Willow is slowly breaking and Gerard watches her helplessly.
I dreaded the though of going to school Monday. I didn’t know which was worse; avoiding my friends or the thought of running into Brandon. It didn’t help that I had every class period with the guys. I was so fearful the night before as I lay awake in bed, thinking of how confused they would be, wondering what and why I couldn’t be with them.
Scott had offered me a ride to school that morning, telling me to be careful and have a good day before driving off to his college. I walked up the stairs with heavy steps, pulling my hoodie closer to me from the cold and walking inside. I went to my locker, doing the combination slowly.
I heard giggling from close by, and looked up to see two blondes looking at me with smirks. I turned back to my locker, rummaging through it to find my Trig book. I heard footsteps come towards me, and I looked up to see the same blondes standing before me.
“Are you wearing that for a reason?” She pointed down at my hoodie. I looked down at it; there was nothing wrong with it. I loved my hoodies two-sizes larger than me. “’Cause Stacey here thinks that it suits you… considering that you’re, like, thirty pounds heavier than we are!”
The girl beside her, who I guessed was Stacey, snorted and cackled with laughter as the other girl joined her. She slammed my locker door without me even getting what I needed, and they walked away laughing. I felt like I was going to cry, and I leaned my forehead against the cool metal and groaned. What a great way to start the day. I opened my locker again and got what I needed and shut it. The minute bell rang, and I hurried to Government. Bob was already there, and my stomach dropped.
This is for the best, I thought.
I sighed, and proceeded to sit on the other side of the classroom. Bob frowned, and I avoided eye contact. Class started, and Mr. Bell put in a movie while he sat at his desk dozing off. My eyes glued to the TV, but I didn’t pay attention; I was focusing on the terrible feeling in my stomach.
Class ended much to my dislike, and I felt like I needed to run to the nearest trash can and vomit, because my next class was with Gerard. How was I going to avoid someone I cared about? I dragged myself to Creative Writing, and sure enough he was sitting at his desk, doodling on the worn wood with his pencil. He looked up and smiled, and I turned my gaze to the floor. I walked past him and to the back corner, and I could feel his smile falter and turn into a confused expression. I could feel his eyes on me, and I felt my stomach clench from the guilt.
“If Brandon hurts you or anything, I wanna know, okay?” Gerard had said.
How could I tell him if he would most likely get beaten and bloody? I shivered from the thought of him getting in trouble. I couldn’t let that happen.
They’re going to hurt him, I thought. They will hurt Gerard if I don’t stay away.
As Ms. Ross lectured the class, the terrible feeling I had before tortured me. And I could feel Gerard’s painful stares, and every time I looked away, he turned towards the chalkboard quickly. I sighed to myself, the empty feeling of being by myself in the atmosphere. The minute the bell rang; I quickly packed my things and rushed out of the classroom, past a very confused Gerard.
I did the same in Study Hall, and sat as far away as possible from Frank and Mikey. They both had confused faces like Bob and Gerard, and that guilt tortured me again. I didn’t know if I could keep up with this, avoiding them like this. I had four more periods to go, only four more and I would go to the safety of my home, and then repeat the process tomorrow. Lunch rolled by, and as I walked out the door of Study Hall, Gerard was out there waiting.
“Willow, you okay?” He asked. My mouth gaped, and I closed it shut, looking at him with sad eyes. “You’re coming for lunch… right?”
I shook my head, and walked away from him quickly. My heart ached; I couldn’t believe I was doing this, not even giving him or the others an explanation. I walked outside, and was about to walk to the tree where I hung out with the guys. I stopped walking and sighed. I guess I would have to keep away. I walked to the willow tree I had sat by the first day of school, and sat down. I watched Gerard, Mikey, and Frank join Bob and Ray who were already sitting by the tree. I already knew how confused they were about my absence, and saw them look at me with concerned expressions, and back at the ground.
I did the same at Trig and Biology, and sat farther away from my friends, all done with a heavy heart. It was more painful to do it at Art. I sat across the room from Gerard, my body facing his. He looked up at me periodically while we worked on his art. I drew sadly, and missed how he’d talk to me as he drew. I wish I didn’t have to do this. I wanted to sit by him, show him that I wasn’t abandoning him.
I started working on the face of the boy in my sketch, only to drop my pencil and hold my head in my hands. The boy in my drawing looked just like Gerard; his hair, his nose, the shape of his eyes. It was him. I erased as much of his face as I could; only the pressure from the eraser tore the paper. Agitated, I ripped it out of my sketchbook and crumbled it up and threw it away in the trash can next to me. I looked at the blank page, and felt so much like that blank piece of paper.
The bell rang, and I put my sketchbook and pencils in my backpack. I felt something slip in my hoodie pocket, and I looked up to see Gerard walk past me and out the door. From my pocket, I withdrew a folded slip of paper and opened it.
Are you okay? It read in messy handwriting.
I sighed, and shoved it back in my pocket and left the school. I went home with a heavy heart, and went to the bathroom to throw up from all the guilt I had been keeping inside all day. Why did protecting people you care about hurt so much?
The week had passed, each day ending with me going to the bathroom to spill my insides from all the guilt. That’s what happened whenever I felt sick with guilt; I threw up. The boys always looked at me with concern and confusion as I sat far from them and alone at lunch. Soon enough, I began to regain that feeling of emptiness and loneliness I had before. I despised the feeling, but if it meant protecting the guys, then I welcomed it.
The days at school only seemed to get worse though. The two blondes from Monday attacked me verbally the next day… and the day after that… and the day after that. They had a group of five, and I realized that one of them was the girl named Brittany who was with Brandon the day he was going to punch me. Everyday, I’d find something in my locker; usually a piece of paper that had the words “fat”, or “emo”, or “loser”. Some of them were in a few of my classes, and came up to me and say awful things. They all called me something that revolved around one subject: fat. And from across the classroom, the guys would watch me with sadness. One time Bob was about to get up during Biology and he looked like he was going to kill, but he was stopped by Ray and the look I gave him.
Every day after school, I’d go home and look at myself in the mirror. I’d strip myself of clothing, leaving myself in my underwear as I examined myself. I turned to the side and look at my hips and thighs, my stomach and arms… was I really fat? I only weighed 122 pounds, but were those horrible girls speaking truth? I did have a little baby fat, and my stomach poked out slightly by a millimeter above my jeans. I could lose maybe a little weight. And from then on, I didn’t eat much, only water. My father would ask me if I was alright, and I would smile and nod. Smile and nod, and everything will be fine.
It hurt most, though, not having to interact with Gerard. I could always feel his penetrating, sad stares; it always broke my heart. Even it was for the best, it felt more like a punishment.
It was the Thursday of school, and I followed the same routine of avoiding the guys, and having to hear the awful words from the preppy blondes. I was at lunch drinking water and sketching meaningless things. My stomach growled from the lack of food I haven’t been eating. I didn’t eat dinner last night and the night before that. I only lost a quarter of a pound, but it didn’t seem satisfying. My stomach continued to growl, and I sighed and took a sip of water.
If I’m going to lose weight, I thought, then I’m going to need to do this.
Gerard’s Point of View
Something was wrong. I knew that something was wrong with Willow; you could obviously tell from her actions. I had to know, to understand. She was avoiding all of us; she didn’t even give us a second glance anymore. She looked different, acted different, she was different. She looked paler, didn’t smile as much anymore, and her eyes were dull.
I was scared for her, wondering what was making her act like this. I wondered if Brandon was responsible. The thought of Brandon hurting Willow in any way made me want to punch a wall; or better, punch his face. Truthfully, I missed Willow the past few days. I missed talking to her, her smile, her shy nature… I missed her. We were all concerned for her. I just wanted to understand why she couldn’t come to me for help.
I was sitting with guys at our usual tree, looking over at Willow. I wished she could sit with us…
“Gerard!” Frank shouted, pulling me out of my thoughts.
“Hmm?” I turned to look at him with a bored expression.
“You weren’t listening to my story!” He pouted.
“Yeah, I was,” I lied. “My favorite part was when you got chased by an old man!”
“That wasn’t even the story!”
“Shut-up, you guys,” Bob muttered.
I sighed, leaning my head on my hand that rested on my knee. I looked over at Willow again and back to the dead grass at my feet.
“I’m worried about Willow,” I said quietly, pulling out strands of grass.
“And we aren’t Gerard?” Mikey said. “She’s avoiding us all.”
“Why is what I want to know…” Ray mumbled.
“She’s making me so worried,” I said. “What if Brandon has hurt her or something?”
“Have you not seen what those Barbies have been doing to her though?” Bob said angrily. “They’ve been treating her like shit, and saying awful things. She looks like she’s always about to fucking cry!”
“Every time we want to help her,” Frank said. “She gives us this ‘back-off’ look or something…”
I sighed, and we were silent. I got up from the ground and said, “I need to know right now, and I’m asking for answers.”
Before they could say anything, I walked across the courtyard towards her. I stopped in front of her, and she didn’t look up. She looked as if she was in a trance and stared off into space.
“Willow?” I said quietly, and she snapped out of the trance she was in, and looked at me with shocked eyes.
I stood there looking at her as she looked back at me. What I wanted to ask earlier was suddenly gone, and I just wanted to hug her and bring her back. Her eyes looked tired, and there were dark rings under them. Her black hair seemed to lose its glossiness, and it saddened me to look at her.
“Are you alright?” I asked softly. She looked away from me and at her knees. She didn’t smile or shrug, just sat there quietly. “Please, Willow, I want to help you…”
She bit her lip and shut her eyes. There was something wrong, and I just needed to know.
“Willow, I’m here for you,” I told her, and she still didn’t look up. “Please tell me. I can’t stand how you’re avoiding us. I have to know.”
She still didn’t attempt to write in her notebook or look at me. Frustration started tampering with my patience as I stood there and she sat there helpless.
“Willow…” I said and my agitation showed in my voice. “Willow, come on! I’m trying to help you! You need to tell me, that’s what friends are for! Friends are there to help each other, and I can’t stand seeing you like this!”
She glanced up at me with sad eyes, and back down. It angered me how she refused my help, wouldn’t even tell me.
“You know what?” I said angrily. “Fine! You can sit here and play the silent treatment as long as you want. If you don’t want my help, then forget it. I’m sure you can do fine on your own!”
She hid her face in her hair, and I walked away from her, anger brewing inside me. Before I left, I failed to notice the one tear that slid down her cheek to her chin. Lunch ended, and soon enough I was stuck in Art. I barely looked at Willow since class started, and refused to… just like she refused my help.
I drew with angry strides, only to have them subside and I sighed to myself. I peeked from under my hair to look at her from across the room. Her face was sad, and she barely drew. She just looked at her paper, and blinked furiously, and her eyes were wet. I wanted to kick myself. I was too hard on her; I knew I was. I started to draw, looking back up at Willow from time to time.
A piece of paper was placed beside me, and I looked up to see Willow walk back to her desk with a canvas and palette of paints. I picked up the paper and unfolded it, and sighed at the message and shut my eyes tightly.