Meredith and I had been living in the city for two years when I came home on a Monday night to find her lighting a crack torch. There was a strange boy kneeling down at the coffee table, he couldn't have been older than 18 or 19, hunched over a bag full of white powder.

Now Meredith was a funny girl, funny as in humorous and funny as in strange. My first reaction to this sight was taking it as a joke; something she was doing as a mock display of her anger. After all, I knew she was upset with the fact that I was working late, spending more time with my job than with her. But what was I supposed to do, we were young trying to make it on our own without our parents help. We needed the money that extra hours brought us. I needed the commission from the Lawson account.

She stopped playing with the torch and looked up at me. "Hey.....what are you doing home so early?" Her speech was irregular and drawn out, it sounded like there was a sock stuffed in her mouth. "I thought you were going to finish that big job you've been working on...the uh, um, Lockson account or whatever."

"Lawson, yeah...What's going on here? Who are you?" I turned to the boy sitting on the floor.

"Huh? Oh, yo, me? Uh, uh, I'm Charlie, you can call me, uh, call me C," this kid was talking with his words all jumbled up. He was stringing words together so incoherently that all I understood was Charlie. He continued to try and explain something to me, but it seemed so unimportant to hear excuses that I just stopped paying attention.

Meredith, obviously worried, looked up at me with her big green eyes. Her pupils were dialated. Call it a wild guess, but I was thinking that this wasn't a joke to get even.

"Um, Cole, this is Charlie. He's a friend of mine that I met at the coffee shop," her lips came back together and there was silence for a moment. "Don't worry, he's just, we're only friends. We were um, well..." She held her arms out to her side as if to say "Look around."

I was sensing an argument coming on and I didn't want to fight in front of this kid, so I asked her to come back to the bedroom. She hesitated but followed me. I didn't know what to say so I stared for a while at the floor. When I finally blinked, I asked her how long this had been going on.

"Maybe a week...maybe two or three. I don't know, honest, I don't remember. I've been trying to hide it. I didn't want to upset you."

"Well, you've done a pretty damn good job at hiding it. Wow, this is, this is just fucking great. What the hell are you thinking?" I was trying to be caring but also heartless.

"I don't know, I just tried it once...it's not as bad as the D.A.R.E. teachers and junk make it out to be. This stuff is just, I don't know exciting but relaxing at the same time.....SHHH....do you hear that?"

"What?"

She took off out of the bedroom, through the kitchen and slid into the living room. "Oh fucking damn it! That asshole just left." She bent down in a panic and started scrounging through the newspapers and magazines laying on top of the baggies and towels she had put on the endtable. "Oh and he fucking took my stuff!!"

I had never heard her curse like that before. "Maybe that's better. You don't need that, come on." I walked over and shut the door, locking it. I stepped closer to her and put my arm around her shoulders.

She shrugged and shook me off. "No, I don't need it. I want it. But you don't get that. You're gone when I wake up and I'm asleep when you come home. And this stuff keeps me company when you're not here. These people keep me company."

"What people? That Charlie guy?"

"Yeah, and Amber, and Bri and Brandon. There are others too, but yeah. These people are my new friends, Cole. You should meet them."

"First off, Charlie is a burn-out already Meredith. He's like what? 18? 19 maybe?! He can't say a sentence hardly and his nose is all nasty and scabby."

"Yeah, but he's not a bad guy, really. Neither are the rest of them, just a little misunderstood. You just don't get it, and you're an asshole so why should I expect you to try and understand."

"What do you mean, these peoples are losers, addicts, Meredith. I don't have to meet them to know that. Charlie probably spoke, or rambled for that matter, enough for all of them."

"You're such a fucking jerk Cole. You don't even want to know me anymore. Just, have sex with your job from now on." She ran back to our bedroom, and locked our door.

I sat down at the kitchen table and opened the paper. I knew it was useless to try and talk to right then. She was irrational, probably high, and just an emotional mess. I can't say I didn't see this coming. She made sniffing sounds and I didn't know if she was snorting coke or weeping, but I decided to just let it go. She'd fall asleep on our bed and I'd take the couch for the night. In the morning I planned to make it up to her, but never got the chance to see how that turned out.

By the time I woke up, she was gone.



Other nodes in this series of stories include, in chronological order:

I knew enough about him to know his name and what kind of snowball he could make
Get off me Daddy, you're crushin' my cigarettes!
She makes sniffing sounds, and I don't know if she's snorting coke or weeping
Cut off that stupid goatee and move on
I come home, she lifted up her wings. I guess that this must be the place.
A Horse With No Name backwards
Ginny and Lola don't work on Thursdays. Sorry, Sugar.

And More To Come.

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