Jules had killed the mood, and seeing as how I had avoided home for four hours now, I knew I had to face my parents. So I told Hayden I’d better go home and we parted ways. I wondered if my parents had already called and talked to Drew. I wondered if I was going to walk into a pit of hysteria when I arrived home. I couldn’t even picture it.
I braced myself and walked through the door. It was quiet. I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad one. I made my way through the entry and headed to the living room, where I could hear a television or something. Oh, please tell me they aren’t watching it right now, I thought. But when I got to where they were both sitting on the couch, my mom in her realtor clothes, my dad holding a plate of lunch, I saw they were both watching television.
My dad laughed at something that was said.
I cleared my throat. “Hi. I’m home.”
My mom picked up the remote sitting next to her and turned off the television. “Gia, you can’t go running off like that again, okay? There is a proper way to ask for permission to go to the library and it wasn’t that.”
“Okay . . .” I looked between the two of them.
“You’ve been behaving very differently since you started hanging out with that Bec girl.”
“What? I hardly hang out with her at all.”
“Well, I can’t help but notice that your new contentious attitude has coincided with her arrival in your life. I’d like you to have some space from her for a while.” Contentious attitude? Those were always the words she used on Drew.
“This has nothing to do with her. Did you watch Drew’s video?”
“Yes, we did,” my dad said.
“And it was an interesting piece on the changing culture and the side effects that can come from it.” He set his plate on the coffee table and moved to the edge of the couch cushion.
“He used our family as his example.”
“Who else’s family was he supposed to use? He only has the one.”
“I don’t know, a family who wanted to be part of a documentary where they would be mocked.”
“It wasn’t mocking. It was just a take on society.”
“Maybe you feel that way because you weren’t in most of it. I was. I felt mocked.”
My mom placed her hand on my dad’s arm then spoke. “Oh, Gia, I’m sorry you feel that way. I can see how you might, but I hope, once you’re separated from it for a while, you can see it wasn’t intended to mock you.”
“Well, after the whole audience was laughing at me last night, it’s going to be hard to feel like that wasn’t the intent.”
“It’s a piece on society, Gia. Try to take it for what it is.”
“So you’re going to let him get away with this? You aren’t even going to talk to him?”
“We already did. We told him that we wished he would’ve been more clear when he was home about what exactly he’d be doing with the filmed pieces and that he hadn’t been very thoughtful of your feelings but that it was a very well-done piece. We’re proud of him.”
I swallowed hard. “Proud of him?”
“No. I’m not. I’m mad at him.”
My dad nodded. “I understand. I hope the two of you can work through that.”
My mouth dropped open and a hot surge of anger burst in my chest and stung behind my eyes. Words that I wanted to say sat at the back of my throat. If I said them, it would only make my mom think I was being contentious.
I cleared my throat, hoping to sound calm when I asked, “Can I go to my friend’s house?”
“Of course. Don’t be back late and call if you go anywhere else.”
“Okay.” I left the house, feeling suffocated, like I couldn’t breathe. I started to drive to Claire’s but changed directions at the corner and headed for Bec’s house instead. Maybe it was because I was mad at my parents and needed to do something slightly rebellious in that moment or maybe it was because I really wanted to see her. Either way, that’s where I ended up.
It wasn’t until I was standing on her porch, knocking on her door, that I worried she might not want to see me.
Mrs. Reynolds answered the door. “Gia. So happy to see you.”
“Is Bec here?”
“She is. Let me go get her. Please come in.”
I stepped right inside the door and pulled it closed behind me. After a few minutes Bec came down the hall dressed in sweats and a T-shirt. Her face was free of makeup and she looked so different. Younger? Less angry?
“Gia. What are you doing here?”
“Okay . . .”
“I need someone to let me be angry.”
She gave me a little smile. “Well, that’s my specialty. Come on.” She led me back to her room and pointed at the desk chair. “Sit. Start your rant whenever you’re ready. I will be here to egg you on.” She plopped down on her bed then she stood up again. “Hold on. I feel like we need some angry music as our background.” She pulled out her phone, scrolled through a few screens, then pushed Play. Music poured through some wireless speakers on the bookshelf. She adjusted the volume so it wasn’t too loud.
“Laughing and anger do not go together.”
“Stop trying to make me laugh, then.”
“I’m not. I’m totally with you on this. What are we angry about again?”
She raised her fist in the air. “Totally with you. Carry on.”
“So he called this morning, not to apologize but to tell me I wasn’t supposed to be at the stupid ceremony.”
“He did not.”
“And then my parents watched the video.”
“Were they crushed?”
“No, they were proud.”
“Yes!” I stood and started pacing the room. “They told me they hoped I would be proud too, eventually.”
“They watched it? Are you sure?”
“I didn’t see them, but I’m pretty sure.”
“It is, right? Am I being stupid? Do I have the right to be mad?”
“Gia, I’m mad and I’m not even you.”
“But you’re mad about everything.”
“Not entirely true, but I do enjoy my angry times.” She sat there for a moment, on her bed, staring at me. “Well?”
“You’re angry. What are you going to do?”
I stopped pacing, my shoulders still tight with tension. “I don’t know.” I’d obviously felt angry before but my goal had always been to smash it down, keep it inside, not let anyone see it. I groaned when I realized that I was just like my parents. That’s what they always did. They didn’t like us to express bad feelings because that would imply our family was less than perfect. Even my mom’s appearance always portrayed perfection. They kept everything inside. I kept everything inside.
I looked toward the door. “I’m not really a screamer.” Even realizing what I just had about my parents, about myself, it was hard to just let go of that, to let go of a lifetime habit. But I wanted to. I needed to. My insides were on fire and I knew I needed to let some of those feelings out.
I took a deep breath and screamed.
She smiled. “You have a lot of work to do but that was a good start. Now let’s scream at your brother.”
“I’m not calling my brother.”
“No, I just mean scream things and hope he can hear them. Like . . .” She threw back her shoulders. “What’s his name again?”
“Drew, you are a huge jerk and a horrible brother!”
“Who doesn’t even know how to apologize right!”
“And who has funny-looking hair!”
I tilted my head. “You think his hair is funny looking?”
“For sure. He needs to cut it shorter or grow it out longer. You can tell him I said that.”
“It helps a little, right?”
“Yes.” It really did. The fire in my chest wasn’t quite as red hot.
She lay back on her bed and looked at the ceiling. I looked up as well and saw that, along with the nature photographs on her wall, she had some on the ceiling too. “Those are great pictures. Do you collect them from all the places you visit?”
“I take them.”
“They’re yours? I didn’t know you were a photographer.”
“I try. We went on this three-week trip around the States. That’s where I took most of them.”
“Hayden told me about that trip.”
She smiled. “That’s right. I’m sure he said it was like a trip to the underworld or something, and I like to pretend that too, but we both loved it. He forced us to play his stupid games. We fought a lot and laughed a lot and learned a lot.”
“I think it sounds fun.”
“‘Fun’ probably isn’t the right word, but it was an experience.”
In the quiet that followed her statement, I felt awkward, like I hadn’t earned the right to be here asking for her help. We hardly knew each other. “So . . . are you doing anything today? Hanging out with Nate?”
She sighed. “No. It’s hard to just hang out with him. Nate is just . . .” She shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s just Nate.”
“Do you want him to be your boyfriend?”
“Sometimes.” She picked up her pillow and flipped it over then patted it a few times. “And sometimes I want to strangle him. I think I might need to get the second impulse under control before I work on the first.”
“Why do you want to strangle him?”
“Because he’s clueless. He has a crush on this other girl who is totally out of his league.”
My head snapped up. The accusations Jules had made of how big a flirt I was, the angry look Bec had given me when I first met her, all came to my mind.
Bec caught my eye. “Oh, please. Not you.”
“I didn’t think it was me.”
She rolled her eyes. “You totally thought it was you.”
My cheeks went hot from the accusation.
“Whatever. You were right to think it because you do represent the type of girl he likes. It’s why I hated you at first. Well, that and you crushed his band.”
“That was his band?”
“He’s the drummer.”
I sat back in her desk chair. “Maybe you should scream that.”
“That I hate you?”
“No, that Nate is clueless.”
“Nate, you’re clueless!”
“You have the most awesome girl standing right in front of you and you’re busy being blind!” I screamed.
The door creaked open and Hayden poked his head in. “Should I be worried about what’s going on in here?”