He sat down next to me. “I know.”
“I don’t put everything online. Especially my real feelings.”
I went still. It was the first time he’d said it, probably the only time I’d ever heard him say it.
“I’m really, truly sorry, Gia. I messed up.”
I met his eyes. “So why were you trying to get me in trouble with Mom and Dad, then?”
“Because Mom and Dad . . .” He grunted in frustration. “Because they don’t make us accountable for anything. It turned me into a crappy person. I was hoping they’d do better with you.”
“Are you blaming Mom and Dad for your issues? How original of you.”
He laughed. “I know. Everyone has issues with their parents.” He tapped my knee with his fist. “I used to think you didn’t.”
“I used to pretend I didn’t.”
“Welcome to the real world, sister.”
“Funny. So . . . you really hate Mom and Dad?”
“No, of course not. I’ve just discovered the things I agree with them about and the things I don’t.”
“Like the fact that they still forgive us more easily than they should,” I pointed out.
Drew shrugged. “Things could be a lot worse.”
“They could be judgmental jerks.”
“Or lying snobs.”
I turned to my brother, taking in his too-long hair and his cocky little grin. “One day you’re going to meet a girl who knocks you down a few pegs. I really hope she’s a Twitter addict.”
“That would be a deal breaker, G.”
“And that’s why it will be so satisfying.”
He took a deep breath. “If she’s at all like you, I’ll consider myself lucky.”
Tears made my eyes sting, and as I was fumbling with how to respond to that, he pulled his keys out of his pocket. “Well, I have to go.”
It was obvious we had a long way to go in the communicating-our-feelings department, but it felt possible now. I nodded.
“Bradley is waiting for me. We drove together up here.”
“Bradley is still here?” I looked around, waiting for him to appear out of nowhere again.
“Not here but I left him at a driving range.”
“I didn’t know he liked golf.”
“Yeah, he doesn’t know much about you either.”
“It’s pathetic, I know.”
“What’s pathetic is that I am going to be stuck driving with him for the next three hours and we have absolutely nothing in common.”
I laughed and gave him a hug. “Thanks for the thought. Thanks for . . . Thanks.”
Five minutes after my brother left, my mom walked in the front door. She paused when she saw me then quickly replaced her open mouth of surprise with a smile. “Gia, hi. You’re home.”
I stood. “Mom, no need to pretend you’re not upset. I was really mean to you this morning and I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. We’re good. It’s fine.” She headed for the kitchen and I followed her.
“Mom. Please don’t add to the misuse of that phrase.”
“What?” She started unloading the dishwasher.
“Mom, will you look at me?”
She turned and faced me.
“It’s time we started expressing how we really feel more. I know I upset you this morning.”
She let out a strangled cry and then pushed the back of her wrist to her mouth.
“You’re a mom, not an android. I know you have feelings. You’re allowed to show them sometimes. I won’t think any less of you. In fact, I think that will help me get to know you better.”
She pulled me into a hug.
“We’re not perfect and we shouldn’t have to be.” I reached up and ran my hand over her hair, messing it up.
“Gia.” She smoothed it back down.
I laughed. I knew she wouldn’t change in that instant or even overnight but this felt like a start.
I closed my eyes, visualizing what I would say when I went on the stage in front of the whole school for the rally. My main focus was getting the seniors excited about graduation and especially the sober grad party I’d spent the last couple of months organizing. What had started off as another bullet point for my resume had ended up being something I was looking forward to. Especially after Marcus had told me his band would play.
It was loud out there, the entire student body smashed into the gym. From where I stood behind the thick curtain, the sound pressed into me. I took three deep breaths, my speech perfected, my confidence up. Daniel stood next to me, ready to take the stage with me even though he rarely spoke to the group. Hearing our names called over the speakers, we stepped out from behind the curtain. I could sense a slight change in the reaction of the audience to me. Normally there were loud cheers and whistles. Today along with those there was also a lower murmur. Not from everyone but from some. It was the first time I realized that my actions had a broader effect than just within my circle of friends.
I took the mic and cleared my throat. “Hello, everyone! Welcome to the last rally of the year! Who’s ready for summer?” Beside me, Daniel raised his hands in the air and gave a loud shout.
There was a collective roar from the audience but it too was followed by some more murmuring. It threw me off. My speech that I had practiced seconds ago was slipping away. My eyes shot around the gym and landed on Claire. Hers was the safe face I had always searched for in the crowd on the few times I’d lost my composure. It wasn’t a safe face today and only made the rest of my speech leave my brain.
“I’m sorry,” I heard my voice echo through the gym. Daniel let out a surprise grunt from beside me. I hadn’t meant to say it out loud but I had so I kept going. “I made a mistake. No, I won’t be vague like that. I’ll own up to it. I lied. I’ve been lying to my friends for the past month or so. Over something I didn’t need to. Mainly because I didn’t trust that my friends would still be my friends if I told the truth. And also because I was very self-absorbed and wasn’t thinking beyond my own problems. What’s wrong with me?”
It was a rhetorical question but someone from the audience yelled, “Nothing. You’re still hot.” Laughter bounced off the walls with that comment.
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, thanks. That didn’t really help. My point is I messed up. And Claire, Laney, Jules, I’m sorry. And actually, anyone else who heard about it and was disappointed in me, I’m sorry to you too. I’m trying to be better. I want to be better.”