A/N: Nope, no writer’s block here! This is actually how long it took me to write, edit, and take pictures for this chapter, lol. On the bright side, I loved every minute of it ^_^
ANYWAY, this chapter is
my baby a unique installment in Joanne’s story because it is written entirely in Gabriel’s point of view. This is because I love him there’s way too much going on in his head for me to accurately describe from Joanne’s point of view. Plus, his backstory is so heart wrenching detailed and important in understanding his character that I really wanted to give it the necessary spotlight.
On another note, there are a number of flashbacks in this chapter. They all take place in Bridgeport and range from when Gabriel was 18 (the first flashback) to 21 (the final flashback). The flashbacks are also titled as “tracks” on an album—in this case, the album on Gabriel’s past.
In keeping with how I’ve chosen songs thus far that suit Joanne’s vocals, since this chapter is in Gabriel’s point of view, I chose a song that fits his instead.
The song for this chapter then is “Daisy” by Brand New. I think it’s one of my favorite song choices up there with Chandelier and Already Gone because it just fits so well—even to the rises and falls of the music itself. Awesome song, guys.
LISTEN TO IT. Anyway, the last stanza has another verse that’s sung in the background at the same time, so I actually just put that verse at the end, even though it’s technically sung with the other lines. It doesn’t make any difference, but I thought I’d mention it in case anyone wondered. Also, this is a long chapter.
Enough rambling though—time to
cry for days enjoy!
Gabriel’s Point of View
And we sing this morning that wonderful and grand old message. I don’t know about you, but I never get tired of it. Number 99, Just As I Am…
I took a languid drag from my cigarette, briefly holding the hot smoke in my mouth before I inhaled it. There was a bird pecking at a newspaper nearby, evidently missing the memo that it should have gone further south.
I breathed out slowly, watching as the escaping smoke unfurled in the frigid air. The rising wisps brought my attention to the sky, blue-gray and choked within the grips of winter. I hunched my shoulders against the biting cold, mentally cursing its existence and vaguely wondering if spring would ever arrive.
“Shit, what happened?”
The bird flew away, clearly determining that soggy news did not make for a good meal.
I’m a mountain that has been moved
I brought the cigarette back up to my lips. “Nothing,” I answered quietly.
I took another long pull, resuming my surveillance of the skies. It would probably snow again today.
“Bull, you never smoke unless you’re stressed to high hell. I’ve known you too long, Gabriel—you can’t hide shit from me.”
I remained silent, gritting my teeth against my friend’s words. He was right, of course, but that didn’t mean I wanted to talk about it. It meant that because I was “stressed to high hell,” I’d much rather be left alone than engage in pointless conversation.
“Gimme one,” Ryan muttered as he stepped into view beside me. I raised an eyebrow at him. “What? If you go down, I’m going down with you.”
I’m a river that is all dried up
I snorted, reaching into my coat pocket to draw one out for him. He took it from me, opening his mouth to ask for a light, but I was one step ahead, already holding out my lighter to him. “Thanks,” he said, taking it.
I shrugged, shifting my focus to the snow. It was even grayer than the skies. Its purity had been marred by traffic and mud.
We smoked in silence and for a while I actually thought that Ryan was going to let this go, but it seemed he was only biding his time because soon enough he pushed again.
“Daisy always hated it when you smoked.”
I’m an ocean nothing floats on
I turned my head, shooting him an incredulous look. I hated when he brought her up—hated when he said her name. No matter how long it’d been the sound of it cut into my flesh like glass and he fucking knew that.
Ryan raised an eyebrow at me, ready to challenge whatever rebuke I’d typically throw at him for doing that, but I decided not to bite this time. That would give him the satisfaction of knowing he’d gotten to me. Instead, I clenched my jaw, looking back at the filthy snow and pretending that he hadn’t spoken at all…pretending that it hadn’t had any effect on me.
Pretending, however, did not vanquish reality. The name had been said, the incision made, and the memories streamed from the wound like blood.
Track 1: For You, Anything
“Ew! That’s going to turn your teeth yellow!” Daisy complained, snatching the newly lit cigarette from my hand.
I blinked, briefly surprised, and then turned toward my thief. “Cigarettes have been continuously linked to shit like cancer and emphysema and you’re on me about yellow teeth?” I asked, an amused smile playing at my lips.
Daisy flicked the cigarette onto the ground, stomping it out with her black, knee-high boots—the same ones she wore the other night when her lithe legs were wrapped around my waist.
“Well, of course,” she said, interrupting my thoughts. She seemed surprised that I’d even question her logic. “After all, you have such a beautiful smile and yellow teeth would just kill that.” She leaned toward me, tilting her head up to kiss me on the cheek. “You know I’m right,” she murmured.
I raised an eyebrow. “You’d think that my own wife would love me regardless,” I pointed out.
Daisy backed up a little, beaming up at me. “Oh, she does,” she said with an emphatic nod that made her dark pigtails bounce. “Only I love you even more with those pearly white teeth,” she added, reaching up to wrap her slender arms around my neck.
“Superficial twit,” I muttered, leaning down to kiss her forehead.
I laughed out loud and she smiled, looking up at me with a false face of picture-perfect innocence.
“Okay, okay,” I sighed, snaking my arms around her waist. “For you, anything.”
Daisy smiled even wider. “I knew you’d come to your senses. After all, you don’t want to mess up that lovely voice of yours, do you?”
“I thought they’d give me a raspy edge.”
“Ugh!” Daisy scoffed, turning away, but I pulled her back, laughing.
“I’m kidding! I’m kidding. I said okay, didn’t I?”
“Yes,” she mumbled begrudgingly, and then glanced up at me with a mischievous gleam in her eyes. “By the way, did you notice what boots I was wearing?”
“A purposeful choice?” I realized with a smirk, and then claimed her lips for my own.
Track 2: I Promise
“That was, by far, the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen in my life.”
I nearly spit out my coke, my nose burning as the fizzy drink attacked me. “Wait, what?” I exclaimed with a laugh once I’d recovered. “I mean, not that I care, but you think the so-called ‘greatest love story ever written’ is the stupidest shit you’ve ever seen?”
“Yes!” Daisy cried, folding her arms across her chest. “They both fucking KILL themselves at the end just because the other is gone! That is, without a doubt, the most fucked up shit I’ve ever seen!”
I couldn’t help but laugh again. “Wow. Way to kill the romance,” I teased.
“What’s romantic about stabbing yourself in the chest with a fuckin’ dagger?” Daisy asked incredulously, her blue eyes wide. “That’s not romantic—that’s sad as hell!”
“Well, it is a tragedy, as you’ll recall,” I said dryly, taking another careful sip from my coke.
“Still,” she muttered, seeming thoroughly and amusingly disturbed. “All I know is that if anything ever happened to me, the last thing I’d want is for you to go off yourself or something. I’d want you to, you know—move on and like…find happiness again!”
“Hmmm,” I hummed with a slight frown, staring at the credits as they continued to roll.
“Well isn’t that what you’d want for me?” she asked, turning in her seat to face me. Her eyes were bright, a fierce determination suddenly blazing within them. “Like if, god forbid, anything happened to you, would you want me to kill myself over it?”
“Of course not,” I answered, cringing at the thought.
“See? It’s terrible. That’s not love—it’s stupidity, that’s what it is.”
“I guess so.”
Daisy gave me an odd look and took my soda from me, setting it down on the table behind us and then climbing into my lap. I placed my hands on her waist, looking up at her questioningly.
“You have to promise me, Gabriel,” she said seriously, staring down at me with that fierce determination still in her eyes.
“Promise you what?” I asked, completely nonplussed by her behavior.
“That you’d never do that!” she exclaimed fervently. “Promise me that if anything ever happened to me, you would find happiness again.”
“Daisy,” I chided, shaking my head. “This is stupid, nothing is going to—”
“Well I promise!” she interjected stubbornly. “If anything were to happen to you, I’d be out of my mind devastated with the weight of my loss, but I would move on! I would find happiness again because I know that’s what you would have wanted for me, right?”
“Right,” I said uneasily, beginning to dislike this entire conversation.
“It’s your turn now.”
“Daisy,” I pleaded with a bit of a laugh, “this is really—”
“PROMISE ME!” she demanded, clutching the front of my shirt with her small, but surprisingly strong hands. The laughter died on my lips. Who knew that watching a bad version of Romeo and Juliet could incite such anger? Shit, it wasn’t like she hadn’t already known the ending anyway.
“Okay, damn,” I relented when I realized that she wasn’t going to give it up. I raised my hands at my sides for emphasis. “I promise.”
“Promise what?” she asked in a low growl, her grip still tight and her eyes still ablaze.
“I promise that…that if anything were to happen to you, I’d find happiness again.”
“Because you’d know that’s what I wanted,” Daisy added firmly.
“Because I’d know that’s what you wanted,” I intoned with a nod.
Daisy grinned and then drew me in for a passionate kiss that set my heart racing no matter how many we’d shared. “Thank you,” she stated as soon as she pulled away.
I laughed a little, squeezing her legs. “You’re a bit crazy, you know that?”
“I’m crazy about you, Gabriel, and not just a bit! That’s why I’d always want you to be happy, even if that happiness wasn’t with me. Now that’s true love, don’t you think?”
“If I agree, will you kiss me like that again?” I asked with a smirk.
“Oh, you’re impossible!” she harrumphed, and then hopped right off of my lap to storm away, leaving me to realize that perhaps I should have rethought my answer….
* * * * * * * *
I dropped the cigarette, stomping it into the snow and then running a hand through my hair in irritation. It hadn’t been a fair promise—it just hadn’t been. After all, it’s easy to make such a promise when the love of your life is still happy and healthy in your arms, but keeping it once they’re gone? So far, that’d proven to be an impossible feat.
“Come on,” Ryan said, throwing down his cigarette as well. “Let’s go inside. We can order a pizza or something. The game’s on tonight.”
“I can’t,” I said quietly. “I have plans.”
“You…wait what?” he asked, looking confused. I sighed heavily.
I’m a sun that doesn’t burn hot
“I’m meeting up with Joanne for dinner tonight…as friends,” I added when I took note of the gleeful look that began to overtake his face.
Ryan’s enthusiasm waned. For a moment he just seemed confused again, and then his mouth suddenly fell open, his eyes growing wide with apparent realization. “Wait, is that why you’re so stressed?” he asked with a relieved laugh.
I pressed my lips together, reluctant to respond, but my silence would be an admission all on its own, so finally I just muttered, “Yeah, I guess.”
There was more to it though—it wasn’t just the dinner. The dinner I could probably handle, but everything else concerning this? That’s what set my nerves on edge.
For instance, the look that’d crossed Joanne’s face after I’d suggested that we be friends—like she’d been drowning without any hope of someone rescuing her and I’d suddenly shown up to throw her a lifesaver. It hadn’t exactly been what I’d intended. Yes, I wanted to help her, and yes I wanted to jar her from that helpless, hopeless state she’d been in, but that look was too much pressure. She’d looked at me like I was her…her savior or something, and I was far from even resembling someone like that. After all, how could I be a savior to someone else when I hadn’t even managed to save myself?
I let out a sharp breath of air, pressing my fingers to my temples as the beginnings of a headache began to form deep within my skull.
“You know Daisy would be happy about this, don’t you?” Ryan asked.
I lifted my head, shooting my friend another dark look and wishing he would stop fucking doing that, but also knowing that he was completely right. I sighed, running a hand through my hair again. “I know,” I admitted.
“It’s been five years, Gabriel.”
Ryan was silent a moment, rubbing his neck and staring at the snow before he glanced up at me again. He looked as if he wasn’t sure if he should say what he was about to, but I knew he would anyway. He always did. I braced myself.
“Do you like her?”
I’m a moon that never shows its face
My eyes widened while my heart clenched hard in my chest. I looked away. Did I? Did I like her? My headache worsened as I considered my answer, though I had the vague suspicion that my heart already knew it.
I thought first about how she always seemed so fragile, so helpless, as if she’d given up on herself before she’d even tried and how much this annoyed me because she shouldn’t allow others get to her like that, shouldn’t be so quick to sacrifice the very essence of her identity.
I thought then of the brief moments when I’d see those gleaming eyes of hers flash, her hands clenched into small fists at her sides, and that steely look of conviction emblazoned on her face. Those brief moments were the ones that made me think that maybe she wasn’t as fragile as she seemed.
I thought of the varying shades of pink her cheeks turned when she talked to me….
I thought of her shining jet-black hair because damn I had a thing for dark hair.
I thought of her eyes and how they magically became a thousand times more striking against that dark hair. They made me wonder why they called her Jade honestly because yes, the name came from the color of her eyes, but I never thought they’d actually been that color, even against the blonde hair that muted them. Sure, jade was a green stone and her eyes were definitely green, but Joanne’s kind of green glittered as it reflected not just the light in the room, but also a light that could not have come from anywhere other than deep within herself. This was never more apparent than when she smiled. When she smiled, her small nose scrunched up so cutely that I thought the sight would kill me, Joanne’s eyes…her emerald eyes, sparkled.
“Should I continue to leave you alone with your thoughts?” Ryan asked wryly, his lips pulled up in the most irritating of smirks.
I’m a mouth that doesn’t smile
I covered my face with my hand. “Oh shut up,” I muttered, trying to strike down my embarrassment before it became too noticeable.
Ryan laughed, looking triumphant as he lifted his arms to lace his fingers behind his head. “I’ll ask again even though the answer’s obvious because I want to hear you say it: do you like her?”
My chest tightened. That insidious feeling was returning—the one that always seemed to have me in its grasps lately and kept making everything so much more difficult than it should have been.
I removed my hand from my face, trying to ignore it. “Yeah,” I admitted quietly. The feeling worsened with my confession. God.
I winced then as Ryan let out a sudden series of gleeful whoops and cheers from beside me, but he mercifully grew quiet when he noticed my reluctance to celebrate right along with him.
“Hey!” he said, nudging me so hard that I stumbled. “This is a good thing.”
I scowled, resisting the urge to punch him. He was always trying to convince me of that, but I still couldn’t see how it was, especially with this feeling strangling me from the inside out.
“I know!” I exclaimed with a shout, unable to stand his pushing for even a second longer. “I fucking know! I’ve always fucking known so will you just fucking stop!?” My hands clenched into fists, my jaw tightening.
“I just want you to be happy, man,” he said, his face falling as he took a step back.
I’m a word that no one ever wants to say
Great, now I felt like an asshole.
“I know that too,” I mumbled, and then looked back up at the white-washed sky, willing myself to relax. After all, there was no use yelling at him when I hadn’t even explained myself.
“Look,” I said, finally giving into his stupid want to talk about this. “You act like I haven’t been trying and I have been. I’ve been talking to her more and I’ve tried to, you know, be nice to her or whatever and now I’ve even invited her out, even if it is just as friends, but that’s…that’s all I can fucking manage right now because…because sometimes…”
I paused, pressing my lips together and shaking my head as any last remnants of my anger fell away. There was a very good reason I hadn’t wanted to talk—it was because I hadn’t wanted to admit this. It was so fucking stupid and it honestly made no sense at all. Not after five whole years. Hell, over five years, at this point.
“Spit it out!” Ryan said, moving to jab me with his elbow.
“It makes me feel guilty!” I snapped as I dodged the blow, and then winced anyway because I hated that’d I said it so loudly. I sighed heavily. “Sometimes,” I began with some irritation, “when I think about Joanne being anything more than a friend it makes me feel like I’m being…unfaithful.”
Ugh. I jammed my hands into my pockets, sourly kicking at a small pile of snow by my shoe. Chunks of gray ice flew everywhere.
I don’t wanna be.
He wasn’t finding anybody when he was on a shelf
“Well, shit….” Ryan mumbled. He reached up to scratch his head, obviously not expecting that response.
“Gee, thanks,” I said sardonically, and then crushed one of the chunks with the toe of my shoe. Fuckin’ hopeless.
He looked at me, a flicker of pity appearing on his face, but all it once it disappeared as he suddenly brightened up, clapping his hands together once and then speaking with great enthusiasm. “Hey! Don’t worry about it, man. It’ll go away with time—I know it! I mean, it’s the first time you’re even trying, so it’s actually totally understandable, you know? Don’t let it mess you up!”
I shot him a skeptical look, wanting to believe that was true, but unable to decide if I actually could.
“It will go away,” he said again, as if he’d never been more confident about anything in his life. “Just, you know, take it slow or whatever. Nothing wrong with that, right?”
“I have been though,” I muttered sulkily, flattening another ball of ice on the ground.
“Well keep with it! And Gabriel?
He grabbed my shoulder, startling me. “You have to tell her,” he said firmly, “so that she understands. You have to tell her everything.”
I saw him in my dream….
Track 3: If I’d Known
The atmosphere was electric. I could feel every molecule in my body vibrating with anticipation, my fingers itching to soar over the strings of my guitar and my heart ready to passionately sing every last lyric into that microphone. There was nothing like the energy during a concert—the flashing lights, the thrumming bass, and all those people screaming. It was a drug unto itself.
“Will you watch from the sidelines tonight, or out in the crowd?” I asked loudly so as to be heard over the speakers blaring music for those waiting for the concert to start.
Daisy didn’t answer, so I turned around to face her, wrenching my gaze from the awaiting stage.
“Are you okay?” I asked, noting that she looked awfully pale.
“No,” she admitted, and her face paled even more. “ I’m…I’m actually feeling kind of sick. I think I’m going to go home early.”
“Oh.…” I said, my face falling some. Daisy never missed a concert. “Well…let me take you then, at least.”
She looked up at me and then smiled softly, running her fingers through the lock of hair that I always let fall into my eyes…mostly because I knew she liked it. “I’ll be fine,” she assured me. “Besides, don’t you think the band kind of needs their lead singer?” she asked, poking me in the ribs.
I rubbed the place where she’d poked me, frowning slightly. “True…I guess.”
Daisy laughed and I couldn’t help but smile a bit at the sound. “Alright—I’ll be home right after the show though. No manning the merch table or autographs tonight.”
“The ladies will be so disappointed!”
“Ah, but only the feelings of one lady concerns me,” I said, giving one of her pigtails a playful tug. She giggled and I smiled, pulling her close to me. “I love you more than anything,” I said, leaning in for a kiss.
“I love you too,” she murmured, and then suddenly pulled away, looking sick all over again.
I furrowed my brows, frowning slightly. “You sure you don’t want me to walk you back?” I asked.
“Positive,” she affirmed with a quick nod of her head.
I opened my mouth to respond, but then looked up as I heard someone shout that there was five minutes left before show time. “Be safe,” I said quickly.
Daisy smiled. “I always am.”
Track 4: Ignorance is Bliss
♫ Our perceived perception of perfection,
Altered when challenged with reality.
Dreaming is deception!
Living, vitality ♫
“Ah! That was incredible! I’m literally shaking!” Sammy squealed. “I was gonna strangle you when you went unplugged at the end there, but holy shit Gabriel, you really pulled it off! And did you guys hear how awesome my solo came out!?” She tightened her grip on her drum sticks and vigorously replayed it in the air, nearly knocking out our keyboardist in the process.
Dante dodged out of her way at the last minute, having to do a sort of awkward pirouette to do so.
Ryan cracked up instantly. “It’s like Swan Lake …only the performers are drunk!”
“He even has the fuckin’ tights,” I added, and then choked as Dante pulled me into a headlock. I retaliated by bringing my left elbow back and straight into his gut, laughing when he shouted and leapt backward. “Look, an inebriated jeté!” I announced as everyone burst into more shouts of laughter.
“What the fuck is a jaytay?” Dante asked with a scowl.
“Jeté!” Sammy corrected, reaching out to hit him upside the head. “Like this!” she said, and then demonstrated by lifting her arms above her head and dramatically leaping forward.
“Whatever,” Dante scowled, rubbing his head. “Gabriel loses his man card for knowing that.”
“He has an excuse. The ol’ missus loves ballet and makes him watch it with her,” Ryan teased with a laugh.
“I still can’t believe you’re fuckin’ married,” Dante muttered, while Sammy suddenly cooed out, “Aww, that’s so cute!”
I raised an eyebrow at her as Ryan and Dante promptly began snickering. “You just lost me my man card again….”
“So,” Ryan choked out through his laughter, “cute!” I jabbed him in the side and he fell into Dante, who responded by pulling Ryan into another of his headlocks. I held my leg out, bursting into laughter when both of them tripped right onto the floor with panicked shouts.
“UGH! Boys are so cognitively deficient!!!!” Sammy wailed, hopping out of the way.
“I don’t even know what that means!” Dante called out from the ground, and I completely lost it, doubling over in hysterical shouts of laughter that brought tears to my eyes.
“Oh, my god! I hate you all!” Sammy cried, and then screamed when Dante suddenly jumped off the ground, pulled her into his arms, and began tickling her. “AHHHHHH! I REALLY DO HATE YOU GUYS. WHERE IS DAISY ANYWAY!? SAVE ME!”
“Sorry, she went home early,” I informed her with a laugh, but it gradually died out as I remembered how pale Daisy had looked.
None of them heard me anyway though because Sammy had just managed to get away and now both Ryan and Dante were chasing her across the bar. I used the moment to check my phone, but there weren’t any calls, or messages from her. That was kind of strange…she must have fallen asleep.
Realizing then that I’d said I’d be home, I slipped my phone into my pocket and zipped up my sweater. Winter was fast approaching and already the usually lively town of Bridgeport was shrinking away from the impending freeze.
“Hey! Where ya goin’?” Ryan called to me just as I was leaving.
“Back to the apartment.”
Ryan frowned. “Dude, there’s a lot of fans waiting….”
Track 5: To See is to Suffer
I’m a mountain that has been moved
I’m a fugitive that has no legs to run
I’m a preacher with no pulpit
Well if we take all these things and we bury them fast
“Is he eating?”
“Has he slept?”
“Has he spoken to you?”
“Has he spoken at all?”
“He hasn’t even cried yet.”
“Do you think he’ll be okay?”
“I don’t know. I can’t get through to him.”
“None of us can.”
“What should we do?”
“What can we do?”
“There must be something….”
“There may not be…..”
“Bridgeport Police are currently investigating the murder of a 20 year—”
“Shut that off! He doesn’t need to hear th—”
“Fuckin’ told you! Damn!”
“Please, Gabriel….just a few bites.”
“Thought you might want it near…just in case.”
“Hey, come on. Talk to me, Gabriel. It’s been months, please. You’re really freaking me out here.”
“Okay, man, whatever. Just…just try to sleep tonight, alright?”
He turned to go.
“I can’t,” I hastened to answer before he left. My voice was so hoarse from disuse that I wasn’t even sure he’d heard me, but all at once Ryan halted in place, his shoes scuffling against the worn carpet as he sharply turned around.
“What was that?” he quickly asked, startled to hear me speak.
I let out a steadying breath and then slowly lifted my head, the small movement seeming to take every ounce of energy in me to perform. “I can’t sleep,” I repeated, closing my eyes. “I…I see her die every time I do. I’ve dreamt it so many ways…there’s always so much blood….”
“Oh, Jesus,” Ryan said in a hushed voice, sounding pained. “I don’t even k…Jesus.” He was quiet for a moment, shoes scuffling against the carpet again, but this time, anxiously. I wrung my hands.
“This wasn’t your fault, man,” he finally said. “There was…there was nothing you could do.”
I nodded absently. “I know,” I said, my throat tight and my heart beating hard, “but that’s just it—don’t you see?” I whispered. “The worst part of the nightmare isn’t watching her die—it’s knowing that no matter what, there is nothing I can do to stop it.”
Track 6: Your Sick Fucking Promise
It’d be all right, it’s all right, it’d be easier that way
There are many things about you that are becoming harder to recall, no matter how hard I try to focus. The exact shade of blue of your eyes; the notes that comprised your musical laugh; the sound of your whisper in the middle of the night; the feeling of your lips as you pressed them against mine.
There is one memory however, that stands out like a lightning bolt, seared permanently into every crevice of my beaten, broken brain…sneaking up on me at every given opportunity.
Your sick fucking promise.
I fell to my knees before Daisy’s grave.
It was like a great middle finger to every hope and dream that we’d ever had. I gritted my teeth. My body was trembling.
Three months now. Three months of watching my wife die in my nightmares, three months of shuffling through all those painful days, three months of hearing that sick, fucking promise whispered in my ear—an omnipresent reminder of my continual failure.
“On that night,” I murmured out loud, “in that memory that’s carved into my brain, you said that Romeo and Juliet killed themselves just because the other was gone.”
“You were wrong.”
I dug my fingers into the ground. Blades of grass tore away from their roots, tiny flowers uprooted.
“Romeo and Juliet killed themselves because a life without the other…a life like this isn’t—isn’t— ” I stopped, my voice breaking. I hadn’t been able to cry so far, trapped within this agony with no way of releasing it, but now I felt my eyes beginning to sting. I took in a steadying breath.
“Because a life like this, Daisy, isn’t fucking worth living!” I managed with an anguished shout. Hot tears escaped from my eyes. I was cracked open at every seam. “How could you doom me to this?! How could you make me promise such a…such a fucking impossible thing?!” I yelled, pounding my fists against the ground.
“I HATE YOU FOR THAT!” I yelled so loudly that it hurt. “I HATE YOU SO MUCH!” I shouted again, and then collapsed with the weight of my unending despair.
I can’t keep your promise, Daisy. I’m sorry, but I can’t.
Track 7: Inaudible
Like you knew it was time to start things over again
“You’re what?!” Dante exclaimed, looking horrified.
“I’m quitting,” I repeated, my voice an oddly subdued tone that I could not rid myself of no matter how much I tried.
“But—but you can’t!” he spluttered. “You…you’re the face of the whole damn band! Freezer Bunny is nothing without you—you can’t!”
“I can, and it’s done.”
It’d be all right, it’s all right….
Sammy’s brows furrowed, a look of deepest worry painting her face. “Gabriel,” she began in a voice one would use to soothe a child, “you don’t have to do this. We can give you more time, you know.”
“Right,” Ryan agreed. “We can give you all the time you need, but don’t give it all up. You’ve got a serious gift, man. She wouldn’t have wanted you to give it up…we don’t want you to give it up.”
I let out a breath of air, my heart sinking in my chest. “You don’t understand,” I said quietly, shaking my head. “It’s like—it’s like it’s all gone. I can’t hear the music. I can’t see the notes.…I just don’t feel it anymore.”
Ryan and Sammy’s faces crumbled into identical looks of dismay, while Dante’s contorted in anger. “This is stupid!” he snapped. “It’s been over a YEAR since she died and you’re still—”
“Daisy did not die!” I interjected angrily, white-hot rage burning through my veins. “Dying makes it sound peaceful and there is NOTHING fucking peaceful about being raped, murdered, and DUMPED in a fucking ALLEYWAY!” I shouted.
All three of my friends backed up, casting me simultaneous looks of deepest pity that instantly made me sick to my stomach. Sammy began to cry.
I didn’t want their fucking pity, nor did I want their tears.
“You…you’re right,” Dante said quickly. “I’m sorry, it’s just—”
It’d be easier that way
“My decision’s made,” I stated firmly. “I’m fucking done with this shit and I’m fucking done with Bridgeport too, so you guys can either fucking accept that, or go fuck yourselves because I can’t be here any longer. I just, fucking, can’t!”
Well if we take all these things and we bury them fast
“I’m going with you,” Ryan stated one week later as I packed my car. I frowned deeply, slamming my trunk shut.
“No, you’re not,” I calmly informed him.
“Yes,” he said, wrenching my trunk open again and then throwing his own suitcase into it, “I am.” He shut it firmly.
I clenched my jaw. “You know I can easily just dump your shit back out on the curb and leave without you, right?”
And we’ll pray that they turn to seeds, to roots, and then grass
“Yup, and then I’d follow you in another car, dumbass. You don’t get it, do you? We’ve grown up together. Your grandparents are like the grandparents I never had and my parents are like the parents you never had. You’re like a brother to me, Gabriel, and I’ll be damned if I ever let you leave like this…especially alone.”
I stared at Ryan for a long moment and then sighed in irritation, knowing that the damn guy would never stand down. “If we’re brothers then you’re definitely the younger one because you’re a real pain in my ass, you know that!?” I snapped.
“I love you too, bro,” he said with a maddening smile, and then hopped right into my car.
“Stupid prick,” I muttered as I walked around the car and got into the driver’s seat. I drove off angrily, occasionally casting the idiot beside me dark glances, especially when he started blasting Bob Marley tunes from my radio and singing along.
As the hours melted away though and Ryan listened to “Three Little Birds” for the fifth fucking time, I eventually felt my anger dissipate.
“I’ll stop, I’ll stop!” he cried, hastily turning off the stereo. “Just don’t throw me out of the car!”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m not going to throw you out of a moving vehicle, idiot.”
“Oh,” he said, not looking entirely convinced. “Then what?”
“Thanks,” I mumbled, and then glanced over at him briefly. “You know…for being a stubborn little fuckface.”
Ryan burst out laughing and I simply shook my head, wondering if I’d ever feel that carefree again.
* * * * * * * *
Or if the sky opened up and started pouring rain
“Gabriel…? Are you okay?”
“You’re still a stubborn little fuckface, aren’t you?” I asked absently.
I shook my head, clearing it of its unnatural fog. “Nothing,” I sighed. My gaze turned toward the sky again, as it was always apt to do. The sun was dipping beyond the horizon, its last light suffusing the gray with slashes of orange and yellow.
Like you knew he was tryin’ to start things over again
“You should get ready,” Ryan pointed out. He rubbed his hands together and blew on them in a futile attempt to warm them. The temperature was dropping; falling with the sun.
I said nothing at first, still staring. An uncomfortable tightness was beginning to descend upon my chest. “It’s too much, isn’t it?” I asked quietly. “Too much baggage. Joanne deserves better than that. Better than me.”
“I thought you hated pity, Gabriel,” he remarked with a smirk.
“I mean it,” I continued in a low voice. “It’s…it’s not like I’m blind, you know. I see how she looks at me and it…it just drives me so nuts because I’m not the person she sees me as…nor will I ever be.”
Ryan cast me a sidelong glance, looking sadder than I’d ever seen him. I sighed, burying my hands further into my pockets and hunching my shoulders. It really was getting frigid now.
“Do you think you’re deserving of happiness?”
I hesitated, furrowing my brows. What kind of fucking question was that?
“Because the way you’re talking it sounds like you don’t think you are. Isn’t that a little fucked up? Do you hate yourself that fucking much?”
“No,” I began to say impatiently, but Ryan cut in again, effectively silencing me.
It’d be all right!
“Then let her decide, Gabriel. Let her decide if it’s too much baggage; let her decide if she thinks she wants ‘better’; and definitely let her decide what kind of person you are because maybe, just maybe, she sees you more clearly than you see yourself.”
“IT’S WHAT SHE WOULD HAVE WANTED!” Ryan shouted with sudden and unexpected impatience. “It’s what DAISY would have wanted! She would be so FUCKING angry with you right now, and you know it! She never would have wanted to see you like this! Never! Not fucking playing music, self-pitying, and so…so fucking miserable!” he said, jabbing me in the chest.
“For once, TAKE this opportunity. For once, seriously TRY to be happy, and if it all blows up in your face and she can’t handle it or doesn’t even like you or you can’t handle it then FINE, but at least you would have fucking tried! That’s what she would have wanted,” he finished with a growl.
It’s all right….
I pressed my lips together, staring down at my damp and frozen tennis shoes. I had nothing to say. I already knew all of this. It was always the same argument, not only made by Ryan countless times, but by own mind as well. Just like that fucking promise though, it was all very easy to say, and yet seemingly impossible to enact—not that I wasn’t fucking trying.
Ryan seemed to realize this though because he sighed heavily, shaking his head a bit before speaking once more.
Fine,” he said in mild exasperation. “Just ask yourself this as you’re getting ready for whatever the fuck you want this to be, okay? What hurts more—the pain of being with Joanne…or the pain of being without her?”
It’d be easier that way.
* * * * * * * *
You’ve done enough to be saved
Atlantis was a tourist trap. Nestled on the coast, it was a prime location for beach-goers to dine, and if you weren’t careful, you might end up in a seat that’d been previously occupied by someone wearing nothing but their wet swimsuit and an oversized t-shirt. This often led to awkward conversations about why one’s ass was damp.
In winter the story was different. During this time Atlantis was mostly occupied by locals—families, friends, and couples all dressed up decently to spent time with one another. It was just like any other restaurant, really, except for the explosion of oceanic décor that smacked you in the face as soon as you walked in.
I stared at what looked to be a massive carp bolted to the wall, horrified by the fact that it was currently wearing a bedazzled Santa hat. The holidays were fast approaching and evidently even taxidermied fish needed to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus.
I tore my gaze away from the gaudy adornment, reaching into my pocket to grab my phone. According to the blue numbers that gleamed on its face, it was 7:05 PM.
But you’re gonna miss out
That meant she was late. I frowned. What if she’d decided not to show up? What if she’d changed her mind, figuring that continuing to seclude herself was better than the prospect of having a friend?
I sighed, leaning my head back against the wall and looking up at the ceiling. I half-expected to see a school of fish wearing elf ears, but the ceiling was mercifully devoid of questionable decorations.
As long as I don’t see a nativity scene featuring various species of mackerel, I’ll be fine, I thought to myself.
Now you don’t know your rights from your wrongs
Is she okay?
I pushed off the wall with my shoe, too restless to stand still any longer, and began to walk.
They were playing a generic, Caribbean instrumental over the speakers. There was a child throwing a crab leg at her father because she couldn’t open it. There was a couple laughing in the corner. There actually was a statue of a school of fish and every one of them was wearing a tiny pair of sparkly elf ears. Blessedly, there was no piscean nativity.
Fuck. What if something happened to her?
I halted in my tracks, closing my eyes for a moment and determinedly pushing the thought from my mind.
I was being stupid. There was probably traffic, or perhaps she really had stood me up. Nothing bad had happened to her. Life wouldn’t be so cruel as to do that to me again anyway.
What the fuck was I thinking? Of course it would! It’d already done it so many times now, so why the fuck wouldn’t it do it again!? My parents in that fucking car crash that prevented me from ever knowing them, Daisy, my grandfather….
I leaned against the wall heavily, my chest beginning to feel tight.
Please, no. Please don’t do this. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry! I was being stupid….I’ll let her decide! Just don’t do this, please! The pain of being without her hurts more, okay?! The pain of being without her hurts so much more. Please, not again…please!
It’s the greatest of love
God, I’d known that being without her hurt more since the moment I realized that I couldn’t stand watching Joanne turn into a shadow of her formerly bright existence; known that the moment I realized that even the idea of Joanne disappearing from my life hurt me more than I could even explain.
It was why I reached out to her in the first place; why I tried to get through to her; why I wanted to help her; why I invited her here. No matter how much I tried to avoid her, no matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise, I just couldn’t deny it any longer—I wanted Joanne in my life. No matter the capacity, I just wanted her there because even with the frustrating guilt, the pain of being without her was so much worse.
I slipped my phone back into my pocket with a shaking hand.
There was a couple taking a “selfie” with the crucified Santa carp. An elderly woman was complaining to a waitress that her food was undercooked. Two small children pressed their faces to the window, staring in awe at the flurry of snowflakes falling beyond the glass.
I retrieved my coat from the check-in up front, ignoring the questioning, concerned stares of the staff.
I walked outside, shoulders hunched. Snow floated steadily downward, quiet in its descent. Hurried footsteps raced through the cold, eager to get inside. There was a—
There was a—
My heart clenched painfully.
There was a young woman wrapped warmly in a blue coat, tiny white snowflakes sprinkled in her dark, wind-tousled hair. She raced forward, lace-up boots crunching quickly through the snow.
“Wait!” she cried out, panting to catch up to me. I stopped in my tracks, staring. “Please, wait!” she said again as she slid to a halt before me and showered snowflakes all over my shoes. “I’m so sorry I’m late! My stupid interview with Sixteen ran way longer than it should have so I raced home to get ready and it should have been okay, but then all this snow started and it trapped my car in the driveway and I couldn’t find a shovel anywhere so I found a cup instead but that was no good of course so I—”
Joanne let out a soft gasp of surprise.
I don’t think I even realized why until I noticed that my face was buried in her snowflake-covered hair, her body pressed flush against mine. I let out a soft breath, relief flooding my limbs as I held her because she was here and she was safe. I felt like a member of the damned that’d just been mercifully granted salvation.
“What happened?” she asked quietly, sounding afraid, but I didn’t dare trust myself to answer. My throat felt too tight—my chest aching. I took in a deep breath, trying to relax. Her hair smelled like vanilla. I let my hand run through it slowly; trying to reassure myself that yes she was here and yes she was okay. Oh…it was softer than I’d imagined. She was softer than I’d imagined. Soft, and warm, and god my chest was aching.
“You’re shaking,” Joanne whispered, and now her voice was laden with concern. She tiptoed a little, nestling her head comfortingly into my neck and sliding her hands down my chest to wrap her arms around my waist. I let out a sharp breath, struggling now to suppress the first tendrils of guilt that’d risen within me.
Or don’t mention all the hurt that you’ve seen
“It’s cold,” I mumbled in a weak explanation, and then slowly pulled away from her. My heart was beating hard.
She loosened her grip to let me go, her arms falling by her sides and her brows furrowed in confusion as she looked up at me. Her eyes were wet with tears—why, I had no idea. She always seemed to be crying around me and god, the more I saw it, the more it hurt to see it.
“What’s wrong?” we asked each other at the same time, and then, miraculously, softly laughed. I reached up hesitantly to wipe a tear off her cheek, watching as Joanne closed her eyes. I wondered what she was thinking—wondered what demons seemed to constantly haunt her. I took my hand back and she opened her eyes, green eyes gleaming as they stared into mine. I wished more than ever that I could read her mind.
I took a step back. “You first.”
“No, you,” she insisted. “You were the one to fall into my arms this time.” The look of concern had returned to her face. I flushed instantly, vaguely debating the prospect of marching right back into that restaurant and climbing into their fish tank. I was fairly certain I’d seen some piranhas in there.
“I—” I began, and then sighed hopelessly, opting for the truth. “I thought something had happened to you,” I mumbled.
Joanne stared at me, her mouth slightly open and her eyebrows furrowed. “I’m sorry,” she said in a pained whisper. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”
Or don’t say he’s in love
I winced, hating to hear her sound like that. “It’s fine,” I responded quickly. “I’m fine. I’m just…glad that you’re safe,” I admitted. “Glad that you’re here.”
She began to bite her thumb, still looking uncertain. I opened my mouth to say something else, but her gaze met mine again, causing me to hesitate. “You really do care about me, don’t you?” she asked faintly. There was a touch of incredulity to her words.
I sighed, sticking my hands into my pockets and kicking at some snow by my shoes. “Yes,” I affirmed with some exasperation. “Only…I hope that the next time you think this, it’ll finally be without all this disbelief.”
Joanne gave me a strange look, as if she were somehow seeing me for the first time. It made me feel anxious. “It’s your turn to answer,” I hastened to remind her. “Why were you crying?”
She blinked at me. “I…” she started, and then averted her eyes. “I was crying because…because I care about you too and…and so it hurt me to…to see you like that,” she explained haltingly. A deep, pink color crept onto her cheeks.
“Oh,” I said softly. That…I had not expected. My heart beat faster, another wave of guilt wracking my being, only this time I couldn’t tell if it was because I was happy to hear that she cared about me too, or if it was because I felt like an asshole for hurting her. It was probably a little of both.
Promise me that if anything ever happened to me, you would find happiness again.
The snow continued to fall and silence drifted upon us, but somehow it didn’t feel awkward as the two of us were clearly lost in our own thoughts. A child ran by, screaming as his older sister chased him across the lot because he’d just throw snow at her. She caught him quickly, subjecting him to a series of tickles and a snowball of her own.
Joanne watched them too, a soft look in her eyes. I couldn’t explain why, but it made me want to kiss her. I let out a slow breath, staring down at our buried shoes. I frowned.
“How the hell did we end up in the snow again anyway?” I muttered.
An outburst of laughter sounded, like the sudden scattering of dulcet notes. I looked up in surprise, watching as Joanne continued to giggle. “Sorry,” she mumbled then, looking a bit sheepish. “A-Apparently hanging out with me carries the constant risk of hypothermia.”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“I guess it’s a good thing I’m willing to take that risk then,” I informed her with a smile, and then watched as another blush rose to her cheeks, her emerald eyes sparkling like the crystalline snow.
It’s the greatest of love