Friday, June 04, 2004

When Paul Returns - Part 2

Ellenor met Tara at the hospital. She took one look at the bruises and at Tara's expression and knew that someone was going to have to tell Alan. When Tara saw Ellenor there, she tried bravely to smile. She had already been through the indignity of the rape exam and the questioning by the police. The hotel room was being examined now, and a warrant was being prepared for signature of a judge, ordering the arrest of Paul Stewart. Ellenor stepped past the nurse and folded Tara into her arms.

"God, I am so sorry that this happened"

"Me, too," Tara rested her head on Ellenor's shoulder.

The doctor came in and told Tara that she was fine. She could go home now and try to get some rest. Ellenor had thoughtfully brought Tara a sweat suit from home and they wordlessly went out to Ellenor's car. Tara kept twisting the plastic bracelet that they put on her in the hospital. When they reached Tara's apartment, Ellenor went in to make Tara some tea. Then, painfully, they sat and talked about Paul, and what had happened.

"You realize that someone has to tell Alan about this." Ellenor looked at Tara with sympathy.

"I know. It will not be long until Paul is arrested. I do plan on pressing charges." A thought occurred to Tara, "You don't think that Alan would...defend you?"

"Never. Alan would never do that. It would be a conflict of interest and besides that, he would never do that. He will never forgive Paul for this." Ellenor reassured Tara, placing her hand on the younger woman's shoulder.

"I think I would like to take a shower," Tara stood.

"Of course. Would you like for me to wait here?"

"Yes, if you would not mind too much."

"Not at all," Ellenor smiled. "Why don't I call Alan, while you are in the shower?"

"I suppose that would be best."

Tara went into the bedroom to shower, and Ellenor sadly picked up her cell phone to call Alan. She knew that Alan would be...angry, furious, she was not sure. His cell phone rang twice and she heard him answer.

"Alan Shore"

"Alan, it is Ellenor."

"Ellenor! Nice to hear from you. What is going on with you?" Alan was pleasantly surprised. Since the firing and the court case, things had been strained.

"Alan, I have to tell you some bad news, and I..." Ellenor trailed off, uncertain of how to broach this.

Concern instantly filled Alan's voice, "What is it? Are you alright? Zoey?"

"No, I am fine, Zoey is fine. It is Tara."

"What is wrong with Tara? I saw her at the office today."

"Alan, I do not know how to tell you this, so I am just going to say it. Paul Stewart...attacked Tara. Tonight." Ellenor braced for Alan's reaction.

"What exactly do you mean he attacked her?" Shore's voice was decidedly calmer than Ellenor had expected.

"Alan, he raped her. At his hotel, this evening."

Ellenor heard the sound of the phone clicking off. Alan hung up.

During the drive to Tara's place, Alan was blind with a rage and an anger that he could not explain. He was not sure of what exactly had transpired, but he knew that his friend had betrayed him once more. Then, his cell phone rang. Alan checked the ID.
It was Paul Stewart.

"Alan. I need to talk to you."

Drunk, Alan thought, Paul is drunk.

"I have nothing left to say to you, Paul. I know what you did."

"Alan, I don't know what...I don't understand why I..."

"Listen to me Paul. I don't care why. I do not give a damn what excuse you come up with. I do not even know you anymore. Enjoy prison." With that, Alan Shore hung up on his best friend.

When Alan arrived at Tara's, he hesitated before knocking. As his knuckles struck the door, it was opened by Ellenor, who had been anxiously waiting for him. She looked at him for a long moment. He was composed on the surface, but Ellenor had known Alan far too long to buy his calm exterior.

"Where is Tara?"

"Taking a shower."

Alan nodded and walked into the living room. He took off his coat and sat on the couch. Ellenor wordlessly went over to get three glasses from Tara's kitchen, and the bottle of Scotch that was on the bar. She sat next to Alan and poured two glasses, handing one to him. The bedroom door opened as Alan was taking a drink. When he looked up and saw Tara in the doorway, his eyes widened.

Tara stood in the doorway and looked at Alan, sitting on her couch. She had put on pajama pants and a t-shirt, and had her hair gathered in a ponytail. The bruises on her face, and on her arms, were clearly visible. Tara had not cried, not since this all had begun. But when she looked at Alan, when she saw the mirror of pain and disillusion in his eyes that were in her own...she felt sorrow beyond measure.

Ellenor stood, telling Tara that she was so sorry, but she had to get home. The sitter for Zoey had to go. She hugged Alan, and then Tara. Alan walked her to the door, and in the entryway, she urged him to stay with Tara a while. Alan simply nodded silently. He walked back into the living room, where Tara was now sitting on the edge of the sofa, drinking Scotch. Alan walked over and sat down next to her. The silence was awkward, for a moment.

"I am so sorry."

"It is not your fault."

"I know that, but I still feel responsible."

"Don't, please. It will just make things worse."

"I'll try."

Alan turned to Tara and raised his hand up to gently touch her bruised cheek with his fingers, wishing that with his touch, he could erase it away. Tara watched his eyes, his face, as she felt this fingers on her face. His heart is broken, she thought. In those terrible acts that Paul committed, the murder of Brenda and her own rape, Alan Shore had been assaulted as well. His friend, his hero, his childhood, his memories, his sense of roots, everything that was tied up in Paul Stewart had irrevocably been torn. For all of the depravity of Alan Shore, of his scandalous behavior, he was a man of deep love and honor for his true friends. Tara realized that the depth of her pain was great, but she would heal in time. Alan might never get over this betrayal. With that knowledge, Tara's eyes filled, and one large teardrop fell, coursing down slowly to Alan's thumb that was lightly tracing her black eye.

Alan felt the moisture hit his thumb, and he looked into Tara's brimming eyes. Please don't cry, he begged her silently. He feared that if she did, really cried, he would drown in those tears, in the guilt over her assault. To be his friend, she had sacrificed much, but this was too much for him to bear. He heard the ring of his cell phone.

"Alan Shore"

Tara watched his face as someone talked to him. She did not know that the police was on the other side of that call, telling him of an accident. Drunk, possibly, fell asleep at the wheel, perhaps. The car went right off the small bridge, straight into the water. There were not even any skid marks, no sign that the driver had been concious enough to try and stop at all. Victoria had gone down to identify the body. Nothing more to be done.

Tara saw Alan age ten years in that one minute. Later, in the dark, as they laid together on the couch, talking and drinking, he would tell her that Paul was gone. She would cry, and he would hold her, stroking her hair. And, much later, after many drinks, he would lay his head on her and let his own silent, racking sobs out, only to her, only this one night. For in this terrible night, only they could comfort each other. What comfort there was to be found.