An hour later, Vincent was being treated in the booth he had sat in earlier. A first aid kit set down beside her, Erica was disinfecting his wounds with cotton wool and alcohol. His lip was split, but at least his cheek wasn't broken after all. All that was left on the table was an empty glass of rum and coke. Catherine was gone. She had left Vincent on the bathroom floor and gone home.
"Are you okay?"
Toby and Orlando had come back. He could just about make them out through his swollen eyelids. They sat down side by side in the seats opposite, Vincent answering "Yeah".
"Looks like she got you good."
"You weren't kidding when you said you were going to suffer the consequences, huh?"
Neither of them had expected that things would go this far. Nor had Vincent.
"He went home. Looks like he starts early tomorrow."
"Did she take it well, though? The girl... Uh, well, maybe that was a stupid question."
"I don't think this would've happened if she had."
He was in a bad state, but he couldn't be angry at her - if anything, he thought it was only natural. Erica put away the tweezers and small bottle of antiseptic, then closed the lid of the first aid kit. Sliding off the seat, she went into the aisle.
"Anyway, you should get home early today and rest up, okay?"
"Yeah. I'll drink a bit more before I go... I feel kinda tired tonight...""You're going to drink more? That's bad for your injuries, isn't it?" said Toby.
"I've not had anything to drink yet today. I only wanna stay a little while longer..."
"You don't want me to take you home?" asked Orlando.
"Alright. Maybe it would be better for you to be alone for a bit, anyway."
"You're right," said Toby.
Orlando stood, leaving with Toby. Erica brought over a few classes of cold water.
It didn't take him so long to doze off anymore. He could instantly tell when he woke up. He could see his slightly dirty ceiling. Morning sunlight cast shadows on the blinds. He was scared to look beside him. He timidly felt around with his hands. Vincent... he thought he heard a yearning voice call to him. In a panic, he looked over, but nothing was there. There was no Catherine. He let out a long sigh, facing upwards again and buring his face in his pillow.
"I feel like I slept pretty well..." His beaten-up face and sides still hurt, but the fatigue had mostly faded. He hadn't felt like this in the morning for a while. "Wait... Did I not have... the nightmare... today....?"
He tried to remember what had happened while he was asleep, but couldn't. He didn't even feel its unique sense of fear.
"Does this mean... I survived?"
He heard the doorbell ring, an irritating sound like the cry of a cicada. It momentarily stopped ringing, then began again. It seemed like someone was holding it down. He put his hands down on either side to prop himself up, then sat up, looking towards the front door.
"What this time...?"
The doorbell rang three times. Just as he thought it had cut off, this time he heard the sound of a key being inserted.
"Vincent? Are you home?"
It was Katherine's voice. He relaxed. She had a key. It wasn't all that unusual for her to come in like this. The nightmares of the past few days, as well as Steve's appearance, had apparently made him paranoid. Vincent headed for the door, his feet bare, just as she entered. She was in the same crisp suit again today.
"Sorry, I was asleep..."
"Oh, okay, sorry. You weren't answering the phone, so..."
"You called? I didn't realise." He stepped aside, inviting her in. "Here, come on in."
"Heey!" a lispy voice suddenly said from behind him.
His knees went weak. He just about managed to support himself using the wall. "Wh, who's there!?"
Katherine peered over Vincent's shoulder and looked around the room. Vincent turned, too, praying that he was just hallucinating again, but he could clearly see Catherine inside the room. She wasn't in underwear, at least, but still only wore a long t-shirt.
"You've gotta be... What are you doing...!?"
Catherine grinned silently. Katherine's face tensed, the corners of her eyes twitching. "Who are you...?"
"Did you come to talk to him? Okay, come on in. Hm..." Catherine put her hands together, tilting her head slightly. "Is coffee okay?"
Humming, she headed towards the kitchen. Katherine looked around, her movements awkward and robotic. "I'm coming in, and you're going to tell me what this is all about."
Pushing roughly past Vincent, Katherine walked straight inside. All Vincent could do was watch her in bewilderment.
First, he put on some clothes. He couldn't wander around in his boxers, and he wanted to make some time for himself to calm down. He knelt on the floor, facing Katherine across the low glass table. She sat on the side nearest the door, Vincent nearest to the bed. He felt the full-on acute pressure of the silence, balling his hands on his knees, too scared to look up. He could hear absentminded humming from the kitchen. What was she thinking?
"Well?" Katherine said, glaring with hatred. "Does this mean you've found yourself another girlfriend?"
"N-no..." He wanted to say it with conviction, but he really had cheated on her several times. There was no way he could deny it. "But this isn't..."
"At least look at me if you're going to make excuses for yourself."
"O-okay..." he said, looking up at her. She shot an icy gaze at him through her glasses, sending shivers down his spine and giving him goosebumps.
"You found out I was pregnant, and this is what you did? I see... Hmm..."
"No... You're wrong..."
Vincent had accepted the destiny he'd been given, and on top of that had broken up with Catherine the day before. He had even resigned himself to the beating he had taken. He leaned forwards, trying to think of an excuse.
Katherine slammed her hand down on the table with a bang. Startled, Vincent threw himself back, supporting himself on his hands.
"I thought you'd been acting weird lately..." Katherine looked at him like he was a worm. "I can't believe this is what you were up to."
"Wait. L-listen to me..."
"Okay, here you go!" A delicate white arm crossed in front of him, setting down cups on the table. "Oh - I made sure to put two sugars in yours, Vincent."
Katherine was the only one who knew about his habit of putting two sugars in his coffee. Or, at least, she used to be. He could sense her seething even more. Catherine sat down beside Vincent, as though it were the completely natural thing to do. Her hips touched Vincent's.
"Hey, Vincent? I think this is a good chance for you to tell it to her straight." Catherine looked over at Vincent, shooting a cold stare sideways at Katherine.
"She's just dragging you down."
"Hey, I've never said...!"
"W-what are you talking about?" Katherine's face steadily grew red. Her shoulders, arms and hands trembled. "Don't just tell me what I want to hear!"
"Don't just tell her you want to go back to her now, Vincent, okay? Not after how you appreciated my body all those times..."
The lines on Katherine's forehead deepened, but Catherine ignored her. He wanted to shut her up, but his mind was blank and he couldn't find the words. In fact the things she said provoked him, reminding of him what he'd seen over and over in this room - entwined with Catherine in her underwear.
"Don't you want to have everything you desire? He has me because he wanted me - right? Besides..." She wrapped her arm around Vincent's, resting her cheek on his shoulder. "Maybe you don't know, but he's a beast in bed. I don't think you can satisfy him anymore."
"Wha...!" Katherine's eyes were wide. Her mouth flapped open and shut, but she seemed to be too angry to speak. "A-are you crazy!?" she finally shouted.
Vincent felt himself growing faint.
"Vincent needs me," Catherine said, still ignoring her with a calm face. "Not you. Got that? Then hurry on home."
"W-why should I? S-shouldn't you be the one leaving!?" Katherine leaned over, slamming her palm down on the table. The cups bounced up, spilling their contents. Catherine watched the liquid spread, then looked back over at Katherine.
"If you keep making that face, you're gonna make your crow's feet worse."
"Who the hell is this woman, Vincent...!?" asked Katherine, trembling all over, sounding as though she were about to explode. He could almost see her lit fuse. But now things had come this far, he couldn't pretend anymore. Vincent would be better off alone; with his mistress beside him, things were looking hopeless.
"P-please forgive me!"
"W... What? How could I!?"
"Just let me expl-"
His lowered head was enveloped from the side.
"Hey, stop that. Don't you have any pity?" said Catherine. Despite the situation, he couldn't help but notice the softness of her chest against his cheek. "It doesn't matter whether you forgive him or not. He just wants to be with the one he loves." Vincent squirmed, but hardly put up any resistance. "Are you even pregnant, anyway?" Catherine said, in a purposely cruel voice. "Didn't you just lie about it to get Vincent to marry you!?"
"O... of course not! Don't treat me like such a..."
"God, you're so desperate. I almost feel sorry for you."
"Hey, that's too far...!"
Vincent finally looked up. He had expected Katherine to be mad with rage, but her face was expressionless.
She stood giddily, in complete silence, walking backwards without looking away from them, as though sleepwalking.
"What are you...?"
Katherine's hips knocked against the kitchen counter. For some reason, she began fishing around in the sink.
"Is this what you're looking for?" Catherine said beside him, smiling faintly.