News of Ray reaches the girls back home.
Belleville, New Jersey, USA
Lindsay glared out of the shop's glass door.
“Aw. Shoot. It's raining.”
“You don't like rain, baby?” the woman behind the counter asked. She was old but still had strength in her bones and fire in her soul. She came from Texas, but had married a New Jersey factory worker. Her accent was strong, though.
“Oh, I do, Irene. I do. It's just—it gets lonely without him.”
And I also don't have an umbrella.
“You miss your boy?”
“Yeah, I miss 'my boy'.”
Lindsay started packing her groceries.
“Yours is the artist, right?”
Lindsay couldn't help but smile, proud.
The Artist. Her Artist.
“And his brother was the musician, am I correct?”
“Mh-hm – Lindsay nodded as she picked up her two paper bags – Michael played bass.”
“Well, God bless his soul. He was a handsome little man.”
Lindsay couldn't help but laugh, even though it was a bitter laugh, tinted with pain and longing.
“He was a cool guy. I miss him.”
We all do.
“Well, it was nice talking to you, Irene.”
“Send my love to Alicia.”
“I sure will.”
Lindsay smiled and waved goodbye, before stepping out into the rain, trying to shield the bags of groceries with her coat. She cursed between her teeth as her makeup ran and made her eyes sting, cursed the fact that the brown, low-quality paper the bags were made of was literally melting away, cursed herself for not taking her umbrella with her. She managed to get into Gerard's car without enduring much damage, though, and took a deep breath.
Her head was pounding. It was pounding and pounding and pounding, and she didn't even know why.
Maybe it's the stress.
She turned the key, and the car woke and rumbled. The radio was broken. It had been for a while, but Gerard had left without fixing it, even though she'd reminded him to do so constantly.
Thinking of this made her smile and ache at the same time, like so many things already did during those days.
She drove quietly back home, humming to herself songs whose titles she didn't even remember, wondering wether he was safe, wether they were all safe.
Lately she wondered a lot.
Lindsay pulled up into Alicia's driveway (they'd been living together ever since the boys had left), and noticed that Christa's car was there, too.
Something hatched inside her gut, and it didn't feel right.
She quickly parked, left the groceries behind. Because those were desperate times, and even though it could've just been a friendly visit, her mind was telling her otherwise. Something wasn't right.
She opened the door, as her mind stammered and screamed and she tried to quiet it down, and she saw Christa and Alicia huddled close, and Jamia leaning against the doorway, staring into space.
Ray Toro's wife had clearly been crying.
Oh. Oh, shit.
“Is—is everything okay?”
Alicia's head snapped up, her gaze met Lindsay's.
“Does it look like everything's okay?” she hissed.
Christa wiped her eyes and bit her lower lip.
“Ray's been hurt.”
“Oh my God.”
“They say it happened during an ambush. They said it's his arm. But it's not sure yet – she was gulping in massive amounts of air while talking, dry sobbing into her hands – and apparently he's been hurt so, so bad. My baby's been hurt, he could even be dead. He could die. They say he's lost his arm, they told me that, they told me today. G-God.”
Christa couldn't stop sobbing.
Alicia quietly circled Christa's shoulders with an arm.
“It's okay...it's okay, hush now, honey, hush.”
“Jesus. Baby, baby I'm so, so sorry.” was all that Lindsay could say: the rest of her mind was churning and leaping and screaming, wondering wether Gerard was safe or not, wether her baby's daddy was okay, wether she would've seen him again.
Something snapped inside of Alicia when she heard Lindsay speak: Jamia could see it in her eyes.
“It's really fucking easy for you to say that, isn't it?”
Lindsay's jaw dropped.
Alicia stood up.
“Because your husband's okay.”
Rain was hitting the windows more violently now. Lindsay swallowed, looked to Jamia for support. Nestor lowered her gaze.
Alicia was standing up, and her mind had finally broken completely.
“Because your husband's alive.”
Lindsay took a step towards her friend. The entire situation felt strange, almost dream-like.
It wasn't happening. Ray was okay and Alicia wasn't slipping away right before their eyes.
“No. - Alicia's voice was firm and blood-chilling - Your life's perfect. Ours - and she pointed to herself and Christa - our life is FUCKED. You know what's gonna happen in a couple of weeks? Your fucking husbands are going to come home, alive and whole, while me and Chris are going to watch as you hug them and kiss them and God knows what else, and all three of you are gonna still have their pretty little husbands, but me? I'm ALONE!”
She'd screamed the last word, her voice had screeched and rung through their skulls.
Lindsay didn't know what to do, it felt as if everything was slipping out of control. Did she feel guilty? Maybe. A little.
“Oh. FUCK YOU!”
Alicia Simmons-Way flung herself at her best friend, fueled by rage and guilt, regret and jealousy. She screamed and yelped and had a go and Lindsay's throat. Jamia managed to snatch her just in time.
The girl started screeching hysterically, thrashing, sobbing, trying to break free.
“I WANT HIM BACK! GIVE HIM BACK TO ME!”
Lindsay's hands were shaking violently.
Jesus. Jesus fucking Christ.
She ran outside and slammed the door behind her, trying to process what had just happened, trying to make out a distinct shape from the blurry madness of those few minutes.
Hot summer rain fell onto her, soaking her, making her shiver even more.
Alicia's screaming could still be heard, muffled and scary.
Lindsay opened her car again, and locked herself inside.
She was lonely. She felt scared.
Oh so very scared.
She stared at the pouring rain for a few minutes as Ali's screaming died down, finally soothed, and she was nothing but a pathetic little pile of rags, sobbing on the floor.
The beginning of the end, the emptiness that could not be filled.
Lindsay swallowed as the sound of rain covered each and every person's heartbeat, as it became the city's only heartbeat. Summer rain, the kind of rain that seems to freeze everything in a moist, warm and humid jar of formaldehyde, where everybody and everything is suspended in time, when kids stop playing and dogs stop barking.
Where you do nothing but listen. Where you barely even breathe.
She dry sobbed a few times, as the weight of it all came crashing down on her shoulders, as she realized she'd lost Alicia forever, as she realized how far from her the man she loved was. She dry sobbed and squeezed the steering wheel until her knuckles went white, until she was actually sobbing and tears mixed with the water still wetting her face.
Lindsay sobbed, and shut her eyes, and listened to the rain fall.