The police officer rushed forward and grabbed Gus’s hands, pulling them behind him and slapping cuffs around his wrists.
Gus couldn’t believe this was happening. He made it through a drunk driving accident that almost killed his best friend without getting arrested and now he was being arrested for defending his girlfriend and her mom.
“Please, officer, Gus didn’t do anything wrong.” Phoebe rushed forward.
“Miss, stay back,” the officer said, stepping in between them.
Phoebe halted in her tracks, gaping helplessly at Gus with tears streaming down her face.
“Excuse me, officer,” Zach called from the next-door porch. “I saw the whole thing. I’d like to testify.”
Could this get any worse? Zach hurried down his porch steps. Gus hadn’t realized Zach lived next door to Phoebe. This was possibly the worst-case scenario. The boy who hated him, was jealous of him, and held a grudge against him, was going to testify against him.
The officers allowed Zach to approach the scene with his hands held high where they could be seen. “Gus was just defending Phoebe and Mrs. Harris.”
Huh? He’s speaking on my behalf?
“Mr. Harris attacked his daughter and Gus, and slashed Mrs. Harris with a knife,” Zach said, pointing off toward where Phoebe’s mom had a towel wrapped around her arm. “He’s drunk all the time and beats Mrs. Harris and their son a lot. Ask any of the neighbors all around us. We all saw what happened. It’s Mr. Harris who needs to be arrested, not Gus. I don’t particularly like him, and he stole the girl I’ve had a crush on my whole life, but he doesn’t deserve to be arrested.”
Gus couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Zach had stuck up for him. They regarded one another and Gus mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
Zach shrugged and looked away. Gus owed him one, big time. He’d find a way to thank him for doing this. The whole neighborhood could have easily watched what happened and never spoken up. Gus was an outsider. Mr. Harris was a member of their community. Not a highly respected member, but still one of them.
“Is that true?” the officer asked Phoebe’s mom.
Mrs. Harris glanced nervously at her husband, who was slumped on the ground, defeated physically but maintaining an angry scowl.
The police officer stepped in between Mitchel and Paige Harris, blocking him from intimidating his wife.
Paige raised her chin and spoke with a hint of confidence. “Yes, that’s true.”
“Would you like to press charges against your husband,” the officer asked with sympathy in his voice.
“Is he gonna have a chance to come home and hurt me again?”
“No ma’am, you can file a personal protection order preventing him from coming near you.”
“Okay, then I’ll press charges,” she said quietly.
“We’ll need you to come down to the station to make your statement,” the officer said.
“I’ll come with you, mamma,” Phoebe said. “I’d like to add my testimony to the charges. And I think Mike should come too. Dad hits Mike more than any of the rest of us.”
“Officer?” Gus asked. “Am I under arrest? Because these cuffs are hurting my wrists.”
“Yes, I mean, no, you’re not under arrest,” the officer said. “I’ll get the handcuffs off you.”
Just as the officer reached behind Gus, Aaron’s Mercedes came screeching to a halt at the curb and Aaron flung open his door. Scrambling from the car, he called out, “What are you doing to my little brother?”
“Don’t worry, Aaron, it was just a misunderstanding,” Gus called out to him. The officer was still fumbling to get the handcuffs off and Aaron hurried forward.
“Do you have any idea who you are arresting?” Aaron demanded. “That is Prince Augustus of Madain Saleh.”
“Aaron, stop. It was a misunderstanding.” Just then the cuffs were released, and Gus shook out his wrists. “See, I’m fine.”
“I don’t understand,” Aaron said.
“Will you drive me down to the police station?” Gus asked. “I need to make a statement about the… uh… incident.” Gus glanced at Phoebe, who bit her lower lip, her eyes straying nervously toward Aaron.
“Phoebe, come here, I want to introduce you to my brother,” Gus said, reaching out his hand for her to join him. “Don’t worry, he won’t bite.”
She hesitantly moved toward him and Gus wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her close.
“Phoebe, this is my older brother, Aaron,” Gus said softly. “Aaron, this is… my girlfriend, Phoebe.” Gus raised his eyebrows, requesting permission to call her that.
Phoebe lifted her chin and stuck out her hand. “It’s good to meet you, Your Highness.”
“Please, just call me Aaron.” Aaron leaned closer and stage whispered. “I’m pretty sure you’re the first girl Gus has referred to as his girlfriend, so I’ll just take the opportunity to welcome you to the family.”
“Yeah, as much as I hate him, he probably should have asked me first if I even wanted to be his girlfriend,” Phoebe replied with a smirk.
“He’s cocky like that.” Aaron nodded.
While this little exchange took place, the police officers placed handcuffs around Mitchel Harris’ wrists and led him to the car, reading him his rights.
Paige walked over to meet Gus and Aaron, before heading inside to get her arm cleaned and bandaged.
Gus held Phoebe’s waist as they made their way over to Aaron’s car. Aaron climbed in the driver’s side, leaving Gus and Phoebe almost alone. He pulled her into his arms and held her briefly.
“Thank you for protecting me,” Phoebe whispered, her head resting on Gus’s chest. “That’s twice in one day.”
Gus pulled away slightly and brushed Phoebe’s hair away from her face. The vulnerability in her eyes was endearing. He had a strong desire to tell her that he’d fallen in love with her but wanted to save that moment for a more appropriate time and place. Instead he leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers very softly. All his thoughts and feelings would need to be wrapped in that tiny kiss. For now.