Catherine soon showed up. Maybe she had somehow guessed what it was that Vincent wanted to discuss from his tone and behaviour. She didn't head to the counter to order a drink, but rather went straight over to the booth. Sitting down beside him, she suppressed her usual innocence and listened carefully to what Vincent said. As the conversation progressed, her face fell in the blink of an eye.
"You mean there's someone else you like?" Catherine finally managed to squeeze out, biting down firmly on her bottom lip.
No, I love you, were his true thoughts. But what would happen if he actually said it? Without directly answering her question, Vincent went on talking. "I wanted to tell you, I really did, but I never could. I was confused about a lot of things, and then I met you. I guess it kind of let me escape."
"Do you like her more than me?"
"I'm really sorry, but I have to take care of her."
"Take care of...?" she asked, seeming quite shocked. "Does that mean you're already dating?"
He couldn't look her straight in the face. Her hands gripped onto a glass of rum and coke, and Vincent watched as she lifted it and glugged it down. He wouldn't even have complained if she threw the glass straight at him, or maybe splashed him with its contents. But she didn't.
His head flew up at the unexpected words. "It's... okay?"
"Yeah. As long as I'm number one, you can play around with her, and keep going as we are now with me."
His mind reeled. Was that not an ideal proposal? He could spend married life with Katherine, and keep his relationship going with the younger, wilder Catherine... No, he couldn't. At the last moment, common sense spoke to him. "That might work for you, but things are more complicated for me."
"Why? Uh..." He looked down again. He had to give her an up-front answer. "She's actually pregnant with my child." Her arms seemed to seize up. "So I've decided to marry her."
"Are you kidding?"
Her normally carefree voice trembled. He thought this was the first time he had ever heard her like this. Vincent silently shook his head.
"B-but!" Her voice was louder than necessary. "That's okay, too. I just want to be your girlfriend. So...!"
Vincent looked up, catching sight of her tear-filled eyes. "I told you, we can't. I can't do that..."
He knew that this was his fault. He had taken advantage of her heartfelt feelings and committed betrayal after betrayal.
"I can't see you anymore."
"You can't do this!"
Her face contorted, tears welling in the corners of her eyes. They dripped down, spilling down her cheeks with unbelievable force. He didn't know what to do. Should he offer her his handkerchief? Should he put his arm around her shoulders? Vincent balled his fists on his knees, binding himself to the spot with all of his might.
"I think there's been some kind of misunderstanding."
Catherine wiped her eyes with the backs of her hands. "A m... Mis... understanding...?" she asked tearfully, heaving with sobs.
"I have no redeeming features, and no money. Whichever way you take it, I'm not a good fit for you, right? I think you just went along with it because you're still young. Maybe I'm different from the guys your age, but that's all. I'm the same old guy you could find anywhere. So..."
"That's not true!" she shouted through tears.
Of course she was angry. There was no way she would understand his arbitrary reasoning.
"I know this is awful, but I want to break this off. I'll give you anything else you..." Before Vincent could finish, Catherine stood. Covering her mouth with her hand she headed for the bathroom, mumbling. "Hey, are you okay...?"
Vincent followed her. The moment he passed through the swing door and entered the small room, he took a strong blow to the solar plexus.
From there onwards, the violence continued incessantly. Vincent covered his stomach in confusion, leaning against the wall.
"What are you...?"
"Do I look okay!?"
She grabbed onto his collar and tugged, thrusting him towards the sink. He banged his hip, his torso thrown backwards. When he leaned back up, he was met with her fist. The impact struck him from the nose to the back of the head. The pain was so intense that he momentarily passed out. It looked like he'd been hit square on.
"Take back... what you said..."
He couldn't believe that he was being attacked by the girl he'd just dumped - and not with palms, either, but fists. Didn't women normally slap in this situation?
"I... ca..." Vincent tried to say, but he couldn't. Her palm approached. He thought that this time it would be a slap, but he was wrong. She slammed Vincent in the jaw with the base of her hand. The shock ran through him again. He wasn't getting numb. The pain was intense. Black specks swam across his vision. Vincent felt as though he were drowning in a pitch black sea. He quickly realised that this was due to the blood pouring from his nose.
"You're really pissing me off..." she spat, somewhere far away. Far? No, she was right there nearby. His head was dragged upwards. It looked like she was tugging his hair roughly. She slammed the side of his head against the wall. His cheekbone hurt. It was probably fractured. His lip was split, too. She slammed into him over and over. His sight blinked from white to black. The blood pouring from his mouth and nose mixed, dripping down his jaw onto his neck.
He didn't even know what he was saying anymore. His hair was pulled upwards again, and he was forced to stand up. She hit him in the stomach with a strong hook. He doubled over, but wasn't afforded a moment's respite.
"I'd do... anything for you..."
She made him stand again. The slaps finally came, left, right, left, right, connecting over and over, gradually increasing in speed. The pain endlessly grew stronger and stronger.
"Why are you trying to get away from me!? How stupid are you?"
"Very... stupid..." he tried to respond, but the sound was muffled by the sound of the bubbling, bloody froth in his mouth.
"You're the one who doesn't get it!"
Thinking another slap was coming, he reflexively stiffened. But the slap never came. Unbelievably, she twisted around and brought down her elbow. It connected solidly with his temple, sending him flying. His head hit the wall again. His legs were weak. Staggering, he banged against the sink, then collapsed to the floor.
His cheek stuck to the wet planks, the cold seeping into him. The smell of moss and blood mixed, making his head prickle. It was incredibly unpleasant, and yet for some reason comfortable.
"I can't live without you!"
She kicked him in the side. It felt intense, like being stabbed with the tip of a knife. It looked like Catherine had chosen today of all days to wear stilettos.
"Shit... My stom...ach..."
She kicked him again and again, trampling on his back. Drips fell onto the floor. He wondered if it was his own blood, spewing like a fountain, but it wasn't. He heard a voice sobbing. Then the voice began to wail. She was crying hard enough for her tears to stain the floor.
"Idiot. Idiot, idiot, idiot!"
He wanted to apologise, but no sound would come out. He couldn't even lift his finger a centimetre into the air. Suddenly, the violence ceased. He could no longer hear her crying. Had her rage finally subsided?
Vincent slowly moved his arms and legs, then turned onto his back, looking around for her. Had she left? No. That was too optimistic. She opened the cubicle door, turning her back to Vincent, the movement of her hands accompanied by the sound of rummaging. When she finally turned around, she held the cover of the toilet's tank in front of her chest. It was enamelled, and he guessed that it weighed at least ten kilos.
She lifted the heavy cover up to her shoulders, then unsteadily moved closer to Vincent.
"S-stop. Please no weap..."
His pleas faded in futility. She stood right beside Vincent, then aimed between his legs and tossed down the cover.