Tomorrow we go back to school. I haven’t heard from Jordan since our call Christmas morning, even then he sounded like something was wrong.
“Ready to open it?” I asked.
“Most definitely, although I know I’ll love it no matter what... It’s from you.”
Together we started ripping the paper, I could hear his crinkling over the phone. I was confused at first, as I found a tiny box no longer than my hand but I could hear him giggling.
“My mom might steal these Rhea, over my dead body though. One of the best nights of my life. And now I can remember forever, thank you. I’ll never get over how beautiful you looked that night.”
I was still trying to open the box, “I love you, Jordan. That night was one of the happiest I’ve had in a long time.”
“Did you open your gift?”
“Trying,” I pull the top off finally and open it to see a small rectangular piece of silver metal with an apple on it, “You got me an IPod?”
“Over 180 gigs of space, already loaded up with movies and music.”
“You know I love you right?” He cut me off, surprising me, “That I’ll always love you and do anything to keep you happy and safe.”
“Of course I know that, I love you too.”
“Promise to never forget that? To never forget how much I love you and how everything I do is for you?”
“I promise... Is everything ok?”
“As long as you’re happy, and never forget I love you... Everything is perfect. Merry Christmas Rhea.”
“Merry Christmas Jordan.”
I got to talk to his parents and wish them a merry Christmas too before they went back to doing their thing. Dad was drunk so I just spent the rest of break either in my room or working when it wasn’t a holiday.
Jordan stopped responding to my texts not long after we hung up though. No goodnight texts, no Happy New Year text. Absolutely nothing. He comes home tonight, I’m hoping he’ll call me when he gets in.
I’ve gone through all the music on the iPod, he loaded it with all my favorite artists and a bunch of my mom’s favorite songs, he even found the song we danced to at Winter Formal. He got a bunch of Disney movies for me too, I’ve been watching them before bed. The iPod came with headphones and a charger and neither have really been unplugged I’ve been using it so much. I’ve sent Jordan quite a few “thank you” texts but... Nothing.
My thoughts turn from Jordan when I hear a crash at the other end of the house. I’m quick to shove the iPod under my pillow and the other presents in my closet before my dad throws open the door.
“Where the hell have you been?” He slurs with a look of disgust on his face.
“I’ve just been in here, I’ll start dinner in a little bit,” I can’t look him in the eye, so I stare at the floor.
“Damn right you will,” He waves his bottle at me, some of the contents flying out and landing on my floor, “Dumb bitch.”
I start to try and glide past him, but he quickly grabs my arm and pulls me close to him.
“Where’s that dumb boy been? You better not have been with him,” His voice is low and cold, I want to gag at the smell of his breath.
“He’s gone, I haven’t seen him recently,” Not a total lie, hopefully believable enough to get me out of this.
“Filthy slut,” He spits on me causing me to jump, “I expect dinner in the next twenty minutes or it’s your ass that’ll fry!”
He shoved me away, causing me to fall to the floor. With a disgusted scoff, he leaves me on the floor and goes back to his office.
I feel a lump form in my throat as my lip quivers, but I refuse to cry. I pull my phone out and call Jordan, I hate to admit that I’m not surprised when it goes straight to voicemail. I’m starting to wonder why I’m bothering to leave messages.
“Hey, uh it’s me. I just wanted to hear your voice, say hi, you know? I hope you had fun skiing and I can’t wait to see you tomorrow. I really miss you, call me later? I love you.”
I hang up and toss my phone onto the bed before making my way to the kitchen. The food Jordan bought us has long since been finished, but I’ve managed to find a few cheap meals to make that actually taste decent and aren’t all fat. I pull out a box of chicken flavored rice, a can of beans, and a small head of broccoli. While the rice cooks, I stir in the beans and broccoli, giving it more veggies and protein. Dad may not care, but I’d like us to eat better.
I waste no time dishing it as it cools, knowing if I wait dad’ll kick my ass. The bowl burns my hands but it’s nothing compared to the things dad could do, so I keep quiet as I put the bowl down on his desk.
He doesn’t acknowledge me as he sits on his couch, opening a new bottle of rum. I take that as my cue to just leave.
The house is so quiet, it’s scary. I can’t help but think I’m in the calm before the storm. Crawling into bed with my bowl, I wrap up in the blanket Jordan’s mom got me.
I have clothes ready for tomorrow, high waisted black jeans and the oversized knit sweater the Mars family got me. I tried it on when I got home the other day and I absolutely love it. Hopefully Jordan will think it looks cute too.
The warm food feels good in my stomach, it’s an oddly good combination, the rice and such. And it definitely helps me sleep when I feel full.
After I eat and quietly clean the dishes, I hop in a hot shower and climb in bed, watching a movie while I wait to see if Jordan calls. By ten o’clock there’s still nothing, so I shimmy under the covers and go to sleep, reminding myself I’ll see him tomorrow.
Sleep comes quickly, and it feels like I’m waking up only a second later and it’s seven a.m. and I have to get ready for school. Dragging myself out of bed I see I still haven’t gotten any texts or calls from Jordan. My stomach starts hurting with nerves. I try to ignore it as I slip into my clothes and black flats, shoving my phone and iPod into my backpack before sliding out my window.
I spend the entire drive to school trying to resist the urge to call Jordan. It’s probably nothing.
Getting to school was uneventful, normal bustles of students hurrying to class. I patiently lean on my locker, watching everyone go by while I wait for Jordan, but he doesn’t show. I go to my locker after every class, hoping he’s just late, but he’s not anywhere to be found at lunch or last period. My nervous level is past a ten now, and I still haven’t gotten a single text or call.
Mr. Marsh is happy to see me, which eases my nerves. He thanks me again for the Christmas present I made him, I asked the woodshop teacher to help me engrave the stores name and opening year on a hammer, now it’s hanging above his desk. He got my a treat basket, and I’m more than happy to admit I ate all the oreos before getting home.
“How was the first day back of the new year?” His smile warms my heart.
“It was ok, really quiet,” I pull my apron on and meet him by the register, “Jordan wasn’t there, I actually haven’t heard from him in over a week.”
“Odd, sure hope everything is ok,” He tilts his head, looking just as confused as me, “Well, on another note... What’d he get you?”
With a growing smile I show him the sweater and iPod, telling him about the night we looked at lights. It quiet in the store, and we have fun talking about the holiday season. About halfway through the shift I felt my phone buzz in my pocket.
"Meet me at the park from our first date at six thirty."
It’s from Jordan. I’m caught a little off guard that that’s all he says. I take a second to reply.
"Ok... I missed you this past week."
Nothing. It’s silent again. I try not to think about as I power through the shift, but by 4:40 my nerves have gotten the best of me.
“Mr. Marsh, could I maybe clock out early? Just this once, I promise.”
“Yeah, go ahead. I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”
I nod and move to leave, no wasting a second as I hung my apron and waved goodbye. It’s at least an hour drive into the city, and I want to be ready to go when I need to start driving. I park in the library parking lot doing homework until 5:23.
The drive is silent. No new calls or texts from Jordan. Maybe something did happen.
I get to the park a couple minutes before the decided time, and he’s already there. Excitement over finally seeing him takes over and I jump from my truck to go hug him.
He hears my footsteps because he turns to face me just as I’m pulling him into kiss. Something is wrong.
He smells like my dad.
“Have you been drinking?” I wipe my thumb over my lip as I back up.
He shrugs and looks at my chest, “You’re wearing that.”
It’s not a question, there’s surprise in his statement.
“Jordan why have you been drinking? Did you drive here?”
He scoffs, almost falling over, “I took an Uber, relax.”
“Please tell me what’s going on...” He sniffles and rubs his nose, all while staring off at I don’t know what, “You won’t look at me, why won’t you look at me?”
“I don’t think we should do this anymore,” His words echo in my ears for a bit, I just stare at him, “It was fun and all but it’s just... It’s time. I’m not looking to take the fall because you’re too fucking scared to save yourself from your jackass father. I didn’t sign up for that and I can’t keep dealing with your baggage.”
My eyes start watering, “What are you talking about?”
I see him biting his tongue with a sigh, “I’m breaking up with you, I’m done.”
“Done? After everything you promised, after everything you’ve been there for me through, that’s all you have to say? That you’re done!”
He doesn’t look at me as he shrugs his shoulders and sits on the swing, “Yep, pretty much. We’re done, Rhea.”
He gets up to leave, as he walks away, back turned to me I just snap. I lash out, darting over and hitting him in the back as hard as my tiny fists will allow. He almost falls over as I keep beating his back, tears falling hard as I give him one final shove.
“I should have known you were a liar, you piece of shit,” I spit out as he barely turns to me, “You’re a coward! The second things get tough you run, at least I’ve toughed it out all these years, I didn’t run and hide! I hate you, I hate you and all those lies and dreams you put in my head! You’re a coward, you couldn’t even be honest with me and be sober to break up with me! You’re a coward...” I can’t stop the tears as my shoulders slump and I lose all confidence.
He looks up at me only for a moment, a sad smile hinting at the corner of his lips, “You’re right.”
And with that, he walks away. I watch him pull out his phone, getting into a car not even six minutes later.
I should go home. But I can’t, not right now. I let myself sort of collapse into the swing set as I bawl my eyes out. I cry until there are no more tears, but somehow I find more on the ride home.
I can hear my dad yelling as I walk into the house. I can feel fear and instinct telling me to hide, but I’m so tired, and I’m already so hurt. It’s not until I feel my dad’s hands wrap around my arms and pin me to a wall that I come back to reality. He spits his normal anger and insults before shoving me off to cook dinner.
Slowly, I go through the motions. No words spoken, no more tears shed, just a dull ache in my arms, head, and chest.
By the time I get to my room for the night, dad’s passed out. Sitting on my bed. I look at the blanket Jordan’s mom got me. I guess I do have more tears after all.
My vision blurs as I rip off the sweater and yank the blanket off my bed. I find a bag in my closet and shove the stuff inside it along with the iPod, the cds and clothes he got me, and the gift card from his parents. I push them deep into my closet and collapse onto my bed, crying until my eyes run dry and I can’t stay awake any longer.
It’s really over.