Chapter 20: Christmas
Gerard yawned, put the mug down on the counter and then filled it with hot coffee. After mixing a teaspoon of sugar into the steaming dark liquid, he turned around and nearly dropped the mug. Gia was sitting by the table, staring at him with the most judgmental look on her face.
Despite Gia obviously being very displeased with him, Gerard was in a good mood. He certainly was pleased, if you know what I mean.
“When did you get here?” he asked after he got over the shock. He hadn’t heard her at all.
“I just got back from the library. I didn’t sleep until eleven am like some people”, she said, raising an eyebrow.
“Well I’m sorry I want to sleep late on my day off... It’s like living with mom all over again”, he shook his head. “And besides, I got home late.”
Gia scrunched up her nose in disgust. Yes, she knew he had a long night. She happened to wake up at night, at around two, and came downstairs to get a glass of water. As she was passing the door to her father’s room she heard noises. Sure, she was used to that, because Gerard did occasionally have his ‘ladyfriends’ over, and in the old house her room wasn’t so far from his. Still a thing like that is pretty traumatizing, and something a child should never hear.
“By the way, you left early last night. Did something happen with Lucas? Are you okay?” Gerard asked suddenly. It was only the day after Tina’s Christmas party, and he had apparently found a new ‘friend’ there.
“Yeah I’m okay. Are you?”
He glanced at her. “Oh I’m okay too.”
He could tell that she wanted to say something from the way she narrowed her eyes and how her lips turned into a strict white line. But in the end she just sighed: “Whatever!” and stomped off to her room.
Gerard shook his head. She’ll tell him what’s wrong when she wants to. All Gerard knew was that he may never learn to understand women, even the little ones.
Gia groaned of frustration after she plopped down on the yellow beanbag chair. It really bothered her. Ever since she woke up, she had been thinking about how she could ask her father if he had a drinking problem again. How do you ask a person something like that? It’s not so easy.
Even when she was at the library she couldn’t concentrate on the book she was trying to read. Gerard’s (assumed) alcoholism was ruining her holiday reading, too! How rude is that.
She sighed and after the frustration had fully disappeared, Gia got up and went to the closet where she kept her clothes. She took out the red plastic bag with a picture of a very happy Santa on it. That’s where she kept all the Christmas presents. Might as well wrap a few of them, since she was too pathetic and incapable of doing anything else, like talking honestly to her dad for example.
That thought brought back the frustration and she took it out on the wrapping paper.
A few days passed and Gia kept an eye on the bottles. They were getting emptier for sure, but the disappearing amount wasn’t that concerning – yet.
Every night when she was going to bed, Gia swore to herself that she would ask about it tomorrow, and she never did. She always came up with excuses.
Before she knew it, it was already Christmas, and Gerard and Gia were on their way to his parents’ to have Christmas dinner and to just spend time with family. Gia was kind of excited about going there. It could be a new family tradition or whatever.
The tradition they had before was a bit different. Gerard would be out the whole day, getting drunk and doing god knows what and who, while Gia would be home reading. In the evening Gerard might come back home, but he’d be too out of it, so he’d just sleep.
Gia shook her head to get the memories out of her head. She shouldn’t think about things like this anymore. Things were different.
“Gia, come on! They’ll start eating before us if we don’t go soon!” Gerard shouted from downstairs.
“I’m coming!” she shouted back, turned away from the mirror, grabbed her coat and left her room.
This time Gia hadn’t bothered to think about her clothes that much. She didn’t want to think about things like that right now. And even in the car, she tried to empty her head from all the worry and doubt, but she could still feel the nagging feeling at the back of her head. Luckily Gerard didn’t seem to notice anything wrong.
When they got Donna and Donald’s, the rest of the family was already there. The first thing Gia noticed when she stepped into the house was the scent coming from the kitchen. This was what she loved about Christmas.
Donna of course, since it was her house, was already setting the table with Alicia, and Mikey and Donald were sitting by the table, talking about something. But as soon as they noticed Gerard and Gia, everyone stopped what they were doing.
The forks and knives made a loud clang as they hit the table when Donna dropped them and rushed to greet her only grandchild. “It’s been forever since I last saw you, Gia! Merry Christmas! You’ve grown so much; you’ll soon be taller than your father! And oh my, you’ve gotten so beautiful! Gerard, merry Christmas to you, as well!”
Gia’s cheeks got a little red and when Donna went to hug her oldest son. To get her mind off of the comment, she went to help setting the table.
It wasn’t the food or the decorations or anything of that sort that made Gia feel so happy. Sure, they helped, but really she was glad that she was spending Christmas with her family. Not just Gerard, but her grandparents and Mikey and Alicia, too. Yes, Gia considered Alicia as part of her family. After all, she was the wife of her only uncle. Well, only biological uncle, despite Frank saying that he has to be somehow related to Gia, because how else could she have gotten her ‘dashing good looks’ and ‘incredible intelligence’, which he of course must have passed down to her.
This was how a Christmas should be. They were all sitting by the table which was filled with good food. Gerard and Mikey were bickering on the other side of the table about which one of them is closer to the salt shaker and therefore who should hand it to whom, Donald was busy stuffing his face and Donna was pestering Alicia about exactly when she was going to start reproducing with Mikey.
“Seriously, how long am I going to have to wait until I get a grandchild?” Donna asked.
Gerard forgot about the salt shaker for a moment and stared at his mother surprised. “What about Gia?”
“Well of course there’s Gia, but another one would be nice.”
“What’s wrong with Gia?”
“Nothing, she’s perfect!” Donna argued back.
“You don’t seem very convincing.”
“Oh, so YOU don’t think she is pretty?”
“Of course I think she’s pretty! She’s MY daughter!”
The argument between Gerard and Donna went on for at least half an hour. The two loved each other, obviously, but when it came to certain things, they loved to fight. Gerard had inherited his temper from his mother, after all.
The fight bothered Gia a bit, but she knew that they were arguing just because they liked it. She couldn’t understand why, because she had taken after Mikey, who would rather avoid every conflict if possible.
An hour passed, and they were still at Donna and Donald’s house, spending quality Christmas-time with the family. When Gerard and Donna got into an argument of which one of them was better at card games, Gia and Mikey offered to go get them from up in the attic. Of course, as they were fetching them, they got side tracked and started to look for other cool stuff.
“How do I look?”
Gia turned to look at her uncle. Mikey was standing in the middle of the attic, looking at himself through a hand mirror. He was wearing an old feather muff and a large black hat with a plastic bird and berries as decoration.
“Absolutely ridiculous”, Gia laughed and turned back to the box she was going through.
“Such cruel words”, Mikey sighed. “I think I look pretty. You don’t happen to have any lipstick, do you?”
Gerard came up the stairs, carrying another box that was taped shut. “Gia, do you know where I put my keys? And Mikey, take those off, they suit you.”
Mikey frowned and took off the muff and hat, but continued going through the big chest where he was sure to find even cooler clothes.
“What do you need your keys for?” Gia asked.
“I think I left my phone in the car and I need to get it from there”, Gerard answered, placing the box he carried into one of the shelves scattered around the dusty room.
“Have you checked the kitchen? And what’s in that box?”
“I don’t know. Mom told me to bring it up here. And of course I checked the kitchen. What do you think I am, stupid?”
Gia grinned, and could only barely stop herself from saying yes, and didn’t speak until she heard Gerard go down the stairs.
“What’s in your box?” Mikey asked when he closed the chest and came to see what Gia was doing. This time he was only wearing his own clothes.
“Photo albums, frames, all that stuff. Look what I found”, Gia said and showed him a picture of two-year-old Mikey, naked and crying on the floor.
Mikey gasped. “I’ve never felt this violated!”
Gia wasn’t listening to him anymore. She had spotted another cardboard box behind the one she was going through. Only, this new one was smaller. It only the size a shoebox, and it was titled “Gia Way”.
“What’s this?” she asked, pulling the box onto her lap. Mikey stopped whining about his naked picture and went to sit next to her on the dusty floor.
Gia opened the box and it was filled with video tapes. ‘Gia’s first steps’, ‘Gia’s first word’, ‘Gia learns to ride a bike’. Those were only a few of the tapes there.
“Why are all these here?” she asked.
“Because mom wanted copies of all the photos and videos that anyone had of you, since you were her first grandchild and all. Look, ‘Gia dolled up’! I wonder what this is.”
Mikey picked up the tape, got up and headed for the stairs.
“Hey where are you going?” Gia instantly panicked.
“I wanna see this video.”
She ran down the stairs after him in attempt to get the tape back. She was afraid that it was something as embarrassing as the picture of Mikey when he was two.
“Hey, you saw me naked, you can live with me seeing you dolled up”, he said and dashed to the living room where the others were sitting around and talking. Alicia, Gerard, Donna and Donald all looked up when Mikey ran into the room with Gia on his heels. Though Gerard only looked up for a second because he was in the corner, talking on his phone.
“Mom, do you still have the VCR?” Mikey asked, showing them the tape he was holding, while Gia tried to catch it. But he held it high enough so she couldn’t reach it, even if she jumped.
“Yeah, but I’m not sure if it still works”, Donna said.
Mikey went to the TV and opened the glass door of the TV table. After a few short moments, and much to Gia’s dislike, a picture appeared on the TV screen.
“Mommy, look! Who am I?” said the high-pitched voice of the girl on the TV screen. A woman laughed on the tape. It must’ve been Gia’s mom.
In the corner, Gerard quickly hung up the phone and came to see the tape too. By now everyone was watching it, and everyone else but Gia was obviously enjoying it.
On the tape, three-year-old Gia was standing with a wide smile on her face. She was wearing her mother’s heels, a flower dress that was way too big for her, and a red handbag. She had put bright red lipstick and blue eye shadow on herself, and clearly her hand accuracy and coordination weren’t that good back then.
“You were so cute!” Alicia gasped, her eyes fixed on the screen.
“This is so embarrassing...” Gia groaned and buried her face in her hands. Just when she thought it couldn’t get any worse than this, it did. After she said that, the little Gia on the tape started to sing Madonna.
“I don’t understand why I ever put this up in the attic”, Donna wondered. “I would’ve watched this every day.”
“I have to get a copy of this”, Gerard laughed.
“Me too!” Mikey announced. “Gia, you have some cool dance moves.”
“Oh I hate you people”, Gia scoffed and to give herself something to do, she started to angrily chew on the Christmas chocolate candies.
“Gia, introduce yourself to the camera”, her mom said cheerfully after Gia stopped singing and dancing.
The little girl wobbled closer to the camera in the oversized shoes and only stopped when she could reach her hands to touch the camera. “Hello I am Gia Way”, she then said.
“And what day is it today?”
“It’s my birthday!” she announced happily.
“No, it’s not your birthday yet”, the woman laughed.
“It’s Christmas”, Gia tried again.
“That’s right. It’s Christmas. Did you get good presents?”
“Yes!” Gia squealed, picked up a mermaid Barbie doll from the floor and showed it to the camera. “Daddy got me Barbie!”
“Oh he did?”
“Yes! Where is daddy?” the little girl on the screen asked, and then she answered her own question: “Daddy is helping Santa with the presents.”
“I’ll film mommy!” Gia reached out her hands for the camera and tried to grab it.
“No, Gia, it’s heavy. You’ll –“
And then the screen went all messy and eventually the tape stopped playing completely. All eyes were on Gerard, who had a very serious look on his face. True, he wasn’t the best father in the past, only bringing Gia a present and then going off with his friends to have fun, and he regretted that. He couldn’t change the past, but he was trying to make up for it now.
The rest of the evening went by quickly. Gia was soon able to forget about the whole video thing, and concentrate on Christmas stuff. But she knew that she wouldn’t be able to get much sleep that night. Those things were guaranteed to bother her.
When Gia and Gerard got home, they were both full and about to fall asleep. Gia had had a lot of fun for the first time in ages. And Gerard, who loved Christmas anyway, felt like he had been so far successful at his attempt to make this the best Christmas ever. Not that Gia would have much to compare it to.
And the second that their car pulled up on the drive way, the door of the house next to theirs opened and someone came out.
“Oh no, it’s Tina coming to invite us over. Tell her I died!” Gerard gasped and ran inside as fast as he could.
“Coward”, Gia laughed, and wondered if it was really Tina. It was night already and she couldn’t see a thing from that far, but the person looked a little too big to be Tina, who was very thin and petite. Gia quickly walked to the fence where the dark figure was standing, and when she saw who it was, she smiled.
“Merry Christmas, Lucas”, she said.
“You too. Here, I got you a present.” Lucas handed her the thin present. It had a ridiculously big bow on top of it and when Gia opened it, she noticed that it had tape all over it.
“What’s up with all the tape?”
“I’m not that good at wrapping presents, the paper just wouldn’t stay put”, Lucas admitted, and he thanked the dark for hiding the redness on his face.
Gia had managed to rip open the tape-covered present and she noticed that it was a DVD. But what kind of a DVD, that she didn’t know, because it was too dark.
“It’s SpongeBob Squarepants”, Lucas explained when he realized that she probably couldn’t see. “I remember you liked it.”
“Thanks”, she laughed. She did like that cartoon when she was watching it with Lucas at his place. “But I didn’t get you anything. I didn’t know I should have gotten you something.”
“Oh, good, because I was hoping that you could get me something that I really want but it’s difficult to get but I thought that it could be easier for you because... Well, anyway”, he rambled, and then gave her the object he had on his other hand. It was a rolled up poster. “It’s My Chemical Romance. Could you get me their autographs on it?”
“Sure”, Gia grinned and took the poster. “You are such a fangirl.”
“Hey, one day you’ll be one too and then I’ll get to mock you!”
“That will never happen.”
Lucas was about to answer, with some annoying witty response no doubt, but the door of his house opened again and this time Tina really came out. She yelled at Lucas to come inside before he gets a cold, and invited Gia to come eat gingerbread cookies too, but Gia politely declined the offer because she was tired.
When Gia went inside and to the kitchen to get a glass of chocolate milk, Gerard was already sitting there with a Coke in his hand.
“What did she want?” he asked her.
“It wasn’t Tina. And you didn’t have to run to get away from her, she’s not that bad”, Gia answered. She was starting to feel bad for Tina. It wasn’t her fault that she was so cheerful. “It was Lucas. He gave me a present.”
“SpongeBob?” Gerard snorted when Gia showed him the cover. “What are you, six?”
“Shut up, I’ve seen you watching it”, Gia grinned. She took a black marker from the pen can on the counter and unrolled the poster. “Here, sign this.”
“Why?” he asked, but wrote his autograph on it anyway.
“Lucas asked me to get autographs from all five of you.”
“And he couldn’t come ask by himself? We’ve been neighbors for ages! What a coward.”
“Says he who ran away from a tiny woman.”
“That was different!” Gerard argued. “And learn to respect your elders.”
Gia raised her eyebrows but said nothing. She had watched all day how Gerard bickered and argued with his mother, and now he’s telling her to respect him? Yeah, right.
“So, you wanna open presents?” Gerard asked when he gave her back the black marker and the poster.
“Aren’t we supposed to wait until morning?” Gia smiled. She never had any trouble waiting, and it’s not like Gerard was there to make sure she didn’t open her presents until morning. But Gia had more self-control than most kids.
“Well I’m not going to wait”, he scoffed and went to the living room. Gia followed soon after and found him sitting beside the Christmas tree, shaking a bright yellow present next to his ear. He looked like a child.
Gia went to sit under the tree too and started organizing the presents scattered around the tree. Soon there were two piles, Gerard’s and Gia’s. There weren’t so many presents, but neither of them cared that much.
“What is that?” Gerard asked in shock as Gia opened one of the presents and pulled out a big white fluffy... thing.
“It’s a tutu!” Gia gasped and pulled it on, even though she was wearing jeans under it.
“Who in their right mind would get you a tutu?”
Gia read the card that had been tied to the string around the present. “It’s signed ’Your secret admirer’. I’m guessing Frank, because he drew a picture of himself under it.”
“Sure, he’s always had great taste”, Gerard laughed and opened one large present that was for both of them. “This is from Bob.”
“What is it?”
After ripping open half of the paper, Gerard gasped. “Guitar hero!”
“Great! Now you can pretend to be a rock star every day.”
“Yeah! Wanna play?”
“Maybe tomorrow”, she answered and put a hand over her mouth when she yawned.
“Hey don’t fall asleep yet, I haven’t given you my present yet! Wait, I’ll go get it”, Gerard said and ran to his room. He came back quickly and gave her his present.
Gia went to sit on the sofa and started opening the present. It wasn’t that big, at least compared to the other gifts. Gia furrowed her brows when she saw that it was a dark blue box with a few golden swirls on it. Even the box was pretty. When she opened it, she instantly smiled.
Inside the box there was a circle silver locket. It was kind of simple, only a few graved flowers on the edges and the letters G.W. in the middle.
“Open it”, Gerard said, startling her. Gia had only been admiring the cover, she hadn’t even thought about opening it.
When she did, she saw two pictures. They were of course very small, but big enough to see clearly. The other one was a picture that Gia didn’t remember ever seeing. If she had seen it, for sure she’d remember, because it was such a rare sight. Her father, mother and herself were all in it, smiling and looking happy.
“I thought you and mom never got along?” Gia asked, staring at the picture in confusion. A picture like that would seem perfectly normal if it was any other family, but not this. On this picture they almost looked like a happy, balanced and blissful family.
“Well, not exactly, but sometimes we could put our differences aside and concentrate on what was important. You.”
Gia smiled to his words and then looked at the other picture. This one was a newer one. The first photo was from the time when she was only about two years old, but this other one was from when she was already six or seven. So it’s after her mother died, but before Gerard got completely pulled into the drug- and alcohol-filled world. This photo was just of Gia and Gerard. It seemed more real than the other one, but Gia wasn’t exactly used to seeing this sight either.
“Well? What do you think?” her dad asked, sounding nervous.
“I love it”, Gia answered. “Thank you so much.” Next she did something she very rarely did. She hugged her father. Gia wasn’t one for all this sentimental stuff, but she had done it a few times since the change for better started. But before that she hadn’t even so much as laughed with her dad for years. So now that she hugged him, it was a big deal.
Gerard was so happy that he had picked out the right present. He had been stressing about it for weeks, until he had gone to a jewelry store with Mikey to help him pick out something for Alicia. And that’s where the thought started.
All in all, Gerard thought that they had managed to make Christmas pretty good this year.