Pieces of Me
Parking his car badly in front of the Copeland house, he turned off the engine and pushed open the driver’s side door, planting his feet on the ground and pushing himself into a standing position. Leaving the front door open to ensure he didn’t accidentally lock himself out, he pulled open the back and removed the suit jacket hanging from a hook over the back seat, draping it over his arm before shutting both doors and walking up the gravel pathway to the door, shoving his car keys into the pocket of his jeans after making sure the Accord was safely locked.
Graduation was tomorrow morning and in the midst of finalizing the speech he was required to give as class president and spending time with his family because they kept cooing about how much they were going to miss him and just generally engaging in as many activities as possible in order to keep from thinking about Kira Saxton, he had completely forgotten to ensure that his suit actually fit. When he tried on the jacket that morning, he realized it was just a bit big, so he was calling on the fashion expertise of Jessamine Copeland to help out.
Rocking back and forth in his converse after knocking on the door, he immediately stretched his lips into a smile when it swung open to reveal his Uncle Justin.
“Hey, Uncle Justin,” Jamie greeted, lifting one hand in a wave.
“Hey, J,” Justin smiled, stepping aside to allow Jack’s son to enter and closing the door before pulling his nephew into an embrace. “Here to see, Jessa, right? Apparently you have some sort of fashion emergency?”
“Something like that,” Jamie laughed, glancing down at the jacket on his arm. “Is she in her room?”
“Should be,” Justin pursed his lips and nodded, shoving his fingers into the pockets of his jeans and curling his bare toes against the hardwood floor. “We’re all excited for tomorrow.”
Of course, the entire extended family was invited to the graduation ceremony and would be attending a barbeque hosted by the Peters afterwards which would serve as both a celebration for the graduates and a farewell party for Ethan’s older daughter.
“It’s awesome when one of you get to do something amazing, but two of you at the same time is even cooler…,” Justin continued, his eyes lit with excitement until he realized he’d referred to Kira and his expression immediately flooded with apology. “Sorry, man. Jack told me about you and Kira. Are you alright?”
Jamie didn’t like the idea of lying to his uncle, but he also wasn’t ready to discuss the details of his breakup with Kira when he wasn’t entirely sure what had happened himself. So he forced a smile to his lips and nodded as convincingly as possible. “Yeah, I’m ok. I’m gonna go find Jessa.”
Justin nodded, mentally slapping himself for bringing up such a sensitive topic. He and the boys had all been wary when Jamie and Kira started dating, soon followed by Caroline and Brody, because although they all wanted their children to be happy, they were concerned of what would happen if exactly the current situation would occur. It wasn’t as though Ethan and Jack’s relationship had changed as a result of Jamie and Kira breaking up because both completely understood why Kira had made that decision in the first place, but they were still fathers and they still felt as though they had to be cautious in regards to their broken hearted children, so the band’s last jam session a few days earlier had been just a bit awkward. He was sure things would go back to normal in no time, with Kira leaving the country and Jamie going off to school, but he was also pretty sure that the graduation barbeque the following night was going to be one of the most awkward evenings most of them had ever experienced.
Sighing, Justin watched Jamie ascend the stairs before turning back to the kitchen to get a snack.
Jamie exhaled deeply when he reached the top of the stairs, shaking out that wasn’t laden with the suit jacket in hopes that it would expel the tension. He didn’t blame his Uncle Justin for mentioning Kira, because Justin loved all of his nieces and nephews and was extremely proud of anything any of them did, which included graduating from high school, but Jamie’s heart had been ripped from his chest just two weeks before and he knew it would take some time before he felt alright again.
He was a planner, which meant that as soon as he realized that he was falling for Kira, he had worked her into all decisions he made for the future, including college, which was why he was dumbfounded to discover that she had not done the same. They knew going in that they were very different and perhaps they should have anticipated that one day things would end, seeing as they were teenagers after all and they eventually had to go out on their own.
But Kira had been a key piece of Jamie’s heart for so long that he couldn’t imagine a life where she wasn’t always around. And perhaps that was a part of his heartache too, that for the next two years, he wouldn’t be able to see or talk to her whenever he liked and that thought was terrifying.
He turned sharply at the landing, knocking softly on the first door on the right and pushing it open when he heard Jessamine’s voice bid him to enter.
“Hey, Jamie!” she grinned, pushing herself from the wooden chair she’d been sitting on in front of her sewing machine, her waist length black curls twisted into a large bun on the top of her head. She lifted the fake glasses she was wearing from her nose and placed them above her forehead before balling her hands into fists and resting them on her floral maxi dress covered hips. “So what seems to be the trouble?”
That was a loaded question, especially since Jamie knew that Jessamine was aware of his recent relationship troubles. Nothing stayed secret within the Vertical Limit family. And although Jessamine Copeland was a drama queen extraordinaire when it came to the happenings in her own life, she wasn’t the type to stick her nose in other people’s business, which meant that unless he brought it up first, she wouldn’t push him to talk about Kira.
“My suit jacket,” Jamie replied, nodding down at the blazer still hung over his forearm. “It’s a little big, so I thought maybe you could work your magic?”
“For sure,” Jessamine nodded excitedly, always happy to help with any sort of fashion crisis. Even her aunts and uncles had a habit of calling upon her before red carpet events to ensure they looked immaculate. “Wanna put it on so I can see where I need to tweak?”
He did as he was told, shrugging the blazer over his shoulders and pulling the sleeves down his arms to show that they were a little too long. Holding up one finger, Jessamine turned back towards her workstation to grab her pincushion, pulling out a few pins and sticking them along various parts of the blazer as she rolled the sleeves and hem until they were at a better length.
“Thanks for doing this on such short notice, Jessa,” Jamie said gratefully, intrigued as she watched her circle him, her tongue poking out in concentration as she placed pins in the right spots. “I’m sure you have a million other things to do.”
“It’s alright,” Jessamine laughed, carefully sticking a pin at the hem of the jacket because it was just a bit too long. “I don’t mind. Besides, it’s like I told Kira yesterday, any sort of work I can do helps me learn.”
It took her less than a second after finishing that sentence to widen her eyes in horror and stutter out an apology. “S-s-sorry, I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s fine,” Jamie assured her, though the mention of Kira’s name did make him feel as though someone had stabbed a thousand of Jessamine’s little pins into his heart. Still, he knew better than to complain. After all, Kira was his father’s best friend’s daughter. This was exactly the situation that Jack had warned him about and he didn’t want to cause problems within the band, so he wasn’t going to force everyone else to feel his pain. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t curious as to how the girl who completely owned his heart was feeling. “How is she?”
He knew it was highly likely that Kira would have confided in Jessamine. All of the Vertical Limit children were close, which meant they all knew each other’s secrets. For example, Jamie was well aware that Jessamine currently had a fake ID hidden away in her desk drawer and that Piper had been sneaking out after curfew to go see her favorite bands play live. The eight of them had always felt comfortable telling each other anything because, much like their fathers, they knew there were very few people out there who understood what their lives were like and although their dads tried to make their childhoods as normal as possible, normalcy wasn’t something that came naturally when you were the child of a world famous rock star.
“Jamie…,” Jessamine sighed, taking a step back once her pinning processes were complete and slipping the strap of the pincushion onto her wrist before crossing her arms over her chest.
Kira was like a big sister to Jessamine, a sister she absolutely adored and would never want to betray, so although Jessamine loved Jamie like a brother, she really didn’t want to get in the middle of whatever was going on. It was one thing to blow events that were happening to her out of proportion, but she refused to create drama in other people’s lives, especially people she cared so much about.
“No, you’re right,” Jamie shook his head, mentally slapping himself for putting Jessamine in such an awkward position. “I shouldn’t be asking you that.”
“Hey,” she said softly, reaching out and squeezing his arm in a comforting gesture. “For what it’s worth, I think you guys can work it out.”
She truly did believe that. Jessamine had never seen two people quite as happy as Jamie and Kira when they were together. When the pair first started dating, everyone had been a bit surprised, seeing as, on paper, their personalities shouldn’t have meshed at all. But anyone who spent more than five minutes with them quickly came to understand why it worked. They were passionate and alive and although they squabbled on a fairly regular basis, they were absolutely crazy about each other. Even when Kira would confess to Jessamine that sometimes she started to think that the fact that she wasn’t at all Jamie’s type would end up tearing them apart, it wasn’t long before she realized that he loved her unconditionally, and what everybody else thought didn’t really matter.
“Thanks, Jessa,” Jamie sighed, shrugging off the jacket. “I hope you’re right.”
The time for his speech came faster than he imagined it would. It was as though he blinked after giving Jessamine his jacket and the next thing he knew, he was sitting on a stage in his cap and gown, staring out an audience full of his peers and trying his best to keep his gaze from straying towards a certain brunette in the third row.
Everyone was here; his uncles, their wives, and all of the band children. And he wasn’t surprised by this fact because they had always been there for each other’s important moments. Just like they had all been there for the swim meet which proved Tyler to be the fastest in the country and Caroline’s team’s championship game and the exhibition that showcased Brody’s work, they were all here to watch Jamie and Kira take their first steps towards freedom and adulthood and really discovering who they were as people.
It was supposed to be a joyous occasion, but all morning, all Jamie had felt was sick to his stomach. The feeling continued even as he gave his speech and he focused his attention on the smiling faces of his parents and sister as he spoke the usual sentimental crap about how the friendships they gained and the things they learned in school would serve as a foundation for all they would accomplish in the future.
The audience cheered and clapped as they were instructed to do and he managed to get through the remainder of the administrator’s speeches without vomiting on stage. Generally, public speaking calmed him down, but in this case, he couldn’t wait for it to be over. The school was small enough that everybody had heard about the breakup between the class president and the class skipping rebel and he didn’t really appreciate the fact that they were all whispering behind his back.
He knew the family barbeque later that evening was going to be one of the more awkward experiences of his life, but it would also take place with people who loved him unconditionally and whom he trusted completely, which wasn’t something he could say about his classmates.
So he prayed that the actually handing out of the diplomas would go buy faster. And although he got his first because he was already on stage and it was more convenient that way, it wasn’t until his classmates began walking past him after he’d retaken his seat that he realized his position on the stage was no longer optimal.
Because before he knew it, she was right there, standing at the steps up to the stage, waiting for her name to be called. He held his breath when it finally was, hoping that she’d just ignore his presence and they could continue the nonexistent relationship they’d had for the past two weeks.
They hadn’t spoken since that fateful afternoon in his car when she’d told him she planned on spending the next two years overseas and thought it was best if they ended their relationship. He’d lay awake that night, his fingers hovering over the keys of his phone, prepared to send a goodnight text as always, because maybe this was just another fight that would blow over, but that was before he realized that everything had changed. So he’d put his phone down and cried himself to sleep and wondered if there was anything he could have done to make her change her mind.
He even had a whole speech that he was prepared to give her the next time they saw each other at school, but when they finally did cross paths, she had stared at him with devastated eyes on the verge of tears and he had decided that he didn’t want to make things worse, so he kept his distance, hoping the space would cause her to see reason. Unfortunately, the whole idea of space seemed to be on her mind as well, which meant they ended up completely avoiding each other.
So when she crossed the stage and instead of locking eyes with the school principal, kept her gaze on the only boy she had ever allowed herself to fall in love with, they both found themselves a bit more than shocked.
Kira’s lips parted because she desperately wanted to say something, anything to make sure he knew that he had done absolutely nothing wrong and Jamie mirrored the action because he wanted to tell her that he was pretty sure he’d always love her, but there wasn’t enough time and she ended up shaking the principal’s hand and grabbing her diploma and descending the stairs back to the ground before Jamie could exhale.
He didn’t even register the rest of the ceremony, wondering if there would ever be a point where their timing wasn’t completely off.
He managed to find some solitude about an hour and a half into the barbeque. Surprisingly enough, it hadn’t been awkward at all since the moment he and his family had arrived fifteen minutes late.
His Uncle Nate had immediately pulled him into a congratulatory hug and started bombarding him with questions about his college classes and future roommates, all the while giving him advice on living in close quarters with other people, something he had a lot of experience with after spending so many years on a tour bus. On the other side of the Peters’s backyard, Kira was kept occupied by Justin, asking her the details about her trip. The other kids rotated between the two, throwing in their own questions, anecdotes, and advice, and somehow, they all kept Kira and Jamie from crossing paths.
Although he greatly appreciated the effort, Jamie was both physically and emotionally exhausted after an hour. So when his Uncle Ethan – who had been nothing but supportive, despite the awkward situation the breakup had put him in – turned away to get another beer, Jamie slipped inside the house and plopped down on the bottom stair, glad to be away from the chaos he normally adored.
He was pretty lucky, he thought as his lips naturally turned upwards at the mixed sounds of laughter and chatter coming from outside. He was constantly surrounded by people who loved him, no matter what, and he always had someone to turn to if he ever had a problem and that was a fact that he often took for granted growing up. And the fact that he was still so heartbroken was almost a little selfish.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
He looked up, his heartache multiplying when he found Kira standing in front of him, wearing a strapless dress the same shade of cerulean as her eyes and, of course, her favorite combat boots. If they were still together, he would have told her she looked beautiful, like something out of a daydream, but he felt like that would only make the dynamic between them even more complicated, so he settled for lifting his lips into a small smile and echoing those thoughts in his mind. “What are you doing in here?”
“You’ve been avoiding me,” she said, sticking her hands into the small pockets sewn into the front of the dress that Jessamine had made for her, especially for this occasion.
That wasn’t entirely true. He wanted to talk to her more than anything, but he didn’t get the sense that she felt the same way, so he thought of it more as him giving her space. He shrugged, avoiding looking her in the eyes because he knew he wouldn’t be able to breathe normally if he did. “I didn’t think you wanted to talk to me.”
“Of course I do, Jamie,” she assured him, “You’re still my best friend.”
He squeezed his eyes shut at the sound of her saying his name because what used to make him feel as though he was flying suddenly made him feel like he had just been pushed off a one-hundred-foot cliff with no parachute. When he opened his eyes, he tilted his chin upwards to look at her, keeping his resolve as he shook his head. “You can’t do this to me, Kira. You can’t send me mixed messages. You’re the one who broke up with me.”
“I know,” she sighed, removing a hand from the pocket to tug her fingers through the loose curls it had taken her an hour to make that morning. “But does that mean that we can’t still be friends?”
He wished it was that simple, that they could just forget about all of the things they felt and go back to being the terrible twosome that they had been as children. But if Jamie had learned anything from falling in love with Kira, it was that she would forever own a piece of his heart. So even if they went their separate ways and never spoke again, he wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to give his whole heart to another and that meant that he couldn’t pretend as though she’d had no effect on him either.
“I don’t know,” he whispered, unable to break her completely. He did love her after all, and there was a tiny portion of him that was still holding out hope that they could somehow resolve everything. “What do you want from me, Kira?”
She chewed on her bottom lip, taking a moment to join him on the bottom stair, her legs sticking out straight and crossed at the ankle, her fingers folded together in her lap. She smelled of lavender and vanilla and he breathed it in because he knew it would be awhile before she consumed him again and despite everything, he wasn’t ready to forget about her just yet.
“I know what I don’t want…I don’t want you to hate me.”
Her words came out just barely above a whisper, almost as though she hadn’t meant to say them out loud.
“I could never hate you,” he replied sincerely. It broke his heart that she could ever think that in the first place. “I love you. I’m so in love with you.”
“I love you, too,” she said back out of instinct and because she truly did mean it. But she knew she should have kept quiet because saying those words just made saying goodbye more difficult. “But that doesn’t really change anything, does it?”
“Right,” he nodded, taking a deep breath to keep his voice from cracking. “Because you don’t love me enough to think that we could make things work.”
“That’s so unfair!” her eyes flashed beautifully and his heart sank as he realized that he sounded like a huge asshole. “None of this is easy for me either, Jamie. Do you know how hard it is for me to open myself up to people? To make myself as vulnerable as I did around you? I was absolutely scared shitless, but I do love you, more than I’ve ever loved anyone, so don’t act like I’m just tossing you aside as though our relationship meant nothing to me.”
Every word she said felt like another dagger to his heart and he hated himself for his bitter comment earlier, his apology coming out as a watery whisper. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
She knew he was just upset and frustrated about the situation, so she didn’t bother making him feel any worse. Turning her torso sideways so her bare knees knocked against his, she reached out to grab his hand, the first physical contact in weeks causing warm electricity to surge through both their veins. Curling her fingers over his palm, she squeezed tightly, partly to comfort him and partly because she wasn’t quite ready to let go.
“You’re the first boy I’ve ever loved, Jamie,” she said sincerely, her eyes wide and flooded with genuine adoration. “The only boy, besides my dad, that I’ve ever said those words to. And that’s always going to be ours. No matter what happens in the future, nothing is going to change the fact that you are the first person I have ever trusted with my entire heart. You’re always going to be a part of me.”
“Same here,” he whispered, wishing he could think of something more romantic to say, but coming up empty because despite the fact that she was professing her love, he knew they were closing in on the part where they would have to say goodbye. It was inevitable. No matter how much it would completely shatter his heart, Kira was leaving, without him, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Not that he would ever ask her to stay. The truth was that he couldn’t be more proud of what she was doing. As always, he admired her fearlessness and he couldn’t wait to see what kind of incredible human being she turned out to be after her two years away. He just wished he could be along for the ride.
“Are we gonna be ok?” she asked, lacing her fingers with his atop her thigh.
That was a complicated question. He knew for a fact that he wouldn’t be able to get over her nearly as quickly as she seemed to think he would. But he knew going away was something she had to do for herself and although he might not fully understand the reasons behind their breakup, he loved her enough to let her go. Jamie had never been a big believer in fate and luck, but right now, he was all for believing that if he and Kira were meant to be, then everything would work out in the end.
“Yeah,” he nodded, releasing his hand from hers so that he could wrap an arm around her shoulder and pull her into an embrace. “We’ll be ok.”
She sank into his chest and they both squeezed their eyes shut as they memorized the feel of each other’s bodies.
“Will you promise me something?” she whispered, nuzzling her cheek against his shoulder, her nails lightly scratching the back of his starched light blue shirt, the suit jacket Jessamine had tailored having been shrugged off and hung over the back of a patio chair.
“Mhmm,” he hummed against her hair.
“I want you to have an amazing time at college and go out and conquer everything, just like I know you can,” she said, pausing before her next words. “But don’t forget about me, ok?”
He kept his eyes shut, the corners of his lips lifting slightly as he tightened his arms around her and pulled her closer, wanting her lavender and vanilla scent to be forever burned into his memory. “As if I could.”
The words weren’t meant to be sappy; they were the honest truth because he knew Kira would always carry a piece of his heart with her wherever she went. His heartache was just slightly relieved when he felt her smile against his shoulder and they embraced long and hard, knowing that when they let go, nothing would ever be the same.