“I didn’t know you drove a ute,” I said, scanning the interior curiously.
“I don’t. I borrowed it for the night.”
“Because this single chair serves a purpose for where we’re going,” he winked.
I narrowed my eyes. Don’t think I didn’t notice it because the first thing that popped into my head was snuggling up next to him.
“I’m seriously thinking all you townspeople just like to take people to dark and secluded areas,” I said, curling up in the cold. My sweats not doing much to keep me warm.
Jasper laughed. “Oh yeah, it’s easier to hide the bodies.”
I widened my eyes but laughed at the same time. The mixed reaction made Jasper almost choke on his cackle. I dropped my shoulders and breathed out. “Not funny,” I mumbled. “Seriously, where are we going?”
“Stop your whining we’re almost there, bear.”
I scrunched my nose. “Shut up.”
“So grouchy,” he chuckled. “Was the date with my little brother really that bad?”
“He was a complete gentleman actually. We had so much fun.” I turned up my nose like a snob.
“Yes. He’s fantastic. Unlike someone else I know.”
“What an insult. I’m not like my brother. Thank God for that.”
“What is this animosity you two have towards each other? You guys are grown ass men. What are you? Thirty? Somewhere around there?”
“Somewhere around there.”
“And what is he like ten years younger?”
Jasper scoffed and furrowed his brows. “He’s two years younger than me, actually.”
“Sense the exaggeration. And apparently not so ‘little’ as you so politely call him.”
“It’s said in fondness.” He laid a hand on his chest. “Totally from the heart.”
I rolled my eyes. “So why do you guys have this hatred towards each other?”
He shrugged. “It’s not a hatred.” He let out a breath he struggled to keep in, almost as if there was an explanation on the tip of his tongue but his lips weren’t cooperating. “It’s nothing. It’s…it’s just—”
I held up my hand. “Wait, wait. Let me guess. It’s just complicated?” He looked at me seriously as we slowed to a park. I half-smiled. “I haven’t heard that one before.” He smiled apologetically, and my chilly disposition dropped at the sight of it. I rolled my eyes, he wasn’t getting me that easily. I cleared my throat and looked out into the darkness surrounding me. Single lamp posts placed sporadically in the field. “So is this the part in the movie where you put a mask on and spray me with some sleeping gas?”
He chuckled and beeped the horn twice. I expected someone to come charging and scare the shit out of me. My mind knows how to go apeshit and play tricks on me.
Just then the large screen that I completely ignored lit up and the introductory animation and song to Grease started playing. Jasper waved his hand back to an unknown person, the equipment too far away.
“What’s this?” I smiled.
“I know you missed out on that whole drive-in movie thing so I figured why not set one up.”
“Oh,” I breathed. I didn’t know what to say or do so I just stared with my jaw drooping.
“And—” he lifted a finger and then leaned back and pulling up a box— “I couldn’t gather people for the food carts so I made us some popcorn, got us some chocolate, and water, you know so we don’t die of thirst from all the salt and sugar.”
“A natural refresher,” I noted.
“As intended,” he grinned.
I shook my head, still stunned. “How did you do this?”
“Well, Irve owes me one and I just decided to use that one on you.”
I gulped. “Umm, thank you.”
“Don’t read anything into it,” he shrugged, awkwardly. “It’s nothing big. I mean, it was annoying to hear you go on and on and on about the drive-in theatre that I figured I’d…shut you up.” He furrowed his brows.
I laughed. “Well, thank you nonetheless.”
He nodded. “Yeah, well…don’t read—”
“—anything into it, I know, I know.” I held out my hand. “So hand me the popcorn?”
I sunk back into the chair comfortably and started chowing down on the popcorn. I didn’t think I had any more room left in me to eat after my date, but when it comes to confectionary I have the appetite of a lion.
“I firmly believe John Travolta’s hair defies gravity in this movie,” Jasper joked and I laughed. “Newton would be tossing and turning in his grave.”
“You should dress up as him for Halloween.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Those tight shorts, you know.” I wriggled my brows.
“It’ll scare the children, truly,” he laughed and I joined him. “Look at him. He’s exercising under the sun and his hair is like a rock. Anyway, I can’t imagine it would be comfortable doing the pumpkin carving contest in those clothes. I have my choice of leather or tight shorts, yay.”
I chuckled. “I’m going as Madonna.”
He nodded approvingly. “You have my permission.”
I looked at Jasper and narrowed my eyes in thought. “Sometimes I think you and Julie are total opposites, and not in a good way.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, she hates the small town festivities.”
He shrugged. “I think she’s just itching to move back to New York.”
I swallowed some popcorn and essentially started choking on the salt. I chugged some water and put the popcorn down, slapping my hands together to rub off the excess. “Are you excited to go back?”
Jasper sighed and looked at me. “My favourite topics: Julie and New York.”
I smiled apologetically. “Well, everyone thinks you’re moving back. Going back to that lucrative job on Wall Street while your girlfriend works in a law firm.” I looked back at the screen. “You guys will probably live on 5th Avenue and shit.”
Get a puppy. Get married. Have kids. The works.
Jasper chuckled. “I don’t work on Wall Street. I’m not a money wiz.”
I angled my brows and gazed at him confusedly. “Everyone said—”
“—oh I know what they think. I never corrected them.”
He sighed, his chest swiftly rising and dipping. “Because it was never me who planted the seeds into everyone. Julie went around telling everyone and then it just got too far in. Plus, at the time I didn’t want everyone to think how weird it was that my girlfriend was lying about my job.” He laughed, awkwardly. “In retrospect I could’ve told everyone she was joking but usually the prerequisite of a joke is that it be funny.”
“So they would’ve thought she was a psycho.”
I chuckled, humourlessly. This is so weird. “So…what do you do?”
“I’m a doctor.”
I lifted up my brows. “A doctor? Why the hell would she lie about you being a doctor?”
“She has this weird idea that if you’re anything but a Wall Street guy in New York then you’re not good enough. I think the only person who knew was Nate.”
“Yeah,” he breathed.
I don’t think ‘psycho’ quite cut it. “So what are you going to do? Are you just going to go along with it until you move back? Is this the complicated thing you’ve been alluding to this whole time?”
He laughed. “No, that’s not it. And honestly, what I really want to do is buy a spot here for my practise. It doesn’t mean I’ll live here permanently but I’d like to work while I’m here.”
“Well, why don’t you.”
He shrugged. “Don’t know. Conflicting signals? I suddenly open up a practise when everyone think I do something else?”
I gulped some more water. “You should.” He looked at me. “Do it. Why not? What do you have to lose?”
“Nothing, I guess.”
I paused and then nodded. “Thank you.”
I lifted up my shoulders. “For telling me.” Then, I let my shoulders down.
“Yeah, no big deal.”
“Right,” I rolled my eyes. “As always.”
“I always thought this ending was sad.”
“I mean, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I guess I could see that. Or maybe it’s just bitter sweet.”
“Least they’re happy.”
Under the bright light of the clouds as the car flew I looked up into Jasper’s brown eyes fixed onto me. With the back of his fingers he stroked my cheek and brushed my parted lips.
“Won’t Irve see?” I whispered.
Jasper only shook his head and leaned forward, placing a gentle, light kiss on my lips. It felt like I was kissing him a lot longer than I was, and I was expecting him to become a little urgent, but he remained sweet and slow. Balanced. A kiss where I faded into him and everything else disappeared.
“What was—?” I stopped short and cleared my throat. “That was different,” I said, hoping for an indication that I wasn’t alone.
He caressed the corner of my lips. “It’s no big deal.” He paused to look at me, lost in a thought. Then, he cleared his throat and shifted back to start the car. “I, uhh, hope you had fun,” he said, smiling a smile that didn’t meet his eyes. One which was way too distracted.
“Yeah,” I breathed. “Thanks, again.”
He nodded. “Yeah.”
I didn’t push it and the rest of the ride home was done so in the thunderous silence of the night.
“Good morning, deary,” an old lady in Lucy’s chair greeted me as soon as I entered the salon.
“Hi, how are you?”
“Fine thank you, and you?”
I smiled. “Can’t complain.”
“Good, good,” she nodded.
“Martha was just telling me about a rumour she heard,” Lucy said, eyeing me strangely.
“Oh yeah?” I asked.
“These townspeople talk, you see? We like to talk, it’s like an Olympic sport for us and the hunting grounds are ripe with secrets.” Her eyes beamed. “Well, you know Ricky he knows everything and Ricky spoke to the baker whose wife spoke to Irve’s wife and well, to get straight to the point, they’ve all come to the same conclusion: Jasper may be hiding a secret.”