“You told him.” The Granddaughter hovers in the center of my room in the middle of the night, and her eyes suck me in like tarry pools.
“Don’t worry, he didn’t believe me,” I say, trying to get my bearings. It’s not that I don’t expect her to come to me by now, but when she does it still catches me off guard. She’s so hard to talk to. She steals my thoughts, breathes them in. I sit up, trying to feel taller in my cluttered bedroom.
“Jimmy Becker. You love him,” The Granddaughter says, but I shrug.
“And he returns this love to you?”
What a question! Who is this . . . thing that wants so much from me? Not one person, not even Michael, asks me questions that turn my stomach into a pit of wrestling alligators. But there is something about The Granddaughter that makes me think about things, stuff I usually don’t want to think about. Like why the hell Jimmy Becker, one of the most popular jocks in school, is with me. Me, Jessie Allen, with a guy that most of the other girl-droids in my school drool over. And he loves me. Or does he?
“Does he?” repeats The Granddaughter with her thoughts, and for the first time I realize she knows me all the way through. She’s heard everything I’ve ever thought about her. She is me, in a way. More than Michael, Jimmy, or Dad.The thought feeds on my mind and chaos erupts. I feel faint.
“I don’t know,” I admit, and realize she knows I don’t know. That’s exactly why she’s asking, to make me think about it. Then I realize further, that she now knows that I not only don’t know if Jimmy loves me, but that I now know she knows that I know that’s why she’s asking me. I have to lean my head back on the pillow. I feel as if an enormous wave just swallowed me and I forgot to take a breath first.
“It’s something you must consider,” The Granddaughter says, and I feel a release from the flooding of thoughts. I float to the surface of her words that form in my head.
“There are many things you must consider. I am not here to tell you what to do, Jessica, but to help you define your thoughts as you make your own choices. I am a sounding board. I will reflect back to you what thoughts you send to me.”
Now I know why I’m dizzy. I’m being double-thoughted. I want to laugh at the silliness of that but it’s not funny. Why is Jimmy Becker my boyfriend?
“Was he there before you attempted to take your own life?” The Granddaughter asks.
“No . . .” I say, and realize I don’t really need to speak. She can hear me just fine. She’s in my friggin’ head, after all. No, I think. In fact, Jimmy Becker wouldn’t give me the time of day last year until after I came back from my stay in the hospital. To me he was just this cute jock that all of my ex-friends latched onto when he started HH his sophomore year. Then suddenly while I was in the library all those PE exempt days literally trying to get my life back last spring, he saunters in with this broken collar bone and parks himself right next to me. His first words to me were, so you’re the girl who tried to kill herself. Jessie Allen. I said yes and he smiled and whispered under his breath, cool. Just like that. Cool. Like he got it, the whole thing, why I did it, and I didn’t even have to say one word.
You said yes, The Granddaughter reminds me. Yes to Jimmy Becker.
He understands me. The only one in this whole damn mess of my life who understands I’m not depressed or any of those labels Michael wants to put on it, that it was like a game, a competition to see if I could win. And I did it. I won Death. I went there and back and I made it.
That makes you feel superior, The Granddaughter tells me.
In a way I am superior. Sort of like super-human, and Jimmy sees that in me. That’s why we’re together.
I see, The Granddaughter says mentally.
Clarity is a beautiful white light, I realize. It brings together your whole world and cements it into place. For the first time, I don’t have any doubts about what Jimmy sees in me. And ironically, The Granddaughter, the one whose very future supposedly rides on my relationship with Jimmy, has given me that clarity. Who the hell would have thought.
“Jess?” I hear Dad’s voice in the hallway, and my heart races as The Granddaughter shimmers away when he opens the door. He looks at the spot where she was hovering moments before and rubs his eyes. The hall light illuminates me on the bed.
“Dad!” I call, and he comes in and sits on my bed and holds me close to him. I breathe him in . . . sweaty T-shirt, and that weird lighting equipment metallic smell that sinks into his pores when he’s been working.
“I thought I saw a light in your room. What are you doing up?”
“I don’t know, I think I was having a nightmare,” I say, holding Dad’s calloused hand. “How’s the set?”
“Good, the usual grind, sweetums. We just wrapped yesterday, I’m home for awhile now, the boys and I just put up our equipment in the warehouse. My next job doesn’t start until the middle of next month.”
“Mother will be glad,” I say. “So am I. Who did you see this time?”
“You did not!”
“I did, at the studio lot, not in Canada.” Dad goes on, filling my head with the names of the celebrities he sees every day as he works as a gaffer, the wizard who lights up the scenes and literally makes the stars shine down from the night sky.