"I may not know the boy at all, but I know that he has yet to give me a reason to dislike him." Read, review, rate and feel my love :P
“A beautiful metal woman.”
I smirk playfully at my boss, Mr Casey, and take a swig of my lukewarm coffee. It takes every iota of my, somewhat limited, self-control to refrain from spitting it straight back out again in revulsion; I knew there’s a reason that I always make the drinks. He must’ve seen me wince at the tepid blandness, fairly akin to the murky puddle water that even my dog refuses to drink when out on a walk, because his wrinkled face creases into a dismayed frown. That’s what I love about Mr Casey, he doesn’t act like my boss; he acts like my friend. And I guess he is. He’s pretty cool as far as old dudes go; he’s flexible with my working hours, pays generously, knows a thing or two about decent music, always up for a laugh and is just an all-round good guy. Oh yeah, and he owns a motherfucking record shop! So even if he wasn’t my boss, I wouldn’t want him to be down because, well, he’s my friend. And I don’t have a lot of those.
“Great coffee, Mr C. Thanks.” I down the rest of it as quickly as is humanly conceivable, wrestling with my taste buds to ensure that my face shows nothing but enjoyment and pleasure. It slides down my throat at a ruthlessly slow speed, like an oil spill spreading towards some defenceless and innocent creatures that are undeserving of such a sticky, gruesome fate.
“You’re a terrible liar, Frankie.” He chuckles as my innards make a loud complaint at the dark poison that has just infiltrated them and I blush a bright red; I like to think that Mr Casey respects me as I do him and I want it to stay that way. “So, got any plans for the weekend?”
He asks me this every Friday, perhaps hoping to hear that I’m going out partying with friends or stepping out to a fancy restaurant with a potential lover like most normal nineteen year olds would be, but every Friday I always give him the same, dull reply.
“Only chilling with Misfit.”
“Ah, I see.” He looks rather disappointed with my answer, but quickly hides it with a grin. “No getting wasted, now.”
“I’ll try, Mr C, but Misfit’s a right party animal.” We both let out a silent laugh at our little routine about my beloved Jack Russell that I’ve had since I was fourteen and treat like a god. I can still remember when I took Misfit to work once. Never again. It’s a memory that I’ve tried to blot out, so let’s just say this; some of Mr C’s rarest and most expensive vinyl had a little falling out with Misfit’s surprisingly sharp teeth. I’ve never seen Mr C lose it, but he definitely came close that day. That or he was having some sort of seizure. Either way, we came to an unspoken agreement and the next morning I was sticking a ‘no dogs’ sign to the door. “What about you?”
“I’m at the shop tomorrow and playing golf with some old army colleagues on Sunday.”
How is that possible? A sixty-something has a better social life than I do; seriously, God? I feel a pang of loneliness dig away at me, but brush it quickly away – I have Mr C and Misfit after all. My boss and my fucking dog, some social life. I swallow my shamefully bitter thoughts that make the coffee taste like sherbet and nod happily at Mr C’s concerned face. Damn, why do I have to be so readable?
I notice that someone’s left a pile of unwanted records on the counter and set about deciding which section of the shop to put them in. I sigh contently as my cherishing hands caress the tattered cardboard edges of the sleeve, something deceptively plain looking to hide the magical guitar solos and soulful vocals concealed within the plate of music inside, ready to feed a hungry heart. That’s what I love about working here; I get to handle these misleadingly ordinary elixirs that only a select few see for what they are. Life-savers. I should know, music has saved my life more times than I care to count. Even when I haven’t got my earphones in, or my stereo blaring, the lyrics still live on and guide me to do what I do; to not care about what other people think; to give everything my all; to fight for what I believe in; to be who I am, even if people hate who that person is. Which the majority of people seem to. No, not hate. I wouldn’t say that I’m hated, I’m just not all that liked. I mean, I’ve got something like two-hundred Facebook friends but do you really think that any of them know who I am or will be there for me when everything falls to shit? No, because they aren’t my friends. They’re just people I’ve met and have become acquainted with but never more than that, never onto terms where I’d call them in a time of crisis. I’d be there for them, of course I would; I’m always happy to help anyone who needs it, it’s the right thing to do, but I doubt that they’d help me. It’s my own fault really, I just don’t seem to fit in with anyone and nor do I try to; I want to be liked for me, not for someone I pretend to be.
With that sublimely cheery thought, I get up and place the three abandoned records in the discount box. Not because they’re in poor condition, far from it, but because I’ve seen a school kid looking for them every day for the past two weeks and I want him to be able to afford them. It’s only fair; who am I to deny a kid the hope and sense of belonging that only a record can deliver? Especially when they’re by Black Flag, Anthrax and Joy Division.
I slump back into my seat behind the till; next to the one human that I actually regard as my friend and let out a voluminous snort of laughter as he all but chokes on his own coffee and then looks at the remainder of his mug with comically beseeching eyes.
“When did it all go wrong?”
“About the time you refused to let me make the coffee.”
“I fear that may be so.” We share a friendly grin and he looks at his old leather-strapped watch. “Time to lock up. See you on Monday, Frankie.”
“Sure you don’t want any help?” I can’t help but worry about him, it’s not like he’s young and the last thing I need is for my one human friend to die on me. If you ask me, and even if you don’t, he does way too much for a man his age; I wish he’d let me do more for him.
“Don’t you worry, Frankie. Now get home before Misfit starts partying without you!” He jovially waves off my concern and sets about sweeping the floor like he does every night, even if we’ve had no customers all day. He’s just like that. This shop is his life, as it is mine, and he treats it like I treat Misfit. Not that I can blame him; whenever I see someone walk out with a record I can’t help but smile at the fact we could have just changed or even saved someone’s life with that symphony of hope that the vinyl holds.
“Okay. Goodnight, Mr C.”
I fondly nod my farewell to the old man before picking up my black Converse rucksack and walk out into the cool blackness of the night. I really should have driven to work or at least bought a flashlight with me. Belleville isn’t the safest place to walk around alone at night, even if there are functioning lamp posts (which I must admit is somewhat of a rarity). I look up to the sky in an attempt at seeing something beautiful, but all I see is the polluted blackness of the sky that covers this hellhole like a bin bag, as though God himself has had enough of New Jersey’s sinners. I breathe out dejectedly, stopping to admire the way my breath infects the biting air like cigarette smoke, only succeeding in making me crave what I’m trying to quit. I grumble disgruntledly and carry on down the cracked pavement, trying to keep down my childish fear of being out at night. Alone. In New Jersey. With no credit on my cell. And the distant light of Mr C’s record shop has just gone out, like my beacon of hope and safety has just been stamped out by the ugly beasts that lurk within the night. An eerie breeze swirls around me like a teasing satin scarf and licks my black fringe like a flame, causing it to fall further into my eyes than normal, and seems to play a daunting tune of silence to me. My heart all but stops and I hold my breath as I make out the gargantuan figure stood in the opening of an alley I have the misfortune of passing.
“Look what we have here!”
Oh shit! The gruff voice, thick with alcohol, sets my feet into motion and I’m haring down the street like a self-confessed sinner from Death; my fear hammering at my heart like a woodpecker relentlessly chips away at the trunk of a tree. I keep running. I can’t stop…
Until I hear an agonized scream tear through the atmosphere. A scream that’s so full of fear that I can almost taste it and it’s like out of date bleach. A scream that sounds young, younger than myself, and so helpless that it scorches my ears as the night air forces the sound relentlessly down them. Cursing inwardly, but unknowing what else to do (I can’t just let that creep do whatever he wants to some poor kid), I sprint back to where I had heard the gruff voice even faster than I had fled from it.
The sight sickens me. Not in the same way as Mr C’s coffee, but actually makes me feel like my insides are about to implode on themselves in sheer disgust and loss of faith that the world can be a good, fair place. The scene is partially illuminated by a flickering streetlight, but I can make out what’s happening perfectly; though I wish with all of my being that I can’t. The scum is towering menacingly over the crumpled form of a person that I can’t quite make out, but I know that it was the kid that screamed. I grimace in repugnance (both inwardly and out) as the evil bastard lands several hard kicks at the cowering form, a pitiful and hopeless cry escaping from the lips of his undeserving victim with each.
“P-plea-ease-se…” Fuck, it really is a kid. And he sounds so frightened, for lack of a truer word; it brings a tear to my intent eyes.
“No! You don’t talk, don’t scream and you might just survive.” A deeper, sinister voice snarls violently at the injured boy. He hauls him upward by the scruff of his t-shirt and slams him cruelly into the unforgiving brick wall of the alleyway to prove his point. The victim doesn’t even yelp out this time, I think it’s because he’s fighting to stay conscious. “Get it?” He kicks out again. The boy whimpers pathetically. “Good. Submissive little bitch.”
That’s the point that makes me flip entirely. I can’t stand seeing anyone in pain, let alone watching an innocent kid get beaten to a bloody pulp and then, by the looks of how things are going, get raped. How could anyone?
“Hey! You! Get the fuck away from the kid!” He barely has time to look away from his prey before I am pinning him to the alley wall with a strength I never knew I possessed. I guess fury and fear make good motivators. I punch him square in the face and I hear a satisfying crunch sound emit from his nose. Sure enough when he manages to turn his head towards me it’s all bloody and scrunched; like the boot of a car after having a lorry drive into it. He looks terrified and I like it. I like that way he’s whimpering like the kid is, the way he’s bleeding like the kid is apart from the kids bleeding a hell of a lot more and I know that no amount of blood will make up for what the motherfucker’s done, was about to do. But then, just as I’m about to really go for him, a slither of pure conscience slides into my mind. How am I any better than he is if I beat the shit out of him, especially in front of an already traumatised kid? I’m not. And I can’t let myself sink to his level, not when there are more urgent matters, such as making sure that the boy is alright.
“Get out of my sight.” I spit at him with all of the contempt that Lucifer must feel for every angel living it up in Heaven. The split second my forceful hands levitate from his shaking shoulders he makes his speedy escape, my iron glare burning trajectories behind his worthless form.
I just don’t get it. Not one miniscule, blessed bit. What part of his mind, or anyone else’s for that matter, makes him think that behaving like this is the right thing to do? That hurting a kid, or any other living thing, is alright? He must be sick in the head because I can’t imagine ever doing anything like that towards anyone; I’d rather cut out the middleman and go straight to hell. It makes me want to scream in frustrated, unbridled rage with whatever force that controls us that it could allow for this to happen, that it could allow for anyone to function with such a twisted and malevolent mind. Ludicrously, I can’t help but feel sorry for him because I know that he’ll have to live with all of the shit that he’s done, that (like me) he’ll always be alone and (unlike me) fully understand why; because of who he is. I pity him profusely, as I do anyone like him, but my passionate hatred soon stamps that out of my soul.
My thoughts are broken by a pained groan from the alley floor. I train my concerned eyes on the person I’ve just saved to see that he’s struggling to sit up. He looks to be taller than myself, which admittedly isn’t hard, but his battered face tells me that he is definitely a few years younger than me. Fifteen or sixteen perhaps? Yet his suffering, tortured eyes conflict with his age; they look old, older than Mr Casey, older than anyone I’ve ever met. But not through having a lifetime of good memories and endless reels of dreams; from a greater understanding of the cruelty of the world through having gone through more bad times than a young boy like him should have, more than anyone should have, and only just surviving to tell the tale. He looks skinny, nowhere more so than in his adorably child-like legs that are currently pulled up close to his chest despite the fact that each laboured breath is causing him to visibly flinch in pain.
I start to step towards him slowly, placing my arms out in front in a calming gesture. He must be absolutely petrified, I think that I would be if I wasn’t still running off of the adrenaline, so I must make it perfectly clear that I’m a friend and not someone out to hurt him, not someone to be feared. I kneel about a foot away from him, not wanting to make him feel cornered, and even from there I can see some of the visible damage that’s been caused by the brutal, heartless attack. His lip is split open like a gutted fish; his nose is gushing blood, but looks nowhere near as bad as the one that is cursed with sitting upon the hideous face of his attacker; the glasses around his eyes are cracked and one lens has shattered completely, the glass trailing tiny cuts down his pale face; I can see where his dirty spill of sandy hair has darkened with his blood and it hurts me to see him like this almost as much as it hurts him.
I dare to smile reassuringly at him, hoping that he doesn’t mistake it for a daunting or predatory smirk, and let him take me in. I watch with great patience as his wary and untrusting, yet piercingly beautiful, eyes that shimmer with tears soak in my image. He devours my eyes last and I lock onto his with my desire to gain his trust so that I can help him prominent in my mind. His eyes flicker with an unwilling form of faith in me and the fact that I won’t harm him, but he still looks horribly unsure.
“It’s alright, kid. That creep’s gone and he sure as hell isn’t coming back anytime soon.” Pain shoots through my mind like a poisoned dart as he coughs violently to the side. When he turns anxiously to face me once more, I can see a dribble of blood smearing his chin that wasn’t there before. I’ve got to get him some place safe, some place where I can sort him out. Perhaps I should take him to the hospital? No. He looks like a runaway, surely a hospital will just send him back to what he’s running from. I can’t let that happen, not after what he’s been through tonight. “I want to help you; I’m not going to hurt you. I promise.” My tone is solid and sincere, my longing to help making it unquestionable. “I’m Frank. Frank Iero. What’s your name?”
His swollen mouth looks as though it’s trying to form words, but then his fragmented eyes fill with needless shame and he looks away, more tears streaking down his face like fierce water snakes.
“Hey, it’s alright if you don’t want to talk; I get it.” Out of curiosity, I tactlessly add, “Are you mute?” He shakes his head, but stops mid shake as it causes pain to flare through his numerous wounds. “Don’t worry, I’m not offended or anything. After what just happened I’d be surprised if you were being talkative.” I notice that he’s cradling his left wrist but before I can examine it, I remember where we are and just how unsafe it is. “Do you think you can walk?”
I stand to give him some room and watch as he fights with the fear, pain, dizziness and shock to get to his unsteady feet. I outstretch my willingly helpful hand to him, unable to stand seeing him suffer and get frustrated with himself any longer. He takes it warily, cautious eyes fixed firmly on the grotty ground. I gently pull him up, ever mindful of his injuries, and offer him an encouraging smile when he finally manages to get upright. His eyes dart away from my small reassurance like a startled deer and I can’t help but think how undeniably cute he is, or rather, how undeniably cute he will be once I’ve cleaned him up. He meekly dares to take a weak step forward on his baby gazelle-like legs, only to yelp in torturous agony and fall backwards. My eyes widen and my concerned panic allows me to have unusually quick reflexes; my open arms catch his back and right him. God, he’s light. Just like a little, defenceless, innocent child. A child that shouldn’t be in this unforgiving and unspeakably harsh situation. I feel him lean against me for assistance; at least he seems to have some sort of trust in the idea that I won’t hurt him now. All of a sudden he sniffles loudly and bursts into fresh, heartbroken sobs. Sobs that shock me because they aren’t just caused by fear or the inflictions that fate has dealt him, although they obviously contribute, but rather from complete hopelessness and sorrow from some previous atrocity.
I may not know the boy at all, but I know that he has yet to give me a reason to dislike him; a reason to not want to make everything better. I wrap my arm under his arm pits and around his back to offer him support of every kind, and pull him into my warm side; not too surprised at how cold he is.
“Shush, please don’t cry. It’s alright; I won’t let anything hurt you, okay?” He just howls harder, his anguish giving him the courage to hide his bloody face in my chest. Or maybe he’s hiding from any laughter or disapproving expression that his actions may have caused. “C’mon, kid, cheer up.” Fuck! After all that kid has just been through, has probably been through before the attack, all I can think of to do by the way of comfort is to tell him to ‘cheer up’? I chastise myself for sounding like some shallow dickhead with no sense of proportion or authority; he’s really going to trust me to take care of him now, isn’t he? Nice one, Frankie. Sure enough the damp patch on my Ramones t-shirt expands at a greater rate than before, causing sympathetic guilt to douse my soul like salt in a wound. “Okay, that came out wrong.” I really need to start thinking things through more. “Cry if that’s what you need to do, I totally get that, but how about we go somewhere warm and safe so I clean you up first? My apartment is just a few minutes down the road.”
He looks up at me with his blood-shot eyes that scream his want to trust in me, but refuse to allow their owner to do so through fear of being let down or used. And that, for some bizarre reason, makes my heart break. Tears are still sweeping a curtain of despair over his washed-out face, mingling with blood to make his tears look as truly horrific as they feel to me to be.
“You can trust me, I’m your friend.” My soft smile, founded from the need to reassure and calm the kid rather than actual happiness, grows as he slowly nods and dares to offer me a cracked arch of acceptance in response. “That’s it, relax. You’ve got nothing to be scared about; I don’t let bad things happen to my friends.” The hand belonging to the arm that I’ve fastened around him, strokes his side to validate my heartfelt words. There’s something about this kid that makes me feel like I can trust him, like we’ll get along, like I can call him a friend.
“Mi-Mikey-ey.” I look down at his hasty, stuttered word; the first to be directed at me since meeting him. He blushes, immediately looking as though he regrets speaking as though he thinks I’ll laugh at him or leave him because of the state of his speech.
That hurt; does he really think that I’m capable of turning against someone for something that isn’t even their fault? Do I really come across as some sort of shallow bastard, the type of shallow bastard that deserves a good beating? I sure as hell hope not. Perhaps the shame and assumption upon my reaction to his, quite frankly, adorable voice is a product of years of bullying. I sure as fuck hope not. I’d rather he thought I’m a shallow bastard than get bullied. He seems way too shy and nice for either option.
“My-y name’s Mike-ikey.” He carries on bravely, causing respect to bathe my being; if my assumption about him getting bullied is indeed as correct as I fear it to be, it must have taken so much for him to venture out of the safety of his silence. “Mi-ikey Way.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mikey Way.”
A/N: Thank you sooo much for reading – I hope that you liked it! Just a little puzzle for anyone interested; Mr Casey’s name has a hidden meaning (or two), can you guess what it is? Leave your answer in a review! Thanks again for reading! If you’ve been lovely enough to read, please be incredible enough to review (constructive criticism welcomed with open arms!)! :)