Appearing in the story:
Jesse found himself drawn to this dance club night after night in these year following Nadine’s death. Dancing, alcohol and loud music helped clear his mind not only from thoughts of his late wife but also of all the women he had loved and lost. Beautiful Ebony with those fierce green eyes that sometimes he felt ripped all trough his soul, warm and kind Elena who always saw the best in him, and dark humored yet talented Nadine. All dead. Yet he lived, the bastard who hurt them all.
After Nadine’s death a lot of people came to the house, not all of them knew Nadine but everyone knew Jesse. Even months later Jesse would get sympathy left and right, pretty women gave him flowers and offered a shoulder to cry on but he had simply lost interest, in everything
It was Krystal, his golden child, that took care of everything, even though Nadine wasn’t blood related to her she respected her step mum, even though he never heard her call her that. She organized the funeral, the memorial service, made sure there was plenty of food for everyone, at all times and took care of all of them, him and Lucky and Irene as well. Jesse could hardly bring himself to talk to them, what would he say? What did he say to Krys after Elena died? He could not remember, and couldn’t bare himself to remembered either, he just let Krystal take care.
And while she did, he danced and drank in the same club he met the chubby, dark haired bartender that would go on and birth him two daughters and become his first wife, his lovely Nadine.
Tonight he stayed until dawn, like he did on most nights. Whit was else to do? He was old and sleep did not come easy. His suspension wasn’t lifted yet, they didn’t want him back so soon after the lose of a spouse, and by they he meant lieutenant Gradle, Mya. His little niece, the only child he could tolerate before Krystal was born, the sweat little tomboy whom he took stargazing, and to all the parties he went, simply because she was more interesting than most of the people there.
She hated him now too. When did his life become so fucked up? Jesse wondered as he watched the empty streets of the city from the back of the cab that drove him home.
Luckily he managed to get up to his bedroom before Krystal got up. He half expected to run into her in the kitchen, making breakfast for the girls. She would have said nothing but he knew she didn’t approve of his new lifestyle and Jesse hated to see that look in his daughter’s eyes.
He only slept a few hours, no surprise there, and woke in his cold and empty bed. For days after Nadine’s death he could still feel her scent there. It clung to everything, her clothes, the sheets, the entire room. When one day he came home and found that Krystal had changed the bedding, packed Nadine’s stuff and donated them all to charity he crawled in his bed and wept like a baby.
Now he was already used to all of it, almost. But that didn’t mean he liked it, and he didn’t like the cold silence that enveloped the house either. The girls were already gone, Irene, his youngest, was in school, and so was Krystal, she thought middle school and Laquita was interning for her future mother-in-law Posie, who was once again running for City Council. He couldn’t be prouder of his girls.
He went for a run. There was nothing better to stop the horrible hangover he felt coming on. He ran for hours, not really paying anyone much mind and by the time he got back home he found Laquita in the kitchen.
“What, no late nights at the office anymore?” He asked with a smile from the door. She turned to him taking a break from chopping up the cheese. “Not today. Everything is running smooth. I think we are going to kill it on Sunday.” “Good to know.” He said stepping in. “Why are you doing this, why not Krys?” He saw Laquita’s face darken instantly. “I can cook too!” She said defensively. “Even Krys deserves a break.” “Certainly, I meant no harm.” Jesse said and leaned in to kiss his daughter’s cheek. She was still frowning but she didn’t step away. He left her to her cooking and went to pour himself a drink.
They ate together, the four of them. Krystal was annoying Irene quizzing her geography while they ate and Laquita was anxious for anyone to compliment her mac and cheese.It was all so startlingly normal that for once Jesse was completely sure his family would move on. Once again they would all be fine. He summoned another image, one morning when Zeke, his son, was staying with them. He had walked in on his whole family at the table, eating together. It was a nice image, and a fond memory, one he hoped he would take with him to the grave.
A week later he found himself in the park on his way to the club. There he ran into Tori Jackson who was an old friend of his, and for a few years a neighbor too. They talked about the recent elections, since Tori was one of the city officials. He of course didn’t fail to mention his daughter, and the big win of Posie Kerry in city council elections.
This went on for a while and after he and Tori said goodbye he realized he didn’t feel like dancing tonight after all. It was a nice night and the park was buzzing with activity, from adults barbecuing, and catching up, to children running around screaming and laughing.
He sat on one of the benches and just relaxed, soaking in the positive atmosphere. For a while he looked around and then his gaze settled on a young woman playing darts alone. She was no good, but she was persistent, he gave her that.”Nice aim.” He said with a smile after one very pitiful attempt. She turned around fixing her dark blue eyes on him but didn’t say anything. He already knew who she was, even before he saw her whole face, her haircut was different than he had remembered, and the white coat she wore made her seam somehow more serious but she was still pleasant to the eye.
He got up from the bench and walked up to her. “If you want to punish me for that comment I guess I need to come closer, give you a fair chance.” He continued smiling although the girl didn’t reciprocate. “Jesse Hoves.” He said extending his arm to her. “You must be Phaena Santoro’s daughter?” “Jeez, what gave me away?” She asked but then softened a little and gave him her hand. “Phoibe.” “Nice to meet you Phoibe. Just off work I assume? Want to join me for burgers?” “No.” She replied, but then hastily explained.”I don’t eat meat.” “Oh?” Jesse raised an eyebrow at her. “An animal lover? So what do you use for experiments?” He meant it as a joke but he could see it upset her. “Ladngrab Industries Science Facility does not use animals for experiments. If it did I wouldn’t be working there for sure.” “I didn’t really mean it.” He explained himself. “I’m against it to. I’m all about protecting this planet and everything on it.” While Jesse would say anything to impress a woman, especially one as young and pretty as this one this was actually true. He was always harassing his children about saving energy and recycling and he always preferred walking and biking than cars and with Phoibe Santoro that really worked. For the first time after the start of their conversation he managed to get a smile.
They spent hours talking about renewable energy, recycling, and all that humanity can do to save their home planet. Phoibe admitted that it was that dream of saving the world from its most intelligent inhabitants that got her into science in the first place and soon the park was empty and neither had noticed.
After a while they moved on to other topics and Jesse told her how exactly he knew her. “Oh! I’m so embarrassed!” Phoibe exclaimed and hid her face in her hands. “Did I really dance on the counter?” “Like mother like daughter.” Jesse replied and he heard her laugh a little. “Yes that does sound like something my mother would do. Well I guess we all do crazy things in our twenties.” She added lifting her head up again. Jesse laughed. “Yes, if you get out of them without more then a few blackouts, a rap sheet, and a few kids you did fine.” She laughed again. “I’m fine on most of those, no criminal record what so ever and no kids.” “I’m guessing no husband either?” Jesse asked gesturing to her ring-less hand. “No husband either.” She added quietly. “Any boyfriends? At the present I mean.” “Why would you ask that?” She asked with a shy smile but Jesse knew she was hooked.
He suddenly jumped to his feet feeling his knees creek just a bit. He stood in front of her and pulled her up gently by her hands so they were as close as possible without touching. “Because from the moment I saw you throw those darts I wanted to kiss you.” It was lame, he could do better, but over a decade of marriage can do that to a guy, make him lose his game like that. Luckily on Phoibe this seamed to work because he saw he eyes sparkle. “So all this talk, it was all some ruse?” She said quietly, barely louder than a whisper. “No. The desire only grew.” He said. She then cupped his face with her hands. “Then what are you waiting for?”