Coffee and Other Forms of Poison

Chapter 6

(Medicine by: Daughter)

It took every ounce of effort in her faint body not to weep too loudly during the black nights that followed. Not to dig her trembling fingernails too deep into the mattress beneath her. Bags formed heavy violet shadows beneath her eyes and Piper's once sanguine blood became infused with liquor and cheap wine. The waste basket in the kitchen overflowed with empty glass bottles and the musty smell of spoiled alcohol became numb to her senses. She'd start her morning off with a glass of scotch or a few gulps of vodka straight from the bottle, which would last her up until the late afternoon. Then she'd sober up on the way to work until a splitting headache would constrict her by lunch. Then she'd return home and throw back a bottle of whiskey and scarf down whatever she had in her starving fridge and finish working until she'd pass out, wherever that happened to be. But the burning sensation of booze only kept her full for so long. After a few short hours of listless euphoria, she'd feel the horrible pangs of emptiness inside her begin to scream again. She'd feel the void form a pit deep in her chest and she'd try to purge herself senseless of that feeling. But she'd only find herself vomiting over the toilet bowl for a few minutes before returning to whatever bottle poison she was drinking before.

She fucked up. She knew she made a god awful mistake and it slept with her beneath the sheets as guilt mixed in with the saltiness of her tears. Her demons' voices were serrated and grim. They were cold as they ghosted against her skin. She would lie there in bed for hours upon hours, just replaying the wretched scene in her head. Every painfully minuscule detail included. She'd picture the features of Alex's face, the curves on her body and the hurt that was hidden behind that fucking expression after Piper snapped.

She also knew she fucked up when she turned Amelia away when she just tried to help that Tuesday. Concern still outlined the adolescent features of her face when she muttered a demure "okay" before walking away, leaving Piper alone. Again.

It ripped her in two.

She hadn't seen or heard from Alex since that night and she wondered if her hair was still as black as the rims of her glasses or if her eyes still looked like emeralds in the sun. But gathering up the fragmented memories of the woman she once held would only make her cry even harder than she was before.

She didn't even know why she let those tears claw down her face the way they did and why she felt everything in such manners of extremity. After all it was just sex. Those nights with Alex's fingers braided in the strands of her blonde hair were nothing. They were vapor. Meaningless. So why did it all matter so much to her? Why did she even care?

Why did she abandon her in the first place?

Because what Alex said that wretched day was right.

Piper was fucking scared.

From the moment those red lips curved so easily in that goddamn smile in October, she knew she was fucked. She knew that she'd go in too deep, even when she promised herself that she'd stay in shallow water. All the scars from Stella's hellish realm were ripped open and the blood from the past was running red.

Pressing herself with questions didn't help. It only made her think of Alex more.

And it only made her go in ever deeper.


It was deafening echo of what happened years ago. After Sylvia left and Alex was damned to her personal circle of hell. But this hell wasn't fiery or burning with embers of red. This hell was dark. Void of light. As if someone had snuffed out the sun and the stars and every glimmer of hope in the cosmos. She wanted to feel sad. She wanted to crawl beneath the sheets and cry until her eyes began to rust. She wanted to scream into her pillow until her throat was raw and her vocal chords were torn to shreds. She wanted to feel the weight of gloom grow heavy upon her chest as she felt her lungs fill up with distress. She so fucking badly wanted to feel the every essence of sadness.

But she was Alex Vause and she didn't have the time.

She couldn't eat. She wouldn't eat. Everything she tried to put in her system would receive prompt rejection and she'd vomit, clutching the icy sides of the toilet seat until her knuckles went white. She'd vomit even if she didn't eat that day, as if her body was trying to rid itself some inexplicable yet mortal virus that churned about inside. She'd work until the whites of her eyes were bloodshot and she saw patterns and stars in each blink. Aside from closing deals and booking trips, not a single sound would escape her cracked and tired lips. But when there was no work left to be done, she would sit at the edge of her bed, staring wordlessly at the somber, beige wall. Never moving. Just watching in shock as if she had seen a murder. Dark circles cursed her eyes and sleep became a fantasy. Something told only in children's story books. She'd lie in bed with static screen bursting behind her eyes, the white noise blaring until her ears bled. Sawlike tears would prick her eyes, begging to be set free and drag down her sleepless cheeks. But she would never let them feel sweet release as she locked them up inside their ocular prison. She'd roll around in bed until the morning hours came and then she'd repeat the insidious cycle over.

As if it was normal.

As if this misery was all completely normal.

But one day she caught a glimpse of something sitting shyly behind the mirrored cabinet. Like a small beacon of light above the sink. She scrambled onto her wobbly feet from the cold bathroom floor and snatched the orange capsule in her clammy palms, fumbling with it in her tremor-laden hands. She adjusted her glasses to read the small text printed on the label.

Px#: 5291620-14798

Vause, Amelia

Prozac (Fluoxetine Hydrochloride) 20 mg

That's all Alex needed to read before she was swallowing two pills dry.


(Fix You by: Coldplay)

Amelia saw it all. How deep the violet circles around her mother's weary eyes had become. She saw the gaunt shadows of her cheekbones darken by the hour and she saw her weakened heart sink through the windows of her pupils. She saw her working relentlessly and heard her assertive business voice falter as she spoke. She saw her stumble into the kitchen at 4 in the morning, scouring the shelves for booze. She smelled the pungent odor on her clothes and in the air. She felt sharp pains in her very soul when she'd hear her mother retching in the bathroom at night. She'd go in and hold back Alex's midnight hair as she hurled and the helpless girl would ask if everything was okay. Her broken mother would say nothing, just a crippled smile and a nod. Amelia wouldn't do anything. She didn't dare pry any further.

She'd just stand over her and feel her heart shatter.

The brown paper bag crinkled in Amelia's hand as she knocked softly on Alex's white door. It was already cracked an inch and it pushed open even with the light amount of pressure it received. She peered inside the lonely bedroom. Untouched plates and cups had accumulated on the bedside table from when the girl tried to feed her mother. The bed was unmade. The pillows were in disarray and the wrinkled linens were bunched up near the woman who sat by the edge. Her curved back was facing Amelia, who crept inside with tentative steps.

"Hey, mom. I brought you soup," she chirped. Her voice was loving and hushed, sure not to disturb the woman's "peace". She set the bag down next to the other abandoned plates. She turned to a dazed Alex, who still sat lifelessly on the bed and didn't regard her daughter's presence. Amelia felt her splintering heart begin to fracture as she looked at her mother. Her tired, helpless, weakened mother.

"You haven't had anything in weeks. You've lost a lot of weight. This isn't healthy. Please eat." Alex was still unresponsive as she sat frozen in place. Amelia knelt down on the mahogany floor to see her pale, drawn face. She let out a shaky sigh before she continued.

"Mom, please. Please talk to me. I don't know what's going on and it's really, really scaring me." Her voice trembled and her words were aquiver. She took the woman's frigid hands into her own delicate ones. She rubbed her thumb over the tops of Alex's fingers in gentle strokes. The mother finally met Amelia’s sorrowful gaze. And even though her eyes were brown, every pair of blue ones wished they could stare as deeply into a soul as her's could.

They were brimming over with tears and they rippled down her face as broken sobs cracked the dense silence in the air.

"I want you to be okay," she sobbed heavily. She struggled to get the words out as her sadness wrapped its hands tighter around her neck. "I love you. I can't lose you again. Not again. I can't lose you again. Please, mom. Please just be okay."

Amelia was begging. She was literally begging on her knees. Desperation welled up in her eyes as more tears fell onto Alex's lap. She was also crying. Tears were silently skating down from her glassy eyes as she listened to her daughter's sorrowed pleas.

"I really fucked up, kid." She bit down on her chapped lip. The flow of her tears grew heavier as they continued to fall. She was shaking her head slowly, almost as if she was scolding a small child. As if the small child was herself.

"Mom please tell me." Amelia squeezed her hands. "I can't bear to see you like this anymore." Alex's lip was quivering as she gazed at her begging, sobbing, child. She let go of Amelia's hands and picked up a limp pillow that rested against the dark headboard. She reached her hand inside the pillowcase and revealed an orange bottle.

Amelia recognized it almost immediately.

The girl felt her already aching heart sink further into the floor beneath her. Her face grew pale as she took the half empty container in her hands and put it on the bedside table. Tears still continued to fall, but for a different reason. They fell out of fear, worry, and shock. Thoughts of why her mother would ever take her year-old meds banged against the walls of her mind. They left an unsettling feeling in the pit of her churning stomach and her heart rattling inside her chest.

"Mom, how long have you had these?" Amelia's voice rose and quaked in her throat. She held Alex's tear stricken face and gazed deep into the broken windows of her bloodshot eyes. Alex shook her head and she collapsed. After so long, she finally broke down. She let down every wall in that instant. Every venomous tear that had been bottled up was released as she wept in heavy, jagged sobs that made her body tremble.

"I'm so sorry," she continued to shake her head as she cried into her palms. Her chest would cave sharply and her shoulders would rise and then plummet again. Alex never wanted Amelia to see her like this. She never wanted anyone to see her like this. But her daughter was for a different reason. She was the one that was supposed to be strong. She was the one who was supposed to be the hero. But it never fucking happened that way and the shame bruised her bones.

"No, no, I'm not angry at you. God, no. It's okay. You should've told me," Amelia shot up from her kneeling position and stood in front of her now. She let Alex's head collapse upon her chest and she wrapped her desperate arms tightly around her mother's body. She cooed soothing reminders of unconditional love into her ear as Alex sobbed into the fleece of her jacket. Amelia combed her fingers through her unwashed raven hair and gently traced the path of her spine with her hands.

"I didn't want you to worry about me. God, I'm such a fuck up."

"Mom, please don't say that." She sat down next to her on the bed, still cupping half of her face.

"I fucked up. So bad," she swallowed a sob and felt it run its nails down her throat. "You know, for some reason I thought that this one would be different, even if we were just fucking. I thought there was something there. Just maybe. But I had to get weak and let my guard down and of course, I fucking had to get burned. God, what the fuck was I thinking?" Her question was almost angered and her expression changed for half a second before returning to its depressed state.

"I'm so sorry you wound up with me as a mother. I should be better than this. I wish so fucking badly I could've given you more to look up to. I wish I didn't have to be the mom who left her daughter for months to import drugs." She was almost laughing at herself now, even though tears still streaked her face and trembles were sewn in her words. "I'm not the mother you deserve. Not in the fucking slightest. I'm so sorry. Jesus, I'm so fucking sorry." She nursed her head in her hands and felt a chill when Amelia scurried out the door. Before she could sob harder for her daughter abandoning her, she was back in her spot. This time with a sketchbook in her hands.

"Remember that drawing I gave to you for your birthday? This is full of the ones I screwed up. See in this one, your nose was off and your eyebrows were too thick." She flipped through the book to find another. "And this one, your lips were too thin. But I wanna show you this one." Amelia paged past more scribbled and exed out pages and then stopped. Alex studied it for a while.

"It looks perfect." She sniffled with a puzzled look painted across her face. Amelia smiled softly as she puffed out a gust of air through her nose.

"I hate it. It’s not of you. I don't see my mother in this picture. I look at it and see a romanticized version of you. Before I gave it to you, I made sure the portrait I gave you captured everything about you. From those two bottom crooked teeth you hate so much, to the fact that you only call me 'kid' and never by real name. When I first came up with the idea of giving you a drawing, I thought about drawing only one of my favorite things about you to sum it all up. But one thing wasn't enough. So gave you a full portrait of yourself because my favorite thing about you is that you are you and no one else. Not a perfect mother. Not a perfect person. You're the tattoo-clad, pragmatic, intelligent badass I am so fucking proud to call my mom. If I know you at all, I know that you're not gonna let this bitch break you. Whoever the hell she is. If anything, you're gonna adjust your secretary glasses and conquer the rest of your world. Just as usual. You're not a fuck up. You're Alex. And if that's not something to be proud of, I don't know what is."

Her hands were weaving through her mother's long hair, whose sobs had subsided into soundless tears that spilled down her face. Alex always thought that motherhood would be a chore. That the child would always rely on the mother. To give words of prudence or braid her hair or do whatever mothers were expected to do for their daughters. But this was not her case. Far from it. Alex realized that she needed the kid than she needed her mother. She needed her daughter to make her cups of coffee every morning and listen to her problems. She needed her daughter to perfect her eyeliner and make inappropriate jokes with. She needed her daughter to cling to for safety. Even if it was only from the demons in the unsettling movie. She needed her daughter to wipe her tears away and tell her that the world wasn't against her. She would look into those big brown eyes and see constellations she couldn't begin to fathom. She saw her biggest fears and smallest dreams and they would shimmer in her nebulous pupils. She looked at her and saw everything that ever mattered to her. She looked at her and she was home.

"What the fuck did I ever do right to get a kid like you?" Amelia wiped the stray tears from Alex's weepy eyes with her thumb as she smiled at the question.

"The person who raised me did one hell of a job."

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