After her meeting with the company, Braelyn and Topher returned to the apartment that was hers for however long she would be recording. There were all her friends that she knew in New York. Quinn seemed to be orchestrating Ray and Gerard in the kitchen, apparently making dinner. Watching how she handled two boys who Braelyn well knew could be maniacs, Braelyn’s respect for Quinn rose and she could tell why Gerard liked her so much. Frankie and Mikey were absent.
“They went for some liquor,” Ray explained when Braelyn asked, she and Topher coming to sit on the barstools along the kitchen counter. “Quinn is teaching us to cook!”
“That’s a term I’d use lightly,” Quinn said quietly to herself.
Braelyn heard her and laughed. “I vividly recall these two being responsible for a 3 AM evac of our hotel in Missouri or somewhere because they had caught microwave popcorn on fire. I’m honestly surprised this building is still standing.”
Quinn blushed when she realized that her muttering was louder than intended, but visibly relaxed when Braelyn told her story and even laughed at the end.
“If you’re going to make fun, you can cook dinner, Porter.” Gerard was gesturing wildly with the knife he was using to chop vegetables.
“Blade on the cutting board, idiot,” Quinn said. “You’ll stab someone. Or more likely yourself.”
Everyone laughed while Gerard pouted. Quinn kissed his cheek, which seemed to cheer him up a bit. They continued cooking, Ray and Gerard asking Braelyn and Topher about the meeting. Braelyn was telling them about her tentative recording schedule when arms encircled her waist and lips connected with her cheek.
“Hey there, stranger,” Mikey said.
“Hi,” Braelyn responded, settling back into his grip. “I hear you bought libations.”
“Only to celebrate your arrival in New York!” Frankie said, setting down a bulging brown paper bag on the counter in front of Braelyn and hopping on the unoccupied barstool next to her.
“Fabulous,” Braelyn looked around the kitchen from her perch. “We shall require glasses then, I think.”
Ray, who was temporarily not busy stirring or whatever Quinn had him doing, rummaged in a cabinet before victoriously proclaiming, “Everything is in the same spots!” Braelyn remembered that the boys had stayed there before as Ray set several glasses on the counter. “For you, m'lady.”
“Golly gee. Thanks.”
Braelyn and Frankie started going through the bag from the liquor store.
That night they drank well and ate very well. Quinn, it seemed, was a chef. She worked at Bobby Flay’s restaurant as one of the head line cooks. Their typical psychosis ensued after dinner was cleaned up, their drinking games and storytelling going deep into the night. Eventually, everyone was asleep, either in a spare bed or a few fell asleep in the middle of the living room, on a couch or not. Sleepily, Braelyn made her way to the master bedroom with Mikey when it became clear she wouldn’t be able to keep her eyes open much longer.
A few minutes later, she was back in the sweats that served as her pajamas and in bed. Mikey slid under the sheets after her, pulling Braelyn to him. He kissed her softly, one hand entangled in her hair. “I’m really happy you’re here, Brae.”
She grinned sleepily at him, “Me too.” Mikey lay there, still awake as Braelyn’s breath evened and slowed. Just when he thought she had fallen over the edge of sleep, Braelyn whispered, “Love you.”
The way she kind of sighed at the end of her comment gave Mikey the distinct impression that she was falling asleep as she said it and his suspicions were confirmed because the girl didn’t stir when his breath hitched in his chest, jostling her slightly.
He had heard her say it before. She was always telling Frankie she loved him and she didn’t hesitate to tell Stacy and Gerard. Even Ray got the casual ‘Love you’ from her. But not Mikey. He understood. They got the ‘I love you’s, but he got to hold her in his arms as he slept, the witty observations she reserved only for him, the stolen kisses, the long conversations about everything. And because he knew so much about her, hearing that word directed at him was a shock. For a girl who’s only other significant relationships were with an alcoholic father who used her for money, an idyllic brother who tragically died, and then a long time boyfriend who beat her up, just being with someone she had known less than a year was astonishing, let alone telling him she loved him.
Quickly, he kissed her forehead, and with irrevocable certainty he said, “Love you, too.”
Braelyn nestled closer to him in her sleep and Mikey held her a little tighter, a silly grin on his face. Soon he was asleep too.
The next morning Braelyn awoke still in Mikey’s embraced. She carefully sat up, trying not to wake him, and stretched. The movement woke him anyway. He lay there staring at her, that silly grin still on his face.
He wasn’t sure if she’d say it now, awake and alert, or if she had heard his reply the night before. But it didn’t matter to Mikey. She had said it and he had said it back, that’s all that counted. He wasn’t going to press her any further about it. Knowing that that was how she felt was enough for him.
She now turned to him, a quizzical look on her face. Braelyn saw the grin and nodded her head in understanding. “I was betrayed by my sleep, wasn’t I?”
“I have no idea what you mean.”
“I thought I dreamed that I told you I love you. But I can see by your face that it wasn’t a dream.”
She was biting her lip in doubt. Mikey hurried to say, “I can ignore it. Or you can take it back. It’s fine.” He was a little disappointed inside, but he knew that Braelyn was a bit fragile when it came to stuff like this. As far as he was concerned, she could have all the take backs she wanted, just so long as they’d still be spending time together.
“I’m not going to take it back,” she said with a slight snap. “What did you say back?”
Her statement surprised him into outright saying, “Love you, too.”
Her eyes widened a bit. She was smiling, but after a second, it fell away from her face.
“What’s wrong?” Mikey was sitting up now. He had grabbed one of Braelyn’s hands.
“This changes everything.”
She was scared. He could tell. He took her face in his hands and kissed her sweetly. “Only a little bit. We’ll figure it out.”
“Promise?” There was that lip bite again.
“Of course.” He kissed her again. “I love you, remember?”
Braelyn threw her arms around him, laughing, kissing him again. “I love you, too. Isn’t that crazy?”
“Absolutely nuts,” was Mikey’s reply before he crushed her to him and pressed his lips to hers.
A while later they emerged from Braelyn’s room and into the kitchen. There was Gerard sitting at the counter, still looking half asleep, and Quinn pulling things from the fridge. Braelyn let go of Mikey’s hand and asked, “Can I help?”
A/N: I think I referred to myself last chapter as a "master procrastinator." It's so true. Didn't actually finish NaNoWriMo, nor did I update this story. BUT EVERYTHING'S GONNA BE FINE GUYS. I updated. Yay. I hope you dig it. To Nicole and Abbie, glad to be back and super glad you're still reading. Everyone should go review! I love love hearing from yall. Hearts, Corri