Even from inside his bedroom, the sound of the opening apartment door reached Phoenix’s ears. He knew exactly who it was. Even Jasper and Tam still knocked whenever they came to visit. But he and Gigi were well past the point of knocking on each other’s doors anymore.
Phoenix sighed to himself as he placed his pencil on the desk beside his journal. He’d been trying to get all his thoughts down before she arrived, but she’d shown up a bit earlier than he’d been expecting.
God, I hope this goes better than last time.
Gigi had come over a few times since their fight last Tuesday, but every time they tried talking about things, they never seemed to make much progress. No matter what happened, it always seemed to end with Gigi bursting into tears.
“I’m sorry. I know I’m being a selfish bitch,” she’d kept saying.
There were moments when a small, bitter voice in the back of Phoenix’s mind wanted to agree. I do EVERYTHING for you, Gigi. It wanted to say. Please, let me do this ONE thing for myself for once.
But Phoenix knew he’d brought this on himself by waiting so long to tell her the truth. He should have listened to Tam and told her back when he’d first applied. Then she would have at least had time to process it all.
Yeah… but at least it gave ME a little time to hold on to the dream… That little voice whispered once more. Maybe that’s the real reason I waited. I was afraid she was gonna do this. I was afraid she’d try and guilt me out of it…
The last time she’d come over, Gigi had reluctantly told him she changed her mind, and that she wanted him to go follow his dream… But Phoenix knew her better than that. She hadn’t changed her mind, she was still hoping he would change his.
And he finally had.
I’m just gonna tell her I made up my mind, he decided. I’m not gonna go. Then we can finally move on from all this crap and she can be happy again.
It killed him to see her so upset, and to feel like he’d let her down. Phoenix wasn’t sure how much more of it he could take.
Gigi threw her arms around him as he stepped out into the kitchen. “Hey, baby.” She whispered softly as she pulled him into a warm embrace.
“Hey.” Phoenix brushed his lips against her cheek as he replied.
This was the warmest greeting she’d given him all week… But why? Could she sense what was coming? Did she know what he was going to tell her?
Phoenix guided her to the couch as they finally broke apart. It felt almost uncomfortably familiar, sitting back in the same spots they’d been in when he’d broken the news the first time.
“Alright… I know how much you hate it when I give you a giant preamble.” Despite everything, Phoenix couldn’t help a small laugh as he spoke. “So… I’m just gonna say it. I finally made my decision… And I’m not going.” Though he managed to keep a straight face, he could almost feel a piece of his heart breaking as he said the words aloud.
Gigi blinked in disbelief. “You’re not?”
“Nope.” He shook his head. “I’m staying right here. With you.”
“But… Why not? Going to Brindleton Bay is your dream.”
“Yeah, a pipe dream, maybe.” Phoenix forced a chuckle. “I just really don’t think I can leave everybody behind like that… I know it’d totally kill my parents. And poor Lila too… And you know what a rough time Jasper’s been having with school. It’s really been taking a toll on Tam too… I’ve never seen them so stressed before.” He paused for a moment. “I just feel like they really need me right now. I can’t leave them.”
Gigi shook her head. “Phoenix, we both know that’s total bullshit.”
“It’s not.” He insisted. “You’ve seen how they are lately…”
“Oh, I know that.” She assured him. “Tam and Jasper are definitely having a rough time. And yeah, your parents and Lila probably wouldn’t be too happy… But we both know the real reason you wanna stay…” Gigi’s face was etched with guilt as she spoke.
She’d seen right through him, of course. She always knew how to read him like an open book.
A soft sigh passed his lips. “That’s… probably the biggest reason.” He confessed. “Yeah.”
His girlfriend shook her head slowly. “And it’s not fair. You can’t give this up just for me. This is like, once-in-a-lifetime! You have to go.”
“Wait a minute… Just a few days ago, you were practically begging me to stay. I thought you’d be happy!” He cried, failing at hiding his frustration. No matter what he did, he couldn’t win, it seemed.
“I know, I know.” Gigi bit her lip. “I totally sound like I’m contradicting myself. But just hear me out, okay?”
Phoenix simply nodded.
“I was being super selfish before. All I cared about was how you leaving would effect me, instead of being happy for you. Which was seriously awful of me. And I’m sorry.”
“You were just surprised… I totally sprung this on you way too late. How else were you supposed to react?” He asked. “So seriously, don’t worry about it. It’s okay.”
“No, it’s not… I was being so unfair to you. Yeah, you should have told me about this sooner. We both know that. But there’s still no excuse for how selfish I was.” Gigi replied firmly. “And I know this means so much to you. You really want this, don’t you?”
Phoenix hesitated before replying. “I do.” He confessed. “I don’t wanna leave you. At all. But… I really wanna go.” Why did he feel so damn guilty saying it?
“Then I seriously think you should. You shouldn’t give up on your dream just because of me.”
He was silent for a few moments. That most definitely wasn’t what he’d been expecting her to say. “Really?”
“But… what about us? Like you said, two years is such a long time…”
“Don’t worry about it.” She assured him. “It’s gonna be okay. I promise.”
Phoenix let out a breath he hadn’t even realized he was holding. “We’re gonna make this work. I swear to God, we’ll find a way.” He promised. “I love you so much.”
He leaned forward to press his lips against hers. He felt so guilty for thinking she was selfish before. How could he ever think that? I should’ve known she’d come around… After all, she was the sweetest, most amazing woman in the entire world.
He smiled against her lips, deepening the kiss as he began pushing down the straps on her tank top.
Gigi pulled away before he could get very far, letting out a soft laugh as she did so. “Woah there, mister. Hold on a second.”
He shrugged, smirking playfully. “What? Just figured I’d thank you for being so amazing about this… Or, if you’d rather, I guess I could punish you instead, for being such a bad girl…” Phoenix hoped his voice sounded convincing enough. It was always so much easier to pretend when he was caught up in the moment.
His girlfriend giggled. “Either one is fine with me.” She assured him with a small wink. “But there was just one more thing I wanted to talk to you about first…”
He held back a soft groan of disappointment. It can wait. He reminded himself. We’ve got plenty of time. Or at least, they would for the next few months anyway. But after that… Phoenix did his best to chase the thought from his mind. For now, he’d focus on being happy. He could save the worrying for later.
“Sure.” He replied at last. “What is it?”
Gigi took a deep breath. “Well, like I said, I really think you should go to Brindleton Bay. I don’t want you holding yourself back for me… But…”
Phoenix’s heart sank instantly. “But’ what?”
“Nothing bad!” She promised. “I just… I really don’t know how I’d be able to handle you being so far away for so long. And I was doing a lot of thinking about everything… What we both want, what would make us both happy… And do you remember? How you said you’d bring me with you if you could?”
He nodded. “In a heartbeat… But… we’ve talked about this before. You can’t come.” His voice was pained.
To his surprise, she smiled in reply. “Nope. I figured it out… And I can! As long as you still want me to, I mean…”
“Wait, seriously?! You found a way?” His entire face lit up as he spoke.
“I did.” She replied seriously.
“But… what about your job? You can’t leave that behind just for me. If you won’t let me do it, I won’t let you either.”
“I already got it all worked out… They’ll let me work from home.” Gigi assured him, smiling.
A smile slowly found its way onto Phoenix’s lips at her reply. “Really?! That’s great!” He paused for a moment, shaking his head in amazement. “So… So you can seriously come with me?” He was having such a hard time believing it. “But… How?”
His girlfriend giggled softly. “So… is that a ‘yes’, then? You want me to come?”
He beamed at her. “Of course!”
“Well, in that case, there’s just one little thing you have to do first…” Gigi’s smile widened as she slowly slid herself off the couch. “Phoenix… Will you marry me?”