Helping Mickey Ch. 02bywakingDown©
++okay, so Helping Mickey isn't an all out screamer. If you're looking for something nasty or fast or whatever, this is not it. It's mellow and slow. If you like it, great. If you don't, great. It simply is what it is. Enjoy++
Susan walked into the living room and saw Mickey out on the balcony, watching traffic. She watched him a moment before sliding the door open.
"Come in, we have somewhere to go." She said, smiling a little. He turned and looked at her, his face blank.
"A where to go." He answered, stepping in.
"Yup. We are going to storage. There are a couple things I want to dig out of there. Get dressed, something warm."
Mickey started off towards his room. She watched him go, wondering if her idea would work. She had thought of it while making breakfast. The little radio in the kitchen tuned to a classic rock station, she had paused when she heard Bad Company playing. It was a song that Mickey had played in high school, one of the ones he could be counted on playing almost every time he picked up an acoustic guitar. She had been struck by the idea as so simple that she couldn't believe she hadn't thought of it before. Of course, there was a better chance that he would have no idea what to do with a guitar now, but she figured the slim chance he would remember how to play would be worth the trip.
They made the short trip down in a comfortable quiet. She pulled up to their unit and they stepped out. She ran up the door and Mickey simply stood and watched. After a little shifting and digging through the clutter she moved a tall box and saw the top of his guitar case sticking up. She quickly cleared away the stuff in front of it and pulled the case out. Mickey stepped forward as soon as he saw it. She handed him the case and watched him. He ran his fingers across the fake leather surface and frowned. When he looked up, she wasn't sure what he was thinking.
"Do you recognize that? Do you know what it is, Mickey?" She asked, speaking softly.
"Not all here. Rest of it." He said, still frowning.
"Rest of it?" She asked, confused.
"Other piece. Rest of it. The more." He struggled, his lips trembling.
Susan turned to the space the case had been sitting in, frowning herself, wondering what else he might mean, if anything. Then she saw. What the case had been leaning against. The huge amplifier that was surrounded by more boxes. She was about to say no way when she saw the smaller amp sitting next to it. The huge one said Marshall, but the small one said Peavey. She grabbed the Peavey and hoisted it out.
"The Marshall one stays, I don't need the neighbors pounding on the walls." She said with a smirk as she lugged the amp into the trunk.
Back at the apartment, she plugged in the small amp next to his bed, and stood back to see if he would be able to take it from there. He set the case on the floor and after a couple fumbles unsnapped the latches. He lifted the lid and she saw the guitar within. This was not the simple Fender he had bought with money from yard work. He must have bought this in the Marines or after. She had not seen this one before. It was a massive, sharp angled monster. The body was a jet black matte, with chrome metalwork, and the headstock said B.C. Rich. She watched him as he slowly lifted the guitar, turning it over and over in his hands, his finger tracing along the string, along the knobs, the tuning pegs. He sat on the bed and held the guitar across his lap, his frown deep, his teeth just beginning to show as his nasty grin tried to spread. His hands began moving faster than they usually did, and she heard the clear twang as he began tuning it. She was surprised that his hands moved so smoothly, and judging by his face he wasn't doing it with much thought; it appeared that this was more an act of memory than effort. When his hands finished their work, he grew still, just holding the guitar and frowning. She wasn't sure if she should say or do anything. She was about to ask him if he remembered how to play when he leaned forward and opened the small compartment inside the case. He pulled out the black cord and plugged it into the guitar. The other end, he stared at a moment before turning to the amp. He slowly moved the plug across the top, looking for the socket. He found it and plugged the cord in. He grabbed a small grey pick from the case compartment and plucked a string. It made a clear but quiet sound. He stilled, frowning at the guitar. Susan realized what the problem was and leaned down to the amp. She found the power switch and turned the amp on.
The squealing that came out hushed immediately when Mickey covered the strings with the side of his palm. He sat still a moment before plucking a few strings. The sound was clunky and discordant, and Susan was a bit heartbroken for the moment before his hands found themselves. He went from clumsy fumbling to fast precision in a heartbeat. His hands suddenly moved with a speed and accuracy that she scarcely believed. He played fast and hard, as he had when in high school. A couple of her friends had watched him playing fast thrash metal and giggled with her about what else his hands could do at those speeds. He played a song that was familiar to her, but she couldn't name it. She was never into that heavier stuff. He played like it was the easiest thing in the world. She wondered just how much he had been playing in the years before the attack. Whenever she had asked, he would just kind of shrug and say 'just fartin' around.' before changing the subject. Now she saw that he must have been doing more than farting around.
He blistered through song after song, his eyes locked on the fret board, his frown never wavering. Susan just watched and listened, spellbound and amazed. She had hoped for a couple chords, or a few simple riffs, not this screaming, wailing thing. After he finished the song he was playing he leaned down and pushed a small button next to the volume and the amp dropped the heavy distortion, leaving a clear, clean sound. He began playing, and she immediately recognized the song. How could she not? It was the one he always played for her. She was crying when he began to sing, his voice steady and soft.
He was playing and singing Astronomy. For her. The way he had for so many years. She sat next to him on the bed and curled an arm around his waist, resting her head on his shoulder, letting her tears fall where they may. He finished the song and set the guitar aside. He turned off the amp and wrapped his arms around her.
"White hallway. Come Suzie dear, let's take a walk, just out there upon the beach. Coming home. White hallway."
"What hallway, Mick?" She asked, her voice rough with emotion.
"Not what, white. A light in the bright. Coming home. Coming home now." He answered. She looked up and saw the grin was back. It was not as eerie to her as it had once been, but she still did not like it.
"I know, Mick. I know you're coming home. I know you're trying. I just don't know how to help you. I'm doing my best, but I don't know what to do." She said.
"Don't go. Stay in this where, in this when. Don't go." He answered, holding her tight as his grin began to fade.
"I'm not going anywhere, Mickey. I'm right here with you and I'm going to stay with you." She said before kissing him.
"A path in the dim, a light in the bright. My corridor. Coming home. White hallway. Coming back clearer, Susan. Here now with you. Don't go." He said, clearly fighting to find the words.
"Mickey, I don't understand a lot of that. I know you're trying, I do, but I just don't get it. I don't know what you mean. Please, keep trying."
"White hallway. It's all white hallway." He answered, his voice tired and frustrated.
"What, what else is white hallway? Can you say it any other way? I mean, well. Shit. I don't know what I mean anymore. What else is white hallway, Mick?" She asked, fumbling for words herself.
"A light in the bright. A path in the dim. Corridor. A what for going." He struggled, his grip on her tight, his grin wide.
"A what for going? Corridor? You mean, like a way to do something, or go somewhere?
"Yes. A way for going. Doing. A path in the dim."
"A way to come home? A way to come back?" She felt excitement growing, as she thought that he was coming closer to explaining what was going on in his mind.
"Yes. Coming home. White hallway. It's all white hallway." He said, his teeth gritted tensely.
"Ok, Mick. White hallway is your way back?"
"Back to how you were?"
"No. Back home. To here. To Suzie dear let's take a walk."
"Back to, uh, how you were, but here with me?" She asked, frowning, trying to word it correctly.
"Yes. Coming home."
"White hallway is your mind healing? Is that it? It's how your mind heals?"
"Mostly. Coming home and take a walk. A light in the bright and out there upon the beach. My corridor and the here that is now." He was speaking faster and faster, the grin beginning to break up. "How we are, and how I was. A path in the dim and don't go."
"Mickey, I think I get it. But what happens after? When you get better? When you're back to normal, like you were, what then? When you start your life again, will you still want to be here with me? What then?" She asked, her excitement dimming at the thought.
"Don't go. Please, don't go." He was clearly disturbed by the thought. "Stay here, coming home, don't go cold outside cold inside don't go." He was speaking very quickly and holding her very tightly.
She tried to calm him, making hushing sounds and repeating that she wasn't going to leave. As he began to calm down she saw his tears begin to roll down his cheeks. She kissed him and repeated that she was staying over and over until he was calm again.
"I'm not going anywhere Mickey, I was just asking if you would when you got better. I don't want you to go. I just didn't know if you wanted to. Hell, I've wanted to be with you since we were kids. When we were teenagers, and I was starting to understand what love and real relationships were all about, I realized that I wanted to be with you. I have ever since. I just knew that I couldn't because so many people would say that it's wrong. When I asked you to kiss me when we were camping, I kind of lied. There was no boy down the street checking me out that I knew of, I just wanted you to kiss me. Not like a brother does, but for real. That's why I said it should be practice. So you would kiss me for real." She was speaking with her face pressed to his neck, holding him tight. She didn't think she could bear to look him in the eye while she confessed.
"When you did, when you kissed me, it was heaven. I wasn't planning on using our tongues, but the way you held my face, the feel of your lips, I couldn't help it. I've thought about that kiss for years. I tried for a long time to bury those old feelings, to deny that love, but it's always been there. It's why I was always finding something wrong with your girlfriends. It hurt to see you with a woman that wasn't me. I'm sorry you have to find out like this, but I can't hide this away any longer. Do you understand any of this Mickey? Please say that you do. Please tell me that the way you've been recently isn't just my imagination or a misunderstanding or anything like that."
Mickey leaned back a bit and put his finger under her chin, tilting her face up to his. He was frowning, but kind of smiling a little. He kissed her gently, a quick peck on the lips, and chuckled a little.
"Always Suzie dear. Always didn't count. Always take a walk. Don't go. Never again was painful. Other women were not just out there upon the beach. The where in the when were white hallways to home. Always to here instead. Never Miss Carrie nurse, always Suzie dear." His face was tight again, the grin fighting to resurface. "No one left now, no one left to say wrong. No one left to say no. Now coming home and warm inside. Now white hallway and Suzie dear. Susan. Now there's coming home and warm inside. Now there's us." He finished.
Susan was pretty sure that he had just explained that he felt about the same, and that now they had a chance to be together without people to damn them for their love. It was sad that there was no family left, but liberating to know that they could make a go of being together. Sure, there were those from work and a few friends they had in common that knew they were siblings, but if they were a little cautious, that could be worked around. She held him tight and cried, her tears running down her cheeks and across her smile. She could help Mickey, bring him back from the prison in his brain, and have him too. She felt like she was dreaming. If she was, then she never wanted to wake up. She pulled Mickey to his feet and guided him to the kitchen.
"Come on, time for lunch." She said, smiling.
She woke when she felt Mickey stirring. He got out of bed and went out the door, silent and fast. Fear gripped Susan's heart as she got up. He was not in the hallway when she got there, so she turned on the hall light and checked by the bathroom. Not there either. She turned towards the living room and he was right behind her. She yelped as his strong hands caught her shoulders and pulled her around to the wall. He pressed up against her, his body tight to her, one hand over her mouth, the other on her chest. He made a low hushing sound and watched the dim of the living room.
"Be quiet. They are right out there, looking for us. Stay silent, and stay right behind me. We can ambush them and take them out if we're fast." He said in a low murmur. As soon as he said it he was moving, crouched low and quiet. He went around the corner into the living room before she could move at all.
"Mickey? Everything is alright Mick. It's me, Susan. Mickey?" She said as she made her way slowly towards the living room. She could not hear him at all, but he had already shown he was more than capable of making his way through the apartment silently and quickly, so that didn't help her much. She was terrified that he would jump out at her and hurt her, but that fear took a back seat to her need to make sure he was alright.
Susan reached around the corner and hit the light switch. She immediately saw Mickey hunkered against the far wall, next to where the living room opened on the kitchen. As soon as the light came on, he darted back to the side of the entertainment center, crouching low and trying to stay hidden, all while frantically waving at her to get down.
"Mickey, it's ok. You're safe, there's no one around but you and me. You're alright." She said as she walked towards him, slowly and carefully, watching him closely.
As she approached, he stopped waving at her, and his eyes seemed to clear. He slowly stood up, his eyes never leaving hers.
"Susan?" He asked, frowning a little.
"Yes Mickey. It's me. You're safe, there's no one here that will hurt you." She answered, putting her hands on his chest.
"Susan. When did this where get here?" He asked, looking around at the room.
"We've been here for a while. You had a bad dream, that's all. Just a nightmare. Happens to the best of us." She said, smiling in her relief. She gave him a light kiss and took his hand, leading him back to the bedroom.
"Come on, back to bed Mick. Back to sleep." She said, clicking off the lights as they went.
She slid between the sheets and turned to him, watching the vague shape of his face in the dark. He was lying on his back, staring at the ceiling. She scooted in close to him, her arm across his chest, her warm feet tangled with his cold ones. She wondered again just what his world was like, trapped in his mind the way he was, unable to form clear communication with the world around him. She reached up and turned his face to hers. Even this close, his face was just a blur of shadows. She gave him a quick kiss and rested her head back on his shoulder.
"Love you, Mick."
"Love too." He answered in the dark.
Susan was scrambling eggs and listening to Mickey play his guitar. She could hear him pretty easily over the sizzling in the pan, he had the little amp turned up pretty high, but she wasn't worried about it. It was almost ten, and most of her neighbors were out and about anyway. He kept switching between the hard, fast, distorted metal and slower clean tone songs. She recognized Bad Co., Kansas, and, of course, Blue Oyster Cult, but she couldn't name any of the metal, not being a real fan of that stuff. She was still amazed at how well he played. It was pretty jarring to see him play, his fingers fluttering and flying around the fret board, then watch him fumble with the remote for the TV, his now graceless fingers mashing buttons at random. She wondered if he would ever be fully back to the way he was. It didn't seem like it sometimes, when he stopped short and drew a blank while tying his shoes, and things like that. But when he was playing guitar, or during his flashbacks, nightmares, whatever they were, it was plain to see that his body certainly remembered how it used to be. He was showing regular improvement again, that much was clear. But how long would that last? She shook her head and fixed two plates.
She set the small table and went to get Mickey. She stopped in the hall when she heard him begin another song. This one she remembered clearly. On their twentieth birthday he had been unable to celebrate with her because he was in southern California training in the Mojave Desert. She had received an email the day after their birthday. She had been sad that he couldn't be there with her, but the email cheered her up. It had an attached video. There was Mickey, sitting on a crate with a battered, dented, dirty acoustic guitar in his hands. He was smiling and filthy, covered in dust and grime, his camouflage uniform an absolute mess, even his teeth had clumps and streaks of grime. Susan was a little grossed out, but still happy to see him.
"Hey Suze, sorry I can't be there with you for our birthday. If it makes you feel any better, tomorrow we go for a 10k hump, so I'll be paying for not being there. I just wanted to record this real quick for you before I get back to work, machine gun night fire starts soon. Hope you like it." He said. The dust and dirt seemed like a constantly falling cloud as it came off him with every movement. He had leaned back from the computers camera and started in with Nights in White Satin by The Moody Blues. She had cried during that. A lot. He finished and leaned in to the computer again, a sad little smile on his face.
"Happy birthday, Suze. Love you." And with that the video clip ended. She still had a copy of it on her laptop, and still watched it on blue days to cheer herself up.
She stood in the hall and listened as he played the song now. His playing was a little smoother and cleaner than it had been on the video. But then he was exhausted and rushed. Now he was playing by muscle memory. Singing as well, as his voice could be just heard over the guitar. His voice was steady and sad, adding a melancholy lilt to the already sad arrangement. Her heart sank and soared at the same time. She leaned against the wall and smiled through her tears, as she had before, and just listened, her heart breaking in the nostalgia and the now. As the last chord faded she collected herself and poked her head in the door.
"Breakfast is ready, Mick." She said, her voice only wavering a tiny bit.
Mickey set the guitar aside and walked out, pausing to give her a quick kiss on the forehead as he walked past. She followed him and barely kept herself from crying again. He was showing steady improvement, but she still did not know how much longer she could bear to be with him in this diminished state. But bear it she would. She would bear it for the rest of her life if she had to.