The last few hours Jenny had gone from one store to the next, dragging Shay along with her and for each one they left, they had one more packed shopping bag to carry. They had bought so much new clothing, books and games that Jenny was a little concerned about what Shane would say about it. Before they left the house she’d worried that Shay might get bored after five minutes of shopping with her, but he seemed happy even if he was a bit quiet, and now they were finally at their last stop; the grocery store.
“If you see anything you want, just put it in there, I don’t think we have that much at home right now anyway,” she said, pointing at the shopping cart, and that was pretty much the same strategy she’d used all morning. It worked well though, Shay wasn’t the least bit greedy about anything and in most cases she’d ended up asking him if he wanted this or that before he finally told her. Still it saddened her to see that someone so young could seem so much more mature than she felt herself at times, and once again she caught herself wondering if Shane had been like him when she was his age. She’d never had anything served to her on a silver platter, she’d been used to fighting for everything she had for so long Jenny couldn’t even imagine what it must have been like. Shane never said much about that part of her life, and her brother didn’t seem to be much of a talker either, so that was yet another thing they had in common.
“Hey!” she suddenly exclaimed when she saw him wandering off down one of the aisles. “Stay where I can see you,” she said and then smiled softly at him. “You know that Shane will kill me if I manage to lose you somewhere.”
Smiling back at her, he then walked away, returning a few moments later with some pasta before he took off again. Jenny walked slowly, pushing the cart in front of her over to the produce section. If she was going to be completely honest with herself, she and Shane didn’t eat anywhere near enough vegetables; aside from the salad that Shane had made a few days ago – the one they conveniently enough forgot to eat when they had better things to do – they had mostly been surviving on takeout. That was going to have to change now that Shay was staying with them. They knew how to cook, that wasn’t the problem, but when they were both busy with work and finally got some time alone together, there were other things they’d rather be doing…
Jenny sighed quietly, raised her hand to grab a lettuce. Why she’d had to go and make that agreement with Shane to not have sex for a while was beyond her. She knew it was the right thing to do, or at least she thought it was, but it was hard. By now more than 48 hours had passed since last time, and that was a long time for them. She wondered if it was easier, or even harder, for Shane. She’d spent most of her time sleeping, but it was Shane, after all. Maybe if she didn’t bring any bad news home with her from the hospital – she didn’t even want to consider the possibility of the opposite – they could do something about that soon.
After finishing that thought and with a hopeful smile on her lips, she reached out for an apple, looking up startled when she bumped her hand into someone else’s. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she apologized, giggling a little; she felt like she was in a daze.
“No, I…” the other woman started as they both turned to face each other. “Jenny?”
“Oh my god!” Jenny exclaimed, staring at the dark-haired beauty in front of her. ‘Oh my god. Oh my…’ she thought, feeling a panic she couldn’t even explain to herself. She hadn’t seen her for such a long time, over a year, and she’d never have imagined she would suddenly bump into her at a grocery store of all places. In fact, since she had seemed to have disappeared completely from WeHo, Jenny hadn’t given that much thought to the possibility of meeting her own ex or Shane’s former fiancÚ again. “Hi! Hi, Carmen.”
“Hi, how…” Carmen started and shook her head slowly and giggled, apparently equally surprised to see her. They both looked each other up and down and giggled some more. “How are you?”
“I’m, uh…” Jenny began quietly as all the time that had passed and the events that had taken place since Shane left Carmen at the altar flashed by before her eyes, and she wished they hadn’t because something about it all definitely made her uncomfortable. She immediately felt bad for thinking it, but Carmen wasn’t a part of any of that, and she didn’t want her to be. That was probably why it felt so weird seeing her now, like getting sucked into a portal where past came to present and you couldn’t know for sure what it meant. “I’m good,” she managed after a while. “You? Where have you been?”
“I just came home two days ago,” she replied with a deep sigh and smiled wearily. “I got offered this job in New York after I got back from Canada and I took it. I’ve been over there ever since but I missed my family so…” She shrugged and giggled again. “I came back home for a while,” she said and it seemed strange to Jenny that after all this time and after what went down in Whistler, the other woman still felt comfortable enough with her to talk to her as if they were still close friends. It was almost as if nothing had changed at all. And if things were still the same… A chill ran down her spine and she didn’t dare to finish the thought, barely listening as Carmen went on to tell her that she’d been out clubbing all night and had run into an old friend that offered to give her a ride home.
“What about you?” Carmen asked and Jenny pushed her thoughts away. “I saw that you got your book published! Congratulations.” She smiled brightly at her and Jenny forced a smile too, trying to will that uncomfortable feeling away.
“Thank you, I…” Jenny began by was interrupted by Shay who suddenly showed up behind her with some DVDs in his hand, looking shyly at her.
“Can we get these?” he asked.
“Yeah, just put them in there,” she said softly and smiled to herself when he put them on top of everything else in the cart.
“Now, who’s this young man?”
They both looked up and Shay glanced questioningly at Jenny who stood with her mouth half open as if Carmen’s question startled her somehow, and it had. It was as though two worlds were colliding in front of her, and it was something she didn’t think she was ready for.
“I’m Shay,” he said finally and turned to Jenny, not caring particularly about the woman she was talking to. “I thought maybe when Shane gets home, we could watch them.”
“I think that’s a great idea.”
Shay grinned and took off again, leaving Jenny with Carmen whose face was significantly paler than before. “Shay?” she asked quietly. “Is he…?”
“Yes,” Jenny said simply, looking after him as he walked away and then turned back to her old friend. “He’s Shane’s brother. He lives with us now.” She could feel a smile forming on her lips as she told her; she’d never imagined she would care about any kid as much as she cared for him. They’d had a bad start when she first got to know him, but she hoped that some day, hopefully some time soon, he’d see that she wasn’t in the same bad place now that she’d been back then.
“He lives with you?” Carmen asked, frowning in disbelief.
“Well, he’s staying with us. He did that for a few months before and he came back last week.”
“Oh, I…” she started and stood seeming to quietly contemplate this and Jenny wondered if that was what it looked like when it sank in for her that Shane had actually changed since last time they saw each other. “I never even saw him before,” Carmen continued and glanced over at him again, looking as if she didn’t believe what she was seeing. “He looks so much like her.”
“I know. They act alike too, it’s strange.” Jenny thought back on the hours before the fire had started, how she’d spent a few way too short moments with the two McCutcheons before she had to go back home to work. Seeing them together that way, it was almost impossible to believe that the two of them hadn’t grown up in the same house. Shay also seemed to have a way of making his sister turn at least ten years younger in an instant when they were hanging out together, and it was adorable to see her like that. When she did the math in her head she realized that Shane was old enough to be his mom, something that strangely enough hadn’t occurred to her before. Shane seemed too young to be someone’s parent. Right?
“How is she now?”
Once again Carmen’s voice managed to pull her out of her reverie and she blinked as she tried to remember the question she’d just been asked. After a few seconds it came back to her and she nodded hesitatingly, trying to force the right answer out from the midst of all her distracted thoughts. “Right now?” She saw no reason to lie to her, chances were she’d already heard about what happened. “She could be better, but she’s okay. WAX burned down… two days ago…”
“I heard something about that,” she replied softly. “But I don’t know any details.”
“Shane was inside when it happened.” She had to pause and take a deep breath as the scene replayed in front of her eyes, and she shut them, trying to push the images away like she’d had to do so many times already. “And she—she managed to get out but she had to go back in because she found out Shay was there.”
“Oh my god.”
Jenny went on to give her not the full story of what had happened that night, but most of the important details and assured her that they were all okay now, leaving out the bit about Shane having to go back to the hospital that same morning. The line had to be drawn somewhere. If she were to be completely honest with herself, she wasn’t sure why they were still having that conversation. In all honesty, they hadn’t been the closest of friends before Carmen left LA, but for some reason she felt obliged to treat her as though they were. As if she felt guilty for stealing something from her and pretending she knew nothing about it. And there, out of the blue after they’d been talking for a while, came the hushed question she’d least expected.
“Is she seeing anyone?”
Jenny froze for a moment, wondering if she’d heard her right, but judging from the curious but slightly embarrassed look on Carmen’s face, she figured she’d asked exactly that. “Shane? Yes, she is.”
“How long have they been…?” Carmen shifted uncomfortably and an alarm set off in the back of Jenny’s mind. Why was she asking her that? How was that any of her business anymore?
“For a few months,” she managed to say, feeling her heart rate increasing and a lump forming in her throat. Any other situation like this she would have gotten her defences up in a second, but not this time. If Carmen was getting at what she suspected she was, she knew there was nothing she could say or do about it. Aside from when she stood outside of WAX, watching Shane as she ran inside, she couldn’t remember a time when she’d felt so hopeless.
“Do you know if it’s serious?” the other woman continued quietly, but Jenny could see the glimmer of hope in her eyes and her heart sank further.
“Yes,” she sighed, crossing her arms over her chest without thinking about it. “Why, Carmen?”
”I just…” She smiled a little, shyly, and shrugged. “Sometimes I think I made a mistake when I never talked to her about what happened. Like I think that maybe we could have talked about stuff, you know? We could have worked things out if I’d just called her back and given her a chance.”
“Oh.” Her face flushed and she felt the sting of tears threatening to well up in her eyes. So she’d been right after all. It could be even worse than she’d feared and she needed to get out of there if she wanted a chance to keep it together. She tried to turn away as casually as possible to look for Shay, but couldn’t see him and was about to use that as an excuse to walk away from the conversation when Carmen continued.
“So you still live with her?”
“Yeah, we still live together.” She sniffled quietly and covered her eyes with one of her hands, pretending to play with her hair so Carmen wouldn’t get a chance to see the teardrops glittering on their way down her cheek.
Carmen stood quietly in front of her for a moment, trying to look into her eyes. When that proved impossible she peered at her with her head tilted slightly to the side. “You’re not… You two aren’t…?” she started and her eyes slowly widened when Jenny didn’t respond. “Oh my god, I’m sorry, I had no idea.”
The awkward silence that was triggered by that question didn’t last very long before someone came up behind Jenny, walked by her, turned around and jokingly put her arm around Carmen’s shoulders. “What’s up, ladies?” she grinned, chewing some gum with her mouth open and not seeming to care whether or not she’d interrupted a conversation.
“Hi, Papi,” Jenny said with a small smile, grateful for the distraction and not too surprised to see that she was apparently the friend that was driving Carmen home. A second later she spotted Shay again and decided it was her cue to leave, so she said goodbye to the two women, anxious to get away before further drama ensued.
As she walked away from them, she wiped another tear from her cheek, feeling like an idiot for letting Carmen’s words get to her the way they had, but she couldn’t help it.
What she had with Shane now was the first real relationship she’d ever had with a woman and she wanted it to be her last. It was also the very thing Shane had been supposed to share with Carmen. They were living together, sleeping together, and chances were, they might be raising a child together, and thinking about it made her remember something Carmen had said the day they’d all gone to pick out her wedding dress. She said she felt like she was trying to marry the most unattainable person on earth and the memory made Jenny swallow and bite down hard on her lip.
Was she trying to do the same thing? Who was she to think she had a better chance at it than Carmen had? She’d never doubted Shane before but a nagging little thought in the back of her head told her that maybe she should have and with what had just happened, she couldn’t help that she felt threatened.
She’d always used to think Shane and Carmen were meant to be together and now before Jenny knew what hit her, she was back in their world again.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Shane isn't the only one who has an unpleasant morning.
Chapter End Notes:
Ayumi Hamasaki - SCAR
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