“How the hell did YOU find out where I live?!”
“Easy, phone book Jo” Gerard says in a sarcastic tone. I clenched my teeth together.
“Nothing more friendly than a neighbor!” He gives me a huge smile, how I missed that…NO STOP! Get it out of your head! I just shake my head and storm away from him and go up to my front door. I look back one more time at him and Ray laughing, I glare at them both before slamming my door shut.
Immediately Pickles slowly gets up from the bottom of the stairwell and makes his way over to me. I pat him on his head and he looks up at me with confused eyes. I get down on my knees and just hug him around his big torso. He lets out a small whimper and licks my face. I smile and give him a kiss on the tip of his nose.
“He’s back” I say. Pickles eyes get wide and he tilts his head to the side, “Gerard” I say. Immediately his tail goes from in a stand still position to wagging like crazy and he even lets out a bark. “No, no he is bad remember?” Pickles still continues to wag his tail and lets out another bark. I roll my eyes. “Yeah..well what do you know!” I sass back at him.
“Talking to your dog?” Arianna’s voice says. I look up and at the top of the spiral staircase where she is standing with her hands on her hips and giving me a weird look.
“Long day…” I say with a laugh.
“Did you see we got new neighbors?!” She asks excitedly while coming down the stairs.
“Yeah…unfortunately” I say with a sigh.
“Why?” She asks finally reaching the bottom of the stairs.
“You didn’t see?”
“It’s Gerard who moved next door!” I say clenching my teeth again.
“WHAT?! Oh my God! Just…Oh my God!” She squeals.
“No this is a BAD thing Ari!” I scold. Her excitement escapes her face and she frowns.
“Oh right…the whole, you two being in love thing” she says rolling her eyes.
“We aren’t in love” I hiss.
“Uhuh. Whatever” she grunts.
“We aren’t!” I argue.
“Then why did he move across the street?! Why every time he is mentioned your eyes light up?” she points out.
“One my eyes don’t light up and two because I told him we could be friends” I say biting my lower lip. Arianna rolls her eyes and puts her hands on her hips again.
“So, let me get this straight…You don’t want anything to do with him, so you tell him you want to be friends? You say you don’t have any feelings for this guy, yet you can totally tell you do. It just doesn’t make sense” She says shaking her head. I stand there and realize she has a point.
“ I..I just wanted to be nice by saying that! I was hoping he’d go away, but NOPE! So I am really regretting saying it now, and no Arianna I DO NOT have any feelings for him!” I tell her practically yelling the last part.
“Whatever, I give it a month before you’re back together, deny it all you want, but anyone with eyes can tell there is something there” She walks away from me and into the kitchen area. I let out an annoyed sigh and head upstairs so I can get ready for my date with Ken.
I spend at least a good 2 hours getting ready, from showering, doing my hair, make up and trying on at least 5 different dresses I am finally ready. I decided to go with a blue strapless dress that goes just a little past my knees. My hair is up in a nice bun and I am wearing the diamond necklace Chad gave me so oh so long ago. Hey, might as well get some use out of it right? I examine myself in the mirror a few more minutes before I decide I am good to go. I slowly walk down stairs trying not to trip on my heels. When I hit the bottom of the stairs I hear voices coming from the living room. I slowly walk down the hall when I see Johanna leave the room with a smile on her face, but when she sees me her jaw drops.
“Dammmnnn!” she exclaims. I feel my cheeks turning red. “I have never seen you get so….fancy. You look absolutely beautiful Jo!” She gives me a hug I smile and hug her back.
“Thanks, Ken said we were going somewhere nice tonight.”
“AH right Ken…” she says trailing off. I hear more voices coming from the living room area. I raise an eyebrow at her and continue to make my way down the hall.
“Jo! Jo! Please don’t be mad!” Arianna calls after me. After I turn the corner I look and realize why she didn’t want me to be mad. Sitting there , on my couch is Ray, Frank, Mikey, some other guy I don’t know and Gerard. Everyone looks up at me except Gerard who is too busy petting Pickles, but when he does his eyes light up and his mouth falls open. I let out a small laugh.
“Johanna?! Oh my God! I’ve missed you!!” Mikey says getting up and giving me a huge hug.
“Hey don’t hog her!” Frank says behind him. I smile the biggest I’ve smiled in a while and hug them both. I have missed them all so much.
When Frank finally pulls away I look at Gerard who is still sitting down just staring. I give him a smug look and then look back at the guys.
“Jo! You look great! Where are you heading off to?!” Mikey asks.
“Ken, is taking me out somewhere tonight. He told me to get fancy so yeah here I am” I say pointing to my dress and hair.
“Who’s Ken?” Ray asks.
“Her ‘boyfriend’” Arianna answers for me. I just nod in agreement. Everyone’s face falls including Gerard who doesn’t even look at me now.
I hear the doorbell ring and know it is Ken. I feel an immediate relieved sensation.
“That will be him” I say with a big smile and pointing twards the door. Everyone nods.
“You’ll be back right?!” Frank asks urgently.
“Yeah of course” I respond. I smile and wave at everybody, and as I am walking out I hear Gerard say “I like your necklace” I stop and put my hand on the necklace around my neck. He remembers? After all this time? I just look back at him shake my head, and make my way to the front door.
When I open the door, Ken is standing there in grey suite. His hands tucked inside his pocket, and smiling down at me. He is so handsome. He comes a step closer to me and gives me a kiss on the head giving me butterflies, and in that brief moment Gerard is nowhere near my mind.
“You look beautiful, shall we go?” he asks reaching for my hand ,I nod and turn around to close the door. When I take one last look inside I see Gerard standing there in the hallway, with a hurt look on his face, I avoid his gaze and walk out into the night with Ken.
We arrive to a big building, with some French words scribbled across the top. I am assuming this is a French restaurant. We pull up to the front of the place and get out, Ken hands the valet his keys and we walk inside. When I step inside my breath is absolutely taken away, it is beautiful. It is like we actually stepped into Paris. I feel a smile spread from ear to ear. There are tables spread out across the room, draped in black table cloths and an assortment of flowers as the center pieces and romantic French music drifts through the room. We walk up to the hostess booth, where a young blonde girl dressed in a cocktail dress stares wide eyed at Ken.
“Reservation for Ken” He says. The girl unglues her eyes from him long enough to find his name and lead us to the table.
“Your waiter will be with you shortly” She says walking backwards not taking her eyes off of him. I roll my eyes. I know he is handsome but sheesh!
“This is amazing!” I gush.
“Glad you like it. It is one of my favorite places” He says opening his menu. I do the same. I twist and turn my head trying to make out what half of these words mean, when I hear Ken laughing. I look over my menu at him and give him a funny look.
“Need some help?” He asks with a laugh. I put the menu down and respond,
“Yes please..” He laughs again.
“You like sea food?” I nod my head and smile. “Good then we will just go with that” He closes his menu and grabs mine and sets them at the end of the table.
“You know French?” I ask.
“Yes, took it for 4 years while I was in college” I nod, impressed that he knows that. I bet Gerard doesn’t know any French! I shake my head, no! Quit thinking of Gerard! Our waiter comes up and says something in French and Ken responds speaking back some jibberish I don’t understand, but it sounds good coming from his mouth. The waiter nods and takes off with our order.
“I ordered me some Wine and you their sparkling cider, I hope that is okay” I wrinkle my nose, I’ve never liked sparkling Cider but he was just trying to be nice so I wont say anything.
“Of course” I lie. He smiles looking pleased with himself.
“Johanna…I hope you don’t mind me asking you this but, what started your alcoholism?” Ken asks leaning across the table from me. My heart jumps and I raise an eyebrow.
“Why do you want to know?” I ask back leaning farther away from him.
“Because Johanna, I…I see myself getting serious with you, very serious and I just want to know more about you, everything I can, I just find you so…intriguing” He smiles his million dollar smile and I get butterflies. I guess If I do want to move on with him and away from Gerard I deserve to tell him.
“I was two abusive relationships when I was in Jersey, both were very painful and hard, the only way I could cope with it was by drinking,” I honestly tell him. He moves away from the table and leans back in his chair more.
“Abusive, what kind of abusive?” He questions with a shocked tone.
“Well, the first one he hit me…A LOT.” I say with a shudder remembering.
“And the second one?” he pushes. I take a deep gulp and continue on,
“The second one, I was abusing myself. This guy…I was just so….In love with I would be willing to do anything and everything for him, he lived a different lifestyle than me, one that included A LOT of drinking. It wasn’t for me, he wasn’t willing to give up his lifestyle and I wasn’t going to give up mine, so I left…” I say thinking of Gerard the whole time. His face, his smile, his smell. I don’t realize it but I have a smile on my face. I quickly get rid of it and look at Ken, who is just nodding.
“The last one you really loved, I can tell by the way you talked about him…”
“Yes….I DID. But not anymore” I lie.
“Well, I guess that means I have to try that much harder to get you to fall for me then right?” He says with a smile. I smile back and nod.
The rest of the night is spent with lots of laughs and wooing on Kens part, and besides that brief flashback moment, I haven’t thought of Gerard once, and that makes me happier than anything. Ken pulls up in front of my house and I stare at the window, I reach for the door handle but before I can Ken is out of the car and running over to my side of the car and opening the door. I smile at him and give him my hand as he helps me out. I walk up to the front porch and stand under the porch light, Ken in front of me. He lets out a small chuckle and says.
“I feel like I am back in high school, going in for the first kiss on her front porch” I smiles a nervous smile and I do too. He leans down to kiss me but before he can get there my front door swings open, and standing there is Gerard. I clench my fist and glare at him.
“Oh sorry, I was just leaving was I interrupting something?” he asks pointing between the two of us.
“What! Hey you’re that lead singer we met the other night! What is he doing at your house?” Ken asks turning to me.
“Turns out he moved in across the street, I think Arianna was just welcoming him to the neighborhood” I say with a forced smile. Ken nods.
“That is so cool Jo! Rock star neighbor!” He says acting like a child. I roll my eyes and cross my arms.
“Oh yeah just fantastic!” I say in a sarcastic tone, Ken doesn’t seem to catch it but Gerard does, giving me a sassy look.
“Any way I’m really tired, I think I am going to go in and go to bed” I lie.
“Okay well I’ll call you tomorrow” Ken says leaning down and giving me a kiss on the cheek. “We can try this again” he says with a laugh and walks towards his car. Gerard stands there with a frown on his face. I just shove by him and head to the stairs.
“YOU were going to kiss that guy?” He asks pointing in Ken’s directions. I stop and turn around.
“Yes I was, you have a problem?” I hiss.
“No, just didn’t know you were into sissy lawyer guys now” he says taking out a cigarette and lighting it. I stomp towards him and pull it out of his mouth and throw it out the door.
“Don’t you even think about smoking that in MY house. In fact feel free to go back to YOUR house!” I say heading back to the stairs.
“I was on my way. But Jo?” He asks. I turn around again and lock eyes with him. I feel like the whole room is on fire and that my legs are numb.
“As a friend I am advising you, that guy is not good “ and with that he turns and walks out the door. I stand there a bit and ponder what he just said, but decide to ignore it. He is just trying to ruin things again.
I walk up the stairs and into my room. I let my hair down and slip off my dress. I look at myself in the mirror and then look to my tattoo. I run my fingers across it, feeling the electricity of that moment. I stop and put my pajamas on. I lay down in my bed and stare up at the ceiling. Could I really do this? Move on with Ken? Start a life? Get married, have kids? I smile thinking about it, yes, yes I could. But when I close my eyes, the first thing I see is Gerard.