I'm Here to Fix You

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Chapter 7


I waited. And waited. And waited. But after seven long minutes, Tess still wasn’t done squealing. Just how much voice and breath can one woman have?

You’d think she’d just seen her favorite actor, singer, or someone she knew, or anything ... no, we were outside a shoe shop. Pardon me, boutique. She’d kill me if she knew I made the mistake. Anyways, we were outside a shoe boutique, and the reason for her squealing was that the latest pair of Michael Kors had just gone on sale. I could argue about this whole situation in so many ways, but I won’t, I love my best friend, even with all her quirks and weirdness.

“Tess ... don’t you think maybe you should um ... tone it down? People are looking!” I argued, arching an eyebrow at her.

“These babies are on sale!!!” She shrieked so loud that I think my eardrums just committed suicide.

Covering my poor wounded ear, I grimaced. “Yeah, and ... maybe you shouldn’t let everybody know if you want them, right?” Believe me, you don’t wanna go shopping with Tess Doherty when sales are on. I think I’ve seen her bite the hand of a woman that had dared grab her same stilettos. To her sales are like ... war. And I’m stupid for always letting her convince me to come with.

Finally, she quit squealing, mostly at my suggestion, I think. As excited as she was, I could barely grasp that she was going in, that she was already locking my hand in a tight vice to drag me with her once again. Good thing my reflexes are in shape, otherwise I’d have knocked over more than a few people already. Tess let go of my hand for one, very dangerous reason: the exact same shoes she was dying to have? A clerk had just grabbed the pair in the window, aka the last one, and was heading to the cash register, where some thirtyish woman was standing.

Uh oh. This is not going to end well. I think that woman might have signed up for way more damage than she thought when she decided to buy those overly expensive shoes.

Before I could say a word, Tess was flying to the cash register, and I held in my breaths, worried she might already attack the woman, but she surprised me. She was fairly decent, the approach was kind. Enough for me to be sure I could sneak away unnoticed and that I wasn’t needed to drag my friend away before she committed a federal crime.

Once out, I took out my phone. It was 10 am of a Saturday, which means that in Italy it was 3 pm. My father was almost certainly being submitted to my very same torture as mom dragged him around shopping. Time to relieve him, I suppose.

“Hey, daddy.” I greeted as soon as he answered the phone. He likes it when I speak English with him, says it helps him dust off the one he studied in school and never uses. Mom says he’s been trying to seriously get used to speaking it, officially for me. I think it’s more because they’re both convinced I’ll take home some American boy someday, so they don’t want to look like the typical ignorant Italians that won’t learn a new language because hey, we can gesticulate to make people understand us.

His sigh of relief as he heard my voice was even too clear, but I highly doubt this time it was because he was worried about me. ”Ti prego, salvami. Tua madre è impazzita. Siamo in giro da stamattina alle 8 e non ne vuole sapere di fermarsi!” Just so you know, he just begged me to save him, said my mom’s gone nuts, that they’ve been shopping since 8 am and she won’t stop. Like I predicted, he needs a savior.

I chuckled. “Mi spiace-I mean, I’m sorry, dad.”

"No, no parla italiano, tesoro, non ho la testa per tradurre adesso ...” He claimed with a deep sigh, and I ... oh, wait, right, translation first. He said he’d rather I spoke Italian this time.

Jeez, guys, either you learn my language or these phone calls are gonna be hell for me.

Dad took a deep breath, I think sitting. ”Allora, come va, bimba?"

"Papà, ti prego, ho 23 anni ... non chiamarmi bimba.” Also because bimba means baby and I keep hearing in my head the times Jake has called me baby and ... ewww. I’d rather not mix up the nicknames, thank you very much.

Dad laughed. ”Va bene ... allora?”


"Tesoro, tu non chiami mai a quest’ora ... mi devo preoccupare?"

I smiled. It’s so dad to worry about nothing. But I suppose he has his reasons, given the past troubles. ”Va tutto bene, papà, keep calm. Beh ... sto soffrendo come te. Tess mi ha trascinata al centro commerciale.” I sighed deeply, and he mimicked me.

"Mal comune ...” he cited.

“Yeah ... beh, avrei preferito dormire, sai com’è." Also because my hours or sleep are never much um ... tranquil. And this past week I’ve barely slept as it is.

As if on cue, dad sighed, predictably, and his voice lowered when he cautiously asked: ”Tesoro, hai ancora ... insomma ..."

"Qualche volta.” Nah, every two nights, but he doesn’t need to know that, does he? Neither does he need to know I knock myself down with sleeping pills sometimes. America was supposed to be a manna for me, but it doesn’t always work.

"È la verità?" Dad questioned in that inquisitive tone of his. He’d be a good cop, I bet, but he’s a modest plumber. Truth be told, he’d have studied to become musician, but he had to drop out of the conservatorium when mom got pregnant with me: she couldn’t work nor did they have any help, so he had to drop his dreams for me. He does play now and then, and lately he’s been composing too, but it’s obvious that he missed his chance to be a good father.

It’s funny, you know, I was born before my parents got married in an age when it wasn’t much well seen. Not that where I come from it is broadly accepted today, but it’s better. Also, legitimate and illegitimate children are legally the same now in Italy.

"È la verità, papà, sì ... tranquillo. Sto bene.” Did I tell you? I’m an awesome liar.

Dad sighed, and I could picture him rubbing the bridge of his nose. He does that when he’s stressed. I could hear my mother in the distance talking to a clerk, and I instinctively turned to look inside the boutique, to check that everything was good with Tess. She was laughing with that thirtyish woman who held the pair of shoes she so craved. Weird. Either my friend was trying to sweet-talk her into giving up the shoes or I’m suddenly in a parallel universe.

"Come va il lavoro?” I asked my dad, just to distract him from the thoughts he was certainly having. Thoughts like, is she telling the truth or is my daughter lying time about her wellbeing for the thousandth? Will I ever know what really goes on in her head? And why, why did I let her leave on her own?

My father is a very protective man. He’s very sweet, but also very protective. Not ... I’ll shoot your boyfriend with a rifle kind of protective, no, he’s not a violent man, never has been, despite everything. He’s more like ... I’m always here for you kind of protective. ‘The speech’ to your boyfriend kind of protective. The ... I don’t care how old you are, I’m still gonna call you three times a day to make sure you’re okay kind of protective. Well, he cut down the calls to one because I forced him to, but that one call lasts over an hour because he insisted.

It might feel suffocating sometimes, but I understand him. I understand him and his overprotective attitude, and I understand my mother and her overly panicky moments. Last they left a daughter out of sight, she got the worst out of it, so it’s obvious they’ll make do with me now.

I know you caught that hint there. But no, I don’t want to talk about it. Not now, nor ever. If my therapist couldn’t convince me to when I was 14, hardly you can. Not even Tess could. That story is securely tucked beneath my Pandora’s box, and the lid is way more guarded than Azkaban. Differently from Azkaban, there aren’t massive escapes, though. Not always.

My father told me briefly about his workdays, then talked about the music he’s composing. You could perceive the difference in tone so easily. When he talks about his day job it’s like he’s telling me what time is it, but ... when he talks about what should be only a hobby, he gets all worked up, and, I can’t see him, but I know his face his brightening up.

He says it’s fine because working as plumber allowed him to provide for his family, so it’s a great thing, but giving up conservatorium was one of the worst decisions of his life, and he regrets it, I know he does. He might have taken private lessons after, but dropping out has definitely cut off his wings. I think that’s why he’s always encouraging me to follow my own dreams, because he couldn’t make his come true. Or not properly.

Dad and I went on talking for a good ten minutes, yet Tess was still in the boutique. I think she even forgot I was ever here with her. Fine with me, I’d rather talk about clogged toilets with my dad than browse one more boutique, I swear. Hell, I’d rather be in a war zone than shopping with Tess, which is basically the same sometimes.

As I paced the corridor outside the boutique, however, I nearly gasped.

"Che succede, tesoro?” My dad questioned when he heard.

“Uh ... nothing, I mean uh ... niente.” Well, not quite. ”Senti, ti richiamo, ok?" I brutally hung up before he could reply, my eyes fixated on the other side of the shopping centre, where I saw an all too familiar face.

The question isn’t what was he doing all cheerfully hanging out with a girl that’s definitely too young for him. The question is, what did I feel in the pit of my stomach? Why did such sight bother me? Why did my most aggressive side feel like throwing the girl out of a window only for me to replace her?

Jake and I haven’t had our phone calls these weeks. Not one single time did I ever call him. Sure, I did pick up the phone to do it, but I never did. Neither did he call me. He did text me, he was his usual self at work, but ... there was nothing more of what we had the past weeks.

I know he wants to give me time. I know he’s just trying to give me time to process everything and accept this ... new level of our friendship, where I unburden to him, let him through my ever defense willingly, without putting up a fight, but I can already tell you that’s never gonna happen.

I’m all for friendship, we can be best buddies, but ... not any deeper than where’s safe. There are places no human heart could bear visit, and believe me, he has no idea what he may find if he dug too deep.

Still, I remained there standing, perplexed at my own involuntary reactions. What’s it to me if he’s seeing someone? I find it awful that he would pick a girl that’s probably barely major while he’s close to 30, but hey, that’s none of my business, is it?

I mean, okay, fine, he restarted seeing woman. Given that he ever quit. It’s not like we ever dated or something. We’re just two friends that have gotten too close to the sun. Period. I mean, just because he spent his nights talking on the phone to me, doesn’t mean he ever quit going with other-with girls. For all I know he might have before my phone calls. After all, I always called by midnight. That gave him a lot of time to do what he wanted before ...

Ugh, look at me, I’m fussing. Over a stupid guy even. I never fuss. And certainly not over a guy. God, what am I, 15? Acting like a stupid jealous girl just because oh boo-hoo my phone pal is seeing some girl that’s definitely too goddamn young for him. Getting all worked up just because he looked so affectionate with her that maybe it’s not even just a fling.

Why should I care? It’s not like I ever wanted to be with him. I mean, yeah, I considered giving up my virginity to him, but that was basically the same way as you would consider using a spatula to get rid of that annoying itch on your back, where you can’t reach with your hands.

It was a physical thing. No more than that.

It made me realize I want more from a relationship, that’s true. But sweet God almighty, I never implied I wanted it from him.

Ugh, look at them ... all cheerful and joyful, all hugged to each other. Disgusting. He’s 28, for God’s sakes, and I’m pretty sure she’s barely 18. If she is a major at all. Why do I even bother? Just because he’s a dirty dog sticking it in every donut, doesn’t mean I should care. Why? I mean, it’s not like because he basically dry-humped me on his desk over six weeks ago, now there’s something.

For the love of all things holy, get those fucking wheels working, Silvia! Jealousy is not in my DNA. The only thing I could be bothered by is that Mr. Pervert there likes his girls barely legal. Ugh, disgusting.

“Hey, I didn’t make it, but guess what, I got an invitation to a five star restaurant! The bitch that took my shoes is actually a great chef at one of the-Sissy?”

“Do you think she’s even 18?” I wondered out loud, involuntarily gritting my teeth.

“What?” Tess questioned, baffled.

I pointed her to the exact spot. “There. That girl with Jake. I bet she’s barely a major.”

I didn’t hear anything for a long minute. Then, suddenly, and booming, her guffaws came. One after the other, as loud as you could possibly imagine, enough to catch people’s attention, but not Mr. Pervert no, he was still too taken by his teen fling to hear Tess basically killing her lungs as she laughed.

“What?” I snapped, crossing my arms, turning around to give my back to that disgusting scene. Just when I think he might be a reasonable adult, he goes and hooks up with a girl that’s almost half his age. Ew.

“You’re jealous!” Tess blurted out amongst guffaws, gaining my inevitable glare, which she obviously ignored, otherwise she’d know that such a glare generally means I might kill her in her sleep.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” I snapped. But she’s right. I’m jealous, and I don’t fucking understand why. What am I supposed to be jealous of? That the teen there gets his cute and funny side while I’m here stuck with a cold-ish shoulder I basically begged for? That I was that one inch away from making the worst mistake of myself and opening up to him, then I chickened out and now we’re somewhat friends yet not quite. Believe it or not, he’s even quit flirting. Or rather, he’s less heavy with the flirting.

“You’re jealous, Sissy, admit it.” Tess repeated gleefully, and I was really plotting my vengeance. “You’re so jealous that you didn’t even stop to think, for one moment, that if the girl’s too young to be a fling or worse, his girlfriend, then maybe ... she isn’t?”


She rolled her eyes, flicking my forehead. “Think, Sissy. Does it look probable to you that Jake would sleep with a teen?”

I snorted. “Please ... he’d sleep with anything that breathes and has a vagina.”

She flicked my forehead again, which is way more annoying than what it looks like. “No.” She snapped, quite mad actually. Right, I forgot, she’s in the number of women Mr. Charm there has ensnared in his web of exaggerated sexiness. Ugh, handsome faces bring trouble, I should have known, given my past.

“Like I told you before, if you cared to drop off that high horse of yours for once, maybe you wouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” My best friend claimed. “Has it ever occurred to you that, maybe, just ... maybe, that teen over there is his sister?”

“What?” How come I didn’t think about it? Damnit, he even told me. He talked about his little sister so much, and I remember I was surprised, because he seemed so affectionate ... “Serene is 19 ...” I argued out loud.

Tess huffed. “Yeah, guess what, still a teen.” She laughed. “Good God, Sissy, jealousy blinded you that much that you couldn’t even tell they look alike?”

“They don’t ...”

“They do.” She flipped me, just so we could watch them from afar. They were standing outside the music shop, she was jumping up and down, excited, for who knows what reason, while Jake ... well, he had on such a loving smile that I’ve never seen on him. “How could you not see it?” Tess pointed out. “Aside from the color of the hair, they’ve got the same nose, same cheekbones ... I bet same eyes too. Anyone with eyes would notice they’re blood related.”

“Well, you know I’m shortsighted.” I grumbled under my breath, not wanting to admit that she was right ... I was blinded by jealousy. It wasn’t my sight, it was jealousy, damnit. How stupid of me.

You like him. My mind chanted over and over again as I headed home. You like him way more than you want to admit. You like Jake, you sooo like him. You like him in a mushy puppy love way. You like, like, like him. And you wanna kiss him, and marry him, and have so many little Jakes and Silvias.

Ugh, shut up subconscious. You’re not helping. I blame Tess. Those are her words, and she repeated them so many times that now they’re engraved in my subconscious even.

Maybe I ... have a teeny-weeny crush on Jake. Big deal, tell me who doesn’t. Women crush on him every day, nothing new. The whole office is infatuated with him. What’s the news? Just because it’s me, doesn’t mean it’s this big of a deal.

I mean, yeah, alright, I have a crush on Jake Watson, so? I’ve had crushes before, what’s the problem with this one? It’s not like I feel my blood boil and my stomach churn every time I picture him with some other girl. Tsk.

Good thing I decided to head straight to my favorite place before home. That way I could calm down a little. Bookstores and libraries have this soothing effect on me, but there’s something special in this one ... Violet. I particularly care for her, that’s why her bookstore is so much more important to me and much more better to soothe my nerves.

I forced myself to shut down my mind when I entered, and smiled when I found the usual sight of my old friend at the counter, knitting. Yeah, I know, Violet’s the classic old lady for some aspects. She knits, owns a library she bought long ago with her husband, she has a pooch and plays bridge with her friends ... very typical. But if you think she had to raise her children all on her own because her husband died young, you can guess she’s a tough nut too.

She’s been the first one to welcome me to Boston, I met her even before Tess and she’s one of the very, very few people I allow myself to love.

“Hey, Vi ...” I called with a small smile as I approached the counter, holding a white bag containing the cupcakes I picked up before heading here, knowing she loves them.

“Oh, look who’s back ... I thought I was going to have to open a missing person case.” She quipped with a warm smile when she looked up from the nth hat she was knitting. Poor grandson, he’s always getting those terribly uncomfortable woolen hats for Christmas. Although she says he loves them. I say he loves his grandma too much to let her down.

“Yes, yes, sorry ... I’ve been terribly busy.” I justified.

“Are those a peace offering?”

“Maybe ... do I need it?”

Violet smiled sweetly. “Fine ... I forgive you, but just this once. Come kiss me.” she demanded, raising her arms to welcome me in one of her hugs. I’m not good with hugs, but it’s impossible not to love the ones Violet gives. She looks like you could break her in two if you touch her, yet her hugs are so tight and so regenerating that sometimes I think she has magic.

Violet has been amazing with me since I got here, I’ve come to consider her my own grandma and I sometimes help her with her bookstore, but she doesn’t really want me to, says she’s tough and she can handle it. Well, for being 75 she’s truly full of energies, that’s true, and she’s maybe healthier than I, so I guess she’s right.

Once we’d pulled back from our hug, Violet asked me to fill her in. Before I could start recounting the life I’ve had since the last time we saw each other, more specifically, before gathering the words to tell her about Jake and this foolish crush I seem to have on him, a client came to interrupt us, and because it was long, I decided to take a tour of the bookstore, just because.

It wasn’t truly crowded, but there were enough people to say the place was going well. I let myself wander among books, skimming over covers, as I love doing when I need to think or to be cheered up, and “somehow” I ended up in my favorite corner, the one with crime novels, of course.

I noticed there were boxes here and there, clear sign Violet was stockpiling new arrivals, so, knowing she can’t do it alone, I grabbed a box and opened it, starting to take out books, at least till a male voice came to stop me: “Hey, hey, what do you think you’re doing? Those are not on sold yet.”

I rolled my eyes. I didn’t know Vi hired someone, but the guy seems annoying already. “I know. I was just trying to help.” I pointed out, continuing with my unpaid job I always do gladly, but the guy came to grab the book from my hands, stopping me, which had me frown already. Given my awful mood these days, I could kill him just for that.

“Nice thought, but you don’t work here.”

“And since when do you?” I asked, turning around, only to meet a pair of bright blue eyes that kind of had me awe. Well, I didn’t awe for real, just in my head. The guy in front of me was tall, taller than I by a few inches, had neat dark hair and a pretty lean but muscled body I couldn’t help but peek, even if only for a moment.

Not overly gorgeous, but definitely very handsome.

“I don’t work here either.” He told me, grabbing books from the box. “But granny needed help, so ...”

“Granny?” I asked, confused. He grinned, nodding, and I would have sworn he checked me out from tip to toe, though only for a moment, and not as cockily as many others do, I’ll admit. He just ... gave me a better look.

“I’m Ryan, nice to meet you. I’m Violet’s grandson.” He explained as he piled books one after another. I’ll admit I was mesmerized by the muscles of his arm tightening because of the movement.

I suppose I seriously need to do something about this itch, because these hormones of mine are going out of control if even a hot stranger can cause me these reactions. I thought Jake had the monopoly when it came to setting my hormones on fire.

Clearing my throat, I introduced myself: “I’m Silvia. Nice to meet you.”

The guy quit working and turned to me, giving me a curious look, till he grinned, I’ll admit, charmingly, and exclaimed: “Oh, so you’re the famous Silvia! Granny never quits talking about you. I’m almost jealous.”

I chuckled, half blushing, trying to debase the thing, but I can only guess Violet does talk a lot about me. Well, she’s told me she does. Actually, I think she’s also told me about her grandson, the one she quite openly prefers, she says, who lives in Chicago. The ugly hats guy, yeah. She’s really proud of him. Maybe this is him.

His wide grin kinda had my insides churn a little, for how charming he was. Man, I thought I’d seen the uttermost beauty in a man, but ... I suppose I hadn’t met Ryan yet.

Oh what do you know, maybe a way to avert my thoughts from Jake Watson is right here, at arms’ length.

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