver door.
“Eric get in the back,” I shove him across the seat.
“What? I thought I got special privilege because I’m sad,” Eric whines.
“Yeah, well I need to make sure Hyde doesn’t hurt my baby,” I say impatiently.
“Your baby?” Hyde sneers.
“Yes,” I say forcefully. “My car is my baby and I’ll be damned if I let you even scratch it.”
Hyde raises his eyebrows. “Whatever you say,” he shrugs before pulling into reverse.
In spite, for the entire car ride I annoy Hyde with questions about how to get there, all for his comment about Michael. I also annoy him about my car.
“So you take exit 10?” I nod. “Wow, I don’t recognize any of this. It looks so different from the front seat. Hey, don’t get too close to that 18-wheeler. Did you know that if you are close enough to one that you can’t see its rearview mirrors, it can’t see you, and so we could get in a crash and my baby could get ruined?”
“We get into a crash and it’s your car you’re worried about? Not your life? My life? Their lives?” Hyde responds.
“I have put hours of hard work into this car,” I say matter of factly. “So yes, I’m worried about my car. Especially with you driving it.”
“Hey, I drive my Camino and I don’t scratch it. Fez is the one you shouldn’t trust behind the wheel.”
“I don’t trust anyone with my car.”
“Then why am I driving it?” Hyde asks incredulously. “And might I add, this isn’t the first time you put me behind the wheel of your Lincoln either. Actually, it’s the third.”
I was momentarily stunned. He was referring to the time we went to prom and that one disaster of a date. He never mentioned that and even now, with this subtle acknowledgment I was speechless. But I quickly recovered.
“Oh, I missed it. Was that a light we just went through? Okay. After exit 10, go straight through the first light. Perfect, next week I’ve got a date with myself to Funland,” I cross my arms.
“Hey Jackie,” Eric says from the back. “When you’re on the date with yourself next week, I encourage you to be completely yourself, but right now you’re with us, so let’s tone it down.”
I spin around in my seat. “Hey, I’m paying for gas, and I’m sure I could get more for my money with 90 less pounds sitting in the backseat.”
“Nice burn,” Hyde holds out his hand and I give him a high five.
I smile inwardly, momentarily forgetting about Donna and Michael. I still had friends after all.
The next issue doesn’t arise until after we reach Funland and are getting ready to board our first coaster. And the issue was: Who gets to sit with Hyde, and who gets stuck with me?
“But I’m Hyde’s best friend,” Eric whined to Fez.
Fez was quick to respond. “But Hyde is my best friend.”
“Hyde is my best friend too,” Eric continues.
“You know, I’m beginning to think nobody wants to sit with me,” I pout.
“Really, you just got that? Get with the program, lady,” Fez says.
“Who has to sit with Jackie?” Eric says fast. “Noses. Not it,” he brings his finger to his nose.
Fez stomps his foot. “No fair,” he whines. But then he opens his eyes wide. “Wait, not it, sorry Hyde, you’re stuck with Jackie.”
“What? Are we in third grade again?” Hyde says.
“We are. But you can prove that you’re not by sitting with Jackie and taking the fall for us.”
“Seriously? I pay for the gas and all our tickets, and this is how I get treated?” I cross my arms. “That’s real nice,” I say teasingly.
“Hey, that’s the reason we brought you along, money bags,” Hyde shrugs.
I give him a look of earnest surprise and hurt this time. “So, I’m the wallet,” I say, more as a fact than a question. I look down at my feet. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I had been right the first time. Donna was my only friend, and the guys were only pretending to like me for my money. God, I felt stupid.
“Oh, crap. Fine. I want to sit with Jackie,” Hyde mumbles, shooting daggers at Eric and Fez. “And you two babies sit together. Now Jackie, will you please stop making a scene?”
“Thank you, Hyde. And, no, I will not stop making a scene,” I turn away from them and move forward in line. All three of them follow.
For the rest of the rides we go on, nobody says a thing about who sits with who. All of a sudden Eric and Fez adhere together like glue, both having come to realize that if they stick together, they won’t get stuck with me. And Hyde climbs in the seat next to mine, ride after ride, wise enough not to make any more quips about our seating arrangements.
“So, Forman, are you glad we came to Funland?” Hyde asks Eric while the four of us sat on the Tire Toss, waiting for the carney to come release the lap belt. The Tire Toss was one of those spiny rides and was shaped in a tire with small cabins that could fit up to four people. Again, Hyde got stuck with me, and Eric and Fez sat across from us.
“Yeah, I guess man,” Eric kicks Hyde’s knee. “You know Hyde, you act all tough, but you really do care about me,” Eric mocks crying.
“Shut up man,” Hyde mutters. “And don’t kick me. My arm already hurts from Jackie’s shoulder ramming into it on this ride.”
Eric grins at me. “She learned from the best. Now you know what its like when you frogg us, buddy.”
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up Forman?” Hyde says again.
We all fall silent. A moment later we all hear someone’s stomach growl and we all look to Fez. “Aye, I haven’t had any candy in five hours.”
I smile. “Don’t worry about it Fez. We’ll go get dinner next.”
“Yeah, if the carney ever lets us out of this damn ride,” Hyde says loudly, trying to shake the metal lap bar.
Eric grins gleefully at him. “Poor Hyde. Feel like a caged animal buddy?”
“Forman I swear to God, I’m gonna kick your – ”.
“Okay kids, let’s use only fun language at Funland,” the carney says finally releasing our lap bar.
I roll my eyes, remembering how last time when we were here, that man in that filthy dog costume replaced everything with the word ‘fun’ as well.
As if reading my mind, Hyde frowns at the retreating carney as we exit the ride and says “I don’t know how much longer I can keep coming back here.”
“Aww, but its always fun o’clock in Funland!” I tease him.
“Watch it,” Hyde mutters.
“Ooh, I loved that song,” Fez grins from ear to ear. “Fun, fun, fun, fun…” he starts to sing.
“What the hell are you guys talking about?” Eric asks, completely lost.
Hyde gives Eric a rueful grin. “You don’t want to know, man. Now, let’s get out of here.”
We quickly exit the park, although we almost have a run-in with that filthy dog, and we have to quickly drag a once again completely confused Eric in the opposite direction.
Once on the road we stop at a diner not too far from the park to get some dinner and so Fez’s stomach would stop growling so much.
“Fez, have you eaten at all today?” I ask him as we walk into the diner.
“Well, let’s see, I had some m&m’s this morning, and some licorice before Hyde and I picked up Eric. Oh, and then I had a tootsie pop on the way to Funland.”
“Fez, you can’t just eat candy all day and wait for real food until dinner,” I tell him as the waiter seats us at our table. “It’s really unhealthy for your teeth and – wait. You had a tootsie pop in my car?”
“Oh, no, here comes the meltdown,” Hyde mumbles from my side.
I stare at Fez from across the table, “Aye,” he says nervously.
I turn to Hyde. “Give me my keys, I have to go make sure there’s nothing sticky in the backseat.”
“Really?” he asks incredulously, but hands me my keys anyways.
As I stand I see the waiter walking over with his notebook. “Just order me a burger,” I say to no one in particular.
It turned out that my backseat wasn’t sticky, however, I did find the tootsie pop paper wrapping wedged in between the seat cushions. Walking back into the diner, I drop it in front of Fez.
“Found this in the back seat,” I raise my eyebrows, sitting back down.
“Oh, great, for my collection,” Fez picks up the wrapping.
“Unbelievable,” I whisper to myself.
“Alright,” Hyde says, pointing to Fez and Eric. “The three of us split the bill. Jackie paid for everything else.”
“Oh, I was only kidding before,” I shrug. “This bill will be nothing. It’s only a diner, not a five star restaurant.”
“Still,” Hyde says. “Its not fair to you.”
“Yeah, Hyde’s right man. Look, Jackie, trust me. You are not easy to hang out with,” Eric says. “But that’s no reason to make you pay for everything. Even if you are made of money.”
I touch my hand over my heart. “Thanks you guys, this is so sweet.” Then I frown. “But I don’t know where you guys got this idea that I’m made of money. At least, I’m not anymore. Remember? My dad cut me off. You guys had a good laugh about that at my and Michael’s expense.”
Hyde frowns. “Then where did you get all the money to pay for today?”
“From work,” I shrug.
“Oh, crap. You paid for everything with your own money?” Hyde asks.
Eric leans forward. “We thought we were spending your sleazy dad’s money. Not yours. That’s why we’ve been such jerks.”
“Hey, watch what you say about my dad,” I say. But then I laugh. “And seriously. That’s your excuse for being jerks? I hate to break it to you guys, but you’re always like this. Even when Donna and Michael were here.”
“You’re no peach yourself,” Hyde says.
“Fine, fine,” I say. “But I can still afford this. I have a good salary.”
“Yeah, so do we,” Eric says. “And Fez’s host parents give him a pretty hefty allowance.”
“Alright,” I say as I see our food arriving. “Let’s talk money later. Let’s eat now.”
As we eat, I am for a moment, disconnected, and looking down on the four of us from the outside, savoring the memory at how things were at this moment.
Because sometimes, whether or not you want that one big change, its going to come, and sometimes it will leave you wishing it had never happened, or glad that it did because it brought you something better. But sometimes, like right now, it just brings you something different, nothing better or worse, just different. And all of a sudden you feel renewed.
Because never did I think I would be sitting in a diner eating dinner and laughing with Eric, Hyde, and Fez. But I was. It wasn’t something better, nor worse than I had before. Just different.
And for some reason, different was what I needed. I could feel the opportunity that this summer would bring in this one small moment.
I was living in the moment.
Although, for most people, living in the moment, might mean not thinking about it, just living in the present, for me it was something different. It was appreciating the moment, in the moment, because I knew it was something that made me happy, and I knew why. And I knew that this moment wouldn’t last forever, and that made me kind of sad. So I did my best to appreciate it all, because I knew I would look back on this memory a lot. But despite its happiness, there would always be that shred of sadness.