Gerard reached out and grabbed her hand, making her body ignite.
"Uh CHAA!" Eliza exclaimed.
Looking in the mirror for the first time, the young girl sucked in her breath. Never in her life had she felt so beautiful or desirable or perfect. Her dress showed off her tiny waist and helped hide her large hips. It allowed enough of her ample cleavage to show without being trashy, and her usually plain, poufy hair had been dyed a rich auburn, and the curls tamed into shiny little halos that danced around her temples and on top of her head in an intricate woven half up-do before it cascaded down her back. The make-up artist chose to keep her face and lips simple, but covered her eyes in a gorgeous bronze liner and shimmer shadow. Her eyebrows were plucked to perfection for the first time since her last red carpet event at New Years, and she had eyelids again. She felt wonderful. She felt like a young woman about to graduate high school. She felt alive. Even her nose looked smaller and more girlish.
The door bell rang and Eliza went into a tizz crying out about how she wasn't anywhere near ready. While her dress was nothing to look at, Eliza was top stage hair and make-up student, so she looked killer with classic 1940's hair and make-up. "Eliza, you look stunning. Don't worry. Gerard is going to love it." as she said that her heart felt out of her body. She was supposed to hate Eliza, and mildly care for Gerard, so why was she being so nice and why did it hurt so much? "And your dress is going to be perfect for dancing." Frank's band Pencey Prep was performing at prom, and there was sure to be lots of head banging.
The voices or four Jersey mothers drifted upstairs, making the two girls suddenly nervous and self-conscious. The mothers were fawning over the two young men who waited, no doubt anxiously, as their photos were snapped and their poses were adjusted.
"Oh Frank look how well you clean up, can't you be like this all the time?" Mrs. Magnoli's voice shrieked happily
"Gerard you look so wonderful and your eyes-" but Mrs. Iero cut herself off when she must have noticed something wrong with Frank's ensemble, because she began fussing over him.
"Let's go downstairs!!" Eliza cried as she flitted back and forth nervously. Bri felt it too. Her stomach churned and rolled, but she didn't feel sick. It was the anticipation of the boy's reactions that occupied her thoughts. "Are you ready?"
"I'll go first then you. You look too stunning to not have your own spot light." she smiled kindly. Shit, Bri thought to herself, why does Eliza have to be such a nice person?
"Uhm, thanks." Bri choked, feeling guilty for hating Eliza.
As Eliza made her way down the steps, Bri could hear the Ooo's and Ahh's coming from the six people waiting at the bottom of the stairs. She then heard Eliza explain that she'd told Bri to come down last. Bri waited, with rapid breath, to be summoned. When she was called she began her descent. As she rounded the corner a pin drop could be heard. Everyone stared at the young woman, making her blush and wish she could disappear. She missed the last step and as she began to fall Gerard reached out and grabbed her hand, making her body ignite as she righted herself and took the last step down to the floor.
"Christ..." Frank said under his breath.
Gerard's mouth hung open, and he couldn't take his eyes off her. Taking mental pause, Bri noticed that Gerard had cut his hair, and she could see his muddy green eyes. Those haunted, beautiful eyes, with the dark circles underneath. The portals that led to a tortured soul. But she was there for Frank, who looked extremely handsome in his tuxedo, and in the two weeks that they hadn't spoken he'd lost weight. The core of her body became hot, and she felt her face flush with need, but that would have to wait.
"Sweetheart," her mother walked up as she reached the bottom of the stairs "you look so beautiful." Tears filled her mother's eyes as she hugged her little girl. The three other mothers clicked away with their camera's, hoping to catch the precious moment.
"Ma, I love you too but you're crushing me and my hair." everyone laughed, except Gerard who was still stealing glances at her. "Gerard, doesn't Eliza look wonderful?" Bri asked, knowing that while what she did hurt it was the right thing to do. Shaking his head slightly as if to clear it, he turned to his date, and gave her an appreciative look.
"Yes, she does." then he kissed her on the cheek.
Bri almost vomited from the sudden jolt that went through her stomach but she felt Frank's hand close around hers and she found herself grounded once more. "You're by far the loveliest creature I've ever laid eyes on." he whispered in her ear. She knew that for just that night he loved her as something more than a best friend and wanted only her, but that was the magic of prom. It did things to people that would otherwise never happen.
She was going to take what she could get, so she turned and looked at him through her eyelashes. "Thank you." she whispered, kissing his forehead, causing his face to redden to the likening of a tomato.
"Wow!" Eliza shouted over the music, "Frankie's band is really good!" she continued to jump around and bop her head to the music in her little pixie dress. Three hours into prom and her eyeliner was running, and her hair was poufing, but damnit if she wasn't having the time of her life. Gerard had gone off to get them soda, and Ray (who was dancing like a mad man) kept almost punching Bri in the face, but his date thought he was great and she proceeded to tell the other girls how she felt at every given opportunity.
Ray had brought some girl named Christa Lake who sat behind him in Advanced English. Ray was one of the top students Belleville had ever seen, and Christa was number one. They were adorakabley cute together even though Ray swore he didn't like her. They eventually got married in a perfect ceremony where not a stitch or hair was out of place, and nobody got too drunk or sloppy and the air conditioning worked and their vows were poetic and beautiful. The perfect result of two anal retentive individuals coming together.
There was a tap on the young actresses shoulder. Turning, she saw a face that had been avoiding her since that fateful Halloween party two years prior. "Skylar?"
"Well I don't know what I did to merit the use of my full name, but yes."
Gerard watched curiously as he quietly approached from behind, unseen, unnoticed, like always.
"You uhm, look really nice."
"Listen, I'm sorry for the way we ended."
"So am I." and she meant it, but she also wasn't stupid. "What do you want?"
"A dance?" prom would be over in fifteen minutes. He wanted the last dance with her. No fucking way. "I promised it to someone already." she lied.
"Who? Frank has to perform the song."
"Gerard." Gerard's eyes bugged out of his head, and so did Brianna's. Eliza nodded. "Yep. Gerard. She promised Gerard. My feet hurt and I'm tired of dancing."
God dammit, the young woman thought, why is Eliza so nice?
Sky was sputtering, still trying to process what had just happened. Suddenly he leaned in close. "It's always been him hasn't it?" he hissed in her ear. "And it's always gunna BE him, won't it?"
Shocked, and wanting to deny it, she couldn't speak, so Sky straightened out, complimented Eliza's dress, and left.
"ELIZA!" Bri shouted to the girl, turning on her.
"I didn't know what else to say. I hate him anyway." she pouted. When Eliza first came to school junior year and joined band, Sky took her out on a date. It went notoriously wrong, and resulted in the poor girl quitting band and taking up hair and make-up. A move that would end up almost ruining her life, but we're not there yet. Bri sighed, "It's alright, are you sure you don't mind?" Eliza shook her head.
"Anyone want some soda? It's diet." Gerard said sheepishly, trying not to let on that he heard, but Bri had seen him, and she knew.
"Yeah, thanky thanky! Well I'm going to go sit, my feet hurt. It's about that time, ya know? Here let me take your soda, you're not drinking it anyway." she wisked the drink from Bri's hand and flounced off like a toddler.
Suddenly the music stopped and it was dead silent as Gerard and Bri stood there awkwardly in front of one another. "This one," Frank's voice cracked out, "Is for all the lovers out there." with a wink and a blown kiss, Frank and his band began to play Al Green's version of Unchained Melody. Gerard slowly reached out and took the young woman's hand, gently pulling her close as the first line began.
"Oh my love, my darling, I've hungered for your touch a long, lonely time." Frank crooned.
Gerard placed his hand lightly, tenderly, on the small of her back as if he were savoring it, and they began to sway back and forth. She looked up and locked eyes with Gerard, and time suddenly stood still.
"And time goes by so slowly, and time can do so much. Are you still mine?" the music reached a slight crescendo. "I need your love, I need your love. Godspeed your love to me!"
Without realizing it the pair was nose to nose, staring into one anothers eyes curiously. What was this sudden sick feeling Bri had? No, not sick, happiness. Lightning bolts of excitement went shooting through her feet and hands and reflected back at her in Gerard's green eyes. Eyes that held no grief or sadness, only her.
"Lonely rivers flow To the sea, to the sea To the open arms of the sea . Lonely rivers sigh, 'Wait for me, wait for me' I'll be coming home, wait for me!"
Slowly, carefully, as if she would break, Gerard spun her around and then dipped her. When she came back up they locked eyes again, as she reached up a shaking hand to his cheek. Almost unnoticeable was the slight turn he made toward her warm palm as if he wanted to kiss it, but he didn't.
Frank's voice broke in softly, and far away. "Oh, my love, my darling I've hungered, hungered for your touch a long, lonely time"
Lowering her hand she closed what little space was left between them by wrapping her arms around his neck and placing her cheek on his shoulder. She felt his grip on her tighten as if to protect her from some unknown evil, and he sighed, relaxing his body. As if they were two puzzle pieces meant for one another they molded into each other. She lifted her head as he lowered his and they pressed blushing cheek to blushing cheek. He breath was hot on her ear and he smelled wonderful. The dance was the most sensual experience of her life up to that point.
"And time goes by so slowly. And time can do so much. Are you still mine? I need your love I need your love God speed your love to me!"
"Gee?" she said, her throat suddenly dry.
"Shhh." he whispered
They finished out the song in silence. Holding one another. Forgetting the world around them. Not knowing what it was that was happening. Was it just prom? Would this last? What was happening?
She didn't care. It felt right. Like she was supposed to be there in his arms, being held the way a woman should be held, the small of her back being gently caressed by his thumb, his breathing in her ear. It was all so right, but so wrong and she knew it couldn't last. Once the lights turned on the magic would be gone, and it made her sad.
"Unchained melody." Frank muttered, "Unchained melody." and the song ended.
Before the teachers blinded them with the harsh fluorescent lights, she turned and kissed Gerard's cheek. Her face aflame, she shyly turned away and thanked him for the dance. She almost missed the smile that ever so briefly flashed across his face.
"Thank you, and goodnight, all you love birds." Frank whispered into the microphone. As he got down off the stage the lights turned on, and Bri waited for the magic to end, but it didn't. Her stomach was fluttering, and her heart was pounding. Her cheeks burned and her breathing was shallow. With a small gasp she looked up at Gerard, and he smiled at her, before turning and going to Eliza who had fallen asleep at her table. When he woke her she rubbed her eyes much the same way a child would, and she smiled up at him before standing and stretching.
"Sorry I couldn't dance with you. I hope you found a partner? I couldn't see through the spotlights."
Still in a trance she only nodded, "Mmm."
She felt like Cinderella and was unwilling to give up the feeling.
"You look so beautiful." he said in her ear.
That night as she lay in Frank's bed while he snored next to her she thought of only one thing, and it wasn't Frank. Her cheek still burned where she had pressed it to Gerard's face.
English was the first class of the day. It was a class I shared with Ray and Christa.
Miss Monroe stood at the front of the room, lecturing us. "Third person is a beautiful thing when writing narratives. It allows the writer to see themselves in a different light. To perhaps see mistakes or small victories that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and unappreciated."
"What did you mean when you asked me if I loved you?"
"Frank. Go back to sleep." I mumbled
"No, were you drunk or serious?"
"I was serious. Just like I am now about you going back to sleep and leaving me alone."
"I didn't know you were serious. I'm sorry."
Giving up on sleep I rolled over and propped my head up on my hand. I sighed. "It's okay, Frankie."
He sat up to face me, "It's just that I don't know how I feel. Sometimes I feel like what we have is the most real thing I've ever experienced and other times I feel like it's fake and temporary."
I kissed him lightly on the mouth. "It's obviously real, Frank, but as for how long it will last? Only time will tell."
"I love you, for sure, you mean more to me than anyone, but I don't know if I love you like that." he looked apologetic.
Yawning, I stretched my free arm over my head, "Listen, Frank, it's in the middle of the night and you're trying to make all sorts of apologies that need not be made. You're fine," I paused and took his chin in my hand, "I promise." Smiling, I hugged him close and we fell asleep.
I dreamt about prom, but the night ended with me in Gerard's bed instead of Frank's.
Our graduating class was fairly small. Even though we were a Jersey school we were still a magnet school, and had only about 100 kids graduating the year of 1995. I sat there at our graduation rehearsal next to Christa Lake, pretending to listen to her gush about Ray, who kissed her at prom, and I couldn't help but think of everything that had happened over the past four years. Turning, I smirked at Gerard Way and Richard Walker sitting right next to one another, doing their best to not acknowledge the person next to them.
"Bri? Did you hear me?"
"Huh? Oh yeah, that's awesome, Christa."
"No, do you think he likes me?"
"Yeah. Could you ask him?" for the class Einstein, she turned into a mush brain when it came to Ray. But she was super nice and I genuinely liked her.
I sighed, "Yeah, girl, I got ya."
"Thanks!" she hugged me. "So what about you and Frank? Are you two going to ever admit that you're screwing?"
I almost fell out of my seat. "WHAT?!"
"Oh come on." She raised a perfectly arched brow, "Don't worry, I'm the only one who knows believe me," she wasn't the only one who knew. I remembered poor Gee walking in on Frank and I a few weeks earlier. "but you two need to either date or be just friends. There is no in-between. I think." she paused
"It's called friends with benefits, Chris." I laughed
"But doesn't that cheapen your friendship?" she asked honestly
I'd never thought of it that way. It kinda did cheapen things once I'd thought about it. "No. It works for us." I lied, suddenly unsure of everything I'd been doing.
"And now I'd like to introduce your class valedictorian Christa Lake." The guys, especially Ray, and Eliza and myself all whooped as if we were at a Jersey Devils' game. Our mothers covered their faces.
If you had told me back then where we'd all be now I would have laughed in your face. At the time Ray played drums (and TERRIBLY might I add) for some punk rock band that nobody ever listened to, Frank had Pen. Prep, Matt rode life by the seat of his pants, Bob didn't exist yet, Mikey was the quiet kid brother to Gerard, and Gerard was the awkward wanna-be comic book artist. And me? Well, I was still trying to build my career. A career that was about to explode.
Ray wasn't exactly a goody two shoes, he could sling back with the best of them, but he was a very diligent student with impeccable work ethic. He was and still is one of the most focused individuals I've ever met. And at that moment the only thing he was focused on was Christa. It was adorable. Frank sat diagonally in front of me, and looked miserable. It was Adam's birthday. Making sure that nobody was looking I reached over and gently flicked Frank's ear. He swiped at it, thinking it was a bug. I practically shoved my fist in my mouth to keep from laughing. I leaned forward again and flicked Frank's ear again causing him to violently rub his ear and mutter curses under his breath. By the third flick most of the students around me and caught on and were trying very hard to not laugh. I should have been paying attention to Christa's speech, but she told me herself that she wrote it up the night before it was due last week. Naturally the principal thought it was brilliant. But Christa had noticed what I was doing and she suddenly started swiping around her as if there were bugs, causing Frank to become more frustrated. Suddenly the entire student body began to catch on and we were all swiping about madly at invisible bugs, laughing our asses off. Eventually, Frank realized he was the butt of a massive joke and began to pout.
"Aw come on, Frank." one of the jocks slapped him on the back "Lighten up. We're graduating!"
And graduate we did.
As we all exited the building with our diploma booklets I couldn't find my mother, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning I saw that it was Gerard, and he had a tiny little buttercup that he'd no doubt just plucked. Smiling widely I hugged him and accepted the flower, pressing it into my diploma booklet.
"Thanks, Gerard." I said, looking at the ground.
"Are we going to ever see one another again?"
I didn't know. "Of course."
He looked behind me, confused when I felt another tap on my shoulder.
"Still haven't lost your sense of humor then have you, kiddo?"
It was a voice I hadn't heard in years. Panic ridden, I turned around.