“All Good Things…”
Jesse never ventured back to Henderson to play with Pinks in their two-man band. Instead he joined a campus band as lead guitar and backup singer, where Elise could be found front and center at every one of their gigs. It wasn’t a trust thing. He completely trusted Elise. But this worked better for the two of them. Jesse and Pinks maintained their friendship long-distance, with Pinks checking in every month or so, continually plugging Henderson as the perfect place to lay down some roots once his time in Boulder was done.
After being together for so long, Elise Thompson had dug roots deep into the soil of his heart. Just seeing her across the campus quad lit him up. She lived with her sorority besties in the Delta house as a sophomore and junior. During her senior year, those same girls rented a home off-campus which was nicknamed the Barbie Dream House by Jamie Love and his fraternity brothers. Jesse had maintained a one-bedroom condo with a view of the mountains ever since he arrived in Boulder; he and Elise purposely choosing not to live together. There’d be time for that, and Jesse wanted Elise to enjoy a quintessential college experience.
The two of them spent most of their summers in Boulder with Jesse working as a hiking guide and Elise taking summer classes to ensure she’d graduate on time. It wasn’t lost on either of them that Jesse’s mother, the judge, was getting antsy to have her youngest son settled into a career path.
During the course of their six semesters at CU Boulder, Elise and Jesse camped overnight a dozen times, hiked together most every Sunday, and, at Elise’s insistence, they attempted rock climbing, signing up for a beginner’s weekend course. Unfortunately, it turned out Elise had a staggering fear of heights if she didn’t have solid earth underneath her feet. But Jesse’s long arms and legs and his fearless athleticism had him falling in love with the sport. When he completed his MBA and had time to kill during Elise’s final semester, he took advantage of his surroundings to become a more-than-proficient climber.
Now, mere weeks from Elise’s graduation and the end of their tenure in Boulder, Jesse arrived home exhilarated from his first full-weekend climb, to find Elise sitting outside the door of his condominium, hugging her knees to her chest and looking grief stricken. “What happened?” He sloughed off his backpack and gear, crouching down to get eye-to-eye. “Elise. Are you hurt?”
“Jessie,” she whispered, her eyes filling with tears as she gazed up at him looking so sorrowful.
“Baby,” he whispered, stroking a hand over her head. “What’s going on?”
She shook her head, tucking her face to her knees, her body beginning to wrack with sobs. Jesse’s heart seized in his chest. His worst fear—she’s been assaulted—taking up space in his mind.
Standing, he dug into the pocket of his cargo pants to retrieve his apartment key, wondering why Elise hadn’t used her own. “Where’s your key?” he asked as he gathered his gear and shoved it through the open door. Then he squatted in front of her again, this time pulling her into his arms and holding her close for a moment before helping her stand.
“Baby, you gotta tell me something,” he pleaded while moving them both inside. Only now she seemed to be hyperventilating, way too worked up to get any words out. “Calm down, Elise. Please. Take a breath,” he ordered as he picked her up, took a few strides, and then tried to seat her on the couch. She clung to him, refusing to let him go. “It’s okay,” he said gently, as he eased her arms from around his neck and settled her on the sofa. “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”
She managed a stuttering breath.
“That’s right. Get some air,” he said as he sat beside her and began rubbing her back. Jesse planned to give her a few minutes to calm down, but in his head he was going over the fastest route to the emergency room. He had never seen her like this, and he feared something horrible had happened.
Panic blossomed inside his chest, so worried about what his girl was facing. Assault? Rape? Whatever it was, he would not be leaving her side, that was for damn sure. He continued to rub her back, praying things weren’t as bad as what his imagination was conjuring.
When she started to settle a bit, Jesse whispered in her ear that he was going to get her a towel and glass of water and he’d be right back. He didn’t leave her side until she nodded and grabbed a throw pillow, cradling it against her chest.
She can’t look at me, he thought as he filled a glass, his sense of dread intensifying. What in the world could have happened for her not to be able to look at me. She’s so wound up and … and heartbroken.
Shit. Maybe it’s her parents. Or her sister.
Oh, God. Maybe something happened to somebody in my family. I’ve been out of cell service all weekend.
He took the water and hurried into his bathroom looking through a pile of linens to find the softest hand towel he owned. “Babe, did something happen to one of our family members?” he asked, making his way back to her side. He offered her the cloth for her face and placed the water on the cocktail table in front of her.
Thankfully, she shook her head in the negative as she used the towel to wipe at her nose and eyes, then reached out and took a sip of water. “I’m sorry …” she started just before her face crumpled in anguish again. She cried silently into the hand towel for a moment before she managed to say, “Everyone is fine. I just … I just need a minute.”
“O-kay.” Clearly everyone was not fine. Elise was definitely not fine.
“Why don’t. Why don’t you go take a shower,” she said. “And I’ll … I promise I’ll calm down and, you know, be able to explain … all this.”
“Elise,” he snapped. “Are you hurt?” He was certain she’d been hurt and was pretty sure they needed an emergency room.
“No,” she whispered, dabbing her eyes and nose. “I’m just … sad.”
To be continued.