'The music erases everything I hate, stroking and soothing my angry soul with the gentle fingers of raw notes and bittersweet chords...'
Tiny, tentative teardrops of grey November rain dribble listlessly down the cold, grimy grey glass of my bedroom window as I stare out into the endless murky night; the minute amount of rainy ebony silence of the suburban streets, before the incessant car headlights of the congested main road infiltrate the darkness, along with the dull, artificial glow of the yellow from the street lamps, cutting through the seeping, icy grey rain and thick cloud.
The city night that churns wearily on looks exactly like I feel; soaked, shivering and sullen.
The leafless, spiky trees that line the darkened street outside are bowing in the incessantly lashing bitter rain and icy November wind, the chewing-gum speckled streets weighed down by the murky puddles of pollution and tainted rainwater, and the dull glow of the battered streetlamps is artificial and drained of life.
My stripy red and black safety-pin adorned hoodie is clinging to me like an icy layer of injustice, still sodden from my relentless trekking the polluted city streets all day long with the bitter November rain drilling unrelentingly into me. The cold dampness of my hoodie is seeping right into me, through my skin and right into my bones, chilling me with numbness.
The cold of my rain-soaked hoodie isn’t the only thing that causes the horrible, chilling numbness that trickles through my skeleton; hurt is engulfing my being; horrible, chilling, frozen needles of anaesthetised hurt that doesn’t quite percolate my deadened mind.
I knew this would happen- I knew Steve’s sons coming to live here would be a disaster, and what do you know, I’m right. Not even ten minutes into company with them and things have managed to go wrong.
Do I just have a bad effect on people? Is it my fault that no one likes me or respects me? I guess it is- and why would anyone like or respect a scruffy, skinny little punk kid who scowls all the time and is overly sarcastic about just about everything? Why would anyone like someone who’s hiding?
I sigh heavily, despair and defeat misting up the glass of the window and coating the bitterness of the outside world in my own angst.
Suddenly, there’s a soft knock on my door and I jump, looking away from the window and shaking my hair carefully across my wounded face defensively.
“What?” I growl, but it doesn’t have quite the effect I’d have liked; my voice sounds defeated and broken.
In response, my bedroom door swings open and Mom steps into my cluttered, disorganized room, Steve’s younger son, Mikey, trembling behind her and looking, if possible, even more nervous as he nibbles apprehensively at his lower lip and hides shakily behind his mousy hair and geeky glasses, trying to disappear behind Mom.
The tight knot of tension in my stomach loosens slightly; he looks as uncertain as I feel, and he’s way too skinny and knock-kneed to be able to beat me to death. However, I remain scowling and hidden behind my damp, scruffy hair, trusting no one.
“Hi, Honey,” Mom tries for an uncertain smile and once again, the horribly familiar feelings of dragging guilt trickle through my protective shell.
Instead of smiling back, I remain in stony silence, expression concealed behind my chestnut hair as I stare determinedly at the floor, not looking at either of them.
“Frank…Mikey’s going to be sleeping here for a few weeks until we get the attic room properly sorted- the guest room is way too small for two people. I hope you don’t mind…?” Mom trails off anxiously, eyeing me with wide honey-brown eyes of uncertainty.
Despite the horrible, prickling mix of anger and hurt still needling my insides, I feel the beginnings of relief seep through me; I thought, seeing as the world seems determined to make my life a living hell, that the suitcase and Bass guitar case would have belonged to Steve’s older son. For once, the universe seems to have taken a small amount of pity on me.
“Frank…you don’t mind too much, do you?” Mom repeats uncertainly.
Anger eclipses the relief. Mind? Why the hell would I mind sharing my only safe haven of solitude with a total stranger who will probably hate my guts and invade every living moment of my already limited peace?
Sometimes, I don’t think Mom even knows me anymore.
But maybe that’s because I don’t really let her.
I look up angrily, only to be met with the hazel uncertainty and pure nervousness lurking shakily behind Mikey’s geeky glasses and the anger melts a little as I recognise some of the horrible emotions I feel almost every day.
I know how sickening they are to feel.
So instead of yelling furiously at Mom, I just shrug in defeat at Mom and Mikey, realising arguing would be pointless anyway- no one ever listens to me. It doesn’t matter what I think, because no matter how loud I scream, no once can hear what I’m really trying to say.
“Great,” Mom smiles. “Well, I’ll leave you to get unpacked and stuff, Mikey…Steve and I are downstairs if you need us,” and with that, Mom smiles slightly nervously at us and departs, shutting my door softly behind her.
There’s a horrible, heavy silence for several moments, engulfing my room in awkward nerves and apprehension, until I finally look up to see Mikey trembling by the doorway, uncertain and nervous, hidden behind geeky glasses and a slightly spiky mousy fringe.
I sigh, hating to see someone look the way I feel inside so often.
“Hi,” I say dully, getting up off the window seat and making sure my fringe is well and truly covering my battered face before looking up at Steve’s younger son.
“H-Hey,” Mikey stutters, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, but not moving from his stance by the doorway.
There’s another awkward silence, and I start nibbling at my nails, not sure what to say. I’m not used to new people. Or any people actually, other than Ocean, Mom and Steve. And there’s no way anyone within the realms of sanity would actually class Ocean as a person.
“Um, you play bass?” I try, picking my way across my messy carpet to my overflowing chest of drawers under the giant Nirvana poster, in search of something dry to change into.
Mikey nods wordlessly.
“Sorry my room’s such a mess,” I say after a few moments of heavy silence, selecting a slightly crumpled pair of ripped black skinnies and my warm pull-on Black Flag hoodie from a heap of random clutter under my unmade bed.
“It’s fine,” Mikey mumbles, before lapsing into silence once more, looking at his feet as if they’re the most fascinating thing since The Misfits’ latest album.
I grab a clean pair of black socks from the pile of clean washing on my chest of drawers and slouch towards the door.
“Um, I’m just going to get changed,” I say, because there’s no way I’m risking getting changed in front of Mikey as almost all the skin of my stomach is a horrible, deep purple with bruises and there’s too much chance of my fringe falling away from my face as I pull my hoodie on. “You can um, sit down if you want.”
Mikey nods wordlessly, still nibbling nervously at his lower lip as I step past him and out into the landing, shutting the door behind me and starting off towards the bathroom.
I can hear the familiar Bass of The Clash percolating out into the half-darkened landing from the tiny guest room down the hall and scowl furiously at the thought of Gerard liking the bands I do. My bands, the music of tortured souls that has got me through so much.
I storm angrily into the bathroom and slam the door behind me, pulling the light cord a little too viciously.
I try not to look in the large mirror over the sink as I peel my wet clothes off me, but can’t help catching sight of the horrible, fresh dark purple bruises from yesterday on the pale flesh of my skinny chest, mingling with the slightly older yellowing ones and a couple of scarlet gouges.
Sighing furiously, hating the battered and broken boy in the mirror, I tug on a clean t-shirt and my Black Flag hoodie as quickly as I can to hide the wounds that taint my flesh with brutality, reminding me I’m just a victim that can’t stand up to anyone.
My fringe is swept out of my face as I tug on my hoodie and I wince at the mangled face that blinks, wide-eyed back at me in the steamy looking glass of the bathroom mirror. I angrily drag my gaze away and rummage through the little pot of Mom’s make up sitting on the dresser, locating her foundation and applying it where the injuries are worst, before tugging a brush through my tangled chestnut hair and dumping my soaked clothes in the linen basket.
I check my reflection, making sure my hair and the foundation covers all traces of my injuries before flinging down the brush and stomping out of the bathroom.
There’s silence; no longer the familiar sound of The Clash emanating from the guest room to boil my blood. Instead, there are voices and laughter drifting up the stairs from the living room which suddenly makes me feel very alone, despite the fact I’m in my own house.
But that’s sometimes where you feel most alone; in a place full of other people that once seemed to understand, but to whom you now seem to be nothing more than a ghost of the shadows.
I sigh tiredly and start slouching back towards a room that is no longer my own, feet dragging along the deep green carpet, head down, still slightly damp chestnut hair falling defensively in front of my scowl.
I half expect Mikey to still be trembling in exactly the same place as when I left, but when I push open the door, he’s sitting, hunched up on the little mattress by my overflowing bookshelf Mom must have set out for him earlier, earbuds in, nibbling away at his nails, Bass guitar case pulled protectively close to him.
He looks up apprehensively as I close the door behind me and takes out an earbud.
“Hi,” I mutter, going back across my room to scoop up my battered old guitar from the corner when I suddenly notice it’s not there.
And then I realise; it’s still downstairs.
I groan and storm back out of my room, probably scaring Mikey but too fed-up to care.
The TV’s blaring from the living room, the warm golden light seeping out into the darkened hall. Trying not to be noticed, I dart past the doorway towards the shoe rack by the door where my guitar is propped up, and collide with something cinnamon and tobacco scented coming out of the kitchen.
“Watch where you’re going,” I growl irritably without looking up.
“I was,” A cool, collected voice says lightly. “You were the one dashing about like a retarded elf in a Christmas factory on December 24th.”
Anger boils up in my blood and I look up furiously to be met with the smoky black rimmed, carefully emotionless and careless hazely-green eyes of Steve’s eldest son, Gerard.
“Hi,” He says sarcastically, taking a sip from the can of beer he’s holding.
“Whatever,” I growl, pushing past him towards my guitar.
“That’s not very polite,” Gerard says annoyingly, apparently not going anywhere and leaning casually against the kitchen doorframe, his inky black hair falling dishevelled across his face as he takes another swig of beer.
“Neither is telling someone they look a retarded elf,” I point out snappily, snatching up my guitar case from where it’s dripping droplets of rain onto the doormat, and starting back towards the stairs without looking up at Gerard.
“Honesty’s meant to be the best policy,” Gerard shrugs, an infuriating smirk playing across his thin pink lips before he prances back into the living room, tossing his ebony hair out of his eyes and hooking a casual hand through the loopholes of his jeans.
Fury overwhelms me, red hot and prickling, spluttering through my veins like livid lava as I storm back up the stairs; head pounding with anger, hating, hating, hating someone who’s starting to make me feel the same way I do in school in my own home.
I fling open my bedroom door and storm inside, slamming it shut furiously behind me and making Mikey, who’s hunched anxiously over a book, earbuds still in, jump nervously and look up.
“What?!” I snarl at him, flinging my guitar down on my bed and flopping down on the window seat, breathing heavily.
After a couple of minutes watching the tears of the polluted sky dribbling dismally down the windowpane and letting the red-hot anger and frustration drain out of me like the grey tears from the murky raven clouds outside, I start to feel bad for snapping so unreasonably at Mikey.
It wasn’t his fault, and he looks nervous enough as it is without my yelling and raging. I know how much it sucks to feel nervous and scared, so I sigh and look across my room to where Mikey’s shaking slightly, still hunched over his book and nibbling anxiously at his nails.
“Mikey?” I say tentatively and the boy starts, dropping his book and looking up fearfully at me.
“Y-yeah?” He stutters, wide-eyed.
“Sorry about that,” I sigh, shaking my head ashamedly across my face and looking at the carpet.
“Oh,” Mikey looks up a little less nervously. “Um, it’s okay.”
There’s silence, but this time it’s a little less tense.
Feeling slightly calmer, I get up to get my guitar, and sit back down on the window seat to unzip the case and gently take my beloved guitar out.
I discard the rain-soaked case, adjust the tuning slightly, and then start strumming; blocking out the infuriating teenager downstairs, the unknowing parents, the nervous, skinny boy across the room, and the rain battering against the window…blocking out the world with broken chords and heartfelt strumming.
Unfortunately, it’s not to be; what feels like seconds later, there’s a knock on my door and I sigh, putting down the guitar and looking up as the door swings open.
“Frank, Ocean’s on the phone for you,” Mom pokes her head round the door.
“I’m busy,” I snap, not able to face talking to Ocean and admitting that the situation at home is just as bad as I thought it was going to be just yet. In a pathetic sort of way, until I’ve told her, I can almost pretend it’s just another of the nightmares that plague me so frequently.
“Frankie,” Mom frowns at me worriedly. “Have you two fallen out or something?”
“No!” I growl angrily. “I just don’t want to speak to her right now, okay?!”
“Okay,” Mom says quietly, backing out of my room and closing the door softly behind her.
Ignoring Mikey’s wide-eyed stare, I snatch back up my guitar and settle back onto the window seat, facing away from the chaos of my poster filled room and staring out into the grimy tears of the sky washing the darkened, polluted streets as I start to play again, fingers fierce, blood pounding in my ears.
Soon, it’s just raw, tortured chords and hurt fingers sliding up and down the familiar frets that soothe me, the music seeping through my protective shell of hurt and anger; the shell that hides everything I am and used to be, my battered, bruised face and my humiliation. The music erases everything I hate, stroking and soothing my angry soul with the gentle fingers of raw notes and bittersweet chords, unknotting the anxious tension in my broken chest, unfolding the tangles and knots of my life with the pure, beautiful music that emanates from under my callused fingers.
The rainy street outside my window doesn’t exist.
The nervous, skinny stranger sitting behind me doesn’t exist.
The three laughing, joking people downstairs don’t exist.
The hurt, the humiliation that tears at me everyday doesn’t exist.
I don’t exist.
Nothing exists but my music.
I finally reach the end of the song and pause, stretching out the cramp in my hand and trying not to let reality concoct the hard, scowling shell over my vulnerable soul just yet. Instead, I watch the rain and the congested, lit-up November city without letting anything else seep back straight away.
Finally though, I have to turn round back to the real world, and see Mikey sitting, open-mouthed on the little mattress, which unnerves me slightly, nerves knotting in my stomach.
“That…” Mikey shakes his head, eyes still wide behind his geeky glasses. “That was amazing!” he breathes, and then flushes bright red, ducking his head and dropping his awestruck gaze to my bedroom floor.
“Um, thanks,” I actually manage a tiny smile as I put my guitar down.
“Did…what song is that?” Mikey stammers nervously.
“Uh…it’s mine- I composed it,” I admit, running a hand through my hair and quickly letting it flop back across my injured flesh. “It hasn’t got a name yet.”
“You composed it?” Mikey asks quietly, looking back up at me with wide, hazel eyes.
I nod, suddenly feeling self-conscious- I never really let anyone hear my songs because they’re that tiny little part of me that still cares, still feels, and I don’t want the outside world to know that. Not Mom, not Steve, not even Ocean.
They’re my escape from reality, and no one else’s, because no one else understands, and if they know I care, they can destroy me. I feel horribly embarrassed that Mikey’s just heard me play, but I guess he’d have had to sometime anyway, seeing as he’s going to be sharing my room with me.
“That was just…so beautiful,” Mikey says tentatively. “You’re really good at playing.”
“Thanks,” I smile, and even although it only tugs lightly at the corners of my lips, for once, it’s real.
Mikey and I spend most of the rest of the evening in silence, but the quiet atmosphere isn’t as tense as it was earlier as he listens to his iPod and I plug myself into my MP3 player and start scribbling away in my battered, deep violet lyrics book; lost in a world of metaphors and rhymes and rhythms.
Finally, once my hand starts to ache from frantic scribbling, and the familiar, dull, dragging tiredness aches in my skull, I discard my pencil and notebook and tug on my PJ bottoms, not bothering to change my top. Mikey’s already in his pyjamas; a slightly shabby navy pair embellished with penguins, huddled under the duvet of his mattress bed, reading.
“D’you mind if I shut the light off?” I ask, wanting to crawl under the warmth of my own duvet and succumb to the peace of slumber and escape this nightmare.
Mikey shakes his head timidly, setting down his book and curling up.
I slouch towards the door, and am just about to flick the light switch to ‘off’ when my door swings open and stubs my toe painfully.
“Oww!” I yelp, jumping back and looking up to see who just barged into my room without knocking.
Black leather, an arrogant smirk and startlingly hazely-green black rimmed eyes.
Tiny needles of anger start to prickle at my insides, getting bigger and bigger until they’re like red-hot daggers of fury as Steve’s eldest son’s infuriating smirk widens at my scowl.
“Ever heard of knocking?” I growl angrily, clutching my throbbing toe.
Gerard shrugs. “I didn’t think it mattered to vertically challenged kids the size of retarded leprechauns,” he says carelessly, poking his head into my room. “I just found Mikey’s hoodie with my stuff and thought he might want it.”
Mikey looks up from his mattress as Gerard carefully chucks a black, well-worn Smashing Pumpkins hoodie as his younger brother who mumbles a slightly awkward “Thanks”.
“Get out of my room,” I snarl at Gerard, who’s lingering annoyingly in the doorway, looking sneeringly at my Edward Scissorhands poster.
“Jeez, no need to get so touchy,” Gerard says irritatingly. “What are you, twelve?”
“Fifteen actually,” I spit angrily at him.
“Wow, really?” Gerard feigns surprise. “You look like you’re still in fucking junior school.”
“Get. Out.” I snarl through gritted teeth, the angry daggers injecting red-hot venom into my veins.
“Wow, great comeback, midget,” Gerard smirks infuriatingly in a way that makes me want to pummel him into the ground, but before I can even think about doing so seriously, he shrugs carelessly and slouches out onto the landing, calling a quick “Night, Mikes,” on the way.
I slam the door loudly behind him and flick the light switch to ‘off’ violently, storming across my darkened room and tripping on a stack of music magazines which make me swear furiously in frustrated humiliation before finally flinging myself down angrily on my lumpy bed.
I lie, frozen, for several moments in the overwhelming dark of my room, pure, white-hot anger and humiliation flooding through my veins like spiky poison, snagging painfully at the strings of my heart and catching on my emotions. Humiliation is such a horrible feeling; glutinous and heavy, clogging up your soul and skeleton. I hate it, and I feel it enough every single fucking day at the hell that is school without having to feel it in my own home too.
Is this what it’s going to be like? Barbed comments and sneering smiles, acidic words and venomous glares?
Is this how I’m going to feel at home now?
Angry, humiliated and so, so alone?
Even though I can hear the soft, even breathing of someone else sleeping in the room, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt quite so brokenly, angrily alone from the jagged insults thrown so carelessly at me by Steve’s eldest son.
I know what Ocean would say; she’d say not to let him win, to stand up for yourself, and to never let anyone take you alive.
On the outside, when I’m scowling and snarling and sarcastic, I can sometimes make it seem like that’s exactly what I do.
But when I’m curled up under the protection of my duvet in the dark and night of my cluttered, the scowl has fallen off, my hair swept away from my injuries, my snarl weak and my sarcasm lost, I’m breaking apart; splintering into tiny shards of despair; my knees dragged up to my chest, just trying to hold my failing being together.
That’s when I let myself feel how alone and lost I really am. When no once can see me.
When I can’t even see myself.
Was it okay? I did enjoy writing this chapter- it just kinda seemed to flow out, but I don’t know if it was actually good or not haha! Was the description of Frank’s guitar playing okay? I wasn’t sure how to describe that, so I hope you guys got the picture okay. Sorry if it was totally exaggerated and shitty!
Please let me know what you thought of the chapter and I’ll update as soon as I can (:
Love you all and your awesomeness…thanks for reading!