“The contestant that will be leaving tonight is….”
After a short pause which felt like an eternity, host Kelly finally gives the results.
“Carli, you are now single.”
Jake leaps up out of his armchair, wailing with joy. His half-empty can of lemonade flies, crashing hard into a large cabinet set neatly in the corner of the room. The remaining contents of the can splash over the walls and floor.
“YES,” teddy screamed at the top of his voice.
He throws a wild flurry of punches into the empty space around him, growling through clenched teeth. A tingling sensation rushes through his body as the adrenaline continues to build within him. A sharp glistening catches Karl's eye as the solo spotlight from the ceiling lights up the discarded lemonade dripping from the can. He slumps back heavily into his chair, breathing rapidly; a wave of dizziness hits carl like a train.
He forcefully lifts himself from his chair and stumbles across the living room towards the narrow hallway. The sound of his own footsteps echo through his head. The corridor feels narrower and much longer than any other time he has walked through it. Head down, with his eyes only partially open, he reaches the bathroom door. Twisting the handle and using his shoulder to barge the door open. Usually, full force is needed to gain entry, but it swings open like a brand-new door this time. Caught off guard, Karl stumbles onto the floor, reaching out to try and grab hold of anything that might soften his landing. He clings to the edge of the bathtub but instantly loses his grip; he drops to the floor, and his breathing begins to slow down as he gradually loses consciousness.
The sound of TV static blasts from its speakers, bringing Karl out of his mellowed state. Growing from complete exhaustion, Karl struggles to roll himself over onto his back, but he eventually succeeds with a strong push against the cold tiled floor. He lies there for a moment gazing aimlessly at the ceiling, trying his absolute best to compose himself. After a moment, he drags himself onto his feet, leaning gently on the rim of the sink with one hand, the other using his thumb and index finger to pinch the crocked bridge of his nose. He lifts his gaze to the smeared mirror above the sink where a thin chain necklace hangs holding the letter C on the end.
“God, I miss you.”
Karl says through a deep sigh.
“It didn’t have to be like this, Karl.” A voice replies.
“I know. I know you do not need to keep reminding me, it follows over my head like a cloud of rain, and I must deal with it every day of my life.”
He continues, “Besides, Teddy has gone now; I can finally move on and show you I am a better person. I have grown charlotte; we can live as a happy trio.”
Karl tilts his neck from side to side, stretching out the knotted muscles. Following a couple of cracks and clicks, he straightens his posture and leads himself back into the living room. The fuzz of TV static still working its way around the room, he rummages around under the cushions on his armchair, hunting intently for the remote to put the faint white noise to sleep. Only to be replaced by the heavy hissing of rain hammering away at the roof of his car outside in the motel car park.
The streets are quiet, not a soul in sight. Surely no one would be so foolish as to be out in this weather.
With that thought, Karl reaches for his coat and the necklace and heads out, swiping his car keys along the way. Karl steps outside, where he begins to be battered by the rain but given he had tunnel vision, for one thing, it's although he had not even noticed. A flickering streetlight illuminates his car, and as he approaches, a mixture of excitement and fear creep over him.
“This is it; we are finally going to be together.”
Karl continues, “I can’t believe it’s actually happening. We can finally be together; all this time of waiting and wondering has paid off, and I have got to say it will be totally worth it.”
A harsh crunching noise comes from the hinges of the tattered car door as Karl drags it open, plunging himself into the driver’s seat he reaches deep into his pocket and pulls out the necklace. Dangling it lightly in front of his face and ogles intently, waiting for a response. Nothing, no voice, no joyful reply.
“Oh, don’t be like this. It’s what we have always wanted. We have spoken about this.” Karl says.
Karl's fits of hysterical laughter begin suddenly, with no warning.
“I know what you are doing. Oh, you are such a rascal. Do not worry when we get there. I know you will not be able to contain your excitement.”
He drops the necklace onto the passenger seat beside him and keeps grabbing hold of the steering wheel with one hand, and the gear stick with the other pushes the car into gear and hits the road. The roads are quiet, but as each minute passes, the storm is growing fiercer. Karl reduces his speed, but nothing is going to get in his way. He has waited far too long to let this opportunity escape him he has been driving for 30 minutes before he sees any other vehicle; an oncoming truck flashes past him with no intention of slowing down, almost throwing him off the road, the back end of his truck begins to move out, but with quick thinking, he manages to keep him and the vehicle out of the ditch.
“WHOOAA.” He skreiches.
“Did you see that, Charlotte did you see how close that was?” breaking into fits of laughter once again.
A moment passes before he manages to compose himself, and he brings his full attention back to the road. After covering three more miles of tarmac, he finally arrives at his destination. It was much smaller than he had imagined, but that did not make any difference. Nothing was going to stop him from having Carli. He kills the engine before reaching across the passenger seat to retrieve the necklace, clutching it tightly in his scrawny fingers.
“It is time, Charlotte. Do not worry. I will not make the same mistake as I did with you. I will make this one painless. I told you, I have Grown.”