Friday started off a little anti-climatically for Marcus. Literally, since he’d expected to spend the wee hours of it in Ginny’s bed. In retrospect, maybe he should’ve felt a little bad about trying to make Phillip believe that he had had his way with Ginny.
Or about being a cheerful ass when he walked in on Phillip heaving into the toilet.
He didn’t. If mister booze-for-brains hadn’t barged into Ginny’s room when he had, Marcus thought he might’ve been able to turn things around instead of getting kicked out.
Then Marcus discovered that events in the warehouse were possibly taking a turn to his advantage, if in a different direction than he’d expected.
He had no idea what Lani and Dustin’s falling-out was over. He didn’t really care. He only cared that it created an opening.
He had meant one thing he’d said to Ginny the night before. He figured he was next on the chopping block. In the meantime, he thought he could play things in such a way as to make his last 36 or so hours at Dolman Music interesting ones.
He started off by showing up for sessions. All of them. And putting some effort into playing. Not like that was work–there was a certain sex-like quality to making music. It always felt good, and the more you surrendered to it, the better it felt.
When they took a midday break, Marcus swooped in to make very friendly small talk with Lani. She seemed to like that.
Marcus kept an eye on Ginny, too. It never hurt to keep your options open. He noted a few awkward conversational attempts between Ginny and Phillip. He wasn’t sure yet if those would help or harm his own personal agenda.
“Awkward” didn’t even begin to cover the way Phillip felt. Neither did “miserable.” Feeling physically ill was only part of it. Everyone seemed to be looking at him, and his skin felt too thin to cover his insides. And he kept thinking about Rima’s parting gift, up there under his mattress. Taunting him.
That night, he couldn’t sleep. He was afraid to be alone in his room. But what else was he supposed to do? He paced for a while, along the wall furthest from his bed. Refusing to look that direction.
When that threatened to stop working, he left his room.
Ginny was downstairs at the kitchen table, phone in hand and papers in front of her and a frown on her face. Dustin was at the fridge, but after a few seconds, he wandered away.
Ginny hadn’t been entirely avoiding Phillip. If anything, she seemed to be trying too hard to be nice to him. Polite. He stood there for a few seconds, hands clenched and trying to decide what to do. Finally, wiping his sweaty palms on his pants, he walked down the stairs.
He cleared his throat so he wouldn’t startle her. “Anything I can help with?”
Like I haven’t helped enough.
Ginny looked up. She hesitated. Then she replied, “Just tallying this week’s bills. I convinced the planning commission to cut us some slack.”
Oddly, the purely mundane response helped Phillip breathe a little better. He pulled out a chair and sat down. “That’s cool. Extension?”
“An extra thirty days.” Ginny had stopped punching numbers into her phone and simply watched him. “I’ve had some calls from potential clients, too. Seems they heard some of the demo tracks you’ve been putting out.”
Phillip managed something resembling a smile. “Cool. Good to know I did something right.”
Ginny’s face shifted. She reached across the table, and before Phillip quite knew what was happening, her fingers were wrapped around his. Warm fingers. Soft. But strong, too, as she squeezed his hands.
“I just want you to be all right.” She leaned toward him, and her eyes filled his vision. “I… care about what happens to you.” Abruptly, she sat back again, taking her big eyes and her warm hands with her. “I just want you to be all right,” she repeated.
“There’s something else.” Phillip had no idea the words were coming, but once they were out he felt both like he was about to puke and that weird sense of feeling better that came after you’d already puked.
Ginny tipped her head to one side. Fresh worry creased her brow.
“I didn’t mean to lie. I didn’t want to lie. But I was scared and I didn’t know–” The words falling out of his mouth sickened Phillip even more. He stopped and shook his head. “No. No more excuses.” He lifted one finger as he pushed back his chair and stood. “Just wait here. Please.”
Ginny’d had no idea what to expect. Certainly the small metal box Phillip had planted in the middle of the table wasn’t it.
“What is this?” she quietly asked. She wasn’t as completely naive as everyone seemed to believe. She had a fair idea what was inside that little tin.
“Rima was using. I caught her. She blackmailed me.”
Things started to make a certain sense.
“That’s why she turned on you, the night she got voted out.”
Phillip nodded. “On her way out, she left this with me.”
For him. Understanding sparked a fury inside Ginny that she hadn’t realized she was capable of.
Rima knew Phillip was an addict–alcohol, yes, but he’d be at risk for anything else, too. She’d deliberately set out to sabotage him at his most vulnerable.
For a long moment, Ginny could only sit there and try to remember how to breathe.
Phillip was watching her. His face was already too pale. His hands, at his sides, twitched and trembled.
At his most vulnerable.
“Did you open it?” I’m sorry, Phillip. You know I have to ask.
“No.” His answer came without hesitation.
His behavior certainly spoke more of a man in the middle of withdrawals than of one who’d been using anything.
“Ginny.” She met his eyes. Vaguely, she noted that he’d used her first name, instead of the semi-formal “Ms. Dolman,” “Boss Lady,” or even just plain “Dolman” he usually used. “It doesn’t matter if you fire me,” he said. “If you have to, you have to.”
“I’m not going to–”
“But it matters whether you forgive me. I’m not asking you to right now. But I hope you will.”
Ginny stopped breathing. It wasn’t just Phillip’s words. It was the way he said them. The anguish on his face. The intensity in his admittedly-dazed eyes.
Then Phillip licked his lips and eyed the innocuous-appearing little tin on the table. “I’m feeling a little… needy. Will you take it away? Please.”
Immediately, Ginny swept the little box off the table. In the morning, she’d have to figure out what to do about it. At the moment, Phillip needed her more. For the second time that night, she grabbed hold of his hand.
“It’s going to be all right.” Protective ferocity laced her words.
Phillip’s eyes widened. Teared up a little, even, although that may have been another withdrawal symptom.
“Why don’t you sleep down here?” Ginny nodded toward the garage sale folding seat that had been serving as their couch. “If you need anything, I’ll be here.” She squeezed his hand more tightly yet. “I’ll be right here.”