Jupiter Harlow stands at the entrance of Gotham City Bank in the pouring rain, waiting and wishing for a miracle. She doubts it will come, but hopes anyway. The fact that she hasn’t remembered to walk with an umbrella compels her to think that today isn’t going to be a lucky one.
She takes a few deep breaths before gathering the courage to walk in and face her fate.
The bank is busy – as most banks tend to be – which means that the queues to the tellers are quite long, but she doesn’t mind, hoping that the time waiting can be spent calming her nerves and maybe attempting to make sense of the life that has turned upside down in a matter of a few weeks.
With her big move from Bishop, California to Gotham and her acceptance into med school, everything seemed to be looking up. But after only a few days she realized that it took more to live in the city than hopes and dreams, and that the tiny amount of cash she scraped up from saving for three years at her small, minimum wage job at a clothing store wasn’t enough to survive.
So it was either get a loan or get out, as she didn’t really know anyone here to help her. She didn’t want to move back home; that would be utter humiliation and disappointment among other things and she wasn’t quite prepared for that.
She was a rationalist as well as an optimist – a dangerous combination – but she’d been doing just fine all along. And she knew that things would work out, they just had to, and even if they didn’t work out the way she wanted, that was life and that was just how it went sometimes. Tough cookies.
The line continues to move and before she knows it, she’s the next person.
The teller, a young woman with auburn hair whose name tag reads Marie, smiles at her before giving her the standard Gotham Bank greeting. Jupiter gives Marie a smile of her own, belying her nerves.
“What do you mean I can’t get a loan?” Jupiter knows she’s being loud and is probably startling many of the other bank customers, but she couldn’t care less.
“You have very poor credit and you’re over eight thousand dollars in debt. I’m sorry Miss Harlow, but you aren’t eligible for a loan.” Craig, the man Marie referred her to, looks apologetic despite the firm tone he’s using.
Jupiter feels the blood leave her face. Eight thousand dollars? How on earth had she racked up so much in debt? It wasn’t feasible. She feels as if she is going to be violently sick.
“How do I have poor credit? It’s not like I’ve been spending frivolously!” But then she remembers Gotham U, School of Veterinary Science and the outrageous tuition that came along with attending.
Craig ratifies her fear by showing her the supporting, incriminating evidence: her account info. Soon he has to usher her back to her seat because she looks too pale. She complies, having not even realized that she had stood up in the first place.
“You don’t understand,” she hears herself say. “I need this loan, without it I can’t afford vet school, not to mention all of my bills. Please, there must be something you can do?”
Craig purses his lips and looks down at his hands. “I’m sorry ma’am, but there’s nothing that we can do here for you.”
She doesn’t waste any more time. She picks up her bag, thanks the man and rises from her seat to leave. It’s like walking into a fog – she can’t believe any of this, it’s like her world is crashing all around her. What is she going to do now?
On her way out she bumps into someone and despite not being in her right mind, she still has the sense of common decency to apologize. The man smirks at her.
“It’s fine,” he says and his green eyes flash with something she can’t quite understand.
It is hard to look away, but somehow she manages. She gives him a small, weak smile of her own, but it doesn’t touch her eyes. She leaves without another word.
Jupiter’s having a rough night. She hasn’t eaten since an hour before the bank fiasco and her body decides to punish her by giving her a massive headache. At midnight she gets out of bed to take some aspirin. She doesn’t make it two feet out of the bathroom before she collapses on the floor in tears.
All that keeps repeating in her head is the harrowing thoughts of not knowing what to do. She knows Gotham is crime-infested and that there are loan sharks out there, but she, like many normal people, doesn’t trust anything that is lethal and not legitimate.
She can’t help it; she cries for a little while. She hates crying and although she knows it’s a normal and sometimes abnormal reaction to certain life events, she can’t help but feel weak.
Her mother had always told her that strong women never cried, but then again, her mother’s answer for handling sadness was always to find happiness at the bottom of a whiskey bottle.
Feeling both angry and defeated, Jupiter rises from the floor. She catches a glimpse of herself in her bathroom mirror and gasps. Her slate-grey eyes are dulled from their usual brightness and her hair, which is usually a tangled, strawberry blonde mess, is now a tangled, poofy mess thanks to lying on the bathroom floor a little too long.
She looks like someone who’s been crying, or worse, someone who died and got electrocuted back to life.
Well, she wasn’t going to take this lying down. At least, Michael wouldn’t expect her to. If he were here with her, he would have made calls to everyone he knew to try and help her.
She frowns. If her best friend were here, he wouldn’t have approved of her moving from California. Heck, she wouldn’t have even needed to move in the first place. But with his death and her parents’ ever growing problems, it was just too much.
It took her a lot just to move to Gotham and she wasn’t going to just let something like financial troubles force her to move back.
Still, she hadn’t the first clue where to turn. Instead, she takes out her phone and lets the last voice message she received from Michael play in the background while she struggles to sleep.
The next day, Jupiter, with the renewed clarity one gets in the morning, decides that getting a job in Gotham would be a great start to getting out of her debt.
She calls a few numbers but it doesn’t go so well. She’s twenty-two and her only work experience is being a retail sales clerk for a relatively unknown store, so she gets rejected numerous times.
But she doesn’t let that discourage her. By the time afternoon turns to evening, she’s resolved to try again the next day.
A glance at the clock tells her that the hour of her therapy is approaching. Not wanting to be late, Jupiter gets ready and heads out the door.
It’s always different here, but not a good different; it’s more like an uneasy different. The constant changing of the mood always makes her uncomfortable.
Is this what support groups are supposed to feel like? She wonders, staring around at the people sitting in a circle.
The counselor, Mrs. Avery, is a plump woman with a kind face but tired eyes. She tries her best to make everyone feel at home but Jupiter can’t help feeling jarred by that. How comfortable can one be in a room of people talking about death?
Sometimes she can’t help but wonder why she comes to these things, though she knows the answer: in some way, it helped her feel better to talk about Michael to a group of strangers who could understand.
She doesn’t believe in healing to perfection, but of reaching a place where it wouldn’t hurt too much to think of him.
She doesn’t really cry anymore about it. She can talk about it as if she’s merely reciting a monologue from someone else’s life, of someone else’s story. Mrs. Avery, or Catherine as she wants to be called, always tells her that she should try to sort out the emotions instead of running from them. But the truth is, to her, it doesn’t even feel like running, just trying to avoid drowning by swimming against the current.
She hasn’t realized that she’s lost in her thoughts until Emily, the lady who always sits next to her, nudges her. “Jupiter? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. A little tired, but I’m fine.”
Emily frowns, but doesn’t say another word. Jupiter sort of wishes that Mrs. Avery would hurry up and start, but the older woman is speaking with another counselor and from the looks of it, it may be another minute or two.
Soon the latecomers will be arriving, she thinks. There’s Terry and there’s Jeff. Two brothers who live on the outskirts of Gotham. They lost their youngest brother in a fire. They are kind souls, but their story isn’t for the faint of heart.
As the commencement time is approaching there is a knock on the door before someone strolls in. Jupiter expects it to be Jeff and Terry but instead she’s surprised to see a stranger.
He’s wearing a suit and Jupiter surmises that he perhaps just came from work. He rakes a distracted hand through his closely cropped, shorn blond hair and looks around the room until he spots Mrs. Avery. He strides over to her and gives her a smile.
Jupiter can’t help but think that his smile is awfully familiar.
As is custom, Mrs. Avery has them all introduce themselves. Emily stands up when it’s her turn. She talks about her sister going missing five years ago and how she still has hope that she’s alive.
Everyone nods, including Jupiter.
Jupiter listens aptly to every story, even the ones she’s heard before. They sort of make her feel safe. These people are proof that she’s not alone and that she can have a successful life despite her pain.
Then it is the blond man with the striking green eyes’ turn. He stands up.
“My name is Adam, Adam Mitchell. And I lost my grandmother a year ago to breast cancer.” His voice cracks at that and he lets out a shaky breath.
“Welcome Adam,” the room echoes. Warm smiles flash at him.
Jupiter’s heart swells. A year ago? So soon? How awful that must have been!
Adam continues. “She was the only person who I trusted and I loved her the most. Some days it’s hard to believe she’s actually gone.”
“That’s understandable Adam. And we are all glad that you chose to come here,” Mrs. Avery says. She starts to give him the rap about how they are all there to heal. Jupiter can’t help but tune her out and instead focuses on Adam, who is perhaps the most interesting person in the room.
Once it’s time to take a break, Jupiter’s grateful. She rises from her seat and goes over to the water dispenser.
Emily is over at the snack table chatting with Adam, who seems to have loosened up and is laughing at something she said.
Jupiter gulps the water while she studies the painting behind the dispenser. She doesn’t know much about art, but she finds this painting quite bizarre with its depressing colors and smudged images.
“Do you like Pieter Bruegel the Elder?” a voice asks from behind her.
Startled, she turns around to find that it’s only Adam, apparently done talking with Emily. “I-I’m not really familiar with his work, so I can’t fully judge his art.”
Adam seems dissatisfied with that answer. “Is this the only painting you’ve seen of his?”
“He really is a genius you know? They have his art in the Gotham Museum of Art History. I’m sure you’ve seen some of his work there.”
“Actually I’m new to the city.”
He nods, considering. “Well, you should check it out. One day.” Then, “I’m sorry but I never caught your name.”
“I didn’t give it. I mean, I never introduced myself.”
“It wasn’t my turn.”
Adam laughs at that and it throws Jupiter off guard. His laugh is carefree, effortless. She can’t help but smile in response.
“My name’s Jupiter.” She extends a hand to him.
Adam takes it. “Beautiful name. Did you ever think of the nickname Jubee?”