Music blared from a crowded lit-up club especially reserved for the engagement party of the year. The couple being celebrated was Ronnie Blake and Debi Sigler. Debi had been released from a treatment center some five shy months earlier. She was totally dry and radiant. She had never looked better, everyone thought so. Straight out of the hospital, Debi and Ronnie had resumed their blooming romance, and it had gotten serious very shortly after that. It was what they both needed.
As for Perion, she had been released at around the same time, and looked better, but she really was not. Perion had tried, but was failing fast. All she had to do was look down at her scarred wrists and think of ways she could have been more successful at the act she had nearly carried out. However, no one could really see that all was not right.
Perion was really happy for her friend, she really was, but she didn’t know how happy she would be that night when she was up alone, mulling over the past. She felt Lein’s presence beside her, but was unaware of him. She thought about how nice it would have been if Randi and Syndi could have come to the party, helping Debi celebrate.
Lein glanced down at his wife. He could clearly see that something was up. “Are you okay,” he whispered.
She looked up at him and shook her head. “I need some air, okay?”
“Want me to go out with you?”
“No, I’ll be fine,” she told him.
Perion left Lein standing and made her way out of the crowd and toward the stairs that led out to the roof, which was the only place off-limits to the general public. Once on the roof by herself, Perion broke down into a hard furious flurry of tears. She wasn’t alone long. When she heard someone else coming up, she dried her eyes and straightened up as best as she could.
“You can’t hide what you’re really feeling from me,” a gentle voice, not Lein’s, said.
Perion turned toward the voice. It was Blaine. “What are you doing out here?”
“I could ask the same question of you, you know,” he said, “You’re not better, are you?”
“Wishful thinking on Lein’s part, I suppose.”
He slowly approached her and stood beside her. “I think I got something that may improve your mood. It sure as hell helps me at times like this,” he told her.
Perion stared at her ex for a very long time. She had once thought the deaths of Randi and Syndi had little or no effect on him. But it seemed as if she’d been wrong about Blaine. Lately, he’d revealed to her a side of himself she had never thought existed. He really did seem to care, and understood. He had known the girls and had known how special they had been to her.
“What? Booze? Booze only makes things worse. You should know that, you were there,” she told him, acknowledging his words.
“Uh uh,” he said, “guess again.”
She sighed in aggravation. “Let’s see, you might be talking about guns, knives, sleeping pills, or a big shovel to dig a hole I can crawl into and hide forever. I don’t know, Blaine, really, I’m in no mood for games.”
Perion watched as Blaine produced a tiny brown vial from the front pocket of his jeans. She had seen that type of vial before. She knew it was cocaine. Her mind went back to the time when she had first begun working at The Rose Bush. She recalled how her first line had burned her nose and throat. She remembered how much the coke had blindsided her and made her not care about the leering faces at the club. She also couldn’t help but think about the way cocaine made her feel. Her mind flashed back to a night when she had nearly plunged a knife into Blaine’s stomach. If he had been high as she, he would have died that evening. She didn’t like herself much while high. At one time, they had both quit, or so she thought. He had brought cocaine with him that night. Blaine had apparently been playing her back then, as usual.
After a long time, Perion said, “Blaine, that’s just as bad as booze. No thanks, I’m not interested.”
“I’m telling you, Peri. This’ll make it all go away. Remember how it made you feel way back? It helped you a couple of times, didn’t it?”
“Yeah, and a giant monkey will wrap itself around my throat and never let go.”
“It’s your decision to choose, Peri, but are you happy with the way you feel right now?”
“You should know, since you claim to feel what I’m feeling.”
He sighed a little and stuffed the vial back into his pocket. “You don’t give me a lot of credit, do you? Can’t you just forget the guy you once knew and screwed and accept the guy I am now?”
“Well, you have to admit you earned the reputation that made me feel about you now like I do.”
“Look, I was a sleaze, I admit that without any qualms at all. But I did what I did because I loved you and I didn’t like it when some asshole with a big name and an equally big bank account came into our lives and disrupted what we had. It was good, you know.”
“It was never good, Blaine.”
He shook his head and laughed sarcastically. “Bullshit, Perion, bull fucking shit. You know better than that.”
She was visibly upset. “Blaine, that’s all over. I don’t want to discuss our past relationship. I came out here to be alone. Would you please take yourself and your stash out of here? Please?”
“Perion, I’m sorry. Really, you need to answer my question. Do you feel happy right now?”
She shook her head and sighed. “No, I’m not happy at all,” she whispered.
“Then, come on, we’re friends. Let me help you forget it, even if it’s only for a few hours.”
Perion itched to forget, yearned to. “I don’t know if I still remember how to...”
He raised his hand to shush her and took hold of hers. “I’ll teach you, it’s easy,” he said softly. “Besides, it’s like riding a bike. You never forget.”
“Seen Peri,” Debi asked Lein.
He snapped out of a daze and looked at her. “No. I think she’s still outside on the roof.”
“How’s she doing?”
Lein sighed and looked down at his feet for a moment. How was she doing? She’s not doing much of anything, he thought. He looked back up at Debi and cleared his throat. “I can’t lie to you, Debi, I don’t think she’s doing well at all.”
“I didn’t think so, either. Something in her eyes,” she said.
“Exactly,” he said.
Lein then saw Perion moving toward them. She wasn’t walking quite as slowly or as slumped over as she had when she left him. What had happened to her? Her eyes shined and she was smiling. Smiling. He hadn’t seen her smile since her release from the program.
Perion approached Debi and hugged her enthusiastically. “Oh, congrats, Debs. Have I told you that yet?”
“Yeah,” Debi said, “but thanks again,” she told her friend smiling.
Lein couldn’t believe the difference in his wife’s behavior. She had gone from being totally at the bottom of the barrel to the top of the mountain in the length of time she’d been gone. He couldn’t help but wonder if she had taken something.
Perion tried to coax Lein to dance with her, but he refused. It didn’t stop her. She danced with everyone else. Lein stood back and watched her, his worry heightening. He was familiar with the highs of various drugs. After all, in his own young and wild past, he had used about every illicit drug created. It seemed as if she had taken some form of speed or maybe even cocaine. In the corner of the room, Lein could see Blaine laughing it up with a girl he didn’t recognize. He believed he had found the individual responsible for Perion’s psychotic behavior.
Later that night, on the way home, Perion was fast asleep in the limo. She had propped herself up in a corner between the door and the seat. She had quite a crash. She had nearly fallen out at the party, but he had gotten her to the car just in time.
When they arrived home, Lein awoke Perion and she stumbled out of car to the house. Lein followed closely behind her. Before she could make her escape to the bedroom, Lein grabbed her by the elbow and jerked her around, a little rougher than he had intended.
Perion’s eyes snapped wide open. “What the hell are you doing,” she asked, stunned.
Lein spat, “So what was it? Cocaine? Heroin? Or a little bit of both?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I had a good time. I thought that was what everybody wanted me to do. That’s what I did, so get off my fucking back,” she shouted at him.
“No one wanted anything from you but for you to be okay. No one asked you to snort or inject any shit and act psychotic all night. If you didn’t want to be there, all you had to do was tell me. We could’ve left. You didn’t have to go off and do what you did. You’re only asking for more hardship and trouble.”
She jerked her arm free. “FUCK YOU,” she screamed. “You don’t understand, no one does! I can’t be like Debi, I can’t go on, I can’t. The fucking coke was the only damned thing that made me feel normal for once.”
She turned from him and ran upstairs. Lein followed closely behind. Just as Perion was about to slam the door in his face, he inserted his body in the space between the door and its frame.
“Perion, if you do this again, I’m not going to be around to pick you up like I did tonight.”
She tried to slam the door on him, but his grip was too strong. She eventually gave up and backed away from the door. He came into the room while she began to undress herself in uncoordinated, jerky movements.
“Didn’t you hear what I said,” he asked angrily.
She violently tossed her top on the floor, and then looked up at him. “How could I not,” she asked sarcastically, “you’re standing right there in my fucking face, Lein. I didn’t ask you to do anything for me tonight. You volunteered as I recall.”
“I don’t want you to give up one set of problems for another, that’s all, babe, that’s all,” he said softly, suddenly not angry anymore.
Perion, however, was furious. “I’m not giving up anything for anything,” she spat out. “Just leave me alone, okay? I want to go to bed.”
“You can hide in bed, if you want Perion, but I know what’s going on. I know what you did and I only hope you don’t do it again. If you do, I can’t say I’ll be held accountable for what happens to whoever gave it to you, or to us.”
She turned away from him and continued undressing. “Whatever,” she said, exasperated.
He turned from her and left the room. For the first time in their marriage, Lein slept in another room.
As she knew she would, Perion didn’t listen to Lein. What Blaine had given her at the party made her feel better than she had ever felt since she was last on stage. She, in fact, craved more of that feeling, more of the drug that had given her that feeling. Lein, nor her marriage, mattered any longer. All that mattered was putting the pain behind her any way she could. Nothing had totally alleviated that grief more than the fine white powder that had stung as it traveled up her nose. It was just like the old days.
The day after the engagement party, Perion found herself looking for Blaine and his cocaine. She went to Tranquility Lane, but no one had seen him for days. Brett gave Perion Blaine’s home address and she left the club to search for the building that housed the apartment he called home. After a short drive, Perion parked in front of the building and got out of her car.
If you go up there, kiddo, and Lein finds out, I hope you know where to find a good divorce lawyer, she told herself. But she ignored the nagging part of her mind and made her way up the flight of stairs to the front door of the brownstone-type building.
Perion found Blaine’s name and apartment number and climbed a flight of stairs to get to his door. When she got to his apartment, her subconscious went into a last ditch effort to change her mind. But again, she ignored it. She extended one slim finger and pressed the doorbell. A few minutes later, a sleepy looking bleary-eyed Blaine opened the door. His hair was unruly as always, and in his face.
His eyes grew large in surprise at the sight of his visitor. “Peri, what are you doin’ here,” he croaked out. He sounded as if he had been dehydrated for a month and would never taste water again.
“I don’t know,” she said, her voice wavering. She was close to tears, but didn’t know why.
He cleared his throat and stepped back away from the door, presenting an opening for her to enter. “I think you do, because I’m pretty sure I know. Come on in.”
Cautiously she entered the room, acting as if she were afraid the creature from the Black Lagoon would spring out at her from the first dark corner she passed.
Blaine watched with an amused smile on his lips. He closed the door behind her and turned around, facing her back. “Does Lein know you’re here,” he asked.
She laughed sarcastically, but kept her back turned to him. “Yeah, right. I told him before I walked out the door. ‘Sweetheart, I’ll be back in a few hours. I’m gonna find Blaine and snort some blow.’ Really, Blaine, I’m not stupid.”
He approached her and stood directly against her back, she shuddered as if his very presence repulsed her. He laughed a little. “Oh jeez, Peri, you’re acting like I’m gonna rape you or something. I wouldn’t rape you, anyway. All you would have to do is ask.”
She stepped away from him and faced him. “If you know what I’m here for, then why are you wasting my time?”
He held up his hands in mock defensiveness. “Okay, okay. You’re an early bird, aren’tcha? I got to have some coffee first. Want some?”
She shook her head. “No, Blaine, you know what I want.”
“Well, you can sit at the table and watch me drink it, then. I never liked to breakfast alone anyway.”
For thirty minutes or more, Perion sat at Blaine’s kitchen table and watched him drink his coffee. He chattered incessantly, but she wasn’t paying attention. She tried to talk herself out of what she was about to do, but it wasn’t working.
“You’re a mess, aren’t you,” Blaine observed out loud.
His question startled her out of her inner battle. “Huh?”
“I said you’re a mess,” he repeated patiently. “And you are. Nobody seems to care. All they want from you is for you to stop acting silly, right?”
He seemed to have hit the nail right on its proverbial head. No one had ever gotten so close to the root of her problem. She burst into tears. Blaine didn’t move to comfort her, he stayed where he was and watched her cry for a very long time. Then, he pushed himself back from the table and left the room. After a few minutes, he returned to the kitchen.
In one hand, he held a napkin for her to wipe away her tears. In the other, he held a small silver dish that held a vial of cocaine, a razor blade, and two little hollow silver tubes. Perion took the napkin and swabbed her eyes. She was still crying, but not as hard as she had been.
He set the dish on the kitchen table and sat back down. She sat quietly and morosely watched him tap some of the powder out of the vial and onto the dish. Just as quietly, she watched him pulverize the powder with the razor blade and divide it into four neat lines. Silently, Blaine extended one of the silver tubes toward her. She looked at it for a very long time. She finally took it after several minutes, surrendering to her grief, giving up her life.