My phone rings and rings. And then it rings again, pulling me from the last tendrils of sleep that have me pinned to the mattress. Or maybe it’s Gavin’s solid frame doing that.
I wiggle and shimmy my way out of his warm embrace, the slight sheen of sweat allowing me to slide away without waking him. Faint sunlight peeks over the horizon, filtering through the blinds and casting the room in a soft glow. I sift through the clothing strewed across the floor, grabbing Gavin’s T-shirt and pulling it over my head.
The hum and buzz of my phone starts again as I grab it off the dresser and head out to the living room.
“Mom? What’s wrong?” I squint at the glowing numbers on the microwave and blink a few times, trying to clear the fog. It’s five in the morning. Five. My mother has never been an early riser, and this is so far out of her wheelhouse.
“Baby, I don’t know what to do,” she mumbles between her tears. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do, Gracyn.”
“What happened? Are you okay?”
“It’s your father, Gracyn. I need you.”
Her words squeeze my chest, stopping my breath and halting my footsteps toward the balcony door. Either the man is dead or my mother got slapped in the face with a reality that she can’t sweep under the rug and ignore.
“Please, I can’t do this without you.”
“I’ll be home as quick as I can.” I disconnect the call and pull up schedule info for my airline, searching for the next available flight. There’s one leaving in two hours. I make the change, order an Uber, and slip silently back into my room.
The dips and bumps of Gavin’s broad back rise and fall with each breath. His hair is a wild mess, splayed across his face, shielding his eyes from any intrusion of the waking world. Waking world, my ass. No one on spring break should be awake this early unless they’re still going from last night.
As quietly as I can, I finish packing up my stuff, thankful that I started the process yesterday. There’s really no way I have time for a shower, so I slap on a liberal amount of deodorant and replace Gavin’s soft green shirt with a sundress.
How bad would it be if his shirt ended up in my bag?
In the bathroom, I brush my teeth and twist my hair into a barely contained mess on the top of my head. I scoop the rest of my crap into my makeup case and turn off the light, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness.
Carefully, silently, I open the door and pad through the bedroom. With my hands full of bags, my phone, and my shoes, I turn and take in the relaxed form sleeping peacefully in my bed. His breath softly puffs out against the pillow with each exhale. This is for the best, leaving without a big good-bye.
The battles I’ve waged with my heart as this week progressed are more than I signed on for. I just wanted to get away and have a week in the sun, some frosty beverages, and my toes in the sand.
I didn’t plan on meeting anyone I’d want to spend more than a couple of hours with.
I didn’t plan on an electric connection that was different from anything I’d ever experienced.
Never thought I’d fall for the guy in the band.
* * *
My plane lands with a wobble and on a prayer. I think that was the shittiest flight ever. Way too early. Way too bumpy. Way too many jumbled thoughts going through my head.
Did I make a mistake? Should I have left him my phone number? Should I have left at all?
Nothing here is going to change. I’m here to pat my mother’s head and tell her that everything will be just fine. To give her a little bit of security and support, and that’s probably something that needs to stop if she’s ever going to find her backbone.
The overhead bin is mostly empty by the time I wedge myself out of the window seat in the back of the plane. I hoist my rolling bag out of the overhead bin and pull up the handle before stacking my beach bag on top and bumping along the length of the plane.
The long walk through the terminal, the wait for the parking shuttle, and the smelly ride to my car through the cold March day do nothing to improve my mood or help to convince myself that I’m doing the right thing.
Finally settled in my car with the heater kicking in, I turn on my phone. There’s nothing from Gavin. Not a damn thing.
Because you never gave him your number, dumbass.
The messages that do ping through are all family. My mom giving me details of which restaurant to meet her at, Dad telling me he’ll be out of town for a business meeting. And my brother sending me the dumbest memes.
Obviously, he didn’t get the panicked phone call demanding he come home. Nope. The last thing this family wants to do is have sweet Bryan blast into town and draw attention to the dysfunction we work so hard to conceal. We like to keep all our skeletons—and other things—decidedly locked in the closet.
It’s early in Los Angeles, but I hit the Call button and wait for Bryan to pick up.
“Good morning, sunshine,” he sings as a greeting. “How’s spring break for the golden child?”
I hate it when he calls me that, but I get it.
“Over way too soon. Are you up early this morning or still going from last night?” I pull out of my parking spot and wind through the parking garage to pay and get on my way.
“Why is it over? You still have twenty-four glorious hours until you have to go back to the land of responsibility.”
It doesn’t escape me that he avoided my question, but when I hear the low rumble of a laugh in the background, it doesn’t even matter.
“Dude, I’m sorry. I’ll let you go. Give my love to Jeremy, and I’ll just catch up with you later.”
“Gigi, hang on,” Bryan says, calling me by the nickname he’s had for me since we started talking. He slides the phone away from his mouth and whispers, “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Cars inch forward in the toll line as I listen to my brother’s way-too-sweet words to his boyfriend. It’s not that I dislike Jeremy. I just don’t think he’s the right guy for Bryan.
A door glides open and shut, and the sounds of the ocean waves crashing fill the line between us. I wish again that I hadn’t left Florida early.
“Sorry, G, that um … that’s not Jeremy. We’re done, and you were right, he wasn’t ‘the one’ for me,” he says, the smile evident in his voice. “What’s going on? Why are you calling me at ten in the morning when you should be blissfully hungover on your last day of spring break?”
“Because I’m on my way to meet Mom for brunch.” I sigh. “She called me in a panic this morning and practically begged me to catch the first flight home.” I hand my parking ticket and a wad of cash to the parking attendant, punching the gas as soon as the gate lifts. “I figured, if you were sending me shit, you could keep me company while I drive. But you’re busy. I don’t want to interrupt.” Disappointment laces through my words, and I can’t help but hope he’ll talk to me for a little bit. Or, really, let me talk to him.
“Tell me what’s up, sweets. You don’t sound like you, even considering the shitshow our parents cast you in. Didn’t you get laid over spring break?” Bryan asks.
A bawdy laugh bubbles up at the thought of the way Gavin played my body like a finely tuned instrument. “Oh no, I absolutely got—”
Bryan cuts me off with determination; his deep, throaty chuckle wraps me in warmth and familiarity that can only come from my brother. “Nope. JK, baby sis. I don’t want to even think about it. But tell me about the fabulous guy you met down there. If I’m giving up a lazy morning with my new man, I don’t want to talk about the ’rents and their shit. I want to hear all about the cliché that is spring break hook-ups.”