It was clear that Gia didn’t sleep well. She woke up every now then, and when I tried to make her fall back asleep, she would either scream for me to go away, or hallucinate. The first time she woke up she looked at me; her eyes filled with pain she asked me where her mother was.
I was baffled by her question, but then I realized that she must be hallucinating. She was sick, and it killed me to see her like that, but I stayed with her. I wasn’t only battling sleep, but also the emotional breakdown that I felt creeping at the back of my head, threatening to take over me.
When morning came, I waited until I could be sure that Gia won’t wake up soon before I left the room. First I went to get my cell phone and called Mikey. I kind of felt bad for asking so much from him, but I knew that he didn’t mind. He’d even get angry at me if he found out that I needed help with Gia and didn’t call him. If it was just me needing help, he probably would tell me to first try to solve the problem myself, but if Gia is involved, he’ll help even if he’s not asked or allowed to.
I went back to her room to wait until Mikey comes. It took him about twenty minutes to get there, but when he did come, he didn’t even bother knocking. He had his own key, and besides, the door wasn’t locked.
“Gerard? Gia?” he shouted from downstairs.
I silently cursed him for shouting and left the room again. I made sure to close the door behind me so that Gia wouldn’t hear, in case she woke up. “You don’t have to yell”, I told my brother when I saw him. He was by the front door, taking off his jacket and shoes. But it wasn’t my brother that my concentration was on. It was the person next to him.
“Hi Gerard!” Frank greeted happily.
“He was with me when you called and wanted to tag along. You didn’t say I wasn’t allowed to bring anyone so I figured it didn’t matter”, Mikey explained when he saw the look on my face. It’s not that I didn’t like Frank, because I did. He was a friend after all. It’s just that he’s a bit irresponsible. Especially when it comes to Gia.
“You wouldn’t believe how much it’s snowing out there”, Mikey complained. “My hair got all wet.”
“That’s nice”, I said.
He must’ve sensed that I, shock horror, didn’t really care about his hair at the moment, because he suddenly got very serious. “Anyway, you said Gia’s sick. Is it bad?”
“Well, technically she’s not sick...” I replied. “But yeah, it’s kind of bad.”
After explaining them the situation I almost regretted asking Mikey to come over. I should’ve just called Ray or Bob. They were much less judgmental. Frank of course was never an option, I wouldn’t trust him taking care of my child when she’s (basically) sick. Well, since Frank is here now, I’m just glad that there’s someone like Mikey to watch over him.
“How can you be so irresponsible?” Mikey hissed after I finished the story, now talking in a considerably lower voice. He didn’t want to disturb Gia either.
“Well I’m not very proud of it”, I answered. He had every right to be angry. I was a little angry with myself as well.
Mikey took a deep breath to calm himself. Then he asked: “Why exactly did you need me here? Other than to have someone to worry sick, of course.”
“I have stuff to do.”
That got him angry again. “What?! You have stuff to do?!”
“Mikey, relax”, I said before he could continue and scream his lungs out. “I have to go look at houses. I don’t really want to be in this house any longer. I think you can understand why. I need to get her out of here.” That shut him up. Thank god. “So you’ll stay here with Gia?”
“Of course”, he answered. Frank just listened to us quietly, but I could tell that he wasn’t that pleased with me either. Frank and I rarely fought, apart from the normal disagreements, so it was strange to see him look at me so seriously.
“Thanks. Okay, just make sure she’s not alone when she wakes up. You know the drill. If she has to puke, make sure she doesn’t choke and so on”, I said. There was no need to explain the whole process. It’s not a very pleasant thought, but Mikey knew what to do. He had experience on that area.
“Got it”, he nodded.
“Oh and don’t let her clean up”, I added. Mikey stared at me with a confused face, but I just shook my head. “Nevermind”, I said and headed for the door. Mikey and Frank followed me.
When I opened the door, I noticed someone behind it. They were just about to knock. At first I thought that it was a gigantic mouse or something. Then I realized that it was an old, tiny woman. If a normal person is an apple, then she’s a raisin.
“Who ordered a stripper?” Frank asked. No doubt he didn’t even try to control himself from saying it. Even in a situation like this, Frank had to make a crack like that. Mikey slapped the back of his head and pushed him back into the kitchen.
I turned back to the woman, wondering if she was expecting an apology or an explanation. Luckily she had decided to ignore that comment. Still, she looked at me like I was just a dead bug on the windshield.
“Are you Gerard Arthur Way?” the woman asked. I started to wonder if I had some built in magnet that attracts strange old people. First the piano woman, and now this.
“Yeah. And you are?”
She offered a hand and I shook it. “Good afternoon. My name is Emily Ross and I have been assigned as your social worker. You may call me Emily.”
Once I got over how proper and dry she sounded, the words sunk in. “Social worker?”
“Yes. We did contact you while you were at the rehabilitation center and we warned you that we will come see how you and your daughter are doing after you’ve returned home. You haven’t forgotten have you?” Emily said. I could just barely remember someone coming to see me there and saying something about this, so I let her in.
“No of course I didn’t forget”, I lied. “But I really wish that you called before coming all the way here because Gia’s not home right now.”
“That’s fine, I’ll just speak with you for now”, she announced, gave me her coat and walked into the house.
I didn’t even think about protesting and throwing her out, even though I really wanted to go look at the houses. It’s all about priorities, after all. I guided her into the kitchen (the living room was still a mess) where she sat down and took out a stack of papers from her bag.
“This is all the information about you and your daughter that we have”, she explained. “Now, let’s begin.”
Just when she was about to continue, Mikey rushed into the room. “Uh, Gerard”, he started. “There’s a small situation upstairs. Where we were taking care of the... cat.”
His codes weren’t that difficult to break, and I was instantly worried. Something was wrong with Gia. “What’s wrong with the cat?”
“You have a cat?” Emily asked, scrunching up her nose. “I hate those things. I’m allergic. They’re not coming here, are they?”
“We were just checking up on it when it suddenly woke up”, Mikey explained. “Now it won’t stop throwing up, and it keeps sayi- I mean, meowing like it’s about to die. I thought you might know what to do since you’re more... experienced on cat stuff.”
“I’ll go check up on her. I mean it”, I said, getting up. “Mikey, why don’t you keep company to Emily.” As I was rushing up the stairs, I could hear the old woman ask Mikey what kind of a parent he thinks I am. Unfortunately I had more important things on my mind at the moment; otherwise I would have stopped to hear his answer.
I found Gia and Frank from the bathroom that was nearest to Gia’s room. It wasn’t that difficult to find them, I just had to follow the noise. It was a miracle that I hadn’t heard it downstairs.
Gia was lying on the floor, holding on to Frank. She had gone worse. In the morning when I left her, she had looked fine, although pale and weak. Judging by the way she clutched on Frank and the uncontrollable shaking, she must’ve been freezing. If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have understood how she could be cold. The bathroom was kind of warm, after all. But withdrawal symptoms are strange like that.
“She just suddenly jumped up from the bed and ran here”, Frank explained. He was on his knees on the floor as well, with Gia’s arms around his middle body and her head buried on his stomach. If the situation hadn’t been so serious, I might’ve thought that the position was almost amusing. However, right now there was nothing funny about it.
“Gia”, I said and knelt down on the floor. I moved her hair from the face and saw that her face had lost nearly all natural color and was now slightly bluish purple, and her breathing was shallow. I started to wonder how I could stay so calm in a situation like this. My daughter was nearly not breathing and I didn’t panic. What was wrong with me? I shook those thoughts out of my head and looked at Frank worriedly. “I don’t understand why it’s so bad. We have to get her to the ER.”
“But what about that social worker lady?”
“I’ll go try to get rid of -“
Before I could finish my sentence, I heard a gasp from the door. “Oh my!” Emily breathed and dropped the papers she was holding.
“Sorry Gee, I went to get her tea and she just came up, I couldn’t stop her”, Mikey apologized.
“What is wrong with her?” Emily asked in horror, stepping closer to Gia and Frank.
I figured that since she saw her now anyway, it didn’t matter anymore. “We have to get her to the ER. She’s just a little bit sick.”
“Sick?! She’s barely breathing!” But her comment was unheard, because I had already picked up Gia and was carrying her out. Sure, Gia was short and she had always been very lean, but still she was surprisingly light. If I had time, I probably would have worried about that as well.
Mikey told Frank to come with us, while he would get some of Gia’s stuff. Emily followed us even though she wasn’t asked to.
Frank drove, which I was glad about. Emily sat on the other front seat. I was in the back with Gia. Seeing her like that made me feel sick, as well.
The drive was a blur. I knew that the hospital was at least a half an hour away, and yet the drive there seemed to only last a few minutes. I could only remember two things. First was when I made her lay down, never mind the law, when she looked like she was about to be sick. The other thing was when she looked up at me, directly into my eyes. I swore that I had never seen anyone in so much pain, and I don’t mean the physical kind of pain.
It was like Gia simply wanted to fade away just so she would get away and that she wouldn’t have to feel all those things. And the fact that I knew that it was me who had caused all that made me want to go back to who I was a few months ago. I knew that I would never forget the way she looked at me.
“Gerard, we’re here”, Frank said when he stopped the car in front of one of the doors. “You go ahead, I’ll park the car and follow you then.”
I nodded and managed to hurry Gia into the hospital. I can’t believe it’s true but Emily was actually useful. She found a nurse and took care of everything. Moving around with Gia was difficult, because any sort of movement made her feel sick and in pain, so Emily’s help was welcome, even if later I would wish she wasn’t here.
Gerard was sitting in a waiting room when I found him. He was just staring at the white wall with a blank look on his face. I sat down next to him.
“I cleaned up the house a bit”, I told him quietly. “You know, just in case. And I brought some of Gia’s stuff.” I showed him the bag I had found in Gia’s room and where I had packed some of her clothes and other things she might need.
Of course he didn’t answer. It didn’t even seem like he heard what I said.
“So... How is she?” I wanted to know. I was worried sick.
Gerard sighed and leaned back on the chair. He looked up at the ceiling. When he spoke, his voice was tired and monotonic. “I don’t know. She was taken away and I was just told to sit here and wait.”
“Where’s Frank and that social worker lady?”
“Frank is getting coffee. I don’t know about Emily.”
“You know, this wasn’t your fault”, I said, but he only scoffed. After that I stayed silent. The only thing we could do was wait.
We sat there for about half an hour. Frank came back eventually, with a cup of coffee for Gerard. However, Gerard barely touched the cup. He just took it from Frank, took one sip and then forgot it on the table.
There were other people in the waiting room too. An old couple. I watched them for a moment. They looked worried, holding hands, comforting each other. I watched a nurse and a doctor come to talk to them. They were told that their son had passed away. I didn’t know what had happened, but their grief from losing their child was something I would have never wished for anyone to feel, let alone my brother.
Luckily Gerard was so deep in his own world that the only thing he heard was the nurse say his name when she came to talk to us. Emily was standing next to her, staring at Gerard judgmentally.
“Excuse me, are you Gerard Way?” the nurse asked with a soft, gentle voice, which made me fear for the worst.
Gerard nodded. “Yes. How is Gia?”
“Your daughter is tired, but she’ll be fine. She’s recovering.” I didn’t hear what she said next, but it didn’t matter. Gia was alright, and that made all three of us feel relieved. However, I probably should have listened, because when the nurse walked away, Gerard looked even more stressed.
“What? What did she say?” I asked, wondering why they weren’t as happy as I was.
“While she was at your house and I was away”, Gerard started, “was she eating and sleeping?”
“Well, the last two weeks or so not really, but that’s just because she was so anxious about you coming back.”
Gerard explained: “The drug that she took had such a strong affect because her immune system grew weaker. Or something.” He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “Maybe I should’ve just stayed there. As soon as I come back, I screw up and this happens.”
“It wasn’t your fault”, I repeat, but Gerard was so deep in self-pity and hating himself that my words didn’t matter.
The nurse came back fifteen minutes later. “You may see her if you’d like”, she said. We all got up, but she raised a hand to stop us. “Please, up to two visitors at once. She’s conscious now, and we don’t want her to feel overwhelmed.”
Frank, Emily and me sat back down. I figured it was best that Gerard saw his daughter alone first, but obviously Gerard didn’t agree.
“Mikey, come with me”, he said. It wasn’t a question or a command, it was a plea. And if he didn’t want to go alone, then he shouldn’t. I got up again to go with him.
We followed the nurse to one of those hospital rooms where are more than one beds. This room had six beds, but only two of them were occupied. We found Gia at the very back, next to the window.
The minute I saw her, I started to feel sick at the pit of my stomach again, but Mikey walked straight over to her, so I followed slowly.
Gia had been looking out of the window, but she directed her tired eyes at us when she heard us come. She was pale, but still looked a lot healthier than before.
“How are you feeling?” Mikey asked her. We stood at the foot of the bed.
Gia shrugged. “I’m fine. My throat hurts.”
“That’s because we had to pump the poison out of your stomach through your mouth,” the nurse, who had been checking up on the other patient in the room, said.
“Can I go home?”
“We’d like to keep Gia here overnight. Just to make sure there are no complications,” the nurse then said to me and Mikey.
Gia was obviously displeased with this, but I nodded, giving them permission to keep her here. At least this place was safer than the house, that’s for sure.
“Um, Mikey”, Gia said.
“Could I please talk to him alone?”
Mikey nodded and left the room, completely ignoring the panicked look on my face. What was this? She wanted to talk? This didn’t seem good.
“It was an accident”, Gia explained. “No one’s fault. So don’t blame yourself.”
I stayed silent. Even if she told me not to blame myself, I still would. I knew that it was my fault, it was a fact.
“That old woman, who is she?”
“Emily, a social worker”, I said. “She’s trying to decide if I’m able to take care of you. But don’t worry. I’m not letting her take you.”
Gia nodded. She believed me when I said that she shouldn’t worry, so she didn’t. I have never given her a reason to trust me, and yet she did.
I stayed with her for about twenty minutes until the nurse shooed me away. She said that Gia was drowsy and needed to rest. I was instructed to go home, sleep, and come back at ten in the morning to pick her up.
When I left the room, Emily was waiting outside for me.
“We need to talk”, she said the second she spotted me.
I just walked past her. “Not now.”
“Mr. Way, if you can’t prove that you are suitable to be a parent for Gia, you will no longer have the right to be her legal guardian.”
That stopped me. I turned to look at her. She looked like she didn’t want to be so horrible, but she was just doing her job. “Then who will?”
“If both of Gia’s biological parents are unable to take care of her, then her custody will be given to the parents of her mother. If they don’t want her, she will be put into a foster home.”
“You can’t take her away from me!” Gerard protested.
“Mr. Way”, Emily started, sighing. “I do not enjoy taking children away from their parents. But it is the wellbeing of the child that is most important.”
“What can I do?”
She gave me a sad smile. “Just try to behave.”
Why does it have to be the one thing I’m worst at? I thought about it while I drove. Frank drove with me, and Mikey got the honor of driving Emily back to my house, where she had left her car. I dropped off Frank at his house, but I had no intention of going back home yet. I still wanted to find a new house to live in. I called the realtor and asked her if she could show me the houses now. She gave me the first address and told me that she’ll meet me there.
The first house had one floor plus an attic. The kitchen was small, there weren’t nearly enough windows, two bedrooms but only one bathroom. While the realtor showed it to me, I tried to think about it in Gia’s point of view. That was difficult, not only because I didn’t know my own daughter that well, but also because every time I thought of Gia, the feeling of guilt and worry washed over me.
“So what do you think?” the realtor, Nancy, asked me with a sparkling smile. She was one of those realtors who would trick people into buying any type of shack if it only benefitted her.
“It’s not quite what I had in mind”, I said, knowing that even though Gia would be happy with any type of house, she deserved better.
“Are you sure? Did I mention that the neighborhood is full of families with lovely children? They would be more than happy to have you and your daughter as their neighbor. And the price of this house is just simply amazing, only -”
“Even so”, I interrupted her; “I’d like to see the other houses.”
I could tell that Nancy noticed that I was a ‘difficult’ customer, but that was just a good thing. The next houses she took me to were a lot better. I liked all of them, but I didn’t want to just buy a house that was ‘okay’.
It was the fifth house she showed me that I liked the most. It was a house that I could see myself live in, and a house that Gia would like for sure. Sure, she’d settle for anything, but I didn’t want or need her to settle.
The house had two floors. The front lawn wasn’t that big, but that was fine, we didn’t need a big yard anyway.
“The people who used to live here were a young couple with two kids, but then they got a third and needed a bigger house”, Nancy explained when she opened the front door and let me in. “I think you’re going to like this one.”
Like all the houses that I’ve seen, this had no furniture either, and that made them seem so empty and cold. The front hall was kind of wide, and at the end of it, it had two sets of stairs that went up and down.
“Why don’t we go see the kitchen and living room first? Right this way.”
In the front hall there was a wide opening that led to the sitting room area. It was a large, spacey room that had big windows. The doorway to the kitchen was similar to the one that led to the sitting room. The kitchen itself had lots of room, which I knew that Gia would love since she liked to cook.
Nancy quickly went to the backdoor that was in the kitchen corner. “And this is the door to the backyard, which, as you can see, has lots of space.” I went to look out of the door that she had opened. It was true, the backyard was big, but as I said, we didn’t need all that space.
She must have noticed that the yard didn’t convince me, because she said: “Well, let’s continue, shall we?”
Nancy led me back to the hall and this time we went through the other door on the other side. There were two doors. This one led to a bathroom.
“This one has just a toilet and a shower, but the bathroom upstairs has a bathtub as well”, Nancy said and I nodded. It was alright.
The other door was the one closer to the stairs. It led to a bedroom.
“That door over there is the closet. And the other door leads to the small storage space under the stairs”, Nancy explained. Since there were only two bedrooms in the house and I preferred to stay downstairs, I decided that if I do buy this house, this will be my room. It was perfect.
Half of the upstairs was an open space, kind of like another living room. Nancy told me that the family that used to live here used that space as a play room for the kids. Nearly the other entire half was a second bedroom, but there was also another bathroom and a big closet.
“What do you think so far?” Nancy wanted to know when we were going down to the basement.
“So far I like it”, I answered truthfully.
“Well, I have a little surprise for you down in the basement. Considering your profession I think it is the best thing about this house.”
The basement wasn’t really basement-like. It wasn’t as big as the first and second floor, and I really didn’t understand what was so special about it.
“This basement is soundproof”, Nancy explained excitedly, walking into the middle of the basement. “You are a musician, so how about changing this space into a studio? I thought that you could set instruments there, and –“
She kept talking on and on, but I had to admit, she had brains. It was a good idea.
“How much?” I asked, interrupting her rant.
Nancy stared at me blankly for a moment, but then she smiled widely and said: “Why don’t we go back upstairs to talk money?”
This was it. I realized that simply moving wasn’t enough to fix things between me and Gia, but it was a start. At least this way she’d be safer. Because in the end, it all came down to Gia. She was the first priority right now. I couldn’t let the events of today repeat themselves.