Forgiving Jesse…

5 Nov

A GSP release from Author of the Week: Sara Dean.

Forgiving Jesse by Sara Dean

Seventeen year old Jesse hasn’t even tried to get along with his mom since his dad left them because he blames her for his dad’s leaving. Desperate to have a relationship with her son again, his mom takes a plane on September 11, 2001 to work things out with his father, and never returns. The father Jesse has always hailed as a hero can’t be bothered with his own son, and sends him to live with his grandmother, whom he has never met. While trying to deal with his hurt and anger, he has only two people he can turn to: his best friend Nicky and his girlfriend, Shandy. During the darkest hour of his life, Jesse discovers the only people he has left are hiding secrets, and he is forced to make decisions that will change all of their lives forever.


A single flame flickers on one candle in the middle of a chocolate cake. A small boy smiles broadly and reaches out to touch the letters that decorate it.
     Mom and Dad stand by singing Happy Birthday and smiling. Their arms are wrapped around each other tightly as they watch their son celebrate his first birthday.
    “Blow out the candle!” his mom calls and he giggles.
     His dad reaches out and cuts into letters that spell out “Happy Birthday, Jesse.”

                                                                   Chapter 1

                                                16 years later/September 2001

     “Listen to her purr!” I shouted over the roar of my pride and joy, the motorcycle I had just finished fixing up.
      My best friend Nicky sat on the floor of the garage, not more than two feet away, but he couldn’t hear me.
      I turned the key and the room grew silent. Nicky shook his head and fished in his pocket for another Marlboro. He lit up and took a long drag.
     “All those hours bagging groceries just to hear that sound. So tell me, man,” he paused to take another drag. “Was it worth it?”
     I patted the handlebars. “Every second.” I said, climbing off my bike and joined him on the floor.
     I lit up too, and as I leaned my head against the cold, steel wall, my mind flashed back to the motorcycle I had helped my dad fix up when I was a kid. The one I had now looked a lot like it.
     “What now?” Nicky asked, interrupting my thoughts. The memory faded.
     “What do you mean?”
     “Well, you spent all summer working at the store and working on that,” he pointed at the motorcycle. “Now that school’s about to start and your bike’s finished, what are you gonna do?”
     I shook my head and blew smoke rings. “I don’t know, Maybe I’ll quit work and school. Just ride around all day.”
     Nicky laughed. “Yeah, I bet Shandy would really go for that. So would your mom.”
     “What’s that supposed to mean?”
     “Everyone knows that Shandy is the boss in your relationship, and I think she’s gonna want you in school where she can watch your every move. And your mom has the whole high hopes for my kid fantasy.”
      I laughed. “Shandy may think she’s the boss, but she’s not. As for mom, like you said, it’s a fantasy, nothing more.”
     As if on cue, the garage door opened, and in walked Mom, her arms loaded down with bags of groceries. It was obvious they were heavy, but I didn’t make a move to help her. She was taking the shortcut through the garage which led straight to the kitchen. Nicky saw her, quickly ground out his cigarette and frantically waved away the smoke.
     “Hello, Mrs. Cramden,” Nicky said politely. I ignored her.
     “Hello, boys,” she said cheerfully. “Jesse, there’s a whole trunk full of bags. Could you bring some in for me?”
     “Get them yourself,” I mumbled and kept puffing away on my cigarette.
      If she heard me, she gave no indication. Nicky waited until the door shut behind her, said, “You’ve got guts, talking to her like that. My mom would have popped me in the mouth.”
     I didn’t say a word. What could I say? I always talked to her like that. I hated her and she knew it. Why should I be nice to her?
     Nicky reached for another cigarette then put it back.
     “She knows you smoke,” I said.
     “Yeah, but she doesn’t like it.”
     I snickered. “When did you start caring what my mom likes and dislikes?”
     He shrugged. “It’s a respect thing, you know.”
     I looked at him long and hard, trying to decide if he was serious. He was. “You don’t respect anyone,” I said.
     “Not true, I respect a couple of people, and she’s one of them.”
     “Why?” I didn’t respect her and I couldn’t imagine why anyone else would.
     Nicky picked up a piece of gravel that was on the garage floor and began flipping it in the air like you would flip a quarter.
     “Like the way she handled herself the last couple of years. You know, the whole divorce thing and all.”
     My blood began to boil. How could he take up for her?
     He kept his eyes on the gravel in his hand. He didn’t dare look at me. He knew I would punch him if he did.
     “It was her fault,” I exploded, “she couldn’t see what she had. If she just wouldn’t have taken Dad for granted, he wouldn’t have had to find someone else. She’s to blame, so quit taking up for her.”
     That’s when it hit me. How could I have been so blind? “You have a thing for my mom!” I punched him in the arm, a little harder than I meant to.
     Nicky rubbed his arm, “Not a chance. But I do wish she was my mom.”
     “No you don’t. Trust me.” We dropped the subject as Mom came out of the kitchen and started back towards the car.
     Jess, I asked you for some help,” she said.
     I stood up and climbed on my motorcycle. “I have better things to do.”
     She said something, but her words were drowned out as I started it up.
     Nicky stretched his legs and started to stand. Mom raised her voice, but her words were still lost.
     I hadn’t ridden yet. I knew she didn’t approve of me riding, she had made that very clear. 
     She thought it was too dangerous, or some crap like that. Dad would have understood. He rode his every day after work. Once in a while he even took me with him on a short ride. Mom didn’t like me being on it then either, but Dad would tell her that I needed to get used to riding one, because one day he was going to pass it down to me. I’m sure he meant to leave it for me, but things got messy during the divorce, and he took it with him by mistake. I knew one day he would come back for me, and bring it with him.
     I kicked up the kickstand, and revved the engine. “Sorry Nicky,” I called over my shoulder as I sped away.
     I could imagine the stunned look on their faces. Oh well, I thought. They’ll get over it.



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