When Jenna comes to consciousness she doesn't mention him again. She doesn't answer the questions, she doesn't engage in conversation. She doesn't say anything to the friends and family who've come to visit her. She just looks out the window, her eyes looking for something, relentlessly scanning the horizon. For now, Jenna has shut them all out.
Jared sits with her the whole time, waiting for her to be well enough to leave. When she asks him once if she's going to get better, her voice breaking a little, he nods his head. He nods his head, but what he means is yes, you'll get there, what he means is I'm by your side, forever, what he means is I'll never leave. Those are the words that just won't come, but they don't make it any less real for him.
Nothing has ever felt this horrible, seeing her so broken inside, knowing that there is nothing in his power to help her, that he can't touch her. He's tried to find her, to lead her out of the darkness, but she's gone too far for him to reach.
Inside, where it doesn't show, she continues to cry. Inside, where no one can hear her, she's still calling for help.
It's from these thoughts that she turns away. Maybe sometime later she'll be able to examine this, catergorize it, explain it away, but now it's so fresh that she can still feel the rope burn on her wrists.
Jared looks at her. He looks at her sometimes, and it fills him up. It touches the ragged part of his heart, the part that aches for her, that wants her to just laugh once, to smile, to show some sign that there might be healing. But for now, he looks at her, and it's enough.
The days pass. About a week later, the doctors decides Jenna is well enough to go home.
It feels surreal to her. This hospital has become home. It's safe, sterile, anonymous. There's a structured environment that she counts on. The routine never varies, and that is something she has counted on. Routine is safety. Structure is security.
The thought of going home, of the outside world makes her feel sweaty and unfocused and very, very small.
She packs up her few belongings, just as she's waiting for her discharge papers, Deputy Cole walks in. He smiles at her shyly, and before she realizes what she's saying, she asks him to drive her home. She sees him square his shoulders and grin at her. She feels the corners of her mouth quirk up in response to his genuine goodwill toward her.
On the drive to her house, there's a companionable silence between them. He doesn't try to question her or make her talk, he just drives. Every once in awhile, when Jenna catches his eye, he gives her that great big grin, and it's okay. Not great, not wonderful, but okay. She finds herself wanting to grin back at him.
When they pull up to her house, she lets out a big, shaky breath, and she wants to run away. To just run and never face it. To run and run and run.
But that's not who she is. She slowly walks up the stairs, and she's surrounded by her best memories. The times when she was happy. The times when she just couldn't hold back her laughter. She's surrounded by Jared. Those memories slap at her, remind her of where she is, what she lost, and her heart has never been heavier.
When Cole asks her if she's okay, she tells him she is. She walks past him into the house, and into the wreck that is her life. She walks toward the life she has with Jared.
Cole walks her in, sets her bag down by the door, and she turns to him, thanks him for seeing her home. He shuffles his feet, and tells her that if she needs anything to call him. He hands her his card, with his cell phone number scrawled on the back.
Jenna takes the card, thanks him, and turns away from him.
She turns toward the ruins of her life, trying to decide where to start.
Two hours later, she's still standing in exactly the same spot. She wanders over to her stereo, finds one of her cds and listens.
She finds a song, and it's the right song, because it opens up something inside her, it soothes and hurts at the same time. It opens her up, and she sits in the big picture window in front of the house, looking out, trying to find something to hold onto.
Jared gets home about an hour later, he finds Jenna sitting in the window. She's wearing a pair of white cotton drawstring pants, and a pink tank top. With her dark hair shining, the set of her shoulders and the straight line of her back, he doesn't think it possible, but he falls in love with her all over again.
She's sitting in the window, music playing softly in the background. Jared catches a few of the lyrics:
I pass this time alone
Somewhere so unknown
It heals the soul
and finds himself walking toward her. Something about her just draws him. He says her name before resting one hand on her shoulder.
Jenna watches him approach, his face reflected in the window, and she stifles the words that she's been thinking, the words that play on repeat in her mind, "Maybe if I sit here long enough, the world will start to look good to me again," she thinks, turning to face Jared.
Some things are worth fighting and dying for. Somethings you just can't live your life without. That's how Jared feels about Jenna's smile, and her laughter, her happiness. Just because this happened, it didn't change the quality of his love for her. If anything, he loved her more, he was just going to have to try harder.
“I’m not going anywhere," he says to her, his hand resting on her shoulder, warming her skin. Somehow, forcing his way through his embarassment, he finds the words that have been on his mind every single day. He promised himself that when she came back, he would tell her. No matter how awkward he felt.
Jared takes a deep breath, and feeling his heart beating in his throat, says, "You gave me everything I ever wanted and never thought I could have, and you didn’t ask for anything in return. Whatever happens next, we're in this together. You, me, us."
The sound of Jenna's voice knocks Jared off balance, when she asks, "Which is what, exactly, Jared? What happens next?"
She continues on, her brown eyes seeming to glow in the soft light, "Do I get better? Or am I going to always feel like he's just waiting around the corner for me? Waiting to hurt me and humble me and make me beg?"
Her eyes are intent, her irises a smoky, golden brown. She's waiting for him to answer, and when he doesn't, when the words won't come, she turns away from him, back to the window.
To see if she drowns in her memories or lives.
When the window has her whole attention again, he takes a deep breath. He wants to forget that look in her eyes, the furious fire saying everything, that he was losing her, that she was slipping away, the words tasting of despair, and feeling of defeat.
He also knows he can't let this go. He's let too much go already. If he wants to keep her, they're going to have to have this fight.
With a deep breath, he reaches for her shoulder, and steels himself for what's next.
He's not expecting her to jerk away from him, but she does. And when she whispers to him, "I don't want him to hurt you," he feels his heart clench, his stomach knots itself up, and he does the only thing he can do.
He doesn't let her go.