Mia's Heart

Page 22

We ride to Giliberti House in silence. The irony that Quinn is driving Dante’s car isn’t lost on me. I can’t help but constantly feel surprised at how well they get along now, when I know that they were on rocky terms at first.

“What’s with you and Dante?” I ask as Quinn pulls into the Giliberti drive. He glances over at me.

“What do you mean?”

“You get along so well,” I point out. “I figured that since you used to have a thing for Reece that you and Dante would butt heads.”

Quinn laughs, a sound that is husky and rich in the night. Even his laugh has an American accent. I like it.

“Dante and I are fine,” he tells me. “He didn’t know what to think of me at first, but once he realized that Reece and I aren’t a thing, he was fine. He’s really easy to get along with.”

“As are you,” I tell him.

“Well, that’s what I’m told,” he tells me as he uncurls himself from behind the wheel. He comes around the car to open my door, like a gentleman. I love that, too.

He opens my door and helps me from the car and then walks me up the manicured sidewalk. He doesn’t dwell on the fact that I was skinny-dipping and that he bailed me out. He’ll never know how grateful I am. So I tell him.

He shakes his head again.

“It wasn’t a problem,” he tells me again. “You would’ve done the same for me.”

And I would have. I really would have. That makes me happy. Maybe I really am a bad-ass.

“Why did you go to the party with Elena?” I ask him suddenly, before I lose my bad-ass nerve. He looks startled.

“Because she asked me. You didn’t,” he points out. “Why did you go with Gavin?”

I shake my head. “I didn’t. I went with Reece and Dante.”

“But you went skinny dipping with Gavin,” Quinn reminds me.

“That was just me being impetuous,” I tell him.

He stares down at me, his sandy blonde hair curling up at his neck.

“Well, maybe me going to the party with Elena was impetuous, too.”

He’s still staring at me, strong and silent in the dark. We’re lingering in the doorway of the house, each of us hesitant to open the door and end this conversation. The whole mood feels like an open-ended sentence. And I want it to keep on going.

With Quinn.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to want,” I admit to him. His eyes are like liquid chocolate as he assesses me. He seems pensive.

“Well, you’re the only one who can figure that out,” he finally tells me. And I know he is right.

“I’m just so confused,” I murmur. “And I hate that.”

“Well, tiny tot, don’t stress so much about figuring it out,” Quinn says. “When you’re ready, the answer will be clear. You’ll know what you want.”

“I will?” I ask. I watch his lips as he speaks.

“You will,” he assures me. “Trust me.”

And as I picture his strong arms carrying me out of the sea while I was wrapped in his shirt, I know that I do.

I do trust him.

It’s a good feeling.

Chapter Eighteen

I see a side to my mother this morning that I wish could have stayed locked in my lost memories. She’s so furious about the pictures taken of me last night that she looks like she could just spit.

In fact, she accidentally does spit on my cheek as she hisses angry words. I wipe it away and patiently listen to her tirade.

And as she says something about me embarrassing her and my father, a memory slams into me.

You’re an embarrassment.

I inhale sharply as a few more blurred and jagged memories come rushing back. I see a few faces and images and colors and it leaves me feeling nauseous and overwhelmed in a sea of emotion.

“We fought that day,” I whisper. My knuckles are white as I fist them in my lap. My mother looks at me from my bedroom windows.

“What?” She is startled now.

“The day of the earthquake. You told me that I embarrassed you. We fought and I left. I was supposed to have been in my bedroom, but I sneaked away to go diving with Gavin.”

“You remember?” she asks, her face pale. My mom is a small woman, and she looks severe today with her dark hair pulled into a tight chignon at her neck. I nod.

“I remember. That much, anyway. But it’s something.”

“You’re right,” she sighs. “It’s something. Yes, we fought that day. You had your nose pierced. I wanted you to take it out so that you didn’t embarrass your father. You refused. Then you left.”

“And when I was in a coma, you took my nose ring out and colored my hair,” I say calmly. She nods wordlessly.

“Why?” I ask. I feel limp. Even though I know what she did. I need an answer now. Am I really such an embarrassment to my parents that they would try to change me when I wasn’t even conscious?

“Because we had to,” she answers simply. “I thought that maybe everything could change. But I see now that it’s not going to happen. You’re going back to your old ways and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“My old ways?” I raise an eyebrow and try to force my temper down. I feel my blood starting to boil and that’s not a good sign. “Just because I see life differently than you do, doesn’t make me wrong,” I tell her. “If you and dad weren’t so rigid about trying to force me into the mold of a person that I’m not, maybe you would see that.”

“We’re not trying to change you,” my mother says. “We’re just trying to change your behavior. You’ve got to realize that a mature person has to sometimes act in ways that they would rather not, simply because of their position in life. You have to act respectful and mature because of your father. It’s just the way it is.”

And all of a sudden, I see her point.

I don’t know why, but it’s like a revelation.

An epiphany.

Maybe Gavin was right and I can still be who I am, but I don’t have to announce it to the world. Maybe I should fall into rank and do what is expected of me. At least part of the time. It wouldn’t hurt me and it would make my life easier. I can do what I want on the side, but still do what my parents want. Then I wouldn’t have to butt heads with them.

Butting heads with them takes so much energy.

“Okay,” I say simply.

My mother stares at me.

“Okay?” she’s incredulous.

I nod. “Okay. I’ll try to be more considerate about daddy’s image. I don’t mean to be disrespectful.”

My mother looks like she doesn’t know whether to have a heart attack or whether she wants to cry and hug me.

So she just looks at me with her mouth open.

“I’m being serious,” I tell her. “I’ll try not to keep disappointing you.”

And she flies into my arms with all the velocity of a raging bull.

A tiny raging bull.

“You’re not a disappointment,” she tells me as she strokes my hair. “I love you, Mia. Thank you for being so understanding. And for trying.”

Holy cow. This was easy.

That’s all I can think as my little bitty mother cries in my arms. I’ve made her so happy by simply not railing against her. I think Gavin was onto something.

“I’m not changing my hair though,” I tell her. “But I won’t get my nose re-pierced.”

“Deal,” my mother smiles. And it honestly makes me happy to see her happy. She’s looked miserable for as long as I can remember. And probably way before that.

I can imagine that I was partially to blame.

“Fresh slate?” I ask her. I pull away and look at her face. Her eyes are as green as mine. And hers are wet.

She nods. “Fresh slate.”

I hug her and am surprised by how good it feels…like a puzzle piece falling into place, somehow.

“Mia,” she says slowly. “I was dreading telling you this, but maybe it won’t be so bad now. There is a benefit tonight at the Old Palace. It is to raise money for people who have been the hardest hit by the earthquake. There will also be a few awards. Dimitri is going to give you and the other kids an award for helping with the clean-up. You should probably go.”

I stare at her. Obviously, if I’m getting an award, I should go. But she seems so nervous about asking me.

“Holy cow. I must have been a monster,” I mutter for the twentieth time this week. “Of course I’ll go. I’m sure Dante and Reece will be there, too, right?”

Mom nods. “Yes. And Gavin and Quinn, too, among a few others.”

“It’s black tie?” I ask. She nods again, looking pained. She’s dreading my reaction, still. I smile pleasantly.

“Okay. I’ll need to go get a dress. But I look forward to it.”

I don’t look forward to it, but part of this new leaf that I’ve turned over means that I will not throw a fit. My mom looks infinitely relieved.

“Thank you, Mia,” she tells me. She gives me another hug before she leaves. And I’m left alone in my bedroom.

I text Gavin.

Are u going to that benefit dinner tonight?

He answers, Yep. U?

I reply. Yes. Sigh.

Gavin comes back with, Do u want a ride?

I pause. I’m sure Dante and Reece will be going, so I can get a ride with them. Plus, if I’m honest, I have to admit that I’m still a little annoyed with Gavin for leaving me like he did last night.

Yes, I understand that he was flustered and forgot that I didn’t know what was going on. But still. He left me.

And Quinn saved me.

That fact isn’t lost on me.

I sigh loudly.

No, that’s ok. I’ll catch a ride with Reece and Dante- and I’ll see u there.

Gavin take a little longer to answer this time, but finally comes back with, Ok. And it is accompanied by a frownie face.

I don’t know why I just did that. I honestly don’t. But for some reason, all I can think about today is Quinn. And how he looked as he plunged into the water to carry me out.

It makes my heart flutter.

Gavin makes me feel safe because he knows me. But Quinn makes me feel safe because I feel like he would never let anything happen to me. Not that I need a protector, because I don’t. But it’s still a nice feeling.

I duck out of my room to find Reece. I find her, along with Dante and Quinn, out on the porch sipping at fresh lemonade.

Reece looks up, concern apparent on her face.

“How are you doing?” she asks worriedly. I stare at her.

“What do you mean? I’m fine. Shouldn’t I be?”

Now she’s the one who is confused.

“The pictures,” she says slowly. “And your mom was so upset. I bumped into her in the hall earlier.”

“Oh,” I answer. “She’s okay now. I told her that I would try to stop being such a challenge for her. And I haven’t seen the pictures. Should I see them?”

Reece looks uncertain and she glances at Dante.

“There’s no reason you need to,” he tells me. “It would just make you upset. It’s our fault anyway. We should have reminded you that this happens to us sometimes.”

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