Naked

Naked by Francine Pascal Read Free Book Online

Book: Naked by Francine Pascal Read Free Book Online
Authors: Francine Pascal
her. Of course she knew exactly what was said; she was just too embarrassed to respond to it.
    We’re so happy to have you here.
    â€œWe’re so happy to have you here!” Paul stated triumphantly.
    Gaia lowered her eyes. Her face felt hot. She was blushing. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so bewildered and happy at the same time, as if she were five years old. But she didn’t want to fight the emotion. She wanted to drink it in, thirstily, like wine.
    â€œChill, bro,” Brendan joked. “Save it for the bonus round.” He glanced at Gaia. “You’ll have to excuse my brother, Gaia. He doesn’t get out much.”
    â€œReal funny,” Paul replied with a smile.
    An awkward beat passed.
    Gaia looked up and saw that Mr. and Mrs. Moss weren’t smiling at all. Maybe there was a little toomuch truth to that statement. Mrs. Moss had said that Paul was living at home instead of at his Columbia dorm and that she could hear him crying at night behind his closed door. And when Gaia turned to Paul again, there was still a smile on his face—but there was undoubtedly something else behind it. A sadness in his eyes. Somebody would have to look closely to see it, but Gaia had done just that. And seeing that unbearable emptiness just beyond his functional surface was very much like having a mirror on the other side of the dining table.
    â€œWell, I’m going out
tonight,
” Paul muttered after a moment.
    â€œOh, yeah, that’s right,” Brendan said. “Gaia, there’s a Fearless show at CBGB’s tonight. You’ve got to come with us.”
    â€œSure,” she agreed absently, her mind drifting into the past. “God, I haven’t been to a Fearless show since Mary and I—”
    She cut herself off instantly. Mary’s name had not been mentioned once. Sitting in the sudden awkward silence, Gaia wondered if she’d just made a massive error—perhaps the biggest error a person could make in the Moss household.
    â€œGaia,” Mrs. Moss said gently, as if reading her mind, “we talk about her all the time. We talk about her as often as possible, and you should feel free to dothe same. I know you loved her as much as we did. As much as we
do.
”
    Gaia nodded and swallowed, then allowed herself a small sigh of relief. Talking about Mary was something Gaia would have never allowed herself to do alone. But in a way, that was what Mary’s gift had always been to her: the chance to do something she never would have done alone—whether it was going to a Fearless show, wearing a tight red dress, playing a game of truth or dare, or just listening to someone else’s problems instead of dwelling on her own.
    â€œI did,” Gaia said, just barely holding off another wave of emotion. “I mean, I do. But my point is this,” she announced, squelching every ounce of her sadness. She replaced her wimpy self-pitying tone with something bold and absurdly declamatory. “Tonight. . . I must
rock.
”
    Everybody stared at her.
    Then Paul laughed. So did Brendan. Mrs. Moss cracked a puzzled smile.
    It was an unquestionably stupid thing to say, but somehow Gaia knew that Paul would think it was funny. And that was precisely why she had said it. If she could make a member of the Moss family laugh, then she knew she was doing something worthwhile.
    From: [email protected]
    To: [email protected]
    Time: 6:48 P.M.
    Re: The truth
    Gaia,
    I hated what happened this morning. It hurt more than you can imagine. But I know it’s my fault. Because you don’t trust me. And why should you? I’ve been lying to you, and I know you can tell. But I’ve only been lying to protect you. You have to believe that.
    I’m in real trouble, Gaia. And I think you may be, too
    
    Gaia,
    I have to see you tonight. I know you think I’m a liar, but there’s so much you don’t know. I want to

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