Two days later, Tuesday.
While eating lunch I felt miserable. Mikey was eating lunch with Kristin, they had been going out for just over one and a half weeks and every second I saw them together Mikey looked like he was slowly dying. I hated how it was my fault that they were together, maybe Mikey wouldn’t be so sad if he wasn’t going out with Kristin.
Meanwhile I had been eating lunch with Gerard and Ray, a boy from Gerard’s year who I had grown closer with while eating with him for lunch. Normally I wouldn’t be so down at lunch but Ray wasn’t out of some lunchtime club yet and Gerard was hardly speaking at all.
It stood to reason that he was nervous, I was nervous. Martin hadn’t been in school yesterday and I hadn’t seen him today, luckily for Gerard. We had all been waiting for Gerard to turn up in the nurses office from the second school started Monday morning.
Ray slid into the seat next to me and opposite Gerard. “Have you seen Martin today?” Ray sounded kind of jumpy, like he was scared that if he was found with Gerard then he would get beaten up too. He knew that when Martin had beaten me up that Mikey had unfortunately been hurt too.
“No. His brothers in school though.” I was hunched over, leaning on the table, trying to make myself look smaller. I may be little but weak I wasn’t. Martin was taller than me and he was nearly as strong, but all his muscle was just for show, mine wasn’t. Mikey hadn’t talked to me for over a week once when I refused to fight back when Martin had beaten us up, we both knew that I could have stopped him. Martin would take advantage of this; apparently it was more fun to fight with someone who wasn’t even trying to protect themselves.
“Well Charlotte is.” Ray looked from Gerard to me. “Didn’t Gee tell you already?” It was concerning that Ray would even ask this.
“No” Gerard had hardly talked to anyone since last weekend, least of all me.
Gerard didn’t say anything. He didn’t look like he had even realised that Ray had turned up.
“He made out with her half way through Maths.” There was apparent disappointment in Ray’s voice and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed as well.
“And Lit.” Gerard sounded sad, like he wished he hadn’t made out with her again, and again, but he was proud of his acts anyway.
“Do you have some kind of death wish? You’re acting like an idiot Gerard!”
The second I had said it Gerard pushed off of the table and his eyes fell on me for the first time in what felt like ages. “Stop calling me that Frankie! Should I start calling you Frank or is this just a one sided hate relationship?” He didn’t wait for me to answer but just walked away towards the main building where the bell had started to ring.
Ray raised his eyebrows and got up to follow Gerard.
My mind wasn’t on the half life equations my teacher was writing on the white board or the sheets we were meant to be filling in as she spoke.
“Right. I didn’t see many pens scribbling the answers so you have ten minutes to get the right answers before I’ll start picking on you.”
Most people jumped right into the task hoping to get it over with and then having the time to talk after. I took a few glances at the questions before I stopped chewing my pen and wrote the answers in.
“You didn’t tell me that it’s your birthday this weekend!” Kristin smiled at me from the bench in front.
“What!?” I tried not to show her that I was anxious about someone knowing it was my birthday. Mikey looked at me from five seats down and smiled apologetically at me. He still looked sad.
“Mikey told me.” Like I hadn’t guessed. “Are you having a party?” Kristin smiled at me while unsubtly looking at my answers. “Or...” She started to seem uncomfortable. “Am I just not invited?” She laughed slightly like that wasn’t even a possibility.
“Yeah. Well...” I hated answering questions like this. “I'm having Mikey and a couple of other friends stay over ...” I didn’t add that it depended on whether Gerard was himself again.
“You’re not having a party?” Kristin seemed surprised and turned her chair around so she could talk to me properly and look at the few answers that I had written in easier.
“I never have a party. My Mom ... she lets me have a few people round each year, that’s enough for me.” Kristin tilted her head at me but I knew that she wouldn’t have understood any better if I had told her that I didn’t ask for anything more because I didn’t know if my Mom would be able to handle a load of people round the house.
“Have a party at mine!” Kristin smiled at me. “My parents are going away for the weekend so I have a big empty house!”
It was an okay idea, but I didn’t want a big party with loads of people.
“Thanks for the offer but I don’t want to be a bother.” It took effort to smile at Kristin while I watched her write down the wrong answer on the sheet.
“It’s really no trouble. My parents are going away from Friday night all the way to Sunday night. It would be really fun if you had a party at my house!” She was practically bouncing in her seat.
“It’s really okay. If I had a party everyone would realise that I'm a year younger and then everyone gets really uncomfortable around me.” Not that many people were around me anyway.
“Well...“ she looked like she was thinking. It wasn’t hard to tell when Kristin was thinking but maybe that was because I knew her well. “We could just tell everyone that it’s a Halloween party. You would invite all your friends and then the other people could turn up too. No one would know that it’s actually your birthday but you could have a good time with your friends...” Kristin smiled at me in a way I thought was more suited for Mikey, her boyfriend.
It seemed rude of me to say no now that she had actually gone through the pain of thinking to try to persuade me to have a party.
“Sure. Why not.”
Kristin smiled and turned back to her seat. “I’ll call you later about it.” She winked at me.
“You know I'm surprised that you agreed to have a real party.” Mikey laughed to me while we ran across the road out the front of school on our way home.
“She went to the effort to think! I couldn’t say no.” After I said it I realised that I might have offended him by calling his girlfriend stupid but he just nodded. Most people noticed that Kristin wasn’t very bright.
Mikey didn’t say anything to me after that. I thought maybe he was upset about us going out on my birthday rather than going out trick or treating and then staying up all night eating sweets and watching the films on TV.
“D’you ever think ...” Mikey stared but never finished his sentence. It occurred to me that he might have just been trying to offend me, asking if I ever thought in general, but I realised that he was talking about something very pointed, although I had no clue as to what he was really talking about.
A few times Mikey tried to finish his sentence but it seemed to get stuck every time he started to say anything. I didn’t push him for anything. It was useless for me to try to answer his half question and it was useless for me to try to get him to tell me what he really wanted to ask.
It was second nature when Mikey followed me into my house for me to shut the lounge and kitchen doors so that Darcy couldn’t follow us upstairs.
Mikey really didn’t feel comfortable being around her. Sure he didn’t complain when she sat with us on the sofa when we watched films or when she slept in my room, but I didn’t like to make him feel uncomfortable in my house so I always closed the doors when we got home.
We both traipsed into my bedroom to dump our bags on the floor and while Mikey collapsed onto my bed I sank into my bean bag even though I knew I would never be able to find the effort to get up again.
“Gee’s meeting her down the park tonight.” Mikey sighed, knowing that he shouldn’t tell me but he had to.
“We’ve lived here for twelve years and there has only ever been one The Park.” Mikey laughed and threw my pillow at me. “Half six.”
“No...” It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. “Tell him to meet her later... Please?”
“No.” Mikey smiled at me, knowing that I always walked Darcy to the park around six thirty. I would no doubt see them. “I think he planned it so you would be there.”
My head snapped up to glare at Mikey. “Don’t be ridiculous. He won’t talk to me. Why would he plan this so that I would see him tonight?” Only after I had said it did I realise that maybe Gerard was trying to make me even more angry with him.
“I'm not going with you.” Mikey was very final about it.
“I hate you.”
“Frank! You home yet?” My Mom called up the stairs.
Both me and Mikey jumped at her voice, she was normally at work for a bit longer so we had at least an hour before she would turn up and we had to relocate to Mikey’s house.
“You’re home early Mom.” I smiled at her when she poked her head through my door way. Mikey nodded politely to her.
“No... It’s six Frank.” She smiled at me like I was going crazy. “Are you going to walk Darcy?”
Mikey looked at me like he suspected that my Mom was lying about the time.
“Let’s go.” Surprising myself I jumped up out of my bean bag and grabbed Darcy’s lead off my desk then followed Mikey down stairs.
“Just try to stall him okay?” I tried to plead with Mikey one last time while holding Darcy back from running into his house.
Mikey smiled at me but shook his head. “No way Frankie. I'm not going to interfere with him and his ho.” Mikey went into his house so I left and just before I closed his garden gate I saw Mikey knocking on the back window and pointing behind him. I could see Gerard hurrying around behind him looking as though he had brushed his hair, it was creepy.
Darcy was running full speed towards me, I hadn’t realised until she was right on top of me and it was too late for me to dodge out of the way. We had been playing doggy soccer for a while, she would run at the goal that was in the field and I had to stop her getting through. I caught Darcy mid jump and we both tumbled to the floor where she sat on top of me licking my face.
“Darcy... Get off.” I laughed pushing her off me and jumping up to a standing crouch. She looked at me before running off again so she could have a big run up trying to get past me again.
I saw someone walk over to the park and sit on the fence before lighting a cigarette. At first I thought that it couldn’t be Gerard because I knew he didn’t smoke, but the more I looked at the person the more I started to realise that it was Gerard. No one else could manage to look that uncomfortable yet effortlessly stunning at the same time.
“Gerard?” I called over to him, hoping that if I caught him alone he would have to talk to me.
Darcy started running towards him before I even thought to move but when I saw the big blond blur rushing towards him I followed after just in time to see Gerard jumping down from the fence and instantly playing with Darcy after putting out the roll up he had been smoking. Perhaps I wasn’t that far off earlier when I asked Gerard if he had a death wish, making out with Charlotte twice during school, meeting up with her at the park and now smoking as well. This wasn’t the Gerard I knew. “Mikey said you’d be here...” Gerard didn’t look at me as he spoke; he just crouched next to Darcy while teasing her by moving his hands so she didn’t know which one to go for first.
“I suppose that’s because I told him to stall you.” My eyes never left Gerard. “Are you any later than you were planning to be?” It stood to reason that Mikey hadn’t actually tried to stall Gerard, or even told him, he probably just saw me walking away from his house while walking Darcy; I always walked Darcy down to the park, Gerard knew that.
It wasn’t the answer I wanted from him, or maybe it was. I wanted him to give me more than one word or a forced sentence but I was glad that my presence hadn’t stopped him coming to the park.
“Mikey said that you were here to meet Charlotte?” This was something that I knew the answer to but somehow I hoped that Gerard would tell me that Mikey had been wrong and that he had come down to the park because he knew that I was there and that he was hoping that we could sort everything out and just be friends again.
“Yeah.” But no, I got the answer that I expected from him, so much for bro’s before ho’s. “Were you planning on staying long?” The emotionless tone of Gerard’s voice offended me. My mind just couldn’t comprehend how we had gone from best friends to emotionless strangers in only two days. I still wanted Gerard to like me, I wanted us to be as close as we used to be, but he acted as though he didn’t care at all anymore. Like I had stopped amusing him and now he didn’t care what I did.
“I'm just playing around with Darcy.” It sounded like a denial, for some reason it felt like that too.
“Frankie...” At least he hadn’t started calling me Frank yet. Did it make me worse than him that I wasn’t calling him Gee anymore?
“Gerard I’ll leave when Darcy’s been out for long enough, I'm not going to go somewhere else just because you’re girlfrie...”
“Frankie there’s a spider on your hand.” Gerard said it flatly and I might have thought more about it if I hadn’t been in a blind panic.
I completely freaked out. Basically falling from the fence and patting myself down trying to get the little thing off me. It didn’t register in my head that Gerard had said that it was on my hand until after I had patted down the rest of my body and I started to freak more thinking that I had given it passage to the rest of my body. My hands started flapping of their own accord while I stood there, frozen, not knowing what to do.
“Got it” Gerard laughed from my side, flicking something off my arm.
There was every chance that Gerard hadn’t just flicked the spider off me but I instantly started to calm down.
Surprising me Gerard pulled me into a hug and for some reason I hugged him back.
“You are funny Frankie. It was only a little spider.” Gerard rested his chin on the top of my head. He laughed slightly, reminding me of him just a few days ago, only now he smelt more like smoke than alcohol.
“Maybe to you. To me it was huge!” This time we both laughed although neither of us released our hold on the other. I didn’t want to be the first to let go and as far as I could tell neither did Gerard.
Darcy jumped up, trying to nudge her way between us, and pushed Gerard into me, making us both lose our balance and fall over. My head hit the floor while Darcy curled up, half lying on my legs.
“Oww... Darcy!” Although my head hurt it was a kind of laugh while I kicked my legs so Darcy would get up. She just slid off my legs and rested her head on the floor.
Gerard placed his hand on my head but rolled away from me so that I was leaning on his arm. “I hate your dog.” He smiled to the sky.
“Aw, she didn’t mean it...” I smiled shaking my head slightly so Gerard’s hand wasn’t on my head any longer but it just made me dizzy.
“You’re just sticking up for her because she’s of your own species!” Gerard sat up looking from me to Darcy and back to me. “I can defiantly see the resemblance.” He smiled putting his hand back on my head where it had hit the floor.
This would have been strange to me if it had been anyone else, but it was Gerard. He was always looking after me when I got hurt. I still had a plaster on from last week when I had freaked out from another spider attack and tripped over all my dirty clothes on the floor. I had scrapped my arm on my wardrobe and Gerard had been there to get a few splinters out and find me a plaster. Just more proof that he treated me like a child.
“Does your head hurt?” Gerard laid back down next to me so I put my head on his shoulder and shook my head, although that made me dizzy again.
“Yeah. But I’ll live.”
My head was still pounding when my Mom came into my room and threw a towel at me.
“Kristin’s on the phone. Have a shower after you’re done.” She left quickly. It was obvious to me that she was still annoyed that I had skipped dinner, I felt kind of queasy and I didn’t want to eat anything yet. I hadn’t explained to her why I wasn’t going to eat dinner so she was annoyed that I was ‘hiding’ something from her. She always thought it was something worse than it really was.
“Okay. Thanks.” I didn’t know if she heard me call after her but I ran down the stairs anyway and grabbed the phone of the dining room table. “Kristin?” The other end was silent for a second.
“Frankie!” I could hear the smile in her voice and for a moment I wondered how she had my number. “Party this weekend. People are going to start turning up at seven and I said they can leave whenever. Come early though. I want you to come over early.”
“Okay. So six?” It concerned me that she had already got it all planned and everything.
“Yeah. Great. Bring Mikey and tell your friends to be there! Bye.” Kristin hung up before I could even say bye myself.
“Saturday, one of my friends is having a ... Halloween party. I'm going to go and then bring Mikey, Gerard and Ray back here, okay?” I was already half way up the stairs with Darcy hot on my tail.
“Whatever you want Frank.” The sound of Moms voice made me think that she wasn’t really listening to me but I didn’t much feel like repeating myself, she would figure it out.
Darcy ran into my room while I started up the shower but I had to hold onto the side of the sink to stop myself collapsing. My head still hurt and everything was still spinning. Darcy came in and sat next to me for a while. She was a good dog. I slightly rested my head on her soft fur. She was so warm and loving. My eyes closed of their own accord and I didn’t remember that I was meant to be having a shower. I just fell asleep on my dog until I heard my Mom knocking on the door asking if I had fallen down the plug whole or something and I realised that I had left the shower running and that I should really wash then go back to my own room to sleep rather than sleeping on the bathroom floor.