“If Frank were to come back and tell you he was sorry for whatever he did, well, would you forgive him?”
Also, I've got the next chapter done and let me just say, it's a doozie. I even surprised myself. I'm super excited to show you all. I'll update soon, promise.
I close my eyes, relaxing to the familiar feel of the bus rolling down the highway. For a moment I forget everything, and just fall into the feeling. This feels so…so normal. So right. I smile.
A few hours ago I got brave enough to sneak off to the bathroom to change. I washed off all the make up in the shower, then dried off and reapplied it. I left my contacts in too. What would the guys think if Jason suddenly showed up with hazel eyes and all Frank’s tattoos? I laugh to myself. I haven’t really spoken to Jamia since we got on the bus, and my mood has greatly benefited because of it, despite my talk with Gerard earlier.
It’s well after 2am and everyone else has gone to bed but I can’t sleep. I don’t want to sleep. I just want to sit here, basking in the fact that I’m here, on tour with my friends. No one’s watching me so I don’t have to put on an act. I can just be. Here in the dark I can pretend that everything’s ok. That none of this happened. That everything is how it should be. It’s the happiest I’ve felt in months.
I’m in my old bunk. I think Jamia let me have it because she thought it’d be harder for me, that it would never let me forget. But really it’s making it easier. Because I don’t want to forget. I want to remember exactly what it was like to be Frankie. And laying here now I almost do.
I glance across the aisle, at Jamia’s bunk, but the curtains are drawn and I can hear her steady breathing. I sneak a look at the other bunks – all the curtains are closed – then I swing my legs out of my bunk and make my way out of the bunk area.
I walk towards the front, but realize that there’s nothing to do on a tour bus at three in the morning. I pour myself a glass of water and then just stand there, losing myself. I feel so normal right now that I’m starting to forget that I’m not Frank. I’m not sure how long I’m there. 20 minutes? An hour? But when I finally refocus I put my glass in the sink and wander back towards my bunk.
Something’s different, but I can’t quite place it. Then I hear it, a choked breath and muffled movement in the back lounge-turned-studio. The door is partially closed and I stick my head around the corner peering into to the half light.
Mikey is sitting on the farthest couch, opposite the door, with his knees drawn up to his chest, arms wrapped around his legs. His eyes gleam unnaturally as he turns to meet mine. He was watching something on the large TV but he pauses the video when he sees my head. From where I am standing I can’t see the screen.
I open the door wider and slip into the room. I start to go over to sit next to him, planning to put my arm around him and make sure he’s ok but his voice jolts me back to reality.
“Oh, hey Jason.” Jason. Damn it, I forgot. I stop and look at him.
He nods and sniffs. I nod too and turn around to leave him with his privacy. But as I turn around my eye is caught by the over sized image of the two of us wrestling on the screen. I turn quickly to look at him, then back at the screen again. He was sitting here, in the back of the bus in the middle of the night watching home videos of us? Why?
I remember that day. We were celebrating Mikey’s birthday at some park we’d found while on tour. At that exact moment Mikey and I were arguing over rights to the last piece of cake. He’d grabbed it first and was holding it out of my reach, but I had him in a headlock so that he couldn’t get it to his mouth. It was an unusual stalemate. Gerard was just visible in the background cheering us on, the bloody instigator.
I smile thoughtfully at Mikey. He looks so sad. “Mind if I join you?” I ask. Realizing this seems a bit awkward, I add, “You can tell me about the guys. I feel a little weird, since you all know each other so well and I’m still struggling to remember names.”
Mikey smiles. “Alright.”
He starts the video again and the camera quickly pans away from him and me to show Ray and Bob having a watermelon seed spitting contest. I let out a small laugh. Mikey chuckles too.
We sit there together just laughing and watching our lives on the screen. The tape abruptly cuts to a fuzzy end but we don’t get up, we just start talking.
“So how long have you been playing guitar?” Mikey asks me.
“Pretty much my whole life. I think I was born with a guitar in my hands,” I joke, loving how easy it is to talk to Mikey. I know the answer, but I realize I’m not supposed to so I ask him the same question back. “You play bass, right? How long have you been playing?”
He laughs. “Honestly, before this band I didn’t even know how to play bass. It was what Gerard needed to finish out the band so I learned it.”
I laugh. I remember the beginning, when Mikey was still figuring it out. Even then he was amazing. “That must’ve been interesting.”
“Oh yeah, it was.” He pauses, a thoughtful smile on his lips as he gets lost in some old memory. “You ever been in a band?” He asks me suddenly.
“Oh yeah,” I say, my voice a little too eager, before I can think it through. He raises his eyebrows.
“What was it called? Would I have heard of it?”
“Um… no you wouldn’t have heard of it. We, um, we didn’t really have a name. We never did any gigs or anything. Just kind of an excuse to hang out and drink.” Wait, does Jason drink? “I don’t drink now though.” Thankfully Mikey let it go.
“Sounds like you loved it. Your eyes like legitimately lit up when you were talking about it. Why’d you leave?”
Shit. He’s got me in a corner without even trying. I don’t want to lie to Mikey so instead of My Chemical Romance I think of Pencey Prep. “We just kinda drifted apart, y’know?”
Mikey nods. “How come you never found another band?”
I look at him and grin. I did, I think. And you’re part of it. “The thrills of accounting were calling my name.”
He laughs, then falls into another thoughtful silence. After a moment he breaks it. “Hey, weren’t you talking with an accent before? The way you’re talking now I would almost believe you’re from Jersey.”
Shit! I forgot to change my voice. Come on Frankie, think. Excuse, I need a good excuse! “Um, yeah. I, uh, I pick up accents really easily. I was talking to a friend of mine in London this morning and I got his accent, then I was talking to Gerard earlier so I probably got this accent from him. Or you. Because you’re from Jersey. So that’s probably why I sound like I’m from Jersey, even though I’m not. I’m from Cleveland. We don’t have any accents in Cleveland. So we pick up everyone else’s I guess.”
I stop at the sound of Mikey’s laugh. “Ok,” is all he says.
“What?” I ask as he continues laughing.
“You were rambling.”
He stops laughing. “Frankie used to ramble like that when he got nervous.”
I look at the ground. “Mikey, can I ask you something? It might sound kind of weird but I’m just thinking, y’know? Like what if I were in Frank’s shoes. So, um, can I ask you something?”
He looks at me funny but nods, so I continue. “Um, well, if Frank were to come back and tell you he was sorry for whatever he did, well, would you forgive him?”
I hold my breath and look away as he answers. “I don’t know what there is to forgive. I’m still not really sure what happened. Just all of a sudden it was like he didn’t want to be here anymore. Then he was gone.”
“Do you want him to come back?”
“He won’t come back.”
I glance up at him. I’m not sure what I expected him to say but that definitely isn’t it. I was ready for anger, or sadness. But I wasn't ready for the hollow certainty in his voice. “Why do you think that?” I ask.
Mikey sighs. “I don’t know why he did what he did, but the way I see it there’s two possibilities. Either he meant everything he said, in which case I hope he rots in hell, or there was something else going on that he didn’t want us to know about, or help him with. Either way we weren’t good enough for him.”
I feel my heart squeeze. Is that really what Mikey believes? That I think they’re not good enough? Mikey stretches and yawns. He glances at his watch. “Shit,” he mumbles. “It’s four thirty. I’m going to try to sleep.” He stands and starts to walk away. “G’night,” he mumbles as he leaves.
“Good night.” I hang my head in my hands. It would be easier if he was just mad at me, but no. Mikey the sweet one, the innocent one. Instead he blames himself.
I feel cold eyes staring at me and I look up. Jamia is standing in the doorway. “What were you two doing in here?” she asks. Her voice is sweet. If one of the guys is listening, they’ll think we’re just having a nice little heart to heart. But the look in her eyes is far from sweet.
“Nothing,” I mutter. “Just talking. Couldn’t sleep.”
She continues staring at me, her eyes boring into me. "Don't worry," I mumble. "He didn't figure it out."
She makes a small noise of approval then turns and leaves me alone again. I lean back. The TV is still on, the bright blue screen lighting the room. I grab the remote from where Mikey had left it and turn the volume all the way down, then rewind the tape and watch it over and over. I’ve seen the whole thing three times and am starting in on a fourth when I fall into a fitful sleep.