The Golden Girl @creativewoman88
Chapter 15

Chapter Fifteen

At school the next day everyone was talking about a party this girl Tina was planning for Friday of that week. Tina was a cheerleader, and was also known for her parties. Like Steve, her parents spent a lot of time away from home due to business reasons, so she was able to throw as wild of a party as she wanted. Her house was more in the country part of Hawkins, so things tended to get louder and rowdier than the ones held in town. It was so out of the way that people tended to park in the field behind her house rather than on the road out front.

There was no particular reason for this party. She just hadn't had one in a while. Yellow flyers were being passed around to what appeared to be the entire student body but was really only the juniors and seniors.

Her parties were usually fun in that they had great music and enough drinks to go around for everyone. There was beer for people like Steve, who liked doing the kegstand. He held the record in Hawkins for the one who could do it the longest. His current time was thirty seconds. That was how he had become the "keg king" and "King Steve" which Jessica knew he no longer cared about at all.

There was also fruit punch laced with whatever alcohol available for people like Jessica, who couldn't even smell beer without turning up her nose in disgust.

Jessica found the yellow flyer hanging from one of the openings in her locker door when she went to exchange her books after first period. Steve met her at her locker like he usually did, and they both smiled and kissed like they normally did, Steve continuing to smile even after their lips met.

Even though he had literally dropped her off for first period an hour ago he made it seem as if he hadn't seen her in forever and that he'd missed her.

"So . . . you wanna go?" he asked after they'd gotten enough of each other. "You and Tina get along with each other alright."

"Steve, I gotta work on Friday."

"Only until nine, and Tina's parties don't get good until after that." He pouted as Jessica closed her locker door and swung her bag onto her shoulder. "Please. We haven't been to a party together in . . . months."

That was true. Jessica hadn't been to a party since before junior year started. It was hard with her work schedule and, adding in school and homework, she hadn't had time for parties.

And there Steve was with his cute little pout and his doe eyes that could also work as puppy dog eyes when he was pleading, which he was at the moment and Jessica knew she would never be able to say no to him.

"Fine," she said, pretending like she'd just agreed to the worst thing in the world. "If we must . . . we must."

Steve grinned and kissed the side of her mouth quickly before swinging an arm up and around her shoulders.

"Good. We could use some mindless, teenage fun."

Jessica wasn't good at mindless, teenage fun, but she would try for Steve.


Steve had basketball practice after school, but he still had time to walk Jessica to her car before. They met up at her locker and he waited patiently for her to fill her bag with the books she would need for homework that night.

"You know, if you didn't have to work, you could come watch me practice."

"Hm, that . . . that is so tempting." The way she'd scrunched up her nose at the suggestion made Steve realize just how tempted she wasn't at the thought of sitting through his practice.

Sports really weren't her thing. She just couldn't get into them.

He kissed her cheek quickly before they began walking towards the exit. Once outside Jessica shuddered dramatically. Even though she had her heavy leather jacket on she still seemed to be freezing. She huddled closer to him and he held her to his side.

All Steve had on was a light jacket, and he was fine. He usually ran hot anyway, so he guessed it worked that she didn't. She could always share his body heat.

"Why's it so cold?" she asked, voice smothered because she'd hidden her face against his arm.

"Well, it's winter," he said. "Just a shot in the dark."

"Right."

"You've only got about a month of cold left."

They reached her car, where she tossed her bag in the back seat before turning back around to fully envelope him in a hug.

Steve loved that she was so openly affectionate with him. It put him at ease knowing she didn't mind the kisses and the embraces that he always wanted to share with her. There were even times, like just then, when she initiated them.

"We've got about fifteen minutes before you have to go back inside . . ." she hinted, pulling away slightly so she could look up at him.

Steve pretended to be shocked. "Are you suggesting we make out in your car? What kind of guy do you think I am?"

Her cheeks, which were already pink from the cold, burned brighter even as she said, "A normal one. Now, come on!"

The high school parking lot was basically a traffic jam of students trying to leave. Whether the cars held parents who had picked up their child or older students who had driven themselves, everyone was trying to get out at the same time and now it was backed up.

Jessica wouldn't be able to get out before he had to make it to practice anyway.

Even in the car, Jessica kissed him first. Ever since they'd messed around the day before she'd been even more affectionate than she normally was. Steve was fairly certain it was because she'd realized how much she liked it and was now willing to see what else she liked.

He was more than happy to let her learn.

There was nothing rushed about it and they couldn't do but so much in a crowded parking lot, but she still allowed him to kiss her neck. She didn't have to be worried about being caught by her mom or her brother this time.

Steve wasn't big on leaving marks on girls unless he was absolutely sure it was okay, but that was mostly because he was naturally gentle in everything he did. He never bit hard enough to bruise, and Jessica didn't seem the type to appreciate love marks. She would be embarrassed if she looked in the mirror and saw a hickey where Steve's mouth had once been. That probably had something to do with the fact that Dustin would tease her relentlessly if he saw it.

Jessica slid her hands beneath his jacket and a little way beneath his shirt, enough so he could feel the chill from her fingertips right near the waist of his jeans. There was nothing sexual about it – she was just trying to get her hands warm.

"You really are freezing," he said, voice hushed against her neck. "Turn the heat on."

She hadn't even started the car.

"I prefer warming up this way."

He grinned against her skin and went back to teasing the spot right below her ear. By the time he had to leave for practice they were both more than warm.


In the locker room, while Steve and the rest of his team were getting changed, all Steve heard about was the party Tina would be hosting on Friday. It was mostly about how great it was going to be and how long it had been since Tina had thrown a party.

"I'm guessing you won't be there," Chris, one of the guys on his team, said. "You being with Jessica and all."

Chris was a pretty cool guy. He'd never given him or Jess a hard time. He wasn't like some of the others who seemed to not want anything to do with Steve now that he wasn't acting like he owned the school. He could no longer provide them with a social advantage so they no longer hung around him. At least he knew the ones who actually cared.

"Actually, we're going together after she gets off of work," he said.

Steve stuffed his regular clothes in his locker as he took his gym clothes out. He pulled his shorts on and fit the shirt over his head.

"That's not really her scene, though, is it?" And there was Tommy. He'd been benched the rest of the season, but he still had to attend every practice. "What'd you have to do to get her to go?"

Steve clenched his fists, reminding himself that he shouldn't take a swing just because Tommy had a problem with the way Steve chose to live his life now or with how Jess had always lived hers. Besides, Tommy's cheek still showed signs of their last fight.

"I didn't have to do anything, Tommy. We're going because we want to have fun."

"Hm. Like the fun you were having out in the parking lot? Is that the type of girl she is now? Not so golden anymore, is she?"

"Hey, stop bein' a dick," Chris said.

Chris was tall and thin, but he still looked as if he wanted to shove Tommy against the lockers. Chris was one of the ones that Jess had always danced with when she'd actually gone to parties before. He'd never tried to get her off to herself in an empty room at whatever house the party had been held. He'd never tried to get her to leave with him and had never plied her with alcohol to get her drunk in hopes of changing her mind; he'd known where he stood with Jess and that was it. A no was a no. All he'd ever gotten from her was dancing and light flirting, and he'd respected that.

Chris was a good guy.

"I don't think I was talking to you," Tommy said.

"Nope, but you're still being a dick. We're all on the same team, and here you are trying to start stuff. Grow up, already!"

Chris slammed his locker door shut before leaving the other two there to deal with their drama.


Jessica had to be at work around the same time that Steve's practice ended. Jessica arrived at the theater at the same time as Jonathan that day and clocked in at the same time.

"Hey, so . . . I'm having a movie night this Saturday for the boys if everyone can come. You're more than welcome to stick around if you want. I'm gonna ask Nancy. Uh, Steve obviously. There will be food and soda, things like that."

"Uh . . ." Jonathan seemed caught off guard by her invitation. "The whole night?"

"Well, for the guys, yeah. They can stay. I figured you and Nancy could leave whenever y'all want."

"Oh. Okay. What kind of movies?"

"I was gonna let everyone pick one. So it'd be more of a movie day and night, really. Trust me, I'm going to need the whole day to recover after Tina's party Friday night."

Again Jonathan seemed surprised by her words.

"You mean you're going?"

"Yeah. Reluctantly. Steve wants to go. And . . . honestly, I never minded going to parties when he and I went without Tommy and Carol, so it might not be so bad."

Jonathan sent her a thin but sincere smile. "Well, you sound less than enthused, but I hope you have fun."

She and Jonathan went their separate ways – he to do his janitorial duties, she to do her concession duties. Mondays didn't get busy until around eight, so mostly all she did was clean the counter and the popcorn and soda machines. That kept her busy for the first three hours of her shift.

During her last hour at work it started snowing. She didn't know exactly when because she hadn't noticed until she clocked out and went outside. It was dark and the white fluff was falling from the sky. It was already sticking to the roads. There probably wouldn't be school in the morning because the town hadn't yet replaced the salt they'd used to help Eleven back in November.

But that wasn't what Jessica was focused on, what she was so worried about. As soon as she'd stepped outside, she'd frozen. It was dark and cold and the snow looked so much like ash in the night that she'd immediately flashed back to her brief time in the Upside Down. Much like the time she'd talked about it with Steve, her heart began to race and her breathing became shallow. Unlike the time she'd been with Steve . . . Steve obviously wasn't there to help her focus on something else. Then again . . . she didn't need him to. Will's name popped in her head almost as soon as she'd started to feel panic.

If she was feeling out of sorts from the snow-that-reminded-her-of-ash, then how must Will be feeling?

"Jonathan!"

Her breathing still shallow, she rushed back inside knowing that this was around the time he'd be cleaning the bathrooms. She shouted for him when she reached the hallway the restrooms were located in. He came rushing out as soon as she'd yelled for him.

"What?" he said, his eyes wide. "What's wrong?"

"It's snowing."

"Okay." He waited for her to continue, but she didn't. "So?"

"It's like . . . It looks like over there."

"Over . . ."

"The Upside Down," she exclaimed. "I went out and I freaked out, and all I could think about was Will. Is your mom with him?"

Jonathan nodded.

"Well, call and check on him. I mean, I had a flashback, so she needs to know, in case –"

"Got it. Thanks for letting me know. Will doesn't like talking about it."

"Sure, I . . . yeah."

She followed Jonathan to the payphone near the entrance doors and stayed with him while he waited for his mom to answer. Once she did, Jessica watched as Jonathan frantically explained what had happened with her and that he wanted to make sure Will was okay.

"Tell her – tell her if he ever acts like he's not here she needs to make him remember that he's not . . . there. He has to come back to the present."

At least that had been what helped her. Steve had reminded her where she was and that he was with her.

"Tell him he's not alone."

Jonathan repeated to his mom everything Jessica had said, and as she waited for him to get through her panic began to settle in again. Even though she knew it was just snow, it didn't look like just snow to her.

It made her almost angry. Snow was a normal, natural thing, and yet . . . it was also causing her to have a panic attack. How could something so simple make her remember – and freak out – about something that had happened over two months ago? She had been there for fifteen minutes, unlike Will, who had been there for a week. She totally understood why he'd be having a hard time, but she hated that she was too.

Once Jonathan was off the phone, he turned to her and said, "Mom said he's okay. He went pale when he noticed the snow, but he just closed all the curtains and wouldn't look outside. He, uh . . . avoided it, I guess."

"Oh. I – I have to drive home, I –"

Jonathan handed her the receiver and then shoved a quarter into the little slot in the payphone.

"Call Steve."


Steve was in the middle of his history homework – which basically meant he was trying to concentrate on reading the very boring material in the textbook – when he heard the phone ring. He had his own number and line in his room, mostly so he wouldn't disturb his dad when his parents were home, which they were at the moment.

"Yeah," he said, finger on the page he'd been reading so he wouldn't lose his place.

"Steve, I need you to come get me."

It was Jessica, and something was really wrong with her voice. Thick with emotion, but small like a child's – not her normal voice at all.

"What's wrong? Where are you?"

"I'm at work. It's . . . snowing, Steve. I can't drive in the snow."

"I, uh – yeah. I'll be there soon. Give me like, ten minutes." Steve closed his history book. "Are you alone?"

"No, I'm – Jonathan's with me."

"Okay. Well, stay with him. You don't – you don't sound like yourself."

"Okay. See you soon."

All he heard was the resounding click as she hung up on him. He was confused, to say the least. Jessica had never once asked him for a ride to or from work, and she'd sounded scared. What did her fear have to do with the snow, though?

He put all his homework in his bag so he could work on it once he got Jessica home. There was no way he was leaving her alone if she was as afraid as she'd sounded.

Of course, the night he needed to go out was the night one of his parents wanted to know where he was going. They did check in once in a while. He assumed that's what they thought being parents meant. Steve actually thought that his parents had decided to have him because it had been expected of them to have a kid, not because they really wanted a kid.

"Where are you going at this late hour, Steve?" his mother, who was seated on the couch in the living room, asked as he grabbed his car keys from the coffee table.

"Uh, Jess needs a ride home from work. She said she can't drive in the snow."

"Oh. Are you staying with her for a while? You're taking your school things."

"I was in the middle of homework when she called."

"Be careful. The roads could freeze."

"I can crash on the Henderson's couch if it gets too bad."

"Of course."

Steve reached the front door, but his mom called him back before he could open it.

"Mom, Jess is waiting . . ."

"She can wait a few minutes more. I have something I need to say."

Steve waited, a list of awful things flying through his head before his mom started speaking again.

"I know your father and I are almost never here, and even when we are, we're not here for you. I've never put you first like a mother should with her children. I've always been more concerned with what your father's been doing with which woman that isn't me. It's not fair to you. It probably won't change, but it still isn't fair."

Steve didn't know what to say to his mother. Everything she'd said was true. As it was, he just stood there gripping his car keys tightly in his right hand and waiting for her to give him leave to go.

"I've always liked Jessica. She's been there for you ever since you became friends. I was so afraid you were going to push her away when you started high school and your image became the most important thing to you. By all rights, she could have forgotten you and no one would have blamed her."

"Mom –"

"You're better now," she cut him off. "Jessica is a good girl, and she's yours now." A sad smile fell over his mom's face. "I think she always has been. She is yours to take care of, so you take care of her. Okay? You never, ever make her think that she's not good enough for you."

"Mom . . ." This time when he called to her it wasn't with impatience. His throat had tightened and there was a burning behind his eyes. His mom had never talked to him like this and it probably wouldn't happen again, but he knew – had always known – how his father's actions hurt his mother.

"I don't ever want to hear or see you treating her the way your father treats me."

"Of course I won't," he said.

"Good. Go, then. Don't keep her waiting because of me."


It was almost ten when Steve finally got to the theater. Both Jonathan and Jessica were waiting for him near the entrance. Jessica's face was pale but blotchy – she'd been crying. She was also staring out at the snow as if she was lost in it. He still didn't know what she was so frightened of, but he did know the last time he'd seen her so frightened was when they'd come up against that monster in November.

"What happened?" he asked. "What's wrong with the snow?"

"It reminds her of the other place," Jonathan answered.

Jessica was still just standing there looking outside. She wasn't shaking and her breathing was normal, but she hadn't reacted when he'd come into the theater. That wasn't normal for her. She was just staring out into the night, as if she were waiting for something to come out of it.

"Jess?" he said, stepping in front of her. "There's nothing out there."

"Mm-hm." She was responding on autopilot.

"How long has she –"

"After talking to you she became almost non-responsive."

"Jeeze. Um . . ."

Steve had no clue what to do. If she was in some form of shock, he knew he should get her something to boost her sugar – soda or chocolate or something.

"Get her a coke or something," he said to Jonathan. "I'll stay with her. I'm not even gonna try to move her while she's like this."

Jonathan took off towards the concession counter, where Bill, the boss, was looking in Jess's direction. Steve guessed that since she was off the clock that Bill thought it was okay not to worry about her, or maybe he'd known Jonathan had it handled.

"Jess? Do you know where you are?"

"I'm at work. I'm –"

Steve began rubbing up and down her arms in a way that was meant to be soothing, and it seemed to work for the most part. She began looking at him, at least, and was no longer staring into space.

"I wasn't expecting . . . the snow. It reminded me of the ashy stuff floating in the air over there."

Jessica didn't like talking about her time in the Upside Down for this specific reason. It usually made her panic. Steve knew not to try to make her talk about it. She was usually fine – aside from a few leftover nightmares – as long as she wasn't reminded of it.

"I'm sorry it took me so long to get here. Mom caught me leaving."

"You get in trouble?" Jessica asked, sounding more like herself.

"No, but she knows where I'll be if I don't make it back tonight."

"Oh. Steve . . . I wanna go home."

"I'm gonna getcha home. Jonathan's getting you a Coke. You need to drink it."

"Okay."

She leaned towards him and he moved his hands from her arms so he could wrap his around her. He held her to him and could feel the slight tremors going through her body. They hadn't been great enough to see.

"You're okay," he told her.

"I know. I just feel so stupid. It's just snow." She looked up at him. "When I went outside, I thought for a second that . . ."

"That you were back over there?"

Jessica shook her head, but then she shrugged. "Yeah, I guess. But I was also scared that it had come here, that our world had turned into that one. It's . . . it's stupid."

"Not stupid," Steve contradicted as Jonathan brought them a small coke and a box of M&Ms. "Thanks."

Jonathan nodded. "I still have another hour before we close. Are you guys good?"

Jessica began guzzling the drink as Steve took the chocolate. He nodded at Jonathan, letting him know he could get back to work, and then began leading Jessica outside and to his car. The snow hadn't slowed at all, but vision still wasn't a problem.

Jessica was stiff as she got into his car, and Steve wondered if her problem was the snow or how she felt about it. She had said it was stupid, her reaction, even though Steve thought it was probably normal. Especially if the snow really did remind her of the Upside Down.

The ride to Jessica's house was mostly filled with silence – Jess had turned the radio on, but it was on so low it was background noise. She finished her drink and started on the M&Ms before they made it to her house.

It wasn't until she got out and gathered his things that she seemed to notice he'd even brought anything with them. To be fair, his stuff had been in the backseat.

"You brought homework?"

"I was in the middle of it when you called, and I wasn't just going to leave you, so . . ."

Besides, Jessica probably still had homework, too, so that would help take her mind off of it.

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