(ch 4) I'm telling you my dad is a psychopath (Giovanni)
‘We’re going to miss Christmas.’ Giovanni pouted at the wall as he threw a shirt towards his luggage and missed. ‘I don’t know why we’re going now of all days! It’s a midwinter break, and then we’re supposed to go back to normal!’
Giovanni coughed hard, and with a start, realised he must have been yelling for some time. Trying to clear his throat, he noted it hurt, too. Giovanni wondered if he should stop packing, as he wasn’t accomplishing anything. Perhaps he could get himself some hot tea instead. At least that would feel good.
He couldn’t understand why his mum didn’t push their dad into letting them stay. What father made his kids leave without warning? Giovanni knew he was being petulant, but he was an awkward kid, and it was hard to make friends for him. Giovanni was the sort that liked everyone, but no one appreciated his eagerness in return. The fair few people that tolerated him were his mum, Gabriel and Johnny. So going to a new place out of the blue would hurt him, and he would need to build a new reputation from scratch.
Thinking of Johnny made him pause at what he was doing. Giovanni knew Gabriel suspected him for his behaviour, but why was Johnny going into his mum’s studio? Why did his mum want to speak to Johnny? Was she aware of what he and Johnny got up to during the night? He hoped this wasn’t the case, as he felt this would appear odd. His older brother was brilliant, so the possibility Gabriel would poke fun was low. Practice helped, though, and Giovanni forged a balance of going to both Johnny and his brother. Gabriel had adjusted to Giovanni coming to him for everything, but was not aware of Johnny. Giovanni was certain about this, as he knew Gabriel would have brought it up to him. As much as Giovanni hated to admit it, he didn’t want any jealousy to appear between the two boys. Gabriel was a protector, and taking care of Giovanni was his chief priority. So if he knew Johnny had a connection to him, Gabriel would throw a tantrum.
‘Is little Gio getting cranky?’ a soft voice whispered, followed by a pair of familiar arms embracing him. It was a comfort Giovanni realised he missed in all the confusion and sorrow he was feeling. Giovanni pressed his back against Johnny’s chest, causing the boys’ arms to tighten. The unexpected comfort, however, made him cry again. Unable to stop his tears, he turned around, curling his slight frame into Johnny’s stronger one. At that point, he couldn’t hide his hysterical sobs if he tried. Johnny hushed him as if he were still a baby, rubbing his back in comforting circles. Giovanni knew Johnny didn’t mind, and this alone calmed him down enough to speak. ‘J-johnny!’ Giovanni’s voice shook, his body still wracked with panic. ‘I don’t want you to stay behind. I need all the people I can get. Why is my dad doing this?’
‘Actually, I would suggest we both sit down. I don’t want you to fall.’
Giovanni felt his knees wobble at the warning. He had dealt with ‘You should sit’ with his mum’s conversation, and he wasn’t sure he could handle another. He could feel his anxiety increasing all over again, and his lip trembled in warning of more tears to come.
‘No.’ Giovanni thought it was likely the first time he had outright disobeyed Johnny. The boy had taken care of him as much as Gabriel had, and the authority of the older boy had enough hold to make him listen. It was a childish way for him to cope, but if he would survive today, it would be enough.
‘Yes,’ Johnny replied, almost being harsh with his tone. He already knew of Giovanni’s sulky ways. ‘It’s actually good news. I don’t want you to fall when it shocks you, because I fell when I heard it, and you are a lot more fragile than me, soooo.’ Johnny trailed off, glancing at Giovanni, his eyes wiggling, making Giovanni giggle. ‘So either you listen to me now, or you get the surprise of your life in a few days. Either way, it will not change.’
Giovanni tilted his head to the side like a puppy, taking in Johnny’s expression. Johnny blew a raspberry at him, and the giggle turned into a full-out laugh.
‘Alright.’ he agreed.
Johnny nodded and waited for Giovanni to sit on his bed. When Giovanni settled, he looked up towards Johnny and pointed for Johnny to join him. The older boy nodded and sat, crossing his legs under his thighs.
‘So your mom asked to speak to me.’ He began, eyeing Giovanni warily, daring him to interrupt. But Giovanni only nodded and whispered, ‘I saw,’ and fell silent again. Johnny smiled a little. Gio was predictable to him, and it made things easier to deal with. ‘She explained to me what was going on and what happened. Now, considering two adults have no need for a young child to look over them, and I do little housework...’ Johnny took a deep breath and continued. ‘Well, except for preparing meals, dealing with the kitchen, and cleaning every day. I’m pretty much expendable now.’
‘WHAT?’ Giovanni blurted, stopping Johnny as he often did, but his fear had returned full force. He forgot for a moment he had promised himself he wouldn’t interrupt Johnny’s speech.
‘Oi!’ Johnny snapped, patting Giovanni’s face with his hand for him to pay attention. It was like caressing a child, and it brought Giovanni’s eyes back to focus. He blinked in embarrassment, but bit his lip to show he would be quiet. Johnny hadn’t ever hit Giovanni in the past, and he didn’t think it necessary to begin today. ‘Let me say my piece, or I will get really annoyed.’ Johnny murmured, but his eyes flashed in warning.
Giovanni groaned, clasping his hands together so much his knuckles were turning white. ‘I have anxiety about all this, and this new situation is not helping. So I’m sorry, but it’s hard to control myself sometimes.’ Johnny nodded his approval and went on, staring into the abyss that was their backyard. ‘Yes, I know that, which is why I’m here to tell you this, but well, keep interrupting me, and you won’t get to know.’
Giovanni pouted again, but mimed shutting his mouth and throwing the key. It earned a chuckle from Johnny, which made the former smile a little.
‘So!’ Johnny said again, ‘and here is the fun part.’ He fixed his position on the bed and lay down, staring at the ceiling full of glow in the dark stars. They had put them there when Giovanni was seven. Giovanni copied his action and laid down next to Johnny, resting his head on the older boy’s arm. ‘I’m uh…’ and for the first time, Johnny hesitated. ‘Okay, honestly I don’t know how to say this because your mum makes no sense, no matter how great she is.’
Giovanni swatted him, but otherwise didn’t react.
‘I’m kind of adopted? By your mum?’ he asked this in a question format, and Giovanni understood why Johnny had instructed him to sit down.
‘Adopted,’ Giovanni replied flatly, sitting up from next to Johnny to stare at him.
‘Yeah, well… kind of. Your mum forged papers that make it look like they had given birth to me a year after you were born. Your dad has no idea, so this has to remain a secret. She actually forged his signature too.’
Giovanni gaped at him, his mouth opening and closing like a fish without water. ‘Excuse me, but what the hell?’
Johnny laughed at the expression on Giovanni’s face. Giovanni scowled when Johnny laughed at him, but remained where he was, lying on the bed. He needed to hear the entire story.
‘Oh, I’m not finished yet.’ Johnny smirked when Giovanni gave a desperate laugh at his words. Giovanni swallowed it down at the absurdity of the situation. ‘What else, then?’
The smile Johnny showed him at that moment was one that he had never seen on Johnny before. Curious, Giovanni laid back down to observe him, leaning on an arm as he did so. ‘I’m going to reunite with my brother.’
‘I didn’t know you had a brother.’ Johnny was looking like a bobble head with all the nodding he was doing.
‘Yes, his name is Vernon. I told your mum that I could not do as she asked if she left him behind. If I had to leave the country, I wasn’t going without him.’
‘So we’re leaving the country?’ Giovanni asked in a small voice.
Another nod from Johnny. ‘It took her a minute to think about it, but I have the impression that your mum wants you to be happy.’
Johnny paused for a minute, seeming to gather his thoughts. Giovanni waited this time, as his heart calmed down at the words Johnny was telling him.
‘Since the school does not know who you are, she will make it look like she is sending her four kids there instead of two. Your mom explained she has no way of joining you and Gabriel at the boarding school. And until she can figure out a way of protecting you, this is the only way that it can happen for now.’
‘How old is Vernon?’ Giovanni asked when it seemed Johnny had finished talking.
‘Thirteen. I don’t think my parents expected it, but it doesn’t matter since they aren’t around any more, anyway.’
‘What happened to your parents? Where is Vernon?’ But instead of answering, Johnny turned to face the other way, shutting down the topic.
Sighing, Giovanni laid back down, cuddling a little closer to Johnny. He wrapped an arm over Johnny’s waist, and after a moment, Johnny took his hand. This small move comforted Giovanni, as he knew Johnny wasn’t angry at what he asked. Giovanni’s mind whirled at the news. This was amazing. He felt that much better already. With a sudden thought, he asked. ‘What about Gabriel? Can he know?’
Johnny snorted, turning over and switched their positions. He pulled Giovanni closer to him and mumbled into his hair. ‘Of course he can know. He’s going to have to pretend we were all born and bred from the same people.’
‘I swear, this is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me.’ Giovanni shook his head, a snicker bursting past his lips.
‘Even if we told someone, they wouldn’t believe me. It’s happening to me and I don’t believe me either.’
‘How do we keep this a secret from dad? What will you have to do?’
‘Whenever you guys leave, I will have to leave a little earlier and walk down the road. It would be difficult to take a lot with me, so your mom promised to send me a proper wardrobe once I am at school. I’ve packed the basics already, but other than that, I can’t bring anything.’
‘But…’ Giovanni paused, his mind in overdrive. ‘But wouldn’t my dad be in the car and coming to the airport?’ Johnny didn’t answer for a minute, but Giovanni was content to enjoy the feel of Johnny’s arms around him. He let his eyes fall closed in the silence.
‘Your mom is actually hoping that he will slack on joining, like he usually does. She will pester him about coming, which will make him want to come less. He will make an excuse at that point to avoid joining us during the trip.’
‘My dad really hates us, huh…’ Johnny ruffled his hair and didn’t answer, but Giovanni understood. Things were starting to make sense now, without actually making any sense at all. ‘So what happens now?’ Giovanni asked him, pulling Johnny up from the bed and directing him to a closet. Knowing that Johnny would join them, it invigorated him to get going faster.
‘I don’t know.’ Johnny frowned as Giovanni threw a handful of clothes in the luggage. ‘Why are you such a mess?’ His exasperation had reached a peak and the OCD in him snapped. With a scowl, Johnny emptied the entire trunk and repacked everything from scratch. Giovanni smiled at him sunnily without answering. He dumped a bunch of jumpers on the bed and declared, ‘You’re such a mom, really.’
Johnny felt his heart warm at the younger boy near him. Enjoying the now freeing atmosphere, Johnny threw a sock at the younger boy, startling him. If anything, Johnny was happy he could give the laughter back to Giovanni after all the tears during the day. He continued to organise the luggage while Giovanni kept throwing the clothes. It was alright, Johnny decided. They matched that way.