Month: September 2016

Sarah LLoyd (6 – end)

Somewhere on the other side of the country, where the sun perpetually shines, Sarah Lloyd’s Hollywood honey was filling his modeling portfolio quickly. Luckily for him, there were an abundance of calls for baby-faced, blue-eyed heartthrobs.  His look was TeenBop approved. Totally California. He modeled for CocaCola and Noxzema while he waited to hear if a network would pick up the off-beat pilot he shot when he first got out there. He was hustling and making actual money. Sharing an apartment with four other guys in the business. He kept his entire life inside a black duffle bag he’d hide whenever he left the house.  He was making it work and hardly thought about Sarah at all.

To be fair, he did ask her to come with him, but she refused. She was such a mess. He thought a change would do her good but she was too content in their shitty apartment with the drippy faucet and a torn shower curtain.  Co-dependent on everyone but him.  She had potential – could actually act.  But she wouldn’t listen to reason and she started smoking too much pot and not doing much else.  He resented her and then one morning he simply left.  He wasn’t going to rot away beside her.  He had dreams and a level of confidence (and God given beauty) to maybe pull it off.   So far he was right.

There might be room for Sarah somewhere in his future.  She was very much the love of his life.  The one he assumed he’d spend forever with.  But not today.  She has a lot of work to do on herself and until she becomes self-motivated to change, he’s going to leave her exactly where she is ….in the past.

The morning of Sarah’s abortion, three days after she was kicked out of the half-way house, Sarah stood in front of the mirror in her room at the Traveler’s Lodge.  She pulled her t-shirt up to reveal her belly and she turned sideways to gauge whether she looked bloated.  There was a slight curve to her once flat stomach.  Sarah winced.  She looked newly pregnant and by this afternoon, she would no longer be.

It felt like the wrong thing and the right thing to do all rolled into one impossible decision.  She knew she was in no place either mentally, physically or even financially to bring a baby in to the world but it still was just that: a baby.  She had a million reasons to justify the procedure but also a lot of guilt.  She wished time would speed up.  She needed it to be tomorrow so badly.  Gabriella was going to sneak over as soon as humanly possible.  But they both knew that probably wouldn’t be today.  Sarah would have to fend for herself today.  And tonight.  But she’d have her best friend by her side tomorrow.

She thought about trying to find him.  To tell him what she was about to do.  But she didn’t even know where to begin.  He didn’t leave a forwarding address or anything. And she knew he wouldn’t be listed in the phone book.  Not yet and if his dreams became reality, hopefully not ever.  She was truly alone.

Sarah rubbed her belly once more.  Said aloud “I’m sorry.” and grabbed her cigarettes and wallet off the dresser.  “I’m so sorry.” she said.

The door to Sarah’s hotel room slammed shut behind her.  She didn’t look back.

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Sarah Lloyd (5)

“Shit. Shit. Shit!” Sarah said as she came out of the upstairs bathroom at the half-way house.

Gabriella was waiting in the hallway just on the other side of the door while Sarah took an at-home pregnancy test.  “Oh, damn.” she said as Sarah showed her the pregnancy test.  Two pink lines. “Damn.”

Sarah retreated in to her room and flumped down on her bed. Tears started to fall from her eyes in spite of her effort to quell them.  She tossed the pregnancy test in the air, aiming for the end table beside her bed, but it fell to the floor dramatically.

“What the fuck am I going to do?” Sarah asked.  She looked around the room as if the walls were closing in on her.  “I can’t have a baby!”

“I know.”

“No, you don’t.  I seriously mean it.  I. Cannot. Have. A. Baby.  I can’t!”

Sarah was panicking.  Gabriella wasn’t sure exactly what to do.  She was just staring at Sarah wringing her hands.  A pregnancy is not tolerated at the half-way house.  In fact, it’s something Sarah should have been tested for before she was even accepted to the program.  Gabriella couldn’t figure out how it was even possible they missed it since she came right from the rehab here.  There’s no way she got knocked up in rehab.  Well, that is entirely possible but it would have been with another resident, not with her Hollywood honey like she had said.

Gabriella sat down on the bed next to Sarah and pushed a tendril of hair out of Sarah’s face and tucked it behind her ear tenderly “You don’t have to have it.” she nearly whispered.

Sarah and Gabriella have become fast friends.  Sarah has been a resident at the half-way house for only a week but in recovery terms, that’s practically a year.  They bonded on day one and have been inseparable ever since.  Gabriella is at a higher step than Sarah so she’s doing her best to mentor the new comer. Sarah’s receptive to her advice.

The girls are from two entirely different worlds but they have come to learn that they have almost too much in common. It feels good to have a best friend again.  Sarah is very grateful for Gabriella.  Especially right now.

“G?  What the hell am I going to do?”

“You got two choices.”

Sarah rubbed her belly tenderly.  “I’ve never had one.”

“Well…I’ve done both.” Gabriella said carefully not entirely sure if Sarah meant a baby or an abortion “The abortion absolutely sucked.  I’m not going to lie.  But it was better in the end than having the kid.  That’s for sure.” she closed her eyes as she spoke “The abortion is behind me now.  And I don’t gotta deal with the Father or none of that.  The kid I kept, I don’t even have custody of her. I probably fucked her up for life. I’m in court all the damn time for shit I didn’t even do. You know what I’m saying?”

“I can’t even process this …” Sarah said.

“I’m sorry. I’m talking too much about my shit.  But girl, you do have a choice.”

Sarah put her hand up quickly in a gesture meant to silence Gabriella. Both girls quieted when they heard a floor board squeak outside the room somewhere in the hallway.

“Someone is listening?” Gabriella whispered.

Sarah got up quickly to shut the door and watched the top of someone’s head descend down the stairs quickly.  By the time she got to the top of the stairs, it was impossible to figure out who it was.  Friend or foe.  Sarah didn’t know but she suspected it wasn’t a friend.  A friend would have come to her instead of fleeing.

“Fuck.” Sarah said when she came back in the room. “That’s not good.”

“You’ll get kicked out!” Gabriella said. Stating the obvious.

“I don’t need this shit!” Sarah practically shouted.

Gabriella stood up and embraced Sarah tightly. “I know honey – I know.”

“I just…”

“We’ll figure it out.  You’re gonna be ok.”

 

Sarah LLoyd (4)

“They already stole my money.”

Sarah plopped down on a couch in the dayroom, right next to Gabriella, and grabbed a slice of cucumber off the paper plate in Gabriella’s lap. Gabriella shifted the plate away from Sarah playfully and laughed as some of her food tumbled to the floor.

Family Feud is on the television. The sun is almost set outside. Gabriella is eating what is left of her dinner and watching the game show all alone.  Sarah has no idea where the rest of the housemates are.  She doesn’t really care.  Her first day with these people isn’t going so well.

Gabriella shouted out an answer to Steve Harvey’s question then acknowledged Sarah’s dilemma. “Damn.” Gabriella laughed again  “They didn’t even wait 24 hours.”

“I guess I shouldn’t get too attached to any of my things …” Sarah said “They’ll be after my toothbrush next.”

“Naw, you don’t gotta worry about that.  It’s just money these people snatch.”

“Great.” Sarah lamented.  At least there’s a limit to what she’ll have to endure.

“Don’t sweat it too hard. You’re not really gonna need any money for anything for a while anyway.”

“I actually need money right now.” Sarah said sternly. “Any idea how I can snatch my money back?”

Gabriella gave Sarah a nasty look and scooted away from her just a bit.  Enough that it was noticeable. “Listen, ya ass, I’m trying to stay sober and out.  You’re on your own with that shit.”  She started to stand up.

“Not for thaaaaat.  I’m sober too.” Sarah swore.

“Then what?” Gabriella sat back down.

“I need to take a pregnancy test.”

“No shit?”

“No shit.”

“Well …” Gabriella mumbled “I might be able to help you with that.”

“How?”

“I have block privileges and might be able to grab you one from the bodega.”

“I thought you’re trying to stay ouuuuutt.” Sarah teased.

“Shut up or I aint grabbing you shit.”

“I’m sorry.  Seriously though, it would mean the world to me.”

“I got you girl.” Gabriella promised to do her best to procure a pregnancy test for Sarah and both girls returned their attention to Family Feud.

Steve Harvey: It’s the first day of the new year. Name a reason you’re not getting out of bed.

“You’re dead!” Gabriella shouted.

“Someone’s in it!”  Sarah offered.

“See now, that shit is what got you in to this mess…” Gabriella teased.

“Yeah…” Sarah said.

“Who the Daddy?”

“This guy I was dating for a little while last year.  We broke up before Christmas but then he came back around, you know, to say goodbye officially before moving to California to pursue his dreams and well…you know how that goes.”

“That’s when they get ya.”

“Yeah.”

“So he’s out in California?”

“I think so.”

“Why? What’s he doing out there?”

“Trying to get famous.”

Gabriella laughed. “Well then I guess you will be needing a lot of your own money then.”

“Right?” Sarah laughed too “He did get a gig though.  Some show about teenagers.”

“Teenagers? He’s a young buck then. You nasty girl.”

“No – he’s twenty-two.  He just looks 15.”

“Oh ok. Go ahead girl.”

“Ha-ha.  Thanks.”

Sarah lloyd (3)

Back in Sarah’s room, in the middle of her unassuming twin bed sat a thin black binder and a plastic bag filled with toiletries. On the floor were the contents of Sarah’s duffle bag. Not much was it in to begin with, but it had been stripped of anything useful probably by someone doing their due diligence and then once again by someone stumbling across an opportunity to fleece the new girl.  A pretty journal she hadn’t yet written in and, of course, all of the cash Gabriella was coveting.  Hell, she tried to warn her.  Sarah made a mental note to listen to Gabriella next time.

Sarah plopped down on the bed with the binder in her lap and the bed let out a squeak and a groan (of course it did).  She opened the binder and found a list of house rules.  Privileges and proposed punishments.  Chores.  An invitation to visit the clothes closet.  A reminder to return what she no longer used. Laundry rules. Kitchen rules. Rules upon rules upon rules.

In the plastic bag she found a toothbrush. Tampons. No-name brand toothpaste and Suave shampoo. A comb.  Hair ties. A bar of soap. Plain underwear.  She was thankful the underwear was in a sealed package.  Hanes.  Women’s briefs.  Microfiber.  It felt like Christmas.  Christmas in hell.

She flipped the binder open again.  There was a schedule on page two.  A guide of where to be and what she should be doing during specific blocks of time.  The schedule was similar to the one she had in rehab.  But it looked like she’d have more free time on her hands living here. Therapy happened on your own time. But ‘Rap’ was mandatory for all housemates and happened promptly at 7pm.

Sarah heard a knock on her door and a male voice say “Come eat.”  She didn’t respond.  She was still miffed about someone stealing her $27 dollars.  She was sure it wasn’t Gabriella but it could have been just about anyone else.  Including the friendly male voice. What asshole steals the change too?  Fuckers cleaned her out.  She’s too tired to play the “wasn’t me” game with everyone in the house.  She’s tired all the time lately.

Sarah tore the house schedule out of her binder and tacked it up on the cork board next to the business card.  She was due in Rap session in about 45 minutes according to the schedule.  She’d rest her eyes until then. Fuck dinner.  Fuck this place. And fuck everyone living in it.

Sarah fell asleep quickly but unfortunately couldn’t stay asleep very long.  The nap was a mistake.  She felt terrible and she was starving.  The breeze that was flapping the curtain earlier was long gone.  Her tongue felt gummy.  She was on fire.

Sarah sat up and the room spun.  She braced herself  with two hands on either side of her hips.

“Oh my god.  I’m going to throw up!” she shouted.  She barely made it to the tiny waste basket beside her desk before heaving and hurling up everything she has eaten since the day she was born.  Well, not quite, but it certainly felt that way.  Just as soon as the wave of nausea came, it dissipated.  Sarah sat on the floor of her halfway house room and cursed herself.

“Fuck me.” she mumbled.  “I’m pregnant.”

 

Sarah LLoyd (2)

Sarah is better off dead than sober. She knows that. Sobriety opens the wounds that pills used to heal.  Wide open and vulnerable now.  Her mind easily accessible.  Her thoughts … Sarah shut the door to her room behind her, hard.  It echoed as she marched down the hallway & passed the other closed doors.  Four.  Downstairs she found two women lounging in front of a television.  Splayed out across worn-out sofas.  Feet up. Shoes on.  They were ignoring each other.  So Sarah ignored them.

On a table in the corner was the house phone.  Sitting on top of a stack of phonebooks.  She felt a ping of dread fill her empty stomach.  All of the phone numbers she knew were programed in to her cellphone.  The same one that disappeared 45 days ago.

“Nope. Nope. Nope. Noooope.” one of the women said without turning around as Sarah cradled the telephone receiver in her hand.  Sarah paused then started pressing buttons anyway.  She was hopeful she had his number right.

“I said not to.” the woman said angrily as she rose from the couch.  She came around to where Sarah was crouching, beside the telephone, and wrenched the receiver from her hand.  She replaced it in the cradle dramatically.  Sarah popped up.

“What the hell?” she asked wildly.

“Phone ain’t a privilege you have.” the woman announced.

“So?”

“So don’t use it.” she started to walk away but whipped back quickly when she saw Sarah grab for the phone handle again.

“You’re new so I’m gonna let this slide cuz maybe you don’t know.  Or you’re just fucking stupid. But there are rules here. And calling yo man is something you can’t do.  Not yet.”

Sarah tried out her acting chops “What makes you think that’s who I was trying to call?”

“I’m not dumb.”

Sarah shifted tactics. “Well, how the hell am I supposed to know what I can and cannot do here?”

“Read the manual.”

“What manual?”

“The one in your damn room.”

“I didn’t …oh forget it.”

Sarah pushed past the woman.  Not entirely sure where she was going but she stomped down the house stairs and stepped outside onto a bustling boulevard. Right in the middle of Shitsville.  Not ghetto fabulous.  Just ghetto.  The halfway house sits above a bodega.  There’s a City Wireless cellphone store to her left.  New York Fried Chicken to the right.  Gum, shit, piss, trash and remains of some kind of dead animal were in front of her on the sidewalk. Across the street was more of the same.  A dry cleaner.  Suki Hana Chinese.  A daycare.  More apartments and row homes.  It was fucking hot outside.  Just like Hell.  And my god did it stink.  Like backfiring cars and hopelessness.

Sarah looked upward towards the building and picked out her window.  Third floor.  The curtain was clinging to the screen.  Like it wanted to escape too.  A moment later the other woman from the TV room joined Sarah on the stoop.

“Sit.” she suggested and Sarah agreed when she saw the woman was holding out a cigarette.  A peace offering.  “I hear you met our house mother.” the woman said “Her name is Daijo. And I’m Gabriella.”

“Sydney.” Sarah sighed “And I didn’t know.”

“Of course not.  She likes to sneak up on people.  She’s an asshole like that.”

Sarah and Gabriella smoked in silence for a few minutes.  People watching and enjoying their tobacco. As people passed, it stirred up the air.

“So I gather I’m not supposed to use the phone?” Sarah said eventually.

“You caught that, eh?” Gabriella laughed.

“Are there more rules I should know?”

“Not really.  You just gotta earn your privileges first. It’s easy. Do 30 in 30 and you’re golden.”

“I’m already 45 days clean.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“So where do we go? You know – for meetings?”

Gabriella laughed. “Upstairs.  In the day room.”

“You’re kidding me?”

“Nope.”

“So we don’t leave for anything? Not even NA?” Sarah whined “This is more like prison than a sober house.”

“It’s how they keep us sober.  And besides, most of us could be in prison instead of here so we just shut up and do it.”

“Ok.” Sarah said. Then she added  “Thank you for the advice … and the cigarette.”

A loud group of kids passed by Sarah and Gabriella.  They were laughing loudly about something on one of their cellphones.  Being rowdy.  And happy.  Sarah felt a ping of jealousy.

“You gotta give me your money by the way.” Gabriella said.

“What the fuck?”

“You’re not allowed to have any.  And if you turn it in, it’ll just go missing.  If you give it to me, I’ll help you spend it.”

“Relax yourself.  I have like twenty bucks.”

“That’s fine.”

“I’m not giving you my money.”

“Suit yourself.” Gabriella said and she flicked her cigarette butt out on to the sidewalk and let herself back inside.  Sarah shook her head back and forth.  Getting hustled for cash was a new low.

After about an hour people watching on the stoop, Sarah picked herself up and quite literally dusted herself off and climbed the 16 steps up in to the halfway house.  Someone was cooking.  The place almost smelled welcoming.  Her stomach gurgled happily.  Signaling to Sarah that it wanted a nibble of whatever she was smelling.  Sarah rubbed her hand across her belly like she was calming her babe.  All in due time perhaps.

Sarah Lloyd

Sarah Lloyd is sober now.  45 days have passed since she woke up on a gurney, with blood caked to her t-shirt and broken fingernails.  45 days since she hit rock bottom.  She doesn’t feel far from the bottom now, but she has been told she has come a long way.  The journey has exhausted her.  If only she could sleep.

There are pills for that.

Pills she could take.  But there will be no more pills.  She made a pledge to a room full of survivors sitting in wobbly metal chairs that she wouldn’t.  Took a 30 day coin and held it in her hand. Beneath a cloud of cigarette smoke.  Under florescent lights.  Under the microscope. She promised.  There will be no more pills.  Not today.  And she means it.  She really means it.  This will never happen again.

She’s in a new place now.  A place she’s supposed to call home.  It’s a halfway house.  And her room smells.  Something acrid hangs in the air. Probably the stench of defeat.  The lost souls that have passed through this room before her.  She glances around trying to be positive. She notices the one window on the far wall. A nearly transparent curtain flaps back and forth against the screen.  There’s a slight breeze – she sighs. Thankful for that little mercy.  There is definitely no AC.  But there are curtains. Fucking curtains.  Not white but not gray either.  Eggshell.  The comforter on her bed is brown.  Her bed is a twin.  This entire room is neutral.  Non-distinct.  Not alive.  Maybe she’ll get a plant.  A nice cactus she can’t kill.  Or ivy.  There was always so much ivy growing on everything back in Princeton.  On the drainpipes, across the facades, along brick walkways.  Everywhere.

She shakes away thoughts of Princeton and the ivy that strangled everything and pulls a business card out of her pocket.  It is wrinkled, but she can still read the numbers.  The email. She smooths it out with her fingertips. There’s a scar across the backside of her hand.  She watches it bob on top of her skin as she tacks the business card to the center of a cork board mounted on the wall.  Maybe she should get a radio instead of a plant.  A radio would be a better way to spend her petty cash.  All $27.82 of it.

It’s not like she needs much.  The halfway house has a clothes closet filled with donated whatever. She’s not picky. There’s a barber that comes on the first Tuesday of every month. She’ll just wear her hair up until then. She missed this month, but if she’s lucky she’ll still be here for the next one.  Or maybe she’d be unlucky.  She hasn’t quite figured that out yet.  What should she be wishing for?  She used to have it all.  And now – nothing.  Nothing but a room considerably smaller than her old closets and a bed that probably has urine stains.  Having it all brought her here.  Maybe she’d survive if she lived somewhere in between. Somewhere…neutral?

She has a blank slate upon which she can draw up her new life.

Sarah told everyone at the rehab to call her Sydney.  Said she always hated her given name.  Said everyone back home called her that. And it would make her feel more connected to the other patients if they did too. No one ever did though. And ‘Sarah’ isn’t so bad.  But she had to keep her distance.  She wasn’t like any of them.  She didn’t have their problems.  She had bigger ones.

Problems that couldn’t be solved by sobriety alone.

Sarah has lost everything she ever valued.  Everyone who ever cared. She gave it all up easily.  For one man.  And that man is hella M.I.A.. The scars are ever present but he ….who knows where he has gone.