When the movie ended, the girls helped Donna clean up the remains of the cocoa and cookies, following her into the kitchen. Donna immediately set about making dinner while Quinn washed and Braelyn dried.
“Can I help with dinner?” Quinn asked as Braelyn put away the last of the mugs.
“Me too?” Braelyn inquired.
“Of course, girls.” Donna then assigned them jobs. Braelyn joked that Quinn would embarrass her because of her amazing cooking skills. That made Quinn smile. Mikey came in to see what they were doing. Donna quickly shooed him out telling him that they were having girl time and to go hang out with his father. After kissing Braelyn’s cheek, Mikey did as his mother told him. “So, how are you liking New York so far, Braelyn?”
“I love it!” Braelyn was carefully chopping vegetables. “And I love winter and real snow. I think it’s awesome that you can basically walk anywhere that you could possibly want to go or take the subway. I don’t think I’ve driven a car since I got here.”
“And the boys have been showing you around?”
“Good. And what about you, Quinn? How long have you been in New York?”
“It feels like forever,” Quinn said with a laugh. “I moved to the city after high school to go to culinary school...so I’ve been a New York City resident for ten-ish years?”
“Where did you grow up?”
“Mansfield, Connecticut,” Quinn answered promptly. “Right across the street from the University of Connecticut.”
Braelyn recognized that this was the ‘getting to know you question bombardment time’ and stood quietly, listening and learning about Quinn. This had happened to Braelyn when she stayed there before they all left for tour. This conversation went on for a while as the women finished dinner preparations.
Dinner was ready soon and everyone sat down at the table as Gerard walked in. Without a word, he sat in the empty seat next to Quinn and started dishing up. Braelyn and Mikey exchanged a look. Quinn stared down at her plate.
Donna cleared her throat. “How was Max?”
“Good,” Gerard answered shortly between bites.
Donna sighed. She wasn’t going to get much out of him. “Braelyn. Tell us about your new album.”
The conversation started now, the others chatted throughout dinner. Gerard ate quickly, not saying anything, occasionally looking at Braelyn across the table. She shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. Mikey looked at her with concern. She shrugged and shook her head.
The meal ended and Quinn volunteered to do the dishes as Gerard had left the room as soon as he finished. Donna said that she would help Quinn and everyone else was freed from dish duty.
Mikey pulled Braelyn by the hand out of the house and onto the back porch. As the door closed behind her, Mikey pulled Braelyn into his arms and kissed her thoroughly.
“Oh, hey,” she said breathlessly when they parted.
“Hey.” He rested his forehead against hers. After a few moments, he pulled away, looking down at her. “So are you gonna tell me why my brother is acting like an asshole and is staring at you everytime I look at him?”
Braelyn smiled ruefully at him. “I can really only guess.”
“Enlighten me.” He sat in a chair and pulled her down to sit on his lap, his arms around her to ward off the chill.
“He said this thing the other night...” She went on to explain about the disappointment in Gerard’s voice when he asked if Braelyn loved Mikey and the rest of that conversation, about the morning’s scene at Quinn’s curb, and the talk she and Quinn were having upstairs.
“So what is your conclusion?” Mikey asked.
Braelyn was torn between laughing and sighing. Boys were never good at figuring this kind of stuff out. She smiled and said, “It will sound really conceited.” Mikey just looked at her, confused. “I think, maybe...that Gerard has convinced himself that he is jealous of us.”
“Like he’s in love with you?” MIkey asked.
“I mean. I don’t know. I’m not in his brain.” She shrugged. “I wouldn’t really be worried about it except that he’s stringing Quinn along and she’s so sweet.”
“Do I need to talk to him?” Mikey asked.
“Would you know what to say?” Braelyn said, laughing. When Mikey shook his head, she continued, “I don’t think so. Quinn is going to talk to him. Which should at least solve the problem of him being an ass to her. We’ll see where it goes.”
“Gerard loves Braelyn,” Mikey sang. She gave him a look. “What? At least he has good taste.”
“Stop,” she said, but she couldn’t keep the giggle from her voice. “Someone will hear.” It was nice to laugh about it with Mikey. The whole thing had been making her uncomfortable for only twenty-four hours, but that was long enough for Braelyn. She didn’t like keeping things from Mikey. She leaned back into him. His arms tightened around her. She murmured, “It’s snowing again.”
They sat and watched the snow for a while before they got too cold and went back inside. As they opened the door, Donna spotted them. She said joyfully, “It’s Canasta time.”
“What?” Braelyn asked.
“Mom’s favorite card game,” Mikey replied, steering her into the kitchen. “She makes us play like every night.”
“I don’t ‘make’ you do anything, young man,” Donna said, overhearing. “You love cards.”
“Do you know how to play?” Donna asked Braelyn and Quinn, who was also standing in the kitchen.
“I do!” Quinn said excitedly. “My grandma taught me. We used to play at the beach house.”
“I have no idea what’s going on,” Braelyn answered.
Mikey smiled, “You can play with me.”
“Come on. Let’s play,” Donny said from the table where he was shuffling two decks of card together.
The other four took seats around the table. Braelyn noticed that nobody called for or went to find Gerard. She inwardly shrugged, then paid rapt attention to Mikey as he explained the game.
A couple of hands later, Mikey had Braelyn playing his hand for him. She even managed not to lose. Eventually, Quinn went to go find Gerard, which Braelyn took as Quinn’s opportunity to talk to him. Her departure left them one player short for the game, so Braelyn started playing on her own.
An hour or so later, they were halfway done with the last hand when Gerard stormed through the kitchen and out the back door. Donny and Donna raised their eyebrows at each other while Braelyn and Mikey shared a significant look.
Mikey folded his cards face down on the table. “I’ll go see what happened.”
“Nonsense,” Donny replied. “We’re almost done. His hissy fit will last until we finish the game.”
They finished a few minutes later, everyone playing quickly so they could find out what happened. Donny and Mikey’s team was declared the winner and Mikey left the table, put on his coat and followed Gerard outside.
After a second, Braelyn, too, pushed back from the table. “I’m going to go check on Quinn.”
“Ok, dear,” Donna replied. “If we don’t see you later, get a good night’s rest.”
“Goodnight,” Braelyn answered leaving the kitchen. Upstairs, she knocked on the door while opening it. She was startled by the sight she saw in the room. “Quinn? Are you ok?”
Quinn was face down on her twin bed, crying softly. Her suitcase that had just been unpacked that afternoon was halfway packed again. The girl looked up at Braelyn with a tearstained face. “I’m going home tomorrow.”
“Oh no, sweetheart.” Braelyn went to sit on her own bed. “What happened?”
Quinn laughed bitterly. “It only took an hour, but I finally got it out of him. There’s someone else, apparently.”
“Ya. My reaction too.”
“Did he tell you who?”
“No. He told me that nothing had happened, but he loved her and not me.” Tears started rolling down her face again. “So I’m going home. To Connecticut. I just need to figure out how to get to the train in the morning.”
“I’ll take you, if you really want to go. Or Mikey will. Oh, Quinn,” Braelyn reached out to her. “I’m so so sorry.”
“Ya. Me too.” After a beat, she asked, “Do you know who it is?” Braelyn just shook her head no. “I’d thought you might. That maybe he’d have mentioned...”
“He hasn’t said anything to me,” Braelyn answered. While it was truthful, Braelyn’s insides squirmed with the effort it took not to tell Quinn her suspicions.
“What is it?” Quinn asked, now sitting up. “Please tell me.”
Braelyn sighed. She wasn’t very good at keeping things from others. In a rush, she explained, “It’s just a theory I have. I think it might be me. He said this thing the other night when I told Mikey that I loved him when Mikey left to come to Jersey. Gerard sounded really-disappointed?-that I loved Mikey. And we are close. I didn’t say anything before, because I didn’t want to sound presumptuous. Nothing ever happened. I really didn’t put it together until last night and this morning. I just don’t know what to do. I’m sorry.”
Quinn smiled wryly. “I had a feeling it was you. Don’t worry. I’m not mad. It’s obvious that you love Mikey. But, you’ll forgive me if I don’t stay waiting around for him to get it through his thick head that you’re taken. Besides, if he really loved me like he claimed to, it never would have entered his mind to love you.”
Before Braelyn could come up with a reply, Mikey knocked on the door. “Can I come in?”
Quinn nodded and began to fold the rest of her things. Braelyn got up and opened the door. Mikey stepped in and closed it. “I’m sorry my brother’s an asshole.”
“Ya. Me too,” Quinn responded. “I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“I figured. Do you need a ride somewhere?”
“The train station in the morning, if you don’t mind.”
“Not a problem.” He stood in the room awkwardly. “Do I hug you now, or something?”
Both girls laughed. “You can hug me,” Quinn said. “We’re still friends.”
Mikey hugged her briefly. Then he pulled away. “Gerard went out. I don’t think he’ll be back tonight. I’m going to go watch tv in the room at the end of the hall. You guys should join me when you’re done packing.”
The girls nodded in agreement. Braelyn took some of Quinn’s things to fold as Mikey kissed the top of her head and left the room.
“You guys are precious,” Quinn sighed after he was gone.
“We do our best,” Braelyn grinned. Then more seriously, she asked, “We are still going to be friends, right?”
“Obviously. Your apartment is way closer to fun things than mine is.”
“Glad to know I’m convenient.” Braelyn laughed.
“We’re definitely friends.”
They fell into silence while they finished packing. When they finished Braelyn stood and stretched. “Are you going to come and hang out?”
“No,” Quinn replied. “I think I’m just going to go to bed.”
“Ok. What time do you need to go tomorrow? I’ll tell Mikey.”
“I think I need to leave at eight.”
Braelyn nodded. “I’ll let him know.” She hugged her friend. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” Quinn told her, hugging her back.
Braelyn went exploring down the hall to find her boyfriend. She found him in a room with a large, old couch and a huge television. She plopped herself down next to him. “Hi boyfriend.”
“Hi girlfriend.” He draped an arm around her shoulders and kissed her cheek. “Quinn’s not coming?”
“No. She decided to go to bed. It’s been a tough day.”
“She says she needs to leave at eight tomorrow morning.” Mikey nodded. Braelyn then asked, “What did Gerard have to say for himself?”
“Nothing. He said she was being crazy and that it was over. Then he said he was going to hang out with Max. What did Quinn tell you?”
“That Gerard said there was someone else...”
“Did you tell her your guess?”
Braelyn nodded. “Quinn suspected as much.”
“But she wasn’t mad at you?”
“No,” Braelyn said, indignantly. “Nothing ever happened. Why would she be angry with me? I never did anything to encourage him.”
“I just thought girls were always about the drama,” he said, teasingly and squeezing her shoulders.
“Not normal girls. You’ve been watching too much television.”
“Probably.” She leaned into him and settled back to watch whatever reality television was on.
A/N: Izzy and Abbie, isn't Gee just so incorrigible? Gah. And Melody! Thanks for the review! I'm kinda proud that you made an account just to review my little story. Just so you all know, this is a glorious day. FALL OUT BOY IS BACK. I have literally been squealing like a 13-year-old girl all day and I just wanted to share with you. ANYWAY. I hope you enjoy! Go review! Hearts, Corri