Jess saw Jeremy come out of his parents’ house. Like clockwork, she thought.
The sun wasn’t even up yet, but Jeremy was ready for his early morning jog. She observed Jeremy from afar – Jess wanted to take a good look. He had definitely gained weight; more defined muscles filled his tall frame. The California sunshine had given him color, too. He looked relaxed – considering all that had happened since he had left New York.
Jess arrived in Palo Alto late last night – later than she had hoped. It was all over the news how the Knicks had chosen not to match The Houston Rockets offer to Jeremy.
The weeks before were awful – having to wait. Their staff at Volvo didn’t worry at all. If Jeremy got signed in Houston – which he did – it was for a team that was used to dealing with business in Asia. Jessica fretted more for Jeremy’s sake than what it would mean for the company she worked for.
Houston, sighed Jess. He’s headed for Houston.
Jeremy glanced towards the Man residence – mostly out of habit. He did it every time he came out of his parents’ house. Even when he knew Jess was in New York, he always expected to see her to come out and join him for their early morning run.
She should be home in Cali one of these days, Jeremy thought.
When Jessica came in sight, he thought it was his imagination – but there she was.
She walked over and said “Good morning,” as she gave him a hug. It feels wonderful being in his arms again. Jess didn’t want to let go, not just yet. The distance between them had been difficult.
“You’re finally home.” Jeremy said with a sigh as he held her in his arms.
“Not enough,” he murmured and lowered his head to take Jess’ lips. Her perfume snared his senses and comforted him. How he missed being with her, he thought as he enjoyed the moment.
“I need to be alone with you,” Jeremy whispered. “Wait here.”
He ran back to the house and came back barely a minute after. He pulled Jess towards his car.
“Where are we going?” she asked laughing.
“Somewhere we won’t be disturbed,” he answered.
The beach; Jeremy was driving to the beach. They were alone – it was still too early for surfers and dog-walkers.
Jessica ran to the stretch of beach as soon as the car stopped. She quickly took her shoes off and stuck her feet in the sand. Jeremy laughed; he pretty much did the same thing when he came home from New York.
“I missed this,” she groaned at Jeremy’s approach. He sat beside her on the sand, took his own sneakers off and mirrored her actions. He looked at Jess and enjoyed seeing her happy.
The soft breeze played with Jess’ hair. Soft tendrils fell upon her cheeks. Her eyes shone with humor and she had a huge smile on her lips. She didn’t look like Jessica right now – she looked liked Jess – my Jess, he thought and imprinted the image of her in his mind.
“What?” Jess asked.
Jeremy said nothing. He merely smiled and gave her a kiss – soft and light, like the mood they were in.
“Not enough,” she murmured with a gleam in her eyes. She hooked a finger on his shirt collar and tugged, forcing Jeremy into yet another kiss. This time she set the pace – intense, deep and ardent.
It felt like a gut-punch. When Jess released his lips, his senses were reeling and his body was buzzing.
“Wow, I guessed you missed me,” he grinned.
“Not at all, Dumbo,” she laughed – the sound like music to Jeremy’s ears. He slung his arm over her shoulder. When Jess rested her head against him, he sighed.
When he received the phone call from New York last night – the call that sealed his new future with the Rockets – one of his greatest concerns had been what he and Jess would now do.
“Well, I missed you,” he said in a suddenly serious voice. Jess lifted her head to look at Jeremy. He was gazing at the water, like he was in deep thought.
“The nearest beach to Houston would be at Corpus Christi, almost a four-hour drive,” Jeremy mentioned.
“I bet it’s warmer than the Hudson river,” Jess smiled.
Leave it to Jess to find a silver lining, he thought.
“Aren’t you disappointed?” Jeremy turned to look at her.
“Disappointed? Why would I be?” she sounded surprised.
“I’m moving to Houston, Jess,” he argued.
Jess was silent.
“Distance would do us good, you know,” she finally said. “You may not want to see me every day. Aren’t you bored? After all, we’ve practically been together since we were babies,” she continued.
Jeremy turned to frown at her. “Seriously?” he commented, but the mischievous grin Jess had on her face made him laugh.
Jess expected this from him – he’d be worried for others first before thinking at what he would be getting.
“I want the very best for you, Jer,” Jess said. It hurt a bit talking with him about it. She would miss him immensely, but some part of her knew it would not be like last year. Nothing can ever keep them apart like that. They are bound to each other now.
“This is what you and your whole family have been fighting and working for for so long,” she told him.
Jeremy took her hand in his and kissed it. Jess would know just how much it had taken for him to come this far in the NBA. She knew him and loved him.
“The Rockets wanted you, right? They pursued you. They communicated with you – gave you options?”
“Yes,” Jeremy said, “They said, they should never have let me go last year.”
“You need to be in a team who wants and needs you – and willing to give you the time to show what you can.”
“Will you be happy in a team where most of your friends are gone?” she asked him.
Jess’ question cut through Jeremy. She was right, he wouldn’t. He would be able to work with whomever he needed to be – but they will never come close to those who shone with him during Linsanity. Tyson, Novak and Shump were the only ones left in New York.
“You don’t miss the attention, do you?”
“You know me too well,” Jeremy smiled. The press left him alone in Cali.
He trained in private and spent time catching up with family and friends without his every move splattered on papers or the Net. He was looking forward to the same sense of privacy now that Jess was home.
“Do you even care about how much you were offered?” Jess asked, “Some are calling it ridiculous.”
“They’re entitled to their opinion,” Jeremy replied, but Jess saw him clench his jaw. He sighed and looked at a gull glide along the waves.
“You know all I want to do is play basketball. I mean, what I’ll be earning will make things more secure for me, but it’s not just about the pay-off,” he told her.
“I know,” Jess said.
“What’s the best part of being in New York?” she continued.
“Besides you?” Jeremy smiled. “The fans,” he answered without hesitation. “I’ll miss the fans. I’ve lost many because of all this.”
“You don’t know that,” Jess argued. “You have fans from everywhere, not just New York.”
Jeremy did not mention how hurtful comments – even racist ones – have been posted as comments on his Facebook page. He was still trying to understand why things turned out as they did, but he had accepted that the Knicks management thought he wasn’t worth re-signing.
Now it’s all about moving forward for him – and for Jess.
“Can we make it work, Jess? With the distance and all?” he asked her.
“I love you; I hope you know that,” Jess said, her eyes locked with his.
“I love you, too.” Jeremy replied.
“I’m willing to work at it,” she said. “We can call each other, Skype, text each other.”
“I can afford the travel now,” he smiled.
“That’s the spirit,“ Jess smiled. “I’ll come see you – both for Volvo and myself. When you’re anywhere near New York we can meet. We’ll be home during the holidays, right?”
Jeremy nodded. They love each other too much to ask the other to give up on their dreams, so they will make it work.
“Come on,” he suddenly said and tugged at Jess’ hand.
“What?” she asked.
“The water’s warm,” he grinned.
They raced each other to the surf – just like they used to as kids.
Jessica gasped as the waves hit her. It took her a few seconds to get used to the sudden chill, but her body quickly adjusted to the water’s temperature. It wasn’t cold at all.
She dove in and came up a few meters from Jeremy. He had a sly grin on his face – like he was planning something really naughty.
Two can play at this game, she thought. And before Jeremy could do anything, Jess had already splashed water at his face. It left him sputtering and by the look in his eyes afterwards, he was ready for payback. Jess laughed and tried to swim away. Jeremy lunged after Jess and missed. Jess tried to dunk Jeremy underwater – unsuccessfully. He grabbed her instead and took her underwater with him. They came up gasping for air and laughing at the same time, chest-deep in the water.
Jess hadn’t seen Jeremy this relaxed and free since last summer. He was happy here in Cali – here with her. She ran her fingers through his hair.
“I missed you, Dumbo,” she said and lifted herself to give him a kiss.
The kiss brought heat to Jeremy’s lips- in contrast to the chill in the air. He could feel the heat from Jessica – the feel of her body that was plastered to his as they embraced.
Jess linked her hands on Jeremy’s nape without breaking their kiss. She did it to keep their bodies close and to find stability in the rolling sea. It must be the physical distance that got to her – ‘ cause she can’t get enough of him right now.
Jeremy wasn’t holding back either. He ran his hands down and felt the curve of her hip. He groaned when a wave pushed her against him – making certain parts of their anatomies rub ecstatically against each other. When his hands found their way under her shirt, he found Jess’ smooth bare skin. When those same hands slid upwards to hold her just under her breasts, she gasped against his lips. Jeremy broke their kiss and looked for any form of resistance in Jess’ eyes.
There was none, he realized.
“Touch me, Jeremy,” she whispered. He could barely believe what he heard.
When his broad palms carressed her breasts, Jess closed her eyes. It wasn’t the first time Jeremy touched her this way – each time just felt like the first time. His hands were so mild. When his thumbs found her nipples, they sent jolts through her body. She had to bite her lips to stifle a moan.
Jeremy was entranced by the expressions flitting through Jess’ face as he caressed her. When she parted her lips slightly, he dipped his head to take them in a kiss.
“Jess,” he said in between kisses. She merely sighed as an answer. Jeremy’s right hand slid downwards – only to stop.
The sudden sound of barks pierced through the bubble they held themselves in. A male figure was walking up the beach with a couple of dogs – still far away to see them, but close enough to disturb.
Jeremy’s hands found Jess’ waist as he released her lips. She had a dazed expression in her eyes; her lips were puffy. At the sound of more barking, Jeremy groaned in frustration and Jess buried her face in the crook of his neck.
“We …” he said gasping.
“I know,” Jess whispered against his ear. She ran her hands down his chest to stop where his heart was still racing.
Jeremy said , “You drive me insane, Jess.”
“Sorry,” Jess said – not really, she thought. It was exhilarating knowing she could drive him to the edge.
But he was right, they had to stop.
“We need to go?” she asked him.
“Just give me few minutes,” he replied. It took a few minutes before he was calm enough to walk with her back to the car.
Jeremy always had lots of towels and extra clothes in the trunk. Jessica covered the seat of his car with towels to soak the wet from her clothes. She borrowed one of his Tees so she wouldn’t drive home in a wet shirt. Jeremy did the same.
The drive home to their neigrhood went faster than Jeremy had imagined. As he followed her to the door to her parents’ home, he told her, “I have to go to Houston tomorrow – to sign my new contract. It’ll be an overnight trip.”
“So we’re still going to the beachhouse?” Jess asked.
“Of course,” Jeremy smiled.
After a short kiss, they just stared at each other. Something had changed – they both weren’t sure what – but it hung over them.
“Jer – shall we hit In-N-Out tonight?” Jess asked.
“Thought you’d never ask,” Jeremy grinned as he turned to go.