Chapter 13: Déjà vu
Days passed by as Jasmine desperately tried to forget about her ugly break down. Lucy never brought it up again. They both just moved on and acted like nothing ever happened. It was a relief, to say the least, that Lucy didn't push her and try to force more information out of Jasmine. Fortunately, the girl understood Jasmine wasn't ready to fully open up and reveal her darkest secrets.
Honestly, Jasmine couldn't have asked for a better friend. Lucy would always be there for her, yet she knew Jasmine's boundaries. The redhead had no problem reading Jasmine's unspoken pleas and granting her wishes. After what happened, the two girls seemed to have connected on a new, deeper level. They no longer needed words to understand each other.
As Jasmine parked her car in the school's parking lot, her eyes caught sight of something she wished she hadn't seen. Nathan was standing at the entrance of the school with a chatting Kelsey beside him. They seemed to be engaged in quite an intimate conversation, both leaning closer to the other as they spoke animatedly. Jasmine's stomach churned. Please, let this be a huge misunderstanding.
Nathan promised Lucy during their first date that he was no longer seeing Kelsey. She'd always stay a part of his past, but that's all she was to him. Lucy was his future. At least that's what he made Lucy believe. Jasmine tried to stay positive, but the longer she watched the two of them talk, the more worried she became.
Stepping out of the car, her unease had her pulling her coat a little tighter around her despite the humid air touching her bare skin. It was half way through December, yet the weather was still pretty good. The temperature had become a little cooler and there had been a few days of rain, but it was still far warmer than in other states. It probably never snowed in Los Angeles, at least not that she knew of.
As she pulled the strap of her handbag back over her shoulder, she noticed Kelsey had disappeared. Nathan was still talking to one of his friends when Jasmine arrived at the entrance of the building. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" she asked as she tapped Nathan on the shoulder to get his attention.
"Sure," he agreed, a little taken aback by her question. His friend nodded in understanding and turned around to walk to his first class. Jasmine waited until everyone was out of earshot before she confronted Nathan.
"What's going on? Why were you talking to Kelsey when I arrived at school?" she asked with a raised eyebrow, her voice a little snippy. She didn't want to come off as the bad guy, but she needed to protect her friend. Lucy deserved nothing but the best and if Nathan couldn't offer her that, then he would just have to bugger off.
"Jeez, Jas, calm down," Nathan told her, throwing his arms up in the air. "There's no need to start attacking me," he said in a defensive tone. Jasmine wanted to believe him, but the way his eyebrows twitched when she mentioned Kelsey's name didn't go unnoticed. He was hiding something. She was sure of it.
"Well then, why were you talking to Kelsey?" she asked, repeating her earlier question.
"You're treating me like I cheated on Luce. Calm the fuck down, will you?" Nathan hissed, his face turning beet red. Jasmine honestly had never seen him that angry. Hell, she had never even seen him annoyed at anyone other than his brother.
"I am calm. It's you who's blowing up," Jasmine retorted, shaking her head. What the hell? She truly didn't know what to think anymore. Why was he so angry? She hadn't done anything wrong but confront him.
"I didn't cheat," Nathan said. "I didn't," he repeated a second time.
"Okay. Okay. So you didn't cheat. What did you do then?" Jasmine questioned, getting a little frustrated. This conversation was going nowhere. All Jasmine wanted to know was why Nathan was talking to Kelsey. She just needed reassurance that he wasn't going behind Lucy's back.
"I didn't do anything, for fuck's sake. Kelsey just wanted to talk to me," Nathan gritted out through clenched teeth, his hands balled into fists. Jasmine honestly didn't understand his anger. At first she thought he felt affronted, but he was way overreacting.
"What did you talk about?" Jasmine asked. She'd wanted to keep her curiosity at bay, but it was impossible. She needed to know the entire truth before deciding whether she would tell Lucy what she saw or not.
"Just stuff. She wanted me back, I told her she never had me in the first place," Nathan answered, a bit too quickly. Jasmine nodded, though she didn't fully believe him. Nathan was acting too weird. "Don't tell, Luce, okay? I know she worries about girls like Kelsey. I keep telling her they have nothing on her, but she finds it hard to believe," he asked, now sounding a little desperate.
Against her better judgment, Jasmine agreed. She did know how Lucy felt about girls like Kelsey. The girl would immediately start worrying and her confidence would be gone with the wind. Lucy's self-esteem just wasn't what it should be. "I promise I won't tell her as long as you promise me you'll tell Kelsey to stay far, far away."
"I will," Nathan pledged, letting out a deep breath of relief.
"I've got my eyes on you, Nate. No matter what, I will always put Lucy first. If you break her heart, I will break you. Understand?" Jasmine exclaimed, her eyes dead serious. She waited for Nathan's nod of confirmation before she turned on the back of her heels and walked straight to her first class. She hadn't been kidding. If he ever hurt Lucy, he'd better watch his back.
With the major headache she could feel coming on, Jasmine decided to skip last period and go home early. She didn't feel like enduring another boring lecture about politics with their history teacher. As she dropped her keys on the cupboard, Jasmine was hit by a sense of déja-vu.
The unmistakable smell of weed hit her nostrils, making the tiny hairs on her arm stand upright. Her heart beat rapidly in her chest as she stepped into the living room, the sight almost making her convulse. Lucas was sitting in the middle of the couch, smoking pot, with two of his biker friends next to him. Bottles of alcohol, obviously having been recently consumed, littered the coffee table. It reminded her way too much of the last time she found them in the exact same position.
As her eyes caught Lucas' blue orbs, she noticed his face turn pale as the irony of the situation hit him. He smiled sheepishly, a little uncertain, before his trademark smirk returned. "Hello, princess, home so early," he grinned with a wink. The charade was purely intended for his friends and they both knew it.
"The firecracker," Hank smirked as he noticed her standing in the doorway. "Well, well, well." Jasmine hated the way the guy's eyes ran up and down her body, but she refused to cover herself up. They were the kind of people you needed to earn respect from before they would treat you right.
"I remember you," the other guy stated. She faintly remembered him as the guy who tried to impress his friends with the fact that he convinced two girls to join a biker trip. "You're the little bird that made me look like a complete idiot," he added, not looking too happy.
"No, she's the woman that put you in your place," Lucas interfered as he stood up and came to stand next to Jasmine. She immediately felt a bit more comfortable and relaxed. It was Lucas' way of ensuring her he would protect her if necessary.
Biker guy started grinning. "I see you're still treating him right," he told Jasmine. "Never thought I'd see the day little ol' Luke sticking up for a girl."
"Shut it, Greg, you've no idea what you're talking about," Lucas snapped as he put an arm around Jasmine's shoulders and ushered her in the direction of the kitchen.
He closed the door shut with a loud thud before exhaling deeply. "I'm sorry you had to witness that. I had no idea you were going to be home or I would've told them to come over another time," Lucas apologized, rubbing his forehead with his left palm. He seemed to be distressed.
"Nothing I haven't seen before," Jasmine retorted with a loud sigh, clearly disappointed. She had hoped Lucas would stop acting so recklessly, but guess she'd been wrong. It was delusional to think just because he was acting more civil towards her that he would suddenly turn over a new leaf and stop his bad habits.
"We're going for a ride," Lucas explained as he poured himself a glass of water, needing to sober up before jumping on his bike.
"Are you sure that's a good idea after drinking booze and smoking pot?" Jasmine questioned with a raised eyebrow. She didn't understand how Lucas could act so irresponsible and reckless. What if he caused an accident and unintentionally killed someone? He would never forgive himself.
"What's wrong, princess? Are you worried about me?" he smirked, taking a step closer towards Jasmine and playing with a loosened strand of her ebony locks. Her stomach tightened at the innocent touch. Unable to look him in the eye, she adverted her gaze and took a step back. Her back hit the kitchen cabinet, effectively blocking her path.
"I'm more worried about the innocent people on the road, unaware of the danger lurking around the corner. Do you have any idea what kind of damage you could cause?" Jasmine exclaimed, surprised by the anger laced in her voice. All she could see were the numerous pictures of her parents – the parents that died because a drunk truck driver hit them. She would never forgive the man that unintentionally ruined her life, even if she didn't know him.
Her hands were clenched together in tight fists as her heart pounded in her chest, ready to jump out. "Hey, hey," Lucas voice brought her back to reality. "What's wrong?" he asked, sounding worried. Jasmine hadn't realized she zoned out for a moment, lost in her thoughts.
As she took in her surroundings, she noticed Lucas was standing right in front of her, his strong hands cupping her cheek as he tried to make eye contact. "I want to be your friend, but I can't stand by and watch you ruin other people's lives. You've got a good heart, Lucas, deep down you should know you're being completely irresponsible," Jasmine uttered, her voice barely audible.
Mad and confused by the strong feelings Lucas aroused inside of her, Jasmine pushed him aside and took a few steps away from him. "Why are you overreacting?" Lucas asked, clearly irritated. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. So typical. She just lectured him about his behavior and all of a sudden she's overreacting. He didn't listen to a word she said. Ass.
"Just go away, Luke. It's obvious by now you don't give a damn about what I've got to say," she grunted. Lucas would never change. Jasmine was tired of constantly trying to save him from himself. She tried so damn hard to keep reminding him of the guy that was hidden deep inside of him, but Lucas just wouldn't have any of it. He kept fighting back.
"What the fuck, Jasmine?" Lucas growled, using her first name. "I apologize to you for making you feel uncomfortable by bringing my friends home, I explain to you where I'll be all night and you're mad?" he bellowed.
"Yes, I'm mad! I have the right to be mad! You don't get to play with other people's lives! What if you hit someone because you're drunk? What if you hurt someone because of your hatred towards everything that fucking breathes? What will happen then, Lucas? How will you feel when you're standing next to the grave of the person you killed?" Jasmine shouted at top of her lungs, no longer caring if his friends heard her or not. Her vision blurred, all she could see was red – angry, bloody red.
"That's why you're mad? Because I want to go for a ride when I've had a few glasses of booze?" Lucas questioned, shaking his head. He clearly didn't get the seriousness of the situation.
"Yes, dammit! How can you be so callous?" she exclaimed, her hands shaking violently.
Lucas shrugged as he turned around. "Fuck you," he told her before heading back to his friends, leaving Jasmine on her own. Angry tremors wacked down her body and tears filled her eyes, but she refused to let them roll down her cheeks. Lucas could go to hell for all she cared.
Dinner that evening was beyond awkward. Jasmine could practically feel Lucas' hateful stare as she silently finished her meal. Much to her surprise he'd stayed at home when his friends drove off to go on a trip before heading to a bar. She'd been certain he would follow through with his plan as a nonverbal 'fuck you' to her. Guess she'd misjudged him.
Instead of being stubborn, Lucas told his mother he would join them for dinner when Gabriella arrived home from work. The woman had looked completely stupefied. It was obvious she didn't expect her eldest son to behave civil towards her.
"Thank you for joining us tonight, son," Gabriella smiled at Lucas as she served dessert. Grace had outdone herself tonight, preparing a wonderful Chicken Parmesan and tiramisu for dessert. Too bad the elder woman had already headed home. Jasmine should thank her sometime for always preparing such delightful recipes. The woman was a god's gift to the Wood household.
"You don't have to thank him for doing his duty, Gabby. He should always join us for dinner instead of being a little prick," Frank interrupted, sending his wife a disapproving look.
"Frank, honey," Gabriella shushed, but her husband wouldn't have any of it.
"No, Gabby. Don't make excuses for him. Hasn't he done enough?" Frank fired back, shaking his head before standing up and clearing his plate. "I'm done."
"Honey, please," Gabriella pleaded. "He's trying his best to improve. You should give him a fair chance."
"He's already had more than enough chances and you know it. I'm done putting energy into that boy. You know I love you, Gabby, but I can't keep doing this," Frank sighed. Before anyone could say another word he left the room, took his car keys and shut the front door closed with a loud bang that echoed through the entire house. A few minutes later the roar of a car was heard.
Jasmine sat motionless at the table, wide-eyed and shocked. That was…impetuous. She had never expected Frank to blow up like that. She'd seen him mad at Lucas a few times, but she didn't expect he would get angry at his wife for thanking their son. The two men seemed to have some serious issues and a whole lot of unsolved differences. Only last week Frank had apologized to Lucas and now they were back to fighting. One step forward, two steps back.
The room was eerily silent, the drop of a pin could easily be heard. "Well, that went well," Lucas smirked, breaking the silence as he finished his plate.
Gabriella smiled sadly, looking remorseful. "You haven't exactly made it easy on him, Lucas." Jasmine could see the woman was trying to see the good in her son, but it was difficult for her. Lucas did have a lot to prove to his parents if he ever wanted to make up for the past. The problem was, Jasmine didn't think he actually wanted his parents' approval. He was okay with being the black sheep of the family.
"Don't," Lucas warned his mother as he took a sip from his glass. "You have no fucking clue," he told her, his voice edgy.
"Lucas, just talk to me," Gabriella begged her son. She seemed confused and scared to lose him altogether. "I know we've had our differences in the past, but…"
"Shut up, mom," Lucas interfered, standing up and throwing his napkin on the table. "I'm not doing this with you. Not now, not ever. You had your chance in the past and you blew it," he lashed out before disappearing into the living room. Once again Jasmine was left speechless. She had no idea what that had been about.
Sighing loudly, Gabriella forcefully pushed her chair back and stood up. Mindlessly she started to clean the table, not giving either Nathan or Jasmine another glance. "Mom," Nathan said, trying to get Gabriella's attention.
"I rather not talk about it," the poor woman answered, her eyes bright red and filled with unshed tears. Silently Jasmine watched as Nathan hugged his mother and tried to calm her down.
"Don't worry it'll be okay," Nathan assured as he rubbed her back soothingly.
"Why can't we solve this as a family? Why can't everything go back to the way it used to be? What am I doing wrong?" Gabriella sobbed. "Am I such a bad mom?" It pained Jasmine's heart to hear Gabriella talk about herself like that. The woman was incredibly patient and loving. Somewhere along the way she must have made a huge mistake to make Lucas dislike her so much.
"Of course you're not a bad mom," Nathan reassured. "One day Lucas will realize what he's missing out on and dad will loosen up. Just give them time."
"It's been three years, honey. Three years and I am still waiting for everything to turn back to normal," Gabriella sighed, devastated. Three years. Jasmine was taken aback that things had been bad for that long.
They hugged for another few minutes before finally separating. It wasn't until then Gabriella seemed to realize Jasmine was still in the room, silently waiting for hell to freeze over. "Oh sweetheart, I'm so sorry you had to witness that. I had been hoping tonight would be perfect – the five of us all together – but it seems like I was hoping for too much."
"Don't worry about it. It's not like I expected to have one big happy family dinner," Jasmine smiled sadly, making Gabriella flinch. "I truly hope everything will turn out just fine one day, but I'm not sure if it's ever going to happen," she admitted slowly.
"I hope so too, child. I was once convinced I had the perfect family. We never had any trouble with our kids, money came easily and we often spent time together. It was wonderful. I honestly couldn't believe my luck. Those days seem like ancient history now. I can barely remember how it feels to be thoroughly happy," Gabriella smiled sadly as she blinked away a few tears.
"I wish I could help, but I'm afraid there's not much I can do," Jasmine replied regrettably.
"Don't worry about it, sweetheart. This is something we have to solve as a family – broken as we are. I just wish I could crawl into Lucas' mind and see what he's thinking. I feel like I disappointed him in some way, but I don't understand what I did wrong. I know I've pushed him, but I push both my sons. I want them to fulfill their dreams and work hard to have a bright future."
"I can't give you any answers. Lucas rarely – if ever – talks about the past," Jasmine explained.
"Honestly it would have surprised me if he opened up to you. Certainly after everything that…happened. I still don't understand how the two of you turned out to be friends after what he did. It's a true mystery to me, Jazzy. You're far too forgiving." Gabriella's eyes were soft as she gazed at her slightly in awe.
"We're not friends…not really. It's complicated. We constantly bicker and fight. Sometimes I truly question why I still put time and energy in trying to make our relationship work. Lucas is a tough shell to crack. I don't know if he'll ever truly let me in." Jasmine shrugged nonchalantly.
"Whatever is happening, I think you've been a positive influence on my son. I don't know how it happened or when, but Lucas is changing. He's still an arrogant punk that doesn't respect his elders, but he's showing soft spots as well. He clearly cares about you. I don't think he's cared about anyone or anything in a very long time," Gabriella claimed as she finished cleaning the table.
Somewhere during their conversation Nathan had left the room, leaving Gabriella and Jasmine on their own. "Lucas is a good person, no matter how hard he tries to fight that statement. He has a dark side, but there's a light inside of him as well. He just prefers to keep it turned off," Jasmine told her godmother as she patted Gabriella on the back.
"You've been such a godsend to our family, Jazzy. Before you arrived I had given up hope that one day my son would change his path. I was convinced he was unsaveable. You've shown me to keep having faith even when the odds are against you. You're so incredibly smart for your age, sweetie. You'd think I was talking to a thirty year old. Who would have thought I'd learn life lessons by spending time with a seventeen years old girl?" Gabriella gave her a small grateful smile.
"It has nothing to do with being smart, but everything with being mature. I had to grow up much faster than any of my peers. Even when my grandmother was still alive, I had difficulties accepting the death of my parents. To me, it felt like I was being punished. Everyone in my class had parents to come home to, brothers and sisters. All I had left was my grandmother. I didn't even know you still visited us," Jasmine confessed, baring her soul. There was so much anger and pain inside of her. It was suffocating. Sometimes she just needed to let some of it go.
"Poor baby," Gabriella sighed as she hugged Jasmine to her side. "I'm so sorry. I had no idea. If I knew you would've liked to meet me, I'd have visited Theresa when you were home. I was just trying to protect you. I thought seeing me would only remind you of what you didn't have."
"It's okay. I'm over it," Jasmine lied through clenched teeth as she closed her eyes. It was so not okay. She was far from being okay. Time should have healed her wounds, but it didn't. The wounds turned into dirty scars spread across her body.
"Onto happier subjects," Gabriella said, changing the topic and plastering a fake smile across her features. "Next week we'll be celebrating Christmas. We've always visited Frank's family during the holidays and this year won't be any different. They invited the entire family, including Lucy and you. They're dying to meet Nathan's girlfriend and our newest family member."
Jasmine looked up at Gabriella in surprise. "Are you sure? I mean – I'm just your goddaughter."
"You're not just my goddaughter, sweetheart. To me you're like a daughter – a real one – which makes you part of the family. Frank's parents would be happy to finally get to know you. I know you don't see me like a mother, but that doesn't mean it changes my opinion about you. To me, you're my daughter, biologically or not. I should've adopted you as a baby. It's something I'll forever regret."
Tears pooled in Jasmine's eyes as she listened to Gabriella. As much as she loved her grandmother, she would've liked the idea of being raised by Frank and Gabriella. It would've meant she had a more normal family. She would have had parents and brothers. Then again, it would also mean Lucas would see her like a sister. Yuk.
"So, are you going to join us on the trip?" Gabriella asked, bringing Jasmine back from her thoughts.
"I will," she agreed with a small smile. It would be another holiday spend without her grandmother, but at least she'd accepted her new family. She wasn't alone on the face of the planet, she just had to keep reminding herself of that fact and everything would be okay.