The Visitor

Frey was staring at the blank page of an empty notebook when the buzzer rang. It startled him out of his lethargic state, forcing him up and over to the door. "Yeah?" He called into the intercom, not really knowing who would be paying him a visit. Not many people remembered he owned this apartment, which was exactly the way he liked it. There was a brief moment of panic in which he imagined the press somehow getting wind of his new -or, rather, old- residence and coming to knock upon his door for an exclusive interview before an answering voice calmed his fears. But only slightly.

"Hey, it's me," She said, and her voice sounded small and metallic. "Can I come up?"

"Sure," He replied, and buzzed her up. Within a minute, a knock sounded at the door. Surprised to find himself standing in the same spot he'd been in, Frey hurried to turn off the stereo playing murmured Elvis Costello songs and threw the crumpled piles of trash into a corner by the overflowing trash can. "It's unlocked!" He shouted distractedly, attempting to shut the window against the din of the city below.

The door opened and closed behind him, and pair of shoes tap-tapped a few steps along the linoleum floor before coming to a stop. Frey slammed the window shut, flipping the latch to lock it and keep it from flying open whenever it felt like it. He spun around to face his guest, and, seeing her for the first time in what was probably weeks, smiled weakly and sheepishly. "Hi, Marla."

She had a look on her face that he'd seen a few times before. Intensely concentrated, eyes narrowed in thought, lips pursed, completely silent, Marla looked as though she were about to give him some kind of scolding. Upon closer inspection, Frey realized she was blinking back tears.

"Are you... alright?" He asked awkwardly, suddenly fighting the urge to fidget nervously.

Shaking her head, Marla pushed past him to stand in the center of his room, staring first at the disheveled couch, the piles of music notes strewn about the floor, and his neatly organized collection of music. She threw an incomprehensible look back at him over her shoulder, extending a hand to run across the back of a CD. Hooking a finger over the top, she pulled it free and held it in her hand. Frey could see that it was a Chernobyl album, one of their first.

"This is one of my favorites," She said finally, looking up at him through messy bangs. "Kyle hated it, though. Said it was too sloppily done, that it really doesn't mean anything as deep and profound as the reviews say. I could never really persuade him otherwise." Marla paused, staring at the wall. "He thought that about all of the albums Chernobyl put out."

Slightly confused, Frey could only nod in passive agreement, remembering that no matter how long he worked on his music, Kyle was never happy.

"For a while, it made me not want to be a musician. I loved playing, I still do, but seeing him like that all the time made me wonder if it was really worth it. If I could churn out song after song, hating all of my creations for their superficiality and lack of wit. I thought that was what all songwriters thought," She sighed. "But my brother was really different."

She stopped, closing her mouth, and looked over at him expectantly.

Frey opened his mouth, unsure of what to say. He hadn't talked about this in years. He'd never talked about this. While it was true that Kyle had been a bit of a perfectionist, he hadn't been miserable. Not while making music, not while performing. He loved playing concerts, letting the audience's energy flow into him through a channel of noise. He would bounce around the stage, his all pervading spirit infecting the whole band, even extending to Frey. Kyle hadn't been depressed because of it. But...

"He... That night, he told me- he was drunk, really drunk- he said to me, and I can never forget what he said, 'they think I write music.'" Frey said quietly, licking his dry, chapped lips. He caught Marla's stare, swallowing a lump in his throat. "I-"

"Why didn't you say anything back? Why did you-" She shook her head violently, disbelievingly. "I- he needed to hear something encouraging, and then maybe-" She stopped, choking on a weak sob and wiping furiously at the tears in her eyes. "You could have done something."

Frey bit his lip. He has no experience with crying women. They intimidate him, especially this one, dragging out the ghost of her dead brother and forcing him to confront it.

"You were his friend, right?" Marla bit out viciously. "You cared about him, didn't you?" At his weak nod, she continued, "Then why didn't you do anything?"

"I..." He closed his eyes, trying to gather all of his Kyle memories in a single place, to focus his thoughts on what had happened, so he could pull apart his actions, and Kyle's. "I did care about him. Being in that band was like a dream come true. I felt, for once in my life, like I really belonged. I loved the music we made. I didn't care what Kyle would say, it was amazing. I stopped telling him that after a while, because I thought he understood, I thought he got it. But... I guess he really didn't. I wish I'd stayed with him that night, I wish I'd been there to stop him from... I would have disagreed with him, if I knew. 'You do write music,' I would have said, if I had any idea what he would have done next. It was just... I'd heard it so many times, I'd heard him say things like that so much, it stopped having any sort of effect on me. They were just words. Now they're words I will never forget."

Marla set the CD back on the shelf, wiping a hand across her face and through her hair. "I... the guys in Chernobyl would sometimes mention you,in passing. They... They always called you Frankie, though, or 'the violin guy,' and I never really knew how to find you. They knew you had dropped Kyle off at his apartment that night, but they could never find you afterwards. You... didn't go to the funeral, didn't contact any of them, never even came back to your own apartment. It was like you'd done some deed you were ashamed of and then dropped off the face of the earth. It was like you'd killed my brother and then disappeared to escape the consequences."

Frey winced. "You... I didn't, I swear."

"And that's what I thought about you. When the media dug up your identity and your connection to Kyle, that's what I thought. Immediately. You'd legally changed your name, your life, everything."

"I changed my name before Kyle died. The guys in Chernobyl never got the hang of calling me Frey, so they just know me by Frankie."

"I don't believe that anymore." She took a deep breath, looked him straight in the eyes. "You... I think it's safe to say that you were just as hurt by Kyle's death as we all were. Before, it was easy to believe that you'd had some hand in it, like you'd urged him on. When I found out it was you, I was mad. I wanted to find you, I needed to find you."

Frey winced again, taking a seat at the kitchen table and putting a hand to his temple. "I figured."

"But the more I thought about it, the less it made sense, for me to be angry. The Frey I knew, from the tour and the concerts, wasn't like that. He was always kind of quiet and lonely looking, even when he was surrounded by people and laughing," She placed the CD back on the bookshelf and took a seat at the table across from him. "Charlie mentioned something to me, once, about how you reminded him of me, when I first joined The Acutes. Back then I was still mourning and halfway lost in my grief. It took a year in the band for me to realize Kyle was wrong about writing music, and for me to realize that writing music was something I really wanted to do. Only... You still haven't gotten over it."

"Charlie said that?" Frey asked, dropping his arm. He stared at his hand blankly, just to give his eyes something to look at and to keep him from staring for too long at Marla's face.

"Well, yeah, you know Charlie. He's a pretty smart guy, once you get past his promiscuity," Ignoring or just oblivious to Frey's flinch, she continued on. "Anyway, the point I am trying to make is not forgiveness. I don't forgive you. There's nothing to forgive. Kyle's death was not your fault, and I'm just beginning to realize that. Kind of late, probably, but... I came here to tell you that."

He swallowed thickly, forcing chapped lips to part and omit sound. "Why?"

"Because you always seem lost. I've talked to Jesse, Lucas, and Doug- they told me that back then, when you were still in Chernobyl, you were, well, not exactly cheerful, but at least relatively happier than you are today. You'd come up with a new song for the violin every week, it seemed." She stood up abruptly and grabbed one of the notebooks from the floor in front of the couch. "That's what this is, isn't it? Your old music notes. They said that you'd always have a notebook with you, and you'd constantly be jotting things down in your spare time, random notes and phrases of some song you were slowly piecing together.I have never seen you like that." She set the book on the table, and opened it to a random page, covered with scribbles of treble clefs and the musical notes following, half-worded lyrics beneath them. "Have you ever thought about that? About why you don't write like this anymore?" Marla pushed the notebook closer to him insistently, urging him to look.

He glanced at it once, knowing what he'd see there. "I can't. I'm really only good at playing, not writing, anyway."

"You shouldn't tell yourself that."

"It's the truth."

"No, Frey, look. This phrase," She pointed to one section of the paper, "and this phrase," she pointed to another, "would make a great intro to a ballad. You're fantastic at arranging the music to cover songs, why can't you write your own music? Have you tried?"

"What point are you trying to make?" Frey asked quietly. Yeah, he used to write constantly, but that was five years ago, when becoming his own songwriter was an attainable dream. But a dream was not the same as a possibility, and he had accepted that long ago.

Marla let out one big sigh and with it escaped her frustrations, anger, and sadness. "The point is, don't let Kyle's words hold you back from something you used to love." At his blank stare, she rolled her eyes and glanced at the clock. "Think about it, okay? I have to go, but... just think about what I said, okay? And remember, I don't blame you. Stop feeling guilty." She paused, blinked, and smiled. "And call Charlie. When he found out I was going to see you today, he went nuts. I think he might be a bit worried. Haha."

Giving him a brief kiss on the cheek, she left.

Frey looked at the notebook in front of him, his hands, and then the clock.

"I am not calling Charlie," He said aloud, and the vehemence in his voice surprised him. Despite that, he got up to find his telephone.

A/N: I cranked this out despite having to study for a midterm, write a paper, and read 100+ pages of material for my classes. Damn, and everyone told me college was easy. Now that I'm home for Thanksgiving, I finally have time to finish this chapter, which has been "in progress" for two months. TWO MONTHS. For 2000 words? I am a slow writer, and I am sorry. Hopefully the next chapter should be out by winter break, because I have oodles of free time then. :) We're getting close to the chronological end, though I may squeeze in a few drabbles or side stories if I'm feeling up to it.

Oh right, when Marla refers to Lucas, Doug, and Jesse, she's talking about the other band members of Chernobyl, besides Kyle and Frey. I don't blame you if you didn't recognize their names. They are mentioned in passing in Chapter 2.

Sorry for any weirdness in this chapter (especially the end, oh god, I had no idea how to end it, so I just barfed up words and that's what happened) but I hope you enjoyed it anyway.

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all in the U.S. and please review!