MARGOT sat up straight in bed, her temples pounding from a late night of drinking with strangers. She'd just moved out on her own, to an apartment near the bowling alley on Cortez Rd., and thought it appropriate to celebrate the occasion with some new friends, a few old friends, and a keg from her friend's friend Carol Hayes, who was just old enough to buy alcohol. Margot was only seventeen, not legally allowed to have her own apartment, or even to drink for that matter, but her mother had worked something out for her when they both thought it was time she began living life on her own.
    She held up one hand to shield her eyes from the brutal light shining in from the Sunday sun outside, then the other over her mouth as she stifled an oncoming wave of vomit. Oh God! She thought, and burped up a waft of stomach acid. She pulled in a breath through her nose, catching a whiff of what she'd just let out, and was barely able to fight back the urge to spill the contents of her stomach onto the floor.
    She tossed the bed sheets aside, revealing her long and slender legs. Her feet touched down on the floor, and once they'd gripped tightly to the carpet underneath, and she'd found herself a firm foundation, she stood upright. The blood rushed from her head, making her dizzy, and she struggled to keep herself balanced. The room spun around her, a blur of beer cans and dirty laundry. She shut her eyes tightly, and waited for her head to refill itself--which it did, eventually.
    Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror on the wall. She turned to look at herself and frowned; her hair was a tangled mess and her face was void of any color, more gray now than its usual strawberries and cream. The bands of morning light shone in on her through the blinds of the bedroom window, dividing her into sections. She was naked now, except for a pair of knickers, shivering under the ceiling fan.
    "At least there's no one here to see me like this," she said out loud, leaving her bedroom, nearly tripping over an unfinished bottle of beer on her way out.
    As she sat on the pot, she admired the walls--bare, white--and the puppy dog shower curtain that hung over the bathtub. Her mother had bought it for her as a housewarming gift; they picked it out together at the Goodwill.
    After flushing the toilet, she removed her underwear, and took a long hot shower, letting the water burn her face and breasts, and turning up the heat enough so that she could sweat out the rest of her hangover.
    The curtains crumpled in Margot's fist as she drew them open and stepped out onto the bath mat, where she dried herself and put on a robe. When she was sufficiently dry, she put on a facial-cleansing cream and left for the living room. It was even more a mess than her bedroom: overturned party cups rested on big ugly stains in the carpet, dirt was tracked in by people who'd not taken off their shoes like Margot had asked, six or seven ping-pong balls laid in small pools of alcohol on the table that had been drunkenly repositioned to the center of the living room, not to mention the legion of beer bottles unevenly distributed throughout the apartment. She did not see the keg, as anticipated, only the imprint it left on the carpet. Carol and that sexy guy with the guitar must have taken it with them when they left. Come to think of it, that must have been when everyone else left too. She didn't remember much.
    Even in her refreshed state, Margot was not up to taking on the chore of cleaning the apartment, and she decided instead to pour herself a bowl of Special K. She discovered, much to her dismay, then, after rifling through all the cabinets and drawers, that all the bowls were dirty, having been used as cups the night prior when all the plastic ones had been used up. Washing dishes seemed to her too great a burden, so she escaped to the back porch and the comforting sensation of cool air on her skin.
    Smoking seemed to Margot a necessary evil this morning. She lit up a cigarette and inhaled deeply. She didn't normally smoke, and she wasn't addicted or anything, but it didn't hurt to keep a pack around for times when she needed to calm her nerves. She exhaled, and through the small cloud of smoke she could see a couple parents watching their kids play on the jungle gym in the playground across the little lake outside her porch.
    "Mommy," she whispered.
    Through the sliding glass door she could hear the phone ringing inside. She put out the cigarette, slid open the door and walked up to the kitchen counter.
    "Hi, Hon," said her mother's voice, as unmistakable as always. "I was just thinking about you."
    A tear rolled down her face to the side of her mouth, where she stopped it with her tongue, tasting its bitter-sweetness.
    Margot had trouble saying anything.