The Red Night
The nightclub made her ill. Blinding red light, bodies moving, thick, stale air. Elle felt like vomiting, but she needed to find him. The only reason she was here was because of him. Elle was pushing her way through people, when she saw him. Tall, dark hair, charming smile. When she first showed her mother his picture, her mom told her, “Be careful with that one.”
She didn’t know what her mother meant at the time, but now she was starting to realize. He was whispering to a girl, and she was laughing. Stupid. Stupid. I should not have trusted him. And suddenly, her body was moving without her permission, ruthlessly making her way over to Ryan. He was talking to a tall, blonde girl with pink lips and empty eyes. She hated and pitied her at the same time. At least the poor soul didn’t live with Ryan. Elle shoved a large sweaty man shaped like a pumpkin out of the way, so she could yank her fiance’s shoulder. “Ryan, what are you doing here? I thought you were supposed to be at a work dinner?”
He looked at her with a warm smile and placed his large hands on her tiny shoulders. “Elle, calm down. First off, I never said that. I said I was going to the club, but you never want to come with me,” he shrugged, “so I went without you.”
Elle felt a headache coming on, which was only worsened by the pulse of the music and the drunk bodies that brushed against her.“What? I don’t remember you saying that.”
The blonde girl rolled her eyes at Elle. Why is she getting mad at me? I’m not the one flirting with someone else’s fiance. Like the true gentleman he was, Ryan dismissed her, with a simple flick of the hand.
The girl shrugged and walked away. Then, Ryan turned his eyes back to Elle. “Elle, I’m sorry, but your memory is wrong. Like all those other times. If you want to leave, that’s fine, but I’m staying.”
He was looking at her patronizingly. Elle felt her face turning red. “But, but, but—”
He put his finger to her mouth. “Shhh. Elle, you’re being paranoid. You followed me to this place and then you start twisting my words…It’s a new low for you.”
She felt all confused, like those other times. Her brain was getting fuzzy, and her memories were jumbled. He was doing it again. Elle promised herself she wouldn’t let it happen another time. But here she was, a cornered animal. “I-I-I didn’t follow you here. I was driving by the nightclub and I saw your car out front. I was confused why you were here, so I decided to check inside.”
In truth, Elle had suspected he was lying again, about his whereabouts, about the other girls, about everything. But, she just wanted proof. When she saw his Porsche in front of the club, she had to check inside. She just wanted proof. Proof that she wasn’t crazy. Proof about Ryan. Proof that Ryan was wrong about institutionalizing her mother. But nothing was certain when it came to him. There were always doubts, even if he blatantly lied. In his world, black and white did not exist. Only gray. Sometimes, even red.
“Sweetie, I’m sorry, but I think you’re going crazy. Everyone does for that matter. Your sister gave up worrying about you. Your brother refuses to be around you. Your best friend, Sarah, begs you to see a psychiatrist. Your coworkers, well, let’s not get started on them. I mean, blaming them for causing you to get fired, when it’s clearly not their fault. You’re the one acting crazy, but you never see that. It’s always their fault or my fault, but never yours. And you cry because you have no one, but who’s fault is that? The only one who actually thinks you’re sane is your mother and that isn’t saying much. You’re acting clingy and jealous, and imagining things that never happened,” he continued, “So, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for Monday. It’s for the best.”
Elle felt anger and shame boil up inside her. The nerve of him to bring up all this in public.“I’M NOT CRAZY! ”
In response, a few people around them paused from their dancing and then quickly resumed their swaying and jumping. Pfew, nobody noticed. Thank gosh I’m in a nightclub. Elle pushed her hair behind her ear and straightened her back, talking in a lower voice now. “Let’s just stop talking about this, okay? Let’s just leave this place and go home. Please, I’m begging you. I’ll be better, just cancel the appointment. Please.”
Elle felt her eyes welling up and Ryan looked at her warmly. “Sweetheart, I’m staying here. You can leave, but you can’t keep running from your problems. I want you to know I care about you. I really do. But you have to trust I know what’s best for you. I haven’t given up on you like the rest of them. You have a problem that needs to be fixed. You just have to listen to what I—”
“NO! NO! NO! JUST STOP! STOP! I JUST WANT TO LEAVE!”
This time, everyone stopped dancing, even though Justin Timberlake's “SexyBack” was playing in the background. They were all staring, wide-eyed, as if she were a deranged soap opera character. She glimpsed the girl from before, snickering to one of her spray-tanned friends. Stupid people. Stupid platinum hair. Stupid Ryan. Stupid me. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. “Look at me, I don’t care,” she screamed to the crowd. She pointed at Ryan, “He thinks I’m crazy, but I’m not. I’m NOT!”
The tears were spilling out now. Elle did not want to go back to the cold room, to Doctor Myers, to the medications, to all of it. But before she knew it, security was escorting her out from the sweaty dance floor into the back alley. As she was escorted out, she glimpsed Ryan shaking his head at her, frowning, as she cried. He shrugged as he mouthed, “I’m sorry. But this is how it has to be.”
When she was thrown onto the street, all Elle could think about was how Ryan’s eyes reflected the infernal glow inside the nightclub, and how she belonged anywhere but here.