From Essex County, With Love

Follow up to waiting for the lights to go.

Bob got exactly one warning that Frankie Iero had showed up on her doorstep.

She should have gotten at least three, maybe five if the system that was in place had worked properly–Jamia should have called to tell her, Gerard was supposed to send a text message at the least, and Brian, the bastard, was probably laughing himself sick at the email he was obviously not writing.

But at least she got the one, in the form of Henrik grinning at her as she walked into the lobby. She paused, wary. “What?” Bob asked. “Don’t tell me you let your kid listen to Led Zeppelin and now he wants to be a rock star, ’cause every kid thinks that and most of them become accountants.”

“You have a visitor,” Henrik said, sliding the sign-in log across the counter for her to see “FRANK IERO” scrawled in messy block letters along two lines of the page.

“Oh shit,” she said. “Oh, shit, Henrik, did you let him in by himself?”

“Hey, Ms. Bryar, they’re your instructions, not mine,” Henrik, being annoyingly reasonable, pointed out.

“Fuck,” she said as she realized the full meaning of Frank Iero in her apartment by himself for longer than an hour. “I gotta–”

“See you later, Ms. Bryar!” Henrik called as Bob ran for the elevator. “And Artie totally loved that Led Zep cd you made!”

Bob tapped her food anxiously as the elevator crawled up to her floor, and when the doors opened she fumbled with her keys to get the lock to turn. When she finally got in, she looked around for a wild moment, trying to figure out if something had been set on fire or all her furniture had been sold or dancing monkey clowns were having a party in her bedroom.

Strangely, the apartment was quiet except for one of her Thelonious Monk vinyls whispering out of her sound system and the smell of something delicious coming from her little-used kitchen.

“Frank?” she said carefully, tossing her things on the nearby table.

“Bob!” Frank’s head poked out from behind the fridge, all smiles. “Hi! I missed you, so I thought I’d come out and see you.”

“Okay,” Bob said. “But you remember how we agreed that you would call first? Or that you would tell Jamia and she would call? Or you would tell Brian and he would call?”

“Eh,” Frank said, waving around a wooden spoon with something that looked a lot like Iero family recipe red sauce flinging off it. “I got bored. They’ll find out eventually.”

“Oh christ,” Bob said, reaching for her phone and thumbing a call through to Jamia.

“Frankie’s here,” she said in a rush when the line connected.

“Oh, I know,” Jamia said, sounding blissfully unconcerned.

Bob’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean, you know?”

“I have my buddy at Newark track for Frankie buying tickets. Sometimes he gets in these moods, where he needs to be moving. He comes back in a couple of days. I think he’s just not used to being off the road.”

“And you didn’t call me?” Bob said, aware that her voice had gotten a little low.

“You need more surprises in your life, Bob Bryar,” Jamia said, amused. “Just send him home in more or less one piece, please.”


“Bye Bob!”

Bob closed her eyes and counted to five and turned back to Frank, who was doing something in her kitchen that had a sixty percent chance of being good. “Jamia says–”

“Oh, I figured,” Frank said cheerfully. “Hey, you want to try this puttanesca?”

Bob moved a little closer. “Is that… No, it can’t be.”

Frankie’s grin lit up his face. “Oh, it is,” he assured her. “This is straight from the bosom of Momma Iero. Who says you need to call her and tell her you’re not dead, what kind of daughter are you?”

“The kind that already has a mother. How the hell did you get your mother’s puttanesca through security?”

Frank just shrugged.

“Gimme,” she said, taking the spoon from his hand to lick at the sauce. “Oh, god, I’ll call her tomorrow,” Bob practically moaned.

Frank laughed. “It’ll be ready in a little while. You wanna go sit down? I got a bottle of chianti on my way here.”

“Yes please,” Bob said, because Frankie knew from wine. They sat down on her big stuffed couch, and Bob turned up the music a little more. She wasn’t going to say it, but she missed Frank too. She thought he probably knows anyway.

As soon as he put down his wine glass, though, she punched him in the shoulder.

“Fucking ow,” Frankie swore, clutching at his arm like the bitch he was. “What the fuck was that for, Bob? I’m making you dinner! I bought you wine!”

“‘Will Bob Bryar Ever Date: 2009 Agenda,'” Bob read from the paper she pulled out of a drawer in her coffee table.

“Oh shit,” Frankie said, his eyes widening.

“‘Item One: Does Bob need to have a sexual identity crisis? Sub-item A: But I thought she liked dick.'”

“Bob, oh crap, Bob, I didn’t mean it–”

“‘Item Two: Is blind dating a viable option? Alternatively, internet dating: the new black?'”

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry, Bob–”

“‘Item Three: Can we just marry Bob and Brian in secret? Sub-item A: Is Dewees available?'”

She stopped and tossed the paper onto the coffee table, grabbing her wine glass and taking a long sip.

Frankie looked caught between laughter and fear. It was a pretty familiar look on him.

“So what the fuck, Frank?” Bob said conversationally.

Frank rubbed his arm one more time and took his own wine glass back.

“I just–you seemed kind of lonely,” he said into his glass.

Bob’s eyes narrowed. “Did I tell you I was lonely? Did I tell you I was looking for someone? Because I don’t recall having that conversation with you.”

“No, but you’re pretty shit at taking care of yourself, so sometimes I have to do it for you,” Frank shot back, tucking his legs up into the couch.

Bob blinked. “I wasn’t lonely, Frank. I had you guys,” she pointed out.

“Yes, you had four married dudes who were just about to abandon you for real life,” Frank said, his fingers tightening around the stem of his glass. “And you kept talking about going back to Chicago, like you weren’t even going to stick around. I didn’t want you to be alone.”

Bob didn’t really know what to say to that. So she took a sip of her wine, looked at Frank, and said, “You’re a dumbass, but I love you. Don’t do that shit again, please.”

Frank smiled a little at her. “Well, I don’t have to, do I?” he pointed out. “What with your new boyfriend and all,” he sing-songed.

“You’re not meeting Mike,” Bob replied quickly.

“Too late!” Frank crowed. “We’re going mini-golfing tomorrow. It’s your day off, I already checked, and the park stays open late so Mike can go after school. Muhahaha! I will meet this Mike Walker and deem him fit for your company.”

Bob set her glass down so she could groan into her hands.

“C’mon, I think dinner’s ready,” Frank said, tugging on her arm and oblivious to her protests. “You know you want some of Momma Iero’s puttanesca, don’t front.”

Resigned, Bob followed Frank to the table. She filled up their wine glasses, and just as she took another sip, Frankie called happily from the kitchen, “Oh! And Jamia’s pregnant!”

Most of the wine ended up on the floor.