When I Saw You Again
It was awkward. He didn’t know what to say to her. And she, the woman who had never been short of something to talk about, just stared up at him.
“She’s barely moved,” Glen said. How long? he wanted to ask. “It’s been hours.”
“What did she ta-” he began to ask before pulling himself up short. He didn’t want to know. He didn’t even want to be here. It was too... Well, too much of everything, really. She’d changed since he’d last seen her although wasn’t that always the case now that they avoided each other whenever possible?
“I don’t know.” Glen was shaking his head now, looking something between horrified and exhausted. “She didn’t say. She just... She said some names. Yours mostly, though. I didn’t know what else to do.”
“No, you did the right thing.” Which was a lie. Lindsey wasn’t sure what the right thing WAS but it couldn’t be this; there was absolutely nothing right about any of this. He crouched down next to her, wondering if she would ever react to his being there. She’d always been so aware of his presence, his nearness (as he had of her), so this complete lack of anything was almost the most disturbing thing to him. Besides her eyes. God, looking into them hurt. There was nothing there, he’d swear to it.
“Oh, uh, one word of warning. I wouldn’t try and take, you know, the, uh, doll,” he was warned quietly by the man still standing in the entrance to the darkened bathroom. “She doesn’t like it.”
Lindsey wanted to tell Glen to stop acting like Stevie was some kind of child, to stop talking like she couldn’t hear them and yet...
“Its name is Sara.”
Oh. Christ. “Another one?” he asked, his throat feeling swollen.
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t, I don’t know what to do anymore, you know. Jess rang last night, asking to talk to her. Apparently she hasn’t called home in months. They were worried.”
“They were right to be,” Lindsey replied sternly. “God, Glen, how could you let things get-”
“What, you think she listens to me?” he asked bitterly. “I tried.”
Not enough, he wanted to say, not even close. He’d seen enough of how Glen acted, what he took, to know that. Where the hell was everyone else? Did no one SEE what he saw? Did they see and ignore? “Just go,” he said, pointing to the door. “I’ll sit with her.”
So Glen left.
And Lindsey talked. He reached for her hand, let his fingers curl around hers. He put an arm around her shoulders, worried at how pale her skin was, even for her. He put their joined hands on her knee, leaving them resting there as he spoke. For forty three minutes (his watch had never been checked so often in his life, he was sure of it) he sat there and talked. And she said nothing back. He thought he’d seen a flicker of something in her eyes when he’d run out of family news to tell her, and had moved onto reminiscing – their first kiss, their first time making love, their first home – but by the time he’d reached their move to Los Angeles, it had gone. And maybe he’d imagined it there in the first place; some kind of misguided hope that things hadn’t gotten this bad. But apparently they had.
At the thirtieth minute (he’d looked) he’d touched the doll, watching her carefully to see what her response would be. She’d watched him back, her grip tight around its small body, swaddled in a blanket of some soft purple-y color. He’d stroked its hair and he’d thought that maybe she had let out a little breath, a sigh, of relief. After forty five minutes, he couldn’t think of anything else to say. It was a new problem that he’d never expected to have as, after all, there had always been something for them to discuss, whether it was something to be yelled about, whispered about or shared in happiness. But now there were just those two familiar (and yet not) eyes looking back at him and a limp, cold hand held passive in his own. Disconcerting, really. A few times, he’d had the misfortune to be around when she was really in a state but this, this complete nothingness was new to him. And he hated it.
“Stevie?” he tried again. “Steph?”
No response. It wasn’t even surprising anymore. He let go of her hand and lent against the hideously tiled wall (he’d always liked how homey she made everything and this was so unlike her that he was repelled by it), letting his head fall to her shoulder. Leaning on her. That was a laugh. As if she could hold anyone up, be any kind of stability for anyone, the way she was now. Sighing, he closed his eyes.
Lindsey woke up to her hand in his hair, his curls being tousled by her seeking fingers. The room was even darker now, the only light coming from a small candle resting precariously on the edge of the sink, and so he sighed and snuggled into her further, revelling in her touch. She’d always had a way...
It was barely three seconds before he realized.
Lifting his head, mourning the loss of her hands on him as he did so, he looked at her curiously. “Stevie?”
She smiled. Sort of. It wasn’t a smile he recognized – it was too glazed over, too stretched, too... Did she even recognize him? He wasn’t sure.
“It’s me.” He knelt in front of her, a hand on her thigh, rubbing softly. “Lindsey,” he clarified. And he shouldn’t have to clarify anything for her; she knew him as well as he knew her. Except he really didn’t know her anymore, did he? Not THIS her, anyway. “Are you, are you okay?”
“Yeah,” she said softly. “Tired.”
“How about I take you to your room then, okay?” he said, trying to sound encouraging but concerned his voice wasn’t holding up. She still had that look in her eyes. Blank. “Do you want to get up?” he prodded and made to take the doll from her arms.
She growled. Actually growled. He wanted to vomit.
“Okay then. Um, let’s all go then? Is that alright? Do you want to walk or?”
She lifted her arms to him.
She was heavier than the last time he’d carried her (also to a bed, he remembered – he’d been so angry with her and the sex had been quick and fierce, possessive) and he hated himself for thinking that. For god’s sake, her weight wasn’t the issue here and he knew he’d hate himself later for even thinking about it. He babbled as he walked them to her room (a room he assumed was hers, anyway – he wasn’t sure of anything right now and was running on blind instinct), talking about the little puppy he’d bought for a cousin’s new baby the other week, about how much fun he remembered having the first time they’d bought a dog together, about anything. She just looked up at him, one hand hooked around his neck - playing gently with the greying curls there - and the other still cradling the doll.
And he did. Her room was large, ridiculously so. And almost empty. They stood in the doorway, him gazing at how not-her this space was, and her gazing at nothing so far as he could tell. “Do you want to go and lie on the bed, Stevie?” he asked softly and swallowed a lump in his throat as she smiled sweetly up at him. It was so close to how he remembered her smiling at him all those years ago – the innocence and trust broke him. She’s been SO aware of him back then, though. “Let me put you down, okay?” The bed wasn’t made; it seemed to be an old mattress covered in piles of mismatched quilts and sheets from what he could tell.
He let her down gently. And there she was. She looked peaceful now, curled onto her side facing him as he sat on the edge of the bed. “I missed you,” she said and she spoke so quietly that he thought he’d misheard at first. Clearing her throat, she reached out a hand to his leg, tapping him once, twice, her index finger laden with three rings. “I did, you know. Missed you. Did you miss me?”
And what the fuck could he say to that? I STILL miss you. This isn’t you. What’s wrong? What the hell have you done? Where are you? Please come back.
Relief. Because at least she knew it was him and he still, he still hadn’t been sure she did. “Yeah, I missed you too.”
Stevie smiled, her eyes disturbingly vacant still. “Stay.”
And how could he refuse? Tomorrow they could talk. Tomorrow he’d shake her, he would be furious, he would demand she explain what the fuck was going on. He would tell her that if she cared for him AT ALL she would get help immediately, that he couldn’t ever see her again if she kept going down this road, that he was so worried he felt ill with it. He would embrace her as she wept, hold her hair back as she vomited, rub her back as she tried to explain what her life had become. He wouldn’t understand but he’d try.
But right now? Right now he was going to stay. He laid down next to her. “Kiss me goodnight, Lindsey.” He did. Her lips were so dearly familiar to him and yet it all felt completely wrong. “And kiss Sara goodnight.”
Lindsey stilled. Froze.
“She just wants a kiss from her papa before she goes to sleep. I don’t want her to be restless. Please, Lindsey.”
“I can’t,” he choked out, watching in something akin to horror as she looked at him, evidently dismayed at his lack of care. “Stevie, that doll isn’t going-”
“Shush,” she said, pressing a finger to his lips, a disappointed expression on her face. “Fine. I always thought you’d be a good father, you know. Funny how wrong we are sometimes.”
“I’m going to go,” he said. “I have to go.”
She turned her back to him.
“Stevie,” he pleaded, putting a hand on her hip, caressing it in a way which had once evoked an immediate response of need. “Stevie, I can’t be here while you’re like this. It’s killing me, you know.”
“Just go,” she replied and Lindsey could hear the catch in her voice. “You always do.”
It wasn’t the time to point out that SHE was always the one who left and so he pressed his lips to the back of her neck. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He flopped onto his stomach on the bed beside her, burying his head in a navy blue pillow he’d never seen before. And probably never would again.
He would stay. Just for tonight.