Chapter 16

Writer Notes: RE-Post Chapter 16 of The Gang in TS2 format.

Warnings: lots of conversation, nervousness, awkward moments, talking about violence, a break-up, the need of organization, and not in that order

Sally sat quietly while Jack searched through his endless bookcases for the book.  She had felt so nervous when he asked if she wanted to “tag” along with him that day.  Of course, she needed to get out of the house and breathe in some fresh air, but her nerves forced her to hesitate.  It had been a little embarrassing, but she had finally agreed.

What bothered Sally the most is that she knew if it had been anyone else in their gang, they would have most likely teased her the whole way about her stuttering.  However, this was Jack Saiders.  He was a gentleman, more so than any guy she had ever met in her life.  She could honestly say he was too good to be true.  And that bothered her too.

He pulled out a book from the case, but kept looking at the titles.  Sally sat patiently wondering what he might have been thinking; then he sighed.

“I knew Peppermint put these books in here too fast.” He said.  “I’ll have to put them back in alphabetical order.”

Sally couldn’t help it. “Really?” She giggled. 

“Yep.” He chuckled.  “Can’t have my bookshelves being so disorganized.”

He handed her the book and she placed it on the table next to her.  “Thank you.” Sally said. “Pmint told me you were a neat freak, but I thought she was just exaggerating.”

Jack sat in the other chair in the room and stared at the bookcases.  “No, I doubt she would.”  Sally stared along with Jack at the books.  Some of the titles she recognized, but a lot of them seemed to be in different languages.

“You have so many.” She almost whispered.  “Have you actually read all them yet?”

“Oh yes.” Jack smiled.  “A world without books is not a world I want to live in.”

Sally found herself smiling too.  She was not a huge fan of reading, but those few occurrences when she had dug her nose into a book she had loved it.

“May I ask?” Jack questioned.  “It’s a little rude and completely not my business, but I was curious…”

“Yes?”

“What your situation is with Shane?”

Sally face fell into a frown.  “Oh.” She managed.

“It’s fine. You don’t have to explain.”

“No, it’s—just difficult.”

Jack looked away.  Somehow the look in his eyes, something of hurt and remorse, made Sally get defensive.

“Shane was the difficult part.” She began.  “He walks a dangerous path and anyone else that walks with him is caught in a ripple effect of madness.”

His blue eyes jumped up to meet hers.  “I don’t understand. What makes him so dangerous?”

“Shane himself isn’t—so dangerous—but things around him.” She sighed.  “I couldn’t handle it.”

“And you’re stronger than most.” Jack said.

Sally stared at him.  “I-I j-just.” She looked down.  “He hurt me in a way you couldn’t ever understand.”

“Try me.” There was no wavier in his voice.  He was dead serious.

Sally sighed again.  “He took advantage of my trust.” She said.  “The drinking, gambling—gunfire.”  Her voice fell quieter.  “Anger.”

Sally took a deep breath.  “I suppose he used me like a shield or a weapon sometimes.” She said, falling into a moment of silence.

Jack disrupted that silence.  “What did he do to you?”

Slowly her eyes met his.  “He and I were caught in crossfire. I got shot.”

Jack stood up in haste.  “You got shot?”  His expression said that he was worried, but part of it was amazement.  For some reason it made Sally giggle.

“I’m all right.” She said.  “It was just a graze, but I left him. I know it wasn’t his fault those crazy people shot me, but he made enemies with them.” She shrugged.  “That life was too—dangerous for me.”

Jack blinked for a couple of moments to soak it up, Sally guessed.  She wasn’t sure what his expression was or what she needed to say or not say, but she was glad nonetheless that she had said what she did.  Opening up to Jack seemed to open up something else in her soul, a sort of passage that allowed her to be feel alive again.

“Thank you.” Sally finally said.  “I haven’t really talked to anyone else about this.”

He smiled eyes and all at her.  “It’s my pleasure, Sally. After all, where would we be in this world without compassion of one another?” Jack looked at the bookcases.  “Now to straighten out that mess.” His eyes darted back to Sally’s.  “Want to help?”

She found herself smiling as well, a sob and a laugh all jumbled into one cluster caught in her throat.  “I would love to.”

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