31 "So, did you tell him then?" Brad asked Veruca when she told him about what happened after he left three nights ago. She shook her head. A flicker of disappointment flashed in her face but quickly disappeared. He gave her a 'Oh Veruca, but we talked about it' look. She gave him a sheepish look and shrugged.
"Don't worry, I will tell him. But things are working out pretty good now." she smiled.
"Alright. If you say so. I'll catch you tomorrow," he gave her a wave as he headed in the direction where the guys had gone, the local bar. She unlocked her car and dumped her bag in the backseat, getting into the driver's seat slowly. True, things between her an Mike were better, but they still hadn't spoken. Maybe the kiss was an unspoken agreement. But she still had to speak to him and she knew she was just buying time, not wanting to do so.
She felt someone grab her arm, yanking her out of her car. She tried to scream but her screams were muffled by a large hand over her mouth. Panic enveloped her as she felt herself being dragged away from her car. She struggled, but was easily dragged, almost being lifted off the ground, a strong arm around her waist.
"Stop struggling, bitch, or I'm gonna have to hurt you," she heard a deep low voice. She struggled, trying to get a look at her captor. He was huge and dark and smelt strongly of beer and cigarette. He tugged at her roughly as he took her to the darkened side of the building. He pinned her against the wall, hitting her head on the bricks. She flinched, tears of pain welled in her eyes. She shut her eyes, refusing to think about what would happen to her next.
Assistant band manager raped and murdered at ozzfest she could just imagine the headlines for the morning's paper. The guys would be shocked. Liz would be crying and Mike? Mike would be devastated. And Alex? Now wouldn't HE be happy? She opened her eyes to see another dark figure standing in front of her, masked by the shadows.
"Well well... Not so tough now huh, Veruca?" she heard a familiar voice and closed her eyes in dread. Alex stepped into the pale light of the street lamp, sneering at her.
"What the fuck do you want from me Alex?" she asked when the big guy took his hands away from her face.
"Just to let you know I still exist," he leered. "I see you've finally gotten your little Japanese boy." Veruca frowned.
"Let me go," she tried to pull her arm away from the man holding her, but failed, hurting herself in the process.
"Veruca. I just wanted to say hello. Didn't you miss me? I missed you," he reached over to run his fingers over her cheek. She moved out of his touch disgustedly. He slapped her, stunning her. "Don't you like it when I touch you? You used to love it," his hands reached down for her breast as she tried to move away, held down by the man.
"Bugger off, Alex!" she growled of anger and fear. The only thing she wanted was to get away, thoughts of Mike popped into her head and she felt close to tears. "You can leave now, Pete," Alex waved the man off, holding her against to the wall himself. He held her face and pressed his lips on hers, kissing her hard. She felt his hand travel up her blouse, her own helplessly held in his other hand. She kicked him hard in his crotch, and he yelled, doubled over in pain. Pete advanced, trying to grab her, but in a rush of adrenaline, she ran. She felt her body hit the gravel as he caught up with her, grabbing her. She groaned and kicked with her might, trying to get free of his strong grip. She managed to twist free from him and continued running.
The bright neon lights of the bar was a welcoming sight. She pushed opened the door and was greeted by loud booming music. Gonna runaway gonna runaway she managed to catch the words Mike's voice was rapping over the speakers. Bitter irony, she frowned. The people in the bar stopped what they were doing and stared at her, badly scratched, bloodied and limping from her fall. As long as there are people around I should be safe, she thought, trying to walk without limping.
"OH MY GOD! It's Veruca!" She heard Joe's voice yelling. She sighed when she saw Mike's face, concerned and shocked as it was, and let herself fall into his arms.
32 "You sure you okay, gurl?" Liz asked for the umpteenth time as she watched her friend pack.
"AARGH! YES! Now shut up and help me pack or get out," Veruca quipped as she dumped her stuff into her bags.
"What about Mike?"
"What about him?"
"Where is he? Isn't he supposed to be here trying to stop you from going?" she asked, stuffing Veruca's clothes into one of the bags absently.
"He's doing the show Liz." Veruca mumbled, not really pleased with the situation herself.
"So, you're not gonna talk to him? You're really gonna leave for god knows where the hell you're going and leave poor Mikey here?"
"LIZ!" Veruca closed her suitcase with a loud thud. "Look at my face. See the scratches here?" she pointed to her arm. "You know what these would look like personified into a threat against everyone else?"
"What?" Liz asked, confused.
"Okay, I'm not running away from Alex. I'm not afraid of him. I'm lessening the possibilities of the whole band especially Mike getting into trouble. You KNOW what Alex can think of when he's in one of his deranged moods. If he could do what he did to me, someone he claims to be in love with, what more to someone he hates?"
Liz nodded in agreement. "But Mike... You're just gonna leave what you two have, just like that?"
"What we have? What do we have, Liz?" she asked bitterly.
"You love him..." Liz offered.
"But he doesn't know and he never said anything of that sort either. So, if I leave, it wouldn't be so bad, I guess." Veruca shrugged, not sure if she should believe herself.
"There's always the thought that you two could have had each other."
"Well, you can't have everything now can you? See, you couldn't get Rob," she smirked at her friend who scowled at her. "Besides, there's something called the cell phone... and email... and the plane... if anything should happen, we'll find away to get to each other," she smiled.
"I wish you wouldn't let life lead its way so much, woman." Liz frowned. "Do something about it, please. I hate to see you this sad."
Veruca sighed and piled her bags by the door. "I'll survive." She hugged her best friend who had started crying.
"Dammit gurl, you better keep in touch. Call me when you get there okay?" Liz sniffed.
33 "Hey, don't look so down, bud," she punched him lightly on his arm. He chuckled for her sake. "I won't be gone forever."
"But you'll be gone for god knows how long and that's twice as bad," he frowned. They stood by the entrance of the airport, talking. She'd said her first rounds of goodbyes at the arena where the guys and Liz were. This round, she was saving it for Mike. Talk to him!!! Brad's eyes had pleaded her. She pushed the thought away, irritated.
She slipped her arms around him and hugged him, letting the moment linger. She felt his arms around her and she wished she didn't have to pull away.
He kissed her on her head, holding her as close to him as possible. He didn't want her to go and he couldn't understand why she had to leave. Just when they'd worked things out between them. It was like fate playing a foul joke on him.
"I'm gonna miss you," he held her face in his hands, staring into her eyes. She smiled, "Yeah, I'll miss you too," her voice seemed too nonchalant to him. He bent down to kiss her, holding back any urge to cry.
She pulled away, looking up at him with sad eyes. He stared down at her, surprised by her reaction.
"I don't need this Mike," she told him, her voice barely above a whisper.
"What?" he searched her eyes for any clue to what she was saying.
"This. Us," she pointed to the both of themselves. "I'm gonna go away, and I'm not going to leave anything here that I want to come back for. I'm starting anew remember?" she smiled up at him hopefully. There was a long pause as he looked at her.
"Mike?" she touched his arm gently when he didn't reply. He turned away from her, hiding his frown from her.
"Why are you being so selfish, V?" he finally said, turning to look at her, his eyes burning into hers.
"How am I selfish?" she asked, confused by his question.
"All you think about is yourself and how you're going to start afresh somewhere else. What about me?" he blurted out before he could stop himself. "Have you ever thought about how I'd feel about all this? Have you ever asked me how I felt about this whole thing? Huh?" His grief had turned into anger and he stopped, holding it back, glaring down at her.
She felt a wave of anger wash through her. She was a mix of emotions. Sadness was creeping up on her as she took a deep breath. "Have YOU ever stopped to think why I'm really doing this, Mike? Have you ever bothered to notice MY feelings? Don't talk to me about being selfish, Michael, when all you want me to think about is you!" she felt her heart sink lower.
"Stop putting words in my mouth V! That's not what I meant!" his dark eyes flashed.
"Then what DID you mean?" she asked, void of any facial expression.
He looked at her, reviewing his own words and found he could not answer her. He turned away dejectedly and sighed. Is this one of those situations people keep talking about where things never happen the way you want them to? he frowned.
"Mike, how DO you feel about all this?" she held back tears, asking him softly. He closed his eyes, brows furrowed, searching for the right words. He knew how he felt, but putting it into words was different. He'd been practicing this speech in his head for ages, going through it over and over again, but he couldn't find the right words.
"I don't want you to go," he said, still not looking at her. Veruca closed her eyes to avoid from crying. He's finally said it girl. Happy now? What more do you want from him?
"Screw Alex and his threats we've beat him up before and we can always do it again." He looked at her now, with such deep emotions that she almost choked.
"Well, he DID attempt to kidnap me and all that," Veruca pointed out, reminding him of her close call with the man in the car park. He flinched when he pictured her falling into his arms, trembling after she managed to get away from them.
"Stay here with me, V. That's all I'm asking of you. You know I've never asked you of anything before. Just this, V. Stay."
She sighed. He was making it harder than ever, but she had to. "I can't." she finally blurted out. "I'm sorry Mike. But I have to go. And the kiss, that was a mistake. Let's just leave it at that... a mistake. Just like how it was before, Mike," she let out a soft laugh, not believing that she was saying all that.
The look on his face was one of confusion, sadness and anger. "Is that all this is to you? A mistake?" he could feel anger taking over. Why was she being so stubborn and hard on us? "So that's how YOU feel about this?"
She didn't answer. It was her turn to be lost for words. She bit her lower lip, turning away to avoid his eyes.
"Dammit V! Can you answer my question? Is that what you feel about us all these while? A mistake?" he grabbed her by her shoulders, shaking her. Anger flashed in both pairs of eyes.
"YES!" she blurted out of anger and desperation, the first word that came to her. "Yes it is!" He let go of her shoulders, his hands falling limply to his sides. He couldn't believe she was doing this to him. After what he'd told her.
"Look, Mike. I'm so sorry." She apologized, she could feel tears brimming in her eyes. "You were right the first time 'round. We WERE moving too fast. We should have left it at that and nothing more. Maybe we could start over again," she sneered at her own irony and bitchiness.
"I guess once you're a bitch you're always a bitch. It's hard to let go of old habits, isn't it?" he said bitterly. She bent down to pick up her bag. If that's how it's going to be, that's how it's gonna be. The thought ran through her mind.
"So this is how it's gonna be then?" he looked up at her. "I expected it to be worse than this. A big fight, you breaking my nose," the bitterness in his voice had grown and he couldn't control it anymore. He didn't care.
"Mike, don't do this," she pleaded. "You're not being fair,"
"Oh, YOU'RE telling me that now? I'M not being fair? What kinda shit is that?" it was clear that anger had taken over him this time. He let it.
"Gee, I don't know Mike. You tell me. What are we fighting about anyway?" she shot back with similar emotions. He shrugged, refusing to say anything lest he'd say something hurtful.
"Good. That's just great. This just gives me more reason to leave, you know." she chuckled bitterly.
"Yeah. You heard me right," she turned to leave.
"Why? Why are you leaving, Veruca? Is there a more tangible reason for it than running away from Alex?" he challenged.
"Why do you even want to know that now?"
"Because I care, okay! Godammit! You know that's one lame reason for you to leave. Alex is no threat to you! That's one bullshit lie! You're hiding from ..."
"I'M LEAVING BECAUSE OF YOU! OKAY?!" she cut him off. "I'm leaving because I fucking love you okay?! And I don't want Alex to ruin your dreams and future! So call it whatever you want, Mike. Call me a bitch for all it's worth. I don't care." she let everything out and stared at him, dumbfounded at her own rashness.
"There! Now you know! Satisfied? Bye!" She walked off towards the entrance of the airport, tears streaming down her face. The realisation that she was crying sent more tears down her cheeks. She'd never cried over anything. She'd always been tough. But now she's crumbled in defeat over a man. She felt a surge of pain in her heart as she headed towards the counter. She'd just admitted to the feeling that she had refused to acknowledge all these while. And it'd made her cry. Mike made her cry.
He gawked at her, not reacting as she spoke. His heart raced as he let her words sink in. He couldn't let her leave now. He didn't know how to feel. Should he be rejoicing that she loved him? Should he be angry at her for not telling? Or himself for being a wuss and hiding his feelings for her all this while and letting HER tell him how she felt first? He ran in after her when he realised what he should have done five minutes ago.
34 "Veruca!" he called out as she stepped onto the escalator heading down to the departure hall. She didn't seem to have heard him. He stood amidst the crowd, panting, watching helplessly and sadly as Veruca's form disappeared down the escalator. No! Veruca... I can't let her leave just like that, he pushed his way through the crowd towards the glass banister, straining his eyes to catch a glimpse of her one floor below.
He headed down the escalator only to be stopped by the steward.
"Sir, you can't go in there without a boarding pass."
"No, you HAVE to let me in!" he cried, giving the steward an exasperated look.
"There's this girl in there. I HAVE to talk to her," he tried to sidestep the steward who was holding him back politely.
"I'm sorry sir, but I can't let you in there. It's against company policy."
"The hell with policy! You gotta let me in there to talk to her! PLEASE!! It's really important. I'll come out right away. I promise," he hoped begging would soften the heart of the steward.
"Look, Steve," Mike caught the steward's name on his tag. "The girl in there... I have to tell her how much I love her. If you don't let me in there this second, my entire life would fall apart and so would my band and all the fans out there would be devastated and resort to violence and when they find out who stopped me from talking to Veruca, they're gonna kick your ass," he said desperately close to tears. He would have gone down on his knees to beg if Steve didn't let him in.
"Oh alright. For the sake of love," Steve rolled his eyes in disbelief at his own actions.
"Thank you! THANK YOU!" he gave Steve a quick hug as he ran into the departure hall.
She lifted her hands to her face and wiped her tears away with her fingers before they made their journey down her cheeks. She forced a smile to the stewardess at the check in counter as she handed her her boarding pass.
"Are you okay, miss?" the stewardess asked out of politeness and curiosity at the tearstained face in front of her. Veruca nodded and moved out of the line towards the seats. She wondered if she should have left. No closure. No goodbyes. Great. Now I'll live my entire life being plagued by this whole thing she frown at the thought and felt fresh tears brimming in her eyes. She let them fall onto her lap, staining her dark brown pants as she cried silently into her hands.
All my life, I've always wondered what it was like. Now I DO know, I'm running away from it. she sniffed. She closed her eyes and willed away the pain in her heart. Dammit, This really hurts, she flinched. Love is a many splendoured thing.. my ass! What about love being sacrificial and sacrifice being painful? Doesn't that all add up to love being pain? Her thoughts were a jumble of questions and angry answers, of Mike and of her own actions and feelings. Her thoughts were swirled with her emotions and she hated that. She hated being helpless and lost and confused. She hated the thought of being defeated and weak. The thought of losing out. On what? LOVE?! She mused in bitterness. Mike. That's beyond your comprehension of anything you've ever known or will know now that you're gonna leave him, her conscience seemed to turn the knife in her wound. "No...." she let out a whisper. He's beyond your knowledge of what men are. And it's beyond love, Veruca. What you feel for him... Get back out there now. she stayed in her seat despite her heart speaking to her, begging. She lifted her eyes and saw the familiar white adidas sneakers before her. Slowly raising her head, she took in the sight of Mike standing in front of her, staring at her morosely, but with a flicker of hope since he had found her.
"V?" it came out in a whisper as he knelt down to meet her eyes. She rolled her eyes. "Mike, what are you doing here? Don't make this any harder than it already is for me." she slipped her hand away from his when he took it in his.
"I love you," he was sitting down, reaching out for her hands again, his eyes burning into hers when she looked up at him. "I love you, Veruca. I guess I always had, but I was too stupid to admit it," his words brought tears to her already wet eyes, but his sincerity shook her. "And I'm SO sorry for not telling you and for putting you through all this shit. V, if only you could feel the guilt and pain I'm feeling now, you would understand." She wiped away the first tear that fell from his eyes, letting her hand linger on his face.
"Pain? I know, and it hurts real bad, Mike," she sniffled.
"Then don't leave," he urged. "I really need you here, V. Please? I can't go on with the band unless you're there with me. If you leave, I'm gonna perform so bad the guys will kick me out. So stay, for me. For the band."
"What's in it for me then?" she asked as he kissed her fingers.
"You have one kick ass emcee as your doting boyfriend?" he looked up at her expectantly and watched as a small smile appeared on her lips. "Plus all crap you can ever take from the guys."
"Sounds like a raw deal to me," she frowned, furrowing her brows, making a face that had always driven him nuts. "I'll have to think about it."
He stared at her, not knowing what to say. Here he was, trying to bare his heart to her and she was being so cold. "Fine. I'll let you think in peace," he stood up to leave but felt a cold hand around his. He turned to find her deep green eyes and smile.
"I'm done thinking." She stood up close to him, his hand still in hers, her eyes still locked with his. "What?" he didn't know what to make of her, his eyes searching hers for any clues.
"I've thought about it. I like taking crap from the guys. They're fun," she smirked.
He let out a chuckle at her statement, trying to contain himself and not freak. "You'll stay?"
"Yeah," she nodded. "For the sake of the band." She felt his arms around her, enveloping her in a tight hug before she could finish speaking. "I love you, V." He gazed at her face, grinning as he drew her closer to him and planted his lips on hers, not letting her go.
"I love you too, Mike. Now let's talk about my pay," she smirked dazedly when they finally pulled away. He laughed, kissing her lips again before collecting her bag and leading her out of the departure hall.