He Never Told Me What He Did For A Living
“Yuck,” I said, making a face as I accidentally inhaled a powder. “Can I open my eyes yet?”
The answer, as it had been the last ten times I’d asked, was a firm and now, somewhat irritated, “No.”
I smiled slightly, then winced as my hair was pulled. “Ouch! What was that for?”
Gerard huffed. “Stop smiling! Pirates don’t smile…what are you smiling for, anyway?”
I opened my eyes to find him standing in front of me, with his hands perched on his hips, somewhat resembling a gay make-up artist.
“No reason,” I replied, trying hard not to laugh at his frustrated expression. There was a small crease between his eyebrows.
He narrowed his eyes. “Josie…” he said in a warning tone.
I burst into laughter when he cocked a hip to the side and crossed his arms, his powder brush still in hand. “Are you gonna stamp your foot at me next?” I asked between fits of laughter.
Gerard’s lips twitched, then he broke into a grin. “Alright, alright! Look at you…you’re ruining my work!”
I laughed harder, and tears began streaming down my face. Quickly, Gerard spun me around in the chair I was sitting in. I screeched when I saw the person in the mirror looking back at me. “Yikes!” I said soberly.
I looked frightful- my face was pale and tinted green and it appeared that I was decomposing. My hair had been teased until it stood nearly on end around the ragged kerchief covering it. I blanched; I’d never get all that hairspray out of my hair!
Behind me, Gerard looked pleased with himself. “I’ll take that as a compliment,” he said.
“Damn right!” I said. “It’s incredible- I really look like a zombie!” My gigantic smile looked out of place on my zombie face, but there was nothing to be done about it.
“You’re welcome,” Gerard said with a laugh. “Now, I’m going home to put on my costume. I’ll meet you and Angel at the gym at 6:30.”
“What are you gonna be, a princess?” I asked sarcastically.
“No way,” he said as he walked out of my room. “And you’re crazy if you think I’m gonna tell you!”
I laughed. “Thanks, Gerard,” I called after him.
When I heard his car crank up, I glanced at the clock. I still had a half-hour before Angel would be here to pick me up. Picking up my pirate costume, I stared at my reflection again. Gerard had really done an amazing job. After learning that I was going as a pirate for Halloween, he’d insisted I allow him to help me be more than just a pirate. He’d turned the simple red, white and black pirate costume I’d bought into a faded, dirt-and-blood-stained, tattered zombie pirate costume. Even my slouchy black boots looked as if they had been buried and begun to decay, then dug up especially for this party. Trusting Gerard with my costume had proved to be a good idea. The doorbell rang, and I peeked out of the window in my bedroom. Angel’s purple sports car was parked outside, and my guess was that she was simply too excited to wait any longer.
Quickly, I donned my costume and strapped the scabbard around my waist. The sword was plastic, of course, and also happened to be in a state of decay. I was debating on whether or not to wear the black leather eye patch when Angel burst into my room.
It was all I could do not to laugh at her costume. The Wednesday Adamms costume hardly fit her excitable personality. She’d donned a wig over her normally blonde hair; two long, black, braided ponytails hung over each shoulder. Her costume was entirely black and white and nearly identical to Christina Ricci’s outfit in the movie. Black and white striped stockings covered her legs, and she wore black mary-jane’s on her feet. Her naturally pale complexion went well with her costume, and she’d rimmed only her eyes with black makeup.
“I’m so excited!” Angel shouted.
I snickered. “Why, you sure look like Wednesday Adamms but you don’t act like her…” I teased.
“Oh, Josie, I know! It’s so hard!” she moaned, and I laughed harder. “Are you missing a tooth?”
I snorted. “No! Gerard blacked a few of my teeth out, so I’d look more like a pirate.”
Angel took a long look at my costume. “This isn’t the same costume you picked out in the store, is it? Did you change your mind?”
“It’s the same one,” I told her. “Gerard insisted on helping me with my costume and my makeup too. This is what he came up with.”
She hummed in approval. “It’s definitely scary-looking,” she said. “You guys sure spend a lot of time together.”
I rolled my eyes. “We’re just friends.”
She opened her mouth to say something, but shut it as my phone beeped, signaling that I’d received a new text message. “Is that a cell phone?”
I flipped it open. “Yeah, Gerard-“
Angel held up her hand. “Don’t tell me, he gave you a cell phone?”
I glanced at her before reading the message. “Yeah, he gave Gran one too,” I said, then turned my attention back to the phone.
Leaving for gym now. See you there. –G
“He’s on his way to the gym already. Guess we’d better get a move on,” I said as I slipped my feet into my boots and tucked the eye patch into one of them. I grabbed my phone and followed Angel to her car, giving Gran a quick kiss goodbye on the way out.
The ride to the gym was silent; not awkward, but not exactly comfortable, either. Something seemed to have Angel on edge.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she answered quickly.
I raised an eyebrow at her, noting that she didn’t look at me. “Is this about Gerard?”
“What? No! I mean, I knew you two were friends…”
“But…” I prompted. I knew there was a ‘but’ in there somewhere; I could hear it.
“But you guys just seem…weirdly comfortable around each other. And there’s something in his eyes when he looks at you.”
I frowned. “What do you mean?”
Angel shook her head. “I can’t explain it. Just be careful with him, Josie. I have a feeling he could hurt you.”
As I considered her words, I knew nothing I would say would set her mind at ease on this subject. So I decided to be honest.
I took a deep breath, and said, “To be honest, Angel, I don’t know what’s going on with us. We’re friends, but there’s something else between us…and it’s going to hurt us both in the end.”
Angel was quiet for a moment. “Then why don’t you end this now, before that happens?”
I didn’t say anything- I couldn’t. Ending my friendship with Gerard was something I hadn’t even considered, not even after he’d kissed me in that tiny, dark hallway at the club in Kearny; just remembering that kiss made me blush.
I didn’t notice Angel’s long glance at me as she pulled into the parking lot at the gym. After putting the car in park and cutting the engine, she shook her head at me. “You’re blushing. You two already did something.”
“What? No!” I said quickly.
Angel snorted. “You really expect me to believe that?”
I sank down into the seat of her car. “No,” I mumbled.
“Josie, how could you be so stupid?”
I looked at Angel. “It just happened, okay? I don’t need a lecture; I know how stupid I’ve been.” Frustrated, I got out of the car and shut the door. Did best friends call each other out on their stupidity?
She followed suit and caught up with me quickly, matching her pace with mine. “I’m not trying to be mean, I just wondered why you hadn’t ended your friendship, and now I know why.”
I glared at her. “You don’t really know a thing. By the way, if it wasn’t for me being friends with Gerard, you’d be without a band to play for your party tonight,” I hissed, then walked faster, leaving her behind.
Angrily, I swung open to door to the high school gym and let it slam behind me. The guys had already set up the ‘stage’ they’d be using to play on, minus the barricades they were probably used to. None of the guests would know that the band playing was the real My Chemical Romance- they all assumed it was some crappy cover band Angel had found cheaply.
“Josie!” Gerard called from behind me. “Wait up!”
I slowed, and he caught up with me, wheezing slightly. He put a hand on my shoulder for support, the black cape of his Batman costume falling to one side. “Damn, I’m outta shape. Gotta quit smoking,” he said with a small laugh.
I smiled softly; I’d heard that before.
Turning me around by the shoulder, he looked at me curiously. “What’s wrong, Josie?”
“Nothing. What do you care, anyway?” I said sourly.
Gerard let go of my shoulder, looking taken aback. “You know why I care.”
I rolled my eyes. “Not really.”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “I care because you’re my friend, Josie.”
Snorting, I said, “Yeah, like the line between friends and lovers isn’t blurry enough between us.”
Blinking, Gerard took a step back. “I didn’t do that on purpose,” he hissed.
I opened my mouth to reply, but closed it as I noticed Frank approaching, wearing a creepy Freddy Kruger costume. “Hey, Josie. How’s it going?” he asked, giving me a one-armed hug.
I gave him a cheesy smile. “Fantastic,” I said.
“Hey, Josie!” Mikey and Ray chorused, while Bob simply waved. While Mikey and Bob had gone the comic book route as Robin and Thor, Ray stood out like a sore thumb, for he had dressed…as himself.
I laughed, and waved back to them. “Great costumes, guys!” I said. “Ray, what are you supposed to be?” I asked teasingly.
He grinned. “Ha-ha, very funny, Josie.”
The door to the gym clanged shut, and I looked up to see that Angel had finally made it to the door. She had a bland, emotionless look on her face, looking more like Wednesday Addams than ever before. She glanced at me and Gerard quickly, then looked away, walking towards the stage instead of approaching me.
Gerard looked at me questioningly. “What’s going on with you two? Usually, you’re inseparable,” he said.
“She said the same thing about the two of us,” I snapped.
Taking my arm, Gerard pulled me even further away from everyone. “And what exactly is her problem with that? We’re friends, everyone knows that,” he said quietly.
I rolled my eyes at him and crossed my arms over my chest. “Oh, give it up already. She knows about the kiss.”
“What? You told her? Josie, how could you? Why would you do that? It was a mistake, you know that!” he hissed at me. I could hear the panic in his voice.
“I didn’t tell her- she guessed. And if it was such a mistake, why are you still here? Why are you still doing things for me- buying me a phone, helping me with my costume…what exactly are your intentions toward me, Gerard?”
I watched as his mouth opened and closed a fish out of water. He shook his head, and took a step back away from me. He couldn’t answer; and that meant either he was afraid of hurting me with his answer or the truth was that he felt the same.
“Time for sound check,” Frank yelled across the gym, his voice echoing off the walls. “And put your mask on, guests will be here soon!”
Gerard gave me a final glance over his shoulder as he removed the black Batman mask tucked into the belt of his costume, then pulled it over his head. I stood there with my back against the wall, disgusted with myself. It was bad enough that I’d become friends with a nearly thirty year old man, worse still that I’d developed some kind of sick crush on him. A small group of teenagers in costumes walked through the door, the scrawny one getting his Dracula cape caught in the door as it closed. I heard a small rip and a soft curse as he tugged on it. Glancing around for Angel, I saw she was busy and felt there was nothing else for me to do but help the kid out.
I rushed over quickly, pushing the door open at the same moment someone else pulled it open. The boy’s cape came free, and the group scurried away. I spun to find myself something else to do, but came to an abrupt halt as a large hand clamped down on my arm. Angrily, I whirled with my fingers curled into a fist, ready to knock the shit out of whatever asshole had dared lay a hand on me.
The hand disappeared, and my fist loosened a little. I stepped back and looked up…and up; the owner of the large hand had a body to match. I felt my mouth drop open as I took in the skin-tight black Batman suit that hugged such a glorious body. My eyes finally came to rest on his, which were a beautiful, clear green. A smirk hung on his lips.
“Are you done checking me out now?” he asked in a voice that rumbled in his chest. I did my best not to sigh.
“I wasn’t checking you out. Just trying to figure out if you’re a person or a tree,” I said quickly, wincing slightly at the bad joke.
To my surprise, he laughed. “That’s classic,” he said, extending his hand. “I’m Brett.”
“Josie,” I said as I took his hand.
“Brett, what the hell are you doing? It’s cold out here,” a female voice complained.
I stepped aside to let him in, and before he could move his mammoth body out of the way, a girl dressed as Poison Ivy pushed past him, her long red hair swinging. I raised an eyebrow at her attitude and half-smiled as Brett walked past me, giving me a quick wink and a shrug, as if to say, what can I do?
I shrugged back and pressed myself against the wall as a large wave of more students in costumes came through the door, leaving me breathless. When I glanced up, the gym was more than half full, and most of the guests had already helped themselves to the punch.
Angel approached the stage, and I could feel my mood sour as her syrupy sweet voice came over the microphone. Gerard and the rest of the band were standing off to the side, waiting for their introduction.
“Welcome, everyone and thanks for coming to my party!” she said excitedly. “Now, please, put your hands together and give a warm welcome to The Black Parade!”
I watched as Gerard and the rest of the guys walked on stage, each picking up their instruments. Gerard wrapped a hand around the microphone stand. “Are you ready? One, two, three four!” he counted, and pointed to Frank and Ray as they began to play the opening chords to Astro Zombies.
Scanning the crowd, I could see at least three other Batman costumes. Gerard’s costume idea hadn’t been so original after all. As I watched him on stage, a sigh escaped my lips; his passion for performing was obvious.
“You really have a thing for him, don’t you?” a voice said from behind me.
I turned my head and found Angel approaching me, a sad look on her face. I turned away and went back to leaning against the wall.
“I can understand why,” she said, continuing. “He’s gorgeous, talented, and caring. I’m guilty of having a fan-girl crush on him, too.”
“It’s not a fan-girl crush, Angel. I didn’t even know who he was at first,” I said stiffly.
“Oh,” she said quietly. “Josie, would you at least look at me? I’m sorry, okay?”
I turned to face her slightly, my hip still pressed against the wall. “What exactly are you sorry for?”
Angel’s expression was pained. “Everything I said before, Josie. I’m sorry. I guess…I think a part of me was jealous when I found out…and I was upset that you didn’t feel you could tell me about this.”
“Jealous?” I snorted. “Don’t be. We’re not even talking at the moment.”
Angel opened her mouth to say something just as the lights were shut off. The band kept playing, although it was pitch black. I could barely see in front of me, but I could see a small beam from a penlight struggling through the crowd, and I assumed it was Angel. I flattened myself against the wall again, hoping to stay out of the way and not be trampled.
A glowing Batman logo floated in front of me, and that was the last thing my eyes could make out in the darkness before I heard a husky male voice beside my ear. “Josie?”
I nodded faintly, trembling as his warm breath fanned across my ear and neck. Softly, he touched his lips to mine, the intensity building as I responded to the kiss. I could feel arms encircling my waist, pulling me closer, and I allowed it.
Bright lights burned through my eyelids, and I pulled away, shielding my eyes against the blinding overhead lights. I looked at the lips that had been previously attached to mine, a question burning on my lips. “Gerard?” I asked quietly.
He licked his lips nervously before glancing around and backing away. Abruptly, he spun on his heel and darted into the crowd.
Shoving people out of my way, I followed him. “Wait! Who are you?”
In the thickest part of the crowd, I lost him. No matter where I looked, I could see no fleeing Batman. On stage, Gerard caught my eye and began singing ‘Jack the Ripper.’