(ch 12) the First Attempt (Johnny)
December 2oth - Nighttime (London Time - 9 pm)
Johnny liked to think that he was okay with a lot of noise. Over the last few years, though, Johnny had got used to peace and quiet. While working for the Rossi’s, Johnny did his work with no complaint and said goodbye to his education. His reasoning had always been to protect Vernon. The goal was to work until he was twenty and then go back to the orphanage and get Vernon out. Because of what Aria had done, this had all become naught and unnecessary. Not only was he and Vernon together, both of them were getting another chance at education.
It still baffled him how easy it was for Mark and Aria to get what they wanted. Aria had wanted all her kids to have seats in first class, and so they did. Johnny assumed that the boy and girl that had become their travel companion had rich parents, too. Between the seven of them, there was only one seat left in first class.
Giovanni was being silly and bratty, jumping between his seat and the empty one. Johnny was proud in that moment that Vernon was behaving well.
Johnny bit back a scowl. With Aria present, it wasn’t his business to control Giovanni. Gabriel seemed annoyed too, judging by the glare of irritation on Gabriel’s face. He shrugged and turned his television on. Each of them had a TV they could use and a privacy barrier to block out other sound and people. He was sure that Aria wouldn’t send him away if he snapped and yelled at Giovanni. But Johnny would not take any chances, either.
By the looks of it, Giovanni had a new found hatred for him. He had despised Vernon from the getgo, not even giving Vernon a chance. If Johnny was being honest with himself, it didn’t matter to him how much he loved Giovanni. If the latter wouldn’t respect him or Vernon, it would become a problem. Especially if his behaviour would stay erratic or immature because of unstable emotions. It made sense; he supposed. Aside from Gabriel and himself, Giovanni had no one near his age as a friend. The younger boy was emotional, brash, and impulsive. He never could control anything that came out of his mouth. He was sure it would be difficult for Giovanni to fit in at a new place, so he hoped there would be other kids like him.
‘We need to discuss sleeping arrangements.’ Aria interrupted his musings.
With a sigh, Johnny swivelled his chair around and gave his attention to Aria. She stood up, walked towards the other kids, hesitated, and sat back down.
‘There are five rooms right now that have a double bed, I’m guessing the other kids’ parent took the last one.’
She gestured towards the girl and boy that had followed them until now. According to Giovanni, the boy’s name was Hayden, and if what he had overheard was correct, Molly was the girl’s name.
‘I want to stay with Johnny!’ Vernon immediately said, raising his hand as if he were already in class.
Aria smiled. ‘Yes, I’m sure you do. That’s fine with me if Johnny is okay with that.’ She inclined her head towards Johnny and he nodded his agreement.
‘Alright!’ Aria glanced at Molly for a moment, he expression thoughtful. ‘Sweetheart, do you want to share a room with me so you can have better privacy? Or maybe Hayden can share with one of the boys.’ She turned to him and he shrugged evasively, returning to his book. He definitely looked a lot better after throwing up. Aria had pushed Giovanni to help him out earlier.
‘I’d love to share with you!’ Molly piped up, utter delight in her voice at the prospect. ‘Ah! Actually…’ Johnny watched as Aria counted on her fingers. ‘There is enough if you want your own room, since Johnny and Vernon are sharing. I didn’t realise!’
Molly pouted, but didn’t attempt to change the plan either.
‘Sounds like a plan, guys. The aeroplane will fly for over thirteen hours. Then we will have a layover, which will last...’ She glanced at her itinerary, but Johnny drowned her out. As silent as he could, Johnny turned his seat around to avoid her noticing. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
On a whim, Johnny stood up and pointed in the general direction of the cabins. ‘I’ll go first, guys, sorry. I have a headache.’ Without even asking, Vernon immediately joined him. Like Molly, he was holding his stuffed animal in his arms, along with his bag. It didn’t escape Johnny’s notice, the way Giovanni sneered at Vernon when he passed. Thankfully Vernon didn’t see, but Johnny sent Giovanni a withering stare of warning. It seemed so affective that the latter curled up in his seat and turned away to stare out of his window instead.
‘Isn’t this super wonderful?’ Vernon squealed once they were in the safety of their own cabin.
‘Absolutely unbelievable,’ Johnny acknowledged, plopping down onto the bed. He released a sigh of exhaustion as he stared up at the ceiling. The cabin was so large, Johnny wouldn’t have thought they were flying if he woke up here. He saw a pair of pyjamas at the corner of the bed and grinned, throwing one at Vernon. ‘Put these on! It can be a souvenir for you to take with you.’
Vernon obliged, giggling as he undressed and put on the soft pyjamas the airline was offering.
‘Did you have a hard time?’ Vernon questioned him, his voice turning serious with worry. ‘Did you know mum would come to get me? You didn’t seem surprised. Except when I called her mum...’
Vernon trailed off, clambering onto the bed with his stuffed animal clutched in his hand. Johnny was grateful Aria had paid for Vernon’s cat to come along with them. He noticed how Vernon said mum with ease and felt jealousy pop up, but didn’t say so. After all, Vernon hadn’t grown up with Aria being his master.
‘I asked her to get you if I’m honest.’ Johnny told him, hoping this wouldn’t ruin his view of Aria, but Vernon didn’t seem angry. ‘So yes, I knew she would get you. She actually went one step more by adding us to her family in an official way. She didn’t have to.’
Johnny sidestepped his other query, but Vernon, focusing on what he just said, didn’t notice.
‘The school that we are going to now is one that is full of boys with very rich mommies and daddies.’
Johnny took Vernon’s face in his hands to make the younger boy focus. Vernon nodded in his hand, and Johnny let go, sighing for what felt like the umpteenth time.
‘You need to be very careful when you are there. I don’t yet know how the school will place us, but we are not in the same age group, and it may be hard to care for and watch over you.’
‘I’ll be careful, don’t worry Johnny!’ Vernon said it with so much earnest feeling, Johnny laughed out loud.
‘Meow!’ Vernon added, nodding his head up and down.
Johnny felt a small smile brighten on his face, ruffling Vernon’s hair as his mood lifted even more. ‘Yes, of course you will be. I’m just letting you know. Be careful about which friends you make and what you do. We have our phones, so if something happens, text me and I’ll come running. And be careful only to meow in front of the family. You don’t want someone to bully you, okay?’
Vernon got underneath the covers, placing Mishu carefully next to him. She was in her cage, so Johnny knew she wouldn’t get lost if they slept.
‘And one more thing.’ Johnny added, a little hesitant to bring up this topic, but knew he had to. ‘About Giovanni.’ He saw Vernon still, but other than that, the boy made no sign of hearing him. He continued anyway. ‘Giovanni got accustomed to having me look after him. He feels very jealous right now because he feels you will hurt his relationship with me.’
Johnny heard a sniffle and had to restrain himself from growling in frustration. His good mood abruptly gone. ‘I used to think that Giovanni would be my first priority, but that was before you came back into my life.’
Vernon turned to look at him, silent tears streaming down his face. ‘He was so mean!’
‘Yes, Vernon. I saw…’ Johnny thought over his words delicately. ‘But you also need to realise the reason you and I are even together is that I need to look after Giovanni.’
‘Yeah, I know.’ Vernon answered, his childish voice petulant and distant.
‘But even if Giovanni is a priority, you will be the person I will always come to first.’
‘Okay…’ Vernon agreed, his eyes trying to blink the sleep away, his eyelashes still wet with his tears.
‘I love you, kiddo.’ Johnny told him, feeling warm and relieved. His brother was still so innocent and trusting. He never thought he’d have his brother back, but this was his reality now. He stroked Vernon’s hair, carding his fingers through the strands. When Vernon’s breathing evened out, he lied down next to him and let sleep take him too.