Elegy - Cover


Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 14

It took hours to clear up the scene at the concert. I’d offered to go with Warren to the hospital, but he told us to just go back to the hotel, or Hanna’s aunt’s house in Kat’s and my case, and he’d call me later. Once the initial shock had worn off, he’d been amazingly calm and collected for the level of pain he was in.

The building was a total loss. By the time the fire department got it under control, half the ceiling had collapsed. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had to tear the whole thing down. One thing was for sure, our instruments were gone. They wouldn’t let us go in to look for them, but a firefighter I asked to check, said the stage was where the fire had gotten the hottest, and everything near it was a twisted wreck.

I loved my guitar. Even though it was from my dad, it was the one I’d learned to play on. I’d spent hundreds of hours with it, to the point where it almost felt like an extension of my own body. What I had told Marco, however, was true. It was just a thing. With the exception of Warren’s leg, we had gotten all of our people out safely, and that’s what mattered. We also managed to get the entire crowd out. There were dozens of injuries, including what looked like several bad burns, but no one died. Disasters like this always made headlines, and in most of the articles I’d seen about things like this, people lost their lives. On that account, at least, we’d been amazingly lucky.

Marco was freaking out about his instrument, which I guess was reasonable, although I was still pissed he’d tried to save it instead of people. I told the band I’d start working on getting our instruments replaced in the morning. While I was a little sad about my guitar, I wasn’t actually all that worried about it. I knew the venue had to have insurance, although once this was all done the odds of the owners not being bankrupt were small. Thankfully, I also knew the label had their own insurance for our shows and we hadn’t been at fault for this, so I was fairly confident we could get everything replaced.

The next morning we decided to go ahead and meet for breakfast as planned, before Kat and I had to head back home. Hanna picked out a diner near her dorm and was already at a booth when we got there.

Kat and I slid into the booth across from Hanna, who still looked a mess, with dark circles under her red-rimmed eyes.

“Thanks for meeting me,” Hanna said, giving a weak smile. “I’m a wreck. I was a mess all night and got almost no sleep. I just didn’t want to be alone.”

“Of course.” Kat reached over, giving her hand a squeeze.

Hanna’s smile wavered. She blinked back tears, dropping her gaze to the table.

“I keep replaying it all in my head. The fire, the smoke, the panic. If you hadn’t found us, Charlie...” her voice broke, “I don’t even want to think about what might have happened.”

“But I did find you,” I said gently. “You’re safe now, and that’s what matters.”

Hanna looked up, sniffling. “I know. I just feel so ... shaken. And the merch, everything we worked for...”

“We’ll figure something out,” I said, switching spots to come around and sit next to her, putting my arm over her shoulder and holding her tightly. “The important stuff survived. We’re all alive, mostly uninjured, and safe. Everything else can be replaced. Besides, the instruments and the merch should be covered under insurance. It’ll take some time, but we’ll get it all replaced. This is just a bump in the road, trust me.”

I think that’s all she needed to hear. She returned my hug, and I could feel some of her tension easing away. We spent the next few minutes talking and laughing together, the heaviness starting to lift. As the waitress headed off with our orders, the bell over the door chimed. I glanced up, my smile fading when I spotted Troy heading towards us.

Troy strolled up to us like he didn’t have a care in the world. Like he owned the place. He knew we were here, so he had to have talked to Hanna since last night, but he didn’t seem to have any empathy for how much she’d clearly been struggling when we’d first gotten here. It was another strike against him. His gaze landed on Kat, a sly smile curling his lips. I wanted to knock the stupid expression off his face.

“Hope I’m not too late for breakfast,” Troy said cheerfully, sliding into the empty seat beside Kat.

I offered her a tight smile, turning to Troy. “We weren’t expecting you. We already ordered.”

Troy ignored me, attention focused solely on Kat. “You look lovely today. Did you do something different with your hair?”

Kat stiffened as he invaded her personal space. “You’re joking.”

“Didn’t you hear what happened last night?” I asked, exasperated.

“Hanna said you all made it out okay. What’s the big deal?” he said without actually looking at me, his attention still on Kat. “Hmm, maybe it’s just the lighting in here. Brings out your eyes.”

Troy leaned closer, his arm brushing against Kat’s. She edged away, discomfort written across her face. What was with this guy? His girlfriend had just been in a terrible accident and was clearly upset, and he’s hitting on Kat. In fact, he’d hit on Kat every time he’d been around her, including the first time he met her before Christmas when he’d come back to Wellsville with Hanna. He was like some evil cartoon character, or maybe just an idiot who thought more with his junk than his brain.

“So Kat, I was thinking we haven’t really had a chance to get to know each other properly yet.” Troy lowered his voice, the innuendo clear. “We haven’t talked since that conversation in your little town. I thought we were going to be friends.”

“I don’t think so,” Kat said sharply.

“Come on, that’s no fun. I heard a few things about you when we were there. I know you like having friends.”

I hadn’t realized he and Hanna had gone out or seen anyone else in town when they’d been there, but if he’d heard rumors about Kat’s former behavior, all caused by her abuse and DPD, then it explained how brazen and relentless he was being. It still made him a dirtbag, though.

“Playing hard to get? I like a challenge.”

I didn’t see what he did next, but his hand dropped off the table and it looked like he reached over for Kat.

Kat gasped, shoving him. “Get off me!”

I slammed my fist on the table. “That’s enough. Time for you to leave, Troy.”

Troy blinked at me in disbelief. “Come on, we were just joking around. No need to get upset.”

“It didn’t look like a joke to me. You can either get up and walk out of here, or you can be carried out. It’s your choice,” I said, my tone low and menacing.

I might have been trying to turn over a new leaf, using less violence and more de-escalation, but this wasn’t the situation for that. He’d crossed a line.

“What the f•©k are you going to do,” he said, looking at me contemptuously.

Hanna grabbed Troy’s arm, panic flitting across her features. “Troy, just go. Please.”

Troy scowled, standing up so fast he knocked over several of the condiments. “Fine, have it your way. But this isn’t over.”

He pointed at me, trying to be intimidating, and stormed out, the diner bell clanging behind him.

The atmosphere was tense. Kat was silently fuming, stabbing at her pancakes, her jaws clenched tight. Hanna watched Troy get into his car and tear out of the parking lot, not even seeming to notice how furious Kat was, which was making Kat even more angry with every second that passed.

I’d hoped Hanna would apologize or at least acknowledge what happened to de-escalate the situation before Kat blew up.

Too late.

“What is wrong with you?” Kat burst out. “How can you not see what a creep he is?”

Hanna blinked, taken aback. “I know Troy can sometimes come across as a bit crass, but he’s trying to change. You just keep overreacting, blowing everything out of proportion.”

“Overreacting?” Kat slammed her fork down. “He had his hand on my thigh! How is that an overreaction?”

“It was just a joke. You always misread these situations and assume the worst. I know your condition makes you...”

“No,” I said, stopping her mid-sentence. “That’s not right or fair to Kat. Troy was way out of line, and you know it.”

“Don’t gang up on me,” Hanna said, now getting angry herself. “Nobody’s perfect, but we still try and accept them. Did I bust your balls when you were dating Rhonda and she was a jerk to everyone? Troy loves me. Yes, he takes some getting used to, but if you were my friends, you’d put in the effort.”

Kat threw up her hands. “You have got to be joking? Constantly hitting on other girls, including your friends, in front of you no less! When will you wake up and realize you deserve better?”

“Troy makes me feel special. You’re not the only one who’s been through things and needs help. Some of us have needs too. I’m sorry if for five minutes it’s not the Kat show, with everyone babying you, but you aren’t the only person here,” Hanna yelled.

Heads were turning towards us from across the diner, and the employees were exchanging looks. It would probably only be a few minutes before we got kicked out.

Kat didn’t seem to even notice, her volume matching Hanna’s. “I don’t make everything about me. How would you even know? You haven’t been around this year and when you did come home, you brought Troy. You brought Troy to Charlotte. Troy’s been around this weekend. He’s always with you.”

“That’s because he loves me. Why can’t you accept that?”

“Guys, we should...” I started to say, trying to get them to calm down.

“He doesn’t love you, he loves controlling you. He’s manipulating you!” Kat said, ignoring me. “He doesn’t respect you. You deserve so much better, Hanna.”

Hanna slammed her fist on the table, shouting at the top of her lungs. “Why can’t you just be happy for me? Why do you have to ruin everything?”

I tried to take Hanna’s hand and said, “We’re trying to protect you.”

“I don’t need your protection. I don’t want it. Move!” she said, pushing me to get out of the booth.

Her nostrils were flaring, and her face had turned a dark red. She was going to start freaking out any minute.

As Hanna slid out of the booth and started to storm out, Kat stood in front of her and put her hand on Hanna’s shoulder.

“He’s going to hurt you. We’re just trying to protect you.”

Hanna yanked away so violently that she stumbled slightly.

“You don’t want to protect me. You just want to control me, like everyone else in my life!”

She stormed out of the diner, the little bell dinging violently again behind her. I dropped money on the table to pay for our uneaten food and pulled Kat outside, apologizing to the waitress as we left.

As we drove back home, Kat sat silently in the passenger seat, fuming, knuckles white from clenching her fists. I wasn’t sure if I should speak first or give her space. My instinct was to fill the silence, to say something optimistic to lift her spirits, but I knew Kat well enough to recognize that she needed time to work through her emotions before she’d be open to comfort.

It was almost twenty minutes before she expelled a heavy sigh, her posture deflating, and said, “I shouldn’t have done that.”

“You were only trying to help. Hanna will come around, once she’s ready to face the truth,” I said gently.

Shaking her head and blinking back tears, she said, “Will she?”

“Yes. You were right. This all sucks, but you had to say something. There’s no perfect way to handle it, but she won’t forget it. She’ll be pissed, but she’ll think about what you said. Hopefully, it will be enough to get her to see what’s really going on. When she does, the two of them are going to break up, probably badly. She’ll realize you were right and just trying to protect her. She loves you too much to hold a grudge. Have faith in her. She’s struggling, but deep down she knows the truth. She just needs to see it.”

Kat sighed again, wiping her eyes. “You really think so?”

I smiled back. “I know so. You’ve been through too much together to let some jerk like Troy break you apart. This is just another challenge you’ll rise above, stronger and closer than before.”

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