My First - Jason & Katie(10)

By: Melanie Shawn

This was sure not how he had envisioned Katie Lawson’s homecoming…and he had had plenty of time to think about it since the last night he saw her, over a decade ago.

When Jason’s best friend – and Katie’s boyfriend – Nick, lay in a hospital bed, lifeless and barely recognizable, Katie hadn’t said two words to Jason. She wouldn’t even look at him.

He had always considered her one of his best friends – people called Nick, Katie and Jason ‘The Three Musketeers’ for God’s sake! Yet when they had needed each other most, she had completely shut him out. Whenever he had tried to speak to her, she would abruptly get up and leave the hospital room.

Every attempt he had made to stop her or confront her was always met with the same reaction, no matter who was in the room with him. People would always grab his arm and say things like, “just let her go” or “she just needs space” or “give her time” or “she’ll talk when she’s ready.”

Why the hell had people been trying to protect her from him? Didn’t they know that he had just wanted to make sure that she was okay? He had needed to know that she was alright more than he needed to draw his next breath.

And moreover, why had he listened to all of those people? Why had he let her go? Why had he given her time?

Why wasn’t she speaking to him? Why couldn’t she look at him?

Nothing but questions. It had driven him absolutely insane.

Katie had never had a problem telling Jason exactly what was on her mind, and then some. Why couldn’t she speak to him – or even seemingly bear to look at him – at the time when they needed to lean on each other like never before?

Had Katie blamed him somehow for Nick being in the car accident? Had she thought that Jason should have been with his friend on the late night joyride?

Dear God, had she wished it was Jason lying in the bed instead of Nick?

10 Years Ago

It was after the funeral, and Jason simply had to talk to Katie. Advice be damned. He had to find out why Katie couldn’t even look at him, or speak to him – but most importantly, he had to find out if Katie was okay.

He was in the middle of trying to formulate a plan to get around all of her ‘guardians’ when fate had struck, and the Universe had plopped an opportunity right down into his lap in the form of a phone call from Aunt Wendy, saying that she was stuck at work catching up.

She obviously felt guilty for having to be at work, that was clear to Jason by the way that she was talking a mile a minute. She was explaining that important issues had been neglected for far too long due to everything that had gone on in the last few weeks and that Katie’s mom was working swing shift, so could he please go over and stay with Katie because she didn’t want to leave her alone so long?

Jason supposed that all of the explanations must have registered somewhere in the back of his mind, but in the moment, all he heard her say was ‘go stay with Katie.’ Everything else after that was a buzzing blur.

Jason jumped at the opportunity. He rushed to Katie’s house, heart pounding and palms sweating, having no idea what he was going to say when he got there but thrilled at the opportunity to say something, anything, to her.

When he got there, he knocked on the door but no one answered. Jason let himself in, calling out Katie’s name. There was no response. He felt his heart begin to beat a little faster as the very beginnings of fear began to flutter in his veins. He saw a light on in Katie’s room and went upstairs to find her, struggling not to give in to the slow panic that was building with every stair tread he climbed.

As Jason opened the door to Katie’s room, his eyes darted to every dark corner, straining to see. Still, he didn’t see Katie, so he called her name again. He could hear the tiniest edge of hysteria threatening to color the edges of his voice and he angrily told himself to get a grip.

Jason spied a thin bar of light bleeding out below the bathroom door that opened from the far side of Katie’s bedroom and he took two large steps across the small space. It felt like it took him an hour to reach the door, even though in his mind he realized it must have been— no more than an instant.

He knocked forcefully on the door to Katie’s bathroom, noticing that it was slightly ajar. As his knuckles struck the wooden surface, the door slid open slowly.

Jason took a deep breath and stepped inside. He decided that he should cover his bases in case she merely happened to be wearing headphones, or there was some other equally mundane explanation for her silence.

“I knocked and no one answered, so I let mys…” he stopped dead in his tracks.