“Footprints, Frankie. Someone was in our field.”
This chapter is for LanaKrueger for being such a supportive reader and for making me an awesome Translations of Blood picture. Thank you. You rock, honey!
The places I can’t breathe
I can’t breathe in your judgemental flaws.
I can’t breathe in your dishonest laws.
I can’t breathe in your instant despise.
I can’t breathe in someone else’s lies.
I can’t breathe in this violent red.
And I can’t breathe
Behind these bars.
So I run.
Running……running…running……I mustn’t stop running…
As soon as their sixth year study group was over, Ray gave Frank a lift home in his rusty red, hand-me-down family car he’d gotten the previous semester for passing his mid-terms. Dusk had started to stitch its inky fingers through the sullen rainfall, and as Frank watched the bleak countryside roll by in a blur of pencil-lead rain and grey fields, he felt immensely grateful for his lift home.
It wasn’t that Frank minded the rain- after living on a farm for his whole life, he was pretty used to harsh weather, but this rain was different. It was so vicious it felt as though its colourless tears sandpapered away a whole layer of his skin when exposed, leaving it raw and numbed.
So when, as he cowered, shivering violently, under an AS Level Biology textbook at the bus stop and Ray came sprinting through the rain with the hood of his royal blue cagoule up, panting and offering Frank a lift, the latter had been only too happy to accept.
The patchwork interior of Ray’s car smelt soothingly of faint peppermint gum and gasoline, and the soft lyrics of a Newton Falkner song was seeping out of the ancient, built-in radio system.
“Okay, Frankie?” Ray’s gentle voice probed as the car chugged to a halt at a red light on the outskirts of the village, the falling rain battering more fiendishly still on the slick grey glass of the water-drenched windscreen.
“Mmhm,” Frank mumbled distantly, glazedly watching an elderly lady crossing at the lights, her bony posture bowed away from the rain that lashed so relentlessly at her tweed jacket.
The windscreen wipers continued their fierce battle against the incessant drilling of October-tinted rain, glossing the windscreen so thickly that the changing amber of the traffic lights was just a greasy blur of colour.
As the lights changed to green, Ray released the handbrake and revved the engine, skirting round an overflowing gutter before trundling along past the ‘Thank you for driving safely’ road-sign and out onto the honeycomb of twisting, single-track country roads that led out to Frank’s farm.
“Sure?” Ray pressed, sounding vaguely amused, until he had to swerve abruptly to avoid a little gathering of sheep that had strayed onto the road from a nearby field.
Frank nodded again, swallowing nervously. His throat felt horribly dry, and there was an undiluted taste that clawed at the back of his mouth every time he tried to speak. It’d been there all day, but was getting progressively worse, along with the moths batting their papery wings against his stomach and getting entangled in his gut.
They drove in silence for a little while, just listening to the battering rain that seemed intent on driving holes right through the car, and the comforting background burble of the radio that occasionally crackled irritably if they dipped down too quickly and the reception faltered.
The dusk was condensing, curling down from the brooding sky like leaded smoke, and an uneasy, ill-omened quality clung to the scowling clouds that spat their watery distaste to the lamenting countryside. The edgy emotion threaded its way down from the clouds and into Frank's mind was almost like the dangerous, tar-like charisma of oncoming thunder.
However, although he whole sky curdled in that unnerving,angrily shadowed way of an approaching storm, there was something else mourning in the sky; something scared, something misunderstood. Something vulnerable that was clinging to the undecided raincloud in fear of its soul.
“Sheesh,” Ray remarked as the rain began to fall faster and more violently, vindictive grey needles slicing through the soft yellow beam of the headlights. “This is kinda dodgy for driving.”
“Sorry,” Frank apologised automatically, not taking his eyes from the window, where the woods of his farm were looming into view on the bleak horizon, clawing their way towards the crushing sky, as if they were trying to escape.
But escape from what, Frank did not know. To him, the countryside that surrounded his family farm was safe and secure; he could think of no reason why there should suddenly be such an anxious charisma suffocating the deciduous landscape.
“Why are you apologising?” Ray asked in amusement, turning the heat up so as Frank could feel the soft brush of warm air against his nylon school trousers, where the rainwater from earlier had crumpled away the supposedly eternal, ironed crease.
The radio was still burbling away, lit up in the bitter twilight along with the dashboard. Frank fleetingly wondered why Ray always had the radio on when he was driving- it wasn’t although either of them seemed to be paying attention to it, although he did vaguely notice that the Newton Falkner song had changed to the five thirty news.
Maybe it was a comfort thing, the way Frank always put the TV on when he was home alone. It didn't matter what programme was on; Frank didn't actually pay any attention to the screen- he just liked to gentle lull of background voices, so he couldn't hear his imagination creeping creakily down the stairs. Except his Mom always told him off for wasting electricity and contributing to global warming, so Frank had kinda stopped doing it these days. He just got edgy instead, and spent more time than necessary going round the house and checking that he really was alone.
"Frank?" Ray's voice broke up Frank's thought. "Are you alright?"
Frank dropped his gaze and shrugged, finally relinquishing the bleakly hazed surroundings from his view and turning to face the grey road the car was eating up, raking a slightly shaky hand through his wavy chestnut hair and letting out a slow, trembling exhale in vain attempt to try and rid himself of the jittering adrenaline.
“You’re being eaten alive by nerves, aren’t you?” Ray smiled shrewdly without taking his eyes from the steep-banked road.
Frank had to smile a little. “You know me too well, Ray.”
It was true. The tentative little bubbles of excitement Frank had felt that morning about going to the gig with Robbie had, by this point, morphed into full-blown waves of nervous adrenaline. They washed over him frequently without warning, lapping sickeningly at the bottom of his gullet with their unadulterated adrenaline, and practically became tsunami strength if he let his mind so much as stray in the direction of the gig.
“Have a cherry drop,” Ray offered, gesturing briefly to the glove compartment. “Eating will settle your stomach. Honest.”
“No thanks,” Frank shuddered hurriedly, shaking his head fervently. Eating was possibly the last thing in the world he felt like doing- he hadn’t been able to swallow so much as a mouthful of his chicken salad at lunchtime because he felt so nauseous.
There had been a little whirlpool swilling in his belly at that point, but it felt as though there was actually an entire stormy sea lurching inside his belly at this juncture. It was making him feel seasick and jittery to try and stay on top of the surging nerves, and Frank was pretty sure that sooner or later, he’d drown under them.
“So, who did you say the band was?” Ray asked, swerving to avoid yet another overflowing puddle at one of the field gates, and again seconds later for another congregation of strayed sheep, who were grazing mournfully at the scrubby wet grass of the verge.
“Uh,” Frank felt his face flush with embarrassment. “Um, I can’t remember.” This was a downright lie, but he felt stupidly self-conscious, even though he knew Ray wouldn’t judge.
“If you say so,” Ray grinned knowingly. “Clarissa’s gunna have your head for this, man.”
“I know,” Frank sighed, looking back out at the misty rain and darkening sky. But if he was honest with himself, he really didn’t care what Clarissa thought right now. He knew, deep down, that he’d go to this gig, no matter what it took.
Robbie had given him his first little taster of rebellion, and Frank knew, deep down, that already, he was fully hooked onto the bait.
Frank raised his gaze to the window once more, fiddling nervously with the cuff of his school blazer. The woods were speeding by beside him; a blur of cadaverous branches and naked bark. Suddenly, as he stared into their sodden, overgrown depths, Frank felt a scaly prickle of fear ascend his spine.
This greatly perplexed Frank, because he'd never felt scared of the woods before. Ever. Not even at night, where everything else became scary and unknown.
Frank knew the woods like the back of his hand; He’d grown up playing in them and building dens and imaginary worlds, and walked through their soft silence almost every day. He’d never found them so…eerie, before, so…so dark. They were like the nightfall now; murky and scabbed. You never knew what was lurking in their depths.
Unknowingly, Frank shivered.
There was definitely something different about them; something uneasy, as the spindly, moss speckled trees shivered bleakly in the ink cartilage rain, rustling their forked-lightening branches nervously, almost as if they were trying to cling onto the remaining leaves for comfort.
The whole scene blurred from the speed of the car and the copious sluicing of grey rain, so as the woodland became like the blotted canvas, something that was once a masterpiece, but all the colours had run, blurring everything together so it was just muddy, murky brown and no one could see the intricate beauty anymore. Now it was just a tangle of broken-bone branches and gnarled faces.
Frank sighed without knowing it, watching his breath mist across the glass and shroud the world with opaque anxiety.
“…Breaking news…escaped convict, Gerard Arthur Way was sighted near the outskirts of Kettlebridge village early this afternoon…”
Frank’s eyes flew from the badly-blotted painting of reality to the slightly crackly radio. Ray swerved again, but this time not to avoid and overflowing puddle or a random sheep. The car narrowly avoided smashing into the fence of the field nearby before Ray regained control of the wheel, eyes wide and shocked.
This sent another jolt of adrenaline to Frank’s heart; Ray was normally such a calm and sensible person.
“…Way is believed to be unhinged and extremely dangerous. Residents of Kettlebridge are strongly advised to stay indoors. Lock your doors and windows and do not go out after dark. I repeat; stay indoors. …Head detective of Stonebridge estimates the capture in under twenty four hours…please call hotline…sightings…”
Frank turned to look at Ray, eyes wide. He could feel his heart slamming into his ribs and the prickle on his spine was more of a scrabbled talon-grip.
“Kettlebridge,” Frank breathed, “Isn’t that…?”
“…Way was imprisoned as seventeen for the murder of his best friend or girlfriend, Emily Louise Hawthorn…talented…dancer……now to the weather…”
“That’s us,” Ray murmured, finishing Frank’s sentence for him as the newsreader switched to the weather forecast. “That’s us. He's here.”
By the time Ray drew up in the farm yard, it was almost completely dark, although Frank knew it was still raining violently from the patter of it on the stationary car and the way the pencil-lead tears hacked through the gentle glow of the stone cottage’s floodlights. They lit up the whole yard, illuminating the shadows yet creating more of them to fear.
There was a small silence after Ray switched the ignition off. Frank was pretty sure the newsreader’s announcement was still rupturing through Ray’s mind. He knew it was in his, scaring him but also sending shivers of adventure down his spine.
“Well, thanks for the ride, Ray,” Frank said gratefully after a few second, grabbing his schoolbag and opening the passenger door. Instantly, cold invaded the car like the plague, bitter and raw from the sky that seemed intent on crying until it bled.
“You’re welcome,” Ray smiled in Frank’s direction, although the crease of worry in his forehead that had appeared upon hearing the news still didn’t fade. He sighed and ran a weary hand through his spongy hair. “See you Monday, I guess.”
“Yes, see you then,” Frank threw his friend a vaguely distracted smile and stepped out into the numbing blast of ice that hissed its way through the rain and round the darkened yard.
He could taste rust and gasoline and rotting life in the air, the familiar mingling of fragmented tangs grounding him a little.
“Oh, and Frank?” Ray called, just before Frank shut the car door behind him.
“Yes?” Frank ducked his head inside.
“Take care tonight,” Ray said quietly, and then revved the engine.
“Thanks,” Frank replied, his voice almost a whisper as he slammed the car door shut, the rust snagging slightly on his fingertips. He stood in the hostile grey rain and descending dark for a few moments, watching Ray’s car chug off down the track, trail-lights blazing blood red in the moody twilight.
Then he shivered, belly tightening anxiously, as he stumbled through the gnashing rain and unlocked the back door.
The second he stepped over the threshold, warmth hit him in a gush, caressing his raw skin and sweeping his wavy, slightly damp chocolate brown hair away from the steamed-up lenses of his glasses.
The kitchen was warm and cosy from the Aga Stove, and everything looked exactly as it always did, which was kind of reassuring. Linda Iero was making dinner, humming cheerfully to herself as she bustled round the kitchen. The ancient TV on top of the microwave burbled away companionably as she sliced onions and courgettes and looked up with a smile as Frank shrugged off his grey duffel coat and hooked the latch on the back door shut.
“Hi Frankie,” Linda smiled in greeting, continuing to chop the vegetables.
It was clear the news of an escaped convict in the vicinity had not reached her ears, or she would be looking decidedly more stressed- especially as Frank was late home. He was also grateful, because it meant it would be a lot easier to convince her to let him out to go to the gig.
“Hi,” Frank mumbled in reply, putting his shoes neatly by the doormat and flicking the kettle on to boil, fingers burning from the icy wind outside.
“How was your day?” Linda asked as Frank pottered around the kitchen, getting a slightly chipped polka-dot mug and rummaging through the tin for a teabag.
Frank shrugged dismissively. “Alright,” he replied eventually, because it hadn’t been great. He’d spent most of the day trying to ignore the cheerful salutes Robbie gave him in the common room, because they added about tenfold to Clarissa’s hurt glare which burnt through his back all day like some kind of angry sun.
His mind had also been so distracted that he’d forgotten to turn the gas taps off in Chemistry last period, and consequently gotten the first row he’d had from a teacher since first grade when he’d accidentally blown strawberry bubblegum into the teacher’s hair.
“Only alright?” Linda asked, surprised.
Frank shrugged again, pouring boiling water onto his teabag.
“Any plans for the weekend?” Linda asked conversationally, tipping a load of sliced courgettes into the pan and wiping her hands on her apron.
“Uh,” Frank sat down tensely at the kitchen table and blew on his steaming mug of tea and jiggling his left leg anxiously up and down with the excess adrenaline. “Kinda.”
“Oh?” Linda smiled, stirring the contents of the pan.
“Um, I was wondering…” Frank took a nervous sip of the sweet tea and choked. He wasn’t used to feeling so nervous; after all, normally, he didn’t really have anything to be nervous about- other than exams or giving a talk in a school assembly.
But this was a different kind of nervousness to that; it overwhelmed his entire body, making him jiggle his left leg restlessly up and down with the excess adrenaline and his teeth clink against the rose pattern china of the mug every time he tried to take a sip. It made him feel sick and scared and excited all at once, and it was weird.
“You alright, honey?” Linda Iero asked in mild concern as Frank spilt tea all over the table for the third time since sitting down.
“Mmm,” Frank blushed, feeling stupid as he hurriedly mopped the spilt tea from the tabletop. “Uh, Mom?” he began nervously, feeling the anxiety clawing at the edge of his voice as he traced patterns on the side of the mug.
“Yes?” Linda asked from where she was drying the dishes.
“Uh, is it okay if I go out with some friends tonight?” Frank blurted, and promptly spilt another slop of tea over the side of his mug, scalding his fingers.
Linda looked up, surprised. “Out?” she repeated as Frank hurriedly mopped at the table again, anxious for it not to leave a stain.
“ Yeah,” Frank stammered, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks as he set his mug down and surveyed the depths of the remaining tea.
“That’s fine, honey,” Linda smiled fondly. “You do enough homework to earn a night out. Don’t look so stressed!”
“Thanks,” Frank stuttered, hardly able to believe his luck.
“So, Clarissa and Ray and the usual crowd?” Linda asked conversationally, stacking the willow pattern plates by the dish-rack and moving on to the bowls.
“Uh, not exactly,” Frank admitted, ducking his head and tracing rings on the slightly damp tabletop, counting the marks in the pine wood and jiggling his leg faster.
“Oh, who then?” Linda asked curiously.
“Um, you remember Robbie from my primary school?” Frank mumbled, hastily setting his mug of tea down on the table before any more of the beverage could make a bid for freedom.
“Oh, yes,” Linda said brightly. “The one with the freckles who used to jump out of trees?”
“That’s him,” Frank smiled slightly, immensely grateful that his mother did not know what Robbie looked like these days. If she did, she would probably be more likely to let Frank go out with the escaped convict.
“That’s nice then,” Linda smiled encouragingly. “Where are you going?”
“Uh, to see a band,” Frank muttered, ducking his head again.
“What kind of band?” Linda asked, beginning to put the crockery away.
Frank could practically feel the CD case burning through his schoolbag with the eyeliner-slathered guys and the song title ‘Satan’s cock’.
“Uhm,” Frank bit his lip, cheeks flushing furiously. And then did something he hadn’t done in a very long time. He lied to his parents.
“Uh, just Pop stuff, y’know? A bit like…Snow Patrol.” Frank managed, not meeting his Mother’s eyes.
“Oh, that sounds fun,” Linda beamed.
“Mm,” Frank agreed, trying not to throw up with the nerves swilling more persistently round his belly at the thought of the gig only being just over an hour away. “Uh, I’d better go get ready.” He stood up and dumped his half-full mug of tea in the sink, trying fervently to stop his palms sweating salty fear.
“Okay honey,” Linda smiled fondly. “Will you want dinner?”
“No, I’ll eat when I’m out,” Frank told her. “Thanks though, Mom.”
He felt a little guilty as he set off towards the hall, but the adrenaline-fused moths fluttered excitedly in his gut at the prospect of freedom, a place without exams or timetables or A grades…
“Oh, wait a second…Frankie?” Linda called, as Frank was halfway down the hall. He jumped guiltily out of thought and turned back, absent-mindedly pressing the spot on the bridge of his nose where the frame of his glasses had been rubbing all day.
“Yeah?” Frank questioned, doubling back into the kitchen. His Mom was leaning against the kitchen counter, an uncharacteristically worried look in her cinnamon brown eyes as she surveyed Frank.
He began to feel worried. Did she know he hadn’t been telling her the truth?
“Have you been out to Sycamore field lately?” Linda asked, cutting through Frank’s escalating panic and stalling it with her question.
Frank blinked in surprise, relief washing over him. “No,” he replied truthfully. Sycamore field one of the most far flung fields of the farm, right off by the edge of the woods that stretched away in the opposite direction Frank usually took.
“Oh,” Linda bit her lip, looking disappointed. “Sure?”
“Yes!” Frank insisted, nudging one of the uneven kitchen tiles with his foot and not looking up. “I really haven’t, Mom- and why do you want to know, anyway?”
“It’s just,” Linda sighed, putting down the dishtowel and glancing apprehensively towards the black window, as if she expected to see something outside, but all that was visible was the reflection of her own face and that of Frank’s behind her.
“Well, your father found tracks in there this morning- they’d ruined the crops he’d planted,” she said eventually, fiddling with a fraying thread on the dishtowel.
“Tracks?” Frank frowned, confused.
“Footprints, Frankie. Someone was in our field.”
What did you think? I know not much happened in this update, but I had to do this in order for the next one's events...which shall be very interesting, I think ;D Thanks so much for reading...make my day and rate and review? Please? I'm starting my new school tomorrow and I'm scared as hell! Love you all and I promise I'll update as soon as I can.