AN: Before I begin this chapter there are a few things I need to address because of the new direction of the story. Because Graciela has the memories of the Grays I am able to do a lot more this gen. Not only will I be telling the story from past to present now (with some exceptions), but I will be able to write from different perspectives. I will be returning to third person because it’s what I’m most comfortable with in this legacy. There’s a poll at the end of the chapter that will let you choose whose perspective you’d like to see a chapter from. Ok that’s it I believe, enjoy!
Graciela placed her phone on the table by her bedside. Her eyes stung with tears that spilled over no matter how hard she had tried to keep it in. She was definitely Cinderella in this situation, except she wouldn’t sneak out with the help of a fairy godmother and marry her prince. Oh, and she didn’t have an angry step mother. No, she just had Nerissa and a ball that she couldn’t go to. Graciela had tried to ignore the texts she had been receiving. Few people texted her outside of her family. That’d be Braylen, Maric and sometimes Leon. Tonight it was a text from the guy who had made her heart flutter. Her prince charming. But not even he could vanquish her evil step sister.
“Aww, the poor baby can’t go to the party….what a shame. Looks like it’ll be just me and you tonight.”
Graciela brought her knees to her chest, trying to ignore the voice of darkness in her ears. “Please just go away. Please. Not tonight.”
“You know asking me nicely won’t work. Be happy it isn’t just you tonight. I’m keeping you company while Nerissa goes to that party with your little boyfriend. You can’t expect him to stay back just because you are. Not everyone is going to sacrifice their lives for you.”
“Oh shut up!” Graciela cried. “Maric doesn’t even want to go. Shae is his neighbor that’s why he’s going to her stupid sweet sixteen. That’s it.”
“Keep telling yourself that. It isn’t because Shae is pretty and popular.”
Graciela plopped back onto her bed and let out a muffled cry. Ever since she and Maric had met, the two became inseparable. Outside of school, at least. No one could replace Camila and Braylen in her eyes but Maric was different. He was handsome and he liked hanging out with her. He didn’t treat her like everyone else in school did. He had texted her a few days ago telling her that he had been invited to Shae’s sweet sixteen by her parents because they were neighbors, and he wanted Graciela to go with him.
Just the thought of that made her heart beat rapidly. Maric had asked her out. At least she and Camila were convinced of that. The party would be held at night with a lot of people, no doubt. It was not Graciela’s scene, but she was sure that with Maric by her side it would be romantic and perfect like in those movies she watched on Saturday nights with her mother. But of course, why would Nerissa let her go?
“It will be too much anxiety for her,” Nerissa had explained ever so sweetly to Gracie’s parents. “I know Shae, and she’s going to have illumination in the form of strobe lights. Graciela won’t be comfortable in that environment, I know it.”
Camila had offered to go along as a security blanket, but Graciela knew that what Nerissa really meant was that Graciela wasn’t popular enough to go. She was the freak that would make Nerissa look bad. But somehow Nerissa ended up looking like the good guy once again. Rescuing poor little Graciela. Her parents were too caught up in their own waning love life to see it, and Graciela hadn’t the courage to tell them. Graciela picked up her phone again and read through her unread message. A kind note from Maric.
“I thought it’d be fun to crash Shae’s party and see the look on her face. That was dumb and juvenile of me. I didn’t even think of how that would make you feel. Can we hang out tomorrow morning instead? Breakfast at the bagel place near the park?”
Graciela’s fingers flew across the keyboard. “Yes! I would love to. Thank you.”
It didn’t make her heart hurt less, but it did make her feel special. Maric was so considerate and he had placed the blame on himself rather than on Gracie’s anxieties. Breakfast would be nice.
Next door Graciela could hear Nerissa fumbling with things in a drawer looking for the perfect shade of lipstick no doubt. She was in Shae’s court, which meant something like she got to sit at a special table or something. Apparently it was a show off of Shae’s best friends. Graciela knew she shouldn’t have been, but she was jealous. She wanted friends who would parade her around and invite her to birthday parties. Life just wasn’t like that for Graciela. She didn’t know if it would ever be.
Days like this where Graciela was particularly upset, she would text Leon. She had sent one out earlier after debating with herself for nearly twenty minutes. She knew Leon was busy with school, but he was the only one who could calm her down. His soothing messages, no matter how brief and short lived, always made things better. In times that she had decided not to text him, she’d reread their old messages. She felt silly, holding onto him like this, when he was outside of Fortitude doing things bigger than himself even if she didn’t know what. She was most likely a burden to him.
Her phone had begun ringing, a surprise to her. She had preferred not to have interactions through the phone if she could avoid it. That coupled with her lack of friends and social life, meant that she never got phone calls from anyone other than people trying to sell her stuff. “Leon?” Graciela mumbled to herself. He was calling her?
“Hello?” She asked, answering it as quickly as she could. “Leon?”
“Graciela!” His voice was ecstatic. He reminded her of a puppy, always excited to see who would come into his life next. “I hope this is a good time. I cut my studying off early to call you. What’s wrong?”
“Don’t do that. Your education is important. You could have just sent me a text,” Graciela said.
“It’s not the same thing. Your messages seemed urgent. Is it the darkness? I can stay on the phone with you until it stops.”
“No, it’s actually a person,” Graciela said. “My supposed best friend Nerissa. You can’t make her stop being a jerk to me.” Graciela thought about explaining but decided against it. “It’s really nothing. We’re working it out. I jumped the gun as always. I’m sorry for bothering you.”
“It’s okay,” Leon said. “I really don’t mind. Are you sure everything is alright? I wish I could be there in Fortitude right now. Listen, don’t stress anything. I’m going to make everything better. I promise.”
“How?” Graciela asked. “No offense but this is the first time you’ve called me in months, or even initiated a conversation.”
“I know and I’m sorry. We can discuss everything I’ve been up to tomorrow morning when I get to Fortitude. I wanted it to be a surprise but maybe it’ll help you sleep easier knowing I planned a trip this weekend.”
“W-hat?” Graciela stammered. “You’re coming back. For real? It isn’t some joke?” She had mixed feelings about that. She had felt the distance between them, but knew that when he smiled at her the troubles she worried about would melt away.
“Yeah, so make some time for me and you to get some breakfast. I want to spend the whole day with you. We’ve got a lot to catch up on before I go back Sunday afternoon. Graciela’s heart lurched. Breakfast? The breakfast she was supposed to have with Maric? She guessed her silence was alert enough for Leon as he asked, “What’s wrong? Do you want to sleep in?”
“It’s not that,” Graciela said quietly. “I uh..have a breakfast date tomorrow already with this guy I met. Maric…er, I don’t know if he thinks it’s a date or just us hanging out but…”
“But you’re excited,” Leon finished. For a second she thought she might have heard a bit of disappointment in his voice but surmised that she was probably just imagining that. “And you want to go. Don’t let me stop you. We can hang out afterwards, when you’re free. I’ll be in Fortitude until Sunday afternoon like I said before. I can have breakfast with my parents. I think they’d like that anyway.”
“I’m sorry!” Graciela said quickly. “I…”
“Don’t apologize,” Leon said. “This is good. I want you to get out there and be happy. Have friends beside Braylen and your family there.”
“Leon, please go back to studying,” Graciela said. “As happy as it makes me to hear your voice, I want you to score well.”
“Fine, but only because we get to finish this conversation in person tomorrow. Goodnight Gracie. Text me if you can’t sleep tonight. I’ll have my phone by my desk, alright?”
Graciela hung up the phone with mixed feelings. She wanted to hang out with both males. She was surprised avctually how cool Leon was with the idea of Graciela going out on a date, even if it wasn’t official. The marriage proposal when they were children was just a cute gesture then, nothing Leon was serious about. Which was fine. Graciela was sure that Maric was the one for her. It was fate that she and he had met that day under the cherry blossom tree. A knock on her door startled Graciela once again and she placed a hand on her heart. “Y-es?”
“It’s mom,” Charlotte said. Her mother’s voice sounded weak, and Graciela shot up to get the door.
“What are you doing in here?” Graciela cried. She grabbed her mother’s arm and led her to the bed where she could sit down. “You should be resting. If you wanted to talk to me, I could have come to you.”
“I’m fine,” Charlotte said sharply. “Don’t worry about me. I’m more worried about you. What’s with all this sweet sixteen talk? Not that I mind throwing you a party, but the sweet girl I raised wore skeleton Tshirts and wouldn’t be caught dead in a ball gown. Not to mention all of the extra stuff.”
“I want to have one,” Graciela said weakly. “That’s not okay?”
“It would be fine if it was you and not Nerissa talking. I’m aware that you’re trying to be a good friend. But if a party will make you uncomfortable then we’re not having one. Nerissa needs to learn that a friendship means equal sacrifice.”
“But mom,” Graciela said. “She’s been sacrificing for me! Now it’s my turn.”
“Do you think I was born yesterday? Nerissa is like your aunt Astra. I love them both, but they aren’t the kind of people who sacrifice something if it isn’t to their advantage. Don’t you think I’ve pieced it together by now? You and her approach me about a party and then she gets an invite to one for tonight. Nerissa wants to have a party like her friends. Fine, I get that. But I know for a fact that isn’t you. Don’t force yourself to do anything that will make you uncomfortable. What has Nerissa sacrificed for you lately to be giving in to something that will torment you?” Charlotte stroked her daughter’s back. “Your father only sees the good in people. He didn’t want to believe that Nerissa put you up to it. Is that why you’re crying?”
Graciela shook her head. “No. I’m crying because I want to be like her,” She mumbled. “A boy asked me out to go to Shae’s party tonight but Nerissa doesn’t want to be seen with me.”
“Yet she wants us to believe that she wants to share a party with you.” Charlotte rubbed her temple. “Neither of you are getting a Sweet Sixteen and I don’t care how much of social suicide that is. But this boy…”
“He’s nice. He decided we can go out for breakfast tomorrow instead. He’s home schooled, and doesn’t think I’m weird.” Graciela couldn’t help but sile when talking about Maric. “Can I go?”
“Of course, but I’m sure your father would like to meet him before you go out. So invite him to pick you up at your house, alright?” Charlotte stood up on shaky legs. She waved her daughter off. “I’ve got it. Now, remember one thing. I love you more than life itself. You do not ever have to lie to me. I know how you met Maric and we’ll discuss punishments for sneaking out later, but I will be the one administering it. Not Nerissa. We can talk about it after your breakfast. Now, goodnight my love.”