Chapter 1: New Beginnings
I don't want to be here.
I don't want to be here. I hate it so much. The neighborhood is already confirming my worst fears: for one, it's chocked full of spiders. Also, I'm surrounded by stupid teenage boys who insist on partying every damn night. Teenagers are fuhking terrifying. Shit, I even scare myself sometimes.
Plus, my mother is making me go to the private school just outside of the neighborhood. So imagine my terror when I go to an interview with the headmaster of the school and immediately, his reaction is: "Is this the child you want to enroll?"
Okay, so I may not look like the first choice to enroll into a private school... But if you picture me without my eccentric earrings and lip ring, I'm private school material. And also, picture me without the eyeliner. And the greasy hair.
Nevermind. I'll never fit into this dumb school.
"FRANKIIIIIE!" calls my mother from downstairs. I whine and roll out of bed, failing to catch myself before I hit the floor with a resounding thud.
I stand up and run my side, which is sore from the impact. I simply cannot function today.
I open my door, which is basically my dreamscape, and fly down the staircase. Our stairs lead directly to the living room, which is pretty open. Just beyond the living room is the bar area place, and behind that is the kitchen, where my mom is tossing a pan of scrambled eggs.
"I am so proud of you!" my mother squeals as she empties the whole pan of eggs onto a paper plate for me. I grimace at the thought of eating, because my stomache is already flipping and I'm too nervous. I hesitantly sit down behind the bar, and my mom pushes the plate my way.
I don't eat breakfast on a daily basis. What meals I miss out on I compensate for later, decking out on chips and Nutella and other high fructose crap that could get me killed in thirty years. But I really don't care.
With a tall glass of orange juice comes a long fork. It has to be at least two times the size of my hand, because it seems heavy in my hand. "Thanks," I mumble, stabbing at my scrambled eggs. My mom watches me intently, as though my eating habits were suddenly the most interesting things on the planet.
"Mom," I say after three minutes of me picking at my breakfast and my mom just staring at me. She blinks an couple times and smiles sincerely. "You still hungry?" she asks, and I shake my head. I still haven't finished my first plate if eggs, or my orange juice.
"Your uniform is hanging in your closet, and your comb and toothbrush and toothpaste are all laid out on the bathroom counter. Oh, and–" my mother tells me, wearing her huge smile. I nod to cut her off, and she stops talking.
I push out from the counter and slide out of the chair, walking through the living room and back to my bedroom.
Sighing, I race back up the steps. My mother is a wonderful woman; don't get me wrong, I love her more than anyone ever, but she's very overbearing at times. Like now. I open my closet when I reach my room, taking out the new school uniform. My mom and I had gone out yesterday to get it pressed and ironed professionally, and it's wrinkle-free. I don't usually wear anything that'll wrinkle, so I don't care that the surface of the white shirt is clean and flat. I don't care that the nearly black blazer is nicely pressed.
I put my arms into the armholes of the white shirt, buttoning the buttons nearly all the way to the top. I leave two undone, because I'll be wearing a red and blue tie that'll hide it. I sit down on the edge of my bed and pull down the shorts that I slept in, replacing them with the gray pants I have to wear.
I walk to the bathroom and brush my teeth, making sure to reach every tooth. Hey, I have a great smile. These teeth need to be cleaned at least twice a day. I spit and rinse, and then work at my hair. I decide to just brush it, parting it to the side as usual. When I'm done, I slide an earring into each piercing hole. I look at the mirror and observe myself, convincing myself that I'm at least presentable.
I run back to my room and slide on the blazer, its emblem kind of matching my tie. I know how to tie a tie because I've been to a Catholic school before, and we had to wear ties every day. So tying a tie is the least of my worries right now. After that, I put on my lip ring, deciding on a small silver ball one. It won't be too much, I hope.
I grab my backpack and check my reflection once more before returning to the kitchen.
My mom is waiting behind the counter, a brown paper bag in her hand. I smile and take it, kissing her on the cheek. "Frankie, honey, are you sure that you don't want me to drive you? It's not too much trouble, I could–" my mother rushes, but I shake my head.
"I'll be okay," I say reassuringly, "I'm okay, trust me." She smiles and puts her hand on my cheek. "You're such a beautiful young man, Frankie. I love you so much. Go make me proud!" my mother calls as I back up and head towards the door. I wave to her and open the door, walking out into the crisp autumn air.
The school isn't too far away, so walking there only takes about ten minutes. I walk along the sidewalk, kicking up pebbles and pinecones that litter it. Some kid left a chalk drawing of a sunshine and a rainbow, so I step on it purposely. No sunshine and rainbows.
I step past the sign at the entrance of our neighborhood, seeing the school a few hundred feet away. I make my way towards the school, a terrible feeling eating at my gut. I'm so nervous that I can hardly contain myself, and the crowd of preppy students flooding through the school doors doesn't make that feeling any better.
I finally reach the front of the school, and, taking a deep breath, I step forward. Someone runs into me, and I nearly fall over. "Watch where you're going, dweeb," the person says irritably, straightening his blazer. I grimace and continue walking. I look around and see two boys over by a small house-looking building that's about thirty feet away from the main school building. One has a wild mane of curly brown hair, and the other's hair is sleek with grease and black.
Both are free of piercings, which makes my stomach drop. I'm already abnormal.
I brace myself for the day ahead of me, and walk through the school doors, being shoved and pushed by everyone around me.
"New kid, budge it!"
"Out of my way!"
I sigh and look around the main hall of the school, not sure if I'll be able to survive a single day here.
Chapter 2: Well If You Wanted Honesty, That's All You Had To Say
Ray and I are sitting on the steps of the school's shed, even though we know that a lot of kids fulfill their hormone-induced sexual needs in there. Luckily, no one's in there right now, so Ray and I continue to talk.
"Life sucks," I grumble, "It's so hard. Everyone wants you to be normal. But I don't wanna be normal. I can't be normal. And when you tell them that, they insist that everyone should stand out. But when you stand out too much, they want to shove you back in and tell you to hide yourself. But show yourself. No one accepts anyone!" Ray sighs and shrugs, looking at me helplessly. "It's not like you fit in, anyways, if that's what you're implying," he tells me.
I scoff at him. "What is that supposed to mean?" I ask, crossing my arms. He just looks at me, conveying no emotion whatsoever. "You like D&D, Audrey Hepburn, Fangoria, Harry Houdini, and croquet," he begins, "You can't swim, you can't dance, and you don't know karate. Face it, you're never gonna make it." I squint at him, kinda hurt. I know I can't swim. I know that I don't know karate. But my dance moves? Really?
"I don't wanna make it. I just wanna–" I reply slowly, but stop mid-sentence. Amid the ocean of students pouring into the main school building, I catch a glimpse of a short kid staring at Ray and I. I put a hand over my eyes to see him better, but he quickly looks away and continues to be pushed and shoved before disappearing through the doors.
I elbow Ray, asking, "Did you see the new kid? He was looking at us..." Ray nodded. "Is he old enough to go here?" he responds, but I don't answer. I look at my watch, which reads 7:56. "Shit!" I exclaim, grabbing my bag and my blazer, making a mad dash for the school. Ray trails close behind me, and we make our way through the crowd of students.
We stop once we reach the main hall, and I take in the trophy cases lining the walls. I slip on my blazer and stare. They're all full of gleaming trophies, most of them belonging to our lacrosse team. The others are a mixture of trophies from cheer tournaments and swim meets. Two small croquet trophies are shoved into the smallest case, and I can't help but feel a surge of pride. Not many people play croquet, but I'm one of them. That only makes me like the "sport" more.
"What's our first period class?" I ask Ray. "I don't know about you, but I have Calculus, so I'll see you later!" And with that, he dashes down a hallway to his math class.
With dread, I realize that I have P.E. first period. It makes no sense; why get all sweaty and smelly in the morning? I decide to hurry up and get to the gym before Mr. Alex yells at me for being late yet again. I race to the back of the school and throw open the door, running across the field for the gym.
Next to the gym is a pool, fenced in by a tall gate. On the gate, behind the little things where we jump off of, hang three signs: one says "Swim!", the next says, "because", and the last one says, "Swim!" So swim because swim. Yeah.
And Ray's right: I don't know how to swim.
I make it through the gates of the fence, really hoping that no one would be at the pool. I wish with all my might that today is not a pool day, but my luck is always sucky. And today is no exception.
"Gerard, nice of you to join us," I hear Mr. Alex call out. He knows I can't swim, and so does everyone else. I swear, it feels like he does this just to embarrass me. Everyone is already in their Speedos; there aren't many kids in my P.E. class, and they're all guys, so their swimsuits are all identical. They all wore those weird panty swimsuits and light blue caps. They all had goggles strapped to their heads. It's awful.
I shrug and walk over to the bench, sitting down and letting my bag slide off of my shoulder. "What's your excuse for today?" Mr. Alex asks. Technically, we're supposed to be ten minutes early for class, but I had lost track of time talking to Ray. I don't say anything, so the teacher clicks his tongue and pouts to a group of chattering students, all wearing the ridiculous swimwear.
"Okay, everyone. To your pedestals. You all know the drill!" Mr. Alex calms, and the swimmers all head to their places. "You too, Mr. Way. You're not special; you're no exception!" I grunt and stand up. The gym teacher hates me, and I hate him. He expects me to go get changed in the locker room, but I don't. Instead, I head straight to the pedestals with my uniform on, and I step up with my hands on my hips. Everyone bursts into laughter. I'm not trying to be a class clown; I'm trying to prove a point.
Mr. Alex, however, finds no humor in my antics. "Shut it!" he calls to the laughing people, "Gerard, you can't swim in your uniform!" I don't move. I only look at him and blink. He eventually gives up, and calls for everyone to jump in. In perfect sync, everyone leaps from their places into the pool. Except for me.
I ignore the splashes that the dives make, and Mr. Alex looks at me disapprovingly. Another gym class, another disappointment. At least we aren't playing dodge ball today.
"Gerard, I think you should head back inside. See if you could help out the ladies in the office..." he suggests helplessly. I don't want to go to the office, but anywhere is better than here. I step down and run back to the bench, bending down to pick up my bag.
I throw open the gates, water splashing in the background, and make my way back towards the school. No one is in the field, so I'm able to get to the building quickly. I open the door and walk in, and the main hall is deserted. I don't go to the office. Instead, I head for the bathroom.
Once I get there, I run into a stall, with my backpack, and lock the door. I sit on the closed lid and take my phone out of my bag. As usual, no one has texted me, but I don't care. I just need something to do. I want so desperately to put my earbuds into my ears and drown the world out with my music, but I can't. If I do, someone could come in and hear my music blaring in my earbuds. That wouldn't be good.
So I decide to look at pictures of all my favorite bands for a while. The Misfits haven't posted anything on their social media accounts in a while, so I move on to another band. After scrolling through pictures for thirty minutes, I decide to go to the office just so if Mr. Alex asks, I was in the office for a while.
Once I get there, the batty old lady behind the desk looks up and scoffs. "Oh, Lord. It's that lil' emo kid, Darla!" she croaks, turning to another old lady behind her. The other woman, Darla, says, "That new boy? Frank? With the weird piercings and that other stuff?" The lady shakes her head. "No, no, the one with the greasy hair and no athletic ability!" she replies.
I pull my lips into a straight line, putting my hand on my hip. "Oh, that gay little boy?" Darla asks, turning around to face me. Her face darkens slightly, and she scoffs, too. "Yeah, that one!"
"Do you need any help or not?" I ask helplessly. The ladies squint at me through their half-moon glasses. Then, Darla lifts a huge stack of paperwork and walks over to me with it, shoving the papers into my arms. I groan under the weight, and she laughs snarkily. "Ha! Noodle arms..."
I mutter a few choice words under my breath, carrying the papers to a small side table next to the black leather couch. I plop down and take a pen from a cup, reading some of the paperwork. "Check them off," Darla croaks at me. I rolled my eyes and drew a check mark on the first paper.
I'm not sure which is worse: Helping the crazy ladies in the office or struggling through P.E.
My honest opinion? Life still sucks.
Chapter 3: Stomachaches
Seem familiar? Hugs! xoromanticizingchemicals
First period is Chemistry.
Not that I can complain, because the class isn't too bad. The teacher's decent and hasn't talked to me yet. I sit by myself at one of the tables on a stool. When class had begun, everyone had gotten on lab aprons and goggles, so I followed suit and did the same. The only difference was that everyone already had a lab partner. I don't, but I'm better off being independent.
"Okay, everyone. Today, we're going to do the lab on page 104 in your books," Mr. Quinn said, writing on the board "pg.104". I stare his ass, because hey, I'm gay as fuhk. I can tell a lot of the girls had the same idea, because when he turns back around, I feel this kind of unspoken drop of spirit flood the room.
There's a shifting and a turning of the book pages as everyone flips to page 104. I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to be doing, so I just look around and wait for everyone else to start moving. Sure enough, the scooting of stools can be heard as everyone heads up to the front to get the required ingredients. I do the same. It's hard to get down from the stool, but I manage.
I pick up one of everything, not really knowing what it is for. I head back to my stool and lay out the ingredients in front of me. "Make sure you guys read the directions!" Mr. Quinn chirps from behind his desk, and returns to whatever he was doing on his computer.
I hear him, but I don't listen.
I poor something into a glass cup that looks like water, and it sloshes around. I then add something that reminds me of salt, but I really can't tell what it is. I stir that up until everything has dissolved, and then I add a yellow liquid. Nothing happens except that the whole mixture is now yellow, but nothing blows up in my face. So far so good.
I look around at everyone else, but they're all leaning over their work. Like they don't want anyone to see. A kid behind me taps on my shoulder, and I turn around. The kid seems pretty tall, but he's sitting, so I can't be so sure. He's wearing glasses instead of goggles, and his dirty blonde hair is sticking out unevenly. "Can you get my pencil for me?" he asks, pointing at a small pencil underneath my stool, "I dropped it..."
I nod and climb down off of my stool, grabbing the guy's pencil for him. I return it with a small smile, and he smiles back. "I'm Mikey," he says politely, extending his gloved hand. I take it and shake it, saying, "Frankie. Nice to meet you." Mikey smiles again. "If you want, you could hang out with me at break and lunch," he offers, and I nod.
Thank God I had made a friend.
I continue on with the lab, and when all of my ingredients have been added, I look at the mixture. I'm not sure what it's supposed to be, but it's something. Without a second thought, I find myself grabbing the cup with my oven mitts on (I'm not even sure why I'm wearing them) and pouring the liquid down my throat. Suddenly, everyone has their eyes on me, mouths gaping. Then laughter follows, and Mr. Quinn looks up at me.
His eyes grow to the size of disks, and he jumps out of his chair to run to me. I look at him questioningly, and he yells at Mikey to take me to the nurse's office. I blink, and before I know it, Mikey is holding me by my arm and rushing me to the nurse's office.
I'm then shoved into a chair, and a woman in a tight white apron is forcing a liquid down my throat. Everything is happening pretty quickly, so I have no time to comprehend what's going on.
"What the actual fuhk were you thinking?!" the nurse exclaims, walking me over to a bathroom. "Stay there until you throw it up. That should be any second now."
I sit by the toilet, not even sure what's happening. The next thing I know, I'm hurling violently into the toilet, the very small breakfast I had eaten and the liquid I had drinken coming up. Excess stomach acid burns my throat like flames of hell, and I cough out the last bit.
I hate puking.
The nurse rushes back in, patting my shoulder. "I called your mom, Mr. Iero. She can't come get you, but I think you'll be okay. I think you can make it through the rest of the day. Come back if you feel sick again," she says. Is she fuhking crazy? I had just thrown up fuhking fire, and she wanted me to keep going?
"O-okay," I reply, my throat hoarse. The nurse's name tag reads "Hayley Williams", and I add her last name and a Mrs. to my sentence. She nods and exits the bathroom. I follow her and dizzily walk back to the Chemistry classroom. It's almost the end of first period, and I can tell because everyone is cleaning up and putting on their backpacks.
Everyone's eyes follow me as I make my way back to my seat. I pick up my mess and put on my backpack as well. "Are you okay?" Mikey asks from behind me. I nod and shove my Chemistry book back into my bag. "Homework tonight," Mr. Quinn says, "Is a brief essay explaining why we shouldn't consume any products of our experiments." Everyone whines and glares at me with distaste etched into their features, but I don't care.
The bell rings, and everyone is up on their feet and rushing out the door. I slide down off of the stool and head for the door. Mikey joins me, and we fight through the crowd of students. "That was sick!" Mikey yells above the noise, laughing and hitting my back. I grimace and shrug. I try to get to my locker, which I had gotten a few weeks ago when my mom enrolled me.
When I reach my locker, I take the Chemistry book out of my bag and unlock my locker, throwing it into the locker. "So, where are you from?" Mikey asks from his locker. Oddly, his locker is right next to mine, and he pulls out a Trigonometry book. "I live in the neighborhood a little down the road. I just switched schools is all," I reply, taking out my own Trig. book. I had taped my schedule into the inside of my locker door as well, and I do indeed have Trigonometry with my newfound friend.
"Cool!" Mikey says, and he closes his locker. I close my locker, and we make small talk as Mikey leads me to our math class. Mikey says that he has a brother, and that I'd probably meet him sometime soon. I smile and tell him that I have no siblings.
We finally make it to the classroom, and I follow Mikey to a double table in the back. We sit behind a kid with black, greasy hair. I recall that hair as being the hair that belonged to the kid I saw talking to another guy at that building...
"Gee!" Mikey hisses, throwing his small pencil at the kid. It hits him in the back of the neck, and "Gee" flinches and rubs the spot. "Ow!" he screeches, spinning around to face Mikey, "You little bastard! What was that fo–" He stops and looks at me, a sort of realization spreading across his face. "Hey, I know you!" he says, pointing at me. I raise an eyebrow and shift uncomfortably.
"You were staring at me and Ray this morning," Gee says, nodding. I blush uncontrollably, and he laughs. "It's okay. I'm Gerard, but you can call me Gee if you want. I see that you've already met my twerp of a brother," he adds, jerking his head towards Mikey, who rolls his eyes and takes an inhaler out of his backpack. He takes a puff of it and puts it back, and then says, "I think you'll like this teacher, Frank. Everyone knows him. He's been at this school forever."
I smile and try to seem eager, but I'm really focusing on Gerard. He's actually really cute.
A teacher walks into the classroom, his large glasses reflecting the white light of the room. Everyone smiles and starts talking, and he busies himself by high-fiving some kids and stuff. He's talking to everyone like he's known them for years, until he finally comes to the back of the room. "Heya, Way brothers," he says, clapping Gerard on the back and knuckle-bombing Mikey. I laugh and accept a firm handshake from the teacher.
"New kid, Frank, right?" the teacher asks, and I nod. "Great. You look rad, by the Way. No pun intended, Gee and Mikes... I am Mr. Urie, but please, call me Brendon." I smile widely, actually liking this teacher. He seems really chill.
"'Kay, class. Today we're gonna go over last night's homework. Tell me," he says, his voice filling the room, "What happens when you use conditioner before shampoo when showering?"
The class breaks into a fit of laughter, and I join in. But some girl on the far side of the room looks pretty serious as her hand shoots up. Brendon looks at her and points, to which she states, "Nothing much, sir. Your hair becomes much more sleek, but the effect is the same as the other way around, sir."
Everyone stops laughing. She had just ruined a great time. "That sounds very interesting, but last time I checked, you are not Hermione Granger of Harry Potter. Unfortunately, our school is not Hogwarts, so I can't award any points to you," Mr. Urie says, and a few people laugh lightly.
"That's Helena," Mikey whispers in my ear, "She's a know-it-all." I nod and make a mental note to avoid her. Her voice is already pretty annoying, and I don't feel sorry for her, either. She has two other friends planted to her right and left, and they look equally serious.
We continue on with a lesson, which is mostly Mr. Urie making band references and fandom puns. I appreciate his sense of humor, but my stomach is starting to grumble. I remember that I had thrown up my breakfast, and I realize that I have another period before I can go out for break.
"Okay, kiddos," Mr. Urie says, "Tonight, you don't have any homework, but extra credit for anyone who goes home and listens to 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen!" As soon as he finishes. The bell rings, and the students say their farewells to the teacher as they leave for their next period.
"Bye, Frankie!" he calls as I walk out the door, and I wave at him. Mikey, Gee, and I walk down the hallway. I look through the glass doors of the library and see a kid doing homework in yellow crayon. His hair is wild; he's the kid from this morning. I see him look at his crayon, and then he takes a bite out of it. I open my mouth in disgust, and Mikey has to grab me by the bag to reel me away from the scene.
Gerard looks at me almost apologetically. "Sorry you had to see that," he says, his arm touching mine. A small gasp leaves my mouth, but the hallway is so loud that Gerard can't hear it. "I-it's okay..." I say, biting my lip. He punches me playfully in the arm. "Well, see ya later, losers!" he says, "I'm off to my next class!"
With that, Gee disappears into the crowd of students. "We have social studies next," Mikey says. For some reason, our schedule is the same. I silently thank whoever is watching over me for that.
We run to our lockers, shove the Trigonometry books back into them, and pull out the Social Studies book. Mikey leads me to the next class, and I ignore the pains in my stomach. I don't feel like I have to throw up, but I have to keep convincing myself not to.
"Last period before break!" Mikey says excitedly, tapping his small pencil on the desk. I return his smile and look at the clock.
I want time to go faster.
Chapter 4: The Great Emu War and Pinecones
To Mikey now, 'cos he's fuhking ready.
Frankie is fuhking awesome.
Why? For one, he's short. He's going to make the perfect armrest. Another thing, he's hilarious. We have all the same classes, which is so comforting. The only thing that's different is the fact that I have to do morning announcements during homeroom and afternoon announcements after lunch.
"Hellooooo everyone!" Mr. McIlrath chimes, standing up from behind his desk and putting his arms behind his back. Everyone murmurs back a greeting. Mr. McIlrath is fairly new, so no one knows him too well. He's very passionate, for one thing. And everyone dreads the days where we talk about anything that involves war or fighting.
Today happens to be one of those days.
I know this, just like everyone else does, because it's written up on the white board in black marker: "The Great Emu War". Okay, umm... The Great Emu War? Frankie leans over and whispers, "More like The Great Emo War." I break out into hysterical laughter, trying to block it with my bag.
The teacher doesn't seem to notice, because he continues on. "I told you guys this was coming!" he says, his voice filling my ears. I dread the voice. I hate social studies.
Everyone mumbles stuff about forgetting that we were going over this, but he shakes away their excuses. "We've been learning about Australia since last week. And I think that you guys are more than prepared to learn about this war," he says, his voice already shaking. Dear God, no. No no no. Poor Frank. His first day.
"What's this guy's deal?" Frankie whispers in my ear. I'm about to answer, but Mr. McIlrath suddenly hits his fist against the board with such force that I feel my desk shake slightly.
"Obviously, it's a big deal," he says, his voice not a whisper but not at a normal volume, "There were great casualties that day. All because Australians couldn't deal with oversized birds!" He adds a little "ha!" to the end of his sentence. Everyone is wide-eyed and dreadful looking.
"Oh yeah," the teacher says, "On one side, we have the emus. Guess who had the upperhand! The humans!" He says all of this while drawing a crude picture of an emu on one side of the board, and little stick people on the other. "Why, you ask?" Mr. McIlrath muses, suddenly stomping his foot. "BECAUSE THEY HAD GUNS! LEWIS MACHINE GUNS!"
Everyone jumps, and I hear Frankie whisper "shit" at least twice. The teacher runs to his desk and holds up a piece of paper with the photo of a Lewis machine gun on it. "AND IT WASN'T FAIR! EMUS SUFFERED A GREAT DEAL OVER THE SPAN OF THAT WAR!" he cries out, "57,034 BOUNTIES WERE CLAIMED OVER SIX MONTHS, DAMMIT!" Everyone leans back in their seats and observes him as he wipes sweat from his brow and takes a deep breath.
For the next thirty minutes, we listen to him rant on and on about how guns always gave people the upper hand, and how it wasn't fair. The bell rings and everyone shoots out of their seats, but Mr. McIlrath screams, "I WANT A TWO-PAGE ESSAY OVER THE GREAT EMU WAR BY TOMORROW!"
There's a collective whine from everyone; no one wants to do this essay. Except probably Helena, with her little friends Alicia and Jamia. They're probably excited to turn in their seven-page essays, receiving the highest of grades. Okay, umm, I'll admit that Alicia is pretty cute, but I like someone else too.
No, I can't tell you.
"Mikey, come on, I'm starving!" Frankie cries, grabbing my blazer sleeve and dragging me along the hallway. We skip the trip to our lockers and walk straight into the field behind the school with everyone on their break. "Gee should be here any second..." I say to Frank, who's sitting down on the stone steps that lays against the small incline of ground.
I watch as Frankie frantically digs through his brown paper bag, and finally takes out a Nature Valley bar. I settle a few stells behind him, because I have a set spot back there. The Mikey Square. A few moments later, Gee walks towards the steps with Ray in tow. I find myself blushing... I HAVE NO IDEA WHY. I THINK IT'S THE SUN. IT'S DEFINITELY NOT FALL.
"Heyo, Frankie!" Gee exclaims, looking from Frankie to Ray, "Meet my good friend Ray. Ray, Frank."
The two exchange greetings, and then Ray smiles at me. "Hey Mikes!" he says, waving gleefully. I began to choke on my own words like the fool I am.
"Oh, h-hey Ray. How're you? How was class?" I slur, and Ray sits on the other side of the steps. I feel something building up inside of me... I feel like he doesn't want to sit by me because he doesn't like me. My cheeks go red and I cough a little. "I'm great, thanks," he says, but doesn't say anything else.
About ten feet away from the stairs where we're all sitting lays the picnic table things, and the jocks and stars of our stupid lacrosse team always sit there. They look over at us and smile mockingly. I can't hear any of their conversation, but I don't care.
I look at Frankie, who has devoured the granola bars and is now sipping from a small blue cup, like those ones you get in a tea party set. I stare at him and back at the jocks, and I see James, the main star of the lacrosse team, pick up a sandwich from the table.
Without warning, he chucks the sandwich at Frank, who merely flinches when it hits him in the face and lands in his lap. I look at Ray and see him staring at the jocks bitterly, so I copy the expression. Frank picks up the sandwich and looks at Gerard, his face asking, "should I eat this?", but he doesn't say anything. Gee shakes his head, and Frank sets the sandwich down to his side.
"Emo!" James calls at Frank, finding a new toy to play with. The crowd at the table sniggers, but Frank couldn't have cared less. I admire him for that; he's quite brave.
Frank goes back to drinking whatever's in the plastic cup, and the jocks don't bother us again.
"Y'okay?" Gee asks Frank, who nods. Gee rubs Frank's shoulders in an almost brotherly way. It's so awesome. They're becoming friends real fast.
"Mikey!" Ray calls at me, nearly causing me to shit myself. What, I was daydreaming and distracted! "What?" I call back, and Ray smiles. "Go long!" he says, throwing a pinecone at me. I lunge for it and miss, falling sideways into the cement stairs. Dammit.
Gee, Frank, Ray, and everyone at the jock's table laugh at me, and I blush madly. I'm so fuhking embarrassed. I missed a pinecone. A pinecone. I feel like Ray did that just to embarrass me, and I hide my face in my arms.
Because if you can't tell, I really like Ray.
Chapter 5: 3, 2, 1, We Came to Fuhk
No, there's no sex in this chapter. And also, in the song Vampire Money, "fuck" actually refers to draining all of the blood from someone's body. Cool, huh? No, please don't go and do that to someone, saying that you'll fuck them.
But there is Sex Ed class here, so enjoy that!
Mikey looks really down.
Ever since the whole pinecone thing, he's been quiet and more introverted than usual. "Mikes, what's up?" I finally ask as we walk in from break. He sighs but shakes his head. "I'm fine. Just... Headache," he lies. I can tell when he lies. And I have a theory.
That theory is that my brother is in love with my friend.
Not only is that weird, but it's also cool. Two people that like each other but don't know that the other person likes them back... Those are where the real relationships start.
Frank rams into me at full speed, nearly knocking me over. "What the actual fuhk, Frank?" I say slowly, "What are you high off of?" He laughs and flips his hand. "Nothing, nothing."
Mikey and Frank head to their next class, which is Spanish, I think, and Ray and I head to Geography. I'm just glad that I don't have the new guy Mr. McIlrath as my teacher, because from what Mikey says, he's a total nutjob.
"How was Calculus? I forgot to ask," I say to Ray, who shrugs. "It was okay. It's not too too hard, but it's still kinda complicated. Y'know?" I shake my head, because I don't. For fuhk's sake, I'm in a math class a grade lower than what I should be taking. I never had a particular liking for math like Ray does.
We walk into the Geography classroom, and sitting behind his desk is Mr. Wentz. Not only did the bad-ass ride a motorcycle to and from school, but he also had tattoos along his arms. I'm not sure how he got a job here, but he did. The only thing is that he has to wear sweaters and cardigans, which he seems to see nothing wrong with.
Me being the gay little bastard I am, I quite like the way he rocks a good cardigan and skinny jeans. Teachers are supposed to be professional, but I feel like most of the teachers at our school just don't fit that boring mold.
Except for Mr. Alex. He's an ass.
"Hey, boys," Mr. Wentz says, and I realize that me and Ray are the first ones in the class. "Hello, good morning, how's my favorite social studies teacher?" Ray asks routinely, pointing at Mr. Wentz. What a dork. The teacher puts a hand over his heart and smiles like he's just received the nicest compliment ever. "Oh, Mr. Raymond, you really are something else. I am great, thank you," he says in a mockingly sweet voice.
Ray and I laugh, and soon, the classroom fills up with students. Unfortunately, Frankie doesn't have this class with me. I kinda miss him. A simple math class and a break really could create feelings for someone.
I love him in a best friend perspective. No, something more than that. Like a brother, plus a little. It's a great relationship so far, though. "Alrighty, everyone," Mr. Wentz says as soon as the last student enters the classroom, "I'm no Mr. McIlrath, but I am still a teacher. Some of you need to remember that." He put special emphasis on that last part, glaring at James, who was at the front of the room surrounded by his "friends" and admirers. They comprised of mostly cheerleaders who made sure their skirts were the shortest length allowed.
"No prob, Mr. P," James drawls, and I roll my eyes at him. Pathetic little asshole.
Mr. Wentz also rolls his eyes and continues on with the lesson. "So, we've been going over this supposed 'brown cloud' over China. What's this caused by, again?" he asks the class, to which a few people reply at different times, "Air pollution." He nods and continues to talk about how pollution is slowly destroying the earth, and that the human race would destroy its own world before any prediction was fulfilled or before the aliens would come down to get us. We listen with slight interest. In all honesty, I'm not too intrigued by the actual message; I just like Mr. Wentz's voice.
He has this way of making every story amazing. Just an ordinary story, making it extraordinary. Amazing. Time passes quickly in this class, and before I know it, the bell rings for fifth period. I stand up and grab my belongings, saying good-bye to Mr. Wentz and heading to one of the worst classes I had: Sex Ed.
Ray has this class with me, luckily. I just find it so hard to not blush madly or go insane during that class. I understand the importance of learning about reproduction, but I still hate it. So much.
Ray and and I pay a quick visit to our lockers, greeting Mikey and Frank in the hallway when we see them, and walking to Sex Ed with Mr. Patrick Stump.
I'm not exactly sure why we call him by his first and last name, but we do. And it's weird. Not as weird as his class, though. Even he hates this class. And I quote: "There had to be a teacher to be stuck in this God forsaken position, and it turned out to be me. I am so sorry if this class finds its way into your discussions with your therapists, guys. God bless you all."
Mr. Patrick Stump is an awesome teacher though. He also rocks the whole cardigan and skinny jean look, plus a fedora every once in a while. Today, as we walk into the classroom, he's drawing a picture on the board. "Good morning–er–afternoon? Sir," I say, picking my way through the desks to my seat. Ray sits directly to my right. Mr. Stump turns around and smiles pleasantly. "Good news!" he says, "Today's lesson isn't going to be so awkward!" Ray and I share a sigh of relief.
"Thank God," I say graciously, silently thanking God for the news. I hate this subject. So much.
Students finally start to walk into class, all of them looking like they definitely dread this period.
Then again, some kids were eager for this period. Those were the kids who made out in the school shed and crap.
"Okay, class," Mr. Patrick Stump says, clapping his hands together, "We have a not-so-awkward lesson today. I have to teach you guys about family trees, even though you learned that stuff all the way back in like third grade. And in Biology and Life Science, but whatever. I'm teaching you on a–hmm–more sexual scale." I tense up at the word. I'm so immature, this I know.
Everyone peers around him at his drawing. The guy isn't the best artist, but it's something... "Yeah, so this is my family tree. Not my actual family tree, I just wanted to make something up. Here's my father," he says, pointing to a tiny little drawing of a tree, "Patrick Tree. And my mom, Spongebob Tree. So they did the fling-flang and gave birth to me. And this is my imaginary son, Patrick Plant, and next to me is his imaginary father, Pete–er–Neat Stump."
Gales of laughter burst from the students. Even I join in, because no one can deny Peterick. Everyone loves Mr. Patrick, even if we don't love the actual class he teaches. We go on for forty-five minutes, talking about family trees and how each branch is created by the "frick-frack cycle", as Mr. Stump calls it. The bell rings for lunch, and we're told that a personal family tree is due in two days.
Ray and I put our books away and meet up with Frankie and Mikey in the hallway outside of the cafeteria. Frankie keeps saying random Spanish words, poking me and whispering, "Hola Taco Tortilla." He is such a nerd, I swear.
But a cute nerd.
Chapter 6: I Won't Go Down By Myself, But I'll Go Down With My Friends
Nothing much for this chapter, except our little Fronkeh finally feels like he can fit in.
Hola tortilla. Me llamo Fronkeh, y me gusta Gerard.
I'm picking up Spanish pretty quickly; Mr. Fuentes made things much easier. He was constantly calling everyone "darling", in a loving way. And I could tell you my name, stuff that I like, and my age in Spanish.
Gee doesn't appreciate my recently acquired knowledge, however, and pushes me away as I try to tell him that I like tacos in Spanish for the sixteenth time. "Shut up, you lil' shit. I'm trying to eat, and I don't need you breathing down my neck!" he says through a mouth full of mashed potatoes. I purposely breathe down his neck, so he smacks me in the face. Mikey, Ray, and this dude named Bob all laugh.
The spot where he slapped me kinda hurts, but I don't care. I eat my way through the lunch my mother packed me, feeling only slightly ill. I had puked out my guts this morning, and it seems like I didn't learn my lesson. I finish my apple and crumple up the paper bag, turning to Gee and laying my head on his shoulder. I feel him flinch under me, but he doesn't move.
"Geeeeeee," I whine, and he grunts in irritation. "Whaaaaaaat?" he whines back. I lean in closer to his ear, and whisper, "Can you throw this away?" I had felt him tense up when I whispered, but he sighed as I pulled back and threw the wadded up paper bag at him.
What had started as a day of dread had quickly turned into a day of happiness. I hadn't imagined myself actually being here, with actual friends that cared about me. And all of this had happened in a mere five periods, plus a break and a few minutes of lunch. Gee picks up the paper bag and walks it to the trash can. I watch him as he goes, looking at his butt, because hey, I like that bootay.
"Are you looking at my butt again, Frank?" Gee asks, his back turned to me. I blush and look away. "Noooo!" I reply, smiling to myself. "He totally was," I hear Ray whisper to Mikey, who laughs a little too hard.
Well aren't we all just a group of gay fuhkers.
No one really talks to Bob. He's kind of just there. He doesn't like us too much, because he soon gets up and leaves our table to sit with some other kids. "Don't take it too personally," Gerard tells me, nodding at Bob, "He doesn't hang too long. He'll come and go. I don't think he likes us that much..."
Five minutes later, the lunch lady announces that we have ten minutes before our next class starts, so we could either stay in the cafeteria or get out. Ray, Mikey, Gee and I decide to leave the cafeteria. Mikes says that he has to go do the afternoon announcements, so we tell him good-bye as he races up the steps to some unknown area to me.
"Let's go to the library," Gerard suggests, so we do. Once inside, we notice a few empty armchairs around a large globe and decide to sit there. "I feel like I have so much power, sitting next to this globe," Gee says, holding his handing together like he's planning something evil. I laugh and spin the globe, randomly putting my finger on it. It lands on New Jersey, which is pretty creepy, considering that we live here...
Overhead, the intercom crackles, and Mikey's voice can be heard. "Good afternoon, everyone. Look alive! Even though I can't see you guys, I'm assuming you guys are fully alive and functioning. Okay, great. A few friendly reminders for you all: Mrs. Darla would like to remind everyone that PDA is not acceptable at any school or in public ever. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's Public Display of Affection.
"Okay, secondly, the Art Club will be meeting in Room 2 right after school. You guys have fun with that... You too, Gee," his voice scratches, and I can see Gee blush violently, "Also, our lacrosse team will be having a home game tonight, so come if you want. I'll be commenting, so I have to go, but your support would be great as well. The Croquet Team is always looking for more members, and even though I tell you guys this every day, we haven't had a new person sign up since myself. And I hate croquet. Please talk to the captain of the team, the one, the only, Gee Way, if you're interested. On a last note, I'd like to play you guys a song I found on an old tape. It's pretty old, and it doesn't have any words, but the music is slow and stuff so you might like it. Thanks for listening, and have a great day!" With that, Mikey's voice crackles out, but another staticky noise fills the room, and slow music can be heard over the intercom.
Everyone starts to sway slowly, and some people in the library even get up and start slow dancing. These are couples who came to get away from the noisy cafeteria. They stand up and start couples' dancing, if that's what it's called. Gerard looks longingly at them, it seems, and then straight into nothingness.
"Are you okay?" I ask, and he flinches. He nods.
"I'm okay. I'm okay."
After a few minutes, the music is turned off, and the bell sounds. Everyone starts to head off to their sixth periods. I'm not sure where I'm supposed to go, because I don't have a Mikey dog thing to guide me around. "I think I have Music..." I muse, checking my locker. Sure enough, my schedule declares that I do indeed have Music next. Music would be with... Mr. Billie Joe?
I rush to Room 16, where Music should be held, and peer into the door. Sure enough, the room is filled with instruments and band posters, its walls sort of dark. I walk into the classroom and see Mikey in the front seat, talking to the teacher about his new guitar he had gotten for his birthday.
"That's so rad. Great guitar," the teacher replies, nodding. Both him and Mikey look at me when I walk in. "New kiddo, eh?" he asks, and I nod. "Do you play anything?"
I mumble something about playing the guitar and singing, sitting in the chair next to Mikey. Mr. Billie Joe stands up and walks to a closet, coming back with a guitar. The guitar is a gray color, its strings black and gleaming. It's a gorgeous guitar, and when the teacher thrusts it towards me, I can't help but to take it from him and marvel at it. I strum a few chords and play a few riffs, trying to make it sound like I'm a decent guitar player.
Apparently they like me, because both Mikey and Mr. Billie Joe begin clapping when I finish. I blush, scratching my neck. "You didn't tell me you played!" Mikes exclaims, clapping me on the shoulder. I shrug, and moments later, students begin to pour into the classroom. There weren't too many kids; maybe fifteen at the most. But what makes me the happiest is when I see a familiar head of greasy black hair amongst the students.
However, Gee walks up to the front of the classroom. He stands next to Mr. Billie Joe, and Gee winks at me. He winks.
"Okay, everyone. Today we're not gonna do much. I really want it to be a chill, cool day, so everyone choose something to work on and separate into your rooms and areas," the teacher instructs, sending Gee around the room to help out.
Gee's a Teacher's Assistant?
He walks straight for me. "Fancy seeing you here," he says, putting a hand on his hip. Sassy Gerard is sassy.
I imitate his posture. "Same to you, chap. What do you play then?" I ask. Gee smiles. "My voice," he replies, and then walks away. I frown and grab the guitar that Mr. Billie Joe had given me to borrow. I follow the group of kids who were playing–or trying to play, rather–the guitar. Mikey was one of them, but he had a bass guitar around him.
"I honestly think that these kids needa go somewhere else right now. They can't play. It's painful to listen to this crap," he says under his breath, and I agree. Gee comes in to bother us every once in a while, but I wish he would stay.
Before long, the bell goes off, and everyone puts down the instruments and heads off to their last classes of the day.
Mine happens to be English and Literature, which I'm pretty excited about. I love poetry and reading and just everything. I'm a fuhking grammar Nazi, even though I refuse to accept that there's an "a" in my name and I prefer to write and type in all lowercase. Okay, maybe not writing, but definitely typing.
Mikey and I have the last class together, too. A guy named Mr. Dallon should be teaching this class, and we walk in to a room littered with term posters. A lot of them illustrate the writing process, and many others describe different poetry terms. I breath in and appreciate the distinct aroma of old books and paper.
The students come to class fairly quickly, and the teacher wastes no time in beginning the lesson. We read a poem called "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies" by Ryan Ross, who I am almost certain is the Biology teacher. And it isn't even a poem. It sounds more like a song.
"So let's analyze this," Mr. Dallon says, so we do. We spend about thirty minutes reading the piece line-by-line, the teacher calling on random students to tell the class what they thought the line meant.
This went on until the bell rang, and the room was a flurry of students running out of the class and people packing up. I smile graciously at Mr. Dallon and take a deep breath.
For once, I have friends who love me. I have teachers who care. My classes actually spike my interest.
I finally feel like a normal kid again.
"I can't believe you can't see this!" says Gee in an exasperated voice. He's been yelling at me for five minutes over the phone, and I still can't fully understand everything he's saying. "He likes you and you're just too naive to notice!" I shake my head in disbelief, even if Gerard can't see me.
Mikey doesn't like me.
I solve an equation on my math homework, which is unusually difficult tonight. "He doesn't like me, Gee. I know Mikes, and he would've told me if he did..." I reply. Even though I like Mikey, I highly doubt that he likes me. We're just friends, and I'll have to deal with that. I hear Gee grunt.
"Fine, you shitty bastard. Just ignore me telling you RIGHT IN YOUR FUHKING FACE!" he cries into the phone, and then hangs up. I sigh and set down my phone, bringing my elbows onto my desk and rubbing my exhausted eyes. Mikey doesn't like me. No. I can't believe that. Plus, he's a year younger than me...
"Ray!" my mother calls up to me, and I stand up from my desk and run to the doorway of my room, which is a few feet from the living room, where my mom is sitting in her recliner. "Ma'am?" I ask, leaning against the frame of the door. "What're you doing?" she inquires.
"Homework. For Calculus," I reply uneasily. My mom normally isn't interested in what I do, but today, she is. She nods and returns to her television show. I bite my lip and then return to my room, putting my headphones on and plugging in the cord. I turn on some Metallica and turn the volume all the way up, music blaring in my ears. I then turn my attention back to my homework.
After answering a few math problems, I hear my phone's ringtone interrupt my music. Looking down, I see that I have a text from Mikey. I smile and open the text, which reads:
"Rayyyyyy Gee's being a tuuuurd!"
He's so fuhking whiny.
"More so than usual?" I text back, and resume my homework. The thought of Mikey floods my mind again, that cute smile, those dorky glasses, that voice... How can you not like Mikes? He's adorable and everyone needs a little Mikey in their life.
The phone rings again, and I read Mikey's text:
"Yes he's being terrible save meh pleeeeeease Ray he's started putting the lemons in his mouth oh God help..."
I literally laugh out loud at that... Mikey and I have decided that Gee has a lemon fetish, or a kink of some sort. It seems like he's constantly engaged in some sort of enticing action with lemons.
"Fine I'll be over in five. See ya!"
I shove all of my homework papers into a pile and slide my phone into my pocket. "Mom! I'm going over to Gee's house! I'll be back in a few hours or so!" I call on my way past the living room and to the front door. "Why?" she croaks back, and I mumble something about studying.
She buys it and I walk out the door, the air and scent of fall and dead leaves greeting me. Fall is by far one of the best seasons, I think. Gee would definitely agree, because he lives for pumpkin spice flavored shit he finds.
I walk down the sidewalk in front of my house, thankful that Gee and Mikey only live a street or two away from me. I walk for about three or four minutes and find myself in front of their house.
It wasn't the prettiest thing. But then again, we live in New Jersey.
The journey down the stairs to their little apartment house thing is treacherous; the stairs are covered in dying leaves of red and orange, daring to make me slip if I step on them. I finally make it to the door, which I open to a scene of Gee shoving lemons into his mouth while moaning loudly and Mikey closing his eyes and running around the room.
"Guys?" I ask, because they can't see me. Both of them are closing their eyes. Mikey runs right into the wall by the door and slides down, back on the floor. He uncovers his eyes and winces, rubbing his side. "Thank the Lord, Ray, you're here!" he cries, standing up. I blush slightly but cover it up with my bushy hair.
I love my hair.
"Daw, ju ruin da fun," Gee says through a mouthful of lemons. Like, whole lemons. He spits them all out onto the kitchen counter, and I grimace. There were four lemons. "Well, it's better than you getting too attached to these lemons!" I say, approaching Gerard. He rolls his eyes, and then looks between me and Mikey.
"Hmm," he muses, "I gotta go do my... my homework..." With that, he opens the basement door and bounds down the stairs, leaving me and Mikey alone. "He never does his homework," Mikey complains, taking a sip of something in a mug. I nod and rub my arm awkwardly.
"Y'okay?" Mikey asks softly. I nod and lean against the counter. "Yeah. Just bored. Gee and his lemon fetish don't interest me anymore," I lie, running my hand through my hair. Mikey laughs and takes another drink.
He puts down the cup and walks to the living room, where his mom is dusting off some random pictures. "Yes, he is quite weird," she says, turning around, "I don't know if I would call it a 'fetish' though." Mikey and I laugh, and she smiles. "I dunno. He's a bit too obsessed with lemons!" Mikey points out, and he motions for me to follow him to his room.
For some reason, my chest tightens as I follow him, and his mother giggles for another odd reason. Mikey's room is pretty small, but what space he does have, he covers it with band posters and old records. His bass guitar is against the wall; he loves that guitar more than he loves himself.
"Every time I see that bass, it always surprises me for some reason," I finally say, and Mikey jumps backwards onto his bed. He nods and looks over at it. "Yeah, I love it. My mom got me it and... You've heard the story a million times," he says, pushing his glasses up a bit. He always wears them at the tip of his nose.
I throw myself into his desk chair and spin around. We stay like that for a few minutes, until Gee calls, "I'M GONNA INVITE FRANK OVER BECAUSE HE'S REALLY LONELY OKAY GUYS?" We agree with a shared, "Okay!" Donna asks who Frank is, and Gee tells her that it's this new kid at school.
How and when Gee got his number, I'm not sure, but he walks into our room with his phone in hand. "We're really bored, Gerard," Mikey whines, and Gee roles his eyes. "Sucks to you guys. Frank should fix that problem," he replies, not really paying attention to us.
"Frank's great," Mikey says, and I feel myself go red. He thinks that Frank's great? What about me? Does he like Frank?
God, I sound like a teenage girl who has a crush on someone.
Gee smiles and keeps texting. "He says that he's on his way, and that some asshole left their dog's shit on the sidewalk and he stepped in it. So he's gonna use our hose before he comes in..." he states, and we laugh. Frank is a great guy, even though I had only been with him during lunch and break. I didn't know him as well as the other guys did.
"How far away does he live?" I ask, kicking my legs. Gee shrugs. "Not too far away. He lives in that one neighborhood by the school. It should only take him a couple minutes to get here–" A knock sounds from the door, and Donna shrieks, "I'll get it! I'll get it!"
We can hear the door open and conversation being exchanged.
"You must be Frank!"
"Yes, and you must be Mrs. Way?"
"Please, dear, call me Donna."
"Yes ma'am, Donna."
"Gee hasn't shut up about you since he's been home!"
Gerard turns bright red and darts out of Mikey's room in order to stop the conversation between Frank and Donna. Mikey and I snicker.
"Hey Frank, hey Frank!"
"Excuse my mother, she knows not what she speaks of."
"Shut up, Gee! I know exactly what I'm talking about!"
Frank and Gerard appear in the doorway of Mikey's room within moments, and Frank waves. "Heya, Mikes! Sup, Ray?"
We greet him. I'll admit; I'm thankful for him being here. Because he distracts me from the awkwardness which is me and Mikey.
"Did you get the dog poop off your shoe?" Mikey asks, amused. Frank frowns and crosses his arms. "Yeah, but I'm still pissed that no one cleans up after their pets. When I get a dog, I'll always clean up after it, because it's complete BS that some people don't," he rants, and we all laugh. Angry Frank is adorable.
Gee smiles and plops onto Mikey's bed. I wish that I had that brotherly relationship with Mikey, but I don't.
We're just friends.
Hey guys. Sorry it took so long to update. I've been dealing with a lot these past few days. A lot of feelings I can't cope with. This leads to emotional breakdowns and consideration of certain self harm methods, but I'm fighting. I've been really straying far from a lot of things I stand for.
I really hope you all understand. I'll try to update more often. I'll try to be really open with you guys. Thanks for all of the support, and remember that I love you all.
Chapter 8: If You Can't Hang, Then There's the Door
I'm so glad that Gee invited me.
I had been forced into conveying my entire school day to my mother, who wanted to hear every single detail. She asked what it was like, and if the kids were nice. But she also asked what I had for lunch and if I liked the seats at my lunch table. What even, mother?
So I was ecstatic, really, when Gee texted me and asked if I wanted to come over. Of course, I had no idea where he lived, but he texted me his address, so I was able to find his–house?–fairly easily.
"So how d'you like school, Frank?" Ray asks me from the spinning computer chair at Mikey's desk. At least I assume that this is Mikey's room. "It's great. Except for Social Studies. That class sucks eggs," I reply, sticking out my tongue. Everyone chuckles, and Donna walks into the room. "I'm gonna make some cookies, so you fuckers better eat them and like them," she says seriously, and disappears back into the living room and kitchen area. Everyone continues laughing, until Mikey changes the subject.
"You seem to fit in well. What about joining the croquet team? You dig, or naw?" he asks, raising an eyebrow. I shrug, even though I've never played croquet, and agree. "Yeah, sure. I dunno if I'm any good, but we can see..." Gee claps his hands and jumps, smiling. "Aw, YUS! I've been waiting for another team member! I swear, it's so hard to find people nowadays. It's just us at the moment..." he explains, gesturing to the other boys in the room. They all nod in unison.
I nod as well, sitting on the edge of Mikey's bed. "Okay, well, I'm on the team, then," I say, and everyone claps. "Woo! I was afraid that my announcements wouldn't call out to anyone," Mikey says sarcastically, and we snigger again. He's such a cocky guy.
We hear a clashing noise in the kitchen, and Mikey stands up with a sigh. "Ugh. I better go help her before she hurts herself," he says, going to help Donna. Ray stands up too, following Mikey. "They like each other," Gee whispers, and I nod knowingly. It's really obvious...
"So. You like the school. You like your classes. What's funny is that we both have Chemistry, but we have it during different periods," Gerard says sadly, "Which sucks." I nod in agreement. "Definitely sucks. At least we have lunch and break. And music. And math. Better than nothing," I offer, trying to be optimistic.
I bite my lip ring, and Gee looks at it. "You look really rad, by the way," he admits sheepishly, and I feel myself go red, "The whole earring, lip ring, blown away look. It works." Compliment taken.
"Oh, thanks... I like your hair," I decide on, trying to be as not creepy as possible. Gee smiles and runs a hand through it. "Thanks. It's my 'I haven't washed my hair for five days' look. Like it?" he jokes, and I chuckle softly. I really like Gee, but I want to stay friends. Besides, that'd just be weird...
Gerard and I stood in silence as our snickers died slowly, and we both found ourselves putting our hands into our pockets. "Your jeans are too skinny for than," I say, noting that Gee had changed out of his school uniform and into something more comfortable. And by comfortable, I mean a loose tank top with large arm holes and a pair of skin tight jeans. He smiles and shrugs. "You think? I really don't care," Gerard replies, and I smirk.
"That's 'cos you like the way you look in 'em," I retort, and he rolls his eyes. "Duh," he replies obviously, "I mean, look at me. I'm fucking gorgeous." I feel my cheeks redden, but I laugh it off. "Keep tellin' yourself that."
We hear a scream from the kitchen, and, with an exchange of worried glances, Gee and I bolt towards the source. Expecting the high pitched, girl-like squeal to have come from Donna, we're quite surprised to see Mikey, his finger in his mouth, tears brimming his eyes. Ray is frantically wetting a towel, and Donna is pushing the tray of cookie dough balls into the oven. A few of the balls look slightly dirty, as though they had fallen on the ground. "What happened?" Gee asks, concern filling his voice.
Ray runs to Mikey's aid, soaking paper towel in hand, and pulls his finger from his mouth. Even from a few feet away, I can see the bright red of his injured finger. It's even tinged with a slight purple. "He burnt his finger putting the cookie tray into the oven," Donna explains, her voice etched with disappointment, "Remind me to never let him live alone. Who knows, he may be the one to die from sticking a damn fork into a toaster."
Mikey looks at her, his brows drawn together in a scowl. "That wasn't my fault! You should've reminded me to put mitts on, but you didn't!" he defends himself hopelessly, and Ray giggles foolishly as he dabs Mikey's finger with the towel. Gee sighs and shakes his head, and I cross my arms. Leave it to Mikey to hurt himself by burning his hand while putting something in the oven. "You're pathetic, Mikes," I state, and he looks at me, exasperated.
"Who drank their lab project this morning and puked it out? Looks who's talking, moron," Mikey spits back, and we all laugh. Donna sets the timer on the microwave for the cookies and asks us if we want anything to drink. Gee asks for some grape juice, and everyone mumbles in agreement. "Great. You can pour everyone a glass," Donna says, shoving a large jug of purple liquid at Gerard. He grunts and puts the bottle down, standing on his tippy-toes to reach a cabinet with glasses.
I watch him pour four glasses of juice, and then take one when he's done. I sip the cold liquid and look back at Mikey, who's whining over his finger again. "It hurts so much. I didn't know household appliances were so dangerous," he whines shrilly, "I mean, I've burnt myself on the flat iron before, and on the iron for the clothes, but those were one time things! This is unlike anything I've felt before." Ray nods understandingly, still taking care to pat Mikey's finger. He looked like an overprotective nurse, or a mom, or something.
"Stop whining, you baby," Gee pipes up, setting two glasses next to the oven for Mikey and Ray. Murky snatches up the glass and takes his finger from Ray, pressing his finger against the glass and sighing with relief. Ray shrugs, throws away the paper towel, and grabs his own glass. We all drink out grape juice quietly. "If you drink it fast enough," Gerard interrupts the silence, "it tastes like an aluminum can."
We all try to chug down the juice as quickly as possible, the taste slightly metallic. We all nod and squint in agreement. "That's weird," Ray replies, finishing off the glass. Within a few seconds, everyone's done with their juice. The sound of clanking glass fills the kitchen as we set our cups in the sink, and Mikey and Gee play a quick game of "rock, paper, scissors" to see who is cursed with the annoyance of dish washing tonight. Mikey wins, and with a quick fist pump, he runs to the sink and runs the cold water over his finger.
"You're wasting my water," Donna squawks at him, hitting him upside the head with a rolled up magazine. He winces and rubs the spot, but doesn't cut off the water. "Mother, I'm hurt. Show some sympathy," he murmurs, receiving another smack with the paper. Ray laughs and runs a hand through his fro.
That fro though.
Which reminds me of a question I have. "Ray," I ask, and he turns to me, "Why were you doing homework with a yellow crayon? And why in God's name did you bite the crayon? What gives?" Recollection of earlier events dawn upon him with a small "oh...".
"About that," he says slowly, "I wasn't doing homework. I mean, I was supposed to, but I wasn't. I was writing on paper. Some kid bet me that I couldn't fill up the whole paper with words in under five minutes, so I obviously took that as a challenge. I wrote 'Ray rules' until the whole paper glew with the neon, unnatural yellow of the crayon. I actually found the crayon on the floor. And eating it... I really don't know." We laugh and shake our heads at him. He really was a weird child.
Mikey tends to his wound, and Gee leads me to his room in the basement. I follow him down the dark steps, the dim light of the room barely illuminating anything. There was a small bed shoved in one of the rooms in the basement, and in the main part, there was a shelf overflowing with pictures and books. Next to it was a table, littered with sketches and drawing utensils. "Sorry for the mess," Gerard apologizes, trying to stack some random pictures into a "neat" pile.
I shrug and take to looking at some of his drawings. On one of them, Gee had drawn a comic scene in black and white, and I admire the confidence of his lines. I then realize that the only light is coming from a small window set in the wall, but there aren't any actual lightbulbs. "So dark in here," I remark, and Gee scratches his neck. "I like it like that. I get used to it..." he admits, and I nod understandingly.
I look at some of the framed paintings on his wall, and then my attention is drawn to a glass-covered bat. Like, a dead bat. "What the fuck is that?" I exclaim, leaning in to get a closer look at the figure. Gerard laughs and picks it up, tossing it from hand to hand. "That was actually my grandfather's paperweight. I need to move it upstairs, because I borrowed it because I couldn't find my ruler..." he explains, setting t back down.
I blink a few times and nod. "You have a really cool place. And your drawings are so amazing!" I tell him sincerely, truly drawn to his talent. Personally, I'm not that great at drawing and stuff, but Gee is. He's a for real artist.
Even in the dim light of the window, I can see Gee reddening. His cheeks are suddenly bright red, his ears the same in color. "Thanks, but really, they're just sketches. Nothing good or important or..." he said hurriedly, biting his lip. I roll my eyes at his modesty and push him slightly. "Don't be humble. You're great at this," I encourage, which seems to fill him with some pride.
We make our way back upstairs on account of the sweet, warm aroma of cookies filling the Way home. "They're smelling great," Gerard remarks as we enter the living room. Mikey and Ray are still in the kitchen. Ray's eating one of those tiny cupcakes you get from the store in the plastic containers, and Mikey is still whining over his burn. He really is blowing this way out of proportion.
A few minutes later, the once sweet scent turns bitter, burnt. "Is something burning?" Ray asks, licking icing off of his hand. Gee looks at him like he's the stupidest thing he's ever seen. "No, nothing's burning. Of course something's burning, you dipshit. Did you guys even pay attention to the timer? Where's Mom?" he says urgently, grabbing a pair of oven mitts from a drawer. Mikey mumbles something about Donna having gone out to get the mail, and Gerard opens the oven to reveal a pan of very dark, dead looking cookies.
He sets the pan on the stone and closes the oven door, taking off the mitts and poking at one of the "cookies" with a random fork that was laying on the counter. The burnt cookie cracks immediately, and we all grimace at the sadness of the attempted dessert. "We're still eating them," Mikey pipes up, scraping one of the burnt things from the pan with a spatula. Though it cracks, Mikey picks up a piece with his uninjured hand, shoving it into his mouth.
His face turns a deep red, as the cookie was very hot, and we all hear a sickening crunch as he bites the piece and chews it up. "N-Nevermind. How did we even manage to leave them in this long? I bet it's the fact that we barely use the oven," he says through a mouthful of food, wincing. We all sigh and look at the platter of disgusting looking mounds. "Donna isn't gonna be happy," Ray adds, throwing away the cupcake wrapper, "She'll be pretty pissed."
We wince again at the thought of Donna yelling at us. Even though I haven't known her for long at all, I can still easily imagine being reprimanded for burning a whole pan of cookies.
Before we can come up with some kind of plan, the door opens and Donna walks in, her face immediately scrunching up into a look of bitterness. "Jesus Christ, I was gone for not even three minutes and you manage to turn the house into a creating chamber," she says sourly, glancing at our failed cookies.
"You burnt the cookies!" she scolds, marching over to the oven. We move out of her way, and she stands over the pan angrily. "How do you burn cookies that have only been in for, like, fifteen minutes?" she asks seriously, and we all exchange uneasy glances. Well fuck.
She shakes her head, scraping at the cookies with the spatula. When she steps back, the cookies look like black dirt. She had totally destroyed them. "And you boys are all eating that!" Donna finishes, placing the spatula back down. We all let out grunts of protest, but can it when she glares at us all in turn.
Donna walks away from the kitchen to the living room, and we all sigh sadly. Burnt cookies are on the menu, and no one wants to eat them. "Well, we should probably get started on them..." I break the silence, and everyone shifts uncomfortably. We begin the task of digesting the burnt dessert, the taste bitter and disgusting.
What a time to be at the Way house.
I need to switch classes.
I want to go back to Chemistry. For one, P.E. is killing me and everyone knows it. Secondly, Frank is in Chemistry. I want to be with him and Mikey. And finally, Chemistry is just... It's not my favorite, but anything is better than Mr. Alex's class.
"Gerard! Hurry up, you're gonna be late!" I hear my mother screech from upstairs, and I put down my pencil. I'm trying to finish a sketch, and she's been yelling at me at five minute intervals for thirty minutes. "Fine! Fine! I'm coming!" I call back, stacking back up the papers and picking up my backpack. I make sure that my tie is decent, though I have no idea how to even tie a tie. My mom usually takes care of it, but she's sick.
I ascend the stairs in time to see my mother harassing Mikey about his hair and glasses. "And they're always at the end of your nose! Your hair is a mess!" she croaks, her voice hoarse. She's reclined in one of the chairs in the living room, a blanket across her legs and a bowl of soup in her lap. She had spent most of the night puking her guts out, which was an awful sound to endure. "And you!" she turns on me, jabbing a long finger in my direction, "Your room is so dark! You need a light in there! It's ridiculous! You two are animals!"
I exchange an amused glance with Mikey, and then kiss my mother on top of her head. She bats me away and returns to her morning television program, and Mikey and I walk out the door.
Once we make it to the sidewalk, Mikey sniffs loudly. "She's such a toad sometimes," he comments, "My fucking glasses. My fucking sinuses are fucked up." I laugh at the way "fucking" always makes it into Mikey's sentences, and then nod. "I can see that. And hear that. We're still having croquet practice after school, because we need to try out Frank," I tell him, and he whines.
"Noooo!" he whimpers, crossing his arms, "I don't wanna! It's cold and you're ugly!" My looks, though scandalous and voluptuous, have nothing to do with Mikey not wanting to practice, but I ignore him with a small wave of my hand. "Whatever. I'm also switching back into Chemistry, because I'm sick and tired of the way that Alex treats me," I add angrily, running a hand through my greasy hair. I still didn't wash it last night.
Mikey mutters a few choice words of protest, along the lines of "fuck you" and "I don't need my bastard of a brother in another one of my classes" or "fuck my life", but I again ignore him. He's a cocky, sardonic little bitch.
We walk all the way to the school, and I spot Ray all the way from the courtyard. He's leaning against the frame of the school's door, eating what looks like an apple. "Well, I'll be in your first period class as long as I get changed out. See you!" I say to Mikey, making my way through the crowd of high schoolers. Ray sees me and waves, throwing the apple core aside. After second thoughts, he picks up the apple core and throws it into the trash can, receiving several odd looks from onlookers.
"Hey," he says as I approach him, and we enter the school building together. "I'm switching over to Chemistry," I state, and he waves to me as I turn into the school's guidance office. Our counselor is sitting behind the desk, feet on top of it. "Good morning, Mr. Joseph," I greet respectfully, knowing that he can get kind of emotional at times.
He looks up at me thoughtfully, and then squints. "How many times do I have to tell you guys? Call me Mr. Tyler, not Mr. Joseph. It's so weird," Mr. Joseph corrects, and then takes his feet down from the desk, "What?"
I purse my lips and twiddle my thumbs. "I was wondering if I could switch over to Chemistry for first period instead of P.E. It's killing me," I admit, and he nods. "Alex definitely doesn't want you in his class. Okay, let's see. What's your name? Gerard Wayne, right?" Mr. Tyler asks. I furrow my brow. Of course he'd be one to get involved in teacher gossip. "Way. Gerard Way," I say irritably, wanting him to hurry up.
He sighs and turns to his computer, his fingers poking foreignly at the keyboard. "G-E-R-A-R-D... Gerard, Gerard, Gerard Way. Here you are. Okay, so... I think I just press that and... And... There! There's your schedule. And, let's see, how do I change this...?" Mr. Tyler muses, and I block him out. He continuously pokes at the keys, uncertain of what he's doing. Why he's a counselor or even staff, I have no idea. I look up at the posters lining the walls, all of them about sharing your emotions, not doing drugs, and not getting pregnant as a teenager. I smoke a joint occasionally, but it's nothing huge. And I don't share my emotions very often, either.
"Aha! Huzzah, I emerge once again victorious! I'm going to send an email to Mr. Quinn... Did you see that hairstyle he's trying out?" Mr. Tyler says suddenly, and I smile. "I'd love to stay and chat, but I need to go. Thanks!" I rush hurriedly, stepping out of the office and running to my locker. Once there, I grab some loose paper and a short, stubby pencil. I can't help but notice a small slip of paper that had somehow been slipped through one of the vents things on my locker. I pick it up and read the large, messy writing:
I sigh angrily and blame it on James, the star of the school's lacrosse team. He's constantly bullying me, Ray, and Mikey, and apparently Frank as well. They had thrown a sandwich at him yesterday, after all. But some people never change; they're static.
"GEEEEE!" I hear someone screech, and I turn around in time to see a flash of black and be tackled to the ground. I scream as my bottom makes contact with the linoleum floor, pain shooting through my body. "Frank, you fucker!" I yell, not even having to open my eyes to know that Frank had just attacked me. He giggles and pushes me back into the ground, standing up. "You're always falling over, get up," he says, and I hiss at him.
"You haven't even known me for a whole day yet. You don't know if falling is a constant thing for me," I retort sourly, pulling myself up. Frank rolls his eyes, smacking his gum obnoxiously. "Yeah, whatever. I'm coming to your croquet shit, 'cos Mikey told me we have practice today, so I'd be nicer if I were you!" he replies innocently, and I scoff. "Me? Mean? Bitch, please," I spit back sardonically, shoving my locker shut. Frank laughs again, and he skips to the lab. I follow, and he looks at me weirdly.
"The fuck you doing?" he asks in a low voice as I set my stuff down next to the stool beside him. "I switched classes," I explain, and Frank claps like a dying seal. "Yeeeeeeee!" he squeals, and I roll my eyes. We all take our seats as the bell rings for class to begin, and Mr. Quinn enters the room a few moments later. His eyes immediately land on me. "Well, welcome back Gerard. Thought I wouldn't see you another year, but... Did Tyler–er–Mr. Joseph–switch you out?" he questions.
I nod and knot my fingers, biting my lip. "Okay then. Well, share a book with Mr. Iero there, and let's begin. Well, no, you don't need a book, because... POP QUIZ!" he exclaims wildly, and the whole class lets out a collective moan. I curse silently. First day. Just my fucking luck.
"No notes, no notes, James, put that away," he says, picking up a stack of papers on the counter. He begins passing them out, face down. As soon as everyone has a paper, he gives us permission to begin. I look at Frank, who's already looking at the test like it's a dead body he found in his shower. I look at the first question and squint in confusion.
True or false? Acids have a pH level below 7.
"What the fuck is a pH level?" I whisper to Frankie, whose eyes are wide. He shrugs helplessly, so I just take a guess. I circle false, because I have no idea whatsoever. Next question.
At room temperature, what is the only metal that is in liquid form?
"What? What?" I ask myself in a small whisper, and several people around the room have the same problems. Mr. Quinn sits in his chair, watching us struggle with a smile on his face. "Guys. This is basic knowledge. You should know this! Especially you, Gerard," he teases, and I grunt at him, taking a random guess that Mercury can be found liquid at room temperature. As a second thought, I erase it and write that gold can be in liquid form at room temperature. But I have no idea.
Out the corner of my eye, I see Frank's head tilt sideways, so that he's looking at my paper. I make no attempt to cover anything up. This is my second time taking Chemistry. The first time, I was in Mikey and Frank's grade, and then there's now. I must have forgotten how hard this class is if you don't pay attention. Good thing I'm going to art school.
"Oh, and did I forget to mention," Mr. Quinn calls from behind his desk, "that this is a timed pop quiz? Oh, zing! Three minutes!" Everyone cries out in alarm and there's a scraping of pencils on paper. Only Helena is able to turn in her paper, followed by Jamia and Alicia. Mr. Quinn takes their papers with a smile, looking over them. I rush to read the last few questions:
Famous New Zealand scientist Ernest Rutherford was awarded a Nobel Prize in which field?
What is the third most common gas found in the air we breathe?
What is the fourth most abundant element in the universe in terms of mass?
To the first one, I write "science", the second, "oxygen", and the third, "potassium". I have no idea whatsoever. As soon as Mr. Quinn calls time, I finish writing my name, and I walk it up to the teacher along with everyone else. Frank looks frantic, but Mikey looks at ease. He always looks at ease.
"I have no idea what the fuck any of that was," I tell Frank quietly, as Mr. Quinn goes through marking at our quizzes with his favorite red pen. Frank sighs in agreement. Suddenly, a warm wad of something hits me in the neck, and I bring my hand to the spot and turn around. James and his stupid friends are laughing, and he has a straw in one hand. Idiot. Fucking idiot.
"Hey, James!" Frank calls, and how he knows his name, I have no idea. James looks at him mockingly, and Frank flips him off with no humility. He doesn't hide it, but Mr. Quinn doesn't see it. All of the students in the class that were watching exclaim in a joined "ooo", and James turns bright red. Mr. Quinn then decides to look up, and looks at each one of us in turn.
"We come to school to learn. So why are these grades so terrible?" he asks sternly, "When I call your name, come get your paper. Mikey." He continues calling names, and I finally get called. I wait to look at my paper until I get back to my seat, and James is called right after me. I look down at the grade, which is just an F. Not an F-. I do a proud fist pump, but a blinding pain erupts around my nose. I slowly realize that James had punched me, and all of his friends are whooping and calling out.
I cup my sore nose in my hands, and though it doesn't bleed, the pain is still there. Frank moves to get up, but I shake my nose. "D-Don't," I say, my voice muffled by my hands, "He's a fucker. Don't give him the attention he wants." I rub my nose and throw James a sour look. He continues the rest of the period by shooting spitballs at me, Frank, and Mikey, even when Mr. Quinn is looking. The teacher doesn't say anything, but only gives us sympathetic looks.
As the bell rings, Mr. Quinn declares it to be a homework-free night, and we all cry out happily. "And also," he adds as we walk out the door, "Mr. James, you have lunch detention! See me during your lunch break!" James rolls his eyes and scowls at me and Frank, but then takes off down the hall to join his friends.
Frank growls angrily. "Fucking James is just... He needs to fuck off, that's what. He's such a... Such a..." I shrug and absentmindedly rub my nose, which is still aching.
I hope that the day ends soon, so that I can go home. Because anywhere is better than here.
I am never–never–going to the school's bathroom ever again. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against people, like, making out in public, but if you're going to have sex in the men's restroom, then that's when I have an issue. Especially if I just wanted a peaceful, untainted trip to the loo.
I was sitting on the toilet, only because I was planning on staying there for a few minutes, when two giggling people walked in. They decided to take the stall right next to mine, so I lifted my legs so that they wouldn't be able to see me. I could see their legs; one pair was covered in tights, wearing black stiletto-type shoes. The other wore normal school uniform pants and black shoes. My throat tightened as I heard the guy unzip his pants, and a second unzippening made me nearly hurl.
At school? In the bathroom? Really?
I heard the girl exclaim a small "oh!", which made me nearly gag or scream or something. The guy hushed her, and they had a quiet session in there. I let them finish, and watched as they left the stall one by one, their footsteps fading away. I then took my bag and screamed into its fabric, my disgust too much for me to bear.
I finish conveying this story to Frank during our last period, and he laughs as he tunes his guitar. "People are fucking disgusting," he agrees, strumming one of the strings. I admire that he plays; I can't actually play any instruments. I sing occasionally, but I do enjoy music. Especially music composition.
"Ten minutes, everyone!" Mr. Billie alerts us, and I smile. Croquet practice is near, and I'm excited to see what Frank can do. Maybe we'll be able to acquire a new, ready player. Unlike Ray and Mikey, who play because they feel sorry for me.
We finish up the ten minutes by going over breathing exercises, and when the bell rings to let us out, Frank and I are the first people out the door. Mikey also follows, but he comes later. He and Frank have lockers next to each other, and as I'm watching them, I don't notice a girl with orange, fluffy hair tied back in a ponytail approach me. "I heard you during music, telling your boyfriend about what I did in the bathroom," she spews, her voice venom. I spin around and look at her in astonishment, recognizing the shoes. "I... Uh..." I try to say, but she spits at my feet.
Frank sees this, and he storms over. "Hey! Hey! What the fuck is your problem? Screw off!" he screams, and the girl doesn't even flinch. With a final glare at me, she walks a few lockers down to her locker, and Frank watches her closely. She doesn't have a lock on her locker, but not many of the older students do. "What is everyone's problem?" Frank asks sourly, and then I close my locker. "I dunno. But we need to get to practice!" I say excitedly. I practically drag Mikey and Frank to the field where we normally practice, and Ray meets us there a few minutes later.
"We need to find you the right sized wicket," I muse, emptying out my croquet bag. I had nicked it from my locker, where I keep it most days. In it are various sized wickets, with many wooden balls and some hoops.
Frank looks at the lot with a scrutinizing look on his face. "What's a wicket?" he asks, and I hold up my favorite one. He nods. "Looks like an oversized mallet," he notes, and I smile. He'll make a great player.
"So, let's start with the basics. Mikes, Ray, grab your wickets please," I say softly, and Ray and Mikey grab their own "oversized mallets", awkwardly touching hands and apologizing over and over again to each other. I roll my eyes. They need to get together already. I'm sick of hearing "Mikey this" or "Ray that". Rikey needs to happen.
Frank tries out several wickets, but they're all too big. He's really short, so the only one that fits him is the smallest wicket I own. Ray and I go about setting up hoops, and then I return to Frankie so that I can teach him how to hold his wicket.
"See, like this," I instruct, stepping around him and placing his hands on the wicket properly. He doesn't blush, and he doesn't move. He just does what I say.
When he's holding a wicket properly, I grab my own and hit one of the balls softly, and it goes through three of the hoops. The boys clap lightly, like fancy people, and Frank snorts. He leans on his wicket and watches me hit another, which travels quite far. I shield my eyes against the sun to see where it goes.
"I'm the master of the wicket," I say, and then some unknown force tackles into me, forcing me sideways to the ground. I just lie there, not really knowing what to do. "Fucking nerd!" the force says wildly, and Mikey, Ray, and Frank look away, shaking their heads. I realize that the person who tackled me is the guy who wears the stupid dog mascot costume at school lacrosse games and shit. He pulls himself up and dusts off his pants, sneering at me. "You landed James in lunch detention, and you made his girlfriend cry. Fuck you, man," he spits, and then walks away.
I watch him, still stunned and bewildered. So it was James and his girlfriend in the bathroom? Oh God. That's fucking disgusting. The mascot guy jogs back to his friends, and I roll over. My wrist hurts, and so does my head, but it's not too bad.
"Y'okay?" Frank asks lowly, and I nod, wiping the grass off of my clothes. We continue practice, and I look over my shoulder constantly to make sure no one's coming to attack me again. I notice some cheerleaders practicing, and some other athletes in their workout clothes are practicing as well.
I look back at Frank, who I notice is wearing sunglasses. I hadn't seen those before, but I'm not very observant sometimes. He's still chewing his gum from earlier today. Nasty.
"Back to our lesson... Okay, do you need help?" I ask him, and he shakes his head. "I'm okay, trust me. I'm also the master of the wicket," he says cockily, and then swings at a wooden ball with his wicket wildly. He misses.
Mikey, Ray, and I all snicker at his arrogance, and I come back over to help. "You need to focus, dimwit," I say, amused. After a few practice swings, Frank had the basic motion down.
After ten minutes of practice, the dog mascot guy comes out to practice with the cheerleaders, but this time, he's in costume. We all exchange looks, and I think of it as an unspoken agreement that we're going to go get revenge.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" I ask, only to confirm the glances and nods. Everyone looks over at the mascot and smirks, and we drop our wickets. We all run towards the mascot, and I launch myself at him first, missing terribly and rolling off to the side. Ray then barrels into the mascot's side, knocking him over while Frank fucking jumps over both of them. He rolls a few feet as he hits the ground, and Ray begins to tackle the mascot once they're on the ground.
The only one who didn't join was Mikey. He's standing over me, watching with amusement. Ray and Frank get up, leaving the mascot on the ground to roll over in pain. Mikey takes that moment to walk over and do his part, which is just kicking the mascot's dog-head covered face.
I push myself up, a smile plastered on my face. That was a lot of fun, even if I did nothing except throw myself at him. Watching was even better. "Teach them to mess with Gee," Frank says toughly, straightening his blazer. We laugh and decide to end practice, all of us heading to our own homes. Frank says something about having guitar lessons tonight, and Ray says that his brother is graduating from something. Mikey and I head home, but we don't talk.
Today was awesome, even if I was bullied and my school grades suck. I don't wanna make it, anyways. Not in the academic department, at least.
In art, yeah, and maybe even music.
I know I included a shit ton of stuff from the video in this chapter, but there's still lots more. It's not the most accurate thing, but I'm actually kinda proud of this. Thank you all for your support! Hugs!
I honestly despise croquet.
Don't get me wrong, I love Gee and all, but when it comes to croquet and anything that has to do with the sport, he's way too overbearing. Today's practice was surprisingly short and simple, but that was only because of Frank being here. God bless him, though, because I'm never in the mood for croquet. Ever.
"Frank isn't too bad," Gerard muses, his bags slung over his shoulder, "I mean, he's not the best. But he seems pretty into it, even if he's slightly arrogant about the whole thing." I roll my eyes and shift my hand into a more comfortable position; I'm holding my own bag, and its handle is digging into my palm painfully. "Yeah, yeah. I get it. You've been talking about him all day. Just, like, ask him out already," I suggest irritably, and Gee's eyes widen like I had just claimed to be Osama or something.
"N-No! I don't like him like that," he grunts defensively, but even I can see the color rush to his face as he tries to hide it. I coo teasingly, and he slaps me. "Shut up! I don't like him!" Gee insists, and I shrug and raise my eyebrow as "'S okay. You're secret is safe with me," I jeer, receiving another smack from Gerard. I laugh dryly, but I can tell he's not done. "Wanna talk about secrets? Let's talk about secrets," he threatens, and my lungs suddenly constrict.
He doesn't know anything. "You're bluffing," I spit sourly, and he smirks. "Oh, but I'm not," Gee slurs bitterly, "I know that you sometimes sneak out at night to hit up your little band practices. I also know that you've smoked a few times. You drink, too, but not too often. Oh, and you like Ray a lot more than just friends."
I turn red in the face and my heart flutters in embarrassment. All of the things he had just stated were true, and even if I try to deny it, even I know that everything that he had said was the honest truth. "I... You can't tell Donna," I say desperately, my voice raspy and suddenly quiet. Gee chuckles, his voice full of power and black mail. "Oh, I won't. Besides, you know more than I'd like you to know, too, so I wouldn't even think about it," he replies.
"Like the fact that you like-like Frank?" I say testingly, and Gerard stops walking to glare at me. "You're such an ass-hat. Say that again. I dare you," he contests seriously, and I sigh and continue to walk. Of all days to tease Gee, today he has to take everything so seriously. And it's not even like his attraction to Frank is secretive. Oh, no, we all know he likes Frank. And we also know that Frank likes him. Their friendship is more than what it seems, and it's borderline sexual at times.
That's not just a friendship.
We walk to the mailbox of our house, check the mail, and then walk inside. I take the key to the house out of my pocket, and then unlock the door. "Mom?" Gerard calls once I open the door, to which silence greets him.
She must be out, I guess.
"Odd. Oh, well, I barely have any homework, so I think that I'll..." Gerard starts, dropping his bag my the counter and walking to the fridge. I already know what's going to happen, so I scream shrilly and dash to my room, slamming the door close and throwing my stuff onto the bed.
Ray and I have decided that Gee has a lemon fetish. He has a very sexual relationship with those lemons, or with any lemon, actually. It's very disturbing, and I don't need to witness another game of "How Many Lemons Can Gerard Fit In His Mouth?". I quickly whip out my phone and call Ray, adding Frank to the call as well.
Both of them pick up, and I rush, "Code Yellow, Code Yellow! Return of the Lemon Gee!" Ray laughs heartily, and Frank asks, "What? What the fuck is that?"
I remember that we haven't exactly explained everything to Frank, so I continue, "Gerard has this lemon fetish, and he's at it again. I'm currently hiding out at Base Mikey. Survival of the fittest, and every man for himself!" With that, I quickly hang up, and then laugh to myself. How I manage to blow things so out of proportion, I'm not sure.
"Oh Mikey!" Gerard chimes, but I can hardly understand him. I'm guessing that his mouth is full of lemons.
"No! You'll never take me alive!" I cry, silently cursing the fact that my door doesn't have a lock on it, and I throw myself at my door. Gerard chuckles from a few feet away outside my door, and even though I'm taller than him, he has more strength to throw at my door. Thus, as Gerard turns the door's knob and pushed himself against it, I fall over and he bursts into my room.
I close my eyes and push my glasses up a bit, but as Gerard pulls me to my feet, I still refuse to open my eyes. "No! No!" I scream, and Gerard nearly chokes from laughter. "Yo so funnay," he manages, and I open my eyes just for a glimpse of my very weird brother.
Low and behold, his mouth contains two large lemons, his eyes full of lemon-lust, I call it. I shriek and push him off of me, throwing myself onto my bed and nearly losing my breath. Gerard finally relents, and he leaves my room with a victorious giggle, and I search for my inhaler. Upon finding it, I breathe in deeply and take a puff. What was really stupid was that I once smoked a cigarette or two, not taking into account my asthma, and I had an asthma attack.
That was awful.
I decide to get started on some homework, and Gerard calls, "I'm gonna be in my room if you need me!" I scoff to myself and prop open my laptop, knowing that I need to get started on my report on the Great Emu War. It's a few days over-due, but Mr. McIlrath agreed to give me more time. I open up my browser and type in "The Great Emu War", clicking on the first result that pops up.
It's not that I don't like school. It's just that I don't like working. In school.
I don't like Social Studies.
Wikipedia is an amazing website, and I marvel at its ability to contain every single event in the world as I read about the war.
I hear Gerard cough, and then his footsteps disappear as he heads downstairs. He'll usually make a cup of coffee when he comes home, and then he'll go downstairs and sing and draw to his heart's content. He often forgets to do his homework, but I'm more than willing to share my answers. Besides, they don't have to be right. Gerard usually pays me back somehow, whether it be a small favor or actual money.
Opening Word, I begin the art of copy and paste, altering the words slightly to make it my own. I change the font size to fourteen, because Mr. McIlrath never specified the format, and I also double-space the essay. That way, he can't say that I don't have a format.
I finish the paper relatively fast, and then I begin some of my other homework. There's not much, but I still want to get it done so that I can practice my bass and get on Tumblr.
Even though I'm not particularly fond of school, I love the people I meet there (for the most part) and a lot of the teachers. Mr. Brendon, for example. And Mr. Pete.
I'm just trying to end this. It'll come with a bang ;) NO NOT LIKE THAT UGH STAP
Chapter 11: Give Me All Your Poison, and Give Me All Your Pills
I've been planning this since yesterday afternoon. After that girl had spat at Gerard, I had decided that I was fed up with the unnecessary bullying. I hate being the victim of all of this, but I hate seeing someone else being hurt like that even more.
It's very early, at least for me to be at school. I'm about twenty minutes earlier than anyone else, knowing that no one would be able to witness what I'm about to do. I glance around just to make sure that no one's around, and upon noticing that the coast is clear, I open the locker and shove myself in.
The locker is empty, besides a book or two, but I know that it's the right one. Yesterday, I had made sure to check that this was the bully's locker. She would get a real scare out of this, and that would serve her right.
I wait in silence, and before long, the shouts and murmurs of the other arriving students fill the hallway. The locker is extremely dark, but there is a little bit of light streaming through the three slots a few inches above my head. I pick at my black nail polish while I wait, and then, I hear the familiar voice approach the locker.
"How was it?" a voice asks that I am unfamiliar with. "Oh, it was everything! It felt so good," the girl who had spit at Gee yesterday replies, and I have the sudden urge to vomit. Is she describing what Gerard had described to me after he returned from the bathroom?
There's girlish giggling, and then, the locker suddenly opens, and I'm hit with sudden light and noise. I follow through on my plan, leaning out of the locker and scaring the shit out of the girl. As expected, she shrieks out of terror, and runs away. I chuckle maliciously, stepping out of the locker and closing it behind me. Something gives me great satisfaction to take revenge on someone that had hurt someone I love, and the feeling it creates is just an indescribable happiness.
I spot Ray and Mikey at my locker, so I go and join them. Gee shows up a few minutes later, and we make small talk as James walks by us. He shoves Gerard the lockers as he walks by, and then continues to his own locker. "Asshole," Gee mutters painfully, rubbing the back of his head.
As James opens his locker, dozens of pill containers and drug bottles fall out of his locker, and he attempts to catch them and hide them. But we're all watching, mouths open and eyes wide. Of course. How else are you supposed to be so good at every sport ever and still maintain "perfect" health and a good attitude?
"Holy shit!" Gerard cries, and James hurriedly gathers up the fallen bottles and shoves them back into the locker. He should be glad that besides us, the hallway is relatively uncrowded, but anyone who's there just saw that entire scene.
We watch him in silence, and as he finishes, he closes the locker and rushes to the bathroom, his face bright red and eyes watering. "Well then," I offer awkwardly, and the bell rings. "Bye, Ray," Mikey, Gerard, and I say in unison, and we head to Chemistry. No one mentions what we had just seen, but we're all thinking about it.
Right as I enter the classroom, the intercom crackles to life, saying, "Frank Iero, please report to the gym. Frank Iero, please report to the gym." I grunt in protest, confused and slightly afraid. Gerard glances at me, concerned. "Oh Lord. You better go," he whispers, so I set down my bags by my stool and head to where I think the gym is. Why I need to go there, I have no idea, but I go anyways.
I cross the school's field and make it to the large building that has "GYMNASIUM" printed onto a paper that's barely sticking to the door.
There, a man with a whistle greets me, a stern and irritated look on his face. "Mr. Iero?" he asks, and I nod cautiously, "It was reported that you were seen tackling the school's mascot. Is this true?"
My breath hitches in my throat, and I swallow slowly. Oh, so I'm in trouble. Great. First week. "Umm... Yes, but I–" I try to defend myself, but the coach cuts me off.
"I hope you know that you caused his nose to bleed, nearly breaking it, too!" the man shouts, outraged. I suddenly feel smaller than five feet tall, even though I'm already incredibly short. However, I don't regret my actions in the slightest. Instead, I let the coach yell at me, and then, he sends me into the locker room to apologize. How Ray, Mikey, and Gerard weren't caught, I'm not sure, but I follow the instructions anyways.
I spot the guy who had tackled Gerard yesterday, amidst the other guys whom I assume are in this class. I guess it must be P.E., because they're all getting dressed into exercise clothes. "Hey," I say loudly, tapping on the mascot's shoulder. He's not in his suit. He turns around and scowls at me, taking a swing at me face. I easily dodge it and step back, and his friends hold him back.
"I just wanted to say that I'm not sorry for punching you and somehow making your nose bleed. Have a nice day," I spit sardonically, turning around and walking away. But all of a sudden, my stomach is hit by a burning wave of hunger. Or pain. Either or, it's just the extra enzymes my stomach produces. I stumble onto a bench, but there's no one in this part of the locker room. I look around the set of lockers to one side of me, and I see some guy looking at another guy's ass.
I turn back around, and there's a cheerleader sitting by me. "Fuck," I gasp breathlessly, nearly jumping. Why people do this, I have no idea. They're not there one moment, and the next, they are. The girl giggles and flips her blond ponytail. I have no idea who she is, but she's ugly. I mean, she's not ugly, but to me, she is.
"Hi, Frankie," she says, and I furrow my brow. How and why does she know my name? "Umm, hi," I reply uncertainly, and she smiles. She's wearing pink lipstick that's a few shades too bright, and it burns my eyes just to look at it. "I think you're kinda... Kinda cute," she admits sheepishly.
I bite my lip and just marvel at this whole situation. I'm suddenly in trouble for somehow making some kid's nose bleed, they're gay people all around me, and now some girl is saying I'm cute. What even?
I finally decide to look up at her, and I look at her eyes. I play along with this silly little game, and somehow do something last minute that'll make her change her mind about me. She may be into all of this, but I'm sure as hell not into all of that.
"You know," I start quietly, and I lean a little bit closer, "You have something in your eye." Obviously thinking that I'm about to kiss her or something, she leans in, and right before her lips meet mine, I pluck a random eyelash from the inside of her eye. Like, that thing that I think is called a tear duct. I'm not sure; I sucked at Anatomy. She screams out of pain, and I wipe my finger on her shoulder, finding the strength to stand up and walk away.
I'm leaving great impressions on everyone at this school.
Chapter 12: You Wear Me Out
"I know, but I'm kinda nervous," I say anxiously, biting my lip and glancing up at the clock. Frank's been gone for almost ten minutes, and I'm starting to worry.
Is he in trouble? Is he okay? Is he dead or something?
Mikey rolls his eyes and repositions his glasses. "You sound like an overprotective mother. Stop worrying," he replies tastelessly, glancing back at the worksheet that we're supposed to be doing. I decide that not worrying about Frank would be the best course of action, so I also return to the class work and rack my brain for some kind of answer to these problems.
Which of these is the most acidic?
b. Apple Juice
I know that water isn't acidic, which is simply common knowledge. Apple juice can ruin your teeth, so that's an option. And coffee...? Coffee is the soul purpose for my life; I live for coffee. And my teeth are relatively white, so I circle vinegar. As I set down my pencil and read the next question, Frank walks into the room, clutching his stomach. As he slumps into the stool beside me, I look him up and down.
He seems very much alive. That's good.
"Are you okay? What's wrong?" I ask nervously, holding a hand to his head. It's pretty warm, but my hand decided to linger on his forehead for a few moments longer than necessary. He grimaces, and his stomach produces a low rumbling sound. Mr. Quinn approaches us, a blank worksheet in hand. "Are you okay, Mr. Iero?" he asks, placing the paper in front of Frank.
Frank nods and withdraws a pencil from his pocket, writing the date and his name on the worksheet. Mr. Quinn walks away without another word, and the intercom crackles to life again. Oh, great.
"Mikey Way, please come to the front office, Mikey Way, to the front office."
So now it's Mikey's turn. I'm probably next. Mikey stands up slowly and scoots out the door, his shoes squeaking as he drags his feet along the linoleum. All eyes are pointed in his direction as he leaves the room, and then there's a turning of heads as the door closes.
I continue the worksheet, just wanting lunch to arrive.
Frank heaves a sigh as he puts down his sandwich, rubbing his stomach. "I have no idea what got into my stomach," he remarks, "It's like it has a mind of its own sometimes." We all laugh at the small and satisfied figure of Frank and continue eating. He's told us about the happenings during Chemistry when he was taken out, and how the cheerleader had attempted to kiss him. We listened with a sudden spike of interest, because he had actually been called cute.
I mean, he is cute, but by a normal girl. A cheerleader, too.
But he said that he has no interest in girls, announcing this as his coming out party. No one's awkward. No one's weird about it. We all pretty much knew he was gay, anyways.
"What about you, Mikey? Why were you called up?" I ask Mikey, who scoffs angrily, stabbing a pea and sending it flying to another table. We all watch it as it hits James in the back of the head, and he turns around and glares at Mikey. We grimace and look down at our plates, and Mikey mutters, "They're making me take P.E. I though that I already had the credit for that class, but I'm a few weeks short."
I feel a sudden surge of pity for Mikey, because he's not going to last three minutes under Mr. Alex's watch. "Better you than me," Ray says, and Mikey blushes. They just need to get together already, so I decide to do something about that.
"Hey, Ray," I say, trying to get Mikey's attention, "You know that Mikey likes you, right?" Mikey's face turns redder than the strawberry jelly that's lathered on his sandwich, and he kirks me as hard as he can. I let out a pained yell, and Frankie says, "Ooo, looks like the feeling between both of them is mutual, because Ray likes Mikey, too."
Now the table is completely silent, where I stare at Ray and Frank stares at Mikey, and it's extremely awkward. Ray and Mikey both look down at their laps, probably extremely glad that they're not sitting next to each other. "So it's settled then," Frank pipes up, "You two are gonna date. Okay?"
Ray looks through his fro at Mikey and takes a shaky breath, finding some confidence. "Sounds like a deal if Mikey's into it," he suggests, and Mikey's jaw hits the floor, his eyes wide as saucers. "R-Really?" he asks, and before any of us know what's happening, James approaches Mikey and pours a thick wide substance onto his head.
Mashed potatoes. And gravy.
All of us remain silent as the tables around us burst into laughter, and I decide to go get some napkins. As I'm walking over to the stack by the supply closet, which is open, I peer inside and see someone come out. This just so happens to be the lunch lady, and she opens her jaw and blinks. Her hair is slightly messy, and she's a little disshelved. She exits the closet without a word, and I few seconds later, a very out of breath man crashes into a cabinet. I'm not even sure who he is, but he's wearing a lab coat, so I assume he teaches some kind of science. He takes a few steadying breaths, and I connect some puzzle pieces.
Holy fuck. Oh Lord, did... Did they maybe just?
"Gerard!" Mikey screams, causing me to jump, "Any day now!"
I grab a handful of napkins and run back to the table, patting Mikey's hair and wiping off the warm mashed potatoes. He trembles as I do so, wiping off his glasses and sighing. "I hate school," he mumbles, "I'll get my sweet revenge on him."
Frank smiles, and as an attempt to lighten the mood, he croaks, "Three cheers for sweet revenge, am I right?" No one laughs, but the air isn't so hard to breathe anymore. The tension is somewhat eased.
I'm honestly sick and tired of being the laughing stock of the entire school, constantly being bullied and pushed around. I think it's about time to fix this. All of it.
Chapter 13: Get The Gang Together
I'll get my revenge, alright. Whether it's by murdering James or just "accidentally" slipping some poison into his next meal, I'll get him back. I'm done being pushed around and beat up by someone like him.
With this in mind, I step into the locker room with some borrowed clothes in my hand. I had to get switched out of Music in order to take this class, an action that I'm not happy with. Mr. Billie Joe is pretty much my favorite teacher, and this new coach that's pushing me around is a complete douchebag. But it's only for a few weeks. I'll survive. The locker room is filled with sweaty guys, even though the class hasn't even started. Has no one ever heard of deodorant?
I don't know anyone here, so I walk around the lockers to the less-busy portion of the locker room. I set down the clothes that I had been given by Mr. Alex, which are really just a shirt and some shorts he had gotten out of the lost and found. "If you're anything like you brother, then we'll have an awful time," I remember him saying, and I had pursed my lips, trying not to mouth him off.
I have two things on my mind: revenge and Ray. Two R's. First of all, Ray and I are actually dating. Wow. Finally. I'm so overjoyed by this that I accidentally put two legs into one of the short-legs. Fixing the mistake, I readjust, and by doing so, my eye catches a black helmet.
A lacrosse helmet. And, better yet, "James" is written on one of the white parts. I suddenly have to pee, which gives me the best idea I've ever had. I look around quickly, and then approach the helmet, pulling down my shorts and boxers, urinating into the helmet.
This gives me such satisfaction. I'm suddenly high off of the feeling of such happiness that I don't hear the footsteps behind me. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" a voice cries, and I cut myself off, pulling my pants back up and spinning around. James is suddenly two inches from my face, bright red and pissed as hell.
"I... Uh..." I start, but he stops me by shoving me into a locker. "No, you know what? I think you're trying to start a fight. You and your little group of emo friends. That's okay, you'll get a fight. After school. Meet me and my gang in the hallway outside the front office," he spits, and lets me go, glancing sorrowfully at his soiled helmet.
My heart leaps in my chest, and I want to scream.
What had I just gotten myself into?
"Gerard! Ray! Frank!" I scream, making a mad dash for the group. They're all chatting by the lockers, glad that school is finally out. P.E. was my last period, and the fight being so short notice could be the end of me. I finally reach them, panting and out of breath. They look at me, their faces exaggerating concern. "You okay?" Ray asks, placing an awkward hand on my shoulder.
"James–fight–revenge–" I gasp, and everyone exchanges glances. They wait until I catch my breath, and I explain, "So I kind of peed in James's lacrosse helmet, and now he's getting his friends together and they're gonna fight us. Like, right now."
There are are alarmed expressions all around, and Frank even lets out a small scream. I'm terrified, too. "Mikey, damnit!" Gerard cries, and throws open his locker. He pulls out the bag he brings to croquet, and I catch onto his idea.
"We're pretty much hopeless at using our fists and shit to fight," he says seriously, unzipping the bag and pulling out four wickets. We all nod quickly, and I feel an asthma attack rising in my chest, so I take my inhaler into my hand and hold it just in case. "We're gonna die," Frank murmurs, taking a wicket. We all receive wickets from Gerard, and he closes his locker.
How all of this is happening so quickly, I'm not sure, but it's too much. It's all my fault. I glance down the emptying hallway and see James and his friends at the very end of it, all hoisting crosses.
Well, it seems as though Mikey has royally fucked up this time.
We all exchange extremely nervous glances, and then decide to head down the hallway, towards the quickly approaching group of lacrosse players and other guys that are at least twice my size. I'm in the shit for sure. We try to seem cool, and I think that if kind of works. But then, Mikey begins tossing his inhaler, and I'm reminded of what a huge nerd he is.
He's fucked up yet again.
"Just cover your faces," Gerard mutters under his breath, and we nod. James shoves some innocent bystander out of the way, and he falls against the wall and crumples to the floor. I gape at this in horror. I may as well sign a death contract, because James and his friends are going to send me to my grave. To my death. I'm done for.
About ten feet apart, we stop, and so does James's gang. We all stare at each other hatefully, and I turn my wicket in my hands. There aren't any teachers around, and no student wants to stay and watch. Well, they already know who's going to win.
A sudden thought running through my mind is that maybe I should've started a band with Mikey, Ray, and Gerard before I die. Because after this fight, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be reduced to a very small pile of bones and blood. That's way too graphic. Now I feel sick again.
As the mood shifts, I sense that they're about to pounce.
And they do.
I have no control over my body as I launch myself at the group, joined by Gee, Mikey, and Ray.
If I did, at least I'm by these guys. And friends are the last things I thought that I'd make at this new school. My quirks, issues, problems, and all are accepted by them, and even though I'm not normal, that's okay. But if I've learned one thing throughout this, it's this:
I'm not okay.
Another finished work! Woo! Did you guys like it? Was it okay? Do I need to change anything? Love you all, hugs!