'I just feel dead instead. A ghost that’s ready to go...'
Chapter Twenty One
Now that misty, bleak dawn is beginning to slink through the flaws fragmenting my sleeping eyes, all credibility of last night is ebbing away; seeping out into nothing but broken-up fairytales, along with the dark I find so soothing. Grey reality is here, harsh and stinging- and now there’s no reason at all why last night should be real- every reason that says it could be is becoming nothing more than cobwebs in my subconscious mind.
And this is why, illogically, I don’t want to get up. Instead, I just want to stay here, cocooned in my tangled duvet, for as long as possible- listening to the soft lull of misty grey rain against the window pane; listening to it drowning out the unending grind of tires across the world’s tarnished surface and any rational thoughts that my mind might try and dredge up.
I want to stay here, safe and warm, where I can curl up protectively around the memories I don’t want to relinquish just yet; memories of a pair of drowning green eyes, of trembling fingers and a faceless carnival mask shattering into a thousand, tiny shards of pure anguish.
I want to stay here where I can still smell the gentle lingering of tobacco and cinnamon-laced fear that’s usually concealed inside a tough black-leather shell; smelling them is smelling proof of something that shouldn’t have happened- comforting someone I thought despised the very air I breathe. Caring about someone I thought I hated. Not just past tense either; I still care. I know I do, because I can feel it lodged painfully in-between my ribs, a giant, serrated shard of ice that burns with every breath, tugging, gouging, dragging. Caring always hurts, because you’ve got something you don’t want to let go- but ultimately, you have to let everything go, sooner or later. But that doesn’t mean it’s painless.
I want to stay here, because I know that the moment I open my swollen eyes, reality’s repetitive grey will wash away all vibrancy that maintains the potency of memories- my life will become drab and grey and listless once more; colourless, like the rest of the city, except for when it is splattered with the violent red of my own blood. I don’t know why I want to hang onto these memories, I just know that I can’t let them slip away just yet. They seem so fundamental, so deep-seated- but I simply can’t comprehend why.
So instead of acknowledging the reality that looms in front of my closed eyes, I just curl up and huddle further under my duvet, letting the sound of my own breathing soothe me as my mind replays the swirling fragments of last night; the vivid strip-lights of the club, Danny’s threats, the gasoline and peppermint smell of the taxi, the shadowy clutter of my alleged enemy’s room and the way tension slowly melted from his pallid face with the murmur of my voice. They’re sort of like wispy whispers, straggling through my dully thudding skull.
But most potently, the things that linger are, as ever, the most violent; the most scarring. Like shattered cobwebs, they glisten with memory-dew in my skull and I remember so strongly- holding back Gerard’s raggedy hair as his bony body contorted and convulsed over the club’s alleyway; the feel of his death-gripping fingers snaked through mine in the smooth, gasoline interior of the taxi; but most of all, Gerard’s disintegrating mask that shed composure to reveal those devastatingly emerald eyes…Most memorable of all are Gerard’s alive eyes.
I’ve never wanted to live in a memory before- in general, my memories are scarred and blistered with fear or my own blood and shame. My memories are things I want to forget, things I wish weren’t part of me.
It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to truly remember one.
And that’s when I realise. I know that once I let my eyes become assaulted by reality’s harsh glare, I’ll forget that- if only for a night- I felt alive again.
More than that- I felt safe.
That makes my breath hitch, because I never feel safe these days. But last night, I did. Comforting someone I thought I loathed, running my hands through their raggedy raven ribbon hair and murmuring my most heavily shadowed secrets like some kind of nightmare-lullaby, I felt safe. I didn’t realise it last night, because I was too caught up in the black hair and night and sung secrets. I wasn’t worrying ahead like I usually do- but now; now I can see it, so clearly, even though my eyes are shut against the world.
But that’s when I see most clearly anyway. When reality doesn’t get in the way of truth.
My thoughts are gently interrupted by a small tap on my shoulder and I whine slightly in protest, not wanting to wake up and have to live just yet. Rain is still battering against the windowpane and although my eyes are closed, I can tell that the day is heavy with pungent grey mist.
“Frank?” A timid little voice murmurs right beside my ear, brushing the shell of my ear shyly so as I know, without even having to hear another word, who it is. I can smell anxiety and innocence and bass strings, and it makes me relax a little.
“Mmm?” I groan without opening my aching eyes. It feels as though someone’s bruised my pupils whenever I try moving them, and my skull throbs dully.
“Uh, I just went to see Gerard,” Mikey mumbles tentatively, sitting down gingerly on the bed; I feel the mattress give slightly at his feather-light weight. “And, um, I just wanted to say thank you for making sure he got home okay last night. He told me you’d helped him.”
I peel my eyes open, sticky with sleep and dreams that weren’t dreams, immediately wincing in reality’s grey glare that slices through my overly-sensitive senses aggressively.
Mikey’s slightly nervous hazel eyes swim into view.
“Thank you,” Mikey mumbles, nibbling at his already bitten-down nails. “I know you don’t even like him, so it was a really decent thing to do.”
“I don’t…” I start, voice rough from sleep, but then I stop, because I don’t know what to say. Everything’s all jumbled up, transforming, morphing; in transition to an unknown place. Instead, I settle with a gruff, “You’re welcome.”
Mikey smiles and I blink, prising my aching eyes open a little further.
My bedroom is dull with dark grey light and the sound of rain against the windowpane, the walls plastered with black rock posters that make the room seem darker still. But I like the dark. It’s got shadows to hide away in.
I blink again, reality swimming more strongly through my senses as I note that Mikey is hovering over me, looking sleepy but freshly showered in a navy Nirvana hoodie and grey jeans, his mousy hair sticking up in tufts round his little glasses and making him look slightly owlish- but in a cute, slightly geeky way.
“H-how is he?” I mumble, words slurring together with sleep as I struggle up a little, only just remembering to shake my tangled hair across my face and my scars as I look at the younger Way brother, my heart suddenly in my throat as I await the answer.
Mikey’s face falls a little. “Uhm, not great. He’s seriously hung-over, but he’ll live. I think.” He smiles dryly, nibbling at his lip again.
I manage to appropriate one back, relaxing, before retreating to the depths of my duvet and closing my eyes against the world once more, letting the soft darkness eclipse the burning grey glare of day.
“You hung-over too?” Mikey asks quietly.
“I guess,” I mutter, trying to ignore the dull thud at my temples. “I’m not really used to drinking- I mean, it’s not like I had much or anything.”
“Poor you,” Mikey replies sympathetically. There’s silence for several moments, then- “Uhm, we’re thinking of going to the park in a bit… You, uh, want to come? Ocean, uh, says you have to.”
Without opening my eyes again, I sigh heavily, feeling my breath ruffle my tangled fringe. “I guess,” I mutter reluctantly, knowing full well that Ocean will decapitate me if I don’t agree.
“Great,” Mikey’s slightly shy little voice says, relaxing somewhat. “Uh, I’ll see you in a bit then.”
“Mmmhm,” I mumble, burrowing back under my duvet as I hear Mikey going back out of the room.
I really don’t want to get up. I want to stay here forever, wrapped up in memories that seem more like the elaborately woven stories of a dream that reality. If I burrow far enough into the depths of my duvet and concentrate very hard on the sound of my own breathing and the gentle patter of rain on the windowpane, I can almost relive it.
My slightly trembly breaths are Gerard’s scared ones. The same rain still dribbles almost inaudibly down the glass, like the tears that coursed intermittently down his chalk-white, sweat-glistening cheeks like liquid salt. I can almost feel his silken hair streaming through my nervous fingertips; a thousand broken, split ends making something so soft, so pure.
I thought I hated him, but maybe I just didn’t understand him.
I still don’t.
But I want to now; I’m curious like I’ve never been before. I care.
Fleetingly, I wonder- with a jerk of my gut- what Gerard will be like in the sandpaper light of day. I can’t really picture him being vulnerable; so scared and sensitive like he was as he clung to me last night- clung to me like I was his very own pulse. Will he just revert to being the same, impassive mask that never lets anything flicker across those devastatingly zombie eyes, never lets anything touch the inside? Will he still treat with that same cold, unfeeling scorn?
I couldn’t guess to save my life. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone with so many complex layers, with so much to be confused by and so much to understand. I know, though, from the slowly smouldering icicle lodged between my ribs and exuding some kind of sub-zero warmth I don’t quite understand, it’ll hurt. If he’s cold and indifferent and sneering, it’ll really fucking hurt.
Letting out a small, shuddery sigh, I burrow further still under my duvet and under the veil of memories, letting the murmur of listless grey rain and silence lull me back into the tranquillity of dreamless sleep- although I of all people know how dangerous it is to let yourself live in a woven world of dreams.
I must have drifted off properly after a while, though, because the next thing I know, I’m being shaken determinedly awake, and the feisty scent of spearmint and jasmine is tickling my nostrils.
“Wakey wakey, Frankie,” Ocean is leaning over me; a blur of indigo hair and smudgy eyeliner in the watery silver light. Her eyes look as bloodshot as mine feel as I peel them stickily open once more, blinking blearily as grey light scrapes harshly across them, making my swollen skull thud in heavy protest.
“Unugh,” I groan, trying to turn back onto my front.
However, Ocean is not one to give up easily- something I’ve come to learn from being her best friend for so many years.
“Come on, lazybones. It’s the weekend, remember? Let’s make the most of it! Jeez, I thought you’d got up when Mikey woke you like, half an hour ago!” Her persistent voice slices through my sleepy fug of memory-confusion and ghosted alcohol. I groan again, hating the sour, stale taste of late nights congealing in my mouth as I try and get my dry tongue round words.
“Where did you get to last night, by the way?” she continues demandingly. I continue to grumble sleepily, swatting blindly at my rebellious friend in protest.
“Home,” I grunt, my voice feeling rough and scratchy against my throat. I continue swatting at Ocean in some vain attempt to get her to leave me to the simplicity of slumber, but she doesn’t budge.
“Oi,” she grabs my wrist, but instead of retaliating, she curls her fingers through mine uncharacteristically gently, linking us together.
This makes my eyes shoot open in alarm, and the first blurry thought to fire through my befuddled brain is that this hand shouldn’t be hers- it’s too soft and warm and… feminine. It just feels…wrong
The second thought that hits me is a lot more like what?! I shake it off, struggling upright in bed to look dazedly at my blue haired friend. Light assaults me and stings my sleep-deprived eyes like acid for the second time this morning. I groan, pushing a hand up to my dully pounding skull and rubbing at the frown lines on my forehead, suddenly reminded of the rigid anxiety on Gerard’s forehead- and the how I watched it melt away last night as I sang softly.
“Um,” I say articulately, shaking myself into reality and looking at her hand laced through mine. “What are you doing?”
“Oh, relax, you idiot,” Ocean rolls her eyes, but with less of her usual charisma. “I’m not trying to make a move on you, if that’s what you’re worried about. I’m just trying to talk to you.”
I blink, and my heart dissolves in relief. “Oh. Uh. I totally knew that.”
“Of course you did,” Ocean says sarcastically. “Anyway, I just wanted to make sure you’re okay…I realise, uh, I wasn’t exactly…the, um, best friend last night.”
“No,” I say, suddenly remembering. Images of her flash through my groggy head- memories of her smoking and flirting with Gerard, letting herself become wrapped up by the lies and the dying green eyes, and my chest purges with something repulsively sour. “You weren’t.”
“Well, I just wanted to apologise. Uhm, again,” Ocean bites her lip, looking uncharacteristically nervous. “I shouldn’t have ignored you so much. I don’t know what’s wrong with me…” she suddenly looks so small and vulnerable, so different to the usual confident, brightly coloured Ocean. It reminds me fleetingly of someone else with a falsely confident shell, and I have to bite my lip hard and focus on Ocean and the present.
“Uhm, carry on,” I mumble, voice gruff.
“Well, I just wanted you to know that I know I can be a bitch sometimes, but I really do love you and all that. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had, and I don’t think I’d be here without you, Frankie. Maybe I don’t say it enough, so I just thought I should…y’know…tell you,” Ocean looks embarrassed; feelings really aren’t her thing.
I blink, completely taken aback. In fact, I’m so surprised and taken aback that for a moment, I completely forget about the last night lingering so prominently in my mind. “Really?”
“Yes, you idiot!” Ocean rolls her eyes, and then bites her lip. “Uh, sorry.”
I find I’m smiling slightly. “It’s fine,” I say quietly.
There’s a small, awkward silence as the grey continually rolls down the windowpane. Eventually, I just look up, pushing my hair off my scars and say “Thank you,” because it’s exactly what I feel- and it’s pretty rare for me to actually voice what I really feel.
Ocean smiles a little. “You’re welcome, Frankiestein. Now, get your lazy ass up so we can go to the park,” she grins, poking me gently and looking relieved the emotional bit is over.
“…We?” I question gingerly, stomach grinding uncomfortably and expectantly. “You mean…?”
“Oh, just you and me and Mikeyboy,” Ocean says casually. “Gerard won’t be there, if that’s what’s worrying you. He pretty much hates your guts, so I doubt he’d want to come, would he?”
Something a lot like hurt pierces my gut like a jagged razorblade and I duck behind my hair, cheeks flaming, trying to ignore the way hurt goosebumps gush all over me like blood. “…He does?” I mumble quietly, suddenly feeling very insignificant.
Ocean rolls her eyes at me, but she looks confused. “I thought that was obvious. And I thought the feeling was mutual, anyway. I mean, you’re always ranting and raving about how much you hate him…Frankie?”
“But…” my voice sounds very, very small and confused, the single syllable almost drowned out by the rain coursing down the dusty window.
“Frankie?” Ocean sounds really confused now, eyes concerned as she surveys me. “I- I thought you hated him too?”
“I do, I do!” I snap hurriedly, ducking behind my hair.
But that’s the thing. I don’t. I really, really don’t.
And that scares me to my bones.
I wish I could shower away the torrent of emotions coursing through me as easily as the remaining grime from last night. They prickle at my skin and snag at my veins, smoulder at my lungs and curdle in my gut, tug at my smile, and shudder at my sighs that steam up the shower-screen with pure confusion.
I’m not even going to attempt figuring them out- I’m not really sure I want to know what they are right now. I just want to lock them all into one of those little black boxes in the shadows of my mind and never have to look at them again. But they won’t go away. I know they won’t. All the same, though, I can’t bear to look just yet.
Instead, I busy myself with showering and getting dressed, brushing my teeth extra thoroughly to get rid of the putrid taste of last night’s alcohol, which still swills nauseatingly round my empty stomach.
The boy in the mirror looks a mess- not only physically- although he looks terrible with big, heavy bags weighing down his bloodshot eyes and puffy, pale eyelids- but his tarnished gold and russet eyes are a mess too; there are too many emotions curdling in their depths, clashing and colliding in some kind of dangerous chemical combination that’s just ready to detonate. They aren’t the kind of emotions that you can ignore for years on end like anger and self-hatred which will slowly destroy you from the inside but never really blow up. Not like these new ones.
They’re really fucking strong; so new and dangerous. They’re untested waters.
Sighing heavily, I tug on yesterday’s t-shirt while trying to ignore the angry purple bruises on my chest, followed by an outsize black AMEN hoodie to cocoon my raw soul in. Then, after shaking my hair determinedly in front of my eyes and gritting my teeth, I wrench open the bathroom door and stalk out into the landing in some vague notion of going to get coffee that might chug a little energy into my lethargic bloodstream and stop the nausea churning in my gut.
However, before I can even reach the stairs, I collide with something skinny and black and vomit-scented and my heart leaps wildly. I don’t have to look up to know who it is that’s just yelped at the collision, but I do anyway, finding that my heart is thumping in my chest as I do so.
If I thought I looked bad, it’s nothing compared to how Gerard’s looking. His face is pallid and shadowed, with haunted, bloodshot eyes half-hidden behind crusty, greasy tangles of raven hair. There’s an ominous stain on his black shirt, and he’s still wearing last night’s skinny jeans.
He blinks at me for several oddly timeless seconds, and the air around us squirms uncomfortably with unvoiced memories. I open my mouth to say something-anything- but my mouth is dry and sticky with things I don’t know how to say.
However, before I can manage anything, Ocean’s loud voice shatters the silence from the hallway, about as subtle as a mallet- “MOVE YOUR ASS, FRANK!” her yell echoes up the stairs.
I feel myself turning bright red and duck my head furiously, scuffing my socks against the carpet while my heart continues to beat and beat as though it’s come loose. It’s all I can hear as I reply shakily “Uh, I’m just coming!”, voice catching a little as I drag my gaze to look back up at Gerard- and my mind freezes once more. He smells just like he did last night, only a little staler, a little more insecure, and it tugs so painfully at the icicle lodged between my ribs it feels as though its trying to tear my chest apart.
He just looks blankly at me with dead emerald eyes that poke agonisingly out from behind his shrouding of hair. I suddenly wonder if he remembers me stroking that hair, running my hands through it as easily as frayed ribbons. The memory is so vivid in my mind, so intimate, I find my cheeks burning again.
By the time I’ve actually managed to get my tongue round an ‘Um’, Gerard’s eyes cloud with realisation and he suddenly lurches past me and into the bathroom, shoving me unceremoniously out of the way so as I slam into the banisters behind me with a squeak of anguish.
I stare at the violently closed door for a moment, hearing the stomach-churning sound of retching, and then I just sigh and close my eyes before heading limply downstairs, leaving my heart somewhere up on the landing.
When I get into the kitchen, Ocean and Mikey are already there. Mikey’s sitting silently at the table, toying with a bowlful of mushy cornflakes and nodding politely at Ocean’s chatter, still looking sleepy and mousy and owlish.
Wordlessly, I make myself a mug of coffee and plonk myself down wearily at the kitchen table without even nodding in their direction.
I tune in and out of Ocean and Mikey’s conversation as I sip the bitter black liquid, vaguely noting that they’re talking about some band that played at the club last night, enthusing about the bassist and some girl Mikey got talking to about Joy Division and iguanas.
The coffee is failing to work; instead of feeling awake, I feel timeless and lost in drowned dreams. I try and focus on my surroundings to pull my mind from its own lethal depths and note dimly that it’s still raining; misty, lulling tears that murmur wispily against the kitchen window, soft and sad and dreamy to my listless ears as I sit, slumped, stirring the dregs of my lukewarm coffee round and round the confines of the mug, mind a congested blur of sleep-deprivation.
There’s a lump in my throat, cold and numbing, and it won’t go away no matter how many times I swallow. It’s easier just to switch off and let the tide of my thoughts carry me away.
I only resurface properly into reality when Ocean chucks the remainder of her toast at me and I start, head jerking up. Rain still glitters at the window and the familiar mundane noises of the washing machine and Mom typing away at the computer in the study next door drill into me, injecting me with the colourless, uninteresting slog of day-to-day life. I let out a long sigh, letting its perplexed nostalgia wrack my whole body.
“What world were you away in, Frankie?” Ocean rolls her eyes at me. She’s leaning right back in her chair, one arm hooked round Mikey’s neck, feet propped up on the tabletop. I notice that she’s wearing her trademark penguin socks.
“Frankie?!” Ocean snaps her fingers in front of my face, making me start a little again, blinking stupidly.
“Sorry,” I mumble, putting my empty mug down.
Ocean rolls her eyes again. “I was just saying, we’re ready to head off to the park now, you ready?”
“Oh,” I blink, feeling mildly disorientated- not a lot unlike the feeling you get from resurfacing from a film you’ve just lived in for the past couple hours. “Uh… sure.”
“Awesomebeans,” Ocean grins, unhooking her arm from Mikey’s shoulders and jumping up. “Lets rock and roll, guys.”
“It’s raining,” Mikey points out timidly.
“And?” Ocean raises her eyebrows. “We can still rock and roll! We’ll get sweets, anyway.”
“Yes, because they really shelter you from the rain,” I quip sarcastically. Ocean pokes me.
“Oh, stop it, Grumpy” she says fondly, pulling me reluctantly to my feet. “Right, you both ready?”
“Sure,” Mikey sighs, discarding his mushy breakfast.
“Great,” Ocean beams, pulling her striped hoodie on, followed by a stripy scarf and a leather jacket similar to Gerard’s.
“I’ll just go and tell Mom we’re off,” I say somewhat reluctantly, trailing out of the room and towards the study where I can hear the familiar clicking of Mom typing at the keyboard, heart weighing heavily in my chest.
She looks up when I enter, smiling warmly and tucking a strand of light brown hair behind her ear as she spins round on the swivel chair to look at me properly. There’s a slightly awkward silence apart from the patter of rain against the shadowy study window and Mikey and Ocean’s chatter in the hallway.
“Hi honey,” Mom says quietly after a moment. “You alright?”
I nod, though I feel all churned up, as if someone’s mixed all my emotions together and they’ve curdled to make a whole lot of confusion and stuff I don’t understand yet.
Mom bites her lip, leaning forwards. “Are you sure, Frankie? I didn’t get the chance to see you yesterday after the whole thing at dinner…Y’know, with your guitar playing and…Well, you know.”
“I’m fine,” I nod gruffly, briefly remembering the rush of adrenaline when Gerard leapt at me after I’d finished playing my guitar- and the complete confusion and curiosity at his reaction.
“Because, well,” Mom runs a hand through her soft hair and lets out a weary sigh. “I know you dislike him, and have good reason to, but Gerard’s not a bad kid, Frankie. He’s just been through a lot. Did he get back okay last night, by the way? Steve looked in on him this morning, but is he…?”
I nod silently. “Don’t worry. He’s fine, Mom.”
“Good,” Mom looks deeply relieved. “Frankie…” she starts tentatively, picking at the sleeve of her mohair jumper while I listlessly lean against the doorframe, eyes on the carpet.
“Yes?” I sigh, not really quite sure what it is that I’m feeling. It’s sort of nostalgic, I think. Nostalgic and insecure, but with an unexplainable softness radiating round my whole being.
“Are you okay?” Mom asks gently, surveying me with honey-eyed kindness.
I shrug shakily and sniff, because quite honestly, I have no fucking idea anymore, I really, really don’t. And why is it that kindness is so much harder to deal with than cruelty? I won’t cry, no matter what people at school do- but if someone tries comforting me, tears will prick at the back of my eyes like needles.
Mom sighs, misinterpreting my silence. “I know it’s difficult for you, Frank honey, with Gerard being here and you two getting on so badly. I know he treats you badly- I’m not asking you to like him, but, like I said… he’s been through a lot. I hope he’ll come round eventually, but for now- well, he has his reasons.”
“What reasons?” I hear myself blurt, although I’d vowed to never show any interest regarding my perplexing stepbrother- even if I feel it. But now my heart’s thumping as painfully as my skull as I look expectantly at Mom, suddenly wide awake, pulse jumping.
“I…that’s not for me to say, I’m sorry,” Mom says sadly, turning back to her computer. She logs out, and then swivels back round to face me, nibbling at her lip and reminding me fleetingly of Mikey.
“Uh,” I duck my head, suddenly embarrassed. “Uh, I only came in here to say that Mikey and Ocean and I are going to the park for a bit anyway…is that okay?”
“Sure,” Mom replies. “I’m off to meet Steve at work in a moment anyway.”
“Okay,” I mumble, ducking behind my hair as I make for the door.
I turn back at the sound of my name. Mom’s looking at me, honey eyes serious with concern as she surveys me.
“Yes?” I bite my lip, making sure my hair is covering my injuries.
“Gerard…Gerard really isn’t that bad,” Mom says quietly.
“No,” I admit, and to my horror, I find that there’s suddenly the smallest, tiniest of smiles playing across my lips. “No, I guess he’s not.”
It’s raining bitterly in the park; astringent, icy droplets that burn into my already numbed skin. My thoughts feel numb too. They’re whirring round, so fast and loaded they’ve left me behind, standing somewhere cold and bleak and rusty, where I can see my breath curling up into the iced air, grey, like wasted wishes.
Ocean, Mikey and I are sitting huddled up together on the icy, corrugated metal of the rusty roundabout, staring up at the frozen sky and taking it in turns to sip from a value bottle of cheap coke we picked up on the way to the park. The winter swirling round us is bitterly cold; raw and scratchy, making our skin turn red from its harshness. Ocean’s wrapped up in her leather jacket and a striped scarf, but I can hear her teeth chattering as she traces patterns on the scuffed roundabout floor with chipped green nail polish where she’s nibbled away the lacquer; her biker boot-clad foot intermittently pushing at the damp, frosty ground and pushing the roundabout round a little, its movement catching on all the dead, frozen brown leaves scattering the desolate park. The trees are bare now, like someone’s stripped all their secrets away for the wind to whistle aggressively through their vulnerable branches.
The Smashing Pumpkins filters out faintly into the dull grey silence, issuing from the headphones hooked round Mikey’s skinny neck- as soft a whisper as the rain shuddering down from the sky, mingled with the overcast clouds that are gradually descending lower and lower, almost on top of us.
“This is boring,” Ocean states after several moments of silence- barring the rain shivering its way down from the bleak sky and dribbling into the cracks fragmenting the tarmac of the deserted playground. Despite the gnawing cold, its nice here; almost peaceful, lonely in a satisfying way. At least, until you look up towards the skyline and see the rising grey of pollution, greasy and oily, a foretelling of destruction.
“I told you it was raining,” Mikey points out bravely, curling his fingers up protectively so as the black fingerless gloves he’s wearing will keep his fingers warm.
Ocean shoots him a disparaging look and Mikey swallows, hastily looking away and back across the dilapidated park where the swings are hanging, broken, from their rusty chains in the thickening mist of tears.
I don’t say anything- I’m too busy trying to figure out all my thoughts that won’t stop churning round my already thudding skull.
“So,” Ocean says conversationally after a few more moments of silence, tapping her long fingers impatiently on the rusting metal of the roundabout where we’re still huddled up together on the corrugated metal, fine needles of misty grey falling around us, slicing through the slightly doleful silence.
“So…” Mikey adds, sniffing from underneath the hood of his navy Nirvana hoodie. His nose, glasses and a tuft of mousy brown hair poke out innocently, making him look younger than ever as he picks away at a piece of mud on the roundabout seat beside him, fingers raw and red from the icy cold.
“Hey…You play bass, right?” Ocean says suddenly, turning to look at Mikey.
He nods shyly, nibbling at his chapped lower lip.
“And Frank plays guitar?”
“No shit, Sherlock,” I roll my eyes at her, to which she reciprocates by flicking my face with her long, icy fingers.
“And I’ve been learning drums at school…you realise that if we had vocalist, we could start a band?” Ocean says, eyes glittering with excitement through the bleak grey rain and icy, curling breaths.
I freeze suddenly, looking at her thoughtfully. The tiniest glimmer of excitement attempts to break through my copious thoughts.
“Do you guys know any vocalists?” Ocean asks, taking a swig of coke and looking at us enthusiastically. I notice that her lips are starting to turn a blue-ish purple from the cold, matching her hair that’s turning wavy from the persistent drizzle.
“Not anymore,” Mikey says quietly, looking down at the cracking ground where the rain dribbles into nothingness.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ocean asks in her usual blunt matter.
“Nothing,” Mikey mumbles from under his hood.
“Hey, does Gerard sing?” Ocean exclaims suddenly, poking Mikey excitably. “I mean, he plays guitar and lots of guitarists sing- he looks kinda like a singer and-”
“No,” Mikey cuts her off suddenly, his voice dead.
“Oh,” Ocean looks surprised at Mikey’s uncharacteristic attitude. “You sure?”
“Yes.” Mikey sounds almost rude, and there’s a long silence.
I sigh heavily, watching the rain coursing down the blackened bark of the ancient, gnarled old tree beside us where vandals have carved rude messages and the Goths we sometimes encounter have carved pentagrams.
“Hey, I know!” Ocean cries suddenly, jerking me from my morose thoughts. “Let’s play truth or dare!”
I roll my still aching eyes. “Oh, how thrilling,” I mutter sarcastically, fiddling with a random safety pin on my hoodie although my fingers are actually so cold I can barely feel it.
“Oh, stop being so cranky,” Ocean rolls her eyes back, giving me a little shove. “What’s up, anyway? You were fine earlier.”
“Nothing’s ‘up’,” I snap irritably, jerking away from her.
“Okay, okay,” Ocean sighs, putting her hands up in mock-surrender. “Jeez. So, Michael…truth or dare?”
“Truth,” Mikey says in a small voice, sniffing in the cold.
“Hmmm,” Ocean pauses to think, taking a swig of coke. “Okay…how many girlfriends have you had?”
“One,” Mikey says without hesitation, pulling at his gloves.
Ocean sniggers slightly, until I shove her crossly with my elbow and she manages to turn it into a cough. I glare angrily at her until she rolls her eyes in some kind of reluctant, silent apology.
“Okay, uh, Frankie?”
“What?” I snap, flicking a piece of chewing gum away from me. It’s frozen, just like the leaves strewn across the splitting, tear-stained tarmac.
“Truth or dare, fuckface.”
“Oh. Uh. Whichever,” I say uninterestedly, letting out a long sigh that curls out of my mouth, instantly reminding me of smoke curling from between Gerard’s full lips last night, outside the club. I sniff, and instantly the scents from last night clinging to my t-shirt tug painfully at my throat.
“Pick one or die, Iero.”
“Fine,” I roll my eyes, picking at my sleeve and shaking myself angrily from my thoughts. “Uh, truth.”
“Oooh, I’ve got a good one!” Ocean grins evilly, pushing her blue hair out of her eyes and into her hood as she turns to face me, nose red from the cold, but eyes glinting mischievously from behind the smudgy black eyeliner.
“Oh joy,” I say sarcastically.
“How come we haven’t dated?” Ocean smirks, the blue hair she just tucked behind her ears flitting across her pale face in the sandpapering winter breeze. “I’m heavily offended about it, y’know.”
“Don’t be like that, O,” I sigh, ducking my gaze and feeling slightly guilty. “It’s not you- I’m just not that into girls.”
There’s a long, heavy silence, and it takes a few moments for my sleep deprived brain to twig what I just said and then my heart just about stops, sludgy and shocked, sliding slowly down towards my stomach sickeningly, feeling oddly hot in comparison to the numbingly cold winter air hissing round me.
Ocean’s eyes are wide, but I can see a triumphant smirk starting to tug at her mouth. Mikey blinks owlishly from behind his glasses, hazel eyes anxious.
“I meant, girls like you,” I add hastily, feeling absolutely horrified. My blurted words have woken me up from my thoughts all-too effectively, and suddenly I feel blisteringly awake. Everything burns with reality as my heart judders to a defeated slump. “Girls who…girls who I’m friends with,” I clarify, but my voice sounds like someone else’s. Not mine- I’m far away. I’m in a dark, cluttered bedroom, singing.
“Oh really?” Ocean’s grin has spread across her whole face now and I can feel my cheeks burning, because I did not mean to say that. I really, really didn’t.
“Yes!” I snarl defensively, huddling into my hoodie and drawing my knees up to my cold chest in some vague kind of way to keep the bitterly grey rain and everyone’s prying eyes and questions out.
“So, how come you haven’t been out with any girl?” Ocean questions, raising an eyebrow. I open my mouth, but my words stick in my throat uncomfortably, along with her question.
“What?” my voice feels hoarse once I finally mange to get it out.
“Why haven’t you dated a girl?” Ocean continues mercilessly. “I mean, dude, you’re sixteen, you’re not pug-ugly, and well…you’re actually quite hot. When you’re not grumpy and sarcastic.”
“Oh thanks so much,” I say sarcastically, but my heart’s thumping.
“Answer me.” Ocean’s eyes are serious, even if her smirk is not.
“I…I don’t know,” I say snappishly, picking at the fraying sleeve of my hoodie and keeping well-hidden behind my tangled hair. “I guess…I guess I’ve just never found someone I’ve really… liked.”
“What, seriously?” Ocean asks incredulously. “I mean, you’re sixteen.”
“Well, it’s not normal.”
“Oh, thanks so much,” I huff, turning away into the sharp, hissing rain and mistily lifeless horizon, but I can feel my heart thumping in my chest because this is a question that lurks at the back of my darkest thoughts; a question I’ve yet to acknowledge. A question I never want to have to acknowledge.
“How about boys?” To my intense surprise, the question comes from Mikey.
I blink. “What?!”
Mikey’s cheeks have gone pink. “I just meant…I wondered if you were…y’know…”
“No, what exactly?” I ask angrily. I can feel fury bubbling up inside me, blistering my innards uncomfortably and making me tremble. It doesn’t warm my numb body up though, just blisters all my veins with the sudden contrast. I reach for the coke bottle and take a fierce gulp to try and quench the ominously rising heat in my gullet.
“…Uhm, y’know…uh, Bi?” Mikey whispers tentatively, looking as if he’s seriously regretting speaking. “It’s not that uncommon, um, my friend-”
“I’m not!” I shout, slamming the coke bottle down so as the sugary liquid froths over onto the metal of the roundabout, spilling like blood across the rusty surface.
There’s a heavy silence as the rain increases, thick and grey, prickling at my skin like a thousand needles, taunting me, injecting me with polluted fury that overwhelms my whole body.
“I’m not,” I say again, but this time my voice is very quiet and trembles slightly from the effort of trying not to explode. I get to my feet, stumbling slightly. My heart’s thudding wetly, hotly against my chest, so full of red blood.
“Where are you going?” Ocean looks worried now, blue hair limp round her pale face, dampened from the teary rain that’s still falling from the charcoal sky.
“I don’t know,” I spit furiously. Everything is flooding me, engulfing me in everything and making my skin spark and spit like a broken fuse as I kick angrily at the roundabout. It solves nothing, only adding to my frustration with a sharp throb in my toe. I let out a furious growl, the anger blistering right across my vision, making my world red with the blood that thunders furiously through my body, poison of a tangled mind.
“Frank, you can’t run away from this,” Ocean says quietly, voice serious as she surveys me anxiously. The rain is pouring down between us now, flooding my face like angry tears. “You’ll have to face it sometime.”
“I’m not running away from anything!” I shout, the impact tearing right through my ragged voice, rupturing through the lonely park. I’m breathing fast, eyes blazing with suppressed emotions that have all become red-hot, blistering hatred. I can’t stand being there, prey to their accusing eyes that scar right through me. I have to escape; I have to run so far away I outrun my whole soul.
Rusted nails scrape down my throat, drawing blood that chokes everything remaining. I turn on my heel and stumble wildly for the gate, ignoring Mikey and Ocean’s calls of protest that hound after me through the winter air. All I’m aware of is the pounding of my feet and the pounding of my heart and the pounding of my thoughts and the bitter grey rain that’s gushing down from the clouds but still can’t wash
When I eventually stagger through the front door and into shelter, no calmer than when I left the park, I storm straight up the stairs, breath snagging violently in my throat as I gasp for the warm, dry air; rain is streaked down my cheeks like tears I’ve never shed and my clothes are plastered greyly to my body. Anger still throbs through me, engulfing everything else; every emotion, everything I can’t understand or don’t want to understand is infested by this blistering, overpowering fury- fuelling it far more potently than mere anger ever could.
I reach the shadowy landing and am about to storm into my room when something suddenly halts me in my tracks, stopping my thudding heart and thudding feet and thudding thoughts.
It’s faint, slightly muffled, but somehow still soars up into the silence like an angel with scabbed wings. “…So dead, so dead inside, I’ll spend the rest of my empty days smoking dope…”
I freeze, goosebumps gushing all over my numb body.
Not just any singing, not just any song; my song. The song I sung last night, in the darkest shadows, trying to soothe the darkest shadow of all. And now he’s singing it out into the silence where he thinks there no one to hear; raw and pure and bleak- yet so devastatingly beautiful at the same time. His voice is full of dead-end hope and silenced corpses, as if his innocence is so long dead, it’s wilted to dust- but he’s still waiting for someone to tell him it’s not coming back. It’s completely amazing, unlike anything I’ve ever, ever heard before.
I just stand, awestruck, for several timeless moments, listening to the wispy, haunting purity of the voice- until suddenly, Gerard’s door is flung abruptly open.
His face blanches as he sees me standing there on the landing.
I try and speak, but find I’ve lost all my words, stuck in my throat along with my anger.
When he sees me properly, Gerard’s eyes fill with a horrible bleak, dead anger, flashing with pure fury from behind his greasy tangles of hair, before he steps back into the confines of his room, trembling, and slams the door so loudly the sound ruptures all through the house. Shutting me out once more.
I let out a long, shuddery sigh. All my limbs suddenly feel very heavy and defeated; all the anger drained completely from them. I just feel dead instead. A ghost that’s ready to go.
With one, fleeting look at the violently shut bedroom door blocking Gerard Way from my world, I take a deep breath and trail wearily down the landing towards my room to mope on my bed and listen to music- as if nothing’s changed at all.
But it has.
Everything’s changed now.
I really hope that was okay, and once again, I'm so so sorry for the long wait. I'll update as soon as I can now- pretty please rate and review to let me know your thoughts? I'm dying to know, as things are really gunna start getting interesting now! Thanks so much for reading, I really love you all to bits :'D R&Rs honestly make my day :)