As Peter took the stairs down to the living room he ignored Evelyn, pretending not to notice she was obviously waiting for an explanation of what had happened. He wasn’t certain how much she had heard but right now he didn’t care.
He brushed past her at the bottom of the stairs and made for the front door.
He ignored her, grasping the handle and pulling, charging out into the hall and practically jogging to the elevator. He rammed the call button.
“Peter?” Evelyn had followed him out into the hall. “What happened?”
He closed his eyes and shagged against the wall. He didn’t want to talk about it anymore, in fact he didn’t want to talk about anything at all, but ignoring her would require more effort than answering. “I couldn’t lie to her and when she asked I told her truth. I told her I’d known about Alan since this spring.”
Evelyn’s eyes opened wide in surprise but his own were still closed and he didn’t see.
“She’s angry,” he continued, “that I didn’t tell her.”
“You didn’t tell her,” Evelyn repeated slowly, as if considering the matter carefully.
“There was no proof. She never would have believed it without proof. She loved him. I didn’t believe it when it was Layla.”
“Holly and you are two very different people Peter,” said Evelyn matter-of-factly.
“Look I tried to talk to her about it at the time. But it just didn’t work.” He pushed himself away from the wall. “She went on and about how much she loved Alan and how she couldn’t imagine being without himself and I just couldn’t do it to her! Not without evidence.”
“Oh Peter,” said Evelyn sadly. “You’ve always done very foolish things for love.”
Something about the comment angered him and he snapped, “I tried to tell you too. And you just brushed me off. You wouldn’t let me talk. You told me I had to leave Holly alone.”
“This wasn’t what I meant. You should have made me listen.”
“And you think you would have magically believed me too? Why? No one has ever believed me. My own parents can barely look at me. I have been telling the truth for five years and no one has ever believed it. Why would they have suddenly start without a shred of evidence?”
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open.
“Peter come back into the apartment. Give Holly a little time. Explain to her. She could understand.”
“I think she’s dealing with enough right now don’t you? You were the one that said that given how close I was to this, she might not want anything to do with me again. Well you were right.”
Evelyn opened her mouth but he turned and stepped into the elevator. As the doors slid closed she let out a huff. “Men.”
She felt the crises slipping out of her control and it frustrated her. You could plan everything, you could juggle a thousand balls in the air, and try so hard to keep things going well for yourself or someone you cared about. But there were always those outside forces that would intrude and would bring it all toppling down. She almost wanted to go after Peter but her priority was Holly. Evelyn retreated back into the apartment.
Riding the elevator down, Peter felt nothing. He was drained and exhausted. Images of Layla and Holly were chasing each other around in his head, melding together and then jumping apart, until it almost felt as if there were just them and the elevator and nothing else in the world. The walls felt close and suffocating, wrapping themselves around his thoughts.
The doors slid open for an elderly couple. Peter surged out of the elevator, bumping into the man, and hurried to the end of the hall. He found the fire escape and took the stairs down two at a time. He needed to breathe. He needed to get away from the elevator and images.
He reached the lobby and hurried outside. The sun was up now. It was unusually hot and humid, with an unpleasant warm wind. Even out on the street he felt claustrophobic.
There were just the names now, alternating in his head.
He realized he couldn’t face it. He couldn’t face the papers, and the cameras, and the old ‘friends’ coming out of the woodwork, expressing their sympathy, pretending they’d been on his side all along. He didn’t want to see any of it. He’d been on the outskirts so long he wasn’t sure how to handle anything else. It had been five years of anger and fighting and the one good thing, the one person who had made him feel like he didn’t have to fight anymore had just told him to get out. And that’s what he had to do. He had to get out.
He started walking quickly, pulling out his cellphone. “Clint? I need a favor.”