Delicate Hearts

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Chapter 10: New Traditions

According to Gabriella today was the start of a new tradition, a ritual that would be honored throughout the years. Jasmine honestly didn't know whether to be happy or saddened by the fact that she needed to start a new tradition in the first place. Her grandmother and she had had the perfect annual celebration. Guess it was time to leave the past behind and move forward, no matter how difficult it was.

"Jasmine? Lucy and her mother have arrived!" Gabriella called out from the hallway.

"I'm coming!" Jasmine shouted back as she dried her hands with the kitchen towel. She'd just finished preparing the pumpkin pie. Miraculously, she didn't have any trouble remembering the recipe. Everything had worked out fine without any fiascos happening. Not to brag or anything, but it was the best pumpkin pie she'd seen in a very long time.

As she entered the hall, Jasmine was immediately enveloped in a warm hug. "Thank you so much for inviting us!" Lucy exclaimed excitedly as she squeezed Jasmine to death. Someone seemed happy to see her, Jasmine thought with a smile, as she tried to unwrap herself from Lucy's tight embrace.

"The more the merrier," Gabriella proclaimed, with her ever so friendly smile, as she shook hands with Lucy's mom Helene. The woman couldn't be much taller than five foot two and had the same maroon colored hair as her daughter. They could easily claim to be sisters, the resemblance was that strong.

"Nice to meet you, ma'am," Jasmine said politely as she shook Helene's hand. It was the first time she had ever seen her. In the past, Jasmine always tried to steer clear of the people that would make leaving California that much harder on her. This meant she'd refused to go to Lucy's house and meet her family.

Eventually she just had to give in. Constantly turning down the chance to meet her mother was hurting Lucy. Everyone made mistakes, Jasmine's biggest one was believing she could stay unattached from her new home. Even when she had been stubbornly shutting people out, they'd still found a way into her life. It was inventible she made new friends and started caring about her new family.

"Please call me Helene, dear. Ma'am makes me feel so old," the woman answered with a smile, showing off the same dimples as Lucy.

"Please join us in the dining room," Gabriella proposed as she pointed in the right direction. Helene and Lucy smiled and followed the woman to the correct room.

Gabriella had been busy all day preparing everything for the festivities, acting like a true lunatic. Jasmine had never seen the woman so stressed out. She'd been minutes away from having a severe panic attack when Frank told her he couldn't find the decoration box in the attic.

To make matters worse, Gabriella couldn't cook even if her life depended on it. She'd burned most of the food. Fortunately, Jasmine had always been an excellent cook and had been able to save some of their dinner. She honestly didn't understand why Gabriella could chose today of all days to give Grace the day off.

"I'll get Nathan and Lucas," Jasmine interrupted, turning toward the staircase. Gabriella nodded, seemingly a bit unsure. She was still worried about her eldest son and his aggressive behavior. No matter how many times Jasmine told her she had no problem dealing with Lucas, the poor woman stayed concerned. It would take time before Gabriella started trusting her son around other people, especially Jasmine.

Once upstairs, Jasmine decided to look for Nathan first. He'd keep Lucy company while she tried to convince Lucas to join the family downstairs. She knew it wasn't going to be a picnic to coax him down. He had frequently insinuated he wasn't planning on spending time with his family members during Thanksgiving. Knowing Lucas, he would probably rather hang out with his biker friends.

After a solid knock on Nathan's door, Jasmine patiently waited for someone to let her enter. Not even ten seconds later the door burst open, revealing a messy looking Nate. "Thank god," he sighed in relief, appearing happy to see Jasmine as he pulled her inside. "I can't seem to tie this fucking thing!" he announced as he pointed at the blue tie that was loosely hanging around his neck.

Jasmine tried to retain the giggle that bubbled inside of her as she looked at his horror-stricken face. Clearly the guy was beyond frustrated with himself. His hair was an absolute mess from the many times he'd run his fingers through it and his shirt was incorrectly buttoned. Not to mention his room, which looked even worse. Clothes were everywhere, several ties on top of his bed and at least ten pair of shoes were gathered in a corner.

"Seems like someone is nervous to meet Ms. Helene Bluestone," Jasmine teased, not able to contain the bright smile that spread across her features. Nathan might have mentioned once or twice he was anxious to meet Lucy's mom, but she'd never suspected he'd be that scared. He honestly looked like a jack rabbit ready to bolt.

"It's not funny!" he exclaimed, his face beet red with both fury and embarrassment. It seemed like Jasmine hit a nerve.

"Stay calm, take a deep breath and relax. Getting worked up like that won't do any good," Jasmine advised as she took a step closer towards the nervously fidgeting guy and started to tie his tie correctly. "Wear the black Derby shoes, they look simple yet elegant. If you're going for the trustworthy-guy look, chose a uniformly colored shirt. The shirt you're currently wearing looks more like a Christmas present you've gotten from a grandmother," she went on.

Seriously, Nathan was in desperate need of some female advice. If he wanted to leave a good first impression on Lucy's mom, he'd need a decent outfit. "It actually was a present from my aunt," Nate deadpanned sarcastically, releasing a loud sigh of frustration.

"It's going to be okay. Don't sweat it. Helene seemed like a very nice woman. She's not going to strangle you when she finds out you're hanging out with her daughter," Jasmine assured, not quite sure whether her friends were dating or not. Lucy had never really talked about being in an actual relationship with Nate.

"It's not just Helene I'm worried about," Nathan sheepishly admitted as he ran his fingers through his hair for the umpteenth time.

"Oh," Jasmine mumbled, a bit taken aback before she started grinning. "That is so cute!" she exclaimed. Never in a million years had she expected popular jock, Nathan Wood, would be nervous to face a girl. It was clear he liked Lucy quite a bit, but she never suspected he was that taken with the redhead.

"Don't push it," Nate warned, giving Jasmine a pointed look as he carefully loosened the tie to change into a colored marine shirt.

Deciding to finally take the bull by the horns, Jasmine asked: "What are your intentions with Lucy? You do realize she's not just some 'wham bam thank you ma'am' kind of girl, right?" The question had been bothering her for a while. She didn't think Nathan was playing her friend, but she needed assurance. Lucy deserved the best she could get.

"Of course not," Nathan replied, looking kind of affronted Jasmine would think that lowly of him. "I…I like her. I'd do anything to make things work between us." His statement brought Jasmine some relief, but she still wasn't completely convinced. After all, Nate had had his fair share of beautiful ladies. As far as Jasmine knew, the guy had never been in a steady monogamous relationship.

"No more booty calls?" Jasmine questioned with a raised eyebrow, pushing Nathan's buttons.

"No more booty calls," he assured with confidence. Jasmine nodded, trusting his honest intentions. She was going to give him the benefit of the doubt. She had done her job of protecting her friend, it was up to Lucy now.

"Can I safely assume you're going to get downstairs if I leave you to get ready? I still need to convince Lucas to join us, but I wouldn't want you to get in trouble with that manhandling tie again," she joked, trying her best not to burst into laughter.

Nathan gave her a dead glare in return. "Get out," he hissed, not really mad. The poor guy was just immensely embarrassed about what happened earlier.

With a bright smile Jasmine left the room and headed to the hallway Lucas and she shared. Loud rock music was blasting through the entire wing as she walked closer to his room. Annoyance filled her gut. She could already tell it was going to cost blood, sweat and tears to make Lucas come out of his man cave. Rock music usually meant he was in a bad mood.

Not bothering to knock, she just swung the door open and stepped inside his room. Like he would hear her if she knocked anyway, the music was loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss. A sigh escaped her lips as her eyes caught sight of Lucas. He was lying on his bed, a bottle of vodka in his hand and a wide grin across his features. It seemed like he had also been smoking weed from the state he was in.

"For fuck's sake, Luke, you can't do this! Everyone's expecting you downstairs!" she shouted angrily, ripping the bottle of vodka out of his hand before turning off the music. It was going to be hell to make sure he didn't reek of drugs. Fortunately he'd been smart enough to drink vodka, one of the few alcoholic drinks that didn't smell too bad.

"Give that back!" Lucas exclaimed angrily, jumping up from the bed and blocking her path from running away with his vodka. He was clearly intoxicated, his pupils already starting to dilate.

"What's wrong? What made you lash out like this?" Jasmine asked softly, her voice a few octaves lower. Staying mad at him wouldn't help the situation. It was clear something had upset Lucas. All she had to do was find out what the problem was and fix it. Now if only it was as easy as it sounded.

Lucas stance suddenly froze and he stared at her in shock. "Tell me," she urged. She made the bold decision to reach out and touch him, caressing his cheek with her palm. He needed someone to care for him. There were already too many people constantly nagging him about his obvious issues. He was in need of help and support, not disapproval and harassment.

The flicker of hope and disbelief slipped from his eyes as they hardened. "Just having fun," he replied with a smirk, false bravado and arrogance taking over. He was using his defense mechanism, the only way he knew how to protect himself from getting hurt. It had taken Jasmine a while to figure out his royal asshole act was just that, an act. Lucas was pretty good at hiding his true feelings.

"Then don't tell me, just do me a favor will you? I want to spend this holiday with you, don't ruin it for me. I'm having a hard enough time as it is with dealing with the loss of my grandmother. I don't need another obstacle in my way," Jasmine told him, knowing fully well she was using emotional blackmail.

Understanding reflected in Lucas' eyes as he took her face into his big hands and compelled her to look up into his blue orbs. "You look sad," he told her as he caressed her cheek with his thumb.

"It's the first time I'll be spending Thanksgiving without my grandma. I miss her," Jasmine explained, baring her soul to the one person she'd least expected to notice her grief. The intense look Lucas was giving her was enough to make her walls crumble and the first tears leaked from her eyes.

Instead of telling her it was going to be okay and reassuring her with false hope, Lucas pulled her into his arms and held her close to his chest. He didn't need to tell her lies to calm her, the strength of his embrace was enough to make Jasmine feel safe and cherished.

After a few minutes he finally let go, her tears dried and the pain reduced. "I'll be downstairs in a few minutes," he assured, much to her surprise. She gazed into his eyes in shock, the unspoken question of 'why' visible in her eyes.

"Just go," he told her, his façade back in place. Hidden underneath a thick layer was his kind heart, the one he only showed Jasmine when she needed to see it the most. He cared, no matter what he might say or do. He simply didn't want other people knowing – for whatever unknown reason.

Surprising them both, she gave him a quick hug before stepping back. "You're a good person, Lucas Wood," she told him, the irony of the situation not lost on her. If she hadn't come to get him, he'd probably still be drinking himself into a stupor.

"You're delusional," Lucas retorted with a genuine smile. She smiled back - a huge weight lifted from her shoulder - and closed the door behind her. Everything was going to be just fine.

"Before we start eating, I'd like for everyone to state what they're thankful for," Gabriella said as she eyed Lucas with a warning glare. "It's not something lame, but a tradition," she added, elucidating the importance of the act in her opinion. Gabriella's glare at her son was not lost on Jasmine.

True to his promise, Lucas showed up a few minutes after Jasmine arrived back downstairs. He'd changed into a pair of dark jeans and a black shirt. It wasn't exactly the most appropriate attire for the festivities, but at least he'd tried to look decent. Jasmine would even dare to say he'd run a brush through his usual messy dark locks. The look was refreshing to say the least.

When he'd plopped down on the seat next to her, Jasmine had seen Gabriella and Frank's eyes widen. They obviously weren't too happy that Lucas chose to sit next to Jasmine out of all people. If the panicky look in Gabriella's eyes hadn't been a clear sign, Frank's deadly glare most certainly was.

"I'll start," Gabriella spoke before standing up. "I'm thankful to have so many great people surrounding me, to be healthy and have a family that cares for me. I'm thankful for all the good things that happened this year, including the arrival of my wonderful goddaughter," she smiled as her eyes locked with Jasmine's. "I'm thankful for the food we were able to serve tonight and the fortune we have as a family. I know we live a far more prosperous life than many others."

As Gabriella ended her speech and sat back down, Frank rose from his seat. "I'm thankful to have such a loving wife that will always support me. I truly treasure every moment we spend together," he started, taking Gabriella's hand in his and squeezing gently. "I'm thankful to have a healthy family and the brightest children I could imagine," he added, his eyes focused solely on Nathan and Jasmine. Much to Jasmine's distaste he completely ignored his eldest son.

Honestly, she couldn't believe a father could be that disrespectful. Of course she understood Frank's reason behind the callousness, but Jasmine couldn't say she approved of his behavior. "Last, but not least, I'm thankful to have such nice people joining us for dinner tonight," Frank ended with a wink and a smile directed at Helene and Lucy.

The next one to stand was Helene. "I'm thankful to be welcomed this warmly into the home of new friends, to have such a wonderful daughter and a job that pays the bills. I'm thankful to still be alive and am proud of who I have become. I'm thankful that after all the misery brought upon my path, I survived and became stronger," the woman spoke, her speech bringing tears to Jasmine's eyes. She knew what a difficult past Helene endured and could only imagine how happy and proud she must be.

Jasmine certainly wasn't the only one that had difficulties retaining her cool. Lucy's eyes were shining with unshed tears as she followed her mother's example and stood up. "I'm thankful to have the most strong and loving woman as a mother I could have ever imagined. I'm thankful to have a nice home and the possibility of going to college. I'm thankful to have met such an amazing friend who supports and cares for me," Lucy stated as she looked in Jasmine's direction.

More tears rolled down Jasmine's cheeks as she watched Lucy in awe. She couldn't have imagined having a better friend than her. Without anyone noticing, Lucas squeezed her thigh reassuringly underneath the table. Her posture immediately relaxed a bit as she let herself be comforted by Lucas' presence. His hand stayed firmly in place, even when she rested hers on top of his. Shockingly instead of pulling back, he intertwined their fingers without so much as a glance in her direction.

Nathan was the next person to say grace. "I'm thankful to be captain of the best football team in the state, to have the most supportive parents and a brother I love no matter what," he said, surprising everyone. Jasmine could hear Lucas' sharp intake of breath as he processed the words of his younger sibling. Jasmine squeezed his hand in comfort, knowing he was seconds away from jumping up and leaving the table. Lucas and strong emotions were a very bad combo.

To her relief, Lucas seemed to relax after a few dreadful seconds. Swallowing thickly, Lucas released her hand and stood up, looking straight into Nathan's eyes. "I'm thankful to have a brother that loves me even if I don't deserve his love. I'm thankful to have someone fighting to be my friend, even when everyone knows I don't deserve her kindness. I'm thankful…," Lucas paused, searching for the right words. "I'm thankful not everyone seems to think I'm a lost cause," he added with a wry smile before pushing his chair back and retreating from the room.

Jasmine watched him go with a sad feeling in the pit of her stomach. Everyone at the table seemed to be speechless after Lucas' declaration and after such a heartfelt confession no one made a move to go after him. Why was it so difficult for people to believe he did indeed have a good heart? If his speech hadn't shown how modest and kind he was, she didn't know what would.

Breaking the tension Jasmine stood up, effectively catching everyone's attention. "I'm thankful to have people I can rely on when I need them the most, to have a best friend for the first time in my life and to have met this troubled guy with a heart made of gold. I'm thankful that even when I wanted to give up most, I survived and kept fighting. I'm thankful to have known Theresa, the most wonderful grandmother someone could have and to have spent seventeen years in her company."

With a sigh, Jasmine fell back into her chair, feeling much lighter than before. In a way, stating what she was most grateful for had given her the strength she craved so desperately. She had always felt like she had nothing left to live for, but clearly she had been wrong. She lost something great, but it didn't necessarily have to mean the end of her world as well.

The realization hit home so hard, that for a moment she found it difficult to catch her next breath, the oxygen seemingly poured out of her lungs. For weeks, months even, she'd been so dead set on ignoring all the good stuff, she'd completely lost track of what was important. She'd wallowed in self-pity and hid herself under layers and layers of sadness and grief.

Her appetite suddenly gone, she excused herself from the table and ran outside. Her abrupt exit would without doubt lead to questions, but in that moment she couldn't care less. She needed fresh air, to fill her lungs with oxygen and have a moment to herself. So much time wasted in darkness, while she should have tried to hold on to the happy memories instead of the sad ones.

As she stepped into the garden, she noticed Lucas sitting next to the pool, a lit cigarette between his lips as he inhaled the smoke deeply. Without a word she sat down next to him and released a loud sigh. Seeming to notice her exasperation, Lucas handed her an unlit cigarette and his lighter.

No words were exchanged as they stared off into the distance, both lost in their own little world. Jasmine should have refused his offer and handed back the cancer stick, but today of all days called for an exception. She seemed to be making a lot of those lately. Sharing a cigarette seemed to be her thing with Lucas when she was having a shitty day.

"Life sucks," she mumbled as she inhaled the nicotine, feeling her lungs fill with smoke. If only her grandmother could be there today, to hold her and tell her everything would be fine. Theresa always said the right words to get Jasmine back on track. She was one hell of a pep-talker.

"Amen to that," Lucas agreed with a lopsided grin as he pulled her close to his side until their shoulders were resting against each other. In his own twisted way, Lucas was trying to comfort her and lessen her pain. He wasn't good with words, nor with affection, but he did try to show he cared. It meant more to Jasmine than any kind of speech would have in that moment.

Lucas was raw and real. He didn't fake or follow someone's lead. He followed his heart and didn't care what people thought. His courage and ability to shut the world out never ceased to amaze Jasmine. She envied him sometimes. His fearlessness and strength were a huge advantage in life.

"Nathan seemed shocked by your speech," Jasmine stated, knowing she was taking a leap of faith with the touchy subject. Lucas could lash out at any given moment. He wasn't exactly known to keep his temper at bay.

"I was shocked by his speech," Lucas replied after a moment of silence, his features straightened out. He showed no emotion whatsoever, his defense walls thick and solid. "He shouldn't still feel that way. I made sure he wouldn't feel that way," he added in a rush, his voice low and soft as he spoke.

"What do you mean?" Jasmine asked, confused. What was Lucas getting at? She didn't understand.

"I'm going to head back inside. It's getting cold out here," Lucas said as he stood up and stomped his foot on the still burning cigarette stub he just threw in the grass. He completely dismissed her question, clearly not feeling like answering.

Without another word Lucas headed back inside, leaving Jasmine on her own – still wondering what the heck just happened.

Hours later, Helene and Lucy decided to head back home. It was already way past midnight. They'd spent most of the night just talking and playing a few games of poker. Turns out Frank and Gabriella had the most intense poker faces Jasmine had ever seen. They totally outplayed her.

After they started off on the wrong foot, the evening turned into a bearable event. Jasmine tried to ignore all thoughts about her grandmother and focused on the people that surrounded her. It hadn't been a complete success, but she'd managed to enjoy her night and smile from time to time. Overall, it had been a good night.

"Good night, Jasmine, it was wonderful finally meeting you," Helene smiled warmly as she pulled her into a hug.

"Likewise," she said, returning Helene's hug and patting her on the back.

"You make a great friend to Lucy. I'm glad she finally met someone nice," the woman stated, close to tears. It was clear Lucy hadn't always had a group of friends. From what Jasmine had gathered, she'd been bullied severely all through elementary school because her mother didn't have a lot of money.

"I'm happy to be her friend," Jasmine replied with a smile. It was the truth. She had avoided becoming friends with people in California, but somehow Lucy had wormed herself into Jasmine's life and didn't let go. It was something Jasmine would forever be grateful for. She needed someone like Lucy in her life, someone kindhearted and honest.

"Now, tell me something. Just be honest with me. I'm a little nervous about my daughter going out with Nathan. Can I trust my daughter's heart around him?" Helene questioned, nervous and unsure.

Jasmine's eyes bulged out of their sockets at the woman's question as she stared at her in shock. "Believe me, a mother sees everything," Helene added with a wink when she noticed Jasmine's wide eyes.

"I think so. Nathan is a good guy. I'm just worried he'll end up hurting her unintentionally," Jasmine answered honestly. She knew he cared deeply about Lucy, but deep down, she wondered if he could keep his 'dick' in his pants. Most guys in high school had difficulties saying 'no' to pretty girls and Jasmine knew for a fact that Nathan got a lot of female attention.

"Thank you for being honest with me, Jasmine. At least I know you'll always be there for my little girl when she needs a shoulder to cry on. Lucy's a tough girl, but a little extra support can never be a bad thing," Helene smiled, patting Jasmine's shoulder.

"Ready to go, mom?" Lucy asked when she stepped into the hallway after saying goodbye to Gabriella and Frank.

"Of course, darling," Helena replied with a smile as she held her hand out for Lucy to take it.

"Thank you so much for inviting us over, Jas. We had a wonderful night," Lucy grinned happily.

"You're welcome to visit any time," Jasmine let them know as they made their way to the front porch. They both waved goodbye before stepping outside. Jasmine watched them go through the window in the hall, relieved the night had ended on a positive note.

Today had been difficult, but she survived. Like Helene had stated, she should be proud of who she had become even after the misery she had been put through. Not everyone was that lucky.

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