'He’s starting to become almost like a tiny little blothole in this prison.'
Period one French passes in a bleak haze of rowdy, ringing laughter, graffiti adorned French textbooks, and the drowned-out and feeble tones of Mrs. O’Neil. I just sit in my usual sullen silence at the back of the decrepit, noisy classroom, doodling on the back of my dog-eared French jotter and hiding behind my tangled hair. I sit at the back of the classroom, in front of the haphazardly stacked text books and bowed, over-laden bookshelves, so it’s easy enough to keep out of everyone’s way.
I don’t ever try and acknowledge my existence to anyone; I know it would be a seriously bad idea if I don’t want to be picked on for the entire period. I never even make eye contact with anyone; I just try and make myself invisible, because it’s easier, so much easier, to go unnoticed.
I hate it, hate being no one, nothing, but it’s my only option. And even then, it doesn’t always work.
However, for once my attempts at lurking in the shadows actually seem pay off, and no one bothers me for the entire period. A couple of paper aeroplanes do soar my way, landing on the desk beside my ignored French worksheet, but I just ignore them as usual and hunch further back into my seat and behind my hair, jiggling my leg up and down to distract myself from the laughter ringing in my ears.
It makes me miss having Ocean sitting beside me more than ever; she’d have thrown the paper aeroplanes back at twice the speed and cheered me up by doodling random cartoons of the teachers being eaten by zombies.
She’s been texting me all morning; I keep feeling my phone buzz in my pocket, but I can’t bring myself to take it out and reply.
By the time I’m slouching out of the classroom last for break, I feel distinctly better and lightened by my rare peace. I mean, Danny isn’t in my French class or anything, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a whole other host of his brutal followers ready to make mincemeat out of me. By the time the period’s over, they’ve frequently ground me down into nothing but gristle and bones.
I always hang back and leave the class last to be on the safe side. That way people don’t get such an easy opportunity to shove and jostle me or ‘accidentally’ slam me up against the grimy walls, so by the time I set off towards the locker rooms, the corridor is almost completely empty.
The artificial strip lights overhead flicker greasily as I limp my way down the corridor, glancing anxiously behind me every so often, but much to my relief, Danny seems to be unusually lacking in evidence, which makes tiny little jagged bubbles of unease gurgle glutinously through me. It’s not like Danny to pass up an opportunity to torment me.
My shabby old converse squeak slightly apprehensively along the polished, greying floors, as I trail reluctantly towards the busier part of the school building.
Usually, I’d completely avoid the main corridor where the corridors are drowned in a sea of boisterous students, but I promised Mikey I’d meet him, and I’m not going to let him down. Seriously, I’m not. And apart from not wanting to leave my mousy-haired stepbrother standing nervously in a swarm of faceless school ties and grimacing smiles, I actually, much to my horror, find that I’m sort of looking forward to seeing him.
He’s starting to become almost like a tiny little bolthole in this bleak prison.
This really does scare me a little, because feeling is scary. It’s too real, too human, and it makes me far more vulnerable than if I’m cold and angry and snappy. I don’t want people to know I care, because when they know that, they can destroy me.
But maybe Mikey would be the kind of person to do that.
I let my thoughts drift to my stepbrother yesterday with those startlingly pained hazel eyes as Danny tried to strangle me, and wonder if Mikey is more the kind of person who is on the other end of destroying.
The tide of students absorbs me the second I scramble into the main corridor, pushing and shoving and laughing with cheap strawberry perfume that scratches at my throat and stings at my eyes.
I spot Mikey in the swarming locker rooms just off the main corridor, gnawing at his lip and staring at the grotty linoleum floor. People choke him in little gaggles of giggly, made-up girls and swearing, sniggering boys; all just an undistinguishable swarm of school ties and carefully styled hair. He looks absolutely lost and terrified.
Much to my surprise, I feel a tugging pang of sympathy as I watch my stepbrother; his turned-in, skinny knees, hunched, vulnerable posture and the mousy hair curling in innocent little tufts round the frame of his glasses.
He just screams fear, so starkly, so obviously it’s a wonder that people aren’t pounding him into the grime of the linoleum floor right this minute.
I suddenly wonder if I look that scared when I’m in school. I know I feel that scared inside, but I hope to god I don’t show it.
Just then, Mikey looks up and sees me. A look of relief washes over his face and he pushes his glasses further up his nose, hitching his schoolbag more securely onto his shoulder before holding his breath and timidly pushing his way through the throng of shouting teenagers to reach me.
“Okay?” I ask quietly, managing to make my face twitch somewhere in the direction of a smile despite the fact I can hear a crowd of people behind me laughing at my scruffy old Nirvana hoodie.
Mikey nods, his skinny body being buffeted by the masses of students passing.
“Um, wanna go somewhere less crowded?” I ask tentatively as Mikey is practically thrown to the ground by a gigantic jock passing. The jock barely seems to even notice the fact he’s just bashed into someone and carries on striding down the corridor, laughing loudly and obnoxiously as if he owns the place.
If people like him are the ones that own the halls, what kind of institution do they expect it to be?
“Please,” Mikey replies anxiously, readjusting his geeky glasses from where the jock knocked them askew.
I sigh as I watch the jock uncaringly elbow a timid, greasy-haired first year girl out of his way and into the lockers with a small squeak. No one appears to notice her; they just carry on sucking up to the jock, hanging on his every word sickeningly as if he’s a fucking king.
Am I the only one that can see the first year girl snivelling and trying to scuttle away in humiliation? Am I the only one who thinks the jock is repulsive?
I shove my thoughts to the back of my mind as Mikey and I push our way through the swarming corridor until we reach the back entrance to the grey yard and push our way through the doors, out into the cold, mistily grey winter air.
The peeling double doors slam shut behind us on the raucous noise of the corridors, turning it to nothing more than a faint drone.
It’s still raining; big, heavy teardrops of ice pouring down from the sky and soaking into the grimy grey concrete with a harsh whisper that resounds all the way deserted schoolyard; everyone seems to be inside, out of the gnashing jaws of the winter weather. I don’t blame them. It feels as though the cold of the wind is actually tearing at the skin of my face.
“Fuck,” I shiver as the rain soaks through the thing fabric of my hoodie like icy talons. “It’s fucking freezing.”
I huddle into my threadbare hoodie and shuffle under the nearby veranda, slumping down against the cold brick wall with a sigh that curls out into the numbing grey air like smoke.
Mikey slides down beside me in silence, drawing his skinny knees up to his chest for comfort and pulling the sleeves of his duffle coat nervously over his hands to protect them from the slicing cold rain that’s being blown under the shelter of the veranda by the bitter breeze.
At least it’s silent, though. And empty.
“So, um,” I mumble awkwardly into the rain-drenched silence, not really sure what to say. “Uh, how was first period?”
Mikey shrugs. “It was maths.”
“Ah,” I bite my lip sympathetically. “Not good.”
“You’re telling me,” Mikey sighs, huddling further into the depths of his coat away from the falling lines of hard, grey rain.
“Who’s your teacher?” I ask, picking at my fraying hoodie and making sure my face is well hidden behind my hair. I know it’s only Mikey, and I doubt he’d judge me for it. But he might care. And I don’t want anyone to care.
“Mr. Irvin,” Mikey says bitterly in reply.
“Yeech,” I shudder. “He’s lovely.”
“I know right,” Mikey says sarcastically. “He’s just a cuddly little duckling, isn’t he?”
I look round at Mikey in surprise and delight.
“Sorry,” Mikey mumbles, reverting to his usual shy self.
“Why are you apologising?” I exclaim incredulously.
Mikey shrugs anxiously, cheeks pink behind the strands of mousy hair. “I thought I’d offended you or something,” he mutters so quietly I can barely hear him above the hiss and crackle of rain hitting the hard grey surface of the yard.
“Offend me?” I repeat, incredulous. “I hate the guy! Who wouldn’t?!”
“Oh,” Mikey smiles slightly. “Me too.”
“He just melts your heart, doesn’t he?” I say sourly, shuddering again as I remember enduring a whole year of maths with Mr. Irvin who seemed determined to pick on me more than my fellow peers. And wow is that a challenge. “I had him last year.”
“Lucky you,” Mikey grimaces.
There’s a short silence, during which the rowdy laughter and raucous noise filters out of the opaque, half-shattered, half-taped up window behind us that leads to the cloak room, infecting the calming silence of the sharp, slicing talons of bleak winter rain.
“I hate school,” Mikey whispers after a moment.
I look round at him. “Me too,” I say quietly. “It’s shit.”
“It’s just so…” Mikey breaks off, shaking his head wordlessly.
“Didn’t you like your old school either?” I ask, tucking my hair behind my ear and then remembering and shaking it hurriedly back in front of my face.
Mikey shakes his head. “It was hell. I had like, no friends. Well, apart from Gerard- and he’s my older brother. How sad is that?” he sighs.
“That’s not sad,” I say quietly. “I don’t even have a brother to be friends with.”
“But you’ve got that girl…the one with the blue hair,” Mikey points out.
“Ocean,” I say bitterly, spitting her name out as though it’s poisoning me.
Mikey blinks, looking surprised at my reaction. “…Um…are you okay?”
I sigh, shaking my hair over my face and turning to look at Mikey. “Yeah, I’m fine,” I say tonelessly. I suddenly wonder fleetingly just when the last time I said that and meant it was. It can’t be a good sign that I can’t even remember.
“Something with…Ocean?” Mikey probes delicately.
“You could say that,” I mutter, gritting my teeth so as I won’t snap at him.
“Wanna…um…tell me? I might be able to help,” Mikey suggests tentatively, looking round earnestly at me with those liquid hazel eyes.
I sigh heavily. “I doubt that.”
“Really, try me,” Mikey says quietly, pushing his glasses up his nose.
“Fine,” I agree with a sigh.
There’s a long silence. The rain continues to fall in thick ribbons of iced grey. The noise from the locker rooms continues to ebb out vaguely from the window above us. I continue to fiddle with the fraying threads on my hoodie.
“…Um,” I mumble, feeling embarrassed. “Uh, it’s kinda hard to explain.”
“I won’t judge,” Mikey promises quietly.
“Okay,” I take a deep breath. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but…well, your brother isn’t really my favourite person in the world,” I say awkwardly, not wanting to offend Mikey.
“Understandable,” Mikey smiles sadly. “I hate him sometimes too. Well. I do now,” he seems on the brink of elaborating, but breaks off, shaking his head and turning back to me. “Sorry, you were saying…?”
“Okay, um,” I try, slightly puzzled by Mikey’s words about his brother. “Well, I came out of my guitar lesson yesterday to find Ocean with him. They were both smoking and stuff, and it just kinda really pissed me off because she’s like, my only friend and she just had to go and sit with Gerard. I mean, he’s got like, tons of friends- why does he need her?” I spit the last few words out. “I need her. She’s all I’ve got left. And then, seeing her smoking there with him was like…seeing a completely different person. I didn’t even know she smoked,” I mumble, my voice cracking slightly and I clench my fists furiously.
There’s a small silence, and I feel surprised to find that my chest feels slightly lighter and almost like there’s more room to breathe; as if the words I just spat out had been curled constrictingly round my lungs, preventing me from drawing a proper breath. I let out an almost relieved exhale into the numbing icy air, watching it coil away from my lips and up into the murky winter cloud.
“I’m sure she didn’t even think of it like that,” Mikey says after a moment. “I’ll bet she didn’t even mean to upset you- she probably didn’t even realise it would. You guys seemed pretty close when I met her. Like, proper best friends, y’know? I seriously doubt she’d have meant to hurt you, Frank.”
“No,” I sigh in agreement. “But that’s the thing. It’s like, she doesn’t even know me anymore. She’s got too much else to deal with.”
“Are you sure? It seemed as though she really cared about you,” Mikey says gently.
“I don’t know,” I sigh again into the icy air so it looks as if I’m smoking. “I hadn’t really realised until I saw her with Gerard yesterday, but she’s changed so much. It’s like she’s a whole different person to the one I used to be friends with. I hadn’t seen it before, but I can’t stop seeing it now. And I want the old Ocean back.”
“I know what you mean,” Mikey says quietly, staring out across the rainy, bleakly grey yard. “I really, really do. It’s so horrible, seeing someone you care about change like that. I know how you feel, honestly.”
“You do?” I blink, surprised.
Mikey sighs. “Yes. But I think that’s just life. People feel they have to move on and change. You can’t force someone to be the person they really are if they don’t want to be. If they want to be someone else, there’s nothing you can do to stop them.”
“But…why would you want to be someone else?” I ask, perplexed, surveying Mikey closely through the misty grey air and stray tears of rain blown under the shelter of the veranda. “I mean, I hate myself, but I’d hate myself even more if I was pretending to be someone completely different. I understand having like, a shell, but…being someone else?”
“It’s safer,” Mikey looks away softly; tone riddled with sadness as he watches the crying sky and the crumbling yard. “It is a shell, just much stronger. It hides everything you hate about yourself from people, until you’ve hidden it all so well you forget who you really are. You become the shell, and then you’re drowning, because when you’ve lost who you are…what else have you got left?”
Break is twenty five minutes, but after our strangely in-depth conversation, Mikey and I spend the rest of break-time huddled up together away from the rain, sharing the headphones of my iPod and listening to The Misfits, which seems cruelly apt at this particular point in time.
You’d think it would be a seriously awkward silence- if you can call it silence with ‘American Psycho’ blaring in our ears, but it’s not. I thought actually letting someone get to know me a little would be terrifying, but it’s not. It feels okay.
I feel almost safe, sitting here in the rain with Mikey.
I feel almost me.
“Looking forward to your bass lesson?” I ask conversationally after the song has changed to ‘Crimson Ghost’, having relaxed enough into Mikey’s mousy, surprisingly perceptive presence to actually feel alright about making conversation.
Mikey shudders. “I’m pretty terrified,” he admits, tucking a strand of tufty hair behind his ear and looking round at me, eyes honest hazel behind his geeky glasses.
“You’ll be fine,” I reassure him with very uncharacteristic optimism. “Mr. Hallow is a really great teacher. He’ll be nice- he’s not like other teachers.”
“That’s good,” Mikey looks a little relieved. “How long have you been getting lessons from him?”
“Since I started at this school,” I reply. “I’ve been learning guitar since I was eight, though.”
“Really?” Mikey looks impressed.
“Yeah,” I feel a smile ghost across my lips at the memory of picking up a guitar for the first time. “Dad had just left us and he was probably feeling guilty or something, so he sent me this guitar.”
Mikey opens his mouth to say something, but before he can, an ominous chant reaches our ears from the window above our heads.
We both freeze, ears straining.
“…Fight, fight, fight!” the distant chanting becomes clearer.
“I’m glad we’re not in there,” Mikey shivers.
“Me too,” I agree fervently. “I…”
I trail off as a horribly familiar voice drifts out from the window.
Mikey blanches horribly in alarm.
Gerard’s voice is seeping from the opaque window.
And so is Danny’s; angry and cold and laced copiously with threat and venom.
My stomach plummets into unending black water.
Beside me, Mikey scrabbles frantically to his feet, ripping the headphone from his ear and scuffling his way towards the double doors back into the school building, eyes full of trembling hazel worry.
“Mikey!” I call after him, scrambling to my feet too. “Wait up!”
I groan as his skinny frame disappears through the doors in a blur of navy and mousy brown. Shaking slightly, I shove my iPod in my pocket before taking a deep breath and following him, ducking my head through the brief patch of falling grey needles and then pushing my way back through the double doors and into hell.
It’s silent, which is freaky enough on it’s own- the corridors are the last thing from silent at any point during the school day, let alone at break-time.
I stop short, narrowly avoiding bashing into Mikey.
The whole corridor is frozen in silence, every single pair of eyes on two figures standing, nose to nose, in the middle of the corridor. They both stand out starkly, bleak opposites of each other, yet somehow standing as equals.
Gerard and Danny are standing nose to nose in the middle of the corridor. You can practically see the anger and hatred seething off both of them and filling the corridor with a horrible kind of tension.
Danny’s little gang of skin-headed thugs are looming behind him, cracking their knuckles ominously and sneering.
Gerard’s little new-found clan are determinedly behind him, snarling threateningly from behind multiple piercings and neon hair.
Aggressive tension fizzles through the corridor.
Everyone is agape; no one ever, ever stands up to Danny.
No one dares.
“I can call you whatever the fuck I want, you faggot,” Danny hisses at Gerard.
“And I can call you whatever the fuck I want,” Gerard shoots back, eyes steely and more mask-like than ever as he stares unblinkingly into Danny’s cold, deadened eyes that always makes my blood curdle and freeze.
“Oh, really?” Danny sneers, lip curling.
“Yeah, I think so,” Gerard says, his tone deadly quiet.
“And why is that, Goth-boy?”
“Why should I be inferior to someone like…you?” Gerard sneers.
Danny’s eyes darken.
Beside me, I see Mikey tense anxiously, and I find myself silently pleading Gerard to back the fuck off if he wants to remain alive. He doesn’t know, he doesn’t understand, the depths to which Danny will sink to get revenge.
“All I see,” Gerard says in a light tone. “Is a coward,” he hisses the last word.
You can practically see Danny’s hackles rise. He steps forward, snarling.
“You calling me a coward?” he growls threateningly.
“Uh, yeah,” Gerard rolls his eyes. “Was that not obvious?”
Mikey groans and starts gnawing at his lip furiously.
Danny looks ready to kill; his eyes are colder and more shark-like than ever, their gooseberry green depths plunging on forever and ever, bottomless pits of cold, dead darkness, where the only life is sadistic venom.
“Or,” Gerard continues brightly. “Are you actually more stupid than I thought?”
Danny snaps, grabbing Gerard by the collar and slamming him up against the lockers, snarling and spitting furiously.
“Just proving my point,” Gerard shrugs, smirking slightly into Danny’s furious face. Then he lightly flicks Danny in the nose.
Danny yelps in surprise and the whole corridor bursts out laughing, the sound ricocheting off the grimy walls and graffiti-splattered lockers.
Gerard grins recklessly, although once more, it doesn’t quite reach his eyes, and salutes Danny before sauntering off down the corridor, hips swinging in his tight black jeans. His little posse scuttle after him, whooping appreciatively.
Chatter breaks out from the watching students, and everyone goes back to their previous occupations. But Mikey and I don’t.
We’re there to see the darkly potent look of violent revenge snap across Danny’s shark like eyes, sharp and sneaky and deadly.
It’s lethally vicious and unstoppable.
It sends horrible, charred icy goosebumps down my spine and congeals the blood in my veins.
It’s a look I’ve only seen a couple of times in my life, times which have been swiftly followed by the worst experiences of my entire life.
I think of Gerard’s jaunty parting, and wonder if he knows just what he’s let himself in for.
Hope that was okay- I'm feeling really, really shit today, so sorry if it wasn't great- I had three fucking panic attacks. Anyway, pretty please rate and review to let me know your thoughts and I'll update as soon as possible- I kinda feel people are stopping reading this. Love you all to bits- thanks for sticking with this!
P.S. Pretty, pretty please check out my new story (chaptered) about escaped convict Gerard and straight-A student Frank. It's quite dark, but...yeah. If you R&R it'll make my day, especially as it doesn't seem to have many readers yet :/ Thanks! http://www.ficwad.com/story/185813