America is at war and Lindsey's good friend Bob joins the army, but when extremes will 16 year old Gerard Way go to to win Lindsey's heart over Bob?
I’m not normal anymore. Well, I don’t feel normal. How can I feel normal? How can I live a normal, healthy, able life anymore? I can’t. I’ve ruined my life, or changed it dramatically at the very least. I didn’t have to go, I shouldn’t have gone. I have no family to feel shame for me, for doing what I did. How could I have been prepared for what I had to face?
This is the story of how my life changed forever, how I lost people I loved and how America helped win the war. This is the story of the worst decision of my life.
One month earlier…
“AMERICA IS AT WAR! AMERICA IS AT WAR!” we all heard it. How could you have missed it? The loud bells rang in the centre of the village and the mayor yelled at the top of his voice. Almost the whole village turned up to hear this life changing announcement at ten o’clock, that Saturday morning. It came as a shock to the village. We were all so disconnected from the rest of the world that we had no clue this was going to happen. “We need men aged nineteen to forty to sign up, help our country win this historic battle!” The mayor shouted over the hushed mumble of the crowd. “It’s an honour to fight for your country, to help us win!”
Immediately, a group of young men who I recognised from spending time in the pub with my brother signed up. I knew instantly that one of them was my friend’s brother. They all looked pretty confident about it, too. Luckily I was only sixteen, hopefully the war would be over by the time I would have to go and fight. My brother, he is only a year younger than myself. I would never make him leave to fight…I would never let him.
Throughout the day, and the following week more and more men vanished from our village to fight for our county in honour. The village was becoming quieter and there was a horrible sense of longing for loved ones to come home safe, in the air.
I’m kind of glad, in a weird way, that my father isn’t here. He would have been made to go and fight. He had me with my mom when she they were just 17. They ran away and left me and my brother on the orphanage doorstep just after Mikey was born. When I was eleven a letter was sent to the orphanage explaining my parents’ tragic death in an accident to do with a train and that there are no family to contact for us to stay with. Myself and my brother spent hours in the library trying to work out which train accident they had died in so we could work out where they had run away to, but there were no train accidents within 2 years that they could have possibly died in. Somewhere deep down, I still believe they’re alive somewhere but that’s being optimistic, and I’ve never had the best luck. I have no memory of them at all, but I want them to be safe. Even if my father is alive right now, I would want him to be careful.
I head down to the stables to find my best friend Frankie. There is plenty of gossip to do with who is signing up and who is too cowardly for us to talk about. Frank was usually the first person to know everything about anyone in the town. And if there was something we wanted to find out we would talk to him and ask him to find out one way or another.
I spot him from a distance sitting on one of the stone walls looking out onto his family’s farm. He is with a girl and I know who she is instantly. Lindsey Ballato. Urgh, why was Frank talking to her? He knows I like her! It’s not that I don’t trust him, it’s just that I’m afraid he will accidently tell her about my feelings. I had been in love with her since I was ten. She used to sneak fresh bread from the bakery, which her family owned, into the orphanage for me and my brother which we were eternally thankful for as the orphanage wasn’t grateful when it came to giving us food.
“Hey GeeGee.” Frank laughs. I ignore him and sit in between him and Lindsey.
“Any news on who has signed up?” I ask.
“Robert Bryar.” Lindsey says quickly. Myself and Frank both turn to look at her. “What?” She says when she notices we are both staring at her. “He’s going to be a hero.” She blushes.
“But he’s underage!” Frank gasps.
“That’s what makes it so heroic!” She smiles.
“Something tells me you have a little crush on Bob!” Frank laughs. Something inside my stomach twists. Maybe it’s jealousy. Lindsey shrugs and Frank nudges me in the ribs.
“What about you two?” She asks. “Aren’t you going to help America win the war?”
“I can’t, my parents would kill me.” Frank says disappointedly.
“What’s so bad about that? Surviving the war won’t be easy! You’re lucky to be here when so many men are getting killed out there.” I argue.
“Yeah, but I want to be a hero like Bob.” Frank says plainly. Lindsey doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with this.
“Gerard, they’re encouraging anyone to sign up. Underage or not. They don’t care how old you are.” Lindsey says defensively. Defensive of her precious Bobby.
“I wouldn’t want to leave the village anyway.” I shrug.
“You mean you wouldn’t want to leave Lindsey.” Frank giggles. Lindsey giggles too and it makes me blush. I elbow Frank so hard that he falls backwards off of the wall into the muddy field below. “It’s true!” he yells from the ground.
I help Lindsey pull him back over the wall and he is covered head to toe in mud.
“Thanks a lot Gerard.” Frank says sarcastically. “I’m going to go and change. I’ll be back in a few.” He smirks. He runs of down the dusty road in the direction of his farm house. This is when I realise me and Lindsey are alone.
“Is it true?” she asks.
“What?” I say.
“That you love me.” she giggles. I shrug as I feel my cheeks burning. “Aw, that’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” She smiles. She puts her arm around my waist and I feel my body tense up.
“But you would never go out with me.” I mumble. “I’m not heroic enough for you and…and look at me! I’m the ugliest guy in the whole village.” I realise I have probably said too much.
“Gerard, you’re a great friend. And you’re not ugly. You’re the only naturally black-haired guy I know and that’s awesome.” She says. I can feel my eyes fill with tears.
“Well what would I have to do to make you love me as much as you love Bob?” I ask.
“I don’t know, Gerard. It’s probably just a little crush anyway.”
“Yeah, a little crush that has lasted six years.” I hissed. With that, I jump down from the wall and storm off in the direction of mine and my brother’s small house on the outskirts of the village.
It was almost as if she didn’t believe I loved her. How could I prove my love for her? Risk my life for her? That’s practically impossible considering we live in the quietest, most boring village in the whole of New Jersey. Did she expect me to sign up for the army like Bob did? I could never do that. I’m such a cowardly person! And what would my parents say if they knew I was even considering it?
I kick of my boots and shove them by the only working radiator in our house. I find Mikey sitting in the kitchen with his head in his hands.
“What’s up?” I ask, sitting down opposite him.
“N-nothing. I’m just tired.” He stutters. I notice he is shaking and his face is pale.
“You look sick.” I say.
“Something like that.” he mumbles. I get up and start to boil the kettle on the stove.
“How would you prove your love for someone?” I ask casually. “Would you…I don’t know…how far would you go to prove it?”
“Depends what they are expecting.” He says.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you have to go beyond their expectations and do something so good that they weren’t expecting that much from you.” he says as I mix in a couple of tea bags in the teapot. I realise how deep that is, coming from my brother anyway. He usually answers with just a word or two. I pour the tea onto two tea cups and then stir in some fresh milk from Frank’s farm. I hand Mikey the tea and he takes it, drinks it in pretty much one gulp, and heads upstairs.
I was skipping school today. Frank, Mikey and Lindsey all had important exams today but I didn’t as I was a year ahead of them. Perfect opportunity to sign up for the army. Yes. I was going to do what Lindsey wouldn’t expect of me. Maybe I’d become a hero and she’d fall in love with me.
I head down to the registration office; it’s empty except for one man sitting at a desk with a newspaper.
I clear my throat and announce “I’d like to sign up for the army.”
The man looks up and me and laughs.
“Why else would you be here?” he says with a humoured look on his face. I roll my eyes as he gets out a slip of paper from his folder.
“Gerard Way.” I say. He looks up at me for a second. What if he knew me, and knew I wasn’t old enough to join the army? I can see some sort of emotion in his eyes but I can’t tell what it is.
“Um…twenty?” I say. What if I hesitated too much? What if I made it sound more like a question than an answer?
“Parent’s permission?” he asks.
“That’s not a question on there!” I say, glancing at the paper. He covers it up quickly.
“I am ordered to ask anyway.” He says.
“Well, I have none.” I say. He nods and looks down at the paper.
“Can you fill in your address here” he says pointing to one last box. I take the pen and write my address in the small box. I hand the paper back to him and I notice I am shaking.
“There, you’re already! Your uniform will arrive this evening and you’ll be shipped to England for training tomorrow.”
“Really? T-that soon?” I ask. It was all happening so quickly.
“Yes. Good luck, son.” He smiles as I leave and he salutes me.
I walk home as quickly as I can. My legs are trembling and I feel as if I will pass out any minute. Had I really just signed up for the army? Was I really going off to fight tomorrow?! What had I just done?
Mikey arrives home from school at four o’clock and I feel my body fill with dread as I run over in my head what I am going to say to him.
“Mikey.” I say and I grab him by the shoulders before he manages to escape upstairs.
“I…I… have joined the army.” I announce. He looks up at me and then back down at the floor without much of a response.
“Oh.” Is all he says.
“Is that it? You’re not worried for me? You’re not going to beg me to stay?” I say. I can feel the anger boiling up inside of me. Out everybody I know, I would expect my own brother be at least a little bit upset about what I had done.
“I would, but I’m going with you.”
“What? No you’re not! You’re not old enough. You haven’t even signed up.” I say and I realise I am shouting.
“You’re not old enough either, Gerard! And yes. Yes I have signed up. In fact I signed up before you did!” He yells. My brother has never shouted at me like this before.
“Well I’m not letting you go! I’m not letting you get hurt!”
“Why should I listen to you? You have done the same thing as me and the worst part is, you did it to impress a girl who will never love you no matter what you do to try and impress her!” he roars and his face turns purple.
“Why would you say that?”
“Because it’s true,” His shouts turn to a whisper. “We’ve all known you loved her. She’s known for a long time too! She will never love you Gerard!” he whispers. I see tears forming in the rims of his eyes under his circle glasses.
I know that everything he had just said was purely out of nerves and anger. We were both scared. In fact, I had ever been so scared in my life! We were going to go and fight, we would witness death, pain and millions of indescribable emotions, of course we were scared.
“Come here.” I say, I wrap my arms around him and hold him close. I can feel his body shivering and my hair becomes wet from his tears. “We’re going to be okay, we’re going to be together.” I say.
Our uniform was delivered by an army service man and we changed straight away. We were instructed to wear our uniform at all times, even when we weren’t fighting to show our support for our country. We were also given a bag which we were instructed to pack essentials like underwear and maybe the odd book, chocolate, photograph or letter. I packed a photograph of me and Frank and one of me, Frank, Lindsey, Mikey, Bob and our other best friend Ray- who had already gone off to fight as he was twenty.
I helped Mikey button up his shirt as his hands were shaking so much and I fastened an identical golden broach too each of our shirts. The broach was the only thing we each had left from our family. It was a metal broach with our surname ‘Way’ attached to a golden circle. Mrs Iero, Frank’s mom, recons it was passed down from our grandfather and his brother. We had managed to find out he had an identical twin but bother were killed during the first great war in the trenches. They were attached to our clothes when we were abandoned outside the orphanage.
We slipped into our browny-green trousers, which itched a lot, and tied, up our boots to our feet. We then stepped back to admire one another. I had to admit that Mikey looked handsome. I had gelled his hair down so it looked smart and he did the same for me. Our parents would hopefully be proud if they knew we were going to fight, and risk our lives for our country.
“I’m going to go and say some last good byes.” I yell up the stairs. It’s starting to get dark and chilly outside. I don’t hear a reply so I assume he has already left. I walk with a fast pace down to Frank’s house and throw a stone up at his window. I couldn’t risk knocking on his door in case his parents know I am underage. His head pokes out from his window and I watch as he searches for his caller.
“Psst, Frankie!” I whisper.
He spots me and whispers: “Gerard? I’m coming.” Has he spotted my uniform? I only have to wait a few seconds for the front door to open. It slams against the wall and he throws his arms around my neck.
“What have you done?” he says. I notice he is crying when I feel my shirt grow damp.
“I’m sorry Frankie.” I whisper.
“You joined the fucking army? You don’t stand a chance!” He cries.
“Thanks for the support.” I say, trying to smile to lighten the mood but I end up crying too.
“You can’t just leave. Gerard, you’re my best friend and I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I will be as safe as I can. I have asked for the letter announcing my death to be sent to your house. As long as that doesn’t arrive, you know I’m safe. I’ll write to you as often as I can and I have a photo of us in my bag for good luck.” I try to be as reassuring as I can but I can’t even convince myself that I’m going to be okay.
“I love you Gerard. You have to stay as safe as you possibly can, okay? You promise?” he sobs.
“I promise.” I say. I kiss his cheek and walk off leaving him tear stricken in the drive way to his house. A longer goodbye would just mean it would be harder to let go. Frank had been my best friend since I could remember. Leaving him would be the hardest part of all of this.
I only want to say goodbye to one last person. Lindsey. I’m in no danger of her parents finding me out, as they’re always at the pub leaving her and her older brother home alone. Although her older brother has already gone off to fight. I hesitantly knock on the door and wait for a reply. I quickly replace my beret neatly on my head as I hear her footsteps approach the door.
“Ger-” he face lights up then changes completely when she realises what I’m wearing. “What are you doing?” she asks. Her face almost looks angry.
“I’m going to be a hero, for you and Frank.” I say, holding the sobs deep down in my chest.
“You can’t! Gerard! No! Please don’t go, please, I’m begging you to stay… if this is about me not loving you, then I do love you! Why would you do this! You’re going to get yourself killed.” She cries angrily. She takes my face in her hands and pulls me into the warmth of her house.
“I’m sorry Lindsey, but I want to prove how much I love you. Plus, I won’t be alone. Mikey signed up too.”
“NO! Not Mikey too! No, no, no! This can’t be happening, this can’t be fucking happening!” her tears suddenly turn into hysterical violent sobs. She has to sit down to stop herself from falling.
“I’m sorry.” I whisper. I kneel down in front of her and I taker her hand in mine. “We’ll be okay. I will look after Mikey and myself.” I manage to crack a small smile, although it is hard when you’re trying to hold back unimaginable amounts of tears. She bends down and kisses me on the cheek.
“I have to go now; I’m leaving early in the morning.” I say standing up. I salute her and exit the house.
I ran all the way home that night, although it isn’t that far. A billion and one thoughts whizzed around my head as I lay in bed that night, waiting for my alarm to ring at 5am and for me and my brother to begin the journey to England. What would happen if I died? Would anyone miss me? What if I’m not good enough? Would Lindsey take all the blame for my possible death? What if Mikey gets hurt? Or even killed?
Before I knew it my alarm rang out and me and my brother got out of bed trembling. Mikey’s face was grey and tear stained and I’m sure mine didn’t look too far from that. We sat in silence in our living room waiting for the army service man to knock at our door.
Not five minutes after we were ready, we heard the dreaded knock. He saluted us with a blank face and we followed him towards the village centre to the bus that would take us to the port. I took one last look at the sleeping village around us. Could I run away? Would they let me stay if I told them my real age? No. I couldn’t give up. Not now. The bus is in sight and I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I follow Mikey into the bus and we sit at the front. We are the only two soldiers on the bus.
“Gerard and Mikey Way, yes?” I recognize man from the registration office.
“Yes, sir.” We both say. He looks at the broaches on our shirts for a second and opens his mouth. He looks from me to Mikey then closes it again.
“I’m Field Marshall Way. I’ll be training you both for your deportation to Normandy on the 6th of June.” He said proudly. The engine roars to life and we begin the drive.
“Way?” I ask.
“Yes. You’ll find it’s a common surname when you start to mix with other soldiers.” He says dismissively. He turns around and takes his seat diagonal to us.
No matter how many times I convinced myself I would be okay, no matter how many times I closed my eyes and prayed for mine and my brother’s safety in my head, nothing could possibly prepare me for what I would be facing in 5 days. Yes five days. We would only be given five days on training before being sent out to fight in Normandy. Deep down, I didn’t even have a clue what I would be faced with. Whatever it was would be a hundred times worse than what I prayed for it to be like in my head.
As I said, nothing could prepare me for what I did face…
To be continued...