Chapter One

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He was this awkward, adolescent, this semi-adult. He was 'The Man in the Basement' and he embraced that label, that tag that the people in town had given him. Gerard didn't leave his house, not often, not frequently. Not on demand or by request, but only when he so felt like it. On occasion, on a very rare occasion, Gerard would wrap himself tightly in black scarves - three at the least, all different shades of charcoal, and a long black trench coat with shiny, plastic buttons, and he would stumble out of his mother's house to wander around the town or quickly make his way to the art supplies store and then back home again. Familiarity.

Gerard was not shy, cautious or modest. He simply suffered from social phobia. His entire life, Gerard was home schooled, was taught piano in his home, and never once made a friend. His first day of kindergarten, as a five-year-old boy, Gerard was kicked to the ground in the sandbox just outside of the school house, until he spat up blood. The bullies never told Gerard why he deserved the punishment, but that violation was enough for his mother to take him out of public school. Gerard was grateful. Gerard also, very rarely stole away from the house. When he felt brave, when he had a good dream, a vision, perhaps, only then would he unlock the chain and deadbolt on the door and venture outside.

Scarved, cloaked and gloved, no matter what the temperature, Gerard would set out in need of paint or canvas. Brushes or palette knives. He'd go on these art supply missions alone. Secluded, even in public. And the timing had to be right. The weather had to be awful so that he knew just when to leave his home. Rain, heavy snow, finger biting cold. Perfect inhuman weather. And, really if it was not for Gerard’s affinity for things out of the norm, he would have never met Frank. Ever.

It wasn't a memorable day. Gerard likes this idea, this idea that he has no clue what the time was, what he was wearing or what his mother was wearing. He just liked that idea that he hadn't submitted to committing every single second of his life to memory because one day he’d meet his soul mate. His memory was awful to begin with. Paint something, and he would forget he even had the idea for it, or what inspired it. But, the day, it was cold, and that's all Gerard can really recall. His mother mentioned that the woman's husband across the street had passed away, and she wanted him to take over a green bean casserole to the lovely woman, and apologize for her loss.

After much debate, an almost thrown fist and a broken wine glass, Gerard's mother convinced him to just take the casserole to The Iero’s house and be done with it. So, Gerard bundled up, despite the fifty-two degree weather, in his three varied, charcoal scarves, long trench coat and kissed his mother's cheek in apology for the glass on his way out.

As an artist, Gerard didn't always understand the many aspects of life, didn't even pretend that he did. The dried and crunch filled leaves that were crying under this boots surprised him with every sound they made, the gravel on the street, freckled the asphalt with a morbid-like beauty; a car accident waiting to happen. And as an ambulance siren sounded a block away, Gerard seriously wondered if somebody had just crashed their car.

Nobody answered the door when Gerard knocked, rang the doorbell and knocked again. He wanted to give up, because that's just what Gerard did. He gave up when things got hard. He quit art school when his teachers didn't, well they really didn't understand the meaning behind his pieces, and he quit, gave up yelling when his mother seemed to be winning. Though, Gerard was glad he didn't give up this time.

"She isn't home. Go away. Go away! NOW!"

Gerard heard the voice coming from the backyard, and cut through the small side of the house, through dying weeds and grass, to find more dead grass and a patch of mud in the middle of the yard, and at the end a large tree with a small house built into the top around gray branches and orange leaves. Nobody seemed to be in sight, but the black checkered blanket on the makeshift window was just dropped, so there really was somebody up there.

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