"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 girlís after their kiss in Jessieís 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 Katieís 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 donít know if I couldíve 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, Tadís 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 Tadís lameness.

"Iím glad you did," Jessie responded reaching over and grasping Katieís 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 Jessieís 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 Iím 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 Jessieís hand gently to bring them closer together before leaning forward and pressing her lips against Jessieís 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 Jessieís 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.

"Whatíre you doing out here?" he asked looking between them.

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

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

"Ewww, gross," Katie replied making a face. "You didnít 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, weíre 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 Jessieís softly, before smiling and pressing her lips to Jessieís 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 couldnít even remember anymore Ė sometimes she loved the damage MTV had done to her long term, hell her short term memory Ė and she didnít 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 Katieís body so close to hers. "If you donít at least pop in to say hi, theyíre 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, letís go."

**

"Hey," Jessie called out as they entered the living room. Everyone, but ZoŽ 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 Jessieís response to Lilyís question as she plunked herself on the floor by her dadís 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 Jessieís led plopping herself down onto the floor on the other side of Rickís legs.

"I like youíre hair," Lily said by way of conversation fingering Katieís 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 Katieís response to Lilyís caressing.

"Not sure," Rick responded. "But you see that guy thatís 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 Rickís knees. Jessie met her eyes and they grinned at each other.

**

"Looks like youíve 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 werenít 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 Jessieís amusement until she nearly did the same thing.

"Nonsense," Lily replied dismissively. "Why donít you just call your mom and tell her youíre spending the night. Weíll drop by your house in the morning and you can get your things for school."

"Then itís 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 sheíd just killed her cat or something. Jessie sighed, what now?

**

"Itís 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 sheíd 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, someoneís 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 Graceís face so close to her own.

"So have you Ö" Grace began. "Are you going toÖ" she continued looking at Jessie expectantly.

"What?" Jessie asked her voice squeaking slightly, Graceís 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 Graceís suggestion. "And no," she continued staring at Grace like sheíd suddenly grown a second head.

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

"Whatís 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 didnít 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 Ďnightí to Grace.

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

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 youíd have to be legally declared dead," Katie replied with a sigh, noting that Jessie hadnít moved, except for taking an occasional breath, for like fifteen minutes. "Besides, Iím 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 Jessieís 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.

"Youíre 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.

"Iím not the only one thatís awake," Jessie pointed out slowly removing herself from Katieís back and lying back down.

"Touchť," Katie conceded with a sigh. "Itís justÖI donít wanna do anything."

"I wasnít 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 hadnít 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 couldnít stop clutching her blanket.

"No, I mean like by accident," Katie responded sighing again, choosing to ignore how quickly Jessie confirmed that she didnít want to do anything. "When Iím asleep I donítÖ I mean I sometimes, I have dreams Ö as people are known to from time to time," she continued shifting uncomfortably. "Sometimes youíre 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 donít 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 Iíll justÖ" Katie began trying to move again.

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

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

"Iíll take the chance," Jessie replied softly. "Besides," she continued. "If you did toss and turn, and ended up somewhere near the vicinity of me Ö itíd hardly be the worse thing that could happen," she continued, trying not to let on how much the idea of sleeping in Katieís arms actually appealed to her. It wasnít like she wanted to do stuff, yet, but the lying together part didnít 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 wasnít totally opposed to the concept of long term snuggling, show in her voice.

"Yeah," Jessie responded simply.

"Alright, Iíll stay," Katie acquiesced, sighing grandly.

"Iíll know if youíre 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 Ďgoodnightí.

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

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Part 8

Karenís House Ė A Week Later

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"You didnít have to do this," Karen said stepping back out of Judyís way as her friend moved across the kitchen to reach for the plates. After a conversation theyíd 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 theyíd been living off of since Karen returned home. Karen had protested at first, but eventually Judyís promises of food that didnít 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.

"Youíre 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 sheís probably still squealing away," he answered pushing out of his room and heading for the stairs. "Youíll be okay?" he asked wondering if sheíd 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 shouldnít but unable to help herself, Karen propped herself up against the wall outside Jessieís room, listening to the happy sounds that drifted into the hallway, a smile working itís 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 motherís 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 Jessieís 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 secondís apparently answering questions from the person on the other end. "I gotta go. I mean it, sheís standing right here. Okay. Bye," Jessie finished clicking off the phone and standing up. "Iíll be right down, I just gotta wash my hands," she said looking over her mother.

"Okay, everythingís set up so just come down when youíre 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 donít 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 donít think so, but thatís 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 didnít seem to mind them two years ago," Judy, commented grinning at Eli, who had the good graces to nod, conceding her point.

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

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

"Sheís so cool though," Judy said piping up. "I was talking to her about the new Victoriaís Secret line, and she was so right about like everything. I went back, and pg. 56 really was probably the most unappealing thing Iíd 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 couldnít 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 Karenís 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 Jessieís oblivious form.

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

"The dance is on Friday," Grace replied reaching out to play with the radio for a second. "So?" she continued when Jessie didnít 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 didnít mean that she wanted to talk about everything that had ever happened to her in excruciating detail with the girl.

"I donít," 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 arenít 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 donít want anyone to know that youíre dating her do you?" Grace accused glancing over at Jessie. "Thatís why you let everyone go on thinking that itís Tad whoís 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 donít want to soil youíre perfect little image."

"You donít have any idea what youíre talking about," Jessie said softly, her tone all serious and vaguely hostile. "Youíre always going on about how I think Iím so perfect and blah, blah, sour grapes, but youíre the one who thinks youíre 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. "Youíre no better at this than I am."

Grace opened her mouth to respond, but then clamped down stopping herself Ė for once Ė 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 Jessieís face again, she didnít really think that she could sit through another one of Jessieís 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. "*Sheís* proud of you," she finished closing the door on Jessie who remained seated inside, her eyes following Graceís rapidly retreating figure.

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Dr. Rosenfeldís (a.k.a. Therapy)

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

"So I guess sheís sort of right," Jessie admitted reluctantly. "But sheís not right for the reason she thinks sheís 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. "Itís not Ö I mean itís more complicated than that. Itís just that if they know, about us, theyíre going to start asking questions and I donít think I have the answers to those questions. I mean, Iím with Katie, and thatís great, and I really, really like her. I know that. But I donít know what that means, you know? And theyíll want to know, and if I canít tell them then Ö"

"Theyíll 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. "Itís like Iím confused about the big picture, the big pictureís 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 theyíll be concerned with the big picture," Jessie responded with a sigh. "And I donít know what to tell them. I like Katie so Iím 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, Iíve heard all of that sexuality is fluid, itís like a colour scale or a pie chart and stuff, butÖ" she began trailing off, her eyes drifting around the room.

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

"I donít 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 canít 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 Ďperfectí wedding dress her mother had shown her when she was six and had told her she was saving for her Ďperfectí 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 youíre absolutely a hundred percent certain about something, to talk to your parents about it, then youíre all just going to have to get very comfortable playing charades together, because no matter what, no matter when thereís 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 Ė Monday Afternoon

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

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 Jessieís face. Turning back to look at what Katie was holding she saw a flower in front of her.

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

"What is it?" Jessie responded taking the object from Katieís hands.

"Itís 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 Ö 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. "Donít 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 youíre 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, Iíll take good care of you."

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

"Then itís a car pool," Katie responded as the bell rang. "Iíll 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. "Itís almost Friday, huh?" she continued wincing at her own stupidity.

"Yeah, itís 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 Ďlook, no handsí 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 sheís got Jamie K. to DJ," she continued conversationally. "He said it sounds lush."

"Yeah, sheís been like totally obsessing over planning it," Jessie replied. "Itís been like she forgot to take her medication Ö or started taking medication, Iím 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 Ö youwannago?"

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

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

"Do you want to?" Katie asked sensing Jessieís anxiety, but not really knowing which of the million possibilities was causing it. "Cause if youíre just asking cause you think I wanna go, but you donít really want to go, then we donít have to go. Cause you know, Iíve got Jenga Plus, and thatís 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 wasnít so hard.

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

"Whatís that?" Karen asked staring at the back of Jessieís 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.

"Itís a paper flower mom," she responded.

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

"Katie did," Jessie responded absently unscrewing a water bottle. "Itís 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 Iíll 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 didnít 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 donít 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. Sheíd seemed completely ambivalent towards getting dressed up for her first date with Tad, almost pissed off that people kept bringing it up Ė ĎIf I was going to kill myself, people would ask me what I was going to wearí Ė so this sudden interest in what she was going to wear somewhere peaked Karenís interest.

"The dance," Jessie responded straightening up, trying to act as if she hadnít 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 Iíd 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. "Thatís nice. Itís good that the two of you are getting along better," she continued remembering that she hadnít heard Jessie complaining about the other girl quite as bitterly lately. "Do you have a date?" she inquired nonchalantly.

"Iím just going to go with Katie," Jessie responded missing the sharp breath Karen look Karen in her direction upon hearing that. "Itís 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. Everyoneís probably going to stay on their own side of the room anyway Ö but the DJ is suppose to be good."

"Well that sounds like fun," Karen responded feeling a bit faint. "Why donít you go finish youíre 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 Karenís eyes followed her until she was out of sight.

Propping her elbows down on the kitchen counter Karen let out a sigh sheíd 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 sheíd had with Jessie about how she hadnít 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 theyíd had in the hospital about how Jessie had learned a certain Ďpersoní had liked her more than she thought and she hadnít known how she felt about it. And that time she had walked into Jessieís room to find the two of them holding hands, and million and two other looks and glances and incidents that she hadnít 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 Iím going to take Jessie shopping for the dance, so you donít 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 didnít know Jessie was going, sheíd 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 hadnít mentioned anything about it since then, so I didnít 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. "Itís 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 Öand so on," Karen continued Jessieís words ringing through her head ĎIím just going to go with Katie. Iím just going to go with Katie. Iím just going to go with Katieí 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 donít 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 thereís no point to living whenever we ask, so itís 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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