Status: In process.

Three Words You Never Want to Hear

Back to Bad Habbits

I could feel his hands stroking my hair softly as I fought my hardest not to cry.

We were laid down on his bed, side by side, although my back was facing him. I could hear his heavy breathing from behind me, making my heart pound faster with every one, every breath a struggle, a fight against something so strong that would eventually overpower him, stealing his breath away and turning it into silence. His hand shook slightly as he attempted to calm me, his fingers tips caressing my scalp with every gentle movement.

“Frank,” he whispered his words barely audible despite the silence of the room around us.

I shook my head. If I spoke, all my barriers would come down. I’d lose control over my emotions; my tears would leak through the barrier I had placed on them, trying to trap them forever from being seen, from causing further sadness. If Gerard knew just how hurt I had become, I was afraid he’d fall into the same dark hole of sadness, and I’d never get him back.

“I just want you to know that this isn’t the end. Don’t lose hope.”

But how could I not?

No matter how strong Gerard tried to convince me he was, no matter how many times he told me that everything was going to be okay, I knew what cancer was. I knew how it tore families to shreds every day, every second, taking a loved one away from the ones that needed them the most. Sure, he could get temporary treatment, but that’s all it was. Temporary. One day, it’ll come back unexpectedly and he’ll be expected to fight again. The same fight repeated until he one day loses.

“There are people who have been helping me. Professionals. Not just doctors, but people who’ve been going through what I am.”

“You mean cancer patients.”

He seemed just as surprised that I had talked as I was. “Yeah, there’s this one guy, Paul, who I’ve been getting along with real well.” I think he expected me to answer, but when there was just silence he continued. “You’d really like him, he’s into guitar just as much as you, and he has pretty much an identical taste in music. He works at the coffee shop on the corner, you know, the one I took you to before, and he’s really been helping with everything.”

“How long does he- I mean, what’s his diagnosis?”

Gerard sat up so that I could see his face above mine. A grin had actually begun to spread onto his face, but it seemed odd that anyone should be grinning at all. “That’s the thing, he was diagnosed five years ago, and do you know what his doctor told him?” I shook my head, trying to keep my eyes downcast so that he wouldn’t see me crying. “He told him to invite everyone he cared about round to his place, have a party, celebrate, do the things he’d always wanted to do, and say goodbye. He had three days to live.”

I sat up suddenly, staring him in the eyes as if to gain the truth from him. There were parts of me that leapt for joy and hope when I heard this, but an even bigger part that clung on to the negative. In most circumstances, survival was not the case with cancer. When a doctor predicted death, there was death.

“How did he-?”

“That’s just it isn’t it? How did he survive? Do you know what I think?” I shook my head, growing worried with how happy Gerard seemed at a time like this. “I think the only way to get through this is with perseverance. To keep fighting. It’s like when you’re going through a tunnel, a tunnel so long that you can’t see the light at the end. The light’s there, you just have to believe that you’ll reach it, and you will. You just have to believe you’ll make it out at the end of the journey.”

“You want to fight,” I stated, unbelieving of what I was hearing.

“Yes,” he whispered his hands on my face. “I want to fight.”

“You believe you’re gonna make it, you believe you can change the future.”

“Yes. Yes, Frank. I believe I can do it.”

“You’re convinced you can do what Paul did,” it suddenly dawned on me that Gerard wasn’t worried about his illness, not in the slightest. The look of pure determination that I saw in his eyes at that moment was both encouraging and worrying.

“I know what you’re thinking. I’m not insane, Frank,” his eyes bore into mine. “I know what I’m doing. Sure, I’m scared. I’d be insane if I wasn’t. But isn’t everyone scared when they take on a new challenge? When an obstacle is put in your way, you try your hardest to overcome it, you know?”

I shook my head, lost for words. What was wrong with him? Any normal person would be a broken mess by now, hell; his brother was a complete wreck. What made him so different from everyone else that he could just shrug off his diagnosis? Just because one guy had some miracle breakthrough didn’t mean it’d be the same for him.

“Please at least tell me you’re going to your chemo therapy,” I sighed, removing his hands from my face. “At least if I know your therapy is going well then I can at least try and be supportive with this.”

His face fell. “You’re doubting that I can survive, aren’t you? You think I’m gonna die.”

“No,” I gasped, shocked that he had changed moods so quickly. “I’m just worried about how positive you are about this. Most people would be in pieces if this happened to them.”

“Do you think I’m not? I’m going to pieces, Frank, it’s killing me. It kills me to know that if I leave you, you’ll be all alone. It kills to think that I’ll never see you again, never see my family, my brother, my mom, my dad, that I’ll never experience old age, I’ll never live to see another day. I’ll be buried deep under the ground where no one can talk to me, no one can tell me everything’s okay, I’ll be alone, Frank, all alone,” he had started to shake uncontrollably, his eyes looking somewhere beyond what I could see. “No one can hear me when I’m buried six feet under, no one can come with me. And what’s worse is the pain I’ll have to go through before that, I’ll have to die, Frank. Die. I know I probably won’t know that I’m dead afterwards, but what if I do? That’s one of the scariest things I could think of. Living and yet not living, here and yet so far, all alone.”

“Hey, hey, hey,” I soothed, running to his side, my hands pushing his shoulders so that he landed on the bed with a thump. “Ssh, I didn’t mean to upset you, please. Please, don’t be scared. I can’t begin to imagine how you’re feeling right now, and I probably never will, but I’m here to get you through it.” He shook his head, his lip trembled so much that it looked as if he were about to burst into hysterics. “What you were saying earlier, about Paul, at first I didn’t get it, I mean, you seemed so sure that you were gonna make it out of this alive, and that scared me. As much as I pray that you will, it worried me that you didn’t seem bothered about your diagnosis. It just wasn’t the reaction I’d expect. You were so strong, so determined... but now I see that you’re just as human as everyone else. You’re scared, but you’re brave enough to hide it from others to stop them from hurting. That’s what you’ve been doing with Mikey, isn’t it? But it hasn’t worked. He’s falling to pieces. But that’s not your fault. None of this is.”

“It- it- it is. It’s not j-just that, I’m so scared, Frankie. I’m scared to die.”

The response was so broken, so childlike and simple; I hadn’t much considered how afraid Gerard might be to die. Sure, I knew that one day, I’d have to die. It was natural, a part of life that no one really thinks about. But seeing how frightened Gerard was at that moment, it broke me. I rushed over to him and held him in my arms until his sobs eventually drowned out.

It took over an hour for Gerard to calm down, by which time Mikey had entered the room three times to see if things were okay. I had assured him that I had the situation under control, and no matter how hesitant he seemed to leave me alone with his brother, he did.

It took a while, but eventually wails of pain turned into sobs, sobs into whimpers, and whimpers into gasps. I waited until he was ready to speak, as I didn’t want to spark his crying by saying something stupid, which apparently was my speciality.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, wiping his sore eyes. “I didn’t want you to see me like that. Ever.”

“It’s fine, don’t be stupid. I acted the same way, remember? We’re even.”

He gave a faint chuckle. “We sure are.”

“Listen, don’t get upset that I’m bringing it up again, Gerard, but you need to know that everyone feels the way you feel right now. We’ve all been there. I know we don’t know what happens after we die, of course we don’t, but I do know that you won’t be aware that you’re under the ground. There’s no way.”

“And the pain?”

“The pain will be over as soon as it comes.”

With that, he embraced me in a tight hug and wouldn’t let go until I was gasping for air.


I had left Gerard upstairs asleep in his room, so I decided to go downstairs and make him a cup of coffee to try and cheer him up. I tried to focus on only the task at hand, acting as though this cup of coffee could actually be the solution to all our problems, and as long as I made one for Gerard, everything would be okay. If I thought realistically then I’d break down and that wasn’t what he needed right then. Heck, that wasn’t what Mikey needed.

As much as I hated to admit it at the time, I felt sorry for Mikey. I knew exactly how he was feeling, to lose your brother… and at such a young age, too… I just couldn’t imagine what he was going through. I knew how he felt to an extent of course, I loved Gerard with every fibre of my being, and it literally killed me to hear what was wrong with him, but I could never truly know the bond of brotherhood, although I was sure Mikey was barely coping to live himself.

The younger me would have rushed to Mikey’s side immediately, would have done anything to make him feel better, and would have defended him for leaving his wife. Or would I? My morals had always been strong, and I had always been faithful to my beliefs. Leaving your wife, to me, was unforgiveable, and the fact that he had left her whilst she was pregnant just made the act even worse. Sure, his brother needed him, there was no denying that, but so did Alicia.

I entered the kitchen in a hurry, scanning the room for a cup I could use. I could feel Mikey’s eyes on the back of my head, but I pretended I couldn’t see him. I was afraid of what I would say if he annoyed me, so I just continued to search for a cup.

“What’re you looking for?”

I stiffened. Keep your eyes down. “I need a mug or a cup or something.”

“Oh, they’re in the cupboard under the sink.”

“Thanks,” I murmured, picking one from the vast selection.

“You know, Frank, I know you’re angry at me, but you haven’t even listened to what I have to say,” he said forcefully, and I heard his chair scrap the kitchen tiles. “You’ve been my friend for years, Frank, I thought you’d get it, I thought you’d understand.”

“There’s nothing to understand!” I barked, whirling around to face him. “You left Alicia all on her own to deal with her pregnancy!”

“It’s not like that!” he threw his hands in the air, shaking his head. “God, you think you know everything but you don’t! I haven’t left her completely alone; she’s had friends staying over every night to help her out!”

“Do you even hear yourself?” I spat, slamming the mug onto the counter. “Her friends can’t be there for her like you can, you’re the father! She loves you, and what do you do to repay her? You leave her all alone! Don’t you think she needs the man she fell in love with for support? You’ve abandoned her.”

“I have not abandoned her,” he hissed through gritted teeth. “Don’t you dare say that. I love her, I love her more than anything in the world, and I’d never do anything to hurt her.”

“Well, you don’t show it very well, and you certainly don’t keep your promises.”

“Don’t you dare,” he warned, stepping closer. “Don’t you ever say that I don’t love my wife. You don’t know anything, Frank, because where have you been? Exactly. You’ve been gone for months, and you didn’t even look back twice. I thought you were my friend, Frank, but you just stopped talking to me. You didn’t call, you didn’t ring…”

“Because you didn’t call, you didn’t ring!” I shouted, my anger getting dangerously high. “Sometimes people just go their separate ways. That’s life. Shit happens.”

“You could’ve kept in contact!”

“Well, clearly you were making plans to start a family, but that didn’t go too well, did it?” I snarled, and I saw a flicker of pain across his face.

“You need to shut up. First of all, I have started a family; just because I’m taking a little break for now doesn’t mean I don’t care. Second, Gerard’s upstairs and if he hears us arguing it’s only gonna make him feel worse.”

“Taking a break, seriously?”

He groaned, shaking his head angrily and taking a step back. “Don’t you understand? I have to leave Alicia on her own, I have to, and I don’t have a choice!” I made to open my mouth but he stopped me. “No, listen! Gerard is my brother, and what he’s going through right now is one of the hardest things anyone is going to go through in this family, and he needs my support. When… when things… end, I’ll leave and I’ll play my role as father to my child and husband to my wife. But I only have one chance to help my brother, and I’m not gonna fuck it up.”

“But you’re leaving your unborn child alone. I mean, what are you gonna tell them when they’re older? ‘I abandoned you to help my brother’?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’ll say. And you know what? They’ll understand, because family is more important than anything in the world, and yes, Alicia and the baby are my family too, but Gerard… he hasn’t… he…” I felt a knot in my stomach. The fallen man was back before my eyes, there was no longer an angry spark to his posture, and he looked drained and defeated. “He hasn’t got long.”

I found myself lost for words.

It was as if all my anger had been drained, I no longer felt driven to make Mikey feel guilty for his actions. I still didn’t understand his actions, but I felt sorry for the man before me, I could relate to him and I understood exactly how he was feeling. After weeks of wondering what had been wrong with him, why he’d looked so down all the time, how he’d get upset at the smallest of things, I finally had the answers I had wanted so desperately.

Ironically, I now wished with all my being that I had never received the answers. I hoped for it all to be one long, tragic nightmare, and soon I’d wake up, sweating and scared as hell, but at least Gerard would be okay. It was childish and stupid of me to keep denying the truth right in front of me, but I just couldn’t break down, not again. I couldn’t let Gerard know just how much the situation was hurting me, because he already had enough to deal with as it was.

I could feel Mikey’s stare from in front of me, and I knew that he was waiting for some witty comeback. I shook my head, gulping and trying my hardest to not blink, otherwise the tears would spill over and my whole act would be blown.

“Just forget it, man,” I practically whispered turning around to fill the kettle. If I wasn’t careful I’d turn into a blubbering mess, and seeing Mikey’s broken expression only made it harder to keep my cool. I couldn’t think about anything. If I thought about things, I’d start thinking way too negatively, and I’d fall into depression like I had before, years ago, when my Uncle had died. No, I couldn’t think about anything.

There was silence as I boiled the kettle. I focused on the steam flowing out of it, winding around the kitchen and wrapping its way around different objects in the room, steaming up the windows so that the outside world was just a blur. I thought about how symbolic that was to me at that moment, because the outside world was the last thing on my mind, just a blur in the back of my mind compared to what I was facing in this house. I felt like nothing could ever matter to me again, because without Gerard…

That’s where I had to stop myself.

Once the kettle had stopped boiling, I poured the water into the mug and focused on adding the sugar, three spoon fulls was how Gerard had always liked it, and lastly added the coffee. I stood there stirring the liquid awkwardly waiting for Mikey to say something. He seemed to have pulled himself together better than I had, and he even managed to give me a hesitant smile.

“How is he?”

“He’s…” I hesitated, not sure if I should be brutally honest or protectively dishonest. “He’s going through a rough time. He’s finding it hard to accept, he’s scared.”

Mikey sighed. “It’s only to be expected. He’s been acting so differently recently, acting as if everything’s okay… but I’m his brother. I can see when he’s hurting. He tries to hide it from me, but some nights I walk past his bedroom and I hear him crying…” He put a shaky hand through his messy hair. “I try and comfort him, but sometimes he just needs to be left alone. I don’t know how to make him feel better, I’ve tried everything…”

“I guess we can’t make him feel better. All we can do is be here for him.”

“I guess,” he took a shaky breath. “He’s been better since he’s been with you.”

It was stupid to blush, but I couldn’t help it. “He’s had you around too.”

“Yeah, but I’m useless. I’m just as bad as him, mopping around the house, not eating, not sleeping…”

“He hasn’t been sleeping?”

He shook his head. “He hasn’t been eating either. He’s been getting better since he started seeing you, but I feel like as soon as you’re gone he just forgets how happy you make him.”

“He has you too,” I pointed out, trying to divert the conversation away from me.

“Yeah?” Mikey gave a small chuckle, but it wasn’t the usual kind, it was more of a sound of disbelief. “He barely even says a word to me. I don’t blame him. Whenever he’s around I burst into tears, and how is that meant to make him feel? I mean, he’s been making more of an effort lately, but it seems like he’s the one comforting me, not the other way around.”

I thought back to how Gerard had tried to comfort Mikey after we had watched The Bridge to Terribithia. I couldn’t deny that what he was saying wasn’t true. “It’s been hard on both of you. You need to comfort each other; it can’t all be down to you.”

“But it should be,” Mikey sniffed, his eyes welling up with tears. “Because in the end, he’s the one that won’t make it through this.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Don’t I? Did you not hear what the doctor said? Did you not hear how long he has left?”
I shook my head in denial. “No. No, he’s gonna be fine.”

Mikey stood up to face me, tears falling from his eyes now. “Don’t you get it Frank? It’s over. There is no happy ending. This is it.”

“No,” I whispered, shaking my head.

He was wrong. He had to be. Gerard would be fine, absolutely fine. Sure, he was ill right then, but he’d get over it. We’d look after him and comfort him, we’d give him medicine, pills, we’d do everything the doctor told us to do. He’d make a quick and unexpected recovery just like his friend, and he’d laugh about how crazy it all was afterwards, we’d all laugh, because he’d be okay.

Mikey reached for my hand, but I wretched it away.

“No!” I yelled frantically, stepping away from him. “NO!”

I pushed past him and ran as fast as my legs would carry me, slamming the door on my way out, not caring if I’d broken it. II could hear Mikey’s distant yells, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying, and before I knew it, I was too far to see the house anymore, let alone hear him.

The woods stretched out before me as I ran into its dark depths, the only noise the sound of my thumping heart and my stomping feat flying across the gravel. My breathing became laboured and a stitch had formed in my side, but I didn’t care. I had to keep running, I could see the opening on the other side of the trees, and I could see my bedroom window from there.

I threw myself through the front door, throwing the keys across the room without really caring where they landed. A small clatter sounded from the left of me, I had probably broken a photo or something when I had thrown them, but I didn’t care.

My feet thumped against the stairs as I scrambled up them, throwing myself around the corner with so much force that I tripped into my room, flying into my bed with a smack to my head. I shook my head angrily, kicking at the bed in frustration, only to then stub my toe. Swearing, I wretched open the cabinet beside my bed, pulling the draw out completely so that everything inside it spilt onto the floorboards.

My heart raced as I scrambled through all my old things; my old songbook, guitar picks, crumpled tissues, old socks, but the one thing I was desperate to find was nowhere to be seen. Where had I put it? I frantically pushed the draw aside, scanning the room as if doing so would restore my memory of where I had put it. I knew I had hidden it somewhere safe, somewhere secret that no one would think to look. The last time I had used it had been so long ago, maybe I had thrown it away? No. I wouldn’t have thrown it away. Although I had had no use for it after the last time, I had kept it anyway, just in case.

“Where is it?” I yelled, my voice echoing in the empty house.

I tried not to think about the reasons I was looking for it, if I did I’d only go and do something much worse than I was already planning. I could already imagine what it would be like once I found it, and I’d finally be able to let out all my pain and frustration. I ran over to my cupboard, sure that was wear I had hidden it, and pulled out all my clothes. If I had hidden it in there, it would be at the very back in the little box I had stored it in.

Now, before you judge me, let me tell you that I had only done this once before, long ago when my Uncle had died. I had been watching the TV absentmindedly, just flicking through the channels like I always did when I got bored of doing my homework. My mom had walked in and had taken the remote gently from my hands, completely ignoring my moans as she switched the TV off.

“Frankie, we need to talk,” she said gently, kneeing down beside me.

“I didn’t do it,” I’d replied, coming to the conclusion that I was in trouble.

My mom had shaken her head, a small smile, although it was more of a grimace, on her lips. “No, you’re not in trouble.”

“Oh,” I replied, dumbstruck. My mom never came to talk to me unless I was in trouble, or to tell me to get off my ass and start pulling my weight around the house.

“Look, Frankie, there’s no easy way to tell you this. But I want you to know that no matter what, you still have your father and me,” she’d held my hand, somewhat hesitant to how I might react. As a teenager, naturally, I wasn’t too used to my parents showing too much affection. “I just received a call from your Aunt Amy…”

“Aunt Amy? But she never calls.”

“I know. Look, I don’t know how to tell you this, Frankie…”

“Mom, what?” I asked, a little impatiently. I had better things to do then hang around talking to my mom.

My mom shook her head, sniffing slightly. “It’s your Uncle James, sweetheart.”

“What? Mom, what is it?” Even my ignorant teenage brain could sense that something was amiss.

“He… he’s passed away, sweetheart.”

The world seemed to collapse around me. I couldn’t feel the pressure of her hand on mine anymore, I wasn’t aware that she was crying, the room began to spin, making it hard to separate fiction from reality. Was it all just a bad dream? If so, then why did the floor seem so real and solid when my head hit it?

“Frank! Oh my god, Frank!”

My mother’s face was inches from mine, blurring in and out of focus.

The floor beneath me felt cold and more solid than ever before, and I could feel my mother’s warm hand stroking the side of my tear stained cheek. My eyes burned as I fought against the tears, but with every second my breathing became faster, until I was eventually hyperventilating. My Uncle had been like a best friend to me, no, like a father, he had always been there. Whenever I had had a falling out with my parents I would also automatically run to my Uncle’s, knowing that he’d welcome me into his home and make me feel better.

“Frank, oh, Frank please wake up.”

My mind swirled, her words making no sense. I could see her in front of me, and yet I could hear her begging me to wake up. Was I drifting in and out of consciousness, or I had joined my Uncle and was now looking down at my mother from somewhere far out of her reach? I hoped it was the second conclusion, because I couldn’t bear the fought of living in a world where my Uncle didn’t exist.

I let out a breath of relief at the sight of the box in front of me; I had finally found what I had been looking for. Opening the small red lid, I smiled as I picked up the rusty old razor, remembering what it had felt like as it had torn open my skin the last time, after I had picked myself up off the floor and had run away from my mother, ran upstairs, and grabbed my dad’s then brand new razor from his shelf without a second thought.

Smiling, and yet crying at the same time, I threw the box back into the cupboard, slamming the door behind me, eager to get to work. The razor felt lighter than it had all those years ago, and the blade looked worn down. I prayed with all my might that it was still sharp enough to actually cut, and sat down with my knees to my chest in the corner of my room.

I held my wrist out in front of me, staring at the blue veins beneath my skin, contemplating whether this was the right thing to do. All I wanted was to take the emotional pain away, to focus on something else for a while, to punish myself for being such a lousy boyfriend. I had run away from him when he needed me the most and I had probably woken him up from all the yelling I had done towards him brother. Mikey hadn’t deserved that.

Sure, he had left his wife, but he had done it for a perfectly good reason. He had given up everything to support his brother in his last few months, and what had I done? I had felt sorry for myself and run away like a coward, I had blamed Mikey for my own faults, and I had made Gerard comfort me when it should’ve been the over way around. I was a useless drama queen, who only cared about how the situation was going to affect me, and not how it was affecting Gerard, or even Mikey.

I had seen just how broken Mikey had been, and yet I still decided to make him feel worse about it all. What kind of friend was I? I had spent more time with Gerard than with Mikey, I had pushed my best friend aside and not thought twice about how lonely he might’ve been. I had done all this because I had wanted to selfishly spend all my time with my teenage crush, and all the while I had been pressuring Gerard to tell me about his cancer when he clearly hadn’t been ready, and then the truth had come out before I was ready to hear it.

I had ruined everything.

Without thinking much more, I drew the blade against my skin in one quick motion, and let out a gasp of both pain and satisfaction as I watched my blood ooze from the long incision. A cut for every mistake I had made. For running away like a coward, a side cut across my wrist, for pressuring Gerard to tell me his secret before he was ready, a cut identical to the first, barely an inch apart, a cut for yelling at Mikey, a cut for never confessing to Gerard my feelings when we were younger, for all the wasted years, cut, cut, cut.

My wrist burned intensely as I prepared to make yet another cut, wiping away the blood shakily with my sleeve. The blood had seeped into my sleeve and made it heavy, and the whole room smelt like copper. I had cut much deeper than I had ever done before, which both scared me and made me want to continue. Gerard was my everything, and if he was going to suffer, than so was I.
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Sorry this one has taken so darn long, I've had so much going on and this chapter just had to be perfect, so I kept changing it and changing it.... anyways, I really, really hope you guys like this chapter.