“I forgive you,” I breathe, staring at the piece of paper. “Of course I forgive you.”
Mom doesn’t say anything to me when we get back to the flat; she just holds me still by the shoulders and looks at me, scanning over my features as if she’s looking for something.
Her eyes are tired and miserable, and I’m only just noticing how pale she looks; she almost looks old. But my mom’s not old; she’s only in her forties! I feel a pang of guilt somewhere inside of me, knowing full well that I’ve been stressing her out recently.
She sighs, and shakes her head, letting go of me and turning away down the hall. She walks through into the kitchen and closes the door behind her.
I sigh and go through into my bedroom.
I think of Gerard, locked away in prison, away from the rest of the world and away from me.
I think of the cold eyes and tight frown of Emily Brandon, and how she won.
I can’t believe she won.
I scream in anger. I shouldn’t have let her win. This was my fault really. I could have done more to clear Gerard’s name; fought harder, convinced the jury that he was innocent. Fuck, I was willing to face the perjury charges if I cleared him, and then my lies unravelled. I was willing to do anything to keep him out of prison for as long as possible.
Too late now, I remind myself. He’s gone forever.
Maybe Miss Campbell will be back at school and we’ll resume our coursework as if Mr Way’s reign had never happened; he hadn’t even been here a month anyway. He could be completely purged from the school’s history; they would find out about the court case soon, if they didn’t already know. They would nod with stony faces, mumbling something about how surprised they were, and how they didn’t believe he was capable of it, before going to find someone to fill the free English teacher position, scraping his name from the brass card on the classroom door and blotting his name from the registers with Tipp-Ex. Then they would resume day-to-day school life as normal, as if he’d never existed.
I wish it was that easy for me; I wish I could just move on with my life like everyone else will. I can’t though; they’re not the ones that had to lie at a trial; they’re not the ones feeling like a failure, they’re not the ones who are making their parents ill because of the way they’ve acted.
I exhale; mom doesn’t need me stressing her out; she doesn’t deserve it. She’s raised me on her own pretty much 24/7 since she and dad split, since he can never get much time away from work to look after me. How do I repay her? I go and get myself dragged into a fucking court case. Some ‘thank you’.
I’m such a shit son sometimes.
I sigh heavily and collapse backwards onto my bed. There’s no point in doing anything; it’s over. I don’t even know why this saddens me so much; I’ve barely known Gerard a few days, despite the fact that he dominated my head for six years of my life. No; that wasn’t Gerard, that was Mr Way, and they are two very different people. Mr Way is the cold eyed young man who followed me down a dark street back in Newark when I was a kid.
Gerard, on the other hand, is the English teacher who made me stay after class, who likes The Misfits, and who dragged me out of a river after Laurence threw me off the bridge; he’s the man who overdosed on pills because I gave him a reason to; because I opened old wounds that should have just been left to heal. I was just stupid enough to let them bleed too much, and look where we are now.
Gerard’s locked up in jail and it’s entirely my fault.
I jump and stand up again, looking down at my bed to find the source of the noise.
“The fuck?” I mumble, and I go to sit back down, but as I do I hear the crinkling noise again, behind me. I frown, digging my hands into my back pockets to see if I’ve left money or something in there. My fingers wrap round a piece of paper and I yank it out.
I look down at the folded piece of paper, not recalling putting it in my pockets. Assuming it’s some assignment from school that I’ve completely forgotten about, I unfold it.
Instead of the math homework I’m expecting I find myself looking at several lines of sloppy handwriting that looks like it’s been written in a rush. I don’t recognize the scrawl.
Curious, I begin to read.
Frank. I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry for what I did when I was on drugs. I can’t believe I put you through that; it’s unforgivable. I’m sorry for kissing you at the hospital too; that was a moment of bad judgement. I shouldn’t have done it, even if you wanted me to. Fuck, I wanted it, but I was your teacher, you were my student. And I’m sorry for getting you involved in that trial bullshit. I can’t believe you had to go to that. I did try telling them that they were crazy, but of course they didn’t listen. But anyway, I won’t blame you if you don’t forgive me for it all. Not that it matters anyway; I’ll be stuck in jail while you’re off living your life. I guess knowing that I’ve apologized will make the rest of mine slightly better. Good luck Frankie. In this world, you’re gonna need it.
“I forgive you,” I breathe, staring at the piece of paper. “Of course I forgive you.”
The security guard. has also been scribbled onto the page and I frown, puzzled. Then it hits me; he got the security guard at the courthouse to slip the note into my pocket. I shiver, realizing that some random guy has had his hand in my back pockets, but I don’t dwell on it, I’m just happy that Gerard made the effort to contact me. It must have been hard for him to write that, having to confront the daemons of his past to clear that up for me, especially after they drove him to the point of attempted suicide.
A solitary tear rolls down my cheek as I think of Gerard; the old Gerard; the cruel heartless monster who was driven by one thing and one thing only; addiction. It must have taken so much to break the spell that the drugs had wrapped around my Gerard.
Your Gerard? my head asks me, Since when was he your Gerard?
Dammit Frank! That’s just fucking wrong! He’s not yours; he can’t be yours. Not only is he a grown man, but he raped you, and now you’re falling for him? That’s fucked up! I curl up into a foetus position and cry into the blankets, not caring if my mom hears.
Great, now I’m turning into a lovestruck teenage girl on her first period.
Jeez, I know I’m gay and everything but this is just sad.
“SHUT UP,” I scream suddenly, sick of hearing my inner monologue spitefully making this whole sorry ordeal worse, “Just leave me alone.”
I clamp my fingers over my ears, trying to block out the sound of my own thoughts. I know I probably look like a five year old throwing a temper tantrum, but I’m past the point of caring. Gerard’s gone.
And it’s my fault.
I watch a drop of blood run down my arm with fascination, knowing full well that if I was to lose enough blood I could end it. The idea is tempting, almost scarily so. I stare at my already bloodstained arm, contemplating.
Am I really going to do this?
I shut my eyes tightly, pressing the razor to my wrist, but just as I’m about to rip my skin apart the doorbell goes and I jump, just nicking my skin. Panicking, I toss the razor under the bed and tug the sleeve of my hoodie over my wrist which is still bleeding from all the cuts I’ve already inflicted upon myself.
A moment later my bedroom door opens and Patrick walks in, grinning.
“Uh, hi Pat. What’re you doing here?”
“I’ve hardly seen you these past few days. I just came over to make sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I put on my best smile, wincing slightly because of the pain that shoots up my arm when the fabric of my sleeve rubs against my arm.
Patrick frowns, but doesn’t press the issue.
“So, do you wanna go out somewhere or something? I’m kinda craving a Starbucks right now.”
I sigh heavily, “I would Patrick, but it’s just... I just don’t feel like going out today. Some other time, yeah?”
That is if I don’t just kill myself the minute you go home.
Mom has a lot of pills in the medicine cabinet; maybe I could swallow a cocktail of them? Along with the bottle of vodka that’s sitting in the kitchen?
Patrick frowns, but just nods silently.
“Frank, just tell me if something’s wrong. You just-”
He stops speaking, his mouth hanging open.
“Your arm! What did you do?!”
I look down at my sleeve and bite my lip when I realize that there’s a dark stain slowly growing on the material. I throw my arm behind my back, ignoring the sting that shoots up my forearm and look up, meeting Patrick’s eyes.
“Frank,” he takes a step closer to me, “Let me see your wrists.”
I shake my head, looking down at my feet so I don’t have to see the look he’s giving me.
He wraps his fingers round my arm gently. “Frank, please. I just want to help you.”
I don’t protest when he carefully pulls my arm out from behind my back. There’s no point in struggling anyway; he’d win; but I still don’t look at him.
I feel him roll my sleeve up and gasp when he sees the scars that have accumulated there over the years, and the gashes that are only just beginning to stop bleeding. He gently touches one of the scars, applying so little pressure that I only just feel the pads of his fingers on my skin.
“How long have you done this for?” he asks me quietly.
I don’t want to answer him; that’ll just make this feel all too real, so I say nothing and we’re silent for a minute.
“Frank, please talk to me.”
“Six years,” I breathe.
Patrick drops my arm and steps back. I glance up at him and when I see the look on his face I wish I hadn’t. He’s just watching me in disbelief, and I want more than anything to just melt into the background right now.
“Six years,” he repeats. “Six years and I never noticed once. Some friend I am.”
“It doesn’t matter,” I mumble, “It’s not your fault.”
“Maybe not, but I should’ve noticed that something was wrong. That’s the kind of thing best friends are meant to pick up on, after all.”
“It’s not really something I proudly paraded...”
“I don’t care, Frank.”
He takes my arm again, running his fingers over some of the scars. “Why?” he asks curiously, “What reason would you have to self harm when you were ten? Your parents were still together then, right? And you were never bullied in elementary school... Why would you need to cut your arms?”
“It doesn’t matter Patrick, honest!”
“I won’t tell a soul, Frank, but please just confide in me. I want you to be okay, because you’re obviously not.” He waves a hand over the new cuts that have finally stopped spewing blood all over my forearm.
I shake my head stubbornly and Patrick sighs. He crouches down in front of me so that we’re eye to eye, and he looks at me pleadingly.
I look at him for a minute, gazing into his serious eyes which never leave my own. I take a deep breath.
And so I explain everything to Patrick, taking myself right back to the day everything started, six years ago. Patrick asks me what on earth I was thinking, staying out so late. I say I don’t know. His eyes grow wide as I tell him what happened in the dark alleyway, my own eyes watering as I remember the horrible event.
“But who did it? Do you know?”
“Oh I know who did it,” I say.
“Ger- Isn’t he the English teacher?!”
“He was. He’s in jail now.”
“Oh, that’s good,” Patrick smiles, and I shake my head.
“No Patrick, it’s not.”
“But you just said he-,” Patrick stops for a moment and frowns, “Hang on. How do you know anyway?”
“Because I was a witness at the trial.”
“Oh. And did that go... Okay?”
“Not really. It was... Pretty awkward; my mom was sitting in the gallery.”
“Yeah, I guess that would be shit,” Patrick chuckles, “Having to talk about getting raped in front of your mom.”
“They weren’t actually asking me about that,” I tell him, “In fact, I doubt they even know that that happened.”
Patrick looks confused. “I thought that’s what the trial was for?”
“No, the trial was held because he raped some other kid too. But he was on drugs, it wasn’t his fault!”
“Frank, rape can’t be excused,” my friend tells me seriously. “No number of pills, not any amount of powder, nothing like that can make it excusable.”
“I know!” I say quickly, “And I’m not trying to say that it is, but... It’s just... I dunno Patrick, I just wish he wasn’t in jail!”
“But he raped you when you were a kid, why would you want him to go free?”
“Frank, you’re not telling me something. What the fuck is going on?”
I chew my lip, not exactly sure how Patrick will react if I tell him the truth.
“I love him,” I say, so quietly that I don’t even know if Patrick hears me.
And that’s when I break down, the weight of the whole ordeal smashing me to pieces. I fall forward, crying into Patrick’s t-shirt. He wraps his arms round me, stopping me from falling flat on my face as my tears drench his left shoulder. He doesn’t say anything, just holds me tighter, rocking slightly to calm me down.
“What do you mean you love him?” Patrick asks gently.
“I l-love him,” I splutter, “I d-don’t know h-how I c-can, but I do.”
“How do you know?”
I lift my head off of Patrick’s shoulder, wiping some of the tears from my eyes before looking up to meet his eyes. “Because I kissed h-him when he was in hospital, then they c-caught us and then this b-bitch Emily Brandon announced that h-he raped her s-son, and then I had to go to the t-trial as a witness.”
“Oh, so that’s what they were asking you about,” Patrick says softly, “About you kissing Gerard.”
“Yes, only they turned it around to make it seem like he was fucking r-raping me in the hospital or some shit.”
“Ah,” Patrick sighs, hugging me tighter, “Well they’re all just assholes!”
“It’s my f-fault though,” More tears run down my face and I press my face into my hands. “If I never went to that stupid hospital, none of this would’ve happened.”
“Frankie, it’s not your fault. Everything would’ve surfaced one day anyway.”
I sniff. “There would be no solid evidence though, would there?”
“Well... I- Uh-” Patrick stops and bites his lip. “No.”
“He managed to get this to me before he was put in jail,” I pick up the note that I found in the pocket of my jeans earlier, and passing it to Patrick. His eyes flicker over the several lines of Gerard’s messy handwriting
“So,” he looks up when he’s finished reading, “You forgive him?”
“I forgive him,” I nod, before bitterly adding, “But it’s not like I’m ever going to have the chance to tell him I do.”
“You know,” he says, “You could just visit Gerard at the prison.”
“My mom wouldn’t drive me there in a million years.”
“I could get my dad to give you a lift. I’ll even come with you if you want me to.”
“What’s the point though? All that’d happen is I’d see him for a couple of minutes before a security guard appears and drags him back to a cell and I’ll just have to go home and get on with my day.”
“You can go back and see him again, and you know you could really get to know each other if you went on a regular basis...”
“I dunno Pat,” I sigh, “It’d probably just make me feel guiltier, knowing that I’ll only ever be able to talk to him like that; with a window dividing us.”
“So, you’d rather not see him than talk through some glass?”
“No, I mean, I would like to speak to him, but-”
“What if he blames me?” I mumble.
“Frank, I really doubt he will. It sounds as if he’s really sorry for everything. I really think you should go and visit him, at least once?”
“But- You know what? If it’ll make you happy, fine. Let’s go!”
I stand up and open my bedroom door, waiting for Patrick who smiles widely. He jumps up from the floor and walks towards me, pulling me into a tight hug.
“Everything’s gonna be okay now, Frankie. I promise.”
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