And now I present to you chapter 4! Whilst the previous chapters mainly set the premise of the story, this one marks the beginning of the story itself—the meat and potatoes, if you will. You may be a little surprised by the descriptions and memories of Brianna, but keep in mind, Cody has not forgotten her. She played a substantial role in his breakdown. And she'll play an even bigger role here.
This chapter also references the very first chapter of Boy, Disrupted (I know, it feels like eons ago…:P)
Have fun reading! Please let me know your thoughts! :)
Disclaimer: I own nothing except the characters that aren't in the show.
She emailed me. She actually emailed me.
Cody racked his brain but to no avail. No matter how many times he pondered over Brianna's email, he just couldn't form a logical explanation for it. What could she possibly want with him? Why would she be contacting him now, after so much time had gone by? She was the last person in the world he wanted to see (even further down on his list than Erin Kyle)—the last person he'd hoped to see—yet he couldn't suppress a twinge of curiosity. He wondered how she'd been doing, how she and her new boyfriend were coming along, whether or not she could sleep at night knowing what she did to him, if she ever thought of what her actions had entailed.
He wondered if she felt any remorse.
He certainly didn't miss her. Precisely the opposite, he was relieved that she was out of his life; even before the cheating confessions and the break up, she'd been hard to deal with at times. She was very enthusiastic and independent, which was what he'd loved about her, but she was also very high-strung and dominant, and those qualities had nearly driven him to break the relationship apart himself.
Now, looking back, he regretted not doing so. He no longer blamed her unfaithfulness for his attempted suicide (he knew better than to do that), but if he had walked away before it had all gone downhill—if he had just stuck to his guns and said "enough"—he would have saved himself a lot of heartache.
That being said, he'd really loved her. She had not loved him back, and part of him had always known that, but he'd loved her. She was different. She was unique. She represented something rare and special—a person unwilling to conform to social standards, even at the cost of being gawked at and avoided.
She was an attention-seeker if he'd ever seen one. She dyed her hair all colors of the rainbow, starting with red on the left and ending with violet on the right (he actually had no idea what her natural hair color was, though judging from her chocolate brown eyes, he guessed it was probably brown), and she often wore white, star-shaped sunglasses that she'd once found at a thrift store; they'd been on sale for less than a dollar because they were broken, but she bought them anyway and fixed them up with duct tape.
She had a tattoo on her. The day she met him she told him about it. It was a blooming rose directly above her left breast, with a thorny vine that curled around and circled her entire torso. She'd shown it to him the day he'd agreed to see her without her clothes on and he'd found it rather distracting. When he asked her why she didn't get a tattoo in a more "traditional" area like her shoulder blade, or her lower back, or her ankle, she scoffed and said "Because that's so cliché!"
Aside from her appearance, she also had some odd habits and characteristics. She would never take Cody shopping with her unless it was for necessities, like food and appliances. Whenever she bought clothes she wanted to be alone; she said she liked to surprise him with the outfits she picked out. Though, they hardly ever remained the way they were when she got them. Usually she took scissors to them and shredded them in every which way imaginable. It was amazing how some of them managed to not fall off.
She also preferred to be on top during sex. In all the times she and Cody had slept together, Cody had only been on top once, and that was when she'd bet him money that he couldn't please her as much as she could please him. Most of the time Cody didn't mind, but she liked it rough. She liked clawing and biting and kicking, and knocking down anything and everything that happened to be in the vicinity of the bed. And he wasn't fond of that. He liked gentle sex, passionate but not violent.
She loved being spontaneous, especially when it came to conversations. Every time she spoke she said something random and out of the ordinary. Sometimes it was amusing. Sometimes it was down-right peculiar.
Cody remembered one such time. He'd been in Brianna's dorm room, lying down on her bed without a shirt on, trying to get a nap in after taking a ridiculously long midterm. He wasn't the least bit horny...but Brianna thought differently.
Wearing just a bra and a checkered mini-skirt, standing next to her desktop which had iTunes open and was playing Madonna's Vogue, she turned to him, a sexy smirk on her face. "I love it when you do that," she said.
Cody was on the verge of dozing, but he'd heard what she said and was confused by it. "When I do what?" he muttered sleepily.
She sauntered over to him and sat down on the edge of the bed, next to his waist. "Lie on the bed shirtless, looking like you want me to fuck you."
"Who says I want you to fuck me?"
She answered without hesitation: "I do."
Cody cocked his eyebrow and looked at her in puzzlement, though he made no objection as she crawled over top of him and straddled him, her legs on either side of his. She was smiling. She was smiling wide, her cherry red lip gloss shining in the light that was spilling in through the window. "Am I right?" she asked seductively. "I'm right, aren't I?"
He wanted to say no, that she wasn't right—that he didn't want to have sex with her right now. That he wanted to sleep and be left alone for a while. He had every intention of being honest, but for some reason seeing her face rendered that impossible.
He couldn't remember how, but he'd ended up sighing and saying, "Yeah, you're right."
She was pleased. She smiled delightedly. "I knew it!" she said happily. Then she deliberately changed her expression to a feigned look of uncertainty—the "martyr" look, as Cody called it. "Well, I suppose I should give you what you want…shouldn't I? That's what a good girlfriend would do." She ran the manicured nail of her index finger across his chest and down his stomach, rotating it around his nipples, poking it into his navel, and continuing until it reached the button on his jeans.
She tucked her bottom lip under her top teeth as she popped it open. "Am I a good girlfriend?" she asked.
It wasn't the first time she'd asked that. She seemed to think having intercourse with him and giving him blowjobs made her a good girlfriend. And for some unknown reason, before they got started, she would always ask if she was. It was as though she needed reassurance. A veil of comfort, so to speak, before she preceded.
There was a time, though, when that changed and she no longer cared—when she only thought about pleasing herself…or more accurately, her impulsive whims.
"Yeah," he answered her.
She grinned in return. "Hell yeah, I am."
Then she took it from there. And he didn't resist.
She had a fondness for odd, or otherwise controversial, subject matter. Anything that went against the grain of society drew her eye. She was an intelligent girl who liked to contemplate rules—and question them. Her distance from normality defined her, and Cody often landed in between.
One day, when they were walking to the school library after stopping off a Starbucks for some mochas, she said to him, "Why do you think people see blue as a masculine color and pink as a feminine color?"
The question seemed like it should have been easy to answer, but as Cody contemplated it, he realized it wasn't. It was like asking why some people were male and some were female, the answer to which was: they just are.
"Uh…I don't know," he responded. "Maybe there's some historical connotation to it."
"I think it's ridiculous," Brianna remarked. "It's so sexist. And you know what really pisses me off? The fact that girls can wear blue and be legit but if guys wear pink, they're automatically seen as gay, or less manly."
"I've seen some guys wear pink," Cody put in, which was perfectly true.
"I have respect for guys like that," Brianna stated matter-of-factly.
Interestingly enough, the guy she'd cheated with—Tyler—had been wearing a pink shirt the day she met him.
"You know," Cody said after sipping his coffee, "I wouldn't mind wearing pink shirts for you once in a while, if it'd make you happy."
Brianna looked at him as if he'd told her he'd die for her. "Oh, would you?"
"That'd be great." She wrapped her arm around him. "Thanks, Cody."
He'd hated wearing pink shirts (mostly because he hated the color pink), but never once did he complain. She was his girlfriend; therefore, she was worth it.
Their conversation about masculinity versus femininity had ended then. But it had been resumed, more or less, on a later day when she'd asked another seemingly random question: "Isn't it weird that guys don't get their belly buttons pierced?"
"Not really," Cody had replied, snickering a little at the very notion of that.
"I'm being serious," she'd told him. "Guys can pierce everything that girls can except their belly buttons. Why is that?"
He had no idea. Getting piercings hadn't exactly been on his list of things to do. "I think it would just look wacky," he said.
"Wacky is good in my book."
Cody was worried she'd ask him to get one, in which case the answer would have been a flat-out no. He could live with wearing a pink shirt every once in a while, but sticking a needle in his belly was out of the question.
Thankfully, Brianna didn't ask.
Cody never forgot the day Zack met her for the first time. It had been a Friday morning, when Zack and his parents had come to visit him at Yale and take him home for Thanksgiving Break. He was in the midst of packing his stuff when a tapping on his door interrupted him. He already knew who it was. "Shit," he swore under his breath, "they're early."
Brianna was in the room with him, sitting backwards in the wooden chair at his desk, her arms crossed over its back. She'd been trying to pass the time by mindlessly blowing huge bubbles with a wad of bubblegum she'd stuffed into her mouth, all the while trying to pretend she wasn't insanely bored (though Cody could easily tell she was). So the arrival of her boyfriend's family was a relief to her. She even opted to get the door.
Cody tried to object—"No, I don't think that's such a good idea"—but it was too late. Brianna had hopped off the chair and was half-way to the door before he could say another word.
A shiver darted up his spine. He'd been dreading this day for weeks—the day the girlfriend got to meet the parents, and the twin brother he'd told her so much about. It wasn't an entirely new concept to Cody. He'd had other girlfriends before and each of them had once had to meet his family for the first time. Logically, there was no reason why this should have been bothering him.
Nevertheless, it was. Badly.
Brianna was different. He was sure she was like nothing they'd ever laid eyes on. She was the type of person you heard quirky stories about but never got to meet. A "fantasy" girl, and not the kind that boys daydreamed about, but the kind that made others turn their heads, raise an eyebrow, and say "Seriously?"
She wasn't exactly dressed appropriately for a family get-together. She was wearing a pair of dark blue skinny jeans and a purple top that managed to show more skin than it covered; the top half of her back was completely exposed, and in the shirt's front she'd cut out a triangular hole that revealed both her cleavage and her rose tattoo. Cody had practically begged her to change into something "less showy and more casual" but she would hear none of it.
Her defense was: "If they're going to accept me for me, I have to show them who I am from the very beginning."
Cody could tell by his family's surprised expressions that they thought the same thing he did: she was dressed badly. Zack's description of it, which he later shared with Cody in private, was "like a prostitute," but he kept his mouth shut while in her presence.
They'd all acted courteously towards her, asking her questions about where she was from, what field of study she was going into, what her hobbies were, how she and Cody met, and so on and so forth. And she was very honest in her answers. But there had been a general tension about the atmosphere—a mutual feeling of discomfort and mistrust. To Cody's dismay, he could tell that his parents wanted to leave.
Later that same day, before getting into the car and leaving for Boston, Zack asked Cody to join him in the men's restroom right down the hall. At first, Cody couldn't understand why but when his brother gave him a serious look that implied utmost importance, he immediately agreed.
When they were in there, Zack took him to the back, past the stalls and urinals, to where the sinks were. "I need to talk to you," he said.
"Okay, shoot," Cody replied apathetically.
"It's about your girlfriend."
Cody waited, crossing his arms, preparing himself for the worst.
"I think you should break up with her."
Cody groaned in irritation. "Ugh, I knew this was coming!" he carped. "What is it, Zack? What don't you like about her? Is it the fact that she's pretty? Are you jealous of me?"
"What? No!" Zack intoned incredulously. "That's not it at all. It's that…I don't trust her. I don't know why exactly…but I don't like her. She strikes me as a slut, and believe me, I would know. I've dated a couple of them myself. The way she acts…I don't know…I don't think you should get involved with her. I'd hate to see you end up getting hurt. You could do better than her anyway. I know you can. Bailey was a decent girlfriend; Barbara was a decent girlfriend. You should try to find someone like them. At least find a girl who actually cares for someone else other than herself."
That was when Cody's "faithful boyfriend" frame of mind kicked into overdrive and he'd flown off the handle: "You don't even know her, Zack!" he shouted, his voice bouncing off the walls of the rectangular men's room. "She loves me. She'd never hurt me. I've always picked good girlfriends, Zack, unlike you. Trust me, I'm a better judge of character than you ever were!"
Zack was clearly hurt by his words but he didn't say so. And Cody knew that some of what he said wasn't even true; he hadn't always chosen good girlfriends. In comparison to some of Zack's, his were respectable. But some of them were far from good.
Aside from that, Cody also knew that he wasn't exactly a better judge of character than Zack was. Zack had often chosen to hang with the wrong crowd of people, but that didn't necessarily mean he had a poor judge of character. Frequently his reason for spending time with such people was to uphold his rumored rep as a "bad boy."
This conversation, though short in duration, would eventually lead to countless phone fights between the twins, as well as some bitter exchanging of words…majority of which neither of them meant.
And then, after that, came the betrayal.
Cody shook his head, bringing himself back to the present. He saw that his laptop was still on and it was overheating, so he shut it down and put it away. He still needed to finish his paper, but he decided to work on that later. He needed to relax for a minute. Thinking about Brianna—reminiscing on the time he'd wasted in trying to make her happy—had heated him up. He felt anger course through him like a current, boiling his blood, speeding his heart. He'd loved her and she'd betrayed him.
The things we do, he mused. The things we give away.
Is it ever worth it?
He took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair, calming himself down.
Just then, the door to the suite opened and his mother walked in. She was wearing a blue strapless dress that came down to her heels and black stilettos that made her look four inches taller than she really was. Her hair, which she'd decided to keep long, was pinned up in an elegant twist and from her ears dangled silver earrings with blue stones in them. Her face was plastered with make-up but the exhaustion in her eyes was unmistakable.
"Hey Mom," Cody greeted. "How was the show?"
"Fine," she responded.
"Moseby's got you working pretty hard, hasn't he?"
"It's not his fault. I request the extra shows. Being absent for so long certainty didn't help us financially." She flashed her son an accusatory glance that instantly replaced his previous fury with a rush of guilt.
I'm sorry Mom, he wanted to say. I'm sorry for everything. But he held his tongue.
"Where's Zack?" she questioned, noticing that her other son was nowhere in sight.
"He went grocery shopping," Cody told her.
Zack had gone to the Paul Revere Mini-Mart around the corner of the street to pick up some food for the following week. He'd promised to be back in anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes; however, Cody suddenly realized that he'd been gone longer than that. "He should be back by now," he added. "Maybe I should call him on his cell phone."
Carey shrugged. Zack wasn't the son she was worried about; she trusted Zack "I'm sure he's fine," she said indifferently. "He probably just decided to stop off somewhere else while he was at it. You know him. Time isn't exactly something he keeps track of."
Cody thought about that. He wanted to believe her, but for some reason he couldn't. He felt strange—like something bad was happening, or was about to happen, and he would have no control over it. He didn't fully understand why, but he was scared.
His mother noticed his fear. "Hey, what's the matter?" she asked, taking a seat next to him on the couch and rubbing his back as though he were a child again.
He shook his head, refusing to answer. She would have thought it foolish anyway. Worrying about Zack when he'd only gone to the Paul Revere Mini-Mart less than a block away? How pathetic was that? What could possibly happen?
From down the street, Cody suddenly heard police car sirens. They were faint at first, but kept growing...louder, and louder, and louder. Until the cars themselves rushed by the Tipton hotel. Instinctively, Cody got up off the couch and looked down at them from the window of suite 2330, watching their lights flash red and blue as they sped past the building and turned the corner.
The Paul Revere Mini Mart was nothing like it used to be. It'd been rearranged a few summers ago and all the products had been moved to different areas. It was unnerving. Yet Zack couldn't mistake the familiarity of the building itself—the floor, the walls, the ceiling. It brought back so many memories. Mostly memories of mishaps between him and his brother when they'd worked there as teens, but even mishaps had their own substance.
All the fights he and Cody used to get into while stocking the aisles…he wouldn't have traded them for the world.
Funny how certain things that were frustrating when they happened get remembered as some of the best events in a person's life. It actually made sense after thinking about it. Once someone has dealt with real problems, and felt real pain, and seen the real face of rage, childhood fights seem comical.
Zack took a moment to look around. The place was nearly vacant, with the exception of an old lady, a middle-aged man, two teenage boys wearing hoodies, and a woman holding the hand of a little girl who was dressed in a yellow sundress, clutching a bright red sippy cup in her other hand.
Wayne was no longer there. Now the manager was an older guy—thin and gangly, with gray hair, hideous frown lines, and bifocals hanging over a long, crooked Roman nose.
Zack grimaced. He wasn't typically one for judging people but he did not get a good vibe from him. Of course, Wayne hadn't been all that good either. But he would have taken Wayne's goofy grin and oafish mannerisms over this guy any day.
Zack was standing in the small pharmacy aisle, looking at various sleeping medications, when he heard screaming from over near the cash register. Without thinking, he put down the bottle of Lunexor he'd been holding and raced to the front of the store, where he saw one of the teenage boys pointing a 9-millimeter handgun at the terrified cashier, who was backed against the far wall behind the register machine, his hands up in surrender. The other teen was turned toward the customers. The old lady had begun to cry, the middle-aged man had bent down over her to comfort her, and the mother was shielding her daughter, who was bawling in fear and confusion.
Though he wanted to say something, he was incapable of doing anything except stare in awe at the would-be criminals. He could tell they were new at this; their intimidation was clearly embellished and it reeked of amateurism. The second boy—who was aiming a .357-Magnum somewhere between the old lady and the mother—kept shaking uncontrollably and acted as though the smallest movement would set him off…which unfortunately made him even more dangerous.
The whole thing felt so bizarre—like a lucid dream, or a sick joke. Why would anyone, even a newbie criminal, rob a mini-mart? Why not a huge supermarket? Or better yet, a bank! This place only had one cash register, and therefore only a limited amount of money.
In a way, it did make sense though. Bigger stores often meant more security. The only defender of this place was the cashier, who looked like he was about to wet himself if he hadn't already.
"Okay Sarge," said the teen with the 9-millimeter, "you know the drill. Empty the register." It was so formulaic. This kid had clearly watched one too many crime dramas.
Nonetheless, the cashier quickly pulled open the register, pulled out all the dollar bills inside, and handed them over.
Keeping the gun poised, the teen snatched the money away and stuffed it in the front pocket of his jeans. It wasn't much. The Paul Revere Mini-Mart wasn't all that successful; it managed, but that was about it. "Good man," the teen said. "You know what's best for you. That's good."
The cashier swallowed and attempted to speak. "Okay, y-you've got your money," he murmured. "Now go and leave us alone."
The armed teen bore an exaggerated look of astonishment. "Wow, someone wasn't raised with manners." He leaned in towards the cashier, his cocked gun coming closer to the cashier's body. "Can I get a 'please'?"
The cashier didn't hesitate in giving him one. "P-please."
"There. That's better."
Everyone waited for the boy and his accomplice to leave. They didn't.
In the midst of all the anticipation, the new Zack and the old Zack started fighting. They had different views on the situation, and both were competing for the driver's seat in Zack's head. "So you're just going to stand there and watch an entire robbery?" mused the new Zack. "For God's sake, do something!"
"What?" intoned the old. "No freaking way!"
"Why not? These two punks are kids. Kids! They can't be any older than seventeen. They're younger than you!"
"Yeah, maybe…but they've got guns."
It was the fight or flight regime, with the old Zack pushing for flight and the new one screaming to fight. Zack was afraid, but part of him felt he shouldn't be. He knew what helplessness felt like—how it fed off a person's mind, throwing their will power to the flames, leaving them with nothing to hope for. Nothing to have faith in. He knew that feeling all too well. At one time, it had nearly destroyed him.
But not now. Not this time.
The teen with the 9-millimeter slightly turned his head and peered in the direction of his partner. "Say, Ricky, you ready to leave yet?" he asked.
He'd just said his partner's name. Big mistake.
"Whenever you are, man," the boy known as Ricky replied.
The first teen glanced back at the cashier, flashing him a don't-you-dare-try-to-pull-anything look, and then turned around completely and approached his accomplice. He took notice of the customers. "My friend keep you guys pleasantly occupied?" he chortled deviously, winking at them.
It was a rhetorical question so no one answered, but within the silent, dreadful moment, the new Zack snatched the driver's seat out of the old Zack's grasp, and before Zack even knew what he was doing, words were escaping his mouth—words of sense and reason: "Why are you doing this?" It was so unreal, yet he was unable to stop himself. "I understand times can be shitty. But no matter how desperate you are, you don't have to do this. You could put an end to this right now if you wanted to. No one would hurt you."
"Shut up!" the teen hollered, pointing his 9-millimeter at Zack. "Don't even think about trying to mind-fuck me!"
"I'm not mind-fucking you," Zack argued, keeping his voice calm and peaceful.
The boy snorted, obviously in disbelief.
"Look, I don't know who you are," Zack continued. "But I do know that neither of you have ever robbed a store before. Once you do this, there's no turning back. Even if you get away with it, this'll always be on your head. Is that what you want?"
"It's none of your damn business what I want!" the teen shouted. "You know, you sure talk a lot for someone who's got a gun pointing at him!" Then he smiled. "You got a death wish?"
Usually a question like that would have made Zack panic, but somehow, miraculously, he remained composed.
"Well, do you?" the teen urged.
"I think he does!" his partner, Ricky, piped in.
The first boy's smile widened, shifting into a malicious grin. "Then I'm happy to grant his wish."
Zack knew he wasn't being serious. If he'd intended to shoot him—or anybody else, for that matter—he would have done it already. He was just trying to scare him with typical antagonist tactics.
"Leave him alone," the cashier pleaded from behind the register. "He's just a kid, same as you."
The teen turned back to acknowledge him. "You got something to say to me? Huh?"
The cashier stiffened in fear. "Please…" he muttered, "don't kill him."
"You hear that?" the teen said to Zack. "That man back there just begged for your life. He even said 'please.' Now I feel inclined to indulge him." He paused, thinking about what he was going to do—making a sudden decision. "Tell you what, my partner and I are gonna go… and we prefer to leave in peace, so the next person to speak is gonna get a bullet in them. Is that clear?"
Everyone nodded and kept quiet. Everyone, that is, except for the little girl holding the sippy cup, who hadn't quit crying. She was the only one making any noise, as the old lady had wiped her tears and calmed herself.
"And that includes children!" the boy added. "Jeez, would someone shut that brat up!" Automatically, his gun went towards her and there was a collection of gasps that emitted from the customers, the loudest of which came from the girl's mother who knelt down in front of her and tried desperately to soothe her.
The teen didn't move his gun. Instinctively, Zack stepped in front of the child and positioned himself to where the gun's barrel was taking direct aim at his ribcage. His hands went up in surrender. He said nothing but his face bore a stoic expression that seemed to say, "Go ahead, shoot."
The teen looked at him for a long moment, as though wondering why he would do something like that. Then, slowly, he lowered his gun. He tapped his partner on the shoulder. "Come on," he said. "Let's get the hell outta here. We got what we came for."
Then both of the boys were gone, leaving the cashier and the customers behind to wonder what had just happened. And why. Unknowingly, three of them got out their cell phones and simultaneously called the police.
Not Zack. He decided instead to call Cody.