Clutching the jacket, she dropped to her knees.
“Jill!” Jacob whispered. He rushed forward to kneel beside her. “Are you all right? Honey, what happened?”
“You had a tattoo.”
“JILL!” Sandy pushed past Jacob to Jill’s side. Seeing the jacket in Jill’s hands, she said, “Come on, honey, let’s get out of the closet.”
She touched the jacket, but Jill hung on tight to the fabric.
“Jacob, get her other arm,” Sandy said.
Jacob and Sandy helped a sagging Jill into the other room.
“I think we need to talk….” Jacob started.
“Oh no you don’t. If this has to do with our girl, Jill, you can talk right here.” Tanesha put her hands on her hips. Looking at Jill, she saw the jacket for the first time. “Especially if that’s what I think it is.”
“Really, I think….” Jacob started.
“Not. A. Chance.” Heather’s hands went to her hips as well. “If that’s the jacket as in the button jacket, then this is about all of us. You can talk right here.”
“What about Katy?” Jacob asked. “It’s not really….”
Heather raced across the apartment to answer a tap on the door. Opening the door, she found Delphie on the other side.
“I wanted to see if anyone needed some ironing done. I’m doing it, so I thought I’d ask,” Delphie said to Heather. Looking from face to face, she said, “Oh.”
Delphie made her girlie smile at Jacob.
“Would you mind watching Katy?” Jacob asked. “We’re having a little….”
“Epiphany?” Delphie twirled back and forth with glee.
Jacob glared at her. Delphie cleared her throat.
“Why don’t you show the girls what you’ve done with the rest of the attic?” Delphie asked. “I’ll stay with Katy.”
Jacob looked down at Jill. Still clutching the jacket, Jill’s eyes were hollow and blank. He looked over her head to Sandy. Sandy nodded. With Jill between them, they went into the bathroom.
“Heather, there’s a key to this door on a hook in the medicine cabinet. Can you get that, please?”
Heather found the key then opened the door.
And the women stood in awe.
The dusty,old attic space had been converted into a stunning home. Gleaming hardwood floors gave way to sedate groupings of furniture. A gorgeous sitting area with a couple couches and chairs rested on a beautiful oriental rug next to a gas fireplace. A formal dining table was set in an alcove by the windows. The brand new full kitchen formed an ‘U’ out from the outer wall of the loft. Along the garden side of the wide open space, four rooms lay ready to be occupied. Twin bathrooms occupied the corners of the back wall.
“I have her, Sandy,” Jacob said. “We’re almost done. We hoped to surprise Jill with this but…. Please go on in.”
Heather, Sandy and Tanisha went into the open space. A plumber poked his head out of the bathroom.
“It’s all right, Fred,” Jacob said.
The plumber nodded to Jacob and went back into the bathroom. With Jill tucked against him, he made his way to a couch.
“Delphie and Val have been supplying the kitchen in secret. I don’t know what’s there. Would you mind making some tea, Sandy? Heather? Can you turn on the gas fireplace? I’m sorry. I get very cold.”
“This is gorgeous,” Tanisha said. “This was a surprise? Just a ‘It’s Saturday’ surprise?”
“I was thinking of it as more a two week anniversary of the non-date,” Jacob said.
“Jacob? What happened?” Jill stirred next to him. She looked at the blue men’s jacket in her hand. “Oh. Is this yours?”
“Yes,” Jacob said. “It’s my school jacket. The buttons are imprinted with the polar bear. Polar Bears are Bowdoin’s mascot.”
“Polar bear with a hockey stick. That was your tattoo.”
“On my pec,” he said. “Aden got mercury poisoning from the red dragon tattoos on his back and shoulder. Blane and I had our tattoos removed so he wouldn’t have to go through it alone. You had a belly ring.”
“I had to take it out when I got pregnant.”
“You didn’t have a soul mate tattoo.”
“Yeah.” Jill’s hand ran over the tattoo on her wrist. Sighing, she noticed for the first time that her friends were standing around. “Where are we?”
“Our new home,” Jacob said.
Jill looked at him then turned to look around the loft space.
“Wow,” she said. “You did this?”
“Me, Val, Mike, Delphie and Dad,” Jacob said. “We knew you couldn’t really go home, so we wanted you to have a place that would be your home. At least I hope it will be your home.”
Jill tipped her head up to kiss him.
“This is very touching but we need to sort out a few things,” Tanesha said.
“Like what the hell?” Heather asked.
“And other things.” Sandy set two cups of green tea on the end table then went into the kitchen for more. “Jill, this kitchen is perfect. I’m going to love cooking here.”
“Do I get a tour?” Jill asked.
“When we’re finished here! Who’s going to start?” Heather looked from person to person. “Fine, I’ll start.”
“Trevor took a week’s vacation every year on his spring break. Now you know he went on Jill’s money and never offered to take her AND….”
“I was mostly glad that he was gone,” Jill said. “We would have the funnest week. Sandy would start planning the moment we knew when he was leaving. We’d dance, stay up late, there’s always at least one pajama party.”
“He would go with a group of his guy friends including this guy, MJ. MJ’s a guy we went to high school with.” Heather said.
“You’ve seen him,” Jill said. “He’s been here all week. He works with Alex. He has a limp and stutters some times.”
“Red hair? Tall?” Jacob asked.
“Hey! I’m telling a story here,” Heather said.
“Please continue,” Jacob said.
“MJ joined the service. So one year, Trevor and his jerk friends decided to fly to spend leave with MJ. FLY!” Heather’s face went red at the cost and imposition. “Well, Jill couldn’t afford to send him. So he recruited my brother to go with them. My little brother throws baggage for Frontier Airlines. He’s a good guy, just an idiot.”
“Heather’s brother agreed to get stand by seats for everyone and they were off to…. ” Sandy looked at Heather. “Anyone remember where?”
“Thailand,” Jill said.
“That’s right. Jill’s dream vacation,” Sandy said.
“Is that your dream vacation?” Jacob asked.
“Let’s plan a trip,” he said.
“We are in the middle here,” Heather said.
“I’m sorry,” Jacob said. “Trevor’s a jerk and went on vacation with your brother.”
“Exactly,” Heather said. “Well, my brother came back early. He was upset and wouldn’t tell me why. Of course, Trevor came home like nothing happened. Five days later, Jill was sick. She had Clamydia.”
“Among other things,” Jill said. “I was lucky I didn’t get AIDS.”
“Or Herpes,” Sandy said.
“But, of course, Trevor spent all their money, so she couldn’t pay for a doctor,” Heather said. “We took care of the bill and helped her get better. Jill was at my house when my brotherhad a layover. He saw her and kind of freaked out. He told me that Trevor and his buddies spent their vacations picking up women and buying hookers.”
“I heard him tell her. He didn’t want me to hear, but I heard it anyway,” Jill said. “I guess I knew that’s what happened. I left Heather’s to confront Trevor.”
“The bitchass says…” Tanesha started.
“He told me that there was nothing wrong with what he did. He was sure I did the same thing when he was gone. Cat’s away and stuff like that,” Jill said. “I was shocked. I mean I…. I hadn’t. Not until… well, you know.”
“He told Jill that he wasn’t sick,” Sandy said. “She must have caught all those diseases from someone here in Denver.”
“Nothing’s ever Trevor’s fault,” Jill said. She sighed. “I think things started to get really bad then.”
“They were bad from the beginning,” Tanesha said.
“I got really depressed. I couldn’t leave him.”
“Or didn’t. Too loyal,” Sandy said.
“But I DID make him use condoms,” Jill said. “And I told him if he did it again, I would leave him.”
“Why are we talking about this?” Jacob asked. “I want to know about Jill’s life but ….”
“Because it’s all a part of it,” Tanesha said. “This happened the year before. Well, of course, there was that depression bull shit. Jill was depressed because she was trapped by douche bag and he says….”
“He told me that the birth control pills were making me depressed,” Jill said. “I came home from Pete’s one morning and he had an appointment scheduled with a doctor. For me. Trevor did all the talking. I was depressed. He said it was the birth control pills. So the doctor told me to stop taking them and take these antidepressant pills.”
“The doctor never even asked Jill why she was depressed,” Heather said. “What did he care? Just wrote the prescription, took her money and canceled her prescription!”
“I didn’t have the energy to fight Trevor, and we were using condoms anyway. I took the antidepressant pills and stopped taking the birth control pills. I should have known that he….”
“He did that to trick Jill into getting pregnant,” Heather said. “He….”
“Put a pin through all the condoms so she’d get pregnant,” Sandy said.
“That was like a month before he….”
“Left for a guys week again,” Jill said. “This time, he didn’t tell me he was going until the day he left. He said that he ‘forgot’ that I told him I would leave him if he went on another trip. I had to go to work so I….”
“She moved out. Well.” Sandy and Jill shared a long look. “With our help, she moved out.”
“Sandy let me live with her,” Jill said. “She had just moved into her condo. It has three bedrooms. She said I could stay there as long as I wanted. But mostly I just worked and laid in bed and cried. Those stupid pills didn’t help. They made me impulsive AND depressed.”
“We drank lots of hot chocolate,” Heather said. “Tanesha and I moved in to be with Jill. We were really worried that she would kill herself or… something.”
“I was pretty messed up,” Jill said. “I think that’s why I was so screwed up when he left. We got through all of this, had Katy, then he leaves… ME…. After I….”
“Moving on,” Tanesha said. “Sandy has a client who works on the Simpson’s. There’s a huge mask party for Mardi Gras in Santa Monica, California. Sandy got tickets for all of us.”
“My brother got us real tickets to LA,” Heather said. “Said it was to make up for the Thailand thing.”
“So we dragged Jill to LA,” Sandy said.
“Now it’s your turn,” Tanesha said.
“My turn?” Jacob asked. “I don’t know anything about your trip to LA.”
“You know a little,” Jill said.
“I’m still processing that.” Jacob saw the stern looks on the women’s faces and acquiesced. “I’d been out of college a year or so and mostly finished with my college girlfriend. She thought I was haunted by the stuff that happened here.”
“Stuff?” Heather asked.
“My mother’s death. My father’s infidelity. Owning half of a stupid company that had nothing to do with me. My sister’s complete shut down. Mike’s disappearance. Stuff.”
“Oh, I thought you meant girl stuff,” Heather said. “Because we heard you were quite the ladies man in high school.”
“I was promiscuous.”
Jacob figured that the best offense was silence, so he just stopped talking. He had no intention of going over his sexual history with Jill’s friends.
“How did you get to Santa Monica?” Jill asked.
“Lipson construction was looking at a project in the Marina. Because out of state work is outside of Lipson’s standard procedure, Dad needed everyone’s approval. Val and I went to review the project. I hadn’t seen Val in a while. She had tickets to the party. That’s why I wore the jacket. It’s all I had with me. I went to spend time with Val. I didn’t think that it would be the best night of my life… well, up to that point.”
Jill blushed through her big smile.
“I flew in on a red-eye on Friday then planned to leave Saturday night. Val convinced me to change my reservation until Sunday. I was in the middle of a complicated rehab in Maine so I couldn’t really be gone long.”
“And had a girlfriend,” Sandy said.
“Actually, we weren’t seeing each other,” Jacob said. “In fact, she married a guy about a month later. I wasn’t really on her relationship radar.”
“But you were still sleeping with her,” Heather said.
Jacob raised his eyebrows. He would never get used to female information highway. How could Heather possibly know he had ex-sex an hour before he left for LA? He kept his mouth shut.
“It was really you?” Jill asked.
Jacob raised his shoulders and shook his head. He couldn’t believe it either.
“Jill wore a sheer tulle nighty,” Sandy said. “It cover about half her butt And some….”
“Incredibly hot five inch white pumps,” Jacob said.
The women stared at him in silence. Even though they knew he had to be the ‘button’ guy, his knowledge of this tiny detail stunned them.
“I made her mask out of some tulle,” Sandy said.
“Val made my mask out of a black bandana. It covered the top of my face and head. You could only see my eyes. May I?” Jacob took the jacket from Jill. He pulled the two masks out of the inner pocket of the jacket. “I knew the moment you entered the party. It was like a….”
“Pulse that went through me,” Jill finished his statement.
“I’ve never seen Jill like that. She walked across the room to you. You guys disappeared like ten minutes later,” Sandy said. “I was worried but Jill texted me to tell me she was all right.”
“Actually, that was Jacob,” Jill said. “You know I could never figure out how that phone worked.”
“So what happened?” Tanesha said.
Jacob shrugged his shoulders. Jill blushed.
“Everything. Nothing. We ate pancakes.”
“Chocolate chip pancakes,” he said.
“We talked and laughed,” Jill said.
“We drank champagne and played.”
“Play?” Jill giggled. “Yeah. Raspberries. Oh my God, I’ve never had anything like that. And the lavender bubble bath. Wow.”
“Oh fuck,” Jacob said. Turning to look at Jill, he said, “You had the condoms. Remember, I went out later to get more….”
“More condoms!” Tanesha, Heather and Sandy said in unison.
“You had six or seven!” Sandy said. “You joked about having one for every guy.”
“We used them.” Embarrassed, Jill shrugged. “But you’re right. I got them from the apartment. They probably had….”
“A hole in them,” Jacob said. “Trevor’s sterile.”
“WHAT?” Tanesha’s voice resonated over the women.
“I thought Miss Thing was pregnant,” Heather said.
“They just said that so that Val and I would give them the trust,” Jacob said. “Honey said that they have been doing fertility treatments. I guess Trevor had something bad enough or long enough to make him sterile. That’s why we think he wants Katy. He can’t have his own kids.”
“You mean something like Chlamydia?” Sandy asked. She laughed.
“Actually, exactly Chlamydia,” Jacob said.
The women laughed.
“At least that’s what Honey said. He denies ever having anything, but the doctor told them that was why he was sterile.”
“This is what I don’t get,” Tanesha said. “You have this incredible night, but don’t exchange names or phone number or anything.”
“Jill wanted that,” Jacob said. “We wore our masks the whole time. She left before I woke. I didn’t realize she took the button until I saw her in the closet with the jacket.”
“I didn’t have the space inside me to… deal with a relationship.” Jill’s eyes filled with tears. “It never occurred to me that….”
“What happened, Jill? How did you end up back with Trevor?” Jacob asked. “You were confident that your marriage was over.”
Jill shrugged her shoulders.
“She was… different. After Santa Monica, Jill was strong and happy,” Sandy said.
“Yeah, she was all about ridding the Trevor from her life,” Heather said. “We thought….”
“I went to tell him that it was over,” Jill said. “He cried and begged me. At least, one more time of togetherness.”
Jill sighed. Tanesha sat on the arm of the couch and put her arm around Jill.
“I just wanted him to let me go,” Jill said. “I went back to Sandy’s but like two days later, I started feeling sick in the mornings. We waited a week but….”
“Trevor hounded her,” Heather said. “He waited outside the condo, outside work. He followed her around begging her to come back. He noticed that she was sick to her stomach and told her about the holes in the condoms. He bought the pregnancy test.”
“Which as positive, of course,” Tanesha said.
“That’s where this whole soul mate thing came from,” Sandy said. “He said that only soul mates can get pregnant like that. They were meant to be and she was meant to have his baby. How could she leave? She was sure it was Trevor’s baby. She went back to him for the baby. They got the tattoos right after that.”
“It never occurred to me that you and I….” Jill’s sorrow was palpable. “We were so careful. I don’t know what I would have done anyway.”
“I am so sorry, Jill. You’ve really suffered because of me,” Jacob said. “I need to make this up to you.”
Jill looked around the loft then said, “You’ll have a chance.”
“As soon at the tattoos were done, he went back to his usual bullshit,” Tanesha said. “And Jill was stuck. Then he walks out taking everything he valued - all Jill’s money, her car, everything. So you bet you have some making up to do.”
“Yes ma’am,” Jacob said.
“Can we see the loft first?” Heather asked.
Across the loft, a door opened. A burly member of Alex Hargreaves’s team leaned in.
“Mr. Marlowe?” he said. “There’s a woman here who insists on speaking to you. She says she’s your step-sister. We are on alert for a step-sister. This one is Honey?”
“You can let her in. Thanks.”
Jacob walked across the loft to meet Honey as she flew in the door. They spoke back and forth for a moment. Honey nodded. She asked Jacob a question and he laughed. She smiled.
“Tonight?” Honey asked.
“See you later,” Jacob said. Addressing the soldier, he added, “Can you take Honey to Alex?”
“Lieutenant-Colonel Hargreaves is aware of the situation, sir,” the soldier said.
“Great. Thanks. Also, Honey should be on the guest list.”
“Yes, sir, I will attend to that,” the soldier said.
Turning back to the sitting area, Jacob saw that every woman had her hands on her hips.
“What did SHE want?” Tanesha said.
“Listen, she’s not responsible for what her sister is or did,” Jacob said. “She’s trying to help. Do you want her help? Or do you just want to pre-judge her because of her sister?”
Tanesha crossed her arms across her chest and shook her head.
“I can like or dislike anyone I please,” Tanesha said.
Heather knocked Tanesha’s shoulder and Tanesha laughed.
“She does look like her sister,” Jill said.
“It’s a little creepy,” Jacob said.
“What did she want?” Sandy asked.
“She was supposed to pick up her sister and the… what was it? ‘Bitchass’?” Jacob laughed.
“Needledick,” Jill said.
The girls howled with laughter.
“Ok, ok, this actually isn’t so funny,” Jacob said. “Honey was supposed to pick them up so we would know when they got here. But their plane got in early. She was heading into the airport when she saw MJ, her sister and the needledick leaving. She followed them. She said they were laughing and talking.”
“So what?” Heather asked. “Why do we care?”
“Because MJ? MJ, who has been here all week? MJ, who played with Katy almost every day?” Jacob looked to the ground. “MJ is definitely a part of their plan.”
“Their plan?” Sandy asked. “What plan?”
“They’re going to try to steal Katy tonight.”
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