Shockingly, I actually got a call back from one of the places that I'd applied to. A shitty corner store down town called and said they needed someone for the day shift and that I should come in the next day around one o' clock for an interview.
After Lana got home, she passed out. She claims that strippin is a hard gig, but I'd beg to differ. Her uneducated ass just can't do anything else. Once he disappeared into the bedroom, I snorted a line or two, waiting for time to pass. I dug out a pair of khakis and an old polo that didn't look half bad. Hell, before my interview I even showered. Lana was still dead to the world when I left. I contemplated leaving a note, but I knew that if she woke up and was genuinely concerned, she'd call me and I wouldn't answer. Just like every other dysfunctional day of our conjoined life.
"Hello." I said, casually to the kid behind the register at Harry's Convenience Store. "I have an interview with the manager."
"His office is in the back. He's waiting for you. Brady, right?"
"Well, you're not as dumb as you look. Yeah, that's me. If I'm lucky, I'll see you again." I smiled, taking a good look at the not-so-prepossessing elements of the store. Gotta love the half-finished ceiling and the cement floor tiles, complimented by rickety metal aisles and half-stocked shelves. Story of my current life.
"Hello." I knocked on the cracked door.
"I'm Brady. We, uh, spoke on the phone. I'm here for my interview." Wow, that kid was using the term office pretty loosely. It was more like a cramped closet. Mr. Randy Oscar sat behind a small desk, across from a lone office chair. His receding hairline stared at me from the desk that he was bent over.
"Yes, sit down." He looked up at me for a moment and then returned his eyes to the document he was examining.
I opened my mouth, but then Mr. Oscar cut me off. "Listen, kid, I'm gonna be straight with you. I ain't gotta lot of time. Do you want the job?"
"Can you be here at eight in the morning on weekdays?"
"Are you an asshole?"
Yes. "No." Not in a working environment anyway.
"Alright. You're hired, Bradley."
"It's Brady, sir, but thank you very much."
"I'll see you for training tomorrow then, eight am sharp?"
"Yes, sir." I stood and outstretched my hand. He shook it quickly before shooing me out of his office. I passed the kid on my way out.
"You get the job?" He called as I reached the door.
"Yep!" I called back, satisfied by my lucky break.
"Sweet." The kid said, just loud enough for me to hear and just enthusiastic enough for me to care. Was that the sound of someone thinking I was cool? Damn, two miracles in one day. Maybe life was turning around.
Amazing, I thought to myself as Chance slumbered next to me. It had been amazing. I caught myself smiling at his peaceful face. Once again, he surprised me. Despite the fact that he was a virgin, Chance was great in bed. Then again, I'd only ever been with Brady, so it's not like I had much to compare it to. No matter what, I was impressed. With relaxation and endorphins pumping through my veins, I drifted off into a peaceful slumber.
"Violet." A voice coaxed me out of sleep. I cracked my eyes, seeing a blur and rolled back over.
"No." I groaned, rolling over and squeezed my eyes shut.
"Get up, baby." Suddenly, soft lips met mine with care and compassion. I flicked my eyes open when Chance pulled back, and I smiled.
"Fine. I'll get up." He was already showered and dressed in the previous night's clothes. He smiled, apparently quite chipper.
"Morning person?" I questioned, wrapping myself in my favorite bathrobe.
"Not usually. Today, I'm just happy." He gave me a kiss on the cheek, before scurrying into the kitchen. "Do you want some coffee?"
"Sure." I yawned. "I'm gonna hop in shower, alright?"
"Okay." He called back. I heard him rummaging through my kitchen. God only knows why. I slipped into the shower, letting the droplets cascade down my body. I was halfway between relaxed and awake, thinking about Chance and me. Then, a wave of pain crashed over my body because a movie reel of Brady memories replayed through my mind. Why must he continue to plague me? Was it too much to ask for him to leave me alone?
While I dressed, the pleasant aroma of bacon and eggs filled my apartment. Suddenly, my stomach rumbled at the smell of food. I hadn't realized how hungry I was until the food was present.
"Hey." I smiled, wandering into the kitchen.
"Morning, beautiful." Chance smiled from the stove.
"You made breakfast?" I marveled.
"Of course I did." He nearly blushed.
"You're too nice." I smiled, wrapping my arms around his waist.
"You deserve it. Hey, can you get plates? It's almost ready." Just then, four pieces of golden brown toast popped out of the toaster.
"No problem." I retracted from him and suddenly felt empty. Watching him out of the corner of eyes, I grabbed two plates and cups.
"Thank you." He popped two perfect eggs onto a plate with buttered toast and bacon. "There ya go."
"You amaze me." I smiled, taking the plate. I sat at the bar, staring at him in wonder.
"Don't stare at me." He blushed. "Eat your breakfast."
"I'm sorry. It's not often one stumbles onto perfection. I'm just admiring it." I chuckled, taking a bite of my delectable breakfast. "Oh my gosh, Chance."
"What?" He looked worried.
"Thanks." He smiled, sitting next to me with his plate. Even though there were little things that irritated me, I could not deny that Chance was a good guy. Not just good, but genuinely great. Suddenly, my phone rang, severing me from my thoughts. I jumped up and raced to answer it.
"Hey dad." I answered, surprised that he was calling. Mom was usually the one who made the phone calls in the family.
"Hey pumpkin." His voice was strained, like it was hard from him to form words and spit them out.
"Is everything alright?"
"Well, uh, not exactly, no. Listen, honey, I know your Thanksgiving break isn't until later next week but I think you should come out earlier. Your mom would, uh, really like it."
"Dad, what's going on?" Anxiety was creeping up my legs, beginning to tie my stomach into knots.
"Your mom," he let out a sad sigh, "she's got breast cancer. They're gonna put her through surgery, radiation and chemo. She'd really like to see you soon though just in case she –" Then his voice broke. I'd never seen my dad so broken, and now he was nearly crying. It was all a shock. Mom, breast cancer? Once again, circumstance was ruining my happiness.
"I can be ready by Monday. Can you get me a ticket?" My voice was low and sad. Fuck, what was I going to do?
"Of course." He replied hiding his misery once more. "Thank you. I'll call you with more details tomorrow. I love you."
"Love you too, dad. Send mom my best, bye."
"Bye." I held the phone against my chest and closed my eyes, letting it sink in. No, no. Not my mom. I didn't even know there was a history of breast cancer in my family. Why her? Why now?
"Everything alright?" Chance called as I stepped back into the kitchen. I must've looked pretty messed up, because I saw the light look on his face contort into concern.
"My mom's got cancer." I said plainly, staring straight ahead, wondering what the fuck would happen next.
So, I was working one day and a couple of kids who'd graduated with Violet strolled in. I recognized their faces but couldn't place any names. They passed the counter and I hoped they wouldn't remember me.
"Hello." I said when they tossed a few snacks and sodas on the counter.
"Hey man." The taller of the two smiled. Then a look of recognition stumbled onto his face. Shit. "Hey!" He turned toward his buddy. "Yo, Jay, it's Violet's ex-boyfriend, Brady!"
Of course, Jacob and Lars, the annoying duo. "Shit, man." I slapped his hand and chuckled. It'd been a long time since I'd seen a familiar face.
"Shit, it's too bad about your ex, man." Lars commented.
"What about her?"
"Everyone heard about the break up, dude, and how she just up and left." Jay said, shaking his head.
"And now her mom. It all sucks, man." Lars chimed in.
"Wait, her mom? What the hell are you talking about?" I tried to keep my tone light, but the reminder of Violet's pain was too powerful.
"Didn't you hear?" Jay asked. Obviously not or I would've asked.
"Dude, Vi's mom got breast cancer. She's in the hospital. She could die, man. Vi's coming home tomorrow to stay with them for a week or so."
"Violet's coming home?" My heart threatened to beat out of my chest.
"Yeah." Lars smirked, watching me carefully. I quickly bagged their items and they paid in cash. Handing them the receipt, we exchanged smiles.
"It was good seeing ya, Brady. I'm sure we'll see you again." Jay said. Lars followed him toward the door and I barely heard their second conversation.
"He's still in love with her." Lars said under his breath.
"I know. But what does he love more, Vi or the crystal?" Jay replied and then they were gone. I loved Violet more, wasn't that evident?
Guess not. It was Violet that kept me going. It wasn't Violet that kept me going. It wasn't Violet that I was coming home to. It wasn't Violet that coursed through my veins, feeding an addiction. I guess to the outside observer, I loved crystal more.
Violet was going to be home in less than twenty-four hours. I wanted to see her, to talk to her and explain things. I needed her to understand. I needed to see that she was alright. If we had to be apart, then at least one of us needed to be okay and it wasn't me.
That brought me to my next problem. What the fuck was I supposed to say to her? "Hey, Vi. Look, I know things were bed when you left, but it's good now. I've got a job at the shitty downtown corner store, a steady girlfriend who is a drug dealer by day and stripper by night, oh, and let's not forget my increasing dependency on drugs. Care to give me a second chance?" I was fucked.
Chance drove me to the airport in silence. My mind was fixated on the torturing image of my mother laying in a hospital bed while hundreds of chemicals pumped into her body. I stared out the window at the soaring planes, wondering where they were headed, wondering if any of them where on their way to visit a dying relative.
"It'll be alright, baby." Chance hugged me tight in the lobby. "You'll be alright."
With my arms wrapped around him like snakes clutching their prey, I mumbled into his chest, "I hope so." I sighed, getting teary-eyed. "I'm just scared."
He pressed his lips against my head. "I know, it's a scary situation, but I know no matter what, you'll be alright." I leaned back, loosened my grip and stared at him.
"Thank you." I smiled as a single tear rolled down my cheek. He kissed me passionately, erasing the sadness for a moment.
"Call me if you need me." He kissed me again.
"Thank you so much." I squeezed him tight, before severing myself and joining the crowd of people heading for their escapes.
The flight itself was interminable. Not only was it long, but I couldn't sleep, read or write. Nothing could hold my attention for more than 5 minutes. All I could do was stare out my window or watch the obese woman next to me snore in her sleep.
My dad had paid big bucks for a one-way non-stop flight to Phoenix, but I'd almost wished I'd had a lay-over somewhere. When the flight attendants restarted Maid in Manhattan, I remembered why I despised long flights. The only positive was that it gave me a while to think and reflect. Unfortunately, the only thing that I could think about was Brady. I wondered if he'd heard about my mom. I wondered if he cared. Would he try to see me? Probably not. Should I try to see him? Probably not. Did I want to see him? No. Did I need to see him? Yes.
I had to know what stopped him from calling, writing, chasing after me. If he'd done even one thing to show me he wanted me in his life, I'd have taken him back in heart beat, without one doubt. But, he did nothing. Actually, he stood there and let me leave.
Finally, the plane landed and I was back. Back in the hell hole of my birth state. Soon I'd be back in my hometown, the place I was aching to forget. I sent my father and Chance text messages, informing them that I'd landed safely. The highlighted bar on my contacts dwelled on Brady's name. Yes, I still had it. Half of me was dying to text him, just to say, "I'm home." Aching to see his reply. And the other half hated me for even considering it.
Dad was waiting for me. We exchanged friendly smiled as I neared. The bags under his eyes were more than obvious and his weathered face looked even worse than I remembered. Not that I blamed him much, mom in the hospital, working extreme hours. Life was stressful.
"Hello Violet." He smiled, pulling me into a hug. It'd been a long time since I'd seen my dad. And an even longer time since he'd been excited by my presence.
"Hi, dad." I hugged him back. "How is she doing?"
"She's holding up alright, but you know your mother. Always trying to be strong for everyone else. There's been people in and out of there every day."
"Yeah, I can imagine." Mom's coworkers and family members. I'm sure she hated the company. Hated people seeing her wired to machines and weak. We went to get my bag before heading out to my father's car.
"Do you wanna go straight to the hospital or home first? I know your flight was long and maybe you wanna settle in."
"Let's just go to the hospital. I need to see mom."
"Alright." He sighed, pulling out of the parking lot and headed for the hospital.
Mom's room was on the fourth floor, in the D wing. The cancer treatment ward. AKA the terminal floor. When we arrived my Aunt Nancy was sitting next to the bed, holding my mother's hand. Mom probably shooed everyone else out. She looked up at me and smiled, tears in her eyes.
"Hi, mom." I said, approaching her. Tears began to well in my eyes as I noticed the tubes running out of her hands. She looked like she hadn't slept in weeks.
"Nancy, will you take Alan downstairs to the cafeteria? I'm getting hungry and he knows what I like, and you both need some nourishment."
"Sure." Aunt Nancy smiled, leading dad back out of the room.
"How's my baby?" She smiled once the door closed behind them.
"I'm okay, mom. How are you feeling?"
"I'm feeling fine, honey. Just fine."
"Where did this come from? I mean, how did this happen?"
"Well, I went into the gynecologist for my examination, and everything was great, until the doctor found a lump. They rushed me here, did a biopsy and discovered it was cancer. Your great aunt Francine died of breast cancer." She sighed. My poor warrior mom had probably told this story over a dozen times. "They're having it removed the day after tomorrow." Tears began to poke out of eyes. It was horrible, seeing her like this. Listening to her talk about death, as if it were nothing but a passing fad. She could die. She could leave me forever, and she wasn't the least bit concerned. Ah, I was just being selfish. She had to be scared, right? Wasn't everyone terrified of death?
"Oh, sweetie. Don't cry. My company's got the best doctors working on my case, and they tell me that we've caught it early. We're going to beat it. But just in case, I wanted to see my little girl's face one more time." She cupped my face in her hands and smiled lovingly. She seemed so fragile, yet so indestructible. She was so unlike the person I'd grown up with. People change when they face death or are closely affected by it. They learned appreciation and compassion. In the short conversation I shared with my mother, she probably showed me more emotion than the past six years of my life combined.
"Hey, honey." My father suddenly appeared with a tray of food for my mother. "I brought you a little something."
"Thank you, love." She smiled, already exhausted. "Vi, why don't you go home for a while and rest? There's no use in you staying here, watching me fall in and out of sleep. I know you had a long flight. You probably haven't stopped at home yet."
"I think I should stay here, don't you?"
"Just rest for a while, baby. Come back later, if you want to. You can always come back in the morning. Alan, be a dear and walk her out." My aunt slipped in the door and took her original place next to my mother.
"She doesn't like people seeing her like this." My dad said once he closed the door behind us. "She feels weak and out of control. She doesn't like it when other people see her like that. She never has. She feels like she's letting them down, especially you. She's just worried that you're disappointed, because she can't fight it off."
"Disappointed because she got cancer? Wow. And I'm glad she could tell me this herself. Same ol' mom." I sighed. "Her logic is a bit off, dad."
"I know," he sighed, "but that doesn't change how she feels. Just go home for a bit. Come back in the morning. Here." He dug his car keys out of his pocket. "Take my car. You remember how to get home, right?"
"Doesn't matter. There's a GPS." I sighed, grabbing the keys. "Take care of her, alright?" I kissed my father's cheek before taking the keys and heading for the door.