SOL – Generation Zero: Chapter Eight


Courtney ate what was salvageable of her rather burnt waffles, though Jessica wasn’t nearly as picky. “Do you want to do some studying today?” she asked.

Jess wrinkled her nose. “Nah, I’m meeting James at the park later. He’s going to quiz me.”

“Right,” Courtney said with a roll of her eyes. “Of course.”

Jessica was tired, grumpy and hungry. She glared over at her friend. “Okay, what do you mean by that?”

“Oh come on,” she scoffed. “You two are going out, right? You’ve just not told me.”

Jessica’s eyes widened. “We are not!” she insisted.


Courtney twisted around when Ash wandered into the dining room. “What do you think, Ash?”

“About Jess and James?” she asked, sliding her plate onto the table. “Yeah, totally going out.”

“We’re not,” Jessica said again.

“Please, you haven’t so much as pulled another guy since this semester started, and you spend almost all of your free time with him. You’re completely smitten.”

Ashley snorted. “You’ve done everything but put a name on it, anyway.”


Jessica tossed her knife and fork onto the plate. She stared down at it sullenly. “We’re just having fun,” she said, sounding like she was trying to convince herself.

“Sure, just having fun,” Courtney rolled her eyes, sharing a knowing look with Ashley. “Jessica and James, in a tree, doing what they shouldn’t be -”

The childhood song made her snap. Her chair screeched back and she left her dirty plate on the table.

“Grow up,” she snapped over her shoulder, conveniently ignoring her own childish reaction.

————————————————–


Jessica, who has been looking forward to meeting up with James in the evening, now dreaded it.

Courtney was right, and it terrified her. She had spent the day thinking about what her friend had said, and every time she closed her eyes she swore that she saw her mum and dad, sitting eight year old Jessica on the sofa, and explaining to her what the word divorce meant.

When James finally arrived at the park, he noted Jessica’s strange mood. “Everything okay?” he asked cautiously.

Jessica shook herself out of her thoughts. She was sure that her heart hadn’t stopped thudding since her realisation this morning. “No,” she said faintly. Before James could ask, she forced herself to say the words. “I can’t do this anymore.”


James blinked at her. “What?”

“I think we’re getting too close, and this is not what either of us wanted.”

James still didn’t quite seem to grasp what she was saying. “So?”

“So, we should just be friends.”

“Aren’t you enjoying this?” he asked, still frowning.

“Yeah, but -”

“Then what’s the problem?”


“I -” She felt her heart sink. “I was never in this for a relationship.”

“Jessica,” he said calmly, his face a careful mask of no particular emotion. “What’s the problem, here? We’re enjoying ourselves, and we’re not exclusive, so -”

“I haven’t kissed anyone else since New Year’s,” she interrupted.

“So? You can go kiss someone else at any time. I’m not bothered.”

“But I am!” She sounded a little hysterical and tried to calm herself. “I don’t want to.”


James still looked perplexed, but after a couple of moments his face cleared in realisation. “I see,” he said carefully.

James stood, and she did also. He looked at her sadly. “You never get into a relationship, and you break these arrangements off before they go too far. Not because you’re worried that they’ll get feelings for you, but because you get feelings for them.”

“I-”

“I like you a lot, Jess, but I always suspected that this would be how it ended. You’re terrified of getting hurt. Of someone else having power over you.”

Her stricken expression only deepened.

“That’s how life is interesting, Jessica. Getting hurt is a small price to pay for falling in love, or so I thought.” He shook his head. “You must be so lonely.”

“Stop it,” she said, voice breaking. The sound of it made his face soften.


James sighed and stared down at his feet. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Obviously I’m not going to change your mind about this.”

He gave Jessica the opportunity to speak up and say otherwise, but it never came. He nodded his head; he hadn’t expected it.

“I’m happy being your friend, anyway.” He smiled up at her. “But I think I should go.”
Jessica, again, stayed silent. James’ lips pressed firmly together and he strolled out of the park, hands stuffed into his pockets. Jessica hoped that he wasn’t as calm as he had seemed, that his chest ached as much as hers did, and that he felt like crying as much as she did.

This was the better way, though; this pain would be better than feeling it further down the line, when she was more invested, more comfortable, more in love.

This was the better way, she told herself.

—————————————


Jessica had thrown herself into studying with the goal of forgetting the heartache in her chest. She hadn’t dared tell Courtney or Connor that she was upset, though she suspected they knew anyway. Saying it out loud might make her regret it, and she couldn’t afford to do that. If it hurt now, it would be ten times as bad when it inevitably happened at some point down the line.

There were just some days she couldn’t even study, though. These were the days that she remembered the exact way he had looked at her when he had mused that she must be lonely.

She hadn’t been lonely before, but since he mentioned it she was more aware of it.
She needed a distraction. She needed to stop being lonely. She needed to get lost in someone else.

Obviously, Aiden was a no-go. She wouldn’t do that to Aja even if Aiden would ever look twice at another girl that wasn’t her. She quickly discarded a few other ideas, before settling on calling up a friend.



Her distraction was in the form of Ash Aster. They knew each other, were friends even if they weren’t close, and Jessica reckoned he could be up for helping her out.

Ash stepped back. “When you said you wanted some company, I just thought you wanted a friend, Jess.”

Jessica was no stranger to embarrassment, but now she felt mortified. “This doesn’t have to get complicated.” The words tasted like ash in her dry mouth.

Ash made a face and shook his head. “I’m not that type of guy, Jess. I’m sorry.” There was a heavy pause. “You know, I’m sure if you were to talk to him-”

Jessica shut him down. “I’ll just go,” she said stiffly. “Forget this ever happened.”

Ash didn’t look pleased, but he nodded nonetheless. She turned tail and did what she was good at – running away.

———————————————————-


Unfortunately, James shared one module with Ashley, and although he appreciated her company sometimes she stepped over the line into dangerous territory.

“Jessica is pretty upset,” she tried.

“Jessica bought this on herself,” he grit out. “And Jessica is the one who has been ignoring me, not the other way round.” He was perfectly happy being her friend; more than happy, in fact. She was a good laugh and he missed her company. She just had to complicate things.

Ashley sighed and dropped it, continuing to write her notes while James stared blankly at the whiteboard.


“Hey, you there,” Ashley said behind her. Jessica gazed up at the stairs. Had she been a moment quicker, she could have escaped this inevitable conversation.

“What’s up?” she asked, turning around and trying on her best chirpy smile. The roll of Ash’s eyes told her she was fooling no one, especially not herself.

Ash sidled up to her. “I talked to James today,” she said carefully.

For a horrifying moment, Jessica wondered if Ash was going to test the waters and see if she could pull James, or something. As quickly as the thought came, she shook it aside. Ash wouldn’t have even considered such a thing, and she sincerely hoped James wouldn’t either.

“Did you?” Jess asked, brushing her hair behind her ear.


“He says you’ve been ignoring him,” she said with a shrug. “And it’s not my business, but I’m sorry that mine and Court’s comments made you feel uncomfortable, or something.”

“You didn’t,” Jessica sighed. “You just made me realise that I was too invested.”

Ashley frowned at her, a barely perceptible movement of her eyebrows and mouth, and then shrugged it off. “Well, it’s your life.”

“Yeah.” They stood for a moment in awkward silence, with Ash studying her intently and Jessica avoiding her gaze, until the door banged open again and salvation came in the form of Kelsey and Brian home from classes.

————————————————


Things move on, as they tend to do. The world keeps moving no matter how much yours has seemed to stop.

The morning routine has become rather dull without a warm body by his side.

What do you do in your free time when you suddenly have too much?


It’s perhaps both a blessing and a curse to live vicariously through a friend.


Might as well find other things to occupy your time with.

—————————————————


Jessica quickly regretted the end of semester party held at their flat.
Of course he was there. Of course.

Maybe this was a good thing – maybe if she forced herself to spend time with him, she could get over him faster. Then she could get on with her life.

She set her shoulders and summoned up a smile.


There were a few topics of conversation on the tip of her tongue: about the girl he was seen with a few night ago (admittedly not her business); about the few texts he had sent to her that she had never replied to; about why he was okay with seeing her when she felt like someone had stolen the breath from her lungs whenever she thought of him.

“Evening,” she said instead. She’d brought this on herself, and for good reason. She couldn’t afford to change her mind now.

James looked amused. “It is indeed evening,” he said, leaning against the kitchen arch. “How are you?”

“Fine,” she squeaked. “And you?”

He didn’t have her pride. “I miss you,” he told her.

Shit, shit, shit, she hadn’t expected that, and it was like a punch in the gut.


“I – I gotta go.” Flustered and stricken, Jessica slipped past him into the kitchen. She heard him groan behind her.

The party wasn’t so fun, anymore.

——————————————————


JAMES WILLIAMS: Sorry about last night. But I meant it. If you want to meet up, as friends, I’d be happy to beat your ass at pool or something.

Jessica swallowed. Maybe she could do this. She hadn’t wanted to lose him as a friend, just as much as she hadn’t wanted to admit her feelings – feelings that she had no idea if he reciprocated. Not that it mattered, she told herself sternly.

JESSICA HOPE: Okay, I think I could do that.


James had looked surprised to see her walk through the door, but as soon as she did she found that she couldn’t have regretted this.

Seeing him did help, when she wasn’t tipsy and emotional. Jessica felt like she could do this, now. There didn’t have to be any painful feelings involved. Thank God for that.
Jessica grabbed a cue and grinned. It was a genuine smile this time. “I’m going to beat you this time,” she promised.

James’ teeth flashed. “Yeah, yeah, keep hoping, sweetheart.”

She could do this.

(She lost horribly).

21 thoughts on “SOL – Generation Zero: Chapter Eight”

  1. Really really! Are you kidding me? I’m so mad at Courtney right now! Why did she have to force the issue? Is she so jealous of Jess being in a relationship that she had to bring it up? She knew what would happen. She knew Jess would freak out and break things off with James. She needs a new friend IMO. James may have known this was a possibility but he’s more hurt than he pretends to be. I’m hoping things will turn around now that Jess isn’t ignoring him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, I think because I posted it in short intervals on tumblr at first, the full impact of Courtney’s insecurities and resultant jealousy wasn’t really felt as much. But now you point it out, it’s definitely there through every interactions she has about James.
      Yeah, he is hurt, but he’s generally quite a stable person, and a fighter. He would get through a bad break up okay.
      Thanks for your comment!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. She does it to herself, but it’s really difficult to change something like that, or at least that’s my excuse haha. That part of her is pretty strongly based on me, so I could go all out with the writing xD thank you though!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “What’s the point in playing a game you’re gonna lose? What’s the point in saying you love me like a friend?What’s the point in saying it’s never gonna end?” Well, Jessica should definitely think about the answers, shouldn’t she? Ah, I see I’m quoting Marina again, oh well. I hope they can realize their feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s amazing how Jessica, although very insightful to other people’s feelings and relationships, can’t see the great thing that is happening in her own life right now. But oh well, I think almost everyone has been there. I hope it’s not too late for her and James in the future (though something tells me it won’t lol!) 🙂 I love James’s attitude on the other hand – he’s so cool! ❤
    Oh Courtney. Why do you feel the need to stick your nose so much into other people's business??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s almost like she’s too close to it and letting her fear stop her from seeing it. We’ve definitely all been in that position I think, it’s hard to take your own advice!
      Curiosity killed the cat… 😛
      Thanks for all your comments!! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh Courtney, why’d you have to go and make Jessica notice the feelings she was blissfully unaware of? This chapter consisted of me facepalming constantly at Jess’ handling of things. James is so level headed whereas she tends to panic, there’s nothing wrong with embracing your feelings, girl. Gah, there’s no way things won’t be slightly awkward going forward, so now I’m hoping they just get together officially.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was going to make a joke that even if Jess and James don’t end up together, they still have to join forces and try to steal this one kid’s pikachu. Then Ash showed up…

    Jess has history’s most fabulous collection of shoes, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

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