ONESHOT.Gerard's done too many drugs in his past. Frank Iero is a student that Gerard can see falling down the same hole. Will it take an overdose to teach Frank that he's wrong?
“…and remember kids, try not to get too drunk at the Christmas parties this year. Have a fantastic holiday everyone. I’ll see you all after the break and we can start looking at some poetry, maybe a little William Blake if you’re not all too hungover.”
I smile at the students who chuckle at my words, then nod to let them know they’re dismissed. Slowly the teens begin to pack away their things, and I divert my attention to powering down the school laptop I use for presentations and packing it into its case. I cough, wincing as I note the steady increase of my chest infection. This winter has been the coldest in years, and I’ve never been particularly good with harsh conditions. You’d have thought that the Scottish in me would have made the cold weather slightly more bearable, but alas not.
I leave the laptop bag sitting on my desk as gather the books from the kid’s seats, taking brief note of who’s decided to take theirs home over the break. I’m one book short of having everyones, which makes me frown. Iero hasn’t handed his in again. There’s always one kid that takes their book home, no matter how much I insist they need marking. Typical.
“You may as well just mark them now Gerard,” I mutter to myself. It certainly will give me less work to do around Christmas, so I begin. The red ink from my pen flows steadily as I go about writing notes and correcting the atrocious spelling of my class. You’d have thought by now they would have realised that there’s a huge difference between your and you’re, but apparently not. My eyes widen as I come across a…. ‘gem’ in the batch. I asked the class to write something completely random that came into their heads for homework.
“And then the girl sings, and it were very pretty. She liked to sings, It made her happy but sometimes when her mom and dad make her not singit make her angry. Like yesterday she told her mom “you make me so angry!” she says angrily.”
Apparently giving the kids free reign to write wasn’t the best idea. This guy clearly isn’t any hidden talent.
“Jesus, how are some of these kids so thick…” I whisper as I grade yet another piece of writing with an E. Realising that I’m finished and miraculously I’ve somehow wasted an hour of my life doing this, I get up and put all of the books in the drawers.
I go to store the laptop bag under my desk, until a pair of scruffy, worn trainers materialise in the corner of my vision. I stand abruptly, the sudden presence startling me.
And there he is. Frank Iero, possibly one of my most strange students. He’s soaking wet, dull droplets hitting the classroom carpet with a muted thud. His arm is extended, offering what appears to be his book.
“Hello Frank! What are you doing here at school so late? It’s around half five you know, I was just about to head home myself.”
He grins in that familiar cocky manner of his, tilting his head slightly. He’s a sickly yellow colour and his eyes betray a lack of sleep.
“Home? I always assumed you teachers hung from the rafters of the school by your toes at night.”
“Oh haha, very amusing. Is this your book?”
I take the thing from him and skim through, scowling at how messy it is. I find the homework and to my utter shock he’s actually done it for once. He moves to skulk out but I shake my head at him.
“I don’t think so mate. Take a seat while I read your work, I need to make sure you didn’t just nick it from the internet.”
He rolls his eyes but does as I say, pulling out a chair and slumping into it.
“How come you’re soaking wet anyway?”
“It’s snowing outside Mr. Way. Only lightly, but I was an hour away from school by the time I realised I’d forgotten to hand my book in so it kinda just made me get drenched while heading back. My fault for being such a twat.”
I hear his words, but they barely register. I’m too caught up in what he’s written. I can feel a lump at the back of my throat and it’s like time is standing still.
I can’t believe this.
So love. We meet again. Let’s skip the introductions, shall we? It’s too late and I’m too much a mess to function. Every fire needs a fuel and I guess I’m a pyromaniac tonight. My soul is a filthy, corrupt chasm of hatred and despair. There’s nothing colder than my heart. I need warmth. I need the normality. I need you. You’re a perfect little lie that I can wrap over my wounds to stop the ache. I need you in my bloodstream; I need you behind my eyes. I need you to make me ignorant again.
I’m nothing but a broken child and I have no dreams. I don’t need dreams with your sticky halo of warmth permanently smeared across my forehead. It hurts baby, it HURTS to be able to think and feel and scream and cry and laugh and…live. The spaces in-between have all blurred into one. The nights are so long when the battle in my head won’t stop and I don’t care if I’m asleep or dead by the end of it. I don’t like being able to think anymore. These thoughts keep me up all night and I feel SICK. I’m not sure if that’s because I miss you or because I need you.
I’m delirious and I’m strung out on the notion that you can save me and I better be right. I haven’t got any fight in me now. You took it away. You took my money, my friends, my sanity, my veins and now your back for what’s left. Well you can have it. Please, just take my ragged bones. Let me rest one last time in your arms my angel of death, then let us both be at peace. I’ll race you to the golden gates, not like they’ll open for me anyway.
Eternally yours until the day we kill each other,
My hands are trembling and I’m staring at the page blankly. In the background I hear Iero talk but I can’t make sense of his words. I pull myself together enough to ask him a question.
“F-frank…..you’re not… I mean……..”
I look up at him, trying to put some sort of reason into my fears but he’s gone. Walked off.
I’m left wondering if he’s a creative student with an overactive imagination or another fucked up junkie. How could he possibly know so much?
I made a promise to myself a long time ago. I promised I’d never think about drugs ever again. I have a stable career, good income, a beautiful kid. I’ve just gotten over Lindsay’s death. I don’t need this kind of stress, I REFUSE to let some angsty kid’s screwed life mess mine up. I won’t play the addict again, it’s not a good life. I need to get away, so I leave the school with haste
It’s cold. It’s really, really cold. The cotton fold of faded blue scarf around my neck is a welcome sensation on a night like this, the material feels like the gentle hands of a lover compared to the harsh reality of the winter snow. That’s one thing the kid wasn’t lying about; it’s heavy for this time of year. I shiver as my hair is ruffled by the wind, flecks of snow clinging to my eyelashes. I blink rapidly, trying to dispel the distraction in vain. When I was a child my grandmother used to tell me these strange tales, that on a windy day God blows away your troubles and that a rainy day he cries for those less fortunate than yourself. I wonder what she would have said about the snow. An effort to cleanse the world of sin perhaps, to create a blank canvas to start afresh on?
It doesn’t really matter now. She’s dead, just like my dear Lindsay. It’s a funny old thing. I’ve never been religious, It’s hard to be in times like these. Especially losing the ones you love. Mind you, even in my youth I struggled to be a believer. Forever challenging the boundaries of what was deemed acceptable.
The sound of my mobile phone chiming a Pulp song from within my jacket pocket startles me, bringing me back to the world of the living. My fingers fumble for the device but the cold has numbed them and my touch is clumsy. Eventually I am able to answer the call, in my haste forgetting to check who it is.
“Hello Gerard. Are you free to talk?”
It’s Mikey, my brother.
“Free as I’ll ever be. What prompted the call?”
“Ah, nothing really. I just wondered how you were, and If you would like to come over to my house to eat tonight. Alicia’s cooked a wonderful roast dinner, and Bandit got us to pick her up earlier when you didn’t come home. I presume you stayed late at the school again?”
“Aw crap I forgot to call her! Is she mad at me? And I would love to Mikey, we haven’t caught up in ages. Let me just get the car from my house and I’ll drive to yours, okay?”
“Okay. Don’t be long otherwise we’ll have to reheat your meal.”
“Any more, Gerard?”
“Oh no thank you Alicia, I think I’ll burst if I have any more. You’re a wonderful cook.”
She blushes at the comment, plates clinking as she stacks them up and carries them off to the kitchen.
Mikey’s looking well. Married life suits him. He watches his daughter Emily as she talks animatedly to Bandit about some band and I see pride in his eyes. I can’t even think of Mikey not having a kid, he’s so involved in her life. It’s a very typical loving family thing they have going on in this house, and it always makes my heart ache a little every time I visit them. Some part of me wishes that my life could be like this. Another part of me finds the mundane simplicity sickening.
My daughter looks at me with timid eyes. I try to make my expression warm and loving like Mikey’s. Like a normal father’s. I think this smile may be a grimace though. A shallow reflection of the man I should be, Mikey always was the preferred son. The better of the both of us. It still gets to me.
She looks down nervously, inky hair falling over her striking features. One of the hardest parts of having Bandit as a daughter is that she looks completely like her mother. It breaks my heart every time I look at her and the horrible thing is I think she knows. It’s not like it’s her fault. It’s just a dreadful, agonising reminder for me. Still, seeing my daughter consumed with guilt over something she can’t control pains me.
“I’ve em….joined a band. Our first gig is at the weekend and I was wondering if you wanted to come? Same to you and Alicia uncle Mikey.”
For the first time in a while a grin breaks out across my face and Mikey and I share a knowing look. We’ve both been in our fair share of bands. In fact, that was how I met Lindsay.
“Oh god, you’ve ended up just like your mother and father, forever touring in doomed projects. Aged sixteen too! You’ve started earlier than they did,” Alicia says as she comes back into the room. The smile she wears drops as she sees my expression.
“What’s wrong Gerard?”
There’s confusion on her face, though realisation finally hits her and she covers her mouth with her hand in horror.
“Oh god Gerard I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to mention…!”
I smile weakly at her. Bandit looks suitably miserable. It’s not like it’s been easy on her either, Lindsay was her mother after all.
“It’s fine Alicia. And Bandit love, that’s fantastic! I’m so proud of you. Of course we’ll come to see you. You’ve made me so happy.”
Bandit can’t make eye contact with me, something I know she does when she’s about to cry. It’s something her mother used to do too.
“Come here B. It’s alright.”
Suddenly she’s in my arms and I’m stroking her hair, telling her it will be alright but we both know it’s a lie and then we’re both sobbing. Mikey, Alicia and Emily stand together awkwardly.
Of course they’re together. They’re one big happy, perfect fucking family. The light from the fire behind them seems to make them glow with perfection whilst Bandit and I lurk in the shadows in the corner. Inadequate in comparison. It’s like they’re the Brady Bunch and we’re the fucking Addams Family. They don’t understand what it’s been like for Bandit and I, how could they? Their life is a walking dream. Our life is a walking nightmare. I look up at them with reddened eyes.
“I’m sorry, but I think it’s best that we leave.”
I don’t wait for their approval, I just get the fuck out of there. Bandit and I rush to the car, she’s jumping in the front seat as I put the key and the ignition and stamp on the pedal. Soon enough their golden fucking palace is zooming away into the distance and I finally release a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. My knuckles are white because I’m gripping the steering wheel so tightly. Bandit and I make brief eye contact, and then laugh together through our tears.
“I fucking hate your brother, dad,” Bandit whispers. I smile.
“So do I honey. So do I.”
It’s dark by the time we get home, though on the plus side the snow seems to have finally stopped. Our footsteps are quiet, muffled by the thick white blanket that covers the land. I groan as I realise I’ve done something stupid.
“What is it?” Bandit looks at me with worry. I hate putting her through so much stress.
“I’ve left the laptop in my classroom, I’m going to have to go and get it. The janitor locks up at 10 and it’s 9:30PM already. I’m sorry honey, I’ll be back soon okay?”
She rolls her eyes.
“You’re so forgetful. Fine, go. I’ll have a coffee waiting for you.”
I grin, kissing her on the forehead.
“You’re a lifesaver!”
“GO! Before you get locked out!”
I chuckle, getting back into the car and starting the ignition. The vehicle comes to life, the steady hum of the engine vibrating in my ears.
The school is a fifteen minute walk away and a five minute drive. Even so I make sure I progress through the night slowly, fully aware of the fact that black ice can make these roads treacherous at night. I’m old enough to have heard far too many tales of reckless driving resulting in tragedy and I don’t plan on having an accident any time soon, though I suppose that no collision is exactly ‘planned’.
That’s the thing about snow. One minute it looks beautiful and serene, the next your blood is flowing into it in a gutter because you’ve swerved to avoid a rabbit and you’ve skidded off track.
I return my attention to the road and SHIT! I notice the bulk of something right in the centre. I hit the brakes with everything I have, praying that this stretch of road isn’t icy and my morbid prediction doesn’t come true. Thankfully it isn’t; instead I’m just thrown forwards in my seat, the belt almost choking me as it stops me from going through the windscreen. Gasping for breath, I peer forwards and hope that I haven’t killed whatever I saw.
No, I haven’t. But the poor thing looks close to death’s embrace. I freeze in horror and my mind tells me it can’t be so, but I know it is.
Frank Iero’s cold, seemingly lifeless body sits inches from my car.
Okay, so I lied. This is actually a two part oneshot. Oops! This is the first thing I've written in months, so reviews would be appreciated. Constructive criticism is key.