'I might still have a terrifying best friend that attacks people, but I’m not a beaming, bright-eyed kid anymore, and nothing’s as simple as wobbly crayon drawings now...'
Tendrils of harsh grey morning light obliterate my senses the second reality starts to trickle through the murky cloud of unconsciousness and nightmares that’s swamped my skeleton in copious tendrils all night.
Rain is still drumming away at the grimy glass of the window in vicious December bullets of icy grey, dribbling down the glass and trying to wash away the congestion and contamination of the murky city streets with cold tears; wash the streets of a city that never rests; the sound of incessant, clogged-up traffic always infiltrating the silence and tainting the bitter air with tentacles of dirty fumes.
My eyes flicker open briefly, the harsh grey light of reality stinging them immediately and making me wince, pulling my duvet protectively around my vulnerable body and letting my heavy eyes flicker shut again, blocking out the real world of endless rain and churning, bleakly grey city streets, trying to drift back into the world of unconsciousness once more so as I don’t have to face reality just yet.
But warm sleep doesn’t trickle over me as I want it to.
Instead, my body keeps me in bleak limbo between consciousness and nightmares, the two clashing horribly in the middle and making the world seem like a living nightmare.
It’s a strange, almost parallel state that awakens the monsters inside me, monsters that force me to relive my darkest hours and dredge up the horrors of the past, vivid and vicious.
I try and shake myself out of it, focusing on the persistent fierce drumming of cold rain on the grimy window, taking deep, shuddering breaths of the bleak air that engulfs me.
The smell of the deep purple bed sheets I’m cocooned in is soothing and familiar, as is the distant chugging of the congested city that drifts across my room from the window shrouded in dark curtains and a million incessant raindrops.
But despite all the familiar smells and sounds, I know.
I know that I’m dreaming and breathing in a room that is no longer mine.
I know that it wasn’t all a just another of my nightmares.
I sigh heavily, rolling over onto my side and wincing angrily as pain rips through me at the pressure on my bruised chest, my wrist smarting horribly and reminding me of the things I wish didn’t exist. I keep my eyes screwed shut.
I’m drifting between realities now; a misguided ghost of plaguing nightmares, drifting and drifting from the horrors of reality to the surreal peculiarity of unconsciousness. No matter how scary nightmares can be, they’re nothing as terrifying as reality can be.
So I just let myself drift, trying to fall away into the nightmares that are so much easier than the real nightmare I live in. Drifting and drifting and drifting…
“Frank? Frank, honey, wake up,” A soft, familiar voice gently drags me from an uneasy half sleep I hadn’t realised I’d fallen into.
I peel my heavy eyelids open, blinking blearily in the harsh, grey winter light that stings my swollen, sleep-deprived eyes and sears through my sleepy state like a blunt stake. I feel deadened and zombified, as if I’ve been tossing and turning the whole night.
I blink again, and Mom’s honey-brown eyes swim into view, slightly blurred in the dull, dark grey winter light of my chaos-strewn bedroom.
I jump, horror shooting through me as I realise the torn, injured and bruised skin of my face is probably on show. Desperately, I shake my tangled chestnut hair in front of my mangled, bruised face before Mom can see the lacerations and gouges of truth that engulf it’s once smooth, pale flesh, heart pounding fearfully.
“Sorry to wake you, honey, but I wanted to tell you that I’m taking Mikey into town to get a school uniform- we’ve just had lunch,” Mom says gently, patting me on the shoulder as I wince in the murky grey light that seeps into the chaos of my room and seems to sting my soul, still flattening my fringe anxiously over my face as my eyes dart nervously across my bedroom.
I notice that Mikey’s bed is empty and neatly made, although the unfamiliar, foreign smells of coffee and caramel still linger about my room, despite the fact the skinny, mousy-haired teen is nowhere in sight, the unfamiliarity making me uneasy.
“Steve’s working in his study and Gerard’s around somewhere,” Mom tells me, tucking a stray strand of light brown hair behind her ear. “I should be back around dinnertime, okay?”
I nod wordlessly, not meeting Mom’s wide, honey-brown eyes, still scared that my scruffy hair isn’t fully covering my injuries, just scowling grumpily at her in acknowledgement. She’s used enough to that to see it as anything but normal. In fact, she’d probably freak out if I wasn’t scowling.
“See you later then, honey,” Mom sighs, reaching out to ruffle my hair, eyes tinted with honey-brown sadness as her gaze sweeps my defensive, angry posture.
I duck out of her way furiously, horror juddering right through me. “Don’t, Mom!” I protest angrily, fending her off and away from the wounds that lurk behind my unwashed hair.
Hurt clouds eyes so similar to mine, and she just sighs, sounding sad and defeated, but after a second of surveying my scowling, defiant form, she just shrugs and backs out of the room, closing the door softly behind her.
I sigh angrily in frustration and chuck my pillow across the room where it hits the wall with a dull thump and falls limply to the floor at the bottom of Mikey’s mattress.
Sighing heavily, I run a hand through my hair before scowling bitterly at the neatly made bed on the floor and sinking back under the covers of my bed, heart heavy in my chest, mouth bitter with injustice.
I hate waking up, because for that one, tiny little second between sleep and reality, I can half-convince myself my life isn’t a fucked up mess, and that I’m not a weak, beaten victim, that instead I’m that beaming, bright-eyed little ten year old with green Doc Martens and a scary, freckled best friend who bit anyone who was mean to me.
Of course, that bit hasn’t changed- I do still have a scary best friend who bites people who are mean to me.
Only she has electric blue hair and snakebites now, and is almost as messed-up as me. She also tends to punch rather than bite these days, but there was that nasty incident with her and one of the cheerleaders at her school involving a hockey stick, a nasty comment about blue hair and Ocean’s scarily sharp teeth. I seriously can’t stress how grateful I am Ocean’s on my side. If she wasn’t, I’m pretty sure I’d be dead.
I might still have a terrifying best friend that attacks people, but I’m not a beaming, bright-eyed kid anymore, and nothing’s as simple as wobbly crayon drawings and fights with red and blue finger paints now.
Somewhere along the way, it all got tangled and twisted by hormones and popularity, and now it’s nothing but corrupted ruins.
I don’t want to get out of my bed, because when I do, I can’t deny the reality of my life anymore. I can feel my injuries stinging with every step, searing with every false smile, smarting with every sarcastic comment I utter.
I like to stay cuddled up in my duvet, because I can pretend things aren’t a distorted jumble of jagged ruins too mangled to glue back together; I can pretend I’m not someone who lives in the shadows.
I’ve always made stories up and played pretend games; when I was a kid, I remember Ocean and me playing vampires in the school playground, pretending to drink the teacher’s blood and chasing each other, pretending we were soaring across the boring grey yard with giant black bat wings. We even used to try hanging upside down from the gnarled old apple tree, but after I fell off and got concussion, we were banned from playing around the tree.
Teachers are such killjoys.
Stories and made-up worlds are the best, because you can live in a world of dreams and imagination, a world free of all the nightmares and fears that taint your realities. You can be whoever the fuck you want without worrying about people judging you.
But you can’t hide away in stories and games forever. Sooner or later, you have to face reality, and all your dreams come crashing down.
I sigh heavily, the broken sound resounding all round my desolate room, reminding me of my loneliness and eliciting angry little needles of self-pity that inject my vulnerable skeleton with hurt.
I don’t know how long I lie in the security of my bed, listening to the rain that never seems to stop, pounding the window and the grimy city streets below, bitter December wind lashing round the house, mind numb, body unmoving, lost in another world I wish I could live in forever, until my numb state is shattered by buzz of my phone on the bedside table.
I reach over and look at the little screen which lights up the darkened grey winter light that smothers my room.
One new message: Ocean: Oi, Frankiestein! How are the stepbrothers from hell? Hope they aren’t actually from hell… and hope you’re okay…xxx
I sigh heavily and chuck my phone aside without replying, not able to face Ocean just yet. Instead, I sit up, running a hand through my tangled chestnut hair and glancing briefly at the time; it’s nearly half one, which means less than twenty four hours until I have to once more set foot in the hell that is school.
My stomach contorts horribly with churning dread that writhes about inside me like a tangled knot of venomous snakes that constrict my lungs, making my breathing shallow and sharp at the mere idea of returning to school.
Wanting to make the most of not being in a cramped, sweaty environment of people who loathe me, I throw the covers off and get to my feet, chucking my Black Flag hoodie on over my pyjamas and going across to my bedroom window.
The icy rain is still lashing down viciously as the wind shrieks through the leafless trees lining the bleak streets; the sky a cold, dark, glowering grey, heavy and ominous, lurking bitterly and copiously over the bitter city that chugs relentlessly on. Incessant queues of weary cars are still crammed along the main roads near the city centre, all the grimy, chewing-gum speckled side streets shrouded with decaying brown mush of fallen leaves, and then there’s a tiny space of slight peace in the suburban streets nearest to my window, lined with overflowing grey puddles and little red berries that have been violently swept from the skeletal trees that line the silent, sullen street, dashed against the cold concrete as their mushy insides spatters the mouldering leaves.
I finally drag my eyes from the weary world visible from my rain-drenched bedroom window and briefly check my reflection in the mirror to make sure my hair is well and truly covering all injuries on my face before going out of my room and slouching down the landing in direction of the shower, the dark green carpet soft on my feet.
My dispirited mood is mollified slightly by the fact there is no muffled music of my beloved bands emanating from Steve’s eldest son’s room, just the distant sound of the TV drifting up the stairs from the living room.
I jump and look up to see Steve smiling slightly nervously at me from the top of the stairs, dressed in his usual boring suit and neutral-coloured tie, clean shaven and uninteresting as usual.
“Umph,” I mumble, ducking behind my hair and trying to slouch past my stepfather towards the bathroom to avoid any nasty interaction.
“Hey, Frank,” Steve stops me and I look up reluctantly but at the same time making sure my hair is still covering my face, despite the fact Steve knows what’s behind it now- I know he’ll just stare and ask questions and be concerned.
There’s nothing I hate more than people staring at my scars and wounds; it makes me feel like some kind of freak, because they can see it all; they can see everything I loathe about myself.
They can see the ugly, butchered slashes and scars of a failure, and they can see that I’m a failure.
That’s why Ocean is so great; she doesn’t stare or ask questions, she just accepts it; when I’m with her, I don’t feel so tense and scared all the time because I know that she won’t be horrified or shocked or be sympathetic if she sees my injuries.
All the same, I still keep my face hidden. Even although I know I’m the scars and slashes, and they are me.
I wish they weren’t, but I can barely remember my face without all the bruises and slashes. They are part of me; like a black abscess of angst and injustice that refuses to bleed away.
“What?” I mutter grumpily, dragging my thoughts away from my scarred face and staring determinedly at Steve’s feet, not wanting to meet the concern and patronising sympathy in his grey eyes.
“I just wanted to apologise for what happened at dinner last night,” Steve starts slightly anxiously, scratching his head. “I didn’t mean Gerard to-”
“It’s fine,” I brush his apology off brusquely, trying to sidle past again.
“Frank…” Steve puts his hand tentatively on my shoulder, preventing me from escape and making me feel more than slightly trapped.
“What?” I growl angrily from behind my hair, watching my stepfather visibly recoil at the defence in my voice.
“I just…about…about your face, Frank…what-” he starts nervously before I cut him off abruptly.
I wrench myself from his grasp and storm past him and into the bathroom without a further word, slamming the door so loudly behind me it echoes through the whole house and ruptures off the windows being brutally battered with the vicious icy tears of the sky.
I know exactly what he was trying to say, and I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want any fucking sympathy, from anyone. Anyone.
I don’t want anyone to feel sympathy for the skinny little sarcastic punk kid who can’t go two days without getting picked on, when it’s all my own fault. It’s my own fault I’m such a pathetic victim- no one else’s, so why should they care? I don’t want them to. I just want them to leave me alone.
I want everyone to leave me alone. Why can no one see that?
Still fuming with rage, I viciously peel off my pyjamas and step into the shower, avoiding catching a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror by shutting my eyes briefly as I stomp past, despite the fact it’s already misted up from the steam of the shower from the last person in here.
I hope to god it wasn’t that horrible, smirking, smug Gerard.
Fuck, I don’t want to shower anywhere near where he’s been.
However, I manage to push all angry thoughts from my mind, instead focusing on the warm, gushing water spurting down my body.
The warm water is soothing and calming on my angry body, tiny droplets of comforting warmth trickling down my bruised skin like tears I refuse to shed. It’s gushing and relaxing; easing the tense, defensive muscles and angry tendons in my body.
I just stand there for ages and let the soft gushing sound of water and the gentle warmth on my battered skin calm me down, letting it wash away all the anger and angst, the hurt and the numbness.
I wish it could as easily wash away all the disgusting, yellowing bruises on my chest and stomach; the million scabs trying to heal wounds that will be brutally reopened and torn apart with merciless fists before they have the chance to heal properly.
The cuts and bruises on my face sting horribly as the I let the water gush over the swollen skin, trying to wash the congealed blood away as I massage shampoo into my tangled hair, trying to ease the anxious tension that throbs in my skull while taking deep, calming breaths of the steamy air and trying not to think about the fact that this time tomorrow I will probably be sprawled on the lunchroom floor, savaged and sneered at.
Suddenly, the shrill ring of the phone percolates the steam that curls up from the shower and envelops the room in warmth, each ring like a drill of reality stabbing unrelentingly through my body, shards of icy adrenaline.
I try and ignore it, willing Steve to answer it, but it carries on and on, eliciting angry adrenaline to spike my carefully relaxed muscles back into anxious tension, and I furiously shut the shower off, stomping out and hurriedly towelling myself dry, trying to ignore the way the material snags painfully on the bruises and scabs that taint my body.
The phone’s ringing is still drifting up from the hallway, shrill and persistent.
Furiously, I tug on clean underwear and my ripped jeans, quickly checking my reflection and plastering my wet hair across my raw face before chucking on my plain black t-shirt and thundering down the stairs.
However, just before I can reach the hall phone and stifle the infuriating ringing, a slim, black-clad figure saunters out of the living room and picks up the receiver, running a hand through their slightly damp, dishevelled ebony hair that just brushes their slender shoulders.
Irrational frustration bubbles up inside me like venomous lava, and I throw my damp towel furiously at the hall carpet, storming into the kitchen and trying to ignore the infuriating tone of Steve’s eldest son’s husky voice.
The kitchen is the same as ever, warm and cluttered and homely; the familiarity of it soothing me slightly as I fish the Cheerios out of the cupboard and briefly let my eyes drift over the wobbly-drawn cartoons of a freckled vampire and a grinning zombie pinned to the pine cupboards, drawn by my inexperienced, wobbling ten year old hands.
I sigh heavily, locking all nostalgic memories into the little black box at the back of my head that feels ready to explode as I get the milk out of the fridge and slam the door shut, making all the bottles rattle in unison with the vicious wind battering the kitchen window with icy winter rain.
After sloshing the milk into my bowl of Cheerios and grabbing a spoon from the draining board, I stomp out of the kitchen and through into the living room, totally blanking Steve’s eldest son, Gerard who’s still murmuring into the phone, one finger hooked casually through the loopholes of his impossibly tight black skinnies.
Tiny little flames of hot orange flicker at the fireplace of the living room, crackling slightly as they burn their way through the sooty black coal and dead, chopped branches of wood, the heat of the dancing flames filling the whole room, soaking into the sofa and the ruby-red walls, the rain-washed window being battered with grey tears misted up with warm steam.
Grabbing the TV remote, I flop down on the squashy sofa and flick the TV to ‘on’, hoping there’ll be something watchable to distract me from the fate of tomorrow.
The familiar ‘Friends’ theme tune drifts across the warm, cosy room and I sigh, crossing my legs and grabbing my bowl of Cheerios and trying to focus on the bright screen of the TV.
But before I’m even halfway through my bowl of Cheerios, my peace is interrupted.
“Morning, elf,” A voice snickers from the doorway.
I look up crossly to see Steve’s eldest son leaning against the doorframe of the living room, wearing his impossibly tight black jeans, a slightly faded black ‘The Smiths’ t-shirt, and a stripy black and white hoodie with the sleeves rolled up. He’s also carrying two coffee mugs, and his trademark smirk of infuriating carelessness is playing across his lips, almond eyes, once again, carefully empty of emotion.
“Don’t fucking call me that,” I growl furiously at Gerard’s feet.
“Oh, sorry, did I offend the little stunted leprechaun?” Gerard snickers, raising an eyebrow sceptically at me, which just makes my blood boil further.
I slam my bowl of cereal down on the little coffee table and stand up to leave, fury coursing through me like poison, rupturing for the smirking, sauntering guy leaning so carelessly against the doorframe.
“Where you going?” Gerard asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Going,” I mutter furiously through gritted teeth.
“Oh jeez, don’t take so much offence, midget! Look, I brought you a coffee…want it?” Gerard rolls his eyes at me, tossing his ebony tendrils of hair out of his emerald eyes and sighing.
“What?” I snap, looking up, but at the same time making sure to stay well-hidden behind my damp hair.
“Coffee,” Gerard repeats, smirking slightly and gesturing to the two coffee mugs he’s holding.
I’m totally wrong-footed. I was expecting yet another derogatory comment about my height or something equally cutting, not a gesture of peace.
I peer up at him through the curtain of hair that falls across my injured face.
He looks genuine enough, even through my narrowed eyes of mistrust, but I still feel like it’s some sort of trick or ploy for him to laugh at me more.
But maybe I should give him a chance and stop thinking everyone’s out to get me. No wonder no one likes me; I can’t even accept a mug of coffee without getting suspicious.
“…Okay?” I mumble uncertainly, making it sound more like an uneasy question than an answer.
Gerard smirks more widely and hands me one of the mugs, sitting down at the other end of the sofa, leaning back and taking a long gulp of his coffee, brushing his hair out of his eyes with long, nimble fingers.
I, on the other hand, sink slightly shakily back onto the sofa, feeling oddly nervous, and blow anxiously at the steaming mug of coffee, hunched over the mug, making sure my hair is covering every glimpse of injured face.
“Seriously, dude, what’s so fascinating behind all that hair?” Gerard asks after a moment, sounding impatient.
“Nothing,” I mutter, still blowing on the steaming coffee.
“Oh, by the way, some girl called for you earlier,” Gerard says carelessly, flicking channels on the TV and sitting back as if he owns the place.
“Ocean?” I mumble questioningly, still feeling uneasy.
“Yeah, something weird like that,” Gerard waves a hand dismissively.
I feel my blood boil at his recklessly thrown comment, and take a gulp of coffee to quench the anger rising inside me.
I’m expecting the familiar, comfortingly bittersweet taste to tickle my taste buds, but instead, they’re strangled with a horrible, sour, salty taste that makes me choke and splutter, spewing coffee out all over the sofa.
Beside me, Gerard’s laughing, a horribly self-satisfied smirk of amusement stretched across his flawless face, raven hair flopping across his pale skin.
“W-what the hell?!” I splutter furiously, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand.
“Oh, you don’t like salt in your coffee?” Gerard says innocently, biting back the amused smirk that tickles the corner of his lips.
Hurt and anger convulses through my skeleton, writhing and stinging as I slam my mug down on the table and storm furiously from the room, still hidden angrily behind my hair, not quite daring to look at Steve’s stepson as I pass him, but hearing his dark chuckles every violent stomp up the stairs.
I finally slam my bedroom door on the sound that slithers under my skin, making me livid with angry hurt that chokes my being and smothers my thoughts with tainted angst.
This is why I never trust people.
Why should I, when all they do is lie and deceive and laugh?
I spend the rest of the day crumpled in a defeated slump of hurt on the window seat in my bedroom, staring listlessly out at the darkening streets lit up by a thousand shops and clogged up cars, my breath misting up with cold glass as I nibble away at my raw, bitten-down nails, trying desperately not to think about the upcoming day at school.
My guitar’s lying beside me on the floor, cast aside in frustration. You know things have got seriously bad when I can’t even play the raw chords and bittersweet melodies that usually never fail to soothe me.
Usually, I can pick up the battered old instrument and strum away at it, loosing myself in the music. It’s just about the only time I don’t feel alone, but after the events of earlier, I feel empty and deadened. I’ve given up. I’m too tired to feel better, too tired to try…too tired to be angry, so instead, I just hurt.
Ripped, raw hurt that won’t even be erased by music.
Ocean’s texted me several times, asking if I’m okay and sending me death threats if I don’t reply, but I haven’t the heart to reply, even to my best friend.
It’s nearly night now; a cold, grey dusk of raven clouds and frozen streets, which means it’s a horribly short time until dawn, and school.
I sigh wearily, leaning my forehead against the icy glass and staring out at the grimy grey streets curling out into the city centre. With my breath misting up the glass, the world outside is blurred, making the garish Christmas lights illuminating the dusky, murky city look almost magical; the glowering grey clouds like silver satin, the stained smoke of polluted fumes spiralling up into the winter sky looks almost like dust, illuminated by the harsh glow of car headlamps which almost look gentle and warming from behind the misty glass.
Then I wipe the windowpane clean, and it’s all harsh and polluted and bleak and reality.
Suddenly, the sound of my bedroom door opening interrupts my dismal solitude, and I hurriedly shake my fringe across my face, looking round.
Standing uncertainly in the doorway with mousy hair and geeky glasses, bitten-down nails similar to mine, an anxious expression and a neatly folded, brand new school uniform, is Steve’s younger son, Mikey.
Just the mere sight of the horribly familiar yellow and green striped school tie makes my stomach churn sickeningly with dread, probably having something to do with the memory of being strangled with one after gym class a few months back.
“..Hey,” I sigh, looking back out at the dusky city.
“H-hi,” Mikey stutters, shutting the door and going over to sit down on his little mattress.
There’s silence for a moment.
I don’t say anything, not feeling like giving anyone the benefit of the doubt after earlier, not even the trembling, nail-biting, nervous Mikey. I didn’t think I could trust people any less, but after the incident this morning, I was wrong.
“Um…what’s the school like?” Mikey’s nervous little voice drifts shakily across the room.
My heart sinks at the word, but I just sigh and, shaking my hair further across my face, reply wearily.
“It’s fucking awful,” I mutter bluntly, not looking away from the window.
“Oh,” Mikey mumbles, sounding even more nervous than before.
I turn round and see pure hazel fear lurking behind his geeky glasses and intensively straightened hair. Despite myself, I actually feel tiny little shards of guilt gouging into my chest.
Just because school is hell for me doesn’t mean it will be for him, and I’ve probably just made him totally dread his first day.
I don’t want people to have to feel the fear and dread I do when they don’t even need to.
“Sorry…” I mumble, dropping my gaze. “It’s not that bad…I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“Really?” Mikey mumbles uncertainly.
I nod, glancing up briefly and meeting his wide, fearful hazel eyes.
That’s when I see something I haven’t seen before.
Someone almost as scared as me.
How was it? I was kinda uncertain about it, but I hope you guys thought it was okay. I think I’m still kinda settling into this story and I’m not that confident in it just yet. Anyway, thanks so much for reading and hope it wasn’t too long! Please let me know your thoughts and R&R and I’ll post more…I’ll update sooner now cause I haven’t got exams anymore.
[*Love you all!