The Teddy Bears' Picnic

Chapter 7

They’re gone. They’re gone. They’re gone. They’re gone. Tyrell’s voice chanted in his head as he fidgeted anxiously in the back of the taxi .

Elliot’s mind jumped to the worst possible scenarios as he silently prayed to every god he could think of that the driver would go faster. Gone meant dead, right? It was definitely never a good thing. Tyrell had sounded so distraught. Oh God. Elliot was terrible at making people feel better. It wasn’t that he couldn’t empathise, he just never knew what to say. When things had gone wrong in his own life, people’s words of comfort just irritated him. He wanted to scream at them that they didn’t understand. Nothing ever made him feel better.

He wondered when his relationship with Tyrell had become so co-dependent. Why Tyrell trusted him so much, and when the hell the feeling became mutual.

It struck Elliot suddenly that he may well be the most important person to Tyrell. Did Tyrell have any friends? Elliot doubted it; his wife and career seemed to be at the centre of his world. And now he had neither. What about parents? Did he go back to Sweden from time to time and do nice normal things like family dinners, and walks? It was hard to picture.

The taxi started to slow down, and Elliot recognised the row of grand townhouses from his last visit. An icy chill ran down his spine as he again recalled his conversation with Joanna. How was it possible that she was gone, he’d only seen her a few days ago? He forced down a laugh as he thought about how simple and (relatively) normal his life was not that long ago. Before Mr. Robot, fsociety’s plans to save the world, and unsettling blue-eyed execs that appeared at every turn.

Again, nervousness settled at the bottom of his stomach as he hurriedly paid the driver and ran up the stairs to knock on Tyrell’s front door.

Several agonising seconds passed, before the door swung open to reveal a wild-eyed Tyrell.

‘Elliot,’ Tyrell breathed shakily, motioning limply for Elliot to come in. With the door safely closed behind them, Elliot took a moment to study him. He looked wrecked, uncharacteristically messy hair falling into bloodshot, puffy eyes, and clothes in disarray. Elliot thought he could smell vodka on him too, but he couldn’t be sure.

‘Tyrell, what happened?’

‘They’re gone Elliot- Joanna, the baby. Gone!’ His voice cracked on the last word. As if the effort of standing suddenly became too much, he swayed backwards to lean against the wall, shaking his hands vigorously as if trying to get blood back into his fingertips. Without thought, Elliot captured them in his own hands and clasped them firmly.

This seemed to jolt Tyrell back into the moment and he blinked at Elliot in shock.

‘Hey,’ Elliot tried to give him a small smile, ‘tell me from the start, what happened?’

Tyrell struggled to suck in a deep breath. Elliot moved his hands upwards to rub the top of Tyrell’s arms, in what he hoped was a gesture of comfort and encouragement. ‘It’s okay.’ Here we go, time to roll out the shitty platitudes.

Tyrell made a weird strangled sound. ‘They’re just…gone! Look!’ He took off suddenly, pacing into the adjoining room. Elliot followed nervously.

‘See!’ he gestured around. All Elliot saw was the expensive furniture and elegant décor he’d expected from a home belonging to an image-conscious man like Tyrell.

‘Um…?’ he began, not liking the crazed look Tyrell was giving him.

‘Every single trace: gone! Look, all the photos of us, any sign that she was ever here. It’s like she’s been deleted.’ He swore loudly in Swedish, and the last syllable tailed off into a sob.

‘She left you?’

‘No, no, no! She left me, yes. After our son was born she told me I had to fix things if I wanted to be a part of our family. But she gave me a chance Elliot! She wouldn’t just leave me like this. She wouldn’t!’

Elliot looked at him pityingly; he seemed to be grasping at straws.

‘Ty-‘

‘No, Elliot! No!’ He shouted, drawing himself to his full height, a mad look in his eyes.

He strode purposefully across the room to Elliot, grabbing him by the forearm. ‘Come with me.’

They took frantic strides up to Tyrell’s bedroom, and what Elliot saw sitting in the middle of the bed made his blood run cold.

A single red balloon.

‘Like the one that-‘

‘Yes,’ Elliot whispered breathlessly, his mind already starting to race.

‘Elliot, what does this mean?’ he asked so brokenly that Elliot wished desperately he could give him some sort of answer.

‘I don’t know.’

Tyrell let out another choked sob, squeezing his eyes shut, and clamping a hand over his mouth.

‘I think I need a minute,’ he managed to whisper, and Elliot nodded blankly.

Elliot flinched as he heard a smash come from the next room, and the dam finally burst as Tyrell began to cry.

Elliot sat awkwardly on the bed, trying to block out the muffled sobs coming through the walls by examining the balloon. As with the one on Tyrell’s wrist though, there was nothing special about it at all, and Elliot sighed in frustration. He could still hear the sounds of Tyrell’s distress, and he decided to go back downstairs and give him a bit more privacy.

He found his way into the kitchen and had a brief nose through the fancy-looking food and expensive wines. Elliot was reminded of the pizza he’d fed Tyrell back at his place, but the thought no longer brought him any amusement.

Sighing, he took a seat, and tried to think of something, anything, he could do to help. He took out his phone and searched Tyrell’s Facebook profile. No relationship status. No photos of the two of them together. No private messages, or interactions of any kind. A quick search for ‘Joanna Wellick’ pulled up nothing, nor did ‘Joanna Olofsson’. Elliot searched through his friends for people that could be family, but nothing came up. No leads there then. Elliot wondered again if Tyrell had any family. Maybe they just had no online presence, or worse, maybe they too had been erased. Elliot shuddered at the term ‘erased’. What were they supposed to assume here? Had Tyrell’s family been killed? A wave of sympathy washed over him, and he considered whether he should go up and see how Tyrell was doing.

He poured two glasses of water, and pondered taking up some food, before deciding against it.

Taking a deep, calming breath he made his way quietly up the stairs. He stopped outside the door, staring at it as if it would tell him what to do. He cleared his throat, and knocked gently.

‘Tyrell?’

He heard movement from inside, but no protestations, so he took that as permission to enter.

Tyrell was standing in the middle of the room, rubbing his eyes, and desperately trying to clean himself up. Putting the mask back on.

Elliot couldn’t say what he did next was something that ever came naturally to him, but suddenly it felt like the only right thing to do; he crossed the room and pulled Tyrell into a tight hug.

The taller man stilled for a second, before responding by wrapping his arms around Elliot’s slight form. He rested his face against the crook of Elliot’s shoulder, and took in a deep, shuddering breath. Elliot got the sense that Tyrell, like him, wasn’t accustomed to being hugged. He suspected that touch was not something that Tyrell often associated with comfort or safety. But by the way he had completely relaxed into his arms, Elliot got the impression that it was something he very much craved.

If there was one thing Elliot had learned about Tyrell in their recent time together, it was that he was not the cold, heartless robot he wanted others to believe he was. Elliot was starting to suspect that Tyrell’s bug was less about his arrogance, or hunger for power, and more about him being at odds with the part of himself that didn’t allow for softness, or genuine affection, for fear of seeming weak.

Elliot hugged him harder, rubbing his back and murmuring comforting nothings.

‘I don’t understand Elliot. I don’t understand. I don’t understand. I can’t-‘ Tyrell’s words dissolved into tears once again, and Elliot brought a hand up to rest comfortingly in his soft hair.

They stayed like that for several long minutes, before Tyrell gently pulled away.

Wiping his face with his sleeve, his eyes were downcast as he mumbled, ‘I’m sorry.’

‘It’s okay.’ Elliot felt awkward again. What was he supposed to do now? He remembered the water, and picked it up to offer to Tyrell.

Once Tyrell had finished drinking, he took a deep breath to compose himself before echoing Elliot’s thoughts.

‘What do we do now?’

‘I don’t know. Maybe we should-‘

‘Stay, please. Don’t go. I need you here, with me.’ The hint of panic in his voice was back.

‘It’s okay, I’ll stay,’ Elliot offered, with a small, genuine (if awkward) smile.

They headed back downstairs, Elliot with the vague plan of getting Tyrell sat down, and organising some food for them.

As they passed a large mirror in one of the hallways however, something caught Elliot’s eye.

His heart fluttering with anticipation, he pulled at the corner of something white that had been hidden behind the mirror. It was an envelope addressed to Tyrell.

He thrust it eagerly at Tyrell, who took it with shaking hands. He carefully pulled out the contents of the envelope, studied them, and wordlessly put them back in the envelope. Elliot stared, not breathing, and unable to read Tyrell’s expression. He jumped when Tyrell let out a wounded yell, ripped the envelope in two, and swiped wildly, sending a nearby vase crashing into the wall. Breathing heavily he turned on his heel and strode away from Elliot.

Confused, and frightened by the outburst, Elliot picked up the remains of the envelope. Carefully he removed the contents, and pieced together the two halves.

It was a card, with a generic picture of a nice landscape. Opening it revealed just two words written in neat script:

‘Happy Birthday’


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