Months passed, the wounds of Perion and Debi were still fresh, still open and sensitive to the gentlest of probing fingers. The two surviving members had been pelted with interviews, offers to do a movie, and sympathetic fans kept a near constant vigil at each of their homes.
Understandably so, each girl was a mess. The rehab program had not helped Debi like it should have, she still drank. Perion had not yet found the wonderful escapist qualities of alcohol, but she was in a constant blue fog, she’d been in a deep depression since the day she had returned to Los Angeles with her husband. In the beginning, Perion had been content watching television, until an all-music channel had broadcast a tribute to her band. She had moaned miserably and turned off the TV, and hadn’t turned it on since. In fact, she had demanded that it be moved out of the room. Lein did not know what to do with her, or for her.
Lein was pondering the condition of his wife as he walked into their bedroom one afternoon. Coming into the bedroom was the most natural thing for him to do when he first walked through the front door because it was where Perion would most surely be. He should have thought something was not right when he saw that the door of the bedroom was standing wide open. It was never open. A very shaky thought invaded his mind: she’d finally gone over the edge and killed herself. That thought was why he felt so uneasy. The opened bedroom door should have been his first tip off. He could hear his heart as it hammered in his chest: whack whack whack.
“Perion,” he called weakly.
He hated the cowardice he heard in his voice. He didn’t think he was ready to walk around the corner and see his beloved wife sprawled on the carpeted floor with a bullet hole in her temple. Lein moved further into the bedroom and could see the foot of the bed clearly. He had prepared himself to see blood and brain splattered all over the comforter. He also prepared himself to go incurably insane. But what he saw around the corner by the bedside was somehow more shocking than the dead body of his wife.
He looked directly at Perion, more than alive, leaned over the bed tucking in a corner of the comforter. She had made the bed. He never expected to see her do anything of the sort for a long time. She had even showered and dressed. She looked more beautiful than she had looked since before the accident.
Perion turned and looked at him. He thought he could see a small smile on her lips. Then for an instant, he thought that some alien force from another galaxy had replaced his grieving, depressed, morose wife with her lively, happy, and beautiful doppelganger. Lein batted the thought aside. That was cruel, man, heartless, he thought, mentally chastising himself.
“I thought I heard you calling my name,” she said softly.
“Yeah,” he said carefully, “I was...I thought...” He stopped, not able to finish the sentence.
The small smile on her lips expanded a bit. “You thought I’d finally gone over the deep end, huh? That maybe I’d done myself in?”
God, she was such a damn good mind reader. He could never hide anything from her, nor would he want to. “I’ve been afraid you’d do something like that. I mean, after all that’s happened, I think I’d have done it a long time ago.” Have you no tact, man, he chastised again. “But I don’t want to face the next eighty or ninety years without you.” He was being brutally honest, but he felt he had no choice in the matter.
“I don’t blame you for thinking that, I would’ve thought the same if it had been me coming into the room instead of you. I don’t know how you stood living with such a zombie. I would’ve gotten out a long time ago if I’d been you.”
“Perion, don’t be ridiculous. Why in the world would I have wanted out? That’s what married people do for each other. If I had left when you needed me most, I couldn’t have ever forgiven myself, nor would I have ever expected the same of you.”
“I’m really sorry about everything, Lee,” she said in a small, weak voice. She wanted to cry, but she fought bravely against her impending tears. She had cried enough for two or three people and never wanted to shed another tear again.
He went to her then, he could not avoid going to her any longer. He took her in his arms and held her against him for a long time. After awhile, he whispered, “You have done nothing to apologize for, babe, nothing.”
“Just hold me, okay? Make it go away if you can, Lee, please.”
“It would all be gone if I knew how, God only knows I wish I did.”
“You could make love to me and make it go away for awhile,” she said.
He pulled away from her and had a little smile of his own on his lips. “You mean you want us to mess up this bed just after you made it?”
She laughed a little. It was the first time in ages he had heard her laugh. He hoped the worst of it was over. “Yeah, I guess I do.”
“Well, I suppose I can’t really argue about it, can I?”
She placed her hand on his cheek. “Please don’t waste your time arguing. You have more constructive ways of wasting it.”
“You’re never going to be considered a waste of my time,” he said, then kissed her, hoping he could make it a little better.
Later, Perion unwrapped herself out of Lein’s embrace, not really wanting to, but she felt a greater need at that moment. She went to the bathroom and slowly got dressed again. She slipped out of the bathroom and looked in at Lein. He was still out like a light. She tiptoed out of the bedroom and closed the door softly behind her. She was out of the house before Lein even knew she was gone.
Perion donned a baseball cap and sunglasses to make her way through the hordes of fans that kept a vigil at her home. When she had safely made it to her car, she discarded the cap and glasses. She started up her vehicle and drove it toward nowhere in particular.
She surprised herself when she arrived at the strip that more or less housed The Rose Bush on one end and Tranquility Lane on the other. She absently parked her car, got out, and locked it up tight. She walked up to The Rose Bush and noticed with a pang of almost disgusted nostalgia that the big marquee proclaimed: PERION THORN PUT THIS PLACE ON THE MAP!
What am I doing here, she thought. She almost turned around to go back to her car, but a familiar voice called out her name. She turned toward the voice and saw it was Brett, Blaine’s cousin. He had been walking toward his own club before he noticed her. She didn’t want to talk to him, but he was already approaching her.
“Blaine’s been wantin’ to see you,” he said when they met face to face.
“Yeah, well, I guess that’s too bad,” she told him, a bit more harshly than she had intended.
“Ah, come on, Peri, that shit is kinda ancient history. He was really busted up over the deaths of the girls. You might oughtta come on down and talk to him. He’s a real changed dude.”
“I’ll bet he is. Really, Brett, Blaine is one person I don’t really want to see right now.”
“Come on, don’t be that way. Hell, you used to sleep with the guy for heaven’s sake. Let bygones be bygones for a change. Besides, you’re attached to a big, famous rock star now. What’s dude got? Nothing.”
Again, she wondered why she had even gotten out of bed to come down to the strip. She didn’t know, but for the life of her, she actually wanted to see how Blaine had turned out, even if it was just for her own amusement. She looked at The Rose Bush’s marquee once more. Which place did she need to avoid of the two? She didn’t have to think about it much longer. She turned away from the marquee and began walking toward Tranquility Lane with Brett.
Once she stepped in the place, it was as if time stood still. The place looked the same as it had when the band last played there. The bandstand was still the same, as was the seating, and the bar. Another painful pang of nostalgia gripped at her heart. It was nearly too much to bear.
The place had not changed a bit, but she had. For one thing, she was now married to the man who had given her band a shot. For another, she was no longer a part of a band at all. That latter thought really hurt, she felt as if her heart would collapse from the pain gripping it. She fervently wished she’d never been adventurous enough to get out of bed.
Perion was about to turn around and leave the bar when Blaine spotted her. For a long time, he didn’t say a word to her. He just stood and stared at her. He didn’t think he would be able to speak. How long had it been? Five years? More than that? He couldn’t actually recall. What had she been thinking when she came back? He didn’t know why she would even bother to return. He remembered the ugliness that occurred between them, and he knew she did as well. He was automatically suspicious. He slowly approached her where she stood. Without a word to his cousin, Brett took the unspoken hint and left them alone.
“It’s been awhile,” Blaine said.
She nodded. “Yeah.”
He sighed. “You know, I don’t know what to say to you.”
Perion looked into Blaine’s eyes for one hint of falseness and could find none. He was being more than sincere. “I know, me too.”
“I really miss the girls, you know, I loved them as much as you did.”
Again, she searched his eyes for falseness, and found none. “I know.”
“I really feel like I lost two people closer to me than anybody I’ve ever known. You know, they were like sisters to me or something. I just don’t know...”
“Do you mind? This is kind of hard for me to talk about now. Please, just drop it. I know what you’re saying,” she told him, on the verge of yet more tears.
“Yeah, I know, I do understand. I don’t want to bring anything back up to upset you more or anything. Peri, why did you come in here?”
She shrugged and laughed a little. “Beats the hell out of me. Glutton for punishment maybe?”
“I’m glad you came. How’s Debs?”
Perion shrugged again. “I don’t know, I haven’t been out much. I haven’t seen her lately. She took it kind of hard, and I imagine she is still a mess. To be truthful, I think she spends too much time with Mr. Daniels and Lady Seagrams. But today, I intend to pay her a visit. I hate it that I’ve been so out of touch with her, I’ve been sort of a mess, too.”
“That’s to be expected. Do you mind if I come along with you? I’d kinda like to talk to her a little.”
“Um, okay. Do you want to go now?”
“Sure, just let me close up some things I was doing and I’ll be right with you.”
Perion sat down at the bar to wait for Blaine.
“Miss Thorn, can I get you anything,” the bartender asked her.
She looked up at the man and started to say no, but she didn’t. “Um, I’ll have a whiskey, straight up.”
“All righty, it’s on the way.”
What am I doing, she asked herself. I’m sitting here about to drink the stuff keeping Debi out of circulation. Oh, but no matter how much out of circulation Debi was, she didn’t deal with the same demons as Perion had. She buried them efficiently with booze.
Perion reached for the shot of whiskey and looked down at the dark amber color of it. She hesitated for about half a second, then picked up the shot and downed it. It burned her throat like fire for a moment, but the fire subsided into warmth that spread from her throat down to her belly. The warmth was a good feeling. She hadn’t felt such warmth in a very long time.
She ordered another and had it downed before Blaine returned. By the time he came up to her, her cheeks were flushed from the hard booze. She laid out some money on the bar and stood on shaky legs to meet Blaine.
“You wanna drive, Blaine? My car’s just down the street.”
“Sure Peri, no prob.”
She’d been drinking, it was obvious from the empty shot glasses and the money on the bar, but he was not the one to tell her what she could or could not do, at least not anymore.
The two of them walked out to her little sports car and got in. “Nice set of wheels, Peri,” he told her.
“I always wanted one of these little cars. Lein got it for my birthday. It was red when he bought it, but I had it painted blue. I didn’t want my car to look like everybody else’s,” she prattled.
She was definitely tipsy, Blaine knew. She could talk a blue streak about the most insignificant things when she had been drinking. “He made a good choice, and you made a good color choice.”
“Thanks, I thought so, too. Royal metallic blue is cool, too. You wouldn’t believe how many red cars there are in L.A.,” she told him.
“I can believe it. I see them all the time on the strip.”
“Yeah, you can see anything on the strip.”
They drove for a long time and Perion had begun to act exceedingly drunk. The booze did a nice job on her. She even insisted that he stop at a liquor store so she could buy her own bottle. She gave Blaine the directions to find Debi’s condo. They arrived about twenty minutes after leaving the club. Blaine got out first and opened Perion’s door for her and attempted to help her out, but she wouldn’t let him.
He watched her walk carefully up the steps to the building’s foyer. She had a lot of trouble selecting the elevator button she wanted, but she managed after a bit. They got into the elevator and rode up a few floors to Debi’s one bedroom condo. Perion and Blaine stepped out of the elevator and approached the door and rang the bell. For a very long time, they could hear no signs of life at all coming from inside.
Just as Perion decided to knock, Debi finally came to the door. Both Perion and Blaine were taken aback by her deteriorated condition. Her hair was stringy and dirty, her face drawn and haggard. She literally looked like death warmed over. The two of them could see empty liquor bottles littering the floor.
“Peri? Oh jeez, I haven’t seen you in so long.”
She threw her arms around Perion’s neck and squeezed her hard. Perion squeezed back even harder.
“I know, Debs, I know. I’ve been sort of out of it myself lately.”
Debi pulled away and looked at Blaine. “What’s he doing here?”
"He wanted to see how you were doing,” Blaine told her comically.
Debi sighed and hugged Blaine as well. “What do you think dumb ass? I’m not doing well at all.”
“Yeah, I know. Neither am I.”
She let him go. “You guys wanna come in?”
“Sure, we’ll come in,” Perion said, and the two of them entered the room.