The bus stopped in the hotel parking lot around five thirty. Topher woke everyone up to go up to their rooms. In the elevator, Frank had his arm around Braelyn, she was leaning into him, one hand holding the ice to her eye, both tired and still rattled from the previous day’s events.
“Gerard, you have an interview at eleven. Braelyn, you were also supposed to go, but I think it’ll be best if you sit this one out.” She nodded. “So Frankie, will you go with Gerard?”
“Sure. If I can sleep some more first.”
As usual, when the doors opened, the two groups went to their separate suites, Frank steering Braelyn, who was walking like a zombie, Mikey carrying her bag, and Chelsea
following. Frank walked Braelyn to her room and she sat on the bed.
“Want me to tuck you in?” He asked with a smile. A small smile appeared on Braelyn’s face and she nodded. Frank did so, kissed her on the forehead and said, “There you go princess. Sleep well, ok?”
He went to leave, drawing Braelyn’s attention to the other two standing in her door. Chelsea came to sit by her next. “Hey hun. Get some rest and later you and I can go out to lunch, just us? If you’re up to it?”
“Awesome. Why don’t you let me take that,” she took the mostly melted bag of ice from Braelyn then kissed her cheek and said, “Goodnight.”
“See ya later.”
Chelsea left the room, leaving only Mikey there. “If you need anything, come find me, ok?”
Braelyn nodded. As he turned to leave, she said, “Thanks Mikey.”
“No problem.” He said with a smile.
Braelyn did the best she could to fall asleep. All the lights were out and she counted sheep. When that didn’t work, she turned on the television. But everything she put on was either stupid or too interesting for her to fall asleep to. After an hour and a half of trying, she gave up.
When she knocked on his door, Mikey didn’t answer. She pushed the door open. He was in bed with the television on, asleep. She padded into the room, shutting the door behind her. Braelyn sat on his bed, leaning back against the pillows. Mikey must have felt the bed shift because he woke up.
“Hey,” he said, his voice still raspy and sleepy.
“I really didn’t mean to wake you up,” she said apologetically. “I was just gonna come watch television…”
“Can’t sleep?” She shook her head no. “Do you want to try to sleep here, or do you want to stay up and watch tv?”
“I should probably sleep, or I’ll regret it later.”
“Ok then.” He pulled back the comforter and sheets. “Good news, I think Good Morning America just started, and that’ll put you to sleep instantaneously.”
She gave him a small smile as she slid in between the sheets. Mikey changed the channel and settled back into his reclining position. In a few minutes, Braelyn agreed with Mikey’s statement, Good Morning America was making her sleepy. She drifted off quickly.
Mikey woke up an hour or so later, not tired anymore. He flipped through the channels before settling on Food Network. He watched for a while, learning how to cook soufflé and crab cakes or something. When he was halfway through a show about ridiculously awesome cakes, he noticed Braelyn stirring.
She was back in the house that she lived in with Todd. He had told her to stay home that day and she wasn’t allowed to watch the television or use the computer. When he returned after work, he checked both the devices to see if she had disobeyed him. He determined that she had and began to yell for her throughout the house. She knew what was coming. It always happened this way. She cowered in the corner of the bedroom. She had learned that this was the safest place to be because there were less things he could use as weapons. He found her quickly. He called her awful things and then came at her. She didn’t struggle, she didn’t cry, she just sat there and took it, knowing that if she reacted, the beating would be worse. But this time wasn’t like the others. Normally, he hit her four or five times before making her apologize or saying he was sorry for losing his temper. This time he kept wailing on her. Finally she cried out, “Stop, Todd! Please,” she begged, “Stop.”
She was being shaken, someone was calling her name.
Mikey was a little nervous. Braelyn was tossing and turning and whimpering in her sleep. When she started crying out, he realized she was having a nightmare and she needed to be woken up. He reached out to shake her. “Braelyn. Braelyn wake up.”
Her eyes popped open and she sat up quickly, looking around wildly. She caught sight of Mikey and tears began to roll down her face as soon as she figured out that she wasn’t in that house anymore. She was safe.
Mikey’s heart broke at the sight of the bawling girl in front of him. He enfolded her in his arms and pulled her into his lap. She leaned into him, letting her tears dampen the front of his t-shirt. Mikey let her cry herself out again. Her tears subsided and she sat there, slumped against him. Mikey’s fingers were tangled in the ends of her hair and he said, “There you go. You’re safe. It’s ok.”
Braelyn straightened in Mikey’s embrace and wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him. She kissed his cheek and whispered, “Thanks, Mikey.”
He hugged her back. “Are you ok?”
She pulled away and nodded. Mikey’s arms loosened, but stayed around her waist. “Ya. It’s just been a while since I’ve had one of those dreams.”
“I’m sorry.” He paused for second, trying to decide if he should ask what her dream was about. He had figured it was about Todd, she did say his name, but he didn’t know anything else. He continued anyway. “Do you want to talk about it?”
She shook her head no and fell forward so her forehead was resting on his shoulder. Softly she said, “Thanks, though.”
Mikey’s arms tightened again, briefly, while he said, “Anytime.”
Braelyn sat up again and brushed the dried tear residue off her face. Some dialogue on the tv caught her attention. Desperate for a distraction, she asked, “What are we watching?”
“Ummm Ace of Cakes?” he responded.
“I love this show.” Braelyn shifted so her back was to Mikey and she was leaning back against him, his arms still around her. Mikey leaned back just a little bit, propped up by his pillow and the headboard. After a few minutes, the tension still in Braelyn’s shoulders receded as she relaxed.
After Ace of Cakes was over, Mikey changed the channel to Fresh Prince and they watched that. Braelyn dozed off every once in a while, but she didn’t really fall asleep again. Around eleven, Braelyn decided to get up and shower. After she dried her hair, she went to find Chelsea.
Chelsea was in her room, editing the footage she had shot in the last couple of days so she could put it online. Braelyn walked through her open door. She said softly, “Hey Chels.”
“Hey Brae. Your eye looks better today,” the other girl replied. “Hold on a sec, k?” Braelyn nodded as Chelsea clicked and hit buttons on her keyboard. “There. All done.” She looked up at Braelyn, “You want to do lunch?”
“Awesome.” Chelsea stood up and held out her hand. Braelyn took it. “Let’s go wander around and find something good to eat.”
On their walk, Chelsea chatted. Braelyn responded occasionally, but overall, she was quiet. When they sat down to lunch and Chelsea asked, “So which one do you want to talk about?”
“Which thing? The Todd thing or the Mikey thing?”
“There’s a Mikey thing?”
“Isn’t there? I mean, when Topher woke us all up, you were in Mikey’s bunk…and Frankie and I heard you crying last night. We came out to see if we could help and Mikey was there, holding you. Plus, before all this Todd stuff happened, Frankie told me you two were cuddling in Frankie’s bed before the show at the Rover,” Chelsea teased her friend. Braelyn blushed. Chelsea continued, “So tell me what’s going on with that?”
Braelyn’s eyes were wide and she said, “Nothing. I don’t know.” Tears were forming in her eyes, but Braelyn managed to keep them from falling. “I’m just really all over the place right now. I don’t know what to do. What should I do?”
“I can’t answer that, hun.” When Braelyn’s face fell, Chelsea said quickly, “But I can offer my advice, if you want it.”
“I’ve been around tours before. I’ve seen the cliché romances that happen. Usually they end poorly for everyone. But sometimes they work. And I think you and Mikey get along really well, plus, you’re adorable together. But,” Braelyn cringed. Chelsea smiled as she continued, “But things are crazy right now with all this Todd stuff, so I see why you could be confused.”
“So what should I do?” Braelyn repeated.
“I think you should go for it. I mean, I wouldn’t push it or anything, just keep on doing what you’re doing. Let it happen naturally.”
Braelyn laughed, hard.
“What? What’s so funny?” Chelsea asked.
“It’s just that Frankie said the same thing a couple of days ago.”
“I got you to laugh. I think that makes me the winner."
“Winner of what?”
“Well,” Chelsea said, “We were talking yesterday of how to make you feel better. None of us have really dealt with this kind of thing before, and the boys were so worried. We decided that we thought you were happiest when you were laughing, so we wanted to make you laugh. I made you laugh first. Therefore I win.”
“Glad I’m a source of competition,” she said with a smile. “I did need something to cheer me up.”
Their food came. Braelyn and Chelsea had taken a couple of bites when Chelsea asked, “So what about the other thing?”
“Ya. I mean you don’t have to tell me. But if you want to, I’ve been told I listen well.”
“Ok.” Braelyn launched into an explanation. She managed not to cry, she just told the facts.
“Oh, hun,” Chelsea said when Braelyn finished her story. “That’s awful. I’m so sorry.”
“So am I,” Braelyn was looking down. “But,” she raised her eyes to her friend’s, “it’s over. I’ve been sad about it. And I hate that person. The way I get when I think about it, that girl I become, that weepy, dependent person; that girl is the girl who let Todd beat her up and make her think that that was ok. I have no interest in being that girl anymore. I have ignored the problem, and now I’ve cried about it and faced my feelings. So now I’m done.” She grinned, “I’m done. I can go back to being happy and strong.”
Chelsea looked at this phenomenal girl in front of her. She wiped the tears that had leaked out of her eyes and said, “Good. I like happy Braelyn.”
And with that they continued their lunch, happily chatting. They gossiped about Bob, who’s attitude had not improved since they arrived in Dallas. “What exactly is wrong?”
“I don’t know,” Chelsea said. “I’ve known them for a while. Bob’s always been the one who was less excited about all the shenanigans that go on.”
“I hope he cheers up soon,” Braelyn said.
“Ya. He’ll come around.”
A/N:Abbie and Lauren, your reviews were wonderful. Exactly how I wanted people to react =) I hope you (and everyone else who's reading) enjoy this chapter too. Perhaps there's a bit of relief in it for you, Lauren? A promise of what's to come ;) go review! hearts, Corri