Jess suffers an utterly pointless day.Support the show
Excuse the Jess is a fictional story told over each season.
Written & Performed by: Jacquie J Sarah
Produced by: Deliciously Bright Productions
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Episode 7 – Valentine’s Day
Hello and welcome to episode 7 of season 3 of Excuse the Jess. I still have no idea how many episodes this podcast will be. I have decided though that season 3 will be the last. I know, I know. I am sorry. Please don’t start a petition to save it or have the podcast moved to another broadcaster because it’s just me. Nobody is paying for this but me. If you are a broadcaster though and you’d like to pay me for this, then get in touch and maybe we can go for eleven seasons like Frasier. I’d be up for that. I could record it in an actual studio and rock up, say what I want and then go home while other people do the work on it. Okay, I am seriously open to a conversation on that, so please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Yeah, no one’s paying for this nonsense.
January passed by without incident. I know what you are thinking. How? But for me, that was good. I mean, it was still a shit show. I was working two jobs, and I missed Niles like crazy, but we were still speaking all the time, I was still podcasting, well, to him anyway. I was also texting Amy now too. I have learnt not to involve her, and I shouldn’t have at New Year’s. They both told me it was the right thing to do. Not to have dealt with that on my own, but it wasn’t. I know that. In my mind, they were now separate entities. I rarely discussed them with each other. I didn’t hear much from Ems and Izzy. I had stepped away from the writers' group. I had been happily reading their work but not one wanted to read mine. I already had a relationship with Lauren outside the group and that was enough for me. There was no big drama, I just stopped taking part in the group. I had whole weekends to myself. I was beginning to find a routine I was happy with. I thought I could cope with this. This would suit me fine. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that on the 1st February, day 134, it all came crashing down.
It was a phone call from Em’s. It was a nice catch-up to start with but I knew she was planning on telling me something. I thought she had broken something in the house which would be okay, she just needed to spit it out. So when she said there was something she needed to run past me, I wasn’t prepared. Far from it.
‘Simon is working hard through his treatment.’
At his name I just froze. Simon, her husband who she was separated from. The husband who turned up at my house drunk and intimidated me. Told me I was less than nothing and really strongly intimated he was going to hurt me. Simon who is a good foot taller than me and broad and could have crushed me easily. That Simon, who’s name has been just been brought up without any prior warning and I am supposed to care about his treatment. As I didn’t speak, Ems continued.
‘And he is at the step where he has to make amends.’
Okay I knew little about the 12 step programme. But I did know that at a certain step the person had to reach out and apologise for the pain they have caused others. Even then I naively thought that this was about him making amends to Ems.
‘He would like to meet with you.’
I had to catch my breath a bit. I went cold and felt bile rising. I hadn’t fucking processed it. I just buried it in busyness and thinking I was over it. I obviously wasn’t.
‘No’, I said flat out.
‘Jess, I knew you’d say that. But I also know you’d think about it because he needs this. He needs to put this right with you.’
‘The answer is no,’ I said flatly. It was like I hadn’t spoken.
‘I’ll let him know you’ll think about it. Lovely to chat. Speak soon.’
And she was gone and I was in shock. My first thought was what time was it in New York? Around 3.15pm so no way I could speak to Niles. He’d be working.
I rang Izzy and of course, she already knew. Her advice was that it was part of the programme so it should be something I do to help with his recovery. Ems would appreciate it too. It didn’t sound right though. What about my feelings about this?
I sat with it and decided that I would text Niles. When I say sat with it, it was within about five minutes of ringing Izzy. He didn’t respond and I guessed he was unavailable because it hadn’t been read. I did know someone else though on New York time which may be free though, so I tried Amy. This wasn’t a pitting her against Niles situation. This was my issue and we were friends. Although was I forcing this again because I desperately wanted to be friends with her? Actually not friends, just allowed to be in her presence. It made me sound needy and you know I am not needy on anything but please. Truthfully if she didn’t want to know then that was okay too. She didn’t owe me anything. By the time all these thoughts went around, it had taken the heat out of the situation, so I text her anyway. She rang me straight away which I wasn’t expecting. Amy may be a force to be reckoned with but she was also super sweet too. I told her that she needn’t have rang but she asked if I wanted to talk, which I did, so I got a bit of a lecture about how it was okay for her to speak to me.
Amy knew as much as anyone who listened to that podcast when it happened which was a little. Simon had turned up to the house drunk. Except I didn’t realise he was drunk because I was in my own hell after Niles announced he was going back home to his partner and I thought I would never see him again. Niles was right, he didn’t handle that very well. Did I mention I was about to lose my job too? This was not all about men. I am going to tell you the very slimmed down version of what happened because while I went through it with Amy so she could see my dilemma, I don’t want to publicly announce it. I let Simon in my house without thinking, he was my friend. He was lovely, I always thought he was lovely. Kind to my friend Ems. He just wanted to run something past me. After I presented him with a hot drink, he started to shout at me that I had put his life out on a podcast and it was awful. Then he moved on to why I was the ugly and not worth his time. It was so menacing though, I couldn’t tell him to stop. I just felt like he needed for him to say what he should say and he’s go. So when he lifted me off the sofa and pulled me into him for a hug and then leant in for a kiss on my cheek which was much longer than usual, he knew I was shaking and he enjoyed that. He left, no incident then really according to others and it was Simon that needed help. Which he did and which he went for. I told Amy the full story of what was said and it was the second time I had ever told anyone in full. Niles being the first.
Amy listened patiently and then told me to get a glass of wine. I was already drinking one. She told me what Niles had said. That he was a bully and yes he did it to scare me, but it was also a sexual attack, and I should have filed a police report. Her advice was that if I didn’t want to see him, I was under no obligation to do so. Making amends was about the other person, in this case me. Not about what was good for the person going through the treatment. She wished she was with me so she could give me a hug but she also knew I was one of the most kick arse humans she’d met so knew I’d be okay. You are very wise, I told her. She agreed.
When Niles rang later he told me on no account was I to make any plans to see or let Simon contact me. If any attempts to contact me were made then he would speak to his lawyer to get a restraining order. His lawyer had UK contacts. I had just confided in a former lawyer and a person who has a lawyer, I’d changed.
I didn’t hear from Ems again for the next couple of days and I didn’t get in touch. I had said no straight away, she had added the telling Simon I’d think about it. I think if he just got mad at me, there would be no question about accepting an apology. I probably would have been in touch before that. You just have to accept my word that this was something different. Niles rang me to ask if Simon at been in touch and I said no. I thought that would be it, but he started to tell me that I had to stand up for myself more which meant this was nothing about me and he was upset about something. He started to tell me that his daughter was having a party for her 15th birthday and he had to be there. She never had a party and he expected her to go out with friends, but it meant his plans to come over had been messed up.
‘That’s okay, it’s more important to go to your daughter’s party.’
‘It is, but I so wanted to be there with you on our first special day.’
That completely threw me. First special day? Six month anniversary? Do you celebrate six months? How had I been in a relationship for six months? Oh yeah because we didn’t live in the same country.
‘What do you think our special day is?’
‘It’s February.’ As if that announcement was going to make me understand what he was on about.
‘Yep comes after January and before March every year.’
‘What happens in February?’ His voice was so controlled, so annoyed.
‘Pancake day?’ I honestly wasn’t trying to be funny.
‘Pancake day? What the fuck is pancake day? Why are you being so fucking obtuse? Why can’t we just have a normal relationship?’
It was then that the penny dropped. Did adults actually celebrate Valentine's? Did middle aged adults celebrate Valentine's Day? Maybe they did in America. Maybe they did if they were romantics. Oh shit!
‘We can do Valentine’s another time, when I see you?’ I reasoned because honestly, Valentine’s to me is just another excuse for card companies to make money. Let’s celebrate that bloke from years ago who got his head chopped off. Which reminded me that, I probably would have to get a card.
‘Why aren’t you more upset about this Jess?’ That was an easy answer but not one I think Niles wanted to hear right now.
‘Because we can do it another time.’
That was enough for him. For a man who is as cool in a crisis as I have seen, he seems to get awfully annoyed at me.
He started ranting about how maybe I didn’t care about the relationship, and it was easier for me if he wasn’t in the country. I stopped listening. It wasn’t true. I missed him sometimes so much that it caused me physical pain. I wasn’t going to defend myself either. I calmly told him, although I am pretty sure it didn’t even register with him, that I would not accept him ranting at me and I hung up.
I was pissed off, then thought maybe something else was troubling him after that reaction to something so trivial. I texted Amy. It was a quick text that said. Check your brother is okay. I am too annoyed to with a smiley face and kiss. She texted back quite quickly to say she would and thanked me. I knew January had gone way too well.
Amy rang me the next day to remind me that her brother was stubborn, although she was getting the impression that so was I. Rude but probably fair. Niles would apologise but he was struggling with the long distance thing and was looking forward to seeing me. That’s what Amy said. I wasn’t surmising. It was probably partly true. I wasn’t entirely convinced. That’s when she dropped the bombshell that I could go to him instead. Which is great when you have money and a steady job, and have paid holiday but if I take time off then I lose money. The problem was Amy was really persuasive.
‘Come over. It will be great. If my miserable brother won’t take you out, I will.’
‘He’s not miserable, he just doesn’t want to be seen with me.’
She burst out laughing again but I didn’t really find it funny.
I told her that I was working and would speak soon.
She didn’t leave it there though. Within seconds of hanging up, I received a text asking me to think about it, they would both love to see me. Which was odd, because Niles hadn’t spoken to me since the call.
An hour later, I received another text from Amy. This time with flights she had found. Has anyone ever said no to her? Her idea was she could invite Niles over to her place for dinner and then who would show up as her guest but me. It would make Niles so happy. As much as making him happy sounded nice. It was apparent I was just making him miserable at the moment and he didn’t want to speak to me.
A couple of hours later I received another text asking if I had thought about it yet. Which of course I had because now that’s all I could think about which is really frustrating when I had a bloody job to do. I text back, still thinking.
Dawn asked me what was up and I told her about my invite, she said as long as you’re back for the 16th, go for it. It would do me good.
I wasn’t asking for permission. I thanked her anyway. I mean do I have any control over my life? The answer was obviously no. I knew that.
A short while later, I received another text. It flashed on my screen. ‘Have you thought about it yet?’
I was about to get annoyed then I realised the text wasn’t from Amy but Ems. I opened it up and a further text come through. That Simon could come to me. They were planning on a London trip anyway for Samuel to see the Lion King and could do a stop off here.
I text back no, I did not want to see Simon.
Then another text came through. This time from Amy saying that she had airmiles that I was welcome to use and could probably get me upgraded.
Ems text back that she thought it would be good for Simon and I to talk and they were coming down on the 11th February so she would see me then.
It felt like the universe was trying to tell me something or at least the people in my life were.
Then that familiar text alert came through and I was about to ignore it but saw it came from Niles and I immediately opened it. It simply read, I’m sorry with rows of kisses.
I hit reply to Ems and wrote. I won’t be here that weekend, I’m going to New York.’
Amy sorted out the flights. They were ridiculously cheap and they had been upgraded. I knew Amy was footing the rest of it but she insisted she wasn’t. Niles had pointed out to me after Christmas that although he understood about the money situation, he actually didn’t but that’s for another day, although he understood, it was the equivalent of buying a bottle of good whiskey to someone. Which I did for Niles’s dad for Christmas. I was allowed to be generous and so should he. This was Amy doing the same. I bought her a good bottle of gin too. After a lovely flight, and hell through customs, I was finally in the car on the way to Amy’s apartment. I only have Amy’s and Nile’s version of what was happening there but Amy had invited him to dinner. When he arrived Amy told him that they were having a third guest and it was someone he would like. Niles thought she was trying to set him up and was insistent that he didn’t want it and Amy was winding him up saying he would. It was that lovely sibling playfulness I saw played out at Christmas. It was terrifying.
I kept in touch with Amy through texts and when I got to the building, she announced to Niles that the third person was arriving and did he want to comb his hair ready. He was annoyed. When Amy came out to meet me, she gave me a big hug and whispered she was enjoying annoying her brother. We walked in and put my case and bag down in the hallway. Weirdly at that moment Niles had decided to ring me so I immediately answered in case he heard the phone. He didn’t and asked what I was doing and I should be asleep.
‘Why did you ring then?’
‘Took a chance, just wanted to hear your voice’, he said softly’
I was melting already and I hadn’t even seen him.
Amy was looking at me and rolled my eyes.
‘You wanted this’, I said to her.
‘Who are you talking to?’
Amy walked me into the room was Niles was. His back to me as he paced anxiously on the phone.
I was exhausted and poorer but I was ridiculously happy I was there.
‘Stop being rude to our guest.’
Niles turned looked at me then did a double take it was priceless.
His face broke into a smile, he dropped his phone and ran at me for a hug.
‘Don’t I must smell’, I protested but he just buried his head in my neck and breathed in. He couldn’t have faked it, he was pleased to see me.
‘You’ve got one minute and then we’re eating’, Amy said as she left the room.
That was when I reached for Niles and didn’t take my lips away from his for that full minute.
The following day was a Friday so while he went to work, I stayed at his apartment working myself on both jobs. I loved his apartment and it was lovely that I got to stay and he had to leave for a change to when he’s staying at mine. It was a long day though and I missed him. I met Amy for coffee and she talked excitedly about how pleased we had made her brother. I reasoned again how nice it must be to have someone like that looking out for you. After that I went back to the apartment and Niles and I had a pizza and just sat and talked. This is what we did. We drank and we talked. We sometimes would put a movie on and watched Frasier but for the main part that’s what we did. You’d think it was boring, but the time just flew past and although I would have enjoyed to go out and see a bit of the city, I was also incredulous that this man still liked me six months later. It also made me sad because it couldn’t continue like that. I refocused to stay in the moment. That was all that mattered now. Monday was also his daughter’s birthday, and I wasn’t surprised when Niles said it would be best if I didn’t go. However, Monday lunchtime was also Amy’s galentine’s day celebration. As she pointed out though she had been doing this for years prior to that programme bringing it into parlance, although she was pissed she never thought of the name. That was an amazing lunch, all these brilliant, clever, women and me. I couldn’t believe this was my life now, just casually hanging around on a Monday lunchtime with incredible people. None of them treated me like I wasn’t an equal though and I even managed to hold my own occasionally in conversations. Then it was back to the apartment because Amy had to go to Niles’s daughter's party. Amy was surprised I wasn’t going. She asked if I wanted to go. I said I was happy to go along with Niles on this as she was his child and it had to be his decision. But why, she asked and I was tired of telling her. It was obvious that he didn’t want to be seen with me. Still I told her again and she again laughed and again I got hurt. This time she saw my face though and she exclaimed, you’re serious. I thanked her for lunch and got in a cab.
Niles was home around 11pm after the party. It was in a bowling alley so maybe I had a lucky escape anyway. I asked if he enjoyed it and he told me it would have been better if I was there.
Make your bloody mind up. I thought but never said. Tomorrow was a special day, apparently and he wasn’t going to work so we could spend the whole day not leaving the apartment.
He was making us a hot drink when he asked.
‘Why did you think I didn’t want you there?’
I shrugged my shoulders. ‘It’s up to you if and when we meet.’
‘If? What do you mean if. It’s a when.’
It was that tone again. Had I just travelled all this way just so he could rant at me and ruin his special day. I nodded in response.
‘It’s because it’s her birthday and I didn’t want any awkwardness that’s all’.
‘That’s fair enough.’ I replied as I slowly inched out of the room.
‘Amy seemed to think you thought it was something different.’
What the fuck had I done. Why was I confiding in Amy? She wasn’t my friend, she was his sister. I barely knew her. The problem is wherever Amy had been involved, so had alcohol. Maybe I should stop drinking. Who was I kidding?
‘That’s between you and Amy. I’m going to get ready for bed.’ I ran out of the room and he didn’t follow which was good, I might just have got away with it.
Except as soon as I put on my PJ’s he was in the bedroom with a drink for me and I could tell there was something he wanted to get off his chest.
‘Do you want to go out tomorrow?’
He was going to make a point.
‘Nope because everything will be ridiculously priced, can we just change the subject please?’
He started to strip off ready for bed. He never had a problem with this, he didn’t care if he was naked in front of me, never felt self-conscious. He shouldn’t do either, not with me. Then why do I have that problem with him? These were the cracks I thought about when he wasn’t around and I just papered over them because I missed him, so ignored them. Now they were starting to feel like gaping holes. Is he not capable of making me feel good or am I incapable of ever feeling it?
‘Why would I not want to be seen with you?’
And there. He said it. He was going to make me feel like shit because whether he consciously or subconsciously thought it, it was still a fact.
‘You tell me? I mean I know the answer but why don’t you spell it out for me?’
‘How can I tell you something that’s not true.’
He wanted an argument. All this fucking way for an argument.
‘Really? Let’s see how many dates we’ve been on in six months? One. The rest of the time, it’s just us hanging around an apartment’.
I was waiting for the ranting. In fact, I was kind of hoping for it because then I could shut him down. Go to the spare bedroom and deal with it there because this, this was fucking horrendous.
‘Because I just want to be with you Jess. Two of us, just together messing around, drinking, eating, talking. That’s all I want.’
Which all sounded lovely but just wasn’t true. You can still do all those things in a restaurant, pub, cinema, okay minus the talking. He could see I wasn’t having any of it.
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Oh come on’, I snapped. ‘You took out Daphne more than me and you were in lockdown most of it. I don’t blame you really. You’re a man. You have to have someone attractive with you. It’s a fucking rule or something’.
There was no rant from him. He just stared at me. Maybe concern. Maybe the fact he had been found out.
‘Has a man done that to you before, refused to be seen with you?’
I was shit at this because I was now crying. Which I promise myself I shouldn’t do. So I just nodded.
‘Then he was a fucking asshole because you are gorgeous and it never crossed my mind once that you thought this.’ He sat down next to me on the bed and tried to pull me in but I resisted. I was lost, completely lost.
‘I’ve never made you feel attractive or wanted or even special. I’m the fucking asshole’.
‘You’re not,’ I managed to say.
‘Then how come you’re one of the most important people in my life and you don’t realise it?’
Valentine’s Day was a little different to what I imagined but I am not sure I imagined originally. The sitting, talking thing yes and that did happen. For hours, I would add but that wasn’t all of it. I felt embarrassed about my meltdown the night before. Not that he was nothing but kind throughout and it made me feel worse. He just held me until the tears stopped and we went back to our normal bed routine. That morning he had woken me up by kissing me which was the oddest sensation but my body kicked in immediately. After that he insisted we get up and dressed because he was taking me out for breakfast. I did say he didn’t have to but no, he said he did and wasn’t planning on sharing me in the evening, but breakfast would be good. Plus, I was also right that he had never shown me around New York the way I had in Cardiff all those months ago. It was freezing but off we walked to a diner he liked. It was a mid market place I would imagine. Not that I knew what mid market meant for New York. We ate pancakes with fruit and a number of times he squeezed my hand on the table to make sure others knew we were a couple. It felt awkward, but what could I say? He was trying to prove a point, and I was just happy we were out of the apartment eating a meal for a change. When we went back to his apartment building, he held my hand in the foyer and greeted the concierge, who I don’t think I’d seen before. I don’t think both of us are keen on the public displays of affection but it was low key. That was until we were in the lift and then he shoved me into the wall and kissed me, that was super hot even though we knew it was caught on camera. There was a lot of that back in the apartment. Along with a lot of champagne and fruit. He was wise enough to make sure we were fully enjoying the champagne to tell me all the things he liked about me which I am not going to list, especially the things he liked about the way I looked which was barely true but again he was being kind. Then I told him all the things I liked about him, the first one being he was an amazing story teller. When I finished, he told me he believed me. So he fucking should too.
It wasn’t the day I was expecting but was probably the day I needed. There was no faux romance. It was just two people getting to know each other better. That was totally unexpected too. I didn’t expect things to go to another level. It did make we wonder what I had put up with in the past. Why I kept Ben at a distance despite him too being lovely to me too. That though was a different situation. There were no stars in my eyes when I first went out with Ben. When I had to leave the next day we were both upset, both planning the next time we would see each other, what we would do inbetween, and how we were going to cope with that. The feelings were overwhelming at times and other times, I was just happy to go along with the ride. He’d been more honest with me than any man in my whole life, not any man, any one person. He made me feel like maybe I could be attractive to another human being. Maybe I was worthy of love and affection. Following on from that visit, it now feels impossible to me now, just over a month later, that it was all over.