'It’s so much easier to appear unafraid if I remain silent; that way, they won’t be able to hear the tremor in my nervous whisper, the stutter of my replies, see the wobbling of my false smile....
I sigh heavily and toy listlessly with the mushy brown dregs of limp cereal at the bottom of my bowl, letting my spoon clank against the chipped china and staring lethargically into the depths of the remaining milk drowning the soggy cereal as I try very hard not to think of the day that awaits me.
For once, I’m actually sitting in the homely pine kitchen in plenty of time, choking down some kind of bran cereal that sticks uncomfortably in my throat and congeals uneasily with my twisting innards.
However, my unusually premature departure from my bed on a Monday has nothing to do with willingness to attend school. I may be completely ready, dressed in my appropriation of school uniform; a pair of black skinnies, a crumpled white shirt with a couple of suspiciously red stains on the front that may or may not have something to do with the incidents on Friday afternoon, a disgustingly green and puke-yellow fraying tie adorned with safety-pins and a faded black hoodie, but that does not mean anything.
My hair is even freshly washed and combed carefully over my injuries, and my face scrubbed clean of all traces of eyeliner, but the reason for all this is not due to my organisation or willingness to attend the hell that is school, but due to the fact my mind was plagued with terrifying nightmares all night that kept me tossing and turning, waking up and having to stifle screams.
Eventually, I gave up on all the sleep things and tiptoed out of my room so as not to wake Steve’s youngest son, Mikey just before six. Not that I really needed to be quiet; I’m pretty sure the kid was lying wide-awake all night- whenever I gasped into consciousness from a terrifying dream, his little iPod light was on and I could hear tiny little snuffly sounds from his mattress.
Showering, dressing and doing my hair was a good, familiar way of soothing my panicked mind and erasing the uneasy, unreal feel that lingered from the constant nightmares. It gave my frantic mind something simple to concentrate on, and by the time I deigned to go downstairs at half seven, the simple yet comforting tasks had managed to half unknot the crippling nerves inside me.
However, once I sat down at the table, all my negative thoughts and jittering nerves came flooding back as I had nothing to focus my mind on. Instead, I just sat there, jiggling my leg up and down anxiously as my family members gradually drifted into the warm kitchen.
Once they got here, it was easier; I can focus on their stilted conversation which manages to block out the worst of my thoughts.
I’ve thankfully avoided all interaction with either of Steve’s sons so far this morning, which I’m extremely grateful about; I don’t want to talk to anyone right now, let alone someone who’s probably as scared as me, which isn’t at all reassuring, or someone who seems determined to make the limited time I have outside school hell.
I’m hoping I’ll be able to slide off to school before either of them make an appearance; I can hear footsteps upstairs and the familiar rush of the shower, but I can’t quite bring myself to trudge along the grimy city streets to my demise just yet.
The streets may be coated in a shimmery layer of icing-sugar frost that makes the usually stagnant city look almost magical, and the weak, wintery sun might have deigned to poke it’s watery rays out from the thick cloud, but I know that it’s all the same underneath the deceiving, glittery coat of pure white that sparkles innocence in the sun’s tentative rays; underneath, it’s still a bleak, congested city choking in its own tainted fumes of murky pollution.
Both Mom and Steve are sitting at the table, talking softly as they sip steaming mugs of tea and nibble on dry toast, trying unsuccessfully to get me to join their conversation; any questions they pose to me I just respond to with a dismissive jerk of my head or noncommittal mutter from behind my hair.
It’s so much easier to appear unafraid if I remain silent; that way, they won’t be able to hear the tremor in my nervous whisper, the stutter of my replies, see the wobbling of my false smile.
They’ll just think I’m a grumpy, scowling teenager who doesn’t care.
And that’s what I want them to think.
“Frank, honey…have a bit more cereal?” Mom’s soft voice cuts through my swirling skull swamped in negative dread, and I glance up slightly though at the same time being very careful to keep my face concealed behind my chestnut hair; although my wounds have healed a great deal since Friday, the deep scarlet gouges scabbing over and the bruises fading from angry purple to wilting yellow, I still can’t let anyone see.
I can’t let them see my failure.
I shake my head wordlessly in reply, looking back down at the tabletop and trying to ignore the concern in Mom’s honey-brown eyes and the worry in Steve’s grey ones as they both pause in their breakfast to look anxiously at me.
It’s never a good sign when they both look at me with those big, worry-riddled eyes; usually they just accept the fact I’m scowling and irritable and leave me alone like I want. I really hope this has nothing to do with the fact Steve saw the injuries slashed across my face at the weekend; I couldn’t bear it if he’s told Mom…I don’t want her to know the brutal reality of it when there’s nothing she can do. There’s nothing anyone can do.
I’ve got to deal with it alone.
Mom opens her mouth to protest, but thankfully, before she can do so, there’s a small noise in the doorway and we all look up to see Steve’s youngest, Mikey stumbling tremblingly into the warm kitchen.
He looks immaculate; his mousy hair is carefully washed and straightened which has given it a slightly fluffy, innocent look. His glasses are polished and his new uniform is pin-neat, from the revolting tie to his grey skinny jeans. He’s so obviously tried really hard, but his face is an ominous greeny white and his innocent hazel eyes are wide with writhing nerves.
“Morning son, how’d you sleep?” Steve asks Mikey as he sits down shakily opposite me, staring blankly at the tabletop with numb, dread-filled eyes. He looks lost in a living world of fear and nightmares, a world I know all too well.
Mikey just shrugs dazedly, brushing his tufty hair out of his eyes. I notice his hand is trembling and feel a pang of sympathy for the skinny, hazel-eyed boy, despite my own churning nerves.
“Cereal, Mikey?” Mom offers, and Mikey blanches horribly, shaking his head and burrowing into his navy blue zip-up hoodie.
“Have some juice then,” Steve says sensibly, pouring his son a glass of orange juice.
Mikey looks at it warily for a moment, but then raises it shakily to his lips, teeth clanking against the mottled glass.
“You’ll be fine,” Steve says in a way that’s probably meant to be reassuring, giving Mikey a hearty clap on the back that makes him splutter. “It’s a lovely school…Frank, tell Mikey about your school.”
I blink and look up incredulously at my stepfather. He wants me to reassure someone about their first day at school?! He’s actually stupider than I thought, and that’s saying something.
Mom’s looking at me, eyes anxious as if she’s silently begging me not to say anything stupid. Mikey’s looking at me too, eyes red and bloodshot as if he’s been tossing and turning all night, swollen and puffy and scared.
I know this is the last time to tell the brutal truth.
“Um….” I mumble, trying to think of anything positive to say that won’t actually make Mikey pass out, and cursing Steve’s tactless stupidity. “Uhhh….well….”
My stumbling reply is broken by a horribly familiar, sing-song voice that drifts through the kitchen from the doorway and abruptly breaks up the conversation. Well, that bit I can live with. However, the person who’s just appeared, I’m not sure I can.
My stomach drops sickeningly, and I drop my gaze to the despondent dregs of my cereal once more, bracing myself for yet another cutting comment.
“Morning,” Gerard smirks at us, sauntering into the kitchen and flopping down into the vacant chair beside me, brushing his carefully dishevelled raven hair out of his heavily smoky black rimmed eyes.
My blood boils angrily, mixing oddly with my churning nervousness, as the sickeningly familiar scents of tobacco, cinnamon and lingering alcohol reach my nose, bringing the events of yesterday back all too clearly to my vivid imagination.
“Morning, Gerard. Sleep well?” Steve asks, taking a gulp of tea.
“Yup,” Gerard replies carelessly, helping himself to a glass of orange juice and taking a long swig, his fingers quite steady, unlike his brothers.
“Is, uh…is that what you’re wearing to school?” Steve asks slightly nervously, his gaze sweeping his eldest son.
I glance over at the teenager beside me. He’s wearing an even tighter pair of black skinny jeans and his tie is slung carelessly round his neck, he’s swapped the regulation white school shirt with a tight black one and his leather jacket is adorned with even more badges, safety-pins and badges than yesterday.
Glutinous jealously exudes from my chest, oozing thickly through my adrenaline fused body. He’s as much of a misfit as I am, judging by his original style and looks and his taste in music, but instead of lurking in the shadows, afraid to show people who he really is, he’s screaming it out, celebrating being different.
And I highly doubt he’ll be ridiculed for it. Instead of getting shoved onto the sidelines for being different and becoming almost invisible, he’ll stand out a mile like an ebony rainbow of reckless detonation.
“Yeah, this is what I’m wearing,” Gerard replies, as careless as ever, but there’s a hint of defiance to his voice as he chews on a piece of toasted bagel, the muscles in his lily-white neck clenching and unclenching as he swallows.
Steve falters slightly, and takes another gulp of tea. I don’t think he’s quite got the courage to question Gerard further.
“Umm…Shall I give you boys a lift to school?” He asks instead, setting his mug down on the table and swallowing his final mouthful of toast.
My stomach knots into tight, slimy serpents that wriggle and writhe sickeningly as I try and keep the cornflakes I forced down in my unsettled stomach.
Mikey turns paler still, and chokes on his mouthful of orange juice.
Gerard just shrugs. “Sure,” he replies, casting his half-eaten bagel aside and getting up, dusting the little crumbs off his long, white fingers.
I suddenly realise he hasn’t actually made a cutting quip about my height or sniggered at my fringe yet, and am slightly unnerved. Then again, he’s acting as if I don’t exist, but that’s how I prefer it. Maybe he’s sick of making fun of me.
Or maybe he’s not really as calm as he makes out.
Ha. Yeah right.
I can’t imagine him being fazed by anything. He probably doesn’t even know what feeling anxious or nervous is like. I bet he’s never been picked on in his life.
“Hey,” I’m suddenly jolted out of my thoughts as a long, spidery finger prods me none too gently in the chest, uncomfortably close to one of the brownish red blood stains, and my eyes snap up to see Gerard’s carefully emotionless hazely-green eyes looking down into mine.
I’ve never seen eyes like his…they’re almond shaped and swirling green with warm hazel pooling in the iris, but they’re…empty. There are the kind of emotions you’d expect to see from him on the surface; careless arrogance and smugness, but then it’s like there’s a film that hides their raw depths from the world.
Then I realise; they’re not empty. They’re hiding.
“Oi, midget!” Gerard’s sneering sing-song voice cuts through my meandering thoughts and abrupt realisation.
“What?” I growl, shaking myself out of my thoughts and pushing past him, going into the hall, trying very hard to quash the horrible sickening twisty nerves fluttering and constricting inside me, reborn with extra velocity as I remember school will be starting in just under half an hour.
“You’ve forgotten something,” Gerard says carelessly, leaning against the kitchen doorway and popping a last piece of bagel into his mouth as I tug my converse on.
“What?” I ask again, eyes narrowed with suspicion as I lace up my scruffy black converse.
“Well, don’t elves usually wear those cute little hats and the funny little pointy shoes with the bells?” Gerard asks, deadpan for a moment before the corners of his pouty lips twitch into a smirk. “I bet you’re a real hit at school…” he sniggers.
Blunt daggers of angry hurt puncture the writhing adrenaline and uneasy fear in my stomach, eliciting little stabs of panic in my chest that make me want to run away from it all; run away from the day that awaits me and curl up in a tiny little ball in my room where nothing and no one can get me.
I scowl furiously, hating myself for letting such a careless comment get to me, pulling my hood up angrily and turning away from Gerard’s infuriating smirk, though I can still feel it burning into my back.
“Gerard!” Steve says crossly, coming out into the hallway and shrugging his tan jacket on in time to have overheard Gerard’s last snubbing comment. “Don’t be rude.”
Gerard shrugs uncaringly, pulling his beat-up black Doc Martens on. “Whatever.”
Steve looks troubled, but is saved the effort of reprimanding his eldest son further as Mikey stumbles out of the kitchen looking alarmingly clammy and pale.
“Shit, Mikes,” Gerard looks up from tying his laces, zipping up his leather jacket so it clings tightly to his torso. “You don’t look good.”
“I’m fine,” Mikey gasps, burping slightly nervously as Steve unlocks the front door and sets off down the drive towards his car, leaving the cold, weak Monday morning sunshine seep into the dim hallway along with the chilling air that makes tiny little goose bumps of fear erupt all over my bruised skin.
“Move it then, squirt,” Gerard gives his younger brother a little prod in the back and Mikey stumbles forward out into the drive, knock-knees trembling as he approaches the car where Steve’s wiping frost off the windscreen.
I start to follow him, hoisting my scruffy schoolbag over my shoulder, swallowing the copious lump of dread that’s lodged sourly in my gullet and shaking my hair across my face, gritting my teeth grimly and determinedly as I approach the outside world.
However, I’ve barely gone two trembling steps down the hall when someone sticks out a Doc Marten clad foot and I trip and stumble, suddenly finding myself sprawled half on the cold grey concrete of the front doorstep and half on the dark green carpet of the hall.
“Owmmph!” is my muffled yelp as I hit the cold concrete with a painful thud, the impact rupturing through my already injured face agonisingly and I feel my freshly recovered burst lip split, spattering the concrete step with hot scarlet.
The repulsive sound of snickering issues from behind me as Gerard steps over me and saunters down the drive, hips swinging confidently as he approaches Steve’s car, tossing his dishevelled raven hair over his shoulder like an infuriatingly arrogant model.
“Frank?” Mom’s come out of the kitchen, looking alarmed to see me sprawled on the front doorstep, blood still spurting and spewing from my swollen lip.
“I’m fine!” I snap angrily, stomping to my feet and wincing as pain shoots through my injured wrist. Mom opens her mouth to say something, but before it reaches my ears, I reach out and slam the front door, storming furiously down the path, wiping the stream of blood from my chin and ignoring the stinging that shoots through the injury.
The wintery morning is cold and bitter against my vulnerable skin; icy air ripping at my bruised skin and making it throb numbly against the raw atmosphere. The watery December sun’s rays aren’t making thee city any warmer, in fact, they look almost as if they’re frozen too; shivering and shimmering their way into the thin layer of frost.
“Frank, you want a lift or not?” Steve calls from the car, waving his gloved hands to get my attention, breath smoky in the icy cold.
“Yeah, come and pull the sleigh, elfiekins!” Gerard calls sneeringly, getting into the passenger seat and smirking at me, almost as if he’s silently daring me to accept the ride.
I can’t deal with people with him right now; I’ll have to spend a whole day with worse ones, so, quite frankly, I’d rather brave the cold than get in a vehicle with him. I want to have the smallest amount of humiliation possible today, and I know that’s not something that’s going to be easy.
“Frank?” Steve repeats loudly, his smoky breath curling out into the December air that freezes the dead, dry leaves together with deadly fingertips of raw frost.
“No!” I yell, turning away from the sickening smugness of my stepbrother’s face and stomping down the icy path, glancing back over my shoulder just in time to see one of the car doors open and Mikey to stumble out, hazel eyes wide behind his geeky glasses, gag, and throw up all over the frosty, leaf-strewn ground.
After five minutes brisk walking, I’m already regretting the refusal of Steve’s offer, even if it would have meant spending ten minutes in a car with a repulsively smug, irritatingly arrogant guy who and a trembling, mousy haired, vomit-smelling one more nervous than me.
I’m halfway down the main road, where the shimmery layer of pure white frost has been trudged away by a thousand weary footsteps and polluted by the endless queues of cars coughing and spluttering their murky exhaust fumes into the icy atmosphere. I’m longing for the weary depression that engulfs the chewing-gum speckled city; it would be greatly preferable to the writhing knot of venomous snakes that are squirming violently inside my stomach and constricting my lungs.
It’s just starting to rain too; intermittent icy bullets of grey rain plummeting from the heavy, overcast city sky and crashing to the grimy pavement, rupturing through my shivering, dread-filled body with their winter tears.
Dread is slowly but surely filling me up, congealed and copious, snagging sickeningly on my insides and making my heat stutter nervously. Soon enough, it’ll be too much, spilling over the edges until there’s so much I’ll drown.
There’s only this street…and the next and the next and the next…endless greying streets of grime and congestion, bitterly bleak and rain-washed, but I know the time the rusty school gates loom onto the horizon will come all too soon.
I find my thoughts drifting to Mikey’s queasy face of overwhelming, and much to my surprise, find a tiny little part of me wondering if he’s alright; I know how terrifying a day at school can be, and it only goes downhill from there…
I jump violently and nearly collide with a graffitied phone box as someone skinny leaps on my back from behind me, giggling.
Jasmine scent tickles my nostrils and tendrils of blue hair flop over my shoulder from where the mystery ambusher is clinging onto my back with determined fingers, icy from the lingering frost and beginning rain that seeps into the grey sidewalk.
“Ocean?” I groan, craning my neck round and catching a glimpse of purple snakebites and a wild grin, heart pounding wildly from the shock.
“Oh, so I exist now, do I?” she asks sarcastically, jumping off my back and punching my shoulder with a stripy-glove hand.
“Well, it’s pretty hard to ignore you when you’re clinging onto my back,” I roll my eyes, carrying on down the bleak street and shaking my fringe in front of my face, shielding the rainy world from view and my face from the rainy world.
“So is that what you’ve been doing all weekend?” Ocean says tightly, glaring at me with red-rimmed eyes as she dances along beside me.
“No,” I lie, gazing down at the cracks in the grimy pavement.
“I’m not stupid, Frankiestein,” Ocean growls, eyes narrowing. “I know what you’re like.”
“I…I just didn’t want to talk, okay?” I snap, stomping faster through the overflowing puddles contaminated from the fumes that clog up the air in the incessant queues of traffic chugging tiredly beside us, their background spluttering choking up the grey winter air.
“Was it that bad?” Ocean says in a slightly softened tone, her hard expression melting slightly as she fixes the little skull bow in her indigo hair.
I open my mouth, but stop in horror as the thick lump of dread that’s been lurking in my gullet all morning rises suddenly, my eyes prickling ominously as I try to block out all thoughts of the events occurred since I last saw my best friend.
I cough furiously, wiping my smarting eyes viciously and sniffing, hoping Ocean won’t notice as I stomp faster down the seemingly endless street of grey grime.
“Frankie?” Ocean puts a hand on my shoulder, pulling me back into the same bus shelter we hid from the rain in on Saturday when I dreaded returning to the home that is no longer mine.
She’s looking suspiciously at me, ignoring the traffic rushing by in a blur of stagnant pollution and the bullets of rain drumming on the scratched plastic roof of the bus shelter, just looking at me and seeing me. Seeing past the stubborn fringe and the scowls, past the gruff voice and the anger the way only she can do.
“What?” I snap gruffly, staying well-hidden behind my chestnut hair.
“Are you crying?” she asks, tactful as ever.
“No,” I say stubbornly, sniffing again furiously.
“Really?” Ocean asks sceptically, poking my nose through my hair.
“Yes!” I snap, shaking her off crossly.
“Okay, okay!” Ocean rolls her eyes.
There’s silence for a moment, excluding the traffic rushing past behind us and the persistent rain tumbling down from the gloomy cloud that hangs overhead to the soaked, chewing-gum speckled streets.
“Aren’t you meant to be at school?” I mumble; Ocean’s school starts half an hour before mine, but the again, she rarely attends school, and I don’t blame her.
“Fuck school,” Ocean exclaims. “I had to make sure you’re okay, idiot!”
“Thanks,” I roll my eyes at her idea of comforting words.
“Seriously, Frankie?” She bites her lip, looking up into my bloodshot eyes and looking uncharacteristically worried.
“I’m fine!” I snap, pushing past her and stomping off down the street, the overflowing oily puddles soaking straight through my scuffed converse.
She catches up with me in seconds, which is no mean feat seeing as I’m still limping slightly from the incidents that occurred on the sidewalk outside school on Friday afternoon.
My stomach churns horribly at the memory.
“Oi!” Ocean pants, falling into step beside me as we turn round the corner off the main road and down one of the little dank side streets that runs alongside one of the bigger parks of the city, it’s cold, intimidating iron railings towering over the grotty pavement, icy tears of the sky dribbling down the rusting metal.
“I’ve got to get to school, Ocean,” I sigh, knowing too well that if I let myself relax now, I’ll never summon the courage back up to go back into school.
“I know, but at least let me walk with you?” She asks, pulling the hood of her stripy black and green hoodie up as the rain starts to fall faster, washing away all traces of the magical frost that made the world seem so pure and innocent, and leaving it seeming much too harsh and cold.
I shrug in defeat, trying to block out the palpitations of my heart as we turn into the road that leads to the local high school, my palms turning horribly clammy at the thought of walking the overflowing corridors, sitting slumped at the back of class and facing all the heartless comments and merciless fists alone once more.
The muddy playing fields stretch on endlessly, an ocean of blood and mud and dying grass behind the spiky, brutal railings that lock the outside world away when you’re through the cast-iron gates and into the bleak, concrete yard.
They also keep you locked in; a trapped victim in a black churning sea of sadistic predators that wash the bustling corridors with your scarlet blood of shame.
“Frankie?” Ocean’s voice drags me back into the real world of rain that trickles icily down my bruised cheeks, and I suddenly realise I’ve stopped just outside the ominous grey iron gates, choking for breath.
All the students are slowly seeping into the intimidating grey concrete school, zombified with Monday morning sleep, trudging wearily across the dull, damp yard.
“I’m fine,” I mutter, getting hold of myself and starting towards the yard before my frantic heart and churning stomach can convince me to take the coward’s way out.
“Hold it,” Ocean grabs the sleeve of my damp black hoodie, pulling me back just before I can go through the gates, narrowly avoiding stabbing a blonde-haired jock in the eye with her studded wristband, and I seriously doubt it’s accidental. “Starbucks after school? You need to tell me about the stepbrother’s from hell, remember?”
I sigh, looking fleetingly after the jock who’s giving me and Ocean a death glare which probably means I’ll get beaten later.
“Fine,” I give in, shaking my fringe further across my face as a bunch of guys from my year swagger past us, through the gates, laughing loudly and smoothing their expensively dyed hair.
“Good…I’ll be there as soon as school’s finished,” Ocean replies, finally letting go of my hoodie, just as the bell rings and all the students speed up, swarming towards the main entrance in a mass of vomit yellow and green ties and sleepy eyes.
My stomach lurches sickeningly.
“Hey, wait a second!” Ocean insists as I turn shakily towards my fate, flattening my fringe nervously, eyes darting from the bustling swarm of students to the smeary classroom windows that line the dismal building.
I turn round wearily, only to be enveloped in a fierce hug that just about shatters my ribs, but somehow manages to inject the tiniest amount of determination into my defeated being from my best friend’s overflowing supply of rebellion.
“You’re fucking brave, Frankie,” Ocean says, pulling back and brushing her electric blue hair out of her red-rimmed emerald eyes.
And before I can say anything further, she turns round and skips down the street, purple skirt swishing above her ripped red tights and beat-up biker boots that splash defiantly through the grey puddles that line the cracked sidewalk.
Sighing, I turn back towards the school where the dense throng of students pushing and shoving their way through the main entrance has thinned slightly, although I’m pretty sure I spot Mikey’s fluffy mousy hair and wide, nervous eyes beside a smirking, sauntering and skinny dark-haired figure in a leather jacket.
For once, just maybe, I might not be the most terrified of walking down the corridor on a Monday morning. I’m not sure I could summon up the courage to go to a new school, especially after spending the night in the room of an angry, unfriendly teenager you don’t know, and then throwing up your breakfast all over the front drive in front of your older brother, stepfather and stepbrother.
The kid’s got guts. Way more guts than me.
He’ll be okay, though…he’s cute and shy and innocent, and won’t scowl at anyone or yell at innocent bystanders just for showing concern. He’ll get good marks and the teacher’s will be on his side, and so what if people pick on him a bit to start with? He’s got an older brother to protect him.
I’ve got no one.
I’ve got to face it all alone, day after day after day. But I won’t give up just yet. Because, no matter how exhausted I am of it all; exhausted of barbed comments and vicious fists, endless days of tormenting and teasing, I will not give up.
Never, ever. Even if it fucking kills me.
I will not let them win.
I take a deep, shaky breath and stomp determinedly through the spiked, rusty cast-iron gates to hell, braced for another endless day of feigned attitude and false carelessness.
Another endless day of pretending it’s all okay.
How was it? sorry if it was kinda long…it was actually meant to have more in it, but I checked how many words it had and was like O_O so…yeah. Shall update soon if I get reviews. Hope you liked, please let me know what you thought if you’re wanting me to continue. I know there isn't much frerard yet, but there will be soon, promise xD The reviews kinda seem to be dwindling, so please let me know what you think- I'm worried you're not liking it. Thanks for reading…love you awesome people!
p.s. do any of you guys know if this virus is fixed properly? I’m confused cause it seemed fine for ages and then my computer just said ‘malware detected’ again and it was tricky posting this chapter...I’m confused.