Piece of the puzzle 3: Jacob
It is not a question of sanity now. That is long gone.
They’re all insane at this point.
After Hayden’s question, hell broke loose. Jacob was the first one to get lit. His face was painted with anger and, when he came to sit with Thea, Hayden went mad.
That has always been the problem. Hayden, Jacob, and their mutual need to protect Thea. From the other.
Or from themselves.
Chaos always ensues when they’re all three in a room. A thing which Thea is usually trying to avoid at all costs.
Not that she can do that now.
“Would you stop meddling, Jake?”
“Would you just get down from that mighty horse of yours, Hayden?”
“Well, at least I have a horse-”
Thea bites her lips. The sound that just escaped them is inappropriate. So inappropriate she wishes she could take it back.
She can not look at Hayden, who stopped mid-sentence to stare at her.
“You find that funny, Thea? Please, tell me how is that funny…”
Thea bites her lips again. She tries not to make eye contact with anyone in that room, but she finds Jake’s eyes, and in them, she sees the same twinkly laughter she knows it sparkles in hers as well. When he shakes his head, as to stop her, she just cannot hold it anymore and bursts into laughter.
Tears well up in her eyes, while she doubles down in laughter, so weird, so out of place, she wishes to stop. She wishes it so badly that the wish brings another fit of laughter, and another one, and another one, until Jake joins her. They both laugh like insane people in a room where all the others stare at them with incredulous looks in their eyes.
“Stop it now, you sound like lunatics…” Marie whispers, to no avail. The two of them are out of breath now, and try to find places to sit, so they won’t fall.
“Thea. Stop. It.”
Hayden’s words have the power of a cold shower. With a gasp for air, Thea regains her sobriety and stands up. She feels again like she is in the middle grade and the nuns are chastising her for giggling.
Her and Jacob. Thea Hazel Marlow and Jacob Finn Osmond. The Twins, as everyone called them back in the days. The Tricksters. The Wild Ones.
How things have changed… Not for Jacob, though… Thea thinks. But for her. She has changed. She somehow became this kind of a precious wallflower, looking at the others living their lives, keeping her wishes silent, making herself smaller and more transparent every day.
Oh, how she loathed herself when she realised what she was doing. When she allowed herself to feel again.
And Jacob? She was living his life unapologetically. As free as a bird. Not caring for anything but the wind beneath him, raising him higher and higher, wilder and freer, more a mythological creature than a human.
“Oh, you never had a sense of humour, Hayden,” spits Jacob through his teeth, grabbing Thea’s hand and dragging her down to the couch next to him.
“Not your sense of humour, you mean…” responds Hayden.
“No, not our sense of humour.”
Jacob’s words hit their mark and Hayden’s anger boils again. The moment of respite is long gone and they are at each other’s throats yet again.
“You have something to say, say it, Jacob. What, you think I don’t know you And Thea have a past? Way before we met? Is that what you mean? Say it. Say it out loud. Now that we are putting the cards on the table, how about we be honest with one another?”
Thea tenses next to Jacob as much as he seems to relax.
“I got nothing to say. You seem to do a better job speaking my mind than I do. Everybody’s mind… But hey, you always did, right?”
“Jake, please, no.”
“Oh, come on, kid… he wants to argue. Let’s give it a go. We’ve been walking on eggshells around him for far too long.”
Saying that, Jacob raises to his feet, facing Hayden.
“You want a fight?”
That is not quite a question coming from Hayden’s lips. Is an invitation. An open invite to a long time feud.
“Say I do.”
“You guys…” pleads Marie coming closer to them, while Mark and Pete also gather round.
“Stay out of this, Marie, this is between Jake here and me.”
When the first punch flies, Thea jumps to her feet, grabbing Jacob’s arm, and positions herself with the back to Hayden. She can almost feel his heat coming from his thin shirt, a warmth she is welcoming for a split of a second. The hurt in Jacob’s eyes makes her sigh out loud and say:
“You will both stop now. We’re all friends here, and we will solve this like adults.”
Her words are cutting the tension in half, but the power match is far from over. Hayden’s hand brushes her shoulder while raising a finger towards Jacob, who’s arm is still in Thea’s grip.
“Just name the time and the place.”
“I will, don’t worry.”
Thea shakes her head and pushes Hayden back with her body, welcoming this closeness. Only then she releases Jacob’s arm.
“You were always quick, you little cobra,” Jacob smiles, massaging his forearm. “Not to mention always protecting this jerk.”
“Hey, this jerk is your best-friend,” says Mark, finally being able to breathe again.
“Was.” both Hayden and Jacob say at the same time.
Thea giggles again. Jacob smiles. Hayden only frowns deeper.
For Thea feels good to see Jacob again, and to see that, despite it all, their friendship and their camaraderie is still there. She is content to hear him laugh again. When Hayden appeared in their lives, their dynamic had changed. There were no longer Thea and Jake, the terrible duo, but Thea and Hayden and Jake and Hayden. Never the three, never the original two.
“I am glad you’re back home, kid!”
“Is she though?” says Hayden, bitter poison on his lips. “Doesn’t look like it… And for sure it doesn’t feel like it.”
Five pairs of eyes look at Thea at the same moment. She doesn’t even know what to say to that; she doesn’t even know what she could answer to their silent questions.
Is she back? Does she want to be back? Is that home anymore?