The Publicist's Plight (Book I in The Harrison Inc. Series)

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Chapter 29

I remember when I was nine years old I had walked in on my mother drunk, screaming angrily at the air while she laid on her bedroom floor.

She still had that ageless beauty, the “Italian Curse” as my father called it, but her eyes were cold and dark. Her eyes were always cold and dark, but that time, that moment, it was a coldness and darkness that didn’t belong to her. It frightened me.

I’m brought back to that instance when I look at him—when I look at Sebastian. I see my mother all over again, and my hands shake uncontrollably. My heart beats against my chest with a rapid unrelenting rhythm I can feel through my ears.

Suck it up, Leslie, my mind chides. Someone needs your help.

“Sebastian,” I say gently. I peel myself away from the door. “What…what did you do?”

He stares at the bottle in his hand like I’m not even in the room. I notice the small shards of glass on the other side of the bathroom by the second door—the CRACK noise I heard.

“I’ve run out,” he says. His voice is small and innocent. “I’ve run out.”

I’m in front of him now, taking the bottle away from him and holding his head in my hands. He’s looking at me, but it’s like he doesn’t recognize who I am.

“Sebastian,” I say sternly. “What did you do? Why did you do this?”

I feel this sudden anger emerge inside of me. How could he do something like this to himself?

I grab the plastic bags from the ground when he doesn’t answer me.

“Sebastian! What is this? I told you that you can’t do this anymore!” I pat his face a few more times and hold up the drugs in front of his lifeless eyes. “Hey! Is this cocaine? What is this?”

“Relief,” he replies with a smirk.

Upset, I take the bags to the toilet and empty them out into the water. I flush them, watching the pills clink against the glass and the powder bubble up and fizz before disappearing down into the pipe. I expect a hostile reaction from him, but all he does is stare sadly at his fingers and play with the material of his sweatpants, like the world around him doesn’t exist. The bandage on his hand is dirty and torn. When was the last time he changed it?

“Sebastian, you’re very drunk,” I tell him. Is there a chance he doesn’t know that already? “I’m going to go get Fiona.”

“They’re talking about me,” he mumbles.

The weight of his aura is heavy; I feel his sadness like I’m sad, too. I figure there’s a level of understanding that needs to be achieved with him. One that requires patience and selflessness.

“Who’s talking about you, Sebastian?”

I play with my phone in my hand and clench the empty plastic bags in the other. He’s staring at the computer screen with an intense vulnerability I’ve never seen before in him. It convinces me that it isn’t even Sebastian walking this earth anymore. I don’t know what to do.

So I walk over to him, move the beer bottles aside, and sit down next to him. He’s sweating a lot, but his body is cold; I see him shivering. I try not to show him how afraid I am for his wellbeing.

My eyes follow his onto the screen of his laptop. It’s an article about him on the website Hollywood Life.

I take the laptop and read over the words. His eyes don’t even leave the spot they were on, even when the laptop isn’t in front of him anymore. The article isn’t something either of us haven’t seen before, but that doesn’t mean the words are all sugar and rainbows.

“It isn’t your job to worry about this,” I say, trying to comfort him. “It’s my job. I’m the publicist, and this is what I’m here for.”

The search history on his computer is full of two days’ worth of google searches of his name, consisting of the same type of articles defaming him from the events of last week and even past years accumulated into a timeline for one website. One article is so bad I have to exit out before I can even finish it. I delete all of the search history and close the laptop.

“This isn’t healthy for you, Sebastian.”

“I tried to stop reading after the first one. But then there were links to other ones and I couldn’t stop. This is the first time I’ve ever googled my name. Some of the stuff they said is wrong, though.”

I listen to him and take note of the slow, dragging way he talks. He leans his head on the wall and looks up at the ceiling, the bathroom lights making the bruise on his eyebrow a light blue and lilac color.

“Why are you even here?” he asks me. “Why…why’d you even come here?”

“Because…I was worried about you. I am worried about you.”

“Well that’s your first mistake,” he laughs lowly.

“Why is that?”

“I’m the…wrong person to worry over, Leslie. I’m just a drunk, a junkie, a man whore. A woman like you would be better off…better off worrying about someone else.”

“I’m sure you’re much more than that. Those are your father’s words.”

“Don’t you see?” he’s looking at me with his head tilted in my direction, his eyes now bloodshot. “I’m such a fucked up human being, Leslie. I don’t deserve…any good things in life.”

“That isn’t true.”

“Yes it is. How can you…sit there and…and defend me? I put you in danger on Sunday. I could’ve gotten you killed.”

“No you couldn’t have, Sebastian. Stop beating yourself up about it. Please.”

He chuckles down at me. Why? Maybe because he doesn’t believe my words. And if it would have been a week prior, I don’t think I would have believed them myself.

“You know I was born three weeks premature,” he tells me while playing with a beer can. “I had heart palpitations when I was a baby. Somehow they saved me; I’m not even supposed to be here. I’m not even supposed to be here, Leslie. I’ve done such horrible shit. And I can’t say sorry. And I’m not supposed to be here.”

Yelling is the only way you can get through to that premature brain of his! Garrett said when he was here a couple of days ago. I didn’t know he really meant it.

“Why can’t you say sorry, Sebastian?”

“Because they’re gone. They’re all gone. And it’s my fault. It’s my fault that she’s gone and she’s never coming back.”

“Who’s never coming back?”

He shakes the name from his brain, “I shouldn’t have listened to him. Maybe then she’d still be here. She used to read me stories and tell me how amazing I was…and now she’s gone. God, it’s so empty…”

The puzzle puts itself together in my mind, but I feel like I’m missing so many pieces.

“My family…they never liked me. I never knew why,” he mutters lazily. “I guess now they have a reason. All I do is fuck shit up but I don’t mean to. I just don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know who else to be. It hurts so much all the time, Leslie…she’d be so disappointed if she saw how I was now,” he lowers his head. I can’t see his eyes. “I promised her, too. Fuck, I promised her so many times and I broke it so many times. How could I?”

His words are intoxicated fragments—codes to unlock the meaning behind his internalized sorrow. All I can manage to do is stare at him in awe, watching the mask of Sebastian Harrison fall and wither away right in front of my eyes.

His head is still lowered between his knees as we sit quietly for a moment, listening to the hum of the bathroom light.

“She was the only one who loved me. The only one that ever will,” he says, nearly noiseless.

“What? No, no, that isn’t true, Sebastian.”

“Yes it is!” he snaps. “Do you know what it’s like to have everything yet still have nothing? To indulge and still feel so…empty? Like you’re trying to claw out of an abyss?”

The hum prevails again. I don’t say anything; there are a thousand things I want badly to vocalize. What mere words can possibly mend the extent of a damaged soul?

This Sebastian, the one sitting next to me, the one who has locked himself inside his bathroom for the last God knows how many days only surrounded by the company and companionship of drugs and alcohol is not the Sebastian I agreed to fix. I agreed to fix a Sebastian with a broken mind, not a broken heart. So because of this, I don’t know what to do.

I have no idea what to do.

“There isn’t a person in my life who supports me because they want to,” he reflects. “I’ve paid everyone in my life to be with me in some way. Whether it be in…drugs, parties, clothes, jewelry, cars, whatever the fuck it is. Why else would anyone…why else would they…”

“What about Sarah and Lucas? They support you to the moon and back, right—”

“Because I’m paying them, Leslie! They work for me. I’m paying Sarah extra so that way she can be my personal manager instead of taking on other clients, for Christ’s sake! The minute my bank account runs dry they’re out the door. I think about that every single day.”

Now I’m completely stumped on words. I guess silence is the best comfort.

“I didn’t mean to yell at you, Leslie,” he sighs. “I don’t mean to do a lot of things. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

He stares off. I have to force myself to remember that he’s drunk, high, and very vulnerable.

“The funny thing about all of this is…I hate my life,” he chuckles. “Every single aspect of it.”

“Why every single aspect?” I scoot closer to his side. “You have…the house, the cars, the money to do whatever you want to do—”

“You just don’t get it,” he says sorrowfully. “I have everything except for the things I really want, Leslie. And I can never…and I can never…”

Suddenly, Sebastian quickly staggers up with huge eyes and runs to the toilet before throwing up violently. He gags several times, coughs and continues to vomit, gripping the sides of the toilet for support. I rush to his side and place a hand on his shoulder. It’s almost like I can see the energy drained out from his body every time he heaves. I place a palm on his back and rub in circles—his shirt is damp with sweat. Again, I don’t know what to do.

He groans miserably before throwing up again, but not as badly as the first time.

“Sebastian, when was the last time you ate?”

He catches his breath before answering me, his head down in the toilet bowl, “This morning.”

I shake my head, “And before that?”

“I…I don’t remember.”

“Oh God,” I whisper to myself.

“I’m sorry I—”

“No no no, don’t apologize,” I rub his back again.

“I’ve been through this ’million times,” he tells me with a muffled voice.

“I know, Sebastian.”

I thank God I was blessed with a strong stomach, since I know people (Beth Evans) who can’t even hear the sounds of someone throwing up without them doing the same. But the only thing Sebastian is throwing up is stomach acid, and that worries me.

I wait for him to finish. He gasps a few times, spits, and finally flushes the toilet and pushes himself up. His strength is wavering—I help him up to the sink by snaking my arms through his arms from behind and pulling him up.

“Wow, you’re actually very…heavy,” I grunt against his weight until he’s up on his feet on his own. He sways a bit, but I push on his back to assist in gaining his balance, then hold him up by the waist. My hand accidentally slides underneath his shirt onto his firm stomach, burning against his hot skin. I freeze. We look at each other when he feels my hand on his body, but he dismisses it and turns towards the mirror. This is the closest I’ve ever come to touching him in this way, with him so dependent.

He firmly grips the sides of the sink and starts rinsing his mouth with water, then mouthwash after. As he does that, I start gathering the bottles from around the room. The stench of beer no longer stings my nostrils. Which makes me think for a moment: how long have I been in here?

I check my phone in the corner—1:04AM. I’ve been in here an hour, but it doesn’t feel that long to me. I wonder how long Sebastian has been in here?

I get the last of the bottles in my arms and take them into his room. Quietly, I dump the glasses into a trash can by his dresser drawer.

“I’ll have to remember to get this out before everyone wakes up,” I remind myself.

Sebastian needs water, because there is no doubt in my mind that he’s severely dehydrated. I tell myself to pick up the broken glass I left behind in the bathroom before getting him a few bottles of water downstairs. Then I have to get him into bed before I leave. At least I know he’s alright...well, physically okay compared to what I initially thought his fate was. But I don’t have time to think about his psyche. I have to make sure that he doesn’t pass out on the floor, because there is no way in hell I can get his unconscious body into bed by myself; he is way too heavy for my weak arms.

God, what a fucked morning.

“Sebastian? I’m going to go get you some water,” I announce by the bathroom door. He doesn’t say anything, but the water is still running in the sink.

I fear the worst.

Sebastian is still in front of the sink when I walk into the bathroom. Which is good—I had expected him on the floor. But he isn’t rinsing his mouth of the acidic taste or getting rid of the foulness in his taste buds with mouthwash. No, he’s just staring at his reflection, blankly, like he’s looking for something. For someone.

“Sebastian?” I say again, only this time he actually responds to me, turning around to face the voice calling his name. But when I see his eyes, I immediately notice the reflection in them—a layer of sad mist quivering over the redness around his irises, like wind brushing over a clear lake.

“I’m such a mess,” he says after a stretch of silence. There’s no restraint in his gaze.

He slowly kneels down, holding onto the edge of the sink with hands so pale they put the white marble to shame. I walk up to him, turn off the running water and sit on the cold floor by his side, and gradually he sits down, too. He stares at the pipes weaving below the sink.

“I’m sorry, Leslie. I’m so sorry.”

And then his hands fall, like the rest of him has, falling down at his sides from atop the sink with a tired and lethargic weight. He pulls his knees up to his chest and wraps his arms around his legs, creating a barrier around himself from the world like a scared child.

I wait with an increasing impatience and awe at the man in front of me until I hear the soft sounds of him whimpering between his knees. He tries to hold it in, but the intensity of his feelings breaks through his will, because in a matter of seconds, Sebastian is crying. Not the type of cry that is situational; it’s expected for that moment. But it’s the type of cry from a person who has held too much inside for a very very long time. Like an old, deteriorating levee—it never stops flowing once it finally collapses.

He doesn’t lift his head from his dark chamber around his arms and knees. Maybe because he is ashamed that he’s being human. Or maybe he’s ashamed he’s being human in front of me. Whatever the reason, I don’t force him into anything nor do I force anything onto him. I just let him weep quietly and watch his shoulders shake and his nails dig into his arms.

He brings his head up and turns away from me, eyeing the wall by his laptop with a hand over his mouth. I stare at his side profile; there’s a beauty in his face when he cries. Out loud that isn’t the nicest thing to say, but when you’re used to a person with a steel wall built around them finally release the pent up agony and suffering in their heart, it’s groundbreaking to watch. So I guess the beauty I mentioned comes from the gentle, fragile nature of himself—the real nature of himself.

When he finally looks at me, I suck in a sharp breath. His eyes are red and wet with tears—tears that dampen his eyelashes, his cheeks. A couple roll down the side of his face from his eyes, but he quickly wipes them away and rubs his nose. He takes a shaky breather to himself and runs his fingers through his hair, keeping them hidden between the messy entanglement of his locks.

“I’m sorry,” he sniffles. “You aren’t supposed to see me like this.”

“If I’m not supposed to…then who is?” I ask, with a voice quiet from vicarious sadness.

That’s the last thing I say to him—the last words of encouragement that leave my mouth, because I know if I try to say anything else to him I’ll possibly be in the same state he’s in; watching him cry burdens me with an indescribable hurt for his own pain.

I place a hand on his shoulder, and suddenly he leans forward and buries his head between my chest. He sobs into my shirt, and his tears saturate the silk material to an even darker shade of blue beneath the wet embodiment of his misery. I’m so stunned I can’t even move.

His laments grow louder against me, rooted from deep within his chest like he’s trying to rid himself of all the anguish inside of him. He wraps his arms around my waist with no shame as his hands tighten around me, similar to a little boy, I suppose. But what am I supposing? How can I assume or merely try to make a conclusion? Everything that’s happening, everything that has happened is so self-explanatorily obvious. It’s me who is too afraid to acknowledge that this is real, clearly because I, along with everyone else in the world, has conformed to the idea that Sebastian Harrison is incapable of feeling pain; he has everything we believe we need in life. At least that’s what I would have thought before. But now as I sit on the cold floor of the bathroom at 1 in the morning with Sebastian crying drunkenly on me, and as I recollect on everything that he has told me and everything people have told him, I realize that he truly has nothing. He has no one.

So with this awakening that I have finally come to understand, I gently hold the side of his face with one hand and the top of his head with the other. He cries harder when I touch him—when I hold him closer towards me. He whimpers words of distress, repeating the words Garrett told him by the library on Sunday. Those words have engraved themselves into his mind so deep he knows nothing else other than to believe them.

I glide my fingers through his hair. It’s soft and weightless against my palm—a pleasing feeling no longer unknown to me. His sobs quiet down when I hush him and run my thumb over his brow, tracing the waves of blues and violets by his eye. And once the only noise throughout the bathroom is the peaceful lull of my shushing against his hair, I look up at the ceiling and swallow my own sob down my throat. I knew, the moment I sat down next to him an hour ago and felt the dark matter emanating from his body I wouldn’t walk out the same. Something told me hearing his woes and feeling his despair would teach me a new knowledge about him that I wasn’t supposed to know. I could have gotten Fiona instead, and most likely she would have made him throw up the pills, hydrate himself, and finally sob at his side and ask if this was her fault while I walk back to the guest house and suffer a sleepless night. But I didn’t. And now I’m forever plagued with the curiosity and mystery of Sebastian’s demons.

But perhaps it was the unfathomable magnetism between my demons and his that lured me to his side.

***

Sebastian rested his head on my chest for ten minutes. After five minutes he had stopped crying, but continued to rest his head against me. And I didn’t move until he did; we sat in silence that was neither uncomfortable nor awkward. He lifted himself off of me after the ninth minute ended.

“I’m tired,” he said.

“Okay,” I replied and helped him to his feet. I told him about how it was important to drink water since he threw up so much, and wordlessly he walked to the sink, turned on the cold knob, and cupped his hand under the faucet and began to drink, repeating the step over and over again.

I’m now picking up the broken glass by the second door. They aren’t shattered into tiny shards thankfully, but I still gather the pieces carefully in my hand and make sure to account for the smaller ones.

I throw the broken bottle fragments into the trash can in the bathroom. Sebastian turns off the sink, and for a moment none of us move—none of us say anything.

“C’mon. Let’s get you to bed.”

I grab his arm and guide him out of the bathroom. The only light that lingers when I flick the switch off is the small glow of the apple logo from his laptop in the corner.

The floor creaks beneath Sebastian’s heavy steps, and his eyes follow each one he takes. I sit him down on the edge of the bed. His eyes are puffy and swollen. Red, too but not as red as they were an hour ago when I found him.

I sit on the small, cushioned couch beside the bed and watch his blank stare at the floor. Then, he holds the collar of his t-shirt and slips it off of his head in one movement, throwing it onto the floor. I force my eyes away from his naked torso to the screen of my cellphone.

He gets situated underneath the blankets. I gather my feet atop of the couch and stare out of the window—there are clouds outside. Deep, dark clouds that have a tint of purple and light gray in them. Rain. Possibly tomorrow.

Sebastian pulls the covers up to around the middle of his abdomen and lays on his side facing me. For the first time since he’s cried, he’s staring at me, his eyes invasive and prying. I gather up the courage to ask him why he’s staring, but before I can, he turns the other direction and faces away from me. My main presumption would be because he’s embarrassed, or confused. I’m confused, too. But curious as well. Maybe that’s another reason he can’t stand to look at me much longer—he doesn’t want me to ask questions.

But I do have questions. A plethora of them, floating around in my head. And what drives me mad is that I know many of them may never be answered—the random photos on his desk. The “she” he was referring to when he was unknowingly confessing his emotions to me. The mistakes and promises he claimed he made. Those clues seem to be painful reminders of a past he wants buried, this fact peaking my interest beyond dismissal.

My eyelids start to become heavy, but I don’t get up and leave. I guess I’m so entangled inside the web he’s woven there’s no use for an escape, even when there is an opportunity. Six minutes’ pass, and I watch his back rise and fall slowly. He’s sleeping soundly. But I have to remember he still is very weak and dehydrated, also malnourished. It wouldn’t make sense to leave, considering I’m definitely the only one who knows of anything that has happened tonight.

I know I’m making excuses to stay here, no matter how logical they are. But even I know how obvious the lies to myself are. There’s a connection—a bond I feel that has formed between us this past hour. He’s drunk, I know, but there was a plea for help I remember in his eyes when he looked at me. And remembering his warm tears stream down my hands and his body quiver on mine as he wept makes it impossible to rule it off as a drunken crisis. It was more than that, and it haunts me.

I lay my head down on the pillow by the arm of the couch. It’s soft and sinking; my head feels like it’s resting upon a cloud. The room is a tad cold, so I pull my knees up to my chest and hold my phone close to my body. My position oddly reminds me of the position he was in when he cried, and immediately I’m overcome with a strong wave of emotions and flashbacks I forced myself to keep hidden and suppressed for the sake of supporting Sebastian the moment he desperately needed it. Tears escape the confines of my eyes, but I stifle the noises begging to come out.

My vision is blurry now, but I still see him sleeping in front of me. I convince myself that I’ve done all that I could for him tonight, yet something else tells me I haven’t—something else tells me he isn’t as safe as I believe he is.

At least not yet.

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