Three Cheers for Tragic Ends

Chapter One

AUGUST 2nd, 1997

“Grandmamma, we’re here!” And the younger boy pushed past the one three years his senior, and shoved through the doorway and into the woman’s waiting arms. She wrapped them tight around the lanky boy before her, she said, “Oh, Michael, look how much you’ve grown.”

“I’m taller than everyone now,” the boy chirped, and he pulled away from the woman’s embrace. “Taller than Gee, too. It finally happened!”

The woman looked over and around the boy’s shoulder, to the older one who stood in the doorway, buried under a buck load of bags and sighing. “Hello, Elena,” he moaned, and the woman fretted towards him, pushing the younger boy out of the way in her haste.

“Gerard, dear, is it really you?” And the bags shifted, signaling that the boy holding them was nodding. “Oh, it’s so good to see you both, and I’m so glad you’re visiting!”

“You shouldn’t be up, Grandma,” he muttered, and shifted the bags in the direction of the younger boy. “Mikey, assistance, you dick.”

Mikey pouted. “Aw, but they’re heavy, man!” and the older boy grumbled, before shoving the load of bags into his brother’s arms.

“Deal with it,” he said, and turned to embrace his grandmother in a hug. “I’ve missed you,” he muttered into her blonde curls, and she squeezed him back, smiling.

“I’ve missed you too, il mio piccolo artista,” she grinned, and her Italian accent was heavy in her words. Gerard smiled– he loved the way his grandmother could sound so Jersey sometimes, yet at others her true roots showed through in her words.

“Aw, why don’t I have an exciting pet name?” Mikey moaned, and he shifted the myriad of bags to the floor. Gerard ran a hand up and through his brother’s hair, laughing.

“You can be muerda muto,” he laughed, and Elena smacked at his arm.

“Don’t be mean, Bambino,” she muttered, but he could tell she was holding back a smile as well. Mikey pouted.

“You guys are butts. I miss Ray, man, and Bob. They never cavorted against me in a language I can’t speak,” he whined.

“You can too,” Gerard spat back. “You can count in Italian, and you know– what, pasta? Pasta primavera, and tortellini, and canoli…” and the older boy laughed.

“You’re an ass,” Mikey grumbled, and said under his breath, “Vaffanculo.”

“Michael James Way, you take that back right now!” Elena commanded, at about the same time Gerard said, “You would.”

“Now listen here,” the old woman muttered. “I didn’t invite you over to cuss at each other now, did I?”

Gerard smiled, sheepishly. “To be fair, Grandmamma, you didn’t invite us at all. Momma kinda forced us…” and the older boy regretted his words immediately, as the old woman gasped and smacked him upside the head.

“Villano!” she screeched. “Maybe I don’t want you hear at all, eh? Maybe you can just go home; leave an old woman to hobble in peace…” But she was smiling again.

“You wouldn’t send us back, not after that drive, you wouldn’t.” And the older boy leaned over to the woman’s ear, and he whispered, “Maybe Mikey. Who needs ‘im?”

“I heard that, stupido,” he cried, and punched his older brother in the arm. Gerard laughed, and stuck his tongue out at Mikey.

“Care to take those bags to my room for me, Love?” he purred, and Mikey growled at him.

“In your dreams, fatass.”

“Michael!” Elena gave the younger boy a warning glare.

“Fine, gosh!” and he muttered under his breath as he heaved the bags back up into his arms, “Fucking woman in cahoots with him, I swear to God.”

“That’s like, a lot of Hail Maries!” Gerard called from behind his brother. He received a middle finger in response.

“So, dear, how’ve you been?” and the old woman walked the artist to her living room, where she sat him down, fretted with her heavy skirt, and said, “Coffee, dear?”

And Gerard looked at her sadly, and he said, “You don’t need to pretend to be fine, Grandma. Not around me,” and the old woman sighed in relief, and she sat down on the couch and rubbed at her face.

“How bad are they saying it is?” he asked, cautiously putting a hand on Elena’s shoulder. She shrugged, and shook her head.

“They don’t know… oh, Bambino, they think it’s pneumonia, and that sounds like a chance… By god, it’s not cancer, but you know a vecchia like me, I don’t get over things like I used to…” and she sighed again, and Gerard’s shoulders slumped.

He leaned over and embraced the old woman, and when they pulled away, she was smiling weakly. He said, “We’ll get through this, Nonna.”

She nodded. “Just… don’t tell Michael, just yet, please. He’s just so happy and full of life, I don’t want my illness dragging him down.”

“Yeah,” and Gerard rubbed Elena’s shoulder. “I won’t, promise.”

“Okay, shitter, I’ve gotten your bags dumped, and my bags dumped. Time for you to slave over little old me,” Mikey sang as he trumped down the stairs.

Gerard blinked at him. “Did you put my bags in the window room?” His brother made a noise of agreement. “The one on the side of the house? The large one, not for storage?”

“I hate you,” Mikey said, and turned on the last step to re-ascend the stairs.

Gerard turned to Elena, and took the old woman’s hand. “I want you to get comfortable,” he said to her, as he noticed Mikey had gone out of earshot. “You’ll only get worse if you fret about like such.”

Elena nodded. “You’ve always been so good to me,” she smiled.

“Do you need anything? A blanket, maybe, Grandmamma, or some tea?”

“Bourbon,” she stated, straight-faced, and Gerard almost choked out a, “What?”

Almost, because she didn’t give him a chance. “Ah, I’m only joking, Bambino. I don’t drink anymore, not like in the old days. So yes, please. I keep tea in the cabinet above–”

“The stove, I know. I remember.” And Gerard grinned, and hustled himself into the kitchen. “What kind, Nonna?” he called when the cabinet was open, and he stared from under stringy black hair at the several kinds of tea before him.

“Oh, just something simple, Chamomile…” and she waved her hand in the older boy’s direction.

“’Course, Grandmamma,” he said, and smiled back at her as he took out the tea from the cabinet.

Mikey came back down as Gerard was getting out the kettle, and he ran up to his brother and asked, “Are you doing that for Nonna?” and Gerard nodded, and Mikey whined and pushed at Gerard’s hand and said, “No, stupido, I wanna do it!”

Gerard set the kettle down and blinked at Mikey. “Kissass,” he stated, unfazed. Mikey glared.

“I’m just trying to help,” he whined, and Gerard only muttered again, “Kissass,” under his breath, and he smiled to himself as he handed off the kettle to Mikey.

“Okay, piccolo,” he smiled, and ruffled at Mikey’s hair. “You’re being very sweet, taking care of grandma and little old me,” and he sniggered.

“Shut up,” Mikey blushed, and then, “Oh, Gee? You wanted those bags in the closet, right?”

“No, I asked you to leave them out, but…” and Gerard trailed off. Mikey’s shoulders sank, and he moved to hand the kettle back to Gerard.

“I’ll go get them, and move them–” he started, but Gerard cut him off.

“Stop it, you’ll worry yourself to a conniption. We’re off the road, kiddo. You can calm down– sit down with Nonna and I’ll make the tea, and mochas for you and me, okay?” But Mikey shook his head.

“No, I wanna, Gee. I’ll feel useless–”

“Mikes,” Gerard sighed; but he knew there was no argument here. When Mikey got into one of his weird moods, you couldn’t get him out no matter what you tried. “Okay,” he sighed, and smiled. “Okay, piccolo.” And he walked back into the living room, and sat down with Elena once again.

“So, Grandmamma?” and the old woman looked over to Mikey, and she smiled.

“Yes, piccolo?”

“Ah, um…” and he trailed off. “Oh, yeah!” And as he remembered, his face lit up. “Do you still have eh, piccolo pipistrello, from last visit?” Elena nodded, and moved to get up.

“It’s on the little vanity, in my room… oh, Bambino, dear? Can you go get it please, for me?” and Gerard smiled at the old woman, and nodded.

“Of course, Nonna,” he smiled, and moved to get up off the couch. He could sense that Mikey was about to get up, to plead to do it himself, but Gerard ruffled his brother’s hair as he walked by, to signal to him that all was okay. “I’ll be right back.”

Gerard made his way up the stairs, reveling in the creaks the old wood gave. Ah, just like his childhood. He trailed his hand up the stair railing, fitting his short nails into the divots in the old wood. Sometime it amazed Gerard how this house was still standing, in such a good condition, being one of the oldest houses in White Oak.

He hopped up the last few stairs and turned down the hall, and he trailed his fingers against the slightly chipping paint off the wood walls. It was when he was nearly at the doorway to Elena’s room when he heard it– the quiet, but definitely present, sound of footsteps in the attic.

Gerard blinked, and he shook his head. Just like what Elena said, he thought, and walked into her room, and retrieved the crudely made stuffed bat from her dresser top. Elena always said old houses like this creaked about.

No, Gerard wasn’t going crazy. It was echoes, the footsteps were most definitely echoes, and everything was fine. Still, he shivered as he stood before the staircase, for something seemed almost slightly off.

He returned to the living room and plopped down on the couch, next to his brother, and handed him the little bat. “Ah, what did you name him again?” he heard his grandmother ask Mikey.

“Oh, what did I name him, Gee?” Mikey asked, looking up from the bat to his older brother. Gerard blinked, and he tried to remember back to when Mikey was thirteen and thrilled that he’d sewn something– Gerard had laughed at him for days on end, and that had been especially fueled by the name he’d given the poor thing.

“Oh, jeez, I don’t remember,” and he ran a hand through his hair. “Oh, it was something like…” and he trailed off, and snapped his fingers, hoping it would trigger his memory. “Ah! It was Jell-O.” And Gerard snorted, loud, “Fucking– jell-o!” which received a slap from his grandmother.

“Don’t cuss at your fratello, dear. I think Jell-O is a perfectly nice name.” And she smiled at Mikey, who beamed and then stuck his tongue out at Gerard.

“Ha-ha, stupido. Grandmamma thinks I’m cool.”

“Yeah, Grandmamma thinks you’re cool. Ooh, big deal. Nonnas think every one of their nipoti are cool, you dork,” Gerard rebounded. Mikey just stuck his tongue out at him, again.

“Whatever, Gerard. You’re jealous.”

Gerard only snorted. “Not in the slightest, piccolo.”

When Gerard entered his room for the first time since they’d arrived, he wasn’t surprised to see that the bags had been removed from the closet, and set in the middle of the room. He sighed, and shook his head, because he really did want Mikey to stop fussing about; he was only going to get sick like Elena and, no matter how much the older boy knew he wanted to help, he’d rather not have to take care of two sick people.

He walked to the center of the room and began taking things from the bags –clothes from a few, pencils and paper from another– and as he began putting them away, a strange sense washed over him.

The room smelled sweet of vanilla; and now, this would have never bothered Gerard at all if it hadn’t been that he remembered, exactly from his childhood, that this room in particular always smelled heavy of dust and age.

It wasn’t that Gerard minded the smell; it was actually mildly pleasant– it just struck him as odd, because he knew that Elena, even if she had come into his room prior to his visit, for maintenance and such, wouldn’t have sprayed anything of a vanilla scent, for she didn’t like it.

But the older boy brushed it off, and continued to put clothes in the vanity and pens in the desk by the window. He almost thought he saw something at one point, out the corner of his eye a dark shadow, but he pushed that thought away as well; because ever since he was little, he had an active imagination, and it never meant a thing. He’d probably just draw about it later, he thought, and rid himself of the slightly sinking feeling he knew he had no reason to possess.

“Gerard, I hope you’re not mad, but I moved the bags out–”

“Yeah, piccolo, I noticed.” Gerard reached up and ruffled a hand through his brother’s choppy, bleached hair, and he sat down on the edge of the bed. “Mikes?” he asked, sighing and looking up at his brother.


“How much of this house do you remember... it’s been years, right?” And the younger boy nodded, and sat down next to the older one.

“Yeah, I was thirteen, so you were… what, sixteen? That’s four years, yup. Been a long time.” And he nodded to himself, and smoothed a hand over the gray comforter.

“Well, piccolo, do you remember anything weird that used to happen?”

Mikey snorted. “I remember that weird stuff used to happen to you,” he laughed, “and Nonna always called you on it, saying, “Bambino, don’t make insane of yourself at such a young age!”” He looked up at Gerard, and gave a lopsided smile. “I’m not gonna lie– I always kinda believed you. But stuff like that, Gee? It doesn’t happen in real life. You’re twenty now, you gotta know that?” And he moved to get up off the bed.

Gerard sighed, and he nodded. See, Mikey was right. It was all in his head– which wasn’t the most reassuring thing to know, thank you very much, but he would take it. “I guess you’re right. Oh, but one more thing?”

Mikey turned around, and quirked an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“Well, when you came in here, did you spray some sort of cleaner, or perfume?”

Mikey blinked at him. “What– no, Gee, sorry. Maybe it was Grandmamma?”

“Yeah, I thought that too,” the older boy trailed off. “Except, you know Nonna doesn’t like vanilla…”

“It doesn’t smell like vanilla in here, Gee,” Mikey said, and he furrowed his brows. “Wow, you’re such a fucking nutcase. Are you okay?” There was humor in his voice, but Gerard only shrugged in response, face stoic.

“I don’t know,” and then he forced a laugh, and hoped Mikey wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m fucking loony.” He gave his brother one of his signature all-teeth grins, and then shoved at the younger boy. “Okay, out piccolo. I still have unpacking to do.”

And Mikey left, but not before muttering, “Fucking weird, Gee.”

Gerard sighed. He was being weird; he knew his brother was right, and there was no vanilla smell or shadows out the corner of his eye, and the footsteps he’d heard earlier were merely mice, or something that his overactive imagination had expanded into a threat.

Still, he couldn’t help feel a chill run up him– so he busied himself with unpacking, hoping to be done all the sooner so he could talk to Elena once more; and stop worrying so much.
♠ ♠ ♠
Translations (courtesy of Google translator) to all the shit I make them say in Italian:

il mil piccolo artists – my little artist
bambino – child
muerda muto – dumb shit
vaffanculo – fuck you
villano – rude
vecchia – old woman
nonna – grandma
pipistrello – bat
fratello – brother
nipoti – grandchildren