86,400 Seconds 22

"HORACE!"

Everything snaps back into gear and I find myself looking around trying to figure out who has just called my name.  My arms go slack.  My fingers are still locked so that the guy can't get away, but instead of applying pressure, I just stand there as if someone has pressed the pause button and I'm waiting for them to press play again.

Most days I feel like I'm on Auto-Play, that thing that rewinds the tape and plays it over and over again, so for someone to hit the pause button is something I haven't had happen in a while.

My name.  Horace.  Not Tiny.  Horace.  Not my nickname.  My name.

"TINY!"

That's Lynn's voice.  I don't have to look up to know it.

A whole bunch of feet come rushing towards me and when I realize that one of them is Beverly I look up at her.  She's pulling on my arms and I hear Jayden crying and I wonder for a moment if this isn't just some awful dream and I'm about to wake up from it all.  I've had nightmares like this before, screaming baby and Beverly pissed off, but somehow it never was like this.  I usually wasn't doing something to make Jayden scream, I'm usually the one saving the day.

"Let him go," Beverly urges and I realize in that moment who I've got in a headlock.

My arms unlock from their hold and he starts to slip away.  I groan his name as I stand back up and look around.  "Tanner."

You know that saying about having something happen is as likely as having lightening strike you?  Well, I've just been hit.  My throat closes up and my eyes dilate.  My head starts to ache and my stomach flip flops a few times.

As I start to regain control, I finally realize that the whole world is watching us.  Well maybe not the whole world, but enough of the room to make me feel uncomfortable about it.  The only eyes that I feel on me are Barry's eyes.  He's fuming, totally about to burst when Lynn somehow comes to my rescue.  "You boys done playing now?"

She steps in between us and puts an arm around me,  "You ok?"

I nod.

"You ok?" Lynn asks.

"Yeah," Tanner says giving me the eye.  I hate the prick.  I can't really say that I would have been pissed at him a few months ago, but now things are different.  He's snaking in on my world and there is no way I can't be upset about that.

"I'm sorry man," I say looking at Tanner.  "I didn't see--"

"You didn't see that you're about to kill my fiancé?" Beverly speaks up, stepping closer to me and getting in my face.  "I can't believe you Horace.  I can't believe that you'd do this right in front of Jayden.  You're--"

"I'm what Vivian?" I ask.  "I thought the guy was pulling on her arm and about to kidnap her.  "If that rules as being a bad father.  A bad parent, then so be it, but I'd rather have been overprotective than ignore her--"  I want to tell her a few more things I'm pissed about, but I curb my attitude and take a deep breath as the local security guys look me over.  I'm sure they're scared that I'm going to go nuts or something, but I relax my shoulders and try to look a little less intimidating.

"You should probably get a breath of fresh air," Barry says.  He's acting too nice and I know that he's trying to get me out of the place.

"Yeah," I say and look towards Jayden.  "Baby, come give me a hug real quick."

Jayden moves over and into my arms and hugs me.  She's crying a bit and I really hate that, but once in my arms she seems to calm a little bit.  "You ok?"

"Yeah," she says, keeping her head on my shoulder.

"I think I'm gonna go outside," I say, "I want you to go with your mom and be a good girl."

"I wanna stay with you," she says.

"I know you do," I say.  I hug her.  "You should go with them.  I gotta go outside and I gotta work with him on some stuff and you need to stay here."

"Ok," she says.

I know the minute she's out of my arms Beverly is going to take her home.  I'm gonna have a hell of a time seeing her again for a while, so I hug her tight one last time.  "You be good."

"Can I call your cell phone?" she asks.

"Yeah," I say sadly, "Ask your Mommy."

"OK."  She smiles at me and moves over into Lynn's arms.

The crowd is dispersing as I move towards the front door.  Barry follows me and once out on the street I put my hand up.  "Don't."  I sigh.  "I know what you're going to say and I don't want to hear it.  I'll do the right thing and go home, but I want to make it clear, I'm going on my own accord and not because I'm being punished."

Barry doesn't say anything.  He turns and moves back towards the club as I make my way to the street and flag down a cab.

* * * * *

My phone rings in my pocket and I don't look at the screen when I pick it up.  My head is all the way back and my eyes are half shut and at this point I know it's one of a very short list of people who I expect to call.  Barry is the only person on that list that I don't want to talk to right now, but I know that I have the option of hanging up on him if he gets to pissy with me.  "You ok?"

My eyes open and I stare at the crummy ceiling of the taxi.  "Justin?"

"Yeah," he says.  "You ok?"

I turn my head and look out the window, opening my eyes wide and straightening up.  "What are you doing calling me?"

"I wanted to see if you were ok man."  I don't see him, but I can see in my head that he's standing off to the side someplace looking around to make sure that no one is listening to him talk.  "Barry's such a prick.  I don't know why he said you should leave.  If Beverly is going to have such a cow about you doing your job--"

"That's not exactly my job," I say.

"We pay you to beat the shit out of people--"

"No you don't!" I immediately say.

"Well," Justin sighed.  "Ok, to stand there and look like you're going to kick the shit out of someone."

"Justin go back to the party."  I put my hand to my head knowing that some of this story is going to get into the papers in the morning.  I don't need or want that right now.  I'm sure I'll hear about this later, but for the moment I don't need more press being directed at my actions and not the real reason for everyone being out there tonight.  "You're going to piss a lot of people off by being on the phone with me and at the moment I've ruined enough without pissing off the world and pulling you into it."

Justin waits a bit, talking to someone next to him then comes back onto the line.  "Vivian's worried about you."

I sigh knowing that she's going to be worried until she talks to me.  The poor girl is way too nice sometimes.  "Put her on the line."

There is a shuffling of noise and soon I hear her voice on the line, "Tiny are you ok?"

"I'm fine Viv."  God, you'd think out of everyone that they'd be asking about, I'd be at the end of the list.  Everyone should be thinking about Justin's career right now and not my sorry ass.  I'm on my home.  They're the ones that have to say and deal with the aftermath.  "Take care of your man tonight.  If I'm not there I know you'll beat everyone's ass that tries to get near him."

Vivian sniffs.  I don't think she's really been crying, but she's probably got a few tears in her eyes.  "I'm sorry about all this Tiny."

"It's ok Vivian," I say, "Really."

"Ok," she says then laughs, "If you really wanted the night off, you could have asked."

"Funny girl Viv," I say, "Tell everyone I'm sorry for causing such a commotion and--"  I look out the window and see Beverly's car next to me.  "Just tell everyone I'm sorry."

"They know that you weren't trying to hurt anyone," she says.

My eyes search out the tinted glass of the car next to me and soon the window slides down and I see Jayden's tearful face sticking out.  She's crying and she waves to me.  "Well remind everyone again and again, just to make sure."

"I will," she says.

"I've gotta go sweetie," I say into the phone and put a hand up to the window.  The car goes speeding off and I see Jayden's hand hanging out the window until they round the corner at the next light.

"Ok," she says, "Have a good rest of the night."

"I will.  You behave.  I don't want any crazy stories about you and the boy making out in the corner and getting yourself on Access Hollywood or something."

She laughs and speaks up.  "Bye Tiny."

"Bye Viv."

I hang up the phone and the cabbie looks at me in the rear view mirror.  I haven't been in a cab in a long time.  It's a perk of the job not to have to ride in cabs, but somehow I miss the way a cab driver has such a unique view of the world because they are around so many people every day.  "Crazy day?" he asks.

"Nothing serious," I say, "Just another day."

Somehow the lines of my book come to mind.  I become instantly philosophical about the whole thing.  Despite everything I've done or said today, I know things are going to be ok.  I know that my friends and my family will recover from this.  Not because they have to support me, but because they want to.  Maybe Beverly won't be there the way she was, but Jayden will always be there even if I have to fight to be with her.

“A proud heart can survive general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone."

--  Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

THE END

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Last updated: 08/13/04.