The press was horrid at both the Los Angeles airport and at the Blake’s beach house. Confused and startled, Perion did not know how to react. Her body tensed up and Lein had to literally drag her around as if she were the world’s largest Raggedy Ann doll. Once inside the house, Lein called the police and chased the droves of people away the best he could.
Perion seated herself on the sectional sofa and sank her body into the overstuffed cushions. “I’ve been away so long, I hardly recognize anything,” she said softly, trying to make a joke.
“Yeah, well, that’s okay. It has been a while. Remember when we picked this place out last year? You fell in love with it at first sight because you always wanted to live by the beach.” He approached her and sat beside her.
She sat up a little and looked at him, then nodded slightly. “Yeah, seems like a million years ago. You know, you don’t have to stick around and keep me company. I’ll be fine, I know you have things you need to do.”
He smiled a little. “Perion, you can’t get rid of me that easily.”
“I want to see Debi,” she said suddenly, not looking at him.
She looked up then and into his eyes again. That time, he looked away from her. “What do you mean I can’t? Why not?”
“I should have told you before, but I didn’t know how to break the news to you. Before she left Arkansas, she began to drink excessively. She came back here hoping it would slow her down. But according to Ronnie, it didn’t. He said she’s in therapy, and that her family convinced her to check herself into a residential program. It’s very strict, they won’t let her have visitors outside her own family.”
Perion looked away again. “Oh,” she said in a small voice.
“She’s going to write,” he added stupidly, hoping that would cheer her up a little.
She nodded. “Okay. Look Lein, you don’t have to hang around here with me all day,” she repeated. “If there’s something you have to do, please go. I kind of want to be alone for a little bit, anyway. I can handle the dudes with the cameras.”
“The guys wanted me meet them, they knew we were coming home today. But they won’t mind if I stay here with you, they’ll understand.”
“No, really, go. I’ll unpack for us and maybe later we can take a walk on the beach or something. You have your band, Lein, you can’t stop doing that. Please, go.”
Lein didn’t want to go anywhere; he didn’t think she should be left alone, especially on her first night back. But she was right; she needed to do some things by and for herself.
Sighing, he stood. “Okay, I’ll go. But call me if you need me, for anything.”
She nodded. “I will, I promise.”
He leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Take it easy, babe.” Reluctantly, he left her and stepped out the door.
When Perion was sure he was gone, she stood up and walked around the living room. She first stepped over to the side of the house. One wall was made entirely of glass, and a beautiful view of the ocean awaited her just off the outside deck. She didn’t bother opening the door and stepping out. Perion glanced once at the view and turned back around.
A 16 x 24 portrait hung on the wall opposite the grand view. It was a wedding portrait of her and Lein. She remembered that it had been a gift from the girls. They had it painted directly from a 3 x 5 photograph. It was very life-like; the artist had been a good one. She looked away from the portrait and moved into another room a little down the hall from the living room.
The room was more like a den. There was a giant screen television, a pool table, a stereo system, a fireplace, and many gold and platinum albums mounted in frames hung on the walls. Perion moved toward the mounted albums and looked at them. Most of them belonged to Hard Axe, but there were quite a few belonging to Bitter Wynter. There was also a shelf containing a few awards, again, some of them for Bitter Wynter and some for Hard Axe. A few framed magazine covers decorated the walls as well.
Perion moved to the ones of her band. She took one down and looked at it. She slowly traced her finger along the faces of Syndi and Randi. They were dead, her band was dead. The photo slipped out of her hands and fell to the carpeted floor. It didn’t shatter [thanks to the carpet], but Perion stomped the photo, shattering the glass and splintering the frame.
She ran out of the room. She ran so fast that she slammed herself into a door. Without thinking, she turned the doorknob and stepped inside. The room was empty, and virtually undecorated, but Perion was made totally aware of another stabbing, hurtful memory. She walked into the room and stood in the middle of it. She remembered the day she and Lein came to see the house for the first time. It had been right at the time they’d decided to have a baby. It was true that Perion had always wanted to live near the beach, but she had also wanted to live in the house because it offered a perfect room [in her opinion] for a baby. It was close to the master bedroom, had its own bathroom, and was big enough to stuff all the toys with which she planned to spoil the future baby.
Oh, yes, on the bus ride that had taken her friends away, she had planned exactly how she would decorate the room. She’d even gone out and looked at a few baby clothes when she knew she was pregnant for sure. The deserted room would have been her child’s room. There was no longer a child, no longer a hope for one, no longer a hope for a future of anything but loneliness and grief. All that was left was an empty room with bay windows and a window seat that would never see her rock her baby to sleep.
Lein came home around eight-thirty that evening. The press people had finally drifted away. There was even a gentle sea breeze blowing off the coast, filling the air with the tangy smell of salt water. Lein hoped he could persuade Perion to take a walk with him on the beach. There was never a more perfect night for it.
He unlocked the front door and stepped inside the house. It was dark inside and he couldn’t hear Perion moving around. He flipped on a light. The living room was empty. He moved into the den, it was empty as well. His foot crunched on something and he kneeled down to see what he’d stepped on. It had once been a photo of Bitter Wynter that had appeared in a national magazine shortly after their debut album hit number one. All that was left of it were a few shards of broken glass and torn images of the band. Lein left it where Perion had destroyed it, and he moved out of the room.
The door to one of the guest rooms was open. He then painfully recalled that Perion had chosen that particular room to serve as a nursery when they’d seriously discussed having a baby. When he walked into the room, he remained standing in the doorway. Perion sat in the window seat with her chin resting on her knees. She stared almost sightlessly out the window; he wondered what she could see.
“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all,” he said quietly, not moving.
She didn’t look at him. “I don’t know if I can do this without them,” she whispered.
He finally moved and walked toward her. He sat in the empty space on the seat beside her and placed his hand on her knee. “You can, because you’re not alone. I’m here, for every step, every day.”
“It’s not been good today, Lein,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks, but her composure was solid.
“I know,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s ever going to be good again.”
He took her in his arms and held her. They sat like that for a long time, neither speaking.