'And then I hear it properly, and my blood runs cold...'
Anyway, I’ve finally written chapter fourteen, and I’m sorry it’s later than I said…but it’s finally here, and I’m actually reasonably happy with it. Well, happy-ish. It’s a little longer than usual to make up for being so late. I know it might all seem a bit mysterious at the moment, but everything will gradually link together and make sense, I promise. So yeah…enjoy! And please let me know your thoughts (:
For several strangely timeless seconds, I just stand, frozen, in the wispy, pale indigo dusk and stinging winter air that laps irrelevantly at my unfeeling skin.
I can’t move. Mere moments ago, I was stumbling wildly, frantically from the music room, flinging myself desperately down the grimy staircase, gasping for the stuffy air that suddenly smothered my lungs.
But now I’m completely still. The peeling double doors to the music block clang shut behind me, the impact rupturing through the slightly uneasy silence the watered-down navy dusk brings to the deserted yard, but I barely notice.
All I can do is stare unblinkingly across the desolate schoolyard at the two sickeningly familiar silhouettes sprawled carelessly on the crumbling, grey wall.
Usually, I find being in school after the final bell strangely peaceful; there’s something almost soothing about being safe in a place where I’m treated like nothing but a hollow husk hidden under a crumpled school uniform, for people to mangle and destroy with their venomous teeth and poisoned words. When I’m here after hours, there’s no one echoing my footsteps in the corridor, no one’s pungent breath slithering down my neck, no taste of my own metallic blood choking my mouth.
I like being alone. I feel safest when I’m alone. Or when I’m in such an endless crowd of faceless people that no one notices me; I just blur into the masses like another shadow.
But now the yard is eerily silent and empty, swathed in the dwindling winter light that makes everything seem shadowy as it mingles with the milky, stained smoke that curls up, into the patchy sky from the two obsolete silhouettes I can’t tear my gritty eyes from.
Horrible, icy cold hurt is prickling all over me in tainted goose bumps of shock, infecting my bruised skin like an epidemic of unwanted honesty. They’re spreading alarmingly fast, along with the bitterly cold wave of dread that’s freezing my insides to nothing, and I start to panic, realising it’s spreading far too swiftly for me to prevent.
I hate hurting. That numbing, undiluted swell of pain is perhaps the emotion I fear most of all. Because it reminds me of the person I’m hiding from.
And it makes everything seem too real.
Normally, I can block almost anything out with the smothering seething and spitting of anger. Anger is so much less painful, because it makes you feel more as if I’m in control, even when I know I’m floundering so far out of control I’m drowning.
But as I stand, rooted to the spot here in the schoolyard, staring with gritty eyes at the two figures sitting carelessly on the wall, the beginnings of urban twilight curling around them as they inhale their death, I can’t seem to dredge up enough fury to block out the horrible, gnawing hurt. This time, the pain is much too pure to be swathed in soured angst.
I can’t stop staring.
The wild-haired girl and the empty-eyed boy.
My reckless best friend and my obnoxious stepbrother.
Ocean and Gerard.
I blink, but I can still see their figures imprinted on the back of my stinging eyelids. No matter how much I try, I can’t erase the image of the two skinny, smoking teenagers from my brain, as if they’ve been tattooed right into my thoughts with poisoned black blood.
Something potent and powerful is rising up inside of me, burning behind my eyes and choking my gullet with suppressed emotion. I blink furiously, swallowing aggressively to try and crush the salty hurt that’s rising in my gullet like bile.
I never cry, because, like hurting, it makes everything seem scarily real.
But it is real. Ocean is really sitting, smoking and laughing, with my obnoxious stepbrother. My stepbrother with the dead eyes and the ability to make me loathe my existence even more than I did already, something didn’t even think was possible.
But of course, that was before I inhaled that heady cinnamon and tobacco and had those unnervingly empty emerald eyes bore into mine.
Swallowing furiously again against the smarting behind my gritty eyes, I look back across at my best friend with her recklessly bright attire and wild hair.
And that’s when I realise something bone-chilling.
They look the same.
Ocean and Gerard look scarily similar, sitting there in the murky twilight.
Their appearances might be completely different, with Ocean’s rainbow rebellion and Gerard’s bleakly artistic black and white, but there’s undeniably something deep, something lurking far below the surface that’s drawing them together; something they share, other than cigarette smoke and laughter.
Something I can’t put my finger on. But it’s undoubtedly there. Something unknown linking them together with blackened, tainted tentacles I want to understand. And it scares me.
“FRANKIE!” the unmistakeable yell of my fierce best friend shatters through my unwanted realisation and meandering thoughts, echoing across the slowly darkening schoolyard.
I blink and focus my gaze to see her waving cheerily at me from across the yard, as if there’s nothing wrong.
For the first time since I laid eyes on Ocean and Gerard and the murky smoke unfurling ominously around their figures, something percolates the numbing cobwebs of hurt and washes over me in a tide of boiling blood, seething and churning like some kind of toxic sea that pollutes and corrupts my innocence hurt with the protecting veil of revenge.
Why is it so much less painful to hate than to hurt?
“Hey, FRANKIE!” Ocean yells again, waving wildly in my direction with a stripy fingerless-gloved hand. “Come over here, Frankiestein!”
Gerard’s looking my way too, but his expression is unreadable from this distance. However, I’m almost sure he’s got that repulsively self-satisfied glimmer of deadened green in his eyes as usual, and the second I go over to them, he’ll tease and taunt me coldly, until I explode and give him the satisfaction of knowing he makes me furious.
They know I’m here now, though. I can’t run away like I want to.
But maybe I run away from the truth too much; there’s only so long you can pretend the truth is a lie before you have to face the reality.
Taking a deep breath to try and calm the curdling emotions congealing uncomfortably in my stomach, I shake my scruffy hair across my injured face and start shakily across the empty yard, feeling as though I’m walking towards the gallows.
The bitterly swollen lacerations staining the flesh of my face are still burning into my flesh with the truth, tender and smarting from Mr. Hallow’s confrontation, not letting me forget the truth I try so hard to forget.
They feel as though they’re blindingly obvious as they sting and snarl their poisonous way into my skin, making me even more uneasy. I mean, I hate anyone seeing them, except for perhaps Ocean, but I don’t think there’s anyone I’d like to catch a glimpse of them less than my smug, sneering stepbrother. Especially right now, when he’s sitting close beside my best friend, laughing away hollowly, eyes smug and sneering.
Like I need to give him anything else to taunt me about- especially something that is so clearly a sign of weakness and cowardice.
The anger is still juddering compellingly through me, but I’m determined not to let it show; not to let Gerard have the satisfaction of knowing he’s got to me. I grip the handle of my guitar case tightly for support, trying to remind myself of the thing that makes it all worth carrying on, ducking behind my hair as I stumble across the deserted yard that’s veiled delicately in tendrils of pale indigo dusk. At least the minimal light will make it harder to see the truth in my eyes, or the truth etched so viciously across my face.
It seems to take forever to walk across the unending desert of cracked, grimy grey to the wall where Ocean and Gerard are still sitting; each step closer to a situation I don’t want to become part of feels more and more difficult, until it feels as though I’m wading through a swamp of treacle that’s tentacles are thwarting my every move, trying to curl their malevolent feelers round my limbs and drag me down into their stodgy, gluttonous depths.
“Hey there, Frankiestein,” Ocean grins at me as I finally reach them and come to an uncomfortable halt, suddenly uncertain, heart thumping nervously in my chest, because suddenly, I don’t know what to expect.
It’s like I don’t really know the blue-haired, pierced girl sitting before me at all.
But as soon as she looks up at me from under her straightened, electric blue fringe and grins that grin I know so well, I know that she didn’t mean to hurt me at all.
In fact, she probably doesn’t even realise she has.
This makes me feel a little less hurt, but I get a fresh surge of choking anger gushing up inside my confused body as I realise that she’s become so caught up in her determination to destroy everything adults want of her that she barely knows me at all anymore. But I suppose I try and hide myself from her, anyway. I try and hide myself from everyone, because really, who’d like me if they knew what I was really like?
Gerard glances up fleetingly at my arrival, glittering emerald eyes poking out almost warily from behind his raven hair. His empty and carefully disinterested gaze only lingers on mine for a heartbeat, before he’s looking away and taking a long drag on his cigarette, his long, artistic fingers holding the cancer stick elegantly. His hand shakes slightly from the nicotine buzzing through his bloodstream, but the rest of him remains still and composed.
I’m surprised when no sneering retort issues from his perfect lips to greet me, and slightly unsettled, especially when I realise that his eyes look not unlike they did after the night he staggered into the hallway, reeking of the unmistakable pungency of alcohol, those scarily detached from reality giggles spilling uncontrollably from his lips. Once again, I get a tiny little rush of curiosity as I remember his violent exit from the music room just under half an hour ago, wondering what possessed him to consequent in such an abrupt departure. Except it seemed almost as much like an escape as a departure.
But why would he want to escape? What would there be to escape in the context of a guitar lesson? I seriously doubt I’ll never find out. Maybe there’s nothing to find out. Perhaps he simply got fed up and left. After all, Gerard doesn’t strike me as someone who’d get scared; he’s far too smug and sure of himself.
I’m completely bewildered as I survey him, slightly annoyed at the undeniable curiosity that courses through me regarding my completely mysterious stepbrother.
His eyes are as much of a mask-like façade as ever, but there’s an unmistakable rawness lingering round them; the type of sensitivity that can only be the aftermath of undiluted, honest emotion. But not the kind of bubbly, golden power of happiness; more the dark, mangled scarring of agony.
But what sort of agony would someone like Gerard feel? He’s got it all; a family that cares, a group of people who hang on his every word after only knowing him a few days, perfect looks, confidence, talents…the list goes on and on.
He’s got everything. So why does he need my only friend?
However, before I can ponder more on the matter, Ocean’s speaking again.
“Well, Frankiestein, how was your guitar lesson?” she asks, flicking ash to the uneven concrete at my feet and looking questioningly at me through the thickening dusk, jade eyes tinted with vague concern.
“Um…fine thanks,” I mutter distractedly, shaking myself from my thoughts and making sure my hair is still covering my face. “What are you doing here? I thought you were calling over at mine later?” I remember suddenly, thinking back to her text this morning. It seems so long ago now; the pure white frost shimmering in the ghosted gold sunlight, the taste of adrenaline and frost-veiled exhaust fumes from the town centre, the small, shaky smiles and shared fear shyly linking me and Mikey together.
I suddenly get a little bubble of affection for the mousy haired boy, and wish that I was listening to music with him and trying to make nervous conversation rather than standing here in front of my supposed best friend who suddenly seems more like a complete stranger.
“Yeah, but I got bored as fuck and my Dad was driving me insane, so I decided to come meet you here- I didn’t think you’d mind,” Ocean replies brightly, tucking her indigo hair behind her ear. “Want a go?” she adds, offering me her cigarette.
“Uh, no thanks,” I mumble, shaking my head in reply, but feeling stupid and babyish. I decide not to ask Ocean when she suddenly took up smoking, because I’ve never, in the eight years I’ve known her, seen her smoking before. But I don’t quite dare ask her, for some reason.
Beside her, I hear Gerard snort softly at my declining of the smoke, and he shakes his head pityingly, taking another deep drag and letting the stained smoke fill his tainted lungs as if it’s the best thing in the mangled world.
“Fine,” Ocean shrugs, blowing out smoke carelessly. “Oh, I’ve just met Gerard properly,” she smiles, jerking her head towards the boy sitting so hollowly behind her, smoking so much it’s as if he’s trying to fill the emptiness with death.
“Oh,” I manage, clutching my guitar case unnecessarily hard. “Lucky you.”
“He’s got a great taste in music, Frankie- all the type of stuff we like,” Ocean grins, taking another drag on her cigarette and seeming to miss the sarcasm in my tone. “We could have done with someone like him in our gang when I went to this shithole,” she grins, blowing out smoke into the biting December dusk.
It kills me ever so slightly inside to watch her inhaling the fatal fumes, but I say nothing. I know it’d only make me feel like even more of a loser.
Instead, I give a non-committal grunt, trying to ignore the tiny little shards of ice gouging their way through my flesh and into my chest at the grin she throws Gerard. He returns it sickeningly, but it doesn’t reach those almond-shaped irises of nothingness.
“Sit down, moron,” Ocean says impatiently to me, patting the wall beside her. “I won’t bite…yet,” she bares her teeth jokingly and I manage a feeble smile in response.
The last thing I want to do is sit down with them; I want to escape the strange similarity between them, the horrible, scratchy way the smoke from their cigarettes stings my throat, but most of all, I want to escape this gnawing feeling of hurt that won’t stop digging it’s sharp, venom-incrusted talons into my chest.
But I know I don’t really have much choice, so, defeated, I reluctantly sit down beside Ocean on the cold, rough surface of the crumbling wall. I sigh heavily and watch my angst tinted exhale unfurl up into the indigo sky that’s patchy with smoky grey clouds, as if it can’t quite make up its mind.
“Good day?” Ocean asks brightly.
I shrug, not really knowing how to answer the events of the seemingly endless day.
“Yeah, how is it, being the smallest midget in school?” Gerard smirks, glancing over at me, but without meeting my gaze.
Anger starts to froth in the pit of my stomach, but I clench my fists, determined not to let it show.
“Oi, don’t comment on Frankie’s diminutive height,” Ocean says sternly, but she’s giggling as she elbows Gerard in the ribs.
My stomach feels like it’s being torn in half as I watch them.
“Well, you must have noticed he’s smaller than a elf-sized elf from dwarfsville,” Gerard says with cold humour, blowing smoke deliberately in my face and smirking emptily as I splutter and choke in the tainted tentacles of cancer.
“Stop it,” I cough angrily, as the cigarette fumes scratch horribly at my throat.
Gerard just snorts sceptically, and continues to blow smoke into my face.
“Stop being mean,” Ocean giggles as Gerard pokes her back in the ribs, his black hair flopping sexily across the perfect, chalk-white skin of his face, his lips curled up into an obnoxious smirk.
I feel physically sick to my stomach as I watch them. And suddenly, I suddenly realise just how far behind Ocean’s left that grinning, freckly little eight year old with the wonky pigtails I made friends with in Primary school what seems like an eternity ago. That girl is dead, replaced by an angry, wild-haired, pierced teenager intent on destruction and rebellion, even if she destroys everything important, including herself, along the way.
Suddenly, I can’t stand being in their presence any longer; it’s choking me even more than the murky smoke of their cigarettes.
I stumble to my feet, grabbing my guitar case. However, before I can make my escape, Ocean’s grabbing onto my sleeve, pulling me back. Trapping me.
“Where are you going, Frankie boy?” she demands, yanking me so as I have to sit back down on the wall beside her and Gerard’s sickeningly smug expression, as if he knows exactly how much this is tearing me up.
“I have to-” I begin, finding it hard to breathe, whether it’s from the fumes Gerard keeps blowing into my face or something deeper, I don’t know.
“Aww, are the poor little midget’s lungs too weak?” Gerard teases coldly, sniggering emptily. “Or are you just so pathetic you can’t stand your friend talking to someone else?” he adds lightly, as if he’s just passing a disinterested comment, but there’s an embedded darkness to his tone I can’t mistake. And he’s hit tenderly close to the nerve, like he can see right through me.
“Don’t,” I spit, suddenly unable to control the fury churning at my stomach. “Don’t call me pathetic,” I choke angrily, clenching my fists.
“Why? Are you scared of hearing the truth?” Gerard challenges quietly, raising his eyebrows at me sceptically.
“Oi,” Ocean pokes Gerard. “Don’t talk to my little Frankie like that.”
I don’t miss her patronising tone, and feel even more wounded.
Then she turns to me and pokes me too, harder. “And stop taking everything so seriously,” she rolls her eyes, taking another drag on her cigarette.
I blink, silently spluttering incredulously. I feel utterly betrayed and injured. I thought Ocean understood, but now she’s acting as if she doesn’t know me at all.
But does anyone know me anymore? The real me?
“So,” Ocean says suddenly into the heavy silence that hangs above us like a dusky vulture. “How are you liking the new school, Mr. Way?” she throws a grin at Gerard, and the feeling that my core is being torn apart intensifies.
Gerard merely shrugs, flicking ash from his cigarette butt. “It’s okay.”
“Made friends?” Ocean continues, obviously trying to break the tension. “Frankie here is awesome,” she throws me a smile, which I don’t return.
“Yeah, I have,” Gerard says airily, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. “And sorry, but I don’t make friends with people who are actually smaller than diminutive elves.”
I stand up, fuming, but Ocean pulls me back down, rolling her eyes. “Chill, Frankie,” she says gently. “He’s only messing you about, just teasing.”
I look at Gerard, and know that it’s anything but light hearted teasing. His eyes are full of that cold hatred. But the expression is almost too perfect, like the skills of a talented actor. That somehow makes me loathe him more.
“Do you miss your old school?” Ocean asks, looking seriously at him.
“No,” Gerard replies bluntly, stubbing out his cigarette without looking up at either of us as he grinds it into the decrepit grey of the wall beside him, his spidery fingers clenched.
“Oh,” Ocean sounds surprised. “Didn’t you have friends there?”
Gerard is suddenly on his feet, flicking his dead cigarette to the yard floor and pulling his leather jacket more closely around him, shielding his body from the numbing cold of the dwindling December light.
His eyes are hidden by his hair.
“Sorry, but I’ve got to run. It was nice meeting you.” His voice is even more expressionless than his face as he throws Ocean one of his sickening smirks in farewell.
“Oh, okay,” Ocean replies, also stubbing out her cigarette. “We’ll come with you in a moment if you want,” she suggests, and my heart sinks further still; clawed down to the depths of a slimy, slithery sea of silent jealousy.
I’m not normally someone who feels jealous. But this is more than jealousy and anger; it’s hurt. Pure, undiluted hurt that refuses to dull. Because my best friend, my only friend seems to want to hang out with the person I loathe more than me.
“No, really, I’ve got to go, thanks, though,” Gerard brushes her off, sweeping his tangle of ebony hair out of his eyes, and revealing his face, which is more like a blank carnival mask than ever. So blank it’s slightly creepy.
“See you.” He gives Ocean a little mock-salute, throws me a sneering smirk, and then turns away.
And with that, he saunters away from us across the empty, dusky schoolyard, nothing but a slender, black silhouette that completely mystifies me. I might loathe the very sight of my slender, gothic stepbrother, and retch at the scent of his cinnamon and tobacco, but I cannot deny that there’s something about him that intrigues me, something that makes me deeply curious as to who lives behind the mask.
Because I’ve caught the tiniest, occasional little glimmers of someone who’s anything but empty behind those glitteringly emerald irises. Someone real.
“So…to Starbucks?” Ocean’s cheerful voice slices through my thoughts and I drag my gaze from Gerard’s retreating figure going out the rusty, cast iron school gates and starting off down the darkening street beyond the enclosed hell of what adults view as education.
I turn and look at her in the half-light. Her eyes are rimmed with too much violet eyeliner, and her expression is silently floundering in the life she’s living, but her clothes and hair and metal paint the illusion of reckless confidence.
Her breath brushes my lips, and I smell harsh smoke.
“Sorry, Ocean,” I hear myself say, feeling sick.
Tiny little droplets of rain are starting to fall between us, icy cold on my battered skin, dribbling down from the sky like unshed tears.
“What?” Ocean frowns, looking confused as she pulls the hood of her skull hoodie up against the tears the patchy grey and indigo dusk is starting to shed.
“I…maybe some other time,” I sigh, half-hating her, half missing the person I know she really is, deep down under that veiling of rebellion. “I don’t feel like it anymore, Ocean.”
“…Why?” Ocean asks, looking suddenly vulnerable.
“I just don’t feel like it,” I repeat, pulling my hood up, not wanting to stay a moment longer in her presence. “I’ll see you later.”
“Frankie, wait,” Ocean stands up with me, surveying me closely. “Is this cause I was hanging out with Gerard?” she asks incredulously.
“I just want to go home, Ocean,” I avoid answering, staring at my feet.
She doesn’t reply, so I turn away from my fierce, wild-haired best friend to follow Gerard’s unseen footsteps across the yard of chewing gum, feet trudging over the speckles of soured grey rain that corrode their way down my face like acid tears.
This was a mistake.
Whatever possessed me to take the shortcut home was a huge mistake. How could I have been so misguided? I know I was furious with Ocean and wanted to escape her presence that was tinted with the horribly familiar stench of Gerard’s cigarettes, but it wasn’t worth this.
It wasn’t worth getting lost in the faceless streets of the suburbs. Sure, I wouldn’t normally be scared of getting lost in the city, but I know that Danny lives in the suburbs just west of the school.
And that’s where I am.
Lost and alone in the dark bitterness where the air is so cold it feels like it’s slicing right through my skin, slicing right through my soul.
I’m completely vulnerable.
There are barely any street lights to guide my way, only the occasional flickery one spilling greasy yellow light onto the damp, cracked pavement. I was wrong when I said I wasn’t scared of the dark, because right now, my heart’s pounding fearfully against my ribs, my breathing uneven and shallow into the icy air, my knees weakened with adrenaline.
But it’s not the dark I’m scared of. It’s what the dark might be hiding.
It’s pouring with rain by now; bitter bullets of December battering against the tarmac below my stumbling feet and soaking chillingly through my hoodie. The noise of the rain drumming down around me sounds like bones splintering, as they hit the harsh ground, but it’s so loud it blocks everything else out.
I can’t hear the distantly weary chug of clogged up traffic in the town centre. I can’t even here my own unsteady breathing that’s choking out into the polluted ice of the damp, dark city night in murky clouds that look like the smoke that issued from Gerard and Ocean’s cancer-tinted lips earlier this afternoon.
The air is so bitter, so cold it’s almost acid, the way it burns and smarts at my exposed skin, until it feels almost like its stripped away a whole layer of numb flesh.
Through the lashing rain, I’m convinced I can hear something heavier, something more ominous thudding at the sidewalk behind me. Like a shadow I can’t see.
A shadow that isn’t my own.
Or maybe it’s just the pound of my blood in my eardrums.
But my vivid imagination is starting to get the better of me; I start to smell the terrifyingly familiar stale scent of alcohol and harsh, cheap aftershave lingering in the night air. I’m choking for air now; it’s all around me, what I need, but it suddenly seems to be smothering me.
I walk faster and faster, feet fumbling on the wet sidewalk as I try and keep my panic under control.
When I glance twitchily behind me, though, I can’t see anything. But I can only see a few metres behind my body before reality is cloaked in impenetrable black velvet and vicious raindrops that never seem to stop falling.
Suddenly, something crashes loudly through the air, and I panic completely, the unexpected sound shattering all remaining composure as I break into a run, stumbling wildly along the rain-slicked roads, feet hammering against the chewing-gum speckled concrete as hard as the rain that shrouds the shadowy monsters from view.
With every beat of my heart, I’m sure I hear footsteps drumming along behind me, catching up with me, getting closer and closer and closer.
I’m about to really start freaking out, but then I recognise the turn into my road, and stagger, gasping for breath along yet another road, only this one with the promise of a safe haven at the end.
Never, has the road to my house taken so long to get along.
I don’t stop running until I’m stumbling up the overgrown garden path and unlocking the front door with violently shaking hands that match the rate of my heart.
I manage to make it to the upstairs landing before someone calls my name, and I’m forced to stop and turn round, hair plastered to my face from the rain, soaked to the bone as my heart still pounds and plummets in my chest from my terrified sprint home.
“Frank?” Steve is standing halfway up the stairs, expression concerned.
“What?” I sigh wearily, leaning in exhaustion against the wall as the rain trickles down my frozen body to the carpet along with the adrenaline, leaving me feeling completely drained and defeated.
“…We’re all having dinner,” Steve says, eyeing my feeble posture uncertainly. “D-don’t you want to come and join us?” he gestures down the stairs in the direction of the open kitchen doorway, where warm golden light spills out into the hallway, along with the clink and clatter of knives and forks and the soft murmur of conversation.
I picture Mom sitting in there, trying her best to make conversation with shy little Mikey and smug Gerard, and a horrible pang tears across my chest as I realise she knows me about as much as she knows them these days.
“…Frank?” Steve repeats gently, prodding me out of my thoughts. “Are…are you alright?” his voice is riddled with concern, and I remember he knows exactly what lurks under my shrouding of scruffy chestnut hair.
For a split second, I want to let everything come pouring out so it won’t stay as silent poison inside of me, slowly dissolving my insides with its violent truth.
But then I just sigh, duck behind my damp hair and say, “I’m fine,” just like I always do. What else can I say? I’m sure as hell not going to say the truth.
Steve doesn’t look as though he believes me, but for once, to my great relief, he decides to drop it. “Well, if you’re sure…would you like Mikey to bring you up some dinner?” Steve asks. “We’re almost finished.”
“No thanks,” I shake my head, and am about to turn to carry on towards my room, but before I can do so, a slender, graceful figure of black comes sauntering out of the kitchen and up the stairs.
I feel my whole jaw clench, but I’m almost too tired to feel properly angry.
“Hold on a second, Gerard,” Steve throws an arm out, preventing his eldest son from going any further. “I need to talk to you about something, don’t disappear yet.”
Gerard’s eyes cloud. “What do you want to talk about?” he asks carefully, eyes suspicious and narrowed as he surveys his father.
“I’ll tell you downstairs, come on,” Steve says firmly.
“I don’t want to talk,” Gerard growls, trying to get past.
“Gerard, we need to talk about this,” Steve insists. “Downstairs, now.”
Looking mutinous, Gerard turns back round and storms back down the stairs towards the kitchen.
“Let us know if you want anything, Frank,” Steve says before sighing heavily and following his eldest back into the kitchen.
Vaguely curious, I watch his retreating figure for a second, but then just let out an equally weary sigh and continue to my room, feet aching, but my heart rate slowing to an exhausted thud.
My room is comfortingly dark as I go in and close the door behind me, flinging my guitar case and schoolbag down on the unmade bed before flopping down on the window seat and leaning my weary head against the cold glass, where the soured tears of rain are still dribbling listlessly down the dusty glass.
For several minutes, I just sit there, letting the patter and crackle of darkened rain on the glass and the grimy street below soothe me, gazing out at the bitter night that’s illuminated artificially with the greasy yellow streetlamps. On the horizon, the town centre seeps up in a murky orange haze of pollution and car headlamps, tainting the inky black sky that sleeps overhead.
Finally, I’m safe. I let out a shaky sigh of relief into the soft silence of my room, my whole body limp with relief that I’m still here, still breathing.
However, I can’t get rid of that tiny, nagging little feeling of fear at the bag of my mind as I think back to my frantic way home. But that little nagging fear is always there, and it has been for years. Sometimes I wonder if it will ever cease.
It’s hard to remember a time when I wasn’t silently living in constant fear. I mean, I suppose everyone fears something, but I just wish my nightmares weren’t there to plague me day after day.
The sound of raised voices downstairs drags me from my contemplations, and I look away from the soothing rain and night sky to my closed bedroom door, where the golden light from the landing seeps through the cracks, reminding me that even although I might be alone now, I won’t be for long.
But at least it’ll only be Mikey. I’m not scared of Mikey, because he seems almost as anxious and scared as I feel.
And despite myself, I’m starting to like the skinny, mousy-haired boy a little.
Sighing wearily, I get up and flick on my beside lamp so as I can rifle through my chest of drawers for clean, dry clothes. While I do so, the voices downstairs gradually get louder and louder, until there’s a soft, timid knock on my bedroom door, so quiet I just think it’s the rain battering relentlessly against the window, until it sounds again, slightly louder.
“…Come in,” I mumble, pulling my scruffy old Black Flag hoodie on over my clean navy long sleeved t-shirt and fraying black skinny jeans, and making sure my damp hair is covering my injured face before the door swings open.
Mikey’s head pokes uncertainly round the doorframe, his mousy hair as tufty as ever, and his innocent hazel eyes worried and round behind his well-polished glasses. I’m greatly surprised to find that his presence doesn’t make me on edge; I usually find being with anyone makes me uneasy, unless it’s Ocean.
“…I-is it okay if I come in?” he asks shyly, blinking owlishly from behind his geeky glasses.
“Of course it is,” I reply, pulling on clean socks and crossing the room. “I mean, this is your room too, isn’t it?” I try not to let a sigh slip into my words.
“Thanks,” Mikey smiles shakily, stepping into the room and closing the door softly behind him. He’s dressed in ripped blue skinny jeans that emphasise his awkward knees, and the rest of his skinny frame is swamped in an outsize navy blue Nirvana hoodie, which somehow makes him look more like twelve than fifteen, not to mention incredibly vulnerable. But sort of sweet at the same time.
The voices downstairs are getting louder still as Mikey sits down nervously on his little mattress, nibbling his lower lip anxiously.
“What’s going on downstairs?” I ask slightly awkwardly, not quite sure what to say. I’m still not used to having to talk to people.
“Dad and Gerard are…talking,” Mikey ducks his head. “About…stuff.”
“Oh,” I reply, sensing he doesn’t want to discuss it. “Um…” I wrack my brains for something else to say to diffuse the tension. “Uh…you…you wanna listen to some music or something?”
“Thanks,” Mikey says gratefully, sniffing slightly and pushing his glasses up his nose with long, trembly fingers.
“Um,” I cross the room to my stereo system and flip through my messily stacked CDs. “What do you like? …Nirvana?” I guess, gesturing to his hoodie.
Mikey smiles slightly sheepishly. “Yeah, I love them.”
“Me too,” I manage a small smile in return. “What’s your favourite album?”
“In Utero,” Mikey replies, fiddling with the cord of his hoodie. “Definitely.”
“Same here,” I agree, finding the CD and pressing ‘play’ on my stereo. “I know Nevermind was the one that made them famous,” I say, sitting down cross-legged on my bed under the soft glow of my fairy lights. “But it’s actually my least favourite album of theirs.”
“Same here!” Mikey agrees, looking up from where he’s sitting.
“I still love it, though,” I say.
“Me too,” Mikey smiles, looking slightly less tense than when he entered the room; the lip-nibbling has lessened, and he’s not constantly ducking his head. “I can play the bass to this,” he adds, nodding towards my stereo system, where ‘Serve the servants’ is now playing.
“Really?” I ask, jiggling my leg with the beat. “I can play guitar part,” I smile a little awkwardly.
“That’s awesome,” Mikey smiles shyly. “Oh, um, did you go to your guitar lesson?” he asks a little nervously.
I nod. “Yeah,” I sigh, surprised that he remembered.
I pause for a second, considering. “Yeah,” I decide. “I guess it was, actually.”
Mikey smiles. “That’s cool. Is your teacher nice?”
“Yeah, he’s pretty good,” I reply. “Are you getting bass lessons?”
Mikey nods. “Yeah, with Mr. Hallow…is he your teacher?”
I nod. “Yeah, he’s a really great teacher.”
Mikey smiles shakily. “I’ve got my first lesson in a couple days.”
“Well, Mr. Hallow is really nice,” I tell him. “There’s no need to be worried or anything. He’s not like the other teachers. ”
Mikey’s smile is a little more confident. “Thanks.”
There’s a slightly awkward silence for a moment, so I reach for my guitar case and unzip it, pulling my beloved acoustic out and suddenly realising that I feel a little better for talking to Mikey.
“Are you going to play?” Mikey asks hopefully.
“You want me to?” I ask, surprised.
Mikey ducks his head slightly, cheeks going pink. “It’s just…when you play, it’s like…it makes me forget everything. It’s amazing.”
I blush, embarrassed, but deeply pleased. “Really?”
Mikey nods, nibbling his lip.
“I guess I’ll play when the CD’s finished,” I mumble, tuning my guitar. “You should totally play me some of your bass,” I add, keen to direct the spotlight off me.
Mikey looks horrified. “I never play in front of people!”
“Neither did I,” I say quietly.
There’s silence for a while, just the sound of Kurt Cobain’s voice and me tuning my guitar to block out the voices downstairs.
“Sometime,” Mikey says finally. “But not yet.”
I look up at his nervous face, and feel a small smile stretch across my face. “Okay.”
It’s just after eleven, and Mikey’s curled up on his little mattress, breathing softly, eyes closed. I’m still sitting cross-legged on my bed, strumming away at my guitar, letting the simple notes and chords overpower me, until it’s just my fingers and my heart; no music notes or rules or judgements, just pure emotion that resonates softly around the room, raw and bittersweet and honest.
Playing at night is my favourite time to play, when it’s dark and silent and the world is falling asleep as the rain trickles down the glass. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to play at night anymore, because it would disturb Mikey, but he told me music ‘helped him dream’, so here I am, playing away into the dark, losing myself in the music, bleeding away the pain into the chords and melodies.
I play for the shy, sweet, mousy-haired little boy sleeping softly across the room, who I thought was going to make my life even worse, but who is actually turning out to be someone I might be able to trust.
I play for my indigo-haired, reckless best friend who always seems to get it wrong, even though she doesn’t mean to.
I play for the sadistic gleam in Danny’s shark-like glare that turns my bones to dust every day.
I play for the infuriating smugness on my eldest stepbrother’s perfect yet repulsively empty face.
I play for my life, because music is my life.
It must be at least midnight by the time I’m finally forced to stop due to the fact my fingers are aching and my eyes are gritty with tiredness. I sigh quietly into the silence of the night, but for once, it’s a sigh of contentment rather than one of exhaustion, because, sitting here in the safe of the dark with my guitar across my lap, listening to the snuffly breathing of Mikey from across the room, I suddenly feel that maybe, just maybe, one day, it might all be alright.
But for now, I just have to battle on to tomorrow, and for that I need sleep.
Limbs heavy with tiredness, I heave myself off my bed and tiptoe to the door so as I can go and brush my teeth and get into my pyjamas in the bathroom.
The landing is pitch black; everyone else is clearly fast asleep, dead to the world.
However, as I near the bathroom, a small, muffled sound leaks out of the darkness from the direction of the guest room, and I freeze, ears straining into the black velvet that envelops the house.
After a few seconds, it drifts out of the guest room again.
Curious, I tiptoe past the bathroom and pause just outside the door to the guest room, listening hard.
And then I hear it properly, and my blood runs cold.
Seeping through the wood of the door is the unmistakable sound of choked sobbing.
Proper, uncontrolled sobs; the kind of engulfing crying that wells thickly up in your throat and burns behind your eyes and is just so potent and honest it’s impossible to stop, no matter how hard you try. They are the tears that simply have to be cried.
I’m completely shocked and horrified.
Because they sound like the kind of tears I was choking back earlier this evening as I stumbled frantically home, terrified, in the lashing rain and the smothering dark.
They sound unmistakably like the kind of tears from someone living in fear.
And they’re coming from Gerard’s room.
Hmm, what did you all think? I know this story is going kinda slow, and I’m sorry if that’s a little tedious, but I kinda need it to be like that to form the characters ect- it’s crucial to the plot. But things really are starting to happen now…what are you all thinking? What was your favourite bit? I’d love to know- I love hearing your opinions! Hope this was okay…R&R and I’ll update within a week (: thanks again so, so much for your amazing support. I love you all- you’re the best readers anyone could ask for.