The first thing Jessica did when she got home that night was call Steve. She wanted to let him know about what had happened at work – both the mini-freak out and Tommy being his annoying self. She told him about what exactly had freaked her out and didn't have to explain why. She did, however, have to speak quietly because she called him from the kitchen. She couldn't let her mom hear.
She spoke up when she began talking about Tommy, though, and she began to feel better about it when Steve showed the same disdain she'd felt when she'd seen the mess on the floor of the theater.
When she'd finished speaking Steve said, "So, uh, I have an idea for Thanksgiving."
"Okay . . . I'm interested."
"Well . . . my dad called today while we were at school. He's not coming home for Thanksgiving. Mom's pretty upset about it. She thinks that he's . . . ya know . . . and so I suggested we have Thanksgiving – me, my mom, and you guys. We can have it here."
"Oh. I'm – I'm sorry about your dad, but I'm sure my mom wouldn't care if we all had dinner together. Just remember that my mom can't cook."
"I heard that," her mother said from the living room.
"Sorry, Mom, but it's true," she called out and felt even more relief fill her as she grinned.
"Anyway, I just wanted to let you know what happened at work because Jonathan helped me and I wanted you to hear it from me first."
"No, I'm glad you told me. And I'm glad it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I had no way to get to you since I can't drive."
"I'm glad too." She smiled, knowing Steve probably would've risked driving if it meant he could get to her. "I'll see you in the morning. I love you."
"I love you too."
Once Jessica was off the phone, she went into the living room and sat down with her mom.
"I'm guessing you heard that."
"You mean other than the part about me not being able to cook?"
Jessica grinned. "Yes, other than that."
"Yes, I heard. As long as Steve's mom doesn't care, I'm fine with it. We don't go anywhere for Thanksgiving and no one comes here."
Jessica nodded before standing up and heading to the staircase. Her mom stopped her before she could start to go up, however.
"I'm going to start looking for another cat."
That would have stopped her in her tracks anyway.
"Yeah. I miss Mews, but I don't think we're going to find him. No one has called to say they've seen him. He's . . . gone."
Her chest tightened and she had to control her breathing. Of course her mom had never found Mews . . . Mews was dead, had been killed and eaten by Dart. But she couldn't tell her mom that.
Jessica hated to admit it, but she was glad her mom didn't know about any of the Upside Down stuff. She didn't think her mom could handle it.
"I'm sure they have a bunch to choose from at the animal shelter."
"Maybe we can get one after Thanksgiving. I mean, after the break."
"That would be nice." She swallowed back her emotions. "I, uh . . . I still need to shower before bed."
She and her mom exchanged 'I love you's' and Jessica finally made it upstairs.
Jessica still had to pick Steve up the next morning to take him to school. His vision was better, but he still had his blurry moments – especially when he had a headache. They were going to test his driving ability over the break to see if it was safe to let him drive back and forth to school. She would not have wanted him driving the night before just to get to her.
She kissed him when he got in the car and then accepted a small cup with a top on it.
"Why the coffee?" she asked, enjoying the warmth filling her fingers.
"I needed it." Steve shrugged. "I made you one too."
"Aw. Thank you."
She put the car in drive and they headed to the school.
"Have you started on the essay?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
"Do you know what you're gonna write about?"
"I mean . . . sort of. I just don't know how to write it."
"Well, what's your topic?"
"Basically it's about how most everything those kids went through could've been avoided if they had had a decent caretaker. I'm talking more about the uncle than the governess."
"Oh. Well, we can work on it together. My topic is about the overall neglect and implied abuse the kids went through. We can probably quote the same parts to show support for our opinions."
"That's be cool."
When they reached the school, she parked in her usual spot and they walked in. The other students had gotten over the way Steve's face had taken a beating even though it was still slightly discolored, so no one was staring at him or them, which they were both thankful for.
She couldn't help but notice that Billy's blue Camaro was in the parking lot, which meant he was already there. To be fair, she would've noticed that car no matter who it belonged to because it was a nice car.
When she got to first period, she kissed Steve at the door – quickly since they were in front of everyone else – before going to her seat. Billy was already in his, which was surprising, and he seemed to be in a better mood than he had been the day before.
"Hey," she said. "Thanks for what you did with Tommy yesterday."
"What exactly did I do with Tommy yesterday?"
"Well, I'm pretty sure you stopped him from making an even bigger mess than he already had."
Billy shrugged. "Just called him out for what he is. Spoiled, rich kid."
"Right. Well, thanks anyway."
"Hm. Why does he hate you so much?"
"I don't know if hate is the right word, but it's mostly because of Steve. Something not good happened and Steve stopped hanging out with Tommy and that crowd because of it. Tommy blames me for Steve making that decision."
"So he blames you for the loss of his friend."
"Yeah. To be clear, I never told Steve he had to stop hanging out with Tommy. I just told him I didn't like who he was when he hung out with Tommy. Steve and I were not together at the time, and we didn't get together for a while after he stopped hanging out with him."
"So Tommy's just being dramatic?"
"Always." Class had yet to begin so she continued talking. "Are you feeling better?"
"Yesterday . . . it looked like it hurt for you to move, and you skipped practice. Even Max said so."
"Coach knew I wasn't staying, so technically I didn't skip."
"Whatever. You know what I mean."
"I'm fine. Had worse. Why do you care anyway? What's it to you if I don't go to practice?"
She didn't understand what it was with guys becoming defensive when someone checked in to make sure they were okay, but it seemed to be a trait both Steve and Billy shared.
"You're right. It's none of my business. Sorry for trying to be a decent human being."
She turned in her seat and promptly began ignoring him. If he didn't want her talking to him, she wouldn't talk to him.
"Oh, come on. I didn't mean it that way."
She didn't even look at him, but she did wonder how he had meant it then. There weren't many ways to take his defensiveness.
"I just don't understand why you're being nice to me," he said quietly, leaning more towards her so only she could hear him. "I mean, I did almost kill your boyfriend."
She did look at him then. She could see a hint of uncertainty in his eyes – his pretty blue eyes – and knew he really was confused.
"Maybe I think you need somebody to be nice to you."
His body stiffened, his shoulders drawing up a little. "What does that mean?"
"Nothing much. Just that you're new here. Small town and all, I know how people can treat outsiders. That's all I meant."
"Oh." His body relaxed. "I fit in okay."
"No, you don't. You stand out, and you like it that way."
"I'm from San Diego, Jess. It's kind of hard not to stand out here."
She let it slide that he'd shortened her name. At least he wasn't calling her princess.
"You still like the attention. You wouldn't have gone to the Halloween party without a shirt if you didn't want attention."
"I was the Terminator!"
She shook her head. "I bet you were freezing."
"Whatever. I've been cold since I moved here."
"Hm. Well, maybe you shouldn't run around without a shirt then. Just a shot in the dark."
During lunch that day, Steve and Jessica made a plan to start drafting their essays after school that day. She didn't have to work, so it was the perfect time. They had until after the break to finish them, but if they finished them beforehand, they wouldn't have to worry about them during.
Mostly their group talked about what they were doing for Thankgiving.
Jonathan was having dinner with his mom and Will – nobody was worried about their dad, and their dad didn't seem to want to spend the holidays with them either. No one had heard from their dad since Will had been found – and even before that all he'd been worried about was suing the Department of Energy for the disappearance of his son so he could collect the money from the lawsuit. He'd been more worried about that then Will maybe being dead or hurt.
Nancy was having dinner with her family as well on Thursday, and Mike and his friends were having a Dungeons and Dragons night on Friday at the Wheeler's house. It was only the boys, so maybe Jessica could do something for the girls at some point in the future. She would probably have to do it at her house or at Hopper's cabin because El still couldn't be seen in public – no one knew Hopper had basically adopted a girl yet.
What they really needed to do was get all of them together – the boys and the girls because the last time they were all together El and Max had had some kind of tension between them and Jessica wanted it to end. She was fairly certain it had to do with Mike. And to be fair, most of the tension had come from El and not Max.
Jessica had no idea why El had bad thoughts toward Max; she had no reason to think Mike would choose the redhead over her. Of course, El had nothing to compare her feelings to and she'd reacted much like Dustin had when he'd denied his crush on Max.
Max was waiting for Billy after he got out of practice that day. She was on the sidewalk going back and forth on her skateboard. She stopped when she saw him and they began walking towards his car without saying a word to each other.
That was pretty much how they were with each other now aside from when Billy tried to get something out of her about that night at the Byers. She never budged, though. That was why he knew something big had happened. Jessica was all hush-hush about it too.
He'd thought about asking one of the other kids that had been there, but he didn't want to risk anyone letting slip that he'd been the one to rearrange Harrington's face.
"You really need to find a way to let me know when you're practicing and when you're skipping," Max said, no real attitude behind her voice.
"You can assume if I'm not at the car that I'm staying to practice."
"I'm just saying . . . someone else could take me home rather than me having to wait for an hour."
"No one else can take you home. Dad would have to meet them first."
"He's not my dad."
"No, but you're living in his house, so . . ." Billy gave her a bored look. "We're stuck with each other."
Honestly, Billy could see why Susan had fallen for Neil. He'd been nice and seemed like a family man, had complimented Susan daily and bought her flowers for no reason. There had been a whole courting process, but all the complimenting and gifts had stopped after he'd married her and she'd started living with him.
Susan had never been on the wrong side of Neil's anger, though, because Susan did everything a dutiful wife was supposed to in Neil's eyes. She cooked, she cleaned, she obeyed him.
Max did not tow the line very well, but Max wasn't Neil's daughter, so he didn't come down as hard on her. He was the reason they'd had to leave San Diego, though, because Max's dad lived close to them there and Neil didn't want him interfering in his new life.
Neil not wanting to show his anger to his new wife and sort-of-daughter meant that Billy was the only one left to take it out on. Whenever Neil was frustrated or if Max messed up, it was somehow Billy's fault. It wasn't fair, but he was used to it.
When they got in the car Billy started her up but let her sit and idle for a few minutes.
"You talk about me a lot with your new friends."
"What?" Then, "No."
"Then how come Jessica Henderson talks to me as if you do?"
"I can't control what she talks to you about."
"Max . . ."
"What? What do you want me to say? If she asks about you, then, yeah, I tell her. I – I'm not gonna lie."
"Hm. She thinks I leave bruises on you."
"That's because you did. She wasn't supposed to see them. I told her it was the first time, that you'd never done it before, which is the truth. You've been angry since you found out we had to move."
That was true. He'd had a temper for a while, but it had gotten worse since finding out he had to leave California, his home, the ocean, the warmth. At least he'd had places he could go in San Diego when things got bad at home. Here he had no one.
"Just keep the family talk to a minimum. And don't let Neil see you with that Sinclair kid. Not alone."
"Neil can't tell me who to be friends with."
"He thinks he can, so don't give him a reason."