Used Ch. 04bynerd4music©
It was the only thing on her mind at the moment. Moving her life out, getting things back on track, and trying not to think about him.
God, I feel like such a bitch.
Her mind played the scene over and over again: the heated kiss filled with so much hurt and resentment, his angry brush-off.
Jamie folded a stack of sweaters into an already stuffed duffel bag and tried to zip it up, with no success.
Grunting, she held the sides together and she tugged hard on the zipper.
"Dammit!" she exclaimed.
A laugh at the door made her look up.
Leaning against the doorjamb was her sister, her complete opposite.
"Need some help, Jay?" Rina Kincaid smiled broadly, her light brown eyes sparkling with amusement.
Jamie huffed. "Nah, Rina. I like almost giving myself a hernia from moving all my shit by myself. Remind me why you're here again?"
"Oh I'm just eye candy."
Jamie had to laugh. "Whatever. We all know I'm the pretty one in the family."
"Bullshit baby sister. You're lucky Dad's not here to listen to you spout those lies."
Rina picked up a cardboard box filled to the brim with paint supplies. Her sister was always crafting. "I'm sorry he couldn't make it to graduation..." Rina started. Jamie interrupted her.
"Don't apologize, Rina. It's not your fault he had a shoot in Fallujah." Roger Kincaid was a photojournalist, traveling all over the world for his career. Jamie recalled how difficult it was trying to establish a normal existence while her father constantly traveled and moved his family around.
Rina could see the hurt in her sister's eyes she was failing to cover up. "Hey Jay," she said trying as best as she could to pat her hand with the box awkwardly in her arms. "Don't sweat it. Cole caught every single moment on tape. We'll make an excellent DVD and send it to him."
Jamie smiled. She knew her sister was trying to make her feel better. After all, it wasn't her fault their father hated Jamie.
If only she didn't look so much like her. The one thing controlling Roger Kincaid couldn't ever control. Rina and Jamie's mother left the family when the girls were fairly old enough to remember.
The day played so vividly in her memory, it was as if Maureen Kincaid had walked away from her family only yesterday...
Twelve year old Jamie crunched another Oreo cookie into her mouth before reaching out to chug her tall glass of milk. Humming along to Radiohead's "Nice Dream", she finished the last of the Western Civilization questions for her History review.
The slamming of the backyard door startled her back into reality. Fifteen year old Rina sauntered into the kitchen, tossing her books on the table. "How many cookies does that make Jay? Nine?"
Jamie huffed indignantly. "Six, thanks. How many cigarettes today? Nine?"
Rina smiled, her skin glowing. "Four."
"Humph. What the hell are you so happy about?"
"Terrance Wells kissed me today by my locker." Rina flipped her long light brown hair over her slender shoulder. Jamie noticed everything about her was thin.
They were the complete opposite of one another; it was amazing they were even related. Everything about Rina was thin, from her Anglican nose, to her thin yet pouty lips. She was tall and graceful, thanks to many years of ballet. She moved with effortless agility, a feat clumsy Jamie had yet to master.
Jamie was short, one of the shortest in her class. She was a good forty pounds overweight with braces, black rimmed glasses and a shy half smile. Her skin was the color of sweet, freshly made caramel candies. Jamie couldn't understand why people were so enamored with her old boring sister. Sure she was pretty, but she was a pain in the ass.
Scoffing, Jamie returned back to her homework. "Who'd want to kiss that ugly old biscuithead anyway? Terrance Wells is always rubbing up on some stupid girl."
Rina's smile dimmed. "You're just jealous. Have you even been kissed before?" She smiled superiorly at her sister's silence. "Thought so."
Jamie was about to retort when Rina shushed her. "What was that?" she asked, glancing around the room.
She looked back at Jamie. "Are they here?"
Jamie nodded. "Course. Why do you think I have the music on?" She turned the radio off and the sounds that were drowned out before suddenly filled the room to capacity.
Screams, the sound of flesh hitting flesh. The smashing of something heavy as it hit the wall.
It was all so familiar, the two Kincaid girls should have been used to it. But it still sent a sliver of fear down Jamie's spine.
Rina sighed. "How long have they been at it?"
"Since I got home at 3."
Rina glanced at her watch. "That was almost forty minutes ago. You think she would have given up by now."
Jamie glared at her sister. "Momma's a fighter."
"Course she is. That's why all this is her fault."
Jamie opened her mouth, but quickly closed it. She didn't want to discuss this with her sister. Even at the age of twelve, she knew how stubborn Rina could be when it came to their father. He was an angel in her eyes; never mind the fact he threw a couple of punches their mother's way just to "keep her in line".
It wasn't anything too serious; a whack here if dinner wasn't finished by the time he came home; a slap there if he felt like she was talking too much.
She knew her mother deserved better. It was only recently that her Maureen started fighting back. One day, Roger slapped her and quick as lightening Maureen's hand connected with his cheek. Jamie had witnessed it all: the look of shock on both her parents' faces and the fear that slowly crept into her mother's.
Maureen dashed quickly up the steps before her husband could catch her, locking the bedroom door. A stunned Roger grabbed his keys and left quickly.
After that, things started to settle down but Jamie was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Apparently today was that day.
"Just be quiet," Jamie hissed. "Maybe things will settle down."
But things were going to get far worse.
Suddenly there was a loud crash followed by a pitiful wail.
A door slamming open made the girls jump up.
Maureen Kincaid came running down the steps. Her nut brown skin looked ashen and there was a small swelling cut under her eye.
Her slender brown fingers, the same ones that taught Jamie how to mold her clay and hold a paintbrush properly now held a gray suitcase tightly in its grasp.
She glanced around the room, as if looking at her daughters for the first time. Rina sat at the kitchen table, a slight glare on her pretty face. Jamie rose from her chair and walked over to her mother.
"Momma?" she whispered, gingerly touching her hand. Jamie could still feel how soft her skin was. She was always playing in the lotions and potions her Momma had on her vanity table.
Maureen looked down at her daughter's worried face. She tried to smile, but it came off as a painful grimace instead. "How's Momma's baby girl?"
"I'm fine Momma," Jamie said slowly. "Are you okay?"
Maureen shuddered slightly. "I'm good baby." Her gaze traveled back up to the stairs. "Um, Momma's goin' away for a little bit," she said, the soft Georgia twang still evident in her voice even after years of Northern living.
"When will you be coming back?"
"Not for a while, honey." Maureen went over to the owl-shaped jar Jamie had made for the house in fifth grade. Rina and Roger had made fun of it. One of the eyes was a little misshapen and it was painted in colors more suitable for a tropical parrot than a forest bird, but Maureen loved it.
Sticking her hand in the jar, she pulled out four large wads of cash. Stuffing two into the brown purse over her shoulder, she pushed the other two into Jamie's hands.
"Take these, honey."
"Momma..." Jamie protested.
"Mind your Momma, Jamie-bear. This is for you. You too Rina," she said, looking at her still-silent eldest daughter. "Take care of each other."
Grabbing her backpack, Jamie stuffed the bills into the front flap. "Take me with you," she whispered to her mother.
Maureen shook her head violently. "I..."
"There's no way in hell you're taking my children out of here." Roger Kincaid descended the steps, his voice dangerously low.
Rina stood up quickly. "I wasn't going anywhere, Daddy." She ran to stand by her father.
Jamie looked at her father. He looked so much like Rina. He was a handsome man; she could see why her mother fell in love with him. He was extremely light, his skin the color of coffee with more than a few generous splashes of milk in it. His wavy light brown hair and hazel eyes gave him that "passing" appearance. Yes, he was handsome; but beneath that pretty exterior lay the heart of a violent and troubled man.
"They're my children too, Roger. I have a right."
"The hell you do. Where are you going to go? You have no money."
Maureen set her shoulders back proudly. "You don't know a damn thing about me."
"I do know one thing: you take my kids outta here and you will be sorry."
Maureen's dark brown eyes settled into a hard glare. "Well, you better make sure you kill me because I guarantee I'll get up and cut your fuckin' balls off."
Jamie was taken aback. She had never heard her mother curse before. It was amazing. She moved to stand by her mother when her father caught her swiftly.
"No! Let me go! I want to go with Momma!" She wrestled against her father to no avail.
"Get the hell out of here, Maureen. You want your freedom? You got it, baby. But take a good look at them, 'cause it's gonna be the last time." "Momma, no! Please don't leave me!"
Maureen's eyes filled with tears. "I'll come back for you Jamie-bear. I swear I'll come back for you."
As she left the kitchen quickly Jamie felt her little heart finally break, the tears she had cried silently late at night finally spewed forth in a long, loud wail...
"Jamie? Jamie, are you okay?"
Jamie looked up to see her sister staring curiously at her. "Huh?"
"You looked like you're in it."
"I was just thinking about some stuff." Picking up the nearest box, she looked around the room. "Wow, there's not that much left."
Rina smiled. "Yeah. We've made some headway." Jamie headed out with her sister to her pearl grey Highlander parked outside the apartment building. A smile crept along her face and she chuckled softly.
"What's up?" Rina asked.
"Nothing. You just said I looked like I was in it. That's something Momma used to tell us all the time."
"Oh yeah, I remember that." The two sisters stacked the boxes neatly in the back of the car. "Have you visited her in a while?"
Jamie shook her head. "Not since Christmas. Might have to pay her a visit."
They headed back into the apartment. "Well when you do, tell her I said hello." Jamie knew it was still awkward for her sister to be around their mother. Rina still felt the guilt of her childhood ignorance, choosing her father over her mother.
"I will, Rina." Grabbing the last two boxes, the sisters headed back out to the truck. When they closed down the trunk, Rina turned to her sister. "Jamie where's Nora?"
"Oh, she moved out since yesterday. She told me to tell you hello."
"Is everything okay with you guys?" Rina was referring to the fight she and Nora had that night of the Greek Formal. It had been nearly two weeks since the argument.
Jamie nodded. "Yeah, things are better. We worked it out." It took them nearly three days of ridiculous sulking before they both broke down and apologize. It was nice to have someone to talk to, especially after the overdramatic bust-up that was the Citron Hotel fiasco.
Just thinking about the incident made Jamie burn with embarrassment. The way she humiliated Nate...she didn't blame him for being so upset with her. She didn't pretend; she knew she was at fault.
"Jamie, are you okay?" Rina's brown eyes were filled with concern.
"I'm good, sis. Just thinking about some stuff." While she told her sister about the argument between her and Nora, she left out any mention of Nate. She didn't need her sister poking about for information. It would only lead to bringing up the other incident and that was definitely not happening.
Rina stared at her pointedly. She always knew when her baby sister was lying to her, but she chose to let it alone.
"Alright, Jay. But if you need to talk..."
"I know Rina," Jamie cut in. "I'll be fine." But Jamie could not shake the horrible rumblings in her stomach every time she thought about Nate.
She had willed herself not to think about the situation, but it was no use. She still had some bad feelings when her mind wandered to how she treated him. Her words were cruel; true, but cruel nonetheless.
Come on, Kincaid. Shake it off. She shook out her shoulders, trying to rid her body of the guilty thoughts swirling through her brain.
Jamie glanced around. "Where the hell is Cole?" she asked, referring to her sister's fiancé, Cole Caldwell.
"He went to get gas like an hour ago." She whipped out her cell phone. "I should call him."
Jamie stepped back into the apartment. Walking around, she checked to make sure everything was left in perfect order. It was so weird to be moving out. It seemed like only yesterday when college started. Her father dropped her off at her dorm in Colson. He slipped 300 dollars in her hand and left abruptly, her stuff piled beside her.
That's when she met Nora, who lived on the same floor as she. Together, the two girls hauled Jamie's belongings up to her room. Looking back, she realized how much Nora was the sister she longed for growing up. She was patient, understanding, and unfailingly sincere, characteristics her sister lacked until recently.
Jamie found it hard to relate to her sister for a while. Until Rina left for Vassar did they reconnect. Rina realized how wrong she was about their father.
She opened the closet in her former room, double checking. A flash of blue caught her eye. Reaching into the closet, she pulled out a blue button down shirt. It was a men's shirt.
As she threw it over her shoulder, the scent from the shirt caught her attention.
Lifting the garment to her nose, her mind was thrown. There was only one person who had that scent.
Jamie's body went rigid, her skin immediately craving the firm touch of his caress. It was so odd, the way she responded to even the faintest of memories.
Jamie looked up to see her sister staring curiously at her.
"What are doing? Whose shirt is that?"
"Uh, nothing." She dropped the shirt on the now empty mattress. "Did you get Cole?"
Rina nodded. "Yeah. He was checking the tire pressure on the Benz." She grinned. "Boys and their toys. He should be here any minute now. Do you mind if we take off? Apparently Mr. Caldwell has an article he needs to get in to his editor before ten tonight." Cole was an entertainment columnist for the Washington Post.
Jamie shook her head. "No, it's cool. You guys go on ahead. I'll be able to get all of this stuff into my new apartment."
Rina pulled her sister into a big hug. "I'll see you at the house for dinner this weekend, right?"
Jamie nodded. "Of course. We've got major wedding planning to do."
Rina smiled and left quickly. Staring around at her empty apartment, Jamie picked up Nate's shirt and walked to the front door.
After leaving her apartment keys in her mailbox, she got into her car. On the passenger seat lay a notebook and pen.
A sad smile crossed her lips. It must be a sign. Picking up the notebook and pen, she began to write.
He had been avoiding her for the past two weeks. It was a social cleansing of some sort. He deleted her phone number, the dirty text messages, and the emails, everything that reminded him of her.
Too bad he couldn't erase the memories. The ultimate Eternal Sunshine moment. His body craved her, it was intense. Nate hadn't realized how much he missed her touch until it was gone.
Nate was angry. The nerve of the bitch. Yes, she was a bitch. Did she realize how hard it was for me to pour my heart out like that? Of course she did. That's why it was so easy for her to slide the knife in and walk away.
Those thoughts permeated his psyche for the first couple of days. His brothers knew he was in the stormiest of moods, so no one bothered him. After coming from class, he would stomp up to his room and console his irritation with whatever alcohol was handy.
Only after Matt and Danny threatened to kick his ass did he leave his room.
Four days of this shit, he promised himself. That's all you'll get from me, Jamie Kincaid.
Nate was finishing up last minute packing, stuffing his black Ford F-150 pickup with every bit of his college experience it would allow.
He was up in his room which now seemed three times larger without all the stuff inside. He had just finished a twenty minute conversation with his father who was slightly miffed his son wanted to drive from New York to Nashville.
"Can't you just take a plane and have your stuff shipped like normal folk?" he had asked.
Nate assured his dad that he would be fine. In reality, he wanted to clear his head and figured an impromptu road trip would be just the thing he needed. He would make some stops, take some pictures, and hoped all of that would help him to stop thinking about how good it felt being inside her.
"Fuck," he hissed aloud. "Don't do this to yourself, Harlow."
He picked up his blue duffel bag, the last thing in his room and headed down the stairs.
Nate was the last one to leave the frat house. Everyone else had left quickly with hurried promises of summer get-togethers at the shore or baseball games. Only Nate took his time, his mind still lingering, clinging to the frail hope that something good will happen to make this year not seem like the shitshow it actually was.
The only bright spot was graduation. Nate had graduated at the top of his class. He could still remember the wide grin his father sported the entire day. It was a good day. But even as he walked up the stage steps to receive his diploma, his mind was on Jamie: what she was doing, what she was thinking, or if she was even sorry about the way things went down.
You've still got it bad Harlow, his brain chided.
Sighing, Nate opened the door and threw his duffel into the seat. He was about to get in when a grey Highlander pulled up across the street from the ATO house.
His heart nearly skipped a beat when he saw her scramble out and walk towards him.
A twitch of anger flickered across his face even as his hands practically itched to grab a hold of her. It was sunny outside, and she was wearing olive green short shorts that left her healthy caramel thighs bare, her feet encased by black flip-flops. She was wearing a tight orange t-shirt that brought out the red tones in her skin. Her short black hair was shiny as usual and made him want to run his fingers through it.
Despite his irritation, he couldn't help but be a little happy to see her.
"Hey," she said softly.
He gave her a curt nod. Words were a little hard to come by at the moment.
Jamie shifted from foot to foot. She wasn't sure how this conversation was going to go. He looked good, a little disheveled. He had a couple days worth of growth on his face. His jeans were torn, his black tank top a little wrinkled, and he had a pair of old black flip-flops on his feet.
Jamie longed for the sensuously soft sky blue color that his eyes used to look like. She had always felt like that color was reserved just for her. They were still blue, but it was a decidedly colder color.
"Congratulations on graduation," she said tentatively.
"You too," Nate mumbled.
"I'm on my way to my new apartment. It's in the city. I'm working for a public relations firm in Manhattan."