I thought it was just his personality, but I would eventually discover it was something much deeper, and much darker than that.
I never remember auditions or the week leading up to them. They terrify me, and I almost pee myself every single time. We're talking legs and cheeks shaking, some serious cotton mouth. I'm an emotional wreck from the moment I hear about auditions to the moment the cast list goes out. It's been this way since I had that first audition in eighth grade, even though now that I'm much older with all sorts of awards and nominations under my belt auditions scare the living hell out of me.
"So, do you think you'll get Lead Techie?" I asked Frankie excitedly.
"Uh, I dunno." he rubbed the back of his neck and took a celery stick from me. With a grimace he spit it into a napkin. "Disgusting." I rolled my eyes at him
Stealing some carrots off Gerard's tray and trading them for some of my celery, I silently hoped that in spite of my being an underclassmen I'd get a somewhat decent slot this year. I was smack dab in the middle of the first act last year, one of the most forgettable performance spots.
"THE CAST LIST IS UP!" a Freshman shrieked as she darted through the cafeteria. Even though most of us knew that everyone would get into the Christmas Talent Show, the order of performance was what people lost sleep over. The opening and closing of each act were the top spots, but it was the very final slot, the finale, that everyone wanted. That slot was something people would kill their own mothers for. It was a slot that I didn't get the previous year, and I remember crying all night because it was my last performance before I went to work on the movie.
What would end up happening, because there were so many people, the directors would combine acts. They'd take all the ballerinas and put them in one piece together, take a few singers and put them into duets or give them to someone who wrote a poem or played an instrument etc etc. There were usually only a few soloists, and those soloists were typically upper classmen or, sometimes, an underclassmen who had cured cancer and solved Africa's starvation problem. I auditioned with Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from the musical Meet Me in St. Louis. I was fully expecting to be given to the jazz band or made to sing with someone from my music class, which was fine by me. I had an Golden Globe to hold me tight when I slept at night.
The Tech List was posted first in the hallway, and about four feet down, taped to the theatre door, was The Performance List. Looking to my left, Frank was cool, calm and collected, but I was eager and nervous to see who got what. I was practically vibrating with anticipation. Gerard tailed quietly behind myself and Frank, even though as far as I knew he hadn't auditioned. I stopped at the Tech List, but Frank kept walking.
"Frank? The Tech List is here."
"Uh, yeah. I uh, auditioned for the show actually." he said with embarrassment.
"Oh!" I was a bit shocked, but was happy for him. He was a good guitarist, and an, uhm, passionate performer for lack of a better word, but Belleville ate that kind of stuff up. His performance at Halloween was not unknown to the staff department.
"Sorry I didn't tell you."
"No, no! It's fine, I'm really happy you auditioned." my smile almost broke my face. I saw him in a slightly new light. It was a light I liked.
We reached the list for performers and Stephanie stood there, with Richard, crying her eyes out about how it wasn't fair. When I walked up she shoved me out of the way, and knocked me into Frankie who promptly gave under my sudden weight and I fell on top of him.
Stephanie scoffed through her snot and crocodile tears, "Oh look. Right where she belongs. On the floor. With the rest of the trash." As she and her boyfriend walked past, Stephanie stepped on my hand and Richard kicked Frank's knee before shoving Gerard into the wall.
"What gives, you dumb bitch?!" Frank shouted after the pair.
Over her shoulder she spat "Fuck yourself, Iero."
Without missing a beat, Richard remarked snidely, "Better yet, fuck Gerard. He'd love that."
Gerard silently rubbed the back of his head and straightened his jacket. In all honesty, Steph and Richard were the only ones openly mean to me anymore, because let's face it, nobody wanted to make enemies with a movie star. It was one of the few times I used fame to my advantage. Gerard extended his hand to help me up. When I grabbed it a slight tingle went through my body. I stood there, frozen.
"Uhm, I need it back now."
Snapping out of my inability to utilize my motor functions I threw his hand back at him. "Yeah, totally. I just uh, had a blood rush to my head. I stood up too quickly. Is your head okay?" I said awkwardly as I backed up and almost fell again as I stepped on Frank who was now standing with his back to me, looking at the list.
"Oh my god."
"What?" I asked
"Frank what? What's wrong?"
"Oh SHIT!" he turned to me with that big stupid smile I loved.
Excited I pushed him out of the way.
- First: Luke Masterson, Matt Pelissier, Frank Iero and Gerard Way "Heavy Metal Cover of Dancing With Myself"
- Second: Brianna Magnoli "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
"Oh my GODDY GOD GOD!!" I jumped up and down like a little girl
"Congrats, Bri!" Frank hugged me
"I'm the finale!"
"You are!" Frank said, imitating my tone
"BY YOURSELF!" Frank laughed
"And you!" I said taking a hold of his face "You're closing the first act!" then I noticed Gerard smiling to himself, "And Gerard!" he looked up at me, "Come here, you! This is so exciting!" I pulled him into a massive hug. His whole body tensed up but he soon relaxed enough to give me an awkward one armed hug in return. I pulled back and held him by his shoulders. "You. Made. A. Finale. Spot. AH!" I shook him lightly with each word.
"Alright, Bri. Let's not kill my singer." Frank said gently forcing me to let go of poor Gerard.
Gerard, even after telling me that he considered me a friend, was always very quiet and withdrawn. I thought it was just his personality, but I would eventually discover it was something much deeper, and much darker than that. However, when he was on stage he opened up and turned into this high energy, homoerotic metal/punk performer. He was truly amazing and it was such a privilege to get to watch him before he became an international star. It was hilarious and wonderful to watch he and Frank perform Billy Idol (one of the sexiest men to walk the Earth...). Both the boys and I received a standing ovation, as did a few other acts. It was a great way to spend the last night before the start of Christmas Break. The night our talent show closed it started snowing. It was a big fluffy snow storm. I took it as a good omen.
"Mikey! I see Frank! He's over there!" I screamed, taking a flying leap behind my snow fort to make a snowball.
"I know! I see him! Fucking gnome is small enough to dodge my snowballs! What do you want from me?!" he screamed back from across the yard.
"I want for you to hit him! Hey Flavia!" I yelled to my sister. "I saw Ray run around the back yard and loose his glasses on the way. Go get him! I got Gerard."
Someone grabbed me and clamped a hand over my mouth before I could scream. "Yeah?" it was Gerard. His breath smelled strangely like alcohol. Trying to shout through his hand I struggled to get away, but he was surprisingly strong. I saw him lift up the snow ball and without a second thought I kicked out and made contact with his leg. He yelped, giving me enough time to scurry away and fling my snowball at him.
"I GOT GERARD! I GOT GERARD!" in celebration I did a tribal dance around Gerard who lay on the ground, feigning death. As I neared his head he reached out to try and get up, but stumbled and grabbed my ankle by mistake causing me to fall on top of him, knocking the wind out of us both.
"Uh, hi." I half laughed half choked looking at him.
His hair was tangled in front of his eyes and soaking wet with snow. Taking a mittened hand he tried to wipe the hair away from his face.
"Here, I got it." taking a glove off I moved the hair out of his eyes. They were such a pretty green. "You should cut your hair." it wasn't until he wriggled uncomfortably that I realized I was still on top of him. Becoming uncomfortable I rolled off and helped him up. "Come on prisoner. You're out of the game!" Gleefully, I made a dramatic show of taking him to the 'jail' area. He couldn't walk in a straight line.
My team, (Myself, Flavia and Mikey) ended up winning. It took us ages to take Frankie down, but eventually we got him. All of us were laying on our backs in the snow in a circle with our heads in the middle.
"Snow is Mother Nature's way of cleansing the earth." Gerard whispered with a slight slur.
"It even smells clean." my sister said.
"Do you thing that God and The Great Mother fight?" Mikey asked
"God doesn't exist, stupid." Flavia responded. She was 10 and already an atheist. She began refusing to go to church sometime between her eighth and ninth birthdays.
"I'm not stupid." he said angrily, "It was just a question. Don't be such a whore about it." he was 11, but had skipped two years and was in eighth grade at the local public school. His potty mouth was as impressive as his IQ. He was fairly stoic, and rarely smiled, but he was nice and oddly enough acted like a total air head.
"Do you guys want hot chocolate? My mom makes it with cream and Hersey's." Frank asked us, sitting up. We were too lazy to move. "Fine. Hungry Frankie waits for no one." Not wanting to miss out on a special treat, we got up and followed.
A few hours later as I sat at home trying to defrost, the phone in my room rang. The only people who had that number were Frankie and anyone in the movie industry. Since I had just seen Frank I knew it couldn't have been him. Tripping over myself I reached my phone just before it clicked to voice mail.
"Hello, this is Brianna Magnoli speaking." I said breathlessly
"Oh, I thought this was your agents number." said a heavily accented familiar voice.
"Uh," I was trying to get a piece of hair off my tongue, "No, this is my personal number. How may I help you?"
"Well, I don't know if you remember me from the movie premier, but this is Peter DeLuise." How could I NOT remember him? The man was the hunky Doug Penhall from 21 Jump Street. He was also ten years my senior, so there went any hope I had of a boyfriend.
"Of course I remember you. What can I do for you, Peter?"
"Well I actually need a lovely female counterpart for the Rockin' Eve party, and heard that you were still free."
"Totally! I'd love to accompany you to the biggest party of the year."
I heard a sigh of relief, "Excellent. Should I, uh, be calling your agent?"
"Probably, but if you want to speak to me just call this number. My agent never gives me my messages."
"Okey dokey. I'll see you then. Thanks, Miss Magnoli."
Christmas Eve was, is and always will be my favorite holiday. It's so warm, and full of love and the anticipation of what is to come the next morning. I'd invited Frankie over for a present exchange and the raiding of the left over snacks. It was pretty late, and all my cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents had gone home until the next morning, but one AM was no big for Frank or I.
"I'm going to sleep, try not to wake me up." Ma said
"We're not having sex, Ma. We're eating food and exchanging presents, crazy."
"Okay, just making sure." she said with relief and headed off to bed
It had begun snowing outside, and the snow covered the ground like a mother holding her child. Something I'd doubted Mrs. Iero had done to her children in years. Inside, the fireplace was lit, and Classic Hollywood Christmas songs drifted lazily out of our old fashioned record player. The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole quietly began flowing out of the music box . My mother and I always brewed homemade potpourri by boiling cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, and a few other spices in a pot. The whole house smelled so perfectly wonderful, like the very essence of Christmas. It was cozy sitting by the fireplace as I waited for my Frankie to come over. His gift was a no brainer. For two weeks prior to Christmas I tried to think of something to get Gerard, and I'd finally found something, but at the end of the day it was Frank who was my best friend, and sometimes Gerard kind of got in the way, so I didn't invite him.
The doorbell rang. Excitedly I jumped up and ran to the door. Was I wearing pants? I had tights on. Good enough. I gave myself a quick once over in the mirror. I wore a dark red, velvet micro-dress, with white pattern tights, black calf length socks and my Doc's. My hair was teased to high heaven and I managed to find a nice shade of lip stick in my mother's drawer. I unlocked the door and opened it to see Frank there in a leather jacket with his hair combed and freshly washed. He was wearing nice black pants and a black button down shirt with a big cheesy Grinch tie. In his hand was an impeccably wrapped Christmas present. I was slightly floored. He cleaned up very, very well. Frank rarely dressed up of his own accord. Something inside of me felt special. That was a dangerous feeling to have about your best friend. Merry Christmas Darling by The Carpenters danced it's way around our heads.
His eyes widened slightly, and he smiled. "Hi there."
"Thanks." Thanks? What was I saying? He looked at me like I had four heads. "Uhm, do you want to come in?"
"No, I'll just stand out in the freezing cold." he said as he walked inside and closed the door. Then he leaned forward and kissed my cheek. "Merry Christmas, Brianna. You look really pretty." My stomach fell completely out of my body. I nervously fiddled with the hem of my dress. What was wrong with me? His stupid smile was the same stupid smile that he'd always had. I probably was over heated from sitting by the fire.
"Yeah, you too, Frankie. Very handsome." I offered a smile, and gave him a quick hug. "Wanna have something to eat? There's left over snacks from when my family was here." pointing to the kitchen I slowly backed away from him.
"Yeah totally. Something smells awesome, what'd you make? It's like the essence of Christmas in here." My ears had to have been lying to me. Had to be.
"Uhm, it's potpourri. But we have cheeses and chips and stuff. You know. The usual." I forced a laugh. It sounded more like a manic choke.
"Are you okay?" Frank asked raising an eyebrow. I nodded, biting my lip to keep myself from saying anything else that was stupid. "Where can I put this?" he said, gesturing to the box gift in his hand.
I told him he could just leave it by the Christmas tree, and as he turned toward the tree I fled into the kitchen to breathe. After a few seconds I was perfectly fine. It must have been the fire place.
"So do I get to eat? Or did you sneak in ahead of me so that you could take it all?" he laughed.
We stuffed our plates with as much food as they could handle , and headed back into the living room. When we walked out the record was in the middle of Bing Crosby's It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas. Between the colored lights on the Christmas Tree and the golden light of the fire, in-between the shadows cast on the floor by furniture our carpet looked like a piece of stained glass. Falling snow began to gather on the windows, making it difficult to see outside. "I can't remember the last time we had best friend time." I said as I delicately ate a piece of Stromboli. Manners were the last thing I would ever have to watch in front of Frankie, but that night I felt like being a lady.
"The day I got the shit kicked out of me." he said nonchalantly as he began sticking olives on the tips of his fingers.
"Mmhmm." he eventually looked up when I didn't respond after a minute or so. "Well don't look so sad about it. I'm perfectly fine." He knew that I felt completely responsible for everything that happened, because let's face it, it was totally my fault, wasn't it? He offered a smile. I smiled back
Frank became hyper focused on making sure the olives stayed on. I'd never really paid much attention to the act before, because it was something he'd done since we were about three years old, he had always stuck his tongue out to lick the left corner of his top lip. It made me chuckle. "What?" he asked, pausing to look up at me before looking back at his olives. That face. Old habits die hard I suppose.
"You've made that same exact face while concentrating since we were little is all."
"Oh. Cool." He was trying to find the perfect final olive. Once done Frankie proudly showed me his handy work. I almost expected him to say, 'Look. Mommy! Look what I did!'. Then, as always, one by one he pulled the olives off his fingers with his teeth. I waited until he had nine olives in his mouth before I grabbed his hand and stole the tenth olive, tossing it into my mouth. He sounded as if, through a mouth jam packed with olives, he was attempting to say what gives, but I couldn't tell.
"Present time?" I said, swallowing my one olive and replacing it with cheese and crackers.
"Not yet. We're still eating. By the way, I meant to tell you how great you were in the talent show. Your voice is so versatile. Really good at imitating people and stuff. I'd love to hear how your real voice sounded once in a while though." The compliment struck a chord, and I smiled. He smiled back. We smiled like morons at one another for a minute until I guess I blinked and Frank shouted, "I WIN!" Quickly I shushed him, with the reminder that my mother was asleep upstairs. "Anyway, like I said." a large piece of cheese and cracker was shoved in his mouth, "You sounded beautiful. It was one of the prettiest things I've ever had the opportunity to hear, and the audience was eating out of the palm of your hand from the second you let out that first note."
He was making me blush, "Thank you", I muttered incoherently into my glass of milk. "You and Gerard were incredible too though." Frank snorted as I took a sip "No really. That was so cool. Billy would have loved it." I'd met Billy Idol once at a premier, and chances are he would have hated the rendition, but who cared. "Gerard really comes alive on stage. Too bad he wants to be an artist."
"The audience didn't know what the hell they were being subjected to." he laughed "But it's the only time Gerard comes out of his shell so they can all screw. It's 1993 for Christ sakes. Not 1893. The poor kid has it hard enough as it is." I didn't know what Frankie meant, but I let it go.
My self control was wearing thin. I had to give Frank my present, so I jumped up and grabbed the large, flat box from under the tree while reaching over the medium sized box Frank had brought.
"Open it." I said eagerly shoving it at him.
"Yeah, open it!" As he gently tore the paper I scooted next to him, and leaned over the gift.
"Geez, can I breathe?"
"Sorry." I said sheepishly, grabbing the old beat up Polaroid I had laying on the couch. Eagerly I awaited his reaction. A few weeks back I'd attended a charity event that sponsored music and art for special needs children. At the event I'd had the opportunity to meet so many famous musicians and knew that I had to get their autographs for Frankie. As he finally peeled the paper down to the box, I lifted my camera.
"The pressure!" he dramatically gasped
"Just open it already! Slow poke!"
He grabbed his house key out of his back pocket and cut through the tape down the back side of the box. Opening the box he was faced with the back of a large picture frame. I'd written a note on the cardboard backing:
Through every single thing I've ever experienced...you've been there, and I love you for it.
You always said that when I became famous you'd want my autograph.
Well, I decided that mine wasn't worth as much as these were.
Can't wait to go with you...
"Holy shit! Tickets and back stage passes to see Nirvana next summer!" (Tickets we never got to use. Poor Kurt shot himself April 6, 1994.)
After a mild freak out Frank flipped the frame over, and almost died. The look on his face was priceless. I'd gotten as many rock stars as I could to sign as many napkins as I could steal, and when I ran out I took photos with my Polaroid and had them sign those. When I got home I made a collage of all the goodies and put the finished product in a frame. "I-You-Them-HIM!-I can't. I just can't. You're awesome." He leaned over and almost squeezed the life out of my body. "I can't top this." he said apologetically.
"Frank, it comes from you. Automatically makes it the best gift in the entire world."
"You're saying that because you have to." he laughed, grabbing his gift "Here. Open it."
Enthusiastically I shredded the paper. "Wait! Get my camera." once Frank mockingly held up my camera I continued to open my box. Inside was black, leather bound book.
"I'm not telling. Lazy. Read it then open it."
I turned the book over and read aloud, "Brianna and Frank Anthony: A Lifetime of Tomfoolery. "Aw is this a photo album for all the photos I take?"
"Just open it."
The entire album was full. Every slot held a photo of Frank and myself acting like total fools. There were photos from events that we attended when we were four and even younger. "Oh Frankie this is the best thing you've ever done for me!" I fell on top of him and kissed his cheeks, getting lipstick smudged all over.
"Well you make me so many, that I figured I needed to make one for you that captured every memory I could recall. Look look, here is that party we went to in the park. The one where you threw up on my shoes because the clown scared you so bad. And over here," he flipped through a few pages, "is your tenth birthday. You made me put on makeup because I got caught trying to crash your sleepover."
I doubled over in laughter, "That's right! You were furious that I didn't invite you. You just couldn't grasp the idea of girls only. You thought that I was going to stop being your friend!" I flipped to the end. It was a photo of Frankie and I curled up on the floor in front of my Christmas Tree when we were about two years old. He was laying on a blanket and I was laying on him with my thumb stuck in my mouth and my arm around my bear. He had a fat little hand gently atop my hair as if he were trying to protect me. Like the sentimental sap I was, I began to cry.
"Not much different from now, except you don't suck you thumb anymore. I still wear feetie pajamas sometimes though." he chuckled. "Recreate it for old time sake?"
"Frank, we stopped having sleepovers when we were eleven. We're sixteen now."
"So?" his face was so honest. No ulterior motives. Just two friends, who were like family.
Looking at the clock, it was past three. Baby It's Cold Outside started. I sighed melodramatically, "Okayyyyyyy. Fineeeeeee" and like old times he and I curled up on the floor and fell asleep. Years later I found a photo in my mother's closet of Frank and I. Out cold, with our half finished plates and shredded wrapping paper all around us. It's a photo that I keep hidden, but treasure very much.
As stupid as it sounds, that night I dreamed of a figure with a crown of purple lopsided gumdrops whispering in my ear over and over that I would be okay and that they'd never leave me.
Frankie was the youngest of two children.
His father over dosed on drugs when we were six.
Mrs. Iero's family cut her off and never spoke to her, because she married "beneath her station".
Paul Iero was a bitter and silent man who treated affection as a foreign concept.
It's a great mystery how he managed to get a woman pregnant not once, but twice.
I never liked him.
He was evil.
It would come as no surprise if someone said he threw rocks at kittens when he was a child.
He used to hit Frankie.
I hated him.
Paul Iero did us a favor by dying.
I didn't cry at his funeral.
"What are you? A goddamn fag?!" he slurred at Frankie. Whatever drug he was on made him scary. Sheets and paper stars were strung from hangers and the walls and the ceiling. We'd been having a camp out when the door bust open and the hall lamp cast a harsh and frightening shadow of Mr. Iero that fell across Frankie, drowning him in shadows. He hid behind me.
I think we were four or five.
"I raised a fucking girl!" Mr. Iero took a step further into the room. I felt something wet on my back, Frank was crying. Mrs. Iero had taken Adam to a sleep over and wasn't there. Looking wildly around the room his arms began flailing. "What is this?" he swatted at a star.
"Speak up like a man!" he screamed at the tiny boy who continued to shrink away from his father.
Frankie cleared his throat and barely rasped out, "It's a star. We're camping."
"A star?" Paul said quietly. Frank nodded. "A goddamn fucking pansy ass mother fucking star?! What is WRONG with you? Why can't you be like Adam? He is a real boy."
"I am a boy, Daddy." Frank sobbed as his enraged and drugged up father started ripping things off the wall. We'd spent all day cutting stars.
That's how things always were with Paul Iero. Things got bad, and then got worse in the blink of an eye. We sat there.
Helpless and afraid.
Frank trying to climb under my sweater, and me unable to speak. It was the scariest thing I'd ever witnessed. Stumbling over toward us he reached for Frank. With a violent start I jumped back and fell over Frank who didn't get out of the way fast enough and was pulled up by his hair. "Daddy no! No, Daddy, no stop! DADDY!" he screeched, thrashing about trying to break free.
"Be a real man! Real men don't play with girls and make paper stars or scream and beg for mercy!" he flung his teeny peanut of a son half way across the room. Frank crashed into the corner of his desk.
None of us had even heard Mamma Iero come in until she stood in the doorway and screamed at the top of her lungs, "PAUL FRANK ANTHONY IERO!" And that was it. She was the Betty Ross to his Bruce Banner. Just as quickly as he exploded he calmed down, and padded toward the door, stopping just under the frame.
"I'm...I just...don't know." and he left. We three stayed frozen until we heard the basement door click closed. Then Mrs. Iero flew across the room and grabbed her baby boy. His face was hidden in his hands, and when she pulled them back she screamed, and an overwhelming wave of nausea came over me. His face was a mixture of blood, tears and runny nose. I promptly passed out from the gruesome sight.
The only good things Frank had in his life growing up were his mother and me, he has so much more now, but growing up that was it, and even his mother wasn't always there. She couldn't look at her drug addicted children without seeing her late husband. The woman was truly a saint. She was a great mother who allowed drinking at parties and cooked the most heavenly food on Earth. Mamma Iero was a good woman who loved her sons as much as she could. A depressed and scared woman, but a good one, and Frankie never loved anyone more than her until he met Jamia.
I woke up on my living room floor. The fire was out and it was daylight. Frank's left arm was bent underneath his head and the other was carelessly across my shoulders. Afraid to wake him up I stayed there silently and looked around the room. When I saw the photo album I felt the overwhelming need to protect him from everything since I couldn't protect him that night all those years ago. Turning as slowly as I could I reached up and ran a finger along the scar above his eyebrow from where his head slammed into the desk corner that night.