I just lay in my room. I had pulled the curtains in front of the window and turned off the lights so it was pitch dark. I was staring at the ceiling, or actually to its direction, since I couldn’t see it at all.
The last hour had been absolutely unbelievable.
My father, the one who I thought never really cared, told me that he’ll be going away. Well, I suppose it was a good thing, and I sincerely hoped that he’ll get better, for his sake. But deep down, I knew that he won’t succeed. Not after years of alcoholism and drug addiction. It just wasn’t possible.
Of course it could be that I had gotten so used of him being like that, that I just couldn’t believe that he could change. I wanted to believe it. But I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to get disappointed again.
"Gia?” I heard Mikey ask. Some light got into the room when he opened the door and stepped in. “Are you sleeping?”
I turned around to face him, but I didn’t get up. “No”, I said.
He sat down on the side of the bed and sighed. However, he said nothing. He just sat there, staring at the floor. But he didn’t need to say anything for me to know how he was feeling.
The difference between me and Mikey was that he always wanted to believe in people, and most of the time he did manage to do that. That’s why he stuck by my dad. That’s why he helped him. I would never have the patience. Mikey believed that my dad will get better. That’s one of the things I mostly liked about Mikey. His optimism mixed with his will to fix everything... It was a good combination.
At least a few minutes passed before Mikey spoke. “How are you doing?” he finally asked.
“I’m doing okay”, I lied. He didn’t need to know about me doubting my father, his brother.
Unfortunately Mikey was smarter than I gave him credit for. “Don’t lie to me. You’re anything but okay.”
“Then why did you ask?” I snapped at him, and instantly regretted it. He didn’t need this now. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine”, he sighed. “Gia, we’re family. You’re the best niece anyone could have. I want you to trust me, is that too much to ask?”
“Sorry”, I repeated.
He sat there for a few moments, waiting for me to say something, but when I stayed silent, he sighed and got up.
“Mikey?” I said before he got to the door.
I bit my bottom lip. He did ask me to be honest with him. “How long do you think he’ll be there?” I asked.
Mikey was quiet for a moment. “I don’t know. But I hope that he’ll come back soon. He’s not allowed to have any contact to the outside world for the first few weeks, but he’ll call as soon as he can. I know that he’ll try to recover as soon as possible.”
I smiled, knowing that he couldn’t see it. I pulled the covers up to my chin and Mikey left, closing the door. It was dark again, but somehow the darkness didn’t seem so black anymore.
Four weeks had passed. Mikey had been a dream. He had stopped trying to act like a replacement father and started to be more like an uncle or a friend. But it wasn’t just Mikey that was helping.
I had always gotten along with the rest of the band, of course. And I actually liked them; it’s just that I rarely got to spend time with them.
Now that dad was away, Frank, Ray and Bob started to come by to see Mikey more often to talk about some band stuff that didn’t really interest me. Sometimes I would sit with them, even if it was really boring, just so I would have something to do.
Frank especially tried to entertain me the best he could. He would force-feed me tons of ice cream, take me to the zoo and the movies and talk endlessly about something that just went in from one ear and out from the other without stopping. Strangely, it helped me not to think about my dad.
But as soon as they left me alone, I would start wondering how dad was doing. Part of the recovering process was that he can’t be in any contact to anyone outside of the clinic for a while. The person who came up with that system should be shot down.
Finally after those long four weeks the call came. I was up in my room, doing homework. I heard the phone ring, but I paid no attention to it. A few minutes passed and Mikey yelled at me to go downstairs. I did as I was told and when I got there, he offered me the phone.
“It’s Gerard”, he said.
I instantly started to shake and took the phone. I felt strangely happy and excited to talk to him. “Dad?” I said into the phone.
“Hello Gia”, he greeted, sounding tired, but happy as well. “How have you been doing?”
“Fine. You?” I sat down on the chair by the phone table in the hall. Mikey had gone upstairs so I could talk in privacy.
“I’d be lying if I said these past weeks have been easy”, he chuckled. “But it’s all starting to get better.”
“So you’re okay now?”
“Well...” he paused before continuing. I just waited for his answer impatiently. “Not yet. Gia, it’s not easy.”
I sighed. “Right.”
“But I’ve been thinking. What would you think about moving?”
I swear that all color faded from my face and my shoulders slouched down. “O-oh”, I said, my voice shaking a bit. “You don’t want me home?”
“No, that’s not what I meant! The house just... I don’t think I want to go back there. I’m afraid I might crack, and going back to that house might make me want to go back to that lifestyle.”
“Okay. I think that’s a good idea.” I didn’t want him to go back to being horrible either.
Now that I think about it, living in that house was the worst thing. Not only because of what might happen to dad, but because of the memories. And realizing that made me also realize another thing that I didn’t fully understand before. Everything might actually turn out okay. Dad will get better and he’ll come back. We’ll move and we’ll be a family again. I couldn’t help but feel the hope that was starting to take over.
The feeling was so powerful that it lasted until the next day, and I felt better than ever.
School wasn’t just a big brownish orange building that makes an annoying sound anymore. It wasn’t a place that I had to go to because it was the law. Lessons weren’t just for sleeping and lunch break wasn’t just for sitting alone in the corner of the cafeteria.
And for the first time in my life I actually enjoyed a school lesson.
I was sitting in history class. I sat in the middle row, but by the wall. I didn’t know the kid sitting next to me; I had never bothered to speak to him.
The teacher was writing on the board and we were supposed to copy it. I always took notes, but most of the class didn’t bother doing that. History was simply too boring to stay awake. And the best part: the teacher didn’t expect us to listen. Everyone would still pass his class. Sure, with a low grade, but still. You just get extra points for being active in class.And this time I actually paid attention to what he was saying.
The teacher put down the white chalk and turned back to the class. “So, can anyone tell me what noteworthy happened to the economy in October 1929? Anyone?”
It didn’t seem like anyone was going to raise their hand. That wasn’t very surprising, because the one kid that is actually active in this class wasn’t there. So I did what I had never done before. I raised my hand.
The teacher looked surprised. He had to go back to his desk and look at the paper to check my name. No surprise there. I had always done my best to be invisible. “Miss Way? Do you have the answer?”
“Um... The Stock Market Crash?”
“That’s right”, he said, looking very pleased. He continued talking about the crash and I just couldn’t help but feel proud of myself. I also raised my hand every time he asked a question. I knew this stuff, why wouldn’t I take advantage of it and get extra points?
I raised my class a few more times during that class and towards the end of it, the teacher learned to look straight at me when he asked a question. While I still preferred being invisible and thereby safe, I kind of enjoyed this.
The bell finally rang, and I started to gather my stuff like everybody else. It was the period before lunch so everybody was hungry and in a hurry to get to the cafeteria so they would get a good table. I was in a hurry too; I had a scheduled meeting with the school nurse.
I hurried out of the classroom and walked fast towards the nurse’s office, but I was stopped by someone putting their hand on my shoulder. I instantly panicked and got scared.
This was it. I was sure that it was someone who wanted to kill me. This was the moment I was going to die. I took a deep breath and turned around to face the Grim Reaper. But instead of white skull and a scythe, I saw a pair of blue eyes and a happy smile. He was the boy who sat next to me in history.
“You dropped this”, the boy standing in front of me said. It took me a while to realize what he meant though, but then I understood that he probably meant the notebook he was holding out for me.
“Thanks”, I mumbled, took the notebook, shoved it into my bag and hurried off.
That week at school everyone had to go to the nurse’s office for a checkup. It’s just to check blood pressure, eyesight, weight, height and some other stuff. And today was my turn. I hated these checkups anyway, but now it was even worse because I knew that Michelle, the nurse, would ask stuff about my home life.
I knocked on the door of her office and peeked in.
“Oh Gia, come on in!” she said happily and motioned for me to sit on the other chair next to her desk. “How have you been doing?”
“I’ve been okay”, I said when she started to wrap the blood pressure thing around my arm.
“Are you still living with your uncle?”
“Yeah, but my dad will come back soon”, I told her, and strangely I felt the need to defend my dad.
“Where exactly is he, if you don’t mind me asking?”
The machine started to add pressure on my arm but I ignored it. “He’s in rehab”, I said.
“Oh.” After that Michelle didn’t say anything for a while. She only spoke when she told me to stand up and go stand on the scale. I of course did as she told me to. After that she measured my height and I had to sit down again while she wrote something on my file and a piece of paper.
“Alright, well you’ve grown height two inches since the last time you were checked. That’s really good. And you’ve lost four pounds. Was that intentional weight loss?”
“I’m not on a diet”, I said, and I couldn’t stop myself before I glared at her.
Michelle nodded. “Alright. I’m just asking. Well, your blood pressure was fine. Your hemoglobin was a bit low, but it’s easy to fix that by eating healthy food regularly and maybe some iron pills which you can get those without a prescription.” She gave me a paper where she had written all of the results. “Make sure your guardian, who I guess is your uncle at the moment, sees that.”
I nodded and got up to leave.
“Oh and Gia”, she added. “Remember that my door is always open if you want to talk.”
“Sure”, I said, and then I left. As soon as I got outside from the office I shoved the paper into my pocket and headed back to the math class.
I had agreed to meet up with Frank again after school. He had come to pick me up so I went straight to the school parking lot to find his car. Well, I didn’t really need to find it because he got out of his car as soon as he saw me and started to wave and yell. Thank god no one saw.
“You know you really don’t need to do that every time”, I mumbled when I got into the car.
“Yeah I do! How else are you going to know where I am?” he grinned and started the car. I instantly turned off the CD player and turned the radio on just loud enough so I can hear the people talking.
“So how was school?” Frank asked me after we got out of the parking lot.
“It was fine. I had a health checkup”, I said.
“Oh? How was it?”
I grinned. “Awkward. But I’ve grown height.”
“Yeah? Well you’re still pretty short”, he laughed.
“You’re not exactly tall either, you know”, I told him.
I had always been a bit small for my age, but I didn’t mind. It’s not like I could do anything about my height. Of course I could gain tons of weight if I wanted to be bigger, but that wouldn’t really be good either. I simply didn’t care much about my looks.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“I thought we’d just rent a movie and eat junk food. Is that okay with you?”
“Sure.” Hanging out with Frank was always fun, even if there was really nothing that exciting to do. He was one of those people who could make anything and any situation fun. And I absolutely loved that in people. And now that I could be sure that dad will get better, I had nothing clouding my mind. I could freely try to be happy. And I have to say that I didn’t even have to try that hard.
Half an hour later Frank and I were at his house, sitting on two comfy bean bag chairs. The movie we had rented was the Blues Brothers, which I had never seen but which Frank assured that I would love. Between us on the floor we had two pizzas, a bowl of candy, chips and popcorn. Frank had gotten himself a beer but I had a coke.
“So Mikey said that Gerard called yesterday”, Frank said as he was pressing the buttons on the remote control, starting the movie.
“Yeah he did”, I answered. “Dad’s doing fine, or so he said.”
“You don’t believe him?”
I sighed. “I want to believe him.”
Frank nodded and leaned back on the bean back chair as the movie started.
“Would you like to stay here for a while?” he suddenly asked.
My eyes widened and I looked at him. “What?”
“Like for a few days. Okay? We’ll have fun!”
Frank faked a sad face, making me smile. “I get lonely.” Then he got serious.
“I would hate to interfere with your crazy bachelor life.”
“Nah, but really. It would be fun. You could stay up watching TV as long as you want, eat junk food and jump on the couch! Cool?”
“Okay, cool”, I agreed. “I’ll ask Mikey.”
“Oh yay! Great! There’s a waterbed in the guest room, you can sleep on it!” Frank started to excitedly explain how much fun we’ll have, and I just sat there quietly with a smile on my face. It was like having a little brother. No offence to Frank though.
When it was time to go home, Frank of course drove me there. We had agreed that I would go to his place straight after school tomorrow. If it’s okay with Mikey, that is.
“Bye Frank”, I said when I climbed out of the car.
“Bye. I’ll come pick you up from school tomorrow!”
“Promise you won’t get out of the car”, I pleaded him.
“I make no promises I can’t keep”, he grinned. I sighed and shut the car door. I was so tired that I couldn’t bother lifting up my school bag. Instead, I dragged it on the ground all the way to the front door.
As soon as I got in, I met Alicia and Mikey in the hall. They were putting on their jackets and looked all dressed up. I faintly remembered them saying that they were going to a fancy restaurant to eat dinner with Alicia’s parents.
“Weren’t you supposed to come home two hours ago?” Mikey asked me, raising an eyebrow.
“What’s the time?”
“Sorry”, I yawned and started to walk towards the stairs so I could go to sleep. “Oh by the way. Can I go stay with Frank for a few days?”
“Why would you do that?” Mikey asked, and I knew that he’ll say no, but luckily Alicia elbowed him in the ribs and whispered something to him. Mikey sighed. “Fine. But just for a few days. When are you going?”
“Tomorrow after school. He’ll pick me up and we’ll come here to get my stuff, then to his place. Oh and...” I continued, digging out the paper I got from the nurse from my bag. “I had that health check up today. I need iron pills or whatever.”
Mikey took the paper and looked it over. “Alright. I’ll get them to you tomorrow.”
“Thanks. Good night”, I said and started climbing the chairs. I was exhausted. But at least I had fun today. At least it took my mind off of dad.