The Fill-in Boyfriend

Chapter 38

Drew was sitting on the couch in the living room when I walked in the house. I sighed, not really wanting him to take away the happy feelings I had after spending the last hour making out with Hayden.

“I thought I grounded you,” he said.

“After nearly eighteen years of not being grounded, I didn’t know how it worked.”

“Where have you been? I thought I could get clues to your whereabouts on Twitter but there’s been social media silence going on thirty-six hours now. I almost sent out a search party.”

“You’re kind of a judgmental jerk now.”

He shrugged. “I’ve kind of always been. I thought we were firmly in that camp together. What happened?”

“I’m trying to be a better person. Some days it works.”

“So the whole lying thing? That was part of being a better person?”

“No, that’s what started the journey.”

“Well. Let me know how it works out and I’ll decide if I’m willing to give it a try.”

“So far I’ve lost a few friends, the whole school is giving me dirty looks, and my brother thinks I’m amoral.”

“Actually your brother is kind of impressed you know what the word ‘amoral’ means.” He pushed himself to standing. “So I’ll check the no box on being a better person, then.”

“On the other side, I’ve gained some amazing friends who actually know me and I think I know myself better.”

He nodded his head like he approved. “Can I do another documentary on you?”

I picked up a couch pillow and hit him with it. “You think this is some sort of big joke? That you didn’t kill me with what you did? That you can just stand here with your ‘I’m too cool for everyone’ attitude and think everything is fine between us?”

“I was kind of hoping.”

I hit him one more time over the head with the pillow, dropped it, and sank to the couch. “You don’t know everything no matter how much you act like it.”

He sat down next to me. “I know.”

“I don’t put everything online. Especially my real feelings.”

“I’m sorry.”

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.”

“Golf?”

“Yes.”

“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.

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