Lola snorts. She doesn’t believe him. Of course she doesn’t, not at first. But then he finally manages to force his arms to let me go. He is shaking with the effort, as if he is a baby and I’m some sort of belligerent comfort blanket. He moves well away from me, right over to the other side of the room. Then he gets her to choose a book, to pick a page and a place for me to start. As I read in silence he speaks the words aloud. Lola, looking over my shoulder, stays perfectly still for a moment before rifling through to another page. We repeat the process 5 or 6 times before she finally stops.
“It’s awful.” Lee tells her and I shoot him a grateful look. I am too ashamed, too tired to get involved right now. I know she’s my friend, but somehow that makes it worse. I sit in silence and watch her face scroll through various emotions as Lee explains what we’ve been through in the past month. Is that really all it’s been? I find that hard to believe, but then I seem to have lost all track of time since this nightmare began.
Eventually he reaches today, I can feel his shame as he tells her how he laughed and encouraged me to buy the pills. Lola looks like she might go for him, but restricts herself to wriggling down into her chair, crossing her arms against the onslaught of his words and glaring at him in horrified defiance. She almost looks as though he is attacking her. She hasn’t looked at me once.
“I couldn’t do it” he confesses finally “I thought it would be an easy way out, that I would get my head back and then just go back to my old life, but really? I don’t think that is even possible anymore. Could you live with yourself if you drove another person to suicide and then just watched them do it? I couldn’t.” He chokes on the words and I realise with a shock that he’s crying. “Been doing a lot of that this month.” He confirms with an embarrassed smile. Suddenly he pushes away from the wall and comes to kneel in front of me.
“I am so, so sorry.” His voice is rough with tears but his hand is gentle as he pushes my hair away from my eyes. The only emotions I can feel from him are sorrow mingled with the confusion of being physically close to me. “I hated you, but then you know that; and I need you out of my head, but I could never have lived with myself. Not if you’d gone like that.” He floundered, out of words at last. It was my turn; I had to say something, anything, but I still had to try twice before I could make my mouth form any words at all.
“What happens now?” I croaked at him eventually. He shrugs; his mind as blank and exhausted as my own.
“You need to find a way to live together, obviously.” Lola’s brisk, matter-of-fact voice makes us jump apart guiltily, like lovers caught in a clandestine clinch. “It isn’t going to be easy and you definitely don’t need to be telling anyone else about this.” Her demeanour cracks – she isn’t at all happy about this – but she swallows hard and continues. “If you want me to I’ll act as a third party for you both to let off steam. I’m not unbiased, I’m afraid Lee; but I’ll try to be fair at least and beggars can’t be choosers… No-one would know how to deal with this, but you two have made a real mess so far!”
She sounded irritated, even through her shock. Lee and I share a moment of frustrated anger that she could judge us like that over something that she has no real understanding of. It feels different from anything that has happened between us so far. It is still far more intense than anything I have experienced with anyone else; of course it is. But it also feels really good; like for the first time in my life I have someone who knows me completely and who might still be on my side. My throat is raw from crying and our souls ache, but for the first time since this all began, I feel like there is at least some chance that it might be ok.
We look at each other and smile as we share a flicker of hope.