Lola felt great. It had been rougher than she’d expected, but she didn’t care; she was just so happy that she had finally been with him. She nestled into Tanner’s arm. She wanted to lay there forever. They did lay there for a long time, though Lola was too contented to notice the minutes passing.
She did notice, however, when a coldness entered Tanner. Suddenly he felt very wooden as he held her, like something was not right. It cut the tenderness of what had just transpired between them like a knife.
She pulled away from him slightly. ‘Is something wrong?’
Still holding her with one arm, Lola was not expecting the reply she got. ‘You need to leave,’ Tanner said. There was a cold numbness to his voice, and he lay there, motionless.
Lola was genuinely taken aback, and stammered for words, ‘What do you mean leave?’ She quickly ran through all the logical explanations she could find for his sudden change in attitude, though she already knew, with mounting terror, that none of them were right.
‘You just need to leave. I don’t want you here.’ He said, even more coldly.
Lola felt tears well up in her eyes. She held the sheets over her naked body. ‘You don’t want me here? I don’t understand. I’m really, really confused’ –
He cut her off, his voice icy, and without feeling. ‘There’s nothing to be confused about. I just need you to leave.’
Lola was heartbreakingly baffled. Still she tried to find a reason behind his dramatic change in emotion. ‘But that doesn’t make any sense. You just made love to me, and it was amazing … at least I thought it was … And all those things you said to me – you can’t fake that, you just can’t.’ She laughed nervously.
He had been avoiding her gaze, but this time, he looked right at her. ‘I did. Now please, I want you to leave.’
Lola’s heart dropped. She was speechless. ‘But – I need an explanation’ –
Tanner sat up and spoke forcefully. ‘You want an explanation? I’m in love with someone else. There’s you’re explanation.’ He threw himself back down on the pillows.
Lola felt her body sink into the floor. Her mind went dizzy. Her heart froze up with pain, and shrivelled in on itself. She was too shocked and confused to be angry – to be anything other than dazed. Slowly she got up and drew her clothes back on. It required more effort than anything she had ever done before. Just don’t break here, she pleaded with herself. Just get your stuff and get out of here, get home somehow, and then break Lola. Don’t whatever you do, do it here. She calmly collected her things and walked out of the bedroom, closing the door quietly behind her.
Her body collapsed against the outside of the door, and her face contorted into a silent yelp of puzzled sorrow. Summoning every ounce of strength her being possessed, she stood up straight and walked out of the house of her undoing, into the black night of abandonment.
Lola didn’t notice Chase and Hope as she left. But they noticed her, and the trail of hurt and anger she left behind was palpable. They had been quietly discussing what the hell was going on the whole time Tanner had been in the bedroom with her. It was obvious he was having sex with this girl, but neither of them could make any sense out of who she was, and, more significantly, why she was not Amy.
After Lola shut the front door, Chase turned to Hope, even more perplexed, ‘What the fuck? What the fuck just happened?’
Hope shrugged her shoulders, speechless. Before they could contemplate it further, Tanner streaked through, in his history pants a black singlet, into the kitchen. Chase and Hope didn’t know what to say, or what to think, so they both stayed perched nervously on the couch.
After a lot of crashing and clattering Tanner popped his head back into the lounge. ‘Got any smokes Chase?’ Chase fumbled in his pocket and threw Tanner half a pack. Tanner caught it and disappeared. They heard the back door slam.
Chase and Hope stared at each other, wondering what to do. ‘Should we go out there?’ Chase asked with uncertainty.
Hope was deep in thought. ‘No, not yet. I need to try to figure out what might have happened before we talk to him.’
They both sat in silence, churning the strange occurrence around in their minds. Eventually an eerie sense of foreboding crept into Hope’s mind. She turned to Chase. ‘I don’t know what’s happened. But, given Tanner’s obsession with Amy, and how well things were going, we have to assume that she’s broken it off or something. It’s the only thing that makes sense.’ She bit her lip.
‘Shit. Poor kid. He was so into her.’
Hope grabbed Chase’s hand. ‘No, you don’t understand. If that’s the case then we have a bad situation on our hands. Tanner can be very volatile when he’s hurt or angry. We have to be careful.’ She stood up. ‘Okay, let’s go talk to him. I need to know what I’m dealing with here.’
Outside Tanner was huddled in a white blanket, drinking wine from the bottle, with a smoke clenched in his fingers. Hope calmly went and sat alongside him while Chase leant on the wall.
‘What happened? Hope was cautious and gentle with her questioning.
Tanner swigged a mouthful of wine and snorted, but said nothing.
Hope waited a moment, then pressed further, ‘What were you doing with some other girl?’
Tanner let out a disgruntled gaffaw and gulped his wine. ‘Yes, that is the question! That wasn’t Amy; it should have been, but it wasn’t. It was some other chick, who I know has had a thing for me for ages – a girl who I just lied to and used.’
Hope tried to hide her surprise. Finally she softly said, ‘But why? Why would you do that? I thought things were going well with Amy … finally.’
Tanner laughed manically. ‘So did I! Until I saw her kissing some other emo Robert Patterson clone this morning.’ He devoured his wine with angry vigour.
Suddenly everything made sense. Hope realised the gravity of what she was dealing with. But before she could say anything else, Tanner murmured, ‘Just leave me alone. I need to be alone.’
Not knowing what to do, Hope and Chase honoured his request and retreated back inside. Hope poured herself a shot of whisky and drank it. She gestured to Chase with the bottle, but he shook his head.
‘That’s fucked. Why would she do that?’ Chase said.
Hope had started pacing and was deep in thought. ‘That’s exactly the problem. I know my brother so well and I’m almost positive that he would have seen them, but not said anything. He wouldn’t have fronted her on it. And he certainly wouldn’t even consider the possibility that there might be a logical explanation, or have given her a chance to explain. In fact, he probably never even asked her if she had a boyfriend in the first place. He would have just assumed, because he was so into her, and she didn’t rebuff him, that she didn’t. And now he thinks his world is going to end.’
‘Come on, it can’t be that bad. Sure, he’s pissed off – I don’t blame him – but won’t he just go talk to her after he’s simmered down?’
Hope was pacing the kitchen with worry. ‘No, no he won’t! Remember what I told you about his ups and downs, and how he can’t handle bad emotions properly?’ Chase thought back to that conversation and nodded. Hope looked away and said, ‘She just shattered his world’. Shit, thought Chase. He too, was just now realising just how problematic this situation could potentially be.
As Chase and Hope debated the best course of action in the safety of the lounge, Tanner drank the whole bottle of wine, and subsequently fell deeper and deeper into despair. It crept up on him like grey sludge, covering his body and seeping into his insides. He wanted to rip himself apart, into little pieces, and then stamp them into the grey sludge. He wanted to destroy himself. Destroy every ounce of emotion and feeling that ran through his veins. What was it all for anyway? It was all for nothing. Fucking nothing! He was nothing. An eerie numbness encompassed him. Thoughts of Amy burned within him. He tried to be angry at her. He tried not to think of her. But she burned. She burned and singed and scorched him until he couldn’t take it anymore.
He abruptly leapt up and pounded into the kitchen. Chase and Hope, still discussing the predicament in the lounge, saw only his shadow dash in and out. Hope padded into the kitchen and looked at the liquor shelf. A bottle of vodka was missing.
This life, Tanner mused … this life, in all its fucking brilliance! It offered him nothing. No check that – it offered him everything, and then stripped it ruthlessly from his being like flaying skin. There was no fate. There was no reason. No meaning to life, no point to anything. It was all a sadistic game, born of some power hungry monster, incapable of mercy. Humanity was revolting. A seething pile of heaving bodies using the earth like a whore. Oh, to destroy them all. But no, they had destroyed him instead. Life had destroyed him. He was nothing. He felt like nothing.
Yet he felt so much, and it was really fucking with his head! He felt everything!! Go away, he pleaded. He didn’t want any more feelings! It was too much. He couldn’t stand it. He wanted to be a numb shell of nothingness. He was a numb shell of nothingness. Or he soon would be, he thought, looking at the near empty bottle. Stupid vodka! Why didn’t it work faster, ridiculous buffoon of a beverage!
Soon Tanner felt himself blissfully slipping away into nothingness. Ahhh, so relieving. He closed his eyes. Then a sharp stab of feeling brought him back to reality. Sharp, angry, demented, purple stabs of feeling ripped through him. Heartless. Devoid of compassion. Out to strip him of his soul. Take it, he offered, just take it. I don’t want it.
He felt a sudden surge of urgency. Nothing was working. Why wasn’t anything working?! He needed something else. He was stumbling inside. Hope and Chase had to get out of the way, they were insignificant obstacles in his way! Find the medicine cabinet, where is it? Some cries of ‘what are you doing’ in the background – just meaningless noise. Don’t care, can’t hear you. Pills of some description in his hand. Take them. Take them all. Down in one gulp, thankyou very much! More cries, louder this time. The angry thought of why are you people still here invading my reverie of hell?! Get out, get out!!!
Now just wait, now we just wait, Tanner told his blurry mind. It will go away, we just have to wait a few minutes and it will go away. It will all go away. Soon. Very soon now. All of it … It’s not going away. It should have gone away by now. He was panicking. Really panicking now. What to do? What could he do?!
The harsh world spun around him. He felt himself reaching for something, but he couldn’t feel his body any more. He had no body. How wonderful …
Tanner lay in his bed, curled up like a tiny child. He was broken. He had no awareness of time passing. Time was irrelevant to him. The real world was something intangible; not real at all. He was in a shell of self-preservation. Wallowing in eternal misery. Not hoping for survival. Yet, his body shut down to preserve itself nonetheless. It did so without his mind’s consent. He could not function. Could not move. Could not think. It was blissful. Blissful in its numbness.
When he finally slept, Hope and Chase breathed again. Luckily, he had thrown up most of the pills, so they didn’t need to take him to hospital. Glass of wine in hand, they sat together on the love seat outside, each considering the despair of one they loved with a sense of helplessness. They sat in silence. Hope was smoking too, just to keep her hands busy. The two of them sat, and smoked, and drank; quietly praying to a god they didn’t believe in.
‘Should we call your parents?’ Chase had been mulling it over for a while. He needed action. He needed to do something to feel useful. Feeling this helpless was not acceptable to him.
Hope had worn her brain dry thinking about the right course of action. ‘I’ve been thinking about that too. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do. I mean – I’m not sure they can do anything anyway, they’re on a cruise! And then even if I do reach them, and they can’t do anything, they’ll go mad with worry. No, I really think this is something I need to deal with on my own, unfortunately. When he’s had episodes before, mum and dad have been the ones that have handled it – and I helped of course. But now … this time, I’m on my own.’
Her sense of strength stirred something within Chase. She was such a caring woman, who never ceased to keep surprising him, even when he thought he had figured her out.
‘Yeah, you’re right.’ He looked at her. He felt an overwhelming desire to hold her to him, and comfort her, but he forced himself to hold back. Instead he simply said, ‘But, you’re not alone, you know that right?’
Hope said nothing. Instead she closed her eyes and grabbed Chase’s hand, holding it tightly, willing herself not to cry. At her touch a wave of indigo electricity bolted through Chase. He chastised himself for it. Now is not the time Chase. Now is not the time …