New surroundings and too-good-to-be-true encounters.
Sorry for the wait.
It takes me a good hour to work up the nerve to leave the area around the airport and wander deeper into the city. It's not because I'm thinking twice about leaving Gerard without saying goodbye, no way, I'm just...nervous. It is pretty nerve wracking venturing out on my own like this. I don't know how I even had the guts to board that plane back in Jersey. It seemed like a piece of cake at the time, probably because I was still in familiar territory. But now as I'm standing on an unfamiliar sidewalk, next to a busy London street, cars zipping past in a blur of frenzied color, I feel like a field mouse stuck in the middle of the amazon, being hunted by vicious tigers. How did a field mouse end up in the middle of the amazon, you ask? Fuck if I know. How did Frank Iero, the short tempered, head-in-the-clouds, opinionated teenager end up in England's capital?
My mind wanders as I follow the flow of traffic and subtly walk behind a group of what seems to be locals, hoping I'll end up at a bus stop or a place I can grab a bite cause fuck, my stomach won't shut up. At first my thoughts are occupied with panic at the idea of having to find a place to stay tonight with my limited cash, and somewhere permanent eventually soon after. I don't know if I should feel relieved or even more bothered once Gerard manages to push to the forefront of my mind.
I know I made the right decision when I walked out of that hotel room, I know that, but guilt creeps at the pit of my stomach and won't go away no matter how much I try to reason with myself. It took me seconds to decide on leaving my bastard of a father and never look back. The man who I share DNA with and have lived with, albeit reluctantly, my entire life. Yet here I am, moping over abandoning a guy I've know for a day. I know close to nothing about Gerard, he shouldn't be having this effect on me.
I've spent the past couple years of my life, ever since my mom passed away, building impenetrable walls around myself. I've done such a great job so far, constantly reinforcing the structure of the last means of defense I have against the harsh reality I am constantly forced to exist in. But somehow, this light eyed, dyed haired, infuriatingly attractive guy walks into my life and sets every last wall I've built ablaze and steps over the ashes until I'm crumbling at his feet. The worst part is that he doesn't even seem to realize what he's doing to me.
Another part of me, that's not hating Gerard for leaving me so exposed, is helplessly worried about the big cheeked asshole. There were some nights when my father would come home so wasted and high, he would have surely chocked to death on his own vomit if it wasn't for me. I know I hate his guts, but even I didn't have the heart to turn a blind eye when he got himself into such a state. A bleak image of Gerard, sprawled out on the cheap carpet of a motel room, over dosed on who-knows-what, all alone with no one to look after him, takes over my thoughts and makes me sick to my stomach.
I'm shocked out of my inner turmoil once I hear the annoying, drawn out honk of a car horn and nearly get run over. Apparently I had managed to walk out into the street while I wasn't paying attention. I don't know if I should be more shocked that I absent mindedly walked off the sidewalk, or that the vehicle that almost ran me over made me look like a giant. And seriously, I've been called a lot of things throughout out my high school career, but giant has never been one of them. Ever.
I resist the urge to pump a fist in the air in victory once I find a bus stop. There is an impressive crowd of people gathered around and I idly wonder if I'll have to wait for another bus to come by because there's no way we're all going to fit into one. I feel like an idiot once the bus comes into view because holy shit, it's a huge, bright red, double deckered bus covered in various ads for brand names and retail stores I don't recognize. It's dumb of me, as if the stuffed duffle bag hanging off my shoulder and the lost look on my face isn't enough to make me look like a tourist, but I feel my eyes go wide in wonder.
I've always dreamt of traveling the world, visiting cities I'd only ever seen in movies, and here I am, seeing one of London's famous icons first hand. I shuffle into the crowd and try to edge past the bus driver without being seen because I just realized I hadn't exchanged my American money, and therefore could not pay the fare. It's easier than I thought, the driver is surprisingly nonchalant and doesn't keep a tentative eye on the boarding passengers. I find a seat towards the back, next to a window, and settle myself into my seat.
The engine stutters and the crowded bus fills with pleasant conversation and ambient noise. I suddenly feel out of place and alone. Everyone here has a place to be and people to see, I on the other hand, have no where and absolutely no one. Not anymore. I stare out the window and take in the city as it passes me by. At least I have all these sights to distract me.
At first it feels like I'm back in the states, taking a bus ride through New York. The bumper to bumper traffic is nothing new, and neither is the flurry of people rushing past each other on the crowded pavement. But once I take a closer look, observe the intricate structure of the English buildings, appreciating all the detail put into the golden carved edges of some of the more pricey businesses, I feel like a little kid walking into Disney World for the first time.
I try to keep my eyes peeled to take it all in, but the lack of sleep and caffeine in my system at the moment is making my eyelids slide shut against my will. 'Just five minutes' I think to myself and allow myself to drift off, head rested against the cool window to my right.
Five minutes turns in to well over twenty minutes, and once I'm abruptly awaken from my dreamless sleep, the bus is nearly empty and we're approaching what seems to be the last stop on the route. I try not to panic as I step off the bus along with the remaining passengers, and try to figure out where I am. I walk along the main street and pass by a plaza filled with small shops.
There's the typical retail stores with mannequins dressed in the latest fashions at the store front window and jewelry on display. It's not until I pass a window that has antique telecasters carefully placed on expensive looking stands, marshall amps not far behind, that I stop in my tracks and try not to get drool all over the front of my shirt. My hands itch to walk inside the shop and try some of the guitars out, but hesitate when I wonder if the owner would get annoyed at some teenager messing around with the equipment when he obviously can't afford any of it.
I decide to walk in anyway, and try to blend in with the few people scattered inside the store. There's a guy sitting behind the counter, broad shoulders half facing in my direction, entranced by a magazine laid out in front of him. As I edge closer, I spot a few tattoos peaking from under his long sleeved shirt. He looks up at me momentarily and checks around the store to see if anyone needs any assistance, then goes back to reading.
I sigh in relief and let myself wander around the store aimlessly. There are a few racks stacked with CD's and books filled with sheet music. More standard music store merchandise like guitar strings and some really sick straps are organized neatly up ahead in their designated area. At the very back of the store, next to a door with an 'Employees Only' sign hung on it, is a wall completely covered in various guitars. Vintage ones, new releases, modified classics. I think I died and went to guitarist heaven.
There are a few amps set up with a sign above that lets customers know they are free to try any guitar out on them. You don't have to tell me twice. I pick up the nearest guitar within my reach, a shiny black gibson les paul, and plug it in carefully to one of the amps. I take a seat on a wooden stool close by, and after tuning the guitar and setting the amp just the way I like, I dive right into a Misfits song I know like the back of my hand.
A few customers glance back curiously to see where the sudden music is coming from, but they otherwise keep to their business. Once I've finished the song, I close my eyes and improvise. It's been way too long since I was last able to play like this. I lose myself in my emotions, spilling out everything I've been feeling the past few days onto the smoothly crafted frets. My judgmental, hypocritical school. The assholes that make my life hell everyday. My poor excuse of a father. My deceased mother who still holds a place in my heart. My hopes. My dreams. Gerard.
My arm has begun to ache due to the awkward position I've had to hold the guitar in without a strap, so I bring the music to a close with a last few chords, letting the last one ring for a while. Just as I stand to put the guitar back where I found it, I hear someone clapping behind me.
My eyes go wide in surprise and my cheeks flush in embarrassment once I turn around and see that someone had been watching me play. It's a young guy, not too much older than me from the looks of it. He's leaning on one of the amps, an awarded winning smile on his face, the type you see on movie stars walking the red carpet. He has dark hair, cut fairly short, light eyes that are practically dancing with mischief, rimmed thickly in black eyeliner. I scratch the back of my neck self-consciously, not knowing what to say to this stranger, but smile nonetheless, happy that he enjoyed my playing.
"That was awesome man! Here I am getting all emotional over how deep that was."
He dabs at his eyes with the sleeve of his sweater playfully and laughs.
"Thanks, didn't know anyone was paying attention."
"How could they not? That was fucking life changing. How long have you been playing?"
I almost say 'since birth', because that's what it feels like, but in reality it's been a good couple years.
"Since I was nine, I think. Maybe ten years old."
The stranger's smile never falters, and I can't help but smile back. It's contagious.
"Sweet. I'm Pete by the way."
The stranger, Pete apparently, extends a hand towards me and I shake it in return.
"Nice to meet you, Frank."
He takes a moment to eye the bag by my feet before speaking again.
"You're not from around here, are you?"
I think about lying for a second, not wanting to seem like some lost little kid, but who am I kidding? I practically have TOURIST stamped across my forehead.
"Nope, I'm from Jersey actually."
"Jersey? Cool, I have a close friend who's from there. Never visited myself though."
While listening to Pete talk, I busy myself with turning off the amp. I wouldn't want the guy behind the counter getting pissed off at me for messing with the equipment. He seems pretty intimidating. Once I'm done, I turn back towards Pete. He's stopped talking, but he has a contemplative look on his face, like he's working something out in his head. I feel like his intense gaze is burning through me, so I look away and try not to fidget too much.
"Are you staying by here?"
His question shouldn't have seemed that unexpected, but it takes me completely off guard and I have no idea how to respond. For some reason No. Well maybe, that bench outside seems cozy enough to crash on. sounds like a bad idea to say out loud.
"I, uh, haven't really worked out where I'm gonna stay yet. I arrived last night. So.."
Pete raises an eyebrow but doesn't push the matter any further with questions.
"Well, luckily for you, I may have a place you can stay. A buddy of mine's room mate moved out last week and he's been looking for a new one. The rent's cheap, and the apartment's pretty decent, all things considered."
I feel like pinching myself for a second to make sure I'm not still asleep back on the bus and dreaming all this, because really, this is just too perfect.
"Aw dude, that'd be great! Thank you so mu-"
Pete cuts me off before I can shower him in gratitude and kiss his feet.
"Ah, ah, ah. On one condition. I need you to do me a favor."
I hesitate for a moment, not so sure I want to know what kind of favor this guy wants. He doesn't seem like the creepy, sadistic type, but you never know. I ask anyway, too desperate to hang on the theory for too long.
"The guy who owns the apartment has this band, and they have a gig this weekend at a bar near here. They're rhythm guitarist bailed on them last minute and they desperately need someone to fill in for him, at least temporarily. You interested?"
It takes all the will power within me to contain myself from squealing like a teenage girl and jumping around in excitement. Is this guy serious? That's more of a favor to me. I mean, playing with a band. On stage. In front of an audience. This is like everything I wanted but could never find back home.
"Yes! Absolutely! I'd love to!"
He laughs at my childish excitement but I really can't be bothered to care at the moment. I have a gig this weekend. How fucking cool is that?
"Awesome. Let's get out of here so I could show you to the apartment. You seem pretty jet lagged."
I follow eagerly behind Pete as he leads us out of the store, trying my hardest not to step on his heels. He pulls out a cell phone from the pocket of his jeans and quickly dials a number without looking at the screen.
"James? Yeah, hey. Listen, you fucking owe me one. I just found you a new guitarist."
I uploaded this without reading over it 'cause I wanted to get something up today, so hopefully there aren't too many grammatical errors.
And I know, I know, no Gerard in this chapter D:
Next chapter he'll be back though, don't you worry your pretty little head.
Okay, I'm gonna stop talking now xD
Let me know what you think!