'I’m about to angrily point out that I’m not scared of school anyway, but I bite my tongue and stay silent, because that’s just a downright lie...'
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The boy blinking nervously back at me in the steamed-up glass of the bathroom mirror is skinny and scruffy; eyes stubborn and defensive behind the bedraggled strands of freshly-washed chestnut hair.
He looks gaunt and drawn, almost transparent, as if all his fire and fight has been sandpapered away with razorblade catcalls and corrosive sneers. Countless charred ruby scratches puncture his pallid skin; defiling it with the sickening truth. Some of the scars are freshly dug; deep, angry grooves of dark scarlet, whereas others are starting to fade, more a dusty, charred salmon pink.
There are bruises as well; the most recent ones inflamed into swollen, gnarling purple, while others are diminishing into murky brown, tinted with soured yellow edges of decay.
Some of his injuries aren’t quite so bluntly marked; silent injuries scar him too; I can see them writhing poisonously in his heavy-lidded, innocence-ghosted eyes of tarnished gold. And I know, in a single, fleeting glance that those scars will be a thousand times harder to heal than those riddling his pale skin. They’re like silent tattoos of loathed past. Unmovable without extreme agony.
I reach my hand up and trace a tentative finger along one of the deepest gashes on the boy in the mirror’s face, feeling it’s horrible, jagged rough scab and puckering skin burning into my finger, making my stomach turn sickeningly in disgust.
I wish I could say all these injuries riddling the boy’s once pure skin are stains of bravery, telling the story of someone interesting and courageous. But they’re not.
The only story they tell is the truth.
And the truth is the darkest tale of all.
The boy sighs quietly, his breath steaming up the already foggy glass as he reaches up and brushes tangles of slightly damp chestnut across his tainted face with slightly shaky fingers and bitten down nails.
He looks a little lost, as if he’s drowning but doesn’t quite know it. He’s sort of uncertain, as if he doesn’t quite know who he is anymore.
Or just doesn’t want to know who he is anymore.
I narrow my eyes and stare at him; watching the way he nibbles his lip slightly and fidgets with his hair to make sure it’s covering his face. He looks twitchy and jumpy and scared, but maybe that’s just because I know him far too well; I can see behind the defensive, angry shell, and I can see past his steely body language just screams ‘leave me alone’.
I wish people would listen to those screams.
But I’m just a small, scruffy little punk kid with countless scars and serious attitude issues. Who the hell would want to listen to me?
I mean, sure, everyone can hear my sarcastic snarls, but that’s not what’s really me. I guess Ocean listens to me- she’s always been there for me, through thick and thing, getting it wrong and getting it right, but always trying.
I suddenly feel a little guilty for ditching her yesterday, but then I remember the way she looked, sitting sprawled carelessly on the wall beside Gerard, smoke curling round her once innocent face, and I suddenly feel sick, because that Ocean is a million light years away from my best friend.
Without her, who’d care about the moody, scruffy little punk kid? Who’d want to listen?
Suddenly, a skinny, wide-eyed face percolates my thoughts of self hatred; a pale face with innocent hazel eyes, tufty hair, and owly little glasses. I suddenly wonder if perhaps there’s someone who’d listen to me after all.
I look up again into the glass, scrutinising the reflection.
Now I think about it, recently, that scowling, scarred boy in the mirror seems to have become clearer again. And sometimes, as I look into the steamed-up glass, I get a tiny, minute little glimmer of someone who wants to be something, someone who wants to make it.
But he’s not quite ready yet. He’s too far hidden under a steely, angry shell and layers and layers of veiling sarcasm and angst. And he’s not ready to be exposed to the rawness of the honest world just yet.
I sigh and drag my gaze from the boy in the mirror, tugging my school tie straight and towelling my damp hair dry, listening to the dull drumming of heavy grey rain against the bathroom windowpane.
For once, I’m actually out of bed on time, which is positively scary- normally, I don’t surface from the peace of unconsciousness until the very last moment possible, but I just couldn’t sleep properly all night; for some reason, I just couldn’t stop thinking about those horrible, raw, gut-tangling sobs I hear emanating from Gerard’s room when he thought there would be no one awake to listen.
But there was. There was me.
I heard what he intended no one to hear.
And now I can’t rid the bitter, heart-tugging sobs from my mind. All night, I couldn’t rid the sobs from my mind, couldn’t stop mulling it all over again and again in my aching skull, trying to find some way in which it would make sense. Only, the more I delved into it, the less I understood- it was as if there was endless layer after layer after layer of expressionless, unfathomable white concealing what lurked inside my eldest stepbrother’s bewildering psyche.
Maybe I just dreamed hearing him crying.
I mean, it’s so surreal, so unexpected, it seems most likely that I did.
But I know I didn’t.
I shake myself out of my plaguing thoughts and finish drying my hair. The house sounds unnaturally quiet; all I can hear is the soft rustle of me towelling my damp hair dry, and the insistent dull drumming of heavy raindrops hitting the window.
I like the rain; it’s somehow soothing. It tries to wash away the world.
Sighing, I dump the towel on the floor and glance back into the mirror fleetingly, grimacing at my reflection and shaking my hair across my face carefully to make sure the truth will be fully concealed from every pair of prying eyes the second I step outside the door.
At least the eyes never really see what’s wrong.
I can tell, even before the bell for first period rings, that this is going to be a long day.
My eyes are gritty and aching with exhaustion, scratching horribly whenever I move them, so it feels as though someone’s dragging sandpaper across the irises. My head’s thudding dully with lack of sleep, my brain feeling like a wrung, mouldering sponge as I try and remain awake.
It’s three minutes to nine and I’m sitting, yawning relentlessly, at the back of registration in my usual solitary seat, staring glassily at the graffiti riddled desktop in front of me, vision slightly blurred, yet also somehow hypersensitive in a way that makes me feel slightly detached from reality.
This must actually be the first time I’ve ever been early for school since fucking primary school; I mean, it’s my own personal hell where I either get choked with my own blood or scoffed and unendingly sneered at by my fellow peers- or even teachers. Therefore, it’s obviously not somewhere I’d spend a second more than necessary in.
Yet here I am, slumped sleepily at the back of my form glass, the loud chattering from the rest of my registration class nothing but a vaguely irritating buzz in my ears as I stare, glazed with tiredness, out at the hard, grey rain beating down on the harsh schoolyard floor below, soaking the swarm of damp pupils scrambling towards the main entrance, shivering violently in the bitter December air, hoods pulled up against the vicious raindrops.
I’m half-curious to see what Gerard will be like today; I haven’t even caught a glimpse of him yet, having left the house so early and not having ridden to school in the car with Steve.
I expect he’ll be his usual, smug, self-satisfied self, but there’s a tiny little part of me that wonders if he’ll be at all tinted with the rawness from last night; if there’ll be any, tiny little detail about him that will give him away.
However, I seriously doubt it. Although, for some reason I am yet to understand, I’m desperate to get more than the tiniest glimmer of the real person he keeps so well swathed in layers of rebellious black leather and pale, perfect skin.
Rubbing my stinging eyes, I turn away from the window and towards the crowded form room, trying to untangle the familiar knots forming in my stomach. I’ve been here since half eight. Scary, I know- Frank Iero in school over half an hour earlier than necessary, but I just had to get out of the horrible silent suffocation of the house that was crawling under my skin and ringing deafeningly through my skull all night long.
Stifling yet another yawn, I give up all efforts of remaining upright and flop down in complete exhaustion on the grotty, desktop in front of me where countless rude words and lyrics have been carved into the dead wood, resting my aching skull on the cool, albeit decrepit surface.
I must only have slept about two hours last night; the rest of the seemingly endless night was spent tossing and turning and listening to the dull drumming of icy, black rain against the window in my room or the deafening silence, as I desperately tried to stop the thoughts pounding through my skull so as I could succumb to the peace of sleep.
I couldn’t, though; I couldn’t get the awful, heart-mangling sound of Gerard’s sobs out of my head all night long- even now, in the familiar clatter and laughter of my class; I still can’t rid my thoughts fully of it.
I’m not even sure why it should plague my thoughts to this extent- I mean, I loathe Gerard, from his carefully dishevelled, inky black hair to his stupid, ridiculously tight skinny jeans. He infuriates me in a way that no one else has before- the way he’s as much of a misfit as me, yet he’s cool and respected, and has a cold, steely kind of rebellion that lingers around his being, making him untouchable. I seriously doubt anyone would ever dare pick on him. He’s got it all. Everything I’ve ever wanted; friends, respect, and fearlessness.
But maybe he isn’t as fearless as I thought. If he was fearless, would he cry in that horrible, agonisingly raw way?
I groan in frustration at my thoughts, bashing my head none-too gently on the desktop in front of me, trying to somehow stifle my infuriatingly repetitive thoughts about my older stepbrother. I hate how much he intrigues me, but I can’t deny that he does.
For some reason, I ache to know what lurks under those seemingly endless layers of expressionless pallor and smoky black eyeliner. Maybe there’s nothing. Maybe that’s all there is- layer after layer of calm, cool composure. Maybe he’s actually as empty as his eyes look.
But could someone empty cry like that?
One moment, he’s cool and laid back and snooty, the next he’s storming out of a guitar lesson for no reason whatsoever, then he’s as sneering and smirking as ever, and then he’s crying like I’ve never heard anyone cry before.
My overly repetitive thoughts are interrupted as the harsh shrill of the bell signalling the start to the school day shatters through the room, making me jump and my stomach tangle itself into the familiar tense knots of automatic fear regarding the day ahead.
Biting my nails apprehensively, I duck defensively behind my scraggly hair and stare determinedly out of the window as if it will make me invisible to my jeering classmates. I’m really not sure just how much I’ll be able to take of Danny’s cold, heatless taunting toady, after less than two hours sleep and a pounding skull.
Thankfully, he doesn’t seem to have noticed me yet- he’s too busy flirting repulsively with an overly orange girl, but I know it’s only a matter of time until he returns to tormenting me, especially since he was prevented from doing so yesterday.
I suddenly remember my panicked sprint home in the dark last night, and wonder if it really was him, or if my mind was just playing tricks on me in the howling dark and the rain. Somehow, though, as I watch his dead, gooseberry green eyes glimmer repulsively at the girl before him, I seriously doubt my imagination was merely getting the better of me.
A horrible, cold shiver washes over me, and I suddenly realise that he’d stop at nothing to torment me.
Luckily, before he turns to me, Mrs. Appleton marches into the room, the register tucked neatly under her arm as her spike-heeled shoes snap across the floorboards. The mindless chatter and harsh laughter of the room fizzles out as Mrs. Appleton takes her seat and gets her pen out.
“Settle down, everyone,” she sighs tiredly, putting her glasses on as a few sleepy looking students straggle in through the door one by one, sloping carelessly towards their seats.
I find myself wondering where Mikey is; if he knows that his brother was crying last night- if he’d know why his brother was crying last night.
I sigh softly, the weary exhale unheard, and glance back out of the grimy, cracked window to the bleak, drenched yard below.
It’s almost empty now; just a few late arrivers straggling towards the warmth and shelter of the main building. I suddenly catch sight of two familiar figures hurrying across the damp grey from the gates, hoods pulled up, shivering.
They’re both skinny, but whereas one is mousy and scared looking; the other is graceful and almost vampiric with that self-satisfied, smug strut. He’s decked out in tight black leather and rebelliousness, while the slightly thinner boy is quivering in a duffle coat that just reaches his turned in knees.
Mikey and Gerard. I can tell it’s them, even though they’re too far away to see their faces properly; they’re just two pale, skinny, shivering streaks crossing the harshly grey schoolyard. At this distance, they’re just like everyone else.
However, as they near the main entrance, their features become a lot more distinctive, despite the gnashing jaws of the icy grey rain; they become more distinguishable from the crowds.
I’m suddenly jerked from my thoughts by a buzzing in my jeans pocket, and startle to scoop my phone out.
The second I see Ocean’s name on the screen, I slip the phone back into my pocket and sigh slightly, not really knowing what to do. She’s been trying to text me all night since I ditched her yesterday, but I just don’t want to speak to her at the moment. I want to breathe.
I look back up at the class and jump in alarm as I see Danny staring in silent vindication at me; eyes cold and dead, mouth a hard, threatening line, posture domineering and intimidating.
I can practically feel myself shrinking under his glare.
“What?” I stammer, meaning it to sound defiant, but it just comes out sounding feeble and scared.
Danny grins. A wide, bitter grin that turns my blood to ice.
“What?!” I repeat, my voice stronger this time, despite the fact I’m shaking inside; I can’t stop the horrible flashbacks of being chased home last night.
Danny just grins more widely in a way that shows all his nicotine stained teeth, and turns back to his seat, leaving me feeling jittery and uneasy.
Trying to distract myself, I glance back out through the window, and something a lot like alarm shoots through me, because I was not expecting this. I was not expecting this at all.
Mikey and Gerard are approaching the entrance now, and being on the ground floor, I can see them easily.
Gerard’s walk is anything but his usual, self-satisfied strut; his shoulders are hunched, caving defensively over his body, his head bowed as he stumbles vulnerably closer to the main building, hidden behind his ebony hair and smoky eyeliner. His hands tremble around the strap of his bag, although I guess that could just be from the cold.
My form room is right beside the main entrance, so I get a glimpse of his expression as he goes through the doors, and another violent shock of alarm shoots through me, because that boy isn’t Gerard at all.
At least, not the Gerard I thought I knew.
Just as Mrs. Appleton starts calling the register, a familiar, trembling, skinny figure stumbles nervously through the doorway, mousy hair sticking up in little tufts from the rain that’s spattered his navy blue duffel coat and grey scarf.
I’m deeply unnerved to feel a pang of relief at his mousy-haired arrival.
Danny sniggers loudly at Mikey’s appearance, and I see Mikey’s clammy complexion colour. He ducks his head and nibbles at his lip, knees turned inwards in vulnerability.
“Sit down quickly, Michael,” Mrs. Appleton says sharply, and Mikey blushes more, scuttling towards the back of class, eyes flickering anxiously about as if he doesn’t know quite where to sit. He hesitates for a second in front of my desk, nibbling his lip uncertainly, like he’s not sure if he’s allowed to sit by me.
I roll my eyes and nod at the vacant seat beside me, feeling my lips twitch in some vague ghost of a smile, still feeling completely distracted by the Gerard I saw walking into the building minutes before, drenched in the grey tears of rain.
Mikey smiles gratefully in response, and flops down beside me as Mrs. Appleton continues through the register, her brisk voice slicing through the dull talk of the class.
“Hey,” I mumble, rubbing my bloodshot eyes and stifling yet another yawn as I turn to face my skinny stepbrother, attempting a smile.
“Hi,” Mikey stammers, taking off his glasses and wiping them on his duffel coat, the lenses slightly smeary from the rain. “Where were you, this morning?”
“I left early,” I tell him, yawning and not mentioning that I actually left over an hour before necessary to trail the misty, early morning streets in the lashing jaws of bitter grey rain, headphones on, volume up full to drown out my thoughts.
The rain is still rolling down the window, as if the sky is crying the tears everyone’s too scared to shed.
“Are you…um, okay?” Mikey mumbles, brow knotted in concern as he looks at me and unwinds his seemingly endless grey shabby scarf from his neck. I don’t really see the point anyway- he’ll have to bundle it straight back on in a couple of moments before first period.
I blink. “Um,” I’m unable to stifle yawn again, shaking my hair slightly nervously across my face to make sure all my injuries are concealed from his faintly worried hazel gaze.
“You look really tired,” Mikey comments, blinking anxiously as Danny lets out a loud, uncaring guffaw from the desk in front of us as some geeky girl in the front row spills the contents of her schoolbag all over the floor. I feel my gut clench angrily as the girl blushes in humiliation and stumbles clumsily as she tries to pick up all her stuff.
“Didn’t really sleep much,” I mutter, tearing my swollen eyes away from the shaking girl and Danny’s vindictive coldness. “And I forget to drink coffee before I left, so I could actually fall asleep like, right here,” I say sheepishly.
“That sucks,” Mikey mumbles shyly in sympathy. “Uh…Do you like Starbucks?”
“Really?” I smile wanly, trying to comb my tangled hair with my fingers, suddenly aware that I probably look as though I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, not to mention the fact my hoodie is fraying and my shirt is still covered in rusty bloodstains. “I’m actually addicted to coffee.”
“You….um, you want some?” Mikey asks a little shyly, rummaging in his schoolbag with long, delicate looking fingers similar to his brother’s.
“You’ve got some?” I ask hopefully, managing to sit up a little in expectation.
Mikey smiles slightly, nodding. “Gerard was really late up this morning and we didn’t have time for breakfast, so we called into Starbucks on the way to school this morning. He’s addicted to the stuff too. You guys are quite similar.”
“I am not fucking like Gerard,” I snarl loudly, banging my fist down on the table angrily. Half the class turns to look round at me, including Mrs. Appleton, and my cheeks burn furiously as I duck behind my fringe and stare determinedly at my shabby converse until they’ve all looked away and Mrs. Appleton continues slightly irritably with the register.
By this time, my anger has drained away and I feel horribly guilty to have just snapped so meanly at Mikey, especially when he was being so sweet. No wonder no one likes me. I mean, they can’t even try and do something nice without me yelling at them.
I look guiltily up at Mikey, chewing at my nails. He’s staring at his lap, biting at his lip. The Starbucks coffee is in his hands as if he doesn’t quite know what to do with it. As I look at him, I can’t help thinking that no one with a heart could be mean to someone like Mikey without feeling terrible about it.
“Sorry,” I mumble quietly, feeling horrible. “I didn’t mean…I just…I’m really fucking tired and feel like shit, I’m sorry,” I blurt awkwardly. I’m not used to apologising. But then again, I’m not used to company either- especially company that seems to be willing to be with me, for some bizarre reason.
Mikey is one weird little kid. But I guess that’s okay, because I am too.
“It’s okay,” Mikey says quietly, sliding the coffee across the desk towards me. I notice his fingers are trembling, and feel even worse. It’s only his third day in this hellhole- he was probably feeling shitty enough anyway.
I still feel shitty at school, and I’ve been here for fucking years.
Still feeling guilty for my outburst, I pick it up and take a slightly embarrassed gulp, letting the bittersweet warmth seep down my throat, numbing the gritty tiredness, soothing me.
I frantically wrack my brains for something to say to Mikey, and suddenly notice a bass guitar case at his feet along with his schoolbag.
“You’ve got your first bass lesson today?” I ask, spluttering slightly as I accidentally inhale the Starbucks.
Mikey looks up, nibbling his lip. “Mhmm.”
“After school?” I ask slightly awkwardly.
Mikey nods, looking anxious as the clock over the whiteboard ticks closer and closer to the start of first period. As I notice this myself, my stomach sinks sickeningly, the coffee curdling uncomfortably inside my twisting innards.
“You…um, you want to hang out afterwards?” I hear myself asking, my hands clammy and sticky as I twist them nervously together.
Mikey blinks in surprise at me.
I feel my cheeks colouring with embarrassment. “Um, you don’t need to or anything,” I mutter defensively, taking too big a gulp of coffee to diffuse the situation, and choking.
“No, um, that’d be cool,” Mikey’s lips tremble somewhere in the direction of a small, shaky smile.
“Uh,” I splutter into the polystyrene cup.
“My bass lesson is straight after school, though,” Mikey says.
“I don’t mind waiting,” I say, sipping more gingerly at the coffee. “I kinda like being at school when it’s empty,” I hear myself add, much to my embarrassment. I mean, like I need the first person who doesn’t seem to hate me and who isn’t Ocean, to think I’m some kind of weirdo. Even though I am.
“I know,” Mikey agrees fervently, surprising me. “It’s not scary then.”
I’m about to angrily point out that I’m not scared of school anyway, but I bite my tongue and stay silent, because that’s just a downright lie.
Before I can say anything else on the matter though, the bell rings loudly, making Mikey jump and turn pale as there’s a mad scrabble for the door, feet scuffling on the grotty wooden floors as the class spills out into the corridor, merging with the sea of harsh body spray, askew ties and squeaky trainers.
“What’ve you got now?” I ask, turning to Mikey as we trudge reluctantly towards the doorway. He looks just about as enthusiastic as I feel.
“Maths,” Mikey mutters, sighing.
“I’ve got French,” I sigh in reply as we step into the masses and get buffeted against the walls and into pointy elbows as we try and push our way out of the swarming crowds.
As I stumble into one of the quieter side corridors, gaze glued determinedly to the greasy linoleum floor as I’m jostled and buffeted by the wave of students.
Finally, I forge my way out of the double doors into the cold, spitting rain and misty grey air, breathing slightly uneven, heart thumping because I hate crowds like that; when it feels as though they’re going to swallow you up and you can’t see anything but the endless swarm of bodies and sneers.
Mikey stumbles out behind me seconds later, coming to a halt in the small space of stagnant city air and thick, bitterly cold greying rain between the main block and the languages block.
“Okay?” I ask tentatively, cause Mikey looks alarmingly clammy and pale.
He nods, taking shaky, gulping breaths of the frozen air.
A few students amble past us at disjointed intervals, but mostly, it’s just the two of us, standing by in the mist and the rain as I eye Mikey’s fearful eyes apprehensively, waiting for his breathing to normalise.
“I-I just h-hate crowds like that,” Mikey breaths weakly, readjusting his glasses.
“Me too,” I sigh, shaking my slightly damp fringe across my eyes. “But you’re gunna be late for first period if you don’t hurry up,” I point out as gently as I can; the maths rooms are a lot further away than my French classroom.
“I know,” Mikey takes a deep breath of the cold air, hitches his bag properly over his shoulder and starts towards the building with me, shaking slightly.
“Uh, see you later then,” I mutter awkwardly, pushing my way through the doors to the languages block and feel the stuffy warmth of the corridor swamp my skin the second I step into the building.
“Frank?” the anxious, mousy little voice halts me, and I whirl round.
Mikey’s standing at the doorway, light brown hair dampened by the rain, eyes wide and scared, huddled into his little navy blue duffle coat.
“Yeah?” I call, dodging a couple of students coming through the doors.
“…Uh…see you breaktime?” Mikey asks tentatively.
I almost smile. “Yeah, I’ll be in the locker rooms,” I reply, and then I wave slightly dorkishly at the nervous, skinny teenager and set off down the grimy corridor in the direction of my French classroom, the horrible, heavy feeling of metallic dread in my stomach weighing slightly less than usual.
There you go…hope it was okay. It was kinda a filler, like I said- it needed to be like that to lead up to the next couple chapters. I guess it was also trying to show the progression of Mikey and Frank’s friendship ect. Anyway…I’m still not sure what’s happening with this story, so rate and review your thoughts and I’ll try and update as soon as I can. Thanks for sticking with this- you’re all amazing!!