I prefered waiting in the car as Gerard hopped out and squitted back into the house to tell Frank I'd been found. I silently hoped Gerard would walk back alone, sit back in the car and drive me home without any heartbrake involved. It would be so much easier not seeing Frank, just driving away in complecancy.
The part of me that I tried hard to mute down disagreed, though, and stole glances at the front door every two seconds, knowing that if Gerard indeed did walk through it alone, the disappointment would be just as undeniable as the wish to avoid seeing Frank.
In reality I had no idea what I wanted, or which I prefered, but I tried to convince myself of the fact that if I would be able to carefully slip away, it would be best for everyone involved.
I scoffed at myself realizing that here I was again trying to do the right thing for all, remembering just how much damage I'd caused last time I was trying to dedicate my actions to the greater good. I was fairly sure this was a different case, though.
They would no longer be drawn back into my life by curiousity, or the desperate kind of need for knowledge that had gotten a grip of Gerard. I would miss them terribly, but I was getting better at coping. We had come to an end, and it was an accepted fact. It had to be.
From the corner of my eye, I saw the shutters being drawn back a bit, allowing a face peek out but it flashed away so quickly I had no way of knowing which of the men it was.
I sighed deeply, fumbling with a loose strand of my hair.
Gerard had left the engine running, and the faint buzz of the old radio receiver was starting to hurt my head and I tried a few of the buttons to make it stop.
I turned a knob on the left and the buzzing blared out of the speakers, making my heart explode. I hurried to turn it back a notch and tried one more button that I hadn't already pushed. The buzzing stopped, and was replaced by soft strumming of a guitar, forming a loose but catchy melody that oozed with some atmosphere and feeling I couldn't describe.
I turned the knob again to make it a wee bit louder, and frowned as I found it impossible to put a finger on the way the music made me feel. It wasn't a bad feeling at all, but definitely differed from anything any other song had been able to make me feel before.
The singing started, and the distant, whiney voice of the vocalist added to the strange mixture of emotions. Hope, melancholy, strenght, loss, a new kind of happiness, peace..
I tried listening to the lyrics but failed as the receiver started buzzing again, and despite trying to push on the buttons again I didn't succeed in getting it to work again. I turned the volume knob and silence filled the car.
As if on cue, the front door flew open and Frank stepped out.
His appearance was enough to make a small smile appear on my unwilling lips. His hair was a tangled mess, his eyes filled with sleep, and I could only imagine this was the way he looked first thing in the morning after a rough night.
For the first time since being taken to this house, I had the time and the focus to take a good look at him. He wore black jeans that were somehow simultaneously baggy and extremely tight, and in need of being pulled up. The waistband of his boxers was clearly visible from between his belt and the hem of his green T-shirt. He had a square pattern, tartant style, flannel shirt on, half-buttoned and sleeves up. A sly smile was plasetered on his otherwise grumpy-looking face, as a response to mine.
The detail that shocked me, though, was the way half of his face was oddly swelled up and showed sickly yellow and pruple bruising even in the darkness of the evening.
As he approached the car, I detected a nasty looking rip on his lower lip. It was not the kind of clean cut that spoke of an incident with a strong fist, but an actual rip. The wound had scabbed over, but looked infected and painful. I had to look away - there was no doubt in my mind who and what had caused that.
He stopped mid-way and simply stood there for a moment, unmoving, propably thinking the same thing I did. Taking it all in, since his eyes were definitely on me though I noticed that he wasn't looking me in the eye.
A felt a bit self-conscious for a moment, realizing that I hadn't even seen a hairbrush in a few days, let alone had the chance to wash my face or change my clothes. I must've looked like a real mess.
He continued slowly walking towards the car as the windows started the mist, the humidity of the evening colliding with the steaming warmth of the car. I brushed my fingers across the moist surface of the glass and saw him up close, and as he opened the car door I scooted over on the wide front bench of the van to make room for him.
I was beginning to feel shame for running out on him like that. It wouldn't have been a big deal per se, but being brought back here and expected to sit here with a straight face, fighting off the sheepish expression and the embarrassment, was a bit too much to ask of me at the moment.
"I'm sorry your escape got cut off short." He smiled at me once he got seated. The car cabin was a little cramped for two bodies and I tried leaning away from him, towards the driver's seat, to avoid any sort of possible touch. I guess it had started to come naturally to me, to keep a painful distance between us.
"It's alright." I breathed out. "And it wasn't an escape, technically.." I had to correct his choice of word.
"I'm not sure what I should think of it, y'know.. We were sitting out back having a smoke for like ten minutes and once we came back inside you were nowhere to be found. We searched the house then the woods, thinking you got lost on an outing or something. Eventually Gerard went to get the car and drive around the highway to find you, after I lashed out on him."
"Why did you lash out on him?" I turned to look him in the eye for a split second.
He scratched his neck and rans his hands over his face. "Cause it was all his idea. I figured you were so hurt you that you just left because of what he did."
I thought of that for a moment. I wasn't all that angry at Gerard anymore. It was too easy to see things his way to be able to blame him for what he chose. He did what he thought was necessary, and the hatred I'd felt towards him was merely feelings of shock in my upset state of mind, a mind that was very aware of what came so close to happening.
"I'm not mad at him.. Just a bit upset. And honestly, it ain't all that fair to expect him to trust my word on this." I mused.
The night was beginning to fall, and the tranquil dimness of the evening was steadily growing up to a definite blackness. It only made Frank's figure stand out more in the illuminating starlight. Strangely, it also made me more aware of his presence, and the overall atmosphere was much more intense and filled with unspoken things than it would ever have been in daylight.
"He's a good man." He stated, and the way he said it made me feel like he expected me to disagree. Instead, I nodded.
"Why'd you flee, then?"
There was some sort of a broken edge to his voice.
"I thought it would be easier for all of us. You found out what you wanted to know and now it's time to go back. And I'm letting you go, I won't drag you into this anymore." I explained slowly, not wanting to reveal more of my feelings than was necessary.
"What if I'm not letting you go? What if I'm dragging myself in?"
His tone was so full of some undefined emotion, some half obscured sense of hope and regret, as if speaking the words had required great effort and now that they were out there, he had to seriously reconsider whether it was a smart thing to say or not, but also defiance and courage - something that made me feel that by asking these questions he was throwing a challenge at me.
He turned on the seat, as much as he was able in the limited amount of space, and I was taken aback by how close his face was to mine.
He raised his hand and moved it steadily towards the side of my head, and I was momentarilly unable to move.
He dropped it after a single second.
"Sorry. I have to remember this." He laughed awakwardly and shook his head.
"I wish we didn't have to remember any of it." I breathed out, not really knowing what I meant myself until I stopped to think about it. I meant everything - I meant not having to remember what happened today, not having to remember what happened after a show in the alley, not having to remember and keep in mind what would happen in case he touched me. It was something we weren't allowed to forget, and it didn't matter how much I wished to fall into ignorance. There would be a reminder that never called in late.
"If.. If I could, would you mind me kissing you?"
The way he just went right on and asked baffled me and it took a moment for the words to sink in and for me to understand that yes, he did really just ask that. I'm guessing he saw the shock and bewilderment on my features as he let out an uneasy chuckle, and added-
"Though with a face like this, I figure it's useless to even ask." He referred to the injuries I'd stared at before, the busted lip and the bruises that reached all the way to his cheekbone.
I felt sick with guilt and could hardly bear to look at the damage I'd done. My heart could not contain it, seeing all the evidence right there before my eyes that witnessed against the idea of us. How could I utter a response to his question when all I wanted to do was throw up or pang my head against the windshield until I looked twice as bad as he did?
"I'm so sorry.." I whispered brokenly, in lack of anything better or more appropriate to say.
"For this?" He pointed at his temporarily destroyed face. "Don't be. You didn't notice earlier? It's so much better already. The swelling goes down every passing minute. I'm kinda hoping that, at this rate, I'll wake up tomorrow looking like James fucking Dean, y'know? Ugly shit don't look good on me so it'll wear off fast. Trust me." His ramble brought a genuine smile to my face, although I still had a hard time tearing my eyes off the rip that, although scabbed, still seemed to ooze with prinklets of blood and somehow throb.
"Who's James Dean?" I didn't think of a better way to change the subject, and I was growing extremely annoyed in general for not getting all the references in spoken language.
Frank used them a lot, and he seemed to lose me at some point every single time he opened up his mouth.
The man looked highly unamused as he stared blankly at me. I had a feeling I'd messed up the rule number one again, the one about shutting up in case you weren't familiar with something that a human spoke of with a manner of obviousness. Oopsie.
"First Bruce Willis, now James Dean - what the hell is wrong with you, woman?"
I laughed at how he made such a big deal out of it, very likely just to brighten up the mood and lift my spirits.
"Many things. More than what's right." I stated with a giggle.
"There's so much I gotta teach you. You're gonna have to stay now, cause if I don't teach you these things, no one else will.." The suggestive smile on his lips that he tried to hide made me feel like his words had a double meaning. I tried to shake the thought off, but ended up playing the same game.
Gazing intently into the depth of his eyes, I replied slowly-
"I'd like you to teach me everything you know."
He smiled happily and leaned back on the seat.
"That can be arranged. First, I know for fact that it is perfectly useless and merely a waste of time for girls like you to try and get a ride home at this hour. I also know that there is a rather comfy bed in there that we both fit in. And-"
He gave me a meaningful look, as if to make sure I understood that the best part was coming up.
"Since we're not exactly tired yet, I'll tell you a thing or two about James Dean so you don't have to make a fool out of yourself again. And when I'm done doing that, I'm just going to try and figure out ways to kiss you without touching you. It sounds tricky, but I'd like to think of myself as the man that invented tricky."
He ended his plan with a proud tone before hopping out of the car and extending his hand towards me, but snapping it away after half a second.
I couldn't help but laugh at his goofiness.
A major part of me was screaming with happiness. In fact, I'd like to say that my entire being was screaming with joy and warmth, but in this case that happiness came with a tad of despair. It was included in the sale, a take two - pay for one kind of offer.
I think I knew all along that this is what happiness was - Frank - and the simple joy of being in his presense and careless yet mysterious company. But for me it was love and I was yet to find out what exactly it was for Frank. I acknowledged, somewhere in the deep ends of my mind, that the love I felt was not available without the adds that came with it, the fear, the insecurity, the instability of it. It was a take it or leave it sort of deal, and I really needed to make the decision and for God's sake - stick with it.
Did I leave and not give it a chance?
Or would I give it my everything and accept the fact that it might kill either one of us?
If we were lucky, our deaths wouldn't be so much physical as merely pieces of who we are dying inside of us, but it was a hurtful risk to take.
I gazed into those big almond-shape, greenish brown eyes and something I saw in them convinced me. I coldly discarded the red flashing alarm in my head and hopped out of the car. I took a couple steps away and Frank leaned into the car to search for something, and retrieved with a battered muddy glove which he then put on.
Clearly, holding hands would not be tricky.
He led me back into the house and I followed in bliss, strangely content with the fact that I'd left my brains out there in the car. Right now, they could stay there.
It was fun, getting re-acquainted with the guys. After a couple of awkward days filled with insecure greetings while walking past each other and tentative calls of good morning, Gerard and I naturally fell back into the pattern of him interrogating me and squeezing out the vague answers out of my half-amused mouth that would rather have, if only possible, been very busy doing something that involved Frank.
Gerard discovered my modest drawnings that had ended up getting scattered all over the basement floor and was both intrigued and inspired. He did not have a whole lot of compliments in story for my talent in drawing, and instead suggested that he'd re-make them with my help. I'd be the advisor, the painter of a mental vision and he'd try his best to capture it on canvas.
First, I was hesitant, since his endless thirst for knowledge was starting to get the best of me, but once he pleaded and whined until I promised to try it out, I learned that it was quite a therapeutic experience.
For hours, I talked about my old world, but only of the way it looked. I left out the ways of life and basically everything that wasn't a part of the physical surface.
I felt somehow consoled as Gerard quietly painted the sceneries of what I used to call home.
The way he worked with the brushes resembled dancing, with the graceful, careless strokes and the minimal, precise touches.
I was filled with both sadness and joy looking at those pictures, and Gerard seemed to have felt as if he had now become involved in something bigger, as if he'd seen the old world with his own eyes.. He said the beauty of the place was somehow appalling. I knew what he meant - there was this dark hue to everything though not for lack of light. The reflections that I've mentioned before looked unnatural in a scene so otherwise familiar to humans, and it scared him for no particular reason.
All those hours down in the basement with Gerard, with my eyes closed as I brought back memories from the other world and tried my best to describe them accurately, and Gerard gentle sweeps of paint across the canvas, made us bond in a way that was irreversable.
One and a half weeks to living in this house with the two men and Frank still hadn't thought of a way to kiss me. This, ofcourse, was a major disappointment to both of us, it seemed.
He joked about it in a light manner, but wrapped me up in a blanket each night to be able to pull me as close to his chest as possible. It was heaven and pure torture simultaneously.
On days, we sat on the deck for uncountable amount of time just talking, and I was satisfied to notice that the interest wasn't one-sided like it was with Gerard. Frank talked about his past, his family and the memories of his childhood. The talked about the good times and the bad and never lost his temper or patience with me as he was forced to explain things that to him seemed normal and simple.
He asked a lot of questions, too, but his interest was towarded at me and the life I'd lived rather than where I came from. Often, I could detect his skin starting to crawl and his eyes beginning to wander or stare off into the nothingness of the dark woods, and he would say something like 'it's getting a bit chilly out here' or 'are you up to a tuna sandwich?'.
I would never call on his sweet excuses, but smile and agree instead. What I was telling him was a lot to take in, and he handled it almost too calmly, much unlike Gerard who started to become a half-crazed artist with a bipolar disorder.
Frank made me feel normal, like the human that I truly was, as if I was in no way different from the rest of them. Just a bit more special. I saw myself falling deeper in love each passing day, and even the angry calls from Mooney didn't have what it took to bring my spirits down. After a long talk on the phone, I'd finally been able to convince him that I truly was sick with a persistant, contagious illness, and wouldn't be likely to show up at work anytime soon. He seemed to have bought it, and begrudgingly wished me quick recovery.
Gerard's parents were coming back in a few days from their two week vacation, and I was forced to realize that the days in this house without time or place were coming to an unavoidable end.
The time we spent here was already starting to feel like a dream, a dream so vivid it was unforgettable.
Gerard said he'd stay here, to finish his works that had now covered nearly every inch of the surface of the walls, and I collected my courage one night to ask if Frank would like to join me in my not so spacious apartment, or if he'd rather just go back to Ray's.
He had looked at me with intense eyes and said that there was no way he'd be able to keep living with Ray, and that if I didn't want to invite him into my home, he'd just a rent a place of his own close to mine. I'd melted at that point, and finally allowed myself to understand that Frank obviously felt the same way about me. It was a hard one to accept, because of the absurdity of the idea, but once I did I declared myself the luckiest, happiest person alive.
Every now and then, mostly at nights after Frank had fallen asleep and I could feel his steady, moist breath reach the skin on the crook of my neck, I felt the fear resurface.
To me it was a miracle that we had been able to completely avoid skin contact for ten days, but it seemed too much to hope for for things to continue this way.
But before slowly drifting off to sleep, I always promised myself to live in the moment, and take one day at a time. It was the only option that allowed us to be together, and so that option I would pick in a heartbeat.
The dreamful peace of the house in the country was coming to an end, slowly but surely, but when it finally did, it took us all off guard.
The end did not come as Gerard's parents returning from their trip, but instead it came two days prior, dressed in camouflage baggy trousers, an unconventional assemble of strange looking clothes, and green hair dye.
His name was Leon Preston Prescott-Algoode and he changed everything.
dun-dun - Leon has entered the building.
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