At dinner Gerard starts to open up about his feelings.
“Donna please call me Anna. And truly this is excellent pizza I just seemed to have developed a slight stomach virus since arriving in New York. But I assure you if I had not I would have begged for a second slice by now.” Anna answered with a smile.
“It is good, Ma.” Mikey said reaching for his third piece.
Alicia rolled her eyes, “I wish I could eat like my husband the bottomless pit does. He never gains a pound.”
Gerard frowned, “Yeah, that’s true. I on the other hand aren’t that lucky.”
Anna glanced over at him hearing something in his voice that concerned her. His weight seemed to fluctuate and she had heard the rumors that circulated each time it happened. People would speculate he was drinking again when he gained wait and guess he had returned to drugs when he grew thinner. “Fame does come with a price.” She said softly.
Gerard considered her remark. Once again it was almost as if she could read his mind. “Yeah, well I guess I’m just supposed to laugh when I’m called a fat panda.” He said angrily. As soon as the words left his mouth he wished he could take them back. The last thing he wanted was for this woman who would be writing about the group to know about all his insecurities.
Anna took a drink from her water glass before answering. “No one, regardless of who they are or what they do for a living, wants their every move to be dissected under a microscope.”
“But that’s how it is.” Gerard answered, “Every fuckin’ thing I do or say gets picked apart. The way I look gets the same attention.”
Around the table the others grew quiet realized for the first time since his divorce Gerard was acknowledging how he felt. For over a year he had remained quiet about everything and now he was opening up.
Anna could see in his eyes how uncomfortable he’d become. The wall he’d built around his feeling was beginning to crack and he was frightened. She knew she must lighten the mood while still letting him know she understood. “And for that precise reason I never give interviews.” She looked around the table, “And very few people know what I truly look like.”
Mikey nodded, “Yeah, you really don’t look anything like the photo on your dust jackets.”
Anna gave a small laugh, “Yes, that’s how I want it to be. It is not that I do not love the people who enjoy my books, I do. But the author Annabelle Lewis in not me.”
Gerard had given his complete attention to her. “But I can’t do that.” He said meeting her eyes. “I wish I could.”
“But it was not always that way, was it? Once upon a time you craved the attention. Being on stage, having all eyes follow you, having all ears hear your voice was what you desired.” She said softly.
Gerard nodded lost in thought, “Yeah, it was. I wanted that.”
“We all make choices in our lives that have profound repercussions. The path you chose when you started the band led you to this place.” Anna said still looking deeply into his eyes.
Mikey wasn’t sure why but suddenly he scared and confused. Didn’t Gee want to be in the band anymore? Was it the band that made him that unhappy? “But it’s not all bad, right Gee?”
Gerard tore his gaze away from Annabelle. He heard the fear in his brothers voice, “No Mikey it’s not all bad.” He lied.
Donna sat watching the interaction between her oldest son and Anna feeling confused yet somehow hopeful. For so long now he’d grown silent. She knew in her heart he was going through the motions of living but that the spark had gone from his eyes. Was it possible this woman could help him realize he’d lost himself somewhere along the way?
Anna felt she had touched on Gerard’s emotions enough for one night. She smiled at Donna. “Thank you for the lovely dinner and the visit but I should be getting back to my hotel now. I am putting the final touches on a book that I promised my editor I would complete before starting my next project.”
Mikey smiled, “A new book? Cool. What’s it about?”
Anna smiled at his enthusiasm; “I will continue to edit it while traveling on this tour. If you like I will let you read the chapters.”
“You’ll let me read it before it’s published?” Mikey asked, “Really?”
Anna nodded, “If you like.” She placed her napkin on the table. “May I use your phone to call a cab?”
Donna was surprised, “You took a cab here? Oh, I thought you drove over.”
Anna shook her head, “I have never learned to drive. I know that surprises people but I just never seemed to need to learn. Perhaps one of these days I will.”
“We could drive you to your hotel.” Alicia volunteered. “Where are you staying?”
Anna told them the name of the hotel but also insisted that she didn’t want to inconvenience them.
“That’s just a few blocks from where I’m staying.” Gerard said breaking into the conversation. “I can drop you off on my way.”
“Are you sure?” Anna asked looking over at him. “I do not want you to cut your visit short on my account.”
Truth was Gerard was starting to feel that tightening in his chest that seemed to be happening more and more often. He was aware this was a symptom of his anxiety. It was time to get back to the safety of his hotel room. It was time to be alone with his thoughts. “It’s not a problem. I need to get back and get some work done on my next issue.”
Anna smiled, “Oh your comic. It is very good by the way.”
Gerard’s eyes narrowed, “You’ve read it?”
“Of course.” Anna laughed, “Let me guess you did not think comics would be something I would be interested in, correct?”
Now she was beginning to unnerve him. “Well, no I guess not.”
“I am a walking contradiction to most people.” Anna admitted, “Because of my writing people assume I only read literature. They assume I attend art gallery openings and frequent cocktail parties.”
Alicia giggled, “But that’s not who you really are.”
Anna realized she liked Mikey’s wife. “No, and there in lies the fault of assuming. Truth be told I enjoy comics, video games, bad horror movies and an occasional beer. But I let people assume that is not the case.”
“Because by letting them assume that you can hide your true self.” Gerard said softly.
Anna’s eyes locked with his. “Yes, I have hidden myself for so long I know no other way to be.”
The drive from Donna’s back into New York was quite and strained. Anna realized she’d forced Gerard to admit things about himself at dinner that had made him feel uncomfortable. It saddened her that this had happened. She wanted him to feel at ease around her but now his silence pointed out the fact that he didn’t feel that way.
“Looks like it’s gonna snow before morning.” Gerard said trying to break the silence. He hated that Anna probably thought he was being unsocial.
Anna gazed through the windshield, “Yes, it does. I love snow especially at night.” She smiled, “And especially if there is a moon to light the flakes as they dance down to the earth.”
Gerard laughed, “Moonbeams and snowflakes that dance. You speak as an author.”
“Do I?’ Anna asked, “I did not realize that. I suppose I do speak a bit differently than most.”
He carefully made a turn then grinned, “Than most..” He repeated. “Yes, you do speak a bit differently than most.” When she didn’t answer right away he was afraid he might have hurt her feeling, “Not that that’s bad or anything.”
Anna understood. “I did not take your remark badly, Gerard. Please do not let the fact that I am a bit different unnerve you.”
He glanced over at her. “I don’t think you’re different at all.”
This time Anna laughed, “And do not lie, Sir. I know I do not exactly fit in with others. Tonight was difficult for me.”
They had reached the entrance to her hotel and he pulled to a stop. “Anna was it really difficult for you?”
She nodded. “Yes, very. Anytime I am out of my comfort zone my feelings begin to overwhelm me. Please do not take what I am saying the wrong way. Your family did everything they could to make me feel welcome, and I did. Still…” Her voice trailed off.
The doorman appeared. Anna smiled over at Gerard as a blast of cold air filled the car. “I had a lovely time tonight. Thank you.”
“Anna wait.” His arm shot out to stop her from exiting the car. “Uh…” Suddenly he felt ridiculous. He couldn’t seem to put into words what he wanted to say.
“Would you like to come inside?” she asked softly.
Gerard felt trapped. Part of him wanted to go up to her room and yet part of him was afraid. She was causing him to experience so many emotions right now, emotions he felt unable to deal with. “Uh, I better get back to my hotel. I really do need to work on my next issue.”
Anna’s smile slipped but only for a moment. “I understand. Goodnight Gerard.” He watched as she quickly made her way to the hotel entrance.
“I’m a fuckin’ idiot.” He muttered to himself as she pulled away. “Should have gone.”
He was almost to his hotel when his cell rang. Connecting without looking at the screen he heard Brain’s voice. “Hey man.”
“Hey.” Gerard pulled into the lot but because of the cold didn’t cut the engine. “What’s up?”
“Mikey called and told me you two had dinner with Annabelle Lewis. He said she’s beautiful.” He laughed, “Pretty sure Alicia smacked him when he said it.”
“She is beautiful.” Gerard agreed.
“So you already dropped her back at her hotel?” Brain guessed.
“So I’m guessing you didn’t get an invite up to her room.” Brain said with a short laugh.
Gerard felt himself falling back into the character that was expected. “Yeah, actually she did invite me up to her room.”
“What the fuck?” Brain said, “You got invited to a beautiful woman’s hotel room and you didn’t go?”
Gerard tried not to cringe at the implication. “Hey, we’re gonna be traveling with the woman for months. I figured it was too early to be complicating shit, you know?”
“Oh man, it’s never too early to be hittin a fine piece of ass.” Brian laughed.
Anger flowed through Gerard’s veins. Hearing Brian refer to Anna as a fine piece of ass made him clinch his fists. He wanted to tell him to shut the fuck up but remained silent. Instead he said, “Yeah, well there’s time. I’ll give you a call tomorrow.” He disconnected quickly then made his way inside his hotel.
Once in his room he settled down at the deck but found it impossible to concentrate on his storyboard. After a few minutes he threw down his pencil in anger. What had happened to him? At one time in his life he would have laughed and agreed with Brain about Anna. At one time in his life he would have been out of the car in a shot when she’d invited him up. What was going on? Maybe it’s not me, he reasoned. Maybe it was something about her. He couldn’t deny she was breathtakingly beautiful. But there was something different about her. Several times tonight when she’d looked at him be felt as if she was truly seeing him. Not the man most thought they saw but the true person he was. That thought scared him. And with that fear brought another feeling – he wanted a drink.
His hands were shaking as he pulled on his jacket then headed towards the lobby. He knew he couldn’t drink here for fear someone might see him. So he headed out deciding to walk the few blocks to the liquor store. Just a few drinks was all he’d have he reasoned with himself.
He was in and out of the liquor store quickly. As he began to walk back to his hotel with the brown bag clutched tightly in his hand it began to snow. He slowed his steps and looked up into the moonlit sky. The flakes seemed to be dancing. Tears threatened his eyes as hopeless washed over him.
“I was right.”
Gerard’s heart caught at the sound of her voice. She was standing a few feet away, her long white hair seemed to shine in the moonlight,. He forced himself to speak, “Right about what?”
Anna smiled softly. She looked up, “They do dance.”
Gerard felt his body begun it shake. “Yeah, they do.”
“It is cold.” Anna said softly taking a step towards him.
“Very.” He agreed. Suddenly he wanted to be warm again but not the warmth the liquor would have given him. “Uh, would you..”
“Like to come up to your room.” She finished for him. “Yes, very much. When I got to my hotel I found I just could not put words to paper tonight. It happens from time to time.”
Gerard nodded. He understood that very well. Slowly he closed the space between them and took her arm. They began walking towards the hotel. As they passed a trash can Gerard dropped the brown bag in without stopping. He didn’t need it now. He wasn’t sure what he did need but he knew without a doubt it wasn’t a drink.