I am vaguely aware of screaming, even over the sound of my headphones and I glance over his shoulder to see Lola in the doorway. She looks absolutely horrified. So much so that it makes me want to laugh, not from any sense of humour, not this time. I feel broken and hysterical. Why the hell won’t he just let me go? He staggers back slightly and behind him Lola’s expression changes so that I’m sure I must have shouted aloud. I shriek as he grabs me again and forces himself into my mind. He hasn’t actually done that before, has never invaded me like that. He always just stayed on the edges, taunting and manipulating me. Combined with his physical closeness, the effect almost pushes me over the edge completely.
Lola grabs at him, trying to get him away from me, to get to me herself; but he is stronger than she is and apparently frightened. I stop fighting and slump in his arms, letting him continue his assault unimpeded. It takes a couple of seconds before I realise that he is looking for something.
“What do you want?” I mumble. He follows the train of my thought immediately, as though it might give him some sort of clue.
“Is that it?” he demands roughly, ending his assault as quickly as it begun. “You haven’t taken anything else? You don’t need an ambulance?”
“What? No. Nothing, why? You gonna make me take them?” I know he knows it’s false bravado, but his relief shocks me and his hold on me changes subtly into an embrace, as though I was a child.
“Yes, that’s right. I came here to stop you taking the pills just so I could force them down you myself.” He pauses and I can feel that he’s as confused and scared as I am. “I couldn’t let you do it, could never have lived with myself.”
“You knew! How could you have known about something like this and still let it get this far!” Lola is hitting him and yelling. I realise that my headphones have fallen off, that I have no idea what we have said aloud and what has been silent in front of her. This must look horrible; I doubt she will ever forgive it. The thought is so sad, so hopeless that I slump even further and start to cry. He twists with me still in his arms and tries to step out of her range.
“Let me explain,” he pleads making me giggle – just how does he expects to do that, I have no idea. We never did think up a plausible excuse, but he isn’t looking for one. His soul feels as heavy as my own as he casts around for a place to start. I haven’t felt right since that damned experiment and that’s where he eventually begins. He was in the recovery room with me, he says, and suddenly an image of a broken man across the ward flashes into my mind. Is that really it? I thought it was just co-incidence but is that where it all began?
“I think they broke us.” He confirms, “Nurse Bourne said something had gone wrong and I think this was it. They won’t have anything to do with us though – I tried to go back after the interview, when you were drunk, but they just laughed at me. Who is going to believe this? We don’t have any comeback and we’d be lab rats forever if anyone did take us on.”