I’ve just sat down to watch The Walking Dead when I hear a knock on my front door. I put down my open beer bottle on the coffee table and get up to check that the front door is unlocked since the visitor is likely to be Kristy or Logan. I would have invited them over to watch the show with me had Jess not been back from London. I doubt I’ll be dropping by their place as much now that Jess is home, especially after the awkwardness at dinner last night.
Kristy is waiting on the doorstep when I get to the entryway, her expression unusually serious.
“Hey, Adam,” she says when she spots me through the thick black security door. “Have you got a sec?”
“For you, always.”
She smiles but it doesn’t quite meet her eyes.
“What’s going on?” I ask, unlocking the door and letting her in.
“Thanks,” she says, wiping her feet on the mat at the front door and entering. “I just wanted to talk you about some stuff.”
My gut is suddenly ringing like a damn bell is going off in it. Or is that indigestion from the two burgers I inhaled on my way home?
“I was about to watch The Walking Dead, but I’ll turn it off,” I say, letting her walk past me before locking the security door and following her into the living room.
After switching the TV off, I motion for Kristy to take a seat on the couch, picking up my beer as she sits down.
“Do you want one?” I ask.
“No thanks, I’m fine.”
I nod and take a seat near on the other side of the black leather couch that Logan bought when he lived here.
“This feels formal,” I say, getting the ball rolling. “Is everything okay?”
The way her face twists implies it isn’t. “Jess and I talked today.”
Before she even said Jess’ name, I knew this impromptu visit had to have something to do with the supermodel. Both Kristy and Logan noticed something was off between Jess and I last night, and they’d rightly blamed me for the tension at dinner. Logan yelled at me as I’d helped him move Kristy’s shit around in the garage. I suppose it’s now Kristy’s turn to haul me over the coals.
And maybe I deserve to be told off.
As much as I hate to admit it, Jess isn’t the ice princess I’d made her out to be. Oh, she tried to convince me she was unaffected by our conversation last night, but she hadn’t been able to hide how much my opinion hurt her. She’s not emotionless.
And with that revelation under my belt, I’m not sure whether I can go through with pursuing this story like Dan wants me to. I can be a bastard when I need to be; I love digging up the truth. But Jess is too close to home – literally and figuratively – for me to feel comfortable dishing up her dirty laundry on my show.
“Okay,” I say.
“She, ah, told me about your conversation at Shark Bait.”
I can’t hide my surprise. I thought Jess would have mentioned last night’s conversation to Kristy, not the one I had with her at Shark Bait. Was she honest about what happened? Or did she paint me as the devil?
“What did Jess say, exactly?”
“She said you caught her watching Logan and me,” she starts tentatively.
Seriously? Jess went there?
“Did she tell you she was staring at Logan as if she wanted to have sex with him right there on the dance floor?”
Kristy holds my gaze. “Not in those exact words, but yes.”
I still don’t believe it. “It was obvious she wanted to be with him. I didn’t want her to come between you and Logan.”
Her smile is sad. “And I appreciate that. I do. Jess told me she was attracted to Logan and that’s why she went away. And because of your threat.”
“I was only trying-“
“I know. Jess told me you were protecting me, and I realise you were.”
“She said that? That I was protecting you?”
She nods. “She said I shouldn’t blame you, and I don’t. I’m grateful.”
“But you don’t need to protect me from Jess. I promise you. So, if that was your reason for not liking her, Adam, I’m asking you to let it go.”
I stare at my friend, unprepared for what she’s asked me to do.
“Look,” Kristy starts. “I’m not asking you to be her best friend, but whatever you said to her last night got to her. And not much gets to Jess. It seems that you’re one of the few people that do.”
The same punch to the gut sensation I felt last night hits me again. I hate the idea that Jess cares what I think. It makes her seem…human.
“Honestly, I didn’t think she’d care about anything I said.”
“For some reason, she does. She’s adamant the two of you will never get along, but she’s going through a rough time, and I guess I’m asking you, as a personal favour to me, to just…be nice to her.”
Kristy hasn’t asked me for anything before, so I don’t want to deny her this. But even if Jess isn’t the evil ice queen that I thought she was, and even if I do feel bad for hurting her feelings last night, her similarity to Tamara is something I don’t want to forget or stop seeing. I don’t want to forget that I’m dealing with someone who by her own admission doesn’t care about anyone but Kristy and Logan.
“I have to ask. Are you sure you can trust her? With Logan?”
“Yes. I’d trust Jess with my life. So, I certainly trust her with my boyfriend. She says she’s over her attraction to him, and I believe her. She’s never given me any reason not to trust her. She’s never flirted with my boyfriends. So, can you just…forget what you saw at the club and get along with her?”
“I’ll try harder to be civil.”
Kristy raises an eyebrow in question.
“I told Jess I’d give her the benefit of the doubt, but I guess I haven’t tried that hard.”
Kristy shakes her head. “You don’t need to give her the benefit of the doubt, Adam. She’s one of the best people I know. If you spend time with her, you’ll see that.”
I’m positive that Jess wants to spend time with me as much as I want to spend time with her.
“I’ll try not to doubt her,” I offer.
She smiles and stands up. “Thanks for the chat. I suppose I should get back.”
I stand and walk her to the door. When I let her out of the house, she looks back at me. “Neither Logan nor Jess need to know about this conversation.”
“Logan doesn’t know about…?”
“Jess’ little crush? No, and I’m sure Jess would prefer it to stay that way. Not to mention, I would, too.”
I lean against the frame. “And you’re certain she’s not still hung up on him?”
“I’m positive. And even if Jess was, it’s not exactly wrong to have feelings for someone unavailable. It’s what you do with it that matters.”
The way her eyes lock with mine makes me wonder if she knows how much I like her – how much I’ve always liked her.
“I get it.”
“And if something did happen between them,” Kristy continues, “then neither of them would be worth my time. But I don’t want to waste my life worrying about what might happen. I’ve wasted enough time on that before.”
I want to ask her exactly what she means by that, but she’s already walking away from me, waving over her shoulder as she heads home. It’s not until Kristy is inside her house that I remember she said something I should have quizzed her on. She said that Jess is having a rough time. What does that mean, exactly? And is that rough time the reason she’s home from London early?
“Talk to me, Granger. What have you learned about our supermodel?”
It’s only Thursday, four days after I promised Dan I’d do some digging around and find out what I could about Jess, and I’ve learned a few things in this time. One, Jess is going through a ‘rough time’. Two, she’s not quite as cold as I thought she was. Three, she can be honest when called upon to be. And four, this story will cause a shit-storm in my personal life if I go forward with it. Likely, I’ll insight Kristy’s rage.
Unfortunately, these facts aren’t the ones Dan is interested in.
“I’m on it,” I say, shooting my co-star my most charming smile.
She gives me her I’m-not-charmed-face. “How ‘on it’ are you, Adam?”
Dan walks over to my desk and proceeds to take over my mouse and computer. As soon as she has Google on my screen, she types something into the search engine and brings up a British gossip magazine.
“Grant Glendon seduced by Australian supermodel?”
What the fuck? I read on in a hurry. It’s all speculation and no facts, but that’s not to say there’s no truth to the headline.
“Jessica Skyler had her eyes on Grant from the very start,” a source close to Grant and Casey said. “She did everything she could to get close to him and undermine their marriage.”
The source also suggested Ms. Skyler was fired from her current position for her inability to be professional with the host of the show.
Well, Kristy’s comment certainly made sense to me now. A rough time? Yeah, this was a really rough time. For Grant and Casey.
My parents never bothered to hide their affairs from me. While I was going through the toughest time of my life, they’d been caught up in trying to hurt each other with extra-marital affairs. They’d paraded strangers through the house, and I’d despised every one of them for being so willing to ruin a marriage.
I shouldn’t be surprised Jess falls into the category of homewrecker, and I guess I’m not. It fits perfectly with the image I had of her from the very beginning. Sleeping with a married man is exactly the type of thing I’d expect her to do.
And yet, hadn’t Sunday night proved I’m too quick to judge Jess?
“Told you there was a story here,” Dan says. “I’d love to know what Jess’ side is.”
Part of me doesn’t care what Jess’ side is. It would be easy enough to crucify her on my show for what she’s done. Easy, also, to point out to Logan and Kristy that I now have proof Jess is untrustworthy and manipulative. But the trained journalist in me sees the mistakes I’ve already made from bias. Even if I’m ninety percent right about who Jess is and what she’s capable of, the other ten percent is a variable. I don’t have her pegged the way I thought I did. I don’t understand her completely. Not all the labels I’ve applied to her are correct.
A gossip magazine is the lowest form of journalism there is. If I’m going to take anything in the article as fact, I should go ahead and throw my journalism degree out the window right now. Bias gets in the way of seeing things clearly. A real journalist knows there are three sides to every story: his side, her side, and the truth.
This story is too close to home to be comfortable, but I have to look into what happened. Dan will never be persuaded to research something else now. Not now that she’s seen the article. And I want to know what happened, too. I need to understand Jess better. At least so I can say my opinion of her is based on facts.
“I’ll ask her about the headline,” I tell Dan.
With everything that’s happened between Jess and me, she’s never going to break down and confide in me. And I can’t pretend to like the model or be her friend; I don’t think she’d buy it even if I did. But I can be civil, and Jess is capable of surprising me with her honesty. She already knows I see through her bullshit, and that means she might give me her side of the story when I confront her about it.
And how I go about presenting it on my show? Well, I’ll have to decide when I get the information I want.
Jess is sitting on the doorstep when I pull into my driveway in the evening. Which is perfect, because it means I don’t have to go through Kristy and Logan to talk to her. I haven’t spoken to Jess since Sunday – something I’m sure she orchestrated after our conversation over the dishes. And the tension she feels when she sees me is evident in her green eyes as I walk towards her.
“Adam,” she says stiffly.
Unsurprisingly, she’s more guarded than usual, which isn’t an ideal way to begin this conversation.
I put my foot on the first step of the porch, only to have her put her hand out to stop me. “I wouldn’t go in there if I was you.”
I was only planning to sit beside Jess, but her comment has me curious. “Why not?”
“Logan and Kristy are…occupied.”
It takes me a moment to realise what she means. “You mean they’re fucking each other senseless?”
Her expression turns to disgust. “I’d ask you if you have to be so crass, but it appears you do.”
“And I’d ask if you have to be so refined and ladylike all the time, but it appears you aren’t.”
“Not tonight, Adam, please. I can’t do this with you now.”
The pleading in her voice is something I’m not expecting, and I’m not quite sure how to react to it. She picks up a glass of wine that I haven’t seen until this moment and sips from it. Maybe she’s seen the article already.
If she hasn’t, she’s about to.
“Having a bad day?” I ask.
“You have no idea.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that.”
I take my phone out of my pocket and type in the address of the website Dan showed me earlier. Beside me, I feel Jess’ tension growing.
After I find what I’m looking for, I pass my phone to her.
She reads the article, her grip on my phone tightening as stares at the screen.
Once she’s finished, she hands the phone back to me, her hand shaking slightly.
“Of course you believe it,” she says. “It backs up everything you think of me.”
The bitterness in her tone hits me somewhere in the chest and makes me pause for a moment.
“My first instinct was to believe it, I’ll admit, but then I remembered that there are two sides to every story.”
“And you want mine?” Her laugh is both mocking and disbelieving. “Oh, Adam. How stupid do you think I am? You’re part of the media.”
I shrug, knowing that if I push this, she’ll clam up. If she gets wind of the fact Dan and I have every intention of doing a segment on her, Jess will probably never speak to me again. Which wouldn’t be an issue if we could avoid each other. But we can’t keep our distance. Not when we have mutual friends, and not when we live next door to each other. Plus, I told Kristy I’d try harder to be civil.
“I was just giving you the heads up, Jess.”
I step down from the porch, confident that she’s said all she’s going to say when she calls my name tightly.
“You were right about me,” she says when I turn around and meet her eyes.
For some reason her words make my pulse speed up. “How so?”
“I’m as ugly as you think I am. I didn’t realise it before. I didn’t want to hear it when you said it at Shark Bait. But you knew me better than I knew myself.”
There’s no fire in her gaze. No ice. All I see is defeat. Her surrender knocks me harder than her words do. Is she really agreeing with me? She thinks she’s an ugly person? I can’t believe she’d tell me that.
“What happened, Jess?”
She shakes her head, and I’m sure she’s not going to answer me, but then she does. “I made a terrible mistake.”
I don’t say anything. Instead, we just stare at each other as I wait to see if she will say anything else.
“I have no excuse. Now I’m being punished, and I deserve it. I’m going to lose everything.”
I watch her stand up and retreat, walking back into the house. Clearly, listening to Kristy and Logan going at it is more appealing than sitting out here with me.
Once again, Jess has surprised me. She’s given me honesty and owned up to making a mistake, taking full responsibility for something she’s not proud of. She admitted I was right to view her the way I do, and told me there’s at least some kernel of truth to the article.
And yet I’ve never been less sure about anything in my life.