'Breaking into a sprint, Frank felt a tug on the back of his hoodie.' It's not easy, especially after that morning's events... But Frank isn't the only one going through a hard time. 'Gerard jump...
The thick glass double doors flung open with excessive force, sending a gust of lung-twistingly cold air and a few lost, lonely snowflakes into the pleasant warmth of the school building, as Frank burst through them eagerly. He wanted to see Gerard. He had to see Gerard. He had to make sure that he was okay, and comfort him and assure him that everything would be alright. It was all he’d thought about all day, his mind swirling with thoughts of the only person he cared about at the moment, unable to concentrate in class or even listen to music, which was what he normally did, day and night. Forgetting his own health, he didn’t even bother zipping up his jacket, putting on his hat or even his beloved skeleton gloves. It was all about Gerard right now…
Bam! Frank’s heart leapt up to his throat and, unsure of where the snowball, which had just flown right past his face and disintegrated
In a powerful collision with the brick wall to his right, had come from, he spun around, giving everyone around him the ‘I’m-going-to-fucking-kill-you’ look as he did so. His eyes remained fixed on one particular group of people from the second he spotted them, chuckling in front of the school doors. It was them. The same guys who had just possibly ruined Gerard’s life earlier that morning. Their sick faces were twisted with hysterical laughter – most of which was faked, of course – their square jaws hanging wide open as they attempted to mock Frank’s surprise. There was really no point in getting involved, even if they were the biggest assholes on the planet. Rolling his eyes, he spun around on his heel, ready to continue his journey to Gerard’s house when… Bam! This one collided painfully with his ear, sending darts of shooting pain through his skull. More half-faked laughter followed as Frank gritted his teeth, waiting for the ringing in his ear to stop – or quiet down at least – before spinning around once more to face the jocks, who were now standing a lot closer, their laughter fading out slowly, disappearing into the sharp, thin air.
“What do you want from me?” He sighed, doing his best to act natural, when inside he could feel fear building up, as if someone had dropped a mint into a fizzy drink.
They chuckled in response, suddenly making Frank feel small, as they looked around at each other with slightly raised eyebrows. “Look, little emo kid,” The larger guy spoke up. Little? Frank thought. They were the same age. “We saw you walkin’ to the principal’s office with the queer kid.” He raised his eyebrows even more. “What happened there…?” The rest of the team snickered. The hollow feeling in the pit of Frank’s stomach increased slightly. Fear.
“He’s my friend, okay? I was helping him out…” His voice came out as a slightly shaky half-whisper.
“Friend? That all? You sure…?” The snickering turned into laughter.
“Would you guys piss off?” He snapped, a wave of shock running through his body as he realized what he had just said. The laughter ceased, and was replaced with a suffocating silence and fierce glares from all the guys.
“What did you say to me?” The tension rose rapidly as the team captain breathed his words, letting them blend into the polluted Belleville air.
The silence that followed was one that would be hard to forget. The looming gaze of over a dozen eyes made Frank realize just how small and vulnerable he was, his arms and legs unusually skinny, the lack of protein in his diet meaning that there wasn’t much muscle for him to defend himself with. Feeling a cold chill run down his back, he made his final decision.
Breaking into a sprint, Frank felt a tug on the back of his hoodie. He still continued running for several seconds, before being harshly pulled backwards by a pair of massive, meaty hands. His back slammed against the brick wall, screwing his eyes shut in pain. Looking up, he saw that the team had him surrounded, pinned against the wall, with absolutely no way of escaping. Crap.
“So what really happened this morning, freak?” Came a faint Irish accent from the back of the group. Frank had recognized the voice as the one that belonged to one of the less threatening team members. Well, the guy may have been less threatening, but he could still beat Frank to a pulp. Anybody could beat vegetarian, lactose intolerant, four foot nine, skinny little Frank to a pulp. A third-grader could hit him hard enough to make his eyes well up with pain and tears.
“N-nothing! I s-swear! Nothing!” Frank was now shaking violently, which could be clearly heard in the words he managed to utter. Not only was he terrified out of his mind, but he’d also forgotten to put on his jacket, coat and gloves, and was now standing in the snow, against a brick wall, coated in a thin layer of ice, in a thin hoodie which was slowly beginning to soak through.
“Sure, we’ll believe that.” The big guy smirked, and all the other jocks, as if on cue, went into small fits of laughter over his sarcasm. There was a slight pause, where Frank simply stood there, helpless, looking up at his bullies through his fringe with those wide, innocent eyes, and shaking like plate of Jell-O, after which the guy added, “You better not be off to see that Gerald kid! I’d kick your scrawny ass all the way into space if I found out you were going to his house!”
Frank shuddered in an attempt to break free, only to have the grip on his shoulders tightened significantly. He winced in pain, trying his best not to show any disappointment whatsoever, despite being devastated that he won’t be able to see Gerard and let him know that people will forget and everything will be alright. He’d have to call him, but he wouldn’t be able to go over there, no matter how much he wanted to. It’s not like he could simply walk out of his house and across the street to see him, thinking nobody will know. He’d made the mistake of thinking ‘The jocks won’t find out if I do this’ several times before. Because they always found out. No one knew how, no one knew from who, but if they said not to do something, and you disobeyed, they always found out. It seemed like a bit of an exaggeration, even to Frank, who had been a victim of this many times, but it was true.
“Hello!” One of them gave Frank’s skull a powerful knock with his knuckles. “Is anyone in that thick skull of yours?”
In response, Frank gave a frantic nod, then let a quiet cross between a squeak and a grunt escape his trembling lips as the two powerful hands pulled him a few inches away from the wall, then let go and gave his shoulders a powerful push, sending him back onto the wall as his back slammed against it with an audible thud once more.
He slid slowly to the ground. Fuck, he thought, screwing his eyes shut for a brief moment. When he opened them again, he expected to see them turning away, walking home – or wherever it is they go - , leaving him to gather his thoughts and sit in the snow so pure it could make any place look peaceful and safe, even Belleville, and mask the hatred and fear that radiated from this lost town. The jocks, however, stayed put, blocking Frank’s only escape route. They stood in the same position: arms crossed, leaning back slightly, with the same smirks still plastered onto their amused faces. Frank’s bony, bare hands sank deep into the snow, as his large, innocent eyes peered out from behind his jet-black, tangled fringe. His lips, purple from the cold, were parted slightly with what resembled shock or fear – or both. He jumped to his feet, stumbling a little as his hands found the brick wall and helped to lift his weight from the soggy snow.
“C-c-can I get t-through?” His lower lip trembled as the shaky words quietly brushed past it, his voice full of uncertainty and something else – anger? He was now shaking violently with no jacket to protect him from the icy wind and his black skinny jeans soaked through from the snow.
The team exchanger glances, before the team captain turned to Frank and raised his rectangular eyebrows. “Oh, you’re not leaving without us, are you, Munchkin? I think we’re going to make sure that you don’t go to your little friend’s house.”
Frank’s eyes widened in shock. They were going to follow him home? But… but then they’d know exactly where he lived. They could do anything if they knew where he lived. He swallowed hard, imagining them throwing rocks through his window, leaving threatening or blackmailing notes, or even breaking in. Would they sink to that level? Perhaps not… However, one way or another, there was nothing he could do to avoid it – avoid them – now.
“What ya starin’ at, Freak?” The guy wrinkled his forehead, glaring at Frank angrily. “Go!”
The boy jumped at the larger guy’s tone, immediately obeying his command and setting off in the direction of his home after picking his battered schoolbag up off the ground, where it lay, soaked. It was unreal how much he hated these guys. They couldn’t be more stereotypical if they tried, he thought, digging his heels into the snow to avoid slipping and falling. He was right. They were literally the most stereotypical jocks you could find, with their square jaws, muscles bigger than their uneducated brains and that way of talking that only they could master. They were the ones that most of the girls in school wanted, for some reason. Not that Frank cared, of course. They were the ones who took the lunch money of every lanky kid with glasses that they could find. They were the ones people were envious of. They were the ones who though they ruled the school, and it really did seem as if they did. They were the ones who just didn’t give a shit, and Frank wished that he could not give a shit either.
This made all sport-loving people sound like this, but in reality, it was just this team. There were several other sports at Belleville High, which Frank, being the least sporty person he knew, knew nothing about. And as far as he knew, the other sports teams consisted mainly of much nicer people. Maybe that’s just because you simply can’t be any less nice than these guys. They’re the end of the social scale, and at the moment Frank was on the end too, only it was the opposite end. That is if Gerard hadn’t taken his place at the very bottom of the High School Food Chain after today’s events. Now he had to comfort Gerard. But he couldn’t. They were two steps behind him.
Gerard sat cross legged on his unmade bed with a sketch pad in front of him and a 2B pencil in his hand. He had no idea what to draw. This wasn’t normal; he always had an idea of what to draw. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a small plastic object, glinting in the few rays of sunlight which managed to break through the small gap in the curtains. A pen. Reaching over to his desk, he picked it up, replacing the pencil, then sat back against the headboard. So many things were going through his mind; he couldn’t keep track of everything. Maybe if he wrote his thoughts down…
Hand in mine, he wrote. He couldn’t wait to hold hands with Frank.
Into your icy blues, he then referred to the weather, as well as how he was feeling.
And then I'd say to you, we could take to the highway/}, was describing just how much he wanted to run away with him.
[/With this trunk of ammunition too
I’d end my days with you, in a hail of bullets
The words poured from his mind onto the paper. The pen leaked with rhymes and metaphors with every move of the hand which was normally used to holding a pencil, not a pen.
I’m trying, I’m trying
To let you know just how much you mean to me
And after all the things we put each other through and
I would drive on to the end with you
The liquor store too, keeps the gas tank full and
I feel like there’s nothing left to do
But prove myself to you, and we’ll keep it running
But this time, I mean it
I’ll let you know just how much you mean to me
As snow falls on desert sky
Until the end of everything
I’m trying, I’m trying
To let you know how much you mean
As days fade, and nights grow
And we go cold
The chalky white spirals of smooth snow and sharp ice, carried by the raging wind, collided with the brittle glass in Gerard’s window. His eyes shifted from the notebook, where words had spilled from his hand onto two pages, and glanced up at the tiny gap between the stained, old curtains. He thought about Frank, and how hard it must be to walk in this weather. The wind had picked up and temperatures dropped drastically in the last ten minutes, which would have been a shock to anyone walking – or even driving – home from school. Especially short, skinny, weak Frankie; the wind could take him away. But he would be here soon, and everything would be okay again. Gerard would offer him a hot beverage, maybe with a splash of something slightly stronger to help him warm up, and lend him spare clothes, letting the ones he was currently wearing dry on the radiator. But that’s when he remembered that the heating was off, and the air inside his home was bitterly cold. It was the only way to save money, money that could save his mother. He wouldn’t be doing Frank much of a favor if he made him get changed in the ice cold bathroom. Then again, walking around in soaked clothing might be a bit more uncomfortable. Just then, a thought hit Gerard, and it felt like a punch in the neck. What if Frank doesn’t show up? His eyes widened at just the idea of Frank leaving him alone at such a bad time, after such a bad day. Surely he wouldn’t do that… would he? No, he’ll be here.
Gerard let the fleece blanket drop from his shoulders as he got to his feet and made his way over to the fireplace. There was no money for coal. There hadn’t been any money for coal since everything started. The only coal in the house consisted of the few sticks of charcoal he used for drawing. But there was firewood. Okay, so it was stolen from the neighbors, but it was still firewood. And it was dry, unlike the soaked, snowy ground outside, where he stole it from just last week, after dark. A lot went on after dark in this house, and most of it wasn’t good. Nothing in his life – except for Frank and art – was good.
Deep in thought, Gerard gazed as the fireplace as a single spark from his cheap, blue lighter became an ochre flame and licked the stacked firewood, causing it to, as if in slow motion, erupt with amber and aureolin flames, like arms that reached up towards freedom, like tiny daggers up to heaven. Daggers made of copper and gold. He watched with sad yet hopeful eyes as the blaze grew slowly. He hoped that one day his world would be as bright as the embers rising before his eyes. He hoped that one day his mother would greet him with a hug as warm as the waves of heat smothering his face. And he hoped that one day he would believe that this was possible. Because he knew that it wasn’t.
Frank continued to tread through the snow, his small feet sinking deep into the paralyzing coldness of the snow. He’d put on his jacket, hat and skeleton gloves by now, but they didn’t help much, considering how much worse the weather had gotten in the past ten or fifteen minutes.
The jocks were still two or three feet behind, watching him intently and snickering about something stupid. Did they really have nothing better to do? Frank really wanted to ask them that, but he knew that he would get his ass kicked if he even tried to socialize with them. And then the one place he wanted to be right now came into view. He gazed longingly at the old house that held so many memories – some recent, some old, some good, some bad, and some that changed his life forever. Gerard was in that house, and he was most likely all on his own right now. His mother was probably home, but Frank doubted that she was taking care of Gerard. Everyone knew that she was a raging alcoholic, which is why she lay around in bed all day. Because of that, Gerard and Mikey had to do everything and Gee was always so busy. Mikey wouldn’t exactly be spending quality time with his brother either, after what happened this morning at school. Gerard needed a friend, or someone who is more than just a friend, to hug him and tell him that it’s okay. And Frank wanted to be here, he really did. He would be going there right now if it wasn’t for the threat of being eaten alive by angry soccer players.
“Whatcha starin’ at, asshole? Your boyfriend’s house?” A booming voice and some chuckling behind Frank made him jump ten feet into the air, causing him to lose his balance on an icy patch on the sidewalk.
Thankfully his right hand found a large pile of snow that had been shovelled to the side of the road and he pushed himself back up before gravity had the chance to slam his tiny body against the ice. This was followed by more giggling and snickering, which made all of Frank’s blood rush immediately to his cheeks, causing them to turn bright pink. He didn’t dare to look at them, and kept his eyes fixed on the sidewalk that stretched out in front of him. This was a nightmare. Well, at least he wished it was.
“Here.” Frank, muttered, stopping and turning around to stare up at his house. “I’m home, so you can go now.”
“Go?” The team captain raised his eyebrows. “So you’re not going to invite us in?” He emphasized in mock surprise.
Frank’s eyes widened, however his surprise was all too real. Were they serious? No, they couldn’t be serious. To his relief, the guy spoke again.
“Relax, Pansy. I wouldn’t step a foot in your shitty old house if someone paid me.” The rest of the team laughed loudly, though Frank didn’t consider this to be funny at all, and not just because it was making fun of him. But this was good. Now he could do what he planned. Pretend to go inside, wait until they disappeared around the corner, then leg it to Gerard’s house. And they wouldn’t even know; this plan was perfect.
“We’ll just hang out here for a half hour. Mitchell’s car is actually parked just down the road that runs parallel to this one. He would gladly bring his car around so we could stay nice and warm.” The guy added, nudging one of his friends, who Frank supposed was Mitchell. Suddenly his plan was over. Useless. And he just had to say what he said next.
“Don’t you have anything better to do?” Silence fell on the road, except for the whistle of the ice cold wind slicing through the air as it weaved through bicycle frames and window shutters, while Frank breathed his shaky question.
Something built up behind the main jock’s eyes. There was definitely rage, and a lot of it, but there was also something Frank knew all too well. However, it still took him several seconds to make it out. Hurt. Frank had found his enemy’s weakness. At that moment he realized that these people really didn’t have anything better to do. They were probably beaten at home, and even if they weren’t, there must have been some shit going on in their lives. They had no ambitions, no interests, no brain. Sport was their only escape. At that moment he also realized how much better he had it than them. His life was probably heaven on Earth compared to their lives…
“The fuck did you say, Midget?” Frank’s blood ran old as a voice flooded his ears. A voice so chillingly bold and furious; a voice that seemed so sure of itself it made the boy feel even smaller than he was. Much smaller. But then, out of nowhere, something none of them expected happened. Not one of them saw it coming, not even Frank.
“I said, ‘Don’t you have anything better to do’!” Coming from such a small person, his voice seemed even louder than it was. He spoke with a tone that made even the bigger guys jump, then go silent as their furious eyes bore into him, slowly widening as they filled up with a look of complete and utter shock. Frank himself didn’t believe it. “You must seriously have no lives if this is what you do for fun! I mean, what is the purpose of this? People don’t do things like this, it just doesn’t happen! Unless, of course, you’re all perverts or stalkers. Then it all makes perfect sense! Or private detectives. Are you really this obsessed with me, to the point where you spend all of your time on me? Because if you had something to do, you’d all be doing it right now.” He continued to rant, trying hard to hold back a wide grin which took him by surprise. This wasn’t as scary as it seemed; he should have stood up to assholes and bitches a long time ago.
“All I’m saying is, this is beyond pathetic, and you all need to get a life, because following me home, let alone hanging around outside my house for ages, just seems like the kind of thing someone who just escaped from a mental asylum would do!” With that, Frank gave them one more smirk, making sure they saw it, then turned around and, once inside his house, slammed the front door. Panting like a little dog, Frank let his small body slump against the door, frantically searching for the lock. It only took about three seconds for him to decide to spin around and peek out through the peep hole.
They were all stood outside, in the exact same position they were in when Frank slammed the door, escaping into the safety of his home. Hands in pockets, weight shifted onto one leg, expressions so puzzled you might as well draw jigsaw pieces onto them with a Sharpie. Some of them had their mouth slightly ajar as they stared pointlessly at the old, green, wooden door with peeling paint and a rusty handle. For whatever reason, this made Frank incredibly proud. Proud of himself. A smile spread over his face, making him feel like the world was peaceful, hunger was ended, there was no such thing as broken families and all bullies and dickheads had magically vanished from the planet. He felt as if, for once, the sun had shone on Belleville, exposing all evil and evaporating it into the atmosphere. It was as if the blizzard outside, angry parents or complicated teenage problems never even existed; as if it was all a figment of his sometimes overactive imagination.
It wasn’t long, however, before steel words ripped his fantasy into shreds, like the claws of a violent beast, tearing him away from the world where monsters didn’t exist.
“Where the hell were you? God, you rotten child! You’re always getting into trouble!” His father was standing in the living room, one hand placed firmly on his hip while the other one waved a crumpled newspaper in the air, as if swatting an invisible fly, as he spoke.
“Umm, no, actually…” Frank turned around slowly, glaring at the older man with eyes that almost seemed to sigh with annoyance. “I don’t get into trouble…”
Ignoring his son’s comment, his father raged on, “How long does it take you to get home from school? It sure as hell isn’t this long! Were you hanging around with Gerard again, you useless piece of-”
“There’s a fucking blizzard out-”
“Why are your clothes soaking wet? You’re supposed to be grounded, not having snowball fights with your friends!” The man screamed again.
“What?” Frank shook his head, pulling a face. “Snowball fight? What? For your information, I was busy getting shoved into a wall and followed all the way home by a whole group of people who want to punch my face in for no reason!”
“I’m sure they have their reasons! I can think of about a million, myself. Now get the hell upstairs and change into something dry!”
Narrowly avoiding a slap, Frank stumbled towards the stairs and began to climb, as far away from him as possible. His father was never like this before. He never really screamed for no reason, or took a swing at him. He never accused him of anything without evidence, or just lost it completely. He never confiscated Frank’s belongings before, either. Frank wasn’t really familiar with any of this until a few days ago; it all made very little sense.
Slumped against the wall next to the fireplace, with his knees pulled up to his chest and his body leaning slightly towards the comforting warmth and amber glow of the dancing flames, Gerard was back to holding a pencil and paper, leaning on a hardback encyclopaedia which rested on his knees and stomach. He’d sat like this for nearly an hour now, but the pencil still hadn’t made a single made a single mark on the slightly crumpled paper. The blizzard had almost stopped by now, and the winter sky was beginning to grow dark behind the creased curtains and the dirty, stained glass in the window. Frank hadn’t shown up. If Gerard could, he’d call him, but calling cost a lot nowadays. And coming over wouldn’t be a great idea, just in case Frank’s parents had heard about what happened in school that day and didn’t want him there. But Frank could call, right?
A quiet bang, followed by a muffled groan startled him, causing him to drop his pencil onto the floor. There was a moment of silence, followed by slow, heavy footsteps, and the sound of slippers dragging across the floor. His mother had gotten up, which could only mean trouble. Maybe Mikey could take care of it for once. Though, to be honest, Gerard wasn’t even sure if Mikey was home. He didn’t care all that much either; why should he?
The footsteps seemed to be approaching Gerard’s bedroom, which sent a slight chill down his spine, despite the beautiful combustion happening right next to him, and the intense heat that radiated from it. Her meds made her delusional; dangerous… She had very little emotion in her, other than rage. All she wanted was to get out of bed and leave, get away from the medication and the people who were stopping her – her sons. There was no love or compassion. She was like a robot, programmed to escape no matter what it took. It lifted all the weight off Gerard and Mikey’s wallets, and dumped it on their hearts instead. Neither of them were really sure how long it would take before the weight became too much, pushing them past their limits. Maybe a lifetime, maybe week or days. Hours…
Gerard jumped about ten feet in the air, hearing the loud bang on the door, followed by a short pause, filled with quiet shuffling sounds, then a few more, louder knocks. There wasn’t much he could do now. She’d find the door handle and walk in any second now, and there was no point in trying to stop her.
As if she had read her son’s thoughts, the woman did just that, letting the door swing open with a slow, chilling creak, a long, flickering shadow spreading across one of the walls. There she was, standing in the open door, her eyes bloodshot and caved in, large, vivid circles spreading underneath them like running ink, which Gerard often used in his artwork. Her cheeks were no longer smooth and rosy, but dirty, wrinkled from stress, and tinted purple from all the medication she received each day. Her hair wasn’t neatly combed, brushing her shoulders the way it used to. Instead it was greasy, tangled and thinner than that of a new-born. There was no trace of a smile, because she hadn’t smiled in years.
“Mom.” Gerard whispered, his voice much more shaky than he’d expected, coming out more like a short gasp.