I lay here next to Bob, fully satiated with my head resting on his chest. I listen to his heart still rapidly beating in the afterglow of our first time making love. Bob had this night planned out perfectly, it was so romantic. He cooked dinner for me and we ate under candlelight. While I did the dishes Bob went upstairs to prepare the bedroom, though I didn’t know it at the time. I was finishing up when I felt his strong wrap around my waist and then he whispered in my ear. “I have a surprise for you upstairs.” He lifted me up bridal style effortlessly and carried me up the stairs. As we approached the bedroom I could smell the scents of roses. He opened my bedroom door it was filled with candles and red rose pedals strewn across the bed. It was amazing. Not just the atmosphere either. Bob definitely wasn’t that fifteen year old boy I coerced into having sex all those years ago. He did things to me that Gerard has never done and though my body is spent and sore there is something still missing. He has his arms wrapped around me and gives me a little squeeze. I look up at him and smile. His hands softly ran down my jaw line then he moves in closer to kiss me. It’s just a small peck. He smiles again and says, “I love you.”
I sighed happily, “I love you too.”
We were laying in bliss just holding each other when we heard pounding at the front door. We looked at the clock and it was just after one in the morning. Who the hell could it be?
“If Toro and Christa got into another argument I’m gonna fucking kill him.” I couldn’t help but smile at his frustration.
I threw on a pair of shorts and a tank top, while Bob just threw on some pajama bottoms. “This better be fucking important,” he spewed, as we made our way down the stairs.
There was more pounding on the door. “Who is it?” Bob asked gruffly.
“Please open the door,” pleaded the woman’s voice from the other side.
Bob opened the door and there stood Sarah Howell and Emily. They both looked distraught. Emily ran into my arms and I held on to her for dear life. I could tell something huge happened here.
Sarah then looked at me and the tears flowed from her eyes. “I’m sorry for what we put you through.” She turned to Bob, “especially you.”
“Mrs. Howell what are you talking about?” I asked.
She looked down at Emily and I got the hint and took her upstairs to her room.
I laid her down and I could see that she was trembling and looked scared. “Can you tell me what happened?” I asked softly.
She just hugged me and held on crying. She never said a word before she rubbed her eyes. “I want to go to sleep.”
“Okay we’ll talk about this in the morning,” I said. I started to shut off the light and she asked if I could leave it on. She never did that before.
“How about I leave the door open a little and leave the hall light on?” I asked.
She thought about it and then nodded yes. “Bob will be up to say goodnight.”
She shook her head furiously, “Please no.”
“Okay. Do you want me to stay with you until you fall asleep?”
She nodded her head yes. She scooted over to make room for me. I wrapped my arms around her tiny frame and before long she was asleep. I quietly left the room and made my way down stairs.
Sarah Howell was in the kitchen sitting at the island slowly drinking what I assume was Herbal tea. I remembered the calming affect it had on me when I showed up on Bob’s steps so long ago.
I knew Bob was done with being courteous when he blurted, “What the fuck happened tonight?”
Sarah explained the whole story how Lawrence had been doing this for a while, that it was in fact she who was physically abusing Emily. She just couldn’t keep her temper in check. She always hated herself afterwards but tonight she realized she was no better than her husband. Tonight she knew that Bob and I would be better parents to Emily.
“Whatever papers you need me to sign I will.”
She headed towards the door when she was done. “You can come by and pick-up Emily’s things tomorrow.”
“Where are you going?” I asked the torn woman.
“I’m going to finally do the right thing and throw that bastard in jail.”
As she left Bob and I just looked at each other. We weren’t sure what to say, was this nightmare finally over. Suddenly the tears overcame me. After all these years I have my baby back. Bob wrapped his arms around me and though I know we have a long road ahead of us for the first time in years I feel at peace.
Gerard woke up suddenly he couldn’t get this feeling out of his system. He felt that something major was happening and he felt torn. He felt sad but at the same time at peace he couldn’t describe it but only knew it had something to do with Alyssa. He got up and lit a cigarette looking out at the landscape of the latest city. New Jersey was only a week away but he felt the need to be with Alyssa so badly. He knew he wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep. His mind was swarming around how he was going to find his way home but most importantly back to her arms where he belonged. He dealt with it the only way he knew how, he took out a pad of paper and started to write.
The hospitals halls were silent except for the clunk of the police officers boots. The doors to post op opened and Lawrence Howell walked out still in his scrubs.
“Lawrence Howell,” the taller officer said. Lawrence nodded, “Put your hands against the wall and spread your legs.”
“What’s the meaning of this?”
“Just do as I say and then I’ll explain.”
“You’ll hear from my lawyer if you do not tell me right now.”
“Mr. Howell we can do this the easy way or the hard way. My preference is the easy way.”
Lawrence indignantly did as the officer said. The smaller officer patted him down, then brought his arms around back and handcuffed his wrist.
“I demand to know what this is about!” screamed Lawrence.
The taller officer took out a small piece of paper and started reading, it was Lawrence’s rights. “Mr. Howell you are under arrest for the underage rape of Emily Howell.”
“What the hell makes you think that?”
“There was an eye witness and earlier today your daughter was examined by a doctor. The evidence collected should corroborate with the eyewitness story.”
Soon after Sarah left the house Bob and Alyssa called Joanna. Joanna instructed them to get Emily to the emergency room as soon as possible for a rape examination. Joanna then turned around and contacted Judge Patterson for an emergency hearing telling her everything that was happening.
By ten o’clock the parties met in a courtroom where papers were to be signed for final legal custody of Emily. Sarah signed had earlier signed the document giving up all rights to Emily.
“Are you sure about this Mrs. Howell?” asked Judge Patterson.
“Yes your honor, neither my husband nor I have the right to be anything to her. We have failed her in the worst way.”
“Mrs. Howell though I’m disgusted by you and your husband’s treatment of this child, I do commend you for in the end doing what is best for her. I understand that you are charged for the abuse of Emily and what happened here will not go unnoted.”
“Mr. Bryar I will grant you full custody of Emily Howell. She is to start therapy as soon as possible and social services will be conduct weekly visits regarding her well being.”
Bob spoke softly, “I have a question your honor?”
“Go ahead Mr. Bryar.”
“Because of everything that’s happened here, would it be okay if I take her back to Chicago? The department of social services there can follow up. I just want to get her far away from it all.”
Judge Patterson turned to the children’s advocate in the courtroom. “Would this be an acceptable arrangement?”
“We’ll contact the state agency in Illinois.”
Bob couldn’t look at Alyssa he knew she would be standing there in shock. Since the night he found her strung out he knew if he got Emily they couldn’t stay there. Slowly he was arranging things back there via his mother. He had an apartment all set and once they were there permanently he would start looking for a house.
“Good luck Mr. Bryar I wish you all the best. Take good care of your daughter. Court is adjourned.”
Alyssa was fuming as Bob and Joanna walked by her, like she never existed. She followed close behind and when they got to his jeep she grabbed his arm and spun him around. “You’re not taking her anywhere.” Alyssa screamed as she pointed her finger at his face. “We had a deal.”
“Yeah we did Lys but you fucked up, remember?”
Alyssa bowed her head in shame. Yeah she fucked up all right, all for someone who didn’t give a shit about her.
“Lys I never wanted you out of Emily’s life. I wanted to ask you in definitely a more romantic setting than the parking lot of a courtroom. Come to Chicago with us?”
“Really Lys what do you have here? We can rent out your parent’s house if you want to keep it, or better yet let Ray and Christa live there. Come with me to Chicago and raise our daughter. I don’t think I can do it alone especially right now. It’s back the way it used to be. I didn’t even do anything and she’s scared of me.”
“When do we leave?” asked Alyssa.
“A week from Sunday okay with you?” Bob said with a half smile.
Alyssa smiled weakly and through her tears she shook her head and spoke softly, “Yes I’ll come with you. And you’ll see in time she’ll be okay once she realizes you’re nothing like Lawrence Howell.”
“I hope so.” Alyssa wrapped her arms around Bob, and held him tight as reassurance. Bob looked down at her and smiled “You’re going to love Chicago.”
Gerard looked at the schedule in front of him. Maxwell’s in Hoboken a week from Saturday and he knew that there was things that needed to be set for that show. First and foremost for many reasons to get back his best friend and lead guitarist. Mikey was right about how about how he would have reacted if he knew the truth. He also wanted to thank Ray for being there for Mikey when Mikey thought he couldn’t. There was also something else he knew Ray might even help him with where he stood with Alyssa.
As the week wore on, Bob, Alyssa and Emily were starting to pack all their things that were going to be shipped to Chicago. Bob noticed a newspaper ad, “Coming off a Successful National Tour New Jersey’s own “Splitting Hairs” will be playing at Maxwells on Saturday night. Pre-sale tickets will be $15 and door tickets $20. Come join us as we welcome them back. Part of the proceeds will be going towards the Patrick Morrisey Foundation. Bob crumpled the paper not wanting Alyssa to see the ad. “Honey,” cried out Bob, “It’s getting nippy in here I’m gonna start a fire.”
Without waiting for a response Bob made his way to the fireplace lit the newspaper and through it in.
Ray Toro was sitting in what used to be his practice room staring out his window. He missed the feeling of his fingers flying through the fret board. Christa looked in quietly and saw her boyfriend and noticed a tear rolling down his cheek, as she walked in the room to talk to him she noticed the advertisement for “Splitting Hairs.” She walked up to the chair and crouched next to him, next she took his hand and squeezed it. He turned to her and softly kissed her forehead. He turned back to the window and continued to stare out. Christa got a chair and joined him, nothing was said as nothing needed to be said.
It was Thursday afternoon when Ray heard his door bell rang. He opened the door and no one was there just a guitar case with note attached. “Meet us at the practice space in an hour.” Ray opened the case and there was his guitar that Bob sold a few months back. Entwined in the strings was a picture of the band, he couldn’t help but notice that Matt’s image was torn from the picture and replaced by a kid he knew he’d seen around.
Ray took out his phone and texted Christa. “I think I’m going to practice, I’ll explain when I get home.”
Ray closed the case, grabbed the handle and flew out the door and into his car. Ten minutes later he was at the studio. Even though he was early he decided to knock on the door hoping someone would let him in. That someone was none other than Gerard Way.
“I see you got my note.”
“Yeah and thanks, anyone else here?” Ray said a little uneasy.
“I’ll call them when we’re ready. We need to talk you and I.”
“Listen if you want me to apologize and say I fucked up I won’t. Bob asked me not to tell anyone and I kept my promise. I always keep my promise.”
“I know, I imagine that’s why you didn’t tell me about Mikey.”
Ray put looked his friend in the eye, “He felt he couldn’t talk you. He was afraid to tell you he thought he killed Patrick.”
Gerard ran his hand through his raven hair, “How the hell did this get so fucked up.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself we were all kids back then.”
“But I knew better, I hated Bob for taking Patrick away and it was my fault. I changed and Patrick was better than that. I hated that I couldn’t be that friend for him, and it was so fucking easy to blame Bob. Even almost twelve years later. But all that is changing. I wasn’t with Patrick that day because I chose not to be with him. I wanted the booze and the drugs. In the end I blamed everyone I could even you and Alyssa, next to Mikey and my parents the two most important people in my life. Can you forgive me?”
Ray wrapped his arms around his best friend, “Always.”