The next day, I woke up with a new determination; a drive I couldn’t remember feeling before, at least since second grade when I convinced myself I could be the next Batman, and spent every day trying to rid my classroom of all crime.
Mikey noticed a difference, the moment I walked down the stairs to find him, yet again, enjoying a bowl of Frankenberry with only boxers on. And the boxers had Starwars stuff printed all over it. I mean everywhere. It must have been weird to look down, and see Darth Vader staring up at you from where your junk is.
“Why are you so excited?” Mikey asked me, squinting hard without his glasses.
“No reason,” I shrugged, going to get myself a bowl of Frankberry. I succeeded in knocking the whole box over, not even bothering to try and stop it as the contents spilled all over the floor. It was just par for the course.
“Shit,” I swore, a little too loudly.
“Gerard Arthur Way!” A voice called. I cringed, waiting for a lecture on my language from my mother, but nothing came. I opened my eyes to see Mikey snickering wildly.
“You’re gullible!” He managed, around the spasms of laughter.
“That was you?” I gaped at him. I couldn’t help it. It was a frighteningly accurate imitation. He’d gotten everything right; the accent, the pitch, right down to the chastising tone.
Mikey nodded, putting a huge spoonful of Frankenberry into his mouth.
“How long did you spend perfecting that?” I asked in disbelief as I began to sweep the cereal up off the floor.
He shrugged again. “Not too long. Besides, as a younger brother, I am legally obliged to spend some of my spare time trying to figure out ways to annoy, frighten and or irritate you.” He said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. What fifth grader says that?
Mikey got up and dropped his bowl in the sink, walking down the hall with a proud strut. It would have looked more serious if I hadn’t watched his retreating back and seen Han Solo in the folds of his underwear.
On the bus, Frank seemed different than usual. Or maybe I just hadn’t noticed it before. He still bounced back and forth, but it was a slower rhythm. There was a lack of conviction too, a different feel. But maybe I was just being ridiculous. And if I could notice a difference at all, then I obviously spent far, far too much time watching him.
“Nice t-shirt Frank,” I said, walking over to his seat and nodding my head at his Misfits t-shirt.
“Thanks Gerard.” He said, appreciatively. But there was this feeling, aura almost, that was coming from his voice that I couldn’t put a name to. It irked me, because I knew it mattered somehow.
“What’s going on?” He asked me, his voice lacking its’ normal enthusiasm. It was like he was asking me that just so that I could talk, and so he wouldn’t have to.
“Nothin’ much. What about you?”
Frank snorted, biting his lip. His eyes glazed over for a moment, and I could tell that he was thinking of something. Suddenly, he came back down, startling me by shaking his head back and forth violently. He grinned bitterly. “Nothing worth hearing about.”
Inconvenient again, the bus doors swung open, releasing us. Frank looked back and gave a half smile, lifting the left corner of his mouth a fraction.
“I’ll see you around Gerard,” he said, smirking and diving into the crowd of kids. I watched him, looking lean and strong as he forced his way through all the people. I would have continued to admire him, but I was pushed forward by the other students trying to get off, and I had to focus on not falling down the stairs of the bus.
I was still thinking about Frank when I went into my homeroom, so absorbed I failed to notice that Ray was completely passed out on our table. I pulled out a chair next to Bob, doing a double take as I watched Bob throw a paper ball at Ray’s head repeatedly.
“36,37,38,39,” Bob muttered under his breath, punctuatuing each number by hitting Ray with the ball as I sat. He paused for a moment, looking up at me. “Hey Gee,” he said happily, then returned to hitting Ray in the head. Ray didn’t stir at all.
“What’s with him?” I said, watching as Bob added another paper to the ball.
“I guess he stayed up all night on the computer playing World of War Craft. He said he raised his level by thirty. But I guess he didn’t get much sleep.” Bob smirked, leaning over and yelling in Ray’s ear. “Rise and shine Toro!”
“AHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Ray shrieked, sitting up so quickly he toppled out of his chair. The other kids stared blankly at him, before bursting into hysterical laughter. Ray looked unashamed as he picked himself up off the floor, dusting off his pants and shooting a quick glare at Bob. His face returned to normal as he looked back, undaunted, at our peers.
“Jeez Ray, how do you do that?” Bob asked him in awe.
Ray shrugged. “The ‘fro has the ability to hide true emotion.”
I spent the next few classes thinking about Frank, of course. I was in the library, lounging in the miniscule graphic novel section, when a voice said, “Hey Gerard!”
I looked up abruptly, startled to see Frank standing directly in front of me.
“Um…hi,” I said, wanting to wince at how dumb I sounded.
“What’s going on?” He asked me, leaning back casually against the wall next to me.
I shrugged. “Nothing. Just reading.” I suddenly felt embarrassed by the worn copy of Watchmen that I held in my hands.
“Watchmen rules!” Frank said, with the enthusiasm he’d been missing earlier.
I nodded. “The characters are great.”
“Rorschach’s got it all down,” Frank said, and that tone was back. The one from this morning. With a sudden burst of understanding, I realized what it was. Bitterness.
Rorschach had it down? With his dark view of everything, that piercing, intense negativity? That view was the opposite of what I would expect from Frank. I decided to try and get him to clarify. Who knew? Maybe I was interpreting his words wrong.
“Seriously? You agree with all that?”
“Sure,” Frank shrugs easily. “He’s got it right. He saw it all coming. He saw everybody for what they really were.”
“But…he died.” I said lamely, still struck by Frank’s unexpected opinion.
“Yeah. But he was better off like that. He didn’t have to deal with all the liars anymore. All the fakes, all those facades. He didn’t have to be in a world where everyone’s a liar.” Frank shoved his hands deep into his pockets, or at least as deep as they would go. Those were some tight pants, I had earlier noted with pleasure.
“Do you think that? Everyone’s lying?”
“Sure.” Frank nodded simply. “Everyone’s hiding. Nobody just puts themselves out there the way they are. They change everything; they lie. Everyone’s afraid to show themselves.”
“Well, yeah. But, what’s wrong with having some fear? Sometimes you’re safer that way.”
Frank laughed once, and it was completely absent of humor. “Screw safety. If everyone just showed themselves, there’d be nothing to be afraid of. And then there’d be no lies, no hypocrisy.” He spit the last word out. “See, safety’s the exact problem. Because everyone hides, it makes it so easy to lie. People can present themselves one way, and everyone’ll gobble it up. But they might be the polar opposite, and nobody could ever know about it.”
I watched him, completely shell shocked as he ranted, letting out gushes of emotion in every sentence. He’d been waiting to say this. It’d been bottled up for a long time.
“Everybody’s so fucked up. And half the time, no one even sees. Or cares enough to look any further than the very top. “ He stopped for a moment, blinking feverishly, and I realized with a strange sensation he way about to cry.
“It’s like that movie, The Breakfast Club. When that kid Andrew says, “We’re all pretty bizarre; some of us are just better at hiding it.” Frank shook his head back and forth. “And that’s the problem see? When people don’t hide it, they get hurt. They get ripped apart. So there’s no way out. There’s just one option, if you don’t want to get fucked over. Well, fucked over any more that is.” Frankie paused, gritting his teeth savagely.
“What’s that?” I asked, surprised at how breathless my voice was.
Frank turned to me, with wide eyes like he’d forgotten I was there, which was entirely possible.
“You gotta lie. That’s why it’s so fucked up. Because you’re screwed, either way. You tell the truth, you get screwed. You lie, you’re still screwed. Double edged sword Gerard.” And he said my name again, with that strange, bitter, dark tone in his voice. He shook his head back and forth again, and suddenly, there was fear in his eyes, like he couldn’t believe anything that he’d just told me. To be honest, I couldn’t either.
“See you.” Frank said softly, pulling his hair over his face protectively and walking away, leaving me standing, confused in his wake.
My head was reeling wildly as I recalled all of the words Frank had just spoken. In a span of five minutes, he had contradicted my opinions of him, wiped away any notions I’d had of understanding him whatsoever. There was way more there than I had thought to be.
I tried to dissect his words, sliding down the wall because my legs were shaking, to the point I feared I was going to fall.
He was angry, clearly. He hated liars, and fakes. But he’d said that there was no way around it. He hated people hiding themselves, but he’d said it was unavoidable. What was he trying to tell me? Or was he trying to tell me anything at all? Maybe it had nothing to do with me. Maybe he just had a bunch of shit to say, and I was in the right place at the right time. Maybe I’d just been lucky; lucky enough to witness a rare outburst, a rare sighting of what was really going on inside his head. God, I thought. That made him sound like a science experiment.
Either way, I knew that I’d just seen something. Whether he intended to or not, he’d just revealed something major to me. And something that he hadn’t consciously spoken made itself very clear to me now, as I sat on the floor, with mass adrenaline rushing through my veins.
Frank was angry. He was scared. And he was hiding. And more than anything, he needed help. He needed to talk. Because keeping it locked up like that was obviously tearing him apart.
I stayed there, curled up in a ball where nobody could see, until the bell rang. I probably wouldn’t have even moved then, if it weren’t for the noise from all the other kids.
I was so focused on Frank’s speech during American History, the teacher repeated the question roughly twelve times before I even heard her.
“MR. WAY!” She yelled, and I was pulled back down with a frightening jolt. Everyone was snickering. And why shouldn’t they? It was always fun to watch someone else get into trouble.
“Thank you for joining us. Now would you care to answer my question?”
“Um….The Breakfast Club?” The words jumped out of my mouth without my control; I’d simply said what was in the forefront of my mind.
The teacher frowned. “No, I’m afraid that’s not the answer. Why don’t you actually focus on what I’m saying rather than what’s going on inside your little head?” Again, laughter from the other kids. I nodded at the teacher, so that she would be placated and leave me alone.
At the end of the day, I was thinking about whether or not I agreed with what Frank had said. So far, I’d just been trying to relate his words to him, to try and figure out how that connected to his problems. I’d never considered their validity.
I moved in a daze through the other people, towards the trashcan that I always met Mikey. The first time that we saw it, Mikey had fallen in love with it because some kid had put a X-Men sticker on the back; it’s been our meeting place ever since then.
When I got there however, Mikey wasn’t there yet. Which was odd, because he was always before me; the trashcan was ten feet from his locker. I frowned, looking around for him, figuring that he must be talking to some friend about Pokemon or something.
I waited five minutes, and the buses were getting ready to pull out. Something was wrong; he should’ve been here by now.
With one last look around, I took off down the hallway, trying to think of anywhere Mikey could be. I checked all his classrooms, the vending machines, and the library, and still I’d found absolutely nothing. I was getting more and more concerned, though I was trying to convince myself otherwise. I wracked my brains, wondering if I had simply forgotten that Mikey had some club or something today that I had blanked on. I knew he didn’t though. Deep down, I knew that wasn’t the reason that he hadn’t met me at the trashcan.
I’d walked nearly the whole school by the time that I reached the gym, and remembered that P.E. was Mikey’s last class. I stared at the door to the locker rooms for a moment, listening for anything. I heard nothing, but after another moment of deliberation, I sighed and pushed the door open.
The locker room was disgusting; nearly every boy at school had nightmares set in there. It reeked of sweat so strongly that most people held their breath as much as possible while they were inside. I would’ve turned and sprinted out right there, if I hadn’t seen a gym bag spilled out in the middle of the floor. It was Mikey’s.
Frowning, I walked past the lockers to the showers, and the two bathroom stalls there were. The showers were empty, unless you counted the centipede I saw crawling around inside one of them. I felt my chest constrict as I heard a dry sob coming from the bathroom stall.
“Mikey?” I said, almost praying that there would be no answer, that I wasn’t about to find my younger brother on the floor nearly an hour after school was over.
“Gee?” A weak voice said, and I swallowed.
“Mikey!” I yelled, running to the stall and throwing back the door. The only reason I knew which one to pick was because of the red that was seeping over the grime covered tiles.
I could only gape for a moment, as I stared in horror at my brother. He was curled up on the ground, lying in a puddle of water and his own blood that was growing steadily, thanks to a large gash on his knee. His cheekbone was swollen, a livid bruise beginning to make it’s way to the surface of his skin. He was sopping wet, his hair still dripping water over his face. His glasses were on the floor, one of the lenses cracked. He stared up at me with wide eyes, fearful.
“Mikey, oh my fucking god!” I said, dropping onto my knees next to him. I wrapped my arms around him, immediately noticing he was shivering as he attempted to force out his story.
“I..was…in gym…we were…changing. Guys…laughing, at my underwear….decided to dunk me. I couldn’t breathe…Gee…I thought…I was…gonna…die. I thought…they…were gonna…kill…me.” He burst into hysterical tears, shaking violently in my arms, gasping for air. Whether he was shaking from fear of cold, I had no idea.
“Oh god Mikey. I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I had no idea what else to say, so I cradled him in my arms, holding him tight and letting him cry. We sat there for fifteen minutes, before I forced myself to step up and take control. Take care of him.
“Mikes, we gotta get you cleaned up. Hold on ok?” He nodded at me, trying to stop his lip from quivering. I ran and grabbed a towel from the sink, putting some warm water on it and taking it to Mikey. I wiped the blood from his knee, happy to see that the blood was slowing it’s flow. I tied the towel around his knee, then picked up his glasses and handed them to him.
With difficulty, I got him to stand up. Bless the kid, he was trying so hard, continually telling me he was ok, when he so obviously wasn’t. I got him another towel for him to dry himself off with, before we began to make our way home.
It took nearly an hour, and Mikey was dry as we were walking up the driveway. He had a steely glint in his eye as he looked at me and said, “Gee, don’t tell mom I got beat up.”
I gaped. “Mikey, what do you want me to say?”
“I fell of my bike. She’ll believe it; I’m dry now. It’s just my leg, and my glasses. That could happen if I fell.” Now his look changed to pleading, as he looked at me with wide, innocent eyes.
I exhaled loudly. “Fine.”
Mikey grinned at me. “Thanks Gee.”
My mother still freaked out that Mikey had gotten hurt, but it could have been worse. And Mikey was right; it would have been a lot worse if she knew what really happened. She babied him against his will, putting ice on all his bruises, cleaning out his cuts, and Mikey sat and placated her, letting her take care of him as he knew she wanted.
I went back to my room, screaming into the pillows on my bed. I couldn’t help it. I was so angry.
I laid back angrily, recalling the look on my brother’s face when I had found him. What the hell had he done to deserve that? He never hurt anybody. He was just…himself.
And it struck me then. Every word Frank had said had been absolutely right. Dead on. People who lied ended up paying for it, but people that were themselves paid even worse. I’d just seen living proof of it.
I gritted my teeth, thinking of Frank again. This was just getting more complicated.
Well, I really hoped that you liked it. Like I said, I loved it, and it was pretty emotional for me, mostly with Frank's little speech. How'd you all feel about that? Please...rate and review again. I want to know what you think! Help keep me green! Please, please! As always, M&M cookies regardless because you all are so amazing! Thank you! By the way, I just wanted to say that I'm more attached to this story and characters than any other story that I've written. And I get pretty intense with this...just ask IeroMyHeroMCR. I love you all!