[*Chapter 28: Can I build a heaven out of ash?
For the next few days after returning back to New Jersey, Gia stayed home. Gerard let her stay mostly to relax, but also because he felt he had a lot to make up for her.
To Gia it all seemed a little overwhelming. She felt like she was an animal in a cage.
On the other hand she was allowed to move freely and even go outside, but there was always someone watching her. If she told Gerard that he couldn’t come to the store with her, then she’d see Frank in the very same store with a binocular, trench coat and a walkie-talkie, no doubt watching her. The guys of course denied everything and said that they had all their faith in her, but she knew otherwise.
In the end, she was happy when she got to go to school.
“Are you sure you’ll be fine?” Gerard asked for the millionth time.
“Yeah”, Gia sighed, putting on her new shoes.
That was another thing. Ever since she came back, every time one of the guys or her grandparents came over (and they came over a lot these days), they brought her presents. Gia had a feeling that they were trying to bribe her.
“You could stay home for another day”, Gerard suggested with an innocent smile on his face.
“No thanks, I’m fine”, Gia answered. She got up from the floor, her shoes tied. She was ready.
Gia had bleached her hair back to blonde on her third day home, but even though she had Alicia to help her, the color just wasn’t quite as blonde as it used to be. Alicia told her that eventually the darker color will grow out when her hair grows, but Gia wasn’t convinced. It was a little depressing. Gia liked her blonde hair.
“I’m going now”, Gia announced and before her dad could say a word (and for the millionth time offer to drive her to school), she was out of the door.
The minute she closed the door, she saw Lucas come out of the house next to hers.
“Hey”, Lucas said and stopped to wait for her on the side walk for her to catch up.
“Good morning”, Gia smiled.
She had only seen Lucas by glance these past few days. Once she had tried to go to the movies with him, but that’s when Gerard put his foot down. That memory Gia didn’t particularly like. Gerard had shouted that he would let her see the boy over his dead body. It was awful, and made Gia feel guilty. That’s what Gerard had become because of her. A paranoid freak. He didn’t know how to act around her anymore. He clearly wanted to set her limits, but he was afraid that she’ll snap and run off again.
“How have you been doing?” Lucas asked.
Gia shrugged. “Okay, I guess. Things are a little weird though.”
“I know what you mean. Dad grounded me and Tina keeps trying to make me happy.”
She glanced at him and raised an eyebrow. “Did it ever occur to you that she’s just trying to make you like her? She really wants you to.”
Lucas didn’t answer that. Instead, he said: “They’re letting me go live with my mom.”
“What?” Gia was shocked. “You’re moving?”
“I don’t know yet. I mean, I always wanted to live with mom but now... I just don’t know anymore.”
Gia wanted him to stay. He couldn’t move. He was her only friend. But she couldn’t say that. Gia had seen Lucas with his mom, and she had a feeling that that’s where he would be the happiest.
“What do you think?” Lucas asked.
“I think that you should do whatever makes you happy. I’ll miss you though.”
By then they had arrived at the school gates. Lucas turned to face her. “Look, about that running away thing... Things are a little crazy here at school now. I was here already yesterday, and people have been... Well, you’ll find out.”
Gia looked at it strangely, wondering exactly what he meant. But it was already before her first class that she found out.
Gia headed to her locker as usual, to leave her jacket and to get some stuff, but on her way there everyone stared at her. Being the center of the attention made her uncomfortable and now she wished that she had stayed at home like her dad wanted her to.
When she closed her locker, an unknown girl appeared next to her. Gia was bemused by the pearly white, large smile on the girl’s face.
“Hi! I’m Mona!” the girl introduced herself. She was actually very pretty, with her bright smile, fair skin, thin figure and shiny auburn curls. “You must be Gia Way. You know, it’s strange, I’ve never seen you before. Are you new at this school?”
Gia shook her head, and tried to answer, but she couldn’t get a word out of her mouth.
“Well, whatever. I just know that we’ll be really good friends! Why don’t you come sit next to me and my other friends at lunch? We’ll have so much fun. My friend Allie actually –“
Mona suddenly stopped talking. The smile disappeared off of her face and a scowl took its place. Gia felt a hand on her arm and turned to look. To her surprise, it was Danny, one of Lucas’ friends.
“Why don’t you just fuck off, princess?” Danny frowned at the brunette girl.
“No offense, but I hardly think she would choose your company over mine”, Mona said. All the friendliness had disappeared, and suddenly Gia was intimidated by her. She couldn’t explain why the girl made her so nervous now, but Gia just wanted to get away from her. She also thought she’d never be happy to see Danny, but now she was more than glad to be led away from the girl by him.
“Don’t mind Mona, she’s always been a bitch”, Danny said. “What class do you have?”
“Math”, Gia answered. She was still a little baffled. “What exactly was that?”
“Well of course now everyone knows that your dad’s famous and everyone wants a piece. Watch out for Mona, she’s a famewhore and will do anything to be friends with you. Trust me, I should know. She’s my cousin.”
On her way to math class, Gia noticed people staring at her and whispering to each other when she passed by them. She was glad she couldn’t hear what they were saying, because judging by the looks on their faces, it wasn’t anything nice.
She cursed Lucas for convincing her that running away was a good thing. Mona and a couple of other people approached her a few times, but every time they did, either Lucas, Danny or Sherry came to her rescue. Gia was happy about that because she could never be mean to someone who acted nice towards her.
Gia’s last class was homeroom, and in like all the other classes, she felt like a badly mutated alien from outer space. Those who weren’t staring straight at her sneaked glances, and in one case, even threw paper balls at the back of her head in attempt to get her attention. Luckily the thrower was soon stopped by a girl who sat next to him. Gia just wished that Lucas was in the same homeroom with her.
“Alright, class”, the teacher said cheerfully. “As you all know, next year all of you – at least I hope – will be going to high school. And after you graduate, and ever before that, you will face a very difficult choice. What do you want to be when you grow up? Well, in order to help you with your decision, we are having a career day!”
A few students groaned, but the teacher paid no attention to them and instead continued talking with her overly excited voice.
“All of your parents, if they are available on the chosen day, are welcome to come to our class and talk about what they do. Who knows, maybe some of you find something you’d like to do for a living.”
As nearly all the other students in the class, Gia, too, frowned. This was not good. Not good at all. Her only option was to keep it hidden from her dad. Knowing him, he would take career day as some sort of a chance to bond and show her what a great parent he can be. It was nice that he tried but... Too much is too much.
When it was finally time to go home, Gia swore that she will never go to school again.
She slammed the door to her house shut, kicked off her shoes and with tears burning in her eyes, she ignored the greeting she got from her dad and stomped up the stairs to her room.
Gia grabbed a jar of candy and went to lie down on her bed. Jersey rested his head on the side of the bed, looking at her with big eyes and wagged his tail happily. Gia reached out her hand to rub the dog’s head and ears. With her free hand she stuffed a fistful of candy into her mouth.
There was a knock on her door. When she didn’t answer, Gerard opened the door and peeked in.
“What’s wrong?” he asked with a concerned voice and went to sit on the side of the bed.
“Nothing”, Gia answered and tried to wipe away the tears from her eyes. She didn’t want anyone to see her cry, and this was just an inadequate reason to cry.
“Nothing’s wrong?” Gerard repeated. “Somehow I don’t believe that.”
Jersey jumped on the bed and sat next to her, glaring at Gerard. The dog apparently thought that Gerard was the reason for all this crying his owner was doing.
Gia took a deep breath and put away the candy jar. “It’s just that... Some people were so nice at school.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” he asked, not getting it.
“Yes! They were only nice because they know who you are! It’s all wrong!” Frustrated, Gia buried her head in the pillows so that they would stifle her scream.
Gerard frowned. Ever since he became famous, he made sure that Gia wouldn’t have to suffer from it. But now she had to go through it. Gia had been perfectly fine with being invisible, he knew that.
“I’m sorry”, he said after she stopped screaming into the pillows. He didn’t know what else to say.
“It’s not your fault”, Gia mumbled, turning around to face him. “Then again, it kind of is. You’re the one who revealed the whole thing. Though you only did that because I ran away so I can only blame myself. And Lucas came up with the whole thing so basically it’s his fault. This sucks!”
“By the way, why did he want to run away anyway? I mean, if I had to live with Tina, I would do anything to get away too, but I thought he had kind of learned to... endure it.”
“Well, Tina’s pregnant. And he didn’t want to be in the way or something.”
Gerard scowled. “Oh my god. If the kid is anything like Tina, we’re gonna have to move.”
For a moment, he managed to get her mind off of the kids at school. She actually laughed and smiled until the unpleasant thoughts came back.
“I don’t want to go to school anymore”, she finally said.
“If you had said that in the morning, I would’ve probably let you stay home”, he chuckled. “But you know, you only have a few months left in that school. And in a few weeks no one will even remember the whole thing. You’re strong, you’ll manage.”
Gia was about to protest with a comment something like ‘But I don’t like it!’, but thought against it. He was right. She was being childish, and she’d be changing school next autumn anyway. Now she didn’t worry about the nice kids at school anymore, she had other things to think about. Gia had just realized that she’ll be going to high school really soon. This was a much bigger problem.
Another thing that made her nervous: the piece of blue paper in her school bag. After Gerard left the room, she dug the paper from her bag and read it over once more.
‘Career day’ it said in big bold letters. Gia frowned and took another candy from the jar. Almost immediately though, she spit the candy out. It was one of those weird cherry and cactus candies Frank gave her. Gia wrapped the career-day flier on top of the candy and threw it into the trash.
There was no way she was letting her dad come to the school to talk to her class. She was already under the microscope as it is, actually seeing her dad would only feed their curiosity.