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Playing Pretend

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It was important to be ahead of things, especially when a big lie like that was involved. Jackie couldn't allow any more surprises, such as learn by her mother that her fake boyfriend's dad was in prison. So, she planned every single bit of how Saturday would unfold.  

Since she knew Pastor Dave through some charity events she attended with her mother, Jackie got there before Steven and his friends; and made sure he would introduce her properly. Turns out, the thing Steven was talking about was some sort of small fair to raise funds. 

It had these small booths, with good things to eat or funny games to play, but the decoration was very poor and there weren't enough people to put things together. As the time went through, she ended up helping to set things up. Frankly, best thing it could happen to that people in that day. 

“Oh, and who’s this sweet girl helping us today?” She heard someone asking while she organized some toys for a fishing game, Jackie turned to meet the voice’s owner. 

It was a short, aged woman with and big full smile across her face.  

“Kitty, that’s Jackie Burkhart,” Pastor Dave introduced her, like she politely instructed him to.  

“Hello, darling,” the short woman reached her for a quick and warm hug. Jackie smiled. “Thank you, we really needed the help.  

“No problem. I’m just waiting for my... friends.” Jackie explained. 

“Oh, really?” Kitty’s eyes widened a little. “More friends to help us?” 

“Well, I’m not sure they would be as good as me,” she smiled proudly. “I have a really good sense of party organization, but uh,” she stopped to check the clock on the side wall, “Steven should be here soon.” 

“Steven? My Steven?” The woman said in an awe.  

Jackie frowned. "Your Steven?” 

“Oh, well. Not mine.” Kitty giggled. “But he’s with us for so long, sometimes I forget I didn’t push him out of me.” Her voice dropped down in the last bit. 

“Right,” Jackie laughed politely. “You’re Eric’s mom...” She completely guessed.  

“You know my baby too?” More surprise in her tone. 

“Sorta,” Jackie’s voice came out as a whisper, because she was confused. Why would Eric’s mom consider Steven her own child? Unless... “So, how long does Steven live with you?” 

“Uh, about three years.” She nodded to herself, taking Jackie’s bait. “But you know, we’ve been feeding, and sometimes clothing him since he was a toddler.” 

Jackie took in that information slowly and rearranged what she knew. Steven’s dad was an ex-convict, he been living with the Formans for years, which could only mean his mother was not around either. And as she just learned, even as a little kid, he was surely neglected.  

Guilt washed over her as she remembered she thought he was most likely to end up in jail.  

“Ooh, I gotta go!” Kitty called her attention back. “I’ll see you around?” 

“Sure,” Jackie answered absently. 

When she thought he would be a nice fit for her plot, as he was knowingly poor and easily considered a bad influence, Jackie didn’t go too far into that. But now it didn’t seem fair that his parents weren’t there for him. It shouldn't be something any kid know what is like.  

 

All things considered, the rest of the evening had pass just as she anticipated. They helped out with the activities, well, sort of. Steven’s friends were more trouble than help. They laughed way too loud and constantly left their booths unsupervised, and she even saw this Michael Kelso boy stealing some car toys. But Jackie still thought it was worth it, even if her target, Eric, was reluctant in talking to her, she managed to have a conversation with Donna, his girlfriend, and Jackie made sure the redhead believed in her relationship with Steven, by slipping all sorts of details in the conversation.  

She even found the girl was quite nice, despite her worrisome taste for clothes and boyfriends. Of course, Jackie had offered to help her shopping in order to fix part of the problem. And, maybe, once or twice, she had to hold back a laughter while watching Michael and Fez dumbfool themselves.  

But now, the night was over and they were officially freed of Mrs. Forman requests.  

“Finally!” Eric said, as they left the community center under a huff of fresh night air. Jackie immediately searched for Steven’s hand to lock in hers.  

It was the third time she had grabbed his hand in that day – and she enlaced her arm in his torso once. Every single time he seemed to cringe slightly at her touch, to harden his body. It shouldn’t, but it bothered her just a little. She wasn’t happy with that, too. You know, being seen with Steven Hyde was completely ruining her rep, but it was not like she was grossed out by touching him or anything. 

Steven cleared his throat, twisting his hand in hers; she held on tighter. “Jackie, c’mon, gonna take you home.” 

“Aw, no guys!” Michael protested, “Is still so early and I get tons of fire crackers in my pocket.” 

“Oh, we could pop ‘em in front of Mr. Riley’s house,” Donna suggested, very much excited. “He gave me ‘D’ in the last project.” 

“The chemistry teacher?” Jackie asked, but no one seemed to care.  

“Yeah!” Michael and Fez both agreed with similar excitement that Jackie was having trouble to assimilate.  

“I don’t know. That seems... unwise.” She tried to make herself heard over the giggles, but only Steven seemed to hear or care. 

“I can take you home if you want,” he said to her.  

His words caught Eric’s attention. “What’s wrong? Does Jackie don’t like to have fun with us?” 

She felt her insides heat up, getting tired of Eric’s crap towards her. “Oh, no, no. I’m in. Let’s go!” Not sure what had struck her, she pulled Steven by the hand towards the parking cars.  

 

Jackie couldn't have plan that in a million years. When she left her house, she never thought she’d be standing in a street corner, close to midnight, whit her hands full of fire crackers and her heart bumping the craziest.  

“Okay, it’s every man for himself.” Michael said, solemn. “We pop ‘em and we run.” 

As they all agreed, they walked quietly to Mr. Riley’s house. Jackie wasn’t sure she could do it, her hands felt sweaty against the tiny packets. The whole thing seemed rather illegal. Her pace became insecure and she fell a little behind, which didn’t get unnoticed by Steven.  

“You okay?” 

“Yeah,” she answered overly loud. 

“You’ve never done anything like that, have you?” He smirked down at her.  

“No,” she confessed, a little ashamed.  

“So how do kids have fun in New York?” He asked causally, almost like he was trying to make conversation. 

Jackie snorted. “You would hate it.” Noticing he was frowning his brows a little, she explained, “we never would do something like that.” She paused, “okay, being honest, basically, it was just evenings shopping at malls or eating in cafeterias. Sometimes at the Central Park, but really, none of my friends went there that much.” 

“It doesn’t sound like much.” He stated.  

“Oh, it wasn't.” Jackie shook her head.  

“Wait, so why does everyone in school hear you talking constantly about how awesome New York was?” His gaze was firm over her, but his mien was light, almost humorous. 

Jackie laughed, “C’mon. New York is my ace up on my sleeve. Everybody loves the idea of and I just feed it.” She shrugged, still smiling. Jackie was proud of the image she built in this town.  

Back there, she wasn't much. Just one among so many others bitchy rich girls. Funny, even so she would do anything to go back.  

“Gotta say, you know your game.” Steven nodded and she smiled proudly.  

“Believe me, I came prepared for the worst. What I found here is not even close to the high school dynasty in my old town.” 

He snorted a bit, the corner of his lips going up in some kind of smirk. “But you didn’t prepare to fire crack a teacher’s house in the middle of night?” 

“No,” she huffed out a laugh. “Not really.” 

“It’s pretty simple. You just throw ‘em to the ground, hard, and then run as fast as you can,” he told her, shrugging it off like it was the most common thing to do. 

“Right. Okay, that’s easy.” She shrugged too, but didn’t feel more confident about it.  

“Yeah,” Steven glared at her again. “Wrong shoes, though.” 

Jackie peered down at her feet; she was wearing pumps. Definitely not the best choice, but again, she didn’t predict this.  

Mr. Riley’s residence appeared in front of them, dark and silent, and as they sneaked into the driveway to get a better aim, her breathing raced. The first blast sent her heart to the moon, before she could even react, a sequence of small explosions cut the steady night.  

Not thinking, just doing, Jackie threw the ones she kept firmly in her hand. Her fire crackers were the last one to go and when a light came up, illuminating the front yard, she felt desperate.  

Everybody ran so fast, she didn’t even saw where they go, she attempted to ran too, but her shoes made her feet twisted. Another noise came from the house, or at least she thought so, and taken by fear, Jackie stopped to take off her shoes.   

“Jackie, what you doing?” She heard Steven whispering-screaming to her.  

With no time to answer, she just reached down to her shoes, in the same time she heard a door opening. At that right moment, Jackie thought it was her ending. If Prof. Riley saw her, she’d be suspended, or worse, arrested. But before she even started running again, Steven’s hand grabbed hers firmly and with a pull, he put her on move.  

They were running so fast, and Jackie didn’t know exactly why, but somewhere in between the euphoria, she noticed clearly how their fingers enlaced naturally and perfectly, for the very first time. As they make a good distance, already running fast enough, Jackie expected him to let go of her hand, but instead, he kept their fingers interlocked together; she felt a rushed of safety washing away the danger.  

Her heart was beating so fast, for all of the reasons, and Jackie was sure she had never felt like that before.  

When they reached the others, right after another corner, she could swear Steven squeezed her hand a little harder right before he loose it. Even though she was still in the thrill of the rush, she felt a slight emptiness between her fingers. 

“Oh my God,” Donna managed to say through her heavy breathing.  

Mixed emotions trundled in her insides, and above it all, a feeling of joy grew intensely, making her bursting into an open, loud laughter. A laugh she hasn't had in a long time. Her voice echoed through the empty street and she couldn't care less if they were staring at her.  

“Is she insane?” Eric asked, and maybe he was laughing along.  

“Dude, she’s nuts.” She heard Steven’s testifying answer.  

 

 


 

 

“I actually had fun tonight.” Jackie told him after he parked in front of her place.  

Strangely enough, he kind of had it too. Okay, in the beginning it felt awkward having her orbiting him the whole time, saying his first name too often, too casually; all handsy and smiley. And it didn’t help that everyone he knew was watching closely.  

But in the very ending of the night, when they sneaked out to some good old prank, he saw something new – a gap in her always well-made posture. She was unsure, no, better yet, she was unaware of how to act. And it all ended up to be... well, funny.  

“Actually?” He provoked. 

“Yeah,” she chuckled, “I wasn’t planning on.” 

Hyde frowned his brows, remembering how she said she had come to Point Place prepared. “Jackie, do you plan every little thing?” 

“Well, just the important things,” she explained. “And this is one of them.” 

He looked over her, she had that determinate spark in her eyes, that he thought it was overly unnecessary for the occasion. “Fucking sakes, this night couldn't be less important,” he breathed.  

Her reply was quick, like she had it in the tip of her tongue. “For you, maybe.” Jackie paused and gave him her gaze. “But for me it is important to gain your friends trust.” 

He really, really did know she was saying – and doing this at all – for her own benefit, but he couldn’t help feeling just a little pleased. “They won’t cause trouble, I promise.” 

As soon as he said it, he bit his tongue. He was just trying to say his friends were harmless, it didn’t mean to sound like an oath; but it certainly did. He glared away, regretful for giving her something such as a promise. Jackie’s eyes pursued his and when she finally locked their gaze again, he saw she was seeking for some kind of assurance. Hyde wasn’t sure if he gave her, but she seemed convinced. 

“Thank you, Steven,” she said softly, smiling sheepishly. Again, he heard with discomfort his name slipping out her shaped lips. 

“Hey, um, why do you keep calling me Steven?” He tried to sound casual, although he didn’t know exactly why.  

Jackie chuckled, “what do you mean? That’s not your name?” 

“Well, everybody calls me Hyde, so...” He answered, feeling urgent to drive her eyes away from him. 

“Yeah, but I’m not everybody. I’m your girlfriend-” 

“Fake girlfriend,” he corrected under his breath, loud enough for her to hear.  

Jackie just acknowledged his correction by making an annoyed pause, adding after, “Aand, as your fake girlfriend, I thought it would be more likely for me to call you by your name. Why? Do you mind?” 

“No,” he found himself saying, against all the good sense in the world. “Just wondering.” 

“Okay,” she said.  

“Okay,” he repeated. After what may be a minute of awkwardness, he cleared his throat. “How is it going with your mom?”  

“She's buying, I suppose. But she’s pretending not to care. It’s her first move.” Jackie snorted, “I guess she thinks I just want the attention.” 

He frowned. Suddenly, he wanted to ask her why was she doing all that, why was she going through so much trouble. For him, his motives were clear. Money. Money to clean his dad debts, to get a fresh start. Money to buy him a way into a life where he wasn’t a burden, where he finally had a family to stand behind him. But what could been so wrong in her pretty world?  

A light turned on in her house porch, sucking him out of his thoughts and draining their gaze.  

“I gotta go,” she sighed.  

He nodded. “See you Monday.”  

A small smile spread across her face, illuminating her eyes a bit. “See ya.”