Feisty Francesca

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#8 Maybe I need a new type

Again, all I can do is wait. Shaughna and Annabel left an hour ago to try and blackmail Melchior’s father into using his power and money to get the guys out of jail. They seemed both nervous and excited at the prospect of doing something, and I get that. I wish I could do something.

“Honey,” Asia says, putting a hand on my shoulder to stop me from pacing. “You’re Francesca, right? Shaughna’s friend? I don’t mean to sound rude, but you’re not really helping anyone by walking around like a zombie. Go home, get some sleep, we’ll let you know when the guys get out if you want.”

“I think I will just go back to the police station,” I say, pulling my hands through my hair. “I need to… do something.”

“Francesca,” Caroline says, squeezing my arm. “I know you care about them, but it makes no sense for you to stay here.” She gestures to Nathan, who just fell asleep on the couch, looking way younger than he did before. “We’re all exhausted. Shaughna told me earlier than you came straight from a 12-hour shift at the hospital to meet us for cocktails. That’s brutal. Go home, get some sleep. I promise we will call you.”

She’s right, of course, and my shift ended up being two or three hours longer. Still, it feels weird to just walk out of here without helping out. Surely I can do something, right?

My phone rings before I can make a decision, and I glance down to see it’s Joshua. I walk out of the house and into the backyard to take his call.

“Hey Francesca,” he says, sounding like he’s smiling. “How are you doing?”

“Like absolute shit,” I reply truthfully. “Please tell me you’re calling to tell me you got discharged.”

“I did!” he affirms. “I’m going home with my parents, actually. They refuse to just drop me off at my apartment, so I’m going to stay with them for a while, I guess.”

“That’s nice,” I say, smiling a little now. I’m so glad he’s okay.

“No, it’s not,” he says, chuckling. “You obviously don’t know my parents like I do. I love them, but there’s a reason I moved out the day I turned 18. They’re great people when you only have to be around them for short amounts of time. They like chocolate pudding. Amazing in moderation, but when you eat a whole damn bowl, you get all gassy.”

“You get gassy from pudding?” I ask, laughing at his description.

“I’m lactose intolerant,” he explains, laughing along. “Yet I love chocolate pudding so much that I sometimes eat it anyway, only to regret it later. Anyway, I didn’t call you to tell you about how pudding makes my stomach and ass hurt like hell. I just wanted to let you know I’m fine. Mom will be back with my wheelchair in a few minutes. Enough about me. Tell me about your night. Why are you doing like shit?”

“Do you know about Shaughna’s ex?” I ask, careful not to give him too much information right away. I’m not sure how much Shaughna has told him.

“Which one?” Joshua asks. “Never mind, they’re all assholes. I know the guy I was fighting is that Hollister asshole, the one who used her to cheat on his girlfriend and then kept coming onto her until he crossed the line and she fired him.”

“Oh,” I say, surprised that he knows all of that. “Do you know the other guy as well?”

“I don’t know his name, but he’s the king of all the horrible exes, isn’t he? The one that hurt her all those years ago?” When I don’t reply, he sighs. “Yeah, I figured. She hasn’t told me the whole story, but I do know he broke her. That guy is a dick.”

“Yeah, he is,” I agree immediately. “His name is Melchior Havemeyer.”

“The son of the millionaire?” Joshua whistles. “Wow, okay. So he’s a rich dick.”

“An abusive rich dick,” I verify.

“He… no…” Joshua grunts. “I knew it must have been bad, but I had no idea… Damn. Did he… I mean… What exactly did he…?”

“I think that’s Shaughna’s story to tell,” I say, cursing myself. I already said too much. It’s not my story to tell. “I’m sure she will fill you in once this horrible day is over and her boyfriend is no longer in jail.”

“Dshawn is in jail?” Joshua asks, almost shouting now. “What the fuck happened after I lost consciousness?”

I grit my teeth, but I fill him in anyway. To hell with caution. Shaughna is always saying how amazing Joshua is, sweet, trustworthy, how he showed her that there are still good guys out there. She won’t mind if I tell him the whole story. At least, I hope she won’t. He tried to save her, after all, even though he only ended up getting hurt. He’s a good guy. He deserves to know what went down last night, what he got himself involved in, somehow.

“Okay, yeah, I get why you’re doing shitty,” Joshua says when I’m done talking. I even told him about James Tyson, needing someone to know what has been going on with me. He’s not here, he’s not going to tell any of my friends. I’m the only one he’s even in touch with right now. And since we’re not face to face, it’s almost like talking to myself when I’m telling him the story through the phone. I didn’t even realize I needed to unload this badly.

“Sorry for talking your ear off,” I say, laughing a little. “You don’t even know me and I’m baring my goddamn soul to you.”

“I think it’s safe to say we know each other by now,” Joshua disagrees. “You cared for me, talked to my overbearing mother, and I told you all about my love for foods that make me gassy. And now I know you look so cute in a torn bloody dress that a cop who arrested you and your friends couldn’t help himself from trying to seduce you. We’re basically best friends now, Francesca.”

I grin, walking to the edge of the yard and leaning against the fence. “Well, if that’s true you should probably start calling me Franny.”

“Okay, Franny,” he says in that kind voice of his. “Only if you call me Josh.”

“Josh,” I repeat, smiling to myself. “Okay. Sure.”

“Franny?” he asks. “I’m sorry, but my mother has been waiting for me to hang up the phone for a while now. She’s pacing the hallway right now and I’m pretty sure she’s going to barge in here any second now. I need to go.”

“Thanks for talking to me.”

“Thanks for checking up on me.”

“Thanks for being okay.”

“Thanks for taking good care of me when I was out of it.”

“Thanks for coming to Shaughna’s defense.”

He laughs loudly. “Maybe we should stop thanking each other. This could go on for a while since we’re both so awesome.”

Shaughna never mentioned he’s so funny. “Bye, Josh.”

“Bye, Franny.”

When I hang up, I head back inside, surprised to see Shaughna and Annabel walking into the living room as well, obviously just back from Alaster Havemeyer’s office.

“We did it!” Shaughna says, grabbing my hands. “If everything goes as planned, Dshawn and Aston will be out soon.”

“Really?” Caroline asks, shaking Nathan so he will wake up and join in on the excitement. “You did it?”

“Well, Annabel did it,” Shaughna says, looking over her shoulder at Annabel who looks uncomfortable in the ill-fitting business attire she borrowed from Asia, clutching her suitcase so tightly that her knuckles are turning while. “I never could have done it without her.”

“Nonsense, you were great,” Annabel tells Shaughna with a small smile.

“I never would have thought of-” Shaughna stops talking, looking over her shoulder at Caroline and Nathan. “Never mind. Annabel, how about you have a chat with Car and Nate while I talk to Franny?”

Our talk will have to wait, since Asia and Terryl rush in. They were upstairs with their kids, but now they are back, wanting to know how things went.

“Alaster caved,” Shaughna says with a wide grin. “He’s going to try and get the guys out. All we had to do was promise to never show the video to anyone, to not publish it online. And I was never truly planning on doing that anyway. Melchior won’t press charges if Alaster has anything to say about it, and Melchior’s uncle is the chief of police, so he will try to stop the DA from going after Dshawn and Aston as well. I think this is going to work, Asia! I really think so.”

“What about you?” Asia asks Annabel, who has become the authority on the law since the moment the walked in here earlier. “Do you think my baby will get out?”

“Definitely,” Annabel says, sounding even more convincing than Shaughna. “We just kicked ass in there. It will work. Alaster Havemeyer is a powerful man and he’s on our side now, thanks to a wonderful little thing called blackmail.”

Shaughna pulls me into the yard and closes the door behind her while Annabel keeps talking to the others. “Oh my God, Franny, I’m just so…” She does a weird little jump and shouts so loud she’s waking up everyone in the neighborhood who wasn’t up already. “You won’t believe what Annabel just did in that office. She’s a fucking force of nature, that one.” Her eyes go wide and she stops jumping around, her gaze settling on me. “Oh my God, I’m sorry. You must hate her guts. I’m so stupid. Sorry!”

“I don’t hate her,” I say, realizing with a start that I’m not even lying. She’s fighting for Aston, for Shaughna. How can I hate her if she’s willing to go to such lengths for the people I love? “Tell me all about what happened!”

“We walked in there and demanded he helped us get the guys out of jail, and he totally caved!” She soberes up a little, smiling wryly. “Turns out he already knew what his son was capable of. He knew that Melchior was abusing me back in the day, and he didn’t do anything. Well, he did try, I guess. Turns out the reason Melchior broke up with me and moved out of the country was his father. Alaster made him stop seeing me.”

“Wow,” I breathe. “That’s… Wow. That’s fucked up.”

“I know, but then Anna stepped in with her contracts and she got Alaster to write three big fat checks.” She pulls out a piece of paper and shows me a number hell of a lot of zeros, adding up to a huge amount of money. “One for Dshawn, one for Aston, and one for Nate.”

“Holy shit!” I exclaim. “That’s… that’s… Wow!” Then something hits me. “What about Joshua?”

“What about him?” she asks, frowning. “Oh… wait, you mean that he should have gotten one too? You’re right, he did fight as well, bit he didn’t get arrested and Melchior doesn’t even know him.”

“Yeah, but he did get beaten up and now he’s got broken bones and bruised ribs,” I remind her. It just doesn’t seem fair that a good guy like that gets nothing but pain.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t even think about Joshua,” Shaughna says, looking a little flustered now. “And I’m not sure if we could have gotten him anything, since it’s technically Hollister who broke Josh’s leg, not Melchior. Still… you’re right.” She curses loudly. “Fuck. We can’t go back in there, demanding more money. It’s already a miracle that we got anything from Alaster.”

“It’s okay,” I say, hating that upset her. Still, part of me feels like it’s weird that only Aston, Dshawn and Nathan are getting money. I get the reasoning behind it – they got hurt, arrested, faced criminal charges, jailtime even – but it just doesn’t seem fair. Josh was there when Shaughna got thrown against the wall by Hollister and he came to her defense. And in the end, it was still Dshawn who threw the first punch. Not Melchior. And definitely not Josh.

“How was your night?” Shaughna asks, putting the cheque back in her pocket. “Okay, that’s a stupid question. I mean… how are you holding up?”

I shrug. “I’m a bit useless, aren’t I? I’m just hanging around, talking to people on the phone.”

“You’re not useless!” she argues, grabbing my arm. “Don’t think I didn’t see you kick Hollister in his balls. That was fucking epic. And you came to Joshua’s rescue when none of us did. I’m so lucky to have to around, Fran. So tell me, how are you going?”

Again, I shrug. “Fine, I guess.”

“Which is code for crap,” Shaughna says, giving me a hard look. “Come on, Fran, we both know you must be out of your damn mind watching Annabel prancing around, calling herself Aston’s girlfriend. She may have helped out tonight, but obviously I’m on your side. I can go straight to hating her if that’s what you need. Do you want to trash the bitch? “

I chuckle, feeling a little better. “Nah, I’m okay. And so is Joshua, by the way. He got discharged and is heading to his parents’ place right now. His mother doesn’t want him to be alone in his apartment right now.”

“That’s a huge relief.” She sighs deeply. “God, I feel bad I can’t go over to his place with a cheque, but luckily I already know he doesn’t need money.”

“What do you mean?” I ask, frowning.

“His parents are rich,” she explains. “You should see his apartment. He’s only 21, starting his last year of college, and he’s living in an apartment way nicer than the one Dshawn and I’ve got. Trust me, he doesn’t need a cheque, even though he certainly deserves one.”

“He’s only 21?” I ask, giving her an incredulous look. I had no idea he was that young. “And you slept with him? Damn, you dirty cradle-robbing slut.”

She laughs and smacks me on the back of my head. “You’re one to talk. Was that Thomas you were dancing with last night?”

“Yeah,” I say, feeling like that was a million years ago. “He’s single again, and so am I, so I guess we’re back to being neighbors who fuck.”

“Just fuck?” She wiggles her eyebrows suggestively. “Or more than that? He’s exactly your type, after all. Tattoos, muscles, cocky.”

“Maybe I need a new type,” I say, rolling my eyes. “Trust me, Thomas is never going to be my boyfriend. He’s just nice to have around while we’re both in between relationships. Not that I’ve ever been in a real relationship anyway. I’m just the girl guys fuck when they’re bored.”

“Don’t talk about yourself like that,” Shaughna says, appalled. “I will kick your ass if you ever say that again. We’ll find you someone, don’t worry. If there is someone out there for me, then there’s definitely someone for you.”

I smile at the way she looks when she talks about Dshawn. She’s madly in love with that guy, and rightfully so. He’s so good to her. I want that. I’m so fucking jealous of them sometimes.

“I, erm…” Okay, this is my shot to tell her about James. “A cop asked my number today.”

“A cop?” she asks, eyes wide. “Oh my God! One of those racist pricks?”

“No,” I say, feeling the need to defend him. “At least, I don’t think so. He seems alright.”

“Which one?” she asks, narrowing her eyes. “The one with the wedding ring? Or the one with the star tattooed on his wrists?”

I have no idea who she’s talking about. “The blue-eyed one with the slicked back dark hair. The one who helped me take care of Josh and told his colleagues to ease up on Aston.”

“Oh,” she replies, nodding. “He’s not so bad then, I guess. I didn’t get a good look at him, though. Did you give him your number?”

I show her the texts on my phone and she gasps. She scrolls through them, looking up at me with questions written all over her face.

“I know I should have said something earlier,” I explain quickly. “I’m sorry. I was just… out of it. Embarrassed, I guess. And you were all so angry at the officers, and I didn’t want him to get into trouble with the chief, and then it turned out that Melchior’s uncle is the chief of police, and I didn’t want to have to tell you that James was saying that it’d be a while before Dshawn and Aston would be out, and I just-”

“It’s okay,” Shaughna assures me, cutting into my nervous rant. She does still look a little mystified. “Just be careful, okay? You’re track record with guys is almost as bad as mine.”

“And then there was Dshawn,” I remind her, happy that she’s not angry with me.

“Yes.” She smiles. “And then there was Dshawn.”

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