Dry Valley Ch. 01byRedHairedandFriendly©
Dry Valley Ch. 01 - Jessica Returns
Jessica sat at the back of the bus, wondering when she'd finally be able to get off; she had been riding for the last several hours. She grabbed the soda from between her legs, opened the top and took a long swing. Tired and hungry she looked at the scenery pass her by.
She saw the green trees blur as the Greyhound moved faster down the highway; she didn't look forward to the trip home. She hadn't been back since her mom died, even then she had sworn not to go back. In her heart though, even back then, she knew she would. People who left Dry Valley always came back; it was like an invisible rope pulling them in, sucking them into a vortex of nothingness.
The white line of the highway became a fast moving track that Jessica found herself watching; it blurred along with the rest of the road. The blacktop, the gravel, even the grass became almost one big blur of colors as Jessica remembered the day she left Dry Valley.
The funeral for her mom had ended and Jessica was upstairs remembering her, reflecting on her life, before Gary had entered it. She didn't understand what her mom saw in him. He was drunk most of the time, and high the rest, usually both. Her mom wasn't like that, her mom was anything but a drinker. She detested drugs, but with Gary, it was like he was her drug. He had come into her room, told her he wanted her out. She had no problems with that, he tossed her an envelope full of cash and the 17 year old Senior was gone within the hour, never looking back, until now. Jessica stayed the last few months of school with the O'Grady's, graduated, then took charge of her life.
Gary had given her mom something no man had ever given her since Jessica's dad died; Gary had given her mom stability. He had swooped in one day and melted her mother's heart with kind words and gentle smiles. Showered her with gifts, took her and Jessica to parks and sporting events; he was a perfect gentleman, until the third week.
Jessica had only been six when Gary moved in. She had liked him in the beginning, what six year old wouldn't. He had come in, given her new clothes, toys, games, even a pet bunny. Then he had started bringing in his friends. Men and women soon were spending the nights on their sofa or in their guest room. Once her mom, came and took Jessica to a hotel to sleep.
By the time Jessica was 10 she pretty much knew what was going on. She had figured out how Gary afforded all the extravagant gifts he gave her and her mom. He had his own little business on the side. The transaction became more open once Gary made friends with the local police chief, soon Jessica's room would have a few bags of the white powder in her closet and even some in her bottom drawer. She didn't know for certain what it was at the time, but she understood Gary's threats; if she touched it, he'd kill her mom.
She believed him, and now at the age of 23, she still believes he would have. Gary was dead now, his life taken out by the same officer that he had befriended years ago. The officer had died too, just a month later. It was an old friend of her mother's that had called Jessica, telling her the news. Jessica had been surprised that anyone knew where she was. Mrs. O'Grady had told her that Gary always knew, and he had given her the information in case she ever needed to be called.
The greyhound began to slow and Jessica looked up, only a few people were on the bus. She was curious as to where the other travelers were going, but she only had her imagination to carry her with them. No one had sat with her, and though she was thankful for the quietness, she admitted it would have been nice to have someone there to speak with on occasion. She watched the town get closer, the bus on its final route, at least for Jessica.
When it pulled up to the small bus stop Jessica grabbed her duffel bag and her purse. Easing her way down the isle, she smiled at the driver. He had seemed a nice man, reminded Jessica of Mr. O'Grady, she wondered how the old couple were. She walked off the steps of the bus and down onto the sidewalk. Taking a deep breath, she began to walk towards the home that now belonged to her.
Gary had left her everything. To her it didn't seem like much. It was her mother's home first, and in her heart it was always her mother's and Gary's, but never Jessica's. She had decided to come here, see if anything touched her heart enough to warrant taking it back to Atlanta. If not, she'd let the O'Grady's have their pick, have a garage sale, and then go home. She had a life in Atlanta, and she wanted to finish the chapter of Dry Valley, so she could go back.
Rounding the corner, Jessica saw the house. The one for six years she had only faint memories of happy times, and the ones after that were blurred with few smiles and even more tears. Each step she took brought her closer to the picket fence and the small gate that locked her out. Lifting the latch, she pushed it open and walked towards the porch that circled the house. The porch swing hung low, while the gentle breeze pushed it back and forth.
Jessica stopped and looked at the swing, she just wasn't ready to go in yet. Putting her purse and bag down, she went to the swing. Her fingers trailed over the chains that held it suspended in the air. She turned around, scooting herself onto it, and rested there. Her eyes looked out to the well kept lawn and the tulips that were blooming. "The O'Grady's," she sighed.
Jessica looked over at the O'Grady's place, scooted herself from the porch swing, picked up her duffel bag and purse, then fished out her keys to her old life from the envelope that Mrs. O'Grady had mailed to her. Her hand trembled as she inserted the key, turned it, then heard the click that released her past and pushed it to her present.
Closing her eyes, taking a deep breath, she opened them, and then pushed open the door of her previous life. Jessica breathed deep the hint of lemon and Murphy's Oil Soap, she chuckled, "I should have known." She laughed as she set her belongings inside the door, and closed it behind her. The lamp on the table was lit, Jessica smiled, picked up the phone that rested there and dialed the O'Grady's.
"Hello?" the little voice answered, after several rings.
"Hi Mrs. O. I'm here, and I wanted to thank you for the house, it looks great, you must have been working all week to make it smell and look so pleasant."
"Oh, Jessie dear, welcome back, I'll be right over."
"No, you rest, I'm going to settle in, do some shopping and then make a few calls, I'll come over and visit in the morning, okay."
"All right, love, if that is what you want, I had help with the house, once my daughter and her family heard you were coming home, they all set to work making that place livable again, and we stocked the refrigerator and cabinets for you also."
Jessica laughed, "Thanks Mrs. O, I'll see you tomorrow okay."
"Sounds lovely, and Mitch and Tom will be over later to fix the leak you have in the sink and the whole in the roof."
"What? When? and Who?"
She heard the quiet laugh, "Oh, you have two handsome handymen that are going to be working on your home for you, Mr. O'Grady insisted, they'll be over later this evening I think, you rest dear, bye." She hung up the phone before Jessica could say anything else, "Well Mr. O'Grady," she said as she turned to her elderly husband, "I think Dry Valley's gem just returned to town, and soon we'll all be a bit brighter in the neighborhood."
"No match making now," her husband told her.
"I would never, besides she needs someone to fix the leak and patch the roof," Mrs. O'Grady smiled, patted her husband's hand and moved back to the kitchen. The grandchildren were coming tomorrow and she had dozens of cookies to make.
Jessica sighed as she heard the dial tone, hanging up the phone, she ran her fingers through her hair, and pulled herself up to her full height of 5'9" and headed to the bathroom, "I bet that is fully stocked to."
Jessica moved throughout the house, it looked as if someone had just left for a moment, not months. She went to her old bedroom and sat down. The bed not hers, the dresser no longer hers, nothing was the same. Her eyes scanned the picture window, the tree that stood there was now ten feet taller, she smiled as she remembered her and her mom planting it one Arbor Day.
She stood up and walked over to the window. Jessica pushed with all her might, still the window refused to budge, "Damn!"
"It's nailed shut," the voice in the doorway called to her.
Jessica spun around and looked into the face of Mitch Walker. "Hello, Mitch."
"Jess," he walked over to the window, a hammer in his hands, pulled the nails, raised the window and left.
She watched him leave, then sat down as memories of her high school sweetheart and his twin brother assaulted her senses.
Memories consumed Jessica, thoughts of her and the brothers passing notes in class. The time Tom and Mitch dared her to streak naked across the baseball field, granted she'd only been 10 but it was fun. Her mom had spanked her for that; she had deserved it, but still it had smarted. The time she and Tom kissed under the rope swing, that hung from the tallest tree out by the Walker's pond, brought a sigh to her lips and then she recalled when she had ended up kissing Mitch a year later, under that same tree, and feeling her heart melt in his hands.
The Walker place was outside of town, the road that led to the farm was graveled and stirred up dust if you so much as shuffled your feet on it. She had loved it out there as a kid, sometimes, her mom would take her out there if Gary was having a big party or an even bigger deal go down.
She had grown up all over town, being shuffled from one house to the next; perhaps that's why she found herself, so at odds within the walls of her mother's home. It only held a few memories for her, but Dry Valley itself held all of them.
The Walker's, the O'Grady's, even the soda shop had more memories built up inside their walls then this little two story home. She listened to the two brothers that were downstairs; their voices muffled, but every now and then she'd pick up a word. Her name was spoken once or twice, but not after that.
Mitch's voice brought thoughts that carried her to heated make-out sessions in his truck after football games. She remembered how much she loved him, and how often he loved her. Now as the sound of his voice came back to her, she was filled with a rush of goose-bumps. She could hear him down stairs, along with tools hitting the floor. "Ow!" she heard one of them shout.
"Tom," she thought. Jessie closed her eyes and remembered the night before graduation, then shuddered as the thoughts tried to pull her back to that awful time.
"So," she thought to herself once more, "Tom knows I'm here, Mitch does as well, so with the help of Mrs. O, the whole town will be over here with my luck." She stood up, stretched, and walked to the door, closing it softly. Grabbing the duffle bag, she pulled out her clothes for the next few days, along with a small kit, that contained her bathroom necessities.
She placed them in the connecting bathroom and grinned at the pink lacy curtains that hung over the window. She saw Mrs. O's work everywhere she went, thankful for that touch of love that she had missed over the last several years.
She spun around and saw Tom standing behind her, "Hello stranger," she smiled back, wondering if he was going to be just as quiet as his brother had.
"Come here." He grabbed her arms and swept her into a big hug. She grinned against his chest and hugged him back. "You still smell good," he whispered against her hair, "nice to see some things don't change."
"Yes, some things don't change do they." Mitch's voice came from the bedroom, his blue eyes running over the embracing pair.
Jessie looked over Tom's shoulder and recognized the look she received from him five years ago, just a month before she left Dry Valley. He had misunderstood then and was misunderstanding again.
"Hello again Mitch," she said as she left the warmth of his brother's arms. Giving herself a mental shake, she spun Tom's body around, and pushed him out of the bathroom, "I've got to go, so out you go."
Tom grinned back, "Need any help?"
"Get Tom," she laughed, then shut the door behind her. Jessica leaned against it, trying to listen to what the brother's were saying.
"You don't change do you?" Mitch's voice came through the wooden door.
Tom's voice followed quickly, "Look's like you don't either, still holding that grudge."
"Well you fucked my girlfriend," Mitch yelled then lowered his voice, "you screwed her real good, then dumped her. You planning on doing that again?"
Jessica shook her head in disbelief, she still couldn't believe that Mitch thought she had slept with Tom, that wasn't what had happened, and no matter how much she and Tom had told him the truth he refused to believe it.
Flushing the toilet, hoping it was enough to convince them that she really had used the restroom, she pretended to tuck her shirt back in as she came out of the bathroom. "Hey boys, I hear Mrs. O' left me food. I bet she left soda's also. You want anything?"
Jessica refused to acknowledge the argument that was so old it had gathered cobwebs, but now with the return of Jessica Scout, it had been cleaned and reopened. She sighed as she left the room, hearing the twin Adonises moving behind her.
Pulling some lunch meat from the fridge and three bottles of Root Beer, she grinned at the contents left behind and then closed the door. She saw Tom grab the bread and Mitch reach back into the fridge for some condiments. Before long, paper plates joined the group of items on the table.
"What no fine china, Mrs. O'Grady is slacking off," Jessica joked as the three grabbed their plates and headed out to the porch. They ate in silence, comfortable for Tom, and uneasy for Mitch and Jess.
Tom was the first to break the uneasy spell that had been cast over the three diners, "How long are you planning on staying?"
"I don't know, a few days, perhaps a week. It depends," she answered, taking a swig of her Root Beer.
"On what?" Mitch asked, his eyes trying hard not to read anything into her next answer.
She glanced over at him, "It depends on how long it takes for me to sell the stuff inside, and put the house of the market."
Tom choked on his drink, and coughed hard. His eyes watered as Jessica leaned over and pounded him on the back. "Jesus Christ, Tom you okay."
He waved her off, stood up coughing and tried to catch his breath. "He'll be fine, let him choke," Mitch said, a wicked gleam in his eyes.
She stared at the brothers and waited for Tom to breath once more. "Your selling! Shit you just got here," he squeaked out, then swallowed a drink of his soda, to ease the sting in his throat.
"Let her go," Mitch said, "it's her place now."
Jessica felt a little hurt that Mitch was okay with her leaving, perhaps if she had slept with Tom, it would have turned her life out differently, at least he seemed to care for her.
"I've got a place of my own in Atlanta," she stated, "a life there, uprooting myself for a week was a bear for my boss, I can't work here."
"That's right, you're a photographer for some big fancy newspaper up there aren't you."
She could hear the sarcasm dripping from Mitch's lips, but she ignored it. He had the chip on his shoulder not her, though his comments were starting to form a small mound.
"I have nice job, yes and an apartment."
Tom piped up, "But you own this place and we have a town paper."
Mitch rolled his eyes, "I don't think Dry Valley Gazette, is going to pay the same as Atlanta Sun Times. Do you?" "Probably not, but at least she'd be here."
"And that's what's important, isn't it?" Mitch's snide comment bounced over to Tom.
"Well, it sure the hell should be important to you also!" he shouted back.
Mitch stood up and grabbed his trash, "It would have been if you hadn't fucked her!"
Jessica had sat there listening to the two men shouting at each other, talking as if she wasn't there. Finally she stood up and glared at them both, "I'm leaving in a week. I will be out of Dry Valley, so don't bother fighting over something neither one of you ever had or will have."
She looked at Tom, "Stop pushing him into a fight!" Then over to Mitch she lowered her voice, still loud enough for Tom to hear, but showing the true depth of her pain and raw anger, "I didn't fuck your brother, ok. He helped me after Jonis raped me, now get your tools and get off my property and don't bother coming back!"
Jessica spun around and headed back into the house, doors slammed behind her. She made her way to her bedroom, slammed that door too and crawled onto the bed. Jessica had sworn Tom to secrecy and now it was out. Mitch knew, but would he believe and would it matter?
Mitch stared after the retreating back of the one woman he had loved for years. There had been other girlfriends after Jess, but no one like her. He had tried to push her from his mind, but she was always there hovering, waiting to be let back in.
His stare went back to Tom and he saw the truth in Tom's eyes. "Jonis?"
Tom hung his head and related the tale of what had happened that night so long ago.
"The night before graduation we were all over at Hillsdale." Tom sat down on the porch step, "You remember that right?"
"Yes, of course. We'd all gone up there to drink the night away. Old Henry would let the tap run free that one night every year and only to Seniors. He'd take all our keys away, and put us up for the night in his barn. If I remember right it was you, Jess, Becky and myself." Mitch answered him.
"Well we four had gone together yes, but a whole ton of people were there, including Jonis."
"Your right, but Jonis wasn't a senior he was one of Gary's friends."
"After you headed to the john, Becky and I went out back behind the bar. We were getting all hot and heavy when I heard this noise coming from the front of the bar. I didn't think much of it, it was Jessie's voice and she was saying "no" but not in a way that was worrisome. I honestly thought it was you and she was teasing you."
Mitch stared down at the mirror image of him; it was hard to listen to his brother after all this time. He had walked into the barn and saw Tom hovering over Jess, his pants undone and her skirt up. He still had a hard time getting rid of those images and replacing them with what Tom was saying now, but he tried.
"Anyway, Jess and you, or so I thought it was you, were heading towards the barn. Like I said, she wasn't yelling, just saying "no." God Mitch, when I think about the first time she said it, if I had listened she wouldn't have had to experience it at all." Tom pinched his temples, took a deep breath and continued.
"Beck and I were all over each other, her bra had all ready found itself undone and my hands had all ready made a home for themselves deep inside her. She worked on my pants, and before long, she was doing what she does best and I had my hands buried in her hair, holding her close."
Tom looked up, his face paler then normal, "Then I heard your voice. I thought, what the fuck? Why would you leave Jessie in the barn, because I knew you'd been doing what I was doing with Becky, then I heard you calling Jessie's name. I stopped Betty. Shit, she was pissed and I wasn't happy either. If I hadn't heard you calling for Jess, fuck, I would have been coming in her mouth. But I did stop and well something didn't sit right with me."
He watched as Mitch took a seat beside him, "Well, I wasn't thinking much, I told Becky to get you, and I hightailed it to the barn. By the time I got there it was to late. Jessica was laying in a heap. Her panties had been torn off, her skirt was up and she was shivering like there was a blizzard blowing in. I didn't see Jonis. Hell, I didn't even know it was him, that did it. I thought it may have been, after all he was real cocky the next day at the graduation sitting with Gary and Jessie's mom; Jess, remember she didn't even come."