A serial novella • Final installment 4/4
This is installment 4 of 4 and the conclusion of this serial novella.
Need to catch up? Begin here.
"He told me about the singularity. How it impacts his entire mind. How it feeds off of his thoughts and coexists as an entity off of him." I was so sure of it. Peter had explained it so well.
Joshua was shaking his head. It was six in the morning and we were both tired and hung over. Josh from celebrating the arrival of a new life with friends, and I from continuing to drink up until two hours previously.
"Edith, listen to me. Peter is an amazing friend. He was my best friend. He still is. Whatever is left of him. My mom, God bless her for doing it, attends all his gatherings. She adores him like a son and wouldn't ever give up on him like his own mother did. I went to a couple and then I couldn't take it anymore. When he brings out the machine."
I had never seen Joshua cry before. It was a silent stream only betrayed by a faint shake of his shoulders. I reached out to touch him and he grabbed hold of my arm. Almost the same kind of desperate clasp as Peter's. But Joshua's had more in his squeeze. It was anger and wild sadness. He shook my arm many times while trying to regain his voice.
"... and you know it isn't true. Everyone knows it isn't true. Everyone! And they all pretend! Screw them! For pretending to believe him. Straight to his face. Yeah Peter, yeah, we believe you. Yeah, we believe you've got a damn singularity machine up your damn brain, that that tells you it's alive. Thinking. I couldn't do that to him. My best friend! They want to believe him for God's sake! And then turn around and mock him when they leave." He looked over at me. We were both crying but for different reasons. Now I was the one shaking my head.
"No. He told me. See, he took me to, to Hyde Park! In the middle of the night. We didn't talk at all at that hotel. See it could listen to us there, that's what Peter told me, so we had to walk far. Outside the perimeter, you know, and then he only had a while to explain it all to me. But he told me everything, Joshua. Everything! You have to believe me!"
"Because he is fucking ill! He has a tumor the size of a lemon stuck in his brain. Trust me. No believe me! He has had so many scans taken of his brain and all of his body we could cover the walls of our house with the damn prints. No implant. No implant. Tumor. Tumor!" Joshua was yelling tumor and pounding the steering wheel. We were getting closer to Heathrow.
"But I love him!" I wanted to sag down on the floor of the Range Rover and call for Peter and make him appear, right now, and have him tell Joshua how much we loved each other.
Joshua bit his lip and kept driving.
"I know for a fact that Peter and I love each other. And nothing can ever void that. Ever! Do you hear me!?" I heard myself scream and felt the hurt in my throat. I was losing myself in a livid frenzy.
Joshua kept biting his lip but new tears came down. I feared what more they would tell me, so I kept talking:
"Joshua. He looked me in the eyes. We connected. We were in love before we even had said a word to each other. Josh! Look at me! I am not crazy!" At this point I kind of wanted to laugh out loud because I knew how crazy I sounded, but I was trying to prove a point.
"And we knew! And, and how did he know that I was upstairs? How did he know? Tell me that."
"What do you mean upstairs?" Joshua asked.
"I was trying to sneak in to his speech, but they had locked the doors and I couldn't get in. So I sneaked into his hotel room, upstairs, when he wasn't there. I was trying to listen in on his lecture from the library balcony. But I was too late and missed it all and got stuck there when he returned. But he knew!" I let out a triumphant short laughter of pointedness, "He knew I was there. And how the hell do you prove that? Huh?" I pointed my index finger at Joshua.
"Maybe he saw you up on the balcony. Maybe he guessed you were in his room. Maybe he heard someone walking up there. Look, there is something else you need to know, Edith..."
Joshua parked the car inside the parking garage at Heathrow and turned toward me.
"Edith, Edith listen to me. You're an amazing friend. I think we can call each other friends, right?" I nodded and tried to smile. I was waiting for the hit. "And I told you Peter was and is my best friend. God, we did everything together. And I mean everything. When you meet someone at the age of five and leave each other at the age of 35... you can fit a lot of trouble into that chunk of time!" He tried to laugh. We croaked and let it count as a laugh.
"Now listen carefully, Edith. And don't let this take away any of your love for Peter. None... Peter," Joshua took several deep and clogged breaths before continuing, "Peter's had many girlfriends..."
I laughed. Of course he had had many girlfriends! He was handsome. Logical thing! Joshua saw my reaction.
"The thing is, Peter's had many girlfriends while ill. Like you. He has fallen in love over and over and over again. And each time it has been just as intense and heartbreaking as today. Each time, and I don't know if that is his blessing or curse. But to be able to feel such an amazing emotion amidst such an unforgiving and tolling disease. The thing is, it's happened many times before."
Thankfully Joshua walked me into the airport and helped me check in. After that I took a tranquilizer and sat like a zombie on the plane back to Austin.
About six months later our novel was published. I returned to London for a book signing with Joshua. Paulette was beaming and little Kate was adorable and well behaved. Myrna was her usual high energetic self. But I could tell she had aged. Something was off. After our celebration dinner Joshua drove me to my hotel and after an usually long hug, he told me I could see Peter if I wanted to.
It took me a day to gather my nerves. Then I called Joshua and told him I was ready.
"It's the fifth time we've done the procedure. He has bounced back every time. God knows what it is but it keeps coming back. And so does he. Every time he emerges a little more determined. To get rid of the implant, as he calls it." I was on auto-pilot as we walked down the hospital hallway to his room. The nurse kept talking but I had to zone it out.
He looked so handsome. I don't know where I got the strength to smile and actually hug him. But I held all the tears back. And so did Joshua. We stayed only a little while. He didn't want to talk. Because of the implant. He didn't want the singularity to meet any new people. The world was not ready. I grabbed his hand and gave it a tight squeeze. Almost too hard a squeeze. He smiled at me with his clear blue eyes. I almost thought he saw me as he had that night and remembered me. Joshua said a few words but Peter shook his head while smiling. Best not to give the singularity any more food today.
I looked at Peter one last time before I closed the door. Damn it. I still loved him!
"Please take me home!" I croaked to Joshua. The door closed.
Right then we both heard it:
"Green velvet! Green velvet! Green velvet!"
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