twenty. The One You Run To

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I cried until I didn't really know what I was even crying about in the first place, until I couldn't cry anymore because I had no more tears left, with my father watching me helplessly, handing me tissue after tissue, 27 dresses long forgotten.

When he'd asked me if something was wrong, I shook my head and uttered "hormones" between two sobs –a sure way to prevent any further inquiry. At the mention of estrogen, my father fell into a dejected silence, obviously out of his depth.

He looked around at the tons of roses surrounding us and the look on his face reflected what I felt perfectly –disbelief edged with wonder, as if he expected for the roses to disappear any moment now.

"He must love you very much," he said slowly.

I managed to laugh in between two sobs. "I hope he does."

And yet instead of filling me with elation, the roses made my gut clench. The intention behind the gesture made me melt but the imagery filled me with dread.

A damsel in distress sitting helpless in her tower surrounded by pretty things, holding no power over her destiny. Waiting, powerless, for the knight in shining armor to break her curse and save her.

Thing is, I've never been partial to pretty princesses sitting on their asses while the prince charming got his hands dirty.

It took a moment for the waterworks to end, but when they did, I was filled with a newfound resolve. I wouldn't let A. control me like a lifeless puppet.

While my father gathered all the vases we owned–and all recipients that could act as vases –I sat at the table, contemplating the thousand roses that surrounded me, bathed in their scent, and plotted my next move.

I'd been relying on Gabriel too much. It had been generous of him to offer to help me while he could easily just have used me as his scapegoat. He obviously had other business to tend to; business I didn't want to know about and he didn't want to discuss with me. And yet I'd still disrupted his routine, wormed my way into his life –if I were him, I probably wouldn't like myself very much.

With newfound resolve, I pulled my cellphone out of the pocket of my sweatpants and proceeded to text Gabe and Alexei to thank them for the gifts. Alexei responded almost immediately with an "I miss u, wish u were here", but I didn't get anything from Gabe until later that night, as I lay in bed.

No problem. Im still up for that blowjob, btw.

I felt my cheeks heat up and I buried my face in my pillow to laugh –it was hard to feel bad for being an inconvenience when he kept reminding me that one of the best things that came out of this huge mess was meeting him.

~♥~

The next day, I'd picked up some groceries at Mario Mart after my shift and headed for Alexei's apartment.

Once again, I was completely taken aback by the aura of wealth that surrounded his part of town and the stark contrast with my own neighborhood –it was like stepping into an alternate universe filled with chrome, glass, marble, and crystal chandeliers. Living here, surrounded by all that luxury, it wasn't hard to see why people like him rarely bothered to get out of their golden cages and see the harder parts of life –Alexei had his life mapped out for him since the moment he was conceived. It had been set in stone –he wouldn't ever set foot in a public school, he would get into an Ivy League college and he would never have to wonder whether he made the right choices. His way to success had been paved for him before he was born and all he had to do was to walk the walk.

It was what always made me hate people like him. What made me hate him.

So what had really changed since that moment I'd first set my eyes on him in the 20th century literature class? What did I know now that I didn't know then that made me do a complete one-eighty? I was about to cook him dinner and "let him hit it" as Gabriel had gracefully suggested. And yet the only thing I'd realized in all this time was that he was human too –he was just so good, with his own set of frustrations and hopes and dreams –and somehow, I'd fallen for the normalcy that was hidden by the impressive last name. The artist in me had fallen for his eyes, for his hair and for the way he made me feel things I'd never felt before, opening up a world I'd only read and heard about.

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