The lock feels like a complex puzzle. I just want into my apartment. Although I don't know why I would, it's a crappy little flat in the busiest section of town. The walls are all brick, and you can hear everyone one else around you. I've got to get in though, I've been out on the town for too long as is. Not even sure what time it is. She's going to be so upset with me if she finds out. I pray that she still sleeps.
The lock finally clicks open and I half fall inside. My body feels like its covered in a bunch of pans and pots. Nothing seems quiet. No matter how I try. My coat falls to the floor with thud, my phone must still be in my pocket. Lazily I wander over to the bedroom door. I press my palm against its cold wooden texture. I sigh deeply and give a slight push.
There she lies, as peaceful as ever. My chest grows tight as I take a step into the room. The clock read 5:30 am, meaning she'll undoubtedly be up and about within the hour. I take off my blood-stained shirt and let it slip from my pale fingers. I head into the bathroom and glare into the mirror. I hate what I see. How is this what I've become? I clench my hand into a fist, resisting the urge to smash apart the thin glass that serves as a constant reminder of how much I've fallen. She doesn't deserve to be put through this. I cry, for I have let her down once again.
Dragging my feet, I coast into the living room. The couch is uncomfortable and the springs stick out. But I'd rather sleep on it than sleep next to her knowing how upset she'll be when she sees me. This is what I deserve. Pain and misery. I lay down upon the couch and stare into the ceiling. I don't remember falling asleep, or how long it took to do so.
"Charlie..." a voice calls out to me in the darkness. Maybe I got lucky and I died in my sleep.
"Charlie, Charlie what happened to you?" The voice sounded very concerned, now I know I did not get lucky. I'm still here, a disappointment. And that voice is no stranger. It's Gwen, her angelic voice sings out to me and all I feel is despair. A warmth overcomes my chest as well as a certain roughness. The feeling brushes over my torso time and time again. She must be washing the crusted blood from me.
"What did you get yourself into this time Charles?" she only calls me that when it's getting serious. I feel her soft and gentle hand cradle around my own. A tear slips from my eye as regret overwhelms me. I try to squeeze her hand in mine, yet the strength eludes me. She sighs deeply while holding my hand in both of hers. "You were out drinking, again weren't you? I keep telling you that you must stop Charlie, you get into too much trouble when you go out like that," her voice soft, yet firm. A single drop of moisture drips onto my bare stomach. She begins to weep.
"I am sorry," I barely manage to choke out. Not even sure if it was loud enough to hear. Her soft golden hair brushes against my chest as she leaned in closer to me. Her hands leave mine and find their way to my swollen cheeks. A second and a third tear plummet down onto my cheek and upper lip. Her breathing rapid and stuttering. With all my might, I manage to pry my eyes open enough to see her. As much as seeing her like this was going to kill me.
She was as stunning as always. Her hair swayed effortlessly from her crown. Her eyes shone bright blue in the sunlight the poured through the window. The tears reflecting light every which way. I felt my gut wrench knowing what I was doing to her. Through her tears came something so unexpected. A smile, bright and radiant. Followed by a few words that hurt me and made me feel complete at the same time. "I love you Charlie,".
My head is spinning in circles, my stomach twisted in knots. How can I love her so much yet simultaneously despise myself, and continuously cause harm? I began to sob, a loud, ugly cry. One that is maybe desperately needed at a time like this. I could not even control it anymore. I just let loose all the anguish that has been welling up inside me for what feels like an eternity.
She stood up from kneeling on the rigid wood floor. Motioning for me to move. I forced myself to sit up, using the back of the couch as a hand rail to support me. She took a seat next to the arm of the couch and looked over at me. She outstretched a hand towards me and tugged gently on my arm. I gave in and let her pull me close to her. She laid my head upon her lap, my tears soon dampened her light grey leggings that she loved to wear when she was at home. I could feel her body shake ever so slightly as she too was crying a little more than before.
My head pounded like the drums war. My brain wanted to split in two. As though she sensed it, she ran her slender fingers through my thick auburn hair. I finally welled up the courage to try to talk to her.
"I am so sorry," I stated again, "I can't imagine how angry you must be with me right now," I choked out between sobs. This was not the first time I've came home from a drunken excursion like this. This was, however, the worst it's ever been. She warned me after the last time that she wasn't going to put up with much more of my drinking problem. "Please don't leave me, "I practically begged. Just realizing how slurred my speech was, I grew red in the face.
"Where ever did you get the idea that I was going to leave you Charles?" I swear I heard what resembled a chuckle in her voice. "You've got to be insane to think that I would ever leave you," her tone back to being unsmiling, "I was worried sick about you all night. You didn't call me or text me even once the whole time you were gone. I didn't know if something horrible had happened to you and you were dying on a street corner or something!" her voice high pitched and scratchy, like she was resisting yelling at me. "And by the state I found you on the couch, I wasn't far off," she jabbed. Try as hard as I wanted, I couldn't remember exactly what had happened. Only that there had been a fight of some kind.
She placed her hand upon my chin and turned my head to face hers. She looked worried and exhausted. Inhaling deeply, she leaned in and pressed her soft lips against my forehead, and lingered for a moment before pulling back only a mere 2 inches from my face. She looked me dead in the eyes yet another tear of sorrow fled down her cheek.
"This has to stop Charles, promise me that you will go get help. I don't want to hear on the news that my lover was found dead somewhere," she said this without missing a beat. No humor in her tone as she usually had, no sound of joy or happiness. This was her crying to me for help, crying to me to fix what I should have had under control years ago. I kept blaming everything else for my drinking. My job is too hard, everyone in the office is out to get me. My family hates me, I wasn't raised properly and this was the only life I knew. All of it excuses. I blamed my father the most, I'd tell myself that if he hadn't been such an alcoholic and drove my mom away, that I would be in a better place. If he hadn't abused my sisters and I so much, that my life would have been perfect. I never take responsibility for my actions, this I know to be truth.
I reached up with an aching hand and ran my fingers through her silky blonde hair.
"I promise to you, I will get help. I don't want you to feel this way anymore. I'm so tired Gwen, I don't want to feel like a failure anymore. I love you, and seeing you like this is killing me. I'll get help, I will," the words came out of my mouth in a mixture of cries and near hysteria.
"I sure hope so Charlie, I really do. Now let's get you into bed for a decent sleep. This couch is awful" I nodded in agreement and sat up to let her off the couch. She rose to her feet and held her hand out to me, I latched on quickly. She helps me get to my feet and we walked together towards the bedroom, taking it slow to ensure I didn't fall over.
She led me into the bedroom and helped me sit on the edge of the bed. Taking a glance at the clock I saw it was 6:25am, I hadn't even been home an hour and I've already ruined her day. She undid the belt and button on my jeans and slid them from my lower half. She then removed my socks and guided me down to the bed. My eyes felt as if there were boulders upon each eyelid. Keeping them open was almost impossible. I though narrowed eyes I watched as she removed her pants and only left her baggy t-shirt on. She climbed into bed behind me and carefully wrapped her arms around me. Her breathing in my ear was very soothing. It wasn't long before I had passed out, and the world once again faded to black.
"I love you Charles," She whispered.
The sleep I had felt short and was fueled by many nightmares. I awoke in a cold sweat, gasping for breath. I rolled over in the bed to find that Gwen wasn't there though. In her place, a note written on a piece of paper. 'Dear Charlie, I hope you slept well. I wish I could have stayed in bed with you, but unfortunately duty called and they needed me at the Clinic. In the microwave is breakfast, nothing fancy, but I'm not quite the cook you are. Take a shower okay? You smell something fierce. And when you get time, call Dr. Kozanchty, she specializes in alcohol related therapy. It would mean the world to me. Her number is 1-726-236-9927. I love you so much. Your Gwen, XOXO'.
A smile crept across my lips, as much as I felt like I was dying. She always knew what to do to cheer me up. It was time to change my life around. Kick this nasty habit to the curb, and it all started with having a shower and a fresh frame of mind. I ran the water as hot as I could handle, that's what my mom always said cured dad's hangovers, and it's never been wrong. The steam in the bathroom cleared out my sinuses, and mostly rid me of my headache. I opened the medicine cabinet and took a couple of painkillers. I dried off and waltzed into the bedroom and rummaged through my dresser for some decent clothes to wear for the day. Deciding on a white t-shirt and a pair of dark denim jeans, I dressed and strolled into the kitchen which smelt heavenly.
The aroma was almost intoxicating as I reached the microwave. Upon opening the door, I saw she cooked me eggs, turkey bacon, and the breakfast sausages I love. She even arranged it to look like a little face. She was such a goof ball at times. I always admired that about her. I sat at the two-person table and devoured the happy little breakfast face in a frenzy. I felt famished. Glad to have food in my belly, I reached over and grabbed the telephone off the counter. It was time to get some professional help.
Sweat poured out in buckets as I clutched onto that phone. I was never good at admitting that I needed help, but now isn't the time to be wallowing in self-pity. I dialed the number that Gwen had written down for me and held the phone to my ear. It began to ring, and ring, and ring, and just when I was about to hang up I heard a voice on the other end.
"Good afternoon, this is Dr. Kozanchty's office. How may I help you today?" a shrill and prude voice came across through the earpiece.
"H-hello, my name is Charles Bennett. I'm not sure what to do, but I need help," I spit out hastily. Hoping not to sound too ridiculous.
"Well Mr. Bennett, this is an alcohol therapy office. Are you having issues with drinking?" The shrill voice cut through the moment of silence.
"Yes, I am in desperate need of help. My life is spiraling out of control and I'm afraid of doing something ill regret forever," I said as flatly as I could, without giving into my emotions.
"A simple yes would have sufficed Mr. Bennett," she slapped back in my face. If this was how the receptionist was, how bad was the therapist going to be? I shuddered at the thought. "I'll see what she has available," she remarked and then went silent. Eons seemed to have passed before I heard another word from her. "She has an opening at 4:40 pm today does that work for you?" she lacked any human emotion.
I looked at the clock above the fridge and saw that it was already 3:30 in the afternoon. I knew that Gwen got off at 5, but I didn't think she would have an issue with me not being home if she knew I was just at the therapist.
"Yes, that would work fine thank you," my voice meek and pathetic sounding.
"All right, now I just need some general information. Your birthdate, gender and next of kin shall do," she said flatly.
"My birthday is December 6th, 1988. My gender is Male. And my Next of kin is Gwen Meadows, she is my Fiancée, her number is 1-726-443-0076" I responded, feeling pride in the fact she was engaged to me.
"Very well, see you at 4:40 Mr. Bennett," and with a dull click she was gone. And replaced with a much livelier dial tone. I set the phone back on the receiver and fell heavily against the back of my chair, exhaled loudly and rubbed my eyes. The address of the place was something that I didn't bother to find out. Kicking myself, I picked up the phonebook and flipped through until I found the office address.
"All the way across town huh?" I said aloud, "Crap, that will take me nearly an hour to walk there, and I don't exactly have money for a cab," a little aggravated now. I had to get moving now to be able to make it there in time. I tossed my plate in the sink and headed for the door. I slipped on my sneakers, grabbed my door keys off the hook and pulled a sweater from the closet as I walked out the door and headed down stairs.
Leaving my building gave me a quick reminder that it was still crisp and chilly outside regardless of the sun shine we had. Going to need a quick pace to get to my appointment as well as keep the chill off my bones. I should have grabbed my heavier jacket, but it's a too late to go back now. I sped up into a brisk walk, keeping my hands inside my pockets for warmth. It was then that I realized that I had also left my phone at home with my jacket so could no longer call Gwen to let her know where I'll be. It wouldn't make a difference even if I went back to get it, the battery won't have any charge left. I could just call her from the Therapists office.
Pushing that from my mind I hummed a tune and kept trucking on across the city, keeping an eye on my watch. 4:00. Why couldn't I be smart and own a bike? Or a scooter even? This was going to be a hell of a walk.
As I walked I had a nice chat with a young lady who was doing a study for her social class. I wasn't much help to her, but I was glad for the company. Came across this cute little restaurant that Gwen would love, one of those hard rock places. So, I quickly booked us a table for 730, maybe that will make up for the hell I've caused lately.
The rest of the walk was more of a mad dash to get there. I came up to the building at 4:35, I cut it close, but at least I made it. I pushed open the large bronze colored door and headed to the front desk. The office smelt like old paper and the walls were covered in cheesy poster of self-confidence and the like. The receptionist at the desk certainly matched her voice. She must've been at least 65, her hair white and pulled back taught into a little bun on the top of her head. She didn't look pleased about anything.
"Hey, I'm Charlie, I have an appointment right away," I was out of breath, and apparently out of shape. She glared back at me through her horn-rimmed glasses, then nudged her head towards the hallway to my left. I could take a hint, so I passed down the hallway searching for the Dr.'s name tag on a wall somewhere.
"Mr. Bennett, I presume?" A smooth voice called out of a doorway I had walked past. I shot a look over my shoulder and what I saw surprised me. The therapist could not have been any older than 35. She also seemed happy and full of life, unlike her receptionist, the human robot.
"Yes Ma'am, I'm Charles Bennett," I spoke assertively, and held out my hand. She looked at me with a smile and then laughed quietly.
"You can call me Tabitha, none of that Ma'am crap here please," She said ruefully. My whole body eased up, and I felt all the tensions fade away. She wasn't bad on the eyes either, so that really helped. She motioned me to follow her into her office, and then to take a seat in one of the plushiest chairs I had ever seen before. The office was also immaculate. Not a single thing out of place. There was a strong aura of professionalism here, I felt slightly out of place.
We spent the next hour going over basic things about my life, I was born in a small town no one had ever heard of, I came from a very broken home. I moved out as soon as I turned 16, never looked back. I bounced from town to town, job to job, relationships never worked out due to how much I moved around. That and my fear of commitment. I got heavy into drinking when I turned 21, and never necessarily stopped. Finally moved to Rowena when I was 25, found a job in construction that paid a decent wage. Demanding work, hard bosses, and in a city, that never stops growing, that's all I needed. I met Gwen when I was 27, fell madly in love with her and got our own place that same year. Been with her for nearly 2 years now, got engaged, and couldn't be more depressed. Which is an awful thing to admit. But this drinking was killing me, and we both knew it.
"I think that's all we have time for today Charles. I want to see you again, okay? You are going to need quite a few sessions I'm afraid. In the end, you'll see that it's all worth it," she said with somber tone.
"Thanks a lot for seeing me on such short notice Tabitha, I am relieved to finally be seeing someone about this issue," I cried on and off through the meeting, but in the end, I felt slightly better about it. Maybe I could do this.
It was 5:50, giving me about an hour to get home to Gwen and tell her that I booked a reservation for that café place. I began to jog as I made my way back to our apartment, I should make up some time that way. As I was nearing the apartment I saw a florist cart down the street. What better way to say sorry than roses and a dinner?
"Hey man, I'll take a dozen roses please," I wheezed through my teeth. The guy running the cart bunched up a dozen roses and pointed to a sign saying the cost 72 bucks for a dozen. I only had 40 bucks in my bank now. "I'll just take 6 then please," I said and passed my card over his mobile payment device. He scoffed as he handed me the roses.
I walked more cautiously the rest of the way to make sure I didn't wreck any of the flowers. I burst into my apartment building, I buzzed with anticipation. The stairs were a blur as I rushed up them to meet my Fiancé in our flat. I got to the door and jammed my key into the slot, unlocking it in one smooth motion. The door flew open and slammed against the cold brick wall.
"Gwen, baby! I'm home, where are you?" I shouted into the house. Got no response though. Perplexed, I ran to the bedroom thinking maybe she had to have a nap after this morning's rude wake up call. Yet she wasn't in there either, the excitement I was feeling quickly left. I walked into the bathroom to check if she was there, again, she wasn't. Worry started to set in, this isn't like her, she was always home on time. Did she finally smarten up and leave me? Is she finally done with me?
I stumbled my way into the living room, tears freely pouring from my eyes. Then I heard a buzzing noise, like a phone vibrating. My mind shot to my phone still in my jacket pocket, I raced over to it and ripped it out, shocked to find it still had a charge. As well as 2 new voicemails.
I dialed my voicemail number and waited, hand shaking.
"You have 1 new mess- "I clicked 7 to read my newest messages.
"First message. 'Charlie, it's Gwen. There are some terrifying guys here. I'm scared. (shouting in the background could be heard). These men are saying that you did something horrible to someone name Oskar or something. (She was crying now) They said that they are going to take it out on me if you don't get down here. You wouldn't do something like that, would you? (She screams in agony; a man's voice came on) You shouldn't have messed with Oskar and his family Charles. Very naughty, we're going to have some fun here. Shame you couldn't be there for poor little Gwen.' End of first message"
I dropped to my knees and screamed louder than I have ever before. My fist flew into the hard brick wall, drawing blood. My whole body trembled with rage, sorrow, regret, and a deep sadness.