Jessalyn was very happy, eating her breakfast alone in peace. She chomped away on her cereal, liking the way the crunching sound rang in her ears. In a house this size with this many people, silence was a rare and welcome occurrence. She couldn’t remember the last time she heard herself chew. The rhythmic crunch was music to her ears.
Enjoying the silence, Jessalyn embraced the opportunity to think and to reflect, and to maybe – just maybe – make the decision she’d been avoiding. But Lucas’ face flashed in her memory, and then Stanley’s big blue eyes after that, and Jessalyn promptly shook them away. Maybe the commotion was better, after all – noise to drown the sound of her indecision. And her guilt.
Because she was guilty – and not just because she still hadn’t told Lucas about Stan, or Stan about Lucas. That was part of it, yes – a pretty big chunk of it, actually. But more than that, she still hadn’t told Theo, and keeping something like this from her twin felt like the biggest betrayal of all.
Jessalyn chomped again, concentrating on the sound the cereal made as it popped in her mouth. Better not to think about it just now. Anyway, she still didn’t understand why she had to make this decision at all. Why did the world have to be so uptight, so structured? So “you-can-only-have-one-boyfriend” judgmental?
She sighed and turned her thoughts back to cereal, the crunching, and the silence around her. She’d have to enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasted, because if Jessalyn knew anything for sure, it was that peace and quiet never lasted long in this little house.
But as the silence drew on, her thoughts returned to Stan and Lucas. Again she brushed them away with a dramatic huff, and turned her frustrations on the family’s small kitchen instead. Why did they even still live in this tiny house after all this time? They had the money to move – she knew they did. She’d seen her mother’s bank statement once when Coralie left the page open on the computer. Something about tradition, she imagined, about this mindless legacy they all were compelled to fulfill based on the whims of some long dead relative. Not that Jessalyn minded, really – she thought she’d be quite a good heir, in fact, considering her penchant keeping for multiple men.
The air stirred beside her, a stool screeched across the wooden floor, and Jessalyn was jarred abruptly from her thoughts. She’d been so caught up in her worries that she didn’t even notice her father come into the kitchen.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Kody asked smiling, as he slid into the chair beside her.
Jessalyn laughed despite herself. “Do you always have to be so corny?”
“Always,” he replied with a grin. “It’s a father’s right. So, I’ll ask again – penny for your thoughts?”
Jessalyn hesitated. She didn’t need to ask to know her dad wouldn’t want to hear about her recent makeout sessions with two different boys. So finally she sighed, and responded simply, “Nothing, Dad.”
But Kody knew better. “It’s about those two boys,” he said, cocking an eyebrow and laughing at the surprised expression on her face. “Oh, you thought I didn’t know, did you? Well I’m onto you, chick-a-dee. And I can’t say I’m terribly surprised, either. I mean, for one, you’re a teenager and I hear that means your hormones are ratings. And for two, you’re a Hasslich, which is all I care to say on that particular subject.”
Jessalyn stuttered, her face flushed. At last, she asked the only thing that really mattered : “Does Theo know?”
Kody shook his head. “Theo is oblivious, Jess. You forget, but he’s a teenager too – he’s so wrapped up with Elsa he wouldn’t notice a dinosaur if it swallowed him whole.”
Jessalyn sighed in relief. “Well, thank the Watcher for that. He’d be so mad if he thought I was hurting Stan, you know?”
“Are you hurting Stan?”
“I don’t really know. We never really talked about being exclusive or anything, but I never said I wasn’t, either. And I really do care about him, Dad. I don’t want to hurt him. But I care about Lucas too.” She looked at him sideways, a wry smile playing on her lips. “I don’t suppose you’d tell me I can keep them both?”
Kody released a hearty belly laugh. “They’re not puppies, Jessalyn! You’re going to have to make a decision sooner or later. I suggest sooner, personally, but if it’s later,” he cast his eyes downward, blushing “my best advice is to not get too …serious… with either of them until you decide. Do you understand what I mean, Jessalyn?”
She felt the heat rush to her already crimson face. She knew she’d be in for “the talk,” sooner or later, but she never expected it to come from her dad! She swallowed hard, quickly assured her father that she caught his meaning – and then promptly excused herself from the table.
Meanwhile, Jessalyn wasn’t the only Hasslich with a decision to make.
Diego was struggling with an equally important choice of his own.
“So? What did she say?” Sheena asked excitedly. “Am I in?”
Diego stared at the ground. He’d asked Libby – pleaded with her, really – to let Sheena join her club. But Libby (as any respectably bossy sister would do) denied the request – time and time again – solely because she could, and also, of course, because she saw how much it mattered to Diego. Libby insisted that she was only looking out for her “little brother,” a title Diego detested, but that was undeniably true nonetheless. Technically, she was three minutes and 24 seconds older than him – an age difference that, according to Libby, meant she outranked him in both age and in club hierarchy. And so as her brother’s keeper, and as the self-proclaimed club president, Libby was the sole determiner of new applicant approval. Sheena, naturally, did not have Libby’s approval.
And so Diego had two options. Either he could tell Sheena that Libby said no, and face the wrath of Sheena, or he could lie and say Libby said yes, and try to keep Libby from finding out. Ever.
“Well…..” Diego started, shuffling his feet uncomfortably.
Sheena pursed her lips, and her eyes glazed over in anger.
She stared at him, wide-eyed, in shock. “She said no, just like I told you she would! And you didn’t even stand up for me, did you?”
Diego paled at her anger, and he felt himself break out into a nervous sweat. But behind the rage, Diego recognized the hurt in her eyes. He didn’t like to see her sad. But Diego knew he couldn’t lie.
Instead, he said something true. Or something that would be true, at any rate.
“She said no -”
Sheena’s eyes welled up, and Diego hurried on.
“But I thought of something better! I’ve started a new, even better club! Me and you are the co-presidents, and anybody can be in it. We don’t need Libby’s snooty club, anyway, do we?”
Sheena grinned and threw herself at him in hug.
Libby was going to hate him for this, and he knew she’d make him pay the price. But if anyone was worth it, it was Sheena.
The sun was setting, but earlier in the day, Jessalyn had made a decision. It wasn’t THE decision, exactly, but it was a step in the right direction. One more date with Lucas and one more date with Stanley, and then she would make THE decision. She just needed to be sure.
She met Stan at the bar for a few virgin drinks, and they quickly fell into their usual banter. Joking, laughing, flirting – all the things she loved about hanging out with Stan. Not to mention those piercing blue eyes.
Things were going well, and Jessalyn heeded her father’s advice. She reminded herself to keep a cool head, and not to lead Stanley on. Because her dad was right, of course – it was in no one’s best interest to let things go too far.
But when Stanley took her by the hand and asked her to dance, Jessalyn felt the electricity pass through their fingertips. The chemistry was undeniable, but it was only holding hands, Jessalyn reasoned. Surely hand-holding wasn’t “going too far.”
It was harmless, really.
And honestly, if she’d gone as far as holding his hand, was there really any harm in a kiss? Just one measly kiss, that’s all it really was. And they’d kissed before – they’d kissed plenty of times! One more couldn’t hurt anything.
It was harmless, really.
And, well – as long as they were kissing, they might as well do it somewhere a little more private. She didn’t want to be that girl, the one making out in the corner in front of an audience. At least this way she was keeping it classy.
And in the end, it was harmless, really.
And seriously, as long as they were down here, they might as well sit down somewhere. She’d been on her feet all night, and these heels were killing her!
It’s only a bed. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s absolutely, completely harmless!