Gerard carried the plastic bag which contained all of Olivia’s stuff, and walked towards the trailer. Olivia followed him more slowly, looking like he was walking him to a pit of fire and death. He glanced back at her, and waited for her to catch up to him before knocking on the door. He felt bad for her, he really did. He had never seen a more miserable creature in his life.
It took Olivia’s mom a few minutes to get to the door. When she did open it, Gerard was overwhelmed by the sight. The woman was, to put it plainly in one word, shaggy. Her dark hair was knotted and unwashed, the robe of faded crimson was open and she wore nothing but her underwear underneath, and although she couldn’t have been older than thirty, her face had many wrinkles. Her makeup looked like she’d been wearing the same stuff for weeks; the mascara had gathered under her eyes, the blue eyeshadow was only smudged on and the red lipstick wasn’t exactly limited to the lips.
“What?” the woman asked, a cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth. In her other hand she was holding a bottle of cheap whiskey. All Gerard could think about was what on earth his father had been thinking when he got with this lady.
“I came to return your kid. Thanks anyway,” Gerard said, handing the plastic bag to her.
She didn’t take the bag. Instead, she glanced down at Olivia who kept her eyes fixated on her shoes. The woman exhaled the smoke before replying: “No way. Don doesn’t pay up, he can handle his own bastard.”
At first Gerard assumed she was kidding. What kind of a mother would say that? Then, he looked at her again and saw the way she was looking at Olivia; like the girl was a piece of dirt on her lawn that she just wanted to flick away. “You’re kidding, right?” he asked, but was starting to wonder if this was the best thing for Olivia after all.
“Do I look like I’m kidding?”
No, he had to admit to himself. She looked dead serious. But Gerard pressed on anyway. “Look, we can’t take her! You’re her mother! She’s your responsibility, not ours!”
“If I don’t get my money, I really don’t give a shit about that little slut.”
“We can’t take her!” he repeated, not believing what this woman was saying.
“That’s not my problem. You don’t want her, then don’t take her. Who cares.”
“You should care!” He shouted, angry at himself for not putting two-and-two together.
“Fuck off. Both of you.”
“Wait!” Gerard shouted before she could slam the door shut. “Yeah, dad can’t pay for... This. Not right now. But I might be able to. Just, you have to take her!”
The woman looked interested in the offer. “It’s 500 bucks a month.”
Gerard nodded. “Yeah sure, whatever,” he said, sighing. They were in debt up to their necks anyway for Ike, what’s a couple of hundred dollars a month to that? It was worth it. There was no way they could keep Olivia, not when none of them had done a day of honest work in their lives and especially with Ike breathing down their necks... No, it just wasn’t safe.
“Fine,” the woman finally said. “But the second you stop paying, I’m throwing her out.”
When she extended her hand for him to give her the cash, Gerard said: “I can’t pay you yet! I can in a few weeks.”
“Then come back when you can. Until then, I’m not taking that,” she said, nodding at Olivia who hadn’t even looked up once. Gerard had nearly forgotten she was even there, she was that quiet.
“I swear I’ll get you the money. 500 bucks in two, no, three weeks. You can get by until then, can’t you?”
The woman took a drag from the cigarette and considered the offer. “Six hundred, if I have to wait. Hey, it’s not cheap raising a kid.”
When Gerard was leaving the trailer and walking back to the car, he couldn’t help but feel that he had just been ripped off. Then again, when he glanced back at Olivia who slowly climbed up the short steps to the trailer under the watching eye of her mother, he felt like he’d betrayed her. Like he’d just sold her off to the first bidder.
Inside the trailer, Olivia stood by the door like she didn’t really know what to do. Her mother was staring at her thoughtfully. Olivia didn’t like the way she was looking at her.
“What are we going to do with you?” the woman asked thoughtfully. “Do you know how expensive you are? There has to be food, clothes, school supplies... Those aren’t free, you know.”
Olivia didn’t reply. She knew better than to do that. Her mother sat down on her couch and lit another cigarette.
“I can’t afford to pay for all that for three weeks,” she continued. “So the question is... How will you pay for all that? You’re nine, you’re too young. Then again... I think I can find someone who doesn’t mind.”
Olivia would have rather been anywhere else. When her mother reached for the phone, she felt like running. Running, and never coming back. But she didn’t run. Because after all, anything was better than being dead. If she ran away, she’d surely die. At least this way she’ll get to live. Not much of a life, but still living.
Gerard sat in the car outside of the prison. He had scheduled to go see Don in a half an hour, but for some reason he couldn’t get out of the car.
He kept thinking about that little girl. The empty look on her face, the bruises on her legs, the way her mother spoke about her...
What Gerard wanted to do was march up to his father and demand answers. He wanted to know everything, from exactly how Olivia existed to why he kept her a secret. But at the same time, he feared the answers. The trail of lies and deceit might be too much.
Finally he gathered the courage to leave the car. Slowly he walked up to the prison, but when he was escorted to the place where visitors checked in, he was told they had been trying to phone him all day. Don had decided not to take visitors after all. Why, they wouldn’t tell him. But Gerard wasn’t very surprised. Don probably just didn’t want to face his son in a situation like that.
Gerard left, actually feeling pretty relieved that he couldn’t see his father after all, but it wasn’t until he got home that he realized why the meeting had been cancelled.
The second he had opened the door to the small apartment all four of them shared, he was attacked by Frank, Mikey and Ray who all looked very panicked.
“You have to come see something!” Mikey announced, dragging Gerard to the kitchen.
“What is it?” he asked when he was made to stand by the kitchen table. There was nothing on the table except a closed Tupperware container.
“Ike was here,” Ray explained. “He brought us a present.”
Now, they had all learned to feel some healthy fear towards Ike. That guy was no good. Every time the name ‘Ike’ was mentioned, Gerard got nervous. “And... That’s it?” he asked, referring to the Tupperware container.
“Yeah. Mikey?” Ray asked, but the bassist shook his head, looking like he was about to vomit. So Ray approached the container, and opened it. Gerard looked in curiously, and saw that inside there was something that was wrapped in tissues. Careful not to touch whatever was wrapped inside, Ray peeled off the tissues to show Gerard, and...
Well. Let’s just say that shock was a pretty appropriate reaction. “Is that...?” Gerard asked.
“Yeah, it is,” Mikey replied.
Inside the Tupperware container there was a slice of skin. Literally. Someone’s skin had been removed in a chunk, so that the tattoo on it was still perfectly intact. The tattoo was one word. ‘Donna’. Gerard and Mikey’s mom.
Now it made sense why Don had refused to see Gerard. Ike had gotten to him.