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Partially beta'd by Erin.

Eight Days War

by Ralu

People come and people go and people never count the days that pass, the days that pass them by. And people never stop. Nor do they go anywhere.


DAY 1.

"Oh, come on, Bonnie. You look good. It fits you."

He looks down at his feet, then back at her. Who the hell's he fooling? She can barely slide her ass through the fabric without the dress tearing up. Still...red looks good on her, always did.

"You could do better than that, you know..." she says, trying to zip up.

"You look nice in red," Chris growls, hugging her tight from behind: "Sexy."

"Liar," Bonnie replies softly, kissing his stubbled jaw.

He whispers something in her ear and her eyes bubble, letting out a high-pitched laugh resonating throughout the entire store.

"It's true," he says, a little bit *too* loud.

The saleswoman stares at them tapping her foot in annoyance. Bonnie's been trying on about six different dresses and...it doesn't seem like she's going to be buying any of them any time soon; she's also convinced that the man who appears to be her husband can't even AFFORD to pay for them. They both look like cheap white trash on a rampant *pseudo*-shopping spree. And yeah...they both look a bit drunk too.

"Sweet little kitten..."-- burying his face in her blonde hair, licking her neck right in front of the other woman: "My sweet little pussy-cat..."

A dry, highly amused snort, her head bending backwards, smiling:

"More like 'your big fat pussy'..."

They're nuzzling like a couple of teenagers, groping each other shamelessly. The older saleswoman silently curses them both as she exchanges a highly meaningful look with a male store employee: 'Disgusting." This overweight, sullen-looking woman with her worn-out black shoes and her hippie plastic jewelry - making out like a horny cow with her cheaply dressed, ex-con looking, not-exactly-unattractive-but-definitely-white-trash husband of hers. Smelling like tobacco and booze and something else she can't quite identify. Pot, most likely. Disgusting.

"The dress fits you like a dream," the saleswoman lies through her teeth, trying to not seem too impatient. "Are you buying it?"

The tall man swiftly looks up at her over his wife's shoulder and - for a moment - the saleswoman feels her hands sweat and her eyes glaze over. He looks so threateningly, so overwhelmingly dangerous she can't help but think he's going to pull out a shotgun any moment now and blow her brains out. Just to get the bitch the dress she fancies so much. Then - like magic - her initial fear dissolves into embarrassment and...annoyance as he smiles a little crooked smile, all wide-eyed puppy-like gaze, whispering something into his wife's ear. The woman still nestling in his arms gives away a little chuckle and one of her legs slowly rubs against his thigh.

"Nah, she doesn't like it."-- voice sunken into the most adorable tone of complete boredom. "I guess red isn't her color after all," he growls, smiling like a moron, making that lard-ass wife of his burst into childish giggles.

They tongue-kiss again, Keller's hands slowly moving on his wife's back, unzipping her dress. As slowly as he possibly can - he doesn't want to tear the goddamn thing, he ain't got no money to pay for it in the first place. Feeling nicotine, alcohol and...Bonnie - melting on the tip of his tongue. *Heavenly*...


"I don't know...red? Isn't it a bit too much for your dad's party?"

"What would you want to wear, Gen? Barbara Bush pink?" Toby says, looking at his wife's slender figure reflecting in the mirror: "We're not in our 60's."

Gen turns around looking at him with a sweet smile on her face. She really looks stunning, her purple red dress falling on her hips and thighs like a second skin.

"Maybe black would be a more appropriate choice," she says, knowing already her husband's answer.

"More *appropriate*?" he snickers, putting his arms on her shoulders: "Everybody's going to be wearing black. Hell! My mom's going to wear black, probably the same dress she wore last year."-- voice turning low and raspy, mouth only inches away from hers: "I want you to sparkle."

"Sparkle?" she replies in a similar tone of voice, gazing into his skyline blue eyes: "Toby, I honestly doubt a woman in her 30's who's had two kids and is expecting another can *sparkle*."

"Well, you do," Toby says in a low chuckle, kissing her sensual full lips.

She doesn't reciprocate, though, slightly backing away, and turning towards the mirror.

"You're going to mess up my make-up."

But she knows that's just a silly pretext; a pretext she's using more and more often these days. An almost automatic, unconscious recoil, her body reacting on its own. Alcohol. Tasting it on his lips, the sweet-sharp smell of his breath closing in on her like a lace spider web he so conveniently, so easily allows himself to fall into. No wonder he thinks she *sparkles*... But...it's just a tiny bit, right? Maybe a glass or two of Martini or something, when he's not working. It's not that bad. It *can't* be that bad. Still...it doesn't make it *right* either.

"Maybe we should buy the black one too," Toby says, and she knows from the tone of his voice he's feeling a bit guilty.

'Yeah, keep buying things for me, Toby,' she thinks, annoyed, 'maybe *that* will make everything all right.' Gen almost throws it at him, but is distracted by a woman's embarrassingly high-pitched laughter coming from another dressing room, only footsteps away.

"What the hell was THAT?" Toby asks, frowning visibly amused.

"Seems like someone's having a really good time over there," his wife replies, smiling broadly.

A man's deep, throaty voice resonates through the wall, although neither Gen nor Toby can make out what he's saying.

"Okay, we'll buy them both," Genevieve says, taking one last look into the mirror.

After all, money's no problem for the Beechers. Or, better said, money is not THE problem for the Beechers.


DAY 2.

He kisses the tip of her nose as she leans over him, keeping her arms safely locked around his neck and shoulders. Chris turns over a little bit and brushes his lips across her exposed belly, murmuring into her warm flesh:

"What do you say we put a little Bonnie in there?"

"Or maybe a little Chris," she chuckles softly, fingers caressing his forehead.

"Nope. Better a little Bonnie. Someone like you."

She stops breathing for a second; Chris can feel her muscles tense, her heart pacing a bit faster.

"Are...are you serious about this?"

"You want me to be?" he says, looking up at her.

Bonnie's voice is shaky but demanding:

"Don't play mind games with me, Chris. You mean it?"

"Yes."-- a beat, looking at her belly again: "I don't know, I mean... I want, I wanna..."

"A little Bonnie?" she whispers.

"A beautiful, little Bonnie like you. With your eyes, and your smile..."

"Oh no, *your* smile, baby!" Bonnie relaxes again as his hands curl around her just above her hips.

"And your waist..."

"Yeah, *right*!"

He nuzzles into her stomach, licking the edge of her navel:

"What? Your waist is just fine with me..."-- words melting into her soft, damp skin: "It would be kinda nice, don't you think? It would be good. Right."

"You really mean this..."

"I love you," he whispers softly: "Why wouldn't I mean it?"

"Because..." she says, incapable of stopping herself in time.

They both know why; beyond the financial difficulties, beyond the shitty, ridiculously tiny rented apartment, beyond the almost weekly bitching and moaning sessions, beyond the fact that they're both ex-drug users, one a whole lot more than the other... Beyond all that's obvious.

Inside all the nights when Bonnie cries herself to sleep all alone, not knowing where the fuck he is, inside all the moments they barely speak to each other, let alone touch... Inside all those times Chris lies on the floor, humming and hugging himself, dangling like a small child, a small, shocked, wounded animal waiting for the final blow to put him out of his misery; the moments when Bonnie's hands, Bonnie's soft voice, her touch, is NOT ENOUGH - not even *close*... Those moments when he completely loses it, with or without drugs running though his veins. Those moments when SOMETHING ELSE runs through his veins like acid, like poison. The moments Bonnie knows she just CAN'T REACH HIM, no matter what. Inside all the unspoken. Inside all the unseen.

"I love you, Bonnie. I love you." He's buried his face in her moist flesh, wanting to crawl back inside her, back into her womb.

To feel nothing and want nothing and need nothing but her. To long for nothing. And be haunted by nothing.


She kisses him slowly, deliberately teasing, biting on his lower lip; warm palms on his face, thumbs brushing across his flat cheekbones. Sweetness pouring through every pore of her body, as Toby holds her tight, arms folding around her waist.

"Oh, God!" Gen says startled, backing away just a little bit.

"What? Did I hurt you, or..."

"No, no, you dummy," she whispers, grabbing his arms and placing them on her swollen belly: "Feel."

"He's kicking! Wow, he's kicking like a mule," Toby says in a low chuckle, kneeling in front of her. Ear glued to her womb, arms on her hips, murmuring affectionately: "You want to get out of there, don't you?"

He did the very same thing with Holly too, talking to her while her mother held him tight by his shoulders; whispering all his dreams for her, all his love. Just like with her brother before her. All the things they'll do together.

Holly sneaks into the room, dirty shoes leaving marks all over the kitchen floor. Her brother is right behind her.

"Come here," Gen says, waving at her children: "Say 'hello' to your little brother."

Both children approach a bit wearily, placing their small palms on their mom's belly, while Toby leans over and kisses her forehead, arm stretched across Holly and Gary's shoulders.

Gen closes her eyes for a long moment; it would be perfect, wouldn't it?!... Except...that it's not. Not always. Because you can't freeze time inside one stolen second. Life is not a still snapshot. The Earth spins, and time passes...and people change. Or they don't. She doesn't know which is worse, what would be better. *This* would be best. But this can't last forever. Never does. She just doesn't know it yet. Or...she doesn't *want* to know it.

Behind all her hidden fears, behind all of her unspoken suspicions, she's nothing but the product of her own family, her own background; her own life, and the life of others before her. Just like Toby; just like everybody else.

And what she knows - in this snapshot world that only spins inside its own closed, little circle - is that things are what they are; how she sees them as being. Accidents don't happen in this little world of theirs. Of *hers*.


DAY 3.

"Why the fuck did you marry her?"-- chewing on his hamburger, mouth open: "Again?!"

"Because I love her?!..." Keller wants to put a fist through the wall - or the guy's face, he's not sure. "I don't know, it seemed like the right thing, at the time."

"Hell, Chris. You could've at least gotten yourself a wife that doesn't look like *that*," the guy says, grimacing. "She's fucking ugly, man!"

He starts laughing, only to abruptly stop when he chokes on a piece of meat. Yep, definitely his face, Keller thinks, putting out his cigarette and immediately lighting up another.

"Yeah, maybe," Chris growls, yawning: "But she's a wildcat in the sack."

She actually is. On her good days.

"*Really*?!"-- a highly incredulous chuckle: "You let her ride you?"

Keller looks at him, clenching his jaw for a small second. Then he leans over the table, smiling broadly:

"Yep." (--'I mean, shit! I've had *bulkier*... And I ain't talking about pussy.'--)

The other guy draws a long breath, snorting through his nose. He's done with his hamburger; on to French fries, now.

"And you're still here to tell the tale?"

The widest grin he can possibly produce:

"You don't know what you're missing."-- inhaling deep, letting nicotine and ammonia invade and conquer his lungs: "Besides, it's not about fucking."

"Give me a break, Keller. *Everything*'s about fucking with you."

Chris stares outside the window at the almost deserted street. It's raining like hell, and even the traffic seems to have somehow miraculously disappeared. One, two yellow cabs; a speeding dark blue Toyota splashing water onto the sidewalk. Some drops even make it on the diner's glass window, startling Chris a little.

"Fucking lunatic," he mutters under his breath, head bending backwards watching the Toyota disappearing into a water-induced smoke screen. He returns to his sour cup of coffee.


Chris looks at the other man, remembering Bonnie's honest first impression on his friend: 'I just don't like him.'

"You don't marry someone TWICE only because you wanna fuck them," he replies softly, gazing at the 40-something waitress passing them by. Looking a bit like Bonnie, only a lot older; and wiser, probably.

She'd told him bluntly, ignoring his full-on charm-attack: 'No smoking here, pretty boy.' But after the place had pretty much remained empty and the rain had started, it didn't matter anymore.

So Chris was onto his eight cigarette in less than a half an hour, trying his best not to think about his friend's extra curricular activities. And failing.

"So, listen..."-- a beat, looking right at him and sensing his gut clenching, 'cause the guy already knows what Chris wants from him: "You're still selling, right?"

A silent, way-too-pleased nod of confirmation.

"Thought you were off," he says, as a matter of fact.

Keller looks out the window again, then shifts his gaze onto the waitress sitting on the counter, rubbing her swollen feet.

"Yeah, well...you know me," he whispers slowly: "I'm never completely *off* anything."

The guy nods again, grabbing for Chris' pack of cigarettes.

"Bonnie's a good example."-- lighting a cigarette: "Same shit?"

"Yeah." He grabs his things and leaves a couple of bills on the table, standing up. "I'll call you, okay?"

"Hey, you're leaving?" the other man says, fingers curling around Chris' wrist: "It's still raining."

Keller pulls his hand away, not too abruptly, but not exactly delicately either, smiling just the tiniest smile just before exiting the diner:

"That's okay. I like the rain."

He then does his best imitation of the dark blue Toyota with his bike, cold drops of water mingling in his hair, onto his barely opened eyelids; melting on his burning tongue, down his nicotine infested throat.


RUN. Run away; run as fast as you possibly can. It doesn't matter where. Hell! You know there's really no place to run away to...

But...still, he wants to run. Unleashed - like a mad dog. Speeding off towards nowhere.

He loves the rain; it comes down washing everything away, like a false promise one could almost believe with the right amount of faith. Faith he lacks; faith he craves.

Insides burning, head spinning like a record, eyeglasses steamy from the heat inside the car. He can't see much; he doesn't *want* to see anything in the first place.

Feeding on the bits and pieces he does see through his blurred windshield, feeding off the sound of the car engine purring like a wild cat, the sound of the raindrops crashing against the roof - the eerie lack of people and cars all around him in the middle of the day... Ghostlike figure in a seemingly deserted diner on his right, water splashing against its windows. John Lee Hooker on the stereo, flowing through his veins like magic.

(--'Nobody's ever going to catch me, I'm one step away from flying, fucking disintegrating!...'--) One step away from turning into water; slipping through everybody's fingers. Even his own...

This is what freedom must feel like, he thinks. Just push that pedal 'til it breaks, push that engine 'til it starts screaming and - Sweet Jesus! - break that wall of water stretching out in front of you like some Biblical challenge or something!...

Smoke - when Gen, sweet, adoring, *annoying* Genevieve tells him not to; speed like a maniac - when those mounting speeding tickets drive his father to bitch at him for being so...irresponsible. While Toby can only think, almost scream out loud: 'You are not the boss of me! None of you.' So...(--'FUCK OFF!'--) *All* of you...

Just...(--'let me *be*.'--) Let me be who I AM. Whoever that might be...

Just...Let. Me. Run.


DAY 4.

"You know, Carla's new place is right near the park," Bonnie says, fingers curling around the small window frame. "She's staying on the fourth floor. She can see the sun setting over the park from up there."-- a small, meaningful beat: "It's beautiful."

"Yeah? Well, if you like it so much, why don't you move in with her?"

His voice's more than annoyed; there's something crawling up his spine, something nasty and just looking for the slightest provocation. Bonnie's learned to recognize things such as these about her two-time husband, and she's no fool. Chris is fishing for a fight.

He's been acting up all week after losing his *shit job* - as Keller used to put it; that *shit job* that could at least bring some money in the house and keep him busy enough not to even *think* of fucking up. Or fucking *himself* up. Well, the coast is clear now...

"I'm not in a mood for a fight, Chris," she says, keeping her back turned on him. Still staring outside the window at the desolate scenery of a small, dirty street and an old brick building. She once told him she thought she saw a rat peering inside through the window. She'd gotten pretty much the same reaction from her husband.

"I'm tired," she whispers, closing her eyes for a second and turning towards him.

"You're always tired," he snaps back, acid pouring through his contemptuously lowered eyelids.

She just can't help herself:

"Well, *I'm* the one working around here."

Chris' body stiffens for a moment, arms crossing on his chest defensively. He stretches his long legs over the table in front of him, causing the ashtray to fall over onto the floor.


"Yeah, that's your answer for everything, right Chris?" Bonnie says coldly, even though she feels her heart racing and a small vein starts popping nervously on her forehead.

"Well..."--drawing on the word, voice dangerously monotonous: "Maybe FAT-ASS bitch might be more appropriate."

She totally loses it; it has always been easy to get a rise out of Bonnie, truth be told; the good thing is that it usually doesn't last long, and forgiveness is never too far away. Still...she doesn't forget. She NEVER forgets.

"I'm the bitch, huh? I'm the fucking bitch?! You motherfucker, you lazy-ass slut!" Oh, yeah, she's SCREAMING now. "I don't know why the fuck I married you again, I should've known better. You'll never change."

"Oh, I know the answer to that one, *ho-ney*," he growls, pointing at her. "You were drunk, 'member?"

She picks up the first object she sees - another ashtray - and throws it at him, cigarette buds flying through the air, adding just a little more touch to the general mess the place is.

"Wow!" He starts laughing hysterically, driving her over the edge.

"You fucking bitch, goddamn you!"-- going through her pockets with a sort of desperation Keller's already used to - keys, a lighter, some coins - all flying in the same direction, hitting him in the head and back as he tries his best to crouch on the sofa. "Goddamn you, Chris! Goddamn you and this fucking marriage!..."

Tears run down her face as she quickly makes her way to the door, grabbing her coat and stepping into her black shoes.

"Hey. Bonnie, come on, don't go." His voice is pleading and a bit scared. "I'm sorry, come on..."

"Give me back my keys," she says, going through the pockets of his jacket for money. "And my lighter."

He tries to get up and walk towards her, but she stops him firmly:

"*Don't* come NEAR me. Just give me what I've asked you."

Keller picks up her lighter and her keys off the floor and throws them at her in the same manner she had before. Just that - in his case - it lacks conviction. He's doing it as some sort of a symbolic gesture, some 'you didn't win this' shit. But nobody's buying it.

"Where you gonna go, huh?"

She doesn't answer back as the door closes behind her and the sound of keys turning in the lock mixes with his yelling:

"Good fucking riddance!..."

Feeling the world spinning around in circles way too fast, spewing him out.


"Where have you been?"-- she's trying her best not to raise her voice, giving that the kids are in the living room, watching TV: "You were supposed to be home four hours ago."

Meanwhile, Toby's trying his best not to give himself away; still, he's drunk, and drunks don't have a hell of a lot of self-control.

"Oh, come on Gen..."-- trying to hug her, feeling his knees, unbelievably weak: "I..."

"Don't you 'come on Gen' me, Tobias," she promptly interrupts him, pushing his hands away in utter disgust, voice low and sharp: "I can smell it on you, you stupid, *stupid* bastard. Aren't you ashamed?"

"Ashamed of what?" he replies bitterly, frowning and turning his back on her: "I went out partying. We all did, the guys at the office. I bet they don't have their wives all over their asses now."

He's lying; he has done some partying of his own, *on* his own. Good thing those lawyer skills include lying through his teeth - he's learned to make use of them more and more lately.

"Oh really? Tell me Toby, do you *guys* at the office also *party* every evening?"

"What the hell do you want from me, Gen?" he snarls at her, knowing - even in the state that he is - that she's pissed enough to not let this one pass, not tonight. Besides, he doesn't know what else to say.

"Don't you swear at me, don't you..."-- she stops for a moment enough to grab his wrist and stop him from leaving the room: "No, you don't turn your back at me. You stay right here, because I've let this go on for far too long."-- voice shaky, a heartbreaking hum captured inside each and every ragged breath of air she takes: "Can't you see what you're doing to me, to this family? To yourself? How can you be so blind?..."

Obviously, what Genevieve Beecher doesn't know - how could she, really? - is that any sort of conversation, any whispered plea addressed to the ears of a drunken 'bastard' doesn't mean shit. Definitely not to a guy who can barely hear his own words, let alone the words of his *nagging* wife. A wife he doesn't want to see. Like so many other things in his life Tobias Beecher doesn't want to see; doesn't even want to *acknowledge*.

"Don't leave me like this," she whispers defeated, as her husband snatches out of her hold, turning away from her and heading for the bathroom. "I can't do this."-- whispering to herself, breathing in her own words: "I can't do this alone..."


DAY 5.

Cheerios or cornflakes. What a fucking life-changing choice, Bonnie thinks morosely, picking up one of the cereal boxes - the *wrong* box, because five or six other boxes collapse onto the floor, causing some not-exactly-pleased smirks and stares from the two pimply teenage employees of the market.

She leans over a bit embarrassed to pick them up and sees a small hand grabbing one of the boxes and handing it to her - a young boy dressed in a blue T-shirt. Behind him, a little blonde, blue eyed girl, smiling the sweetest smile; most likely his sister, both of them not older than 10, Bonnie guesses.

"Hey, Gary. Come on."

Bonnie turns just in time to see the little girl grabbing onto a 30-something, blonde man's shirt, his strong arm curling around her tiny shoulders. Probably their dad... The perfect American fucking family, she thinks, a bit annoyed. And jealous.

Later, Bonnie slowly locks the door behind her, turning on the small lamp near the 'twin high school lockers' - as Chris calls them. Which is exactly what they are - a pathetic excuse for a peg Chris had brought home a couple of months ago - only God knows where from. One small gaze across the tiny room - Jesus, what a mess!... Dirty clothes lying on the gray sofa, leftovers on the table; empty beer cans on the floor in front of the TV.

"Fucking moron," she whispers softly, pushing her coat into one of the lockers. She rubs her tired feet and crosses towards the kitchen, noticing the bathroom light creeping through the slightly opened door.

"I thought I told you to clean this place up, Chris."-- throwing a bunch of brown paper bags onto the table and moving towards the bathroom: "What the fuck have you been doing all da..."

Words choke in the back of her throat as she pushes her way into the bathroom - anger and resentment instantly turning into panic.

"Jesus," she mutters terrified, falling on her knees in front of the limp body sprawled like a broken puppet.

Chris is lying half-unconscious on the floor, upper half of his body leaning against the toilet; he's got dried blood on his shirt and under his fingernails - probably his blood. *Hopefully*. Deep bruises on his neck and forearms, (fresh) blood on his lower lip; eyelids barely opened as he tries (hopelessly) to say something. Anything. Feeling his throat choking with spit, although his mouth's all dried up - every drug user's automatic bodily response -- too much saliva, or the lack thereof.

"Jesus Christ, Jesus fucking Christ! What did you do? What the FUCK did you DO?!..."-- her voice is alternating between whispered prayers and growled curses, trying to grab her husband by his armpits and force him to stand up on his feet, all that extra weight and power of hers coming in handy like so many other times before: "Get up Chris. Get the fuck up, get up..."

She wrestles with him through the short corridor leading to the bedroom, stumbling on discarded cardboard boxes and empty bottles; his head slightly bangs against the bedroom door, her elbow brushes hard on a scratchy wall - both of them trying not to fall all over each other. An image that Chris would probably find very amusing, if he could actually see it.

She finally manages to throw him on the bed, panting heavily and cursing through her teeth.

"You okay?" Chris mutters slowly, keeping his eyes closed.

"You fucking stepped on my foot, Chris," she replies in a low tone of voice, sitting on the bed, back turned on him.


He tries to touch her shivering hip but she recoils, moving towards the edge of the bed. Bonnie leans forward, slowly massaging her aching foot; she's nodding instinctively, barely audible voice close to tears:

"I can't do this... I can't do this, I just can't..."

She sits in silence for a long moment, listening to her husband's breathing. Suddenly, she turns over towards him, climbing on her knees in the bed, hands clutching onto his shoulders. Her figure looms God-like over his face, long hair touching his forehead. If God were Bonnie; if Bonnie were God... (He'd be in heaven.)

"It's your blood, right? Is it your blood, Chris?"-- she's half screaming, anger and impotence and fear washing over her like a stream: "Tell me it's your fucking blood!..."-- leaning over his stunned, half-asleep face, voice turning into a helpless moan: "Please tell me it's yours..."

"It's mine," he whispers through strands of hair caressing his mouth.

She's sobbing quietly in his ear, her heavy, burning, hot body cuddling in Chris' arms, like a child's.

"I can't... You can't keep doing this to me, you stupid son of a bitch, I can't take it..."

Chris doesn't reply anything; he just holds her tight.


Vodka or wine? Tough choice... He puts both bottles back in the shelf, grabbing some fruit juice instead. Life-changing choices, he muses stupidly. I mean...he DID promise Gen, didn't he? No more booze, not the hard stuff, at least. Does wine qualify as 'hard stuff'? Nope. From his extensive alcohol experience, it DOESN'T. So...why the fuck not?

He grabs the bottle in question and moves on like nothing happened. Life-changing choices... Ha-Ha! Give me a fucking break!...

Besides, even his father likes a little Martini once in a while; dropping by his place twice or even three times a week lately, like having lived in the same house with him for almost twenty years wasn't enough. Both he and Gen and his mom - like some kind of holier than thou triumvirate, suffocating him. The 'we care about you, Toby' coalition from hell...

So fucking nice, so fucking polite - so much like himself; a mirror reflecting years of cushy, meaningless existence, one year after another of already known events, already lived experiences.

Feelings already felt - through everybody else but himself... Buried underneath his family; lost inside his own name. His father's name; his grandfather's. His great grandfather's. (And so on, and so on...) Ad *fucking* nauseam. And they wander why he *likes* to drink...

Because...that's why he drinks; because he wants to, because he likes it. Easiest, most harmless way to ignore for one transient moment all that's so blatantly obvious it hurts. His parents, Gen...they don't have any fucking idea about *anything*. They don't even know him. Hell! He himself doesn't know who he is!... How dare they *pretend* to know anything?! (--'Assholes.'--)

One second lost in his own thoughts, and the kids are nowhere in sight. Shit... Shit, shit!... He turns around and - oh, there you are... Spoiled little brats.

"Hey, Gary. Come on."

Both of them run towards him, Holly grabbing his shirt as he puts his arm around her. Behind them, a *very* big, sullen-looking woman in her 30's, staring at them. (--'Jesus, what a cow!'--) And...(--'that's not very nice of you Toby, not exactly *civilized*...'--)

Nice, sad blue eyes, but...definitely *not* Toby's type; he likes them slimmer. And with a bit of self-respect. Just look at Gen!... Or any of his former girlfriends; the few he had, that is. He wonders for a moment why he'd gotten married so fast - two months of dating, three spent engaged. (--'Because you love her, you moron?!...'--) Yeah, but... (--'Just think of everything you've missed...'--)

Well - one thing's for sure NOW...there aren't going to be any big surprises from this point on. (Nope.)

A carefully pre-determined life - handed down to him on a silver platter. A life - HIS life - over which he's utterly powerless. (--'I mean...shit! Nobody's ever *even* told me I should have power over it in the first place.'--)

Just...(--'don't slip up.'--) Don't fuck up.

And if he does...well nothing can ever be *that* bad. Nothing's unfixable, right? Besides, he's a Beecher. And what are the Beechers best at? (--'Uh-huh. *Exactly*.'--)

Cutting a deal; finding that convenient breach of contract... (--'Lying.'--)

Something he does more and more lately. And...not just with others.


DAY 6.

A week and a half of lying on the couch in front of the TV, watching cartoons; and then - within two days - a new job. Or so he says...

Money. Bills and the rent paid; a shit load of beer and massive quantities of pot. The entire 'baby' thing...*later*. We've got our whole life ahead of us; or so he says...

Bonnie senses it; each time he doesn't make it home in days, each time the phone rings and there's *another* unfamiliar voice asking to talk to Chris. She never knew almost any of her husband's friends, connections, whatever; he's made sure of that, to keep her in the dark. Or to protect her; to protect himself. The few friends she's met, she doesn't like.

Surrounding himself - surrounding her - in a cloud of lies and half truths just to keep well hidden all those things she suspects, but doesn't have the guts to throw them in his face. All the underlying ugliness.

Just like the first time they got married; only that - at that moment - she didn't care that much about it; there ain't much to care about when you're half stoned most of the time. Life just rushes alongside you at an abnormal speed, and the only thing you care about is to throwing yourself in it, going with the flow. Nothing really matters when you're stoned out of your mind, truth be told...

This time around though, she's sober; and her eyes are wide open.

She doesn't feel the need to run away anymore; she doesn't want to hide and ignore all that's brutally laid in front of her. And - because of this particular aspect - the gap that always spread between them becomes more visible, more obvious.

Love ain't the answer to everything, it's that simple. And once you get your head out of all that 'til death do us part' utterly hollow romantic bullshit, well...what's left is *this*. The constant disappointment, the underlying fear; the overwhelming feeling of getting absolutely nowhere. Reaching absolutely nothing.

Sensing him standing in the doorway, at 4 AM, staring at her. Keeping her eyes closed, one hand protectively thrown over her face; feeling a slight shift in energy in the small room, something that's almost palpable, painful. Because he has the scent of some other woman's cheap perfume trailing on his skin, the musk of another man's aftershave on his stubbled jaw; because he smells like alcohol, he smells like tobacco, pot and only God knows what else.

Because he smells like sex. Like filth.

Probably smelled like that his entire life.

And Bonnie knows - as she listens to his unsteady footsteps moving away from her - she just knows it's useless.

She can't break the pattern in which Chris almost unconsciously spins in circles; she can't break that pattern simply because she's outside it, a stranger. Always was.

And she can't understand, let alone find a way to get inside it - inside *him*; to touch his wounds and heal them. Any attempt on her part... It's utterly useless; she knows...she just can't.

Probably, nobody can. And she's tired of trying.


He sees her eyes flickering from time to time in his direction; in between mindless small talk with his mother's friends and that oh-so-annoying 'children discussion' with those oh-so-VERY-annoying friends of hers, comparing kids among themselves like talking about jewelry or something. Who's got the most beautiful, the smartest child... (--'Give me a fucking break! Jesus...'--)

Probably Mother did the same thing with him and his brother: 'Oh, Tobias is such a smart little boy, but he's too shy...' She doesn't know the half of it. (--'Bitch!...'--)

And...(--'how did you come to call your own mother *that*, Toby? Oh, it must be the drinking...'--) Or - better said - the lack thereof.

Both Gen, his mother and Daddy dearest staring at him like he's some scientific experiment, some goddamn lab rat. Don't fuck up, Toby. Don't...embarrass us. Keep your goddamn promise.

Regardless of the fact that a lawyer's not exactly known for his ability to keep promises... Definitely not when it is to his disadvantage; definitely not when it comes to his *enemies*... (--'Jesus, your ENEMIES?! What the fuck's happening to you?'--)

He needs a drink. Fast. (--'Need? No,no, no, you don't NEED a drink, Toby. You *want* a drink. Not...need.'--) Okay. He wants a drink. And fast.

Another round of stupid lawyer-talk with his (and his father's) lawyer friends, chewing away at his sanity. He HATES them. *All* of them. (--'Just let me out. Please God, just once, give me a break. Please...'--)

He needs a fucking vacation, that's for sure. Away from this world that's not even *his*, but his parents'; away from his family, away from Gen. (Away from himself.) Or maybe...(just with himself.)

Gen's dark eyes gazing at him; a small smile, trying to be...what? Comforting? Reassuring? What?!... (--'You're not fooling anyone here, honey.'--)

Smiling, but her eyes darkening with unspoken resentment, with...fear. While Toby's eyes glaze over, looking like a fish on dried land - gasping for air, sweating like a pig. (--'Just get me out of here. Let me out. Please.'--)

Or...(--'I'll fucking *break out*, I swear to Christ! I will...'--)

Itch in his gut, itch in his brains - flopping like a drunken chicken in between people he doesn't want to see, doesn't want to talk to. Doesn't even know...or maybe knows them a little bit *too* well. Fucking INhuman humans...

"For he's a jolly good fellow..."

Dad's friends acting like they actually LIKE him - pretend at its highest art form. Everybody's lifting up their glasses, and so does Toby. (--'Bottom's up!'--)

And...another one. (--'Thank you veeery much.'--)

Gen's haunting eyes silently yelling at him, her tightly shut mouth grimacing in resentment. While all he can come up with is a stupid grin and a "Come on Gen, it's just a glass. Martini, you know? No hard stuff, just like you asked." (--'So stop being such a...*bitch* about it.'--)

And Gen...closes her eyes and turns her back on him; that fire rummaging behind those dark pupils - fading away. (Something *else* taking over.)

But who cares? Not Toby. Not right NOW, that's for sure. God has just decided to smile at him again.


DAY 7.

"What do you want me to say? I'm sorry. How many times do I have tell you I'm fucking sorry?!"

He knows he's screaming at her; it's not because he can actually HEAR himself...he's too dizzy, too fucked up, to fucking stoned to have the privilege of listening to his own words.

Every sound in the room seems to melt halfway through; his head is spinning, heart racing erratically. Everything's too fast; everything's too slow. He's pulling on every shed of self-control he still has to not fall down in front of her.

He knows he's screaming at her because he knows his wife. He can read it in her broken, resentful, pale blue eyes; her unspoken thoughts: 'And to think I've married you AGAIN... To think I wanted to have kids... With YOU - like *this*...'

Her eyes roll slowly around him, across the room, as if searching for something - something she can't find; after a couple of long moments, she gazes back at him. Nothing. She picks up her purse, puts her shoes on and grabs for the door handle.

"Where you goin'?"

She stops, her heavy figure stiffening for a small second. Her shoulders are shivering and her head bows one last time before stepping out of the room.

"Yeah, fuck you too..." he mutters right before losing his balance and falling near the sofa.

No door slamming, no mean words; no tears. Not that Chris notices it, in the state he's in.


One slip up, two slip ups...

Toby's slouched on the living room couch. Glasses fallen on the floor, blue shirt unbuttoned; a red stain on his sleeve. Snoring.

Near him, Gen sits on the floor, zapping her remote control. One sitcom after another, an old black and white movie, the 11 o'clock news; some guy smashing his car into a building and killing some workers, another shooting some clerk in a robbery. Madonna rambling about self-expression.

Gen turns the sound of the TV way up, so much so that the windows vibrate. She looks at her husband, hoping the noise would somehow wake him. Instead, Toby only stops mid-snore, opens his mouth, tongue flashing over his lips for a second almost as if tasting something, and rolls on his back.


Genevieve goes back to watching a mute Madonna give her answers to questions Gen doesn't want to ask. Questions she knows she has to ask. Questions that will forever remain unanswered.


DAY 8 - the one God forgot about.

Where can one find himself on the day God let slip through his all-grasping fingers? How does one end up inside such a closed circuit, the one suspended moment in which time or space or life itself take a whole new meaning, a meaning of its own? A moment when nothing and everything makes sense simply because there aren't any rules or barriers, any basic laws? Just because God forgot to make them be.

Just like he forgot about the day he lost somewhere in between being and non-being. Heaven and hell. (Limbo) Sometimes things have their own way of beginning, of being; of ending. Of avoiding rules, barriers; time. Life itself.


For some weird reason he thinks about Beecher and his late wife. What was her name?... Gen. (Genevieve.) And the thought floats through his mind during the conversation, during the whole goddamn day. And well into the night. Dead and buried Genevieve who simply couldn't take it anymore and chose to just give up on everything, starting with her husband. Or did Beecher give up on her first by fucking up his life - their life - the way he did? Does it even matter?

People leave. Nobody - NOBODY - ever stays, no matter what they might say. Does it make much of a difference who leaves first? (No.) Everybody leaves.

And Bonnie - 'did I leave you, did you leave me? Do I even *care*?...' - Bonnie looks at him with such beautiful determination, so much power, so much...(--'is that courage?--), so much *everything*.

It makes Keller slightly shiver; she's never been like this, not with him. She keeps her tender hands nested together on the table and her voice is low, balanced. A barely noticeable hum filters through her opened lips. (--'Why the fuck did I let you go again?'--)

"We got a dog," she says, smiling just the tiniest smile. "We went to an ASPCA shelter and adopted this little cocker spaniel. We chose it together."

The thought of Bonnie walking around with a cocker spaniel in a leash would've seemed like the perfect poster for 'ridicule' a while back. It surprises Keller how much it *doesn't* now. She always wanted a dog, a cat, a fucking guinea pig, something.

How the hell we're they gonna take care of a pet if they couldn't even take care of themselves? (--'*You* couldn't take care of yourself, Chris.'--)

"What's his name?" he asks, looking at her hands.

"He doesn't have a name. 'Puppy', I guess. That's how I call him."

She chuckles softly and Keller can't help but smile. That's the thing about Bonnie, what made her so fucking unlike his other wives. She lacks the bullshit. That's what made him go after her in the first place. (That, among other things.) And probably that's why she dumped him.

Beecher's voice slithers inside his mind once again, like his other (only) conscience or something. Rambling about his kid (Gary) and some trip to the Dolphinarium (--'You know, where you see dolphins doing tricks?'--) all the way in Italy.

(--'Always wondered...if those dolphins are so smart, why don't they just stop doing all those stupid tricks, you know, pretend they're dumb so they'll just have to let them go?'--)

'Because they ain't got no place to go back to,' Keller had responded. And he was right, wasn't he?

She looks away and her mouth twitches in that odd, familiar manner he's learned to read over the years. (--'Oh, shit.'--)

"We're thinking about moving. We ARE moving, actually." -- stupid, crooked smile, a quick shadow passing over her blue eyes: "Florida."


She frowns for a second and there's resentment in her eyes: 'Just *oh*?'

(--'Oh, just *oh*, honey, what the hell didja expect? You want me to fall on my knees and beg you to stay? You UN-married me, 'member? And married someone else.'--)

"When are you moving?" He feels an impending urge to sink his nails into the flesh of his palms. (--'You're dumping me again.'--)

"In about a week."

"That soon?"

She nods and her fingers slowly rub against the table, drawing invisible patterns. He used to have the feeling, the *certainty* he was the one playing her; it took a couple of years, another wife and another "will you marry me, Bonnie?" to realize just how wrong he was. Just how exposed he could be around her. Not enough, though.

Like two wild dogs smelling blood; once you know it's there, you can't help yourself but want more, never enough.

"Robert's got a job down there, a good job. And a *really* nice house, just near the beach." Her hand clutches into a fist and her eyes drift away again. And Keller knows. She looks back at him and smiles. "I'm pregnant."

House, job, husband, dog. And a kid. Okay. He leans back in his chair and takes a deep breath. Okay.

"Things are really workin' out, huh?"


"I'm happy for you," he whispers. "I'm happy for you both."

"Thanks," she whispers back. Then looking back at him, leaning across the table: "You don't have..." She looks away again: "I don't know."


Gazing sharply, scraping through him like a rusted razorblade:

"You don't have to pretend, you know? You *do* know that, Chris."

"I'm not pretending."

He's not, is he?

One hand outstretched across the table in his direction:


He folds his arms over his chest and smirks.

"You're happy."-- a beat, shrugging: "I'm happy you're happy. Just like I said, things are workin' out."

"Nothing touches you, does it?" Bonnie whispers almost to herself, slowly dragging her hand back across the worn out table. And she can see him wincing almost instantaneously, his eyes widening and then narrowing, lips tight and jaw clenched. Shoulders shivering, if only for a second.

"What do you want me to say, Bonnie?"

Bars shutting all around him.

What do you want me to say? And she's gone.

House, job, husband, dog. And a kid. Okay. And she's gone. Okay. (Everybody leaves.)

Later that evening, Chris lies in his bunk, listening to Beecher's harsh breathing above him. Another one of his nightmares, probably. Maybe he's dreaming about that little girl, maybe he's dreaming about his wife. His kids. Or dolphins. Or maybe he dreams of bars. Shutting all around him.

(I want more. I want everything.)

One wild dog to another - I want more, 'cause I know you've got it. And you ain't going anywhere, are you? (Everybody leaves.)

Not right the fuck now they don't. Not in here.

The night is long, baby... And the days are even longer.

(Like caged dolphins, drowning.)

---the end---
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