Just Deserts


Diana Lee Johnson



Book Review

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Her eyes welled up with tears, but he saw something else in them as well, determination, and maybe even hatred. The pain in them touched Erik deeply. The mere idea that any man could do violence to such a sensitive soul as Jennifer, and to a small child besides, was beyond his realm of comprehension.

“Why did I tell you all that? I’ve never told anyone before, I never intended to. I never even told my attorney. I wish I’d kept my big mouth shut! I’m so ashamed and embarrassed.”

“Ashamed? You’ve done nothing to be ashamed of.” He took Jenny gently in his arms to comfort and protect her, a luxury she had obviously needed for a long time. Her sobs of painful remembrance were lost in the splendor of his warm, expansive chest.

Jenny hadn’t felt such peace and safety since before her father’s death. Their closeness was rare. For those moments, in Erik’s arms, the entire world, with all its past hurt slipped away as did the lines from her face the painful memories had conjured up.

Foreign feelings assailed Erik. As he held her an overwhelming need to hold and protect her forever washed over him and he fought those feelings. He had reopened such terrible wounds in her, and he held himself responsible, but while half of him reveled in that feeling of responsibility, half of him wanted to break and run.

As Jenny’s luck would have it, in burst Nikki, and they were both thrown abruptly back to reality.

“Oops!” she blurted, “Guess I should have knocked first. My but you’re slow brother dear. I expected you to have her in bed by now, or have you already been there?”

Erik’s shock deprived him of a reply.

Nikki strolled haughtily into the room. “But then, she really isn’t your type.”

Jenny dissolved inside and her heart sank to the pit of her stomach and beyond. How embarrassed could one person be? As embarrassed as Nikki was cruel, talking about her so vilely as if she weren’t even there. Jenny darted for her room as her tears were staved momentarily by her undeserved feeling of shame.

“Nikki, this time you’ve gone too far!” Erik shouted, grabbing her by the arm. I can see you’ve been drinking, but that’s no excuse! You’re going home, right now! I won’t be embarrassed or harassed by you any more!”

“Oh, Erik. Really!” Her indignation did not impress him as she tried to withdraw her arm from his tight grasp. “Don’t act upset for her benefit. You don’t owe her anything. It’s not as if you could be serious about someone like that.”

“That does it! Sister or no--get out! Don’t even bother to pack, I’ll bring your things when I come home. And you’d better get your rear back to school or find yourself an apartment before I come home!”

He could feel the blood rushing to his face, the muscles of his neck bulging with the strain of his rage.

“Oh, Erik, you don’t mean it.” Disbelief shone in her eyes.

His expression didn’t change.

“I’ll apologize. I’ll behave. I’ll even be nice to her.”

“It’s too late for that now! It’s always too late by the time you decide to act like a human being instead of a spoiled brat!”

Nikki had never seen him this enraged. “I just thought she was another stray you’d taken pity on...I never thought...”

“Exactly! Nikki, you never thought, you never do think, and I’ve had all I can take. It’s partially my fault, I know, for indulging you so, but I can’t take anymore of your egotistical behavior. Just get out! Go home where people are used to your crude, outrageous behavior.”

“Please, Erik.” She began to cry.

“Get out, I said. I’ll probably never be able to undo the harm your sharp tongue has done this time, but I’m sure as hell going to try. This is one relationship that’s just beginning, and I’m not going to let you end it too soon.”

The discussion continued in a subdued manner and Jenny could hear no more...but then she’d really heard quite enough. She knew reality had swooped back with a vengeance in the form of Nikki Connelly. All the rest had been fantasy. She’d been happy, for a short while, and having almost never been so before, she wasn’t equipped to deal with it anyway. Now, thanks to Nikki’s behavior, she wouldn’t have to. She could go back to being comfortably miserable, a state all too familiar to her.

With any luck she’d have the memories, however brief. Memories like none she had ever had before. If she could just recall the feeling, the brief tenderness, she could live on that for a long time. This time she had memories, instead of just dreams


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