Perry and Ada were yelling. Frankly, my dears, I didn’t give a shit. I was going to destroy this motherfucker if it was the last thing I did. I would beat the mental image of them together out of his head.
Before the rat bastard could get back up, I jumped on him. I clocked him in the cheekbone then went for the other side of his jaw, landing a sharp uppercut. I tried to get him in the nose, something I so desperately wanted to break, but the fury that was rolling out of me was almost blinding. I was rage incarnate and I delivered punch after punch after punch.
More cries filled the room, and I knew the jig was up. I felt arms grab me roughly from behind and haul me off of Maximus, who was rolling on the floor, grabbing his face.
Suddenly Ada was in front of me, her hands on my chest, pushing me further back into whom I could only assume was Perry’s father.
“Enough!” she cried out. “This isn’t helping Perry! That’s not why you’re here. Remember.”
She put her face right up to mine, forcing me to meet her eyes. She was pleading, desperately, trying to remind me why I was there. I did remember. I had to save Perry. I couldn’t screw it up now, no matter how badly I wanted to kill Maximus. Not just for screwing her, but for allowing all of this to happen. He should have been on her side.
I bit my lip and nodded that I understood, then I closed my eyes to the scene just as Perry’s father dug his hands into my arm and pulled me across the room. Oh boy, I was in deep shit now with Mr. Mafia.
“What on earth is going on?” her father yelled, his eyes boring into Perry and Ada’s. He gave me a disgusted look and a dismissive push that I was jonesing to retaliate. “Why is he here?”
“Dad!” Perry yelled at him, seemingly normal again. Or maybe this was all a trick.
“I called him,” Ada quickly explained and walked over to me. I hoped this was a sign of solidarity because I didn’t have a very fair fight against Tony Soprano, Ginger Elvis, and the Ice Queen. “I thought he could help.”
“You called him of all people?” Her dad jabbed his thumb in my direction. I held back my shoulders, hoping my new body was at least slightly intimidating. Didn’t he see what I did to Maximus’ face?
He glared, not relenting in the slightest. “After what you did to my daughter, you should be glad I’m merely going to kick you out of my house.”
Huh. How interesting. “How about what you did? Your little daughter there is tied to her own bed. She’s sick and getting sicker by the minute.”
“She’s going to the hospital first thing in the morning.” I was surprised he didn’t roll his eyes.
I took a step toward him. He didn’t get it at all. He needed to get it.
“If you take her there,” I said, all steel and sharp edges, “you will kill her. You have no idea what you are dealing with here.”
My father didn’t move. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you had a plan.”
I looked at everyone. “I do have a plan.”
“Well it’s too bad you can’t stay to tell us about it,” he said snidely. He put his hands on my shoulders and began pushing me toward the door.
Like I was going to go that easily.
I stopped suddenly and looked over at Maximus who was rubbing his jaw, looking all butthurt. Aw, poor baby.
I turned to face her dad, his round face under round glasses, eyes that were burning with anger. It’s touching that he wanted to protect his daughter so badly, but he was going about this the completely wrong way.
“It’s funny that you both don’t remember me,” I said.
Her dad shot her mother a confused look. Not that Perry’s mom ever looked anything but confused.
“We’ve met before,” I went on with a smile. “Back in New York. I was just a young fuck at the time. I had a deadbeat, alcoholic crazy bitch of a mother and a wonderful nanny. She was a bit loopy too...”
“We don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. I think I believed him. But her mother. No, no, she got it. She understood. She knew exactly who I was. And who Pippa was.
I took a step toward the blonde pillar and grinned wickedly. It was wrong of me to be relishing this, but I was.
“When I turned eighteen, I changed my last name to my mother’s name. To honor her death. Guess I was sentimental back then. Before that, my name was Declan O’Shea.”
Her dad’s eyes widened. Oh, now he knew. He gave me another push by way of response. “You need to get out of here. Now.”
“Such a rush?” I asked, slowly letting him take me out the door.
“I have no problem calling the cops on you,” he responded. I knew he would, too. I didn’t want to push it that far, but it was fun seeing how upset they were. I really got to them. For once, I sort of had the upper hand.
“No really,” I said, as we went down the stairs with Maximus and Queen Bitch trailing behind. “I’m surprised Perry doesn’t talk more about her grandmother. She does know about her, doesn’t she? Her…condition?”
“Out!” her father yelled again, pointing at the front door. Maximus stood beside him for backup, but even though his face was battered from my fists, he looked doubtful. Wary even, of the people he was standing with. And Perry’s mother? Well I could see she was just crumbling from the fear. I didn’t even really know what I knew, but I knew I had struck a chord with her, right where it hurt.
I paused by the door and raised my hands in the air. “Hey, I came here to make amends and to try and help your daughter. If you all can’t see that, then you’ll end up suffering for the consequences.”
Then I turned around and ran out into the night.
I got in my car and drove off through the rain. I didn’t go very far, just to the next street over where I texted Bird and warned him that we might be a bit later than what we had planned on. Then I sent a message to Ada, saying I wasn’t actually going anywhere and that I’d sneak back later. I never got a response, so I assumed she was talking with Perry or her parents. I could only hope to hell that Ada wouldn’t cave in and spoil everything. It couldn’t be easy living in that house, and I wouldn’t blame her for wanting to keep the peace, even if her love for Perry was greater.
While I waited, I rested my head on the steering wheel and kept replaying the images of the night through my head. It was terrible. It was like a car accident you couldn’t stop staring at, a movie where you’re too afraid to look away from the screen. I saw Perry, my beautiful, strong Perry, reduced to a shell. She was being held prisoner in her own body, only allowed to come out on occasion. And she had to fight for it, I could tell. She was dying inside and no one was helping her. Everyone she loved and trusted had turned against her.
Including me. I was here to help her but the damage had already been done and it was done by my own hand. When Rebecca had told me how bitter and angry Perry was, I believed it. And now I believed it went much deeper than that. This thing inside of her was feeding on her rage, the rage I created. I made the monster.
My eyes stung hot with tears that thankfully never fell. I couldn’t handle this. I handled so much before but I couldn’t handle this. Not like this. Not now. Seeing her, being with her…it only drove the knives deeper into my stomach. And knowing she slept with Maximus, picturing her riding him, kissing him, being intimate with him…the knives twisted. My soul was bleeding and the pain wouldn’t stop. It just kept coming, soaking me with red despair. I wanted to scream, I want to hit Maximus some more, I wanted to yell at Perry and ask her why she’d do that to me. Then I wanted to hit myself, yell at myself, destroy myself because I was the reason.
That’s how I spent the night. Waiting in the darkness, the rain falling on the roof, hoping there was still time to make things right.
It was about two in the morning when I decided to give it a go. I started the car and drove back around the corner and down Perry’s street. I parked it just out of sight of their house and checked my phone for any last minute texts. There was nothing. Ada still hadn’t gotten back to me.
It didn’t matter. I’d make a go of it on my own. I got out of the car and crept toward the house. Her bedroom light was off, which was a good sign. She was probably alone. I spied the tree that rather conveniently reached toward the roof and her window. That would do.
A month or two ago, I would have hung from it like a monkey, but now thanks to countless sessions on the pull-up bar, I was able to climb the tree with ease. I quietly stepped onto the roof then moved across the shingles until I was just outside her window.
I peeked in. It was dark but there was just enough light coming from a charging phone in the corner. Perry was lying in bed, still strapped in. I took a deep breath and tried to get the window open. It took a few attempts, and in my impatience, I almost put my fist through it, but in the end it slid open, clattering too loudly in the frame.
Perry’s shape stirred on the bed then froze. “Hey, kiddo,” I whispered. “It’s just me.”
I fucking hoped it was her.
I quickly climbed through the window and made my way over to the bed. I crouched to her level and she turned her head on the pillow to face me. She looked okay, like herself again.
And I realized that was just as fucking frightening. Because if the real Perry wanted to kill me, that was something I couldn’t just recover from.
I was rattled beyond words and tried to give her a smile.
“Sweet climbing tree you’ve got there,” I said, nodding outside, grasping for conversation. What to say? What could I possibly say to her, now, after all this time?
I looked back at her, at the way she was looking at me, open yet guarded. She looked so weak, so torn and ravaged. “How are you?”
“How do you think?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said, smiling softer now. “I know. I’m going to get you out of here, okay?”
“I said I had a plan. Your parents never gave me a chance to tell it to them. You just have to trust me.”
She glared at me. I missed that glare. “How the fuck do you think I can trust you?”
Ouch. This wasn’t going to be easy. I rubbed anxiously at my face, hoping she’d trust me enough to see this through. “I deserve that, I know. And I don’t blame you. But none of that’s important right now. Later, yes. Not now, kiddo. Ada was right. You can’t stay here. Whatever’s inside you, it’s going to kill you. Sooner rather than later. And a hospital, alone...Perry you don’t want to die in there.”
Her eyes widened. Now she was getting it, what everyone else wasn’t.
I reached over and gently ran my fingers down her hand. Her skin was still so smooth, so soft. I battled inside to keep my focus where it needed to be. She needed comfort, she needed to know she was going to be okay. I stared into her eyes, finding her inside them. “It’s true. I’m not trying to scare you. In fact, you’re the one who’s scaring me. As usual. But we have to go.” I took a deep breath. “Will you come with me?”