The original "ending". Well, actually there is another section that was started after this one, but is is very weak and gives an unfortunate happy ending to Jason and Melissa. Then in 1998 I started a sequel of sorts to "Dreamers" that meant to explore the relationship between Jason and Stacy Andrews, his ex-girlfriend. That was abandoned because it was poorly conceived (and not just because I knew nothing about the kind of relationship I was trying to describe).
Anyway, Part Thirteen.
Dave Burke left the group first. He didn't have any choice, but he was the motivation for the rapid deterioration. There were other reasons, the are always other reasons for everything, but nobody would deny that it was Dave Burke's murder that orchestrated the collapse.
The days afterward were as destructive as the actual crime. Sean didn't seem to shaken by the murder and that grated on Vicki. Larry Pudenski argued two sides, with Burke not being too great a loss and Sean being the most likely killer. Dave Burke didn't have a philosophy, wasn't a great contributor to society. On the other hand, Sean would want him dead for not only being white but also because of the relationship with Vicki.
The funeral was hard for everyone. It was Burke's cousin who had to give the eulogy, but asked Jason to write something to express Dave's involvement with the group. That wasn't easy. Jason and Melissa had already begun the process of removing themselves when Burke was killed. Still, Jason wrote how important someone can be when they are simply willing to be there for everyone else, whenever needed. And that was how Dave should have been remembered.
Vicki sold her house and moved back to New Jersey. She found a better job closer to home, to her family. She said goodbye to everyone, but spent more time with J.B. The two had known each other longer than she had known the others, and it was to J.B. that she had a real attachment. They swore they would stay in touch.
Sean moved out before she sold the house, angry that she took Burke's murder so personally. He never liked Dave Burke or Jeff Binghampton, and he thought it would be a good thing that there would be no group to distract Vicki from him. Unfortunately, he found out that it was that very group that gave Vicki the strength to be with him. He moved on, though with some regrets.
"Four weeks. Maybe you are psychic."
"Jason," Nancy said in a soft voice, "it was a robbery. And nobody knows what is going to happen to us. I was just being childish."
Jason, Melissa, Nancy, and J.B. had gathered at a restaurant after the service. Unlikely as it seemed, everyone was taking care of Jason, not the other way around. Larry Pudenski and Mike Carver couldn't even make it to the funeral with work keeping them busy. That may have been what was affecting Jason. Their mellow conversation was interrupted by a striking blonde in a plain black dress.
"Excuse me. Are you Jason?"
Jason offered a weak smile and nodded. He offered her a seat at the table and she accepted.
"You don't know me. I worked with Dave. My name is Anika."
"The infamous Miss Lang. Dave mentioned you more than once."
"I didn't know if I should have been at the funeral or not. Dave and I only went out a couple of times. He was a really nice guy. I really liked him."
"He was a great friend. He was better than any of us gave him credit for. I never gave him credit."
Anika didn't seem to have heard Jason. "I think I could have loved him."
"I'm sure you could have, Anika," Melissa said. It pained her to see two people in pain from the same source but unable to see it as clearly in the other.
There was some more conversation and Anika stayed to share a meal with them, but she could not bear to stay there with them. They had a stronger relationship with Dave and she felt like an intruder.
"That's the kind of girl you should be with, Jeffery."
"Well, her obvious pain and loss aside," J.B. quickly countered. "Yeah. She's got the looks. She's nice, and intelligent enough."
"What would Brad do?" Jason asked.
"He'd go after her and get her."
"He's a hell of a brother, isn't he."
"Don't give me that, Jason. I'm not going to use Dave's death to get laid."
Jason shrunk back, hurt. That wasn't what he thought he was suggesting.
"It is an unfortunate circumstance, how you met her," Melissa said. "But you can try to make something out of it. Something that involves more than you trying to fuck her. You actually shared a person in common, and you can approach this from a more emotionally healthy place."
"I thought I told you I don't do that."
"Well, apparently life is short. And it wouldn't hurt you to change before it's over."