Mikey makes himself useful and Gerard keeps sliding down into the depths of depression.
“Mikey, it’s morning, wake up! We’re going to find you a job today.” Mikey responded,
“Okay, I’ll get changed.” Climbing out of bed, he pulled off the sweatpants and the white shirt he was lent. Changing into jeans and a brown t-shirt, he walked across the hall to the bathroom. Looking at the tall mirror above the sink he tried to smooth out his hair in attempt to look adequate. Walking down to the kitchen, he saw that only Frank was awake. Mikey saw that he was boiling a pot of coffee in the coffee machine. As Frank rummaged around in the refrigerator, he started to say,
“I thought we might start off small. I do have connections to get you a job, but, I mean, you don’t have many credentials, do you?” Mikey shook his head,
“No, not really. I never went to college either.” Frank sighed.
“I mean, there’s a Rite Aid that I noticed had a “Help Wanted” sign. You could start there maybe just as a stepping stone. Who knows, maybe you can find what you’re really good at in the meantime!” This seemed like a good enough idea to Mikey. It was a much better alternative to being out of work.
Naturally, Mikey was accepted as an employee to the Rite Aid in Ridgewood. After having been accepted to his first full time job, he felt a little more confident than he had before when returning to Frank’s house. He would start working the following Monday. Though his position was the lowest possible, he would try hard to work his way to the top. Frank and Jamia congratulated Mikey authentically when he arrived. He had only been at with the Ieros for one short week, but he had started to feel more and more accepted into their family. He helped out with everything around the house as much as he could with Jamia and Frank. Frank was frequently away at a studio or a band member’s house as they were in the middle of recording a new album, but Mikey always helped clean out or transfer things to the basement. He couldn’t wait until the rest of the band came to practice at Frank’s house. It would practically be like a personal concert. He came to recognize the family’s movements and routines and learned to move with them. It was Friday and Frank was out on an interview with a guitar company. He sat in the living room reading a book that Frank had lent him. He was never very interested in literature being that the orphanage didn't have an abundance of novels. He had never bothered to go to the library or borrow from the school mostly because he was always too lazy. Frank had recommended American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, so Mikey had taken the book from Frank’s vast collection. So far, though the writing went on to long elaborate tangents, it was explicitly violent and graphic. Just how Mikey liked. The house was quiet. Jamia was taking a nap in the family room, exhausted from the night before when Miles wouldn’t stop crying. Mikey was transfixed with the book until from upstairs, he heard Miles start to whimper and cry. It was very soft at first, but grew louder as time passed. Mikey did not hear Jamia getting up and he assumed she was in too deep of a sleep to be bothered. He placed the book on the couch and ascended up the stairs and crept towards Miles’ room. He pushed the door open slightly to see a small figure slowly writhing around in its blankets. He turned on the lights in the room and neared the crib. Hands on the side of the crib, he watched Miles, a little unsure of what to do. Hesitantly, he reached into the crib and picked up Miles. Adjusting the baby in his arms, he patted his back and moved up and down to calm him. Miles didn’t seem to need to be changed, so Mikey assumed he was hungry. He mused,
“Shhh, Miles, shhh,” and carried him down to the kitchen. He vaguely remembered there being a bottle of formula in the refrigerator. Placing the whimpering Miles into his highchair, he opened he fridge and found a glass bottle with “Miles” written on it in marker. Taking it out, he poured the liquid into a pot and placed it on the stove. As he waited for the formula to warm, he picked up Miles again and comforted him, moving him up and down to soothe him. Finally, the formula was heated to the right temperature and Mikey put Miles back into the chair and poured the liquid into a bottle he had found in the drying rack. Finding the rubber piece in the same place, he popped it onto the bottle, and picked Miles up again. His tiny hands reached up to touch the warm bottle, and Mikey angled the bottle towards Miles’ mouth. Miles immediately started to drink. He was not yet old enough to fully hold the bottle yet, but his chubby hands still attempted to hold onto it. Mikey nursed the baby until the bottle was almost empty. He caught himself smiling down at Miles. Just the effort Miles made to try and hold up the bottle, even though his arms were not quite strong enough, was enough to make anyone burst out into “awws”. Just as he looked up, he saw Jamia nearing him. Her eyes were soft and motherly as she held her arms out to hold her child. She took Miles just as he finished the bottle and placed Miles on her shoulder and patted his back.
“Thank you, Mikey. I’ve never seen Miles so comfortable in anyone’s arms but mine and Frank’s.” Mikey grinned and responded,
“I worked a lot with kids when I was in the orphanage. I really miss working with children…”
“Maybe that’s somewhere you want to aim towards: kids. Maybe working at a day care or even starting one of your own would be a great way to go. You certainly have the experience,” Jamia suggested. Mikey pondered on this for a moment, imagining himself working with children. He could definitely see it happening and smiled at the thought.
“Huh, thanks Jamia. That’s a really good idea. I think I really know where I want to go now.” Jamia smiled and thanked Mikey again for taking care of Miles. Jamia was really a sweet woman. Mikey thought she was epitome of a perfect mother. Over the years of imagining what he would like his mother to be like, Mikey finally decided that Jamia impeccably fit the mold he had created that would define the perfect mother. Of course, it was too late for this, but Miles and the twins were very lucky to have such a caring mother, let alone an amazing father. Returning to the living room, he picked up his book and mindlessly read the words on the page, not knowing what was going on in the plot but daydreaming about what was to come in his seemingly bright future.
On the opposite end of the mood spectrum, Gerard was crawling his way through desolation row. He spent every workday hungover for a week now. He tried to work hard, but his pounding head didn’t allow his thoughts to process correctly. He frequently fell asleep at his desk and took many sick trips to the bathroom, stumbling back to his desk after he was done. He could tell Fleischman was watching him. Gerard knew he was done with handing out warnings. Fleischman didn’t yet have enough time to judge whether it would benefit to fire Gerard or not, already being that they were short on employees. He wasn’t naïve. He knew Gerard was getting drunk every night. Deep down, Fleischman hoped this was only temporary, for the sake of Gerard’s health and job, but as depressing as it was, he knew that his business was far more important than a lowly employee. What had to be done would be done.
Gerard did not return home right when he left work. He kept a hidden stash of alcohol in the trunk of his car and went to drink every night. This way, he got home late, late enough that Lindsey and Bandit were already asleep. Every morning, he managed to wake up early enough not to disrupt them and went to work. He hadn’t seen Bandit in a week. He glanced in her room every day, but stayed away. He knew that if he was supposed to protect her, he should stay away from her. He was just as dangerous as the brutal outside world she had yet to experience. The only purpose he served for Bandit and Lindsey was money and all the essentials. As long as he was drunk or hungover, he would stay away from them. Even though he knew he was doing the right thing, staying away from Bandit, he undeniably missed her. He wanted to spend time with her, play with her, teach her, but as long as he was intoxicated, he would poison her too.
Gerard unlocked the front door and tripped inside. He took his coat off and dropped it on the floor. He collapsed to the floor. Holding his head in his hands, he moaned. Something was ripping his chest out. Alcohol usually got rid of his demons, but it seemed like they had grown immune to the venom he had drank. He writhed on the floor, teeth clenched, and ended up blindly crawling to the bathroom to be sick again. His throat burned from the daily acid that passed through it. Though the negative affects of alcohol were seemingly not worth the numbing affects, Gerard would not relent. He would drink until he was too drunk to realize anything that was happening to him. Only then would he be happy. That’s all he had ever wanted for years on end: to be happy. He had caught glimpses of true joy upon meeting Lindsey and having Bandit, but it had never overcome him in any way. His stomach growled wretchedly. Gerard had not eaten anything with real substance in days. He managed to ingest a few of crackers and some bread, but other than that, he only drank water and, of course, alcohol. He was in no mood to eat. His throat hurt from the bile and most anything that reached his stomach was immediately brought back up and into a garbage can or toilet. Today was particularly bad. With the advancing depression, he found that he had to drink more to silence the voices in his head. He as barely conscious by the time had dragged himself to the bathroom. Closing the door, he started to undress. Turning the hot water on, he stepped into the shower and stood blankly under the water. He stared up, droplets of water burning his eyes, and watched the water pour out of each individual hole. He stayed there, just standing until he heard Lindsey walk in.
"Gerard? Come to bed," she spoke. Gerard responded by turning the shower off. He stuck his hand out from behind the shower curtain and groped around for a towel. He pulled it in and wrapped it around his waist. Gerard opened the curtain and saw that Lindsey was not there anymore, but had returned to bed. A little disappointed, he thought to himself that it was for the best. She shouldn't see her husband like this. Thankful that it was Friday, he drunkenly walked back to his room and dressed into boxers and an old shirt and climbed into bed. This was the closest he could be to Lindsey every day. Her back was facing Gerard and all he wanted to do was put his arm around her and just embrace her until he fell asleep. He was so torn between his liquor and his love. He didn't want to choose, but as long as he was drunk, he had to stay away.
Mikey walked into the Rite Aid, more nervous than he had felt in years. Upon entering the store, he saw the manager, the same man who had interviewed him, cleaning behind the cash registers. He was a thin man, the kind of guy one would expect to be a mob boss. He was nice enough, but his appearance was intimidating and unfriendly. He was around 40 years, his hairline receding and wrinkles has started to appear around his brow and eyes. Mikey then realized that he was not far off from 40. He was 32 and life was almost half over, the so-called best part almost gone, and all Mikey had to show for this was a job at a Rite Aid. Mikey convinced himself that he was at least heading in the right direction. The manager's name was Harry Waters. Mr. Waters greeted Mikey and handed him a nametag with his name on it.
"You can wear jeans and t-shirts, but no sweatpants and always wear your nametag." Mikey nodded and Mr. Waters led him to the storage room. He instructed Mikey to acquaint himself to all of the aisles and remember what went where. Soon he would be taking inventory of everything. Until then, Mikey would be generally cleaning and occasionally manning the cash registers. There were some teenagers from the area that came in at times to work for several hours, but only a couple people who worked full time. Mikey was taught to operate the registers and was told how to talk with the customers. The morning and middle of the day was relatively quiet. The occasional elderly person and mothers would come in to pick up prescriptions from the pharmaceutical department or buy toiletries. Most people were cooperative and friendly, so Mikey had no problem with associating with them. He sometimes made conversation with them and always made sure to smile and thank them. Mikey found that his mood was lifted when he saw that each customer appreciated his friendliness and cooperation. Around 3 in the afternoon, a woman came up to Mikey to greet him. Her nametag read "Assistant Manager" with the name Chloe Villette underneath. Reading Mikey's nametag, she greeted,
"Hi! Harry told me we go a new employee. Welcome!" Chloe flashed a smile, she was about the same age as Mr. Waters, but her sunny disposition and energetic movements portrayed otherwise. She was blond and had brown eyes tinted with flecks of gold. Mikey envied people with beautiful eyes like Chloe. His eyes had always been a boring, flat shade of brown. Chloe walked away and left Mikey to his job.
Hours later Mikey punched out. He had worked for a total of 10 hours that day with a 1 hour break. Frank had given him 20 dollars for lunch. Not wanting to take Frank's money, he took the 1 hour to walk around and stretch. He walked back to the Ieros at around 6:30. It was a long day, but Mikey liked being a part of something, something that counted in real life.
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