"I called her and said you wanted to meet up with her," said the eighth grader, sounding proud of himself. Mikey's jaw practically dropped to the ground. At that moment, Alicia turned and saw them, waving.
"Hi Mikey!" she called sweetly. Mikey felt his face turn red, and Bob playfully punched him in the arm.
"Hey Alicia," said Mikey as they neared her. Alicia smiled.
"I'm gonna go grab some food," said Bob, coming up with the best short-notice excuse he had. He walked into the house and shut the door before Mikey could follow him. He watched the two of them through the tinted windows, smiling as he saw Mikey blush. They exchanged a few words with Mikey growing more nervous by the minute. Bob set his backpack down and nearly started laughing as Alicia tackled Mikey in a hug. The younger boy seemed shocked for a second, but quickly returned it. Bob applauded Mikey for his bravery, then sprinted to the kitchen as he saw them approaching the door.
"...I was starting to think you'd never ask," said Alicia as they entered.
"I was afraid you'd never say yes," Mikey said sheepishly. Alicia just laughed and hugged him again. Bob grabbed the closest bag of chips and went back into the living room, sitting on the couch and turning on the TV. Mikey and Alicia sat next to him.
Not more than fifteen minutes later, however, Mikey stood up.
"Something's wrong," he said, almost to himself. "I have to go..."
"Why?" Alicia asked worriedly. Mikey shook his head.
"I don't know...I just think something's wrong." Alicia stood as well and took his hand.
"I'll go with you," she said with concern. Mikey wanted to protest, but he knew she would follow him anyway. Bob turned the TV off and grabbed his house key, following them outside and locking the door. Mikey began to briskly walk down the sidewalk.
'It's Gerard,' he thought silently. 'Something's wrong with Gerard.' He looked at Alicia. She seemed as worried as he was, if not more so. He had had this feeling before, and it usually led to him bandaging cuts on his brother's arms.
He broke into a run. He had to get home before something happened.
"What should we do, Ray?" Frank asked frantically. Ray wasted no time, checking Gerard's pulse. It seemed fine, but was quickly weakening. He and Frank carried Gerard to the bathroom and propped him against the wall, then cleaned the blood off his arms. As soon as the white skin was clear, however, blood began to seep through the cuts like water being squeezed from a sponge.
Ray began to carefully bandage Gerard's red-scarred arms, but almost immediately the black-haired teen began to stir.
"Who's there?" he mumbled, head lolling to one side. He let out a hoarse laugh. "Where'd all the colors go?"
"Don't talk, Gerard. Just stay still," said Ray. "Frank, call 911."
"No!" Gerard cried suddenly, shocked eyes opening wide. "I'll be fine. I just need to sleep."
"Gerard, listen to me. Half of your blood is on your bedroom floor, and it's not stopping. Can you tell me why?" Ray asked, looking him in the eyes.
"My head was hurting, so..." he muttered. Frank smacked himself in the forehead.
"He took an aspirin. No wonder he won't stop bleeding," he said in exasperation. Ray continued wrapping the bandages around Gerard's unhealthily thin arms, seeing blood already start to darken them.
"This isn't working," he said, reaching for his phone. Gerard took it away from him.
"Please, Ray. I'll be fine if you just let me rest," he said. Ray stared into his pleading hazel eyes for a second, then reluctantly took his phone and put it back in his pocket.
"I'm home!" called a new voice from downstairs. Both Frank and Ray went pale.
"Mikey," they said in unison. Mikey, worried that he hadn't received a response from his brother, sprinted up the stairs two at a time. He went to Gerard's room first, and gasped sharply upon seeing how much blood had painted the floor. He back away from the door in shock.
"No," he whispered. Alicia caught up to him and tentatively looked into the room, placing a hand over her mouth when she realized what had happened. Mikey saw the light from the bathroom out of the corner of his eye and raced toward it.
"Hi Mikey," Gerard said as a wave of dizziness washed over him. Ray and Frank looked up once they realized he was there. Bob also appeared at the doorway.
"What...how..." Mikey tried to speak, but the sentences just wouldn't form. His mouth became dry, and he started hyperventilating again. He backed away from the door and retreated into his room, collapsing face down on his bed and crying hysterically. Alicia softly walked in and sat next to him, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"It's okay, Mikey...they'll take care of him," she said soothingly.
"It's not that simple," he said through his tears. His shoulders quaked, as if each sob was a separate stab of a knife between them. He began to explain everything to her, about how he should have seen this coming and said something sooner. "Bob even warned me," he said, sniffling. "He told me Gerard was in trouble, but I was too afraid to listen to him."
"I would've been afraid too, Mikey," Alicia said softly. Mikey turned over and sat up, kicking off his shows and hugging his knees to his chest. Alicia wrapped her arms around him in an embrace, and he cried silently into her shoulder.
Bob entered the room. "He just fainted. Ray said it was from blood loss," he said quietly. "They think he tried to kill himself."
"He's gonna live," said Frank, walking up behind Bob. Mikey almost smiled when he saw that they were the same height, even though Frank was two years older. "He just needs to sleep so his body can recover from it."
"I'm gonna stay awake until he wakes up," Mikey said with determination. "I have to. He's my brother."
"What about school tomorrow?" Alicia asked softly. Mikey shook his head.
"I'm not going. Not until I know he's okay." Alicia nodded in agreement. Ray appeared behind Bob and Frank, quietly asking for them to move. They cleared a path, and Ray carefully carried an unconscious Gerard into the room. Mikey and Alicia simultaneously stood so Ray could place him on the bed.
"It's settled then," said Frank. "We wait." Mikey glanced around the room, smiling slightly. For once it felt like he had friends. He suddenly shook his head.
"There's not enough room in here, even if you sleep on the floor."
"I'll take Gerard's room," said Ray, exiting. Frank followed him as well.
"Come get us when he wakes up," he called over his shoulder. Mikey nodded and sat down against the wall with Alicia right next to him. Bob was leaning against the wall, already asleep.
Several hours later, Mikey was lying on the floor and staring up at the ceiling with his arms folded behind his head. His eyes had become accustomed to the darkness, and he was able to see a few faint designs and patterns in the drywall. He rolled over, now facing Alicia, and closed his eyes, but the second he did the image of his brother's blood-covered body filled his mind. His eyes flew open not a second later, and he sighed deeply.
"Something wrong?" came Alicia's murmured voice.
"Can't sleep," he responded quietly. He saw her sit up and grab something out of her pocket, and he sat up as well. A small square of white light appeared in the darkness, illuminating her face like artificial moonlight. Mikey shaded his eyes against it, getting a slight headache. He realized it was an iPod when she handed him an earphone. He placed it in his ear and sat against the wall, listening as the song began to play.
Not even ten seconds passed before he realized she was singing along.
"Spend all your time waiting for that second chance, for a break that would make it okay. There's always one reason to feel not good enough, and it's hard at the end of the day. I need some distraction, oh beautiful release. Memory seeps from my veins. Let me be empty and weightless, and maybe I'll find some peace tonight..." Mikey nearly cried as she sang. Her voice was beautiful, and the song seemed to fit perfectly. Almost like it was written for him and Gerard.
"In the arms of an angel, fly away from here. From this dark, cold hotel room, and the endlessness that you fear. You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie. You're in the arms of the angel. May you find some comfort here."
He wanted to keep listening, he really did. But he fell asleep, lulled by the mystical sound of her voice.