The Renewal

Broken Connection

“Daddy?” I say unexpectedly, by the time I walk into my house at almost eleven o’clock that same night. I had not expected my parents to be home. “You’re…Welcome home!” I try to play it coy, and keep my distance. Smelling of beer and weed probably wouldn’t help my case.

“Jackie Beulah Burkhart,” my father responded, using my full name. Not a good sign. “It’s eleven o’clock.”

“Well, in my defense, you’re not supposed to be here,” I say. I knew there was no way I’d get myself out of this one. I was way past curfew. No avoiding the truth.

“Where were you?” he asks.

“At Leslie Cannon’s house,” the lie comes quick to my mouth. It was easy. Leslie was another rich cheerleader, and because of that, she was someone my parents would approve of my hanging out with.

“Leslie. She’s a nice girl,” my father nods, which was kind of ironic. Would he still think she was a ‘nice girl’ if he knew that she had almost destroyed Mr. Forman’s Corvette just a few weeks ago? I doubted it. “Well, that’s good enough for me. Go to bed Jackie.”

Eager to escape, but curious about something else, I stay rooted in place. “Where’s mom?” I tilt my head to one side.

There was a long, pregnant pause before my father answered. “She had to stay back. She should be home in a few days.”

“Where did you guys go, anyways?” I ask, curious.

“A political convention, of sorts,” my father takes a step forward and rested his hand on my shoulder. I prayed he couldn’t smell the beer and weed. “Now, enough questions. Go to bed Jackie.”

This time, eager to escape his proximity, I scurry toward the stairs and rush to my room.

However, that was not the end of my father’s scrutiny. The next morning, after I had gotten dressed and made my way downstairs, I found my father sitting at our kitchen table. I don’t think I had ever seen this table used before, except by myself.

“Shouldn’t you be at work already?” I ask my father cautiously.

“No,” is all he says, so I don’t ask anything more.

I was used to eating breakfast by myself, and I wasn’t exactly comfortable eating breakfast with my father today. He didn’t seem to be in a very loving mood, to put things lightly.

I grab my car keys off the counter, from where I left them last night, more than ready to get out of there.

“Where are you going?” my father asks. “You need to eat breakfast.”

“I’m not hungry,” I turn towards the door.

“Where are you going?” he asks again.

What was with this? My parents ignore me for sixteen years and now all of a sudden my father has to know everything I do?

I decide to test him. “I’m going to see my friend. Donna Pinciotti.”

He pursed his lips. My parents never did like Donna. “Well, be home before ten.”

Now it was my turn to purse my lips. So…he didn’t know Donna was in California. Or Michael. That reminded me.

“Dad, I broke up with Michael.”

My father’s eyes softened. “That’s great news, honey. Here,” my father pulls out his wallet. “Buy yourself something nice,” he hands me some cash.

“Thanks Daddy,” I try to conceal my grin, but as soon as I head out the door, I can’t help but feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. Michael was a burden himself, but he also cut me off from my money, and had held me back from my parent’s approval.

So, I may have lied about going to Donna’s house, but I did go to the one next door so that I could hang out with Kitty again. I’d had a lot of fun yesterday, and I suspected she liked getting to teach me the things that Laurie had always refused to learn.

As I walk through the sliding glass door however, I see that the Formans and Hyde were all sitting at the table eating breakfast.

“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry,” I say, immediately backing out the door. “I’ll come back later.”

“Right you will,” Red points at me grumpily.

“Oh, nonsense Red,” Kitty rises from her seat and smiles at me. “We have enough food to feed another mouth.” Then Kitty looks at me. “It’s early, I doubt you’ve had a real breakfast yet.”

“I’m not hungry,” I say still backing out.

“Sure you are,” Kitty says. “You can sit in Eric’s seat.”

I frown, noticing that Eric wasn’t there. “Where’s Eric?”

“In bed,” Kitty shakes her head sadly. “I thought you guys made him feel better yesterday, but apparently that was only temporary.”

Kitty grabs my arms and drags me to Eric’s seat. “Pancakes,” she says, putting a plate in front of me.

“Are you sure he’s just not like, really tired?” I ask.

“Forman is a weakling,” Hyde speaks up. “Without Donna, he’s a hopeless cause.”

“Well…well…I’m just going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” Kitty looks sad. “I’m going to go talk to him,” Kitty stands up a moment later and exits the kitchen. Hyde shakes his head.

“Dumbass,” Red says, to no one in particular.

That gives me an idea. “Mr. Forman?”

“Hmm,” he grumbles.

“What do you know about political conventions?” I ask him.

Mr. Forman clears his throat. “Political conventions?” This catches his attention. “You’re going to have to be a little more specific than that. What kind of political conventions?”

“Well, I don’t know,” I shrug. “I don’t do politics. I guess, the kind that my dad might be involved in.”

“Your father’s the City Councilman, right?” Red asks me.

I shrug, and he gives me a look. “I told you, I don’t do politics. I do shopping, money and make-up. In that order.”

“Then why are you interested in politics?” Hyde sneers.

“Mr. Forman?” I ignore Hyde.

“Well, all I can think about is maybe a caucus. You know, for electing representatives. But I don’t know. All I know, is that I need to get to work.”

I look down at my pancakes. So much for getting answers about my father. Or my mother. Or anything.

Red gets up and puts his dishes in the sink, muttering to himself about dumbasses, twisted politics and ungrateful sons. I continue to stare at my uneaten pancakes. Now I really wasn’t hungry, but I didn’t want to offend Kitty so I pick up my fork and begin to eat anyways.

Just then, Fez walks through the sliding door into the Forman kitchen. “Good morning Mr. Red,” he waves to Red. “What a beautiful day,” he sits at the table and looks to Hyde. “So, what do we have planned for today?”

“Nothing man,” Hyde shrugs. “Forman’s back in bed being all depressed and I’m done feeling sorry. He needs to get off his ass.”

I sigh audibly. It was just one problem after another. First, I have a fight with Michael. Then Donna leaves. Then Michael leaves too. Then I have no friends. Then my dad gives me the third degree. Then Eric is a mess. Then I have no friends. Again.

I finish what’s left of my pancakes, suddenly remembering the money my dad gave me.

“Do you guys want to go shopping?” I ask excitedly. “My dad gave me lots of cash for breaking up with Michael.”

“Jackie, you didn’t break up with him. Kelso left you. Probably for some random beach trash,” Hyde says.

“Wow, thanks for that unwelcome reminder, Hyde,” I tell him. “But I still have money,” I pull the wad of cash out of my pocket. “So, you guys in?” I ask.

“Well, I do need some more candy…” Fez says reluctantly.

“See,” I say encouragingly. “Money solves everything. Hyde, what do you need?”

“Nothing, man. I’m not going,” Hyde mumbles.

“Come on, Hyde. It’s either our friend Eric who is depressed, or the annoying Jackie with money. How often is she willing to spend money on anyone but herself?” Fez argues.

“I’d rather stay with Forman,” Hyde gets up and goes to bring his dish to the sink.

“The more the merrier.” I add. “Pwease,” I pout.

“Fine,” Hyde grumbles. “Now will you two just stop?”

I look at Fez across the table and hold out my hand for a high-five. “We got him,” I tell him.

“I can’t believe you made me buy you more t-shirts with my money,” I whine to Hyde as we enter the Forman basement a few hours later.

“Hey, you bought Fez candy,” Hyde says heading for his chair.

“Yeah, but Fez already has nice clothes. You don’t,” I tell him.

Hyde doesn’t dignify that with a response.

I sit down in the lawn chair and turn my attention to Fez on the couch. “Fez, what kind of candy did you pick out?”

“Mostly licorice. Some Laffy Taffy. A handful of pop rocks,” Fez says dreamily.

“Ooh, want to see what I bought?” I walk by him to sit on the other side of the couch. I reach down and lift my bag from the floor. “So I got this new sweater. Its green, see. So it’ll bring out the color of my eyes,” I nod eagerly.

“Yes, I see,” Fez nods his head. “Very flattering. You know what would go great with that? A scarf.”

“Oh my God, you’re right. Wow, Fez,” I grin. “I didn’t know you had such fashion sense.”

“I know,” Fez blushes. “I have a keen sense of feminine style.”

“Fez man, you’re half a female as it is,” Hyde says to him.

“Yeah, well, you are too, Heidi,” Fez makes a face.

“Heidi?” I ask.

“Yes, Eric, Hyde and Kelso all have female alternative names. Erica, Heidi and Michelle,” Fez laughs. Then on a more serious note, “But there’s none for me,” he says proudly.

Hyde leans forward in his chair. “That’s because no one can pronounce your name.”

“Well,” I think. “’Steven’ doesn’t have a female alternative. Only your last name does,” I tell Hyde. “But I like Heidi. I think I’ll start calling you that.”

“Do that and you’ll become Jack,” Hyde threatens. Then after a moment, he smiles. “Or Beulah.”

“Take that back, Heidi.”

“No way, Beulah.”

I lean back into the couch. “Fine, Steven.”

“Okay, Jackie,” Hyde faces the TV once again.

“You guys are so weird,” Fez says.

For the next few hours, we hang out in Eric’s basement like we always have, only our group has been cut in half. Hyde puts on some of his loud, obnoxious music. I read one of my magazines I left on the coffee table. Fez eats a Popsicle.

I begin to think that maybe everything will be able to continue. Steven and Fez could actually be decent company when everyone else was gone. Especially –

“Steven? Jackie? Fez? Are you all down here?” Kitty interrupts my thoughts. I was kind of glad. The idea that had popped into my head made me shiver internally. No.

Kitty shows up from the top of the stairs leading up to the kitchen. “Fez, your host parent’s called. They want you to go home. Steven, dinner’s almost ready.”

“Mrs. Forman. Did my dad call?” I ask her.

Kitty gives me a sad smile. “No, sweetie. He didn’t. But you’re welcome to stay for dinner.”

“Okay,” I say, trying to conceal my disappointment. Sure, my dad said to be home before dark. And yes, it wasn’t dark yet. But I thought maybe he might be concerned, even a little bit, from not hearing from me all day.

“I miss Kelso,” Fez says all of a sudden.

Steven rubs his eyes with his hands underneath his sunglasses. “Yeah, I’m beginning to miss Forman.”

I chime in. “I miss Donna.” We let a moment pause. “This is going to be a long summer.”

A moment passes again before Fez gets up. “Thanks for the candy, Jackie.”

“Yeah,” I say weakly.

Fez leaves and I lift my legs on to the couch where he was sitting. Then I twist my body to the side and lean down, resting my head on the armrest. I reach for one of my magazines, but I can’t reach any of them. Within my reach however, is one of Donna’s music magazines. Better than nothing. I reach for it and pick it up. Alice Cooper, with a snake wrapped up one of his arms takes up most of the cover. I look at the date of the publishing of the magazine, trying to remember if ABBA was in this issue. But the first thing my eyes come across is a telephone number. 555-9648.

I sit up straight on the couch holding the magazine in my hands staring at the number. ABBA was in this issue. I remember. Donna and Steven had complained about it only months earlier. Then Donna had received a phone call, and had traced the number across the cover of the magazine.

“It was my mom,” she had told me after she had hung up. It had been a few days since Midge had left Bob. “She told me I could call her any time and she gave me her number.” But then Eric showed up in the basement and that ended the conversation.

Now I reach over the armrest I had just been leaning against and pick up the Forman’s telephone and begin to dial the number.

“Hello?” A voice says. It sounds like Midge.

“Hi…” I stop myself from saying Mrs. Pinciotti. “It’s Jackie. Is Donna there?”

Steven looks up at me, a surprised look on his face.

“Jackie? Oh, yeah, I remember you. You’re the short, loud one, right?” Midge asks.

“Yes, I’m the short, loud one,” I grumble. I hear Steven laugh at me. I toss the magazine at him.

“I’ll see if I can find Donna. What about Michael?” Midge asks.

“No. No. I do NOT want to talk to Michael,” I say quickly.

“Jackie?” Donna’s voice comes all of a sudden.

“Donna?” I look at Steven. He raises his eyebrows.

“Oh my God, Jackie. Hi. What are you doing?” Donna says.

“I’m talking to you,” I say.

“Well, yeah, I know. But what were you doing, I guess is the better question?” Donna laughs.

“I was just hanging out in Eric’s basement. What else am I supposed to do?” I laugh too.

“Is Eric there?” Donna says, all traces of laughter gone from her voice.

“Um, no. Only Steven. Look Donna…” I turn away from Steven and face the record player. “Why would you leave?”

“Jackie, I had to. I couldn’t stay there. I needed to get out of Point Place for a while,” I hear the strain in Donna’s voice.

“You’re going to come back though, right?” I ask desperately.

“I, I don’t know,” Donna says after a long pause.

“Oh,” I say, trying to keep my voice from trembling. Besides all the talk I’d given myself over the past two days about how I was going to use this summer for myself, part of the only reason I was able to convince myself of that was because I knew – I thought – it was only temporary.

I hear voices behind me, but I don’t turn around. I don’t catch what they’re saying either, because Donna speaks up again. “Hey, but I’m sure Kelso will come back. His parents won’t let him stay here forever.”

“Uh, I don’t care if that jerk spends the rest of his life in Fez’s native land being chased by monkeys and eating bamboo. I’m through with Michael. I miss you, Donna. And Eric does too,” I plead.

“Yeah, well, I doubt Eric misses me. But Jackie, this is about me. I need this. I need my mom,” Donna explains.

“Well, I need my mom too, and she’s never around either. I had my best friend instead, but now she’s gone too,” I snap back. I hadn’t realized how true the words were until I said them.

“I’m sorry Jackie,” Donna says and then the line goes dead.

I sit there for a moment, the shock of Donna hanging up on me sending a wave of unwelcome surprise through my entire body. I had understood why she left before, to get away from Eric. And I understood her wanting her mom. But whereas before I was upset that she had left me, now I was upset that she didn’t want me.

Maybe it was irrational, but that was how it felt.

I drop the phone from my hand and lean my head in my hands, fighting back tears. I stay like that and I don’t move. I don’t ever want to move again. This feeling of loneliness wasn’t passing, and I didn’t want it too. Because it would always be there and damn it, I wanted a friend. I wanted someone to be there for me. Even my dad’s money wasn’t fixing this. Money couldn’t buy friends, I knew that much.

I feel the phone slip from my lap. Then, “Come on, Jackie.” Steven’s voice. I forgot that I wasn’t alone.

I look up and see that Steven had hung the phone up again. “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot you were here.”

“Well, I do live here. And I sleep right down here,” Steven says condescendingly. I don’t respond. “Sorry. Mrs. Forman told me that dinner was ready. She told me to wait for you to get off the phone.”

“I was talking to Donna,” I tell him. I don’t know why I tell him. He heard me.

Steven looks at me with an expression I can’t read. It’s not sympathy, exactly, but there’s none of the annoyance I’m usually awarded with from him.

“I know,” is all he says.

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