Author's note: Just a little one shot. I know, I know, I need to work on TVG. I've been lacking in the inspiration for that one lately, though. I hope this will tie you over.
Disclaimer: Why bother? You know I don't own How to Rock.
Peace is found in the most painful of places.
He kissed me.
It wasn't like it was out of the blue. (Okay, maybe it was.) It was after a particularly successful gig. We were all caught in the moment and nobody was really thinking about it and it was just a little peck in the lips but… still.
I have never been particularly sure who to go to for relationship advice. But then, I have never really needed relationship advice before. Unless you count… well, never mind.
As much as I love Kacey, I know I cannot go to her about this. She would get excited about it and tell Zander without meaning to and that would ruin everything. Whatever "everything" is. And talking to Kevin and Nelson or my biological brothers is out of the question; boys are never good with this kind of thing. I could go to my mom, but she's not exactly the romantic type. I doubt she'd be of much assistance. That only really leaves one option.
I am opening my "aunt's" door, walking into her house as though I own the place, the same way my parents do whenever we visit.
From another room, I hear Aunt Carly call out, "Sam! I told you not to come until – oh, hi, Stevie," she finishes, embarrassed, as she walks into the front room and sees me standing there. "What are you doing here alone?"
"I, uh…" I look down for a moment. "I need advice."
"What sort of advice?" Carly asks.
I clear my throat nervously. "Well, there's this guy…"
She laughs. "Sit down, Vie." So I follow her towards the couch in the next room, and we sit down side by side, curling our legs up onto the couch and facing each other.
"How do you feel when you're with him?" she asks.
I shrug, and can feel the blush creeping onto my cheeks as I speak. "Happy, free, safe… I get butterflies," I admit.
Carly nods, considering each word. "Would you give up your own happiness for his, even if it meant not being with him?"
"Yes," I say without hesitation.
"Then you're in love."
A solid confirmation of what I had been exactly afraid of. And then Carly says, "It's Zander, isn't it?"
I nod because Carly has been to our gigs, and because Gravity 5 has been over to my house while Carly is there many times before. Carly knows all of them, knows how Kevin and Nelson remind her of her brother, my "uncle" Spencer, and knows how Kacey likes to talk about fashion with her. She knows they are practically like family to me, the same way she is. She knows Zander.
I watch tears well up in her eyes before she speaks again. "You have a chance. I didn't."
I frown. "You're married. You have two kids," I remind her, confused.
"Yes. And I love my husband dearly. But he is not her."
I know exactly who she's talking about.
"My mother," I say, and a tear runs down her face.
"Don't lose your chance, Stevie. Go for it. Go chase the one you love because you can."
"But what if he doesn't – " I start, only to be interrupted.
"Then at least you can say you tried. I can't."
I gulp, leaning over to give her a hug. As our arms wrap around each other, her chin resting on my shoulder, I can feel the sadness radiating from her body, the hopelessness of a lost love threatening to destroy her. We pull away and she looks at me, and I realize then that I am the daughter of her sadness, the day-to-day proof that Sam and Freddie share a happiness that she will never truly have. And yet she loves me as though I am her own; she doesn't resent me or push me and my brothers away due to the pain we must cause her. And for that, I am a million times thankful.
Giraffes are tall, gangly, awkward things, yet they have an air of grace and acceptance about them that isn't found in any other animal. They are their own.
If you ask me why the zoo is my favorite place in the world, that is how I will respond.
The giraffes in the San Diego Zoo are my friends, which is why I decide that I want them to be with me when I tell Zander how I feel.
Convincing Zander to go to the zoo turns out to be surprisingly easy. It's one of those Friday afternoons that we don't have band practice, and he texts me right after school complaining about the lack of something to do, so I seize the opportunity and suggest a mutual visit to the zoo, which he quickly agrees to. Twenty minutes later, we are standing in line for tickets.
Without making it too obvious where we are going, I head for the giraffes, stopping briefly at each pen along the way as she make our way towards the African animals section. When we finally reach the giraffes, I look up at them while Zander isn't paying attention and whisper, "Wish me luck." The shortest of the three nods at me across the pen as though he understands, and I smile at him.
With a newfound confidence, I turn to Zander. I open my mouth, hoping the words will guide me to say the right thing, but all that comes out is the only words running through my mind: "I just want to kiss you."
I could slap myself right now a million times, run away and hide in shame for the rest of my life, and it still would not be enough.
He responds in the last way I would have expected, however, taking my hand and pulling me into a cuddle next to him.
"You are stupid," He informs me.
"Oh, I know," I say. And he kisses me anyway.
The shortest giraffe winks at me.