CHAPTER 1

CHRISTIAN XAVIER SOLOMON

Black Pillar Island: his mother’s solution to their lifetime of problems. Christian’s mother had raised him to deal with life by burying all that was wrong and turning his back on it. But Christian didn’t believe such a quick fix would cure years of poison. His life, and everything that surrounded it, was a quagmire of pain and disillusionment. Everything . . . except one thing. That one thing had come and gone, but it was something he would never let go of.

The life he had lived in Stoneminster Falls since birth was rotten to the core. It was all he’d ever really known. He could only conclude that everything he would touch, even if it was a new city, would all end with the same result. He found it almost comical that his mother thought simply living in a different place while working another dead-end job would make things different. Could they have been? It was such a frustrating question when the answer always remained the same. Maybe it wasn’t so comical after all. It was a new start, though. He could take it by the hand and see where it led him. Maybe he could be proactive and make things different, instead of continuing to lock himself in the dark shell that had always been his prison.

He lay on the floor amongst scattered, unpacked boxes and bags. This small, cluttered space was now his room. His thoughts flowed through his head like a river raging towards a waterfall that eventually just hurls itself into a misty pool of oblivion. Some would supposedly find this darkly beautiful, but Christian found it empty. Yet this is where he chose to remain as he stared at the yellow, cigarette-stained ceiling. What am I doing here?

His mother had asked him at least three times to put everything away, but he didn’t know where to start. He didn’t want to start. His self-justified defiance made him question why he even should. He didn’t choose any of this. That bitch should be the one to do it if she wanted it done. It was the least she could do.

His hand protected an unopened envelope pressed firmly against his chest. He held it up towards the bedroom light, hesitant to open it. Everything he had ever thought was good and had cared about was tucked neatly inside that little package. He feared that by reading its contents the one positive thing he once had would come crumbling down like everything else in the first seventeen years of his life. On the other hand, if it remained untouched, nothing bad could come of it. Ignorance of reality can never disappoint a person.

What did it matter anyway? Opening the envelope wasn’t going to change anything. It was already a loss with no sense of closure. The words on that piece of paper were irrelevant now that goodbye had already come and gone.

“Fuck it,” he whispered.

He got up off the floor and reached into his duffel bag, pulling out a pocket knife. He gently sliced open the top of the envelope, taking care not to disturb the area where her saliva had sealed it. That was the one and only thing he could preserve. His chest pounded as he slid his fingers in, gripping the thin slip of paper.

“Christian! What the hell?”

Christian quickly dropped the envelope. Still clutching the pocket knife, he looked at his mother with disgust, and discreetly nudged the envelope behind a box with his foot.

His mother pushed a stack of boxes to the side, easing her way into his room. “You haven’t even touched one single thing in here. What have you been doing?”

“I’ve been doing whatever I’m doing.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” She walked towards him, noticeably trying to peer around the box where he was hiding the letter. “Chrissy, what’s in that envelope?”

He put his head down, avoiding eye contact.

Her irritable excitement quickly calmed. “Christian baby, is that from her?”

“It’s none of your business.”

“This is a fresh start, Chrissy. Let’s try to keep looking forward and–”

“Chrissy is a girl’s name. Don’t call me that anymore.”

She sighed, disappointment and sadness replacing the sternness and concern on her face.

“You need to start leaving the past behind you and let those things go. Including her.”

“I know Mom, she’s gone. Permanently. I get it. I wish you would do the same thing sometimes. Can you please not smoke that in my room?”

His mother’s eyes moistened. She took the cigarette in her right hand and butted it in the ash tray she held in her left. She wiped her eyes quickly and turned to leave, but paused at the doorway and turned around.

Before she could speak another word, Christian continued. “What? Don’t look at me like that.”

“You aren’t the only one that hurts, Christian. I’m trying really hard here. What have I done that’s so wrong?”

“Good question. What haven’t you done wrong?”

“I’ve done this all for you!”

“Running here? You’ve done nothing for me.”

“That’s not true, Chrissy!”

“You think by running here things will be different?”

“You’ve only been here for three days!”

“Things will never be different! Shit happens, over and over and over! And don’t lie to me and tell me you care. You’ve only ever showed that you don’t.”

“How can you say that?”

“Don’t think these so-called changes you’ve made suddenly makes you mother of the year. It doesn’t.”

She stepped out of the room and Christian quickly slammed the door behind her, leaning his back against it and sliding down to the floor. He hugged his knees to his chest. His eyes brimmed with tears; not of remorse, but of hatred.

It was the only emotion he ever felt. So strong, so dominating. Hatred birthed by years of unforgiveable pain.

If only he could inflict this pain on everybody who had ever hurt him or let him down. Even though he got the blame for standing up to that fat bastard back home, for once in his life, it felt good to finally stand up for himself. If he had to do it again, he would. He wouldn’t get knocked down anymore. Not this time around.

Although he didn’t fully believe he had what it took to follow through with his new thought process, he might as well try to speak it into existence.

Besides, there was only one thing back home that could ease his pain.

He glared at the half-open envelope on the floor. He retrieved it on the way to the bare mattress and pillow he called his bed. Lying down, he took a pack of cigarettes and matches out from under the mattress. Despite telling his mother to put hers out, he lit up, then slipped the paper out of the envelope. After a deep drag, he unfolded it.

*******

Hey Christian,

This is really hard for me to write. I wish I could have had the chance to speak to you in person, but you couldn’t even find it in yourself to say good-bye. Rightfully so, I guess.

I’m starting the communications program at South Stony in a week; you know, for the whole journalism thing? Writing is my passion, and I write about anything and everything all the time. But despite it all, I can’t figure out why I find it so difficult to know what to write to you in this letter.

Even though I’m at a loss for words, I think of you every single day…and my heart breaks more and more.

Do you remember that fall 10 years ago? Do you ever think about that? I do all the time. It seems so long ago. I thought you were so cute, with your pudgy cheeks that still had all their baby fat. Should I even mention your lisp? I cannot forget that cute little lisp you used to have. And I still laugh inside at how you didn’t even want to acknowledge me when I approached you at the park. You acknowledged me once I let you play with my Gameboy, though. You told me, “Girls aren’t supposed to play video games.” That was so typical of you, even to this day.

But most importantly, that was the day I met who I still consider my best friend.

I really wish things didn’t turn out the way they did, Chris. It just makes me so sad that when you came to me, I turned you away. You just don’t know how truly sorry I am for that. I didn’t know how far you were willing to go to escape your life; if I did, I wouldn’t have told you to leave that night.

I just want you to know how much you really mean to me, Chris. You were my first real friend, my first kiss and my first love. Yes, I said it: my first love. I always wanted to tell you that, but you push away any positive feelings anybody, including me, tries to show you. I understand that you hate yourself, and I also understand why you’re so bitter towards the world. But you need to know that you’re such a good person underneath all that sadness, anger and pain.

I know that for many years people have treated you very badly; but you can’t let people, especially those people, define who you are. Sometimes I think I know you more than you know yourself. From the outside looking in, I see so many wonderful aspects of your character that you never let out. At least you were able to sometimes show that side to me, and I feel privileged to know what a remarkable person you really are.

I know all you want in life is to know what real happiness is, and I only wish I could turn back time and be the one to show you.

Remember, none of these things in your life are your fault. You are not to blame.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know how much I care for you. This is the only way I could tell you. I admire you for everything you are–and don’t ever forget that. It just shouldn’t have ended the way it did. And I wish, wish, wish you just stayed with me that night. I thank God every day that you are ok, and I hope you can find happiness and inner peace, because you deserve it.

Just so you know, I will always be here for you…no matter what.

Victoria
xoxo

 

CHAPTER 2

DIANA SOLOMON

Diana, just out of the shower, retrieved a towel off the rack. She thought back to the conversation with Christian and sighed. Why must everything be a fight?

Did she fail him so severely that all their communication had to be a confrontation? It wasn’t like she was overly strict with him; in fact, Christian was always given his space. Maybe that was the problem.

Even more troubling was the realization that it was hard to love someone who seemed to hate her so much.

Getting ready to wait tables at the strip club till odd hours of the morning only added to her gloom. She sat at her dresser mirror staring at her makeup. Before picking up her lipstick she studied her face; once beautiful, was now worn out and tired and too aged for only being thirty-six. Her tired look was permanent.

With aching sadness, she softly ran her fingers down her cheek, feeling a mask hiding something that no one but her knew was there. She slightly turned her head right and left, exposing her teeth, lamenting over their discoloration. They were yellow and seemed on the verge of rotting away. She picked up her brush and vigorously dragged through the knots in her wet, stiff, bleach-blonde hair.

The phone rang and there was only one person she had given her number to. “Dammit Mom.”

She put her brush down and half-heartedly walked over to the phone.

“Hi Mom.”

“Hi Di, it’s me.”

“Miranda?”

“Yeah, I got your number from your mother.”

Diana grabbed her hair as if to pull it out. “I was planning on calling you but I have had so much–”

“Save it, Di. Why didn’t you at least tell me you were leaving?”

“Well, shit, all you would have done was talk me out of it as usual.”

“You could have at least told me.”

“It’s all for Christian.” Diana fiddled with the phone cord and leaned her back against the wall.

“How are you going to fix your son when you’ve hardly been able to fix yourself?”

“You know what, Miranda, this is why I left without getting your fricken permission.”

“Ok, what’s done is done, I’m just concerned. I need to know, have you had any cravings?”

“What the hell, Miranda? You know I haven’t touched ice in twenty-six months.”

“I wasn’t talking about meth. Anyways, have you told him yet?”

“He wouldn’t care in the least.” Diana looked at the floor and massaged her temples with her middle finger and thumb.

“Did you find a new doctor?”

“I’m not going to chemo, if that’s what you mean.”

“It sounds like you’re giving up.”

“Just because you’re my sponsor doesn’t mean you know what’s best for me.” Diana took the phone away from her ear, held it in front of her and glanced at the receiver.

“I was your sponsor, you mean. I’m here as your friend, as I’ve always been.”

“Look, I have to go to work,” Diana said.

“Have you had a drink?”

“I’m a meth addict, not an alcoholic. Why does it feel like you are interrogating me?”

“That concerns me right–”

“I’m not your concern. If I had a drink or not, it’s all over for me now, anyway.”

“Don’t say that, you have options. Don’t–”

“Give up?” Diana said, “well I give up!”

Diana slammed the phone down. She reached for it again, but pulled her hand back.

She walked over to her night table, sat on the edge of the bed and opened the drawer. There lay an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels. Staring at the amber liquid in the bottle was as if she were locking eyes with her greatest enemy or best friend, depending on which day it was. She grasped the bottle with both hands, closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

When it was cracked open she was calmed by the comforting aroma of numbness. She put the bottle to her mouth and tilted her head back quickly, longing for that lingering burn in her throat.

However, as soon as the soothing, warm liquid filled her mouth, she jumped up and ran to the bathroom, bottle in hand. She spit the whiskey into the sink. Befriending her worst enemy again was too close for comfort.

The bottle now sat on the counter as she wiped her mouth in a hand towel and began to cry. Turning back to the sink, she looked at the bottle and then the drain.

She wiped the tears from her eyes, picked up the bottle and returned to her night table to put it back in the drawer and resume her position in front of the dresser mirror. Frustrated, she began to rip through her knotted hair with her brush again, whispering, “I’m not an alcoholic.”

 

Copyright © 2016 Richard L. Ross
All Rights Reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or in any means – by electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without prior written permission.

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