My heart all but stopped, and I was distantly aware that I was sliding open the door to the backyard, mouth open. Gabriella noticed me first since she was facing me, and her mouth opened, too, teeth coming down to bite her lip anxiously. Frank said something, and she just kept looking at me, horrified.
He got the hint and turned quickly. Our eyes met and he sucked in a breath. I could hear his small noise, a word which could have been, "Fuck."
I thought maybe I was yelling, but the blood was roaring in my ears and it was hard for me to hear much of anything. Gabriella was scrambling out of the pool, struggling to pull a towel around herself, and Frank was backing out, slipping a little on the steps. His boxers were plastered to his body, leaving practically nothing to the imagination, and he turned to Gabriella, but she was running inside.
Then I became completely aware that yes, I was yelling. People were gathering at the windows, and Frank was huddled there, looking miserable and chagrined, trying to speak over me, but I was giving him no mercy with the force of my words. Finally he fell silent and I fell silent, and then I said in a low, furious voice, "Get in the fucking car."
"I said get in the fucking car, Frank!"
He nodded and hurried into the house, pushing people aside and keeping the towel tight around himself, snatching up his clothes from behind a potted plant. I just followed him, people steering clear of me and my dark glare, lowered brow and downturned mouth.
When I got to the car, he was waiting there, not looking at me. I unlocked the doors and got in, shoulders stiff and heart thudding. Frank was quiet.
"What the fuck, Frank?! What the hell was that? Do you have any idea what it means to-"
"To what? Be in a steady, happy, loving relationship? Not any more I don't! Something happened, Gerard!"
"You think I don't know that? You think I'm not trying to stop that from happening?"
"Well, you could definitely do a better fucking job of it! We argue all the fucking time, how do you justify that?!"
"So what are you saying?"
"I'm saying you're too controlling, you're too unlike me, too unlike how you were before, and this isn't going to work."
"You're breaking up with me." My mouth felt dry.
Frank looked at me determinedly. "Yes. I'm sorry, Gerard."
He turned to leave, but I stopped him with my next words.
"You're not real."
Frank froze. "What?" He turned cautiously to stare at me.
"I…I had a dream? Thirteen days ago, actually, and, and you were in it, and you said 'Bring me to life.' So I wrote you into this story I was writing, a romance story, and you were just a character in it, but you had a relationship with me and we'd been together five years and we met on New Year's in Time's Square, and I…I was supposed to ask you to marry me today. And then after I wrote your character, I came into the kitchen and you were…you were there, you were real."
"You're crazy," whispered Frank, his eyes wide.
I bit my lip, shaking my head. "No. I'm not."
"You can't prove it," he snapped, voice shaking.
"I can," I said suddenly, grabbing my laptop from where it lay on the counter. He watched it and me warily. I typed in my password, brought up the story, and took a deep breath. I typed in a sentence, and Frank made a terrified sound, moving against his will away from the door.
"Gerard?" he gasped, staring at me. "What was that – ah!"
I was physically hurting, this made me feel so guilty, but he had to know. I typed faster and faster:
I ordered Frank to spin in a circle.
Take his shirt off.
Run around the house.
He magically got a faux hawk with platinum sides.
His lip piercing disappeared.
He got a new tattoo on his hand.
He fell to the ground.
I swallowed and looked at Frank, who was curled into a ball on the floor, chest heaving, with his new hair and new ink and no piercing or shirt. Tears streaked his face.
"I'm so sorry, Frank," I said softly. He was shaking. "I didn't mean to-"
He struggled to his feet and fled the room, dashing upstairs and into the bedroom. I heard the click of a lock behind him, and his cries and sobs.
It was a long time before I finally got the courage to stand up and pick up the discarded shirt on the ground, pressing it to my face and inhaling his scent, strawberries and cologne and sweat and booze. "Fuck," I whispered, and now I was crying, too. I knew what had to be done, but I didn't like it.
Still clutching his shirt, I sat back down in front of the laptop and began to type the words which would set him free.
An hour later, the sounds were gone from upstairs – no crying, no screaming, no footsteps above me.
I brought the shirt to my nose.
It smelled of nothing at all.
"You did the right thing, Gerard," Ray said quietly, hugging me. I smiled weakly and nodded. I knew he was right, even though at times it hurt so much not to have Frank there.
It had been six months since I'd written the very last page of the best-selling novel, Read Me Like A Book, which was the story of Frank and I. I had never mentioned his name, referring to him only as 'the boyfriend,' and had obviously changed my friend's names and street names and such. Other than that, though, the story remained much the same.
Ray, Mikey, and I were outside a club now, not to drink and party, but to see a gig. It featured some band called LeATHERMŲUTH, a relatively new band who a friend of mine, Pete, had recommended to us. We slipped inside, and the club was dark, full of hot, sweaty bodies. The stage had five silhouettes on it, the one closest to the audience was short and strongly built, his head tilted down and a guitar slung across his hips, microphone dangling from his fingers.
Then, in a burst of brightness, the lights flashed on, and my eyes widened in shock. Mikey and Ray both grabbed my arms, and I made no move to stop them.
It was Frank. The lead singer and guitarist was Frank, Frank Iero, and he wasn't…wasn't happy, exactly, but he was passionate and practically glowing with energy, screaming his heart out into the mike while slashing his pick across the guitar strings. The noise that the band made was chaotic, disorganized, and yet there was something incredibly invigorating about it.
I couldn't stop staring at him, the countless more tattoos that he'd gotten, the re-pierced lip, the shorter, scruffier hair and the stubble lining his jaw. He looked different, yet he was so much the same. He wasn't mine, though. He was his own. He was Frank Iero, and he was doing just fine without me.
After the show, I slipped into the bathroom just to check if I had a black eye from when some idiot had elbowed my face in the pit, and I was running my fingertips over the slightly swollen, but luckily not bruised, area when he came into the room, catching my gaze in the mirror and grinning lopsidedly.
"Hey," he said, clearing his throat when his voice came out raspy, probably from screaming so much.
"H-hi," I said, wondering what he remembered. Did he know me? Did he –
"I'm Frank," he said, still smiling and sticking out a hand. I shook it hesitantly.
"Gerard," I replied, eyes skimming over his face and remembering the touch of his lips on mine.
"Gerard? Not Gerard Way?"
I blinked, nervous again. "Uh…yeah, that's me."
His face lit up. "You…wait a sec, okay?"
Before I could even react, he was leaving the bathroom and leaving me sorely disappointed, slumping a little against the sink. That was it, then. He'd just left, and I'd never-
"This is your book, right?" Frank was back. I blinked some more, surprised. He was holding up a book, no, not just any book – the book, the book about him.
"Yeah," I said slowly, mentally cheering when my voice didn't shake. "Where did you-"
He laughed. "Some fan gave it to me a few weeks ago. I dunno, they said that the main character sort of reminded them of me. Weird, right?"
"Yep," I agreed uncertainly, "really weird."
"It's a good book, though." That took me by surprise. "I mean, I'm not exactly a lover of romances, but this is like…I don't know. The relationship had so many issues that it's not even a romance, exactly." He laughed again and shook his head. "I dunno. But you've got talent, so, yeah."
"So do you."
He smiled wider. "You think so? This band's kinda like my therapy, you know? I get to let out all this anger and negative energy, and then I come out of it feeling all tired and like…satisfied."
I couldn't help saying, "Sounds like sex."
He laughed the loudest that time, and I flushed. "No, it's…yeah, you're right. Music is kinda like sex."
I allowed a tiny smile and said, "My friends and I…we're kind of…we're working on this band, and it's…we don't know exactly where it's going to go from here, but…maybe you could come check it out?"
He cocked his head. "Huh. What's the band's name?"
"My Chemical Romance."
"Fuck, that's good," Frank said, sounding slightly in awe. "Seriously, okay, you pretty much won me over with that name already." I blushed and he smirked. "So, what's your part in the band?"
"Um, I sing."
He raised an eyebrow. "I've gotta hear that. 'Kay, just…gimme a second and…" he pulled a Sharpie out of his pocket triumphantly and shot me a sideways grin before reaching out for my arm, glancing up at me for confirmation. I nodded unsteadily and he grabbed my arm, writing his number in black scrawl from wrist to elbow, and then writing below it,
call me xo
He capped the Sharpie and said, "I'll see you soon, then?" still wearing a wolfish expression. My heart leaped. Frank was real. Frank was okay. Frank was beautiful, talented, and he wanted to see me again.
I watched him go, and couldn't help but think that even though every story ends, a new one will always begin.