Amy Russo (Early morning of September 14, 1992)
As we lied, peacefully, in bed together, I awoke to him tracing my spine with his kisses. No bruise of mine went untouched by his soft lips. To be perfectly honest, I had been up for quite some time, but I wasn’t ready to tell him that.
“You slept over; that’s a first,” Joe said in his raspy morning voice. He could always tell when I was lying.
I turned over to face him. “Don’t get used to it. It can’t ever happen again. In fact, what time is it?” I sat up and tried to look beyond his shoulder for the clock on his nightstand, but he immediately blocked my view again.
“Don’t worry, it’s not even five o’clock yet,” he told me, brushing a lock of hair out of my face with his fingers. “You’ll have plenty of time to get back before he even notices you’re gone.”
I sighed, deeply, caressing his face. “He’ll notice, trust me.”
“Five more minutes then?”
I sighed again, glancing over at the clock. I then lied back down and nuzzled my head into the pillow. “No more than five.”
“I still don’t understand why you don’t just leave him,” Joe voiced, laying back down as well. “I mean, you’re clearly not happy.”
“It’s not that simple. Besides, where would I even go?”
“You’re always welcome to live here with me.”
“Here? With you?” I raised my eyebrows at him, baffled by this sentiment. Did he bump his head this morning or something?
“Sure, why not? It’s been about a year now. Why not move in together?” He gingerly ran his middle finger down my bicep all the to my wrist, then grabbed my hand and held it there for awhile. I couldn’t help, but smile at it.
“What about the girls? Piper? Adeline?”
“It will take some getting used to, but I think we can make it work,” he replied, pulling my hand in closer and up to mouth for him to kiss my knuckles. “So leave Ivan. Come live with me.”
“I don’t know, Joe,” I exhaled, shifting my body to look up at the ceiling. It seemed like an nice idea in theory. The reality, on the other hand, was a whole other story. Ivan would never let me him, let alone move in with another man, especially if I took Piper along for the ride. Lying there, in his bed, I wanted to make Joe aware of that reality, tell him where all of my scars and bruises came from, but at last, I did not.
“Just think about it. Alright?” Once our five minutes were up, Joe gave me one final forehead kiss before he got up and sluggishly made his way to the bathroom.
I, however, wasted no time to get out out of bed and put on my clothes, which already folded and spread out on top of the dresser. They even smelt clean when I held them under my nose. How long have you been up, Joe? Nevertheless, I appreciated it. “See you around, Joe,” I said, quietly, leaving the room.
In the hallway, I had made it all the way to the top of the staircase before stopping and taking a couple of steps back towards Adeline’s room. The door was open halfway, giving me a clear view of the foot of her bed. She sat there, on the far side, silently, staring out the window. She looked like a statue, not moving like that. For a moment, I was convinced she was, but then she finally turned her head. However, she remained mute. At least, that was until I began to leave.
“Going so soon?” she questioned, making me stop in tracks. I returned to the doorway and saw that she was now slowly walking towards me. “What’s the rush? Got a date with one of your other suitors? Or did fucking my dad just become too dull for you?”
“Watch your mouth,” I demanded, masking my shame with anger.
“Watch your cunt. I’d hate for you to get an infection and not know who gave it to you.”
Smack! It happened in an instant. I didn’t even realize I actually did it until it was over and I could still feel her cheek throbbing in my hand. Guilt instantly cascaded over my body as aggression kissed it goodbye. “I’m so sorry,” I uttered.
Her mischievous smirk made my stomach turn. It was as if she wanted me to hit her and when I heard his footsteps enter the hall, I understood why. There was so much disappointment and hurt in his eyes. In that moment, I wished to take it back, that whole conversation. I should’ve just kept walking.
“Joe, I’m so—”
“I think you should leave now, Amy,” he told me, voice quivering.
I didn’t say another word because I knew if I did, I would longer be hold back. Therefore, I nodded and rushed to and down the stairs, not wanting to look back at either of them. I fell right into Adeline’s trap and I refused to watch her gloat about it as headed out the door.
On my way home, I thought about what my lie would be this time. After the bar closed, Tina and I went back to her place last night and I guess I fell asleep on her couch. I hope that that was alright. Oh, I just went for an early morning jog. What do you mean? I’ve been here all morning, Silly. Luckily enough, Ivan was still asleep by the time I had entered our room. Discreetly, I took off each clothing item of mine, then slipped on my nightgown and slowly slid under the covers next to him. My heart sank when he awoke.
“Where’d you go?” he asked, flipping over to look at me. Although, he didn’t look directly at me. In fact, he seemed to fall back asleep before I could even answer.
“Just downstairs for some water,” I replied, nervously.
“Hmm,” he grunted. He didn’t anything after that, not a peep, not until his alarm clock went off an hour later. Until then, I was able to get some rest myself.
Ivan was long gone by the time I officially woke back up. Piper was just then getting up for school. “Good morning, Butterfly,” I yawned at her, leaning against her doorway. “Did you sleep well?”
“Sorta, wish I could’ve slept longer,” she responded, rubbing her eyes as she rummaged through her closet. “I have nothing to wear.”
“I’m sure that’s not true; let me see,” I said, walking over to the closet. I started looking for tops first. “There’s a lot of black in here.”
“You say that as if it’s a bad thing,” Piper muttered, taking a seat on her bed.
Finally, I landed on an old R.E.M. t-shirt I did not recognize. I don’t remember buying this for her. “Where’d you get this one?”
“Adeline gave it to me.”
“Oh, that was nice of her,” I uttered, not knowing what else to say. Should I tell her about this morning? No, because then I’ll have to explain why I was there in the first place. That said, Adeline will probably tell her about it later. It’d probably be best if it came from me first. At last, however, I left it to fate to decide. I grabbed the shirt off the hanger as well as a maxi denim skirt from another. “Here you go.”
“Thank you,” she smiled, taking the outfit from me.
“Now hurry up and get dressed. You don’t want to be late.”
The ride to the highschool felt different this morning. It left a bad taste in my mouth I couldn’t seem to get rid of. Most school days I would look forward to seeing Joe’s car at the dropoff loop, maybe talk to him for a bit, but not today. Today I didn’t really feel like talking to anyone. Unfortunately for me, though, I wasn’t going to be left off the hook that easily.
As soon as Piper got out of the car, A.G. got right in. “Keep driving,” she said, continuing to look forward and not at all at me.
“And go where exactly?”
“Just to the end of the block. This won’t won’t take long.”
I pulled the car forward and out through the exit. I did as she said headed down the block as soon as I got onto the main road. “May I ask what this about?”
“Can’t I just catch up with an old friend? Just talk?”
I glanced over at her, sitting in the passenger’s seat with a smug look on her face. A.G. never “just talked”; there was always ulterior motive behind every conversation she had. “Fine, what do you wanna talk about?”
“How are things at home? The kids?”
“Good, everyone is good, great, in fact. Piper seems to be adjusting to high school well, much better than I did my freshmen year. I guess it helps to already have friends going in.
“Well, he doesn’t tell me much on the phone. He’s always been more of an in-person kind of guy, you know. He says loves his classes, though, especially his philosophy. He told me he met a girl in there and that they’re planning on going out tomorrow, so he might be a little later coming home than expected this weekend. I told him to take as long as—”
“What about Ivan? How are you two holding up?”
I hesitated for a moment. Shall I lie or tell the truth? Would it even make a difference? Would she even care? “What do you mean? We’re great, everything’s great.”
I caught myself scowling at her. It seemed as though she already knew the answer to her own question. “Really.”
“Well, that’s just great news,” she smiled, condescendingly, as we neared the block’s end. “And how’s the sobriety treating you? It’s been two months you’ve been clean now, hasn’t it?”
“Three, actually, and I must say I feel much better.”
“Bullshit,” she said under her breath.
“You are as miserable as the day we met. I could see it on your face as soon as I got in the car. You’re aching for another dose, but don’t want to admit it because for the last three months you’ve been trying to and successfully burying that exact fact. You don’t want to mess up all that progress you’ve made.”
“And how exactly would you know what I want?” I had to laugh.
“Because it’s what any of us want, really. We’re all aching for another dose of whatever it is that numbs the pain, silences the noise, scratches the itch. Whether it be drugs, alcohol, sex, religion, or whathaveyou, we’re all junkies who just don’t want to admit it.”
“Oh yeah? And what’s your poison?” I asked, harmlessly, to which she went silent for a moment. Afterward, I pulled the car to the side of the road and patiently waited for her to get out. When she did not move, I began to grow irritated, more so than I already was. “Well, as fun and unproductive as this little chat was, I do believe you said ‘at the end of the block’ and here we are.”
“I went by the shack earlier today. One of my guys mentioned to me we were a couple of pill bottles shorter than we were yesterday,” she explained, turning to me. It was the first she’d looked me directly in the eye since getting in. It made the hairs on my neck stand straight up. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
I shook my head, almost offended she would accuse me of such an act.“No, I told you I gave that stuff up.”
“Right,” she nodded, agreeingly, but still skeptically. “Three months ago.”
Without another word, I watched her leave my vehicle and strut down the sidewalk, back to the highschool, through the rearview. Before I resumed driving, I took a moment to recollect myself. I could feel it in my gut that something awful was going to happen. I did not know when or what was going to happen, but I knew I was not going to like it when it did.