“My past is mine. But, as it’s been made public knowledge, I want to clear some things up. Yes, my parents are in prison. The crimes they committed are in no way a reflection on my brother and me. You can’t choose the family you’re born into. And my brother and I definitely didn’t choose our parents. But having him as my brother is the best thing to come out of it.” I take a breath.
“When our parents were arrested, I was seventeen, months from my eighteenth birthday. My brother was twelve. He was, without a doubt, going to be taken away from me and placed with a family. We were all each other had left. So, we ran. Using what little money I had in my savings, I got us a place, and I landed a job. But the money wasn’t enough. Before I knew it, I was working three jobs and still barely scraping by. I was just paying the bills and feeding us both.
“Then, the chance to get into escorting was presented to me. It was more money, not tons, but it meant I could work one job during the day and escort on nights. Then, after a while, things changed. I was offered money to have sex with a client. A lot of money. I was young. Getting paid to have sex with a hot older woman, more money than I would have made in a month, was a dream come true. So, I did it. And I carried on doing it. The money gave us a better life, and even though it was—is illegal, I don’t regret what I did because it meant that I could give my brother a better life.
“Then, I was lucky, and things changed for me. I got the opportunity to get into acting, and my life got better from that point on.
“I won’t sit here and say I’m proud of what I did. But, if I were put into that situation again, would I do things the same? If it meant keeping a roof over my brother’s head and being able to feed him, then yes. We all do things that we’re not proud of, but when you go to judge me for my decisions in life, think about yourself—what you would do for those you love. And then think about me again and see if your judgment would still be the same.
“So, that’s it. Thank you for listening to me. And I’ll see you guys soon.”
I look at Ava, and she ends the video, holding the phone in her lap.
“How did I do?”
“Amazing. Gabe…that was…perfect. If people don’t understand and love you even more after that, then they must be stupid. The views were into the hundreds of thousands, and the comments were coming through thick and fast. I could barely keep up with them, but they all seemed to be comments of support. There was an awful lot of love hearts flying across the screen.”
“Really?” That picks me up.
“Really.” She smiles.
She comes over and straddles my lap, handing me my phone. “You should take a look, see for yourself.”
“I will. In a minute.” I put the phone on the sofa beside me. “I just want five minutes with my girl.”
I take her face in my hands, bring her to my lips, and kiss her.
“Thank you for being here,” I murmur against her mouth.
She leans back, looking me in the eyes. “Where else would I be?”
“After the way I treated you, I wouldn’t have been surprised if you had never come back to me.” I sigh. “I know I’m difficult and an asshole ninety percent of the time, but I do love you.”
“Ninety percent’s a bit generous. More like ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time.”
“I’m a comedian, didn’t you know?” She grins. “You’re being too hard on yourself. Let’s just forget everything that happened and focus on the future. You’ve got a house to build me, remember?”
“Yeah, I do, don’t I?”
“I’ll still have to deal with Digby and Sandy though.”
“I know. But we’ll do it together, Gabe.”
“Together sounds pretty fucking good to me.” I tightly band my arm around her, bringing her closer.
“Sounds like Gucci’s finished her food.”
I chuckle, and Ava laughs.
“I’ll go let her out.” She gets up from my lap and walks to the kitchen.
The next thing I know, the bundle of fur called Gucci comes flying into the living room. She jumps on the sofa and head-butts me in the arm.
“Jesus, Gucci! Nice to see you, too.”
“Babe, you want a coffee?” Ava calls from the kitchen. “I’m making one.”
“Sure,” I say.
Gucci settles down on the sofa beside me.
I pick my cell up and swipe the screen open.
It’s still on the video. The comments are filling my screen.
I’m reading through them when Ava comes back in the living room. She hands me my coffee and sits on the sofa next to me.
Gucci gets up and climbs over my lap and onto Ava. Then, she sprawls out, stretching across us both.
We chuckle at her.
“What are people saying?” Ava asks.
“That they think I’m awesome.”
I turn my phone off and put it down.
“You okay?” Ava asks me.
I look at her, sitting here beside me with Gucci lying on us, and I know that I’ve never been more okay in my life.
I reach out and cup her cheek with my hand. I press a kiss to her lips. “I’m more than okay,” I tell her. “You’re everything to me, Speedy. You know that, right?”
She presses her hand to mine. “I know. And I hope you know, the same goes for you.”
“I do.” I smile.
And I really do.
I know, with her by my side, everything is going to be just fine.
One Year and Ten Months Later
Taking a drag of my cigarette, I stare out at the view of the reservoir and the canyon surrounding it from my spot on our porch at the back of our house.
Speedy and I had the ranch of our dreams built pretty much straightaway, and we’ve called it home for the last eight months.
I look at Gucci and Donnie running around in the paddock, chasing a butterfly. The sun is shining, glinting off the pool.
It’s fucking idyllic.
I can’t believe I got so lucky to have all of this.
But, most of all, to have Speedy. The girl that dreams are made of.
She’s inside, getting dressed to go out for dinner. It’s our two-year anniversary of the day she ran over my foot. We class that as the day we got together because that was the day that she came into my life and never left.
Oh, if you’re wondering who Donnie is, he’s our new pygmy goat. Speedy bought him for me for my birthday six months ago. He’s all black with a white patch on his head. He’s the cutest fucking thing, not that I’d ever admit that out loud.
I called him Don Corleone. I had to give him a cool name, right? But Speedy said it was too much of a mouthful to say every time. And she said Don sounded like an old man’s name, so she nicknamed him Donnie, and it stuck.
Gucci loves her baby brother.
Probably about as much as I love mine. Tate’s doing really well. When his residency finished, Presbyterian offered him a permanent job, which he took, even though I offered him money to set up his own private practice. I still offer the money on a regular basis, and he knocks me back every time.
But, one of these days, he’ll say yes. I’m sure of it.
Tate is also heavily involved with the charity that he, Speedy, and I set up.
I came up with the idea for it a couple of days after I did the live video.
It went viral. My story was in every newspaper, and the video was playing on every chat show for weeks after. I received thousands of letters and emails of support. And almost every celebrity came out to support me. A lot of the messages I received were from people whose parents had gone to prison, and they had been left either in the foster system or with relatives. I heard stories that were very similar to Tate’s and mine. Kids who’d ended up on the streets. People who had turned to prostitution to feed themselves and their siblings. People who’d had it worse than I had. And I knew I had to do something to help.
So, I came up with the idea of Healing the Breaks.
It’s a nonprofit charity designed to help kids and young adults whose parents have gone to prison. Whether it’s making sure they have somewhere to live or if they need counseling or support or even money to help get them started, we provide that for them.