Frank stared at his reflection in the full length mirror in his bedroom. He was stood in his boxers in his dimly lit room prodding, poking and pinching the fat around his hips and stomach. All he could see was fat and it was everywhere. He tried sucking in his stomach but it was no use. Nothing worked. He still saw the excess fat around his hip bones and hanging off his stomach. He heaved a heavy, sad sigh.
“Maybe it’s the light?” he spoke out loud, trying to convince himself it was true. Frank continued to look at his reflection. The longer he looked the fatter and fatter he appeared to himself. The realisation that he didn’t have the perfect figure scared him a lot. He wanted, if not needed, to be perfect.
Throughout his childhood he had always been the fatter friend. People loved to pinch his cheeks and tell him how adorable he was. At first, he loved the attention and accepted any treats that he was given. He was perfectly happy until he reached twelve and moved schools. This is when it all changed. People didn’t see him as that adorable child anymore, they saw him as fat, obese, ugly; any insult that came to the minds of the other children in school. They only had one aim: to put him down on his weight. He hated it.
Preteen Frank tried to laugh it off, they were only joking, of course, that’s what his mother had always told him. Words could only hurt him if he let them do so. He went to school every day smiling at the snide comments thrown at him, not letting the students see how it was affecting him.
Eventually the comments got too much. He tried to cut down how much he ate without anyone noticing. He started off missing breakfast which quickly turned into lunch. His mother caught onto his plan when we started refusing snacks she offered him. She knew Frank enough to see this wasn’t normal. She had noticed the weight dropping off him too, but she put this down to puberty at first.
His mom sat down with him and asked him about school and how it was going. She got the usual occasional grunt and grumble in response to her questions. Evidently this approach wasn’t going to work.
Frank continued to skip meals. He managed to drop pounds in weeks; feeling immense happiness when he saw the number on the scales go down. It gave him the quick confidence boost he was looking and craving for. However, it was too high for him. He’d set a goal – a perfect weight. He would get there, he knew it. He’d get there even if he nearly killed him in the process. He just had to keep on going.
The thrill of buying new, smaller clothes never failed to excite him in the strangest way. Every time he bought a pair of jeans one size smaller he felt pride rush through his veins. He was getting thinner and people wouldn’t call him out on it weight anymore.
“You need new clothes again, Frank? You only bought these jeans two months ago,” his mother sighed as he put the old pair of trousers in a plastic bag for a local charity shop.
Frank shrugged, ignoring the questions, and continued to put his old clothes in the bag.
“Honey,” his mom said as she sat down on his bed, patting the space next to her. “Sit with me?”
Frank sighed and slumped down next to his mom. All he wanted to do was get his baggy clothes out of his sight. The size of the labels appalled him.
“You know I asked you if you were okay a few months ago?” his mother asked.
Frank vaguely remembered the attempt his mom had made earlier that year and nodded.
“I need you to be honest with me, Frank. I thought you were losing the weight because of puberty but it’s clear now that it’s definitely more. You’d dropped four cloth sizes in the last six months, you don’t seem to be eating as much as you used to. Are you starving yourself, love?” his mother said, her voice cracking ever so slightly.
Frank knew what he was doing. He knew starving was the answer but to him, it seemed the easiest way to get the results he wanted. He didn’t want to tell his mom as it would only make her worry, it wasn’t fair. Frank silently shook his head, feeling his face heat up.
“I’m not, mom. Don’t worry,” he said with a forced smile as he stood up and exited the room.
Gerard had always been the really quiet person in the back of the class, drawing away instead of participating in the lessons or talking to his classmates. Gerard may not have been the most attentive in class but he could spot changes in a person’s mood or appearance within seconds.
Gerard wasn’t creepy, he just enjoyed observing people. They fascinated him, especially the way people acted to one another. Everyone acted differently to different people and it intrigued him.
Recently Gerard had been paying special attention to a boy in his English class. He wasn’t too sure what his name was but it started with an F, but names never concerned him. Well, not usually, but this person was the exception.
He’d seem the boy go from a slightly rounded figure to a slim one, boarding on underweight. The boy’s sudden and dramatic weight loss made little alarm bells go off in his head. Two scenarios flashed through his mind: either he was being neglected or he was starving himself. He guessed it was the latter option as he always had new clothes once the ones he had become too big – which was often.
Gerard started to plan a way to ask him if he was okay and also to get him name. Gerard felt like he should get to know the person standing in the front of the class.
English never went quickly. It was never Frank’s strongest subject. As much as he loved to read, Shakespeare never interested him. The complex language and sentence structures confused him a lot.
Frank quickly packed his bag, throwing his pens and notebook in his bag before swinging it over his shoulder and headed towards the door.
Just as he left the class and tuned the corner, a hand landed on his shoulder. He didn’t expect the contact because he didn’t have any friends. At first he expected it was going to be someone bullying him about his weight or whatever flaw they could see. He took a deep breath, preparing to defend himself and turned around to face the person.
“Hi, I’m Gerard – Gerard Way.” the person smiled at him with a toothy grin, hand still on his shoulder.
“I...I’m Frank?” he replied, looking stunned at the boy. He had black, greasy hair which rested just above his shoulder and covered part of his left eye. He was pale, almost too pale. It looked like he hadn’t been outside in years. “What do you want?” Frank asked.
“Nothing. I just wanted to see if you’re okay,” Gerard replied, removing his hand from Frank’s shoulder.
The random act of kindness surprise Frank. No one in school had asked him if he was okay before, not even the teachers. He looked back at Gerard with a perplexed expression on his face. He’d seen him walk around the halls and sit in the back of the class before but never heard his voice. It was a lot higher than he expected.
“I’m fine,” Frank huffed, before starting to walk towards his next class.
“Wait!” Gerard called after him, causing Frank to turn around with a bored expression on his face.
“What?” he sighed.
“Here,” Gerard said, handing him a scrap of paper. “Take this. Text or phone me whenever you want.”
Frank looked down at the scruffy bit of paper and saw a number untidily written on it. Gerard didn’t seem like a person who’d harm him in anyway, so he took out his phone and programmed it into it.
“Th-thanks?” Frank stuttered before they walked in opposite directions.
Frank and Gerard messaged each other daily. From that moment on they had become closer and closer. Frank had never had a friend in which he could confide him. It was a nice feeling to know someone was there to talk at any time. He could message Gerard at five in the morning if he was having an especially bad night and he would get a reply within an hour.
Gerard had convinced Frank to eat during school. Gerard always brought extra food in case Frank had ‘forgotten’ or made any other excuse. Frank thought the gesture was nice but he couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt hit him whenever he hate.
They’d been learning in Health class how eating enough was important and all the consequences which came with under eating, but it still didn’t deter Frank. He still had a goal to reach and he was too close to give up now.
It was summer and it was far too hot to sit in the canteen so Frank and Gerard found a shaded area under a tree to eat. Gerard took out a pack of cookies and offered one to Frank, which is quickly refused.
“Why?” Gerard asked as he put the food on the floor.
“Not hungry,” his friend shrugged.
“Don’t lie. You haven’t eaten all day.”
“I’m not hungry,” Frank snapped, turning to face away from Gerard.
Frank shook his head and looked back at Gerard.
“It’s an anxiety disorder that causes someone to have a distorted view of how they look and spend a lot of time worrying about it. Like, they the barely visible scar they may have is a major flaw that everyone is looking at, or that their nose look abnormal.” He said. “In your case, it could be that you see yourself as...fat?”
Frank flinched at the word ‘fat’, but allowed Gerard to continue.
“Frank, I’m not stupid. Your mother, she isn’t stupid. We all know you’ve been starving yourself for months on end now. Remember when I went up to you when we first met?”
Frank nodded, “yes?”
“I asked you if you were okay, didn’t I? I saw that you’d been losing weight and I was worried even though we’d never talked before. That’s also why I gave you my number. You looked like you needed someone to talk you. You always seemed so alone in class.”
He stayed silent and looked off into the distance, not focusing on anything.
Frank was brought out of his thoughts when we felt an arm awkwardly wrap around his shoulders, shortly followed by Gerard pulling him closer to his body.
“Frank, you need to get help,” Gerard said before he started to cry.
From the conversation onwards Frank went to various therapy sessions. He sat through emotionally therapists telling how he should eat and how important it was. They told him what could happen if he didn’t eat. They tried to shock him into eating and every other tactic in their books. Their methods didn’t help though. The only person who helped truly was Gerard.
Gerard would often stay over at Frank’s house, making sure he ate and didn’t throw it away. Frank’s mother didn’t mind. She saw that he was slowing gaining weight and allowed Gerard to continue whatever he was doing to help her son not starve to death.
The guilt that followed eating started to die down. Frank could eat a meal without wanting to either cry or throw it up. Plus, he was starting to enjoy food again. His mother had always been an amazing cook, so Frank and Gerard would spend hours finding different recipes for her to attempt to cook. They found great pleasure in finding the most complicated meal for her do to and laugh while she sighed and shook her head at what they had chosen. This didn’t stop her. Everything they chose, she always did perfectly making both boys groan at the defeat and rush off to look for another.
All that happened over five years ago. Frank was no longer a teenager starving himself, but a young adult still battling with body dysmorphic disorder.
The days fluctuated a lot. Some days he loved his body and wanted to wear the tightest clothes he owned to show it off, but others he couldn’t stand it and wanted to remove the fat. Today was one of those days.
He couldn’t help it, it wasn’t his fault. It was the chemical in his brain that made him think this, Gerard had told him once. He couldn’t stop it and it was killing him.
He was no longer starving himself so weight gain was inevitable. He knew that but he understood that he had to. The side-effects of staving himself no longer appealed to him. He wanted to live past fifty now. He had a future of sorts.
Frank continued to look at his reflection and focused on his legs. He poked his thighs and saw them wobble slightly. The wobble indicated fat, striking fear through his spine. He didn’t want to be fat, not again. He couldn’t deal with the insults again. He kept on poking every fatty area, making himself become more distressed.
In the midst of his self pitying spiral, he heard the door open and a familiar voice greet him.
“I’m home, love,” his boyfriend called as he put the bags of food on the dining table.
Frank coughed, clearing his throat. “I’m in the bedroom,” he shouted back while stepping away from the mirror. He didn’t want his boyfriend to know what he had been doing. He’d promised that he’d try not to look at his body in such a critical way anymore. Frank tried but sometimes it was hard.
“Hey,” his boyfriend whispered, wrapping his arms around his waist and holding him close, rocking him gently. “Why are you standing in only your boxers?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Frank snorted; he knew what he was suggesting. “I just got out of bed,” he said.
“It’s three in the afternoon, Frank.”
“I know that, Gerard,” he tried laugh before turning around and finally kissing his boyfriend.
They’d been dating for over four years now. People had put bets on that they wouldn’t last a year but they liked to prove people wrong.
Gerard pulled away from their embrace and looked at Frank in the eyes. “What’s up? You don’t seem yourself today.”
Frank shook his head; he didn’t want to speak about it. He knew it was his fault that he’d ruined his mood.
“Frank...” Gerard pressed.
“It’s nothing. Let’s put the shopping away, okay?”
Gerard hummed and followed his boyfriend out of the room.
Putting the groceries away only took a short time. Their apartment was small but Gerard found a way to make everything fit. “Everything had its own place, and that’s where it will stay,” he always said while putting different items in their correct places. Frank never questioned his system, he knew better.
Besides, it was perfect. They were only in their early twenties and finding a house of their own as an achievement all in its own. Gerard work from home, mainly. He drew comics and sent them off to different local publishers and received a small quantity of money back from them. Frank worked in a small music store, selling guitars to customers and advising them on which was best for them. They weren’t the best paying jobs but they both enjoyed them and it got them by nicely.
Frank was sprawled out on their sofa, flicking through boring daytime TV before Gerard sat between the space of Frank’s legs, leaning back and pressing his head onto the other man’s chest.
“Tell me what’s up,” Gerard whined, blinking up at Frank.
“There’s nothing to say,” he puffed and carried on looking for more dull dramas.
“Come on, I know something’s up. I’ve known you for years now, I can tell. It’s like a sixth sense. You can’t lie to me. Besides, you’re a shitty lair, Frank. Even you know that,” he said as he shifted a little to get a better angle of Frank’s face.
“Fucking hell, Frank!” Gerard exclaimed. “Just tell me, okay? Is it your BDD acting up again? You haven’t been you for ages now. You’ve just seemed so...distant. It’s worrying me, Frank. You know I love you and don’t like it when you’re like it. It stresses me out.”
“I love you too,” he whispered, trying to keep it voice steady. He was having an awful day and didn’t need the person he loved yelling at him.
Gerard closed his eyes tightly and sighed. “I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to shout. You know that, right? I just want to know what’s up,” he faded off.
“I’ve just been having a bad day, that’s all. Nothing important,” Frank tried to shrug it off. It wasn’t important. He just had to cope with it.
Gerard moved from his position between Frank’s legs and kneeled down on the floor, looking at him.
“Frank?” he said and reached for his partner’s hands.
Frank hummed and interlocked his fingers with Gerard’s. “Yeah?”
“Can you go out and see Mikey or Ray for a bit? An hour maximum, please?”
Frank did a double take and looked at Gerard, trying to hide his hurt expression. “W-what? What do you mean...? Is this because I’m being difficult?”
“No!” Gerard gasped. “I just think it would be good if you go out for a bit. You probably don’t feel too good because you’ve been inside for a while. Besides, they haven’t seen you in ages.”
“Hm, okay? Whatever you say...?” Frank said suspiciously before walking towards their bedroom to get changed.
While his boyfriend was out of the room, Gerard quickly walked towards the bags still on the table and dug out a pack of erasable markers. He grinned down at them, a plan already in his head.
He heard Frank open the door and walk towards him. He hadn’t combed his hair yet so it still had that untidy look that Gerard adored.
Frank was wearing a simple outfit which consisted of black skinny jeans and a faded, baggy t-shirt. The whole outfit shouldn’t have worked, it should’ve made him look borderline homeless, but it didn’t.
Gerard beamed at his boyfriend.
“What?” Frank asked, laughing uncomfortable.
“Have I ever told you how much I love you?” Gerard asked as he approached Frank and hugging his close.
“Yes, you have now you mention it,” Frank replied and kissed Gerard neck. Gerard moaned and tried to kiss Frank back, regretting his decision to ask Frank go out.
“No,” Frank laughed. “I have to go remember? You haven’t told me why either? Why do they want to see me?”
Gerard didn’t have a good explanation and avoided the question. “Go. I’ll text you when you can come back,” he said with a wink.
“Okay? Bye,” Frank said before wiggling away from his boyfriend’s hug.
“Love you,” Gerard shouted before Frank closed the front door behind him.
Gerard walked to the table and grabbed the markers, making his way into their bedroom.
While walking, Frank realised that he had no idea where Mikey or Ray could be. He decided against texting them or Gerard and strolled towards the park.
The park wasn’t big. It had a small lake with birds swimming around peacefully, a play area and numerous benches to sit on.
It was a weekday so the space was reasonably empty. It was a perfect place to clear his head. Maybe Gerard was right. Getting out of the house always helped him. The fresh air let all the negative thoughts leave his mind and filled the space with the sound of birds chirping and singing in the background.
He sat down heavily on a seat and watched the scenery around him before his eye lost focus.
Frank had lost track of time while relaxing in the park. He was pulled out from his trance by a little beep coming from his pocket.
He unlocked his phone and saw it was a message from Gerard which simple read: ‘baby, come home.’
Frank tried to hide the small smile that started to spread on his face before quickly replying and practically running back to their apartment.
Frank burst through their door, unable to wait much longer to find out why Gerard had sent him out.
When we entered the room, he was ambushed by his boyfriend, who kissed anywhere he could reach gently before stepping away,
“Hello,” he smiled.
“Hello to you too,” Frank grinned back. “What did you do when I was out?” he questioned.
“Come with me,” Gerard said before he gripped Frank’s hand gently and lead him to the bedroom.
“What are we-?”
“Shhh,” Gerard hushed. “You’ll see.”
They both entered the room. The lights were off and the curtains were closed so it was pitch black.
“What-“ Frank started.
“Close your eyes,” Gerard asked and Frank obeyed. He still had that funny feeling in the pit of his stomach. Frank had no idea what was going on but he loved surprises, especially ones from Gerard.
Gerard rushed around Frank, turning on the lights.
“Okay, open your eyes,” he said and Frank opened them. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the lights but when they did he let out a small gasp.
Gerard had written, “You’re beautiful,” in black ink right in the centre of the large mirror. But Gerard hadn’t written in everyday handwriting, he’d written it in the most beautiful and elegant writing Frank had ever seen.
Frank was lost for words. He looked at the writing on the mirror and then at his boyfriend who was anxiously fiddling with his thumbs, trying to not indicate how nervous he was.
“I didn’t know you did fucking calligraphy,” Frank gasped.
Gerard blushed and shrugged his shoulders, “I learned?”
Frank looked at the mirror in more detail. As he looked he saw that Gerard had drawn to figures in the left-hand corner. They were obviously they. What Frank guessed was Gerard was holding the drawing version of him. They were both looking in the drawn mirror, and drawn Gerard had a little speech bubble coming from where his mouth would’ve been. Written in tiny font was, “the world is ugly, but you’re beautiful to me.”
Frank let out a choked sob as he looked at Gerard before running towards him, jumping into his arms.
“Thank you,” Frank repeated, kissing every inch of Gerard’s face he could reach.
“Do...do you like it?” Gerard asked, still cradling Frank.
“Do I like it?” Frank asked back with a laugh. “I love it, you fucking idiot!”
Gerard smiled and let out a relived sigh.
“And I love you too, so much.”
“Love you too,” Gerard said as he put Frank back on the floor gently. “I have movies planned. Come on!” he said while leading his boyfriend out by the hand.
Frank may never completely love his body but Gerard would definitely help him try.