I couldn't let them catch me. I couldn't let them catch Gerard. They would kill us both.
I don't remember getting back in bed, but my first moments of true coherence finally came in the middle of the night. It was pitch black, and I could hear my sister lightly snoring in the next room. My throat was parched. Groaning, I got up and made my way to the kitchen. I tried my best to be silent, but I was so woozy that I tripped and fell down the final few steps. Motionless, I sat holding my breath at the bottom of the stairs, afraid I'd woken up my Mom. After I was sure that she was sound asleep, I grabbed a water bottle out of the pantry and downed the entire thing in one breath. My throat burned, and my head pounded. Grabbing another bottle I drank half of it before taking another Aspirin. Trying to make my body calm itself, I leaned against the counter with my eyes closed while I chugged the rest of the water. I felt slightly better. As hard as I tried to remember the night before I just couldn't do it. All I knew was that I had a terrible feeling about the entire night, and I didn't know why. Thinking back upon Frank's note I looked at the clock. It was one forty seven in the morning. I was wide awake, in pain and confused, but awake nonetheless. I contemplated sneaking over to Frank's house even though we had school in a few hours. "He'll be up." I whispered aloud to myself.
Retrieving some Doc Martins and a denim jacket out of the laundry room, I slipped out the door, wincing as it clicked behind me. Immediately I regretted not putting on pants, or grabbing a heavier jacket. My t-shirt night gown came down just below my knees, but Jersey nights were never very forgiving. Turning left, I wrapped my arms around myself and power walked past my fence and into Frank's back yard. There was still a good bit of evidence that a party had taken place one night ago, but overall it was a lot cleaner than it had been. Teeth chattering, I stood underneath the left window of the second floor. The light was off. "Damn." Bouncing slightly to ward off cold, I glanced around looked for something to throw. Finally, I found a small handful of pebbles by the garden. The beer can I threw was still sitting there next to the little garden wall. One by one I threw the tiny rocks at the window, accidentally hitting my already aching head with a few of them.
After what seemed like years a small lamp turned on, illuminating part of the spot I was standing in. "Finally." I mumbled to myself. A sleepy head with hair sticking up in all directions popped out of the now open window. Smiling, I waved sheepishly up at Frank. He sighed and muttered something under his breath that I didn't quite catch, but I could have sworn he said, "Great. Just what I need." Was he mad at me? I wracked my brain to try and remember what happened the night before, but the only thing I could remember was him shot gunning me, and giving me beer. Again, a slight feeling of unease came over me as Frank's kitchen light turned on. Careful to avoid the little bit of party debris that was still on the lawn, I walked up to the back door. I was freezing. To my surprise, Frank only opened the door enough to stick his head out. His face was red and puffy.
"What do you want?" he said as if I were the last thing he wanted to deal with. That was new. I became more unsettled.
"Uhm, hi, uh, can we talk?" as soon as I asked him that, his face went through a range of emotions too quickly for me to read.
Rolling his eyes he hissed, "We have school tomorrow. What do you want?" it was evident that he wanted me to leave.
"Did I do something?" I whispered back. My legs began to go numb.
"I'm still waiting for you to tell me why you're here." impatiently he tapped his foot. It was all so uncharacteristic of Frank to be acting like that. I didn't understand.
I sighed, and my breath made a giant puff in front of my face. The butterfly thermometer Mrs. Iero had next to the door read twelve degrees. The cold air numbed my headache, and helped cool my cheeks, but the rest of my body felt as if I were in an ice bath. "Well?" he snapped.
Hesitating, I began to second guess my going there. "I couldn't go back to sleep, and you said you'd be in touch." he looked at me, puzzled. "In your note...?" I added.
He grimaced, "Oh. That."
"Are you alright? You're acting weird." With every passing second I felt worse and worse both physically and emotionally. He'd never looked at me with such contempt before.
"That was before today. I wrote that when I dropped your sorry ass off at your house the other night. By the way, thanks for puking all over my yard. I had to clean that up this morning." he was sneering at me. "You should have seen the look on your Mom's face when I showed up at your front door at half past two in the morning. I thought she was going to have a panic attack with the way you kept slipping in and out of consciousness She already hates me. We had to drag you up the stairs where you barely gave us enough warning that you were going to be sick again. Thankfully we were able to fling you in front of the toilet in time." I hugged myself tighter, partially from embarrassment, but mainly because I wasn't wearing pants. "I had to sit with you for almost an hour because you kept puking then passing out, then waking up long enough to puke again." He narrowed his eyes at me. I had no recollection of anything he was telling me. "Your mother must have tried to call poison control five times before I was finally able to convince her that you'd be fine, that you were just drunk." I stood silently, unsure if he had anything else to say. He did. "You were so selfish last night. What were you thinking? Flinging yourself at Richard? Yeah I heard all about that. Completely groping on Gerard? What was wrong with you?" I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn't know why he was acting this way, because I could only remember him laughing and joking around with me last night. "Don't give me that look. YOUR mother wouldn't let me leave until after six in the morning. She was beside herself with worry, and kept trying to get me to confess to trying to date rape you. When I got home MY mom almost killed me because nobody knew where I was, and everyone had left the party. Why don't you ever fucking think?" he was getting louder. "You never think of anyone but yourself! You just walk through life lackadaisically expecting someone else to clean up after your messes." He caught himself, and lowered his voice. "I'm not going to be there to do that anymore. Grow up, you stupid diva. You may be big in Hollywood, but you LIVE in Jersey with REAL people. Take some responsibility and actually take in your surroundings and be considerate of other's feelings. I'm tired of always having to be there for you like a lap dog an-" looking at me, he sighed and hung his head a bit. He seemed exasperated and tired, not contrite. I was crying, and my body was shaking violently from the cold.
Where had that come from? He'd never been so horrible to me before. Looking up, he frowned and opened his door. "Get inside, you're going to wake everyone up." Wiping my nose on my sleeve I walked in and stood awkwardly in front of the now closed door as Frank went to his cabinet to pull out a mug and tea bag. I was still shivering as he put the pot on the stove. Without a single glance he walked out of the kitchen. Holding myself, and still crying, I stood there rocking back and forth. Unsure what to do. Just as the pot began to whistle, he returned with a wool blanket. "Give me your coat." we exchanged items silently, and then he poured the tea and gave it to me. Without thinking I took a sip and scalded my mouth. With a hiss I pulled back. "It's hot." he mumbled, rolling his eyes like I was stupid.
"Obviously." I snapped. He crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows, sighing. Underneath the gold light of the kitchen I finally got a good look at my best friend. He looked so tired. No, not tired. Worn out. There were dark circles under his bloodshot eyes, and he seemed so tiny and hunched over. Why hadn't I noticed before now? Even though I sounded angry, tears were still burning the backs of my eyes, and so I bit my cheek to try and hold them in.
"Come on." Noticing that I was staring at him, Frank turned to shut the light off and then headed toward the front of the house where the stairs were. We passed the basement door, and I heard a muffled voice talking to itself. I saw Frank's shoulders stiffen and he began grinding his teeth. Adam's room was in the basement , so the voice had to be his. I then heard Adam start crying. Frankie wouldn't look at me as we got to the bottom of the stairs. "Don't wake anyone up." Silently we climbed the stairs and I didn't realize I was holding my breath until Frank closed his door.
Frank's room was normal in size and covered in clothes and posters. To the left of the door was a closet with sliding doors and it took up almost the whole wall. The closet was covered in rock posters that had rare and precious autographs from Nirvana and Alice in Chains. Opposite the closet was his night stand and window. His night stand was covered in crap like cigarettes, lighters, homework he forgot to turn in, his pipe, and some empty soda cans. His floor was very much in the same state. There were clothes thrown everywhere and it was difficult to make out his worn out gray carpet. To the right of the door was a desk that had papers and trash strewn all over it. In the corner of the desk it looked like there was dried gum squished, and forever stuck. It was a room I'd been in hundreds, if not thousands, of times over the course of our friendship. As soon as the door was closed Frank sat at his desk with his back to me, so I walked over and curled up on his bed, trying to surround myself with as many covers as possible. Something was wrong with Frank, and I wanted him to tell me, but I knew better than to push for information. Frank talked when he wanted to, and not before. So, we sat in silence for about fifteen minutes as I drank my tea and he absentmindedly picked at gum he knew was never going to come off.
"He does that a lot now." Frank whispered. "Almost every night. Cries like that and talks to himself." I could barely hear him he was speaking so softly. "He's getting worse. He isn't himself. He's never sober. He is always getting high now. It's like he doesn't know how to function without shooting up or snorting or whatever. Like he was never taught how to. Every time I walk past his door he is crying and mumbling things to himself. Crying and mumbling, mumbling and crying. Sometimes he'll come up and get sick, and then he'll go back down into his hole, or he'll stumble into my room and just stand in the doorway staring at me. He rarely talks to us anymore, and I can't remember the last time we had dinner as a family." Frank's voice was becoming huskier, "My mom never talks about it, she just pretends like it isn't happening. I can tell she gets upset with me too when I'm high. She is scared we'll end up like my dad. I think that when I'm messed up she looks at me and sees him." he paused. "It just kills me." his voice broke. Was he crying? Frank never cried. Ever. I didn't know what to do, only a little while ago he was furious with me, so I stayed there on his bed. He didn't speak after that. He only sat there.
"Frank?" I asked hesitantly
"And you." he turned on me, eyes narrowed. I couldn't tell if he had been crying. His eyes were bloodshot and his nose was red, but his face was dry. "Do you know what happened this afternoon? No of course not, you were sleeping off your hangover. Georgia came over and broke up with me."
"Wh-what?" I sputtered
"Yeah. She broke up with me. It was very loud and dramatic. Just like a Hollywood film. A shame you missed it." I was bewildered.
"Frankie." I tried to make my voice sound as calm as possible. "I'm so sorry. I had no idea she was going to do that." he only stared at me. It was like, in that moment, he hated me, but I foolishly kept talking. "I understand that you're having a rough time with Adam, bu-"
"You shut up about Adam!" he screamed. He reminded me of a small child. "You don't understand ANYTHING!"
"Frankie, calm down. What's wrong with you? Stop yelling your mom is asleep." I sat up and stared at him, taken aback, but I kept my mouth shut.
Suddenly, he leapt up and opened his door. "Just go."
"I said get out." he stared at me with an intensity I'd never seen before. "Your jacket is on the kitchen table." I had only just walked past him when he spoke again. "And next time put on some pants. It's not helping matters that you're showing up half naked at my house and leaving at almost three in the morning." before I could respond he closed his door, and I saw the light go out.
Defeated and baffled, I walked home. The tea did nothing more than take the edge off my chill, so when I stepped outside I almost immediately froze to the bone. Clouds had rolled in, covering the moon, making it pitch black out. As I approached my house I noticed that all the lights were on. Luck was clearly in my favor that night. I opened the door to find my mother running frantically from room to room. When she saw me her face become mottled with worry, and she quickly gave me a once over. The second she realized I was completely unscathed, the look on her face turned deadly and she began cursing in Italian, screaming for the whole of Italy, and I winced as I began taking my boots and jacket off. Standing there in just my night gown I took a step back when she got in my face. "Where were you, young lady?! And in THAT?!" She made a wild gesture at my oversized t-shirt. I felt suddenly self-conscious and exposed. I wrapped my arms around myself. When my mother became mad her voice became shrill, and it made me cower before her tiny five foot two frame. "I don't care how big of a movie star you think you are. We have RULES in this house! You CANNOT just come and go as you please. You CANNOT leave without asking. Where did you go?! I went in your room to check on you and you were GONE!" She tended to overemphasize certain words when she lost her temper. "Do you know how scared I was?! It is every parent's NIGHTMARE to walk into their child's room and find them MISSING! I was about to call the POLICE!" I stood there silently. It was the wrong move apparently. "ANSWER ME!" Her voice could have broken glass.
"I-I went to F-F-Franks house." Tears were once again beginning to pool in my eyes. That was also the wrong thing to do.
She threw her hands up in a dramatic gesture and began screaming at me in Italian again. Saying how bad of an influence Frank was and how he was trouble and how I was probably doing drugs or getting set up for date rape. Then she proceeded to lecture me about how scared she was last night, and how disappointed she was, and how I was just itching for the paparazzi to get photos of me stumbling home on the arm of some drunk Half Bake like a two cent whore.
I was tired, and crying, and so incredibly lost and mad that she was talking about Frankie like that and scared I had lost my best friend and I had no idea what was going on with anyone, and why they all thought everything was my fault. Without saying anything, and without waiting to be excused I trudged upstairs. I was tired, and felt sick again. My mother stood at the bottom of the stairs screaming at me. She continued to yell even after I went into the bathroom and closed the door to throw up the water and tea I drank.
My lungs were going to give out at any second, but I couldn't slow down. The sound of Gerard's feet came from a few feet behind me. I couldn't let them catch me. I couldn't let them catch Gerard. They would kill us both. I was running down a misty tunnel suspended in swirling colors and patterns. Was I high? Gerard began saying that we could never out run them, but I refused to give up so I reached back and grabbed his hand. The sudden and overwhelming need to protect him kept me going even after I began to feel my stomach spin. My lungs burned and the stitch in my side was unrelenting. In the distance I saw a figure laying on the ground. The closer I got the more I realized that it was Shaun Wilson. I stopped short, making Gerard slam into me, knocking me down. I fell over Shaun's body. He was staring up at nothing, and frothing at the mouth. He smiled at me before his face began to distort and change. I was scared, and Gerard was pulling at my arm saying we couldn't stop or we'd be dead. He looked so scared that my heart broke. What was I going to do? I didn't want to leave Shaun, so I grabbed Gerard's shoulders and told him to run without me before I kissed his forehead and turned back to Shaun. Instead of the handsome face that was once there, I found myself staring at the half dead body of Adam Iero. Gerard was pleading for me to come with him just as Adam began screaming at me saying that I could have saved him, and how it was my fault for not caring about Frankie enough. With a fearful look behind me, Gerard took off. My breathing was ragged still from running. I was torn between wanting to go with Gerard and wanting to tell Adam that I DID care about Frankie, and that I loved Frankie and I would never hurt him. A massive hand landed on my shoulder and I turned to see Sky standing there glowering at me. Flames of Hell burned behind his eyes. What had I taken? What was happening to me? Was this real life? Without warning he backhanded me across the face and I went flying across the tunnel. My head cracked against the stone floor of the tunnel and I couldn't get up. The ground shook as he walked toward me. With each step he grew bigger and bigger until he was a monster. A metallic taste entered my mouth and I saw stars in front of my eyes. Moving my hand I placed it in a puddle of warm sticky liquid. It was blood. My blood. Somewhere in the distance I heard a demonic laugh. My life blood was flowing out of me faster and faster until I was sitting in a pool of blood three feet deep. This was what dying felt like. Dark and warm. It was scary and wonderful. It didn't seem so bad. Now I knew why people yearned for death, and even looked at death as a warm embrace. I felt Sky pluck me up by my shirt and the next thing I knew he was holding me over a mouth full of jagged knives covered in dried blood and bits and pieces of rotting flesh. I fought down the bile that rose in my throat. Fear began to settle in. I didn't want to die anymore. Struggling was no use, and he laughed at me. Blood was dripping into his mouth. It was my blood. It was the same demonic laugh from earlier, but now it came from the mouth below me, carrying with it the stench of death. "Mmm you taste delicious." the beast growled as I was lowered, almost unconscious, into the bed of knives. The struggle within me was fading, but I tried so hard to hang on. I lay there, skewered and helpless, knives embedded in my back, sides and legs. The pain was unbearable. There was so much pain. Another laugh came from the beast's throat and a mirror materialized in front of us. I was starting to pass out when I realized the monster had become Richard. Richard began closing his jaw and the knives started to come closer and closer. I couldn't escape them. The knives began to pierce my body, and I screamed and cried for help, but nobody came. I tried desperately to stay awake. No. Death wasn't supposed to hurt. It was so warm and comforting before. What was happening? I tried desperately to push my blood and guts back inside my body, but it was no use. My vision was going black, and just as the knives finally clamped all the way down, crushing my bones like twigs, I heard Frank's voice in my head telling me I deserved it.
I woke up screaming. Flailing around and grabbing parts of my body I realized it was only a nightmare. It was also broad daylight. My Barbie alarm clock said it was almost one in the afternoon. There was a new note in front of my alarm clock:
I called school to tell them you're sick.
There is chicken soup in the freezer.
A voice in the back of my mind said I didn't deserve to be treated so nicely.
I must have fallen back asleep because I was woken up by the doorbell. I knew it couldn't be my sister because she always stayed late on Monday's for science club, and my mother had a key. Scratching my head, and trying to rub the sleep out of my eyes, I padded across the hall and down the stairs. When I opened the door I almost wept from the pain. My eyes were still sensitive to light, and I couldn't see who was at the door for a good ten seconds.
Standing at my door was Frankie. He had a black eye and his nose was bleeding. He gave me a once over. "Do you have an aversion to pants?" he asked with an unpleasant edge to his voice. When he opened his mouth I noticed that it too was bleeding. His appearance didn't match his tone. He looked tired and like he hadn't slept in weeks. It was obvious he'd tried to staunch the flow of blood with his sleeve, and failed. Finally, with a gasp, I looked down and saw that I was still in my nightgown. My breath was most likely deadly. I'd been doing a lot of throwing up, and absolutely no teeth brushing, but that wasn't what mattered.
"Oh God, Frankie what happened?" the words were barely a whisper. Gently, I led him through my house and sat him down on my kitchen table. His eye looked terrible. I grabbed a steak out of the fridge, and handed it to him. "Here, put this on your eye. I'm going to put pants on. There are paper towels on the counter."
"I know." He sighed as if trying to alleviate a burden.
Ignoring him I sprinted upstairs and slipped into some sweat pants. I checked my breath. Good thing there was nothing in my stomach to throw up. The combination of panic, dehydration and hunger were making me feel dizzy again. After brushing my teeth I went back down stairs to see Frank sitting at my table with the steak over his eye. He gave a half hearted glare as I walked in. Panic rose within me again. Did he hate me? No no don't be an idiot, I thought, he went through the trouble of coming over. That was good. Yes. That was good. Repeating that over and over in my head I quietly sat across from him. Blood from the steak he held over his eye was dripping down his arm and onto my mother's white linen table cloth. It would be ruined, and if she found out that it was because of Frank one if not both of them would end up on the nightly news.
"Frank," I tentatively reached out and placed my hand over the one he had laying on the table, "What happened? Are you okay?" grateful that he didn't pull away I saw that he was no longer glaring at me. "What happened?" I asked more gently. He pulled away.
"I already told you. Georgia and I broke up."
"But that doesn't explain your black eye."
"Do you really think I'm that stupid?"
"How else do you get a black eye?"
"Who hit you, Frank? Everyone loves you." Frank being beat up wasn't a concept I could wrap my mind around.
He snorted, as if I were an amusing child with my delusions of human kindness. "Not everyone. Come on, Bri. You can't really believe that. Can you?" he let out a breath, "But I know you do. That's just who you are."
"I'm trying to help you. It was you who showed up on my doorstep this afternoon, not the other way around."
He took the steak off his eye and threw it in the garbage before sticking his face under the kitchen faucet and getting the blood off him.
"Your nose is still bleeding. Here let me help you." I sat him down and got paper towel which I used to pinch his nose. He didn't stop me. I didn't know what to do. Silent and cryptic Frank I could handle, super high and overly energetic Frank I could handle, but sad and beaten down Frank? No. I didn't know what to do, so I just focused on the floor until I checked to see if the bleeding stopped. It had. As I started to get up I felt something brush my arm. Frank was lightly grasping onto my wrist. I sat back down only to have him lean forward and place his head on my shoulder. Caught completely off guard the only thing I could think of doing was to hug him. He released a sigh that he had to have been holding in for a long time.
"I'm out of drugs." he whispered into my hair.
"Frank that's okay. They aren't good for you."
"I'm sorry I yelled at you."
"I didn't mean to say I didn't want to be there for you anymore."
"It was a bad day yesterday and today."
"I see that."
"I got punched in the face."
"A couple people."
He moved his head slightly, and pulled back. "My lip started bleeding again."
"But it's all over your shoulder."
"It's alright, Frankie. Really." He put his head back on my shoulder and didn't say anything for a few minutes. "What happened, Frank?"
He groaned into my greasy hair. "Basically the party was a giant clusterfuck of awful."
"No it wasn't."
"Yes it was."
"No, Frankie. I don't really remember anything, but the few things I can recall were good. Like when you shot gunned me. That was hilarious."
"No. It wasn't. Georgia saw it and misinterpreted what was going on."
I pulled back, "What? But Lynnette was there! She can vouch!"
"Maybe, but she didn't. She said her back was to us, because she was dancing."
"I-I-I wh- I- Oh my god, I can't believe she did that." Was everyone going to turn on me? Chances are she really had her back to us and isn't taking sides, I thought to myself, but deep down I know I'd been betrayed by someone who was supposed to be my friend. Everyone was fake. (I needed to learn that, because people didn't get any more real as I got older either.)
"I don't see how this got you punched. Georgia is a pacifist."
Laughing sleepily into my neck he said, "Georgia didn't punch me. She is left handed. No way she could have beat up the left side of my face like this." he smelled like cigarettes, and like he needed a shower.
I sat back and made him look at me. "Who. Hit. You. I'm not playing anymore, Frankie."
His face screwed up too look like an excited Valley Girl, "Well Georgia told Lucas that I cheated on her with you, and Lucas told Richard who told Sky that you had totally dished to him about our sexual exploits, and then all three of them beat me up!" he squealed like a preppy girl. As if it was funny.
"But, we didn't sleep together." Nothing made sense.
Then I realized, if this was what they did to Frank what were they going to do to Gerard.
"Oh my God. Gerar-"
"He wasn't in school today."
I was so relieved. I put my cheek on the top of Frankie's head and sighed for what felt like the hundredth time. "Last night I thought for sure that I was going to lose my best friend."
"Not even if you push me away, Bri."
I didn't want to face my problems, so I pretended to be sick for most of the week. I stayed in my room and slept, leaving only to go to brush my teeth or get some water. By the time Friday morning rolled around I felt exponentially worse than I had Monday afternoon when Frank came over. My head felt stuffed up, I hadn't showered, I was depressed and my muscles were stiff because I spent four days in fetal position. It was just past five fifteen in the morning when I realized that staying in my room forever would do nothing but make things even more crap than they already were, so I got up, washed my face, and put on my running clothes. I hadn't eaten in a few days and I had to tie my pants tighter than normal. At least my agent would be happy. The circles under my eyes and my greasy hair made me appear malnourished. I stared at my pitiful form in the mirror. The entire time I wasn't at school nobody called me, or came to my house.
"Ma, I'm going for a run." I stuck my head in her room as she sat at her boudoir, teasing her hair.
"Yes, Ma, I'm up. I'm going for a run."
"Make sure you eat."
"I don't want to eat."
I stood there awkwardly for about a minute before I turned to leave.
"Okay, well, be careful."
"Don't worry I plan on letting Frank date rape me."
"Don't be horrible."
I was in one of those moods that made me hate everyone.
Running. Running felt so good. I soon fell into a rhythm and there was nothing but me and the freezing cold morning air that began to cleanse my being from the inside out, and numb my brain. I was so zoned out that I didn't noticed the small black figure hunched over something on the sidewalk until I tripped ass over elbow and almost smashed my teeth on the pavement. My large Italian nose took the brunt of the impact from my face plant. I lay there squeezing my eyes shut trying not to groan. "Oh shit." My hands hurt, and my knees were burning. As I went down I thought I heard something tear, so I painfully rolled over onto my side to try and see which part of my outfit didn't survive the fall. The sun was just beginning to rise, and it was breathtakingly beautiful. What a perfect moment to fall and almost break my face. When I sat up a bit, I noticed my nose was gushing blood, but otherwise my clothes were intact. What ripped? I asked myself. And that was when I saw him. Gerard was sitting there staring at what was once a striking painting of the sunrise. It was apparent he had spent a great deal of time and effort on it, and I had completely ruined it. I was a fucking moron. My first instinct was to get up and run, and so I took off. In that moment I knew that whatever friendship Gerard and I might have had was probably gone.