It didn’t take too long for Jessica to gather up everything she needed to take with her. The rest of the stuff she would arrange to have picked up at a later date. Next she had to figure out what to tell her parents when announcing she was moving back home with them. She would find out soon enough since she was turning into their drive. Not wanting to start an inquisition as soon as she walked in, Jessica thought it best to leave her belongings in the car for awhile.
The house always smelled of fresh cut flowers when you walked in. Her mother had a regular weekly delivery set up with a local florist for this purpose. The Tramane’s had always enjoyed entertaining and had friends or acquaintances drop by often. They loved living as socialites, it was their thing. Jessica and her brothers on the other hand stayed as far away from it as possible. Walking through the house she found her mother sitting in the dining room having some tea as she flipped through a magazine.
“Darling, what a nice surprise...I didn’t expect you by today,” her mother greeted her as she walked into the large room decorated in Champaign color.
“Hi, mom…Where’s dad?” Hopefully he was around so she could speak to them together. She really didn’t want to have to retell the situation more than need be.
“Oh, he’s out golfing with Tom and the Garbers,” her mother announced as she took the seat opposite her. “Jessica, sit up straight.” This was a pet peeve of her mothers. That and everything else you would find in The Book of Etiquettes. At times it felt like they were living during the renaissance with all the proprieties that were thrust upon them during their childhood. Jax and Rob had to learn to waltz along with every other ballroom dance they were expected to do. But out of the three of them Jessica had the worst of it, constantly being bickered at for not practicing on the piano or not acting like a lady when she would get out of hand with her brothers.
“Yes, mother,” was her usual reply when her mother scolded her.
“How is Jason? I haven’t seen him lately.”
With a heavy sigh Jessica knew she had to enlighten her mother on her current marital status. “Mom, I need to talk to you about something…about Jason,” she started.
“Oh for heaven’s sake, don’t tell me you’ve gone and gotten pregnant already,” her mother looked mortified as she said this.
“No, I’m not pregnant. Mom, please just listen to me. I don’t know how to say this…”
“Darling, you always had a flare for the dramatics. I’m sure whatever you have to say isn’t as bad as you’re making it out to be.”
“Jason is cheating on me so I’ve left him,” Jessica stated flatly. It was bad enough that she had to go through this ordeal in the first place but dealing with her mother was taking it to another level of insanity.
“Are you sure? Are you absolutely positive about this?” Her mother asked in disbelief.
“Yes, I overheard him talking on the phone last night and I caught him with her today. Oh Mom, what am I going to do?” Jessica broke into tears.
“First, you’re going to stop crying and you’re going to be the strong woman I raised you to be.” She reached over and took Jessica’s hands into her own, looking directly into her eyes. “Then you’re going to go home and tell Jason to end this now.”
Jessica pulled her hands away, shocked that her mother could suggest she go back to a man who had little regard to her feelings by lying and cheating. “No, I can’t go back to him. I won’t. He’s been cheating on me, who’s to say this hasn’t happened before?”
“This is your husband. You need to find a way to hang on to him, handle your relationship with him. You cannot allow every cheap floozy trying to get ahead in life to come in and take what you have worked for. Jason is a man, darling. Men have trouble with temptation. Some misdeeds must be overlooked. But darling, if you simply tend to your husband the way a woman should then having an occasional dalliance will not take him from you. Listen to what I say. I know about these things. I’ve been married for thirty years.”
“I can’t stay with Jason after knowing this. I was going to try after overhearing the phone call but then he lied to me and said he had ended the affair. But it wasn’t true. I caught them together after he promised he was done. How can you expect me to accept that? To accept him treating me like that and just go on acting like nothing was wrong? Mom, how would you feel if dad was sleeping with other women?”
“Jessica, this is not about me or your father. I’m just trying to give you the best advice. Think of what everyone will say when they find out you left your husband after only three months,” her mother stated.
This took Jessica back by surprise. Is this all she was worried about…what people might think? This was not exactly what she expected to hear from her mother but of course she should have known what her stance would be on the situation. It always came back to how people perceive the family. This would no doubt be interesting gossip among her friends. Elizabeth Tramane’s daughter was unable to keep a husband. The feeling of betrayal spread through her heart. It was a realization she should have seen coming. Wasn’t it the same reaction when Jackson had gotten Ramona pregnant all those years ago in high school? It was a shame to feel hatred for your mother but right now those were the feelings she had towards her. “I could care less what anyone has to say about the matter. If anyone,” and Jessica really stressed the word, “can’t stand behind my decisions on this then they can go straight to hell and stay out of my life.”
“Well darling, I’m only trying to help do what’s best for you. Do you really think you will be able to find another man like Jason? He has a bright future ahead of him and he will be able to provide for you the way you are use to. You will not want for anything,” her mother said honestly believing that wealth could make up for heartache. This was a waste of time. It was apparent that she was not going to stay here without interference from her mother. Who knew how her father would react, they pretty much felt the same on certain things. Wealth and social standing was one of them.
“Mom, I just stopped by to tell you what was going on. I’ll be staying at a hotel until I find my own place. I’ll call you in a few days to let you know where I’m staying.” Jessica stood up to leave when her mother seemed to have a change of heart on the matter.
“Jessica, wait…you don’t have to do that. Stay here, you still have your old room and if you’re not going to change your mind on this then you will need your family for support.”
She was hesitant but really wasn’t in the mood for being alone. “Thanks, mom…I’ll get my things from the car.”
Jessica stayed up in her room the rest of the evening. When her father had arrived home and was brought up to date of her breakup he remained supportive. The knock on the door was what Jessica had been dreading all evening. With no way to have any sort of clue of her father’s reaction she decided it was better to get it over with. To her surprise all he did was walk over to her while she continued to sit on the bed and give her a reassuring hug.
“You stay here as long as you need to,” he had told her making the tears start to fall once again. They sat quietly as he comforted his daughter with a broken heart. “You should try to eat something.” He left the room and there had been no more interruptions that night.
The next morning Jessica went to work just like any other day trying not to let this whole Jason thing crush her entire world. Although she was numb inside she still had to try to maintain her daily responsibilities. Work was a relief since she could throw herself completely into researching evidence and had little time to think of anything else. It wasn’t until Spencer walked in that she realized it was almost lunch.
“Hey, ready for lunch?” Spencer asked in his usual friendly mood.
Jessica had forgotten all about their reservations for lunch today. She hated to tell him no since this was meant to be a celebration. Plus she was a little hungry. All she had was breakfast, and that was yesterday. “Sure,” she smiled back at him as she stood up and grabbed her purse.
Spencer did most of the talking on the way to the restaurant as they rode together in his car. Jessica politely listened of his stories when he was first hired at the firm. It was nice not to think of anything right now, she even laughed at a few of his tales which really helped lighten her mood.
They had reached the restaurant in no time and were seated immediately at one of the available tables by the grill. Their table now complete as they joined the other patrons, the waitress took everyone’s order for drinks before leaving. Spencer continued on with his previous conversation about his first time in mock trial against the CEO himself. “It was nerve wracking but definitely a privilege to be chosen out of the other associates,” he had said. It was a tremendous privilege indeed. The partners always decided on who would go to the annual mock trial and they only chose the best of the best. If you were chosen then chances are you were moving up in the firm, they had trust in your performance and you better be on your best game to prove it.
“So there I was with my case being picked apart by Hardam as the other partners looked on. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks…” he continued as Jessica smiled lightly listening with only half of her concentration. It wasn’t until Spencer asked, “Can you believe what luck,” when she really tried to focus on the conversation knowing it was time for a response.
“Wow, Spence, that’s amazing,” she falsely beamed. It seemed to do the trick because he continued on talking until the waitress came back for their lunch orders before he finally decided to turn the conversation in her direction.
“So Jess, how are you and Jason adapting to the workaholic married life?”
“Um, fine I guess. He has been really busy lately,” Jessica answered not really wanting to go public with her separation just yet.
Spencer shook his head with a smile. “I’m going to have to have a word with him. It’s great to be so motivated and eager to get ahead in the business but you still have to make some family time. Believe me. If I could I would have done things a lot differently with Sloane. She was the one and I let her slip through my fingers and when I realized it then it was already too late.” He took a sip from his tea as a way to cover the hoarseness constricting his words. “Anyway, we still talk you know. She is having a baby this spring. Do you and Jason talk about kids?”
“No, we haven’t spoken on it. My brother Jackson and his wife are expecting another baby in a couple of months,” Jessica informed him steering away from discussing her relationship with Jason.
“Really,” he sounded sincere, “and this is your older brother, correct?”
“Yes, Jackson lives in New York and I hope to visit them when the baby is due. Jane is going to need some help at first since they also have a little girl just under a year.”
“That’s right. I remember seeing her picture in your office. So, Jackson is the brother who was shot a few months ago?” Spencer leaned forward placing his chin atop his closed fist.
Jessica nodded confirming, “We almost lost him.” Although Jason was not a subject she cared to discuss right now, the devastating situation they went through when Jackson had been shot had finally settled as he continued to recuperate and was clear from the initial danger and she was now able to discuss it without crumbling into tears. “It’s funny how something so dramatic can change how you perceive things…life…your future…”
“Sure is, I bet your brother appreciates life more since going through that too. So what exactly happened anyway? I remember he was recently married and had a baby the last time you went to New York just before the shooting. It wasn’t much longer after that, was it?”
“No, just a couple of months really after Jane gave birth to Summer and they were married days after the birth. Then some crazy estranged ex of his showed up one day and wanted him back in her life. Blaming Jane for Jax leaving, her only thought was to get rid of Jane and he would be free to be with her again. Anyway, Jackson jumped in just as she took a shot at Jane and he was hit instead.” Jessica retold the story as the salad was served. It sounded like some kind of dramatic love story you would see on cable but every word of it was true.
“Wow, it’s amazing what people will do these days,” he responded while shaking his head with disbelief. Glancing up as more patrons walked into the dining area, a familiar face stood out among them. “Hey, there’s Ja…”
Spencer’s words were halted as he watched Jason make his way over to the table by the window with his arm draped around a very attractive brunette. She swayed her hips seductively as she giggled at something he smilingly whispered to her. It was obvious to see that there was something going on here. Something a married man like Jason shouldn’t have going on with another woman. Jessica’s gaze turned in the direction that Spencer was looking and landed on Jason and that home wrecker just as he held out a chair for her before giving her a quick kiss on the lips before taking his own seat. Spencer was speechless for the first time that afternoon. Looking back over to Jessica and he knew this was no surprise by the look in her eyes. The pain etched across her face was apparent as she turned away unable to stomach the scene any longer.
“Jess, what’s going on?” Spencer finally asked. Taking her hand into his, he gently squeezed it for support as he watched her intently. “Talk to me Jess.”
She shook her head trying to hold the pieces of her being together not willing to break down in front of everyone around them. He realized she was on the verge of losing the battle so he quickly stood, dropped some money down on their table then grabbed her hand and swiftly guided her out of the restaurant without being seen by her husband. It wasn’t until after depositing her into the car did she releases her despair sobbing into her hands. Anger boiled over inside of Spencer. She was his associate, his colleague…his friend. He could not stand by and watch someone disrespect her like the way Jason had. Turning back towards the restaurant Spencer marched his way over to where Jason was seated.
“You miserable excuse of a man,” he growled. Jason looked up surprised to see his wife’s boss and mentor hovering over him in such a rage. There was no time to react to the outburst because it was immediately followed by Spencer’s right hook which landed a direct hit to Jason’s eye toppling him out of his chair. Sprawled out across the floor Jason held his eye shut looking at his attacker with his one good eye.
Spencer smirked as he looked at the man he had come to like through his friend and associate as he resisted the urged to lunge for his neck. “You never deserved a woman as good as Jessica. You’re nothing but a sniveling, conveying piece of shit and you just lost all hope at a decent future. You were only tolerated because of your wife. I promise that you will regret the day you threw away your marriage.” Just as he was about to turn around and walk away he took one last look at the pathetic piece of flesh on the floor. “Oh by the way, if you think you’re going to press charges against me for that eye then go ahead and try it.” Spencer smirked again, “I’ll demolish you.”
Spencer heard the whispers of the patrons as he left the restaurant but didn’t care what anyone thought. How dare he treat Jessica with such little regard by flaunting that other bitch around town. Jessica was a terrific woman. A prominent up and coming attorney but most of all had become a dear friend.
Back at the car Spencer seemed agitated but said nothing. There had been no words spoken by neither he nor Jessica as they drove away from the restaurant. At least her sobs had ceased and she concentrated on the buildings as they passed. The anger was still emanating throughout Spencer as the encounter played over and over in his head. Finally after hearing the barely audible sniff from Jessica did he finally let go as he burst out, “Are you going to tell me what the hell all that was back there?”
Jessica was startled at the tone of his voice and faced him with wide eyed uncertainty trying to decipher if he was angry with her for what had just happened. He noticed the shocked expression and felt guilty immediately as he shook his head and changed the tone as he had to get to the bottom of things. “Sorry, but what the hell just happened? I don’t understand…” His look of sadness was registered with the pity in his voice. He pitied her and it was the last thing she wanted.
“Well isn’t it obvious? Jason is cheating on me,” Jessica stated plain and simply.
“But I thought you two were happy?”
“Yeah well I thought so too,” she sarcastically replied. Spencer felt awkward after that comment. He decided if she wanted to talk about it he should let you do so on her own. No more questions even though it was killing him to understand the situation. After a moment of silence Jessica felt a twinge of remorse at how she had come across. After all Spencer was only trying to be a friend to her. Of course he would have questions about it. “Jason started coming home late a few days ago,” she began quietly. “One night I awoke and he wasn’t in bed so I went to look for him. He was on the phone in his office downstairs and that’s when I overheard him talking to…her.”
Since she was opening up about it he decided it was alright to ask questions now. “Did you confront him?”
“Not at first. I sat there and listened…It wasn’t until he had hung up and was headed back to bed did he realize I was just outside of the door and had heard everything.”
“What did he say about it?”
“He denied it of course. Then after awhile he finally admitted to it. He said he would end it and she didn’t mean anything to him…” she trailed off as a fresh wave of tears threatened to spill over her lashes once again.
“Apparently that didn’t happen,” he stated, finishing her sentence. It was hard to believe that Jason Stanhope had turned out to be such a slime ball.
“No, I went to his office the following day to talk to him and I seen them leaving together.”
“And you followed of course,” he asked knowing the answer before she responded.
“Yes…straight to a hotel. I called Jason and he picked up right away and agreed to meet me for lunch after originally saying he was busy. So he left her there at the hotel and went to meet me instead. He promised me he ended things and he wanted our marriage to work. As soon as he left he headed straight back to the hotel and I busted in on them in their room.” It sounded like some kind of bad breakup video, minus the song, instead of her life. She shook her head in disgust. “I left him and moved back to my parents’ house.”
“Wow Jess, it’s unbelievable. I would have never imagined Jason would do something like that.”
“It is what it is. I’ll be fine,” she stated more to herself than to Spencer.
Spencer reached over and squeezed her hand, a friendly gesture of a friend supporting another friend. “Of course you will be. You are a smart, independent woman, Jess. You will overcome this and come out a stronger woman than you already are.”
Jessica squeezed his hand back with gratitude for the support and the inspiring words of confidence in her. “Thanks Spence. I really appreciate having someone to talk to right now. My parents, well you’ve met them. And Robbie has been so busy at the hospital lately and I don’t want to bother him.”
“What about your other brother?”
“I haven’t told him about it yet. He has enough going on with his therapy and Jane pregnant and due so soon and of course little Summer.”
“Didn’t you request a week off already?” Spencer had an idea forming and although he would miss the help at the office he knew it was the best thing right now for her.
“Yes, but that’s not for about another month or two,” Jessica answered.
“If you want, go ahead and take off now. Come back after the baby is born. I can manage a few months,” he tried to sound convincing.
“No, I’m not going to let Jason run me out of town because of what he’s done. I’ll take the week I requested, maybe two,” she stood firm on her decision. There was no way she wanted to look like the poor helpless ex-wife that had to run and hide out. Spencer was right when he said she was a strong woman. She would stay here in town and continue her day to day life as if nothing had changed…only it would be without Jason.