The next day...
‘Don’t be sick!’ I told myself. ‘Please don’t be sick!’
It was useless, I was beyond the point of no return and it was inevitable now. Staggering the few feet to the bathroom, I sank to my knees. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say that I was not a pretty sight. My stomach and throat ached and tears welled in my eyes as I wished I could just die.
Now from beyond the bathroom I could hear hammering on the door. I guessed that whoever it was had given up calling my phone and tried a more immediate approach.
“Go away!” I mumbled groggily, wallowing deeply in self-pity.
A that moment in time I didn’t feel that self-pity was an indulgence. After all, I had just discovered… no, that’s too much, I had good reason to suspect that Gerard had killed the girl from the store. Then, probably as a protection mechanism, I launched headlong into denial. I told myself that it must have been an accident. It had to be; it just had to. But that went in no way to explaining why Gerard had attacked me. And then I started doing it – what we all do in these situations – finding reasons to explain it away. Perhaps he panicked? He didn’t push me; I probably stepped back too far and cracked my head on the doorframe. Yeah, that was it. Could I really convince myself?
After flushing the toilet and rinsing out my mouth, I stumbled back into the bedroom. The hammering on the door grew louder than ever and then I noticed it. The mess! My clothes were strewn across the floor in a haphazard manner but worst of all, to reach my jeans I had to negotiate a minefield of beer cans and miniature liquor bottles from the room’s mini-bar. Pulling on my jeans, I gazed around in disbelief. What the hell had happened? I hadn’t been drinking. Granted, I didn’t remember anything after seeing Gerard, but that was because he’d tried to crack my skull open. Not this!
“Open the fucking door, Mikey!”
I looked over at the door; recognising Ray’s voice. I still had no explanation for the state of my room. Pulling the cell phone from my pocket, I noticed that there were five missed calls and it was just after eleven.
“Mikey!” he yelled again.
Maybe they were worried? I knew I was! Checking through the spy hole, I relaxed, relieved to just see Ray. I just wasn’t prepared to face Gerard just yet. Opening the door, I was more than a little surprised as Ray stormed past me into the room.
“What the fuck were you playing at last night?” he demanded.
“Wh…what?” I stammered. If anything, I was the innocent party.
“Look around you Mikey!” he waved his arm in a sweeping gesture. “You got hammered last night and kicked up a riot. You even tried to get Gee drinking again. You were practically forcing it down his throat!”
“No!” I just didn’t know what else to say at first. It was nothing like what happened, but there were too many confusing contradictions. I was initially lost for words.
Ray raised an eyebrow at me, unimpressed.
“That’s not what happened,” I struggled to explain, not really sure how I could tell him what really happened. “I wasn’t even drinking!”
Ray took a deep breath and simply pointed to the empty cans and bottles that littered my room.
“I didn’t drink!” I insisted. “I don’t know how they got here.”
I was really confused by this point, but I had to make him believe me.
Ray shook his head. His attitude suggested disappointment more than anything else.
“I was there, Mikey, I saw you! You tried to pour beer down Gerard’s throat; telling him you liked him better as a drunk. I had to pull you off him. He’s really shaken!”
I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. It was so different to how I remembered it. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to believe it, true or not. Regardless of how bad it sounded and what he said I had done, it was nothing compared to believing that Gee had killed someone. I wanted very much to believe I’d dreamt the lot in a drunken stupor. It explained the headache and nausea, certainly. I almost laughed as I realised that none of what I remembered was real, but the reality was I’d upset a lot of people and needed to face up to it. As I gathered my thoughts, Ray stared at me expectantly.
“What did I do?” I asked weakly.
Ray sighed heavily, but I thought I detected a little less anger in him.
“After the signing, you disappeared. We couldn’t find you anywhere; we called your cell, nothing. It was about an hour after we finished and we were really getting worried. We really started to believe you’d been kidnapped or worse. We were just about to call the cops when you showed up.”
Ray nodded. “Blind drunk and high on something, we didn’t know what. All we knew was we had to get you back to the hotel, out of the way of prying lenses, otherwise you’d be front page news tomorrow. You were making so much noise; we were actually relieved when you passed out in the car. We got you back to your room okay, but then you must have woken up. Looks like you emptied your mini-bar and went for Gee’s and along the way, you tried to get him to join you. I heard the commotion and came in. You had him pushed down on the bed, and was trying to force a beer bottle into his mouth. It was spilling everywhere; half of it went up his nose. I had to drag you off him and then a few minutes later, you passed out again. We brought you back here and got you into bed.”
I was mortified. I couldn’t even look at Ray any more. How could I face Gerard?
“I… I’m sorry.”
My voice came out in the barest whisper, though still a part of me was relieved. How could I tell Ray, though? It was ridiculous.
“You’ve got some more apologising to do.”
I looked up. Ray was pointing towards Gerard’s room and I cringed.
“What do I say?” I asked hopelessly. What could you say after behaving like that?
“I don’t know, Mikey,” he replied honestly. “But you better be damn sure you mean it, whatever it is.”
I nodded as I walked to Gerard’s door, knocking tentatively.
He opened and I saw the expression on his face that just made me want to die. The sense of hurt and betrayal almost overwhelmed me.
“I’m sorry!” I blurted. “I don’t know what came over me. I don’t even remember it. Ray just told me what happened. I’m really sorry Gee. Can you forgive me?”
A faint smile appeared on his face, which broadened as he heard my genuine distress at what I’d put him through.
“Of course I forgive you, Mikes,” he replied generously, his words stemming the tears brimming in my eyes. Pulling me into a comforting hug, he patted my back gently.
“I’m so sorry, Gee,” I repeated, almost choking on the lump in my throat.
“Sshh,” he whispered as I clung to him. “But you know, Mikey, she’s still dead.”
I pushed him away and stepped back my eyes widened in horror at the words.
“What did you say?” I stammered.
“I didn’t say anything,” Gerard stared at me with a puzzled expression.
I glanced at Ray; the same look was mirrored in his face.
“Didn’t you hear him?”
“He didn’t say anything, Mikey.”
I stared at Gerard trying unsuccessfully to make sense of it all.
“Where’s your shirt?” I demanded urgently. “From last night. Where is it?”
Gerard frowned deeply.
“It’s gone to laundry, covered in beer. What’s with you, Mikey?”
“The girl, she’s dead.”
“It was on the news, you met her after the signing.”
“How could I meet anyone?” Gerard growled in reply. “We were too busy trying to find you!”
I was lost for words and totally confused. I had lost all track of what was real and it exhausted me.
“I don’t know what you took last night, Mikey but don’t do it again and you damn sure better keep it away from me. I’ve worked too hard to get clean and you’re not gonna drag me back again!”
I nodded my agreement but I had heard him, I knew it. I was sober and I was awake. The question I had to ask myself now was, was Ray in on it too?