Toxic Bad Boy(8)

By: April Brookshire

My mom hadn’t seen anything I’d created in a while and her eyes had gone wide with evident pride in my work. She’d mentioned wanting to show them to the director of an art gallery she sometimes submitted to, but she probably had a case of mom goggles. Everything I painted was wonderful because she gave birth to me. Perhaps I’d force myself to paint a puppy for her birthday. My dad had never been into the art thing, or puppies for that matter, so I knew he could have cared less what I painted him. With him, it was the thought which counted.

My dad had apologized for not being able to get the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition past reception for me, but I’d told him jokingly to give it to Chance. My mom gave me a stern Caleb that said everything in just two syllables and we changed the subject. At least he’d gotten some car magazines and graphic novels past security.

When I’d asked, my dad confirmed his divorce from Julie was still in the works. All I needed was for Gianna to also cut all ties with her mom and the life I’d be returning to would be perfect. Unfortunately, that’ d never happen. Gianna loved her mom despite any mental illnesses the woman had.

Solitude became boring. I’d somehow gotten used to Ian running his mouth. Without Ian’s sarcastic, cynical yapping at night, I was left to my own thoughts. Never a good thing when you were missing someone.

That first letter from Gianna last month had tore me up. I’d even let Ian read it for a second opinion. Had Gianna been trying to get me to break up with her because she didn’t want to be together anymore and felt too guilty to end our relationship herself? Was it a good sign she’d given me her new cell number? Unfortunately, the overall caution and melancholy in her letter hadn’t indicated anything good. Her love you had saved me from complete panic.

Ian had told me to man-up and not read too much into it because Gianna was likely still in a bad place after the attack. He may have also called me a wuss at some point in his uplifting speech.

I’d mailed a letter the very next day to her new address. I’d explained how I understood why she’d taken so long to write, although I secretly felt she could’ve gotten someone else to write it for her. I’d conveyed how happy I was her dad had moved to Denver for her and Chance, even if I worried her dad would disapprove of our relationship after my release. Making sure to avoid the subject of her mom, I’d gone on to assure her that my life was not ruined, although sometimes it did seem as though it were.

I’d promised her nothing that went down was her fault, which it absolutely wasn’t. It would have been stupid for me bring up Josh’s name at all, so I’d been vague on the topic. Trying to keep the letter light, I’d told her more about being here. To ease her guilt, I’d made up a funny story about Ian and Ricky. It was complete bullshit, but I pictured the smile on her beautiful face as she read about it.

I’d given her nothing but encouragement when it came to her dancing with the crew after her other cast was off. As much as I’d always detested that douchebag Jared, I knew he, Taye and the rest of the guys would watch out for her. It killed me to think of her out there alone, feeling unsafe. They’d also distract her from the dark thoughts she’d hinted at in her letter.

My pulse had raced as I’d sworn to never break up with her. My decision would always be her in my arms. I’d explained how nothing had changed for me and when I got home we could return to the way we were.

Feeling inadequate, I’d written some of the phrases from the psychology books I’d read about victims of sexual violence. Phrases which were supposed to make her feel less shameful and help her not dwell on what had occurred. At my last session, I’d discussed Gianna’s situation with Dr. Adler and she’d given me ample advice on the subject.

Not wanting to end the letter on a sad note, I’d reminded Gianna of good memories during our short time together. Hopefully she’d laughed when she read those parts. Trying my best, I’d attempted to be romantic. Not easy for a guy like me, but I hoped I’d said what she needed to hear.

Gianna was my world and I’d been sure to let her know it in my letter.

As soon as the envelope was licked and addressed, I’d punched the nearest wall, tearing up my knuckles. I’d been panicked at the thought of my words not being enough to hold on to her. Locked up, I was helpless to do anything about it if she broke up with me.

My first phone call to her new cell number was made that same day a month ago. The time allotted to me for phone privileges was at a time she was in school, so I’d been bummed to only leave a message after not hearing her voice for so long. I’d rambled on as long as I could on her voicemail, using the small amount of time to the fullest. Every day for the rest of the week, I’d left a new message.

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