The next time Lein saw Perion again was at Debi’s and Ronnie’s wedding two months after they parted. Debi had wanted Perion in the wedding, but she had absolutely balked. Lein was, after all, Ronnie’s best man. Perion had dragged Blaine with her to the ceremony, even though she couldn’t stand being around him any longer. He had reverted to his old asshole ways. She wouldn’t have brought him at all if she hadn’t needed a cover in case Lein noticed her pregnancy.
Lein saw Blaine and Perion walk into the room together. When he caught sight of his wife with Blaine, he wanted to leave. Inside and out, he was dying. The simple fact of their being together was enough to hurt him deeply. However, her general appearance did a job on him as well. She had lost a lot of weight, at least twenty pounds. She had always been thin, but now she was gaunt and bony. There were dark, bruised circles beneath her eyes. It was absolutely painful. She tried to hide her appearance behind a mask of make up and a loose fitting formal dress, but Lein knew the truth. She was suffering.
Perion’s gaze met Lein’s once. He wanted badly to step away from the wedding at hand and go to her. Her eyes clearly asked for help, for a savior, for anything. The monkey on her back was weighing her down and she was ready to leave it behind. It was so very clear in those wounded eyes of hers. He kept his eyes on her throughout the wedding, but she didn’t meet his gaze again.
After the ceremony, Lein broke away from the wedding party and went in search of Perion. It didn’t take long to find her. She stood alone in the sun as if trying to warm herself. When Lein approached her, she glanced at him with little or no interest at all. She simply stood with her arms wrapped around her body, struggling to get warm and knowing she never would.
“Perion, can we talk for a minute?”
She wouldn’t look at him, couldn’t look at him. “I don’t think we have anything else to say,” she told him softly.
“I think we do. Why don’t you let me help you? You don’t even have to come back home, just let me help you. That’s all I want from you, Perion. After that, I’ll leave you alone forever, if that’s what you want.”
Perion did look up then. She wasn’t crying, but her eyes had begun to tear. “You don’t need to help me now. I’ve been clean for a little while. I’m doing that cold turkey thing and I’m really hurting, but I think I’ll beat it.”
She sounded like a five-year-old child fighting desperately for some kind of approval. It tore Lein apart to hear her speaking in such a way.
“Cold turkey? Are you sure it’s going to work?”
Her overflowing tears finally began falling out of her eyes. She impatiently swiped at them with both hands. “It has to work. Um, I had to stop. There’s no way I could keep it up now.”
“What’s wrong? Why do I feel like you’re keeping something from me,” he asked.
“That’s because I am,” she cried out in tears, “I am! I had to stop because I just found out I’m pregnant,” she lied, simply to derail him from the actual truth. And she hoped he wouldn’t suspect anything different. After all, the weight she’d lost made her skinny enough so as not to reveal how far along she actually was.
Lein was taken aback to say the least. No wonder she was in such misery. She couldn’t continue snorting cocaine and expect to have a baby without its own monkey. He was shocked and more than devastated. She’d been pregnant when the whole damn mess had begun so many months ago. She was pregnant again and in a mess equally bad.
“Pregnant,” he spat when he could speak again. “Who…”
Quickly, before he could finish his question, she said, “Not you.”
He couldn’t speak. He felt quite lost and confused. Helplessly, he gazed at her and tried to fight his shock.
Perion wanted desperately to tell Lein the truth, but she bit her words back, she couldn’t tell him. “That’s one reason I decided to come today. We, you and I, have to decide when to make our separation official and permanent. I think both of us need to move forward and get on with our lives.” Another lie. She didn’t want to go on with her life without Lein. She didn’t want a divorce nor did she want to separate from him at all. She only wanted to go home with him, but her lies would only snowball and alienate him further. She had gone too far to turn back now.
“Perion, you...you don’t really want to get a divorce, do you,” he spat out, trying his damn best, and failing, to make his voice not give away the apparent devastation and turmoil he was experiencing right at that moment.
She nodded. “Yeah, I think it’s best to do this,” she spat out.
She didn’t sound very sure at all. Lein wanted to tell her he loved her, to express how much he wanted her to come back home, to stay married to her, regardless of what had happened, regardless of her carrying another man’s child. But he couldn’t say any of that. The words dried up in his throat, dried up and died like a week-old rose denied water.
“I gotta go, Lein,” she said.
Lein came back around. The rose had been watered. “No,” he whispered, “wait.”
“Lein, please, don’t,” she said, crying.
“No, you see, I must. You don’t want any of this, I can see right through you. Please, babe, come back home. Come back to me. I was wrong and I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have asked you to leave. We can work this out together. I don’t want a divorce, and I don’t think you do, either.”
Nothing had ever sounded so logical or so wonderful to her. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him the truth about the baby, but the words died in her throat. She wiped the tears out of her eyes. “It’s a dream, Lein, it’s not possible. Asking me to leave was the best thing you could have done.”
He groaned in frustration. “Goddamn it, I love you, Perion, doesn’t that count for anything?”
She began crying again. “I love you, too, Lein. You know that, but-”
He interrupted her. “Then why are we separated? Damn it, Perion, why are you trying to do this alone?”
Again, hastily, she wiped her falling tears out of her eyes. “Because it’s the best thing, Lein. If I could only make you understand-”
And again, he interrupted her. “All I understand is that we love each other, and it’s obvious that you don’t want a divorce. Our marriage can’t end like this. We simply cannot toss away what we have. I can’t sit back and say, ‘sorry we tried, but screwed up, time to go to court.’ I love you too damn much for that, and I’ll fight every step. We can leave here, right now, and go home. Together, we can find a way to work this out.”
She looked at her husband, and her eyes met his intense gaze. She wanted to go home, there was no doubt in her mind about that. She had to tell him about the baby, but she didn’t know how he would react.
“Lein, there is something I have to tell you. You might have a hard time understanding why I didn’t say something sooner. I gave up cocaine as soon as I found out I was pregnant, that you know. What you don’t know is that this baby...”
Perion’s voice died out as she saw Blaine approaching. He stepped up beside her and put his arm around her.
“Peri, you okay,” he asked.
She wanted to shake his arm off her, but didn’t have the energy to move. “I’m…I’m fine.”
“Blaine, do you mind? We were in the middle of something,” Lein said.
“Yeah, Lein, I do mind. You’re obviously upsetting her, and upsetting her is upsetting our baby,” Blaine said smugly, trying to hurt Lein.
It worked. The phrase ‘our baby’ hit Lein like a fist, but he wouldn’t let either of them see it. Hurtfully, he thought, so it’s Blaine. He cleared his throat to rid himself of a huge lump and said, “Look, I haven’t agreed to anything,” he told Blaine stubbornly. To Perion he said, “You’re still my wife.”
“I don’t have anything else to say,” she told him.
Lein sighed angrily. “The hell you don’t. There is plenty to say. Talk to me.”
She glanced down at the ground. “It was nothing,” she whispered.
The two of them walked away from Lein without further word to him.