Time passed. Perion continued to make her daily visits to Blaine’s for her escape. But quickly, addiction had turned Perion’s daily visits into twice-daily visits: mornings and nights. Of course, Lein was suspicious, but he couldn’t walk out on her, couldn’t leave his love high and dry. He had tried to help her, but she refused to be helped. It got to the point where she wouldn’t allow him in the same room with her for five minutes at a time before she broke into long paranoid hysterical rants that nothing could abate. She had also begun to spend days away from home, had in effect, moved out. The straw that finally broke Lein’s resolve drifted into his face one night while he was at the studio with the band.
He should have known something was up that night. Ronnie had come into the studio acting weird and reluctant to begin their rehearsal. They worked through a couple of songs and Ronnie’s licks literally sucked. Ronnie knew it, and the others knew he did as well. Finally, they collectively called for a break, and Lein approached his brother in confidence.
“Is there something up between you and Debi,” Lein asked Ronnie. It was a question he felt the most comfortable asking. After all, his marriage was going to hell quickly.
Ronnie shook his head, refusing to look into his brother’s eyes. “No, man, nothing like that.”
“What then? What’s going on? You’ve been acting fucked up since you got here.”
“Lee, I hate to tell you this, but-” Ronnie’s voice died out to nothing.
“But what,” Lein demanded, feeling a little fucked up. He knew that the something Ronnie had to tell him concerned Perion. It was in Ronnie’s eyes.
Silently, Ronnie dug a pink colored piece of paper out of his pocket. He handed it to Lein. “Just look at that. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”
Lein unfolded the piece of paper and saw that it was a flyer. But it wasn’t any ordinary flyer. It was a flyer announcing a strip show to be held at Tranquility Lane, starring none other than his own wife. BACK FROM RETIREMENT, it blared, WILD INNOCENCE!!!! TONITE!!!! The coke, the fucking coke, was doing this to her. It was making her do something she had sworn she’d never do again as long as she lived.
“Are...are you sure it’s her,” he spat out, clinging to hope, “some asshole could’ve superimposed her head on this body or-”
Ronnie interrupted him. “It’s her, man, you know it is. It’s her body. Remember, I was the one who saw her first. It’s her. Not only that, but I saw her on stage, rehearsing a number. Blaine was there, too, and that other guy. She looked so damn skinny and sick. But it was her, there is no doubt in my mind.”
Lein crumpled the flyer into his fist. His wife was addicted to coke, it was making her strip again, making Blaine and Brett rich men so they could buy more of the shit she stuffed up her nose.
“I’m going down there,” he said softly, “I’m not going to let her do this to herself.”
“Want me to come with you?”
“No,” he said.
Tranquility Lane was packed to the rafters that night. Lein had never seen so many people in the club ever before. It was no big secret why they were there. After making his way through the crowd [he politely snubbed autograph seekers], he entered the club and could already hear music playing from the lit-up stage. Painfully familiar to another time, he saw a blonde goddess on stage dancing with all the grace of a prima ballerina. He couldn’t see the face of the girl. He didn’t need to. It was Perion. No one dared move like her, if they did, they’d look ridiculous.
Lein ignored the noise and the people and pushed his way through to the stage. Some of the patrons were getting pissed at Lein for forcing his way toward the front, but he ignored them. All he cared about was getting Perion off that stage and away from the club. He jumped onto the stage and grabbed Perion. The crowd roared with anger and frustration. Lein thought he had heard Blaine screaming whafuck! He blocked it all out and threw his protesting wife’s body over his shoulder and physically removed her from the scene.
Once outside, Lein forced her into the car and slammed the door. He got into the car quickly before she could get out of his door.
Perion turned to Lein and slammed her fist into his arm. “That was so goddamned humiliating! WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING,” she roared.
“Saving you from looking like a goddamned jackass, that’s what,” he yelled back.
“You let me worry about that! I’m your wife, not your fucking daughter,” she screamed in return.
“What were you doing,” he asked her, trying desperately to ignore the pounding that had begun in his head.
“What did it look like, Lein? I was dancing.”
“Why? Why after all these years; after all the vows not to do it again? Why?”
“People have the right to change their fucking minds.”
“That’s not the point, and you know it. If you don’t give up the coke and get some help, it’s over. I can’t live with you like this; watch you deteriorating before my very eyes. No, Perion, I won’t do it. Make up your mind, right now.”
“Let’s just get out of here,” she whispered. For the time, all the fight had drained out of her.
“Bury your head in the sand, if you want, Perion. But if you’re not going to give it up, then you might as well say you’re giving us up. Got it?”
“Please, Lein, let’s just get the hell out of here,” she whispered again, pleading.
Sighing, Lein started the car, put it in gear, and drove away from the booming club.
The instant they arrived home, Perion was through the door and had taken off upstairs. Lein watched her sprint away, and then he stood and stared at the stairs for a long time. After a brief amount of time, he sighed, threw his car keys on the coffee table, and followed her lead upstairs. He heard the shower running even before he opened the bedroom door. Lein went into the bedroom and walked into the bathroom. Perion was already in the shower, scrubbing herself vigorously.
“Perion, we have to talk about this,” Lein said loudly, trying to speak over the pounding intensity of the shower.
She turned the shower off, causing an abrupt silence to fill the room. Still soapy, Perion stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around her body. God, Lein thought, Ronnie’s right. She is down to skin and bones.
Without a sound, she left the bathroom and entered the bedroom. Lein followed closely behind. She sat down on the bedside and covered her face with her hands. She was already craving another line.
Lein sat down beside her. “Perion, you have to stop. You have to get some help. I don’t want to leave you, you know that, but I will if this doesn’t stop.”
“I don’t know if I can,” she said, her voice muffled in her hands.
“Let me help you. Goddamn it, Perion, I love you,” he said, near tears.
She uncovered her face and looked at him. “I know,” she said, crying. “And you know I love you, too. But it’s got me, Lee, it’s got me good. What am I going to do?”
It was all so familiar to Lein’s ears. It was exactly what she’d been asking since the accident. He took her into his embrace and held her for a very long time. When her tears finally stopped, she pulled away from him.
“I’ve done this before,” she said quietly.
“Done what?” When she didn’t immediately answer him, he placed his hand under her chin and gently turned her face toward his. “Done what, babe? Cocaine?”
She nodded, turning her head away. “Yes. When we first moved here. I got into it so I could dance. But I didn’t get into it as heavily as I am now. I gave it up, it wasn’t easy, but I did it. I don’t know if I can do it again.”
He sighed. “You have to want to do it. No one but you can make you quit.”
“Don’t you think I know that,” she spat. “I knew it the first time, and I know it now. Maybe we’ll both be better off apart. So far, it’s been working out great, don’t you think? This way, you don’t have to wonder and worry about me, and I don’t have to watch you hate me.” She again covered her face with her hands.
In incredulous disbelief, Lein said, “No, Perion, it’s not working out great. I never wanted to be without you, and I could never hate you. I simply can’t watch you kill yourself day after day.”
Her voice muffled through her hands, she said, “You’re going to be a hell of a lot better off without me. You’ve got the band, a new album to work on, and a new tour to plan. You don’t need me bringing you down any longer. I’m just not good enough for you anymore.”
Angered, Lein took her hands away from her face and held them into his own. She kept her head down. To get her to look at him, he went down on one knee in front of her. She had no choice but to look at him.
“None of it means anything to me without you. Fuck the band, the album, and the goddamn tour. Fuck it all. What’s this ‘I’m not good enough for you’ shit? Where is this coming from?”
Tears fell freely out of her eyes and slid down her cheeks. “I’m a junkie, Lein. I’m a mess, you don’t need that.”
“What I don’t need,” he began gently, “is a life without you in it. Do you understand me? You can let this go. I’m willing to give you a second chance to get help. I love you, Perion, and I want you back.”
She took her hands out of his grasp and wrapped her arms around his neck. He then took her into his embrace.
“Okay,” she whispered in tears. “Okay.”
Perion pulled away from him so she could kiss him. He returned her kiss hungrily. It had been so long since they’d shared a genuine kiss. He missed her, he hadn’t realized how much until he tasted her kiss.
“Make love to me,” she whispered against his lips.
Her request surprised him. Could he? She was so thin. Her body seemed so fragile and delicate. He didn’t want to hurt her. He nearly denied her, but in the end, he couldn’t. He loved her and his desire for her could never be quenched.