Two Months Later…
I’m stupidly nervous as I take my seat in the studio audience. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been lying to your girlfriend about where you’ll be while she’s telling her story on national television.
Girlfriend. I’m still getting used to that word. Turns out there are lots of perks to having a girlfriend, all of which I’ve been enjoying lately.
This is Jess’s first big interview since Dan and I interviewed her, and it’s with Media Analysis – the show she turned a job down with a couple of months back. When she told them that she didn’t want the job, they begged her for an interview and she agreed to one.
Originally, I hadn’t planned on flying to Sydney to watch her – not because I didn’t want to, but because my job had kicked up a notch since we took over the drive-time slot a week ago. Jess understood when I said I wouldn’t make it. There was no way I could record my show and be in Sydney for the six-pm start. When Media Analysis called me to ask me a billion questions about Jess and my relationship with her in preparation for the show, however, they’d begged me to come on the show – as a surprise for Jess.
Mercury FM agreed straight away when I approached them about it. After all, it’s more publicity for Dan and me. My dating Jess has already been a big boost for them and they’re ready to milk my relationship with her for all its worth.
Now, here I am, but I feel as nervous as I did when I was the one interviewing her. I was sure when I agreed to be here that it wouldn’t be another blood bath. Since then, though, the doubts have crept in. I keep asking myself, what if this is some kind of set-up? What if they want to embarrass my girl? But Media Analysis isn’t like that. They’ll want to talk to her about the impact the media had on her, not give her a hard time about anything.
All the feedback I’ve given them about Jess has been positive. And I’m dating her, so there’s no way they’d expect me to say anything derogatory about my girlfriend on air, right? Besides, I trust Jess to hold her own. She proved that she’s more than capable of turning things on their side, exposing the truth and making her opinion known when she took over a host’s spot on a popular television morning show in Melbourne. A show which, would you believe, involves giving her opinion on current news events? I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of anyone.
The studio buzzes with activity and anticipation as Jess walks out and sits on the couch reserved for guests. The main host of the show sits down in his chair beside her, talking to her easily while they both get their microphones in place.
“Five minutes until we’re on air, everyone.”
The host, Jim Catherine, a middle-aged man who has kept his age well, gives the director a thumbs-up. An assistant places two glasses of water on the small table between Jess and Jim as Jess scans the crowd. I’m sure Jess can’t see me with the lights on the stage beaming down on her, but I turn my collar up and sink into my seat, determined to evade her gaze anyway. As far as she knows, no one is going to be here for the interview. I told our friends not to come because I thought Jess and I could spend a few days in Sydney together. Not that she knows this yet.
I can’t wait to get her alone after the show. She looks as stunning as she always does tonight wearing a turquoise dress with accessories that match. Her long blonde hair is in an up-do that exposes her long neck, and I’m hard just imagining kissing her neck there later.
“Two minutes, everyone,” someone calls.
Jess continues chatting to Jim, and instead of fidgeting nervously, like I’d expect her to, she’s completely at ease. I guess her work on the Melbourne show has helped her confidence with interviews. She looks completely in her element up there.
“Everyone in place.”
Everyone is standing by, looking busy and ready to record the action.
“We’re on the air in five, four, three, two, one.”
The intro music starts, Jim introduces Jess as his guest, and the interview is off and running. A video of Jess and the highlights of her career – her numerous covers and campaigns – followed by the headlines that followed her fall from grace play on the big screen set up behind them, essentially telling her story.
“Let’s talk about that night,” Jim says, getting straight down to business once the footage stops.
Jim asks numerous questions about the night Jess was supposed to have slept with Grant Glendon. Every answer shows her intelligence, her remorse for spending time with someone’s husband, and the loneliness she felt that led to her actions.
“Did you ever suspect Karen Malua would go to such lengths to have you removed from the show?”
“I knew there was envy, and I knew that she’d auditioned for my part, but no, I didn’t realise she was capable of going to such lengths to have me fired.”
“And now, how do you feel about Karen Malua?”
“She’s been given a suspended sentence. I hope that’s enough to stop her from doing anything like she did to me in the future. She’s also experienced her own sort of fall from grace.”
“If Casey had given Karen half of the divorce settlement, as she’d promised to do, is it possible that Australia would still be in the dark about what happened?”
“I think that’s definitely a possibility, though I have some wonderful friends who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. They convinced me to delve deeper into what happened, and I was in the process of doing that when Karen made the call. Hopefully, I would have found some evidence by talking to the right people. But I can’t deny it was easier for me when Karen and Casey had their falling out.”
“Their fall out definitely worked in your favour.”
“Absolutely. Once Casey refused to give Karen the amount of money promised, Karen spilt the story. And once Karen had incriminated Casey, Grant’s wife was more than prepared to come out and defend herself and tell us how Karen had conspired to help her drug us, not to mention it was Karen’s friends who ended up taking us upstairs.”
“It could have ended a lot of worse than this.”
“It could have. And if I didn’t have friends who were willing to dig around and hound Karen, no one might have realised it was a set-up – least of all me.”
Jim addresses the audience. “It was the perfect set-up, and the media was only too happy to run the stories which implied you were some kind of man-eater. Let’s have a look at what was said about you.”
Every article that came out about Jess before Karen came forward and exposed what really happened plays on the screen in a montage which both Jess and Jim turn to look at.
“What was it like, seeing all these headlines about yourself?” Jim asks once it’s finished.
“Well, I know actors have to deal with this sort of thing all the time, but I’m used to being seen in a more positive light, quite literally.”
Jim laughs right on cue.
“Jim, it shook every belief I had in myself. It was a dark time and I was falling in a heap. It’s hard enough having to deal with everyone else being disillusioned, but the hardest part was realising I might not be the person I thought I was.”
“Now that it’s been exposed as a set-up, has your faith in yourself been restored?”
“I…Going through that ordeal was a wake-up call. Quite simply, I’m not the person I was before it happened. And I like who I am better now. I was heading down a very superficial path. I thought I was happy, but now I realise I wasn’t. I was merely existing. I didn’t listen to people or share much of myself, and I realised this upon the self-reflection I was faced with every day in hiding. As I’ve said, spending so much time with Grant was a mistake, one that I regret every day. It, along with some of the articles that have come out recently, caused me to look at my behaviour and relationships with men. It was the worst few weeks of my life, but the things that have come out of it are all positive.”
“You would categorise what happened then as a life changing event?” Jim comments.
“And there were two people who stood by you when everything came out?”
Jess smiles and her whole face lights up while my heart begins pounding hard. “Yes.”
“The first being your friend, Kristy.
“Yes, my best friend was there by my side through all of it.”
“Even though the article exposed your feelings for her boyfriend.”
“Feelings that weren’t real. I just didn’t realise so at the time. It was attraction and some lust. Not to mention he’s a fabulous guy. I doubt I’m the only person who’s had a bit of a crush on their friend’s boyfriend, though.” Jess laughs.
There are a few people laughing in the audience and I’m surprised to see a show of hands when Jim asks the audience if they’ve ever found themselves attracted to a friend’s partner.
“This didn’t create conflict between you and Kristy then?” Jim asks.
“I’d told her about those feelings and mentioned they were the reason I went to London in the first place. I felt tremendously guilty for them at the time and I didn’t want to create any problem for her and Logan. Not that I would have acted on my feelings. I never ever would have, but a…certain conversation made me think it was best to leave.”
“Let’s talk about that for a moment, because that brings us to the second person who had a major impact on you during this time, doesn’t it?”
Jess is smiling again and my heart is beating out of control. “That’s right.”
A picture of me flashes behind Jess on the screen and when she turns around to look at it and then back at Jim, her smile widens, even as a flush creeps up her face.
“For those of you who don’t know him, this is Adam Granger – he’s currently the co-host of popular Melbourne drive-time show on Mercury FM.” He looks at Jess. “How did you come to know him?”
“He’s my friend’s boyfriend’s friend. That’s quite the mouthful, isn’t it?”
Jim smiles. “Things weren’t easy between the two of you in the beginning, am I correct?”
Jess grins, as though remembering those days far more fondly than I remember them. When I look back, I’m ashamed and embarrassed for judging her because of something that happened to me when I was fifteen. Jess, however, obviously doesn’t care. She looks delighted Jim has brought me up. I know they flew me here to be part of the show, and I know they want me on stage, surprising Jess. I just wonder at what point they’re going to ask me to walk down there and reveal to Jess that I’m here.
“That’s right, Jim. Adam and I…well, he called me on my bull…” she chuckles. “And he saw things I should have seen in myself long before I did. And it was the conversation I had with him that made me decide to take the job on the show and go to the UK.”
“When you returned, he wasn’t happy to see you?”
“No. And with everything that had happened, I wasn’t happy to see him, either.”
“At the time, all I could think about was what his reaction would be to everything that happened, and how he might influence my friends and the public, especially since he’s part of the media.”
“But he became an unexpected ally?”
“And an unexpected friend.”
The look on Jess’s face is so soft and dreamy that Jim is grinning and half the audience are making sappy ‘aww’ sounds. Her smile and the way she clearly feels talking about me makes me feel like life has never – could never – be better. I pinch myself sometimes to make sure I’m not dreaming. Because what I have with Jess is so damn good and so special. Even though I’m not that geek kid anymore, and even though my fame is growing – a few people at the airport even asked for my autograph – sometimes I still feel like she’s out of my league.
“That’s even though it was your interview on his radio show that started the ensuing media circus complete with character assassination?” Jim asks.
“Yes. Well, there were articles coming out about me before then, but that was the first interview I did and it didn’t go well. Actually, that’s an understatement. It was a nightmare. But Adam was there to support me during the lead-up, and then afterwards. And I gained a lot of confidence from him. I kept thinking that if this man who once hated me could believe in me, see the good in me, and realise I meant no harm, then maybe everybody else might see the good in me, too.”
Another chorus of ‘aww’ goes up from everybody and Jess looks pleased.
“His faith in me gave me the confidence to stand up and be on his show. Even later on, when things were really falling apart, it was…how I felt about him and the way he made me feel that reminded me the loss of my career and reputation wasn’t the end of the world.”
“Could you elaborate on that for us?”
“Before Adam, my career was everything, but when…”
“When?” Jim persists.
Jess smiles at him. “When you’re falling in love with someone, it’s a reminder that there are other things in life. The things he made me feel were a wondrous, albeit disturbing and terrifying distraction from the depressing fall of my career.”
I swallow, my blood surging, creating a buzzing in my ears which means I can’t hear properly. I can’t believe she just came out on national television talking about falling in love with me. I know how I feel about her. I’m crazy about her. Head over heels. And I suspected she felt the same way since she stayed and took a job in Melbourne instead of here in Sydney, but we’ve never said it to each other.
There have been times – moments – in the past couple of months when I’ve been sure she’s been about to say it. Or I’ve been about to. And at the last minute she chickens out or I do. What we’re doing, feeling, experiencing with each other is new to both of us. Neither of us know how to fall in love well. Yet, here she is, telling the whole country she’s in love with me. I don’t know whether to be pissed off she told everyone before me or beat my chest with my fists like the king I feel right now.
“So, would I be right in saying it isn’t just what happened with Grant and Casey and Karen that changed you, it was your feelings for Adam, too.”
“In their own way, definitely. But what happened in the UK definitely shattered some of my self-perceptions, and those crumbling beliefs made it much easier for Adam to scale my walls to get to me, I guess you could say. Not that he was actively trying.”
Laughter rings through the audience once more. I can’t speak, though, or utter a sound. Any second, they’re going to ask me up there, and I’m not used to being on national television. More importantly, my girlfriend just confessed she loves me and I want a moment in private to tell her I feel the same.
“And this is a first for you?” Jim asks.
“Falling in love, yes? Obviously, there have been men I’ve cared for. But Adam…Let me say this, I finally understand every love song ever written. I’ve gone from man to man all my life, keeping every relationship superficial, but Adam has me – all of me. Heart, body, and soul. I’m in love.”
The audience is lapping this up, sounds of approval ring out above Jim and Jess for a minute.
“Should I be grateful you’re not jumping up and down on my couch and wringing my hands right now?”
Jess laughs at the reference to the Oprah-Tom Cruise interview.
“I’m too nervous for that,” Jess says. “I’ve never actually said those words to him.”
Jim doesn’t bother trying to hide his surprise. “Are you telling me you haven’t told him how you feel?”
“I’ve told him in my own way, but I’ve never come out and told him I’m in love with him before. Not with those three little words.”
“Let’s hope he’s not too embarrassed you just declared yourself on national television, then.”
She crosses her fingers. “Let’s hope not.”
“I’d like to hear his side of things,” Jim says.
Jess smiles. “He’s busy with his show, so he couldn’t be here tonight.”
“Are you sure about that?”
It’s the first time I’ve seen Jess look nervous during this interview. She starts looking around, as though I could be anywhere.
“If you’re there in the audience, Adam, why don’t you come down here and join us?”
Knowing this is my cue, I stand up. The blood drains out of Jess’ face as I walk down the stairs towards her.
I think I’m acting on auto-pilot as the crowd applauds loudly, Jim standing to shake my hand.
When I get to Jess, the slightly anxious expression she’s wearing as she stands to greet me forces me to get over my nerves. The only thing on my mind is making sure she knows I feel the same way she does. So, I take her in my arms and kiss her so hotly that everyone in the audience comments and yells out their approval.
“Take a seat, Adam,” Jim says with a grin when I finally release Jess. Well, almost release her. I keep her hand in mine, our fingers intertwined, as the two of us sit together on the couch.
“I take it that Jess’ confession isn’t going to send you running for the hills?” Jim asks.
“Absolutely not. I’m just as crazy about her.”
“Is this love for both of you?” Jim asks.
I look at Jess, and even though I can see she’s trying to look confident, I know her well enough to see she’s nervous. She really didn’t expect me to be here tonight, and now she’s worried about what I’ll say. She doesn’t need to worry, though. I have her back, today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.
“I’m in love with her,” I say, my eyes never leaving hers. “She’s…amazing.”
The relief in Jess’s eyes doesn’t go unnoticed by me, and when I squeeze her hand, she squeezes mine back.
“This is our very own Aussie Love story,” Jim says. “Fantastic. Adam, tell us your side of things.”
I do, eventually forgetting the fact I’m on TV, which is something I’m not used to. Instead, I focus on telling the story and making it as good as possible.
“What was it about Jess that made you dislike her so intensely in the first place?”
Through our connected hands, I feel Jess’s tension, but I squeeze her hand once more. “It was a girl in high school, actually, Jim. One Jess reminded me of.”
I tell him an edited version of the high school drama that caused me to judge Jess so harshly in the beginning.
“It would be fair to say then that this entire situation has had its effect on you, too?” Jim asks me.
“Absolutely. I learned that I could be judgmental and biased and that I was still holding onto the past, even though I’d thought I let it go. When I saw Jess, I wanted her and hated her simultaneously. I set out to make sure history never repeated itself. I was a sad, pathetic little boy, but I’d like to say that getting to know Jess has forced me to grow up. This – love – is a first for me, too.”
“Well, I wish you two the very best, and it’s always nice to see a good thing come out of such a media mess.” He faces the audience. “You can see Jessica on her morning show ‘Mornings with Jess, Kim and Damon’, and listen to Adam on the Mercury FM between four and six every evening.”
Jim finishes off the interview, and the moment Jess and I are alone backstage together, she shakes her head at me. “I’m sorry. I should have waited until we were together to tell you-“
“Jess,” I cut her off, taking her face between my hands. “Honest to God, it’s fine.”
It’s better than fine. She just told the whole country she’s in love with me. I can barely believe I’m dating this perfect woman and she’s declared her love for me to everyone. Eleven years ago, Tamara humiliated me so badly I nearly ended my life. Today, Jess has stood in front of the whole country and told them how she feels, even though she knew I might not have felt the same way. How could I be anything but amazed and humbled by her actions?
“It put you on the spot. It was never my intention-“
I kiss her, deeply, thoroughly, doing my best to let her know just how okay I am with everything that happened. If anyone should be upset, it should be her because I didn’t tell her I’m coming.
“I mean, I can’t blame you if you…twisted the truth to make sure you didn’t embarrass me out there.”
It takes me a moment to understand why Jess’ eyes are filled with uncertainty. She’s not sure if I meant it when I said I love her. “I meant it, Jess. I’m in love with you. Surely you know that by now.”
She wraps her fingers around mine and looks up at me. “I hoped. And did you mean the other thing that you said?”
“What other thing?”
“About wanting me and hating me at the same time?”
“Oh yeah,” I say huskily. “The moment I set eyes on you, I knew I wanted you more than I’ve wanted anyone else in my life.”
“That was part of the reason you reacted to me so strongly? You wanted me? And I…you affected me from the very beginning.”
“I regret judging you, but at the same time, I can’t regret the fact we’re here.” I stare deeply into her eyes. “I love you, Jess. And you’re the only woman I’ve ever loved.”
Her smile is radiant, the emotion in her eyes obvious. “I love you, too.”
This time she’s kissing me, and I can’t wait to get her back to her hotel room. I didn’t book my own, knowing I’d be staying with her.
“How did you get time off work?” she asks as we break apart. “Didn’t they object to you being here, especially so soon after you’d started the drive-home slot”
“They liked the idea of the publicity, and that works for me. I was hoping we could spend the next couple of nights in Sydney and go back home on Monday. Sound okay to you?”
“Honestly? It sounds perfect.”
A/N: For anyone interested, the prequel to this book, ‘I Love You, My Neighbour (Kristy & Logan’s story)’ is complete on Radish.
I want to take the time now to thank everyone who read Shatter for You. Please know, I feel blessed you took the time out of your busy life to read this book.
This book had some very special support when it was posted for the first time several years back. It had its own cheerleaders and publicity person. To those of you who supported this book on its first run in public – you know who you are – please know I will never forget you. Your unwavering support, not just of this story but of me as an author, made me feel rich at the time and it still does now. <333
I take what my readers say seriously, so if you have feedback, I’m listening. Though I’d ask that any criticism is constructive.
Thank you again for taking the time to read another chapter, book, and long author’s note by me. Please, if you have time, comment or share this story with friends. Otherwise, thank you for reading. It’s been a pleasure to write for you.