The Golden Girl @creativewoman88
Chapter 36

Chapter Thirty-Six

The first thing Jessica did when she and Steve got to her house was call Joyce. She didn't stay on the phone long because she knew Joyce had to be busy taking care of Will, but she did want to know how he was.

Joyce told her that he was really shaken up and not really talking at the moment, but she was thankful that Jessica had checked in.

"Of course. You let me know if you need anything or if he needs anything."

"Thank you, sweetie. I'll let him know you called."

The next thing she did was try to call Hopper, but he wasn't at the police station. Of course he wasn't. He was probably still out in the fields making sure those lab guys were doing their jobs.

Steve was standing by her at the phone, a hand on her back, and she knew she had to be worrying him. She was acting like an anxious mess, but she really didn't know how else to be at the moment, not after everything she'd learned.

Her mother had noticed her behavior, but since Steve was there she hadn't mentioned it because her mom was great like that.

She moved to the fridge and opened it up to grab the first thing that even looked appetizing, which happened to be a block of cheddar cheese, before heading to the cabinets to grab a pack of crackers.

She wasn't really hungry, but she'd promised she'd eat when she got home, so she was doing just that.

Jessica knew there was nothing else she could do. She'd called Joyce and she'd tried to get in touch with Hopper to fill him in on the fact that there might be a creature from the Upside down in their town again.

Granted, a slug was a lot easier to deal with than a demogorgan, but still . . . it had gotten there somehow.

Dustin had come down from his room now and was asking his mom what was for dinner.

"We're gonna have pizza. I want you guys to have leftovers for tomorrow because I'm going to be gone most of the day. There's going to be a flea market a few towns over. I thought I'd take some of my things and see what I can get for them. I'll be back before dark."

Jessica grabbed her cheese and crackers and made her way up the stairs, grabbing her book bag on the way.

"I'm going to go do some homework," she called out to her mom. "I'll be down in a little while."

When Steve and Jessica reached her room, Jessica smiled when she saw a small pile of Hershey bars on her bed. She knew they must have been from Dustin – either an apology for keeping the weird slug thing from her or an offering because he knew she must be stressed out because of it. One or the other.

She moved the chocolate from her bed to her bedside table with her cheese and crackers and then threw her bag on the bed before plopping onto it herself. Steve was slower in lying on the bed, but he did lay beside her.

His hand grabbed hers then and he said, "You're doing everything you can with what you have right now."

"I know."

She had basically told herself that a few minutes ago, but it was nice having Steve say it too.

Jessica didn't sleep well that night. It took forever for her to fall asleep and she had an even harder time staying asleep. Having a hard time falling asleep could've been chalked up to the fact that she'd eaten a few pieces of candy an hour before bedtime, but that didn't have anything to do with her sleeping fitfully.

If she had nightmares, she couldn't remember them when she woke up the next morning. She just knew that she kept waking up and she didn't feel rested at all when she had to go downstairs.

Jessica could tell that she'd woken Steve up a lot too, because he seemed just as tired as she was.

Before leaving, Jessica filled a glass with milk and drank half of it down quickly before making some toast for herself and for Steve.

Dustin was already at the table, eating cereal and slurping at the milk in his bowl.

"Thanks for the chocolate last night," she said.

"No problem," Dustin said without looking up from his food. "There's more if you need it."

Once the toast was done, she put some butter and jelly on the bread and handed two slices to Steve and kept two for herself.

A few minutes later their mom came downstairs with a basket of things she'd been working on to take to the flea market.

"Okay, remember, I'll be back by the time it gets dark. Leftover pizza is in the fridge. Dustin, I want you home before Jessica leaves for work. Okay?"

"Sure. No problem. I'll come straight home from school."

Their mom left at the same time they did. It wasn't normal for her to have to be gone all day, but it was nice she was able to get out of the house for a while.

Steve walked Jessica to first period. They didn't talk much because they both were tired. Maybe Jessica should have made them coffee to go with their toast that morning. Steve had practice after school and she had to work at five. She hoped they both could make it through the day.

Billy came in the class room just as the bell was about to ring. That was usually his way, she'd come to realize. You wouldn't find him in his seat before then.

Their objective for the day was written on the board. They basically had to summarize the first three acts of Othello and when they were done with that they needed to start on Act IV.

Jessica was just not feeling it that day. As soon as class started and most everyone had quieted down to work, Jessica propped her elbow onto her desk and let her head fall onto her palm.

She had almost dozed off completely when something hit her desk hard enough to move it a bit. It made her jerk awake. Billy Hargrove had kicked her desk.

"Seriously?" she hissed.

"Didn't take you as the fall-asleep-in-class type. Don't tell me Pretty Boy Harrington kept you up all night."

Jessica didn't know what to make of that statement. It could be taken in many ways.

"No. I just didn't sleep well last night. Not that it's any of your business."

Jessica went back to trying to doze off, but this time she just laid her head down on her desk, not even wasting time pretending she was trying to stay awake.

Eventually the teacher came up to her desk and gently shook her shoulder.

"Ms. Henderson, are you okay?"

"I'm . . . not really."

"If you can't stay awake and keep your head up, I'm going to have to send you to the nurse."

Jessica took a deep breath and let it out. "Okay. I'm fine . . . I'll stay awake."

She knew the only reason she wasn't being reprimanded more harshly was because this was not her normal behavior. When she didn't pay attention in class, teachers knew something must be wrong.

"Golden Girl can't get in trouble, huh?"

She turned to Billy then. "Where did you hear that name?"

"Well, it's what people call you, isn't it? Did you get crowned with that before or after you started dating Harrington?"

"I . . . people started calling me that because for a long time Steve was a partier and I wasn't. I'm his best friend and so . . . I became the good girl of the group. I don't know who started the Golden Girl crap, but it stuck, and I'd rather you not call me that."

Billy sent a grin her way. "I prefer Princess, anyway."

"Or . . . you could just call me Jessica. That is my name."

"I know your name. I still prefer Princess."

Jessica sighed, too tired to argue about it. "Whatever. As long as you don't forget whose princess I am."

It was much the same while she was in her other classes, even the ones she shared with Steve, and she didn't even try during gym that day. The only thing she took in was that when they came back to gym in two weeks they would be starting weight training. The rest of the time was spent with her just waking laps.

During lunch, Steve and Jessica sat in the cafeteria but she didn't see Nancy or Jonathan anywhere, so she didn't really have to worry about having to talk to Nancy at all.

Jessica spent most of the lunch period leaning against Steve, his arm around her, and if the cafeteria hadn't been noisy with teenage chatter, she probably could've fallen asleep. Even a twenty-minute nap would have been appreciated.

"Maybe you should call out from work today."

"I can't call out just because I'm tired," she said.

It was true that she didn't call out often, but she wouldn't just take advantage of the fact that her boss would probably give her whatever time she needed off. He hadn't said anything against her taking vacation time during summer and he hadn't asked questions when she'd needed almost two weeks off when she'd been sick. So asking for time off just because she was tired wasn't something she wanted to do.

"With everything that's going on, will you come stay with Dustin after you get out of practice?"

"Yeah, sure, as long as he doesn't nerd out on me too much."

Jessica grinned. "No promises there."

Jessica wasn't eating a full lunch, but she was eating pudding and fruit like she had the day before. She was drinking milk rather than water, but Steve was making sure she was getting some kind of nourishment. If he hadn't been there, she probably wouldn't have eaten anything.

Steve was just coming into the locker rooms after walking Jessica out to her car when he realized what type of practice it was going to be. He tried to just focus on getting changed, but he couldn't help overhearing Tommy talking to Billy, who was apparently part of the team now.

He didn't know how the conversation had started, but Billy was asking about Jessica.

"Does Henderson always seem like she has a stick up her butt?"

"Some days more than others," Tommy answered. "It's contagious too. Steve Harrington used to be fun."

"I don't know. She seemed okay at the party."

"She doesn't usually dress that way. I don't know what got into her." There was a pause and then Tommy said, "You sweet on her or somethin'?"

"We're in the same English class. I have to sit beside her. She's fun to mess with."

"Well, good. 'Cause others have tried, but she and Harrington are attached at the hip."


"Yeah, you know, hittin' that. Unless you're Steve, you're not getting near her."

Steve was on the opposite side of the locker set that they were, but he could still hear them perfectly. So far everything Tommy had said wasn't as offensive as it could've been and some of it was even true. He didn't like that he was talking to the new guy about Jessica, but he was almost too tired to care. Jessica couldn't hear it, and it wasn't like he was going to go blabbing about what he'd heard them talking about because she really didn't care what Tommy had to say about her.

"Football player tried last year . . . guy was so injured he couldn't play the rest of the year."

Steve slammed his locker shut. He knew Tommy was talking about Jason. Tommy had always tried to twist that truth around to his advantage and he was doing it again that day.

He made his way quickly around the set of lockers so he could face Tommy . . . and Billy.

"Don't forget to mention that the guy was a total douche," he said. "Since you're so hot on the topic."

He wasn't going to explain what had happened to Jessica to Billy; it wasn't his story to tell and it was none of Billy's business anyway. Let him think whatever he wanted as long as he left Jessica alone about it.

Once Jessica got home, her plan had been to sleep for an hour or so before leaving for work. Dustin wasn't home yet, but he'd promised to come home right after school, so she knew he'd be there soon.

She stopped in the kitchen to get a drink of water and to fill up the cat bowl with food for Mews.

With a nap still in mind, she made her way up the stairs and headed straight to her room. She would have made it there had she not heard weird chirping noises coming from her brother's room.

Had Dustin brought some weird bird into the house? It wasn't beyond the realm of possibility. He was always doing something he shouldn't be doing – all in the name of science.

The door was closed and she probably wouldn't have bothered checking it out if Dustin had been home, but he wasn't home and she had been left in charge. She felt she had to check it out.

The room was dark aside from the few colored lights that bordered the inside of his door. Dustin had placed a blanket over the one window in his room as if he were trying to keep the light out, which was weird. It allowed tiny slivers of sunlight through, but not enough to make much of a difference.

She'd noticed that the chirping sound had stopped as soon as she'd opened the door, so whatever Dustin had in there, it knew she was there as well.

There was also a blanket over the aquarium Dustin had for his turtle, which she didn't understand because she knew the turtle had to have a regulated environment with heat and light.

She made her way over to the tank only to end up stepping on a few shards of glass. Thankfully, she had shoes on.

She wondered if Dustin had accidentally broken the tank as she pulled the blanket off of it. There was a huge hole in the middle of the glass there, as if something had broken its way out. The turtle was nowhere to be found, but there was no way the turtle could have caused that much damage, anyway.

Even more strange was the fact that there was a type of wet, slimy skin both in the tank and hanging from the glass. It was a greenish-white color, and Jessica refused to touch it.

Where had the disgusting stuff come from? Not a bird, that was for sure. Snakes shed their skin, but she didn't think it would look the same as what she was looking at. Plus, there was a lot of it, and besides . . . how big would a snake have to be to be able to break through the glass like that?

A sound came from behind her – half-gurgling, half-screeching – and she spun around quickly.

A few other noises filled the room; noises that were definitely animalistic in nature.

She slowly made her way toward the sounds and found blood on the carpet and on a chair in the corner of the room. There was probably more, but those spots were the only ones she could see.

"What the hell?"

Whatever was making that noise was behind the chair. She took her time glancing behind it and wished that she hadn't looked at all when she saw what was happening.

Some thing was eating Mews, just chewing right into the middle of her. Whatever it was, it had the same wet, slimy-looking skin that had been shed in the tank. It had legs and a tadpole-looking tail, but she had no clue what to call the thing. What even was it?

Her knees hit the chair, moving it forward a bit, and it startled the thing eating Mews. It slowly turned to her and – oh, God, it didn't have a face, just rosebud lips. It stared her down for a few seconds before opening its huge mouth with its rows of teeth. It was the same type of mouth she'd seen almost a year ago, the one that opened up like a flower, only not as big. Still scary and still dangerous.

What was it doing in Dustin's room? Or in their house at all? This couldn't be what Dustin had brought home. He'd described that thing as a slug, which this wasn't. Besides, he'd lost that other thing.

It wasn't until the thing screeched at her that her survival instincts kicked in and she jumped back and headed for the door. She slammed it shut once she was out, and pretty much just slumped to the floor, hand clutching the door knob as if it were a lifeline.

A scream was locked in her throat and it didn't make its way out until the door trembled with the force of that mini-demogorgan throwing itself against it.

She forced herself to her feet and raced down the stairs having to catch herself on the rails because she almost tripped on the way. She didn't stop running until she was outside and in her car. She wasn't really going anywhere; she wasn't going to leave her brother there to fend for himself when he got home, but the solidity of the car made her feel a little safer.

She was not going to move until her brother got home and then they were going to have a serious talk and try to get that thing out of the house.

Okay, I hope I did okay with this. Still having trouble with Billy's characterization and I had to change a few things up a bit, but altogether I pretty much like this chapter.

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