“You took everything from me Frankie. Now it’s time to return the favor."
I pull out my cell, and like always my heart skips a beat when I see the two smiling little faces on my background. Lily and Cherry, my baby girls. I forget why I needed my phone and just get lost in those perfect pixel eyes.
Instantly the memory of the last time I saw those beautiful eyes replays in my head.
In the rearview mirror I could see them, side by side in their car seats. Cherry sound asleep while Lily watched me watching her with her big sweet eyes. That’s the thing about twins, I swear they sleep in shifts so that one’s always ready to cause trouble. Lily giggled. I couldn’t help but giggle back. I’m so caught up in those eyes that I don’t see the other car run the red light.
I pick myself up off the hallway floor and stagger over to the dressing room. I’m pretty sure the guys won’t be back anytime soon, but the last thing I need right now is to get caught by a crew member – or worse, a fan – while I’m having a break down in the fucking hallway. I enter the small room and lock the door, just in case.
Once inside find I can’t breathe. I’m choking out small raspy breaths, half sobbing as I try to catch my breath. I feel like I’m going to suffocate. Never in my life have I felt so empty. Glancing down I see those perfect faces again.
Well. Almost never.
“If you had kept your eyes on the road!” Jamia was screaming at me.
I sit quietly and let her vent. There’s nothing she can say that I haven’t already blamed myself for. When she seems to be running out of steam I get up and pull her to me. She resists at first but I don’t let go and soon she is sobbing in my arms.
“They’re not gone,” she insists. “They can’t be gone.”
I say nothing, because what is there to say? It was an accident. I’ve played the “maybe”s and “what if”s out in my head a million times but the result is always the same. It happened and they’re dead and I’m not and I’d give anything for it to be different but I can’t.
“Were you drunk?” she asks quietly, her eyes shining with tears.
I scream and chuck the phone across the room. It helps. Looking around I grab some papers and magazines off the small table in the middle of the room and throw them as well. Not quite as good. I grab the table and throw it. Better. The chairs follow.
When there’s nothing else to damage I can’t stop the memories from flooding in again.
“Frankie, you got mail,” Mikey tosses me the envelope. It looks official.
“Man, somebody wants to talk to you real bad if they managed to get it to you on tour,” Gerard comments.
“Some mail had to get through eventually, we’ve been on tour nonstop since –“ Ray stops himself and tries again. “For over a year.”
“Since the funeral, Ray,” I mutter. “You can say it.”
“Sorry, man,” he shifts uncomfortably. I turn back to the letter.
I open the envelope and read the bold heading silently. “Request for Divorce”. I notice with some sadness that I’m not a bit surprised. We hadn’t spoken much, Jamia and I, not since the tour started. I know she wanted to still love me but she couldn’t forgive me, not entirely. I didn’t blame her, I couldn’t forgive myself.
I stare at her neat signature on the line, and the written X where I was meant to sign. It hurt, but that area of my life seemed specially reserved for pain these days and in the end I wasn’t all that sad to leave it behind. I still had the band.
I still had the band. I laugh, a sick angry sound in the empty dressing room. Now I have nothing.
I cringe as I remember the anger on Gerard’s face, the pain on Mikey’s. After the awful things I said I doubt any of them will ever talk to me again. For a moment I can’t get my head around it. Since the girls died the band was the only constant in my life. These people were the only thing in my life I truly felt could never be taken away. This can’t be real.
But it is. And for what?
For them. For Lily and Cherry and every mistake I’ve ever made that needs atoned for.
I walk to the bus, exhausted. The show had been great, as always, and I was spent. I’m just about to the doors when I hear my name. I turn to the voice. Man, I must be tired because I swear it sounds like –
“Jamia?” Her name still feels natural on my lips.
She’s there, smiling shyly at me, and suddenly the world feels like nothing changed.
At first things were easy, it almost felt normal again. We started dating again but I should have known it couldn’t work. I didn’t want her, not exactly. I wanted my old life and that was never coming back. It wasn’t long before we both realized that. That’s when I found out what she really wanted.
I stare at my phone, still lying near the wall where I threw it. Groaning I walk over and grab pick it up, thankfully it' still intact despite my abuse. I scroll through the phone book quickly, until I find the number I am looking for. Jamia. Her name feels foreign to me now.
The little bell on the door chimes as I pull it open. I see her at a booth in the back and make my way over. I sit across from her and start studying my menu. She’s quiet for a beat, letting me think.
“I want you to leave the band,” she says finally.
I look up, surprised. I’d been trying to find a subtle way to start to discuss breaking up, but if this was how she was going to play it then things just got a whole lot easier.
“You know that’s never going to happen, right?” I reply.
She smiles a little sadly, like this was what she’d been expecting. She nods once, then gets up. Before she walks away she pulls a plain brown envelope out of her purse and places it on the table.
“Look this over when you get a chance,” she says softly. “You can keep it, I have copies of everything.”
Selecting her number I quickly type a message and hit send.
I sigh as the words sink in. It’s done. Done, gone, over. I have officially ruined my life. I’ve hurt everyone I’ve ever loved and given up the only thing that truly made me happy.
The envelope is full of pictures of my little girls. Smiling, happy.
And then after; mangled, bloody and broken.
I seethed. Why did she want me to see this again? I’d spent the last year trying to forget these images, trying to keep them out of my dreams at night and my thoughts all day.
Standing up, I growl and sweep the pictures to the floor. I grab a bottle of whiskey from the kitchen and pour a glass. Refocusing my attention the papers spread out on the table I see forms and reports under the pictures. I pull one out. “Blood Toxicology Report” it reads. I see my name printed in small neat handwriting. The page is full of numbers and quantities that don’t mean much to me but in the notes section at the bottom I read one sentence that stops my breath.
“It can be reasonably concluded that at the time of the accident Mr. Iero was intoxicated beyond the reasonable limit for operating a motor vehicle, and it is advised that criminal charges be brought in the deaths of the two girls.”
I – what? Intoxicated? That’s not right. My mind is racing. That’s not right! I wasn’t… No, I wouldn’t! I didn’t do that! The glass of whiskey falls from my hand and shatters on the ground.
I see a small arrow handwritten on the bottom of the page and I turn it over. Her handwriting meets my eyes.
“You killed them Frankie,” she’d written. “And I can prove it.”
My phone ringing makes me jump. I can’t rip my eyes from the page so I answer it without even looking at the caller ID. It’s her.
“You get my present?” she asks.
I nod but realize she can’t see me. “Yes,” I choke out.
“Good. I want you to leave the band by the end of the month or someone else will get my present too. Maybe the Belleville PD.”
“Why? I didn’t do that. I wasn’t drunk!” I shout at the phone.
“You took everything from me Frankie. You killed what I loved then you left me with nothing. You still had the band but I had nothing but an empty house, an empty marriage, an empty life! Now it’s time to return the favor. By the end of the month Frankie, or I start killing what you love.”
I just wish I could tell the guys. Tell them that I’m sorry. That I never meant any of it. That I love them more than anything in the world, but I had to make them hate me because it is the only way they’d ever let me go. And they have to let me go. If they don’t then they’re in danger, and I can’t risk that. I can't lose anyone else I love.
If I told them the truth they’d want to help me. I can’t let them do that. I have to face this alone. It’s my fault and I’m going to fix it. They don’t need to get involved. They can’t get involved. If anything happened to them because of me I’d never be able to live with myself.
My cell ringing brings me back to reality. I glance at the caller ID. It’s her. I don’t want to talk right now but I want to piss her off even less so groggily I grab the phone and answer it. Before I even get a chance to speak her voice is in my head again.
“You did it?”
“Don’t worry, they’ll never want to see my face again.”
“Good.” I can almost hear her grinning through the line. Twisted bitch is getting pleasure out of ruining my life.
I sigh. “Well congratulations. You got what you wanted. I’ve officially lost everything I loved.”
“Oh, Frankie,” she laughs. “Don’t be so melodramatic. I’m not done with you yet.”
I freeze at the words. What more could she possibly want? I ruined her life, she ruined mine. End of story, right? Apparently not. “What do you mean?” I ask icily.
“Oh, now, Frankie,” she coos. Yes, honestly, coos. “Don’t be getting impolite.” Her voice had a dangerous edge. “Believe me, for your friends’ sakes, don’t be impolite. There’s more I want from you. I’ll call you when I’m ready. Don’t bother to unpack.”