"About a Girl"

Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me; I'm just borrowing them for a short period of time.
Show: Once and Again
Pairing: Jessie/Katie
Rating: PG
Author: Janine
Synopsis: What happens to girl�s after their kiss in Jessie�s room?
Email:
jbslayer27@yahoo.com

| Ch 1-5 | Ch 6-10 | Ch 11-15 | Ch 16-20 | Ch 21-25 | Ch 26-End |

Part 6

Two days later - Bonfire. Night.

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Sensing a break in the conversation Jessie quickly excused herself ducking away from the assembled group of ex-play people and made her way across the field approaching a group of people, among whom Katie was entrenched. Catching Katie�s eye and tilting her head to the side Jessie watched as some life entered her eyes and she quickly, very quickly, pushed her way past the people standing around her.

"My hero," Katie gushed as they entered the woods to escape the mass of people occupying the field. "I don�t know if I could�ve taken another second of that," she continued smiling over at Jessie. "Did you know that there are people out that actually like Carson Daily?" she asked with a horrified expression. "I was so scared. I felt like asking for my Mommy."

"Just returning the favor," Jessie responded through a laugh as she watched Katie mock shiver in fright.

"What favor?" Katie asked absently bending down to pick up a stick, and fencing with an imaginary enemy for a moment before turning her full attention back to Jessie.

"For saving me from Tad and his tarantula impression, all those many months ago," Jessie responded smiling over at Katie.

"Oh," Katie replied with a grin. "Well, Tad�s moves are an act against humanity. I was morally bound to rescue you, before he got around to asking if your daddy was a thief," she continued rolling her eyes at Tad�s lameness.

"I�m glad you did," Jessie responded reaching over and grasping Katie�s hand in hers as they made their way further into the forest. "Of course if anything like that happened now, more strenuous measures would need to be taken," Jessie continued conversationally.

"Really?" Katie asked intrigued enough to stop obsessing about how good it felt to be holding Jessie�s hand long enough to listen to her.

"Well, you would clearly have to declare a feud with his house, or at the least insult his immediate family," Jessie responded trying to keep her voice breezy although she was actually concentrating with all her might to keep her voice from cracking. "Now that I�m your girl, you could do no less," she finished.

Katie was silent for a moment after she finished speaking, the sound of their feet on the ground the only noise around them. "My girl?" she asked finally, a wide grin spreading across her face that was clearly heard through her tone.

"Yeah," Jessie responded. "If you want," she continued softly, looking down at the ground.

As the words reached her ears Katie stopped walking dragging Jessie to a stop too seeing as how their hands were still held together. "My girl," she breathed out softly, as if testing out the phrase. "Yeah," she continued smiling again, tugging Jessie�s hand gently to bring them closer together before leaning forward and pressing her lips against Jessie�s happily.

Pulling back she watched as Jessie smiled up at her then moved forward resting her head on her shoulder contently, a soft sigh escaping her lips. Katie drew her arms around Jessie, holding her firmly against her as she carelessly drew tiny shapes on Jessie�s back with her fingers.

"Katie! Jessie!" they heard from somewhere nearby. It was Tad.

Reluctantly they pulled apart just before he burst out in front of them.

"What�re you doing out here?" he asked looking between them.

"Trying to figure out the fastest way to Mexico," Katie responded glibly. "What�re you doing out here?"

"Had to clean out the pipe," Tad responded with a grin.

"Ewww, gross," Katie replied making a face. "You didn�t go on the pathway did you?" she asked looking back the way they had entered.

Tad just smiled and said, "come on, the kegs here," then took off.

Katie shook her head then looked over at Jessie with a smile. "Come on, we�re going to need to tap in to survive the rest of the night."

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Part 7

A week later

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Katie pressed herself against Jessie in a dark corner of the porch and leaned down, brushing her lips against Jessie�s softly, before smiling and pressing her lips to Jessie�s forehead affectionately.

"I should go," she sighed a moment later not needing to look at her watch to know that it was late. They had just gotten back from some god awful movie that she couldn�t even remember anymore � sometimes she loved the damage MTV had done to her long term, hell her short term memory � and she didn�t quite want to separate from Jessie yet. The movie had been fun, the backs of theatres where simply divine.

"Come inside," Jessie whispered soaking up the feeling the Katie�s body so close to hers. "If you don�t at least pop in to say hi, they�re going to question me incessantly about everything we did tonight."

"That could be fun," Katie replied. "But not for you," she amended catching the look Jessie sent her. "Alright then, let�s go."

**

"Hey," Jessie called out as they entered the living room. Everyone, but Zo� who was probably in bed, was gathered around the TV watching a loud movie. Upon the sound of her voice the others looked up, her dad smiled, Eli barely blinked, Grace smirked and Lily asked how the movie was.

"Stupid," was Jessie�s response to Lily�s question as she plunked herself on the floor by her dad�s feet not wanting to get on the couch with him and Lily. Some things were better left undisturbed. Katie took a step forward and followed Jessie�s led plopping herself down onto the floor on the other side of Rick�s legs.

"I like you�re hair," Lily said by way of conversation fingering Katie�s follicles for a second before Katie looked over at her with a smile thanking her and quoting some hair commercial.

"What movie?" Jessie asked after smiling stupidly at Katie�s response to Lily�s caressing.

"Not sure," Rick responded. "But you see that guy that�s covered in blood? His hand just tried to kill him," he continued. "Things are only going to get worse for him now."

"Neat. Family entertainment," Katie whispered looking over at Jessie across Rick�s knees. Jessie met her eyes and they grinned at each other.

**

"Looks like you�ve got a fan club," Eli commented standing up as the credits rolled and turning to face his dad. Lily and Grace followed his gaze looking over to Rick, who now had two sleeping girls using his legs as pillows.

"Aw," Lily said her hand rising to her mouth, clearly finding the display to cute for words. Grace looked over at her mother and rolled her eyes.

"Wakey, wakey," Rick said placing her hands on their shoulders and shaking slightly, his legs were starting to go numb. Gratuitous blinking followed this, and quick shifting in an attempt to make it seem like they weren�t really sleeping at all, but they soon stopped realizing that nobody was buying their act.

"I better go," Katie mumbled still half asleep as she stood up and nearly fell back over, much to Jessie�s amusement until she nearly did the same thing.

"Nonsense," Lily replied dismissively. "Why don�t you just call your mom and tell her you�re spending the night. We�ll drop by your house in the morning and you can get your things for school."

"Then it�s a sleepover," Jessie responded looking over at Katie who shrugged. Jessie smiled and turned her attention back to Lily who was handing the phone to Katie accidentally catching a look at Grace, who was glaring at her like she�d just killed her cat or something. Jessie sighed, what now?

**

"It�s so unfair," Grace grumbled at Jessie as they stood outside the bathroom door. Jessie was waiting of Katie who was in there changing into some clothes she�d given her, but Grace was apparently just hanging around to bug the shit out of her.

"What?" Jessie asked tiredly.

"She never would have let Spencer sleepover," Grace complained. "In MY BED," she continued. Oh, someone�s grapes were sour. Jessie merely shrugged at first, before then shooting Grace a smile that left no doubt it was her who ate the canary.

"So?" Grace asked suggestively a moment later, leaning towards Jessie as if they were sharing a top-secret message.

"So what?" Jessie asked tilting her head back surprised to find Grace�s face so close to her own.

"So have you �" Grace began. "Are you going to�" she continued looking at Jessie expectantly.

"What?" Jessie asked her voice squeaking slightly, Grace�s tone and demeanor setting her on guard.

"You know," Grace said grinning, her eyebrows rising salaciously.

"No!" Jessie responded jumping back slightly, clearly surprised and a bit agitated by Grace�s suggestion. "And no," she continued staring at Grace like she�d suddenly grown a second head.

Grace smiled, a low chuckle coming out of her throat as she watched Jessie�s eyes suddenly grow as wide as saucers as the reality of her situation and what Grace was implying settled in with her.

"What�s so funny?" Katie asked coming out of the washroom. Seeing Grace so clearly amused and Jessie ashen-faced and nearly shaking she was almost afraid to find out. "Are you okay?" she asked Jessie reaching out to touch her shoulder, slightly surprised to feel Jessie twitch underneath her hand.

"Uh huh," Jessie responded but she seemed to still be shaking faintly and Katie didn�t believe a word that was coming out of her mouth. She turned a questioning and accusing look at Grace but before she could say anything Jessie had grabbed her hand and was dragging her up the attic, yelling �night� to Grace.

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Katie finally let her eyes drift open of sighed. This was ridiculous. She was actually tired but there was absolutely no way she was going to be able to go to sleep like this.

"Maybe I should sleep on the floor," she commented into the darkness knowing that Jessie was still awake. Almost as soon as they entered the room they became hyper aware of each other, and once they got on the bed, every breath the other took was like as loud as thunder.

"No," Jessie exclaimed, "why?" she continued still clutching at her blanket.

"If you were any stiffer I think you�d have to be legally declared dead," Katie replied with a sigh, noting that Jessie hadn�t moved, except for taking an occasional breath, for like fifteen minutes. "Besides, I�m gonna cramp up if I keep trying not to move."

"You can move," Jessie replied glancing over at her.

"Physically yes, I am capable of it," Katie responded meeting Jessie�s eyes before turning her gaze away again.

"What does that mean?" Jessie asked.

"Maybe I should sleep on the floor," Katie said again reaching for the edge of the blanket.

"No," Jessie replied reaching over and slapping her hand away.

"You�re obviously not going to be able to fall asleep with me beside you," Katie responded trying to use reason to get her way. The fact that Jessie was pressed up against her back not making accessing her reasoning center the easiest thing for her.

"I�m not the only one that�s awake," Jessie pointed out slowly removing herself from Katie�s back and lying back down.

"Touch�," Katie conceded with a sigh. "It�s just�I don�t wanna do anything."

"I wasn�t saying that we should," Jessie replied a touch to quickly, her conversation with Grace making her a bit jumpy about the subject. The thought of them doing stuff hadn�t even entered her mind when Lily suggested that Katie sleep over, but after Grace had started talking about it, she had started thinking about, and now she couldn�t stop clutching her blanket.

"No, I mean like by accident," Katie responded sighing again, choosing to ignore how quickly Jessie confirmed that she didn�t want to do anything. "When I�m asleep I don�t� I mean I sometimes, I have dreams � as people are known to from time to time," she continued shifting uncomfortably. "Sometimes you�re in them," she went on her eyes plastered on the ceiling. "And, sometimes I toss and turn," she explained trying to keep her breathing even. "I just don�t want to end up dreaming and toss and turn on you," she finished closing her eyes with a dejected exhalation. Well that was thoroughly mortifying.

"Oh," Jessie breathed out, trying not to think about how pleased she was to hear that Katie dreamed about her sometimes.

"Yeah. So I�ll just�" Katie began trying to move again.

"You�re not sleeping on the floor," Jessie said reaching out to stop her again. "I forbid it."

"But�" Katie started again, not quite able to her whine inaudible, once again incredibly aware of the heat emanating from Jessie�s body as she leaned over her trying to stop her from moving

"I�ll take the chance," Jessie replied softly. "Besides," she continued. "If you did toss and turn, and ended up somewhere near the vicinity of me � it�d hardly be the worse thing that could happen," she continued, trying not to let on how much the idea of sleeping in Katie�s arms actually appealed to her. It wasn�t like she wanted to do stuff, yet, but the lying together part didn�t seem so bad, in fact it seemed kind of perfect in theory.

"Really?" Katie asked, trying not to let on how pleased she was by the idea that Jessie wasn�t totally opposed to the concept of long term snuggling, show in her voice.

"Yeah," Jessie responded simply.

"Alright, I�ll stay," Katie acquiesced, sighing grandly.

"I�ll know if you�re actually asleep," Jessie added, once she felt Katie shift and settle down again.

Katie laughed softly in response. Then deciding to just go with the flow asked, "would it really make a difference?"

"Probably not," Jessie admitted softly, and then she flipped around with her back to Katie drawing the blanket around her before muttering �goodnight�.

"Night," Katie replied a smile spreading across her face. It was a night that couldn�t help but be good.

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Part 8

Karen�s House � A Week Later

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"You didn�t have to do this," Karen said stepping back out of Judy�s way as her friend moved across the kitchen to reach for the plates. After a conversation they�d had earlier that week, Judy had declared that she was going to come over and cook some real food, after all of the take-out they�d been living off of since Karen returned home. Karen had protested at first, but eventually Judy�s promises of food that didn�t come out of anything Styrofoam won her over.

"I know," Judy replied turning around to face her with a little smile. "I wanted to. Now gracefully accept, and call your brats for dinner," she continued moving into the dining room to set the table.

"Thank you," Karen said her voice teasing as she headed for the stairs. "Really," she continued more seriously.

"You�re very welcome," Judy replied, and then turned back to her task as Karen set off up the stairs. It was still difficult for her to move around, and just moving around the house tired her out to a degree that she never would have imagined possible before, but she was getting better. And she was able to walk with only a cane now, so she had gotten back some of that independence she had sorely missed during the apex of her injury.

"Dinner ready?" Eli asked popping his head out of his door, his nose twitching as the smells from downstairs wafted up to him.

"Uh huh," Karen responded. "Is Jessie in her room?"

"Yeah, she got a phone call twenty-minutes so she�s probably still squealing away," he answered pushing out of his room and heading for the stairs. "You�ll be okay?" he asked wondering if she�d need his help down.

"Yeah," Karen nodded smiling at him. "Go ahead," and with that he disappeared down the stairs.

"No, you shut up," Jessie said laughing into the receiver. "No. No. No you shut up," she repeated again giggling as her mother approached her partially open door. Knowing that she probably shouldn�t but unable to help herself, Karen propped herself up against the wall outside Jessie�s room, listening to the happy sounds that drifted into the hallway, a smile working it�s way across her face at hearing her daughter so obviously happy.

"You do more," Jessie went on, her voice teasing. "Hmmm," she continued thoughtfully. "Maybe. I said maybe," she went on drawing out the last word wickedly. Karen placed her hand over her mouth, overcome by the sheer preciousness of the scene. She remembered what it was like to be in High School, and how she had had similar conversations with boys from school just like the one Jessie was having now. "Hey," she heard Jessie exclaim, jarring her back to the present. "Yeah, I guess I do," she continued oblivious to her mother�s presence.

Beginning to fell bad about her eavesdropping, Karen silently repositioned herself to make it seem as if she was just coming down the hall, and called out Jessie�s name, pushing her door open as she did.

Jessie flipped over looking at her doorway to see her mother standing there. "I gotta go," Jessie said. "Dinner. Judy. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Stop it," she said, pausing every few second�s apparently answering questions from the person on the other end. "I gotta go. I mean it, she�s standing right here. Okay. Bye," Jessie finished clicking off the phone and standing up. "I�ll be right down, I just gotta wash my hands," she said looking over her mother.

"Okay, everything�s set up so just come down when you�re done," Karen responded backing out of the doorway to let her by. Then smiling as Jessie bounded down the hallway she made her way down the stairs.

**

"She was still on the phone?" Judy asked raising an eyebrow as Karen took her seat. "Who was she talking to?"

"Tad," Karen responded smiling as she reached for her silverware.

"I don�t think so," Eli mumbled derisively around a mouth full of food.

"What do you mean?" Karen asked looking up at him curiously. She had been certain that with the way Jessie had been acting it had to have been Tad she was taking to. "Is she seeing someone else?"

"I don�t think so, but that�s not what I meant," Eli replied looking up for a second before turning back to food. "It was a girl on the other end. Probably Katie," he continued. "All I ever hear or see anymore is the two of them laughing and flitting around," he went on rolling his eyes as he reached for his drink. "Is there anything more annoying than teenage girls?"

"You didn�t seem to mind them two years ago," Judy, commented grinning at Eli, who had the good graces to nod, conceding her point.

"She�s been over there a lot too?" Karen asked looking over at Eli, her mind still wrestling with her earlier interpretation of Jessie�s tone and the information that she had been talking to Katie, not Tad.

"Yeah," Eli muttered as he chewed. "I swear to god, Dad�s going to have to convert the storage closet into a room for her or something, she�s over there more than I am," he continued.

"She�s so cool though," Judy said piping up. "I was talking to her about the new Victoria�s Secret line, and she was so right about like everything. I went back, and pg. 56 really was probably the most unappealing thing I�d ever seen. The convent page," Judy continued chuckling to herself as she thought about it.

"Yeah, fabulous," Karen replied, forcing a smile onto her face. She was distracted, there was something nagging at her, scratching at the back of her mind trying to dig through, but she couldn�t put her finger on it. She just knew that there was something that she should be getting but that just kept eluding her. However, before she ponder the situation anymore Jessie came tumbling down the stairs throwing herself into the free seat, drawing Karen�s attention outwards once more.

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Part 9

Jessie rested her head against the car door watching the houses and trees streak by absently, her mind pleasantly blank as they drove quietly to school. At least it was quiet for a while.

"Well?" Grace asked expectantly looking over at Jessie�s oblivious form.

"Did I miss something?" Jessie asked tiredly, turning her head to look at Grace. "We weren�t talking, so what could you possibly be �welling�?"

"The dance is on Friday," Grace replied reaching out to play with the radio for a second. "So?" she continued when Jessie didn�t reply.

"So what?" Jessie asked sighing deeply as she turned to look at Grace once more.

"Are you going?" Grace asked slowly, carefully pronouncing each word as if she thought that Jessie needed to get hooked on phonics.

"No," Jessie responded drawing her word out as painfully slowly as Grace had.

"Why not?" Grace asked scowling at her as she rounded a corner.

"Why do you care?" Jessie asked irritably turning her attention back the passing scenes outside the window. Just cause she had asked Grace for advice like once in her whole life it didn�t mean that she wanted to talk about everything that had ever happened to her in excruciating detail with the girl.

"I don�t," Grace replied in a similarly cranky tone. "Do whatever you want," she continued her tone clearly conveying that she thought that whatever it was Jessie had decided was plainly wrong.

"Fine," Jessie replied standoffishly. "I will."

"Fine," Grace muttered back, leaving the only the low sounds of radio to fill the car. "Why aren�t you going?"

"Dances are stupid," Jessie responded. "All everyone ever does is stand around in corners with their friends and make stupid requests to the DJ so that they can go back to the corners with their friends and laugh about it like idiots," she continued huffily.

"You don�t want anyone to know that you�re dating her do you?" Grace accused glancing over at Jessie. "That�s why you let everyone go on thinking that it�s Tad who�s calling you in the middle of the night, and why you always shut up whenever mom brings up the dance," she continued gaining steam now. "You don�t want to soil you�re perfect little image."

"You don�t have any idea what you�re talking about," Jessie said softly, her tone all serious and vaguely hostile. "You�re always going on about how I think I�m so perfect and blah, blah, sour grapes, but you�re the one who thinks you�re gods gift or something. All knowing, all seeing Grace Manning," she continued softly, her tone bitterly sarcastic. "Sell it to someone else," she went on brushing some hair out of her face. "You�re no better at this than I am."

Grace opened her mouth to respond, but then clamped down stopping herself � for once � from saying the first thing that popped into her head. The last thing that she wanted was a repeat of what had happened between them in the bathroom weeks ago. Not only did she not want to see that look on Jessie�s face again, she didn�t really think that she could sit through another one of Jessie�s verbal lashings either.

"You do whatever you want," Grace said quietly as she parked the car and popped the keys out of the ignition. "But she wants to go," she continued getting out of the car and turning on the automatic locks. "*She�s* proud of you," she finished closing the door on Jessie who remained seated inside, her eyes following Grace�s rapidly retreating figure.

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Dr. Rosenfeld�s (a.k.a. Therapy)

---------------------------------

"So I guess she�s sort of right," Jessie admitted reluctantly. "But she�s not right for the reason she thinks she�s right for. She just kind of stumbled across a part of right by accident," Jessie mumbled looking over at Dr. Rosenfeld grouchily as if admitting that Grace could be even a little right about anything was on par with being kicked in the crotch.

"So you are a little ashamed of your relationship with Katie?" Dr. Rosenfeld asked, taking off his glasses and wiping them slowly.

"No!" Jessie responded quickly. "It�s not � I mean it�s more complicated than that. It�s just that if they know, about us, they�re going to start asking questions and I don�t think I have the answers to those questions. I mean, I�m with Katie, and that�s great, and I really, really like her. I know that. But I don�t know what that means, you know? And they�ll want to know, and if I can�t tell them then �"

"They�ll send you to therapy?" Dr. Rosenfeld asked with a gentle smile, which Jessie returned.

"Do you know what I mean?" she continued a moment later though. "It�s like I�m confused about the big picture, the big picture�s like a fuzzy dot to me."

"Why do you think you have to worry about the big picture now?" Dr. Rosenfeld asked glasses back on now.

"Because they�ll be concerned with the big picture," Jessie responded with a sigh. "And I don�t know what to tell them. I like Katie so I�m obviously a little gay. But how gay? Can you measure gay? Am I completely gay, or like gay lite? Just one calorie," she continued slumping in her chair. "I mean, I�ve heard all of that sexuality is fluid, it�s like a colour scale or a pie chart and stuff, but�" she began trailing off, her eyes drifting around the room.

"But what?" Dr. Rosenfeld asked trying to coax her attention back to him.

"I don�t think that *they* know that stuff," Jessie replied her eyes crinkling at the corners as her features drew together worriedly.

"You feel like they want something from you that you can�t give them?" Dr. Rosenfeld questioned though it was really more of a statement.

"I guess that pretty much sums it up," Jessie replied glumly. "All of it maybe," she continued thinking about that �perfect� wedding dress her mother had shown her when she was six and had told her she was saving for her �perfect� wedding.

"Nobody has all the answers Jessie," Dr. Rosenfeld replied watching her carefully. With Jessie you could almost learn more about her from the expressions that flowed across her features than from her words. "No matter what they tell you, or how old or young they are. Except for me," he went on earning a tiny smile for his last crack. "If you wait until you�re absolutely a hundred percent certain about something, to talk to your parents about it, then you�re all just going to have to get very comfortable playing charades together, because no matter what, no matter when there�s always going to be doubts. Nothing is ever one hundred percent. All we can hope for is a sincere belief, and certainty in our hearts if not our heads."

Jessie looked up and over at him upon hearing that, her features relaxing and her eyes clouding over, getting a distant look in them as she considered what he said.

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Part 10

School � Monday Afternoon

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Jessie jerked backwards suddenly finding a foreign object being thrust her face. Regaining her composure once she had separated herself from the object she turned around to see Katie standing slightly behind her smiling. She was holding out something in front of Jessie�s face. Turning back to look at what Katie was holding she saw a flower in front of her.

"You can take it Billie, it�s for you," Katie said speaking for the first time since sneaking up on her.

"What is it?" Jessie responded taking the object from Katie�s hands.

"It�s a paper flower," Katie replied thinking that was pretty obvious. "I made it in art class. I almost had a bouquet, but there was an � incident, shall we say, and I was only able to save this," she continued. "Do you like it?"

"I love it," Jessie said smiling over at her.

"Then those were tax dollars well spent," Katie replied sounding just as delighted as she felt. "Don�t forget to put it in water," she went on receiving a slap on her shoulder for her trouble. "I was just trying to be helpful," Katie laughed spinning away from Jessie coming at a stop at a nearby locker.

"Trying to be an idiot is more like it," Jessie replied smiling as she fastened the arts and craft flower to one of the pockets on her backpack. "What do you think?" she asked looking over at Katie once she was done.

"I think you�re dating a cheapskate," the girl replied grinning as Jessie rolled her eyes at her. "You want a ride home?" Kate continued a second later. "My parents finally let me take the car, so how about I impress you with how responsible and adult like my driving is?"

"Responsible and adult like?" Jessie asked skeptically, thinking that whenever someone gratuitously tooted their own horn there was usually nothing to toot at.

"Fine. Competent," Katie replied rolling her eyes. "But I promise, I�ll take good care of you."

"Alright," Jessie agreed smiling. She was actually pleased by the offer; it meant that they�d have some time alone together.

"Then it�s a car pool," Katie responded as the bell rang. "I�ll meet you at your locker after 8th," and with that she was off down the hall.

Jessie looked down at the flower attached to her bag, giving one last smile before turning and heading into her own classroom.

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"So," Jessie began tugging at her seatbelt self-consciously. "It�s almost Friday, huh?" she continued wincing at her own stupidity.

"Yeah, it�s coming up," Katie responded glancing over at her before returning her eyes to the road. Jessie had already freaked out at once on the drive for her �look, no hands� trick, so she was trying to redeem herself. "Right after Thursday I think."

Jessie looked over at her, but chose to ignore that last comment. She kind of deserved it. "So, the dance is on Friday," she began, picking imaginary lint off of her pants.

"Yeah," Katie replied carefully, wondering where Jessie was going with this. "I was talking to Russell during 5th, and he said that Grace has gone like nuts with it. Apparently she�s got Jamie K. to DJ," she continued conversationally. "He said it sounds lush."

"Yeah, she�s been like totally obsessing over planning it," Jessie replied. "It�s been like she forgot to take her medication � or started taking medication, I�m not sure which, for like the last week," she went on shaking her head at the memories of Grace totally losing her shit and running around the house like a chicken with her head cut off. "So � youwannago?"

"What was that?" Katie asked her eyebrows drawing together as she tried to decipher Jessie�s word jam.

"Do you wanna go?" Jessie asked again calming herself. "To the dance?"

"Do you want to?" Katie asked sensing Jessie�s anxiety, but not really knowing which of the million possibilities was causing it. "Cause if you�re just asking cause you think I wanna go, but you don�t really want to go, then we don�t have to go. Cause you know, I�ve got Jenga Plus, and that�s always a good time."

"I wanna go," Jessie responded sincerely. "I wanna go with you."

"And I wanna go with you," Katie replied a huge smile spreading across her face, relief flushing happily through her body.

"Okay then," Jessie replied smiling herself. That wasn�t so hard.

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"What�s that?" Karen asked staring at the back of Jessie�s bag as her daughter tossed it on the counter and went to the fridge. Jessie turned around to see what her mother was taking about and shook her head.

"It�s a paper flower mom," she responded.

"It�s beautiful," Karen said tracing the edges of it with her finger. "Did you make it?"

"Katie did," Jessie responded absently unscrewing a water bottle. "It�s nice, huh?" she continued smiling. "Apparently there was a whole bouquet, but there was an incident and the rest of them met a horrible fate. Mine is only survivor," she continued almost blissfully, completely oblivious to the keen expression on her mothers face as she regarded her. "I think I�ll call it Rainbow."

"That was nice of her," Karen murmured watching Jessie closely. "To give it to you."

"Can we go shopping?" Jessie asked bored with the previous conversation thread her mind flashing forward to the dance on Friday. "Pacing ourselves of course," Jessie added remembering that while Karen was moving freely now, she still didn�t have the stamina she had before the accident.

"Sure," Karen responded thrown off a bit by the abrupt subject change. "Did you have something special in mind?"

"I don�t know," Jessie said thoughtfully twirling to lean against the counter. "What do you think I should wear?" she asked curiously.

"Wear for what?" Karen asked wondering if she had blanked out for part of the conversation, and wondering when Jessie suddenly got concerned about what she would wear for anything. She�d seemed completely ambivalent towards getting dressed up for her first date with Tad, almost pissed off that people kept bringing it up � �If I was going to kill myself, people would ask me what I was going to wear� � so this sudden interest in what she was going to wear somewhere peaked Karen�s interest.

"The dance," Jessie responded straightening up, trying to act as if she hadn�t pulled that answer out of her ass. She suddenly became aware of how she was behaving, the euphoria from the car ride finally fading, and she decided that it would be prudent to stop acting like a twelve year old at an Nsync concert. Even though Katie was way dreamy.

"What dance?" Karen asked with a touch of exasperation in her voice.

"The one on Friday," Jessie replied breezily. "You know, the one Grace planned. I told her I�d go," she continued playing with the water bottle as half-truth tumbled out past her lips.

"Oh," Karen said not really knowing anything about the dance that Grace had planned. "That�s nice. It�s good that the two of you are getting along better," she continued remembering that she hadn�t heard Jessie complaining about the other girl quite as bitterly lately. "Do you have a date?" she inquired nonchalantly.

"I�m just going to go with Katie," Jessie responded missing the sharp breath Karen look Karen in her direction upon hearing that. "It�s kind of an informal thing," she continued realizing how that must have sounded, even without seeing her mothers look. "You know, just kind show up. Everyone�s probably going to stay on their own side of the room anyway � but the DJ is suppose to be good."

"Well that sounds like fun," Karen responded feeling a bit faint. "Why don�t you go finish you�re homework and then we can head out to the mall," she continued desperate for some alone time to stop her head from spinning.

"Cool," Jessie responded brightly, and with that grabbed her backpack and made her way up the stairs, failing to note how Karen�s eyes followed her until she was out of sight.

Propping her elbows down on the kitchen counter Karen let out a sigh she�d been holding in almost since Jessie entered the kitchen and closed her eyes breathing in deeply. Everything could have been perfectly innocent, it could be nothing, but there was something inside of her that was telling her that it was something. Her mind drifted back now that she had acknowledged the seed that had been growing in the back of her mind since dinner with Judy. She recalled the conversation she�d had with Jessie about how she hadn�t felt an attraction towards Tad, and how Jessie had seemed to come to life once she had become friends with Katie. And she recalled the conversation they�d had in the hospital about how Jessie had learned a certain �person� had liked her more than she thought and she hadn�t known how she felt about it. And that time she had walked into Jessie�s room to find the two of them holding hands, and million and two other looks and glances and incidents that she hadn�t taken the time to consider.

She sighed again, her head tilting to the side as she considered the phone hanging on the wall.

====================================================

"Karen," Rick said surprised, tossing his pencil down onto his desk as he leaned back in his chair, wondering what he had done this time.

"I ah, was just calling to let you know that I�m going to take Jessie shopping for the dance, so you don�t need to worry about that," Karen responded, her mind shooting off in a hundred different directions as she tried to consider the best way to go about getting the answers she desperately needed.

"Dance?" Rick asked sounding confused.

"Yeah," Karen replied wondering how he could not know when his stepdaughter had planned it. "Jessie said Grace was in charge of it."

"Oh," Rick replied. "That dance. I didn�t know Jessie was going, she�d said that maybe she was, but that was weeks ago, and she sounded like she was just saying that to get the conversation off her, and she hadn�t mentioned anything about it since then, so I didn�t know that she was actually going."

"Well, she is," Karen, replied, not really caring to hear his inner monologue on the subject. "So Grace planned it, huh? Is she the head of some committee or something?"

"I guess maybe on the board of directors or something," Rick replied. "It�s for the Gay/Straight Alliance, she joined a while back. That crazy drama teacher is in charge of it though."

"Gay/Straight Alliance?" Karen asked weakly. "How progressive," she continued biting her lip. "So girls will be going with each other �and so on," Karen continued Jessie�s words ringing through her head �I�m just going to go with Katie. I�m just going to go with Katie. I�m just going to go with Katie� over and over again like it wanted to go to the bathroom on a long car trip. "Sorry, what was that?"

"I said I guess so," Rick replied wondering if Karen had recently taken any medication. "I don�t really know, but I would think so. Grace just keeps on asking us what it matters and saying that people should be able to date whoever they want or there�s no point to living whenever we ask, so it�s been a dead subject lately."

"Okay," Karen said her voice alarming chipper, now frantic to get off the phone with Rick. "Well, bye."

"Bye," Rick responded staring ahead completely befuddled.

======================================================

Continue to Chapters 11-15

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