Dark Days - Laura Lovecraft - ebook
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For Mark and Megan, it’s over before it started. After Mark confesses the secrets he has been keeping, the two siblings end up in an explosive argument during which Mark tells her to leave…he knows she doesn’t love him, and to go do what she does best: take care of herself.Heartbroken, Megan returns to her parent’s house and reads the last entries in her journal. The entries, which she had titled Dark Days, recall her last days of addiction. Living in Hell’s Kitchen, and on the verge of death, Megan learns that although she has given up on herself, her brother never will.

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Broken

Book Seven: Dark Days

By Laura Lovecraft

Published by L.L. Craft Publications

Copyright © 2012 by Laura Lovecraft

Part One

Chapter One

I sat in the back of the cab with my head down, using my long black hair to cover most of my face and the fact that I was crying. I’d managed to hold it back during the ten minute walk from Mark’s office to the Biltmore. I needed a taxi and they were always circling the hotel, and this way I didn’t have to wait in front of his building for one.

It hadn’t been easy holding it together, but I was getting enough looks as it was in my current ensemble. Had I started crying, people would have thought I was some distraught, strung out prostitute. Not that I hadn’t had some experience with that particular situation back in the day, but I would never want it thought of me again.

Within a minute of reaching the hotel, I flagged down the cab. I noticed the cab passed an older couple and a guy in a suit so he could pick me up. I got in and gave him my mother’s address. The driver, a big greasy looking guy in his fifties, took one look at me and asked, “How you gonna pay for this?”

I rolled my eyes. Under different circumstances, I would have told him to go fuck himself and gotten out. Right now all I cared about was getting back to my parents’ house so I could hide in my old bedroom and cry. I reached into my purse, pulled out a hundred dollar bill and showed it to him.

He smirked, “Business must be good.”

I smirked back, “It always will be because there are always fat, ugly men who can only get laid if they pay for it.”

He gave me a dirty look, but put the cab in gear and quickly pulled into traffic. I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror and winced. So much for trying to not look like a mess; I had already been crying at Mark’s office, and my allegedly waterproof mascara had run in black streaks down my face. My good old manic panic Goth foundation had held up, however, so I now looked like a sick, sad clown straight out of a Marilyn Manson video.

Sliding over to the right corner of the seat, I let my head drop, my hair fall over my face, and my tears flow. I was devastated and confused. What had just hit me the last two hours? My father, the pictures and Mark’s lies to save me. As if that wasn’t enough to take in, Mark put me on the spot. I did love him. I knew that now.

Not that I should have needed my brother’s sacrifice to make me realize that. Those feelings had been there for years I had just pushed them aside, telling myself I would ruin my brother, and pretending the feelings weren’t there. This time around, Mark took all my excuses away from me. He pointed out that I was sober, successful, and, most of all, he told me how he felt. My mind was still reeling. How, exactly, did my brother think we could pull this off?

I told him I loved him, sort of, by simply saying yes. Had I just kept my big mouth shut, we might have been able to sit down and talk things through, like we had planned. Instead, I put a fatal “but” in there, and my exhausted, emotionally spent brother did what he always did when he was hurt, he lost it

I did my best not to react to his rage. My brother had been through a lot in the last year, and I had not been there for him. As much as the Winthrop trial had helped his career, it had taken everything else from him. Mark had tears in his eyes as he numbly told me how my father told him no one ever wanted him.

I now knew why he was avoiding Mom, and it was wrong; she loved Mark dearly. Unfortunately, I knew too well that feeling of being unwanted, of knowing that no matter how good life was now, that we had been given away, as if we were unwanted pets. For my brother, who had already been dealing with the heartache of missing his chance to be with me back then, hearing those things from Dad caused him to believe them.

I was also struck with guilt, hearing how badly he missed me, and how he so desperately wanted to be with me. I’ve never regretted moving to Chicago. I would not have achieved as much surrounded by nothing but painful memories. But in leaving all that pain, I left behind the best part of my life. Mark, who, of course, told me to go ahead and do what was best for me. Had I not been the selfish bitch he had rightly accused me of being, it would have occurred to me that sometimes, Mark said things because he felt it was what I wanted to hear, not because it was how he really felt.

So as Mark got more and more wound up, I just sat there and listened, trying to wait for an opening. That is, until he started really going off the deep end and talking about us fucking others and ending it by throwing my words from twenty years ago in my face: “We’re not for all the time.”

I wanted to tell him that I was in love with him, but he got me rattled. All I could think of was my journal entry when I had ‘given’ him to Cynthia so he wouldn’t know how I felt. I said the word ‘was' and Mark turned lawyer on me, treating me like a witness he had just crossed up. If He had been rational he would have heard the emotion in my voice and realized that I was still in love with him, but he was too far gone. When I tried to tell him he had told me to fuck myself. I was stunned; short of a couple of times when I had been wasted Mark had never spoken in that tone to me.

Before I could get anything out Mark had simply looked me in the eye and told me to leave. I had felt my own anger rising, but seeing the pain in my brother’s eyes stopped me from making things even worse. I tried to tell myself he didn’t mean it, that he would calm down and we could talk. I told myself that when we did I would simply tell him how much I loved him, take him in my arms and let him feel how much I did. We would still need to figure some things out, but I needed him to at least know he was loved.

Sadly, I never got the chance. He stared out his office window while I sat there crying softly, hoping he would calm down and come back and hold me. No, that was the kind of thought, that made Mark seem right. When he came to me, I would hold him. After several minutes, without turning around to look at me, Mark asked, “Why are you still here?”He spoke softly, but there was something in his tone that told me it was over. There would be no apologies, no making this right.

Standing up, I let out a sob, and Mark shook his head disgustedly. I turned to leave, when it occurred to me that I was going to take his car. Normally, Mark always took me back to the airport, but obviously this time would be different. Taking his keys from my purse, I tossed them on his desk so that he would hear them. When he still didn’t turn around, I felt my temper flare at being dismissed like a child, but I was smart enough to simply turn and storm out of his office.

Now sitting here in the cab it hit me that this had been my own fault. Mark had warned me that something’s were better left unsaid, but I had pushed. I took a deep breath and seeing that we were already at the exit for my parent’s house, tried to pull myself together. I had no doubt Mom and Dad were both home, and I had no idea how I was going to get past them to go upstairs to my room.

As we pulled up to the house I saw that as I had feared both cars were there. I paid the fare, and then stood on the sidewalk, staring at the house. If I went through the front, I might run into Dad. I had no idea how I could look him in the eye right now, knowing what he had seen. Not only that, but knowing that, in his mind, it was over. While in reality, I had just fucked my brother in his office not two hours ago.

This made my heart sink; Mark seemed to think no one would ever find out about us. I disagreed, but even if he was right, and we could pull it off, I would need to tell my parents. I could not lie to them for the rest of my life. Mark, by his own admission, had made this even more difficult by lying to my father. The cat had been out of the bag last year.

Had I been around, I would have come clean and admitted that we had been and still were lovers. I would have taken whatever repercussions there were. Who knows? Maybe that would have brought Mark and me close back then. No. I was with Laura, and believed I was in love.

With a sigh, I walked along the side of the house. I would take my chances with my mother. I reached the back, and taking a deep breath entered through the back door. Feeling like I was back in my teenage years and sneaking in after curfew, I stood in the small hallway listening at the door that led into the kitchen. I didn’t hear Mom’s small TV going and, opening the door entered the kitchen. To my relief it was empty. Once again, just as when I was teenager, I slipped my heels off and quickly made my way towards the stairs that led upstairs. I didn’t have a car and my parents would never know I was there. I had made it half way to the door when Mom’s voice stopped me cold.

“Megan?”

I didn’t answer right away. I just stopped and let my head slump down, as if I were that teenager who had just gotten caught. I heard Mom coming up behind me and with a resigned sigh, I turned to face her.

“Megan, why are you…” Mom stopped when she saw my face. “Honey, you’re crying! What’s wrong?”

“I…” I stopped, unsure of what I was going to say.

“And why are you dressed like that?” Mom asked, looking me up and down.

“Well I…”

I had nothing. The events of the day had left me completely drained. I tried to push my exhausted mind to come up with yet another lie to my mother, but the well was empty. I started to try to say something about a date, but what came out was a sob as my emotions finally overwhelmed me.

“Come here honey!”

Mom immediately came over and put her arms around me. Feeling foolish, but unable to help myself, I put my head down on her shoulder and started crying, not just the tears that had been trickling on and off since I had left Mark, but full, gut-wrenching sobs. Mom didn’t say a word, just held me and gently rubbed my back.

Even as I continued to let myself go, I could feel that old familiar comfort of my mother’s embrace. In the midst of my despair, I remembered how many years I denied myself this embrace, denied my mother the chance to help her daughter.

My sobs increased as I pictured my brother alone in his office, with no one to be there for him. I knew by now Mark’s rage was gone and that he was as upset as I was. I could feel my brother’s loneliness, as if it were my own, because for years it had been.

When my sobs finally died down, to the occasional embarrassing hiccup, Mom stepped back from me, and, taking my hand, led me over to the kitchen table.“Sit down and talk to me”

I allowed myself to be led and after I sat down, Mom walked over to the sink. I heard the water, and when she came back, she had a small, wet towel in her hand. Without a word, Mom took my chin in her hand and started wiping off my face. I tried to pull away, but she just smiled and told me to stop fidgeting. I stopped moving and closed my eyes as Mom pressed the warm towel to them, gently dabbing at my ruined mascara. As I sat there, letting Mom wash my face like she did when I was a little girl, I felt myself beginning to calm down somewhat. As always, Mom had a way of making even the worst things seem a little better. When she was finished, I opened my eyes.

Smiling, Mom said, “Now there’s my beautiful girl!”

I couldn’t help but smile at that, which caused Mom’s smile to widen. She turned and, after tossing the towel in the sink, went over to the fridge. Coming back to the table, Mom handed me a bottle of water and sat down across from me.

“Really, Megan, I don’t know why you cover yourself in that Elvira make up. You’re pale as it is, and it covers up how pretty you are.”

“Just part of the persona, I guess,” I shrugged. “Megan Decosta, the underground artist, wouldn’t wear pink blush and a pony tail.”

“Well, if you were at a showing, I could see that,” Mom nodded. “But today?”

Mom was quiet as she waited for me to respond. Although I felt a little better, my mind was still locked up and I had no idea what I was going to tell her.

“Megan, why are you so upset?” she asked. “And why the hell are you dressed like that?” She shook her head. “You didn’t leave the house like that.”

I laughed to myself as this really was becoming a teenage flashback. Leaving Mom’s in a jeans and a t-shirt, only to go to Betty’s and change into something trashy. Looking at Mom and still having nothing, I simply went with a version of the truth.

“I…I had a lunch date.”

“Dressed like that?” Mom asked, pointing at my chest.

Looking down, I saw that the top two buttons of my blouse were undone and the red corset plainly visible.

“You must have been expecting it to be a great first date!”

“No, I…” I sighed and let a little more truth come out. “It wasn’t a first date, I… I’ve seen this person before.”

“Before?”

“Yeah,” I hesitated then, picturing my brother said, “I’ve known him for years, and whenever I come up here, if I’m not with someone, we get together.”

“Oh,” Mom said. “So is he a, what do they call it? A friend with benefits?”

Continuing with the half truths I answered.

“More like an old flame.”

“Oh, I see.” She nodded. “Trying to get over Laura?”

I looked at my mother, and for a moment felt a desperate urge to tell her. To simply blurt it out, that I was in love with Mark. Tell her that he loved me and wanted us to be together. As I sat there, I could feel the urge growing stronger, the desire to get twenty years worth of lies off of my chest, to ease that guilt, and to maybe even get some help on what the hell to do.

Mom was looking at me calmly, waiting for me to speak and the urge began to fade. In the end if there was to be no future for my brother and me, which is how it was looking at the moment, why would I want to do that? Go through all of the repercussions for nothing. Still, maybe my mother could help me.

“Mom, what would you do if you loved someone that you shouldn’t?”

Mom looked at me for a moment before answering.

“Well what do you mean by shouldn’t? Are they married?”

“Well no.”

“Well hon, I’m confused,” She began. “If they’re not married, and considering you…”She paused, trying to find the right words. “Since you have no problem with either a man or a woman, I don’t see why else you shouldn’t love someone.”

“I…” It was my turn to try to pick my words. “It’s just complicated, Mom it’s more like who it is, could cause some problems.”

Mom leaned back in the chair and seemed to be thinking. I felt myself getting worried, wondering if in reality, I was all but telling her who it was. No, now I was just being nervous. Mom, nor anyone else, for that matter, would suspect that I was closer than I should be with my brother.

“Before I say anything, I am not sure I understand. You just broke up with Laura not two weeks ago, and now you’re asking me about…”

Mom trailed off, then giving me a slight smile, asked, “Honey, have you been in love with this person all along?”

“I…” I stopped, as I once again felt this conversation could end up being too revealing. But, then again, I was at least getting the chance to talk about it. “I think maybe…” I put my head down. “Yes.”

“So I guess what I said about you seeming as if you were waiting for something was close to the mark after all,” Mom nodded.

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“It’s not Tommy is it?”

“No, of course not!” I exclaimed. “Tommy’s married!”

“Well, you said it’s someone you’re not supposed to be with,” she said, spreading her arms out. “Plus, you said old flame. The two of you were engaged at one point.”

“It’s not Tommy, it’s,” I sighed. “Someone you don’t know about.”

Mom nodded and went on. “So does this person feel the same way?”

“I…” I swallowed hard as I told myself to end this now, but so badly needed to try to talk about it. “That’s what we tried to talk about over lunch.”

“I see that it didn’t go well.” Mom said. “So he doesn’t feel…”

“Actually ” I cut her off. “They do feel that way; I’m the one who…” I shrugged. “Same old me, I just can’t seem to make it that easy.” I looked at her. “I think I’m in love with him.”

“Ahhh, so at least I know it’s a him now.”

“But there are so many buts” I told her, feeling myself getting worked up again. “It could cause problems, and mostly for him…”

“Does he care?” Mom asked.

“Well… no but…”

“Then why should you?”

I stopped. That answer made it sound so simple. In most situations, it would be the right one, but Mom had no idea who I was talking about.

“Megan have you told him you love him?”

“Sort of,” I said softly. “That’s how the fight started. I just can’t…”

“But you do.”

“Yes.” I nodded as much to myself as to her. “I do but…”

“You say that word a lot” she laughed. “Funny how years ago you were so impulsive, now you play it so safe.”

“I…”

I frowned. I did not see myself as a safe type of person. Then again, I had to admit that once more, Mom was right. Program had taught me to be careful, to think everything through, lest I put myself in a bad situation. I was safe, and my brother, who had spent his entire life planning and scheming six moves in advance, had thrown caution to the wind.

“Megan listen,” Mom cut into my thoughts. “I don’t have a lot of experience myself with this subject,” She leaned forward and gave me a small grin.

“But,” she emphasized the word causing me to roll my eyes, “I’ve seen a lot over the years, and unrequited love is a tough thing.”

“Well, it’s not really unrequited,” I pointed out. “I did kind of…”

“Megan, until you have point blank looked each other in the eye and said ‘I love you’ with no room for interpretation, then it is unrequited, understand?”

As I nodded, I heard my brother’s voice in my head from Saturday night. “Megan, I love you, I love you so much.” The best I had come up with today was ‘Yes’ and ‘I was in love.

“The thing about it, Megan,” Mom continued. “Is that if you never acknowledge that love, then it becomes unfair to a lot of people.”

“It’s unfair to the person you truly love, as they will never know it, and it’s unfair to people like Laura.” As she continued, Mom was looking directly into my eyes. “They become casualties, Go-betweens, while you try to give your heart to someone other than who you truly want to give it to.” She pointed at me.

“And of course, hon, it’s unfair to you. You’ll spend your life never feeling whole and always wondering what could have been.”

“B…” I caught myself. “What if it doesn’t work, then what?”

“Then you move on. At that point, you’ll have gone after your heart’s desire, found out it wasn’t meant to be, and now the next time you meet someone like Laura, you will be open for it to work.”

I was silent as again I heard Mark in my head, this time explaining how he had set Samantha free in order to know once and for all if I was his true love.

“So if I were you Megan, I would tell them how you feel and let all the other stuff work itself out.” Mom smiled. “You’d be surprised how easily things can fall into place when your heart’s where it belongs.”

“Yeah well, I think I lost the chance.” I told her sadly.

“Honey, if you didn’t really say it, then it’s never too late to do that. Trust me no matter how upset you may have made him, hearing those words from you will make it all better.”

I…” I shook my head. “It’s too late for now Mom, it got pretty ugly and,” I put my hands up. “I have to leave at six; I can’t miss the meeting with Walsh.”

Mom frowned, and I had the feeling she did not agree with what I had just said. A moment later she proved me right.

“Money isn’t everything Megan,” she shook her head sadly. “Look at Mark, he put his name on the map the way you’re hoping to be and he’s miserable.”

Reaching across the table she took my hand.

“I know it’s not easy honey. Love is the best feeling in the world, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take work. If you feel you blew it, and need to go back home then go ahead.” She shrugged. “You said this has been going on awhile, maybe there will be another time.”

“I…I don’t think so.” I whispered as I felt the tears start to trickle from my eyes again. “He… pushed me for an answer Mom and I…”

I stopped as I knew if I kept going the sobs would come back. Mom had in essence said everything my brother had, why was I the only one who didn’t get it? Was I that broken? Was Mark right? That I really didn’t know how to be happy? Mom squeezed my hand then standing, came around the table and hugged me from behind. I felt her touch the locket she had given me, reaching up, I held her hand to it, pressing my own over it.

“I love you Mom.” I said softly.

“I love you too Megan.” Mom said in my ear. “Listen honey, things didn’t go well today, but you never know what can happen. For now though things are what they are. You’re upset and exhausted.” Mom turned her head and kissed me on the cheek.

“It’s only three, why don’t you go upstairs and lie down for a couple of hours. I’ll get you up at five.”

“Okay.” I doubted I would sleep, but a couple of hours alone would hopefully help me get myself together. After all I had a name to make for myself. I felt the tears flow more as I heard Mark’s last remark; “Go take care of yourself; it’s what you do best.”

Mom let go of me and I slowly stood up to head upstairs. As I passed Mom, she asked;

“What time is Mark picking you up for the airport?”

“He’s not.” I said quietly

“Really? He always does.”

“Yeah well he’s kind of busy, tying things up at work.” I sighed. “I…I was hoping you guys would take me.”

“Of course we will honey.” Mom frowned. “You know you said yesterday you had a fight with Mark, things okay with you two?”

I nodded

“Yeah, like I said he’s busy.” I started to walk away and stopped again. “Oh by the way he promised he was going to call you tomorrow and see if you wanted to go to dinner.”

“With no prompting from his big sister, of course!” Mom laughed.

“Of course not.” I said giving her a pathetic attempt at a smile and hoping Mark would follow through on his promise that he would.

“Yeah well I won’t hold my breath.” Mom said then reaching up and wiping the tears from my cheek said; “Go get some rest honey.”

I entered my old bedroom and noticed that Mom had picked up after me. All the clothes I had tossed around had been washed, folded and put into my suitcase, which was sitting open on the foot of the bed. I dropped my heels on the bed next to the suitcase, and then quickly peeled out of the corset and mini skirt.

As I took the corset off, I looked in the mirror, and shook my head at the silver chain running across my tits and down and around my waist. It had been a nice surprise for a little while, anyway. I fumbled with the clasps, my trembling fingers causing me to make several attempts. Removing the chain, I walked over to put it into the small compartment built into the top of the suitcase. The room was not as hot as it had been, and reaching into the suitcase I pulled out a plain black t-shirt.

I closed the suitcase, put it on the floor, and closed the blinds so I could lie down. I probably wouldn’t sleep, but at least I might rest. I went to pull the covers down and froze. The journal was on my pillow. There was a note attached, a post-it from Mom. I switched on the lamp so I could read it.

Megan, found this on the floor and wasn’t sure if you wanted it or not. If not just toss it back in the box.

Toss it was exactly what I wanted to do, but right in the trash where it couldn’t be found. With my luck, Mom would take that box to a church bizarre, and some Latin student would find it and get his rocks off.

Sitting down on the edge of the bed, I put the top half on the nightstand. It hadn’t all been bad; there were some sweet memories in there. I found myself thinking of my entry about that rainy Saturday morning when my brother and I had felt more between us. All those years, had they been wasted? Or would we have ended up doing more harm to each other than good back then?

Shaking my head, I picked up the second half of the journal. My intention was to put it on the nightstand as well. Instead, I held onto it and caught myself staring at the black ribbon marking my last entries. I wrote most of it while in New York and had finished it while staying at Mark’s and my parents before entering rehab for the last time.

I started a new journal in rehab, and had vowed to never read about those dark days again. In fact, had I known this book was still floating around, when I got out; I would have burned it in a ceremony to rid myself of it and those painful memories.

I started to put it down, but, as if it had a will of its own, my arm stopped. I thought back to earlier, when Mark made that ‘big girl’ crack. I had taken him up on it and gotten a lot more than I had bargained for. The ‘be careful of what you wish for’, expression at its finest. As I continued to stare at the half of a book in my hand, my heart started to pound. I had gotten in my brother’s face and yelled at him about how I was no longer that weak, needy person anymore, that I could handle both my past and my present.

Still, did I need this? There was nothing but heartache in those pages, the culmination of ten years of addiction, when things had gotten so bad that it caused my brother and me to turn on each other. There was no reason to do this to myself.

Yet my arm still moved no farther. I narrowed my eyes. There was something more there, something I had forgotten, and that had a connection to the present. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on what I did remember from those entries. I saw my brother over me, a look of tenderness on his face. As before, the image came and went before my tired mind could latch onto it Opening my eyes, I stared at the journal. Like a train wreck, I knew I shouldn’t want to see it, but I had to look.

I shook my head. What would Mark do?

“Fuck it,” I whispered.

After all, it’s not like I could feel much worse than I already did.

Reaching back I propped up the pillow and, leaning against it, I pulled my knees up like I used to do when I was a kid. Resting the book on my thighs, I took a deep breath and took the plunge into my last days of addiction.

Chapter Two

Six years ago

I awoke slowly, and as my eyes opened I found myself staring at an old wall with badly peeling wallpaper. Beneath the ugly yellow paper was an even uglier cracked and water-stained wall. Lying there, I tried to focus through the dull ache in my head and remember where I was. This was certainly a far cry from the beautiful bedroom in the East side apartment Tommy and I had been living in the last four months.

I was lying on my back, and propping myself up on my elbows, looked around the room. All the walls were a mess and there was one window that was covered with threadbare curtains. I winced at both the light streaming through the curtains and how dry my throat was as I swallowed. Sitting up straight, I glanced over the bed and saw that I was only lying on a mattress.

On the floor next to me was a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and a half empty bottle of Budweiser. I saw my clothes in a pile near the end of the bed, and, realizing I was topless and a little chilly, I leaned over to grab the blue blouse on top of the pile.

I felt movement next to me and with a start; I noticed I was not in bed alone. I closed my eyes before I looked over, hoping to hell it wasn’t a guy. I was engaged after all. Turning my head, I opened my eyes and saw I was in bed with a young, pretty blond who my hazy mind recognized as Amber.

Well, that told me where I was, anyway. Amber was the younger sister of Jake Harris, a small-time dealer and notorious party hound. As I looked at Amber, I shook my head, I had just turned thirty-one and she had graduated high school not more than a few weeks ago. I slid the blouse on and hoped I hadn’t actually fooled around with her. Maybe we had just slept together, as I was sure there were several guys spread out around the apartment outside of the room we were in.

Bringing my right hand to my face, I sniffed my fingers. I sighed softly at the sweet smell of her pussy and quickly removed my hand before I got myself worked up again.

I should be ashamed of myself; this girl was barely an adult. On that note, all thoughts of sex left my mind as it hit me that Amber wasn’t the only thing I should be ashamed of.

Reaching down to the floor, I grabbed the cigarettes and, after lighting one, felt Amber stir next to me. I looked over to see that she had rolled over onto her back. The sheet pulled away from her and I stared at her perfect little perky tits, with their adorable pink nipples. I quickly shifted my eyes from her soft, young flesh to her face.

Amber opened her eyes. I winced at how bloodshot her normally beautiful green eyes were. Her skin was pasty white and she was sweating. She turned her head to me and mumbled, “I don’t feel good.”

I pulled the sheet up over her tits, and, after gently rubbing the back of my hand across her cheek, I whispered to her, “Go back to sleep. You’ll feel better when you wake up.”

She attempted smile and closed her eyes. I caressed her cheek until I could tell by her breathing that she had gone back to sleep. I finished the cigarette, then got up and slipped on the black panties and short black skirt I had worn last night, and grabbing my heels and purse, I quietly left the room.

My head pounded as I slowly made my way through the living room. Jake and two guys I didn’t know were passed out on the couch and the floor. I went into the small bathroom, and after going, I stood at the sink and looked at my reflection in the cracked mirror. My eyes were as red as Amber’s, and I saw with dismay that my nose was running. I sniffed and felt an all too familiar burning in my nostrils. Yeah, Amber really was the least of the sins I had committed last night.

I started to open the door when my stomach convulsed and I vomited into the sink. I retched several more times before sinking to my knees, my eyes watering and I to tried to catch my breath. Without looking, I reached up and turned the faucet on, letting the water run. After a couple of minutes, I stood up, and, using toilet paper, I washed out the sink as best as I could.

I walked back through the living room. Jake was sitting up on the couch, smoking. He nodded at me as I walked by. Going into the kitchen, I found a glass in the sink that didn’t look too dirty and forced myself to drink some cold water. Reaching into my purse, I took out the purple Daniel Steiger watch that Tommy had bought me for my birthday-and that I had been smart enough to put in my purse- and saw that it was 10am. I frowned. What day was this? Tuesday, it was Tuesday and…

“Shit,” I said softly.

I was supposed to be in work at 9am. Oh, well, too late now. Even if I were to drive there right now, I was a fucking mess and could barely walk, never mind smile and put make up on women all day. Putting the watch on and making my way out into the living room, I saw Jake had pulled the coffee table over to him and was already cutting cocaine into lines on a glass plate. Looking up at me, he smiled. I saw his eyes were bright and knew that he had already snorted a couple of lines.

“Hey Megan, up for some breakfast?”

I looked longingly at the table. I wanted it so bad. It was just what I needed. Hell, if I did a couple of lines and took a shower, I would be good enough to go to work. I knelt down across the table from him. I fumbled in my purse, and to my dismay, I only had fifteen dollars in my wallet. I’d had over two hundred last night.

“I…I’m kinda broke,” I told Jake.

Jake ran his hand through his long black hair and gave me a smirk. “Well, hey, kiddo, you’re already on your knees.”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I…I don’t do that anymore, I have money at home.”

“Yeah, well, I haven’t seen you around in months. How the hell do I know you’ll pay me?”

I shook my head and started to get up.

“Hey, how about the watch?” Jake asked.

“I can’t.” I told him. “It was a….”

“I’ll let you do a couple off of what’s here and give you a little for later.” Jake leaned over to stare at the watch. “My girl would love that.”

“I…” I hesitated.

I couldn’t. What the hell would Tommy think? I could always tell him I lost it. I frowned as I thought of Tommy. I hadn’t even gone home last night.

As Jake looked at me expectantly, I jumped as the front door opened and Joe, Jake’s roommate, came in.

“Hey, you get smokes?” Jake asked.

“Yup.” Joe reached into a bag and tossed Jake a pack of Marlboro’s then he pulled out a newspaper. “Hey, check this shit out, Megan!”

I looked at the paper and my eyes widened as right there on the front page was a picture of Mark. My brother was standing on the steps of the courthouse, facing a group of reporters who were all pointing microphones at him. Before I could make out the headline, Joe turned the paper to face Jake.

“Look at that!”He laughed. “Fucking Mad Dog hitting the big time!”

“No shit!” Jake said, nodding. “Hell, I remember when his punk ass was bouncing at Babyhead.” He shook his head. “I saw that crazy bastard kick the shit out of three guys at once one night! So what’s it say?”

Joe turned the paper to him and started reading.

“Despite numerous witnesses recanting their testimonies, attorney Mark Phillips not only vows to obtain a conviction, but warns reputed mobster Vincent Dimucci that he has until Friday to accept the AG’s last offer or he will take it off the table for good and pursue a maximum sentence.” Joe laughed. “Fucking Mark!”

Seeing the picture of my brother made me feel lower than I already did. Standing up from the table, I told Jake I had to go.

Jake shrugged, “Don’t be a stranger.”As I left, he added, “And no hard feelings about you thinking my sister’s hotter than me!”

Joe laughed and I didn’t know what was worse, that I had taken advantage of Jake’s sister, or that he thought it was funny.

I walked outside into the cool September morning and getting into my car, drove a couple of miles towards Cranston before pulling over in front of a small playground. My stomach felt nauseous and I needed some air. I also had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do. There were a couple of small benches in front of the currently deserted swings and, getting out of the car, I went and sat down on one of them.

Once I sat, I realized that I had been here several times with Dad. He would always take me to playgrounds alone. It was our special time together. I put my head in my hands and started to cry. Even though I had, up until a week or so ago, been sober for several months, my father barely spoke to me. I had done so much damage in the last few years that he still held it against me.

I didn’t blame him. That day that he stood with me in court because Mark was out of town, and heard the judge read off the charge of prostitution had been more than he could handle.

Taking my head from my hands, I removed the cigarettes from my purse and lit one. As I took a long, deep drag, I saw the cell phone that Mark got for me, and with a feeling of dread, I took it out.

I had fifteen missed calls and several voice mails. Scrolling through the calls I saw they were mostly from Tommy Starting from yesterday when I was supposed to come home from work, and the last one was at one am. There were also three from my brother, the first at eleven, when Tommy must have called him to say he couldn’t find me.

I saw a number from this morning and saw it was work. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I put the phone to my ear to listen to the voicemails. The first few were Tommy, starting with a casual ‘When you coming home?’ and escalating to the final one:

“Megan, honey call me back, it’s…” He paused and I felt the tears start, as I could hear his voice breaking. “It’s okay if you’re well you know…, just please come home Megan, I’m not mad honey, just worried.” He paused again. “Please Megan. You know I’ll always love you.”

The next message was from Mark:

“Megan, you need to call me, sis. Tommy’s worried and so am I.” He sighed into the phone. “Look Meg, Tommy told me you… you haven’t been doing well lately. I know how you get when you fall. You think you hurt us and we’ll be upset.” Mark paused and I pictured how sad he was as he tried to tell me things were okay. “But, it’s okay, so just call me. If you don’t want to go home, you can stay with me. If you need a ride, I’ll come get you, I don’t care where you are or who you’re with, just…” There was another pause before he added quietly, “Please call me, sis.”

As I sat there, crying with the phone to my ear, I listened to the last voicemail. It was Joanne from work:

“I’m sorry, Megan. I know you have problems, but today was the third no-call-no-show in two weeks. I have to let you go.”

I shook my head, fired from a job that most teenage girls could handle. I went to put the phone back in my purse, then stopped. Swallowing hard and doing the best I could to control my voice, I called Mark. I knew he was in court and it would go to voicemail. I left him a brief message, saying that I was okay and would call him later. I didn’t call Tommy. I knew that no matter where he was, he would answer.

I didn’t have it in me to hear the disappointment in his voice. Putting the phone away, I sat back on the bench. That old feeling of guilt was gnawing at me. After nearly six months of sobriety, last week I succumbed to that huge empty hole in my heart and filled it with the only thing that gave me comfort: drugs and alcohol.

After ten years, I knew all too well that that comfort was only temporary, but it was better than suffering constantly. The last few months, everyone had been happy with me, Mark, Tommy, and Mom, all thrilled that I was sober and healthy. They didn’t have to worry about me.

Four months ago, Tommy took me up to his parents’ beach house and proposed to me. Caught off guard, I said yes. I did love Tommy, and God only knew it was a miracle that he loved me after how poorly I had treated him and how many times I had disappointed him.

As I thought of Tommy, I looked at the beautiful half karat Marquis on my finger and shook my head in disgust. I shouldn’t be wearing it. I shouldn’t be living with Tommy in his beautiful apartment and letting him take care of me. In my defense, two weeks ago, after I had gone back to cocaine, I tried to give Tommy the ring back.

“You deserve better,” I told him.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Tommy replied, “I love you. I’ll never give up on you.”

The shame of it was that I had not just wanted Tommy to take the ring back over the drugs. Since I had become engaged, Mark would not have sex with me. I’d spent a week with him not too long before Tommy proposed, but had not been with him since.

I longed for my brother’s embrace!

This, by far, was the longest we had ever gone, and I needed him badly. I had done my best to behave and not seduce him out of respect for Tommy, but lately, Mark had been all I could think about. Until I picked up my habit again that is. As I thought about Mark, I felt another wave of remorse pass through me. My brother was on the brink of making or breaking his career. The last thing he needed was to worry about his disgrace of a sister.

Two months ago, taking advantage of a loophole in Rhode Island law that allowed a case to be prosecuted by an attorney from the private sector, Mark conned the AG’s office into giving him a case involving a reputed mob hit man. Vincent Dimuccio had been tried twice, and both times, the case was thrown out of court, due to witnesses changing their stories. This was round three, and the AG’s office was ready to drop it. But it was an election year, and they needed to try to save face.

Mark strolled in and told them to let him have it. What did they have to lose? After a lot of negotiation, Mark took lead on the case, and somehow pulled new witnesses out of thin air. The trial had been getting a lot of attention and my brother a lot of press. But lately, things had been going sour. Once again, people were shying away from their testimonies. Mark had received several death threats.

The last time I saw Mark was last week, and he looked completely exhausted. Jim Howard had promised Mark junior partner at the age of thirty if he could pull this off. But if he lost, he would gain the reputation of being a loose cannon who couldn’t back up his claim of being the best attorney in the state.

I felt my eyes filling yet again as I remembered the last time I saw Mark. He was not only tired, but completely frustrated, as well. Up until a few weeks into the case, he’d had a live-in “pet,” as he referred to them. This one, a twenty-year-old journalism major named Kelly, had been with him for three months.

My brother claimed she was the best he’d ever had. Unfortunately, Mark was forced to move her out due to the scrutiny of the press and the threats he was receiving. He complained that he hadn’t gotten laid in three weeks, and that he’d barely slept in the same time frame.

And I was sitting there feeling guilty as hell, because two nights before I had come to see him, I had stayed at Jake’s house after doing an entire eight ball.

Tommy promised not to say anything to Mark. I felt terrible as my brother commented on how proud he was of me. Once Mark grumbled about needing sex, however, I forgot all about my relapse. I slid over to him on the couch and kissed him long and hard. Mark initially gave in, kissing me back just as hard and shoving his tongue into my eager mouth. I had his jeans unzipped and his hands were on their way under my shirt when he quickly pulled away and told me that we couldn’t.

I started crying. “I need you. I miss you. Not just the sex, but you holding me, and being in your bed.”

Mark looked as upset as I was, but he held fast. “It’s not right. You and Tommy are getting married, and our rule is if one of us is involved, then there wouldn’t be anything between us.”

He did let me lie back against his chest, his arms around my waist, in the corner of the couch, and we fell asleep for a few hours. I woke up first. I felt myself yearning to feel my brother’s embrace every night, to be with him and not Tommy. I knew it could never be, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. That is, until I went out the next night and got falling down drunk. Upon coming home, I tried yet again to give Tommy his ring back.

I sighed as lighting another cigarette, I sat back on the bench and stared off into space, trying to let my mind drift and calm down. I closed my eyes, and suddenly opened them again as something dawned on me.

As Mark had put it in his message, I had fallen again.

The difference this time, however, was that with crystal clarity, I realized that I did not want to get back up.