Summary: Jessie Maye was going through a rough time. Her career was over. Her mistakes were taking their tolls. And her daughter wanted nothing to do with her. She wasn’t sure she could find happiness, but one man felt she deserved it more than anyone else.
Jessie Maye stirred awake the moment she felt something trailing along her cheek. A soft, warm touch carrying a gentle pleasantry that spread throughout her head and nibbled at her mind. It coaxed a soft moan from her throat as she opened her heavy eyelids and peered up towards the source of her delight.
It was a young man, roughly a decade and a half younger than her if she had to guess. It wasn’t like she had asked his age, but she had always assumed he was about the same age as her daughter. He was a head taller than her, well-built, and just seemed to have a charm about him that she had missed.
Over the last two years, he had changed for the better. The first time she’d let him take her to bed, he had been charming in a cute way that gave the impression he hadn’t had much experience with women. Of course, learning he managed to bang her friends on their Friday Night bar crawl left some room to the imagination that he had more than that going on.
But now there was confidence just smoldering beneath the surface in everything he did.
“The plane’s landed. Time to disembark.”
“Is it now?” She pulled her head off his shoulder, a task she found far more herculean than she would ever admit before turning her gaze to the window where the slowly fading sun was casting its final rays over the airport. “I can’t believe I slept nearly the entire flight. Some company I turned out to be.”
A soft chuckle pulled her attention towards him once more. She saw his lips were curled into a slight grin even as he stared into her gaze with his stalwart, silver eyes. “To be fair, we did stay up pretty late the night before.”
“Well, you’re not wrong.” It was true that the two of them had a very late evening with Lola before the end of their vacation. But she also knew that wasn’t the only reason.
She had been sleeping later than usual or waking up tired at times. Some days she struggled just to get out of bed, unable to find the motivation. It was a far cry from when she felt ten years younger just two years ago.
Honestly, Lola wasn’t wrong when she said that she needed a vacation to get away from everything that was weighing her down before. She had felt more alive in the last few days than she had in a long time. She was sure that ninety-percent of that was due to him, and it might have been the reason why she’d taken him up on his offer when he invited her back to his place rather than heading back straight to Glenberry.
Seeing him again had been a blessing. But she was sure it was just a fleeting one, a brief break in the dark clouds that would be swallowed in a moment. All the same, if she clung to him then there was a chance he’d lose interest in her or see her as being too needy. She wasn’t fond of the idea of becoming that sort of woman either.
Jessie was pulled from thinking too deeply on the topic when she felt his hand settling on top of hers on the armrest between them. His touch was warm, accompanied by a slight tingle that seemed to sink beneath her skin. It was a pleasant enough feeling that it coaxed her lips into a smile and pushed back the dark thoughts as they disembarked the plane, retrieved their luggage, and caught a ride back to his place.
It was… a far cry from his old place in Glenberry. Sure, she hadn’t paid much attention given that night was a haze of sex and booze. But it was the kind of place you would expect for a young man living on his own.
Now he lived in a loft complex that was on the verge of luxury. It had a modern aesthetic to it with polished hardwood floors that ran from wall-to-wall, a kitchen island that was made of marble, adorned with stainless steel, and had an overhead rack for champagne, martini, and wine glasses.
“You’ve really moved up in the world, haven’t you?”
He smiled as he set his jacket on a rack by the door. “Yeah, the complex has just about everything. A Gym. An indoor pool. And then there’s the view from the balcony.”
“Not bad at all.” It sounded like a great place to live. She had to wonder what job he had to afford staying in a place like this, but she didn’t want to press the matter. “Mind if I have a smoke while I take in the view?”
“Go ahead.” He gestured over to the balcony door. It was a sliding glass one, right by the windows that faced the eastern side. “On the way over I ordered dinner from a decent restaurant, along with Mint Ice Cream and a Red Velvet Cake for dessert. It should be here in less than 10 minutes.”
Her favorite dessert. Jessie genuinely smiled as she walked past him, a sway in her hip. “You’re too good to me, baby. I’ll have to take especially good care of you tonight.”
Sashaying her way to the balcony door, she opened it up and felt the evening breeze on her skin. The sun was already behind the distant skyscrapers and the cloak of night was steadily draping the sky. Soon it would be an ebony blanket strewn with countless stars that glimmered like diamonds in the moonlight.
The flick of a lighter. A string of smoke wafting into the air. Then the familiar sensation of relief slowly spreading over her body as she took it into her lungs and let out a ring of smoke that slowly faded into the backdrop of the cityscape.
For a moment, Jessie just basked in the glow of things. She found comfort in the fact that she was here now, in a nice place with a decent guy. It was just like the island, an extension of the vacation only closer to home…
“Cough! Cough! Cough!”
But then reality reared its ugly head as she found herself coughing violently. Every breath clawed at her from the inside out, a scraping sensation running along the back of her lungs. It left her with one hand pressed against her chest while the other still held fast to the cigarette until it passed and left her panting for moments afterward.
“Damn it all…” She huffed before turning back to the window to look on the inside. She was relieved when she saw he wasn’t there. Maybe had gone to the bathroom or their food had arrived. “Why the hell did this have to happen now?”
Jessie had spent twenty years smoking without a problem. Through the good times and the bad times, a cigarette always brought her some measure of relief and comfort. Only when she was at her lowest did she learn the hard way that she emphysema after her coughing had gotten bad enough that her agent practically shoved her into a doctor’s office or else he wouldn’t get her another gig.
Now she didn’t have her work anymore. There had been too many shoots when they would have to stop so that she could catch her breath. The industry wasn’t so kind that they would accommodate her. Especially when she was steadily moving towards a demographic that was less profitable than before.
In the end, the agent had made it clear the only thing that she could do was quietly go sink into the background. Announce her retirement soon. That way she could leave her fans to remember her as she was, rather than let it get out her age and health were catching up to her.
The hell am I going to do now, she thought bitterly as she took another drag of her cigarette and stared out at the cityscape growing dotted with lights, a heavy weight pressing down on her heart. Getting another job wasn’t going to be easy since she had dropped out of High School. And spent the last twenty years in the industry.
Even if she went back to school that wouldn’t change much, since you had to disclose your background at nearly every possible place to get a job. She was damn sure that not a lot of people would be willing to hire someone who once banged a football team while dressed as a cheerleader. And she wasn’t sure she would find anything she really liked.
The doctor had been optimistic at least. He told her the case was mild enough that if she quit now then she could probably make it another twenty years. Maybe even longer if she ate well and exercised regularly. But Jessie had tried quitting before and it was a nightmare.
She shuddered, recalling the time she had tried to quit back when Tiffany had been in Middle School. That was probably when she first took an interest in medicine and tried to warn her off smoking and drinking. She wanted to make her daughter happy and if quitting was one way of doing it then she had been desperate to try—god knows she had tried.
It was Hell.
She faltered before she could make it a month, settling for trying to keep it a secret from Tiffany instead. But she was a smart girl and it was only a matter of time before she found out. Another nail in the coffin, even before the last one had been driven down and left her daughter wanting nothing to do with her.
Now what did she have left without her career or her daughter?
She still had her looks, but she imagined they wouldn’t last much longer. She had her home, but that was an empty nest. She had her memories, but she was afraid those would fade away as well with enough time.
If she had to walk into Hell again without anything waiting for her on the other side, was trying to go another twenty years like this worth it?
She blew out another string of smoke as the haunting thought lingered, leaving her wishing she had a drink until she heard the balcony door open and turned to see that he had returned from wherever he had been. And there were glasses in his hand, both of which had a lemon twist garnish on the edge. Her brow rose as he extended one towards her. “A Martini?”
“You wanted one, right?”
“It’s like you read my mind.” Her fingers delicately wrapped around the stem of the glass and brought the wide rim to her lips. Cold. Crisp. A hint of greenery gracing her tongue before sliding down her throat, like a stroll through a pine forest in the winter. “Mmhmm… that’s damn good. You made it yourself?”
He shrugged. “I took some correspondence courses on barkeeping in my free time. Figured might come in handy for dates.”
“Well, far be it from me to say otherwise.” She took another sip, basking in the taste before turning back to look towards the city. ”The view here really adds to the atmosphere of it.”
“Yeah, it does…” He took a step out onto the balcony and then rested against the rail, peering towards the same skyline. “But it really looks amazing during the winter, when the snow is coming down.”
Jessie took a moment to close her eyes, letting her mind paint a picture of just how lovely it would be. She could imagine just standing behind the chilled windows, nestled by the warmth of the heater as frost crept from the edges and coated the glass that was just clear enough to see as the silver and white flakes slowly drifted from the gray skies above. They would cover the steel and concrete, leaving it a blanket of white as far as the eyes could see.
It brought a smile to her face as she opened her eyes again. “It sounds beautiful. I’d love to see it for myself one of these days.”
“You could always spend the winter holidays here,” he offered. “It’d give me a reason to deck the place out for Christmas.”
“Careful now. I might really take you up on the offer.” Her voice and tone were teasing, backed by a slight bump of her hip against his. “You wouldn’t want me to show up when you’ve got some adorable girl here, would you?”
His smile folded in a little at that, becoming just a little dourer. “You wouldn’t have to worry about that. Company tends to be scarce around that time of the year.”
I thought he was a little too young to be making that kind of face, Jessie thought to herself. She recognized that expression on his face. It was just a touch of loneliness, spending the one day of the year where everyone else was with their loved ones alone.
She was well-versed with that same feeling, especially these days. Her girlfriends all had other things going on around then, so the best they would do was drop by. It served as a balm for the loneliness, but that didn’t change the fact that her only constant companions throughout the holiday would be the two in her hands at the moment.
And, in his case, she supposed that casual relationships were just that—casual. Sticking around during the holidays would involve commitment, which would defeat the purpose. Not something most girls who weren’t serious would do if they had a social life.
That look doesn’t suit him at all. She knocked back the rest of her martini and set the glass on the railing before looking to him with an amorous glint in her eyes. “Well, I know Santa doesn’t deliver gifts to naughty boys, so I guess I’ll give you a present to unwrap on Christmas Eve.”
The message carried well enough. His dour smile turned to one more carnal, his mind clearly running through just what that would entail. “And just what kind of present would that be?”
“Maybe I’ll give you a sneak peek if you can convince me?” She ran a finger down his chest, adding to the playful tease. She had already decided to sleep with him on the way back unless he really did something to get under her skin. But you couldn’t blame a girl for trying to get going a little before the main event, could you? “What would you do with your present?”
Sure enough, he played into it by setting down his own drink and approaching her from behind. His chest was firm as she felt it against her back. His hands were careful as he cradled her while hovering just over the sweater dress she was adorned in. His breath was warm against her skin as he breathed close to her ear and whispered sweetly into it.
“I’m thinking I would take it slow…” He trailed off into a kiss, planted firmly at the crook of her neck and shoulder as his finger glided up the knit sweater towards the swell of her shapely breasts. “Feeling beneath the wrapping to take in the shape of it as I made my way towards the ribbon.”
The touch was soft over the fabric, but it sent electricity rushing throughout her body all the same. Temptation began to bubble up in her blood, a familiar and welcomed sensation to accompany the alcohol on her tongue and the smoke in her lungs. Then he reached the peaks and touched them in a way that left her back arching and a moan on the cusp of slipping out of her mouth…
…Then he stopped as his phone began to vibrate in his pants, muttering a swear under his breath as he pulled away. He pulled out the phone and then practically glared at the screen. A sigh followed as he gave her an apologetic look. “The food is here. I’ll have to run to the front desk to get it.”
Jessie felt the urge to tell him to forget the food and eat her there and now. But reason won out and she felt the familiar itch in her lungs. Better to send him off before she killed the mood even more. “We’ll pick up after dinner. Don’t keep me waiting too long, okay?”
He couldn’t have flown out the door faster.
Which is just as well, considering the coughing fit that followed. This time it felt like her lungs were trying to escape her throat, leaving her nearly to double over. The cigarette she had been holding onto slipped from her grasp and landed on the balcony ground. Jessie swore under her breath before bending down to reach for it…
Then she stood straight and settled for snuffing it out with her heels. She had enough for now to settle the craving. More would just make things worse and she’d be damned before she traded the real fun tonight for a few more puffs. She kicked the butt off the ledge, grabbed the glasses, and went back inside his loft.
Dinner was great. Dessert was even better. But the real treat came afterwards in the bedroom.
“Ooooohh… baby, that was just…what I needed…”
A satisfied tinge painted her words between heated breaths as Jessie just laid there, adrift in the postcoital bliss. Her body felt so light that she felt like she was floating. The smoldering embers from the fire he stoked inside of her still lingered beneath her skin, a pleasant warmth that ran from head-to-toe.
He laid there alongside her, taking deep and slow breaths that left his chest to rise and fall while staring up at the ceiling. “You’re amazing, Jessie.”
She giggled at that. “Honey, I was a professional. I’m more impressed that you managed to keep me going for so long compared to the island. I guess sharing you meant you couldn’t give me your full attention.”
Jessie wasn’t exaggerating either. Years ago, he had been a foal getting his legs underneath him. She had practically taken care of everything. Now he was a stallion and had shown how far he had come, which she was very grateful for it.
It had been a while since she went at it for that long without needing to catch her breath. He’d controlled the pace to match her perfectly, drawing it out while not pushing her too far too soon. She had a chance to take it slow and really savor it all. It felt almost like she was making love with someone rather than just banging them for the rush of it…
“I kind of had other things on my mind at the time,” he admitted, taking a deep breath before adjusting his posture on the bed. “…Have you thought about what you’ll do now that you’re not in porn anymore?”
The question put a damper on the elation she was feeling. “Sweetie, I really don’t want to think about that right now.”
“I’m just saying, you could be a coach or an agent or something.”
She sighed before sitting up, her good mood waning. “As interesting as that thought is, it’s typically not professional to fuck your clients even in the industry. I’m not sure I’d be able to stand watching younger girls getting to have all the fun on the set and then have to crank it out on my own.”
“Even if you had someone waiting back home more than willing to help there?”
She turned to him with a raised brow. “Are you offering?”
He leaned forward and looked her in the eyes. “Maybe I am.”
For a moment he sounded completely serious to her. She hadn’t clarified whether she was talking about a steadier relationship or even marriage. But it almost sounded like he would have settled for either and she was almost willing to believe it.
But Jessie knew better than to believe him. It wasn’t the first time she had been proposed to after they’d gone a few rounds in the sack. But once the high faded and they were in their right minds, it was clear they never really meant it. She’d tease them about it and just brush it off, not willing to even entertain the thought longer than it took for her next drink.
Besides, she had been burned once before she had gotten into the industry. Promises of a wedding coaxing her to keep spreading her legs, right up until the baby bump began to show. At this point, Misty Katz had become synonymous with Jessie Maye and any man who wanted to marry her would probably want the former rather than the latter—if there was a difference between them to begin with.
But… for a moment… just a moment… she allowed herself to just fantasize about it.
She imagined working in the industry from the other side. Helping nervous girls come out of their shells and learning to embrace their sexuality like with Lailani. Teaching them not to make the same mistakes that she had. Maybe even have them plan an exit strategy, so they wouldn’t end up like her.
Then she’d come home to find him there. A welcoming kiss leading to a quick release to burn all the sexual frustration away. Then they would talk and laugh and cuddle in the bliss of the moment. Maybe she could even end up raising another daughter who would love her. Having a whole family for once.
…It was painful for Jessie to open her eyes again and return to reality after picturing all of that.
All of a sudden, she felt a craving for a cigarette. She reached over to the nightstand next to the bed almost reflexively only to realize that she had left the pack in her pants. A scoff slipped out of her mouth and she moved to slip out of the sheets when he grabbed her wrist.
“I really am serious,” he said before she could pull away. “I’m in love with you, Jessie.”
“… You aren’t thinking straight,” she said slowly as conflicting feelings built up in her chest. He still sounded so serious that it hurt listening to him say that because she knew things couldn’t be that way. “I’ll catch a ride home and we’ll just pretend this never happened.”
“I know it might sound hard to believe considering everything but seeing you again after all these years… made me happy. Wasn’t it the same for you?”
Rather than give him the answer he was looking for, she instead resorted to asking him a simple question for which there was no good answer. “…Were you ever going to tell me that you slept with my daughter a few years back?”
His body tensed next to her for a moment, going rigid entirely. Then he looked away from her, not daring to meet her eyes. “…How long have you known?”
“For a while now,” she admitted. She didn’t know whether or not to be happy that he didn’t try to deny it. “Aiko, Beli, Lola… we get together every Friday and talk about things over drinks, so it was only a matter of time before your name came up. There weren’t any hard feelings since none of us were going for anything other than a casual fling back then. But it’s different for younger girls, you know?”
His expression went from guilty to slowly dawning horror as the dots connected. Then he asked the question that she knew was coming. “Am I the reason you and Tiffany aren’t talking to one another anymore?”
She closed her eyes so that she didn’t have to see the look on his face as she drove the knife in. “It was the last straw.”
It was around Christmas then. She wanted to connect with her daughter, knowing that she was getting ready to graduate and move out into the world beyond the dorms. But Aiko had told her that Tiffany’s grades were slipping, she seemed constantly distracted, and about the time she overheard her getting into an argument with one of her friends over a relationship.
Jessie only wanted to help, and men were her field of expertise in contrast to her daughter. Tiffany had strived to be everything she wasn’t, so it was natural she would struggle to cope with the idea that it had just been something casual or that a guy would have multiple partners. But the moment his name came up…
Her eyes opened to get away from the memory of how heartbroken her daughter had been. “She had struggled so hard to avoid being like me, only to find out that we had been with the same man. To her, it was as though the moment she let her guard down she was destined to make the same mistakes. That was why she severed ties between us for good.”
“…I only thought about getting laid at the time,” he admitted, letting her go. No, he didn’t let her go. His fingers simply lost their strength as he fell backwards until his back ended up against the headboard. “And after I succeeded once, I just…”
“Couldn’t stop?” she finished for him. “The pleasure. The thrill. You became addicted to it and could only think about having more and more of it.”
She understood how it was because her first time had been an awakening of sorts as well. She honestly couldn’t get enough, and it was no wonder she ended up conceiving her daughter. But the fact that the guy in question wanted nothing to do with her afterwards had only reaffirmed that sex didn’t make for a deeper relationship, and she couldn’t trust any partner to stick around when things got too heavy for them.
She had entered porn to pay her bills after giving birth to Tiffany, but she honestly loved her work for what it offered her. Pleasure, attention, all of it. The thought of enrapturing the eyes of men and women alike, all of them within her grasp, was just such a rush that it kept her going until now.
He buried his face into his hands, as good as admitting he was the same. “If I had known this would have happened, I wouldn’t have… You must hate me for that and here I am asking you to….”
She didn’t, surprisingly enough. He couldn’t have known they were family at the time. Even if he had, it had been casual and she had distinctly kept her daughter’s name out of it when they had been together. But she needed an excuse so that she didn’t have to tell him that she had felt happier these last few days than she had in a long time.
The moment she saw him back then on the island she honestly wondered if she should get involved with him again. She had accepted her role in how things went with her daughter and wanted to find a way to escape the pain. He was familiar and had a way of taking her mind off of everything, so she took him up on his offers for going on double dates.
She never really considered falling in love and finding someone to just stay with her as anything more than a dream. But as the nights went on, she felt she could overlook her pain and began to think that he really could be her Prince Charming, here to sweep her off her feet. That was why she was so tempted to give his promise a chance.
At the same time, she was terrified about getting serious with anyone because it would mean being vulnerable. If he broke her heart after she opened up to him, then even that pleasant dream would become just another painful memory. Her heart had betrayed her once already.
Walk away. The little voice in her head whispered, telling her it was safer to cling to just fleeting moments of passion while her body allowed her to. She should just get dressed and get a ride home, leaving the whole thing behind her so she could continue as she was. He would be nothing more than another man walking out of her life, as he had been years ago.
…Yet, her legs refused to move. Could she really leave things like this? Could she leave him like this, full of regret that he had been the one to push her away? That he had torn away the fragile tether she had with her daughter?
In the end, Jessie couldn’t leave him like this. So she climbed back onto the bed and sat next to him against the headboard, setting a hand on his heated, sweat-slicked shoulder. “…Sweetie, if I hated you then the last few nights would not have happened. But asking me to get serious with you all of a sudden was a bit much. What brought it on?”
He lowered his hands, turning towards her. Even with her bare breasts on display, his gaze remained firmly on her eyes. “I was afraid if I didn’t make it clear I was interested… if I let you away, then it’d just end up like before.”
“That we’d eventually just lose contact with one another,” he clarified. “It was two years since the last time we spoke to one another. You didn’t call me even once after that first night.”
Jessie pulled back and crossed her arms. “I could say the same about you, sweetie. Phones work both ways.”
“Yeah, I know,” he said. “It was because you didn’t seem to be the type to want to get into a serious relationship back then. If I had called you, I was afraid I’d come out as desperate and you’d simply have laughed it off or saw me as being too clingy, so I settled for just hoping you’d remember me.”
She probably would have. He wasn’t anything too special back then. She also had her work, so she wouldn’t have gone out of her way to make time for him. If he kept showing up at the bar to hit on her then it really would have come off as desperate.
“…You been with a lot of girls since then,” Jessie mentioned, shifting the topic. “Even on the island. What made me so much different than them that’d you’d try asking me for a serious relationship now?”
“I won’t pretend I haven’t had a lot of sex with a lot of women since the last time we met,” he began. “Yet I was never really able to get that same feeling that I had the first time. No matter how many times I slept around, even with some women like you couldn’t believe, nothing quite matched. There was just something there that only returned when I was with you.”
“That’s just probably because it was your first time,” she reasoned. The experience didn’t really stand out to her, but it was a pleasant memory for him. “It was a big step for you, so you’d naturally have good memories and feelings tied into it.”
“I thought the same at first,” he admitted. “The moment I saw you again back there, it rekindled that feeling. I thought it was just sex, so I was more than eager to go out with you and have threesomes left and right. And each time it was like the first.”
“If that’s all then there’s no reason to—”
He shook his head slowly and set a hand on his chest. “But it didn’t end there. Every date, I found myself just happy to listen to you talk to the point that sex wasn’t even on my mind. When you smiled, it was like butterflies fluttering through my chest and left me floating. When I saw your pain and sorrow, I felt miserable and wanting nothing more than to help. Then there was the night before the last when you…”
As he trailed off, Jessie tried to recall then. To be honest, it felt like her head had been in a haze. She couldn’t quite recall what she had been doing, but it almost felt like she had been sleepwalking.
“I was worried that we wouldn’t see each other again once I left the island,” he continued. “That terrified me because I thought you might disappear from my life again. And since you told me about how much your life had changed….”
“You figured it was the time to act,” she finished for him. Over the course of their last few dates, she had confessed how in the past she wanted someone to sweep her off of her feet. That was probably why he had gained the courage to act now.
He looked away from her. “I only thought that I wanted to be there for you, without any clue that the reason you and Tiffany broke apart was because of me.”
Jessie’s expression softened as her own guilt weighed on her heart. He was the last straw, but her daughter had completely severed ties with her because of how she had lived until now. There was no way to make the past disappear and she could only accept that as she went forward.
But when she was with him on the island, she felt so happy. And when she looked back at all those sarcastic comments he made, like traveling the world looking for her and spending every waking moment thinking about her smile, it seemed like he was trying to drop hints. He had even admitted to having fallen in love with her, but she had simply thought he was playing around so she had never given it any serious consideration.
“I suppose I can’t blame you then,” she settled on, getting comfortable next to him and laying her head on his broad shoulders. “You even admitted you’d marry the right woman regardless of an age gap right in front of me, and I just said I hoped you’d find her. That must’ve hurt so much.”
“It was what made me decide to do all of this…” He let loose a shuddering breath. “I’m sorry for acting like that without knowing anything. I’ll make things right with your daughter. I promise.”
“Oh baby, that ship has sailed.” It hurt for her to admit that much, but it was true. “Anything we can do to connect to her would just make things worse. All I can do now is have hope that one day she’ll look back and reach out to me.”
“But she was part of your world,” he said softly, reaching up to touch her shoulder. It was a gentle touch, soft as it glided down her arm to her elbow. Comforting. “There has to be something I can do. Just tell me and I’ll do it.”
A slight hum bubbled up in her throat at that as the whisper in her head came back. She swallowed her own fear and reservations so that the words they kept chained down could float to the surface. “…Then could you promise to love me for who I am?”
She was a woman who had been with more than a hundred men over her career of twenty years. Her body might have looked good on the outside, but she was already facing an uphill battle on the inside. Not to mention everything she had done was out there in the open, where anyone could find it. Her stint to the island had proven that with that girl having practically worshipped the ground she walked on, and she knew that it would never go away.
“There will always be people who know me as Misty Katz, even if they don’t say it out loud,” she said, giving voice to her fears. “I’ve been with more men than I can count, and I’m not as young as I used to be. Even then, could you really be happy with someone like me when you’ve got your whole future ahead of you?”
Just asking him that much was causing her heart to race. Not out of anticipation, but out of fear that by putting herself out there again she’d end up being betrayed. He may be in love with her now, but who was to say that he wouldn’t get bored with her until he left her behind as well. If that happened again, she would never recover…
“I know all of that, and I’ve never been more in love with you,” he confessed, staring into her eyes. “I love you for who you are, Jessie.”
…Forgive me, Tiffany. Jessie felt her heart quiver in her chest and tears escaped the corner of her eyes, as though everything that was being held back came rushing forward. I don’t know if I deserve anything good in my life for not being the best mother to you, and I don’t think anything will fill in the hole you’ve left behind. But…
“You’d better not break your word,” she warned him. “I swear I’ll never forgive you if you do.”
“I promise,” he murmured, placing his hand beneath her chin and raising it up so they were eye-level with one another. “I’ll love you until the day I die, Jessie Maye.”
She was drawn to his lips, pressing hers against them in a kiss. The fears, the sorrow, the sadness, all of it seemed to just be blown away at that moment. Her heart felt like it had wings and hope flickered within her chest anew. Her Prince Charming was with her here and now, a dream coming true.
But I’m going to try to find happiness with him. Jessie silently finished as she fell into one kiss after another. Whatever the future holds, I want to believe that I can with him in my life.
[-His Apartment Months Later-]
It really is a beautiful sight. Jessie couldn’t help but think as she watched snow fall from the skies and slowly painted the darkness outside with a veil of white. It wasn’t quite so cold that frost had built up on the edges of the glass, but it was still a breathtaking view that added to the spirit of the holidays.
It had been months since that night. Months since she had decided to entrust her heart to the man who’d stolen it, despite being more than a decade younger than her. And she hadn’t regretted it.
He’d been a bright spot in her life, a beacon of hope. He always seemed to know just what to say to pull her up when she felt down. And, because of that, she found the courage to start moving ahead.
Her career as a pornstar might have been over, but Misty Katz now lived on as a coach for girls just entering the industry. She had been working for twenty years, so she was fairly knowledgeable about the latest trends in the industry along with the needs of the girls. And she had a few connections to pull on if need be.
Of course, since she didn’t have sex practically every day, she needed to workout more to keep her weight down. Beli was helpful there. Her classes were easy enough, helped keep her flexible, and were good for exercise. And she was cutting back on smoking and drinking—stopping outright was still beyond her, but she was getting a better handle on it bit-by-bit.
I hope you’re doing well, Tiffany. Her thoughts turned to her daughter once more. She had sent a letter as a birthday gift to her a while ago thanks to Aiko getting her current address from the college’s record. In the letter, she had poured her heart into it and told her of the changes in her life, from her new career to her new love, and expressed that she wanted Tiffany to be a part of it.
But if she chose not to, Jessie would understand. All she could do was wish her well in her future as a nurse, telling her that she would always love her and reminding her that there was always a place in her heart—no matter how Tiffany felt, they were family.
“Now then, I suppose I should get ready to give him his present when he gets back,” Jessie mused as she turned her attention to a gift that she had gotten from Lola. Her business was taking off, so the two did not see each other as often they would have liked. But she had taken the time out of her busy schedule to make what was probably one of the most seductive outfits she had seen.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
However, before she could get started changing, there was a knock on the door. He did mention that he was having a gift for her delivered that was likely coming while he was out. So she sauntered over to the door and cracked it open…
Only for her world to sudden shake as she came face-to-face with her beloved treasure. “Tiffany…?”
Tiffany looked off to the side, trying not to meet her gaze. She was dressed in a beige coat and checkered scarf still that were still covered in melting snow. Her hair had been woven into two long braids while adorning her head were a pair of earmuffs.
“…Hi, Mom.” Her voice was soft, just above a whisper as though she was uncertain about her words for a moment. But then she cleared her throat and held up a gloved hand to show the envelope that was addressed to her. “I got your letter.”
Happiness. Confusion. Elation. So many emotions swirled together in Jessie’s chest that she struggled to put words to what she was feeling at the moment. So she settled for just lunging forward and embracing her in a crushing hug, rocking back and forth while just taking in the fact that her daughter was here now. “Baby, you’re here! How? Why?”
“Mom, let go of me.” There was more than a hint of annoyance in her voice, but Jessie could see that her cheeks were rose-colored as she broke the hug. “Like I said, I got your letter. Since I still had his number, we… talked and he managed to convince me to stop by.”
“He did?” Jessie looked around the corners, but she didn’t spot him.
“He promised to wait outside until I came back,” Tiffany explained. “I’m still not ready to see you two together, you know?”
That’s… to be expected, she thought to herself before sighing. “Baby, I know how it probably looks with me being here. But everything I put in that letter was true.”
“Mom… I…. I tried so many times to get you to change, but nothing I said reached you. You always seemed to either be drinking, smoking, or getting it on with some random guy. It’s not easy to accept having someone like that as a mother.”
“I know, baby,” Jessie said. “I wanted to change, believe me. It was so hard before. It still is now.”
“Yet, he managed to do what I couldn’t,” Tiffany pointed out. “It bothered me until I really sat down to think about it for a few days and understood that I couldn’t accept the flaws you had. I always wanted you to be… the perfect mother, I guess. And, because of that, I didn’t give you as fair of a shake as I probably should have.”
“And now?” Jessie asked, hope in her tone that they could finally connect.
Tiffany only shook her head. “Not yet. To be honest, I’m still not really sure how to process all of this. Kyanna helped me understand how difficult it is for a single mother, but it’s not easy to just forget everything. And while I’ve gotten better about it, that guy is still a sore spot.”
“That’s fair,” Jessie said. “It’d be too much to ask that you let those things go right now. But someday, I’d like for us to really be together again.”
“Someday, maybe,” Tiffany agreed before she pulled a small envelope out of her other pocket. “It’s a card with my new number, address, and email. It’s not much, but—”
“It’s the best gift in the world,” Jessie told her, taking the envelope gingerly. It was light and probably just a gift card from a dollar store, but to her it was the most precious thing in the world. Because it represented the very thing she wanted the most in the world—a chance to connect with her daughter.
“Just don’t go back to how you used to be,” Tiffany said before she spun on her boots and made for the elevator. “Anyway, I better get going before your boyfriend ends up freezing to death out there. Merry Christmas, Mom.”
Jessie watched her go, fighting against the urge to reach out and pull her in. As much as she wanted to spend more time with her, she knew that forcing her to try to stay would only sever the new connection they had reestablished. Even if it was fragile and possibly fleeting, it was still a chance she wasn’t eager to let go to waste.
That didn’t apply to her boyfriend. The moment he popped back up on the floor, she pounced on him with a kiss that stole his breath. Then she dragged him back inside to give him his Christmas present early.
Her future was finally looking bright.
This was longer than it had any right to be, but as a side-project it wasn’t bad. Huniepop has surprising depth with some of the characters when you think about it. Even little details like how Jessie’s token preferences changed align with her character development. I only regret that at the end we ultimately did nothing to help her.