Updated: Oct 6, 2021
Content And Cover Photo: © Rosalie Thorne
Editor – Kathryn Maurer
While You Were Pretending
By Rosalie Thorne
This is my love letter to all of those involved in creating one of my favorite films
While You Were Sleeping. Inspired by the 1995 classic, written by Daniel G. Sullivan and Fredric Lebow, directed by Jon Turteltaub, starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman, this story is a sort of sequel. Hope you enjoy it!
“When you fall in love, it’s temporary madness.”
- Louis de Bernieres
I open the door, expecting to see Peyton, with my argument on the tip of my tongue. Instead, Jackie is there, shivering. I wave my hand, “Jesus, come in.”
I’d just started the fire and poured myself a drink from my dad’s liquor cabinet. I point her to the living room, “Go warm up. Do you want anything from the kitchen?”
“Yes, of course.” Trying to make it as fast as I can, I yell across the house. “Did you walk here?”
She yells back, “Yes.”
Drink ready, I walk it to her, “Please don’t tell me all the way from the party.”
“No - no, just from my mom’s.”
“How did you get there?”
She shrugs, “Some kid who knows Peyton. I guess I looked hopeless standing by all the cars."
“I’m sorry I just left like that.”
She sips her drink and then lets out a huge shudder. I reach over the couch to grab the blanket then drape it over her shoulder. “Thanks.”
“Why were you looking for me? Did Peyton leave, too?”
“I don’t know, maybe? I couldn’t find her either. But she wasn’t home when I got to Mom’s.” After another long sip, she eyes me where I crouch in front of her. “Are you guys okay?”
I lift and move to the armchair, “Not really.”
“I would have thought you guys would want to kiss at midnight. I thought that’s why she asked you inside.”
I look at my watch. I’d missed midnight on the drive home. “Yeah, well.”
“Things have kind of been crazy, huh?”
Easing against the back cushion, I rub my eyes. “Yes.”
There’s a long silence. She looks at me, then to the fire. I look at her, then to the fire. Finally, she sighs, staring down into her drink. “You’ve been really great this week, Luke.”
“You have, too,” I commented softly.
She smiles a little, “I’m glad I’ve had you here to be a sort of buffer.”
I try to catch her eye, “It’s nice to have someone you have so much in common with.”
Her laugh is quiet and breathy, “We’ve kind of had a busy week….” Finally, she looks at me, “Starting today… things are kind of going to be different, huh?”
I think about the agreement between me and Peyton… Christmas, maybe New Year’s. I think of the argument we just had and her plan for us to ‘break up’. I think how everything might actually be turning in my favor. I sit up a little straighter, “Yeah, I guess so.”
“I just… wanted you to know you’ve become a really great friend.”
I can feel my brows furrow and my lips tighten. I nod.
Suddenly she puts her drink on the coffee table and stands. “I just… wanted to say I think you and Peyton will work this out and are a great couple. And I’m just…” she takes a deep breath, “really happy one of us isn’t alone anymore.”
As she starts walking towards the door, I stand, confused and hurt. “Wait, Jackie.”
She holds the door open but doesn’t look at me, “What?”
But I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to hurt her; I don’t want to hurt Peyton. I don’t know how to do this. Overall, I’m exhausted… physically, mentally, emotionally. “Do you need a ride back to the hotel?”
She shakes heard head and steps outside. “Not this time.”
A wee bit hung-over, a large bit grouchy, I head downstairs for some breakfast. The new year is only in its eleventh hour and it’s already a shit-show. I had to turn my phone on silent because I had a mass of messages from too many people. And now I feel like just going back to school early, locking myself in my dorm, only reading and eating for the next few weeks.
Dad’s at the far end of the table, sipping coffee and reading his tablet. As I bumble around the kitchen, spilling cereal and almost breaking a glass, he eyes me carefully. When I finally sit down and start shoveling in Frosted Flakes, he asks “You okay there, son?”
I groan and shrug.
I shrug again.
He smirks. “Too much to drink?”
He then frowns. “What happened?”
I frown, shake my head, and crush flakes with my spoon. “Girls are stupid.”
He clears his throat to stop from laughing. “What happened with Peyton, now?”
I lean back in my chair and cross my arms tight over my chest. “She’s a bitch. A crazy bitch.”
He sets his tablet down and cocks a brow. “Did something happen with Jackie?”
“Everything’s fucked up.” He gives me a look to continue. I let out a long sigh and drop my arms and come clean. “When Peyton found out Jackie was coming into town, she asked me to pose as her fake boyfriend. I don’t know why; I don’t get it – but she said it would make her feel better. And at that point, I couldn’t give a fuck about Jackie.
“But now…” I finish rather anticlimactically, “I do.”
“Do… care about Jackie?”
I close my eyes and rub my face. “Yes.”
He gives me the ‘Dad’ look, “The best thing to do is be honest.”
“I know. But how? Peyton is sticking to her stupid story and even has a plan for us to ‘break up’,” I used finger quotes. “And if I’m honest to Jackie, then she knows I agreed to lie with Peyton and she probably won’t forgive me; I’ll be as bad as her sister.”
“If she cares for you, I don’t think it’ll matter.”
“Peyton should be the one to explain everything. This was her stupid plan. This is her mistake. This is her sister.”
“But doesn’t sound like she’s going to, does it?”
I facepalm. “No…. Not, it doesn’t.” So, somehow, this whole fucking mess is left for me to clean up.
There’s a soft knock on my bedroom door. “Yeah?” I call without looking up from my books.
I familiar female voice asks, “Can I come in?”
The door opens but she doesn’t step inside. I look up to see Peyton, holding a bag in front of her stomach. “Hi.”
My stare at her is short, emotionless, then I go back to my book. “What?”
“I brought you the school supplies you picked up when we were out shopping the other day.”
Even though I’m not reading a single word, I still look at the pages in front of me. “Thanks.”
She takes a step into the room, placing the bag next to my desk then asks, “Can I sit down?” When I don’t answer, she does anyway then says, “You haven’t responded to any of my messages. Or Jackie’s…. It’s been three days, Luke….”
She sighs. “Is this it?” her voice shakes. “Are we not friends anymore?”
After a long, hard minute, I put my book down. I sit up, crossing my legs, and push a hand through my hair. As I take my time turning to her, I reply, “We are still friends.”
I come to see her eyes full of tears and she’s rubbing her nose. “You’re a really good friend, Luke, a really good guy. I’m sorry.”
I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen her cry and I immediately soften. She continues talking though, rubbing her eyes with her sleeve, “This whole thing got so complicated. Everything in me feels so complicated. I wish I just didn’t care… I wish I didn’t feel anything for my dad or my sister. And sometimes – most of the time, I don’t. Most of the time I don’t feel anything for them.
“But then they reach out or come into town or it’s some stupid holiday and it’s like I’m ten years old again. All these emotions I don’t usually feel… ninety percent of them rear their ugly head and consume me.”
I can hear the panic in her voice. Her breath is quickening and she starts rubbing her chest. “I thought… with everything that I accomplished this semester, that I finally felt sure of myself. I felt confident and strong and like I finally worked through all my childhood bull shit.”
Now she can’t catch her breath and her head is shaking, “But then it all came back.”
Before I know it, I’ve pulled her into a hug, us sitting on the floor. I let her cry into my shoulder, petting her hair down her back. I know I still have anger in my chest, I know we still need to talk, I know there still needs to be a solution, but right now, my best friend needs me. And I will never let her down.
What is it about her, anyway?
Maybe you can explain it to Peyton.
You met her.
Gets under your skin.
She drives you so nuts that…
Like, you don’t know if you want to hug her
Or argue about books with her.
She wants to go all the way to England
Just to visit the Globe Theater.
And! all the way to Paris
Just to visit Shakespeare and Company.
I don’t know if that amounts to insanity…
Or just being really, really loveable.
You have your whole life to find out.
Pacing the hallway, I know I just need to man up and knock on her door. Knock on the door, ask her to talk…. Talk about everything that’s happened, clear the air and tell her how I really feel about her sister. No big deal. Now that Peyton and I are friends again, this shouldn’t be so hard.
Maybe I could suggest going for a walk so we won’t be stuck in her bedroom. That wouldn’t be too terrible? It’s cold, but not snowing. And awkward silences don’t seem so bad if we’re moving around.
Fuck it, just do it.
I finally knock on her door. In the few seconds it takes her to answer it, I almost walk away. But the moment I step back, she’s there. Big smile, blonde hair, a recognizable face that brings me comfort. “Oh, hey, Luke.”
“I thought you wanted to meet in the lobby? So we can head straight to my mom’s?”
“Actually, would you want to go for a walk first?”
She nods and her shoulders wiggle. “Might be nice to move around, sure. Let me just get ready….”
I take a step into her room, holding the door open with my foot. She’s quick about slipping on her boots, then her coat, and fluffing out her long hair behind her. “All set!”
After we exit into the hall, she hops a little. “All I do is sit in that hotel room and all I do is sit at Mom’s… a walk would be really good.”
I nod quickly, “I was thinking we could go walk around the garden.”
She laughs a little, probably thinking of the past conversation we had about it. “The lake is frozen, the shrubs covered in snow, and they took the Christmas tree out of the gazebo, but left the string lights - it’s all still really pretty,” she confirms.
Entering a different, much closer set of elevators, I figure it would be better to wait until we get outside to talk. Once that frosted air hits my lungs, I shove my hands in my pocket. “So….”
She smiles, “So….”
“You look beautiful tonight.”
She seems a little taken aback at my bluntness but nervously tucks hair behind her ear. “Thank you.”
“Peyton came over yesterday….”
“Yeah, she told me. We were getting kind of worried.”
We carefully walk along the path, the only other sound than our talking is the crunching snow. “I’m sorry about that.”
Her shoulder lifts and she peeks over at me. “Things were tense…. But she said you guys are back to being friends.”
Did she now? Well, that’s not exactly a lie, but not exactly the whole truth either. “Right. That’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”
She stops, looking up at the falling snow. “She told me she asked you to lie.” Then she looks over her shoulder at me. “That’s still….”
I bow my head, “I know.”
She lets out a soft hmph. “I always knew things had been difficult for her, but I didn’t think they were ever so bad she’d resort to this.”
“I’m really sorry.”
Her shoulders slump and she takes a step forward. “I know. I am, too.”
I catch up to her, almost slipping. “Why?”
She looks straight ahead, her voice soft on the wind. “Because I like you.”
I rush forward to grab her hand, actually slipping this time. “And I like you.”
Smiling, laughing, she tries to steady me on the ice. But then my uneven weight makes her slip. Now I laugh, trying to steady her and myself. “Hold on.”
Mostly steady, I hug her body close to me. Her little hands cling to the lapel of my coat. Slowly, I stand us up; slowly we gain our balance. This time, she was the leaner, her hands flattening against my chest.
I lift one hand from her waist and brush loose hair off her cheeks. “I like you,” I repeat.
“I like you,” she murmurs softly.
The string lights from the gazebo twinkle in her eyes. Her smile is so wide, dimples show in her cheeks. The wind picks up her golden hair and it drifts around her like a halo. And when I close the distance to kiss her, she falls into me and this time I’m never going to let go.
As I take the dishes off the table, it pleases me to see Jackie full and happy. I’m glad she’d called her mom to change plans and we’d had my house to ourselves. We’d ordered in and now planned on watching a movie by the fire. “Still have room for dessert?”
“For ‘the chocolate dream’? Always.”
I chuckle and reach into the fridge for the brownie-cake thing from Carrabba’s. With two spoons, I motion toward the living room. “The fire should be nice and steady now.”
She walks with me, putting her hand on my lower back. “I’m really glad we could do this tonight.”
After placing the dessert on the coffee table, I sit down with her, tucking her close to my chest. I kiss the top of her head, “Me too.”
She gives me a squeeze then sits up a bit better. “It sucks I leave in a couple of days.”
I make a face; she laughs and starts rubbing my chest. “But then I’ll be there when you get to school!” I make another face; she giggles again and leans up to kiss me. “It won’t be so bad.”
I brush my nose across hers, “No, I suppose not. What time did your dad set up the car for Thursday?”
“Ten o’clock, check-out.”
My fingers slowly drift up and down her arm, “Are you sure you don’t want me to drive you back?”
“Oh gosh, no! You’d waste so much gas. And there wouldn’t be enough time for you to come home and get ready for school.”
“What if I got ready before Thursday?”
After reaching for the sweets, she shakes her head. “No, no! You still have a whole week before you and Peyton head back.” After finishing a huge bite, she pushes her knee against mine. “I know your parents want to spend time with you and she wants to spend time with you.”
“True. And… it’ll give me enough time to finish your Valentine’s Day gift.”
Jackie completely perks up and looks at me quickly. “Oh, yeah?”
I only nod.
She pokes my side. “Oh yeah?”
She squints. “Good thing I already know what I’m getting you.”
“I’m pretty sure mine’s going to be better.”
She laughs, “Oh heck no. Mine’s perfect for you.”
I poke her this time, “And mine’s perfect for you.” She gives me a look so I start tickling her. Fighting just enough, she can’t help but laugh. I only stop when she’s in a perfect position for me to kiss her. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
She brushes her hair away from my face, her eyes boring into mine, “Yeah, I guess so.”
Jackie’s hand fits perfectly in mine; her soft, warm hand, sitting gently against my palm. After another successful date, the last before she has to head home, we’re wandering around the Barnes And Noble by the movie theater.
“Looking for anything in particular?”
She squeezes my hand. “Nope.”
We wander for a little bit longer, then I remember, “Oh! We should see if they have your favorite book, so I can read it.”
“The Great Gatsby? I thought you’ve already read that.”
“I have, but way back in high school. I don’t own it, either.”
She gives me a look of adoration then redirects us towards the classics. “What about for you? What book should I be reading?”
“I thought you’ve already read The Picture of Dorian Gray?”
She smirks, “I have, but way back in high school. I don’t own it, either.”
I chuckle and twist her into a hug. “I like you.”
She lifts on her toes to kiss me. “I like you, too.”
Partway through the drive back to her mother’s house, Jackie gets a text, and her whole demeanor changes. I reach my hand to her leg and rub my thumb across her thigh. “Everything okay?”
Her hand curls over mine, but she doesn’t reply. Just when I’m about to leave it, she looks at me quickly. “I just got a text from my sister.”
“She asked where I was, to which I said with you. She asked why, and I put ‘lol ‘cause I like him’ with a question mark. Then, she asked ‘oh, you do’ before saying ‘great, he likes you too’. Which… I was going to laugh at but then I wondered. Well,” she reaches the hand that had been mine to scratch at her brow, “she does know we’re dating, right?”
I put my hand back on the wheel, knowing I’ve fucked up.
“I haven’t told her directly, exactly, that we’re dating, no.”
There’s a sharp inhale, “But why?”
I tighten my hands on the wheel, “Because I wanted this to be private… just for a little bit.” When I look over quickly, I see her head shake. “This is all very new…” I try to explain.
She slams her phone on her lap. “What do you want from me, Luke?”
Confused, I look to her again. “What?”
“You want me to lie, too? You want to fake not being together?” she curses.
I slow the car down, just outside of her mom’s. Turning to her I explain, “No! Gosh, no! I want you… to be happy.”
Definitely upset, she instantly reacts. “And what are you, the happiness police? What about you and Peyton? What? Did she say you can’t have me or some shit? There’s a huge difference between privacy and secrecy, Luke.
“When are you actually going to talk to her about what’s going on - stand up for yourself and not let her walk all over you.”
I shut the car off. Knowing she’s completely misunderstanding, all I can think to say is, “Excuse me, just because you’re her sister doesn’t make you an expert.”
At this point, she’s already outside the car, leaning on the door. “A life-long friendship hasn’t made you one either,” and she slams the car door shut.
I did my best to give her space but with the looming deadline of ten in the morning, I need things to be alright before she heads home. I hadn’t followed her into the Pullman’s, and when I got home, I texted Peyton everything. Around the time Jackie had commented she’d planned to go back to the hotel, I texted her, too.
Peyton was the one to text me back, saying she’d had a long talk with Jackie. Unfortunately, though, she didn’t have any advice on how to handle it. When I tried to ask what all her sister had said, she told me just to text her.
Texting one more time before it gets too late, I just left this out in the universe:
I would love to see you before you leave.
I just about had fallen asleep when my phone pinged.
Nine still okay?
God, I wanted to go there now.
Yes, of course.
See you then.
The entire drive there, I was a raw nerve. I was having so much anxiety, it was difficult to breathe. Every bump in the road caused me to twitch, every sound caused me to look around. Finally, I pulled into the parking spot and I pretty much had to yell at myself to get a grip.
Knocking on her hotel room door, right at nine o’clock, her voice is soft when she says “Just a minute!”
When she opens the door, I say “I’m so sorry,” as quickly as possible.
She gives me a soft smile and tilts her head back, “Come on in.”
“Jackie, please, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you or hurt you. I really, really care about you and -”
She holds her hands to my chest with an alarming expansion. “Babe, breathe.”
I look at her, confused and curious. When I take a deep breath, she nods. “We had a fight, we got some time to think, we’re okay.”
“I wasn’t keeping a secret, I wasn’t trying not to tell Peyton. I just… wanted us to be just us for a little bit.”
“Before our families got involved, I know. Peyton and I talked….” She walks over to where she’d been finishing packing. “I’m sorry I over-reacted, I just didn’t understand.”
I come to the edge of the bed, “I know, I’m sorry.”
She looks at me, rather exasperated. “Luke….”
I cringe, expecting her to say we’re not going to work. “Yeah?”
“Everything’s okay.” She comes over to me and wraps her arms around my waist. “We had a little fit, now we’re over it.” After she hugs me and I squeeze her so tight, she backs up, looking at me all concerned. “Babe, what’s wrong?”
“I just… I didn’t want this to end already.”
She reaches up to my face and laughs. “It was a miscommunicated. And now we’re communicating. It’s not like we’re going to have one fight and breakup.”
I stare into her gorgeous face, “Really?”
She bites her lip to stop laughing. “Welcome to an adult relationship.”
Completely relieved, I spread my hands on her hips and pull her close. “A relationship, huh? Boyfriend… girlfriend for real?”
She giggles and reaches up to kiss me. “Yes. Boyfriend and girlfriend, for real.”
I kiss her again, this time my hand reaching behind her neck. Fingers twisting with her hair, I use my other hand to pull her close. Her hands between us pull against my shirt, and she’s just as eager and happy. I could kiss her like this all day, but we eventually break to breathe.
My forehead against hers I whisper, “I like you.”
Her hands flatten against my chest as she steadies her breath. “I like you back.”
Jackie on her way to her dad’s, I find Peyton in the kitchen. Messy bun, pjs, she looks at me curiously as I walk through the backdoor. After a mouthful of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, she points the spoon towards, “You guys are too much.”
Compared to the night before, I feel like I’m floating on air. “Oh yeah?”
She shakes her head and digs into the bowl, “I’m starting to regret agreeing to live with her this semester.”
I slide into the chair across from her, “Oh?”
She shrugs and curls her legs under herself. “Well… she’s getting an apartment, of course,” she tries to have the same type of attitude as always. “And she asked me if I wanted the second room.” There’s a small smile before she eats another spoonful. A hard swallow and she sits back, “Guess she had trouble finding a roommate.”
I give her a look, “Oh, totally.”
But she laughs. “You really like her, huh?”
I lift my hands, “Yeah, I do.”
She pushed the sleeves of her sweatshirt up. “Who would have thought.”
“I’m glad my mom was right… things don’t always turn out as planned.”
Back in the apartment after dinner, after the apartment door closes, I pick Jackie up and spin her around. Once she lands, I kiss her for the hundredth time this Valentine’s Day. She pulls me farther into the living room, almost tripping over the coffee table I made her, the bump making the Grand Fleur bouquet of pink roses I got her shift across the wood.
She giggles and fixes it, “Oops.”
Falling onto the couch, I carefully sit next to her. When she curls her leg over mine, I hold her thigh. After a sweet kiss, I squeeze her. “Gifts now?”
I ask only because I’m so fucking excited to give her mine. Thankfully, she nods. “Okay!”
“Okay!” I laugh.
I get up quickly to go grab the gift bag off the coffee table and when I turn around, she’s already holding an envelope out to me.
She gives me a look but puts the envelope down. “Fine!”