Dee opened her medicine cabin cabinet and pulled out her mint dental floss. The smell tasted like that first line of coke. The drip in the back of the throat tasted minty. Almost sweet.
Shaking hands dropped it, bounced on the porcelain sink.
Brought those hands to her mouth. She’d been straight-edge for a year now. Better to say straight-edge than “in recovery,” she thought. When she went to the bar and got the XX on her hands, she could be militant about her sobriety.
She’d started using when she was a dumbass teen dropout living on the streets, doing almost anything to survive. She pushed back from the sink, dental hygiene forgotten.
Dee stumbled into her bedroom, bare feet slapped against the hardwood floor. She’d slept on floors like this. Squatting in abandoned houses, happy to not have the sun beaming down on her or some cop’s flashlight.
She’d specialized in being tiny, almost invisible. She would listen to all the gossip, storing info that could be useful one day: who’d gone to jail, who was holding, who’d OD’d…
A popular song from the 90s broke the spiral of memories. She used the song for unknown numbers. She grabbed the phone from the bed, pressed the fuck you button, ignoring whoever was on the other line. Threw it back down.
She took a few deep breaths. She needed to get ready for work. The shop wouldn’t run itself and everyone knew Russ was gunning for her job. Asshole. She took another steadying breath, reached into her closet.
That thong, th-thong-thong-thong started yammering again. She huffed in impatience, snatched the phone.
She pressed talk, “What?”
There was silence on the other end. She could hear wheezing.
Her lips thinned, “I don’t have time for this shit. What do you want?”
She heard a throat clear, a gravelly voice said, “Hey sis, long time no see.”
Her eyes widened with recognition, “K.C. is that you?”
“Yeah, what you know good?”
He’s still on that shit, she thought. Asking where that next hit was. “I don’t know nuttin’ man.”
“Look. I need help. I’ve been sick like this for weeks,” he started coughing, and she could hear the rattle in his chest. “I got no money. Nobody. Somebody left this phone in that house we used to stay at on Hine Street. Remember that one?”
She hadn’t hid well enough that time. Some nights when she closed her eyes, the bastard’s fingers ripped into her throat, his liquored breath burning her face. He’d told her she’d better enjoy it or pretend. K.C. had run in, whaled on a guy with a bat until he turned her loose. She swallowed.
“Listen, I’ve helped out a lot over the years. I never asked for nothing. But I’m asking now,” he coughed again. He sounded real bad.
Could she leave him like this? She owed him more than anyone else. Was she strong enough to go back and not use?
Word count: 495.
This short story is for TipsyLit’s prompt this week. Making an impossible choice. Here the option is one of sacrifice his well-being or hers?