I was woken by Gerard's pleading calls. While still trying to fight the slumber off without much success, his words came out as annoyingly shrill murmur that I understood nothing of.
I briefly wondered what time it was but decided that way too early was an appropriate enough answer and turned to my side, re-adjusting the blankets I held on to like a baby.
A sound of rapid knocking on my door made me crinkle my nose and frown in a way only a grumpy, sleepy girl is able to.
"Go away." I grunted against my pillow that was way too soft for its own good.
"Em. School." His voice reminded me too much of my mother and the years I spent under her supposedly controlling raising methods. It didn't work then, and it sure as hell wasn't about to work now.
"I'd much rather sleep!" I raised the volume a notch, irritated with having to actually talk instead of float back to whatever dreamy cloud I'd been lulling on.
"I'm coming in."
I'd faced that one before, too. The statement was usually followed by a pair of determined hands grabbing the fabric of my comforter and tugging and yanking it with all their might in quest to steal my most precious item. I was prepared. He propably thought he'd catch me by surprise, but my boney fingers where holding onto the fabric for dear life.
Fucking try me.
The door clicked open and a few steps brought a presense into my cramped room, but nothing happened. I peeked from under the blanket now, a bit dumbfounded at the lack of a fierce battle over a quilt, and stared. Realizing I was fully awake by now and didn't even consider the idea of sleep as compelling anymore, I threw the blanket aside and sat up.
"What, that's it?" I was a bit disappointed. If there was one thing I had talent at, it was procrastinating getting up, and no forces of nature were to stop me.
"It obviously did the trick. Come on, your class starts in about thirty minutes and you're walking with me. I have a suggestion for you."
He disappeared from the doorway, leaving me stealing glances at his back and feeling like a predator eyeing a prey. Those jeans, man.. They hugged him tightly in all the right places.
Deciding I was no longer in a sleepy state and feeling surprisingly intrigued by what it was he was going to suggest, I rose and quickly made my way to the bathroom.
I had learned to lock the bathroom door while showering, and I had learned that the hard way.
Even though Frank wasn't around last night, and quite likely not at the moment either, you just never knew with these guys. One moment you could be singing a magnificent cover of a Whitney Houston song in your own company, lathering excessive amounts orangeflower scented shower gel onto your body, and the next you could find someone taking a crap not two feet from you.
I had no idea why people wondered how I always managed to be so sceptical about things, even paranoid, because all they would have to do is to spend twenty-four hours in this apartment having to avoid seeing a bare, hairy male butt or anything equally disturbing, and they'd totally get it. I had to be on guard for the sake of what was left of my mental health.
I was just aiming to hit the highest notes of I Will Always Love You, when a fierce punch was delivered on the door, making one of the shiny metal hooks fall off and hit the tile floor with a clatter. I didn't have to ask to know that my time was up, and begrudginly stepped out of the shower to dry myself off.
Either we were late for classes, or a certain someone had no respect for a struggling artist such as myself. I'd really given my all to that perfomance.
Among a dozen of other similarly vital things, I had also learned to keep a stack of clean clothes in the bathroom to avoid having to jump around in a much too shrunken towel in order to get dressed in my room.
I threw on gray washed jeans and an old knitted pullover that had all the popular colors of the great 70's and hung loose on my slender upper body, exposing my left shoulder no matter how much I tried to re-adjust the neckline. I declared tugging on the material would merely make me look like a fidgeting idiot and decided that having a bit of bare skin in sight wasn't going to hurt a soul.
I was nearly done blowdrying my hair when another pang stratled me.
"Dude, you're braking the goddamned door!" I huffed.
"Come on already. I got your coffee in a paper cup and I'll be waiting outside."
A clearly annoyed voice spoke from behind the locked door.
If it wasn't for the coffee, I'd have made sure that I'd uncharacteristically spend atleast half an hour doing my make up. Instead, I smeared on my favorite shade of cherry lipstick and got moving.
Three minutes later I was out of the house and half running behind Gerard who seemed overly enthuastic about getting my ass to school on time. Sipping the coffee was nearly impossible at this speed, and most of it ended up on my shirt. He refused to explain his suggestion on the way, blaming me for being what he thought was the slowest showerer in the universe, and as we parted ways in the school lobby he promised to catch up with me on lunch and explain whatever idea he had in mind.
I wasn't too overjoyed about it - usually surprises never failed to infuriate me- but felt kind of curious as to what it was he wanted to tell me.
I just hoped it wouldn't even cross the gay topic, and if it in any way involved Frank and Gerard's stupid infatuation, I would shit my pants.
I dragged my body to the first lecture scheduled for today. The professor was called Mrs. Glandell and looked so much like Mary Poppins herself that I half expected her to take us all on a ride with her magical umbrella. There was nothing magical about the lesson though, nor the woman, and I found myself falling in and out of sleep the entire time.
She ranted about things like illustration and visual essays and ended the class by handing out a stack of papers that made zero sense to me. She told us that this was the only lesson with required attendance, and to pass the class we simply had to hand in an essay of some sort at the end of the term. I took a deep breath and buried the papers inside my messenger bag and classified this assigment as something that could be thought of later.
Related Media classes were even less fun, and I spent the hour and a half doodling away in my own thoughts. The decent looking, youngish male teacher still made it worth my time, his hair slighly overgrown and careless looking and jeans that almost matched Gerard's. The only thing that kind of ruined the experience for me was the incredibly boring things that came out of his eager mouth, but that was taken care of by me smoothly covering my ears and focusing on the eye candy. It was the school of Visual Arts - no shut up and let me enjoy the damn visual supply!
Lunch time came sooner than I thought, and I was quite proud of myself for going through two entire lessons without barging out for some reason.
While I sat by an empty table with an equally empty tray in front of me, Gerard babbled on about how Mikey had expressed his concern for my financial state, and then stressed over what he thought would be an unpaid rent. I listened only with half an ear, not exactly very grateful for having my personal life open for debate.
".. And then he said he was just worried you'd go running back to that bar you worked at before and told me all about that creepy owner-"
I groaned loudly.
"Did he also tell you his theories? My favorite is the one about Harwick being a former federal agent who gave in to corruption and uses the place to run a business that consists of drug, prostitution and conspiracy." I interruped, just to make a point of how very stupid it was to take anything Mikey said seriously.
"Oh, I got the one about aliens and shit?" He cocked an eyebrow with a half-hearted smile.
"That one's quite creative." I shrugged, highly bemused at Mikey's idiotism.
"But anyway, I remembered this note on the bulletin board at work-"
"You have a job??" I yelped incredulosly.
I don't know why it seemed like such an unlikely idea.
I guess I just took Gerard more as an ultimately broke dude with skills in all things art but a stable inability to get a job. I suddenly felt harshly overshadowed by him, this nearly graduated morning person with a steady job and a sense of maturity with all the bullshit he gave me about arriving at school on time.
I frowned for a second, before remembering that I was sitting here with a non-open gay person, who used to crossdress in what he claimed to be of experiemental manner, and who also would currently live in his mother's basement if it wasn't for yours truly who bravely stood up for him against a grumpy, unwilling Mikes. He was in no way superior to me - not as long as he was the one ending up in jail after downing vodka shots at rock concerts right beside me. And definitely not with that pill container shaped bulge on the pocket of his jeans, so there for all the world to see.
"Yeah, I work for Cartoon Networks part-time, and they're looking for an apprentice. I think you should apply." He beamed. "I'll put in a good word for you."
I slouched further in my seat, making a face that implied just how enthusiastic I was about his master plan.
"But that's like comic book stuff, right? Not that I don't love comics but honestly Gerard, I can't draw to save my life." I thought we had already established my lack of talent in these things? Keeping bringing up this touchy fact was fairly unnecessary.
"You won't have to. You wouldn't get to even if you wanted to - an apprentice is actually a synonym for slave." His encouraging smile made my frown more permanent.
"Man, if that doesn't sound like a good time, I don't know what does." I rolled my eyes and grabbed the juice box off of Gerard's tray.
"Really Em, it's just taking papers from a cubicle to another and hanging out by the water cooler until someone's ran out of staples."
I could see that he wasn't all that pleased with my involuntary attitude, but geez - was I the first person who ever thought that the word 'slave' had a rather negative ring to it?
I didn't think so.
"Easy money.." He hinted, and snatched the juice box back. "You could even afford your own freaking beverages!"
I thought about it for a moment.. The rough reality was that I would indeed have to get a job. I wasn't sure what exactly had been on my mind when I'd come to the conclusion that starting college was an appropriate reason to quit my job - it's not like the professors here offered to pay your rent and buy you a shitload of coffee and cigarettes just for being a student.
I was amazed how this tiny little detail had slipped past me while I'd thought over my plan a couple weeks ago.
I pondered for this, even though I much rather prefered ignoring things out of my comfort zone - such as money issues- I decided that being a slave commonly refered to as the staple girl sounded a teenie weenie bit better than being that waitress who cannot be counted on not to drink the alcohol she's supposed to serving. The vivid vision of Fiona's sneering face helped me make up my mind.
"What do I have to do?"
Gerard clapped his hands together twice in a way that, to someone that knew, came off extremely gay. I was pretty sure he noticed this, and awkwardly placed his idle hands on his laps and took a deep breath.
"I gotta go and finish some drafts today so you could just tag along and work on the application until I'm done. It'll only take like thirty minutes. And if the manager is present, I could just introduce you right away.." He mused.
"Works as well as anything, I guess." I tried to appear nonchalant even though I was getting just a tad panicky on the inside. Gerard would have to live without knowing that, though, so I kept my indifferent face on and saved the full anxiety mode for later.
"Cool. I'm off to Belleville after I'm done here so I'll just pick you up at six? Sound good?"
"Okay." I agreed and grabbed the juice box once more before rising and running out of the lunch room.
I had a few classes to attend to and after I was done in this academy of time waste, I would go find Frank and sort things out. I wasn't used to not having him around, and I had a sinking feeling that his absence last night was due to our last conversation. Something about that pocket dial bugged him greatly, when it should've just given him a reason to make fun of me more than ever. As I sat listening to another dull professor perfoming an endless monologue, I realized that just like Frank's absence, Gerard's sudden decision to spend the night at the apartmet seemed to have someone's name written all over it.
Gerard had come hoping Frank would be there.
And Frank had been gone fearing I would be there.
My thoughts went back to the cryptic things he said that morning - about hearing Gerard and I over the phone not being the way he had imagined hearing whatever he'd heard.
Just as the professor dismissed the class, the smokey cloud that had been covering the meaning of his words, dissolved and left behind a perfectly clear and unequivocal fact.
Frank had a thing for Gerard.
The feeling was mutual.
I slammed my forehead against the desk and let out a whiney growl that sounded much like an animal in pain. I should've known it all along.. He liked Gerard right back, and I couldn't even begin to understand how much hurt that call had caused him. I tried to put myself in his shoes and imaginde overhearing my secret crush getting it on with my best friend, and even though I'd never really had a real cruch, the thought made me cringe.
His disappointed, sorrowful gaze now made all the sense in the world as I thought back to all the things that had indicated this. His very sudden and very quick liking to Gerard, the way the man just couldn't seem to hold a girlfriend, even maybe the fact that he did have a girl as a best friend. Granted, I wasn't the in the top five of the most feminine girls in town, but a girl non the less. Come to think of it, Grace and I were his only close friends - he was almost like one of the girls instead of us being partly guys like we always thought.
Somehow Frank's supposed homosexuality didn't come as a big shocker to me, more like a slightly sad, slow realization. Sad because as his best friend, I was entitled to this kind of information without having to go through the trouble to figure it out on my own, and also because the female population of the world just took a huge fucking hit by losing this fine groom candidate.
The thing that bothered me the most was the object of his manly love.
And admitting it bothered me even more. I didn't want him to have Gerard.
I wanted to blissfully ignore the fact that Gerard was gay, and continue hoping for 'the next time' to finally take place, and having these two fall in love with each other and form a happy couple did not fit my plans of happiness in any way.
I closed my eyes and sighed as I heard the selfish, uncaring Em rant away in my head, thinking things that were just so her to think, smoothly neverminding the feelings of others' as she went for the things that suit her the best.
The Em everyone knew.
The Em that perhaps, after all, is who I am.
How did it matter, if I did the right thing or not, when I would still be that Em to everyone I knew? I stomped across the hallway, passing giddy students so eager and content with their lives, and felt a strong urge to punch each and everyone in the face. Or like, sleep with their boyfriends or something equally fucking hurtful.
Bad things were what were expected of me. I don't think I was ever going to able to change that, not at this point, when all I'd done during my life had somehow built and strenghtened that reputation. Did I really live up to that image? Was I going to?
I could stop their relationship from ever happening, if I wanted to. It would only take a couple subtle lies, a few misplaced words, and things would take their course.
I stopped dead on my tracks as I passed a reflective glass surface that covered a great deal of the wall, and caught a glimpse of my displeased, distorted face. The girl that stared back at me perhaps wasn't what I'd ever intended to be, but what she definitely wasn't was someone good enough for Frank. He deserved better than my cunning plans to ruin this for him...
I don't know where the memory came from, but I found myself thinking back to the day I was allowed at Pencey Prep's band practise and how, while getting lost in Frank's singing, I had vowed to hang myself if I ever were to lose him.
I was either going to have to fix this, or find the money to buy a rope.
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