Tuesday, October 12, 2010

139.) Kris’s End

Yes, as you may be able to tell from the title, this will be the penultimate post of this story, and #140 will be the end. I know more than one of you had said that you wish this story could go on forever, but I’m glad to be at this point, finally. This story has turned into so much more than I had planned for it.

I know some of my wonderful readers enjoy the music, so instead of choosing between two, I linked to both of them. The former fits best with the beginning, and the latter fits with the dialogue.

Thanks to everyone who read, but most of all to those who commented and commented regularly with such kind words, praise, and encouragement; you mean the world to me. I hope you enjoy, because without you, I probably never would have even gotten to this point.


Soundtrack Songs - The Airborne Toxic Event, Sometime Around Midnight / The Script, Talk You Down

I had been thinking about this moment since I had invited Jo up to my Cup party. I’d probably asked Charlene three dozen times since she met me at the house this morning about Jo, whether she had changed her mind about coming, and when she’d show up—because Charlene had promised me that Jo was coming. As the day had progressed, I was sure that Charlene had been feeding me a lie to help me get through the day; otherwise, if Jo had refused to come, I would never have been able to make it through the planned festivities. I would have been too heartbroken.

So when she finally appeared, I felt a rush of emotions. I was relieved, yet unsure. Getting her here wasn’t the tough part—it was figuring out what to say to her now that she had agreed to be in the same place and time as me. The people around me had noticed her arrival first, and I had felt them all turn to me and watch me before I had the sudden, inexplicable urge to turn and look up toward the hill she was walking down with her company. I was only vaguely aware that she wasn’t alone, and I didn’t bother looking at them long enough to recognize them; it didn’t matter who she brought as long as she came.

Jo was wearing this white, flowy sun dress that was new to me. I had always loved her in white; not only did it make her look tan and healthy, but it also made her look angelic and pure. After the hell she’d been dragged through, I thought it made her look more like the person I knew she was inside. The breeze kicked up, making the skirt dance around her legs as her hair whipped around her face. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was parted as she stared back at me, looking like a vision from my dreams.

Until she said something to Char, looked away, and started to walk toward the pavilion—which was in the opposite direction from me. She was walking away from me. Again. And just as quickly as before, like a trot. While I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy, I also knew that avoiding it wasn’t going to make it any easier. I wanted to talk to her, see her, feel her, be close to her... so I followed her to wherever she was going. I wasn’t going to let her get away so easily this time.

It was like she had been in a whole nother world, because she looked shocked when I caught up to her in the pavilion’s restroom. Her eyes flitted to my arm as I held the door open and prevented her from shutting it so I could enter with her. At least we’d have some privacy to hash this out. The way her chest rose and fell quickly as she breathed in shallowly let me know that she was just as nervous or scared or anxious about seeing me as I was about seeing her. We greeted each other, but after that, I had no idea what to say next; there was too much that I needed her to know.

“I’m just... I’m so glad you were able to make the trip up,” I finally said, breaking the silence. I stepped closer to her and reached out to touch her face, her pretty face, her beautiful face.

But she flinched and turned away from me, like she was afraid that I would hurt her. It was discouraging and disheartening, especially when she returned, “I have to pee, Kris. Get out.”

“No you don’t,” I told her flatly. I knew it was a lie; she had hurried away from me because she had wanted to put more distance between us or prolong the inevitable. She raised her eyebrows as if to challenge me—after all, how would I know? But I could read Jo well enough to know that she was looking for an excuse to get some distance. She didn’t argue with me, though, so I cleared my throat and tried to change the subject to something more neutral in order to build up to the big, important topics. “So, how are your classes?”

“Fine.”

“And you said you’re working? Where?”

She rolled her eyes and looked down at her inwardly-turned feet. “Sheetz.”

“Oh. Do you like it?”

“It’s okay, I guess. I mean, it’s tough, working and studying, but I have to do it.”

“Why do you have to?”

Jo gave me a very pointed glance. “How do you expect me to support myself? To afford a place to live? To buy food to eat?”

“Why aren’t you at the apartment? Didn’t you get my note?”

“Oh, yeah,” she snorted. “I got your note. I come back to talk to you and find that you’ve gone home. I couldn’t believe that. Do you know how bad it hurt to see that you up and moved back here?”

“Do you know how bad it hurt when you walked out on me?”

“What did you want me to do, Kris? Stand there and let you tell me what to do? Let you dictate my life and make all these decisions for me, without taking my opinion or wants into mind?”

Speaking softly, I tried again to make her understand that morning’s point of view. “Well, no. I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to be able to explain my reasoning and make you see that I really just wanted what would be easiest for you.”

Jo’s eyes began to well with tears as she looked up at me. “Easiest for me? If you thought that keeping me locked up in Pittsburgh would be ‘easiest’ then you’re sadly mistaken.” She wiped at her cheeks and then stood straight up with her shoulders pushed back. “Don’t you see, Kris? I’m not the same girl you met a year ago. I’m different. I’m better. When we fought, when I left, I thought I was going crazy. Everything was wrong, and I hated it, and I wanted to close my eyes and never open them again. It hurt so bad. So bad.”

I pursed my lips together, trying to hold my emotions in. I wanted to apologize, scream it, yell it, do anything to show her that I meant it. Never in a million years did I want to be the person who hurt her; I wanted to be the one person she could depend on more than anyone else in this world, the only one who she could lean on without worrying that I'd do something to cause her any pain. That had been the point of wanting her to stay in Pittsburgh, to avoid the highs and lows and brutal uncertainty of my contractual destiny. But the things I had said and done with good intentions had hurt nonetheless. And even though I wanted to tell her all that, I kept it inside so I could let her say what it was she wanted me to know.

“But I didn’t do that. I got up, every day. I made myself do the things I needed to do each day. I pushed forward, even when it felt like an impossible task. It was hard to do even the simplest things, to shower, to eat, to get my ass to class and pay attention as the professor droned on and on. But I did it anyway—and I did it without you watching over me and pulling the strings to make things ‘easy’ for me.” Jo chuckled in a sad way. “And it’s the craziest thing, because if you would’ve seen me, Kris, you would have been so proud of me for that. It's such a contradiction, because if you hadn’t’ve left, I wouldn’t have been tested, but I wouldn’t have had a reason to make you proud.”

“I’ll always be so proud of you. Jo, I can’t tell you... I can’t possibly show you how sorry I am that I hurt you. I hate that I put you through that, that I made things so difficult for you when really I did have good intentions to make it easier for you. It hurts to know that I did that to you.”

“You don’t have to apologize. I’m kind of glad it happened? I don’t know....” Her voice faded out and she looked away, her mind obviously somewhere else.

“Glad? But you're crying.” I wiped her cheek with the pad of my thumb. It was the first I got to touch her in a month, and I was wiping away tears that I had caused. It made me feel terrible.

She took my hand in hers and squeezed as she offered me a sad smile. “I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. It still hurts. I still can’t figure out why you’d think being away from you would be best for me when all I ever wanted was to be with you. You’re my whole life, you know? Being apart from you only made me realize how much you were a part of me. And I’m okay with that, because I only feel like myself when I’m around you. I’m the person I am today because of you, which means you’ll always be a part of me.” Jo sighed. “I just wish that I could’ve meant that much to you.”

“What do you mean? You... you’re everything to me. My world revolves around you.”

“I know, but.... Ugh, how do I explain it to you? You came into my life when I was in a bad place. I needed you, I needed what you did for me and the things you said to me. You helped me move on from a really bad place. And I changed. I got better. I would have liked to have been able to help you, too, like you had done for me. But you didn’t change. You stayed the same, and I don’t need that Kris anymore. I don’t need the Kris who looked after me and cared for me. Now I’m capable of making decisions for myself—and good choices, too. I mean, your opinion is valued because I view it in high esteem, and relationships require input from both people... but ultimately, my life is my decision. I don’t need you to point me in the right direction anymore.”

I hung my head low. She was basically telling me that she didn’t need me in her life any more. I shouldn’t have been so hurt, because I had done exactly what I had wanted to do from the get-go: help out someone who was hurting, just like I had hurt. I had accomplished my goal, so I should have been happy. But I wasn’t. My heart was breaking in my chest. “You know I want only the best for you.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I just....” I exhaled. “I wish that none of this had ever happened. This isn't how I pictured this summer, at all.”

“And since when have things ever turned out how you wanted them to, Kris?” she asked me quietly, caressing my cheek with the backs of her fingers like she was comforting me. I turned to look at her, and she responded by twirling a section of my hair around her index finger. “Your family. What happened to Luc. Even getting traded. You didn’t want to go to San Jose, but look how that turned out. You fit in so well, you played some great hockey as a Shark, and won a Cup there. It’s not what you wanted, but it still turned out great. And they even matched that contract offer so they could keep you.”

“So you saw that?” I asked her sheepishly. I felt like a fool for making this big deal about not knowing where I was going to end but, only to find myself in San José with a nice five-year contract. Although, to be fair, they had let me enter the market and let someone make an offer for me before they decided to make the move to keep me.

Jo diverted her eyes so she was looking at her finger in my hair rather than my face, avoiding eye contact while making her next statement. “Of course I did. I was mad at you... that didn’t mean I stopped loving you.”

I grabbed her hand and held it between mine, suddenly filled with a bit of hope. “Do you still love me?”

“Kris, you know I’ll always love you. No matter whatever happens, you’ll always mean so, so much to me.”

That answer wasn't good enough. “But are you still in love with me?” I looked at her carefully, wanting to tell her how important she was to me. “Because I still love you. I’d do anything to be with you again. I love you, I want you, I need you.” I knew I was practically begging, but what else was there left for me to do? I said I was sorry, I let her know that I still cared about her, and I wanted her back. I’d beg if it would help my cause.

She closed her eyes. “I can’t go through that again. Every time we fight—and I mean really fight—and break up, it ruins me. After my accident, I barely left my house. And this time, I still kept going, but God, it hurt. It wrecks me, it tears me apart. I love you so much Kris. I love you so hard, with every part of me, because you affect every part of me. I love you, and that’s why I need you. Not because I need you to make decisions about me for me, because I'm not incapable.”

“I know you’re not. I know. You’re a different person now. You said that, and I can see it.”

“So I need you to be different, too.” She opened her eyes and watched me carefully, waiting for some kind of reaction.

“I am,” I told her. “I’m not the same guy you met, either. I told you things about me, Jo, things I’ve never told anyone else. Well, other than Luc. That wasn’t easy for me. I really had to take a leap there. And when I couldn’t talk to you this summer, I realized I don’t really tell a lot of things to many people. And talking, well, it really does help. You taught me that, that it’s okay to be open. It’s not weakness. So I talked to Charlene, and it really made me feel better.”

Jo tilted her head to the side and smiled softly. “I’m glad, Kris. I’m proud of you for that. You’ve come a long way, in your own way. But that’s not what I’m talking about. You’re overprotective, overbearing—you’re over. It’s too much. I don’t need you to be those things for me.”

“But I care about you. So much. I was just trying to watch out for you.” I let out an exhale. “I don’t know what’s so wrong about that.”

“It’s not ‘wrong’ that you want the best for me. I appreciate that, and I love you for it, and I don’t want that to change—but just because you want good things for me doesn’t mean that you know better than me. You know, Charlene said something to me once: that I needed to trust you before I could love you. And that you needed to love me before you could trust me. So, you say you love me, Kris—”

“I do!”

“—but do you trust me?”

Taking a breath, I thought about all the things that Jo and I had been through. I thought about her pregnancy scare and finding out that she didn't tell me about, and how I felt betrayed because of that; then I thought about how she punched that drunken guy in the club before I could get to her side and protect her like the dutiful boyfriend I should have been. And I thought about seeing my dad in the hallway after game three of the Finals and the way she pulled me away to safety, and how I knew that she was acting and doing the right thing for me when I was stunned and practically catatonic. Plus, there were all those times when I had opened up and told her what was bothering me, and she listened and talked me through everything and I felt so much better after the fact. She had been the one to encourage me to confront my dad, and even though it didn’t make up for the past, I did feel better about the future. Life was better with Jo in my corner, and I needed her there with me for the upcoming rounds. I knew she had my back.

“Yeah, Joey. I trust you.”

She smiled. “Okay then. That means you’ve got to trust me to make good decisions for me, for us. And you’ve gotta be more flexible about accepting those decisions without second guessing me or treating me like I don’t know better. You can’t be such a control freak anymore. Realize things change, and adapt with them. Don’t fight it so much. I wanna see you happy, and I wanna be the one who makes you happy, but I can’t do it at my expense. I really just want you to understand that.

“You know, bridges, they're made to bend and move to absorb the forces of the cars and people on them. Bridges that don’t are so much more unstable. It’s physics, you see. It’s not just that I don’t want you to dictate my life, but that it’s not healthy for you.”

I smiled and chuckled, despite the serious nature of the conversation. Only Jo would use science to back up her side of the argument. She was definitely a physics major at heart. I decided to tell her what I had been up to this summer, to show her just how flexible I could be. “I talked to my dad.”

“Your.... Oh my God, Kris, tell me.” She stood closer to me in the already cramped space and tilted her head upward so she could see me more clearly. “Did you go see him? What did you say? What did he say?”

“Yeah, I went to see him. It was sad. His house was bare. It felt like a prison. And he had this... this scrapbook of me. Paper clippings and photographs from the paper as well as some pictures that he had taken, too. It was tough to believe that he had been there so much, so often, and I never knew. And he knew everything about my new contract, too. Ugh, I mean, he followed my career. My life.

“And it was like his life revolved around me, but he had nothing for himself. He said that he got to finish his dream and graduate, but that it meant nothing to him in the end because he didn’t have his family. He missed me, and my mom. And I learned a lot from him that day, and it just reaffirmed that I don’t want to be like him. I don’t want my life to turn out like his did. The way I treated you was wrong—I know that now. So you see, I can learn to change. If it means being with you, keeping you, I’ll do it. I’ll do anything. But does that mean you’ll have me?”

22 comments:

  1. loved it! i'm so sad this is ending but this was such a great story! thanks for writing it :)

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  2. I haven't read the post yet. Let me just say I am toatally caught off guard that you are ending this!!!!!!!! This isn't a good time for me to have thia story end now, lol. I am saddened.

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  3. You would end there... arggh. I have no words. I'm crying right now thinking about the end of this story. It is without a doubt the most amazing piece of writing I've read. It's fantastic, I can't put it into words. You're brilliant.

    I'm crying and I don't want this story to be over. If Jo doesn't have Kris... omg.

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  4. Jo, looking like an angel, and Kris so happy to see her, but still not exactly sure what to say. I think they've both changed a lot since the time that they first met, and both of them for the better, Jo becoming stronger and more in control, and Kris becoming more relaxed and less in control.

    And they're really talking and getting into everything that's wrong between them, which is great.

    However, I'm reading this finality into what Jo is saying, it's subtle, but still enough to worry me. Because I kind of like happy endings. Jay, do you like happy endings too?

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  5. Great story it was. I'm sad it's the end but i'll follow you in your next story because you're an excellent writer :)

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  6. Not cool Jay...

    That was pretty fucking great. Everything is coming full circle finally, everything (well almost) is out in the open. Aw man, I love these two. Kris just makes me melt.

    -Saf

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  7. I don't classify this as a fanfic. It's more than that. This is an amazing fictional wtiting, where we just happen to know one of the main characters as a hockey pkayer.

    I have followed this from the beginning, and I'm crestfallen that this is ending.

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  8. I was feeling the same as MelTing, reading what Jo was saing to Kris. I'm not liking the way this could go.

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  9. I'm actually crying right now. Ohhhh boy. I need a minute to collect myself.
    I'm so excited to see how it will end.

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  10. Sigh... I loved it... And now I CAN NOT WAIT for 140... sigh...

    You know I've always loved your writing Jay. But that? That took the cake.

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  11. I can't believe it's ending.
    It takes a lot to make me cry...but you did it.
    I can't wait to see how this beautiful story ends. :)

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  12. Jay repeat after me:
    They lived happily ever after.
    The end.

    I know how ever you end it will be beautiful, even if I don't get a fairytale ending.

    Thank you so much for sharing your time and talent with us. I will miss Kris and Jo and I will miss you. You are a very special author.

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  13. I had a feeling the end was close. Great post, Jay. Got threw this post was only one tear, but I know the next post I'll ball my eyes out.

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  14. Great post. I'm bummed out that this story is ending. What will I read now?! :) I hope you plan to write a new one soon! Can't wait to find out what happens in Chapter 140! Congrats, this is an amazing story!

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  15. Do you think pretty please with a cherry on top you can write an epilogue. I really want to see them with some children!

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  16. just right off the bat, i am totally agreeing to anonymous up there^ i'd absolutely die to see them with some babies.
    now, i really really hope she takes him back...? is... i don't even know what to call it. i really want them to get back together, but the way she talks to/about him now makes me very nervous. like he helped her through a hard part of her life and that's all she needed. but he needs her, too! ah! i'm sad to see this go, but it's been so wonderful! i hope i can read more from you in the future!

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  17. children? that would be soooo cute. seeing kris be the father he never had in his life, maybe naming his son luc? awwww! please, do it jay!

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  18. Fantastic. Inspired. Wonderful. I don't know what words I can use to describe how much I love this. As sad as I am about this story ending, I cannot wait to read chapter 140 to find out what happens with them.

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  19. omg when I read the beginning of this I almost felt like I was being broken up with! I love this story!!! it's amazing. can't wait for the final chapter!

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  20. AHH! Great!!! Loved it :D Hate to see this story go but hoping to see Something Worth Keeping get started. This is a wonderful piece of work and I am so glad that I got the chance to read it! Love, love, LOVE!!!!!

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  21. Jay- It is going to be sad to see the end of this great story but I have always liked that you know when to end things....I have been following your writing since your first story on here and I have got to see that you just keep getting better and better.....I look forward to the last chapter and your next story after that....Keep up the great work!

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  22. I love things that actually have endings so props for having a plan.

    I love everything about Jo and Kris. Most of all I love how real they are. We all know someone like them because throughout the story they grew and changed into better versions of themselves. That is the mark of a great writer.

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