Chapter 6 - Part 1

There was a loud knock at the door, and Jessica groaned at the loud noise interrupting her peaceful sleep. “Jess,” Myles yelled through the door. “You’d better get up!” He knocked again, more insistently.


Moaning in protest, she adjusted the pillow over her head to block out the noise, not wanting to get up. It had taken a while for her to fall asleep and she was still tired.


“You awake?” Myles persisted.


Rolling onto her back, she said, “I’m up, I’m up.”


She rubbed her eyes and sat up. It was still dark outside and she checked her phone for the time. It was just before seven. She yawned.


After reminding herself she was getting her life back on track, she felt a little less grumpy. She got ready with some optimism despite the early-morning rise. 


There was a cup of steaming coffee waiting for her when she entered the kitchen just as she was tying her hair into a ponytail.


“Thanks,” she murmured, taking the cup and seating herself beside Myles at the table.


“You hungry?” he asked as he ate his bowl of cereal. “You want some cereal?”


She shook her head. “If you knew how much sugar was in that you wouldn’t eat it either.”


He pinned her with a look. “Some of the best things in life are things that aren’t good for us.”


She felt like there was more to what he was saying, but it was too early and she needed more caffeine to decipher the hidden meaning.


“You’d better eat something. You have a long day ahead of you.” He spooned another mouthful into his mouth, moaning a little as he savored it to prove his point.


Giving him a playful glare, she got some bread and made some toast. “I’ll go grocery shopping a little later and stock up.”


He chewed his food and swallowed. “What’s wrong with my food?”


“Do you even have any fruit or vegetables?” She put her hand on her hip. “You can’t live on cereal and takeout.”


“I may have to rethink this living situation if you’re going to make me eat my greens,” he teased, and she smiled despite the fact that she was serious about getting him to eat healthier.


“Didn’t your dad teach you how to cook for yourself?” she asked, shaking her head. 


“No. That’s what moms are for.” 


His mom had died of breast cancer when he was five. Jessica had heard the story many times from Karsyn. By the time she had received the diagnosis, the cancer had spread. She had only lived a few months, in constant pain and agony before succumbing to it. Karsyn had been eight at the time and had remembered more than his brothers. Dylan had been six and had been able to recall some memories of their mother, but Myles had been too little to recall much.


It seemed unfair that he had lost both his parents and brother. All he had left was Karsyn.


“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring that up.”


“Stop being sorry, Jess. It happened so long ago I don’t know any different.” 


It had always made her think of how different they might have been had their mother survived long enough to see them grow up into the men they were today. Would it have made things different for Dylan? There was no way to know.


He sighed and pushed the bowl away. “You’re gonna have something to eat so we can get going.”


She managed a couple of mouthfuls of toast before she discarded the rest. For the time she had been with Charlie, she had been careful about everything she ate. The past few days of eating takeout meant she had to be more careful about what she was eating.


Like most girls, growing up she had struggled with her weight and how to accept the things she couldn’t change. She had tried dieting at times, but never to the degree now, where she kept a tight control over her food intake. 


On the way to the garage she tried to think back to exactly when it had become an obsession. Dylan’s death had left her feeling stumbling in a world where she had very little control, and being able to decide what she ate and how she looked gave her some of the lost control back. It was difficult to explain.


“Does Joe still work with you?” she asked just as they arrived.


He nodded. “He usually starts after nine.”


Joe was his best friend from school. They had always gotten along well. He was another person she had lost touch with when she had left. 


“I wanted to get in early to have time to go through some of the stuff that needs to be sorted out,” he said as he got out of the truck.


She got out as well and followed him. She had been to the garage before and knew her way around. He had bought it straight out of high school with the financial backing of his father and it had flourished. He had the technical ability to fix just about anything.


He led her through the workshop to the office at the back. He entered first and turned to see her reaction when she saw the piles and piles of papers all over the desk.


“Oh, my God.” Her mouth dropped open as she took in the mess she had to sort out.


“I told you,” he said with his arms crossed.


She frowned at him. “Have you ever filed…anything?” She swept her hand around the room.


She had never been in the office at any of her previous visits to his business. Now she wished she’d taken a moment to consider his job offer before jumping to accept it. 


“I told you I wasn’t good with paperwork.”


“That’s the understatement of the year,” she muttered sarcastically under her breath.


For a moment she stared, taking it all in. It would take her months, if not years, to sort out this mess.


“This will take forever.” She rubbed her temple, unsure of where to even start.


“Then you’ll have a job forever.”


She threw him a glare over her shoulder. “Do you have any filing system in place at all?”


He rubbed his jaw as his eyes studied the mess. “Kinda.”


She rolled her eyes.


“I think this one is invoices.” He pointed to one pile.


“Paid or unpaid?” 


He gave her a blank look and shrugged. “Not sure.”


She gave him an incredulous look, which he didn’t seem perturbed by.


“Okay, fine.” She sighed.


“Give me a shout if you need help.” And with that he disappeared, leaving her with endless piles of paper and no idea where to start.


While she wondered how to organize everything, she wandered over to the desk and sat down. She began with the top papers and tried to start dividing them up as best she could.


The benefit of having a mountain of work to do was there was no time to think about anything else. It kept her mind from wandering onto things that made her feel too much. She reviewed the filing cabinets and came up with the decision of revising it. 


There was a knock at the door, and then Myles entered with a mug of coffee. “I thought you could do with some caffeine.”


“Thanks,” she mumbled when he set it down on the only space open on the desk.


“So, how’s it going?” he asked, surveying the mountainous piles of documents.


“I’ve spent the last thirty minutes considering quitting,” she replied, leaning back in the chair.


“Really?” He arched his eyebrows high. “It can’t be that bad.” 


“You’re lucky you’re my friend,” she quipped, and he chuckled.


“I’m glad our friendship has some benefits.” That made her laugh.


She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt carefree enough to laugh. 


“Have fun. I’ll see you later.” He departed and she sipped her coffee. She felt lighter than she had in months, and it gave her the drive to get on task.


Minutes passed like seconds, and before long, when she was rubbing her stuff neck, she looked up to see Joe enter.


“Hi, beautiful,” he greeted her with a wink, and she rose to meet his bear hug that lifted her off her feet. “It’s been too long.” 


“I know,” she managed to get out in his tight squeeze.


He released her to hold her by her arms as he surveyed her. “You okay?” He scrutinized her.


She shrugged. “Some days are good, some aren’t.”


He nodded with understanding. He had also grown up with the brothers and had known them as well as she had, maybe even better.


“Well, I’m glad you’re back. He hasn’t been the same without you.”


“Myles?” She frowned.


He nodded. “Losing Dylan was difficult, but not having you around made it harder.”


She felt a rush of emotion. “Really?” She had no idea. Why hadn’t he reached out? It had been so difficult for her to stick around. Had she been selfish not to stay, not to be there for Myles?