I batted my eyes open as the sunlight lingered through the windows. I raised my head and shifted my body. Jenna’s head rested on my lap. And. Everyone else was sound asleep. I could leave right now, and no one would catch me. But the whole thing about Robert going after Jenna’s family changed my mind. Even though we were on the verge of breaking up, I still loved the girl. I mean, she was there for me when I went to college and couldn’t pay for my books. She’d make one phone call to her dad, who sent her as much money as she needed. I couldn’t decide what had come between us. Where we went wrong, I don’t know.
I dropped my gaze to Jenna. Brown strands of wet hair stuck to her face. It reminded me of the time we made love in the barn. It was early September, the sun faded behind thick clouds, and light snow descended to about the golden and brown, which had replaced the green grass. It was the first time I knew that I loved Jenna. It was the first time we had sex. It was my first time. And. It was her first time (at least that’s what she told me). It was as if the stars and moon collided with fate, whatever fate was–-it seemed this was it. I reached to tuck Jenna’s bangs back behind her ear. I’d always loved it when she tucked her bangs back behind her ear. Her radiant aura shifted something in my heart that I didn’t know existed.
“Where are we?” Robert shot upright. He scanned the car, sighing when he saw no one had left. “Why didn’t you leave?” Robert asked.
“I couldn’t leave Jenna. Besides, you said you’d kill her family. We’re on some dirt road in God knows where.” I was usually pretty good at judging a person’s character, and aside from the whole killing the clerk thing, Robert didn’t seem all that tough. I got the confused tough guy vibe. “That robbery–-”
“What about it?” Robert said, almost as if I had a wire on me. “Not a cop, are you?”
“It went bad, didn’t it? You didn’t mean to kill the guy, did you?”
Robert death-gripped the steering wheel as if he’d tried to get that out of his head. “I told Jill to unload it, but…well, obviously it wasn’t.” Robert wiped his face with his greasy hands to, seemingly, strip the images of the murder from his memory. He pointed in the general direction of the glove box. “The gun was right here.”
“I wasn’t thinking about getting away. Well, of course, I was thinking about getting away, just not without Jenna. I’m mad enough to leave her, but I couldn’t. Besides, her father would kill me.”
“So, what the hell were you up thinking about while we snored?” Robert said, looking in the rearview mirror instead of turning around to talk to me like an average person would.
“About making things work with Jenna. We haven’t; she hasn’t been happy for at least a year. And this was our last chance to see if there was anything still there. We’re on our way to her mother’s funeral.” I choked back a lump in my throat. It wasn’t as easy as making things work. I cheated, and it was wrong. But she cheated, too. Only I had a difficult time getting over it. She told me, and now I know how she feels. Jenna was a bit overdramatic, but I could understand the sentiment. It’s like the world was clawing at your heart at the thought of thinking of you in bed with that slut, she’d say.
“Oh, I got it. You guys are on a trip to see where things are? Sounds like you’re in just as much of a rut as I am.”
In no fucking way was I in the same situation as this killer. I could find someone else. Well, I couldn’t find another Jenna. Someone who puts me down just as much as she builds me up. It was a give or take, not both, at least not all at once. Jenna would slap the fuck out of me and then screw me like a porn star. I’d almost liked her angry outbursts because it made for great makeup sex. But this was different. This was her not being happy. And her not being happy is something I couldn’t handle. I’d realized the problem was me. I couldn’t live without her, but I couldn’t live with her sadness either. I finally realized that I was the one who needed to change. It wasn’t her at all. It was me.
I took a deep breath and blew out a sharp sigh. “What do you care? I mean, you and Jill seem pretty happy, unless of course, she’s scared of you?”
“I’m a person, too. We’re trying to pay for our kid’s healthcare, nothing more. First, the kid was diagnosed with cancer, and now this.” Robert teared up. “Jill isn’t scared of me. Hell. This was all her idea. I tried charity, but I’m no fucking charity case; besides, they turned us down. And we couldn’t get insurance through the state, at least not the kind that covers cancer. And even if we could, the insurance company would do everything to avoid paying the bill.”
“What is it you need done?”
“It’s nothing, rich boy.”
“No, your kid. What kind of operation?” I asked, stroking my chin.
“He needs a new kidney. We’ve tried everything, even the dark web, and the black market.” Robert paused. “We did everything two good white Christian parents were supposed to do, and we’re fucked anyway.”
“Jenna’s father is a doctor who specializes in that kind of work. As a kid, Jenna hated her dad for spending so much time at the office, and that caused a rift between them, but now, she’s starting to build a relationship with him.”
“And he’d be open to doing such an operation? First, we need a kidney.”
I laughed. “Jenna mumbled it in her sleep. She said something about how all you had to do was ask, which means the girls must have been talking after we fell asleep.”
After Jill and Jenna woke up, we ate hamburgers from Wendy’s and exchanged phone numbers. Robert helped us fix the wheel, and we parted ways.
(Why do I post chapters? Because maybe you’ll go and read the novella.)