Jessica Thompson as That Girl

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XXV. Background Character

Jessica’s POV:

Just like dad suggested, I kept my hands out of the relationship bowls. It’s tempting to grab it, but if it somehow slips out of my hands and makes a mess, it’ll be all my fault.

I don’t want to end up like dad. Well, not him. But, forced to choose between my best friend and brother.

He looks pretty broken-hearted when he talks about his previous best friend. I asked him if he regretted his decision of dating his best friend’s sister. He only smiled in return and told me it’s all in the past now. Whatever happened already happened and there’s no point in pondering over the thought of what could’ve happened.

I didn’t know dad was such a deep man.

The night passed by, and now we’re heading towards the autumn festival with dad in the driver seat and mom beside him. I watch as their hands slowly tangle together. There was a brief smile of exchange before they talked about something ridiculous.

Maybe dad is right. Whatever already happened...happened. There’s no point in thinking about it. It’ll only give you a headache.

I glance to my right. Brody is also here. My parents didn’t want him to stay at home by himself. Apparently, they were expecting him to beg them to go to the festival to meet Victoria.

Dad pulled to a stop and parked the car. It’s crowded. I look down at my screen and message in the group chat that I’m here.

“You okay?” I asked.

Brody glanced over, “Yeah. Why wouldn’t I?”

“No reason,” I responded.

My phone buzzes, and I look back down. Krista says that she will meet me in the front, so I don’t have to search around. When everyone got out of the car, I followed them. The autumn breeze quickly caught me, and I hid my hands inside the pocket of my jacket. It’s too cold.

“Now, remember, we all came here together,” mom said. “So, we’re leaving together.” She glared at Brody. “I will lock the house door tonight.”

Dad exhales, “Give the boy a break.”

Mom glared and turned towards dad. “He’s grounded.”

“I know, but you don’t have to talk to him as if he’s a prisoner.”

Mom laughs, “A prisoner wouldn’t eat fine steak for dinner tomorrow night.” Aw man, we’re not eating steak tomorrow night.

Brody and I glared at dad for opening his fat mouth.

“I understand Jessica, but why are you glaring at me?” dad asks Brody. “I’m defending you!”

“Mom is just telling me to come back before you guys left,” Brody grumbled.

“Oh?” dad questions. “This is what I get for defending you, ungrateful children!” He threw two arms in the air.

“Jess!” I can hear Krista’s voice.

“Go! Leave! I don’t need ungrateful children around me!” dad said.

“Okay. Bye,” I responded and walked away.

“W-What? You-”

“See you,” Brody said.

“D-Did you see them? They just left us without care! Ungrateful! And here I was going to give you two spending money!”

We stopped walking and glanced at each other. Suddenly, our legs made a turn, and we headed back towards our parents. Brody and I hugged dad, each on one arm.

“I’m sorry,” Brody said.

“Me too,” I said.

“We’re ungrateful,” he said in a bland voice.

“To the best dad in the world.” My voice was as bland as his.

We rubbed our cheeks into our dad’s face, acting as if we’re children again. We want it. Spending money. I’m not proud of who I am sometimes.

Dad grumbled, but he still took out his wallet. Mom stood in front of us while shaking her head, but she didn’t stop him. He handed each of us forty. I kissed dad’s cheek. He gave me an extra twenty.

Brody stared at us, “Do you want me to kiss your cheek too?”

Dad gave him a look of disgust, “Why?”

“Well, if kissing your cheek gets me a twenty. I’ll kiss it as many times as you want.”

Dad took out a twenty and shoved it at Brody, “I’m asking you to never think about doing that. Ever.”

Brody shoves the money into his pocket. “Suits me.”

Mom grabbed dad’s arm, “Let’s go before they hustle more money from you.” Dad pouted. He’s old, but he can act like a child at times. “Be back here by eight.” Mom said before dragging dad towards their friends.

Krista jumps me from behind. I saw her from a distance. It wasn’t difficult to pin a girl who leaps like a monkey. “You’re here!” Krista looks past me, “Hey, Brody.”

Brody smiles, “Hey.”

Out of the blue, Francis Weber appeared and kissed Krista’s cheek. It’s unexpected because I thought Krista was going to end things with him. I stared at her mouthing: “What?”

She smiled slightly and shrugged.

Francis smiles, “You’re Brody, right? Jess’s older brother?”

Brody smiles, “Francis Weber?” They shook hands. “I saw your ride. Nice.”

“Thanks.”

Well, things seem to be going well.

“Must be nice to have parents who buy everything for you.” This is coming from the guy who took a forty from his dad.

Francis chuckles, “Well, I can’t deny that. I do have good parents, like you.” He must have seen Brody took the forty from dad.

“Seems like we got a lot in common.” That sentence has so much meaning behind it. Brody, what exactly are you trying to say?

“I hope that’s an invitation to hang out more often. After all-” Francis hangs his arm around Krista’s shoulder, “I want to thank the guy who’s been protecting my girl all these years. She told me you took really good care of her, similar to how you took care of Jess.”

I feel like I’m a background character to a novel—the swim team’s captain against a wealthy heir. Then, there’s Krista, who is pretty attractive, standing in the middle with absolutely no idea what is going on. Can she not feel it? How they’re fighting over her?

“Brody!” Victoria’s voice made its appearance. I turned around to see Victoria and Lorena. She rushes toward us in a long gown and flashy but modest jewels. A newly chilled air moves the clouds, and I pat my hands around the hand warmer inside my pocket. I give the girl props, wearing that dress even when it’s so cold.

Victoria wrapped her arms around Brody’s arm. “I knew you would come for me.”

It’s incredible how she can pretend nothing happened between them these past few days. Ever since her public comment about me, they haven’t talked.

Victoria smiles directly at me, “Hi, Jess.” I cannot believe she is pretending she did not call me a loser a few days ago. She let go of Brody and stepped in front of me. Can it be possible? Does she want to hit me in front of everyone? “I want to apologize.” She tucks her hair behind her ear, revealing her earrings. “I wasn’t thinking a few days ago.” Her fingers tangled with each other. “I shouldn’t have called you that. I’m so sorry. I was just...not feeling well.”

“It’s okay,” I said.

She turns toward Krista and exhales a sharp breath. Suddenly, a streak of brilliance breaks through the clouds. “I want to apologize to you too.”

“What?” Krista question. “Why?”

Victoria licks her lips, “I...I was really hateful towards you.”

“Really?” Is it possible that Krista never noticed how Victoria looked at her with extremely hateful eyes?

“Yeah.” Victoria glances at Brody. “I thought Brody and you had a thing going on, and I felt insecure.”

What is going on?

Victoria took a few blinks while Lorena pats her back. “It’s okay,” Lorena said. “You can tell them. No one will make fun of you,” she whispers. Lorena glared at everyone from behind Victoria.

“I-” Victoria bit her lower lip. “I-”

“Hey,” Brody whispers. “Let’s go somewhere else.” His eyes went around, and I noticed how some people were staring at us.

Victoria closes her eyes, and the tears drip down. Somehow, I felt like I’m a terrible person. I shouldn’t. But I do. It’s an odd feeling. My heart hurts for Victoria. “I was afraid that you were going to steal Brody away from me!” she suddenly said. Then, a wailing sound came out, and the dam burst. “You two kept looking at each other this weird way, and then there are the rumors between you two. And...And...I keep thinking bad things...and then I got mad and took it out on Jessica. I’m so sorry! I’m... I’m reflecting... I’m so sorry! I’m such a bitch!”

“You’re not,” Lorena said.

“I am! I know I am!”

Lorena wraps her arms around Victoria, who was still crying.

Brody exhales a sharp breath, “Come on. Let’s go.” Lorena passed Victoria to Brody. “I’ll see you later.” I assume Brody was saying that to me. The three of us watch as Victoria, Brody, and Lorena disappear into the crowd.

“What just happened?” Francis asks.

I would love to know the answer to that question.

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