“The only thing that seems out of the ordinary is that she’s sleeping too much,” Lein said.
“Don’t you think that’s to be expected? After all, look what she’s been through,” Marilinn replied.
“You guys don’t have to talk about me like I’m not in the room,” Perion said, startling them both.
Marilinn and Lein looked toward the hospital bed. Perion sat up and looked disdainfully at the I.V. tube feeding into her arm. She had the greatest desire to rip it out and throw it on the floor.
“Where’s Debi,” Perion asked.
Lein approached one side of the bed, and Marilinn came up to the other. “Ronnie took her back to L.A. with him. She said she wanted to get out of this town as soon as she could, and...” He hesitated, not sure what to say next. He sighed and plunged ahead, “Debi is...is not well. She’s having a hard time coping.”
He’d chosen his words carefully. He didn’t want to blurt out that she’d been hitting the booze a little too heavily lately. It was something she didn’t need to hear.
She nodded slightly and looked down at her hands. Her nails were ragged and broken unevenly. She recalled they’d gotten that way as she’d attempted to dig herself out of the rubble before passing out from the shock. “I see,” she said quietly. “I know the feeling.”
She glanced at the table beside the bed. It was cluttered with various cards and flower vases. Her eyes looked past the ‘get well’ gifts to a small calendar in the middle of the mess. She noticed the date and her eyes widened with a new brand of shock. Lein noticed the look on her face right away. Expecting her to blackout again, he moved in quickly and placed a steadying hand on her arm.
“Babe,” he questioned worriedly, “are you okay?”
She gave him another slight nod. “Yeah, I just noticed today’s date. I...I missed their funerals, didn’t I,” she asked, her eyes tearing up.
“I’m afraid so, dear,” Marilinn said.
Perion jerked her arm out of Lein’s hand and furrowed her ragged nails into her forehead. “Damn it to hell,” she yelled indignantly. “Why,” she cried out, “why couldn’t I be there just this one final fucking time?”
Again, Lein moved in and yanked her unyielding hands from her forehead. She hadn’t made herself bleed, but there were reddened jagged shapes where her nails had been. He shook her a little and forced her to look at him. “Don’t take this out on yourself. It wasn’t your fault, you couldn’t control what happened to you.”
“Lein’s right, Perion. It’s not like you avoided it intentionally.”
Looking directly at Lein, Perion cried, “But I wasn’t there for them at that final moment. I...I wasn’t...wasn’t there.”
He took her into his arms and held her. “Yes you were, babe, you were there. Maybe not in body, but in your soul.”
Lein returned to Perion’s room the day before she would be released. She was talking quietly to Marilinn. When they noticed him, both stopped talking immediately. It struck him oddly, but he didn’t say anything. He took his accustomed seat beside the bed.
Marilinn stood and stretched. “I think I’ll go down and get myself a bite to eat.” She leaned over and kissed Perion’s cheek gently. “I’ll be back shortly, hon.”
Perion nodded and watched her leave the room.
Lein waited until the door had swooped closed behind his mother in-law before he asked his wife, “What was going on in here just now?”
She looked at him and shrugged. “Nothing,” she said flatly.
“Nothing? Then why did you stop talking the instant I came into the room, and why did she suddenly get hungry and leave?”
She sighed. “Lein, I was going to wait until tomorrow to tell you this, but I might as well tell you now. I’m not going back to L.A. with you.”
Lein was not quite sure what he’d heard. “What? You’re not going to what?”
“I said I’m not going to L.A. with you. I think I need to stay with my mother for a little while. I’m not ready to go back home right now. I just can’t.”
He sat back in the chair and ran his hand impatiently through his hair. “What are you thinking?”
She sighed again. “I knew you wouldn’t understand. Lein, they’re all over L.A., I know I’d see something every day that would remind me of them. I can’t handle it.”
“And you think it’s not going to happen at your mom’s house? Isn’t that where everything started for the band?”
“Lein, please,” she whispered.
He leaned forward and ran his hand thoughtfully over his mouth and chin. “Okay then, I’ll just stay with you.”
She shook her head. “No,” she said, “I’m going alone.”
“Do you really think shoving me aside is a good idea?”
“Lein,” she protested, “I’m not shoving you aside.”
“The hell you aren’t. You want to stay here and you want me to go home. If you aren’t shoving me aside, then I must be pretty damn paranoid. You don’t need to be alone with this.”
“They were my band, my friends, and I need to deal with this in my own way,” she said quietly.
“Perion, I think you’re forgetting something,” he said, his voice breaking a bit. “It’s true that your band was yours, and they were your friends. But we lost something that was ours.”
She wiped a stray tear from her cheek. “I know, but-”
He shook his head and held up his hands. “No buts, there’s no room for buts anymore. What rips you apart rips me apart. We need to be together for this. If this had happened to me, I know I would need you, and I know you’d fight to be there for me. And right now, that’s what I’m going to do. There’s no way in hell I’m letting you stay here without me. I’m going back to L.A. tomorrow, and I’m damn well not going alone.”