(NOTE TO THE READER: If you haven’t read chapters 1 and 2 of Serendipity, we advise you do to so, so you can follow Jess and Jeremy. We are currently taking a break in publishing the Chinese versions because we’ve found out that the task is more difficult and time-consuming than we’ve ever imagined. Princess and I have written several chapters in English, though. We hope you enjoy them. Enjoy reading! – PrincessofJLin and fauxscandinavian)
It’s like the kiss never happened, Jessica thought.
She stood in Jeremy’s room. His room hadn’t changed much – except for the increase of books on his shelves and more trophies in glass cabinets – and the Harvard diploma hanging on the wall, of course.
Jeremy was lying on his stomach on his bed, her laptop in front of him. They were going through her pictures from Hong Kong. He actually wanted to look at all her pictures, but she drew the line and agreed only to show him those from the past year. There were too many to look through.
Jeremy was curious – to see what kind of life Jess had in Hong Kong and to see signs of any boyfriends. Know what I’d be up against, he thought. Someone as good-looking as Jessica could not possibly be without admirers. He’d seen how men looked at her when they’re out together and how oblivious she was to those admiring glances.
“So you’ve worked with the investment bank for a year now?” Jeremy asked, scrolling through the images on the laptop. Jess came to sit on the bed beside him.
“Yes, as an analyst. I was an intern with them on my last semester and they kept me.”
“Of course, they kept you,” Jeremy grinned, “You’re brilliant.”
“Don’t tease, Jer.” She knows Jeremy thinks the world of her, but he couldn’t possibly know how much work it took for her to prove her worth in the company.
Well done, Dumbo, he scolded himself. He came up to sit so he could see her eye-to-eye.
“I am not teasing. You are one of the smartest, most determined and hard-working persons I know.”
“Thanks,” she said with a smile and felt the irritation go.
Jeremy had lifted her chin so he could look at her. He was looking so intently at her – his thumb tracing her lower lip. Having her here in his room and on his bed made Jeremy think of the dream he’d been having each night since they kissed on the football bleachers at Pali High.
Jess thought the look Jeremy was giving her was totally unnerving – like he was looking into her soul. His eyes become dark pools when he is serious – like now. She could feel her cheeks become warm. He’s going to kiss me again, she thought, with both anticipation and worry.
But Jeremy did not kiss her. He simply lowered his hand and took a deep breath before he said, “Who’s this guy?” referring to a picture on the laptop screen.
Jess felt confused and oddly disappointed. She now turned her attention to what Jeremy was talking about – a young man, dark-haired and fair-skinned standing beside Jess in a group picture. He had his arms on her shoulders, noted Jeremy, jealousy sprouting up in his gut.
“Uhm…” Jessica was still trying to recover from the near-kiss experience, “that’s Andrew.”
“Your boyfriend,” Jeremy prodded while Say no! echoed in his head.
Then they heard voices out on the hall. The tap on the door forced Jeremy to take his gaze from Jessica.
“Jer,” they heard Joseph say.
“Yeah,” Jeremy said.
Joseph came in.
“Hey, Jonnie,” Jeremy greeted Jessica’s younger brother, Jonathan, who followed Joseph into the room.
“Hey. Would you like to come down and help me beat Joseph in Modern Warfare?” Jonnie asked with a grin.
“Bring it on,” was all Joseph said, laughing.
“As soon as I’m done here,” Jeremy answered with a smile.
Jonnie looked pleased and nodded at Joseph, saying “Let’s go set it up, Joe.”
On their way out, Jonnie turned to look at them. “Let’s keep this door open, okay?” he said with a grin – making Joseph laugh, too.
Jessica and Jeremy stared at each other and burst out laughing.
“Your brother is funny,” Jeremy said, shaking his head.
“Yeah, he is that. It was difficult being that far away from him,” Jess smiled.
They sat quietly for a moment.
“So, the boyfriend…” Jeremy prodded.
“No!” Jess laughed. “He was – is still – a colleague. Uhm, he was a new employee when I was an intern.”
She was being evasive –Jeremy felt it. She was not saying everything. He looked like a privileged brat, Jeremy was thinking. Yes, I am being petty, he told himself, but he just did not like the looks of Andrew.
“He’s from L.A. actually,” Jessica was telling him. “He was still in Hong Kong when I left.”
Jeremy released the breath he did not know he was holding. So, he’s not anywhere near.
He smiled as he scrolled further on to other pictures and occasionally asked questions.
Jessica’s thoughts were somewhere else – Andrew. She liked him – really had a crush on him during her internship. He was this smart guy from UPenn: cultured, well-dressed, polite, friendly and the only guy in the place taller than her. But despite the flirting – that went on well into her first year of working at the bank – they weren’t anything but colleagues. Maybe we could have been more, but it’ll be too late if I decide to leave the company, she thought.
Joseph was complaining about washing the car.
Jeremy was ignoring him, his mind intent on getting the chore done, so he could take Jess out to an outdoor concert at Rinconada Park. So concentrated was he that he nearly missed the sight of the Porsche moving up the driveway across the street.
“Check that out – sweet.” exclaimed Joseph. Jonnie, who decided to help them wash their car, straightened himself from his hunched position by one of the wheels. “We don’t know anybody who has a car like that,” he commented.
Jeremy saw a dark-haired man step out, look around and notice them. He gave the boys a short nod and turned to look at Jessica’s parents’ house. He had dark sunglasses on, but Jeremy recognized him – Andrew.
His stomach felt like it was suckerpunched.
Joseph and Jonathan started discussing the Porsche. Jeremy barely listened. All kinds of thoughts were buzzing in his head.
Andrew is HERE – he’s supposed to be in Hong Kong! Yeah, he really looks like a brat – a rich brat with that car of his. Rich, not bad-looking, probably highly educated – if he works at i-bank. He can’t be just a colleague if he travelled all the way to Palo Alto to see her.
So what do you do now, Jeremy?
He looked towards the house, wishing he could see and hear what’s happening inside it.
“Hey, Jer!” Joseph shouted, making Jeremy jolt. “You’re going to scrub the paint off the car.”
Jeremy had apparently been washing the same spot for too long. He ignored the look his brother was giving him and silently continued with the task at hand.
On the other hand, I know Jess. I know what makes her happy and angry. I can tell when she’s upset about something just by looking into her eyes. I can make her laugh with just a gaze.
Two years of knowing her is nothing compared to what Jess and I have – it did not look like they really knew each other outside the company, Jeremy rationalized. She is practically part of my family. Her parents like and trust me.
Jeremy’s eyes kept on darting towards the house across the road.
After what he thought was an eternity, Jess and Andrew came out. She was walking him to his car. Jeremy dropped the sponge he was holding, dried his hands on his shorts and decided to walk over to them.
“We’re not done.” Joseph commented. He and Jonnie watched Jeremy walked towards Jess and the Asian guy.
Be cool, Jeremy, he was telling himself. The last thing you need to do is embarrass Jess – or yourself. You know her more than he’ll ever get to.
He remembered how Jessica laughed in his company and how she hugged him that night on the bleachers at Pali High. Andrew will never have that connection with her. This realization made him straighten his shoulders and approach them with confidence.
Oh, not now, Jeremy, was the one thought Jessica had when she saw Jeremy approaching Andrew and her.
Jeremy had a smile on his face as he approached them. “Nice car,” he said, extending his hand so Andrew had to take it in a handshake. He was nearly as tall as Jeremy.
“I’m Jeremy; and you must be Andrew. Jess and I were browsing through pictures of her first year in the i-bank yesterday.”
“Oh, I hope she had good things to say about me,” he smiled.
Jeremy did not answer that. He was looking at Jessica – she was smiling back at him.
“He plays for the Golden State Warriors,” she said.
“Oh, you’re a basketball player,” Andrew remarked. Jeremy did not like the tone of his voice. He was about to say something, when Jess interrupted.
“He does not like to brag about it, but Jeremy is a Harvard grad in economics.”
Jeremy’s smile broadened. “You wanna catch an outdoor concert with me at Rinconada tonight, Jess?”
She smiled, “Sure. Why don’t I pack a picnic basket so we can have dinner while we’re there?”
“It’s a plan, then,” Jeremy agreed.
Andrew cleared his throat. Jessica turned to him – she noticed his discomfort over being ignored.
“So asking you out to dinner tonight would be out of the question,” Andrew said. “What about tomorrow night, Jessica?”
Jess stared at the two tall men looking at her at the moment. They mirrored each other’s stance, yet looked so different from each other: one dressed in a blue cut-off t-shirt, basketball shorts, bare feet in Nike sliders, the other in a light blue shirt, tight denim jeans and brown leather shoes. Jeremy’s exposed arm and leg muscles made him look bigger than the slim Andrew.
This is a first, Jess thought. It was such a surreal situation to be in – Jeremy and Andrew asking her for a date. But was she dating Jeremy? The moments of intimacy with him still puzzled her.
Andrew finally asking her out was making her giddy. She had had a crush on him for over a year – but why now?
Jess pushed the thoughts aside and decided to just enjoy the attention.
“I don’t have anything planned for tomorrow,” she accepted.
Andrew leaned to give her a kiss – Jess turned her head, so the kiss landed on her cheek instead of her lips – her eyes rested on Jeremy and she saw him clench his jaw.
“Pick you up tomorrow at 5 in the afternoon, Jessica?” Andrew asked, as he sat behind the wheel of his car.
“I’ll be ready,” Jess answered.
Jess and Jeremy stood by each other long after the Porsche was gone.
She finally broke the silence and asked “How early do we have to be to get a good spot at the park?”
“I’ll be knocking at your door at five p.m.” Jeremy answered.
He lowered his head to kiss her – took his time enjoying her full lips. Jessica never saw that coming and was surprised at how good Jeremy was at it. When he let go, he simply said “It’s a date.”
That Jeremy felt different, Jess thought as she looked at him walk back to their brothers.
Jeremy had a big smile on his face as he walked across the street. When he heard a loud “ahem” he looked up – Jonnie and Joseph stood – the car washing totally abandoned.
Jeremy had forgotten they were there. He could feel his cheeks become warm. But the guys’ huge grins were infectious, so he merely shook his head and grinned with them.