It was a perfect night, Anette had decided. The weather was clear and cool, just like it should be at nine at night. The stars were twinkling bright, there was no wind, and there was a scent of summer and popcorn in the air. Her hand was warm in Chase’s, and their shoulders almost touched as they walked down the sidewalk away from the theater. Anette’s heart fluttered as he slowly rubbed small circles onto the back of her hand with his thumb. Yes, it really was a perfect night.
“That was such a good movie,” Anette said, squeezing Chase’s hand just the slightest bit. “Creepy, but amazing.”
“Yeah, it was… interesting,” Chase said a bit awkwardly. “I mean, when they said it was a psychosexual thriller, they meant psychosexual thriller.”
“But the metaphors! And the dancing!” Anette argued. “They were all fantastic! And I have to admit, that was the best movie I’ve seen Portman in in a while.”
“True. So… can you dance like that?” Chase teased.
Anette laughed, her voice light. “No, I can’t do ballet to save my life. But Noel probably could… I mean, she is dancing professionally.”
“Right.” They stopped near the back corner of the building, away from all the other people who were leaving the theatre. Chase pulled Anette against his chest. “Good choice on the date tonight. Nice and cheap and fun.”
Chase brushed some of Anette’s white blonde hair off her face and leaned down and kissed her. Anette immediately wrapped her arms around the back of his neck and their tongues met as her heart started to pulse faster and faster. Chase broke away from Anette’s mouth and started kissing down her neck, making her moan softly as she tried to catch her breath.
“Don’t fuckin’ touch me you faggot!”
Anette frowned, taken out of the moment. She had no idea where that had come from. Chase, however, didn’t seem to be too bothered by it, and continued sucking on her neck. Anette had just decided to ignore it when she heard a banging and lots of shouting.
“Chase, quit. Did you hear that?”
“Yeah, who cares? They’re not near us,” he said, and leaned in to kiss her again. But Anette pushed him away and started for the noise.
“I’m going to go see what’s up.”
“Anette,” Chase groaned, rolling his eyes, but he followed her around the building anyways.
The commotion was being caused near the big trashcans in the back. There were a group of boys there, all around seventeen like Anette and Chase. Three were standing, and two were on the ground. It was clear this was a fight, because the boy with the letter jacket and black hair in the center was pouring soda and ice onto the grounded boy with glasses and black clothes. The other two letter jacket guys were hauling the final boy with an afro to standing and started beating him against the trash can. Anette started to walk faster, determined to break this up. Chase followed her helplessly.
“Hey! Cut it out!”
Anette projected her voice much more confidently than she felt. She stood with defiance as the three letter jacket boys stopped and turned to face her. Anette recognized all three of them – they all went to school together – but she only knew the black haired boy’s name.
“What do you think you’re doing, Andrew?” Anette asked, stepping towards the group of boys. “I mean really, jumping people behind a movie theater? That’s low even for you.”
“It’s none of your business, Anette. And for the record, the nerd fag started it,” Andrew replied, jerking his head down to the soaking wet boy with glasses.
“I don’t care who started it, I’m ending it. So quit being a jerk and stop using that word. Go home, Andrew.”
Andrew’s friends looked at him, and he just shrugged. “Whatever. This isn’t over,” he added to the boy with glasses, and gave him a kick in the ribs before walking off. Andrew shoved Anette with his shoulder as he passed her. Chase grabbed Andrew when he did.
“Don’t you fucking touch my girlfriend, Andrew.”
“Whatever Chase, as if you would have the balls to do anything about it.”
Then they left, leaving Anette and Chase with the victims of Andrew’s cruelty and short temper. Anette immediately went for the one with glasses, trying to help him up. But he just shoved her hand off him and stood painfully. “I can handle myself. We were fine, you didn’t need to fucking butt in like that.”
Anette frowned even deeper now. “Oh yeah, you had it sorted all right. Fine, next time, I won’t even bother, if you’re going to be a jerk about it. Come on Chase, let’s go.”
Anette turned her back and started walking away. Just as she reached Chase, however, she heard a, “Wait.” She turned back around to see the one with an afro looking at her. “Wait. Sorry, we’re just… not used to people helping us out. So… thanks,” he said, offering her a bit of a smile.
Anette returned a soft smile. “You’re welcome. No one should have to put up with that kind of nonsense.” Then she and Chase left for his car.
“Jesus Anette, you could have gotten hurt,” he grumbled as they reached his car.
“No I wouldn’t have, Andrew doesn’t have the guts to do anything to me. If he did, his reputation would go down the drain,” Anette reasoned.
“Goddammit! Those mother fuckers!”
Anette and Chase looked over to see the two boys they had just left were only a few cars down, and the bespectacled one was kicking a car. “What the fuck?”
“Chill Mikey, I’ll just call your brother,” said the other one, pulling out a cell phone.
“Fuck that Ray, it’ll take him ages to get here!” the one named Mikey yelled.
“Problem?” Anette asked, walking over to them. Ray hung up his phone.
“Yeah. Those guys slashed my tires, and we’re stuck until Gee decides to pick up his phone.”
“Well, where are you going?”
“Across town. I live a few blocks away from the high school.”
“Oh, well, we’re going that way. We can give you a ride,” Anette offered.
“Wait, what?” Chase asked, and Anette turned to face him. “Anette!”
“Come on Chase, just help them out? Please?” She leaned in and kissed him. “For me?”
Chase sighed, and then muttered, “Alright, fine. Get in the car.”
“Thanks, my love,” Anette beamed, and she and Chase started for his car. Ray followed them, dragging Mikey, who was protesting quietly.
“We don’t even fucking know them.”
“Well, I know who they are, and they’re not with Andrew.”
“So? I don’t want help from fucking preps like them!”
“Fuckin’ chill Mikey, or you can just wait here all night with my car.”
That shut him up. They got into the back seat while Chase started up the car and Anette slid in the passenger seat. The drive was very awkward. No one talked, and Chase had turned off the radio. All they could listen to was each other’s breathing and the sounds the car made. Ray spoke a few times to tell Chase where to turn, and soon, Chase was pulling up outside Ray’s house.
“Thanks, we owe you,” Ray said as he got out of the car.
“No problem,” Anette replied. “See you at school.”
“Yeah… see you.”
And they left and Chase was pulling away for Anette’s house, which actually was only two blocks away.
“Thank you, Chase.”
Chase merely nodded.
“It was the right thing to do.”
They stopped outside Anette’s house. Anette leaned over and kissed Chase’s cheek. “Thanks for the movie. I’ll call you later, okay?”
And Anette walked up to her house, slightly confused about the night’s events. But of one thing she was certain about, and that was that the night hadn’t ended as perfectly as it had started.
“Hey, you finally got it fixed.”
Gerard was standing on his doorstep as Ray got out of his car, pulled out his guitar and locked the car. He pocketed the keys and walked up to the house.
“Yeah, and not a week too soon.”
“Right. I’ve got your amp; you might want to take that home next time.”
“Sorry about that, I’ll take it today.”
“It’s fine, I just don’t want Frank or Mikey to steal it.”
They walked over to Gerard’s open garage, which his parents had allowed him and his brother to convert into a practice space for their very-much-garage band. Frank and Mikey were already there with their instruments. Gerard looked over Ray as Ray set down his guitar to start unpacking it.
“Dude, you still look like shit. But you’re better than Mikey.”
“Well yeah, they kind of went after him more than me,” Ray reasoned.
“And I still think you’re both stupid for trying to fight them.”
“He called you a fuckin’ fag,” Mikey growled.
“Just let them. Getting pounded isn’t going to fix anything, Mikes. Besides, I don’t give a shit what they think about me,” Gerard said, slapping his little brother on the back.
“I do,” Mikey mumbled.
“Can we play some music instead of pissing about assholes like Andrew?” Frank suggested, and that was the end of that conversation.
Gerard and Mikey’s mom brought them all sandwiches and water when they took a break from playing. They were all really sweaty and tired, especially Frank, who had a habit of dancing around while he played. But it had been a good run-through of all their music, even if it was blazingly hot for an August afternoon and they were all exhausted by the end of the run.
“Fuck yeah we’re awesome,” Gerard said, holding his sandwich triangle up, toasting the cloud above their heads.
“If by ‘we’ you mean myself, Frank, and Ray, then yeah, we’re awesome,” Mikey said coolly, drinking his water.
“Why aren’t I awesome?” Gerard asked indignantly.
“Because you still think Hellboy is better than Batman,” Mikey replied, sticking his tongue out at his older brother.
“Oh not this again,” Frank moaned, shutting his eyes and shaking his head.
“Fuck yeah I do! Hellboy’s way better than Batman.”
“Batman’s better and you know it. That’s why you’re not cool. Even Frank agrees.”
“Don’t drag me into this, Mikey!”
“I think you’re awesome, Gerard,” Ray muttered, turning a delicate shade of crimson, but no one seemed to have heard this except Mikey. The moment of silence that followed was only broken when Mikey made a fake cough.
“So… school in a week… fuck.”
“Yeah,” Gerard said, now downcast, as he finished the last of his sandwich and went for another triangle. “I hope I can graduate – I have no clue what my credit situation is.”
“I thought you made up that math class you failed in summer school?” Frank asked, raising an eyebrow at his friend.
“I did, but… I dunno if it’ll be enough. And if I’ll get accepted into the art school I want. I still need to finish those damn applications.”
“Me too,” said Ray. “Some of these places want loads and loads of paperwork. It’s ridiculous.”
“Plus I’ll have to keep up my grades if I want to audition this year for the musical.” Everyone looked at Gerard, who just sat there in his normal disposition. “What? I’ve wanted to for ages, and I figure this is my last year, so I should just do it.”
“You… on stage… singing and dancing…” Mikey said, slowly starting to laugh as he formed a mental image of Gerard in a leotard belting out the lyrics to some opera.
“Gerard, no offense, but… you can’t dance,” Ray said a bit shyly.
“You’re never gonna make it in,” Frank added bluntly, finishing off his water.
“I don’t wanna make it, I just wanna see what happens,” said Gerard, still in his state of composure. “You don’t know until you try, right?”
“Right,” Ray agreed. “What show is it?”
“Grease, I think.”
“Who’s gonna play Sandy?” Mikey asked. “And Danny?” Even as a self-proclaimed “badass,” Mikey had seen that movie many, many times.
“Not me, that’s for sure,” Gerard answered. “But Sandy’s easy – that’ll be Anette Baker, she’s the best damn thespian in the school.”
Mikey’s jaw tightened. “Baker?” He looked at Ray. “Isn’t she that preppy slut from the movie theater?”
Ray rolled his eyes. “Would you give her a rest, Mikey? She helped us, you dumbass. And yes, that’s her.”
“Anette Baker? Blonde, pretty, blue eyes, right?” Frank asked. The other three nodded. Frank shrugged. “Okay. I know her.”
“How?” Mikey asked, momentarily fearing that she had slept with Frank or something.
“I kissed her in kindergarten,” Frank said off-handedly. “And I’ve had quite a few classes with her. She’s pretty smart, but I think she’s got problems reading or something.”
Of course Frank would say something like that. He was the only straight-A out of all of them, the only one who knew how to make shit blow up without lighting it on fire. Of course he would notice if someone had reading problems.
“Great, so we’ll have something to look forward to,” Gerard said a bit sarcastically. “Frank and Anette’s rekindled romance.”
“I don’t think she’d let me kiss her now, but hey, it was kindergarten.”
“Whatever, has anyone gotten their classes for first semester yet?” Mikey asked, desperate for a change in topic.
“Nope – I don’t think we get them until school starts,” said Ray, standing to go put his glass and plate in the kitchen.
“Great,” Mikey said, disappointed. “I want to find out when I have gym. I have to take it this year or else.”
“I thought Mom got you out of that,” Gerard said, shocked and disapproving. “Like, got you a doctor’s note or whatever.”
“She tried. They said it’s required and there’s no way out of the class. I talked to the teacher though and she might let me sit some stuff out if I can’t breathe.”
“Oh yes, let’s let education kill my little brother,” Gerard muttered, and he stood and followed Ray into the house.
Frank stood too. “Personally, I don’t think this year will be that bad,” he stated, and he too walked inside.
Mikey sighed, alone. “And I think it’s going to fucking suck.”
What are you wearing?
Anette paused, listening. Her fingers were poised over the keyboard, ready to type her response to Chase, but she needed to make sure no one was going to be barging in on her. She’d have a lot of explaining to do if her mom read her and her boyfriend’s chat history.
A nightdress. The purple one.
Anette thought about it for a second.
Just boxers. The ones you like.
Anette’s stomach felt a little fuzzy as she imagined Chase sitting on his bed with his laptop in nothing but his blue striped boxers.
When can you come over again?
I don’t know. It’ll depend on how school goes this week.
Okay. God it’s been weeks.
Only five days. I think you can handle that, Chase.
No I can’t. Fuck, I want you right now.
Anette giggled a little.
Oh yeah? How much?
It’s tempting to drive over and climb in your window.
And what exactly would you do while my mom is home?
Well, I’d have to gag you.
I don’t want you screaming while I’m fucking you senseless.
Anette was about to reply when she heard a noise from downstairs. She froze, listening with all her might. Someone was walking. They went to the bathroom, and then walked back to their room. Anette let out a sigh of relief. Thankfully, they hadn’t come upstairs.
Sorry Chase. I have to go to bed.
Night. Love you.
Love you too.
“Alright, I think we have everyone, so let’s get going!”
This was possibly the most difficult thing Anette had done since her last math final. She led a group of weary freshman down the halls of their new school, none of them very enthused by going on a tour lead by an upperclassman. But Anette had had to wake up early this morning unlike pretty much everyone else in the school, and she had to be as chipper as a good guide and role model should be, so if anyone had a right to complain, she did.
“So, where do you what do you want to do? Just go around the school, or go find specific classes?” Anette asked, surveying her group.
“Can we sleep?” one asked, and Anette laughed.
“I wish. But really, how do you guys want to do this?”
“Let’s go by classes. Where’s the Basic Art room?” a girl near the front asked.
“Follow me!” said Anette, and she lead them down the art hall. “Okay, so that’s the choir room, and the band room, and if you take that door right there you’ll end up in the theater if any of you have acting classes. Oh, and auditions for Grease are going to be in three weeks, so if you want to get into the theatre program, you should audition. There are lots of chorus and tech positions for freshman, and it’s really fun.” None of them looked too enthused, so she moved on. “Alright, here’s the rest of the art classes. Left to right is Photography, Drawing, Painting, and Ceramics.” A couple of kids started taking a few notes on where their classes were, and Anette smiled.
“Okay, so let’s move on. I’ll show you Freshman hall so you can find your lockers, and then we’ll head up to the English hall.”
The tour went on like this for the whole morning. The freshman slowly warmed up to her, and by the end, they were asking her all kinds of questions, mostly about the teachers, and she answered them with enthusiasm.
“What’s Mr. Zeiner like?” one boy asked.
“Zeiner? He’s brilliant, you’ll love him.”
“How much homework do you get in Biology?”
“Depends on the teacher, but I never had much when I took it.”
“Why do we have two vice principles?”
“Because Freeman’s only here to chase down ditchers. Never try and outrun him, ‘cuz he used to be a track star.”
Anette led the freshman back to the group in the cafeteria. By now, a number of the older students had arrived and were getting their schedules.
Anette turned around to see her friend Dawn walking towards her, green tote bag in one hand, purple schedule in the other and her strawberry blonde curls bouncing.
“This year is going to suck,” Dawn informed her as she came within speaking range, waving her schedule around. Anette pointed the freshman in the direction of the food lines and took Dawn’s schedule.
“It can’t possibly be that bad,” Anette said, reading the class list. “You’ve got Creative Writing and Yoga in the same semester. That’s pretty good.”
“Yeah, but I’ve also got Algebra II with Whiteman, and she hates me!”
“No she doesn’t.”
“Yes she does!”
“Well, if you would pay attention in class, she would probably like you more.”
“Don’t get all high and mighty on me!”
Anette just rolled her eyes playfully and went to get her schedule. It wasn’t that bad. She had Algebra II first thing, and then Junior English and Graphics Design. After lunch was Gym, US History, Acting III, and then a free period. ‘Excellent, I’ll have time to get dinner before rehearsals,’ she thought, handing Dawn her own schedule.
“Damn, I was hoping we’d have math together,” Dawn said grumpily, handing Anette back her purple paper.
“Yeah, but you’ll probably have Rach or Tyler or someone in there. I think we’re all taking it this year.”
Slowly, the school began to fill up with students. Dawn and Anette hung around Junior Hall after they finished putting some extra supplies in their lockers, waiting for the rest of their friends to show up. Rachel, Sarah and Kate showed up soon, with Jason and Tyler in tow. Anette didn't see Chase until she and Kate went to Algebra II together. He pulled her aside into a quick kiss before winking and going inside the classroom. Anette just smiled and followed him.
Anette and Chase compared schedules after they had sat down next to each other near the back of the room. They had this class, History, and the free period together.
"Good, I'll get to see my fair share of you this year," he said, licking his lips sexually.
Anette just giggled. "You saw more than your fair share of me this summer. I don't think any of the girls got a glimpse of me 'cuz you had me locked away."
"Hey, you were at my house of your own free will."
The rest of math went pretty much like that for the rest of the period. Anette left for English in an okay mood, considering she was now going to one of her most dreaded classes. She really hated English because she couldn't read a damn thing with her dyslexia, especially when she got frustrated and the words just floated off the page. They got a list of all the books they were going to be reading, and her spirit sunk. They were all rather complicated sounding books, and only one of them was modern. To top it off, the only person she sort of hung out with in that class was Tyler, and even then she didn't know him very well. And then there was the boy from the movie theater, the one with glasses. He just sat at the back by himself, not talking to anyone. Anette frowned a little at this, but decided it would be best if she just left him alone.
She didn’t know anyone in Graphics Design, but everyone seemed to be pretty lively, so she figured she would make friends pretty fast in that class. Come to think of it, she did anyways most of the time.
Since it was a short day, instead of lunch, Anette went straight off to Gym. She thankfully didn’t need to change, and instead just walked out onto the gym floor. Fortunately, she had loads of friends in this class. Sarah and Dawn were both there, along with Tyler and his friend Bob, whom she was on friendly terms with. Unfortunately, Andrew was in the class, and so was the glasses boy. Wasn’t his name… something with an M? Mitch? No, definitely not… Mikey. That was it. Mikey.
Anette left Gym for History with Dawn and Tyler. Andrew followed with his own gang of football players, and even Mikey seemed to be headed the same way, but he had been joined up by his friend from the theater Ray, and someone she did recognize: Gerard Way. They met Rachel at the door to the classroom. “Hey guys, I’m gonna sit somewhere else for now, ‘kay?” Anette said, leaving them and walking across the room.
Dawn and Rachel looked at each other, but then Dawn shrugged. “Whatever, Anette.”
She reached the table that Gerard and his friends had sat at. “Hey Gerard, can I sit with you today?” she asked, smiling her lipsticked smile.
Gerard looked startled, but eventually overcame that and said, “Uh, sure Anette. Go for it.”
Anette sat down, aware that Mikey was giving her a look like she was the plague and that Ray was frowning, though why she couldn’t imagine. Gerard looked very awkward indeed, trying to shift a drawing out of sight without her seeing. Anette pretended like she didn’t.
“So Gerard, are you gonna audition this year?”
“Yeah. I’ve decided I might as well,” he said, running a hand through his black hair.
“You better. You’re a pretty good actor, and I think you’ll definitely get a role, probably a pretty big one,” Anette replied, smiling.
“Really?” Gerard asked, one eyebrow raised.
“Yeah. You’re quite a bit better than a lot of the upperclassman.”
And so History went on in this fashion, Gerard and Anette geeking out about theatre, Ray sitting quietly writing music notes all over his paper, Mikey refusing to look at Anette, and a good portion of the class staring at Anette with expressions that said, “What the fuck does she think she’s doing?”
It turned out that Gerard and Anette had acting together next, so they walked there together, smiling and laughing, though Gerard was a bit awkward. It wasn’t like this was an every day occurrence, the popular girl and the art nerd walking and talking together. But it was comfortable for them, and they had an easy conversation.
Acting III was just as awesome as Anette had hoped it would be. The class was small, but composed entirely of people Anette had spent her whole high school acting career with. She and Gerard and another girl named Hailey all sat together on a couch, because Mr. Winchester’s room was filled not with desks, but with couches. This provided not only a very comfy place to sit and relax in, but good makeshift set pieces and sometimes they ended up in the shows.
Anette left her class grinning. Gerard left her for his drawing class, and she found Chase, who was waiting for her outside the school. They left for his house together, to do a little studying and a whole lot of kissing.
“Mikey, come on. It’s so much fun, you’ll learn loads, and it’s nerdy enough even for you.”
“Gee, I’ve never done any of this stuff before. I’ll be lousy at it.”
“No you won’t, they’ll teach you on the job. I never knew how to work a sound board until they put me on the mic crew for Cinderella. It was a blast.”
“You’re interviewing for tech. You’ll thank me later when you’re having the best time ever,” Gerard demanded, and he grabbed his little brother’s arm and dragged him into the theatre.
It had been about three weeks since the first day of school. Three weeks since Mikey had found out that Anette Fucking Baker was in three of his classes. Three weeks since she had dared to sit at their table in History (a stunt she hadn’t repeated since). And three weeks since Gerard first proposed the Mikey should interview to be on a tech crew for Grease.
Mikey supposed it was because his brother was lonely at theatre. Sure, the drama kids were sort of few and they were all pretty close friends, but none of Gerard’s main friends (Mikey, Ray, and Frank) were affiliated with it, except for freshman year when Frank played guitar in the pit for the musical that year, Guys and Dolls. But now it was Gee’s last year, and maybe he wanted to infect someone else with the drama bug. Mikey really didn’t know.
The theatre had quite a few people in it. A couple people were on the stage, including Anette. Everyone else sat in the seats, the veterans in the front few rows and chatting animatedly, and newbies, mainly freshman, sitting more near the middle, all of them nervous. Gerard took a seat in the second row next to someone he apparently knew, and Mikey sat next to him, not looking at anyone. He could feel people staring though, and he wished he could evaporate on the spot.
It didn’t take long for things to get started. “Hey, quiet please!” yelled one of the girls on stage.
“Thank you!” everyone who knew what was going on called back, and then there was silence.
“Awesome. Thanks for coming everyone! I’m the troupe president Beth, and I’d like to get things going as quickly as possible. Anette and Hailey are going to pass these sheets out while Mr. Wind and I explain the process,” Beth said, grinning. Anette and Hailey promptly began handing out the bright purple packets. Mikey thanked some unknown god silently when it was Hailey who gave him and Gerard the packet.
Beth talked about the troupe rules and expectations as Mikey read through the packet. It contained a lot of questions, half of which he didn’t know how to answer. Gerard helped him silently though as Mr. Wind took over, and Mikey slowly began penciling in his answers like everyone else around him was doing.
“So, I want boys to go with Mr. Rose, for the singing portion, girls to go with Carol to do dancing, and the techies to come with me so I can look over your forms and interview you,” Mr. Wind said, and everyone stood up. Mikey took his pencil with him, trying to finish as he followed all the techies to the backstage classroom. He told Gerard he’d do good as he left to go sing, and then he was all alone in a sea of drama kids.
Mikey ended up near the back of the line to his relief, and he finished up the last few questions, answering as best he could. He just hoped they would be enough. Or maybe they wouldn’t, and that would be fine too, because then he could stop all this awkward nonsense and just go home and chill with Ray and Frank and practice his bass.
Then it was his turn. He sat in the chair across from Mr. Wind as he accepted his packet and began glancing through it. “Mikey Way. You related to Gerard?” he asked, looking up at Mikey with an easy smile.
“Yeah. He’s my older brother,” Mikey said, unsticking his throat. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.
“Good, good. He’s a hard worker, so I expect you’ll be quite similar. Of course, I could be entirely wrong. I see you’ve never done tech before.”
“No, but I’d like to learn lights or sound. I fixed my brother’s amp once,” Mikey added, hoping that would be helpful.
“Really? Any other electronic hobbies?” Mr. Wind asked, genuinely interested.
“Um, well, Gee and I used to build models when we were little, and I would light them up. And I fix electronic stuff a lot. So I guess, yeah,” he ended lamely.
Mr. Wind’s eyes seemed to be dancing with delight. “Very good. Well, time’s up, but I think I know just what to do with you, Mikey. See you around.”
“Thanks Mr. Wind. Bye.”
Mikey had to wait for Gerard somewhere else—he wasn’t allowed to watch the auditions. Instead, he sat outside, looking over the lyrics for a new song Gerard had given him this morning to see if it had any potential. And of course, he was constantly thinking of a band name.
The four of them had decided to form a band at the beginning of summer, and although they were pretty good (in Mikey’s opinion) and had a few original songs already, they still didn’t have a name. Or a drummer. But since it was more in his power to make a band name than find a drummer, Mikey focused on the name. The word “chemical” had been stuck in his head for a while now, but he didn’t know what to do with it, other than something awesome. It was driving him absolutely mental.
“You gonna sit there all night or do you want to come home?”
Mikey looked up from the paper he had been staring at to see Gerard standing there, eyebrows raised. Mikey stuffed the paper in a notebook and the notebook inside his bag, slung it over his shoulder, and stood. “Yeah, I’m coming,” he replied, and they walked to Gerard’s car together.
“So, how was it?” Mikey asked as they got in and drove away from the school.
Gerard’s knuckles tightened on the steering wheel and Mikey immediately anticipated the answer. “It… well, half-sucked,” he finally replied. He gritted his teeth in agitation. “The singing wasn’t that bad. I think I actually did pretty good. But…” He stopped and tried to relax so he wouldn’t accidentally crash the car. “But the dancing fucking sucked. I screwed up so, so bad.”
“What do you mean?”
“So they taught us all this dance, right? Then we danced in groups, which were pretty small, ‘cuz there weren’t a lot of us. There were, like, four in mine. Anyways, I just couldn’t get the damn dance—you know I’ve always sucked at dancing. And then… it was just a fucking disaster. I’ll probably get chorus if I’m lucky.”
“Well, if you sing well, won’t you just get a part that requires lots of singing and minimal dancing?” Mikey asked, confused.
Gerard sighed. “I wish it worked that way. If you want any sort of lead, or role with like, important singing, you gotta be pretty much good at all three—acting, singing, and dancing. Plus, it’s Grease. There’s a lot of dancing in it.”
Mikey wanted to say that he thought Gerard probably did great, but didn’t want to press Gerard. He, instead, was silent the rest of the way home.
Ray didn’t know why, but he had for some reason insisted on bringing his guitar to school today. Maybe it was because he hadn’t gotten to practice the night before. Maybe it was because he had had a dream involving a specter-possessed monster truck destroying his guitar before it chased after him. Maybe it was the fact that when he looked over some of Gerard’s new lyrics this morning over his cereal, he had been struck with inspiration that just couldn’t wait. But probably, it was some combination of all three of the these things, in varying degrees of importance.
Either way, he was currently sitting in a corner he liked to frequent when he wanted to be alone, or when he was on his free hour (like he was now), with his guitar in his lap, his book bag and guitar case to one side of him, a notebook filled with lyrics and notes and a pencil on the other side. He was mindlessly strumming out a Metallica guitar line as he thought about the day’s events.
Gerard spent most of the day silent, meaning he was freaking out. Ray didn’t blame him. According to Mikey, his dance audition last night for Grease went badly (though Ray thought that this was just Gerard being harsh on himself and that it actually hadn’t been that bad), and now Gerard was thinking he wouldn’t get the part he wanted, or even a part at all. Ray, Frank and Mikey all thought this was nonsense, because Gerard had been doing shows since his freshman year, and had been in the theatre troupe since the end of said year. He had plenty of experience, and was sure to be in the show in some way. Though Ray could understand how badly Gerard wanted a key role in the show. So in a way, he was justified in all his actions.
Someone who wasn’t justified in their actions, at least in Ray’s opinion, was Mikey. Okay, they all got it. Anette was one of those people, those people who had been causing the whole group misery since they hit mid school. Those people who had given Frank swirlies, beat Ray up on the playground, harassed Gerard by putting rude notes in his locker, and broken Mikey’s glasses twice. Those people, who had beaten the crap out of himself and Mikey at the movie theater that summer night. But if Anette was really one of those people, why had she put a stop to it then? Why had she made her boyfriend give them a ride home, sat at their History table the first day, treated Gerard like an old friend? Ray decided that this was because she wasn’t really one of them, but just someone who pretended to be. She had been really nice to them all, which was what someone who was at the top simply didn’t do. And for this reason, Ray thought Mikey’s dislike of her was misplaced.
Speaking of Anette, she was walking down the hallway Ray was in, which surprised him, because he was in a rather secluded part of the school. She spotted him and smiled, to which he replied with a wave. She walked over, and said, “Hi Ray. Do you mind if I sit with you? I’m bored to tears.”
“Not a problem,” Ray said, shifting himself and his possessions around so as to not be in her way. “I’m not doing much anyways.”
“Sure you are,” Anette said, sitting down beside him. “You’ve got all this stuff out.” She mentioned to his guitar and the notebook.
“I’m pretty much finished anyways,” he said, closing the notebook. “I figured out a few riffs, so I’ll just have to show the guys after school at practice.”
“Yeah, band practice.” Ray was unsure of how much he could tell Anette. Even if she was nice, it could all be just an act. She was an actress, after all. “Me, Gee, Frank and Mikey are in a band together.”
Anette beamed. “That’s so cool! I didn’t know any of you could play instruments except Frank.”
“We just started this summer. But we still need a drummer. Know any?” Ray asked with a small laugh.
“Unfortunately, no. Do you guys have a name?”
“Nope. Mikey’s been thinking about one though for ages.”
They were silent for a few minutes while Ray packed his guitar away carefully and Anette got out some homework to start labeling. Finally, Ray asked, “How was your audition? Gee’s been flipping shit about his all day.”
“Well, I’m not the best dancer in the world, but I think I did okay. My singing audition was strong. I know I’m going to get a part, anyways. We’ll see about a lead though—they’re posting callbacks right after school.” Anette paused, checking something in her planner. “I’m sure Gerard will get in. He’s hard on himself, but he’s actually pretty good. I mean, I don’t think he could be Danny, but I could see him as Dominic or Roger.”
“Well, I’m glad you think so, ‘cuz he doesn’t. He’s convinced he’ll get chorus.”
“I doubt it.”
There was another pause as Anette sent a text back to Dawn, telling her she’d have to see if she was going to callbacks or not and would let her know then if she could hang out. But before either Ray or Anette could say anything more, the bell signaling the end of school rang, and it was time to go.
“See you around, Ray. This was nice.”
“Yeah. I hope you and Gee get callbacks.”
“Thanks. See you.”
Then they parted their separate ways, Anette to the theatre and call board, and Ray to his locker, car, then home.
Anette thought callbacks went pretty good. The only parts that were deemed worthy to get called back for were Sandy, Danny, Rizzo, Kenickie, Roger, and Frenchy. She was delighted that Gerard was called back for not only Kenickie, but Danny as well. She and Hailey both got callbacks for all three of the girl parts, and so did a few other girls. Dalton, a longtime and hardcore thespian got called back for all the guy parts, and a few others got called for at least two parts. They all had to do some acting scenes and sing a song for every character. It was trying, but Anette was pleased with herself. And now there was nothing to do but wait for Friday to come.
Thursday afternoon, Chase decided he should go run if he wanted to continue getting in shape for football, so Anette was left alone once again. She decided after much consideration to go down to the hallway where she had accidentally found Ray on Tuesday to see if he was there and willing to put up with her again. She found his company nice and comforting, more so, oddly, than any of her friends could give her, even Dawn.
And she found him in the same place, sitting with a book in his lap and headphones in his ears. He looked up when she approached, and pulled out a headphone. “I didn’t think I’d see you again privately so soon,” he said, smiling a bit. “What’s up?”
“Chase decided he needed to run, so I’m alone again.”
“And you come straight to me? Don’t you have a ton of friends?” Ray asked.
“Not a ton. And none of them have free periods when I do except Chase,” Anette explained, sitting down and pulling out some work of her own. “I won’t bother you, but I like to at least have company. It helps me focus.”
And so they sat in silence. Anette had to admit it was pretty weird. She had never hung out with him before this year ever, despite knowing him (well, of him) since sixth grade. And now here she was, someone from the top of the social pyramid sitting along side a person from the bottom in a deserted hallway.
Anette decided she should work on her math homework, as she had a lot of it and it would take her a while. She lugged out her heavy textbook, a sheet of paper, a pencil, and set to work on the thirty problems they had been assigned this morning. She worked in silence through the first ten problems, but she was getting increasingly frustrated as everything started to become confusing and the numbers began to move around on the page.
She finally shut the book shut with a loud snap, making Ray jump a little. Just as Anette was putting away the book, he asked, “You okay?”
“No. I’m done with this stupid math. I can’t read anything.”
Ray frowned. “What do you mean?”
Anette hesitated. “I um… well… don’t tell anyone, okay? I have… dyslexia, and I have problems reading, especially when I get agitated. And right now, my numbers are re-arranging themselves without permission, and I didn’t really understand the problems anyways.”
“Do you want some help? I’m pretty okay at math,” Ray offered, marking his place in his book and shutting it.
“I—” Anette stopped. She almost never asked for help from the people she knew the best. But she had this feeling that she could ask Ray and he wouldn’t tease her or make her feel stupid. Maybe it was because he was a senior and all her friends were juniors. “Sure. Thank you,” Anette said, pulling her book back out and opening it with a sigh. She pointed the eraser of her pencil at problem twelve as Ray scooted closer to her to get a better look at the book. “We’re doing exponents and stuff, and I can reduce the easy problems, but what the heck do you do here? And is that a five or a seven in the first power place?”
“It’s actually a three,” Ray corrected gently, and he pulled out his own pencil and started working the problem on her page. “You see, all you really need to do is solve these out and add them, and they’re pretty simple. Two to the power of three is eight, plus five to the power of two is twenty five, so you get thirty three.”
“How do you know this stuff?”
“I can do the math in my head. But you can always put it in your calculator or multiply it out on your paper if you need a visual.”
“Visuals are good.” Anette wrote down the work and solution to number twelve, then looked at the next problem for a good minute before asking, “What about this one?”
Friday seemed like the longest day of Anette’s life, or at least one of the longest. The entire day, she didn’t really pay attention to anyone or anything. Not her math class, not the graphics tutorial, not how many laps she ran, not how Dawn thought she and Tyler might have a thing, and not at all how Chase kept blowing her off for sports. Even during her free hour, she sat in a corner by the theatre doors with her headphones in and listened to music, not doing anything except worrying about the cast list.
Finally, school was out, and there was a mad rush of theatre kids to the call board to see the list. Anette scanned the crew list first, too nervous to check the cast list. Good, Beth was going to be stage manager, and she saw that Mikey, who she had seen there with Gerard, was on light crew. Then from the bottom up, she started scanning the cast list.
The chorus was composed mainly of first-time auditionees, most of them freshman. Continuing up, she saw that Hailey had made it as Rizzo, and Anette grinned, but then gasped. Gerard’s name was next to “Doody.” Her grin grew wider. Dalton was playing Danny – that was no surprise. And then Anette nearly fell over, because right next to “Sandy” was her name. She absolutely couldn’t believe it. She had gotten the lead!
Anette read the note that said for everyone in the show to come get a rehearsal schedule right away, and for the cast to get their scripts and music. Anette signed her initials on the list, accepting her role, and then ran off to backstage.
“ANETTE! WE GOT LEADS!”
Anette was practically tackled by Hailey, who was completely ecstatic. “I know! I’m so excited!” Anette cried, hugging Hailey tight.
“I can’t believe it!”
“Hey Anette, congrats. You too, Hailey,” said Dalton, nodded at them. He held the schedule and a script in his hands.
“Thanks Dalton. I knew you’d get Danny,” Anette said, smiling. He left, and she and Hailey got their required materials, chatting animatedly about their parts. They both thanked Mr. Wind for giving them the parts, and then they left.
On the way out, they ran into Gerard and Mikey, who were both looking rather dumbfounded. Anette grinned when she saw him and hugged Gerard tightly. “Gerard, you got in! I knew you would!” she practically yelled.
Gerard just laughed in a sort of oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-it way. “I… I really thought I wasn’t gonna make it. This is insane…”
“Yeah. Hey, congrats both of you, though. Rizzo and Sandy,” Gerard said, giving them a thumbs up.
“Thanks,” Anette and Hailey said together.
“Well, see you Monday, Gerard,” Hailey said, and they parted ways.
“Oh, sweetheart, this is wonderful!” Anette’s mom, Shirley, said and hugged her daughter. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Anette said, grinning.
“What do you want for dinner? This calls for a bit of a celebration.”
“Pasta’s good,” Anette replied. From another room, they heard Anette’s younger brother, Terrence, start to cry.
“Oh goodness, Anette, can you see what’s wrong?” Shirley asked, pulling out a pan and set it on the stove.
“Got it, Mom.” Anette left and found her brother in the living room. He was sitting and crying, and due to the fact that he was about three, there was a good chance he had been walking and fallen.
“Shh, shh, it’s okay, Terrence,” Anette cooed, picking him up. “What happened?”
“Fell,” he mumbled. He was still crying, but at a lower volume now.
Anette kissed his red knee and snuggled him. “Better?”
“Good. Mommy’s making dinner. You ready for pasta?”
Anette just smiled and brought him into the kitchen where the family stocked some coloring books and a lot of crayons so they could color together. Terrence was probably more precious to Anette than anything else she owned in the world. She had been helping to take care of him since he was born. After their father died, her older sister Noel was still in college, and her mom had to work full-time at the flower shop she owned to keep up with all the payments, meaning Anette was pretty much always in charge of Terrence. And because of this, Anette felt they had the most special bond in the world, as cheesy as it sounded.
While the two kids colored and Shirley cooked, Anette told her mom all about the show and who was who and how excited she was. Even after dinner and Terrence had been put to bed, they read through the first scene together, Anette marking all of her lines as she went. She went to bed late, knowing her weekend was going to comprise of lots and lots of work.
In celebration of Gerard’s success, the four of them met at Ray’s house for a weekend marathon of video games and awesome movies. They beat all of New Super Mario Brothers on the Wii, watched just about every super hero movie Ray had, and ate lots of pizza. Ray’s mom was happy to accommodate them as she usually did, making sure they were alright and weren’t doing anything really dangerous. But, then again, with them, video games were a dangerous adventure.
“Oh fuck no, Frank, I’m winning this race!” Mikey yelled, turning his wheel this way and that as they raced four player on Mario Kart Sunday afternoon. Frank just laughed maniacally and shot a banana behind him, stalling Mikey just long enough so he could win the race. “FUCK!” Mikey yelled, and he tackled Frank. Ray and Gerard nearly tied for third, and they just laughed as Frank stole Mikey’s glasses and ran away from him.
“You’ll never beat me, Mikes, I’m the King of Mario Kart!” Frank yelled, and then Mikey blindly tackled the shorter boy and got his glasses back.
“Another round. I’m going to fuckin’ beat you one day.”
“Alright, let’s go! You and me, Mikey!” Frank cut off Ray, and he and Mikey scrambled back in front of the TV and started up their fierce battle.
“We’re going Gold Mine first.”
“Fine, then Maple Tree Grove.”
“Fine, then we’ll do fuckin’ Rainbow Road!”
As the two started racing, Ray and Gerard watched them from the couch, giving a running commentary on the race through Wario’s Gold Mine.
“And they’re off!” Ray called in a deep voice. “Yoshi immediately takes the lead, much to Luigi’s disappointment!”
“Shut up, Ray,” Mikey muttered, trying to shove Yoshi off the track.
“Oh! There goes Yoshi off the first jump, will he ever catch up?”
“Gerard,” Frank warned, his finger pressed so hard to the acceleration button it was turning as white as the remote.
“And OH! Luigi ran smack into a flock of bats!”
“Yoshi just employed some lightning in a desperate attempt to catch up to the leader, Princess Peach!”
“Shut the fuck up!” Mikey and Frank yelled together, both swerving and dodging and driving their little karts as fast as they could.
Ray and Gerard laughed, but they stopped their commentary. This was just how life should be – friends, competition, and a few good games. And not to mention as much pizza as you could eat.
Gerard was groggy at school the next day. He and Frank had stayed up until two playing Minecraft and watching Grease in hopes that it would get him ready to be in this show, but all it really did was make him tired as shit. He sort of drifted through his classes, especially in the morning. It was tempting to sleep during Acting on one of the couches, but he forced himself to stay away and come first rehearsal, Ray had brought him some coffee and he was awake and ready to go.
“Alright everyone, I want to say congrats for getting into Grease! We’re going to have a lot of fun and work hard, and I hope you enjoy it. Mr. Rose is going to run the vocal rehearsal today while I meet with the stage managers. Let’s make this show amazing,” Mr. Wind said, and everyone cheered. Mr. Rose started the warm ups on the piano, and everyone in the cast immediately started singing with him. Gerard found himself standing next to Anette, who grinned at him.
After warm ups, Mr. Rose split the chorus up into sections and they got to work learning Alma Mater, which Gerard thankfully already knew the words to. Then the chorus kids got to go home while the remaining cast members learned Summer Nights, another song Gerard knew. He had to admit, Dalton and Anette were both pretty amazing singers, and he could definitely see why they were cast in the roles they were. Dalton had this sort of cocky greaser attitude sometimes, and Anette was perfect for a love-struck, goody two-shoes girl.
They got out at about five thirty. Gerard sang to himself the entire way home, trying to keep in mind everything he had just learned, and then he ran the few lines he already knew. He was pretty proud of himself – he had never learned a part this quickly before. He wanted to at least learn all his lines in the first act by the end of the week.
“Gerard, get your nose out of that script and eat,” his mom commented sharply. Gerard looked up from his script, not even realizing that everyone else at the table was eating dinner.
“Sorry,” he said, marking his place, and helping himself to some mashed potatoes.
Mikey was running.
It was a dangerous thing to do for him, running. His heart got pounding too quickly, and then he started breathing harder and harder, until the asthma kicked in, then he couldn’t breathe at all. This was why he hated gym with a passion.
Mikey was already having a bad day. Andrew had tripped him in the hallway between Government and English, and he hadn’t quite managed to finish his art assignment, so now he was behind. And now, Coach Jordan was having them run laps on the field outside. It was a bit chilly, but that was to be expected – it was almost October. Mikey could feel his heart pounding against his ribs, wondering how many laps he had run. He didn’t remember, but instead though that this was probably the point, and that it was all part of Coach Jordan’s evil scheme to kill him through exercise.
There was a stitch in his chest now, and he feared an attack wouldn’t be far behind. But he was at the end of the track that was the furthest away from the school, and if he stopped, he’d get in trouble, maybe get a fail for the day. So he kept running, his breathing starting to get wheezy.
Before he knew what was really going on, Mikey was smashing into the concrete of the track, unable to breathe, his lungs on fire. A few people screamed, and he heard footsteps quickly approach him.
“Dammit, asthma,” he heard Coach Jordan swear. “Uh, Baker! I need you to stay with him, I’m going to get his inhaler. Where is it, Mikey?” she asked, leaning down to him.
“Pack,” he managed to wheeze out.
“Keep his head elevated,” Coach Jordan said before sprinting to the school, shouting at someone to go get the nurse. Mikey wondered for a split second if she even knew what his bag looked like. But he forgot this thought when his lungs felt like they were combusting.
In the noise of panic all around him, Mikey heard one calm, soothing voice. “Hang on Mikey, Coach’s running fast as she can.” He opened his eyes to find the world a big blur – his glasses must have fallen off. The blob above him was this white-gold one, and it was kneeling close to him. They pulled his head up into their lap, and he felt that maybe he could get a tiny bit more air. He couldn’t quite make out the words they were saying as they ran their fingers through his hair, but the voice was sweet and calming.
“It’s okay Mikey, just try and keep calm,” was one phrase that he caught. And he did, he really did, and it helped a tiny bit. But it was hard to be calm, because he couldn’t breathe for fuck’s sake. Blobs formed around him as the class started to satisfy their curiosity. He thought he heard Andrew calling him a faggot, as usual, but he didn’t care. He just tried to focus on living, because that was far more important. But damn, he really wished he could see.
Coach Jordan was back in a few minutes with his inhaler in hand, and Mikey took a shaky breath from it. The medicine creeped down his windpipe and he felt a little relief. After several doses, he was breathing easier and his chest didn’t feel like it would explode anymore.
By the time the nurse got there, Coach had dispersed the rest of the class to the locker rooms and instructed the person holding him to help him to the nurse’s office. And so they helped Mikey up and walked shakily across the track and into the school. “I’ve got your glasses,” the person said reassuringly.
“Thanks,” Mikey mumbled.
When they got to the office, the bell rang signaling the next class was about to start. Mikey groaned. Great, now he was going to miss History. Could this day get any shittier?
“Set him here,” the nurse said, and he was set down on a blob that turned out to be a bed. He was handed his glasses, and he shoved them on his face, making the world come back into focus.
The first thing he saw made his stomach twinge unpleasantly. Standing in front of him was Anette Baker, a worried expression on her face, her white-blonde hair tied up in a ponytail, and still wearing her gym shorts and baggy tee-shirt. Had it really been her that had stayed with him? Yeah, it was, now that he thought about it. Coach had told her to.
“You feeling better?” she asked in a small voice.
Mikey was stunned. Why the hell had she, a motherfucking prep, been helping him? Even caring whether he was okay or not? Shouldn’t she be in History, laughing it up with her table of friends about how Mikey Way biffed it on the track and nearly died? But no, she was there, she had helped him, and now she was looking at the floor, a slight blush creeping over her cheeks.
“Fine,” he finally spat out. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” She kept looking at the floor until the nurse came over. “I’ll go get your bag,” she said, and then walked out of the room.
She was back a little less than two minutes later. She had changed back into her uniform, let her hair down, and was carrying both her own and his bag. She set his bag down by the bed, said, “I’ll tell Zeiner what happened,” and then left again, looking embarrassed.
And that was the greatest mystery of the day, and it drove Mikey mental, because he could not figure her out.
Anette was very curious about the notes on the call board that appeared about mid-October. It read, "Gerard, Matt and Dalton, see me -Wind," and Anette hope to all goodness that none of them were in trouble. That would be terrible, especially with opening night just over four and a half weeks away.
Speaking of the show, it was going amazingly. Anette spent just about every waking moment either going over songs or lines in her head or actually on the stage running her blocking. And everyone involved was doing such a wonderful job. The set was looking really nice, props were coming along, they had costumes almost finished, and they had started using lights and sound at the beginning of the week. Anette really couldn't have asked for more, and didn't feel like they would be in the squeeze they usually were during tech week.
It was also odd, because she was hanging out now with people she had never in her wildest dreams would had spent a good deal of time with. Chase was so busy with sports, and so was Rachel, that they hardly ever saw each other. Dawn was working her butt off for Student Council, organizing Homecoming Week, which would be the same week as Halloween. And because of this, Anette’s spare time she had that wasn't lunch was spent with Ray Toro, who was a bit shy, but brilliant, and was helping her pass Algebra. While this was an oddity, Anette found herself liking Ray more and more (as a friend of course). The one time she did eat lunch with him, he was with his other friends, the Way brothers and Frank Iero. They were quite an interesting bunch, and one time, Anette caught herself wishing that they were her friends instead of Rachel and Kate and Chase because these four were far more interesting.
But even though they were spectacular, one was not, and that was Mikey. He never said anything to her, and not really to anyone else when she was around. It was weird, because from what she had heard from Gerard, he was usually a bit talkative and was much nerdier than Gerard, but maybe not more than Ray. Anette wondered if she had done something wrong, but Gerard assured her that Mikey was just being an asshole and needed to stop being shy or whatever it was that his problem was. Anette hoped this was the case, because she didn't like it when people were mad at her.
At the end of the day when Anette and Ray parted ways and Anette found herself in the theatre once more, the explanation of the note from the morning was there on the stage. Mr. Wind was up there, and so was Gerard and Matt, but Dalton was no where to be seen, and he was never one to be late. "Everyone, please take a seat," Mr. Wind said, and not in his usual chipper voice. No one talked louder than a whisper as the cast sat down. Anette sat right in the front row, catching Gerard's eye. From the look on his face, this wasn't good.
"Alright everyone, we've got some major changes to discuss," Mr. Wind said, looking at everyone. He took a great sigh, then said, "Yesterday, I was informed of a party that went on over the weekend from one of the other teachers. At first, I didn't worry, because I knew that all of you knew you are on contract." The contract of which he spoke of was similar to the athletic one, in that if you did drugs or drank while a show was in rehearsal, you were kicked out of the show. "But then I decided to check, just in case." He paused to take a breath. Whatever had happened, he was pretty pissed about it. "Unfortunately, I was wrong. Dalton will not be joining us for the rest of the season."
Murmurs ran through the cast. Hailey muttered, "That idiot," to Anette, who nodded.
"That is why I've called this meeting. Gerard here was my second choice for Danny, and so he will be taking over his role, while Matt will takes over his role of Doody. I expect every one of you to help both Gerard and Matt with lines, lyrics, and dancing. After warm ups, we're going to start learning this show again from the top."
Everyone groaned as they stood up, including Anette. Poor Gerard. It was great that he was picked, but he now had only half the time to learn the lead role, not to mention perfect all the songs and dances, which Anette already knew he struggled with. So when warm ups were done and everyone was grabbing water before they started Scene One, Anette pulled him aside.
"That must have been a shocker," she said, concerned.
"Yeah... yeah it was," Gerard finally said, running his hands through his messy black hair. "Anette, I'm not cut out for this role."
"Stop thinking like that right now. Of course you are or Wind wouldn't have put you in it. He did say you were his second choice, after all."
"Yeah, that's true."
He was looking paler than usual, which was saying something. So Anette made up her mind. "You doing anything tonight?"
"Besides learning an entire new part?"
"Good, you're coming to my house and I'm teaching you the songs."
Gerard looked a bit startled. "Really? You sure that'll be okay?"
"Yeah, my mom won't care. She'll probably be working late anyways, she has a huge order of wedding flowers she has to fill for this weekend."
"Well... I'll call my mom and ask. Is it okay if Mikey tags along?"
Anette's stomach clenched a bit, but she said, "That's fine. Dinner will be provided, but you'll have to put up with my little brother."
"How old is he?"
"Not a problem."
Anette smiled, squeezed his shoulder, and said, "Gerard, you're gonna be great."
"Let's get started!" Mr. Wind yelled, and everyone took their places to start the scene.
Gerard had called his mom after rehearsal - Anette's house would be fine as long as the two of them were home before curfew at midnight. Mikey didn't look too happy when Gerard told him where they were going, but he didn't say anything from the back seat of Gerard's car as they drove to Anette's house.
"It's so weird driving," Anette commented as Gerard pulled up to her house. "I usually walk."
They all got out and started up the walk to her house. It was big and white, with a large porch, flowers of nearly every color imaginable growing everywhere, and a trampoline in the side yard.
Gerard whistled. "Damn, Ray was right. You do have the nicest house on the block."
Anette smiled. "Thanks. My dad used to be a lawyer."
"Used to be?"
"He died my freshman year."
"Oh," Gerard said, frowning. "I'm sorry."
"It's fine, you didn't know."
Anette led them inside. Her mom must have just dropped off Terrence from being in the shop, because he was sitting in the living room with potting soil on his face and hands. His blue eyes lit up when he saw Anette. "Annie!" he called, making grabby-hands at her.
"Hey buddy," she said, smiling and picking him up. He smelled like fresh dirt and flowers. "This is Gerard and Mikey, they're going to be here for a while, okay?"
"What do you want for dinner?" Anette asked Gerard and Mikey, but it was Terrence that responded with enthusiasm.
"Mac and cheese!" he cried, grinning.
Anette shot Gerard a look, but he just grinned as well. "Sounds good to me. He's got good taste," Gerard said, winking at Terrence.
"Most days. Alright Terrence, let's get you cleaned up-"
"Not, not a bath, just get your hands and face clean so you can play, okay?"
Terrence frowned. "Okay," he said grumpily.
"You guys can go pretty much where ever you want," Anette called over her shoulder as she took Terrence through her mom's bedroom and to her bathroom to get him cleaned up. He protested a little, but Anette just talked to him gently and soon he was cleaner than clean, and she took him back to the kitchen to let him color while she made dinner.
Gerard had his script out and was reading lines so fast Anette didn't think it was humanly possible, but he said, "Mikey's in the dining room. I think he's just playing WoW on his laptop, so he shouldn't be much of a problem."
"Wow?" Anette asked, filling a pot with water and setting it on the stove to boil, then pulling out a pan to make the sauce in.
"World of Warcraft. You know, the online fantasy game?"
"Oh, right. I've just never heard it called that."
Gerard laughed. "Obviously you haven't hung out with Ray that long."
"You know about that?" Anette asked, opening the fridge and choosing a few different cheeses and the milk that still looked okay.
"Yeah. He told us you just kinda found him."
Anette didn't know whether this was good or not, and felt surprisingly self-conscious. "What does he say?"
"Nothing bad. He thinks you're pretty nice, but weird 'cuz you like hanging out with him."
"I like hanging out with you, too."
"Thanks, but it's not like you have a choice," Gerard said, pulling out a stack of sticky notes from the depths of his bag and started marking pages in the script. "To hang out with me, anyways. We're kind of the leads of the show now."
"I'm making you dinner, aren't I?"
They didn't speak for a few minutes as Anette started making the cheese sauce and cooking the noodles and Gerard read the script, his lips moving silently as he spoke the lines to himself.
"Annie, all done!" said Terrence, and held up a picture he had finished drawing with his crayons. It depicted Anette, himself, their mom, and their older sister Noel all standing together smiling. Anette smiled, feeling a prang of sadness that their dad wasn't in the picture.
"It's good, Terrence."
"Here!" he said, giving it to her. She set it down on the table.
"Thank you. I'll go put it my room after dinner."
"Okay," he said, wriggling out of his chair and walked shakily out the room to go play with some of his other toys. Anette cleaned up his crayons in between cooking chores.
Gerard glanced at the picture. "Who's the other girl?" he asked, motioning to Noel.
"My older sister Noel. She's in college right now, majoring in dance."
"Talent runs in the family, eh?"
"I guess. Dad used to be a really good piano player. He's the one who got me into singing."
"Did Terrence ever know your dad?" There was silence as Anette tried to decide on an answer. Gerard, however, shook his head. "Sorry, that was stupid, I-"
"It's fine. And no, not really. He died when Terrence was about six months old."
Anette finished cooking and called everyone into the kitchen to get the food. Mikey came in, looking irritated.
"How's WoW?" Gerard asked as he served himself Macaroni and Cheese.
"Dumb. Ray and I just failed a quest, and we were almost done with it."
"You're tellin' me."
Dinner was actually quite pleasant. Anette helped Terrence only a little bit, and she was actually pretty proud of him not spilling a lot of food. It was almost like he was eating as carefully as he could to impress the guests.
At one point, Gerard said, "You know Anette, you're like, the coolest prep I've ever met."
She laughed a bit nervously. "What do you mean?"
"Like, you dress all nice and hang out with all the jocks and are like, insanely popular, but you're like... a real person. Everyone else seems just, fake, you know?"
"I guess. Not many of them seem fake to me," Anette replied. "Take Dawn for example. She's class president and the most pessimistic person ever, but she still hangs out with, as you call it, the popular people. She's quite a character if you get to know her."
"What about Andrew?" Mikey asked, and Anette almost jumped. It was the first time he had spoken to her all day.
"Andrew isn't welcome in our group," Anette pointed out. "Not really, anyways. He's just a big jerk. Someone needs to put him in his place, but for now, Chase and I usually keep him from harassing most people. Besides, he and Chase hate each other. Andrew keeps his own company."
Mikey glared at his dinner, but didn't say anything.
After everyone was done eating, the dirty dishes were stacked in the sink, and Terrence was clean, Anette brought Gerard upstairs and into the art room. It was a big, open room with wooden floors, a stereo, a black grand piano, an art easel, and lots of paintings on the walls. "Well, this is the room," Anette said, picking her Grease music book out of a basket and setting it on the piano.
Gerard just stared around in shock. "This is... amazing."
"Well, our family is big on the arts, so it only made sense to have some kind of room devoted to it."
"If it didn't have windows, it'd be perfect."
"Don't like the sun?"
"Not when I'm drawing," said Gerard. "Alright, how do we do this?"
"Well, I can play enough to sort of accompany you, and all the words are in here. Ready to learn Danny's songs?"
They worked until almost nine thirty at night, and Gerard's throat was sore by the end of it all. Anette sang with him where appropriate, and Gerard understood why the piano was in here – the acoustics were amazing. And at the end, he knew enough to practice every song on his own that he would be required to sing on stage.
"Man, I forgot about the drive-in scene," he said as they walked back downstairs together. "We're gonna have to kiss, aren't we?"
"We'll work on that later," Anette said, kind of half-laughing. "That's in the second act. It'll probably be next week."
"Yeah. Shit that's gonna be awkward."
"Hopefully it won't." Anette paused when Gerard snickered. "I meant for on stage you idiot."
"Mmhmm, sure," Gerard said, and Anette rolled her eyes.
They found Terrence passed out on a couch in the living room and Mikey in the dining room on his laptop, doing homework now instead of playing video games. Gerard started putting his stuff away as Anette went to the kitchen to start cleaning the dishes, but instead, she found clean and dry dishes on the counters. Puzzled, she went back into the dining room.
"I didn't know where you put your dishes," Mikey said simply as she came back in.
Anette stopped. Why in the world had he done the dishes? Not that it mattered much, but it was nice. "Thank you," she said, smiling as un-awkwardly as she could.
He saved, turned off his computer, and stuffed it in his bag.
"Well, this was fun and productive. Thanks, Anette," Gerard said, and he surprisingly gave her a hug.
"No problem," she replied brightly, hugging him back. "And you can come over any time, really. I'm here to help or hang out."
"Will do," Gerard said, grinning. "Night."
Anette showed them to the door and picked up Terrence carefully. He didn't stir. She took him upstairs to his room, tucked him into bed with his stuffed dinosaur Chomper, and then went downstairs to put away the dishes. She found that Mikey had put away the leftovers in the fridge, and she thanked him again out loud even though no one would hear her. "Mikey Way, you are so weird," she said with a smile as she closed the fridge door.
The last two weeks of October were literally the most painful weeks of Gerard's life. He spent his lunches and about an hour after every rehearsal, not to mention almost all of the weekends, dancing. Carol kept him after rehearsals and weekends, and he made himself work during lunch. But it wasn't all in vain thankfully, because Mikey commented at some point that he had really improved and he hadn't known Gerard to work harder at something in his entire life. Gerard agreed - he hadn't worked this hard ever, physically anyways.
Halloween week was also Homecoming, and that meant the Homecoming Dance would be on Halloween, and it would be a costume dance. This actually made him want to go this year, even though he had never been to a school dance before and had never planned on it.
"Really, dude?" Frank asked him when Gerard told him his plans during Chemistry. "You're actually gonna go?"
"It's a costume party, it'll be sick," Gerard said, pausing to check that he and Frank were doing this experiment right. Not like he needed to worry, because Frank was there and Frank was a huge science nerd and would never let Gerard mess something up unless it was sure to end in something awesome.
"I'll take your word for it."
"We should go together. And make Ray and Mikey come too."
"Ha ha asshole, you'll have to drug Mikey and probably tie Ray up if you want that to happen."
"Fine, just you then."
"I don't wanna go."
"Please man? We're gonna have the best costumes ever, we should at least show it off."
Gerard was right. He was going as Hellboy, and Frank, as Captain Kirk from Star Trek.
"Plus you know, more of a chance to piss people off."
Frank sighed, put some powder into the vial of water they had, then giggled his awkward, endearing giggle. "Alright, fine. But only 'cuz we're going to be the gayest motherfuckers there."
"That's the spirit," Gerard said, smirking.
It turned out that Ray did want to go, because who would pass up being fuckin' Darth Vader at a school dance, and so then Mikey got unwillingly dragged into it. At least he was going to be Batman, which was pretty cool in Gerard's opinion, but not as cool as Hellboy.
When Homecoming King and Queen nominations went up, Gerard was indeed surprised. Andrew wasn't the football nominee this year as he had expected, but Chase Skyridge was, and he was dragging Anette along with him. Andrew instead was escorting the cheerleading nominee Rachel, and Dawn was Student Council's. Not that Gerard really cared who got it, but he at least voted for Chase and Anette in hopes that Andrew wouldn't win and get bragging rights.
That night at the dance, everyone was dressed up and having a good time, even Mikey to some extent. Ray got into a lightsabre fight with a kid who was dressed as Qui-Gon Jin, which Ray won of course, but he had found a new friend. Mikey sat in the corner most the time until Gerard dragged him out to socialize.
"Fuck you Gee, I don't want to deal with these assholes."
"Come on, just be a nerd like the rest of us."
About half-way through the night came the king and queen crowning. Gerard crossed his fingers behind his back that it wouldn't be Andrew. But when it came down to the last two couples, he gave up hope.
"And our runner up, Chase Skyridge and Anette Baker!" the announcer called, and there were cheers. Chase was smirking and Anette blushed, accepting her princess crown. Gerard groaned.
"And our Homecoming King and Queen are Andrew Callhart and Rachel Peters!" the announcer said with gusto, and most the hall cheered. They accepted their crowns with pleased smirks, and Gerard swore.
"The fuck do you care?" Mikey questioned.
"I didn't want that asshole to win it. He doesn't deserve it."
The rest of the night, Gerard and Frank danced together. It was a really weird sight, Kirk and Hellboy grinding each other, and they got a lot of "Faggots!" and "Get a room!" comments, but this was exactly what they wanted. Nothing was funnier than people freaking out over two guys whom they thought were gay together.
"Hey Gerard," came a voice, and he turned around to see Anette by herself, smiling and wearing a princess crown. Gerard's jaw dropped.
"Anette, are you Luna Lovegood?" he asked, surprised.
She laughed. "Yes! You're only the second person tonight to guess who I was." She looked the part, too. Her white-blonde hair was wavier than usual and she was wearing a Ravenclaw Hogwarts uniform, and carrying a wand. She even wore a pair of earrings fashioned to resemble radishes.
"Fuck, you look awesome!" Frank exclaimed. "Like, holy shit!"
She blushed. "Thanks guys."
"It sucks hardcore that you didn't win," Gerard said, halting his dirty dancing and leading them over to the wall where Ray and Mikey were chilling.
"Not really. I didn't want to win anyways. I only did it 'cuz Chase asked me to, and it would have been weird if he had gone with someone else, seeing how we're dating."
"Yeah, but Andrew won," Frank pointed out. "It's not like he needs more bragging rights."
"True. I'm kind of wondering if he rigged it somehow."
"Anette, you look so much like Luna Lovegood," Ray commented as the group reached the wall.
"That's 'cuz I'm dressed as her."
The song changed, and Anette's expression brightened even more. "Love this song! Ray, we're dancing!" she yelled excitedly, grabbed Ray's hand, and dragged him back into the crowd. Gerard and Frank almost pissed themselves laughing at Ray doing an extremely awkward dance, and anyways, since when did Darth Vader and Luna Lovegood dance together?
"Gee, this is great," Frank wheezed, bending over in laughter. "You win, this was actually fun."
"Told you it would be. Besides, we're gonna have an after party at Ray's house, his mom's out of town."
"Booze!" Frank giggled, excited.
"Fuck yeah," Gerard said, and he kissed Frank on the mouth full-on.
It wasn't like he'd never kissed Frank before - they messed around with each other all the time, and the last time they were drunk together they had pretty much fucked - but they had never done it in public, and Gerard was half terrified, half exhilarated. Frank, too, seemed to be enjoying it, especially when people around them started gasping. But it was cut short when Mikey shoved his pointy elbow into Gerard's ribs and said, "Asshole alert," in his ear.
"Look at the shitty little faggots, being disgusting," came a voice, and Gerard and Frank broke apart gasping to see Andrew standing there, an arm around Rachel's waist, two of his thug friends behind him, and a sneer on his face.
"Yeup, look at us, being hot little faggots," Gerard said with a grin. "You only wish you could join in."
"The only thing I wish is that I could take a knife to your faggot face," Andrew growled.
"The fuck did they ever do to you, Andrew?" Mikey asked, getting aggravated like he always did when people called Gerard or Frank names.
"The faggots existed and tried to spread their buttsex across the world, that's what. God gave women pussies for a reason."
Rachel looked slightly offended at this comment, but didn't say anything. But Gerard thought that she had, because he heard a girl's voice say, "And your point is, Andrew?"
Anette and Ray were back, and Anette looked pissed. Andrew rounded on her. "Don't even get me started, you little slut. Why are you even with these guys anyways? Chase don't let you suck his cock enough?"
Anette flushed, but whether it was from embarrassment or anger, Gerard wasn't sure. Maybe both, but it wasn't like Anette's sex life was any of his business. "Look Andrew, you got your dream crown, how about you go and do something else besides degrade people like Gerard just because you don't understand them?"
"Don't understand them? I get it perfectly, they just want to be Hell-worthy sinners and destroy the world with their cock-sucking."
"You are such a homophobe Andrew, now leave them alone!"
"Don't tell me what to do, whore."
"Don't you dare call me a whore, Andrew!" Anette yelled, and she slapped him hard across the face. Everyone but the two of them gasped, and the crowd watching them barely got to recover from this before Andrew shoved Anette as hard as he could to the floor. She fell, her skirt nearly flipping up, and landed right at Ray's feet.
Everyone was in shock except Andrew, who looked like he might hit Anette next. Andrew's friends looked at each other, unsure of what to do. Rachel looked scared. Ray took Anette's arm and helped her up. But just when it looked like Andrew would win this round, Gerard saw something he had never seen before. Frank pulled back a fist and punched Andrew straight in the jaw, sending him stumbling. Frank was a tiny little shit, but he sure packed a punch. Literally.
"What the hell's going on?"
Chase had arrived on the scene to see Ray still holding Anette's arm and Andrew looking at Frank like he was going to kill him, and Frank was giving him a very similar look. "Don't you know not to shove a lady, you fuck?" Frank yelled, and Gerard moved to hold him back. Chase looked quickly between everyone on the scene and before Andrew could move, Chase grabbed him and threw him against the wall.
"What the fuck did you do to my girl?"
"The bitch was asking for it!" Andrew yelled back, trying to kick Chase, but Chase punched him in the face too.
"You touch her again and I'm gonna fucking kill you. Get going," Chase said, practically throwing Andrew away from the wall and into his friends.
"That's what you said last time," Andrew sneered, but he left all the same.
Chase turned to Anette. "You okay?" he asked, reaching for her, but she pulled herself away from him.
"Yeah, no thanks to you." She looked at Ray. "Thank you, Ray. And you Frank, though it wasn't really necessary," she added, smiling at Frank.
"It was completely necessary," Frank said, massaging his knuckles. "He pushed you, and every idiot knows not to push or hit a lady."
"Apparently not that idiot," Chase said, reaching for Anette again. "Come on, let's dance."
"No Chase, don't touch me. You've been useless all night, and I'm having fun with these guys."
Before he could finish his sentence, she stormed away, and he followed after her.
"Think we should follow?" Frank asked.
"Nah man," Gerard said. "Ray, can we just go to your house? I'm done here."
"Sure. Let's go," Ray said, and they left the dance for Ray's car and house.
Everyone but Gerard hit the booze immediately. He instead nursed a single beer all night. This was unusual for him, but he really didn't want news of ragingly drunk Gerard to get out and for Mr. Wind to have to find another Danny. He did make sure Mikey didn't do anything stupid though, which was good, 'cuz it would have been a shame if he had gotten kicked off light crew, which he had actually been enjoying.
And all Gerard could really think about was Andrew and as many theories as he could as to what could have driven a guy to be filled with so much hate.
This is a bit random, but I think the thing I hate most about Andrew is his lack of creative vocabulary.
Two weeks, three evenings at Anette's house, one hangover, and about a hundred hours of rehearsal later, it was finally, finally opening night. Everyone in the cast and crew was extremely nervous, Mikey included, but Gerard was going mental. When they had gotten home from final dress, Gerard had actually locked himself in the bathroom and thrown up and by the time Mikey had picked the lock to drag him out, he was weeping about how he couldn't fucking do this and why the hell had he even thought he could?, but Mikey just told him to shut up, put some Iron Maiden in his stereo, and dragged his ass into the chair in front of his art table.
"How do you think the rest of us feel?" Mikey asked him as he sat down on Gerard's bed that night to talk to him.
"Better than me."
"I have to work the fucking spotlight. And you know how I get when I'm nervous - the damn light is going to be bouncing all over the stage instead of stuck on your face."
"Mikey, you don't have to be on stage."
"Well, everyone's nervous. You'll be fine, you know the damn thing backwards."
"That's not what I'm worried about." Gerard took a deep breath and closed his eyes, like he was about to jump off a cliff. In a way, tomorrow night, he was. "I keep having anxiety dreams every time I sleep about me fucking up on stage, or falling off the stage, or a light dropping on me, or-"
"They're just dreams, idiot. You'll be fine, and afterwards you'll be hailed as awesome."
Gerard looked like he wanted to argue more, but he just stared at his messy floor instead.
"Gee, just go to sleep. You'll be awesome tomorrow, I promise."
And now so Mikey was up in the light booth, looking out over the stage. The house was full, very full. Hailey had said something about they were almost completely sold out all the nights, but Mikey didn't tell Gerard this because he thought he might throw up again.
"Alright Mikey, Seth, take positions," their crew head, Sarah, said over headset, and Mikey and Seth crept up onto the cat walk to take their positions for the spotlights, adjusting the bulky headphones on their heads as they went.
Mikey was just wondering when they were going to start when he heard Beth’s voice over the headset say, "House lights down, sound cue one," and the announcement Anette had recorded telling people to turn off their cell phones and enjoy the show started playing. "Break a leg," Beth muttered, and the show began.
Mikey was so focused on what he was doing he barely remembered the show. His spot was a little shaky at first but he grew more and more confident within the first fifteen minutes. He remembered checking Gerard when he made his first entrance, and he didn't look nervous at all. That was him, worrying like fuck and then hiding it all behind some façade, or in this case, the character of Danny. He sang awesome, and danced like hell, and Mikey felt a little proud that Gerard was his older brother and that he was up on stage kicking some ass. Plus he looked damn good in a leather jacket with his hair slicked back Greaser style.
Anette was really good too. Mikey spotted her most the time, and her stage presence was good. She sang beautifully too, even if Mikey hated to admit it. During the intermission, there were a lot of high fives passed around the booth, Seth got a Band-Aid for where he had burned his finger on the light, and then the show resumed.
During the drive-in scene, Mikey got the weirdest sensation in his gut while Gerard and Anette were kissing. He had no clue what he was thinking, or feeling, for that matter, but something about it made him mad at both of them, like Gerard needed to stop feeling Anette up and Anette needed to keep her lips to herself, but Mikey dismissed the feeling as stupid. After all, it was just a show.
Then it all ended, way too soon for Mikey to even believe it. The audience was on their feet, cheering and clapping and whistling as the cast took their bows. Anette, Gerard and Hailey especially got roars of approval. "And… curtain," Beth muttered, and Mikey caught her grinning.
Ten minutes later, everyone went to greet what audience had stayed behind to congratulate everyone, which was a lot of people. They cheered when everyone entered, and Mikey went to go find Gerard. But Frank had beaten him to the punch, and was squeezing him screaming, "YOU FUCKING DID IT GERARD OH MY GOD YOU DID IT!"
Gerard just hugged Frank back and swung around with him, yelling, "I CAN'T BELIEVE I FUCKING DID IT!"
Mikey decided this was the perfect moment to strike, and tackled them both, yelling, "I TOLD YOU, YOU ASSHOLE! YOU KICKED ASS!"
Their mom was there, teary-eyed, saying, "Your dad wanted to be here so bad. Gerard, you were fantastic, honey!" She hugged her eldest son, and then her youngest. "And Mikey, your first show! It was wonderful, I'm so proud of you both!"
"HEY, QUIET PLEASE!"
Beth had silence the whole crowd, and she grinned. "Okay, cast and crew, load up, we're going to Denny's!"
There were various shouts of approval among the drama geeks, and they all headed for backstage or the booth to get their things. But before the two could quite get away, one more person greeted them.
"Gerard, you were amazing!" Anette cried, flinging the arm that wasn't holding flowers around Gerard's neck. Her makeup was smeared from crying, but she didn't seem to care. "I knew you could do it!"
"Anette, you were fantastic! I never would have been so good if you hadn't helped me," Gerard said, swinging her around like he had done to Frank. She laughed joyously, and Mikey felt a tiny bit of jealousy.
"You coming to Denny's?" she asked as Gerard set her down.
"Yeah, you need a ride?"
"Nah, Hailey's giving me one. See you there!" she beamed, and she ran off for backstage.
"Ready to go, Mikey?"
"Let me go get my bag," Mikey said, and he went up to the booth to retrieve his bag. Then he and Gerard went to his car and drove to Denny's.
The parking lot was nearly full by the time they got there, and the diner even more crowded. There were a few people near the front who were there for a midnight meal, and the other, more secluded area was filled with theatre kids.
Anette was waving them down from the booth she was sitting in with Hailey and a guy who looked about Gerard's age with short blonde hair and a beard. Gerard sat down next to Anette, and the two shifted over to give Mikey room.
"Finally," Hailey said. "We thought you were never going to get out of there."
"I had to get my bag," Mikey muttered, looking down at his silverware.
"Oh, by the way guys, this is Bob Bryar. Bob, Gerard and Mikey Way," Anette said, introducing everyone. "Bob plays drums in the pit and enjoys kissing Hailey in his spare time."
"Shut up Anette," Hailey laughed, blushing. "So what that we're dating?"
"It's awesome," Anette said, flipping through the menu. "We gonna get milkshakes?"
"We can't," said Gerard. "We don't have money."
"Oh posh, we'll pitch in for you guys," said Hailey, waving her hand at him.
"Yeah, you can't miss out on opening night milkshakes," Anette said. "I have enough to pay for a couple people."
"We'll pay you back," Gerard promised.
"How you folks doing tonight?" asked the waiter that approached them. "You here with the theatre troupe?"
"Yeup," Hailey, Anette and Gerard all replied at once.
"Cool. You made up your minds yet?"
"We'll take five chocolate milkshakes," Anette said promptly, handing him her menu.
"Alright, I'll have those out for you in just a little bit," said the waiter, collecting their menus and putting his notebook in an apron pouch.
"Can't back out of it now, huh?" Gerard asked.
"Nope. Hey Anette, how was eating Gerard's face in front of three hundred people?" Bob asked, raising his eyebrows at her.
"Awesome," she replied, making a face at him. She paused for a moment while everyone laughed, then put her face in her hands and laughed herself. "Oh god, Hailey, guess what I just had a flashback to?"
"What?" Hailey asked, tying up her long brown hair so it would stay out of her face.
Hailey thought about it for a moment, then burst out laughing.
"Wait, what happened in kindergarten?" Bob asked.
"You kissing Frank?" Gerard offered to Anette.
She tried to control her laughter to answer him. "Oh, that was just the tip of the iceberg. How do you know about that?"
"He mentioned it."
"Great. Did he tell you it was our wedding kiss?"
Gerard's jaw dropped a bit. "No!?"
"Oh yeah," Anette said, unwrapping and rewrapping her silverware. "We got married in kindergarten."
"It was the biggest to-do on the playground," Hailey said, nodding. "I was her Maid of Honor."
"Yeah, and Dalton was the Best Man," Anette said, dreamily. "I still remember when he proposed to me. He said I was pretty and gave me a Ring Pop."
"Ring Pops are the shit," Bob commented, tracing some pattern into Hailey's hand.
"Yeah, and they used to mean something, you know?" Anette said.
"Yeup. And then he kept blushing when you tried to kiss him, and I finally had to pull his arms behind his back to make him hold still?" Hailey giggled.
"And that was the first day I ever wore a dress to school. I remember I asked Noel to curl my hair, too," Anette added, smiling. "We used to be the most hardcore tomboys," she said to Gerard.
"I can't picture that," he said. "You've been fancy way too long."
"Hey, I still am!" Hailey said, pointing first at her own clothes and then Anette's.
"Order up!" came a voice, and the group stopped talking to receive their milkshakes.
"Thank you!" they all said together, and there was about a minute of silence as everyone tackled their shake according to their own sacred approach of eating a milkshake.
"Remember when Andrew put a worm in your hair?" Hailey said, licking some milkshake off a spoon.
"Ugh, yes," Anette replied. "I got him back though, I put one in his lunchbox."
Everyone laughed but Mikey, who said quietly, "I wonder why he's such an asshole?" Everyone stopped and looked at him, and he blushed. "Sorry, thinking out loud," he muttered before beginning to stir his shake with his straw again.
"No, that's actually a good question," Bob said. "'Cuz people only hang out with him to avoid being on his bad side."
"He's always been a jerk though," Anette said, frowning. "Ever since, what, third grade?"
"Yeah," Hailey agreed.
"And he's a raging homophobe," Gerard added.
"Oh, I have a theory on that," Hailey said before eating another spoonful of shake. "See, I think he's only mean to gay people, or people he thinks are gay, 'cuz he is one himself, but he doesn't want anyone to know. I mean, he's Christian and all, so it's kind of against his religion to be gay."
"That... actually wouldn't surprise me," Anette said, eyebrows raised. There was silence again until she asked a question. "Hey Gerard, are you gay?"
"I just saw you and Frank making out at Homecoming, and wondered. Are you two...?"
"No, we just like to piss people off," he answered, tipping the ends of his shaking into his mouth.
"You're damn good at it, too," Mikey added.
"Yeah. It'd be funnier if we didn't have to worry about assholes like Andrew trying to beat us up."
"Someone really, really needs to put him in his place," Anette muttered. "I wish Chase would."
"Chase is too chicken to really do anything about Andrew," Bob said. Anette frowned at him, but didn't say anything.
Before they knew it, it was almost midnight, and people were starting to leave. Anette, Bob and Hailey put enough money on the table to cover everyone's milkshakes and the tip, and they all walked outside.
"Hey Bob," Gerard said as they started to walk away.
"Have you ever played in a band?"
Bob paused, thinking. "No, but I'd like to."
"Well, our band-" Gerard mentioned to himself and Mikey, "-needs a drummer. We meet Sundays at our house on Fifth Avenue."
"Sounds sick. What time?"
"I'll be there," Bob said, and he and Hailey left for his car.
Anette started to walk away when Gerard caught her. "Hey, do you need a ride home?"
"Gerard, that would be wonderful," she sighed, and followed him and Mikey to his car.
"No problem. Front seat's still off-limits though. Frank puked in it a few weeks ago and I'm still not sure if it's clean yet or not."
"That's fine," she said, and she got in the back with Mikey, who tried to keep as much space between them as he could in the small car.
They were half way there when Anette said, "Don't forget we gotta do it all again tomorrow."
"Yeah. That's gonna be hard," Gerard agreed.
"Hopefully not too bad though. You both were fantastic," she said, smiling.
"Thanks. Here we are." Gerard pulled up next to the sidewalk just outside Anette's house.
"God, thank you. I didn't want to walk the whole way."
"Like I said, not a problem."
"Alright, well, night," she said, opening the door. "Oh, and Gerard?"
"If you try and stick your tongue down my throat tomorrow night, I will seriously kick your ass offstage. It's bad enough you're groping me."
"You like it, Anette."
"I mean it."
Anette shut the door and walked into her house. As they drove away, Mikey couldn't help but burst out, "You did what?"
That weekend was a good one. The second show went great, Gerard didn't try to French Anette on stage as she requested, and that Sunday at practice, Bob was there, (after getting lost and having to call Anette who called Gerard and told her to tell Bob the more exact directions he was giving her), and he was great. He was funny, a good guy, and a damn good drummer. It really didn't seem to matter that he was wearing a letter jacket and the other guys were wearing skinny jeans and band shirts.
Monday, there was a sort of different atmosphere in the school that no one could really explain. It could have been the hype all the theatre kids were still giving off from shows well done, but there was also this sort of tension that no one could really put their finger on, but everyone felt.
"Hey Ray," Anette said as she sat down by him in their usual corner of that deserted hallway. "Do you feel-"
"Like the school is charged with static electricity?" he finished for her.
She nodded. "Yeah. It's weird."
They both pulled out work to do. Anette, her English book, and Ray, his Trig homework.
"Hey, so Gerard told me that you guys are thinking about letting Bob join your band," Anette said eventually.
"Yeah, he's great," Ray said. "It's nice to finally have a drummer."
"How was the show?"
"Awesome once Gerard stopped trying to lick my tonsils," Anette said slyly.
"He does that," Ray chuckled. "My mom and I are coming Thursday, so you two better not kill each other before then."
"We won't, I promise."
They worked silently the rest of the hour, simply enjoying each other's company. And at this stage, it was safe to assume that they could say they were friends without actually saying anything at all.
It was lunch time on Wednesday, and Ray was heading for Frank and a practice room, where they were going to work on a song together. Clutching his music notebook in one hand, his sack lunch in the other, and shifting his shoulders so his guitar would stay on, he stopped just before he rounded the final corner to the music hall and shrunk into an alcove when he heard angry voices he recognized.
"It's getting kind of ridiculous, Anette," Chase's voice said, heated.
"What is? That maybe I'm hanging out with people who are actually nice to me?"
"That I can have fun with people who, to you, are the gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe?"
"No, what I'm saying is-"
"Quit trying to control my life!"
"Shut up and listen!"
They both stopped talking and just breathed raggedly. Ray thought frantically how he could get around them without being seen, but there wasn't anything he could do but wait for them to leave.
"I just think that if you did hang out with Toro's group then Andrew wouldn't be harassing you all the time."
"Oh, so that's what this is about? Andrew's going to harass me either way, Chase, no matter who I hang out with."
"It would help if you weren't around the people he targets all the time."
"I'm one of his 'targets,' so it wouldn't make a bit of difference. I think you're just trying to come up with some cover for why you're really mad at me."
"And why's that, then?"
"You think I'm blowing you off for theatre-"
"Which you are."
"You blew me off for football, so I found some new friends. And you're pissed that we haven't slept together since September."
"It's just all about sex with you, isn't it?"
"No, that's all you ever think about."
"No wonder Andrew calls you a slut."
There was a sharp sound like Anette had slapped Chase, and then footsteps of her marching away as fast as she could. Chase's footsteps followed, and he called, "Anette, I didn't mean it!"
Ray waited until their footsteps and voices were completely gone before coming out of the alcove and walking carefully down the hallway. What in the world was going on? Why did Andrew hate Anette? And why was Chase being such a jerk to her?
"Dude, finally! I've already got a couple possible riffs written," Frank said through his vegetarian sandwich as Ray opened the door to the practice room.
"Sorry, I ran into a roadblock."
"Chase and Anette were arguing in the hallway."
"Oh, I thought I heard her yelling."
"Yeah, she was."
"Well, what was it about?"
Ray shifted uncomfortably, unsure of whether he should start spreading rumors or not.
"I'm not gonna tell anyone. Seriously, who would I tell?"
"Good point. Um, well, Chase seemed the think that Andrew's only being such an asshole to Anette 'cuz she keeps hanging out with us and standing up for us and shit."
"Well, she said that was all bull and Andrew's always been a jerk to her and always will be, but I don't know why."
He didn't add in the part about Chase and Anette not sleeping together since September - he would be taking that bit of information to the grave.
"I dunno, but she must have done something to him. Andrew, that is."
"We've never done anything to him," Ray pointed out.
"Yeah, but it's like... he knows something about her, you know?" Frank said, finishing his sandwich. "Like, every time I've heard him talk to her, he just knows how to push her buttons."
Ray didn't say anything in response because he and Frank both knew that Frank was probably right. Instead, he flipped open his notebook and started to unpack his guitar.
"Let's get going with this shit."
That afternoon, Anette didn't talk at all during their free hour. She just stared at her open English book, but Ray could tell she wasn't reading it. After a while, he asked, "Hey Anette, can I ask a question?"
"Sure, Ray," she mumbled.
"Um... why does Andrew hate you so much?"
She gave him a curious look. "You don't know?"
"Well, I guess you might not, but like, all the 'popular' people know." She sighed and closed the book. "We um, dated the good first half of last year, and he was an okay boyfriend. But I didn't want to sleep with him, and he got mean and threatening, so I dumped him. So that pissed him off, and then he and Chase have this huge rivalry, and so I started dating Chase just to spite Andrew." She paused, biting her lip slightly. "I'm a terrible person, really. I mean, I love Chase, but I started dating him for all the wrong reasons."
"It's not that bad," Ray said. "I mean, well... Andrew kinda deserves it."
"I guess," she sighed. They were quiet for another few minutes. "Ray, tell me about something."
He frowned. "Like what?"
"I don't care, anything. Anything you really like."
"That's a lot of things," he pointed out. "Besides, I don't want to bore you."
"You won't, trust me. Tell me about... I dunno, what's your favorite TV show?"
"Um," he mumbled, blushing a bit. "Probably Transformers."
"Tell me about that. Please. I gotta get my mind off... other things."
And so he did. He told her about his favorite episodes and how he always kind of like Decepticons more than Autobots, even though Optimus Prime was a complete badass, and he just sort of found himself rambling for longer than he ever had to anyone. And Anette listened to every word, never interrupting him for any reason, not even to ask him questions about what the hell he was talking about when he started using Transformers jargon as a bit of a natural reaction. It was only when he had run out of things to say for the moment when she said anything at all.
"You're really passionate, Ray," she commented, smiling at him. "Way more passionate than anyone I've ever met."
"You sure you've met Gerard and Mikey and Frank, then?"
She laughed. "Well, I have, but not met them like I've met you."
"So I'm not boring?"
"Not in the least." She checked her cell phone. "We still have a little bit of time. I want to show you something," she said, standing and offering her hand to him.
"Okay," he said, accepting it. They grabbed their bags and Ray his guitar and Anette took Ray's hand in her own (which was much smaller than his) and led him down the hallway and to a door that had no marking on it or even a doorknob for that matter.
"What's this?" he asked, curious.
"Someplace you can go to be completely alone," she replied mysteriously before pushing the door open. She took out her math book and used it to prop the door open, and then led him up the stairs opened the hatch in the roof.
She had led him onto the roof of the school. They walked carefully away from the door but not too close to the edge in case someone was looking up at the roof. They stood side by side, looking out over the town, which was a nice sight.
"I found that door my freshman year," Anette said simply, staring off into the distance. "I come up here when I'm really upset, or just want to be alone, which isn't that often."
Ray sent her a small smile. "I knew you were a rule breaker deep down."
She sighed. "I told you I'm terrible." They stood, holding hands and not saying a word, for maybe a minute. Then she asked, "Ray, what's it like?"
"What's what like?"
"To have people around you who accept you for who you are, not who you pretend to be. To not have to worry about if your friends are going to disown you because you dressed a certain way one day, or like something that isn't considered cool, or stood up for someone who was getting bullied by your friends. What's that like?"
"I - well," Ray stuttered, but he didn't know how to answer. "I guess... okay? I mean, I don't have a lot of friends, but I can count on them for anything. Why?"
"I envy you, that's why. I always wanted to be popular, but I didn't know it would come with a sacrifice of happiness. I wish I could have what you have."
"Who care about each other so much that they're like family," she added. She had such a sad expression on her face that Ray felt like he should do or say something, but she wasn't Mikey, who you could make smile when you talked about video games with, or Gerard, who could be cheered up most the time with talking about one of his artistic obsessions, or Frank, who it was all too easy to make laugh with some stupid joke or story. She was Anette, a girl who he felt was his friend, but was so different from anyone else he was friends with that he had no clue how to make her smile or laugh or cheer up.
"Well... um, I think we're friends," Ray said lamely and awkwardly. "I mean, I like you as a friend. You're pretty cool and stuff."
"Really?" It wasn't a desperate question, it was a distant-sounding one.
"Yeah, you're um... well, you're really not afraid to have fun, or take some risks. And you're a good person, which is all anyone could really ask for."
Anette smiled sadly at him, but she squeezed his hand all the same. "Thanks Ray. I feel like you're probably the best friend I've had in a while."
And without another word, they went back down the stairs and into the school.
First semester ended with terrifying finals and the casting of the next show that was to premiere in February. It was a dance show that they were creating that would be strictly Beatles music called, "All You Need Is Love." Mr. Wind had said something about them having a new choreographer for this show so Carol could spend more time working in town on her own shows, but it only mattered to Hailey, who was dancing in it. Anette, on the other hand, would be creating all the makeup for the show and leading the makeup crew, something she was really excited about. Gerard and Mikey had both decided to take a break and wait until the last show to do anything, and Anette didn't really blame them, because they had both worked their asses off for Grease.
But it was now Christmas break, two weeks of nothing but relaxation, watching after Terrence, recovering from school, and family time. Anette purposefully turned off her cell phone and didn't get on her computer at all. Above everything else, she needed a break from her friends, which were starting to have a "so-called" in front of their title. They never invited her to anything anymore anyways, so she didn't really care if they were trying to contact her.
The only person she did talk to from her "friends" was Chase. They were slowly working through their argument, but she was still mad at him for calling her a whore, because she wasn't. And really, she just felt like the spark wasn't there anymore, even though she still loved him. It was a weird situation, anyways.
The day before Christmas, there was a ring at the doorbell, and Anette left Terrence in the kitchen to go answer the door. She knew her mom would be home soon, but why was she using the doorbell?
Anette pulled open the door to find that her assumption was completely incorrect. Standing in the doorway was her older sister Noel, some snow flakes in her black hair and holding a suitcase in each hand. "Hey little sis," Noel said, stepping inside and closing the door behind her. "What's up?"
"Noel!" Anette said, and she hugged her sister before she could set down her bags.
"Give me a second," she said, dropping her bags and hugging her sister back.
"Elle!" came Terrence's voice, and he stumbled into the room as fast as his short, unsteady legs could carry him.
"And here's my Terry, look how big you are!" Noel said, picking him up and swinging him around, causing him to giggle at a high pitch. "You're walking!"
"Yeah, he's been at it since August," Anette said, smiling. "I didn't know you were coming home for Christmas."
"I didn't either, but I ended up being able to come early."
"Early for what?"
"I'll tell you later when Mom gets home. Is she working?"
"Yeah. She's only letting herself take tomorrow off. You'd be surprised how many people want to buy flowers on Christmas Eve."
They went back to the kitchen so Terrence could continue playing with his Batman action figures and the sisters sat down at the kitchen table.
"Mom told me you got a lead."
Anette smiled. "Yeah, I was Sandy in Grease."
"Excellent. Who was Danny? Dalton?"
"At first, but he got caught at a party. Do you remember Gerard Way?"
"Um..." Noel said, thinking. "Black hair? I think he was a freshman my senior year."
"That's probably him. He took over the role after Dalton got kicked out. And it was his first musical being on stage."
Noel looked impressed. "Damn, he must be good."
"Yeah, he was. Do you want something to drink?"
"Does Mom still have a stash of chai mix?"
"Don't you know it," Anette said, and she got some coffee mugs out to make the tea. "So how're you?"
"Pretty good. I'm so close to having all my credits, it's driving me crazy. I'm taking spring semester off and doing the summer one."
"A job came up." She accepted the tea from her sister.
"Good. Done any shows?"
"Lots. But the best was this October, I was in Lord of the Dance."
Anette laughed in amazement. Lord of the Dance was a very cool, very intense tap dance show. "Really?"
"Yeup. I was just part of the chorus, but hey, I got in. And I made a bunch of great contacts, so when I get back from this job then I'll have access to just about every dance show New York can offer."
"That's great Noel!"
"I'm home!" called a voice, and Noel and Anette called, "Hi Mom!" at the same time.
"Noel? Is that you?" Shirley asked, walking into the room. "It is! Goodness, I wasn't expecting you home for Christmas! I haven't even wrapped your present!"
"It's fine Mom. I hate to drop in, but I got an opportunity to come early."
"You must tell me what this job is, I’ve been dying to know," Shirley said, following suit and making herself a cup of chai tea.
"Well... I got an e-mail from Mr. Wind a few weeks ago, and he wanted me to come down and choreograph the dance show at the high school," Noel said, smirking.
"You're going to be our guest choreographer?" Anette asked, flabbergasted.
"Yeup. Did you get in?"
"I'm designing the makeup and running that crew, and Hailey is going to be a dance captain," Anette said a bit faintly.
"Great. I need a strong dancer like her leading everyone," Noel said, nodding.
Anette had a sudden flashback to her mid-school days, when Noel and Hailey would be dancing together while her father played the piano and Anette sung along. The thought threatened to bring tears to her eyes.
"Well, I'm glad you're coming in to make this show. It's gonna be awesome," Anette finally said. "We're designing the costumes too. It'll be crazy."
"Crazy is good."
Christmas Eve was quiet and pleasant. Shirley and Noel sat in chairs in the living room while Anette played Batman with Terrence, trying to keep his mind off of the presents that were under the brightly lit tree. Noel told them stories about college life and dance shows and her two crazy roommates and her eccentric professors. Anette listened with a wistful sense, wishing that she could just leave for college, that wonderful place her older sister talked about so fondly. But more than that, Anette wished she could be more like her sister. Sure, Anette was popular, but Noel had been friends with everyone, everyone from people like Chase to people like Ray and everyone in between. Everyone liked her, and she liked everyone. Anette had always been striving to be like that, but her own story had turned out very differently, and now she didn't know exactly what or who she was.
Anette and Terrence got to open one present before Terrence was put to bed. He got a new book, (this one about dinosaurs) and Anette got the pop CD she had been wanting for a long time. Noel, Anette and Shirley stayed up late taking, and once Anette helped Noel get her stuff up to her old room, Anette went to bed, feeling both a lot happier and a lot more lost than she had in ages.
"Annie, Christmas!" Terrence whispered in her ear, pulling Anette out of her dreams. He was standing next to her bed, still in his PJ's, his blonde hair rumpled and his blue eyes bright.
Anette yawned and stretched, pushing the covers off herself. It was six-thirty in the morning.
"Christmas!" Terrence said a little louder, jumping up and down in place, trying as hard as he could to contain his excitement.
"Merry Christmas," Anette said sleepily. "Are Mom and Noel up yet?"
"Do you think Santa came?"
Terrence thought for a moment, and then nodded his head vigorously.
"Let's go find out," Anette said, swinging her legs off her beg and following her brother downstairs, keeping herself at the ready for in case he decided to fall down the stairs.
"Merry Christmas!" Shirley said brightly at the kids came into the living room, grinning and holding her camera. "Santa's been here!"
"Yay!" cried Terrence, and he accepted the package Noel handed him.
"Merry Christmas," she said, handing Anette a present. "Straight from New York."
It was really heavy and blocky, and when Anette un-wrapped it, she found it to be a book containing pictures and behind the scenes stories from Wicked, a musical that Anette loved. And in the front cover were pictures from the actual backstage of one of the shows, and it was signed by all the cast and some of the crew members.
"Noel, these are amazing," Anette said in wonder, looking at the pictures.
"My Modern Musical Theatre class got to go see it and then went backstage. I thought you might like it."
"I love it! Thank you!" Anette hugged Noel as tight as possible.
The day went by far too fast and was far too fun. Anette's big present this year was a new iPod Touch, as her Classic had finally broken in September and she had sorely missed listening to music the past few months. At around noon, her Aunt Carley (from her dad's side) and her family came over and there was a wonderful Christmas dinner of turkey and homemade bread and playing with her younger cousins, Richard and Shawn, who were twelve and fourteen. They had brought their X-Box, which after dinner was immediately hooked up to the TV in the living room and Anette was slaughtered on Call of Duty, Tomb Raider, and other various games that they enjoyed. Near the end of the day, there was cake, and jumping on the trampoline in the frigid cold, and Anette really couldn't have asked for a better Christmas, because what better way to spend the holiday than with your family.
Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.
Ray crossed his fingers, hoping she would pick up this time.
Buzz. Buzz. Bu-
"Anette!" Ray said brightly.
"Yeah! Hey, so are you doing anything today?"
"Not really, just dreading school tomorrow. Why?"
"Um, well, I was wondering if you wanted to come to band practice with me. It's only for a few hours at Gerard and Mikey's house."
"I'd love to."
"Okay, I'll come pick you up. Five minutes?"
Ray hung up the phone, grabbed his jacket, guitar, notebook, and car keys - his amp was already in the trunk of his car. He walked downstairs, said bye to his mom, jumped in his car, and drove to Anette's house just down the block from him. She was waiting on the porch in a grey pea coat, huddled together on herself to keep warm. She got in the car and they were off to the Way house.
"How'd you get my number?" she asked, blowing on her fingers to get them warmed back up.
"Gerard. I hope that's okay."
"Totally fine as long as you're not going to stalk me."
"Yeah Anette, that was my plan all along," Ray said, laughing.
"Figured as much," she replied, smiling.
It took Ray longer that usual to get there because the roads were icy, and they found Frank and Bob already there. The garage door was closed, but it didn't help much because there was no heating in the garage. Everyone was wearing either long sleeve shirts or coats and gloves.
"We have an audience today," Ray announced as he opened the door with his foot, struggling slightly with all the equipment in his hands. Anette opened the door all the way for him and then followed him inside.
"Oh shit," Gerard said.
"It's just Anette," Frank said to him. "It's not like she's going to shoot us if we suck."
"Not at all. If anything, I'll probably be cheering for you," Anette said, smiling at them.
"I hope so," Gerard muttered. "Uh... the amps are safe to sit on, but other than that, there's not much."
"Thanks," Anette said, and she sat on the one amp that wasn't in use yet. "So, what do you guys do?"
"Besides argue about super heroes?" Frank asked, smirking.
"Shut up Frankie. We just... play. Write songs. Be stupid with our instruments," Gerard replied, tapping at his microphone to make sure it was on and working right. "I guess today we'll be getting outside input on our songs."
Anette was rather impressed by them. They played five songs for her, all original ones, and they sounded pretty good for a high school garage band. They were all good at what they did, and Frank really liked dancing around while he played. He was probably the only that was actually warm.
They finished their last song and Anette clapped as well as she could for being so cold. They stood there panting for a moment before Bob said, "I'm fuckin' cold."
"So am I."
"Fuck you, Frank."
"Sorry, but that's Gerard's job."
Everyone either rolled their eyes or snorted, and Mikey said, "Let's go inside."
And so there was a furious packing up of equipment and everyone ran inside, suprising Gerard and Mikey's mom. "That was fast," she said.
"That's what she said," Frank said in a voice just under a whisper.
"Sounds great, Mom."
"Thanks Mrs. Way."
"Oh, hello there," she said to Anette. "You must be Anette. You were wonderful on stage."
"Yeah, that's me. And thank you," Anette said, blushing.
They all collapsed in the cluttered front room, and Mrs. Way brought them six steaming cups of hot chocolate before disappearing back into the house.
"This shit is awesome," Frank said as he drank his as fast as he could, nearly burning himself.
"Tell it to my mom."
Anette drank the chocolate in silence, trying desperately to warm back up.
"So, what did you think?" Ray asked Anette nervously.
She swallowed her drink and said, "You guys are great. I mean, really great."
Gerard sighed in relief. "Really? 'Cuz this is Bob's like, sixth practice."
"Well, then he's catching on fast."
"I've got it!"
Everyone stopped and looked at Mikey, who was staring at the back of a book. "Guys, I've got it."
"Got what?" Ray asked.
"A band name."
"That's awesome Mikey!"
"Shut up!" Bob said. "Let the man speak."
"My Chemical Romance," Mikey said.
Everyone sort of mouthed the words to themselves as it sunk in.
"Mikey... that's like, brilliant," Gerard said, the first one to recover.
"Hell yeah!" Frank said, punching Mikey playfully in the arm.
"It fits," Anette said, smiling.
Gerard pulled out the notebook that Anette recognized as the one that they all took turns writing music in, and he wrote "My Chemical Romance," on the cover. "This is awesome," he said, giving his younger brother a hug. "You're amazing. We're never replacing you."
"You'd better not."
They sat in a comfortable silence, drinking and grinning at Mikey and the new band name.
"Am I the only one who got their new schedule?" Anette finally asked, finally warm.
"Nope, I got mine too," said Ray, and everyone else nodded. Soon, there was a massive trade of schedules and what everyone was taking, and Anette beamed when she saw she and Ray still had History, the free period, and now a Chemistry class together where her Graphics class had been, and Mikey was in that too. That made, what, four classes they had together?
“This is so shit, I have to take another semester of gym,” Mikey grumbled.
“Me too,” Anette said, and she smiled a little, but he didn’t return it.
“Yes, we get to keep the free hour,” Ray said brightly.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in the living room, talking and laughing and telling jokes. It made school the next day seem like something that would never come.
It snowed all the first week of the new semester, meaning that almost everyone was staying on campus and inside for lunch. Frank, Gerard, Mikey and Ray all sat at their normal lunch table. Bob wasn’t there with them that day, but he sometimes ate with them. They didn’t blame him – he was in a completely different social circle after all, and so he felt that he needed to uphold his reputation sometimes.
A few tables away was the jock table, which was home to Andrew, his thug-like friends, and sometimes a handful of cheerleaders, like there were today. And then the table next to them was Chase's table where Anette usually sat with Rachel and Dawn and all her other friends, and sometimes Hailey and Bob sat there when they weren't off by themselves. But today, Ray watched Anette walk right past her boyfriend's table and take a seat between himself and Frank, crossing her legs and smoothing out her skirt.
"Hello," she said smoothly, as if this was an every day occurrence.
"Hey," Gerard said, looking up briefly from his latest drawing. "What brings you here?"
"Nothing much, I just didn't feel like eating with them today," she replied, jerking her head back to Chase's table. Everyone at that table was staring at Anette with looks of various levels of confusion on their faces.
"Not cool enough for them?" Mikey asked a bit snidely, but Anette didn't comment on that.
"Not at all. They're apparently too cool for me."
"What?" Ray asked.
SMACK. "I can't get this damn thing right!"
Gerard had smashed his forehead into the table, dropping his pencil. Frank reached over and rubbed his hand up and down Gerard's back.
"You just need a break, Gee. You've been at that thing for hours."
"Exactly! I can't get it to look the way I want," he mumbled from between his arms.
Something had flown through the air and landed right in Frank's hair, making it sticky and slimy. Gerard looked up and Frank pulled what turned out to be half a mayo-slathered sandwich off the back of his head. It gave him the appearance of just having someone cum all over his head.
They all turned when they heard a roar of laughter coming from Andrew's table. Andrew himself was bent double, laughing so hard his face was turning red.
"Asshole," Frank muttered, accepting the napkin Ray handed him and started wiping off his hair as best he could. Mikey started to stand, but Gerard shook his head.
"Mikey, it's not worth it. At all."
"He just threw shit at Frank!"
"Hey Iero, just finish having faggot sex?" Andrew called from across the room, and his table erupted in another wave of laughter. Tables around them were starting to laugh, too.
Ray had to hold Mikey down this time, but he realized too late that Mikey wasn't who he should have been worried about.
"Anette, get back here!" Gerard hissed, but she was already halfway to Andrew's table. Everyone but the people at his table fell silent, and they all watched Anette with anticipation.
"Andrew, you are a sick human being," she said, trying hard not to shout but failing at it, because Ray could even hear the quaver of anger in her voice.
"Anette, stop," Gerard groaned, but she of course couldn't hear him.
"This isn't a zoo, it's a cafeteria."
"Yeah? Those fuckers look like they belong in cages to me."
"Andrew, how about you just fess up and tell everyone that you're really only trying to hide the fact that you like it up the ass yourself?"
Everyone gasped. Ray had never heard Anette cuss before, let alone say anything that rude to anyone.
Andrew stood up, his face contorted in anger. "Shut the fuck up, you little-"
But before he could finish his sentence, Anette picked up the pudding cup of one of Andrew's tablemates and threw it all over his face.
It only took a few seconds for everyone to figure out what had happened, and they gasped, except for the people at Andrew's table, who looked like maybe they were too afraid to do anything.
"Get. Her," Andrew growled, and he threw someone's pasta at Anette as hard as he could.
It seemed like everyone in the cafeteria was throwing food at Anette. Ray ran through the flying food, getting bits of just about everything caught up in his wild curls. He grabbed her and started pulling her towards the exit, much to her protest.
"NO RAY, I'M GONNA KILL HIM!" she screamed.
"WE HAVE TO GET OUT!" Ray yelled back.
Mikey and Frank had taken it upon themselves to grab their lunches and went after Andrew, who was still trying to get at Anette. They landed half a salad covered in dressing in his face, and when they ran out of food, they both tackled Andrew to the ground, punching and kicking every bit of him they could, yelling things about them being tired of his shit and that it was about damn time. But then some of Andrew's friends joined in, and soon there was a brawl going on in the lunchroom among the chaos of the food fight.
Only Gerard had not participated. He had instead grabbed his friend's things and shoved them under the table in hopes to protect them from possible food-related damage, and then he tried to stay out of the way.
A shrill whistle pierced the air and almost everything stopped. Coach Jordan was looking at everyone, her whistle just inches from her lips and her face an expression of shock and anger.
"No one is leaving until Principal Morrison gets here," she shouted, and everyone looked around in shock, as if they had been in a trance. Only the guys fighting, Anette, and Ray still moved. Coach Jordan moved over to the fight and blew her whistle again, louder this time.
"Break it up!" she yelled, pulling boys off each other. Mikey and Frank helped each other up, panting and covered in already-developing bruises and some blood. Andrew was lying on the floor, groaning in pain. He had been on the bottom of the pile to begin with, and from the looks of it, had a broken nose. Coach Jordan helped him up, glaring at everyone else, especially Mikey and Frank.
"None of you are going to move until the principal gets here," she threatened again, and then she escorted Andrew out of the cafeteria.
Principal Morrison walked in just a few moments later. She didn't seem startled by the mess, but instead took a deep sigh and said, "Alright, who started it?"
Everyone in the hall but Gerard pointed at the group that was Anette, Ray, Mikey and Frank. Morrison just beckoned them with her finger, and they followed her towards the door.
"The rest of you will clean this mess up. It will be spotless before you leave for your next class," she said, making a motion to the janitor who had just come in to keep watch over everyone. "You four will come with me now," she said in a lower voice, and they followed her out and down the hall to the administrator offices.
Lots of different thoughts ran through Ray's mind as they followed the principal to the waiting room outside her office. They weren't allowed to sit in the chairs because of their varying degrees of filthiness, so they sat on a wooden bench, squeezing together to make enough room for all of them. What would their punishment be? Would Anette and himself get in trouble for starting it, even though they actually hadn't? Would Mikey and Frank get suspended, or maybe even expelled? Would Andrew get punished at all even, and what kind of story was he going to make up when Morrison talked to him?
"I will speak to all of you separately. Iero, you're first," she said, and Frank got up and followed her into her office. The secretaries gave the remaining three of the group looks of confusion and disgust.
Frank seemed to be in there for forever. Ray tried to think about music to distract him, moving his fingers along like he was holding his guitar right there, but it didn't do anything to keep down the nerves. He glanced at the other two - Mikey was stony-faced, and Anette looked extremely upset. But neither of them said anything, so Ray didn't either.
Finally, Frank came out and Mikey was called in. Frank looked really, really pissed, more pissed than Ray had ever seen him, but he, too, didn't say anything.
The second the door closed, Ray heard a sniff. He glanced back over to see a few tears running down Anette's face. He didn't know quite what to do, but he didn't really think her tears were that off-base. Wiping them off would be inappropriate, so instead he set his hand on her knee and gave it a squeeze. This only made more tears run, but she nodded her head. Then he removed his hand and they sat unmoving once again.
"Baker," the principal said, and Anette's face went whiter than it already was as she stood. Mikey gave her a nod before he sat down and she went in, looking completely terrified.
"Hope Gee doesn't get dragged into this," Mikey muttered softly enough so only Ray could hear him.
"Me too. Think he will?"
"Maybe. She's been looking through our records."
Ray gulped. Their records weren't spotless, that was for sure.
Anette was in there for longer than Frank had been, almost to the point where Ray was beginning to suspect that Principal Morrison was some sort of monster and had eaten her. But then the door opened and Anette walked out. Ray stood, and without either of them really thinking about it, they embraced in a brief hug before he walked into the principal's office.
It wasn't like this was the first time he had been here, nor Frank or Mikey's, neither. The four of them had landed here Ray's sophomore year after they decided to put bugs in all of the shampoo dispensers in the boy's locker room, in revenge for the football team locking all of them inside said locker room, which got them in trouble with a lot of different people. And then Mikey and Gerard ditched every now and then, so there was that. But Ray still didn't like it in the room - it gave him the creeps.
"Sit down, Ray," Morrison said, and Ray sat in the same chair that everyone else had been sitting in apparently, because it had smears of food on it. "Ray, I know you're a good kid. But so was Miss Baker. I never would have expected such an outburst from a student like her."
"It wasn't her fault though," Ray said without even thinking about it.
Morrison raised her eyebrows, clearly not believing Ray. “Oh? What makes you say that?”
“Well, she didn’t,” Ray said, trying to choose his words carefully now. “Andrew Callhart did.”
“The same boy that’s in the nurse’s office with a broken nose?”
“Yeah,” Ray replied slowly. “He threw a sandwich at Frank.”
Morrison nodded slowly as one might do with a small child who was telling a lie and trying to cover it up. “So, just because Mr. Callhart threw a sandwich, Miss Baker felt it appropriate to retaliate with a food fight, and Mr. Way and Mr. Iero by starting a fist fight?”
Ray swallowed. He knew what she was trying to do, and he had to try and not let her do it. “There weren’t any teachers around, so what were we supposed to do?”
“Get one,” Morrison offered, trying very hard not to sneer at Ray. “Or perhaps ask him to stop.”
“Anette did ask him to stop,” Ray said, having trouble keeping his voice even. “But he wouldn’t.”
Morrison was quiet for a minute as she examined something on her desk. “Ray, disorder happens when people try to take the rules and laws into their own hands. I will not tolerate disorder at my school.”
Ray wanted to point out that Andrew had accosted them several times in the past, most notable at the movie theater and at Homecoming, but he said nothing.
“I will be speaking to Mr. Callhart and then I will determine your punishments,” she said, standing up and showing Ray to the door. Ray opened his mouth to protest, but he was already being escorted out of the office and Andrew was called in. He had a large bruise on his face along with some dried blood, and his nose was at a slightly funny angel, but he still smirked triumphantly as he passed Ray.
“Now Andrew, I want you to tell me exactly what happened…” was the last thing he heard before the office door snapped shut once again. Ray resumed his place on the bench next to Anette, who was still crying silently.
After checking around to make sure no one else was within earshot, Mikey muttered, “This is such shit. We all know Andrew’s gonna make up some sob-story, just like he always does.”
“Yeah,” Frank agreed quietly. “And it doesn’t help that Morrison’s his aunt.”
“You heard me,” he said grimly. “I found out a couple months ago.”
“We’re so fucked,” Ray groaned, and Anette started shaking. “You’ll probably be fine though Anette,” he said quickly. “I mean, you’ve got a clean record.”
“You’re funny, Ray,” she said darkly, shakily. “Andrew’s been probably waiting for this for ages. He’ll probably even say I conceived the whole thing – put stuff in Frank’s hair, told him and Mikey to jump Andrew when the food fight started. My mom is going to kill me when she finds out.”
“Won’t she believe you over that old bitch?” Frank asked, jerking his head to the office door.
“Probably not,” Anette replied miserably.
“Well, you probably won’t get in that much trouble. Like, detention at the most,” Mikey said. “It’s me and Frank that’ll probably get suspended.”
“And he won’t even get so much as a slap on the wrist,” said Frank bitterly.
“Alright, come inside, all of you,” Morrison said, poking her head out the door. The four of them exchanged looks of oh-shit-here-we-go and what’s-gonna-happen? before they went inside.
Andrew was putting on a very good sniffling act, though everyone but Morrison seemed to know immediately it was fake. She motioned for them to take a seat, but no one did. Besides, there weren’t enough chairs.
“I’m very disappointed in all four of you,” she said with her talking-to-a-small-child attitude. “I’ve decided however, that you will only be suspended for the remainder of the week.”
Four jaws dropped and one smirked – three guesses who. “This is much better than what the rules say for fighting, which is expulsion,” she went on, “but Mr. Callhart here felt it was a heat-of-the-moment situation, and has also agreed to not press charges as long as you apologize for your actions.”
Ray knew instantly that Frank and Mikey would rather be expelled or killed or anything else than apologize to someone who didn’t deserve it and when they didn’t mean it.
“Sorry,” Frank finally said through lips that made shapes like he had swallowed poison. “Andrew,” he added as an afterthought.
“For what?” Principal Morrison asked.
“For… breaking your nose,” said Mikey, equally as unwillingly.
“It’s—it’s alright,” Andrew said, pretending to still be upset.
“Thank you,” Morrison said. “You’ll wait outside for your parents, whom I will call now to come pick you up.”
And they were back outside the office, the group of four on their bench, Andrew in a comfy chair across the waiting room from them, and he was smirking up a storm. When no one but them was listening, he whispered, “Looks like I just won the battle, fuckers.”
Mikey Way has logged on.
Mikey Way: Hey Frank, you on?
Frank Iero: Yeup.
Ray Toro: Me too.
Mikey Way: Great. How much shit did you guys get in?
Ray Toro: None. You know my mom hates Morrison, and she said it was stupid 'cuz I didn't do anything anyways.
Frank Iero: Lucky bastard. My parents are so mad. Especially that I was fighting.
Ray Toro: How are you online then?
Frank Iero: I snuck out of the house when they left for work and grabbed a computer at the Starbucks down the street.
Ray Toro: What about you Mikey?
Mikey Way: Mom's kinda mad since I broke that asshole's nose, but I'm only grounded until Sunday. I'm on Gerard's computer right now 'cuz she took mine.
Frank Iero: That lucky bastard didn't even get in trouble with the office.
Mikey Way: Yeah. He told mom what really happened, so I think that's why I'm not grounded for life.
Frank Iero: At least your mom is reasonable. My parents believed every word from Morrison and not me.
Ray Toro: Sucks man.
Frank Iero: Yeah. You heard from Anette yet?
Ray Toro: No, but did you see how mad her mom was when she came and got her?
Mikey Way: She was actually kinda scary.
Frank Iero: Yeah. I hope Anette's not like, dead or something.
Ray Toro: Well, I saw her mom leave for work about an hour ago, so I might go over and see how she is.
Mikey Way: Creeper.
Ray Toro: Fuck you man. No, actually, fuck Andrew. This is all his fault.
Frank Iero: Do you guys know how hard it is to get mayo out of your hair, let alone your clothes? I think I went though half a bottle of shampoo trying to get that shit out.
Mikey Way: That sucks. So I guess this means you won't be at band practice?
Frank Iero: Not at all man. Probably not for a while, even. They didn't say when I can go out again.
Ray Toro: Can't you just sneak out? I could pick you up.
Frank Iero: My dad threatened to lock my windows if he caught me sneaking out, so unless we have practice at night or when they're at work, I'm not gonna risk him taking everything I own.
Mikey Way: Damn, you should live with me.
Frank Iero: I wish.
Mikey Way: ...hey guys, I've been thinking a lot today.
Ray Toro: Yeah Mikey?
Frank Iero: Did it hurt?
Mikey Way: Frank, you're such an asshole. No, well, maybe. I think I have a problem.
Ray Toro: ...genius, Mikey. Did you just realize you almost got expelled?
Mikey Way: Not that, it's a different problem.
Frank Iero: Shit, my time's up. I'll try and sneak out again tomorrow, but no promises.
Ray Toro: Don't risk it. Bye.
Frank Iero: Thanks, Mommie Toro.
Mikey Way: Bye Frank.
Frank Iero has logged off.
Ray Toro: Okay Mikey, what's wrong?
Mikey Way: Well, I was thinking a lot last night cuz I couldn't sleep, and I got to thinking about Anette.
Ray Toro: What about her?
Mikey Way: I can't figure out why I hate her.
Ray Toro: That's not a problem, that's good.
Mikey Way: That's not half of it. I mean, I should hate her. She's a prep, right?
Ray Toro: Well... sure. I guess.
Mikey Way: What?
Ray Toro: Nothing. Go on.
Mikey Way: Alright. But Ray, don't tell Frank or Gerard, okay? Especially not Frank, he'll never fucking leave me alone about it.
Ray Toro: Whatever man.
Mikey Way: I started thinking about everything that's happened this year, you know?
Ray Toro: Yeah.
Mikey Way: And I thought about everything I've done, and she's done, and I think I like her.
Ray Toro: ...dude.
Mikey Way: Yeah. I mean... fuck. I don't know if I do or not, but I think I do. I mean, why else would I break Andrew's nose?
Ray Toro: Because he's the world's biggest douche bag?
Mikey Way: Of course, but you remember that night at the theater? And I hit him?
Ray Toro: Yeah, my fucking ribs still hurt sometimes.
Mikey Way: I went after him cuz he had said something about Gerard, and I just kinda went crazy. And I think that's what happened in the lunchroom yesterday. I saw him trying to hurt her, and I snapped.
Ray Toro: We all did.
Mikey Way: I guess. And like, during Grease? You know that drive in scene? Where she and Gerard had to make out?
Ray Toro: Yeah. God damn never have I wanted more to trade places with someone in my life.
Mikey Way: Gross man, I don't want to hear your sick fantasies you have about my brother, 'kay?
Ray Toro: Sorry. Go on.
Mikey Way: Fuck you man, you just got the worst image of you and him in my head.
Ray Toro: Care to share?
Mikey Way: No. Not at all. I'm going to burn my brain instead.
Ray Toro: lmfao
Mikey Way: Anyways, every time I saw them, I got kinda pissy, like I was a jealous little fuck or something.
Ray Toro: Well, she was making out with your brother.
Mikey Way: That's what I told myself at the time. But I think what it really was was it made me mad seeing Gerard's hands all over her.
Ray Toro: Okay dude, this is a problem.
Mikey Way: I fucking told you it was. I'm not even supposed to like her.
Ray Toro: Why not? She's nice, and she's pretty for a girl.
Mikey Way: It's not just that. Yeah, she is, but she's also some popular chick, and I'm well... you know.
Ray Toro: We all are. But that's not really your problem.
Mikey Way: What is then, O Great Wise Decepticon?
Ray Toro: You forget that there's this guy named Chase Skyridge who kind of owns her.
Mikey Way: He doesn't own her.
Ray Toro: They're dating and they're fucking, that's pretty close.
Mikey Way: ...oh god they fuck?
Ray Toro: Duh dude. That's like the only reason Chase dates people.
Mikey Way: Alright, so she has a boyfriend and she's popular. That's already two reasons I shouldn’t like her. And number three is I'm pretty sure she doesn't like me.
Ray Toro: Well, you know, maybe if you weren't such an asshole to her all the time she'd like you more.
Mikey Way: But... Ray, this is fucked up.
Ray Toro: Yes, it is. But you know, you can like her still. There's no rule against that.
Mikey Way: I guess.
Ray Toro: Do you even know why you like her?
Mikey Way: ...not at all. That's why it's confusing.
Ray Toro: Alright, well, I'm going to finish my application I'm working on, and you figure out if you like her or not.
Mikey Way: Fine :P
Ray Toro: I'll ttyl.
Ray Toro has logged off
Ray closed his internet window and sighed. It wasn't like he needed another problem to deal with, but here it was. He could already see it - Mikey asking him to set him up with Anette, Ray playing messenger, Ray being that relationship bridge that he always was. Maybe this time he could get Mikey to convince Gerard to hang out with Ray more, because that would be really nice. He hardly ever got any time that was just him and Gerard, alone, doing god knows what...
Ray snapped himself out of his daydream and checked his list for everything he needed to include in the current application he was working on. The School of Music for this college wanted an audition tape, so Ray got his guitar and the recording program on his laptop ready to go. It didn't say thing about whether they wanted original compositions or not, so he recorded quite a bit of music, some of it the songs that the band had been working on, and some that were Ray's personal favorites. He played through some Metallica and Iron Maiden and an original song that Gerard had dubbed, “Our Lady of Sorrows,” and then stopped the recording. After editing it and making sure it was as good as possible, Ray saved the recording and checked off that portion of his list. God, everyone wanted so much crap just to get into a stupid school.
Afterwards, he went downstairs to grab some lunch. His mom would be at work for a while, and she hadn't said anything about not being able to leave, so he slid his shoes on and walked down the block to Anette's house. There was a car outside it that he didn't recognize, and he wondered who could be here. So he just walked up to the front door and knocked on it, hoping that her mom hadn't gotten a new car or that it was Chase's.
Instead, a college-aged woman opened the door. She was wearing sweats and a long sleeve shirt, and had jet black hair, but her eyes were the same shade as Anette's. "Can I help you?" she asked, raising her eyebrows.
"Yeah, um, is Anette home?" Ray asked, looking at the floor now.
"She's not allowed to see anyone. She's in trouble," the woman said, narrowing her blue eyes at him.
"Oh. Okay," Ray said, and he turned around.
The door shut, but not before he heard Anette call, "Noel, who was it?" Out the front window, Anette was staring at Ray, a look of misery on her face. She pointed up to the second level and to the left, like she was trying to tell him something. Ray just nodded and walked around to the front left corner, careful not to be seen by Noel. Anette had left the front window, so he couldn't see any more directions. He just stood at the foot of the tree, waiting for something to happen.
Soon enough, Anette's head poked out one of the windows on the second floor. "Ray? What are you doing?" she hissed.
"What's going on, Anette?" Ray asked, trying to keep his voice low.
Anette disappeared, but was back in a moment. "I can't talk Ray. Come back in an hour, and there'll be a note on the ground right below this window," she said before closing the window again. Ray sighed and started walking back towards his house.
An hour later, he came back as sneakily as he could, and did indeed find a note below her window. He stuffed it in his pocket and walked back home to read it in privacy. The note was a little wet from lying in the slushy snow, and some of the ink had run because of it, but he could still read it.
Sorry about that. My sister is pretty much house sitting me.
I'm grounded for goodness knows how long. The only thing that didn't get taken away was theatre, though I'm not sure why. So you won't be able to call me or anything.
I'm so, so sorry I got you and Frank and Mikey in trouble. This is so stupid, if I just hadn't -" here the words had washed away "-things would be okay. But no, I just had to go being an idiot. Will you please tell them I'm sorry for what happened?
I'm not sure what's going to happen when we get back to school, but you guys should probably -" Here, he thought it either said "keep away from" or "kill anyone for", but he was pretty sure it was the first one. "-me. I've already messed you lives up enough.
I hope you didn't get into too much trouble and that Mikey and Frank didn't either. That would be terrible.
All respect and love,
Ray read the note a few times, getting a little more concerned for her each time. It sounded like things were going bad for her too, but she was being silly. It wasn't really her fault they were all in trouble, and they certainly weren't going to stay away from her. At least, not Ray, and by the sound of it, Mikey wasn't going to either. He wanted to write her back, but wasn't sure how he would get the note to her. He pictured her house, the window that she had leaned out of (which he assumed lead to her room) and the tree that was right next to it.
The tree. Of course. He would just wait until night and he thought Anette's mom and sister were asleep, climb up the tree, and deliver his note to her. Hopefully he could just push it under the window or something.
The rest of the day, he prepared what he was going to do. He picked out dark clothes and good shoes to climb in, wrote her a reply, and then spent the rest of the time being anxious. He didn't even touch a video game, and scarcely his guitar. When his mom came home and cooked a dinner of amazing burritos, he hardly talked during the meal. He just let him mom unload his worries onto him like everyone else did.
Finally around ten, he thought he might creep over and try. He climbed out his window and started down the block, patting his pocket every few steps to make sure the letter was still there. There was a dim light up in Anette's room, and light in another part of the house. Someone besides her was still awake. He waited about twenty minutes for the light to go out, but it never did. Finally, he decided that because the light was on the other side of the house than the tree, he would be okay to climb it.
It was a lot harder climbing a tree as quietly as you could than Ray had imagined, and it didn't help that he hadn't climbed a tree in ages. He nearly fell twice, losing his footing and slipping on the icy tree, and it was cold as fuck, but he kept going until he reached even with Anette's window.
The branch he was studying went pretty close to her window, but it would be dangerous getting onto it. Slowly, he pulled out the letter and started inching across the branch to her window. Feet... inches... centimeters, and he was there, just at the end of he bend in the branch, about two feet from Anette's window. But then he slipped and had to clutch the branch, losing the letter in the process. He watched it flutter to the ground, and he groaned.
"God damn it," he muttered, not moving from his position on the tree.
"Ray? What are you doing?"
He looked up sharply, almost falling again, and saw Anette looking out her window, wearing nothing but a silky nightdress.
"I was, uh..." He regained himself, mentally cursing the fallen note. "I was trying to deliver my note."
"So you climbed my tree."
"Um, yeah, that's about right," he said, shivering a little.
Anette sighed sadly and said, "You shouldn't be here."
"If you're quieter than quiet, you can come in," she said, opening the window as wide as it would go, shivering violently when a blast of cold air flew though the room.
"Through the window? You've got to be kidding me," Ray hissed, gritting his teeth.
"If Chase can do it, so can you," she said, holding out a pale hand to him. "Just grab the ledge with your hands and pull yourself in."
"Okay," he said, and did what she said. She gripped his forearms and helped him in and he scrambled inside, getting tree bark and slush on her carpet. He stood, panting. "Sorry for the mess," he whispered.
"I'll clean it later," she said, closing the window and walking over to lock only one of doors in her walls. "The other one is the bathroom and Terrence's room," she explained, grabbing a pair of sweatpants and pulling them on as she went.
Ray studied the room. It was large and open, with white carpet and light blue walls. She had a huge bed and even a couch in her room, and a bare desk that looked like it used to be home to a computer.
"You said you had a note?" she asked, sitting on the edge of her bed.
"I accidentally dropped it right before you opened the window," he said, picking some bark out of his curly hair. "I'll have to get it before I leave."
"Okay," she said, shaking.
"Anette... um, well, you look kinda terrible," Ray said, trying not to be mean. But it was true - she had no makeup on, not even a trace of her usual pink lipstick, her hair was a bit unkempt, and the sexy-purple-nightdress-and-sweats combination was definitely the weirdest thing she'd ever worn, not to mention she looked a bit sickly.
"I feel terrible," she muttered, putting her head in her hands. "I'm in so much trouble. Even Noel is mad at me."
"Yeah, I kinda got that when she answered the door."
"Mmmhmm." She paused and wiped at her eyes. "So, what did your note say?"
"Just that I'm sorry you're in trouble, but you're being silly. We're not going to stop hanging out with you, and this really wasn't your fault. I'm not in trouble, Mikey kinda is, and Frank... well, he's in a shitton of it, but I'm sure his parents won't be too hard on him," he said optimistically.
"You should though," Anette said. "Stop being around me, anyways. You're ending up on the receiving end of a lot of bad things."
"We always have been," Ray replied. "It's nothing new."
She was silent as she tried to fight more tears. "God, I'm probably not ever going to be able to hang out with Dawn again, or Chase," she finally said, mostly to herself.
"If they're really your friends, it shouldn't matter at all what you did or who does or doesn't like you," Ray said firmly.
Anette smiled at him weakly, but froze when she heard footsteps downstairs. "Ray, go. Go now," she said fearfully, and she helped Ray scramble out her window and back onto the tree. He jumped the last few feet, getting slush in his shoes, grabbed the soaking wet note, and ran as fast as he could down the block, hoping neither he nor Anette would get in trouble for this.
The following Monday morning was probably one of the worst in Anette's life. She was late to school because quit honestly, she didn't want to go. Her classes frustrated her because she couldn't focus and words and numbers moved around so much that they became another language and she nearly made herself sick from trying to learn it. No one talked to her, and she didn't try to talk to anyone. Ray only spoke to her during Chemistry because they were doing a lab, but he didn't make any small talk with her. He did however give her a grim, understanding smile when she had sat down next to him, so she took this as a sign that he was feeling like she was.
At lunch, she figured she should talk to Chase, so she grabbed her lunch and started walking towards the table where he usually sat. But as she approached, Kate gave her a look of disgust. "What do you think you're doing?" she asked as Anette made to sit down. Anette looked at Dawn for some support, but she only shook her head sadly.
"Sorry, I didn't know I wasn't welcome," Anette said, looking at the floor.
"That much should have been obvious, considering what you did to Andrew," Rachel added with venom. Even if Andrew only kept her around for a fuck buddy, everyone knew that Rachel was infatuated with him.
"Sorry," Anette mumbled again, and she took off, tears stinging at her eyes.
"Hey, Anette! Come eat with us!"
She looked up to see Gerard and Frank, each with their lunches, standing at the cafeteria doors.
"We're ditching this place. You should come with us," Frank said.
"Alright," Anette replied, and she followed them out of the cafeteria and through the hallways. "Thanks."
"No problem. We weren't about to let you suffer in there by yourself," Gerard said, shooting her his awkward smile.
They walked down to the hallway where she and Ray spent their free periods to find Ray, Mikey, and surprisingly Hailey and Bob all eating their lunch together, laughing at someone's joke.
"Hailey? Bob? What are you guys doing here?" Anette asked as she sat down between Ray and Frank and started un-wrapping her sandwich.
"Same as you, though we were a little more informal," Hailey answered, taking a bite of her pizza.
Hailey's face fell. "Oh. You haven't seen The Stall."
Anette's stomach dropped. The Stall was the bathroom stall in the both restrooms on the second floor by the library that was basically the communication board of the students. Mostly, the popular kids issued threats like so-and-so is to be treated with respect now or you're gonna get your ass kicked, or if you hang out with this person, you're an outcast, don't come to our parties, etc., and it was where the I-want-a-good-fuck list was kept. Anette had had to write a threat there once freshman year, but hadn't visited The Stall since. She hadn't much cared since that was more for people like Rachel and Kate and Andrew.
But now she wanted to know what was going on. "Which one, boys or girls?" she asked.
"Boys," Bob replied. "I saw it this morning."
He pulled out his phone, found a picture on it, and handed it to Anette, who squinted at it. In black sharpie, someone had scrawled her, Mikey, and Frank’s names and a message, but she couldn't read it.
"What's it say?" she asked, handing it back to him.
"Andrew put out a notice saying anyone who valued their lives was to not be around you, Mikey, or Frank," Bob said without looking at his phone, as if he knew it by heart.
Anette's jaw went slack in shock. Anyone who valued their lives? "What's Andrew going to do, kill people?" she asked, her voice a bit squeaky. "That's illegal!"
"We should report him!"
Frank snorted. "Yeah, let's go report him to the person who's probably going to say we wrote it there."
"Then the police!"
Gerard just shook his head. "No, we need to just wait for this to die down. It eventually does."
"But—so, this is why you're here?" Anette asked Hailey.
"Yeup. I like you more than Andrew, so I figured I might as well just ditch myself."
"And I'm automatically out. They were pissed when I joined My Chem, and they probably won't let me back in as long as I'm in it," Bob said, using an affectionate nickname for the band. "Not that I plan on leaving any time soon."
"But—but—"Anette stuttered, unable to understand how these people could just throw away the lives they had like this.
“Sweetheart, there are worse things we could do,” Hailey said, taking a casual bite of her pizza crust.
"Anette, quit stuttering and eat. You might as well get used to our company," Frank said, smiling at her. "There's no turning back."
"Yeah..." she said quietly. “No turning back indeed."
We need to talk after sixth hour. Meet me outside at the hill.
Anette had read these words that Chase and written over and over again. He had slipped it to her at the end of History, and now she was hoping, praying that he was going to be on her side. He just had to be. He would never side with Andrew.
As she started for the front doors from the theater, she ran into Dawn. "Way to be a friend, Dawn," Anette said a bit snidely as they bumped shoulders.
"Anette, I can't be seen with you," she muttered. She looked sad. "I'm going to get kicked out like you if I am. And really, who knows what Andrew will do?"
"He can't do a damn thing, Dawn. What is wrong with you?"
"Sorry Anette. I'm really, really sorry," she said quickly before walking away with her head down, trying to get away as fast as she could.
Anette huffed, angry, and walked out the front doors. She made for the small hill that was in a courtyard in the front of the school. Standing next to a bench was Chase. As she reached him, the last of the stragglers made their way into the school or off campus, leaving them alone.
"Chase—" Anette started, but he pressed a warm finger over her lips. She hoped he might kiss her, hold her, anything, but he didn't. He just looked at her lips, unwilling to make eye contact with her.
"Anette, I... I've been thinking a lot today," he finally said, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
"Me too. Funny how that works."
"Anette, don't. You... I love you, but..."
"But what?" she asked, fear and despair filling her.
"But we can't be together," he said finally, looking in her eyes for the first time. His eyes were full of confusion and doubt.
"What?" Anette said, finding the words taking a while to sink in. He couldn't mean it. This was a sick joke.
"Anette, I have to break up with you."
"I... I can't be with you. Not after last week, and—" He stopped, but Anette could sense that he was going to say something about the message in The Stall.
"You're going to choose social status over me?" she finally said, small and defeated.
"I have to. I have to do this," he said, and unable to bear it anymore, he walked away.
Anette stood alone on the frozen sidewalk, stunned. This was it - the last straw. The last straw keeping her sane had snapped in two, hell, into a million pieces. She felt hot tears begin to stream down her face as she hugged herself, wishing more than anything that she could rewind time and have just ignored that flying sandwich.
She had no idea how long she stood there - it could have been a lifetime for all she knew. But she did know that when she finally moved, she was stiff and freezing. As she walked back into the school, she checked her memory for what was supposed to happen today - there was no makeup crew meeting, and she had turned her designs in for the four lead's makeup to Mr. Wind just last hour. Getting those designs done had been the only perk to her not being at school all of Thursday or Friday. So she could go up on the roof and be alone, be as alone as she felt right now.
She had to pass her and Ray's hallway en route to the roof door, and he was there, sitting and writing in the music notebook like he usually did. He looked up as she passed, but didn't say anything until he figured out that she was not going to be sitting with him.
"Anette, what's wrong?" he asked, jumping up to follow her, leaving his belongings in the hallways unattended. But she kept walking, and he only caught up when she paused to open the door to the roof. "Anette, why are you crying?"
"Ray, I—I just want to be alone, okay?" she half-yelled, and she pushed the door open and was up the stairs to the roof in seconds. He stood down in the hallway, propping the door open with his foot and staring up at her with a sad expression on his face.
Once on the roof, Anette cleared off some snow and sat down on her jacket, wrapping her arms around her to keep her warm. She cursed the school's uniform and of their not letting her wear something warmer than a skirt and knee-high socks in the middle of January. But she soon came to not care about the cold, or the fact that her makeup was running, or that this was only the second time she had cried this hard in her entire life. All she could think about was Chase and how much she hated him and wanted him at the same time right now. It was so, so unfair.
"Why Chase?" she choked out to herself, squeezing her knees tighter to her body. "Why did you let Andrew win?"
She heard the door to the roof open and she turned around shocked to see not Ray but Mikey standing there, one hand in his pocket and one hand pushing up his glasses that were sliding down his face.
"What are you doing here? I don't need to deal with you, too," she said shakily, sniffling and turning back around. He didn't say anything, but instead walked over and draped his warm jacket around her shoulders. She tried to ignore it.
"Ray said you were upset," he said simply, sitting down next to her after he cleared away enough snow to do so. "And I decided that this was more important than French class."
"You'll get in trouble for ditching," Anette pointed out.
"So... I don't know."
They were silent except for Anette sniffling, trying to stifle her tears, but nothing she tried was really working. After a few minutes, Mikey said, "So, you gonna tell me what's up or are we just gonna sit here until the snow melts?"
"Why should you care what's wrong?"
"'Cuz you're upset."
"Lots of people get upset all the time."
"Yeah, they do."
"So why me?"
"Because you hate me."
"I—" Mikey stopped, frowning. "I don't... I don't hate you, okay?"
"Really? Could have fooled me," Anette replied, with perhaps a little more venom in her voice than what she had intended.
"I mean... I did, but then I decided that I didn't really have a reason for hating you."
Anette wiped more tears and makeup off her face, wishing she had brought her mirror today so she could get cleaned up.
"Well... Chase broke up with me."
"Why?" Mikey asked, looking a bit surprised as he shook some of his brown hair out of his eyes.
"He... well, he decided his social status was more important than me I guess, but other than that I don't know."
"Yeah," Anette agreed, holding back a sneeze. "And I—I'm not sure what to do," she said miserably, a fresh wave of tears flowing down her cheeks.
"You can't talk to him about it?"
"No. I don't have any way of communicating other than person to person, and I'm apparently not allowed to talk to him at school."
"Well, obviously if he's going to break up with you over something this stupid then he doesn't deserve you."
Anette gave Mikey a curious look. He glanced at her and then swallowed.
"I mean, that's the general situation, isn't it?"
"I guess." She wiped her eyes again, making sure Mikey's jacket didn't slide off her shoulders. "I just... I'm so mad at him, but I can't be at the same time."
"Why not? I'd be pissed if I were you."
"I love him."
Mikey didn't say anything to that, and Anette didn't really want him to. But he eventually did.
"You sure he loved you?"
"Yes," Anette said quickly, but she second-guessed herself. "At least, I really hope he did."
They heard the bell ring and then moments later, people started to exit the school. Anette and Mikey stood up. She gave him back his jacket and picked up her own, which was soaking wet. Without a word, they went back down the stairs and out the door, shutting it tight behind them. Just as Anette was about to walk away, Mikey said, "Hey Anette."
"You know we're here for you, right? Ray and Frank and Gerard and... me. We're all here for you."
Anette smiled slightly with trembling lips. "Th-thanks Mikey," she said, and they left together, walking side by side, alone together in a sea of students.
It was quite a while before Anette and Frank were both ungrounded. It was February now, and only a week until the dance show opened. Anette had been so busy being miserable and working on makeup designs to notice how much time had passed. She had found a little comfort from her new official friends, but Chase had still left a gaping hole where her heart used to be.
It was a Saturday night, almost time for her to be putting Terrence to bed, when Anette's phone buzzed. It was Ray.
"Hey Ray, what's up?"
"Anette, this is so stupid..."
"What's going on?"
"Uh... do you think that you could come to my house tomorrow morning and..."
"Help me straighten my hair."
Anette laughed a little. "Ray, that's got to be impossible. Why on earth do you want to straighten it?"
"Just... I do. For practice tomorrow. So, yes or no?"
"Let me ask my mom."
Anette put the phone down and found her mom, who was pulling a shirt over Terrence's head. "Mom? Can I go to Ray's house tomorrow for a little while please? I'll watch Terrence the rest of the day," she added, hoping to get on her mom's good side.
"I... guess," she said unwillingly. "I want you home at a reasonable time though."
"Alright, thank you Mom," Anette said, and went back to her room and her phone.
"Ray? I got an okay."
"Awesome! Um, so do you know which house is mine?"
"Just uh, walk up the block and cross the street, and I'm the corner house. Can you be here at like ten?"
"When's your practice?"
"I'll be there at nine."
"Oh, okay. Thanks Anette."
"Yeah, no problem. Bye."
Anette left her house at eight-fifty the next morning, hugging her grey pea coat to her body as tight as she could, her boots making squelching noises on the slushy cement of the sidewalk. She had her purse with her, filled with her straightener and a brush, along with the usual items she carried: her wallet, some gum, her planner, iPod, headphones, cell phone, and a small bottle of perfume. She made it down the block and across the street to Ray's, which was a small house that looked like it might have a basement. She stepped up to the door and knocked on it.
Ray opened the door, looking a bit groggy. "Hey Anette, my mom's still asleep, so we'll go downstairs," he yawned, leading her inside.
"Why is she asleep?" Anette asked, astonished that anyone could still be asleep at this time of day.
"She worked the night shift last night at the diner. She's a cook," he explained as they walked down the stairs. "Doesn't matter, my bathroom is down here anyways."
The basement comprised mostly of a living or game room, probably a game room considering Ray. There was a large, old television against one wall, stacks and stacks of games and movies around it, and a large, soft couch in front of it. Ray led her instead to a bathroom that was messy, but usable.
"Sorry for the mess, I only just got up," he apologized, starting to tidy up.
"It's fine. Were you up late?"
"'Till two. Mikey and I were raging WoW last night."
Anette laughed and pulled out the straightener. "Well, here it is, and I brought a brush just in case."
"Thank you so much, Anette," he said, and plugged it in. "How long do you think this'll take?"
Anette looked at his hair, which seemed to be an even more untamed mess of curls today than it had ever been. "Honestly... ages. But I'll try and make it fast."
"You know you're awesome for doing this, right?" he said, sitting on the edge of the bathtub so Anette could reach his hair easily.
"Thanks. But why would you want it straightened? I like it curly, personally," she said, testing to see if the straightener was hot yet.
"I'll, um... I'll tell you later, okay? After band practice."
And so Anette began the long, painstaking process of trying to tame Ray's hair into submission. It was very slow going, and even though she was trying to be efficient as possible, his hair was only becoming wavy instead of straight.
"This... has got... to be... impossible," Anette grunted, tugging a particularly stubborn section though the hot iron.
"Sorry," he mumbled.
"This wasn't some stupid dare, was it?"
"No, it's... kind of an experiment."
"Great. Now you're Doctor Frankenstein, too?"
"Well, since you're the one holding the straightener that makes you the doctor and me the monster, no?"
Anette worked for as long as she could before Ray absolutely had to get dressed and they jumped in his car. His hair had only really been half-tamed, and was fluffier than ever.
"Thanks for trying, Anette," he said as he pushed the speed limit through the neighborhood.
"Yeah. Um, Ray? Are those skinny jeans?"
He blushed slightly. "Yes. I decided to wear them today."
"Oh... okay," Anette said, confused. Ray was acting really, really weird.
They made it to the Way house just before practice was due to start. Hailey had decided to tag along today, and she and Frank seemed to be caught up in a deep discussion of different guitars.
"About ti—holy shit Ray, what happened to your hair?!" Mikey exclaimed as Ray and Anette walked in, and everyone turned around to see what Mikey had been walking about.
"I uh... tried to straighten it. Anette did anyways," Ray said shyly.
"I kinda failed. If I had a few more hours maybe..."
"Well, the pants make up for it," Gerard said, winking at Ray. "Skinny jeans make the world go round."
Ray just blushed and got his stuff set up. Hailey and Anette sat on the floor on their jackets and listened and made comments. Hailey was better at being critical because she actually played guitar and sang and wasn't afraid to give criticism, whereas it made Anette feel rude and a bit nervous to be critical of someone who was doing something she could never do.
"Can we play that again?" Frank asked as they finished a song. "I fucked up majorly."
"Me too," Bob said, twirling a drumstick in his fingers.
"Sure thing," Gerard said, and Ray started the intro guitar line once more.
Anette simply closed her eyes and tried to take in every sound she could, all the guitar riffs and bass lines and drum beats. And Gerard's singing. It was so different than when he was on stage doing a theatre show, it was actually kind of weird. Like it was a different person singing.
"I'm not okay. You wear me out..."
‘You're tellin' me,’ Anette thought as she listened, finding herself connecting more and more with the song as it went on. It ended it seemed too soon, and Anette opened her eyes, smiling.
"Was that better?" Frank asked.
"Much," Hailey said, nodding.
"I love it," Anette said softly. "It's so... relatable."
"Thanks," Gerard said. "I kinda felt like that's what we feel like all too often."
They ended practice at about one, and Ray drove Anette home. Neither her mom nor Noel was there, so as they pulled up to her house, she said, "Hey Ray, wanna come in for a while?"
"Uh, sure," he said, parking the car and getting out with her. Terrence wasn't there either - he must have been dropped off at daycare. The two teens flopped down in the squishy chairs in the living room.
"So, what was this all about?" Anette asked, gesturing to Ray's hair and clothes.
"Um, well, it's kinda stupid, actually..."
"Life is kinda stupid."
"Yeah, that's true. Well, honestly? I was… trying to impress Gerard."
"Why would—oh," Anette said, realizing what he was talking about. "You like him."
"Yeah, stupid, right?"
"Not really. It's perfectly fine."
Ray looked at her, relieved. "So you're not a homophobe?"
"Not at all," Anette said, laughing a little. "I mean, why would I be?"
"Well, 'cuz... I dunno."
"'Cuz I was a popular?"
"I guess that's it."
"But anyways... so you like Gerard, huh?"
"Yeah, but he's too busy being... well, Gerard, to notice."
"I'm sorry. That sucks."
"Yeah, and I mean, I think I've liked him for a long time, but I'm not even sure if I'm gay or not."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, uh—" He paused and looked around, as if expecting someone to pop out of a plant with a tape recorder. "I started liking him our sophomore year when we got really, really wasted on Halloween and made out a lot," he said in a lower voice, blushing a little again. "I mean, I haven't dated many people, so I didn't really know... but I liked it, so that means I'm gay, right?"
He searched Anette's eyes for an answer, but she couldn't give him one. "I dunno, Ray. Have you ever kissed someone else? Or done anything with a girl before?"
"Like I said, haven't dated many people."
"Okay, well, um..." She stopped and thought for a moment. "I remember in mid school there was this guy who I think kissed a lot of different people, guys and girls, and then sort of... determined it for himself."
"That's an... idea, but I don't think I could find a girl who'd do anything with me," Ray said, laughing nervously.
Anette's eyebrows furrowed. "Well, I would. I mean, like..." She blushed now, realizing how her words were sounding. "If you wanted me to. To you know... see..."
"O-okay," Ray sort of stuttered, and they sat in an awkward silence until Anette sighed.
"You know Ray, you're not the only one who has a stupid love life," she said, half-smiling at him.
"What do you mean?"
"Well... please, please don't tell anyone, okay?"
"M'kay, well... at the end of the day? I think I'm kind of attracted to Mikey," she mumbled, blushing bright red.
Ray gave her a look of surprise. "Really?"
"Yeah..." She sighed, shaking her head. "It's stupid, right? I just broke up with Chase, I still want Chase, and I don't care if Mikey said he didn't hate me, he probably still doesn't like me much, and I'm probably just being desperate to fill the space that Chase left, but..."
Ray shook his head, unable to believe any of this. "Why Mikey?"
"I really don't know. It's like... on the roof, even though I didn't want him there, it was kinda nice that he was, you know? But he's so confusing, like he'll be rude one minute and doing unspoken favors for me the next."
Ray laughed shakily. "Yeah, he's a weird kid. Don't worry though, it's just taking him longer that the rest of us to adjust to the fact that you're actually nice to us. I mean, I know he's confusing to you, but you're just as confusing to him, if that makes sense."
"Oh," Anette replied. "I don't mean to be."
"And I don't think he means to be either."
There was a moment of silence.
"You won't tell him, right? That I might like him?"
"I swear I won't."
"Okay. Thanks Ray."
The following week, Ray was actually a bit entertained. He seemed to be the only one who knew both sides of the Mikey/Anette situation, and it was kind of funny watching them in Chemistry. They didn't really talk to each other, but when they did they were both too flustered to make much of a conversation, though neither one seemed to recognize that the other was uncomfortable talking to the other one. Ray was considering telling them to just quit being stupid and go after each other, but he didn't want to ruin anything. Plus it was funny.
Gerard had somehow caught on to Mikey's crush and had told Frank, and they and Ray spent quite a bit of time teasing Mikey and trying to get him to just talk to her like a normal human being, but every time he got a bit paler and cussed at them.
The day before the dance show was due to open, Ray and Anette seemed to have finally gotten over their awkward spell and were chatting animatedly during their free hour.
"So, are you free Sunday? We don't have school Monday, so Mikey and I have been planning a movie night at my house," Ray said, putting his finished History homework away.
"Sounds fun. Who and what?"
"Hopefully, all of us-" 'Us' now-a-days meant Ray, Mikey, Gerard, Frank, Anette, Bob, and Hailey, "-and a marathon of the Star Wars movies. I haven't seen them in ages."
"Sure, I guess. I'll have to ask."
"Yeah, no problem."
They sat for a moment in their own thoughts, and then Anette said, "Ray, do you want to try and figure out if you're gay or not?"
"I-I guess. When?"
Ray swallowed - his mouth had suddenly become rather dry. "Sure. Wha-what do you want to do?"
Anette was facing him now, and had moved closer. "Just... tell me when to stop." She glanced around the hallway, making sure they were still alone, and then leaned in and kissed him.
It was sort of a weird sensation, kissing someone when both parties were sober. Anette's lips were rather soft, albeit a tiny bit sticky from her lipstick, and they both trembled with awkwardness, Ray more than she. He closed his eyes as she continued kissing him, her hands finding the back of his neck and his hair. He let her do her thing, her hands traveling down his body, but he pulled away just before her hands could get lower than his belt.
"I—I'm sorry, I just... don't feel anything," he said, a bit shaken.
She just nodded and pulled away from him, going back to her original spot next to him. After a moment, she said, "Well, that was awkward."
"Nope. You're a nice kisser, though."
Despite himself, Ray found himself laughing.
"What?" Anette asked.
"Nothing," he said, shaking his head. He was thinking about how if she had ever kissed Mikey like that, he might have passed out, but he couldn't tell Anette that, because Mikey would kill him.
"Fine. So what's your assessment?"
"I think I might have been right."
"Okay, problem solved."
"One of them, anyways."
The dance show was a very intense affair for both Hailey and Anette, everyone could tell that. The two girls spent all of Friday in a tense state, but when the guys went and saw the show opening night, they were floored. The show had been very beautifully executed, and Hailey was an amazing lead dancer. Anette's makeup was very bright and matched the feel of every song, Ray felt, and afterwards, there was much congratulations before Hailey and Anette went to get celebratory shakes with the rest of the cast and crew.
Sunday afternoon, everyone began assembling at Ray’s house in the basement. Gerard and Mikey were the last to come, and when Mikey walked in triumphantly with all six Star Wars DVD’s in his hands, everyone cheered.
As Ray started up the player and TV, Frank asked, “Alright, everyone’s seen them, right?”
Everyone but Anette cheered, and she just turned bright red.
“Oh, don’t tell me,” Gerard said slowly.
“You’ve… never seen Star Wars?” Frank asked, his jaw dropping.
“I, um… no, actually,” Anette mumbled.
Everyone in the room just looked at her with various levels of shock on their faces. “Well, good thing you’re friends with us,” Ray said, and he started The Phantom Menace.
“Aww, I thought we were going by release date,” Frank grumbled, sitting on Gerard’s lap.
“No, chronological,” Ray replied, and he sat down on the floor next to Anette as the movie started.
Over the next six or so hours, there was much arguing over the characterization of Anakin and lots of counting of how many outfits Padme wore in all the movies and questioning as to why the queen of Nabu always had such ridiculous outfits and the consuming of four home made pizzas before they were done with half the series and it was really late at night. Ray’s mom had already gone to bed because she had to work early in the morning, and half the kids were asleep anyways, and Ray only woke them up to send them to sleeping spots.
Ray, Gerard, and Mikey were the only ones awake at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Bob and Hailey had fallen asleep on the floor together, Anette’s head was resting on the arm the couch, and Frank was sprawled out across both Mikey and Gerard.
“Alright, get up,” Ray said, starting to nudge Bob with his foot. “You and Hailey are taking the spare room.” When Bob looked at him, he pointed to the room that was connected to the one they were currently in. Bob nodded sleepily, got up, picked up Hailey, and they disappeared into the spare room. Frank and Anette were awake now, stretching and yawning.
“Frank, you’re the only one short enough for the couch upstairs.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ve slept there for five years, Ray,” Frank grumbled, and he took the blanket Ray offered him before going up to the small couch.
“Gee, you can share my bed if you’d like.”
“Beats the floor,” Gerard said. “Thanks.”
“So um, Anette and… Mikey… you can share the pull-out bed,” Ray said, realizing just then who was left. “I’ll um, get the stuff for it.”
“I’ll help,” Anette said, following him to the linen closet upstairs.
“I’ll get this thing pulled out,” grumbled Mikey before they were gone.
“Ray,” Anette hissed when they were out of his earshot.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t really think about it until… well, just then. Sorry, but it’s pretty big.”
“Anette, he’s Mikey, not Gerard,” Ray said, loading two pillows and a blanket into her arms. “If it were you and him, that would be a problem.”
“Like he’s not going to be a problem to you?” Ray’s face fell. “Oh, sorry,” Anette said softly.
“No, it’s cool. He probably won’t sleep. He usually draws when it’s just us, but he never shows me what he’s drawing.”
“Well, it’s Gerard. He’s a little weird.”
“Aren’t we all.”
They walked back downstairs to find that Mikey had pulled the couch out into a bed, and the three of them made short work of making it, though Ray had to admit that Anette would have made the bed better by herself, but hey, it was only for a few hours. He left to go to the bathroom one last time before going up to bed.
“Take the bed, Anette,” Mikey said as the bathroom door closed. “I’ll sleep on the floor.”
“That’s stupid, you take the bed, I’ll take the floor.”
“No, I’ll take the floor. I’m trying to be nice here.”
“So am I.”
“Look, either you’ll both sleep on the bed,” Ray said, coming out of the bathroom, “or you’ll both sleep on the floor. You’re both being stupid and prude.” And he walked up the stairs before either of them could protest.
Still in a slight shock from Ray’s words, Anette and Mikey picked their own side of the bed and lay down gingerly, trying to keep as much space in between them as humanly possible. It was uncomfortable for both parties, but it was better than what they each feared would be an awkward experience if they got too close to the other during the night.
They both apparently were having problems finding sleep, because a few minutes later, Mikey said, “So, you and Ray, huh? I thought he was gay.”
Frowning, Anette turned over so she could see him in the dim light, though it probably wouldn’t have mattered much, because Mikey couldn’t see anything without his glasses on. “What? He is.”
“Then why were you kissing the other day in the hallway?”
Anette blushed. “How did you see that?”
“I was on my way to the bathroom.”
“I was. Did you guys do anything else?”
“No, and it didn’t mean anything anyways. Ray wanted to know if he was gay or not.”
“So you kissed him?”
“How’s that supposed to solve anything?”
“He—oh, never mind.”
“He what? I feel like I have a right to know here if you’re fucking around with my best friend.”
“I’m not fucking around with him!” Anette hadn’t realized she had shouted this until she already had, and waited for someone to burst in on their conversation/argument, but no one did. “Look Mikey, Ray was unsure of whether he was really gay or not because he had only every kissed a guy before, so I offered to kiss him if it would help him figure out stuff, and he agreed, alright? He’s decided that he was right initially, and I only offered because he’s my friend and seemed to be having problems with it, and I don’t have a problem kissing my friends—”
“—so maybe next time, you should learn all the facts before you jump to conclusions,” Anette finished haughtily. “Look, I get you’re looking out for your friend and all—”
“You don’t know half of it.”
“Sounds like you don’t either.”
And she promptly turned her back on him, too angered by him to want to continue speaking to him. But she really couldn’t resist adding, “And anyways, don’t you think that if we were an item and he wasn’t interested in Gerard anymore that Ray would have invited me to sleep with him rather than sticking me with you?”
“Hey, Anette. Rise and shine pretty lady, Gerard’s making breakfast.”
Anette opened her eyes to see Frank standing over her, grinning. “There’s my wife! Come on,” he said, holding a hand out to her. She took it, and they walked up the stairs together.
Frank led her into the kitchen, where everyone was crammed inside, looking a bit bleary. “Gerard? My wife and I shall be served now,” he announced, sitting promptly on the table.
“Wha-wha-what are you talking about, Frank?” Anette yawned.
“You never divorced me,” Frank pointed out. “So we’ve been married since kindergarten. Almost twelve years now.”
“Shit man, that’s commitment,” Gerard commented from the stove.
“Well, I’m sorry Frank, but I’m afraid I’ve cheated on you with three boys – no wait, six,” Anette said, smiling. “If we’re counting people we’ve just kissed.”
“No, don’t worry, I’ve cheated on you with…” He started counting on his fingers. “Four girls, three guys, Gerard who counts as two people, and my right hand, so we might be almost even.”
“Dude, gross, I don’t wanna hear about your sex life,” Bob said, covering his ears with his hands.
“Breakfast is up,” Gerard said, and he brought over a skillet almost overflowing with scrambled eggs and a plate of toast. “The toast is mostly for Frankie ‘cuz he’s being whiney about eating animal parts ‘nd shit.”
“I’m not being whiney, I’m being vegetarian,” Frank said through a mouthful of toast while everyone dug in. Anette and Mikey glared at each other for a split second before getting their own portions of eggs.
As soon as everyone had food, Hailey and Ray resumed an argument they had apparently been having before Anette had woken up. “I still think you’re wrong Ray. Anakin slash Darth Vader is no where near the definition of a hero,” Hailey said, drizzling some ketchup on her eggs.
“I didn’t say he was a hero, I said he was a tragic hero. There’s a difference.”
“He’s no type of hero at all.”
“Hailey, he’s like Snape in Harry Potter. He may have done some stupid things, douche-y things, but he’s still a hero. He just didn’t win in the end.”
“But he did win. He killed Palpatine, whereas Snape never managed to kill Voldemort, or save Lily, for that matter.”
“Yeah, he tried, but everything he did just lead him further down to the Dark Side.”
“Yawn,” Frank said, finishing up his fourth piece of toast. “Can we just go put in A New Hope and you two can quit arguing because you’ll see Vader is the Dark Side Badass?”
“There’s no archetypal character for a badass,” Ray said. “Not officially, anyways.” But he stood with everyone else anyways and they trouped back down to the basement, piled on the slightly rumpled bed, and started the fourth (or first, in Frank’s opinion) movie, eating Gerard’s awesome scrambled eggs and laughing and talking and pestering Bob and Hailey about what they had done last night.
Anette and Mikey refused to make eye contact with one another the rest of the day.
March came, and the snow melted in the sun’s warmth. Noel was staying until spring break when she left to go back to school for her third-to-last semester of college. Anette was having problems in classes as usual, but was improving greatly because of Ray’s willingness to help her. They spent a fair amount of their free hours discussing the Way brothers and what could be done about them. When Anette told him about her and Mikey’s argument, Ray just shook his head.
“I told you, he’s a weird kid. He’s pretty defensive. I mean, he still gets a little iffy when Frank and Gerard are fucking around together.”
“Yeah, but… he seriously thought we were doing stuff behind everyone’s backs,” Anette replied, frustrated.
“Well, we did,” Ray pointed out softly. “It’s not like we told anyone about… you know.”
“Yeah, but it didn’t mean anything… like, anything intimate.”
“I know. I guess it just surprised him.”
Ray didn’t add his theory that Mikey was probably jealous as well, and that was why he had acted in such a way, but he wanted to test that theory first, because it seemed a bit out of character for Mikey to be quite jealous.
The next day in Chemistry, Ray found such an opportunity as to test this theory. The three of them were sitting in a line in the back, Mikey then Anette and then Ray, and they were supposed to be illustrating the lab they had just done involving testing what type of minerals were in various water samples from all over town. The three of them had pushed their desks together so they could share a tub of crayons their teacher had unearthed somewhere in the room.
Ray nudged Anette with his foot and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at her when she looked up from her drawing at him. She snorted, checked quickly around her, and then ran her tongue over her lips slowly, careful to not smear her lipstick. She and Ray both began to snicker as quietly as they could. Mikey looked at them, confused, and then frowned when Ray started running his tongue over the crayon he was currently holding. Anette turned a little pink but clapped her hand over her mouth to stifle her giggles, but laughed out loud when Ray bit the crayon has hard as he could, ending up with half of it in his mouth.
“Ray, I’m sure that you really don’t want to eat that, if nothing else because so many people have touched them before you,” said their Chemistry teacher disapprovingly as he swept by.
“Sorry,” Ray said, spitting out half the crayon into his hand. He looked over to see Mikey glaring at him and Anette still laughing, quieter now though.
“Geeze Ray, sexual much?” Anette said, still laughing a bit still.
“Sorry, your amazingness just made me straight there for a second,” he whispered, winking for added effect.
“Would you two just shut up and color?” Mikey snapped, shoving his glasses up his red face.
“I didn’t know we weren’t allowed to have fun in Chemistry,” Anette muttered, but she went back to her coloring anyways.
“Dude, what is your problem?”
Ray had dragged Mikey away during lunch to talk with him outside, away from anyone.
“Ray, you know I fuckin’ like her,” Mikey muttered angrily, kicking the nearest rock.
“Oh, so you’ve decided then.”
“Well, you hadn’t before. So seriously Mikey, what’s going on? You’re acting really, really weird.”
“So were you. In Chemistry.”
“That was a test.”
“A test? Test for what? Since when is trying to seduce someone with a crayon a test?”
“To see if you were getting jealous.”
Mikey stopped and looked at Ray, taken aback. “I—what?”
“Well, that’s what it sounded like, judging from you and Anette’s argument.”
Mikey tugged at his brown hair, messing it up from however he had meticulously styled it this morning. “Ray, I… I don’t what to think about her,” he finally said. He sounded more stressed than anything. “I guess I just… well, you’re my best friend, and then I saw her…”
“Even though you know I’m gayer than gay for your brother?” Mikey just kicked at the ground again. “Okay, I’ll stop then. But you don’t need to be jealous or anything.”
“I couldn’t help it.”
“I noticed that during Grease.”
They were quiet for a moment.
“Dude, you really like her, don’t you? Like, really like her.”
Mikey didn’t say anything right away. He just sighed heavily. “She’s really fucking with my brain. I can’t really focus in any of the classes we share because I’m always trying to figure her out. And every time I think I do, she goes and does something else that I don’t expect.”
“Dude, you’re doing the same thing to her.”
There was a pause. “She talks about me to you?”
Shit. Ray wasn’t really supposed to mention that. “Yeah. You confuse the shit out of her,” he said carefully.
“Well, what does she say about me?”
“Mostly that she doesn’t get you.”
“Well, I don’t get her either.”
“Maybe… maybe you should tell her you like her.”
“No,” Mikey said almost immediately. “I can’t do that.”
“She’s… well, I don’t care that she hangs out with us now, she’s still a popular. And populars don’t date the bottom of the pile.”
“You really think she cares about that?”
“She still likes Chase probably, too.”
“You’re scared of being rejected.”
“I guess. I don’t want to mess shit up with her.”
“Well, you sort of are, going about things the way you are. You should just do it.”
“Yeah, look who’s talking,” Mikey glared. But he couldn’t hold it as Ray’s eyes dropped to the ground. “Sorry, that was uncalled for.”
“But you’re right. I should just get some balls and ask out Gerard, right?”
"I guess. We both really need to get our shit together."
"Right. So, I'm going to try and be a little more forward with Gerard."
"And I'm going to try and be nicer to Anette."
"Sounds like a plan."
"Oh my god... oh my god."
Gerard sat down shakily next to Anette and Hailey in Acting on Friday, looking like someone had knocked the wind out of him.
"What?" Hailey and Anette asked at the same time.
"Guys... I..." He swallowed, gripping his cell phone tightly in his hand. "My mom just called... I... I got accepting into that art institute," he managed to say.
Hailey and Anette both hugged the speechless Gerard, and they all fell over in a giddy mess onto the couch.
"Did I hear you got an acceptance letter?" Mr. Wind asked, coming out of his office. Gerard just nodded. "Excellent. Congratulations, Gerard."
It turned out that Ray's mom had also called him, and he was grinning as Anette sat down next to him in their usual hallway.
"I got it," he said. "Not just the school, but the music program, too."
"That's fantastic Ray! I knew they'd just have to take you," Anette beamed, hugging him tight. "They'd be stupid not to, you're brilliant."
"Thanks," he smiled. "Gerard and I have been texting about it, and he's wondering if you'd be up for a party at his house tomorrow night?"
"Um, well... I dunno," she said. "What kind of party?"
"Well—oh, you don't like, party party, do you?"
"Oh, well... I'm sure you wouldn't be expected to drink or anything. I probably won't drink too much, but it's nice to celebrate, you know? And besides, it's not like we're going to be drugging up a storm or anything else like that. And Mrs. Way keeps a pretty good eye on us to make sure we're not doing anything completely stupid."
"What about Mr. Way?"
"He's stationed overseas," Ray said, after sending Gerard a text. "I think he's kinda high up in the Army or something."
"Why don't they live on a military base then?"
"They did for about a year, but Mikey and Gerard both hated it, so they moved back here. That was like... my eighth grade year that they were gone."
"But yeah, you in?"
"I'll um... have to ask my mom. And I'll have to lie, 'cuz she doesn't want me partying either, but I don't think I will anyways."
"Which is still acceptable."
"Alright, well, thanks Ray."
Anette was careful with her words when she asked her mom about the party, and in the end, Shirley said yes. So Ray picked her up and drove over to the Way house early Saturday evening. Anette was a bit nervous about this - the last time she had partied, she had found herself in a number of uncomfortable positions with several people, and hadn't done it since. Plus, though she considered everyone who would be there her friends, she had no idea how they would act drunk.
"Hey," Ray said, seeming to sense her nervousness and reached over to squeeze her hand. "It'll be fine. I still play mom when I'm drunk. You've got nothing to worry about anyways, everyone's pretty tame. Except Bob, I'm not sure about him, but I think he and Hailey will be off in a room together for a while."
"Okay," Anette replied, and they knocked on the door. Mikey answered, smiling briefly at them before letting them in.
"Mom'll be back soon, she's just finishing some work up," he replied, and flopped back down on a couch next to Frank.
Mrs. Way was indeed back soon, but she didn't allow them to start their party until the sun was completely down. "You know the rules," she said, especially to Gerard and Frank. "No one is to leave this house until they have a hangover. And yes Gerard, I've hidden the matches somewhere else."
"Damn," he said good-naturedly, but he grabbed a beer all the same.
"I'll be in my office if you need me, but I’ll check in every now and then," she said, and she left them to it.
It didn't take long for everyone to find a place they were comfortable with. Within an hour or maybe more, Mikey and Ray had disappeared into Mikey's room with a bottle of something, Hailey and Bob to Gerard's room downstairs, both pretty buzzed, Frank and Gerard took over the kitchen, and Anette sat alone in the living room, wishing she hadn't come in the first place.
In fact, she was thinking of calling her mom and asking her to come and get her when Gerard sort of stumbled into the room. He wasn't wasted, but he was definitely drunk. "Hey Anette," he said, falling over onto the couch, his head landing in her lap.
"You know, I think drinkin's a bit sexist," he slurred, taking another swig out of his bottle.
"How so?" Anette asked. It was a bit like talking to an elementary kid who was having their first big revelation in life.
"Well you know, they're always on about how women can't handle their liquor." He paused to focus on her face and push himself up so he was sitting next to her properly. "When shit, I'm a guy and I can barely handle stuff stronger 'n beer."
"Well... it's stupid. Anyone should be able to drink whatever."
Anette was surprised at his coherency.
"'Nd it's the same with like, sex," he went on, draining the bottle and setting it down roughly on the carpet. "I'll kiss and fuck who I like and I don't give a shit about if they're a girl or guy or whatever they themselves consider." He frowned. "Sorry, consider themselves. But I mean, if you like someone, it shouldn't matter who they are right?"
"Unless they're like, a serial killer or something," Anette added. "That might put a damper on the relationship."
"Yeahyeahyeah," Gerard agreed, waving his hands violently. "I mean like... if you wanted to date like, Mikey, it shouldn't matter that you're all popular and girly and shit and he's nerdy and awkward and..." He thought about another adjective for his younger brother but couldn't decide on one, so he just shrugged his shoulders. "You get it. And if I wanted to kiss Ray, I'll fuckin' kiss Ray. I don't give a shit if we both have dicks."
Anette smiled. "You're rather philosophical when you're drunk."
Gerard just grinned lopsidedly. "Thanks." His eyes wandered all over her, taking in her tight jeans and fancy purple shirt and how she had tied up her wavy hair that day. "You know, Anette, I kinda see why guys like you a lot. You're really pretty."
Anette's cheeks grew a little warm. "Thanks Gerard."
"Would you be mad if I kissed you again? 'Cuz I liked kissing you on stage. You're a good kisser."
"Well, um... I don't think we should, really." Anette squirmed uncomfortably.
"Why not?" He was moving closer to her now, and she edged away.
"You're... well, pretty drunk."
"So? I kiss lots of people drunk."
"I... you know, don't want to make anyone mad."
Gerard stopped, looking genuinely confused. "Make mad who?"
"I dunno, wouldn't Frank get a little miffed?"
"Naaaaah," Gerard said, laughing. "He's cool about it. We only do it to piss people off."
"Okay, well... I just... don't want to right now, okay?"
"Okay Anette. Whatever you say," he said. He sounded content, but just in case, Anette excused herself to the bathroom. Maybe she could lock herself in there and wait until morning.
But once again, her plan never got put into action. Just as she reached the hallway where she would find the bathroom, Mikey burst out of his bedroom and stumbled into her, making them both fall against the wall. His boozy breath was in her face, he was missing his glasses, and his eyes were only half-open. He had successfully knocked the breath out of Anette, who gasped, "Mikey, are you okay?"
"Annie-Anette-Annie is'sat you?" he mumbled, his words stringing together. She could barely understand him.
"Yeah, it's me. You're really drunk."
He nodded, his eyes completely closed and leaning on her even more now. "Wasted. Bottle of Morgan... drank it all."
He opened his eyes and blinked at her a few times. He put his weight on his hands and the wall now, and Anette could breathe a little easier. "I had to talk to you."
"Um, about what?"
"In-can you come in my room?"
Anette flushed, but she caught Mikey when he staggered a bit. "Why?"
"Private. I don't want the walls listening to me. They'll make fun of me."
"O... kay," Anette said, unsure, and she helped Mikey stumble back into his room and shut the door. His room was messy and smelled like the alcohol he had drunk, but it was nice other than that. The walls sported numerous posters and the bookshelves will full to the brim with all sorts of books. Clothes littered the floor.
"Alright, so what did you want to say?" Anette asked as he tripped over his own feet and fell face-down on the bed.
He rolled over and said, "I've been jerk to you."
"Not alright. I was a douche." He rubbed at his eyes and yawned. "You're-no I am like Andrew."
"No you're not," Anette said firmly.
"So you know... you saved me and Ray and from the asthma monster. Thanks."
Anette smiled slightly. He was looking at her with an expression she had never seen on his face before, and that was pleading. "It's not a problem Mikey. And I've been mean to you too a bit, so sorry."
He just waved his hands around, and he toppled over again.
"Is that all?"
"No Annie, I gotta tell you somethin’," he mumbled. Anette moved closer to him as he just said "I gotta tell you somethin'" over and over again, his voice getting softer and softer each time.
"Tell me what?" she asked, but he just kept muttering. His eyes closed again and his mouth moved without saying much. "Mikey?"
But he had fallen asleep. Anette sighed, heaved his legs up on his bed, and sat down next to him, gazing down at him.
"Mikey, what have you done to yourself?" she asked, gently running her fingers through his hair, relishing this chance, one she thought she might never have again. She leaned down and pressed her lips to the top of his head. His lips twitched in his sleep, but he looked content. Then Anette left his room, hoping that she could now take over the bathroom.
As she shut Mikey's door behind her, Ray came out of the bathroom with a nearly full beer in his hand. They looked at each other for a moment before Ray sighed. "This is my first one, and I've only had like one sip," he said, setting the beverage on the bathroom counter. "Seeing Mikey pound that rum was kinda... well, not cool."
"What did he do?"
"He drank an entire bottle of Captain Morgan. I mean, I've never seen anyone down a bottle like that before."
Anette was frowning now. "Why?"
"Well... I think he was going to talk to you, but he couldn't work up the courage to do it."
“What? Am I that scary?”
“No… I don’t think so anyways. Just confusing.”
“You’re both being confusing to each other,” Ray stated simply.
Anette was quiet for a moment, and simply looked at the carpet. “Ray, he called me Annie,” she said softly.
“Only my little brother calls me that. No one close to me has ever called me that, not even Chase did.”
“Oh…” was all Ray could say.
In their silence, they could hear music playing from the living room. “Is… Gerard playing… Lady Gaga?” Anette asked, a bit confused.
Ray just shook his head. “He does that sometimes. Wanna dance?” he offered, holding out his arms to her.
“Sure,” Anette said, and they wrapped arms around each other, slowly turning in circles. They were silent for a few moments as they heard Lady Gaga singing, "I'll never talk again, oh boy you've left me speechless, so speechless..."
"Gerard tried to kiss me," Anette said suddenly.
"Yeah, um, just now." She had no idea why she was telling him, other than it felt like the right thing to do.
"So you didn't kiss him?"
"No. I told him we might piss people off. I mean, if we were in switched places, I'd be a little upset if you went around kissing him behind my back, especially when he's drunk."
"Oh, well... thanks then, Anette."
"Yeah... not a problem..."
After a moment, Ray asked, "So, what's the next play?"
"The Crucible. We're casting it Monday."
"Yeup. So's Gee, and I think Mikey might try and do lights again. Gerard said he had been talking about it, anyways."
Anette suddenly held up a hand to her forehead and they stopped spinning. "Sorry, got dizzy."
"It's alright, I kinda was too."
They separated and leaned against opposite walls. "Ray?"
"Mikey kept muttering 'I gotta tell you something,' but he never got to it. Do you know what that was supposed to be?"
Ray's eyes didn't meet her's. "No."
Anette pursed her lips, sensing that Ray wasn't telling her everything, but she didn't want to press him. "Okay. Just wondering."
Ray nodded his head, and then checked his watch. "It's kinda late. Where are you gonna sleep?"
"Let's take over Gerard's room," Ray suggested, and they headed downstairs to where Gerard's room was. But as they approached the closed door, they heard a moan followed by, "Fuck, that feels good."
"Maybe not," Anette said, edging away.
"If that's Frank in there, I'm gonna kill him," Ray said through gritted teeth as they started back upstairs.
"You two doing okay?"
Mrs. Way had come out of her office and looked like she was headed for her room.
"We're good," Ray said. "We're gonna crash on the couches."
"Alright, well, you know where the blankets are, Ray," she said, smiling at him. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Mrs. Way."
They parted for the living room, where Ray and Anette took a couch each. They talked away the night quietly, each hoping that the person they wanted most would be okay in the morning.
Two weeks went by. The Crucible was cast, and Anette, Gerard and Mikey all ended up involved - Mikey, on light crew again, Gerard as John Proctor, and Anette as his wife, Elizabeth. There was much teasing of Frank from Gerard about how Gerard had married Anette and how she had "divorced" Frank, and it ended in Frank buying Anette a new Ring Pop, much to everyone’s amusement.
That week, they were due to start a swimming unit in gym. Everyone changed out into swim suits that Monday and met on the deck of the school's pool, most of them excited for the class to start. Coach Jordan had forbidden tiny bikinis, so almost half the girls in the class were now wearing brand new suits that covered all the essentials to Coach’s satisfaction. Coach split them up into teams for water polo, and just about everyone jumped in the water right away. Anette was one of few who simply slid into the water, not wishing to splash other people. She was just about to swim out by herself to her team's side when she noticed Mikey standing by the stairs into the pool, looking at the water with terror in his face.
She swam over to him, and said, "Hey Mikey, what's up?"
He squinted at her. "I..." He swallowed. "I hate the water."
After a pause, he nodded his head.
"Well, here." Anette walked up the stairs until she was standing on the top one and held out a wet hand towards Mikey. "I'll be here with you. It's okay."
Hesitantly, he took her hand and she held fast as they walked down the steps together. Mikey shivered in the cool water and Anette blushed a little, grateful that he couldn't really see that she was turning red and trying not to study his bare chest or anything else for that matter.
"Fuck this is cold."
"Mikey, Anette! What's the hold up?" Coach Jordan asked from the deck.
"Mikey doesn't like the water," Anette explained, trying to keep her voice low.
From somewhere, they heard Andrew laughing, saying, "Stupid faggot pussy, scared of the water."
"Andrew, watch your mouth or you'll have detention!" Coach yelled at him, then turned back to Mikey and Anette. "Alright Mikey, you don't have to do anything too bad then. You can do some sort of lap swimming instead."
Mikey paled (which was hard to do, because he was already lacking in color), but said, "Thanks Coach."
"Alright then. Anette, get into the game. I'll look after Mikey."
"Yes, Ma'am," Anette said, and she gave Mikey's hand one last reassuring squeeze before swimming to her team.
After class and they were dry and changed, Anette accidentally met up with Mikey, who was going back to the deck to get his bag like she was.
"How was the game?" he asked.
"Okay. We lost 'cuz the other team had all the good people though. How were laps?"
"Well... shitty, 'cuz I can't really swim."
"It's not your fault."
They came to the pile of bags and started looking for their own. "Thanks, by the way," Mikey said. "For... you know."
After a few moments, Mikey looked up at her and said, "Hey, do you see my bag?"
Anette frowned. "No. Do you see mine?"
"No. Fuck, they were here."
"Yeah, I wonder..."
They looked at each other again, and they both groaned. "Andrew," Mikey said.
So they left for the hallways, hoping to find Andrew and see what he had done. They found him just outside the boy's locker room, holding Mikey's bag in one hand and Anette's in the other.
"Look! Here comes Fag Boy and Slut Girl!" Andrew cried even though the three of them were alone in the hallway.
"Give us our shit, Andrew," Mikey growled.
"And what'll happen if I don't?"
"I'll fuck you up."
Andrew laughed. "In your dreams, faggot."
Mikey moved to hit Andrew, but Anette held him back. "Andrew, please, just give us our stuff," she said wearily. She really didn't want to have to deal with this.
"Only if you give me a kiss, Slut Girl," he replied, grinning wickedly.
Mikey gagged and Anette suppressed one of her own. "Come on Anette, this isn't worth it, we'll just find a teacher," Mikey muttered.
"It's okay, Mikey," Anette said, even though it clearly wasn't. She faced Andrew with a bit of a disgusted look on her face and stepped towards him, stopping almost toe-to-toe.
She wrinkled her nose - his breath smelled. She considered leaving and going to find a teacher, but then again, she didn't want either her or Mikey's things in Andrew's possession any longer than they absolutely had to be. So, she stood on tiptoe, squeezed her eyes shut, and pressed her lips to Andrew's foul mouth for a brief second like she had done what seemed like so long ago.
Smirking, he handed her Mikey's bag, but not her own. "You'll have to do better than that, slut," he said, using his now free arm to pull her close to him. Repulsed, Anette went to push him away, but he kissed her hard and wouldn't let go. She prayed it would be over soon, and didn't struggle until he reached down and grabbed her ass. She pushed away and snatched her bag from his hands, stomping over to Mikey.
"Next time you won't get off so easy," Andrew called after them as she handed Mikey his bag and they left for History.
"You should report him," Mikey said as they joined the crowd that flowed down the hallway. "For sexual harassment."
"Since when did reporting Andrew Callhart actually work?" Anette said pointedly.
"Yeah, you're right," he replied, though Anette thought she could sense that he didn't mean it. "Anyways, you didn't have to do that. I was gonna knock his lights out."
"Yeah, and then you'd be expelled like that," Anette retorted, snapping her fingers. "Besides, it's not like he raped me or anythi—crap." Her hand was feeling around her purse, and she frowned. "My iPod's gone."
Out of fear, Mikey felt around his own bag. "Fuck, mine too. That asshole, I'm gonna—"
Anette and Mikey both stopped, not ten feet from their next class, to see that it was Tyler who had talked to them, accompanied by Dawn. He glanced around to make sure no one important was paying attention to them, and then said, "Hey, so Andrew was trying to sell your stuff to underclassman, so I bought it off him."
"What?" Anette said, confused.
Tyler produced two iPods, two sets of headphones, and Mikey's music notebook from his backpack. "Dawn recognized your stuff, and so this must be yours, Mikey..." Tyler handed them their belongings. "Damn bastard charged me hard for it."
"You didn't have to do that," Anette pointed out. "Besides, won't you get in trouble with him if he finds out you've been helping us?"
"We don't care anymore," Tyler said, then glanced hesitantly at Dawn. "Well, at least I don't. That was a douche-y thing to do, even for him."
"Yeah," Dawn quietly agreed.
"Well... thanks Tyler. You too Dawn, I guess," Anette said. Mikey nodded in agreement, and they all walked in to History together.
A few days later, Anette and Ray sat in their hallway together. They were taking a break from Ray helping Anette learning her lines, and as such, Ray was writing in the My Chem song book and Anette was checking her email from her iPod. She hadn't been on in ages, not since Chase had broken up with her, in fact.
The second she got logged on, she immediately regretted it. She even dropped the iPod in shock. "What's wrong?" Ray frowned as Anette started to shake, and so he picked up the iPod and looked at the screen. He scrolled through her emails, getting more shocked by the second.
Her inbox was filled with about fifty emails of hate mail, all from blocked senders. He read through a couple, all of which were disgusting and had poor grammar and ranged from telling her about how everyone knew she had STD's from all the boys she slept with to asking which one of the guys was a better fuck to just calling her rude names to telling her how she should just kill herself and rid the world of her skankiness.
"Wh-what do they say?" Anette asked shakily, all color gone from her face.
"Anette, you don't-"
"Yes, I do Ray."
So he took a deep breath and started reading the one he had currently open.
"You should just go fucking die in a hole you whore. Everyone knows they only let you hang out with them because you suck their cocks nightly and probably daily in the bathrooms so they can give you even more AIDS. Chase is so much happier without you in fact he slept with Dawn the night he dumped you. Go cut yourself like the fucks you hang out with and die because no one loves you."
He looked up to see tears streaming down her face. "Well... this person's stupid. They used the wrong "hole" and put "u" instead of "you" and—"
"Ray, I d-don't care."
"Sorry." He deleted all the messages, logged her off, and then handed her back her iPod. She pulled a tissue out of her purse and started wiping away tears as he put an arm around her shoulders. "Just... just ignore them Anette."
"I... I can't," she said miserably. "I d-didn't think it was this bad."
"Well, you know none of that shit is true, right?"
"How do you know?"
"Anette, we hang out with you because you're nice and wonderful and witty, not to mention one of my best friends and Frank's wife," Ray said, trying to cheer her up. “And besides, even if you were sleeping with any of us, I don't think even Frank would want to be fucked in the bathroom - they're filthy."
Anette gave a small laugh, and Ray took the tissue from her and wiped her face clean.
"They probably only sent you hate mail to get on Andrew's good side, anyways."
"That's half of what's bothering me," she said, sniffling. "He has so much power in this school."
"Well, even if he does, it's weakening," Ray pointed out. "I mean, look at what Tyler and Dawn did the other day. Don't you think that they wouldn't have stood up to him unless they really hated what he was doing?"
"I... I guess."
"There. See? We're changing things. You are changing things."
Ray thought for a moment, and then said, "By just being you. You're starting to re-arrange this whole pyramid scheme."
Rehearsals were ruthless all of March and into April. Anette and Gerard were getting home later and later at night, and they spent several evenings at her house going over lines, blocking, characterization, and watching each other. Gerard even spent the night a few times. But they wanted to make this show as good as possible. Especially Gerard, seeing as it was his last high school show he would ever do.
Everyone in the group grew closer and closer as spring passed. Anette and Mikey now sat by each other in all the classes they shared, and jokes were made daily about Frank and Anette and their marriage. Band practice was much livelier now that Anette and Hailey were making consistent appearances, and Terrence and Gerard seemed to be best of friends.
But despite how good life had been, terrible things still happened. Anette found this out one lunch as Mikey walked her up to her locker to get her History book before Gym.
"I mean, Hellboy's cool and all, but Batman's the best. I mean, who wouldn't want the fucking Batmobile as their car?" Mikey said as they turned down Junior Hall.
"The Batmobile is pretty cool," Anette agreed, but they stopped short as they got to her locker.
Across the white surface of her locker was the word "WHORE" in big red letters.
Anette bit at her lip, somewhere between fury and crying. "What the fuck...?" Mikey said, walking over to it and pressing his fingers to it. Red came off on them. "Fresh paint," he reported.
"This is the last... the last damn straw," Anette said, and she stormed off in the direction of the office. Mikey ran after her.
"So you're going to report him?"
"Damn right I am," Anette growled, stomping down the stairs, her long socks starting to slip down her legs.
"You think they'll do something about it?"
They reached the office just as the bell rang. Anette had half the mind to just storm into Principal Morrison's office, but she didn't have to, because Morrison was talking to one of the secretaries.
"Principal Morrison, I need to talk to you," Anette said, trying to keep her voice calm.
"Yes, Miss Baker?" Morrison asked in her usual almost-mocking tone.
"Someone's vandalized my locker. They spray painted it."
"I think Andrew Callhart did it," she continued.
Morrison sort of sneered at that. "You do, do you? Why's that?"
"Because he hates me. Go ahead and ask him about it, but he'll probably deny it."
"What proof do you have?"
Anette hesitated. "I'm sure if you look through his stuff, you'll find red spray paint on him."
"Alright Miss Baker, I'll have a word with him," Morrison said. "Come with me."
She led a surprised Anette and Mikey down to the gym. The two teens exchanged glances of disbelief. Did Morrison actually believe them?
"Anette, Mikey, there you are! Why—" Coach Jordan started to say as they entered the gym, but Morrison cut her off.
"Jordan, I need to speak to Andrew Callhart for a moment."
"Of—of course. Andrew!"
Andrew walked over, looking at first confused and then irritated.
"Out in the hall, please," Morrison said, and they all walked out into the hall and closed the gym door behind them. Anette and Mikey leaned against one wall while Andrew took the other, and Morrison stood in the middle so she could look at everyone. "Now, Andrew, Miss Baker here seems to think that you vandalized her locker. Is this true?"
Andrew frowned. "No."
"May I see your hands please?"
He showed them to her - there wasn't a spot of red paint on his hands.
"And your bag? May I look though it, please?"
"Whatever you want, Principal," he said, sending Anette and Mikey a nasty look before going back in to get his bag. He returned moments later and handed it over to Morrison. She looked through it at length, but didn't produce any sort of paint from it.
"Thank you, Andrew. It seems Miss Baker was mistaken. You can go back to class now."
"Thanks," he said, taking his bag back, and smirked at Anette before leaving.
"Now, Miss Baker—"
"But Principal Morrison!"
"No buts. I thought you had gotten over your rebellious streak, but apparently not. I will not tolerate you trying to frame other students for your actions. You will clean off your locker before going back to class, and if anything like this happens again, I'm afraid I might be forced to expel you."
Anette's lips trembled as Morrison left, and she wrapped her arms around herself, trying furiously to hold back the tears.
"This isn't fair!" Anette finally cried out.
"No, it's total shit," Mikey agreed. "Come on, let's find a janitor."
"Mikey, you need to go back to class."
"Fuck gym, I hate that class. Besides, it'll go faster with two people."
He set his hand on her shoulder briefly, and they left for her locker together. There was a janitor waiting there for them, who just glared at Anette as he handed her some cleaning supplies and left. At least he had been kind enough to give them paint thinner instead of some other cleaning product that wouldn't have worked. And so Anette and Mikey got some paper towels damp with thinner, sat on the floor, and started scrubbing the red paint away.
"Thank you, Mikey," Anette said in a soft voice, her noise wrinkled from the putrid smell of the thinner. "You really didn't have to do this."
"Just say we're even now," he said. "You got my bag back, so I'll help you clean your locker."
"Well, at least both situations smelled bad," Anette said, and Mikey gave a small laugh.
"I bet so. His breath probably smelled like a wet Wookie."
"Or Gerard after a show."
They both laughed at that. The word was fading now.
"I'm sorry all this shit is happening to you," Mikey said after a few moments. "I mean, it seems like it just kinda started this year, you know? When you told him to back off at the theater."
"Andrew's been rude to me ever since I dumped him for Chase, but yeah, I guess it has gotten worse."
They didn't say anything else until the word was just a slightly darker spot on Anette's locker. You could still read it if you squinted, but at least it wasn't as noticeable now. Anette got her History book out of it and then they left to go give the paint thinner back.
"Thanks again, Mikey."
In History, instead of taking notes, Anette wrote down everything that happened and passed it to Ray and Gerard, who both wrote back saying they were sorry and they were sure that Andrew had done it, but they weren't sure how he had gotten away with it, because if there was one thing that Andrew Callhart wasn't, it was smart. That fact could easily have been gained when one considered his small vocabulary of insults.
"But I mean, are you sure it was him?" Gerard asked Anette as they walked to Acting together. "This sounds, like... planned and executed well."
"Maybe he got someone else to do it for him. Or maybe... can you think of anyone else who has a grudge against you?"
Anette frowned. "Not immediately... I mean, it's kind of Rachel's style to do something like this, but I don't think she would unless Andrew asked her to."
"'Cuz from what it sounds like, Andrew didn't even know it happened."
Anette sighed. "Yeah, I guess you're right. We'll probably never know who it was, then."
After Acting, Anette was surprised to see that Ray had come and found her, Gerard, and Hailey right as class ended. "Guys, guess what?" he asked, practically bouncing up and down.
"What?" they all replied.
"I got an early graduation present from my parents. The piece of crap car is gone, and my parents got me a van! We can fit everyone in it, and it's actually pretty new and in good condition."
"Fuck yes!" Gerard cried, and he hi-fived Ray. "Dude, we need to hit the arcade then! We haven't been in ages!"
Ray's expression brightened even more. "Yes!"
"Gerard, we've got rehearsal all this week. I mean, we open next Friday," Hailey pointed out.
"Aww. Dammit. Crap." Gerard kicked the wall. "Okay, what about this weekend?"
"Sounds good to me. I'll text everyone," Ray said, and he and Anette left for their hallway.
"The arcade?" Anette questioned.
"Yeah. There's a huge complex next town over that has like, bowling and go karts and video games. So, so many video games." Ray looked a little dreamy just thinking about it. "But yeah, we used to go all the time, and then we got busy with band and Gerard with theatre and we haven't gone since summer."
"That sounds fun. I'll find out if I have to watch Terrence this weekend or not," Anette said.
"Good, 'cuz it is. I raged DDR last time."
"Well, you'll have competition if Hailey's coming. She's pretty good."
They sat down and pulled their work out. Ray and Anette worked together on their History assignment for a while before Ray said, "Hey, did you see that Prom's coming up?"
"I did," Anette said, flipping through the Cold War chapter. "The theme sounds okay. Flower Power Sixties will be... well, interesting. At least I can give Hailey cool makeup."
"You're not going? I though you'd be all over that."
"I would, but I don't have anyone to go with."
"Oh, well, I was thinking, since... you know, we can't really go with the people we like, that we should go together. As friends."
Anette looked up at him and smiled. "Sure. That would be fantastic, Ray."
"Great, 'cuz we wouldn't have to worry about drama or anything and I promise I'll keep my hands to myself."
"I'll try as well," she replied with a laugh.
"Cool. But... Anette?"
"Just wondering, but why haven't you asked Mikey out yet? I mean, you seem like the kinda person who... goes after what they want."
"I normally am." She pursed her lips. "I just... well, he's different. I can't quite figure it out, but I just can't flirt with him. It doesn't seem appropriate. Usually, I'd just flirt with a guy I like and bang, relationship, but... I don't think it works with Mikey. Now, if it was like, Gerard or Frank or maybe even you, I don't think I would have a problem with it."
"Gerard and Frank are flirtatious people, that's why," Ray said, a note of sadness in his voice. "And I'm not."
"But that's all you gotta do, Ray, is just flirt with him. He needs to wake up and see that you're there, that you're interested. I'm sure once Gerard sees that you want him, he'd go for you."
Ray sighed, shaking his head. "I dunno, Anette. Wanna trade?"
She laughed. "I wish. You know what Mikey likes, and I bet I could make Gee my puppy in a minute."
"Teach me your ways," Ray moaned, tugging at his curls.
She giggled and patted his shoulder. "It's not that hard. Just get close to him a lot. I mean, you already do unspoken favors for him, but like... smile. Hug him that extra second. Brush shoulders. And talk to him. Let him know you're thinking about him."
"You talk about it like it's so easy."
"For me, I guess it is. It just takes practice and some patience. It doesn't work on everyone, but I feel like it might work on Gerard. Or you could take Hailey's route. She literally walked up to Bob one night after rehearsal, said, ‘I want to date you,’ and kissed him. And you know the rest of the story."
"She's got balls."
"Yeup. Well, metaphorical ones."
Ray snorted. "Of course. Let's see... Mikey..." He tried to think of things to say to Anette about Mikey that Mikey wouldn't kill him later for telling her. "He's... well, when it comes to actual relationships, he's a bit of a wimp about it. He never asks anyone out because he's afraid of rejection."
"So he's shy."
"Sort of. He's not once he's in, but... getting there is his problem."
"So I should... what?"
"I dunno. Though, to be honest, he'd probably flip shit if you kissed him." When Anette bit her lip, he added, "In a good way. But he'd never let you know, of course."
"Of course." There was a pause. "He's pretty secretive then, I guess."
"Okay, well... thanks, Ray."
"Yeah, thanks yourself."
Saturday came too slow for them. The remainder of the week was filled with late, arduous rehearsals, and both Anette and Gerard were mentally exhausted when Ray picked them up in his new van the morning they were due to go to the arcade. Everyone was piled inside - Hailey and Bob in the way back, asleep. Frank, Mikey and Anette were in the middle, and Gerard was up front with Ray, yawning as he popped a Metallica CD into the stereo to keep Ray awake. It was a good two hour drive to the arcade, but it was well worth it. They got there just a few minutes after it had opened, and after every bill they could spare was turned into a huge cup of quarters, they hit the games.
As Anette had predicted, Ray and Hailey were good DDR rivals, and Hailey barely ended up beating him after about ten very intense rounds on the hardest tracks available. They were both sweating like mad, so they sat out while everyone else raced on the Go Kart track, which Anette surprisingly almost won when some kid who was about eleven beat them. Gerard gave the kid a hi-five when it was all over.
They took a break for lunch and water before starting an air hockey tournament. Anette soon learned that the guys played cut-throat air hockey and to not feel bad when she scored. But Bob still ended up beating her, and it came down to Gerard and Mikey, who were going for several minutes at a time with neither one scoring, and who's thumbs and wrists were sore from getting the puck knocked against them so many times.
"THAT'S FOR DISSING HELLBOY!" Gerard yelled as he finally scored against Mikey, only to have Mikey score on him immediately.
"And THAT'S for saying Batman was inferior!" Mikey taunted.
The game went on for almost half an hour, the two brothers dissing each other's superheroes more and more viciously.
"Batman doesn't have any powers!"
"Hellboy's sidekick is a fishman. A fucking fishman!"
"Abe's cooler than Robin. And Batman's a total pedo!"
"Batman/Robin is the most canon gay pairing EVER!"
"Batman's a psycho!"
"Hellboy has horns!"
"They look cool!"
"So does the Batsuit! PLUS Batman has the Batcave and the Batmobile!"
"But Hellboy's got a tre—FUCK!" Gerard screamed as the puck sailed just past him and into his goal, ending the game. "Fuckfuckfuck!"
"HA! BATMAN RULES!" Mikey yelled, jumping up and down.
"THAT WASN'T FAIR! I WAS DISTRACTED!"
"THAT WAS TOTALLY FAIR!"
"Guys, chill," Ray said half-heartedly, but he was too busy laughing with everyone else.
"I'm gonna rage your ass at racing," Gerard swore, and he headed for the nearest racing game.
"No man, I'm shooting," Mikey said, and everyone split up to their favorite games. Frank went to race Gerard, Hailey found the Pac Man machine, and Bob went to go watch Ray play Pinball. Anette wandered around for a moment, wondering what game she should play, when she heard, "Hey Anette, you wanna play?"
Mikey was looking at her, holding a small, plastic sniper rifle in his hands.
"No, but I'll watch," she said with a small smile, and she sat down in a racing chair that was right next to Mikey's shooting game.
"Okay, suit yourself," he said, and he started up the game. Anette was rather impressed with how good he was. He hit nearly every target that was displayed, even keeping the game going for almost fifteen minutes.
"Wow. You're great, Mikey," she complimented after he hit what she considered to be a difficult target.
The game ended, he put in his high score, and said, "Thanks. I've been playing this one for ages. You wanna try?"
"It's not that hard. Here," he said, handing her the fake gun and popping some more quarters into the game, "I'll show you how to play it."
"Alright," she replied, and stood in front of the screen, aiming the gun at it.
"So, you want to hit those red targets. Not the yellow ones though, those are civilians and you'll lose points."
"'Kay." Anette frowned, concentrating, and fired a few times, missing all of them.
"Here, so try holding it like this," Mikey said, adjusting her grip on the gun. "And just breathe when you aim."
His hands still on hers, she took a deep breath and fired. She actually hit it this time.
"So... yeah," he said a bit shiftily, letting go.
"Thanks," Anette said, handing him the gun back.
They stayed there until about eight when Ray said they had to head back. But they had gotten in a few games of bowling, some more DDR, and lots of junk food. The drive home was noisy with talk and laughter and music and grins, because quite honestly, it was the best day any of them had had in ages.
Chapter 20: Chapter 20
"Hello, Hendrix High! This is Dawn Monroe here, speaking for Student Council! As everyone knows, Prom is just around the corner, and that means it's time to start nominating couples for Prom King and Queen. All this week, we'll have a booth set up for Juniors and Seniors to write down the names of the people they want to nominate. The top ten couples who get the most nominations will be considered in the running. So don't forget to nominate! Have a wonderful day."
Anette hadn't really thought about the nomination process that had been announced that morning until lunch. She thought about maybe nominating Hailey and Bob just to see what would happen, but she didn't really seriously consider it. But at lunch, as she left the cafeteria for the hallway, she saw Gerard and Frank at the table, and absolutely had to go see what they were doing.
"I hope you're nominating yourselves," she said, and they immediately covered their slips of paper with their hands.
"Sure, Anette," Gerard said.
"You think that." Frank was trying desperately to stifle his awkward giggle.
"Alright, who are you nominating?" she asked, trying to pry Gerard's hand away from his paper.
"Then why is Frank laughing?" Anette snatched Frank's paper from him as he completely broke down laughing. The student council kids at the table watched him with weird expressions on their faces. Anette read the paper, where Frank had scrawled "Anette Baker and Ray Toro" on it. "What?" she cried. "You're nominating me and Ray?"
"It's just a joke, Anette," Gerard said coolly, slipping his paper into the box before she could take it from him.
"But I don't want to be nominated!"
"Too bad. Besides, I want to see Ray in a crown."
"We won't win."
The three of them left together, Anette still slightly miffed at them, but not so much because she knew that Gerard and Frank were the only two that would nominate her. At least, that's what she thought until Dawn stopped her in the hallway.
"Hey, Anette... I'm sorry I've been ignoring you," she said as Anette waved off Gerard and Frank. "I feel really terrible about it, but Tyler was right - Andrew can't really do anything bad to me."
"Well... I want to forgive you," Anette said carefully.
"You don't have to. I just wanted to make sure you knew I was sorry," Dawn replied, smiling weakly. "Oh, and hey, I think it's great that you're with Ray Toro. He's cute."
"What? I'm not with Ray, he's my friend."
"But aren't you two going to prom together? That's what I heard, anyways," Dawn asked, confused.
"Yeah, but I'm not dating him."
"Oh. Okay. Sorry, then."
"It's alright," Anette said, and she and Dawn parted ways. When Anette sat down next to Hailey, she asked, "Does everyone in this school know about my prom plans?"
"I think so," Hailey said, digging through her sack lunch. "I mean, I hear people talking about you all the time. Just 'cuz you're not on top anymore doesn't mean people still don't gossip about you. I hear stuff about Bob and I all the time."
"Great. Just great."
"Everyone thinks you and Ray are dating. It's kinda funny, considering..."
"Yeah, but no one knows about him being... you know," Anette replied.
The rest of lunch mainly consisted of Hailey testing Gerard and Anette on their lines. They were both nervous about opening night, seeing as this show wasn't going as smoothly as they had hoped it would. The girl who was playing Abigail was still having trouble with lines and blocking, and since the costumes had to be made, only about three fourths of them were done. Gerard had been asked to cut his hair, and now he felt he looked dorky with short black hair (despite everyone telling him it looked fine), and Anette wasn't looking forward to wearing that hot, itchy wool dress on stage with the lights cooking her. Only Mikey seemed a bit relaxed about it, mostly because the lighting was fairly simple, and since he had done such a good job with Grease, he was appointed the head spotter for the show.
Friday after school, Gerard, Mikey and Anette piled into Gerard's car to go get an early dinner before their call. None of them spoke much, as Gerard and Anette were both shaking from nerves, and they ate their food backstage silently before splitting up to do their pre-show duties. Mikey ran a spot check to make sure all the spotlights were working and wouldn't break, and then helped Sarah clean the booth and got his headset on and working.
Anette, meanwhile, was busy in the dressing room. She was there early, so it wasn't crowded with girls, and she had a lot of room to change into her plain, dark blue wool dress, wash all her school makeup off and put on some very simple stage makeup, and put her hair up in the bonnet. Then she sat in a couch with her headphones in and tried to psych herself out for her performance.
Ten minutes before house was due to open, everyone met on stage. "Alright, here we go. Opening night," Mr. Wind said once everyone was quieted down. "It's been a difficult run, but I think you can do it. Actors, just pay attention, don't miss your cues, and everything will be fine. Break a leg everyone."
There was a collective cheer, and then everyone went off to do final adjustments before house opened. Anette and Gerard found themselves in a wing together, talking to each other in character before they were shooed back into the classroom so the show could start.
Act One went pretty well. Everyone was nervous, but they hit their blocking and lines solidly. Anette was already sweating when she got offstage and prepared for Act Two. She was shaking and worried about overheating, seeing as how she had to be on stage the entire act. When Gerard came off stage, they talked through their act before they had to go back on.
The beginning went really well. Anette nearly giggled at Gerard's line, "Elizabeth, your justice could freeze beer," (it was one of her favorites) but she kept her face straight and kept going. Beth was fantastic as Mary, but things started to get shaky soon enough.
Conner, who was playing Reverend Hale, missed his cue line of Gerard's. Gerard and Anette sat there for a few moments, waiting for him to enter, but he didn't. So Anette spoke up, and they started improving a conversation about Hale until Conner finally rushed on stage and they resumed the actual play. But when Anette was dragged off at the end of the Act, she was furious.
"What the hell was that, Conner?" she hissed as loud as she dared as the curtain closed and there as applause.
"I couldn't find my damn pants for the scene, and I had to put on other ones! I'm sorry!" he snapped back.
"You better not miss any more cues!"
And she stomped back to the dressing room to change her costume for the rest of the show.
Despite Conner's mishap, the rest of the show went pretty well. The audience cheered at the end anyways, and Gerard and Anette shared a sigh of relief as they grasped each others sweaty hands and took their bow together.
After they were changed, they went out to the meet and greet together. Frank, Hailey and Bob were all there, and they congratulated Anette and Gerard as they meet them.
"How was it?" Anette asked tentatively.
"Conner was so late," Hailey frowned. "But you guys covered good. Other than that, it was good."
"I hated it," Frank said. Anette's heart stopped. "Like, I hate that show." Her heart restarted. "Your acting was good, but the subject... God, all the characters except Elizabeth and Giles piss me off."
"Me too," Gerard agreed. "I'm still kind of wondering why I auditioned."
"'Cuz it's your last year?" Bob pointed out.
"Yeah, I think that's the only reason."
"Hey Gee! Let's get milkshakes!" Mikey called out. He had his bag in his hands and he was looking pleased with himself.
"Alright, let me get my stuff," Gerard replied, and he and Anette said their goodbyes, went back and got their bags, and left for Denny's.
"God, we had better do good tomorrow night," Anette said miserably as they claimed their usual booth.
"I hope Mr. Wind talks to Connor and the costume crew," Gerard said, sliding in next to Mikey. "That was ridiculous."
"Yeah it was. But hey, lights were flawless," Mikey said, grinning.
"Oh, shut up Mikey. No one likes a bragger."
They ordered their milkshakes when the waiter came around.
"Man, your improv was good though," Mikey complimented. "And you Anette... 'Maybe they accused him of being a witch, too.' I was biting my hand so I wouldn't laugh."
"Thanks," she said, flashing him a smile. "It was really the only thing I could think of. But if Conner hadn't come on, I would have killed him. He should freaking know better."
"You would think that," Gerard said. "But it wasn't just his fault. Costume crew took his pants for that scene out to fix them an accidentally put them in Jason's spot instead."
"They should have been more careful about that, too." Anette ran her hands through her hair. "I'm so scared for tomorrow."
"Don't be. We were awesome."
"Here we go, the usual," the waiter said, and set down their three chocolate shakes.
"Thanks," they said in union.
They drank their shakes unusually fast, and before any of them knew it, they were ready to leave.
"I guess I'm just really tired," Anette said, reaching into her purse for some money.
"Ah, no, no, we're paying tonight," Gerard said, slapping a bill down on the table. "You got us during Grease, remember?"
"No buts," Gerard insisted, and they left. He gave her a ride home and then it was just him and Mikey to their house.
"You pissed that she's going with Ray to prom?"
Mikey thought for a moment, then replied, "I guess, but I don't think I would have asked her anyways."
"I just... I dunno."
"You should seriously make a move on her. It's been ages since she and Chase broke up, I bet she's ready for some action again."
"You talk about her like she's a fighter plane or something."
"Sorry, but it's true. Besides, she's cute, you're good-looking... you'd be a good couple."
"You're everything she's not," Gerard said, pulling into their driveway, “and vice versa. Opposites attract, right? Look at Hailey and Bob."
"I... I guess," Mikey said, blushing. "It's just... I'm not sure she'd accept me."
"She's your friend. She already does."
"You know what I mean."
"Mikey, if you don't take the jump, you're never gonna find out what's at the bottom of the cliff," Gerard said, looking at his younger brother with a serious expression.
"But what if the jump hurts?"
"What if it doesn't?"
Chapter 21: Chapter 21
"I left my damn English book backstage."
"I'll take you home and go back to get it. I think someone was still there."
"This is stupid."
Gerard dropped Mikey off at their house, told him he'd be back soon, and started back for the school. The performance had gone okay tonight, not as well as he would have liked, but it was still pretty good. At least Conner had found his pants this time.
As he pulled in to the parking lot, he prayed that someone was still backstage and would let him in. He got out, locked his car, and went for the front doors of the school. Locked. Grumbling, he started walking around for the back door that led into the theatre. It was really dark there, away from the street lights that adorned the front of the school, but that was okay. Gerard liked the dark. Loved it. Lived in it.
This door was locked too. Sighing, he pulled out his phone and tried to call Anette to see if she was still there, but then he remembered that she had walked home, and put it back. He'd just have to get it Monday.
As he started walking back towards the front, he froze. He thought he had seen movement out of the corner of his eye. But he just shrugged and kept going, ignoring it. It was probably his mind playing tricks on him.
Unfortunately, he was wrong. Just as he was about to go around the corner to the front of the school, someone grabbed him from behind and threw him into the brick wall. Air escaped his lungs and he gasped, but then a fist landed itself in his stomach and he doubled over. At least two people were assaulting him, maybe more, but Gerard couldn't tell because they were all in black and were blending into each other and the darkness around them.
He didn't want to fight back though, even if he could. He was getting pulverized, that's for sure, but it wasn't the answer. He tried to curl himself up into a ball, to escape the blows and the jeers about his sexuality that weren't even correct, but every time he did someone landed a foot in his gut or another punch to his face.
And just when he thought it would never end, that the assault would continue until the morning, it stopped as suddenly as it had started. Gerard lay there, curled up for a few moments, long enough for him to hear their footsteps hurry away and car tires squealing. Then shakily, he got up and started for his car, his legs wobbling and everywhere aching. When he collapsed inside his car, he pulled down the mirror and wiped the blood off his face. He was already developing a black eye, and in fact, the entire right side of his face was bruised. He felt like he would look like raw meat when he got home, but at least they hadn't broken anything. And so he drove home as calmly and casually as he could.
"Gee, what the fuck?"
Gerard smiled shakily at Ray, who had just walked in for band practice. He and Anette were the first ones there for a change.
"I uh... had an accident."
"Oh, Gerard!" Anette cried as she saw him. "You look terrible! What happened?"
"It was an accident."
"Like hell it was," Ray growled, and he went inside to find Mikey. They came back out together, and he started interrogating Mikey. Gerard had never seen Ray this furious. "Mikey, what the hell happened to Gerard last night?"
"He..." Mikey cast Gerard a glance, but even though Gerard shook his head, Mikey told Ray anyways. "He got jumped last night."
"Jumped?" Anette asked, a bit scared. "By who? Andrew?"
"I don't think so," Gerard said. "I would have recognized his... ah... unique insults."
"It had to be his guys though," Ray said, glaring at nothing in particular.
"It didn't have to be."
"I'm going to fuck that guy up."
"No, Ray." Gerard shook his head. "Don't. It's not worth it. Besides, fighting fire with fire is pointless."
"You're face looks like hamburger!"
"You're such a fucking passivist!"
"Look who's talking," Mikey muttered to Anette under his breath, but neither Ray nor Gerard heard him.
"Well, I guess there goes my fucking plans for this weekend," Ray said through gritted teeth. "We can't do shit with Gerard like this."
"What were we going to do?"
"I was gonna have a party at my house before prom," he muttered. "Just a 'let's play stupid games' party, 'cuz my mom's not keen on alcohol."
"We can still do that," Gerard said gently, putting a hand on Ray's shoulder.
"No we can't. You need to go to the fucking hospital and make sure nothing's broken."
"You didn't go when you and Mikey got it at the theater. Neither of you did."
"Yeah? How so?"
Ray didn't have an answer for that. At least, not one he could say out loud.
"What... whatever," he said, and he started getting unpacked.
News about Gerard's assault spread through the school quickly come Monday. Andrew denied having anything to do with it, but almost everyone knew that even if he hadn't been there, he had certainly planned it.
That day, Anette was in the lunch line by herself, just listening to some music and waiting for her chance to grab a ham and cheese sandwich when something unexpected happened. Chase tapped her on the shoulder.
She whipped around and glared at him, pulling out one headphone. "What?" she asked moodily.
"I... I need to talk to you. Now," he said shiftily.
"If you're apologizing, you can just... just shove it," Anette said, starting to get angry.
"I'm going to get my sandwich."
"Alright, but... this is really important," Chase said. Anette shoved her headphone back in and turned away from him, wishing dearly that she could just turn back around and slap him good and hard across the face. She grabbed her sandwich, paid, and then left, Chase following her closely.
"Outside," he said, and he took the lead out the door. They walked for quite a ways, away from prying eyes and ears. Away from anyone who would tell the tale of how Chase Skyridge, sports champion was talking once again to Anette Baker, fallen thespian extraordinaire.
"What do you want?" Anette asked again, shoving her iPod in her purse.
"I need to talk to you. About Andrew."
Anette froze. She had certainly not been expecting this. "What about him?" she finally asked. "Did he finally come out of the closet to you?"
"No," Chase said, irritated. He ran a hand through his blonde hair a few times before going on. "It's just... I get him now. Kinda. And I wanted to tell you."
"You get him? What's to get? He's a jerk."
"Do you know why?"
"Because... he just is?"
"No. Well... you know how he doesn't live with his parents, right? How he lives with his crazy aunt and uncle-"
"Who enjoy shoving religion down his throat. Yeah, I know."
"Do you know why?"
"Because they're weird?"
"No, why he lives with them."
Anette pursed her lips. "No, he failed to mention that when we dated."
"His mom drank herself to death. Know why?"
"Obviously not, idiot."
"His dad left her for another man."
There was silence as Chase's words sunk in.
"His dad... his dad was gay, but didn't come out about it until Andrew was like, eleven. It came out 'cuz he was having an affair with another guy, and so he left his mom for the dude. And his mom was heartbroken and started drinking, and died from it. Then Andrew went to live with his aunt and uncle, who are Bible-thumpers galore and made him believe all their crazy shit."
Anette took a deep breath. "Yeah? And how do you know all this? You and Andrew best friends now?"
"No." Chase paused, examining the ground. "We were at a party and he was drunk... wasted, completely wasted. And he just... told me. He blames his dad for his mom's death, you know. He said that if he wasn't gay, she never would have died."
Anette swallowed shakily. "Okay... and so this gives him an excuse to persecute Gerard and all my other friends? This gives him the right to be a bigoted, homophobic, d-douche?"
"No," Chase admitted. "But... it makes sense now, at least."
"What... whatever, Chase," Anette replied, turning away from him. "Quit screwing around with me."
"I'm not, Anette!" he called after her as she walked off, but he didn't follow her. He stayed put and watched her with a sad expression, and if Anette had turned around, she would have seen him look the most vulnerable he had ever been in his life.
"Okay Ray, so what are we going to be doing?" Anette asked as she walked in to his house and slipped off her shoes in the entryway. She was the first one there for his pre-prom party, and she was slightly dreading what Ray had planned.
"I dunno yet, I was gonna wait until everyone got here to figure that out," he replied. "Want something to drink?"
"Nah. Is your mom home though?"
"She left just a few minutes ago. She's not supposed to get in 'till two in the morning."
Anette shook her head. "Poor woman. That job must suck."
"Yeah, but she loves it," Ray said with a smile. "I mean, she loves cooking, anyways."
"Well, that's a good point, I guess."
They lazed around the living room until everyone else arrived, Gerard, Frank and Mikey coming last. "Sorry, we had to pick Frankie up," Gerard apologized as he shoved his car keys into his pocket. His bruises were starting to fade slightly, and he didn't look quite as bad as he had earlier that week.
"It's okay Gee, just glad you got here some time," Ray said. "Coffee? I've got a batch made already."
"Fuck yeah dude," Gerard replied with a grin, and everyone migrated to the kitchen for coffee.
"So, does anyone want dinner here? My mom picked up stuff for me to make pasta," Ray offered as he started pouring cups of strong coffee.
Everyone said yes except for Anette, who said, "Oh, I already ate. I um... didn't want to impose."
"Oh, god no, Anette," Frank said, taking a deep swig of coffee and wiping his mouth. "You have got to have Ray Toro's pasta."
"That sounds dirty," Mikey smirked.
"Maybe it is," Frank replied, wiggling his eyebrows.
Anette laughed. "Alright, I guess I'll eat too."
"Okay, so food for seven. You guys know where the games are," Ray said, shooing them out so he could start.
"He doesn't want anyone to know his secret recipe," Gerard muttered to Anette. "Doesn't matter though, he's a fucking awesome cook."
"I guess I'll be finding this out tonight," Anette replied, smiling and wiping some lipstick off the rim of her mug.
Frank and Mikey immediately popped in Mario Kart and began to re-ignite their rivalry, screaming and yelling at each other as they tried to win, and everyone else could do nothing but laugh and finish their drinks.
"I HATE YOU, FRANK!" Mikey yelled as Frank won the last race, and he threw the Wii Mote at Frank. "I SWEAR YOU'RE CHEATING!"
"Don't hate me 'cuz I'm beautiful!" Frank sassed, but he didn't get to go on because Mikey tackled him and they were rolling around on the floor, half-heartedly fighting.
"Mikey, violence isn't the answer," Gerard said, but no one apparently heard them.
"Alright, I'm next," Bob said, and he chucked Hailey the remote. "You and me, babe."
"Aww! Bob just said 'babe'!" Frank half shouted, half cooed before he had to dodge Mikey trying to head-butt him.
If Bob was the sort of person who blushed, he would have. "Fuck off, Frank."
Hailey leaned over and kissed his cheek. "It's okay, I won't tell them what you call me in private."
Bob just shook his head. "Hailey, you're almost as bad as Frank."
"Almost. That's why you're with me and not him," she said with a wink.
Bob and Hailey had just finished their first race when Ray called down the stairs that the food was ready. Everyone immediately jumped up and ran back to the kitchen, leaving their games and rivalries in favor for the delicious smell that was floating through the air.
Anette had to admit, they were right - Ray was an amazing cook. They all had second helpings of pasta, and they got sauce all over their faces, and Frank licked Gerard's face, trying to get the sauce off instead of just telling him where to wipe like a normal human being.
"Okay guys, what do we want to play?" Ray asked as he stacked dirty dishes in the sink.
"Something stupid but fun," Gerard said.
"That’s like, every game we play," Mikey pointed out.
"Ooh! Definitely Spin the Bottle!" Frank said, exciting, rocking slightly on his chair. He really shouldn't have been given coffee.
"Oh God," Bob groaned.
"Yes!" Gerard said brightly, hi-fiving Frank. "You got a bottle, Ray?"
"Nope," Ray replied, but he reached into the fridge and pulled out a Coke bottle.
"Classy," Hailey commented as Ray popped it open and chugged the entire thing in one go, setting it down roughly when he finished.
"Now we do."
"Hell yes!" Frank yelled. He grabbed the bottle and led the charge back downstairs once again. They moved the couch a little so they could all sit comfortably in a circle. Anette ended up between Gerard and Mikey somehow, casting Ray a look of "how did this happen?"
Frank placed the bottle carefully on its side on the carpet like it was the Holy Grail or something. "Okay... who goes first?" he asked, a slightly evil grin creeping across his face.
"Me," Gerard said immediately, and he spun the bottle. Anette watched it anxiously, and surprise, surprise, it landed on Frank. They kissed, and Frank spun, giggling his weird giggle.
"No tongue, right?" Mikey asked nervously as the bottle landed on him and Frank started crawling over to him.
"No," Bob and Ray said at the same time.
"Fuck you guys, you're no fun," Frank said, and he kissed Mikey fiercely, nearly smashing his face into Mikey's glasses.
"God I hate kissing you," Mikey said grumpily, but he smiled grimly and spun. Anette unintentionally held her breath, and bit her lip slightly when it landed on her. Mikey turned to her, a frown on his face, and she looked at the carpet, wishing she could melt into it. 'What is wrong with me?' she thought.
"Well, go on Mikey, kiss the girl," Hailey said.
Mikey nodded, leaned over to Anette, and their lips barely brushed before he pulled away.
"That was barely even a kiss!" Frank protested.
"It's fine, Frank," Anette said before she spun and landed on Ray. "Hi, Ray," she said when she scrambled across the circle and kissed him hard and long.
"Hi yourself," he panted slightly before taking his turn.
And so the game progressed like this for quite some time. Everyone kissed everyone else, but Anette thanked whatever power it was that made sure she didn't have to kiss Mikey in public again. Not that she didn't want to kiss him, but she'd rather do that in private and only after she figured out if he liked her back or not. But she did have to kiss Hailey a few times, which was very weird, but mostly because Frank and Gerard were whistling at them and calling for a hot lesbian make out session.
"Well Gerard, you're practically a girl yourself, so you could say the same thing about you kissing either one of us," Hailey retorted after the third time.
"You're mad 'cuz I'm prettier than you," Gerard joked, batting his eyelashes.
"You wish, Gee," Hailey said, taking her turn.
After a few more turns, Frank said, "Okay, so we should do the make out round."
"Make out round?" Anette asked.
"Yeah. So for like, seven turns, you gotta make out with the person for thirty seconds. You gotta keep lips locked and you can't take off their clothes, but other than that, anything goes," he explained, clearly excited for this.
"Frank, you just want to lick Gee's tonsils," Bob said.
"Duh. Gee's tonsils are awesome."
Frank spun, and funnily enough, he landed on Bob. "Com'ere, Bryar," Frank said, and he practically pounced Bob, who looked like he was going to kill Frank. Ray had pulled out his phone to time them, and when he called thirty seconds, Bob shoved Frank off him and stuck out his tongue.
"Frank, if you ever do that again, I'm going to shove my boot so far up your ass-"
"Spin dude," Mikey said, half-bored. "He'd like that anyways."
"You liked it," Frank said, winking.
"Since when have I ever liked sexual harassment?" Bob asked, and he landed on Gerard. Everyone sort of sniggered at them as Bob awkwardly kissed him, and it seemed to take forever for Ray to say, "Time."
"You're a winner, you are," Gerard snorted, and he spun, landing on Anette. He grinned at her. "Just like old times, Sandy," he said before pushing her on the floor and kissing her like he'd never done before. She could hardly breathe from his tongue in her mouth and his weight on her chest, and she was gasping far harder than she should have been when Ray called time.
"Gee, you've got, um..." Ray said awkwardly, pointing to Gerard's face, where there was quite a bit of Anette's pink lipstick on his lips and chin.
"Ah, just leave it. Spin, Anette."
"Yeah, after I've recovered from suffocating," she retorted, but spun anyways. She shot Ray an apologetic look as it spun around and around.
"Land on Hailey, land on Hailey!" Frank chanted.
"Seriously Frank, I'm gonna kill you," Bob growled.
"Don't have to," Ray said, gesturing to the bottle. It was pointing at Mikey.
"Damn!" Frank cried. "Lucky! Both Way brothers, one right after the other."
"How is that lucky?" Hailey asked, laughing a little, but Anette was more focused on building up her courage to kiss him again. She scooted as close as she dared to him and took his face in one hand, the back of his neck in the other. His eyes were closed like he was waiting, and he shoved his slipping glasses back up his nose. They were rather smudged, probably from Frank's violent kiss.
"Sometime tonight," Gerard said.
"Right," Anette replied, her mouth not an inch from Mikey's, and she closed her eyes before pressing her lips softly to his.
Instinctively (she hoped), his arms found her waist and pulled her closer, and her fingers tangled in his hair, soft from lacking gel for the day. She started kissing him a little faster, wishing she could just French him already or that he would pulled her on top of him or something. Faintly, she heard Ray say, "Time," but it didn't register in her mind that she was supposed to stop, and apparently the same was true for Mikey, because he was still kissing her, too.
"Uh, guys? Time," Ray said again, a little louder. They broke apart, their eyes still closed and holding each other and breathing a little harder.
"S-sorry, didn't hear you," Anette replied shakily, opening her eyes and retreating away from Mikey, blushing.
"I'm like, four feet away from you."
"Sorry," she repeated, and after Mikey took a deep breath, the game resumed.
It was over soon enough. Mikey made out with Ray, who in turn had to make out with Hailey, and then it was over. Ray left to go do the dishes, Bob and Hailey finished the last of their races, and Anette went to the spare room, sitting on the bed and putting her head in her hands.
"What the hell is wrong with me?" she muttered to herself, wondering why she had been so afraid of kissing Mikey. She had never been afraid of kissing someone before. Ever. Why did he have to be different?
Her head snapped up as she heard the door open and close, and Mikey was leaning against the door.
"Mikey?" she asked, confused. What did he want?
"Hi," he replied quietly. "I... um..."
Instead of finishing his sentence, he walked over and kneeled in front of her so he could look in her eyes. Anette found herself breathing a little harder for some reason, like she was afraid of him. But that was silly. He wasn't going to hurt her. But she locked eyes with him, staring deep into them. They were a lovely hazel, and Anette smiled softly.
"I'm sorry about that," he finally said after running a hand through his hair, making it even messier. "I gave you a really shitty kiss. Hell, it wasn't even a proper kiss."
"It doesn't matter, Mikey, it's fine."
"No it's not," he said, determined. "I... well..."
He reached out and set a hand on her cheek. Anette closed her eyes and shuddered, half-wishing Ray would burst through the door. She felt his breath on her face, and he mumbled, "Um..." before kissing her firmly.
It seemed to last for forever, but sooner than she would have liked, he pulled away and whispered, "I, um, hope that was satisfactory." Then she felt his warm hand leave her face, and she opened her eyes. She glimpsed him closing the door behind him.
"Mikey!" she called out weakly, but when he didn't come back, she fell over on the bed, frowning and running her fingertips along her lips, trying to ignore the tingling sensation in her stomach.
She stayed there the rest of the night, and no one disturbed her. It didn't bother her, either, because she wanted peace to try and figure out what to do about Mikey Way.
Chapter 22: Chapter 22
"Hey Mikey, do you have a pen I can borrow?"
Mikey looked up sharply from his textbook and saw Anette looking at him expectantly. They were supposed to be sitting and taking notes about post-Cold War America. Ray and Gerard were both working silently, their notebooks filled with scribbles.
"Uh, yeah, sure," Mikey replied, and he bent over in his seat to dig through his bag. Anette smiled softly, and Mikey sort of smiled back awkwardly before the memory of the weekend past flashed through his mind. Her slightly sticky but soft lips kissing him gently, as if she was afraid of him, though he didn’t know why she would be. He couldn't believe his luck - that she had played the game with them, that she had landed on him for the make out round, that she hadn't chickened out. God, that night had been fantastic. Even if he had screwed it up at the end there.
And now he was back there, in the spare room. He could hear the noises of the next game going on in the living room next door, and he could hear Anette's soft breathing and her calling his name in a questioning tone. And then he was walking over to her, saying something about how he was sorry that he gave her a shitty kiss at the beginning of the game and he was bending down to look in her eyes, those deep blue eyes that were filled with confusion every time she looked at him, like he was the most challenging riddle she had ever come across. Then she closed her eyes and he felt her shudder slightly as his palm rested against her cheek.
But then memory drifted into fantasy and Mikey kissed her fiercely and they fell back onto the bed, Anette's legs instinctively wrapping around his waist as they kissed more and more. Whatever was left of her lipstick that was on her lips was now getting all over Mikey's face as he proclaimed his love for her over and over, glad that he finally had built up the courage to do this. And fuck she was a good kisser. He traveled down to her neck and she moaned as he kissed her neck, and his breathing got even faster as her hands brushed the crotch of his jeans. He felt her smirk under his lips as she fumbled with the button and zip on his jeans—
"Mikey? A pen?"
He looked back up, a bit disappointed, to see he was in History class and not at Ray's house about to do unmentionable things with the girl who was looking at him right now.
"Right, sorry," Mikey said, grabbing a pen and handing it to her.
"Thanks," she replied, smiling bit looking a bit confused at the same time. Mikey nodded and went back to work copying notes, wishing he could slip back into his daydream.
Moments later, a slip of paper slid onto his desk with a single line of Gerard's sharp handwriting on it. What the hell was that about? read.
Just sorta had a daydream. Mikey scribbled, and checked to make sure that Zeiner wasn't looking at them before slipping Gerard his reply.
Um, last weekend.
Nice. How far did you get?
Mikey turned a bit pink as his brother winked at him. Um... she was taking off my pants.
Hot. Too bad it didn't happen.
The bell rang and everyone packed up. Anette cast Mikey one last confused look before she left with Gerard to go to Acting. Ray and Mikey walked side by side down the hallway. They were both headed in the same general direction - Ray, to Music Theory II and Mikey to Jazz Band.
"M'kay, so what just happened?" Ray asked.
"In class. Your eyes sort of like... glazed over 'nd shit. What was that all about?"
"Oh, um..." Mikey blushed again. "Nothing."
"Don't just nothing me. What was it?"
"I was just thinking about this weekend," Mikey said cautiously.
"Oooooh," Ray said, revelation spreading across his face. "You had some kind of wet fantasy, didn't you?"
"No!" Ray gave him a look. "Yes," Mikey muttered.
"Hey, it's cool. Happens to me all the time."
"Yeah, there was this one where Gerard burst into my room naked and—"
"I don't want to hear it, Ray."
They parted at Ray's classroom. "See you after school maybe."
"Yeah, we gonna go questing tonight?"
"Why hello Anette."
Ray smiled up at her, twisting one of his curls with his finger as she sat down next to him and let out a sigh. "God, Gerard and I just got paired up for this crazy scene. I don't know how we're gonna do it."
"You'll be fine, you're both good actors."
"Thanks. I hope so."
Ray quit playing with his hair and pulled out the My Chem notebook, suddenly struck with inspiration. Anette was quiet for him while he scribbled down note progressions as fast as he could, writing Gerard's latest lyrics underneath them so he could show him later. Maybe he'd get him coffee, too – Gerard would like that.
When he finally shut the notebook, Anette asked, "Sudden inspiration?"
"Yeup," he replied, placing the notebook carefully back in his bag. He pulled out his wallet and checked his cash - just enough to get a coffee.
"Cool. I look forward to hearing it."
There was a pause. "So, how was this weekend for you?" Ray asked, unable to think of anything else to say.
"Oh, it was... alright."
"Just alright? I thought you'd be thrilled to kiss Mikey."
"I um... well, it was weird." She shifted around uncomfortably. "Like... yeah, I loved kissing him, but it was so awkward, especially in front of you guys when we're not even like... dating or anything, and..."
"Yeah, I get it. It's still kinda weird kissing Gerard, even though you know he doesn't care about PDA and shit like that."
"Mmhmm." Anette frowned at the floor. "He kinda... well, I guess talked to me later. After the game."
"Oh? What did he say?"
"He was like... apologizing for giving me a bad kiss at the beginning of the game, I guess, and then just kissed me and was like, 'Hope that was satisfactory,' or something, and then just left."
"Well, he did give you a shitty kiss."
"Yeah, but who does that, anyways?"
Ray had to exercise a large amount of self control not to say, "Someone who has the hugest fucking crush on you in the world." Instead, he chose, "Weird people like Mikey. I dunno, he and Gee have some sort of... chivalry complex sometimes."
Ray checked his watch. He had just enough time to go get a coffee and meet Gee outside his art class to give it to him and talk to him about the riff he had written. "Anette, I gotta go, I have an errand to run before school gets out, and—"
"No, that's cool. I'll just start learning this part," she said, pulling out a script from her bag.
"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow then?"
"Tomorrow," she promised with a smile.
Ray took off down the hall, taking the fastest route out to the parking lot and his car. He was thankful that he had chosen to drive today instead of walking, and he drove down town to the Steaming Bean, which served easily the best coffee in town. There wasn't much of a line, but it still seemed to take ages before he got to the counter and could order Gerard's usual (Tall espresso, black). The drink was so hot it was threatening to burn him through the cup, so he put on one of those paper holder-protector-things (coffee condoms, as Frank called them) and left. He still had five minutes to get back to school.
The bell had just rung when he pulled up outside the school, taking a visitor slot before hurrying inside. Gerard was still in the art room thankfully, and Ray burst through the door, half-panting.
"Hey, Gerard," Ray said, holding up the coffee. "Got you some fuel."
Gerard's eyes lit up as he set his pencil down and accepted the coffee. "Dude, thanks!"
"I, um, also wrote some new stuff," he said a bit nervously, fishing the notebook out of his bag and handing it over. "For your new lyrics."
"Ray, you're amazing. You know that, right?"
Ray blushed and smiled sheepishly. "Thanks, Gee."
"Seriously though. Thanks. I'll have to talk to you later, I'm about to finish this damn thing," he said.
"'Course. See you."
Just as Ray was about to leave the building, his phone buzzed. Confused, he pulled it out and saw that Anette had texted him.
Ray I'm by the theatre come NOW
So frowning, Ray hurried to the theatre doors. Hailey, Bob and Anette were standing together, and Ray announced himself with an unceremoniously loud, "What's wrong?"
Anette's expression was one of shock. Hailey had to speak for her.
"So, you know how they announced the Prom King and Queen nominees at the end of the day?" Hailey asked.
"Well, they did."
Ray felt his knees shake a bit. "Don't tell me," he said in an almost distraught voice.
"You and Anette came in last. Like, you're in the top ten, but number ten."
"That's what I almost said," Anette whispered.
"Like, what the fuck?"
"I know!" Hailey said, excited. "This is so awesome though!"
"I don't want a fucking tiara."
"You don't get one, idiot, you'll get a crown," Bob said.
"Nononono, not that. Do you get what this means?"
Anette and Ray both gave Hailey looks of confusion.
"It means that everything's changing! You guys are changing everything! Since when have two supposedly 'unpopular' people ever been nominated?"
"Um, never?" Ray offered.
"Exactly! Think about what this could mean if you win."
"And how do we win?"
"That," said a voice, "you will find out at the Court Meeting tomorrow during lunch." Dawn had approached them, and she was smiling. "Congrats, you two."
"Thanks," Ray said weakly.
"I think it's brilliant you two got in the top ten. I hope you beat Andrew and Rachel, they're like three or two or something."
And then she simply walked away. Anette and Ray just looked at each other and groaned.
"Anette, you want a ride home?"
So they walked back out to Ray's car. They were silent the whole way home save for when Ray first unlocked his car, to which he promptly said, "Seriously though. What. The. Fuck."
"Thanks for coming everyone."
Mr. Gail, the teacher who sponsored Student Council, was standing at the front of his room. All twenty of the nominees were sitting in various places around the room, most of them sitting in pairs. Anette and Ray had seated themselves as far away from anyone else as possible, but the only people they seemed to have to worry about were Rachel and Andrew. Everyone else seemed unbothered by their presence, which Ray was going to count as a blessing.
"So, if you don't know, our top ten couples for Prom King and Queen undergo a sort of... test, if you will, and that test is a the Court Talent Show." Mr. Gail beamed, but when no one said anything, he went on. "Each couple will have to perform some sort of act of talent as a team, which will be performed to all the upperclassmen, who will then vote on their favorites. Whoever wins that will be crowned King and Queen at Prom. As always, acts need to be school appropriate. There will be another meeting next week, the day before the show and after school so that we can time the performances and figure out how much time this will take. Try and keep your performances under five minutes. Mia and Jenna are going to be the MC's."
"So wait," Tyler said from his seat next to Dawn. "We have, like, a week to throw something together?"
"Prom is next weekend."
Tyler let out a sigh and slumped back in his chair, which seemed to be a good sum up of what everyone was feeling. "Okay, I'll let you go back to lunch. See you next week, and congratulations on your nominations!" Mr. Gail said, and everyone collected their things and left. Ray and Anette were the first ones out the door.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuuuuck," Ray cursed, pulling at his hair. "What the hell are we going to do?"
"I don't know," Anette replied, frustrated. "That is so unfair, just springing it on us like that."
"I suppose that's the point, isn't it?"
They turned around to see Andrew standing there, his arms crossed. Rachel hovered behind him, looking unsure.
"You'd better not screw this up," he said. "I don't know how the hell you got into the court, but you sure as hell aren't winning."
"It's just a stupid crown, Andrew," Anette said, rolling her eyes.
"It's more than that," he said in a deadly whisper. "It's power."
"Oh yeah, I forgot," Anette replied sarcastically. "This is actually medieval Europe, and this is, like, choosing the next royal family!"
"Shut the fuck up, slut, you know what I mean."
"Andrew, maybe we should—"
"And you!" he yelled, rounding on Rachel. "God, can't women just keep their mouths shut?"
"You know what, Andrew?" Ray said, suddenly feeling very brave. "You're going to lose. We're going to win, and you're going to have to kiss my motherfucking ass when I'm wearing the crown."
Andrew looked surprised for a moment, but before he could say or do anything, Anette grabbed Ray's arm and they half walked, half ran down the hallway.
"Ray! What the hell was that?" Anette hissed when they were a considerable distance away.
"I'm tired of his shit," Ray growled. "He beat the shit out of me and Mikey at the theater. He threw food at Frank. He made Chase break up with you. And then he ordered people to paint your locker and jump Gee. Fuck this, Anette, we're winning this god dammed Prom shit."
He thought she was going to protest, but she just sighed. "We're going to need a damn good act if we want to win."
Ray grinned. "That's the spirit."
They made it down to the hallway where everyone else was pretty much finished eating and were laughing at something. "How'd it go?" Hailey asked as Ray and Anette sat down and started on their own lunches.
"Weird," Anette said. "They're doing this like, talent show thing for the upperclassman who're then supposed to vote... just a huge popularity contest, anyways."
"But Andrew tried to pull some shit, threaten us or whatever," Ray added. "Afterwards. So now, Anette and I are gonna win this fucking thing, just so he can kiss my ass."
"Gross dude, you'd probably get like, AIDS from that," Frank said, making a face. Gerard laughed at that.
"What are you gonna do then?" Bob asked.
"I—we don't know," Anette admitted. "It's going to have to be really, really good though."
"Well, it shouldn't be much of a problem," Gerard said. "I'm sitting here, looking at the best singer and guitarist in the whole fucking school, and I’m thinking they should put those skills to use."
They both blushed and said something to the effect of, "Gerard, I'm not that good."
"No, Gee's right," Mikey said, pushing his glasses up. "You guys should do a song. It'd be great. Better than whatever shit Andrew'll throw together, anyways. I think he only has a talent for throwing footballs."
"And punching people in the face," Ray added.
"Yeah, but I don't think they'll let him beat someone up for his bit."
"I dunno, with the shit Morrison puts up with..."
"Okay, so Ray, you should find out if you can come over after school then. I have a ton of music books, I'm sure we can find something," Anette said, pulling out her phone. "I'll call my mom right now."
"'Kay," he replied, pulling out his own phone to text his mom.
Everything ended up being okay with both their moms, and so they spent all of their free hour comparing lists of songs they had brainstormed throughout the afternoon.
"No, I don't know that one either," Anette said, and Ray crossed off yet another song on his list.
"What? You don't know Hell Bent For Leather? Judas Priest?"
"I told you, I don't listen to metal."
"And I don't listen to pop. What was that one song? Poker Face?"
"Lady Gaga's stuff. I thought it would have been funny," she said, crossing off the other Gaga songs she had written down.
"Okay, but what about... you've seen Rocky Horror Picture Show, right?"
"Oh God, we are not doing the Time Warp," Anette laughed.
"We totally could."
"Yeah, 'cuz you can totally dance and play the guitar at the same time."
"I have many talents," Ray said, smirking playfully.
"Ooh, like what?"
"Well, I can do this thing with my tongue—"
"Okay, okay, I get it." Anette was giggling. "We really need a song that's like... impactful, you know?"
"So I'm guessing Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me won't do either?"
"Not unless you want them to think I'm more of a whore than they already do."
"'Kay, that's out."
They were silent for a moment, consulting their lists. Almost every song on both of them was crossed off.
"We should do something from a musical though. It'd be easier."
"I guess. I don't know many musicals though."
"Hmmm..." Anette looked down her list again. "Ohmygod, we could do something from Footloose!" she exclaimed excitedly. Ray gave her a blank look. "You know, Footloose? With Kevin Bacon? He like, moves to this town where there's no dancing allowed, and there's that song in there—" She started singing, "I need a hero! I'm holding out for a hero to the end of the night!"
"Okay, I think I know that song."
"You should, everyone does. It was in one of the Shrek movies, I think."
"But not Holding Out For A Hero..." Anette's voice trailed off as she started looking through her iPod and the Footloose soundtrack. "Here. This one," she said, holding the iPod up to Ray.
"Let's Hear It For The Boy?" he asked.
"Yeah. It... I dunno, it feels right. Here, listen," she said, and she handed him her headphones.
He listened, and when it was over, he pulled them out and said, "Okay, but Anette... it's like, mostly piano and sax."
"Could you... transpose it?"
"I..." He tugged at his hair. "I could try."
"You should at least look at it. I'm certain I have the songbook at home."
Right then, the bell rang, and they gathered up their stuff and started for Anette's house, walking as fast as they could. Anette had to jog to keep up with Ray.
Terrence must have still been at daycare when they got there, because the house was silent. They charged up the stairs and dumped their bags on the floor in the art room, and Anette began digging through the basket of music books while Ray examined the room in slight awe.
"Damn this room is cool," he said, running his fingers along the polished black wood of the grand piano.
"Thanks. Here it is!" she said excitedly, pulling out the green Footloose book and flipping through it, looking for the song she wanted. She opened it up to Let's Hear It For The Boy and handed the book to Ray. He sat down on the piano bench and examined it.
After almost a minute, he said, "I think. Maybe."
"Okay. Look, you take that and see if you can tonight. I know the song by heart, I'll just need to work on getting it to a performance level of... well, you know."
"Yeah." He stood and set the book open on the music stand-ish part of the piano. "I'll run home and get my guitar then."
"And I'll start working on this thing," Anette said, pulling herself up onto the bench.
"We're going to have to like, live this song."
"We can do this."
"Yes. 'Cuz we can't let Andrew win. Not this time."
Chapter 23: Chapter 23
Anette and Ray worked and worked and worked at their act for the week they had been given. The first meeting had been on Tuesday, and the show was on Thursday of the next week. Anette was grateful that theatre was done with and her dress had been bought a while ago so that this and her class work was all she had to focus on. And focus on it she did indeed.
There was a meeting Wednesday after school to time the acts. They were called pair by pair into the gym to do their thing, so no one got to see what anyone else was doing, though there were hints from what everyone was either wearing or had with them. Rachel, for instance, had her cheerleading uniform on, so Anette assumed she was doing some sort of routine, but where Andrew fitted in to it, she didn't know. Tyler and Dawn had a lot of hoola hoops, so goodness knows what they were doing. And Ray of course had his guitar with him, and he kept strumming it nervously. When it was finally their turn, they were pleased to see that there was an amp there for him and a mic and amp for Anette.
"Alright, Anette Baker and... ?" one of the MC girls asked, trailing off when she realized she didn't know Ray.
"Ray Toro," he said, plugging in his guitar and adjusting the sound levels.
"Right. And what are you guys going to do?"
"We're performing the song Let's Hear It For The Boy from the musical Footloose," Anette explained, tapping the mic nervously.
"Okay, just start when you're ready," the other girl said, and after a quick glance at each other, Ray started playing his own version of the song.
Anette felt like they had done pretty well, but of course, playing it tomorrow in front of all those people was going to be so nerve-wracking, and the acoustics in the gym were terrible, so she felt like they weren't going to sound as good as they had in her art room...
"Hey, Anette, we'll be fine," Ray said, setting a hand on her shoulder, effectively snapping her out of her thoughts.
"Yeah... I hope."
Classes Thursday seemed to drag on for forever. The nominees were called down during sixth period to get ready for the show, which was to be during seventh period. Anette and Ray didn't talk to each other, and instead went over their parts separately, Anette putting in her iPod and mouthing the words to herself and Ray looking over his half composed, half transposed music one last time. They could hear over in the gym the footsteps of hundreds of students filing in and their voices echoing off the walls. It made Anette even more nervous.
They were to go last, as they had the least amount of nominations. Anette didn't bother listening to the MC's announce the acts, because in all honestly, she didn't want to know what she was up against. As John Burns and Naomi Reed (the couple in ninth place) were called out, she closed her eyes.
‘I can do this... I can do this...' Anette thought. 'What's going to be my motivation?'
Beat Andrew? No, not good enough.
Prove that she was still cool, even though she wasn't? Stupid reason.
Sing this song like no one's ever sung it before? ...maybe.
But then the idea just walked into her head, fully formed. It was a love song, right? About a boy who wasn't perfect, but was pretty much an all-around great guy. And who did she know that was like that?
‘Mikey,' Anette thought, a smile spreading across her lips. ‘I'm singing this song for Mikey.'
Applause told her that John and Naomi were done, and so she opened her eyes and smiled at Ray, who smiled back, albeit looking a bit confused at Anette's new calm.
"Okay, so last up, we have Anette Baker and Ray Toro, who are performing the song Let's Hear It For The Boy from Footloose!" called the MC's, and Ray and Anette walked into the gym and onto the stage. They were met with unexpected cheers. There was an awkward minute while Ray got plugged in, Anette switched on the mic, and they both ran sound checks, but when they locked eyes and nodded, they knew it was now or never.
"M'kay, so this song... this song is for this guy I know," Anette said a slight bit hesitantly. She hadn't planned on doing any sort of introduction, but the words were just forming in her head and she knew she had to say them. "He's not perfect, by any means, but... he's still amazing. So this is for you," she said, and she nodded at Ray, who started playing. And then Anette took a deep breath, deep like her vocal teacher had taught her, and started singing.
"My baby, he don't talk sweet, he ain't got much to say. But he loves me loves me loves me, I know that he loves me anyway."
She and Ray had found their rhythm together, and were starting to get more confident.
"And maybe he don't dress fine, but I don't really mind. 'Cuz every time he pulls me near, I just wanna cheer let's hear it for the boy! Oh, let's give the boy a hand! Let's hear it for my baby! You know you gotta understand. Oh, maybe he's no Romeo, but he's my lovin' one-man-show, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Let's hear it for the boy!"
By now, Ray and Anette were both really into the song, and so did the audience, it seemed. Anette could hear some people cheering, or clapping, or keeping beat.
And so Anette and Ray played and sang their hearts out, and as Anette took a deep breath to hold her killer note, she heard more cheers than ever.
'Oh God... oh God, please let me hit this note,' she prayed before getting ready to hit the highest soprano note she probably ever had attempted.
"Let's hear it for my baby! Hear it for the boy!" she almost screamed, and the whole gym seemed to be screaming for them. Grins on their faces, Ray and Anette sort of waved awkwardly and scurried off the stage and back to where all the other candidates were. Almost all of them congratulated Anette and Ray as they arrived, and Andrew just stood apart from the crowd and glared at them.
They were let go when the bell rang, and Anette and Ray joined the crowd of students leaving the building.
Gerard, Frank, Mikey, Hailey and Bob were fighting through the crowd trying to reach them. Frank reached them first, and he practically slammed into Anette with a fierce hug.
"Holy shit you guys raged it!" he exclaimed, hugging Ray now.
"You're gonna fucking win," Gerard said with a grin, flipping his bangs out of his eyes. "That was amazing."
"Andrew sucked!" Hailey said brightly. "I mean, they did some stupid dance thing. Bo-ring."
"Let's not get too hasty," Anette said, but she couldn't help but smile.
"Why not?" Mikey asked. "Ray was awesome, especially for like, composing half of that, and shit, I've never heard anyone hit a note that high, Anette."
She blushed. "Thanks. That was the part I was having the most trouble with, honestly."
"I couldn't tell."
"Guys, we are fucking celebrating at Steaming Bean!" Gerard announced. "Into the cars!"
They all walked out into the parking lot together. Gerard, Mikey and Frank went in Gerard's car, while Bob took Hailey, Ray and Anette. The trip to downtown was slow going because of the traffic from everyone getting out of school, and they had to park about a block away from the coffee shop, but it was well worth it when they all had their preferred beverages and had taken over the biggest table the Bean offered.
"I still can't believe you guys put that shit together in like, a week," Frank said, sipping his coffee cautiously.
"Me neither," Ray said, relief in his voice. "I was seriously starting to freak out there, especially all of today."
"We both were," Anette said. "I spent lunch in a practice room working on just that last bit with the freakishly long note and then that high note. I think I go up to a high harmonic E or something."
Hailey and Gerard's jaws went slack. "Seriously?" Hailey asked, amazed.
"Yeah. D or C or E, one of those."
"God damn, and I have a hard time just hitting high E."
"Well, you're a mezzo soprano."
"Still. That's like... inhuman."
"Hey Anette, what was with that stuff at the beginning?" Frank asked, stirring his coffee.
"Yeah, what was that?" Ray asked. "I wasn't aware that you were gonna make a speech."
"I..." Anette stopped. She couldn't tell the truth, not with Mikey sitting right there, staring at his coffee lid. "I dunno. The words just sort of... came to me."
"Okay," Ray said, tipping the rest of his coffee into his mouth. "Whatever you say."
"It did," Anette said defensively, but she felt like Ray could tell she was lying. Well, he probably knew she was lying.
They spent almost an hour at the coffee shop before they all had to go home. There was a passenger and luggage exchange as Gerard offered to take Anette and Ray home because Bob was closer to Frank anyways, and so after Anette got home, she found her mom to be there with Terrence, and she told her all about what happened before giving in to Terrence's whims and playing Batman with him.
Here is a link to the song:
Chapter 24: Chapter 24
Hailey came over to Anette's at around noon, with a bag full of hair supplies and make up, her shoes, and her dress.
"You ready for tonight?" she asked as they went up to Anette's room together. Terrence was in his own room so Anette could at least listen for if he got in trouble, but other than that, she wouldn't have to watch him much of today. He was actually doing good playing by himself so far.
"Yeah. I think I am," Anette replied as Hailey dumped her stuff on Anette's bed.
"Ooh, is this the dress?" Hailey asked, looking at the simple blue strapless dress lying out on the couch in Anette's room.
"You're gonna look stellar."
"So... you're the make up Goddess. Do as you please," Hailey said, and she pulled out her own dress, which was silver and sparkly and looked like some sort of Greek robe.
"I'll see what I can do," Anette replied with a smile.
It literally took four hours for them to finish getting ready for prom. Anette meticulously styled her and Hailey's hair, so that hers was in elegant curls and Hailey's in a pretty loose bun. Then it was on with make up and dresses and shoes, and just as they finished, the doorbell rang. They looked at each other, giggled, and walked downstairs to answer the door.
The guys were there, all dressed up and looking sharp. Frank and Gerard both had black suits with red ties. Mikey had gone more traditional and looked, in Anette's opinion, a bit like James Bond. Ray, however, wore a turquoise tux, and Bob, a white one to match Hailey.
"Ow, ow, look at these sexy bitches," Frank said, grinning and stepping inside.
"Thanks. Not looking bad yourself," Hailey said with a wink as Bob pulled her into a hug.
"My mom'll be home soon. We're gonna have chicken, but we have plenty of non-meat stuff for you, Frank."
"Just make yourselves at home, I need to go put Terrence down for his nap," Anette said before setting off upstairs. "Terrence?" she asked, pushing his door open carefully. He was sleeping on the floor, hugging his stuffed dinosaur. Anette smiled, picked him up carefully and set him in his bed, pulling the covers over him before kissing his forehead. She yanked her dress back up before leaving as quietly as she could for back downstairs.
Shirley was home soon enough, and after everything was in the oven cooking, she insisted on taking as many pictures as she could. They all went out on the deck and posed for her, alone, in couples, as a group, doing silly and serious faces.
"Oh, you all look wonderful," Shirley said, taking one last picture before they went back inside to eat. "Hailey, you're so grown up! I still have pictures of you and Anette from elementary school."
"Aw yeah, wedding pictures!" Frank said.
"Later," Anette laughed, and they all got food. The decided to eat outside, since it was so nice, and plus, it was easier to forgive them if they made a mess outside instead of inside.
Afterwards, everyone helped clean up and Shirley found an old photo album. "Kindergarten and first grade," she announced proudly, setting it on the coffee table. Everyone crowded around Anette and Ray, who opened it up. There were quite a few pictures of little Anette, with short, boyish blonde hair and Noel, who even back then had long black hair. Anette's eyes avoided the pictures of her and her father, who had the same white blonde hair and deep blue eyes she did.
"Oh yeah, I remember this day!" Hailey said, pointing to one of her and Anette, who were both grinning widely, showing off their missing teeth. "We both lost the same teeth on the same day!"
"Yeup, that was the first day we played together."
"Friends ever since!"
There was one class photo, and they picked out Anette, Hailey, Frank, Rachel, and Andrew. They all looked so cute and innocent, smiling their broken smiles and wearing their comfy clothes.
"Hey, we should get going. It starts at eight, right?" Gerard asked, looking at the clock.
"Ooh, you're right. How are we getting up there?"
"My van," Ray said.
"Classy," Hailey replied, but after final goodbyes and promises to be careful to Shirley, they piled inside Ray's van and headed for the school.
"I keep forgetting how close you are to the school," Frank said as they pulled in to the parking lot just a few minutes later.
"Yeah, it's pretty close," Anette agreed, and they got out.
Ray offered her his arm. "Would you like an escort, my lady?"
"Oh, you are my escort, good sir," she replied with a smile, and they lead the way to the school and into the gym.
Everything was decked out in psychedelic sixties colors. Flowers and vintage print adorned just about everything they could see. Even the rave lights were bright shades of orange and green and yellow, and currently, the DJ was blasting The Beatles. They found a spot where Hailey and Anette could kick off their shoes and after everyone stuffed things in Anette's purse, they were off dancing. The atmosphere was so much... well, happier and friendlier than Homecoming had been. No one gave Gerard and Frank shit for dancing together. Anette and Ray were much more comfortable dancing together than they had been, and Hailey had apparently taught Bob some moves, because they were twirling around smoothly.
People from all over the social pyramid said hi to Anette, danced with her and Ray, congratulated them on their performance and nomination and expressed their hope that the couple would win King and Queen. When Dawn and Tyler left to go dance elsewhere, Ray gave Anette a hesitant thumbs-up, and she shrugged and smiled.
"It's really cool, that's all," Ray half-shouted.
Over his shoulder, Anette saw Mikey leaning against a wall. She didn't know what came over her, but she suddenly just knew. She had to tell him. It didn't matter if he rejected her or not, she just had to scream it to the world that she thought he was fantastic. He looked up and caught her eye, but as they started maneuvering towards each other, a hand grabbed Anette's arm.
"Anette, can I talk to you?" Chase asked loudly.
"I said, I'm sorry!" Anette stopped, looking at him in shock.
"I want you back!" he continued shouting, a bit of a desperate look on his face. "I miss you!"
"Sorry Chase, but I got over you a few months ago!" She yanked herself out of his grip and left him to find Mikey. Chase looked upset, but Anette didn't care. He had made her miserable enough.
"Anette!" Mikey said when they found each other.
"Mikey! I need to talk to you."
"Me too. Let's go somewhere quieter!"
Anette took his hand and they wove through the crowd and out into the hallway where there was water and punch. There were a few people milling around, but not many. Anette dragged Mikey over to a corner where they wouldn't be disturbed.
"I gotta talk to you too," Mikey said, looking at the floor a bit sheepishly.
"Okay, well, you go first."
"Fine." Anette took a deep breath. "Okay, so you know yesterday at the coffee shop? I said that that speech just came to me?"
"Well, it did, but... right before we went on, I was trying to get some motivation for the song so it would be good."
"And so when I found my motivation, that speech just like, popped into my head."
"So what was it?"
Anette locked eyes with him. "You, Mikey. You were my motivation. I sang it for you."
Mikey blinked a few times, smiling weakly. "Wha—really? Me?"
They were silent for a moment, and it killed Anette, not knowing his mind.
"Yeah. So... Anette, I—I really like you. I think I figured it out after the food fight, 'cuz I just snapped when he almost hit you and then I realized I got all jealous during Grease because I hated seeing Gerard kiss you and then I freaked out during the stupid kissing game last weekend but I thought I couldn't tell you 'cuz you're you and I'm me an—"
Anette cut him off by standing on tiptoe and kissing him, careful to not get too much lipstick on him. He automatically wrapped his arms around her waist, and she whispered into his lips, "Thank God, because I like you too."
He kissed her this time, tentatively, but she grabbed the back of his neck and gave him the longest kiss either of them had ever experienced.
When they broke away, Mikey was laughing a bit.
"So... you know in History when I kind of dazed off?"
"Yeah, what was with that?"
"I was having a daydream about you."
Anette blushed. "I see."
"Um, yeah, it wasn't too dirty..."
"Oh, too dirty, huh?" she asked, raising her eyebrows playfully.
"And I wanted to kill Ray that day he seduced you with the crayon."
Anette laughed. "I'm sorry."
"Anette!" Ray burst out into the hallway. "There you are! They're announcing them right now!"
"Come on!" he yelled, grabbing her hand and dragging her away from Mikey.
"I'll dance with you later, Mikey!"
"Good luck!" he called after them.
They made it just in time to the back of the line of nominees, panting. Mr. Gail was there, and the music stopped so he could speak.
"Alright everyone, it's time to crown your Prom King and Queen!" he said enthusiastically, pulling a white envelope out of his jacket pocket. Everyone cheered loudly.
"The votes are in, the people have spoken, and by a landslide, your King and Queen are..."
Everyone held their breath. Anette crossed her finger and bit her lip. She saw Ray make a motion like he was going to tug at his hair out of the corner of her eye.
"Anette Baker and Ray Toro!"
The gym erupted in screams of joy and applause. All of the nominees had looks of shock on their faces, but whether it was good shock or bad depended on the person. Anette and Ray were shown up to the center of the small stage where Mr. Gail crowned them. Then Anette and Ray caught each other up in a tight hug and Ray spun her around, yelling, "We did it! We fucking won!"
They jumped down from the stage, and Gerard was the first to meet them.
"Ray!" he said, hi-fiving him. "I've known for ages!"
"What?" Ray asked, confused.
"That you like me. I know."
Ray turned redder than red.
"I didn't say anything though, 'cuz I didn't know my own feelings, but I think I know now!" Gerard said excitedly, and he grabbed Ray's face and kissed him.
"Fucking disgusting! Faggot PDA!" Andrew called, but no one looked amused. Andrew frowned as Gerard and Ray broke apart. "That's fucked up, man!" he yelled, getting mad.
"No dude," Tyler said, stepping forward. Everyone who could hear them was looking at him. "You're the one who's fucked up."
The crowd cheered as Andrew's face fell. He looked around for Mr. Gail, but he was gone back to the DJ, and the music started up again.
"About time!" Mikey said, seeing Ray and Gerard dancing together now. "Not like that took two years or anything!"
"Is Frank going to be mad?" Ray asked.
"I dunno. Maybe, since I have a boyfriend now," Gerard replied, winking and kissing him again. People were giving them weird looks, like they weren't sure quite what was going on, but no one looked disgusted at least.
"Hey," Frank said, tapping Anette on the shoulder. "I think you owe me."
"I've been waiting for a wedding dance for twelve fucking years."
"You'll have to ask Mikey's permission," she replied, grinning and adjusting the tiara on her head.
Frank's jaw dropped in shock. "You... and... and Mikey? Is everyone going to get laid tonight besides me?"
"I don't move that fast in relationships, Frank," she said, laughing.
"Hey Mikey, can I dance with your girlfriend?" he called, and Mikey just nodded before going back to being forced to dance with Hailey. "Fuck yes," Frank said brightly, and he and Anette started spinning. "No matter who you cheat on me with, you'll still be my wife."
"And you'll still be my husband."
At some point, Mikey came back and reclaimed Anette from Frank, leaving Frank to go find himself another person to dance with, which wasn't that hard for him.
"So... we're together then," Mikey asked as a slow song started up and Anette's head found his chest.
"If you like."
"I'd like that very much."
"Good. 'Cuz so would I."
He kissed her forehead as they spun on the spot slowly, enjoying the sensation of being so close.
"I'm glad you guys won," he said. "Better than that fuck Andrew."
"Right? I was afraid he was gonna get it."
"Obviously not though," Mikey said, smiling. "And so the social pyramid crumbled down 'till it was rubble, where all the bricks mixed together."
They stopped dancing to look at Andrew, who looked madder than Anette had ever seen him.
"You fucking rigged it, bitch. I know you did."
"I didn't rig anything, Andrew," Anette said, scowling. "Because guess what? People actually like me, so I didn't have to."
"I told them all not to vote for you or else."
"Or else what?" Anette laughed. "What can you do? You're one kid. No one's scared of you anymore."
"I'm going to tell my aunt you rigged it."
"I don't care. What's done is done, and you wouldn't be able to prove anything because there's nothing to prove."
"At least I don't fucking sleep around with shi—"
In a rage, Mikey uppercut Andrew and sent him sprawling to the floor. The people around him gasped, and Andrew looked dazed.
"You talk like that to my girlfriend again, and you'll be in the hospital, asshole," Mikey growled, and he took Anette's arm. "Come on Anette, let's go find everyone else."
They left Andrew there on the floor, looking so confused and furious, but it didn't matter to Anette. About time someone did it.
"I've been wanting to do that for ages," Mikey said a bit sheepishly, rubbing his knuckles. "God damn that hurt."
Anette kissed his hand gently. "Hey, battle scars, right?"
They danced the night away. Everyone was so, so happy, and Anette's face hurt from grinning by the time it was midnight and they were piling in Ray's van to go back to the Way house. They stopped by Anette's so she and Hailey could change into street clothes and then they were off into the night, a night filled with jokes and kissing and sighs of happiness.
Chapter 25: Chapter 25
At last they were free. Free from school, teachers, homework, tests, and that stupid social pyramid.
When school had resumed Monday after prom, that tension was gone. Everyone was talking to people they had always thought interesting but had been told to never talk to because they "weren't on the same level." Dawn and Tyler invited Anette out to lunch one day, and Rachel apologized mostly for being rude. Andrew sulked, and no one talked to him. He was taking it very hard, not being in charge of the school. But he'd just have to get over it.
Final exams rolled around, and Anette passed Algebra, English and History all thanks to Ray and Mikey, both of whom thankfully didn't have problems reading like she did. Their last free hour together was bittersweet, and Anette found herself crying.
"Hey, I'll be around all summer, I don't leave until like, August," Ray said, hugging her. "And I have email. And a cell phone."
But it was Gerard, Ray, and Bob who were truly free - free from forced education forever.
"NO MORE SCHOOL!" Anette heard Gerard yell as he was handed his diploma at graduation.
"'Till college," Mikey muttered in her ear. Anette laughed and kissed his cheek.
"Look at this thing," Gerard said in awe, opening up the leather case to show off his diploma. "Look at it."
They were all at the Way house for a post-graduation party. Ray and Bob set theirs out as well.
"Yeah dude, I can't believe you got it," Frank said, beaming.
"Dude, where's Mom? I want cake," Mikey moaned.
"You should have eaten before we left."
"I did, asshole."
"Guys, guys," Anette said, smiling. "Come on. Congrats though."
"Thanks. Hang on, I have to get something," Gerard said, and he left for his room. When he came back up, he held something behind his back. "Everyone, close your eyes."
They did, and they heard him shuffling about for a bit before he said, "Okay, open them."
They all looked around confused for a moment until they looked down at the table. It was covered in drawings - drawings of them.
"I've been, um, working on them all year," Gerard said, blushing a little. "They're for all of you. So you know, you don't forget me."
"These are fucking awesome," Mikey said, picking up one that depicted him in his Halloween costume, driving the Bat Mobile for good measure.
"Gerard, we'd never forget about you. That's silly," Hailey said, hugging him. "But these are so cool!"
Bob held up one that was himself and Hailey, asleep on a couch. "Star Wars movie night."
"Oh Gerard!" Anette cried, holding up a picture of her and him in fifties clothes. "Grease!"
"Hell yes, it's the new Ring Pop!" Frank yelled, jumping up and down as he held the picture of him giving Anette a Ring Pop.
Ray was the only one who was speechless. There were quite a number of him, and he held them all delicately in his hands. "These are... these are..." was all he could stutter out. Gerard just kissed him.
Mikey was blushing, looking at one of himself and Anette in their prom wear, kissing. "Is no moment off-limits?"
"Nope," Gerard replied, breaking apart from Ray. "These are only the best ones though. I have a couple just plain stupid ones in my room."
"So... so we can keep these?" Anette asked.
"Yeah, that's the general idea."
"Thank you, Gerard," she said, and she hugged him. Then so did Ray, and Mikey, and then Frank, until everyone was hugging everyone else with Gerard in the middle, complaining about how he couldn't breathe.
Chapter 26: Epilogue
"Any good movies showing?"
Mikey looked up from his computer. Anette stood next to him, trying to read the computer screen. He was on the website for the local one-dollar movie theater, looking to see what old movies it was playing.
"Yeah! Star Trek is," he said. "You wanna see that?"
"Sure," Anette said, kissing the top of his head.
"It's kinda weird though, you know?" Mikey said, closing the window and turning around to face her. "Like... that place is where we kinda... met. Like, started noticing each other."
"Yeah, it is."
"I don't even remember why I hated you."
"That's a good thing, isn't it?"
"I guess," Mikey said, reaching out and pulling her down to sit on his lap.
"Well, I think it's very good," Anette replied, playing with his hair.
They kissed, and just before Anette could really start making out with him, Mikey pulled away and said, "Mm, we should go soon though. It starts in like twenty minutes."
And so they left his room to go find Gerard, who was shut up in his room as usual. "Hey, Gerard!" Mikey yelled, banging on his door.
"What?" Gerard asked, opening it up.
"Can you give us a ride to the theater? The one by the mall."
"Yeah, yeah, let me get some pants on." He shut the door, and Anette gave Mikey a look that said, "Dear God, what was Gerard doing in there?" to which Mikey answered with a shrug. Moments later, the door opened to Gerard zipping up his pants, and he said, "Alright, let's go!"
He grabbed his car keys on the way out the door and they were off to the movies. Just before he dropped them off, he said, "Okay kids, no making out in the back of the theater. PDA is not acceptable."
"Oh no, Gerard, I was actually planning on giving him a blowjob in the middle of Star Trek," Anette replied, rolling her eyes.
"You shouldn't, that's pretty unsanitary."
Anette and Mikey got out and said bye and thanks to Gerard. There were several kids from school there, milling around, and Anette and Mikey greeted several of them before buying tickets and popcorn and going into the movie just before the previews started.
"So that's how Star Trek all started?" Anette asked as they left the theater.
"You've watched that movie a lot."
"Yeah," Mikey said, shoving his glasses up his nose.
"You quoted like, the whole movie."
"Sorry about that."
Anette giggled. "It's fine. It's cute." She grabbed his jacket and pulled him down to kiss her. "Good movie."
"I'm glad you liked it."
"Well, you know, been getting in to science fiction and fantasy ever since I started hanging out with you guys a lot."
"And video games," Mikey added.
"And video games."
They walked outside and Mikey called Gerard for a ride home. Then they leaned against the wall, holding hands.
As Gerard's car pulled up, Mikey said, "Well, I'm glad you had a good night."
"Not just good," Anette said, kissing him once again. "Perfect."
Huge thanks to everyone for reading and supporting this story! I have to say, it's one of my favorites to date.
And special thanks and dedication to Leisha, because without her this story would have never gotten off the ground <3