Joy sat at the bar, chatting casually with Juice. She tried not to notice them across the room, but her eyes just wouldn’t seem to cooperate. It seemed like her ears were tuned to catch the sound of his laugh. She sighed and resolutely looked away trying to focus on whatever Juice was saying, something about Call of Duty, or maybe he was on to PUB-G. But then she caught Chibs’ low chuckle and she glanced over just in time to see Fiona lean over and whisper in his ear. Whatever she said made him laugh again, but this time it was low and intimate and his eyes were hot on hers. They both stood, and Chibs took her hand and led her towards his room, right past Joy.
He smiled distractedly and pressed a brief kiss to her temple and her traitorous body leaned into the brief contact breathing deeply, drawing in the scent of leather, smoke, and whiskey.
"G’night lass. Thanks for all the help.” he said as he turned away. Fiona stopped to smile brightly and add her thanks for helping Kerrianne settle in before following her husband to their room.
“I need--um I gotta go. . .” she stumbled over her words then trailed off as she walked quickly to the door and hurried outside. She headed right to the furthest picnic table and sat on top of it facing away from everyone. With hands that trembled slightly, she pulled out a joint and lit it before inhaling deeply and letting the tears that had been pushing on the backs of her eyelids since Fiona and Kerrianne showed up earlier that day roll steadily down her cheeks.
Juice watched her go and shook his head. He loved his brother, but Chibs was an idiot. Everyone could see that for months he and Joy had been getting closer and closer. Then Fiona showed up, and anyone looking at the right moment could have seen Joy’s heart break. But she’d tucked it away and put an almost believable smile on her face when Chibs had proudly introduced her to his wife and daughter. Then she’d jumped right into helping get the two women settled. She’d offered to let Kerri stay in the second bedroom at her apartment since Chibs didn’t have any place other than the clubhouse. She’d helped organize the quick welcome party and she’d told Chibs how glad she was that he had his family back. All the while Chibs beamed, completely oblivious to the fact that Joy’s smile faded whenever he wasn’t looking. And they called Juice slightly retarded.
Since everyone else seemed clueless, Juice figured it was up to him. He started toward the door to look for her. She wasn’t hard to find, sitting on a picnic table in the corner facing away from the crowd. Her shoulders were slumped and her head hung down. As he approached, she ran her arm over her face, but the tears were obvious. He slid up next to her without speaking and took the joint from her fingers, taking a small pull. He held his breath for a moment before exhaling heavily and handing it back.
“You ok?” he ventured.
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”her voice was quiet and watery, but firm.
Well shit, now what was he supposed to say? Juice knew he sucked at stuff like this. “Umm, well you and Chibs have been hanging out a lot lately. I kind of thought. . .” He trailed off, unsure.
“Well don’t think.” she snapped, “Chibs and I are, we’re friends ok? Friends,” she continued flatly.
Juice paused a moment considering, “It’s just, you sound, well . . .sad.”
“I’m,” she exhaled, then took a big breath and sat up a little straighter, “It doesn't matter. Chibs has his family back. That’s,” she stumbled, breathed deeply again, “it’s a good thing. And, I’d be a shitty friend if I wasn’t happy for him.” her voice was firm, but brittle. Like if Juice pushed too hard, it might break. He looked over at her, studying as much of her face as he could see. She stared straight ahead and brought the joint to her lips.
“Ok,” he finally breathed in acceptance as he took the joint again. “What do you want me to do?”
“Stop looking at me like that, like you feel, sorry for me,” now her voice held a tinge of bitterness.
“Ok,” his voice calm, “here.” giving her the last of the joint he put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her into a one armed hug. “You know, there’s someone out there for you right. You’re going to be happy.”
“Yeah,” she replied, obviously unconvinced, but not having the will to argue, “Sure, someday.”she laid her head on his shoulder and he pretended not to notice when her tears dampened his t-shirt.