Every Road Leads Back
Just what Giselle wants to look forward to; Thanksgiving at a halfway house for unwanted teenagers. She sits on her bed in the room she shares with two other girls waiting for the inevitable knock on the door. The guys who live down the hall have taken it upon themselves to torture her on a daily basis.
At first they called her Brainiac because of her straight A's. Then they started calling her Gazelle because she lost so much weight. Now that they found out about her mother's past, they've graduated to insinuating she's an easy lay like her mother. With thoughts of running away filling her mind, she's surprised when Mrs. Jenkins, their warden, for lack of a better word, comes to tell her she has a visitor in the reception room.
Sighing, she slides her bookmark in her book and shoves it under her pillow. She checks her hair before opening the door. When she's halfway to the stairs, she hears Greg say, "Where you going, Gazelle? Got a hot date?"
Ignoring him, she keeps walking. Dean yells, "Nah, she doesn't date. She just screws them and moves on."
Greg laughs lewdly and says, "When's it gonna be my turn Gazelle? When do I get my piece of ass?"
Mrs. Jenkins comes half way up the stairs and says, "BOYS, I will not tolerate this any longer. One more word and both of you will be grounded till Christmas." Giselle tries to thank her, but she can't. Mrs. Jenkins just pats her arm and says, "Don't listen to them Giselle. They are just being mean."
Giselle makes her way to the reception room, expecting to see Meagan and Kendall. When she opens the door, her guest stands and she can't believe her eyes. AJ. She runs up to him and throws herself into his arms, sobbing into his shirt. He hugs her tight and says, "Don't cry Elle. Please don't cry."
When her sobbing subsides, they sit together and she says, "Why are you here?"
He says, "Why do you think? Kendall calls me and tells me all kinds of shit has been happening that my best friend is keeping from me."
She lowers her head and says, "I couldn't bother you with this AJ. You're busy."
He says, "Elle, come on, this is me. We've been friends for so long you gotta know you're more important to me than a job. What happened with your mom?"
She says, "The same stuff. Only, when I turned 16 I didn't like how some of those men started looking at me. After you left, it just got worse."
He says, "Giselle, did they touch you?"
She shakes her head and says, "No, no one did. But I was afraid they would. Kendall wanted me to talk to Mom but...well, you remember how she was."
He says, "Yeah, she was never sober enough to know what was going on." Looking around, he says, "How is it here?"
Knowing he'll never believe her if she lies, she says, "I hate it."
Before he can ask why, Greg and Dean come waltzing in and Greg says, "Oh, look, Gazelle has a boyfriend."
AJ stands up and says, "Shut your mouth."
Dean says, "Or what? Oh, I'm sorry, did you want to be alone with Gazelle so you could fuck her? We hear she's good."
AJ starts across the floor to take a swing at them both, but Giselle grabs him and says, "AJ, don't!"
Mrs. Jenkins comes rushing into the room and says, "That's it. I've had enough of you two. Get up to your room NOW!"
Greg says, "Come on, Mrs. J, we're just messing with them."
She says, "I've had it with you two. Your room, NOW!"
They both go out grumbling and she turns to AJ and Giselle. AJ is trembling in rage and Giselle is on the verge of tears. She says, "Giselle, I'm so sorry. I've been trying to find an opening for you in another facility. None of them have empty beds. Isn't there someone who can foster you until you turn 18?"
She shakes her head and says, "No. No one has room. I'll be fine."
She turns to AJ and says, "I am terribly sorry. Those boys will be the death of me."
After she leaves, AJ says, "Is it like that all the time, Elle?"
She nods and walks to the window. She says, "Most of the time I just ignore them."
He says, "Do you have to sleep here tonight?"
She turns and says, "What do you mean?"
He says, "Those two are going to take their punishment out on you. I want you to come to my house."
She says, "AJ, I don't know...I don't want to impose on your mom."
He says, "I am not leaving you here Giselle." He walks to the door and opens it and says, "Mrs. Jenkins, can Giselle stay at my house tonight?"
She says, "I'm not sure that's appropriate, young man."
He says, "I don't mean with just me. My mom is there."
She says, "I'll have to speak with your mother." Looking at Giselle, she says, "Would you like to, Giselle?" Giselle nods emphatically and she says, "Then why don't you go pack a bag while I have this young man call his mother?"
As Giselle throws some things in her backpack, she hears Dean and Greg in the hallway. Making sure her bedroom door is locked, she watches the handle wiggle. Then she hears Dean say, "Don't worry Bitch. One of these days, you'll get to play with us."
She shakes in fear as she hears them retreat once again to their room. Knowing she can't come back here, she grabs a suitcase and puts everything in it she can, and then fills her back pack with her books.
When she gets downstairs, Mrs. Jenkins says, "Giselle, you're going for a night, not forever."
AJ knows her well enough to see the fear in her eyes. He looks at Mrs. Jenkins and says, "If I have anything to say about it, she won't be back. If nothing else, my Mom will foster her till she's 18."
Giselle looks at AJ shocked and says, "But AJ, she has to go with you."
He says, "I'm a grown man Giselle. Besides, Nick's Mom or Brian's can chaperone me for a few months. I'm not leaving you here alone."
Mrs. Jenkins can see how serious AJ is and she says, "Have your mother come by tomorrow. I have all the paperwork she'll need to foster Giselle." Looking at her frightened young ward, she says, "Giselle, you're a special girl and you deserve better than this place."
Giselle hugs her and says, "Thank you Mrs. Jenkins."
She says, "Just take care of yourself. I expect an invitation to your graduation. And I expect you to be valedictorian."
Giselle blushes and says, "Thanks."
Once they are in AJ's car, he says, "Elle, you should have called me when all this started."
She says, "AJ, you have a new life. It's not my place to interfere with that."
He says, "Would you shut up and listen to me?" Her shock at his words is evident and he says, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to sound mean, but...Elle, you are important to me. You've always been important to me. No matter what happens with my life or my career, you WILL be important. Got it?"
She reaches over to touch his hand and she says, "AJ, I'm...I'm sorry. I didn't call because I didn't want you to feel sorry for me. Kendall and Meagan have half the guys in the senior class asking me out because they feel sorry for me. I just...I don't want you to be like that too."
He says, "Elle, I don't feel sorry for you. I'm sad for you, but that's different."
She says, "Do you think your Mom will foster me?"
He says, "If she won't, I know she'll know someone that will."
When he parks at his house, he says, "Oh, just so you know, Nick is staying with us too."
She's really shocked at that. She says, "I thought you told me he had a big family."
He says, "He does. Just not a happy one. I told him he could hang with us. That's cool, right?"
She smiles and says, "Sure. Anything to stay away from that place."
He squeezes her hand and says, "From now on, completely honest. Right?"
She nods and says, "I promise."