That night, Jasmine and Leo fell asleep on the couch, holding each other, both feeling more relaxed than they had in weeks. When Leo woke up at three in the morning, he smiled and carefully carried Jasmine to her bed, only briefly rousing her as he did so. “Shh, go back to sleep, Min.”
She mumbled something against his chest, but the whistle in her nose indicated that she had fallen asleep again. As he placed her in the bed, he almost considered laying down next to her, but had decided against it until he felt Jasmine’s hand reach out for him and pull him back. This time, he could hear her say, “Stay.”
“Are you sure?” he whispered back.
“Stay, Leo,” she said, barely opening her eyes to look at him. “Please?”
He nodded and laid down next to her, smiling. “Okay. I’ll stay.”
Jasmine scooted up against him and drifted back to sleep once more, just after she mumbled, “Thank you.”
Wrapping his arms around her, Leo gladly fell asleep, and didn’t reawaken until the sunlight shone directly in his face. When he opened his eyes, Jasmine was still fast asleep beside him, and as much as he wanted to stay in bed with her, he decided to stop by the closest bakery instead.
He crawled out and planted a soft kiss on her head before scribbling a note and placing it on his pillow: Be back soon xxx
Leo managed to get to the bakery and back in twenty minutes, and Jasmine was sitting in the kitchen, watching the coffee maker as it dripped into the pot. When she heard him, she turned to face him with a smile, and he forced himself to avert his eyes from the bruise on her face. “Hey. Where’d you go?”
“Bakery. I got us some fresh doughnuts,” he said.
“Too bad you didn’t make them,” she said. “Do you want some coffee?”
He nodded and set the box on the counter. “How are you feeling?”
Jasmine shrugged and looked at herself in the reflection on the microwave. “It looks worse than it feels. It’s a little sore, but not as bad as last night.”
“I still can’t believe that asshole would hit you,” he said, clenching his fist before he released the tension and gently stroked her cheek. “I’m sorry, Min.”
“For everything. If I hadn’t screwed up so bad, you wouldn’t have started dating him, this wouldn’t have happened,” Leo said. “I’m just- I’m so sorry.”
She shook her head and removed his hand from her cheek, holding it in her own hand. “Stop it. It’s done. There’s no point in dwelling on what could have happened. You were there for me when I needed you and that’s the best thing you could have done for me in the situation.”
He sighed and nodded. “Okay. I know you’re right.”
“So, what did you have going on today?” she asked.
“Well, it’s Sunday, so I was supposed to be going on a movie date with my boyfriend, but since I no longer have a boyfriend, I guess I’m not doing anything,” she said with a shrug. “Want to just hang out here?”
Leo smiled and opened the doughnut box. “Sounds like a plan to me. You get first pick, what do you want?”
“Chocolate with sprinkles, duh.”
By the time Monday had come around, Jasmine had ultimately decided to take the day off work, hoping that it would give her bruise more time to fade. It was no better come Tuesday, but luckily her concealer was very effective and nobody at work had realized that she was covering a large green bruise on her cheekbone.
On Thursday, Jasmine texted Leo.
>>> Jasmine: Family dinner is tonight and idk if I should tell them about Ethan
>>> Leo: You broke up with him, you kinda have to tell them
>>> Jasmine: Yeah but I mean about him hitting me
>>> Leo: The bruise
>>> Jasmine: I know, but my makeup covers it pretty well
>>> Leo: Min you need to tell them
>>> Jasmine: I don’t want to
>>> Leo: Fine but what are you going to tell them?
>>> Jasmine: Idk. Suggestions?
>>> Leo: The truth?
>>> Jasmine: Ugh I know. I just don’t want them to look at me like I can’t take care of myself or something
>>> Leo: I could come with you?
>>> Jasmine: No, I need to do this myself. Thanks though
>>> Leo: Yeah of course
>>> Jasmine: I’m just scared. I don’t want to do it
>>> Leo: You got this! They love you, they’re not there to judge you for something that he did to you
>>> Jasmine: Yeah you’re right
>>> Jasmine: Thank you
She thought about taking off her makeup before dinner, but she figured that would be too dramatic of a reveal. Even on the drive over to her aunt and uncle’s house, she was practicing what she would say and eventually settled on something simple: ‘he was an asshole who hit me so I ended it.’
When Jasmine entered the house, she heard the familiar shouting of family members from various rooms so she called out, “Hey, I’m here! Kitchen or living room?”
“Kitchen!” Alex, Theo, Henry, and Lacey all shouted.
When she found her cousins and brother, hugs were exchanged, drinks were poured, and Theo offered some snacks. “Dinner’s gonna be a while. Hank forgot to pick up the chicken from the store, so we’re waiting on him.”
“Oh, fantastic,” Jasmine said with a laugh. “So what’s going on back here?”
“Well, Dad’s watching the game with Aunt Gwen, Mom went with Uncle Hank to get the food, and Gran is taking a nap,” Henry said.
She did a quick mental count before she asked, “Wait, is Caitlin not coming?”
Henry shook his head. “No, she’s not feeling too great. She’s been sick for a week already. I’ve been working from home to take care of her this week, but she insisted that I come tonight. She’s just trying to sleep it off.”
“Oh, that’s a bummer,” Jasmine said.
“What about Ethan?” Alex asked with fake interested.
“Actually,” she said, taking a deep breath before she continued, “I broke up with him on Saturday.”
Simultaneously, everyone started expressing their shock, though Alex was the clearly most excited. “Finally!”
Theo elbowed him in the ribs and said, “Stop it!”
Lacey furrowed her brows. “What happened?”
“He hit me.”
“I’m going to kick his ass,” Henry said, setting his drink down on the counter. “Where does he live? I’m gonna go there right now and-”
Jasmine shook her head and interrupted him. “No. You’re not going to do anything. I broke up with him, that’s it.”
Alex shook his head and turned to Theo. “See? I had a feeling this guy was bad news. Why else would he try so hard at the beginning?”
“Babe, I know. You just need to take a breath,” Theo said before she turned her attention to Jasmine. “Are you okay?”
With a nod, she said, “Yeah, I just have a bruise, but other than that, I’m fine.”
“Where’s the bruise?” Lacey asked.
“I covered it up, but it’s on my cheek,” Jasmine said, pointing to the injured part of her face. “I swear, I’m okay. He hit me, so I broke up with him and I haven’t heard from him since. Not any begging, nothing.”
Henry clenched his fist but he ultimately sat down on a nearby chair. “Why didn’t you say anything sooner? We could have helped you.”
“Don’t worry. I can handle myself,” she said. “And besides, I wasn’t alone.”
Theo and Alex looked at each other knowingly but said nothing, while Lacey was visibly confused. “Wait, if you didn’t get any of us to help you, who did?”
“What?” Henry asked. “You asked your ex-boyfriend to help you instead of your brother? Jas, he must have hit you a lot harder than you think. Are you sure you don’t need to see the doctor?”
“Henry, don’t be stupid,” Jasmine said.
Alex, on the other hand, was smiling. “So, you asked Leo? And?”
“I think what he’s trying to ask, not so subtly, by the way, is whether or not you and his BFF are dating again,” Theo asked, rolling her eyes.
Jasmine shook her head. “No, we’re not dating. He came over to help me as a friend.”
“Who did?” Mary asked as she entered the kitchen. “Hi, sweetheart.”
With a hug, Jasmine said, “Hi, Gran. Um, I guess I might as well tell you too. I broke up with Ethan because he was a piece of shit who thought it was okay to hit me, and Leo came over to help me. No, we’re not dating, we’re just friends.”
Mary’s eyes were wide as she absorbed the information. “Oh, I walked in on quite the conversation, didn’t I?”
“Yep. Sorry, Gran,” Henry said with a grimace.
“Well, I’m sorry we misjudged him-”
“I didn’t,” Alex muttered.
“-but I’m proud of you for getting away from him,” Mary continued. “But I’m not so sure about Leo. Why him?”
Jasmine sighed as she considered how she wanted to answer the question. Ultimately, she decided on the truth. “Well, before he did what he did, he was really reliable. He took care of me and he genuinely cared about my well-being. After I kicked Ethan out, I just wanted to feel safe and protected, and I know that you all care for me, but it wasn’t what I needed. I needed him. He came over and just brought me back down to normal.”
Mary smiled and said, “I understand. Before I was with your grandfather, I had the unfortunate luck to become acquainted with a man who seemed to be very sweet, but he quickly tried to take advantage of me. It was horrible, but Arthur gave me a reason to laugh through the pain, and that’s part of why I fell in love with him, God rest his soul.”
“Gran, you did hear when I said that I’m not dating Leo again, right?” Jasmine asked softly.
“Yes, of course I did. It still doesn’t change my story, though,” Mary said with a wink. “Now, where are all of your parents?”
Alex spoke up. “Dad’s still not back with the chicken yet.”
“And your father?” Mary asked Henry.
“Watching the game.”
“Oh, I love those kids, but they drive me insane,” she said, muttering under her breath as she left her grandchildren in the kitchen.
Once she was in the clear, Theo took a long sip of her drink and said, “That went well, don’t you think?”
“Did that go the way you expected it to?” Alex asked Jasmine, stifling his laughter.
“Not at all,” she said, laughing.
While the rest of dinner had gone well, Jasmine couldn’t help but think of her grandmother’s story in the back of her mind. If she hadn’t had her Grandpa Art, Gran would have suffered through that pain without any support, and it just made Jasmine all the more grateful for Leo.
When her mother asked about Ethan, Mary had spoken up before Jasmine had gotten the chance to. “We don’t need to discuss him anymore. He didn’t treat our Jasmine well, so he’s gone.”
“What? Mom, that doesn’t make sense,” Richard said.
“No, um, Dad, what Gran means is that I broke up with Ethan because he was an abusive piece of shit, and I was lucky enough to realize it before it got too bad,” Jasmine said. “Thanks for trying, Granny.”
Mary nodded and said, “I should have known my son was too oblivious to understand what I meant.”
“Hey!” Richard protested.
Helena, on the other hand, patted her husband on the shoulder and then asked, “Jas, what did he do?”
“He hit me.”
“I’m going to kill him,” Richard said, standing up from the table.
Rather than arguing, Jasmine hung her head and muttered, “Why does this keep happening?”
Theo leaned over and whispered, “Do you really expect anything less in this family? Hotheaded men run amok.”
“True,” she agreed with a laugh. “I don’t know why I bother.”
Somehow, Mary managed to placate her son and the dinner continued with talk of Henry and Caitlin’s future wedding, which interested everyone except for Richard.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for you, son, but I was hardly involved in my own wedding,” Richard said, eliciting an irritated stare from his wife. “Can’t we just talk about something else?”
Gwen rolled her eyes. “You don’t ever want to talk about anything except sports, and that gets old, even for me.”
“But at least it’s interesting!”
“Oh, so if you’re paying for half the wedding, you don’t care to know about what you’re paying for? Good to know,” Helena said before turning to Henry. “Don’t worry, honey, you can have the most elaborate wedding in history if you want, your father is paying and doesn’t care about the details!”
“Now, wait a minute, that’s not what I said,” Richard said.
Jasmine then turned to Theo and whispered, “At least they’re not talking about me anymore, right?”