Chapter 8: Broken Inside
There are times in life when you seem to be unable to fall asleep. You toss and turn until the first glimpses of sunlight start to peer through the closed curtains. Your eyelids feel heavy with sleep and your body is beyond exhausted, yet the wheels inside your head keep turning.
Today was one of those days. Jasmine couldn't seem to close her eyes and fall into a peaceful slumber. After her little chat with Lucas in the hallway, her mind had been constantly preoccupied. He hadn't said another word before he disappeared into his room. Even during dinner, he hadn't shown his face downstairs in the kitchen. He'd stayed locked away in his little safe cocoon.
At night she'd expected him to leave and search for a woman to share his bed, but even that didn't happen. The room directly opposite of hers stayed silent, not even the sound of rock music echoed through the hallway. It was eerily quiet for the first time since she moved into the Wood mansion. In normal circumstances the quietness would have delighted her, but today it only reminded her of the broken look across Lucas' face when he locked himself away in his room.
She couldn't seem to get Lucas' face of pure understanding out of her head. He had looked sad before, but she had never seen him that lifeless. He had lowered his walls for a single second and let her enter through the gates to his soul. She'd caught a glimpse of the real Lucas lingering inside, but it wasn't nearly long enough to understand him.
He seemed to be broken. A piece of him was missing. It was a feeling she knew well. The hollowness in the middle of her chest was a daily reminder of what she had lost. Telling Lucy the necklace belonged to her grandmother had relieved a small part of that empty feeling, but the dark endless pit was still filled with pain.
She understood the feeling of utter devastation because she was dealing with the loss of a beloved person. In time the hollowness would slowly disappear and be filled with new memories of different people. There would always be a small part in her heart dedicated to her grandmother, but in time it would be filled with happy memories instead of sad ones.
Sighing in utter annoyance and frustration because she couldn't seem to fall asleep, Jasmine slid from underneath the covers and put on her slippers. Staying restlessly in bed would only lead to the wheels spinning in her head even faster, trying to figure out what was wrong with the guy across the hall.
She brushed her fingers through the tangles in her ebony locks as she descended the stairs and made her way towards the porch by the back garden. The soft sound of water swirling in the pool echoed through the air. It was a soothing noise that relaxed her to no end. She sat down at the edge of the pool, soft wind touching her cooled skin as she closed her eyes.
It had been a long and exhausting day. After her talk with Lucas, she'd gone back downstairs to her friends. Nathan had been running after Lucy, their loud squeals resounding through the garden as they played like preschool kids, not even noticing she had been gone. It had taken about ten seconds before Nathan finally caught Lucy in his arms and threw her over his shoulder. She'd screamed so loud the entire neighborhood probably heard her before Nathan dumped her in the cool water of the pool.
They both behaved like love sick teenagers in Jasmine's opinion. To her greatest surprise they'd hit it off immediately and hung out together the entire afternoon. She'd suspected that it would take a few weeks before Nathan started to show interest in Lucy, but apparently the spark had caught on sooner than expected.
The sound of footsteps rebounded behind her, catching her attention. As she turned her head to the side, she was surprised to see Lucas outside, a lit cigarette between his lips. He took a long drag, inhaling the nicotine, before slowly exhaling the smoke. He seemed uncertain if he should bolt back inside or sit next to her. Jasmine patted the spot beside her, wordlessly coaxing him to sit down.
"May I?" she requested softly, pointing at the cigarette as she cocked her head to the side. Lucas didn't comment, but handed her the cancer stick while watching the pool. She accepted the cigarette and put it between her lips before inhaling softly. The smoke made it difficult to retain a cough, but she was able to handle the reflex. It had been a while since the last time she'd taken a smoke.
"It's a bad habit," Lucas told her, lying backward and resting on his elbows. She nodded in agreement, but took another drag anyway. This time she had no problem inhaling the smoke, filling her lungs with nicotine and tar. She knew how addicting they could be, but Jasmine usually never smoked. The few times she experimented with it were times of desperation.
Lucas took another cigarette out of his packet when he realized Jasmine wasn't going to return his and lit it. They sat beside the pool in silence, smoking their tobacco until only a stub was left. Stars were shining brightly above them, the clouds vanished from the sky. It was a beautiful night.
"You didn't strike me as a smoker," Lucas suddenly stated, breaking the eerie silence. "Kind of messes with your good girl image," he added with a smirk. She laughed humorlessly and shook her head.
"I'm anything but a good girl, Luke. I've been through some bad shit. Don't think for even a second you actually know me," she retorted evenly, using the nickname his friends called him. She might try to keep her grades up and behave properly, but Jasmine was no goody-two-shoes. It hadn't happened often, but there had a been a few occasions of heavy drinking and experimented with smoking in the past. There had been a few frat parties where she kissed more guys than she could count in one night. Fortunately she hadn't actually been stupid enough to give up her virtue to one of those jerks.
After she'd gotten the news that her grandmother went through a severe heart attack, she'd gone ballistic. That night she had gotten drunk as a skunk and ended up in an ambulance a few hours later due to alcohol poisoning. No, Jasmine wasn't a saint, but she was trying damn hard to be good these days.
"I've got to admit, you keep surprising me," Lucas smirked, taking another cigarette out of his pocket. He held one out for her, but she shook her head. One had been more than enough, she wasn't planning on starting a habit. He shrugged as he pulled a lighter out of his jeans and flicked it on, the small flame touching the tip of the cigarette.
"The same goes for you," she confessed as she stared up at the sky. It was a full moon tonight, its light shining much brighter than usual. Only the howl of wolves was missing or it would have been a movie worthy moment.
"You do realize that the fact you still haven't run away from me makes you kind of a freak, right?" Lucas stated all of a sudden, sounding slightly bewildered. "Most people would've given up trying to get to know me. Scratch that, everyone would have given up," he said, shaking his head in confusion.
"I'm stubborn like that," Jasmine joked, avoiding his gaze as he tried to search her eyes. She refused to meet his stare, knowing she'd show too many conflicted emotions. Lucas got to her on a level no person had before. He seemed to understand her in ways not many people could.
"Call it whatever you want, but I don't understand. You don't deserve the way I treat you. I'm sure there are a ton of guys out there that wouldn't be such a dick to you. Why the fuck do you insist on trying to be my friend?" he questioned, speaking straight from the heart. It didn't happen very often that Lucas was this honest. She'd caught him in a very truthful moment.
"I never said I was trying to be your friend. I just don't ignore you like most people do. Besides what you think, I'm sure there's still a decent guy inside of you somewhere. You're just doing a mighty fine job hiding him. Not many people see your redeeming qualities," she explained, lazily sitting up as she stared down at a prone Lucas. His posture tensed at her words, but he didn't end their eye contact.
"I hate to break it to you, princess, but what you see is exactly what you get. No hidden good heart. I don't have any redeeming qualities," Lucas fired back, seemingly amused she seemed to think he had a soft side. She shook her head and rolled her eyes. He could deny it all he wanted, the old Lucas that the rest of the family described, was still in there somewhere. He just didn't want other people to know it.
"I'm not in the mood to argue. We will just have to agree to disagree," she stated as she slowly stood up. It was clear as the day that she wouldn't be able to change Lucas' mind. Maybe in the future he'd be ready to admit part of him was still the same, but it wouldn't be today. They were equally as stubborn, she knew from experience it would take a while before he was ready to admit defeat.
"I'm going back to bed. I have an important Chemistry test coming up tomorrow," Jasmine said as she brushed the dirt from her sweatpants. A test she hadn't even taken the time to study for. Damn. She could already imagine the next big, red F on top of her exam.
"Goodnight," Lucas nodded as he extinguished his burned up cigarette and tossed it on the grass. She gave him a small smile before disappearing into the house. The two of them actually had a civil conversation. She'd grown so accustomed to his snarky comments that his calm behavior had surprised her.
As she slipped out of her slippers, she peeked through the curtain before going to bed. Lucas was still sitting next to the pool, mindlessly staring ahead of him, his posture relaxed. It was quite a sight. Ignoring the lustful thoughts that entered her mind after shamelessly ogling the man that almost strangled her, she slid underneath the covers and pressed her eyelids tightly closed. Miraculously, sleep almost immediately overtook her and she fell into a dreamless slumber.
"We're picking up Lucy first before heading to school," Nathan announced as Jasmine stepped into the kitchen the following morning. Her eyes widened in surprise as her lips formed a silent 'oh'. "Her car broke down and she needs a ride," he informed her as he prepared a bowl of cereal.
"Why didn't she ask me?" Jasmine asked in confusion as she sat down next to Nathan at the breakfast table. As usual, Gabriella and Frank had already left for work. She started to notice they weren't exactly the homey family she'd assumed they were at first. Only on the weekends did they spend breakfast and dinner together.
"She tried to call your cell, but it went straight to voicemail so she decided to text me instead," Nathan quipped as he handed her the box of cereal. Hm. Strange. If she was correct, her phone battery hadn't died and she hadn't received any calls. Guess little Lucy was more naughty than one would think. Well, at least she had the balls to seduce Nathan.
"Ready for your Chemistry test today?" Nathan casually asked as he started devouring his bowl of cereal. It was a wonder the guy stayed so thin, he ate like a pig. Guess some people were just lucky and can eat anything they want without gaining a single pound.
"Uhm…not exactly," she sheepishly admitted, pouting a little. "I guess not even the project I'm working on with Lucy will help me get my grade up." It was embarrassing to admit, but Jasmine probably would need a tutor if she ever wanted to pass. Her grade point average was spinning downward pretty damn fast because of chemistry.
"I could still help you," Nathan proposed. "I asked you before if you wanted me to tutor you. I'm sure I could help you pass the test. Get out your textbook and we'll go over the last two chapters before we leave for school," he ordered, cocking his head to the side.
She wanted to decline his offer badly, her pride rearing its ugly head, but decided sometimes you needed to put your own feelings aside and accept help. She needed to pass today's test in order to keep her grades up. If Nathan was willing to help her make it happen, she should thank him instead of trying to find a way to turn him down.
"Sure," she mumbled after a moment of silence before taking the textbook out of her backpack. Still undecided whether she made the right decision, she opened the book and turned to the right page. Smiling bashfully, she told Nathan which part she didn't understand. In the end, she should have just plainly told him she had no idea what the entire chapter was about. He had to explain the whole lesson.
Nathan patiently clarified the basics before starting on the actual lesson. Apparently Jasmine was pretty far behind and missed some valuable information about the topic. To her surprise, Nathan turned out to be a great teacher. He actually made her understand a few things. No matter how small they were, she was happy to know she wasn't just an idiot that couldn't even understand the basics.
"I'm afraid we'll have to leave for school before we're late, but I'd be happy to help you with your next chapter tomorrow. Who knows, maybe my little lessons will actually help you," he teased, pinching her cheek playfully before picking up his bag.
Jasmine rolled her eyes and followed behind him. "That reminds me," Nathan said as he unlocked the car. "Dad wanted me to let you know your car will arrive tomorrow. You'll finally be able to drive to school on your own," he explained with a wink.
"My new car?" Jasmine asked bewildered, her eyes wide as saucers. As far as she knew, she had never purchased a car. Her grandmother had left her a nice amount of money, but she wasn't about to throw it away on a nice and shiny new vehicle.
"Yeah, my parents decided you could use another welcome to the family present. After all, our entire family has classy cars to drive around. It would be a shame if you didn't have one of your own. It's an Audi R8 if I remember correctly. Dad chose your baby," Nathan winked, acting as if was the most normal thing in the world they just bought her a car because they could. Jasmine hated seeing money go to waste, especially if it was to buy some fancy car.
"No, I don't think so, Nate," she shrieked, fiercely shaking her head. "I'm grateful your parents are letting me stay in their house. I can't accept another present from them, least of all a car that costs a fortune." It was ridiculous. Jasmine might not be a car freak, but she knew damn well that an Audi R8 was a freaking expensive vehicle.
"Jas, please, it's not like my parents can't afford it. I know you're not very fond of our money, but – not to sound snobby or anything – we have tons of it in the bank. Both my parents always have been very fortunate people. One hundred grand more or less won't be of much importance," Nathan explained, sighing as he opened his car door and put his backpack in the backseat.
Jasmine's eyes widened another inch at Nathan's bored tone. Did the kid seriously not understand the value of money? It infuriated her to no end how mindless they could act about stuff other people had to work their asses off for. "Then they won't mind if I donate the car to charity. Money from the sale of that car would help a lot of people," she replied in a clipped tone.
Lucy would probably bolt the minute she heard Nathan talking that carelessly about money. The poor girl would have a heart attack after all the shit she had been through. Maybe the two of them wouldn't match as perfectly as Jasmine hoped.
"Wow, okay, I didn't mean to insult anyone, Jas," Nathan quickly interrupted, looking slightly guilty. "It's just to us money has always come easily. But my mom has always made a big deal of sharing with the less fortunate. She spends a great deal of her time working on charity projects in the hospital," he clarified. "I seriously didn't mean anything bad by what I said," he added shamefully.
"That's okay. I guess I was being my judgmental-self again. Sometimes it just seems like you guys don't even care about the money you spend," she answered softly. Yes, she had overreacted - again. It always seemed to happen these days. If possible, her already short temper had shrunk another few inches. Damned emotions.
"Don't worry about it," Nate shrugged. The car ride to Lucy's place was spent in silence. As they parked next to a large apartment building, Jasmine once again realized how much worse Lucy's living circumstances were compared to theirs. Lucy didn't have a large house with a nice garden, but resided in a small two-bedroom apartment in the suburbs. Hopefully picking her up would make Nathan realize he couldn't talk about money the way he had around Lucy.
"Good morning, guys," the bubbly redhead chirped happily as she opened the backdoor of the car.
"Morning, sunshine," Jasmine smiled, instantly in a better mood thanks to her friend's joyfulness. Lucy always tended to lighten up a room with her presence. She was a naturally positive person, except of course when it came to her self-esteem. Lucy lacked in the confidence department. For some reason, she believed others were better, more beautiful, more anything than her.
"Fasten your seatbelts, my ladies, off we go," Nathan exclaimed before starting the engine and driving off.
To her surprise, Jasmine didn't completely fail her Chemistry test. She had been able to answer most questions, though she would have to wait for her results until the end of the week. Maybe Nathan's short tutoring session had indeed helped her out.
Lucy hadn't been able to keep herself from gushing over everything Nathan did the entire day. It seriously became sickening. Jasmine didn't know how much longer she could keep up with the 'aww's and 'oohh's. She was happy Lucy seemed to be completely and utterly in love, but she hated the girly conversations. She wasn't used to talking about boys, even back in Florida she'd refrained from hanging out with girls that gossiped about boys twenty-four seven.
"Good evening," Gabriella smiled happily as Jasmine entered the kitchen. Her eyes widened a bit when she noticed the woman behind the cooking island. To be honest, she hadn't expected Gabriella to be home at all, least of all in the kitchen preparing dinner. Usually Grace prepared the food the household consumed.
"How was school, honey?" she asked curiously as she chopped the vegetables at a slow pace. It was clear Gabriella wasn't used to cooking. Jasmine prayed the food would be edible.
"Fine," Jasmine replied shortly, still not understanding why the woman was home. Frank and she were always so absorbed in work, they usually forgot to come home before midnight. "Did you have a day off?" Jasmine couldn't refrain herself from asking.
"After what happened between Lucas and you a few days ago, Frank and I decided we should keep a closer eye on the family. We don't want a repeat of what happened," Gabriella explained carefully as she put the chopped vegetables into a bowl. "Speaking of my son, have you seen Lucas today? He was supposed to go to a counselor after his classes ended, but he never showed up."
"No, I haven't seen him around," Jasmine replied truthfully. The last time she'd talked to him had been last night when they smoked a cigarette together. Honestly, she still didn't know whether she was supposed to be mad at him or not. What he did was inexcusable, but she hadn't exactly tried to prevent it either.
Lucas brought out so many mixed up feelings inside of her. She knew that deep down he was a good guy, but he made it pretty difficult to keep believing in him. After he almost strangled her, she had been ready to give up on him, but after some thinking she decided he deserved another chance for whatever reason. He did seem to feel guilty and remorseful, otherwise he wouldn't have told his parents what happened.
"I was hoping he was finally ready to change, but clearly it was false optimism. I should have known Lucas would ditch the therapy sessions. This is so typical him. I don't understand why I keep hoping for a miracle," Gabriella sighed, clearly disappointed. It was indeed no surprise that Lucas decided he didn't need counseling after all. Jasmine wouldn't have expected him to go either.
"It's because no matter what he does, he's still your son and you will love him unconditionally," Jasmine smiled softly. Yes, as a parent Gabriella had made mistakes, but who hadn't? Nobody was perfect. The woman meant well and that was all that mattered. She just didn't succeed in making her son understand she cared about him. Unknowingly she pushed Lucas away from her by trying to take control when she thought he was spinning out of control.
"I suppose," she admitted, nodding. "I just feel so incredibly guilty sometimes. I mean, I'm his mom, I'm supposed to raise him well and protect him. I feel like I failed at both," Gabriella confessed, showing her inner demons. The woman looked shockingly small in that moment, totally blown away by the tornado that was life.
"You haven't failed, Gabriella. I know neither Frank or you can see it, but the good kid inside of Lucas is still there. He just doesn't show him very often. I have no idea what went wrong or why he started behaving the way he does, but Lucas isn't all bad. I honestly believe that one day he will open his eyes and realize he can be a pretty decent person if he wants to be," Jasmine explained, hoping to reassure the woman a little.
"I wish I could say the same, Jazzy. I truly do," Gabriella replied sadly as she turned on the stove. Jasmine nodded, but didn't answer. She couldn't say she didn't understand where the woman was coming from. Lucas had been pushing away all his loved ones for such a long time and he had succeeded o, his task. None of his family members seemed to notice his redeeming qualities.
"Before I forget to ask, would you like to help me prepare Thanksgiving dinner next week? We traditionally have a family dinner each year since everyone's home from school and Frank and I don't have to work that night," Gabriella suggested, hopeful. "I know you have only lived with us for a short while, but I truly see you as one of us now, Jazzy. It would make me a very happy person if you decided to join us that night."
"Yeah, that shouldn't be a problem," she agreed softly. "Wait… would you mind if I invited someone?" she asked tentatively. She didn't want to overstep her bounds, but she felt like Lucy and her mother deserved to have a nice family dinner as well. Seeing they didn't exactly live in wealth, she supposed they probably couldn't afford to prepare an expensive dinner.
"Sure, honey, who would you like to invite over? We usually keep it to family only, but I suppose we could make an exception this year," Gabriella nodded, seemingly a little surprised Jasmine wanted to ask someone over.
"You remember the girl I had over yesterday for that group project? I know you haven't met her yet, but she's a really nice person. She and her mom have had a difficult past and I kind of feel like they deserve to get a break for once," she explained as she took a can of coke out of the fridge.
"That's nice of you. Of course you can ask her to join us for Thanksgiving. I'm sure Frank will be delighted to have another family over. The more the merrier they say," the woman smiled warmly.
"I'll ask her," Jasmine agreed as she took a sip from her drink. After emptying the can she threw it in the trash and went upstairs to her room. She may have passed today's Chemistry test, but she still had a whole lot of homework waiting for her.