I’d talked to the guy properly only once or twice, and I never saw him outside of lessons. Perhaps I was just there for the sake of being there...
My last lesson of the day on Friday was History, as I’ve already mentioned. I walked into a room for the first time without the new friends I had made since Tuesday, suddenly a bit apprehensive. I mean, I was used to being on my own. Or rather, I had been. Except this week, I’d actually made friends. Now I was worrying about being without them for an hour.
Dammit, Frank. Stop being weak, I told myself as I walked in. I never relied on people, I couldn’t figure out why I was nervous about being in a room without them. Of course I wasn’t though, I remembered as I walked in saw Gerard in his usual space.
He was quiet as ever, again doodling in his notebook. I peered over his shoulder and said nothing as I sat down. It was a little comic strip.
“That’s really good,” I said. Gerard looked up at me and shrugged.
“Thanks.” The quiet between us stretched out awkwardly until I decided to speak up.
“What’s wrong, man?” I asked. Gerard raised his eyebrows.
“I’ve sat next to you every day this week and I can tell something’s up. You can tell me if you need.” He just looked skeptically at me. "Come on man, what is it?"
"Yes it does."
“No I wouldn’t.”
“Why’d you care? No one does.”
“Because...” I couldn’t explain it, but I just did. I cared about this odd boy. “Because I do.” Gerard frowned and stared at the front, biting on his lip.
“Do you notice it, Frank?” asked Gerard bitterly. “Do you notice the looks people throw around? People glare at you as you walk down the corridor, the laugh and they point and they sneer, but you don’t bat an eye. You don’t even see it.”
“Yes. I do.”
“Just because I ignore it doesn’t mean I don’t realize it’s there,” I said. He looked up at me for a moment, nodded silently and returned to his drawing. “You can tell me if you want to,” I said. He said nothing but nodded in response to my reassurance.
I sighed and rested my head in my hands, accepting that I wasn’t going to get much more out of him. Yet.
I was itching to get into school on Monday, which is a first. I had been thinking about Gerard all weekend, about what could possibly be the matter. Most people I knew would probably take one glance at him and move on. Some people might take two glances and think something was up.
I’d taken about five ‘glances’ by this point and I could tell something was wrong. That second-glance person, they might just see someone who was shy and reserved because he was being picked on. But I'd been contemplating it the entire weekend. I didn’t see that as the reason for him being quiet. I can’t explain it. He was shy, he was quiet. But why? That’s what I couldn’t figure out, I just couldn’t quite get my head around WHY he was hiding in the way that he was, because (to me, anyway) it wasn’t something obvious. And that angered me because I really wanted to know, because what I'd said on Friday wasn't a lie; I did care.
I hurried into the room early on Monday morning - a surprise for both me and every other human on the planet who knew me - just to see if I could get something else out of Gerard. I felt almost obsessed with trying to figure things out, his sad eyes haunting my vision whenever I tried to get him out of my head.
He was the only person in the room when I walked in ten minutes before the bell went. Just as I had intended to find him, in fact.
“Morning,” I said. He looked up and nodded, saying nothing. That was fine, I wasn’t expecting him to. And neither was I going to initiate conversation in the first five minutes, because I felt sure that he was as intrigued by me as I was by him. I’d just let him overcome his own curiosity first. Sure enough...
“Can I ask you something?” he asked glancing up at me.
“Why do you talk back to them?”
“You know. Um... them,” he said, shrugging like I’d know what he meant, scratching his head awkwardly. Of course I did know who he meant. Kurtis.
“It’s fun watching them get angry. And if they attack me, I’m the perfect height to dismantle their crotch area,” I said. I'd expected a tiny smile, but there was nothing, save for a tiny flicker of emotion across his lips. It was impossible to tell what it was. Silence fell between us again for a few minutes, so that I could hear the clock ticking in the room, quietly marking the time passing before the bell would ring and my fellow classmates ran, jumped and bounced into the classroom.
Right on time.
“What do they do that’s so terrible?” I asked Gerard, as Kurtis and a parade of goons entered the room.
“Kurtis. You just looked so worried when he walked in. And the first thing you asked me this morning was about him, so there’s got to be something,” I said, being careful with my words - I didn’t want to tell him how his face transformed in pure terror when the goons walked in, even though it was just for a few seconds. Nor did I want to say how he had carefully avoided saying Kurtis’ name, like just speaking it would do terrible things to the earth.
“You can tell me, man,” I said.
"Why don't you leave it out?"
"Because I don't want to." I rested my head in my hand and gazed at him expectantly. He just stared at the front, deliberately not looking at me.
"You're not gonna give up, are you?" he said after another minute. I shook my head and kept staring at him.
"I'm gonna sit like this until you tell me something." He stopped staring blankly ahead of him and turned to look at me.
"Why? People don't care."
"I care." My voice was quiet and careful, just so that only Gerard could hear me speaking. I lifted my hand up and squeezed his shoulder comfortingly. He shrugged it off but sat up a little straighter and twisted his fingers together.
“You won’t laugh?” I shook my head.
“They hate me. And I know, people hate other people, big fucking deal, but the thing is..." He bit his lip. "It's not like they're your every day bully, it's everyone else too. But I can’t fight back. I just... everything they do, you’d never notice because they don’t go around punching me in the face. It’s harder to fight a battle that other people don’t really notice is there. And it’s not just me."
“Who is it, Gerard?”
"Everyone! You see people who stare at him in terror in the corridor..."
“It's... I guess... it's... they hurt my brother, Frank. And I could cope if they just picked on me, but they know that and they deliberately make me see that they hurt my own baby brother. It...” he tried to continue speaking but he couldn’t. He scrunched up his eyes and I reached over to squeeze his shoulder again. “It hurts, Frank,” he said, his voice wavering.
"I guess it would," I said quietly. "I'm sorry."
"I don't... uh...." Gerard balled his hands into fists and stared at the table. "I don't... why did you even..." To my surprise, I saw a tear trickle down his cheek that stabbed me in my heart, and I vowed silently that he wouldn't have to cope with this anymore. Even though I didn't know who his brother was, I'd find out.
“Oh, poor Gerard’s crying. What’s wrong? Need a cuddle to make it better?” came Kurtis’ voice, laden with false sympathy.
“Shut up,” I muttered. He raised his eyebrow at me, his face twisted into an ugly smirk.
“Sorry, Frankiekins? Upset because something’s making your little friend feel all sad?”
"Didn't you hear me? I told you to shut up."
"Aww, little man thinking he's tough... poor little..."
“I said shut up!” I shouted, standing up and shoving the desk forwards. The class fell silent and the teacher was staring at us.
“Something making you a little irritated, Frankie?” asked Kurtis. “Perhaps it’s the effect of the people you chose to hang out with. Fucked up in the head something attractive to you?” I didn’t say anything, just continued to glare at him. You’re lucky if I’ve never glared at you, because I have a knack for scaring the shit out of people when I glare at them. Figuratively, not literally, otherwise that stand off could have been a very messy affair.
“Frank, sit down,” muttered Gerard, pulling on my sleeve. I shook him off.
“I’m not going to stand by and let you talk shit about the people I'm friends with,” I said to Kurtis.
“You're friends with him? Why'd you want to be friends with him? Do you even know, Frank?" he asked quietly, folding his arms and leaning on the desk so he was looking up at me. I frowned.
"If this is coming from you I don't think I want to know," I said. Kurtis laughed softly and looked down at the table.
"It's a funny thing, Frankie boy. What's going on with you turning up in the school, waltzing around like you think you can actually talk back to me like this?"
"All I'm doing is stopping you from being an ass to other human beings."
"I'm an ass? Have you seen yourself, Iero? Maybe if you had kept yourself to yourself last week people might have left you alone,” said Kurtis. "Instead... you just look like you're looking for a fight."
“Boys, sit down!” said the teacher. We both ignored her.
“I’m not looking for a fight, I’m simply telling you to stop being a dickhead,” I said, not budging from where I stood.
“Best insult you can come up with, Iero?”
“No, I was just using a simple term to describe you, otherwise you wouldn't be able to comprehend it. You're a bit of a retard if you can't figure that out.”
“Don’t call me retarded.”
“Kurtis, if you were ten times as smart as you are now you would still be stupid,” I said, earning a laugh from the class.
“Frank, sit down! He’s not worth it,” said Gerard. I looked down at him and smiled.
“You’re right. If I went much further it would be animal abuse.” Another laugh. But Kurtis wasn't glaring, his smile was still sitting infuriatingly on his face.
"I have to admit, Iero, you make a good argument. I've yet to figure out whether it's bravery or stupidity."
“Kurtis, do you ever feel some sort of weird, terrible, empty feeling in your skull?” I asked, putting my hand on my hip. "Because I'm not stupid nor am I brave, you're the one who seems to be lacking in understand of what I'm trying to tell you."
“Frank and Kurtis! Sit down immediately!” shouted the teacher. I smirked and sank back down in my seat. Kurtis smiled at me again.
“I'll be seeing you around, Frankie boy," he said, waltzing away.
“I wonder what it's like to live with my head that far up my ass,” I said. Kurtis looked like he was about to say something else, but he just contented himself with nodding and sitting in his seat, turning to ignore me.
“You didn’t need to do that,” said Gerard as the teacher began to speak.
“I did tell you just ten minutes ago how I like pissing them off. He's an interesting argument," I said. "It didn't look like you were going to ask him to leave any time soon."
“I don’t need you to stick up for me.”
"He's got a point, you know? You do think you can just do anything, talk to other people, act like you're worth more than them?" he said, scowling. I sat back, hurt.
“Leave me alone,” he said, pulling his hood over his head. I shook my head, hurt stabbing through me, completely bewildered at his sudden change of mood and even more at how he agreed with Kurtis.
Gerard wasn’t in on Tuesday. I didn’t see him when I walked into first period, nor could I find him in the corridors between lessons. I walked into History, the only lesson I had him to myself in third period, knowing that I wasn’t going to find him. I had a tiny bit of hope, but I’d seen the empty chair and my heart sunk a bit.
So of course, with my friends in another class and Gerard not there, Kurtis turned up again. I was ready for it, having thought about our... I can't really call it an argument, or a fight, can I? Our 'discussion,' then.
Now, I haven’t actually told you a lot about Kurtis, have I? His usual group of friends consists of a collection of dopey-looking bulldozer-sized brutes. He however, though tall, was actually quite slender, he lacked the normal straw-like bleach blonde hair. He actually looked like he could be rather delicate. If he didn’t have an evil glint in his eye (and wasn’t a total dickhead), he had the appearance of someone that people such as myself would quite happily go to a Smashing Pumpkins concert with. And he was also very different because he didn't get angry. Which scared me.
“I want to ask you something now that you haven't got someone to stick up for,” he said. I just raised my eyebrows.
"Why?" I blinked. "Why do you stick up for people? Why do you feel it within your duty to stick up for other people?"
"Because..." For the first time in my life I didn't have an answer. "Because I do?"
"Intellectual answer there, Frankie boy."
"How about you leave now, Kurtis? I preferred it when you ignored me and vice versa."
"You knew that wouldn't last forever,” he said.
“Forever is a long time, Kurtis,” I said, specifically emphasizing every syllable in his name.
"It is, isn't it Frankie boy?"
"What do you want, Kurtis?"
"I want to let you know something that happens to people like you, Frank."
“People like me?”
“You are... how shall I put it... different."
“How is that a bad thing?” I asked coldly.
"Because it's a bizarre sort of different. How come you insist on sitting with Gerard?” He had me there. Not I thought about it, I wasn’t entirely sure why I did sit next to him every day. I mean, I’d talked to the guy properly only once or twice, and I never saw him outside of lessons. Perhaps I was just there for the sake of being there. I looked up at Kurtis and shrugged.
“Exactly,” he said quietly, leaning closer so only I could hear what he was saying. “If you aren’t careful, you’ll go the same way as Gerard and his brother did.”
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” I said.
“Sure. I’ll see you at lunchtime, Frankie boy,” said Kurtis, smiling sweetly and stalking away.
So, I have the middle and end of the story planned out, but I don't want to go into it just yet. Should I dive right into the thick of the plot early on, or drag it out a bit to make it a bit more tense? I don't want everything to be revealed right away, then again, I have lot of lot twists and shit that I think could keep it interesting.
And blah blah blah. I always ramble on, I'm so sorry. I really need to stop it. Rate and Review please guys!