“Happy birthday to me!” Frank shouted, jumping on the bed head first and landing half on the sleeping girl’s legs.
“Frank, your birthday is in two weeks, and you’re crushing my legs,” Gia mumbled.
“I’m having a party,” he said excitedly. “A costume party! On my birthday! And guess what!”
“What?” she yawned, checking the clock at the night stand. It was only 9 am. Why on earth was Frank awake?
“You’re invited! And you have to wear a costume! I’m gonna be a giant pumpkin, what will you be?”
“Frank, get out and let me sleep! It’s Saturday.”
“No can do,” Frank laughed loudly.
“It’s a bit early to be drinking, isn’t it?”
“I’m not drunk! I’m high! On life! Come on, your dad wanted me to wake you up! I forgot why, but it’s important! And after that, we can play games! I brought Sims, and I brought Mario Kart, and lots of other options too!”
Gia felt the heavy weight lift from her legs (he was surprisingly heavy for such a short man), and then moments later heard him most likely fall down the stairs judging by the ruckus he made.
The girl yawned once more and got up from the bed. She heard Jersey barking downstairs and wished that someone else had taken him out for a walk already. She wasn’t feeling like it at all.
Gia had been up until 2 AM, writing an email to Lucas. He still hadn’t replied to any of her texts or calls, so she figured he was mad at her. In the end, she never sent him that email. He was mad at her, and he was entitled to be. She’d be upset too. But the truth was that he lived on the other side of the country now, and staying friends was very unlikely. She still really missed him.
After quickly changing out of her pajamas and into normal clothes (which had now gotten a lot easier now that she finally got rid of the limiting cast on her arm), Gia went downstairs where Gerard, Lindsey and Frank were chatting in the kitchen.
“Good morning,” Gerard said once he saw her and handed her a cup of tea. “Guess what we’re doing today.”
“Sowing Frank his giant pumpkin costume?” Gia asked, sitting down between Frank and Lindsey. Jersey came to greet her, which made Frank quickly jump up from his seat, move to safety behind Gerard and mumble something about ‘Cujo’. Frank and Jersey didn’t really get along.
“No, we’re going to go look at houses. Remember, I told you about it?”
Gia faintly remembered a conversation about moving, but somehow it had slipped her mind. And that conversation wasn’t something she’d forget easily. Gerard and Lindsey had sat her down and went through a complicated speech along with elaborate assures that “nothing will happen unless she’s okay with it”.
“So go get ready, we’re leaving in a half an hour.”
Gerard seemed to be in a good mood, so Gia didn’t bother protesting. And even though Frank insisted that he wanted to come along, Gerard somehow managed to convince him that this was a ‘family thing’.
So, almost an hour later, Gia found herself standing in front of a house with ridiculously big yard, trees and bushes that were clearly trimmed with nail scissors and a ruler. The house itself was bigger than the one they were living in now, and she just couldn’t imagine them living there.
“Are you sure this is the one?” Lindsey asked, grabbing a piece of paper with the address from her husband.
“Yeah I’m pretty sure,” Gerard answered.
“What are we waiting for?” Gia asked. They’d been standing there on the yard for at least five minutes.
“The realtor that’s supposed to be showing us the houses,” he explained, and just as he finished saying that, another car pulled up to the drive way.
The realtor that got out of the house was a man with a flashy smile, flashy watch, and flashy (overly done) hair.
He introduced himself to them as Harold, and spoke to Gia like she was five. Instantly she decided that she didn’t like him, and a glance at Gerard and Lindsey told her that they weren’t very taken with the man either.
“Shall we go inside then?” Harold asked, flashing them his flashy Pepsodent smile, and took out the keys to the house.
The house was big and empty. There was no furniture, so it looked hollow to Gia. When Harold walked them around the house and told them about it, his voice echoed oddly. It was a two-story house with three bedrooms, and what Gia liked the least was the kitchen. It was small, and since Gia had spent half of her life in the kitchen, it was a problem for her.
“So, what do we think so far?” Harold asked them once they had gotten back to the door where they started the tour.
Gerard and Lindsey glanced at each other, and then at Gia. She didn’t want to be rude. It was their house, their money, so if they liked it, she figured she had no room to complain. So, she simply shrugged and smiled, though she was actually hoping that they wouldn’t pick this one.
“Yeah, it’s not really what we’re looking for,” Gerard said.
“It sucks,” Lindsey finished for him.
“Alright, no worries, let’s go see another one then.”
Third time’s a charm, they say. In this case, it was the seventh house that they all fell in love with.
The house was white with big windows, modern looking, with a garage, four bedrooms, two of them with bathrooms and two additional ones and a dining room between the living room and the kitchen (which was big with an island in the middle). There was even a study room, which Gerard and Lindsey seemed to like because they needed an art room.
“Would you like to see the backyard now? I have to say that it’s the best part,” Harold said with a strange smile, and led them through the double doors in the living room.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Gia gasped once she saw the pool. “You can’t even swim!”
“I can too swim!” Gerard argued.
“I realize you didn’t specifically ask for a pool, but I thought you might want to see a house with one anyway,” Harold explained, and then led Gerard and Lindsey to see the small pool house.
Gia however didn’t follow them. She stayed outside by the pool and sat down. The water was clear blue, and it made her want to jump right in. The water reminded her of summer, and that of course led up to Lucas.
“Hey.” Gerard’s voice right behind her surprised her, as she had thought he’d gone with the creepy realtor. But instead, he sat down next to her. “What do you think of the house?”
Gia smiled. “It’s going to be a bugger to keep clean.”
“Does that mean you like it?”
Gia looked back at the house. Yeah, she could see herself live in it. “I like it. Are you sure about the pool though? I mean, you can’t swim.”
“What are you talking about, I so can swim! I’ll prove it to you! Right now!”
“Don’t you dare jump into that pool! Who knows how long the water’s been sitting there, you’ll get all these diseases and die.”
“I am so going to swim there.”
“No you’re not! It’s freezing cold anyway, you’d get hypothermia.”
“Come on, let’s go swim.”
“It’s October, you can’t swim outside.”
“Oh come on!”
“We don’t even live here yet! You’re going to swim in some stranger’s pool?”
In the small pool house, Lindsey and Harold wondered what the ruckus coming from outside was. When they went outside and saw Gerard and Gia arguing, Lindsey smiled. If they were already speaking as if they lived here (or at least were going to), then no use looking at other houses.
“I guess we’ve found our house then,” she said to Howard, who instantly smiled a smile so bright that the sun itself went green from jealousy.
School was what it usually was. Boring. Somehow Gia’s opinion of school had taken a complete turn. She used to enjoy the place, now it more or less just bored her. But the worst part of school was the PE class. PE had just ended, and Gia and Hazel had gone up to the bleachers after changing to their regular clothes.
Frank was supposed to be picking Gia up to go shopping for a Halloween costume, but unfortunately Frank wasn’t available until an hour after school ended. So, Hazel had promised to wait with Gia.
“How’s it going with Ryan?”
“Okay I guess. By the way, thanks for leaving me the other day alone with him in a very awkward situation. Really, thanks,” Gia answered sarcastically.
“You’re welcome,” Hazel laughed. “So when do I get to meet your folks?”
Gia rolled her eyes. “Do you have to?”
“You’ve met my family! I want to meet yours too. Please? I promise to be good!”
“Oh, fine. We’re in the middle of moving, but as soon as we’re all moved into the new house, you can come over.”
“Awesome!” Hazel cheered. “My brother will be so jealous. He is almost as obsessed as I am.”
“You know, since Frank is coming to pick me up, you can meet him now if you’d like.”
“REALLY?!” Hazel shrieked. “That’s so cool! I can’t wait! In return, you can meet my uncle Bill sometime, but I have to warn you, he works at a dump and will most likely hit on you.”
“That sounds about like Frank, too. Except for the dump part. Although his house does resemble one.”
“I have no trouble believing that,” Hazel laughed.
“By the way, are you still grounded?”
Hazel had been grounded for the past few weeks for going to that party and drinking. Turns out her mom was nearly as strict as Gerard. Also now her mom pretty much hated Gia, saying that she’s a “bad influence”.
“Yeah, but only for another week,” Hazel shrugged. “Then it’s sweet freedom again.”
“Until the next time you go out to a party,” Gia pointed out.
“You know, I’ve never been grounded. All my dad’s done is put bars on my window.”
“Yeah, that’s not as bad. Still can’t believe he did that.”
Gia felt her cell phone vibrate in her pocket, and took it out to see that she got a text message from Frank.
“Okay, Frank’s here. Let’s go.”
They left the bleachers and walked through the football field to the parking lot where Frank was waiting in his car. He got out when he noticed that Gia wasn’t coming alone.
“Frank, this is my friend Hazel,” Gia said, and the girl standing next to her seemed to have gone into a coma.
“Nice to meet you. You know, I have a great aunt called Hazel. She sends me birthday money four times a year ‘cause she’s so old that she can’t remember when my birthday is. Did you know it’s my birthday next week? It’s on Halloween, which is awesome. Did I mention it’s a costume party? You’re invited if you want to come! There’s going to be a unicorn piñata! That will so freak out Mikey.”
“Awesome,” Hazel breathed, staring at the man like he was some sort of a golden god and wasn’t just talking about piñatas. Gia had mostly gotten used to that because of Lucas being sort of a fan, too (actually that was a huge understatement).
“I’m serious, you can totally come to my party!”
“Frank, I don’t think Jamia will appreciate you inviting every person you run into,” Gia said. Ray had told her that Frank had invited the waitress at the café they were yesterday, and the old couple from the cashier line at the super market, and the little boy flying a kite at the park, and when the boy’s mother thought he was some sort of a pedophile, he invited the mother too. Jamia had threatened to call off the whole party if he didn’t stop.
“Boo, you’re such a killjoy,” Frank pouted, and then said to Hazel: “It was nice to meet you.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Gia said to Hazel, who had just a second ago snapped out of the trance she had been in.
“Your friend seems nice,” Frank said when the car pulled up to the Halloween costume store about twenty minutes later. “A fan, I assume?”
“Yeah, she’s a fan alright,” Gia sighed. How does she always end up fans with people who basically die whenever they meet her family?
They went into the store and started browsing around.
“You’re not really going to be a giant pumpkin, are you?” Gia asked him.
“Nah, Jamia made me promise I won’t be a pumpkin… But it’s okay, because I found the best costume ever!”
“What is it?”
“You’ll see at the party,” Frank answered with a grin that made Gia a bit afraid. “Ooh, Wonder Woman!”
“No!” Gia shrieked the moment he said those words, before he could even pull out the costume from the rack.
“Fine then,” Frank said. “But trust me, I will find you an awesome costume!”
“I don’t get why I need to wear one anyway. Isn’t wearing costumes kind of childish?”
Frank stared at her in shock. “Well Gia! I’m shocked you’d say that! It’s part of the fun! I never get to dress up in a fancy costume, so I’m taking this chance.”
Gia rolled her eyes, and went to look through another rack.
They spent about an hour at that store, until they found a costume which pleased the both of them. Frank insisted on paying, saying that she can pay him back by getting him a kickass present.
“So what’s this house like?” Ryan asked, carefully setting a book in the cardboard box.
He and Gia were up in her room, packing her stuff. He had offered to help, but since she didn’t want him to go through her personal property and was fairly certain that he had no idea how to fold clothing, she put him in charge of her large collection of books, DVD’s and stuffed animals that mainly Frank had given her as a present.
“Oh, it’s great,” Gia answered. She had dug out all of the clothes from the closet, dumped them on the bed and floor, and was folding and packing them neatly. “It’s got four bedrooms, mine is upstairs, the kitchen is huge, and there’s even a pool.”
“A pool? Wow. So you really are rich.”
“Not really. Or I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it.”
“When exactly are you moving?”
“Depends on when we get everything packed. Should take at least a few more days.”
“Okay, I’m done with this,” he said after he’d closed up the last box and written Gia’s name on it.
“Get a new box, and start taking down the things off the walls,” she answered without even looking up from the pair of jeans she was folding.
“You sure know how to boss people around.”
“Hey, you offered to help!”
“Who is this?” Ryan asked, taking off a picture from the wall above Gia’s writing desk. She got up to see what he meant, but when she did, she wished he would’ve just thrown the picture into the box without asking anything. The picture was of herself and Lucas, when they had just given Jersey a bubble bath and had more water on them than Jersey.
“That’s… no one,” she answered, but took the picture and after hesitating for a moment, threw it into the trashcan. “Now get back to packing. We don’t have all day.”
Ryan didn’t bother stopping to wonder about it, so he just shrugged and plopped down on the bed. “Nah, why don’t we take a break?”
“If you don’t want to help, just say so,” Gia said, but sat down on the bed too. “By the way, my uncle Frank wanted me to invite you to his birthday-Halloween party. You don’t have to go.”
“No I’ll go. But why did he invite me?”
“Well… I’m not exactly sure. But you’ll understand then. He’s kind of eccentric.”
“Okay, I guess…”
“And just so you know, if you don’t wear a costume, he will most likely make you wear one of the costumes that he’d prepared for those who are too ‘cool’ to wear one.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
“You’re welcome,” she smiled, and then changed the subject. “Gosh, it feels so weird to move again. I mean, we’ve been living here for not even a year!”
“Why are you moving then?”
“This house only has two bedrooms. With the baby coming, we need at least three.”
“Yeah, and god forbid, this house doesn’t even have a pool!” Ryan mocked.
Gia regretted allowing him to come help with packing when he looked at her like… like he did at the end of their date a few weeks ago. Just as he was about to kiss her, she flinched away sharply and stood up.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing”, she answered a bit too quickly. She wasn’t sure why she had pulled away; it was like an instinct.
Luckily she didn’t need to explain any further, as the door flung open and the very alarmed looking Gerard burst in. Ryan stared at him like he’d gone crazy, but Gia just rolled her eyes.
“What did I say about closing this door?!” Gerard raged.
“We were just packing,” Gia explained, now wishing that she had protested when Ryan had closed the door.
“Doesn’t look like it to me.”
Gia wondered if he’ll ever learn to fully trust her. All signs right now were pointing to a negative answer. It was okay though, she didn’t trust him that much yet either. At least they get along now.
Ryan left at about 7 o’clock, claiming that he had stuff to do, but Gia knew that he just got tired of packing her stuff. She didn’t mind, because Gerard would’ve kicked the boy out soon anyway.
Gia continued packing, wanting to get her own room done with so she can go repack everything that Gerard had packed wrong. In the middle of packing the things from her writing desk drawers, Gia ran into the various things, such as jewelry and pictures that her mother had previously owned and Gia had gotten from her grandmother. They had been sitting in that drawer since Gia put them there at the end of the summer, and since they were out of sight, of course she didn’t think about them. But now they started to bother her again.
So, she decided that she was done packing for the day, and ventured downstairs to find her father. She found him in the backyard, smoking a cigarette and looking exhausted.
“Hey, can we talk?” she asked him. Gerard nodded, but when she sat down next to him on the porch steps, he didn’t bother putting out the cigarette. A few minutes of passive smoking won’t kill her.
“What’s up?” he asked, assuming that she wanted to continue the discussion from the other night when they had just talked. About everything, and gotten to know each other.
“I wanted to ask you about my mom.”
Her words took him off guard. Gerard had known that it bothered her that she didn’t know much about her mother, but he still hadn’t expected her to actually ask him about her.
“What about her?”
“I know you don’t like to talk about her, but… Would you mind telling me something about her? Anything. I mean, I know some things about her from her parents, but… I’d like to know more. You know, what she was like with me.”
Gerard sighed. Gia had every right to know about her mother. He just hated thinking about that woman.
“I won’t spare you any details.”
“I didn’t really know her that well.”
“… What do you want to know?”
“Everything, if possible.”
This could be a long night, he thought, but started his story anyway. “Alright, first of all, Stella, your mom, loved you so much it’s not even possible. Normally she would yell at me, tell me to fuck off, be rude, not care about anyone else but herself. The moment I met her I knew she had problems. She was a very angry person. At school she was always getting into trouble, fighting with other students, teachers, and basically just anyone with any authority over her. She hated to be controlled. She hated everyone. But then you came along.”
Gia listened to his story intently, but with an absent minded look on her face as she stared at the burning red end of the cigarette Gerard took a drag of every now and then.
“When we first found out she was pregnant, she was furious. She blamed it on me, threatened to get rid of you, get an abortion, even kill herself because she thought her life was ruined. Basically she blamed everyone else but herself. I tried to be there for her, but she just told me to leave, said that I had done enough. Well, then her parents split and she just crushed down. For weeks she just moped around, refused to eat, refused to get up from her bed, she wouldn’t talk to me or anyone else. Well, she hated me the most, she never talked to me, but then she wouldn’t even yell at me. Then, I guess… She got used to the thought of having a kid. Unfortunately, her anger didn’t subside at all, but at least she had something to fight for now.”
Gia didn’t like what she was hearing. She hated the fact that her mother had been so… in lack of a better word, problematic. But she had to know.
“So, when we were able to talk again, we started to talk about what we would do. Raising a kid is no picnic, and we had no money, we were just kids so we were still jobless and uneducated… We discussed the possibility of an abortion. She wouldn’t go for it. Then, adoption, but she felt that giving up her child would be too hard.”
Gerard paused for a moment to butt out the cigarette and light a new one. Then he continued his story.
“When you were born, it was like… she had two personalities. The better one that I liked was the one she had when you were around. She was nice, gentle, and hardly yelled. I think you were the first thing that she couldn’t get angry at. I think she was confused. Of course, it helped that you hardly ever cried. It was weird actually. Babies usually cry throughout the day, don’t they? But you only cried when you were hungry or needed a diaper change, other than that you were silent as a mouse.”
“Can we please not mention diapers? It creeps me out.”
“Deal. Anyway, when you weren’t around, she… She was that angry, bitchy, loud person that she’d always been. Again, she took it out on me. You see, I was trying to finish high school and provide for you at the same time, so I got a job. Naturally that meant that I couldn’t spend much time with you and your mom, so she got angry about that. We fought a lot.”
Gerard took a deep, shaky breath and continued: “Now, I don’t want you to think that she was just some psychotic bitch with attitude problems. She could be a good person when she wanted to. She just… didn’t know how to.”
“Did you have any idea she was going to kill herself?” Gia asked curiously.
He shook his head. “No. I guess I should’ve seen the signs. I knew she got depressed, sure. But she always acted like she was okay when you were there. Then, slowly, she started to push me away out of your lives. I guess she had figured out that you were the only thing that made her happy, so she wanted me to leave. She didn’t really want me to see you anymore, but I wouldn’t stand for it.
“And then she died. Killed herself without any warning. And it was my turn to hate her for doing that to me. I knew I couldn’t manage to raise you on my own. It was too hard, and I had no idea how to do it.”
“Do you still hate her?”
Gerard shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s been a long time. But remember, that even though she didn’t stick around, it doesn’t mean that she didn’t love you. She’s not the villain.”
“Of course she is,” Gia answered. “The hero is the one that stays, and the villain is the one that splits.”
“There’s something else you should know,” Gerard said. “She left you something.”
“In her suicide note, there was a key. To a safe deposit box in a bank in Newark. She didn’t want me to give it to you until you were 18, but… I think you’re mature enough to have it. I’ll drive you down there if, and when you want me to.”
Gia’s breath got caught in her throat, and all she could think about what was in that box. They were silent for a while, until Gerard had finished his second cigarette, and only then they went inside. Gerard took out the key from his drawer, and gave it to her.
Gia had gotten a lot to think about. The mystery about her mother hadn’t really cleared out that much, and now Gia felt even further away from her mother than before. They were nothing alike. Add that to the big barrier between Gia and Gerard, and she had no idea where she got her genes from. Would easily make a person wonder exactly how they became the person they are. That was exactly the question Gia’s thoughts were now circling on.