Jess was always really happy. It’s just that she was usually too sad to show it.
And I should know. As her best friend since fourth grade, there’s no one who could tell you more about Jess Clinton than me.
Wait, it is Clinton, right? It might actually be Clayton, come to think of it. Anyway, she’s always just been Jess to me, and I’m in total shock over what happened.
If you asked anyone, they’d say Jess and Chris had the perfect marriage. Well, okay, maybe not their neighbors. Or either mail carrier. Or Chris’s parole officer, who said she heard the verbal equivalent of panic and regret every time she called the house. But everyone else? Everyone else thought Jess and Chris were the perfect couple. You know, like in that really imperfect way that made them so adorable.
Jess was always such a giver. One of the first things she did when she and Chris got together was to pay off his gambling debts. And then—get this—a year later she paid them off again. I know, right?
That’s just the kind of person Jess was. She’d hand you the shirt off her back. Which actually worked out great because Chris was the kind of guy who never wore a shirt.
But don’t get me wrong—Chris would give Jess gifts, too. He allowed Jess to call me this one day, and she was all excited because he’d bought an insurance policy in her name. He explained it as being like when JLo insured her booty, except this one covered Jess’s whole life. So unbelievably thoughtful!
Chris and I were actually pretty close ourselves. A lot of people knew his main number, but I had the number for two of his three burner phones. He’d pick up every time I called, even when it was obvious from his breathlessness that he was ditch digging or wood chipping or navigating a boat through dark waters. I could tell he wanted to be my friend even separate from Jess because he’d sometimes say we should meet up, just the two of us, and that “Jess wouldn’t even have to know.” He didn’t have to be so friendly.
The main thing to know about Chris is that he loved love. When they first started dating, Chris’s first and third ex-wives called Jess to tell her that he couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. So nice of them to prepare Jess for all the great sex she and Chris would be having! Women supporting women, ya know?
Chris’s friends were really great too. Let’s see, the three I remember were Big Al, Stank Boy, and the one they called—oh, what was her name? Um. Killer Trish. Yeah, that’s it—Killer Trish. Serious gal. But fun. The three of them were always at the house, lingering behind hastily closed vertical blinds just sort of, I don’t know—being. Playing Xbox. Measuring spices in miniature baggies. Skinning apples with switchblades while their resting cigarettes ashed into empty Miller High Life bottles. Whenever I came over, they’d all jump up like they were about to be shot. Those three really knew how to show a girl they were excited to see her!
When not busy hosting game nights or making apologies for Chris’s temper at the previous game night, the two of them were really involved in the community. There was this one group that I could tell Jess really loved, based on the crazed look in her eyes. One time when Chris let her go swimming, I saw she had this group’s name branded on her thigh, but she quickly covered up the festering red wound and changed the subject before I could see what it said. I totally got the secrecy; I was in a sorority.
When Jess started telling me how Chris would leave the house in the middle of the night, at first I thought, “well that’s a little odd.” But then when I remembered how Jess had also told me about all the nightmares she’d been having, it hit me like a ton of bricks: Chris was giving her the bed to herself so she could get better sleep. Like I said, dude was thoughtful.
That’s why it’s just so weird what happened. There weren’t any warning signs. No red flags. Chris wouldn’t harm a fly. Puppies, sure. Kittens, most always. But not flies.
It’s sad that all we have left of Jess and Chris are those monthly 911 calls, that grainy Ring doorbell footage, and countless text messages the detectives now call “obvious cries for help.” Oh, and of course the new hit Netflix series, Obvious Cries for Help.
At the end of the day, this was a simple tale of a girl who loved a boy, and a boy who never closed his eyes when he kissed her. My hope is that these two will be able to put those hours of remorseless trial testimony behind them and reunite in heaven. What can I say? I’m a romantic. When Chris told Jess that if he can’t have her then no one ever will, I choose to believe he meant it.