Hold You Against Me(10)By: Skye Warren
“What the fuck are you talking about? What did Byron tell you?” He’s facing me, eyes a little wild.
Unease rolls through me. Gio and I, we’ve had our little spats. It’s part of the teasing ups and downs we do. But I’ve never seen him quite so intense. Except maybe about his father. But then he mostly shuts down if that topic comes up.
He’s not shutting down now. His expression is furious and expectant.
“He didn’t tell me anything,” I say, trying to calm him down. “He just said I was going to the party. And that I should look my best, whatever that means.”
Gio swears in Italian. I mostly don’t understand the words except to know they’re bad.
“That fucker,” he says.
Okay, I know that one. “It’s not a big deal.”
“It’s a big fucking deal. He needs to keep his filthy fucking hands off you—”
“He didn’t touch me.” I prop myself up on one elbow, concerned. Cautiously, like approaching a wild animal, I rest my hand on Gio’s arm. “He didn’t touch me, okay?”
I watch Gio take deep breaths in and out. He calms down slowly, though I sense the rage is still simmering beneath the surface. After a beat, I lie back down. The song changes to Angels We Have Heard on High. It’s early May, but I love Christmas music any time of year. It’s so hopeful. I especially love the Glee version.
Maybe I did think high school was a little like that…
“I thought you weren’t allowed to go to the party,” he says, his voice low.
I shrug. “I guess they changed their mind.”
“It’s not safe for you.”
Umm… “Everyone will be there.”
“That’s exactly why it’s not safe.”
“Will you be there?” I ask hopefully. I’m not worried about the safety of this party. I mean…it’s a party. But I want him to be there anyway. “You could protect me.”
He lets out a disgusted sound. “No. I have a job that night.”
A job. That sounds ominous. It’s not like he’s got shifts at a movie theater or something. A job means something for his father. Something for la familia. What if something goes wrong? What if he gets hurt? He still has bruises from whatever awful thing happened the other night. How dare his father send him into violent, dangerous situations.
Then again, that’s exactly what my father is doing with Honor.
“We’ll see each other after,” I say. I was thinking of telling him we’d skip that night, but lying here with him now, that feels too painful. And now that I know he has a job, I’d just be worried about him until I saw him again.
“The party will be late.”
“I’ll leave early. I’ll tell them I feel sick or something.” I don’t mention that I already feel sick. I’ve wanted to go to a party, to anything, since forever. But now that it’s here, it feels all wrong. This isn’t about dancing in ballrooms and getting kissed in the garden. This is being paraded in front of Byron’s friends while Gio is off somewhere risking his life. “Please. I need to see you after the party. Meet me here.”
He grunts, still looking at the ceiling. “Maybe.”
The party is a success. I know this because at least five people have told me so. How good the food is. How pretty the flowers are. How grown up I look in this dress. It makes me wonder if they want something from me.
Maybe I’m just being cynical. The people do seem very nice…if a little superficial. Every conversation I’ve had has been about the weather and the best wine vintage. And the weather again.
I miss lounging on the couch, choking down whiskey or listening to music. I miss resting my head on Gio’s strong thigh, feeling the warm weight of his hand on the back of my neck.
I miss him.
My attention snaps back to the woman in front of me. It’s almost hard to see her face with all the diamonds crowding her neck and earlobes. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Donato. I didn’t hear you.”
It helps that the ballroom is crazy loud. It makes it less weird that she has to keep repeating herself to me. “Call me Ines,” she says with a knowing smile. “You’re practically a woman now. One of us.”