Worry Rock


Dad's not here this year. This is going to be the first birthday I've spent without him. But I guess it's better this way since I've decided to shun him and everything.
So this year, there is only one representative of the Spencer clan, since besides him my dad was the only person in my real family who actually liked me. I guess it's down to Connor now, my 22-year old brother comes up to me, giving me a hug.
"Connor! I can't believe it! You're here!"
"Of course I'm here, Charlie! I wouldn't miss your birthday!"
"You did last year."
"Lyra was in the hospital!" Lyra's his girlfriend. And yeah, she was in the hospital. I guess he has a valid excuse.
"Fine," I say with a smile.
The hugs are passed around to everyone, and mingling is apparent. Everybody is here! Including Jen, who Jake has yet to ask out. I really should remember to nag him more about that. To shorten the list of party guests, I'll just say the members of Green Day, including the back-up band, their wives and girlfriends, their kids, plus the other members of Worry Rock, some of Joey's friends, Jazz, and - oh, get this - Frank Iero and Gerard and Mikey Way! Wow. I mean, we've met before, of course, but we're not that close - or so I've thought. I guess seventeen is a big year or something.
"Hey, Gerard!" I say, hugging him.
"Hey, Charlie, happy seventeenth!"
"Thanks! I didn't know you'd be coming."
"Of course. It's a surprise party."
"The party's not a surprise. I get one every year. I just didn't know you'd be here. I mean, don't you live in like, New Jersey?"
"Um, yes. But I decided to come down. We're not doing a lot at the time, so Frank and Mikey came too."
"Oh, okay. Cool."
I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around to see Stella standing there and holding hands with - oh, my god, Matt? "Hi," I say with a questioning smile.
"Hey," they both say. "Happy birthday!"
"Thanks. Um, are you two, like, together?" I say, pointing to each of them back and forth. Stella blushes, and Matt just smiles, nodding. "Ooh, ya see? You see? And who do you have to thank for getting you a 'cute' new boyfriend? Hm? Come on, let me hear it."
"Thank you, Charlie!" she says with a hug.
So, anyways, I continue with the hugs and talking until this huge cake is brought out from the kitchen. Half of the rectangular cake is black with seventeen green candles and has the word "Jakob" written in green icing, and the other half is green with seventeen black candles and has the word "Carlie" written in black icing. Ooh, we're so coordinated.
So, after a very beautiful chorus of happy birthday - probably the prettiest sounding birthday song ever sung, considering who we have singing it - we dig into our vanilla cake with jelly inside, along with ice cream (I ate it with strawberry). Now, you know what time it is.
"PRESENTS!" yells Jakob, and I laugh. We're both sitting on the sofa in the living room now, and we've had a few drinks. Yes, Billie and Adie finally let us drink on our birthday! While they're still sober, I mean. And since they're drinking too, I don't think they're gonna be making us stop. But it's fun to tease the other kids that they can't have anything because the adults aren't drunk enough yet.
First, I give Jake my present to him, and he rips the paper open to find one of those clothes boxes, which I taped up a lot. Why? Because I knew he'd have trouble opening it. And it's funny. After a few minutes, somebody hands him a knife, which he uses to cut the tape and open the box. Inside he finds the video game he's been wanting and a newspaper clipping showing the shout-out I put in the paper for him. He hugs me (there have been a lot of hugs going around today), and then we're handed presents from Joey. He got both of us a brand new skateboard. It's so cool. I'm not good at skateboarding, but I'm okay at it, and Jake and Joey keep nagging me to get better so we can go to skate parks and stuff like that. I guess I'm just lazy.
I got some really cool old CDs from Mike and Molly, a new pair of shoes from Stella, a Hot Topic gift card from Matt, a giant stuffed puppy dog from Tre, twenty dollars and an apology for the stuffed dog from Ariel, who's obviously still not totally used to Tre's eclectic gift-giving techniques, a drawn picture from Frankito, a t-shirt from Ramona, and we're only part-way through! I'm going to summarize now and say that from everyone else I got a series of new guitar picks and strings, more CDs, more t-shirts, a new stereo, some really cool hand-socks, and some wristbands. Jake got a lot of the same things as me, since we're practically twins and like a lot of the same things anyways.
We're on the last presents now, two tiny boxes from Billie and Adie, which we are now struggling to rip the paper off of. I get mine off first and open the little box to find...a key. And one of those little car beeper thingies. I stare at it for a moment. Jake sees it too and hurriedly finishes unwrapping his to find the same thing as me. We just look at each other, have huge grins spread across our faces, and shoot up, bolting for the garage door. Everyone is laughing as Jake pushes me out of the way to go through first. I mean, we've been begging for cars ever since we got our drivers' licenses last year. I don't take offense but run in after him, and we both stand there looking at a pair of... hearses? Yes, hearses! Yes! 1964 Cadillac Paramount Combination hearses to be exact. How do I know this? Because Jake and I have had our eyes on these since before we could drive! One of them -mine, I know it - is solid black, and the other is black with red, yellow, and orange flames on the sides and hood. That's Jakob's. He loves fire. Mine has a little statue of a wren on the hood, I suppose since Wren is my middle name. Yeah, my dad didn't know the name was actually spelled without the "w" when he named me. Jake's statue is a tiger. I have black lightning strikes on my hubcaps - I love lightning. He has more flames. And his seat covers are (surprise!) black with flames on them. Oooh, how coordinated he is. Mine are black and green diagonally striped. I run up and hop into the drivers' seat, testing it. Perfect fit. We both have surround sound stereo systems installed, along with whatever it is that's needed to keep these old cars running. Oh, my god, this is awesome! I jump out of the car and tightly hug Billie around the waist. Jake's hugging his car, and everyone is standing behind and laughing.
"Ow. Ow, Charlie. Ow. Can't breathe," chokes out Billie.
"Oh. Sorry. Thank you!" I let go and hug Adie.
"Yeah, you're welcome. You can test drive it tomorrow."
"Aw, come on!"
"No. You've had some drinks, and besides, you'd end up just ditching your party anyway."

*The Next Morning*

Ow. My head hurts. Damn drinks. I'm never getting drunk again. Never ever. Okay, so yeah, I probably will. Whatever. I open my eyes and wince at the bright sunlight coming through the window and hurriedly close the curtains before collapsing back on the bed in exhaustion.
I see the door open, and in walks Joey, smiling a little. He hands me a glass of water and two pills which I swallow quickly, saying, "Thanks."
"I knew you'd have a hangover," he says with a knowing smile.
"Yeah, why don't you?"
"I didn't drink that much. Plus, I woke up a couple hours ago and have already taken my pills, had a shower, and my coffee. I'm set."
"Ugh. I'm never drinking again."
"Yes, you are," he says grinning.
"You're right, I am." He continues to smile at me and sits down on the bed next to me. I press my forehead against his shoulder, whimpering a little, and he laughs putting his arm comfortably around me.
"Oh, and before I forget, your dad came over last night."
I'm awake. My head snaps up to look at him. "What?"
"Yeah. You'd already passed out, though. He told me to give you this." Joey pulls out a plain white envelope with my name written on the front in my dad's handwriting. There's a wet spot on it that looks like it could've been a teardrop. I grab the envelope and just stare at it for a moment. He takes his arm from around me and leans back on his hands. "He came in here too. He sat down by you for like, a half an hour. I think he misses you." Now that he says that, I think I remember sort of waking up to feel someone running their fingers through my hair and whispering to me. Something like, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." But I fell right back to sleep. I thought it was a dream.
I glance up at Joey, but then just look back down at the envelope and toss it onto my nightstand. "I'll open it later," I say. He just nods and stands up walking towards the door and then closing it behind him. I get up and walk straight to the bathroom across the hall.


That shower felt really good. I needed that. I have my still-wet hair up in a pony tail now, some fresh clothes on, and am walking towards the kitchen. When I get there, I see Billie Joe and Adie sitting at the table with a cup of coffee each, Joey on the counter grinning at how everyone has a hangover but him, and Jake sitting on a chair with nothing on but a towel around his waist.
"Jakob, how about you grab a pair of shorts or something?" I say, ruffling his wet hair.
He swats my hand away, saying, "Fuck off." Oh yeah, hangover morning. Forgot.
I look at Joey, and he shrugs. I shrug too and grab a bowl to get myself a bowl of Cheerios. My headache has dulled now, so I'm not in such a bad mood. When I'm done eating, Joey says, "So, would you like to go learn to skateboard now so that you don't have to hang out in hangover city?"
"I know how to skateboard!"
"Okay, learn to skateboard better?" he says, emphasizing the word "better."
"Yeah, sure." I go into my room and grab my skateboard, then walk outside where he's waiting with his. We spend the whole day boarding around, and I've gotten a little better. Jake and Billie, surprisingly, decide not to join us. I mean, sure, they have huge headaches, but generally, they'd never pass up the chance to nag me about my poor skateboarding skills. Speaking of which...
"Ah!" I land hard on my right forearm after falling off of the skateboard. And I was doing so well, too!
"Carlie! Are you okay?" says Joey, running up to me.
I sit up, cradling my arm. "I'm fine. Just scraped up a little."
"Let me see it," he says, and I mentally shrug and hold out my arm for him. He's looking at it carefully to make sure I'm okay, and I smile a little at how concerned he looks. I mean, it's just a brush-burn. "What?" he says, looking up at me.
"It's fine, Joey. Really."
"Okay, fine then. Let's at least go clean it off then."
"Fine." Joey holds a hand out to help me up, but I wave him off saying, "I got it, I got it. Don't worry, Joey, the scrape hasn't spread from my arm to my legs quite yet. It'll take at least a few minutes for that to happen." He laughs, and I stand by myself and grab my board before heading in with him following after.
Jake looks up from the TV and says, "Fell again, Charlie?"
"Shut up, Jakob."
"Whoa, look at all that blood!"
"It's not bleeding that much. I'm fine." Okay, so my arm hurts a lot, but duh. That's obvious. I just don't like people fussing over me. Joey puts his arm around my shoulders and leads me into the bathroom where he grabs a rag and wets it, dabbing my arm gently. "Ow," I say, wincing.
"It's fine, huh?"
"Just because it hurts when you touch it doesn't mean that I'm gonna die or something," I say in exasperation. "Please. It's a brush-burn, for crying out loud!"
"It bleeds."
"Fine." I look up at the mirror and see Billie standing in the doorway with a strange look on his face and his arms crossed. "What?"
"Nothing," he says, shaking his head and walking off.
"Um, okay." Joey laughs.
"Okay, it's clean. Hold on." He's gonna make me put a bandage on it, I know it. A couple minutes later, he comes back holding some Neosporin, gauze, and one of those Ace bandages.
"Oh, come on, Joey."
"Just hold still." He dabs my arm dry and put some Neosporin on the gauze before pressing it to my arm and wrapping the bandage around it. "There. Now, I'll leave you alone."
"That was really unnecessary."
"I don't care. You'd blame me if you got an infection and pus started coming out of it anyways."
"Ew. Actually, I hadn't thought of that, but I'll be sure to remember for future reference. It's all your fault!"
"Oh, shut up." We go and sit down next to Jake watching TV.
"Thought you said it's fine," he comments, looking at my bandaged arm.
"It is, but your brother insisted on taking care of me." I emphasize the "your brother" part as if I'm saying something offensive.
"You say that as if it's my fault he's my brother! He came first, remember? I had no way to prevent him from coming into existence."
"Um, I'm right here, guys," says Joey.
"Yes, we know," I say. "Calm down, we're just joking. You know we love ya, Joe." With that, I give him a little hug, which makes him smile.

---Joey's POV---

So we sit here watching TV pretty much in silence for a few hours before I begin to wonder why it's so quiet. I mean, usually they make some kind of comment. The TV isn't that bad. Looking over, I see Jake slumped up against the arm of the sofa, and Carlie leaning against him. Both are asleep. Okay, that's kind of cute. I can't help but smile and watch them for a minute before standing up. I get a blanket and lay it over them before heading towards my bedroom for a good night's sleep.