Cathy Eats Her Words

November 12, 2007

Day Seven

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Novel — jeanne @ 7:08 pm

Star got out of jail and disappeared into her father’s house, and never called her mom to let her know she was okay. Cathy was free to think whatever she wanted about her time in the slammer, so she imagined her in international safety orange prison-issue clothes, huddled in the corner of a small gray cell, freezing and shivering thru the night, eating bread and water, avoiding the eyes of the other, brutally vicious women with bad teeth and ragged hair.

The saga continued. Cathy lived a relatively normal life, doing her gardening and researching her blog, making elaborate meals for two, taking long dog walks with Gray and the two doggies, sitting reading books with Scootie dozing in her lap, all while things were falling apart back at the ex ranch.

She got a call from Star one night after they’d been asleep for awhile. Cathy noticed it was past eleven.

“I had a fight with Greane,” she said.

Cathy didn’t know what to say. “Okay.” She looked at Gray, who was sleeping beside her, unaware.

“She got real mad and took my car and left us here, and hit a car backing out of the parking space, and my phone’s in the car and I can’t call Dad to let him know where I am. Can you call him for me?”

“Sure, sure,” she said. “But where are you?”

“Oh, we’re staying with Ben. He lives not very far from you.”

Who’s Ben? she wondered, but decided to go with something closer to her heart. “You’re in town and you haven’t come to see me? But I wanted to find out how you were in jail.”

“I can’t talk about that. It’s too horrible.” She didn’t sound horrified. She sounded distracted. “Anyway, can you call Dad and tell him what happened so I don’t get into trouble? I’m really worried how he’ll react. He’s so unreasonable these days.”

“Maybe because you’re off running around with people he doesn’t know,” Cathy suggested.

Star didn’t answer. “Will you call him?” She sounded impatient.

“Yes, I’ll call him.” And she did. And Richard didn’t answer. He’d undoubtedly gone to sleep. So Cathy shrugged and burrowed under the covers, cuddling up next to Gray’s warmth and trying to get back into the dream she’d been yanked out of.

And had almost succeeded when the phone rang again. It was Richard. “I’ve been dealing with Greane,” he said, wearily. “What’s up?”

There was the slightest trace of annoyance in his voice. This annoyed her. “Oh, I just called to tell you that Star just called me and asked me to call you because she just had a fight with Greane who left in her car with her cellphone inside, so she couldn’t call you.”

“But she could call you, eh?”

“Oh, yeah. I wonder why she didn’t call you.”

“Because she didn’t want me to yell at her, as I most certainly would have.” He sounded stressed, and whatever was causing him to slur hadn’t gone away.

“Not to worry,” he said, making Cathy instantly worried. “She called me just a minute ago to warn me that Greane was on her way to my house and I should take the keys away from her.”

“What’s going on?” There was so much that wasn’t being said.

“I told her to leave me out of it. It’s her car. But then Greane arrived…”

“Why did she come to your house?”

He sighed. “She’s been staying on the couch downstairs for the past few days. Something about not being able to live with her mother.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, she was all speedy, like she’d been doing amphetamines. I asked her, of course, and she denied it, but she gave every sign – her eyes were dilated and she was sweating. And talking a mile a minute.”

“But she’s pregnant.” Cathy was horrified.

“I don’t think that means a lot to her. Anyway, she told me the whole sordid story of how the parking space was far away from the house they were going to, and she dropped off Star and Saphyr and had to walk back from the parking place, and by that time they’d ditched her and gone off to some other place, a party, evidently. And by the time she found them they had a big huge fight and she came back here to tell me that Star is up there doing coke and meth.”

“That’s not exactly what Star said when she called me,” Cathy mused. “Do you believe what Greane has to say about Star doing drugs?”

“I don’t know. Anything’s possible. I just know that only one of them, if either, can be telling the truth. And at this point I’m inclined to think all the truth belongs to Greane, tho it’s a hard call.”

“Yeah. I’ve never felt more confused.”

“Well, try to get back to sleep. I’ve been dealing with screaming girls all day, and it’s actually been nice talking to an adult for a while.”

“Yeah, a sleepy one who’s no help to you at all.” But it was good to hear her ex compliment her. He must be in bad shape, because usually he sniped at her instead.

The next day, she called to check on things. Star answered. “How did you get home?” she wondered.

“Oh, Ben gave us a ride down here.”

“Who’s we?” Star never volunteered such details, and Cathy constantly fought to keep the names straight.

“Oh, Saphyr came with me. She’s going to be staying here for awhile.”

“Ah. And what are you doing home?”

Star snorted. “I live here,” silly.

“So what’s going on with Greane?”

“I kicked her ass out of here,” she reported victoriously.

“Why would you do that? She’s like nine months pregnant. Does she have anywhere else to go?”

“Fuck her. She’s on the street now. She was spreading lies about me.”

Cathy tried to sound noncommittal. “Mmm. What happened?”

“I drove her up to the top of our neighborhood and made her get out of the car. And now I’m cleaning up all her mess. She broke a glass and left it lying on the living room floor. The couch is a mess, she spilled diet Coke all over the place. And there’s a shit smell in the cushions. I’m afraid to touch the blanket she’d been using.”

Cathy was concerned for her welfare. Greane couldn’t walk long distances on those ankles. “Does she have a phone so she can call someone to come pick her up?”

“No,” she said triumphantly. “Bitch has to walk. Serves her right.”

Cathy disapproved. “Star, you need to have more compassion. She’s your friend, and she needs help.”

Star laughed at her and hung up. So much for compassion, Cathy thought.

Richard called Cathy from the car a few days later. He’d just driven Star to her boyfriend’s house for the weekend and wanted to discuss her condition.

“I know she’s doing drugs,” he announced. “I’m so tired of her attitude. She was all animated and chatty when she first got into the car, and then she became incoherent and started using words that didn’t make sense. I’m certain she took something to make her sleep so she wouldn’t have to talk to me while she was using me to get to her fucking boyfriend’s so they could fuck all weekend while I keep a fucking roof over her head.”

Cathy constantly had to balance what might be the truth with the irritating way that both Star and her dad had of exaggerated everything. She had a lot of trouble sorting it out. Was Star incoherent or was she just ignoring her pain in the ass father while he ranted at her? It was becoming a real bore having to remain noncommittal and reasonable in the face of such insanity coming at her. Only Gray was sane. And he was spending his days in the basement, working on his projects, and never picked up the phone. So Cathy was at the mercy of all onslaughts.

Like the day Saphyr stopped by, dragging a scruffy guy in dirty clothes with multiple piercings, who said nothing. While she used the bathroom and accepted a sandwich for lunch, she announced that she was working on a spell to cure her cancer. This surprised Cathy, who was immediately sorry for her.

“Yep, I’ve got a hard life,” Saphyr said with a sigh, looking under her lashes at Cathy to see how she was taking it, and seeing with some satisfaction that Cathy was trying to think of some way to help. “I’m beyond help,” she continued. “It’s my nose.” Cathy examined her normal-looking nose. “Nasal polyps. They’re cancerous. And I get migraines, and then I bleed from my tear ducts.” Cathy had never heard of such a thing.

Saphyr took a few bites of sandwich and scooted off the chair, heading for the door. “Yes, I don’t have long to live,” she finished. “My baby won’t have a mother, and I’ve got one on the way that might or might not make it to term.” She patted her belly dramatically.

“What about your parents?” Cathy asked with concern, wondering if it would be possible to adopt Saphyr’s babies herself, and then squelching that impulse.

“My dad’s an alcoholic, and he beats me, even while I’m pregnant. I’ve already been to the hospital when he kicked me in the stomach. But Children’s Services is trying to help me find another place to live.”

“Maybe you can stay with Star and her father until you have your baby,” she suggested, deciding to call Richard and talk him into it.

But he wasn’t having any of it. “She’s not even pregnant,” he said when she offered to get a spare bed out of the attic and bring it down there in the truck. “Your problem is that you believe anything anyone tells you.”

“Whereas you don’t believe a word.”

“And look who’s right?”

“I have no idea who’s right.”

“All I know is that I’ve had about enough of Star and her antics. Her lies. Her friends. I’m about ready to kick her back out of my house and change the locks.”

There went Cathy’s brilliant idea that he would take in all three of the girls and they would live happily ever after. “Meaning what?”

“I’m just warning you so you have time to prepare for her possibly coming back to live with you.”

Cathy gulped. “Maybe she’ll move in with one of her other friends.”

“Drug friends.”

“Oh. Yeah.”

While he didn’t immediately throw her out, she started staying in town with various friends again, and spent one evening at Cathy’s, camping out on her ex bed, on the phone. She was full of anxiety about a friend of hers, who was in the hospital, and she wanted to go visit him, but her boyfriend was putting his foot down and acting jealous, and wouldn’t let her. She spent several hours on the phone with Spike, pleading with him to let her go see her friend, and Cathy could hear her from the kitchen, close to tears, arguing that nobody else could go see him, and he needed someone to stay with him while he lay so close to death. She could tell that Spike wasn’t moved.

Cathy walked into the bedroom to see Star pacing back and forth, her face distorted by tears. She could hear Spike yelling at her over the phone, he was accusing her of being faithless, of sleeping around, of doing drugs, and Star was pleading her innocence.

The conversation made Cathy extremely uneasy. She knew that pleading tone, she’d used it once when she was younger and dating a control-freak jealous boyfriend. Star was begging for him to love her and trust her to do the right thing, and he was demanding that she submit to his will. It was breaking Cathy’s heart to see her daughter suffering such abuse, and she started to say something, but Star turned and snarled at her to get out of her room. “I’ve got everything under control,” she insisted, thru her tears.

In the end, she defiantly told Spike that she was going to spend the night in the hospital keeping vigil over her friend. Greane came in the house while this was still going on, and Cathy immediately turned to her for an explanation of what was going on.

“Well, we’ve got this friend, Brendan. He was hit by a car last night.”

“Oh, that’s awful.”

“Yeah, he was just crossing the street out in front of his apartment, and a car came by and bowled him over. Completely crushed his knees.” Cathy cringed. “Yeah, they were all clotted and swollen, like a steamship round of beef.” Cathy felt sick to her stomach. Greane continued with relish. “They might have to amputate.” She paused for a moment, listening to the heated conversation between Star and Spike. “I don’t like the way he’s been treating her,” she said scornfully. He’s making a big drama out of everything. He thinks she’s been sleeping around with all these guys, and won’t listen to reason.”

“I wonder why he doesn’t trust her,” Cathy said, thinking about her old boyfriend.

Star came out of the room, wiping her eyes, holding the phone in her hand. “I’m going to stay with Brendan tonight,” she said. “Can I borrow a pillow and blanket so I can be comfortable while I stay up and watch him die in the hospital?”

Cathy went and fetched some bedclothes for her daughter. She was worried.

Right after they left, Spike called back, and Cathy tried to calm him down. He was certain she was up to no good. He didn’t believe that anyone was in the hospital, and accused Star of lying so she could go off to some party where there were free drugs. Cathy felt tired.

The next day Greane and Saphyr came by. Greane walked right into the house, without knocking, and called for Cathy to see if she had an ace bandage they could use to wrap up Saphyr’s leg. She’d fallen on it. Saphyr’s father had damaged it once before, she said, and now she’d hurt it falling over the night before. Cathy went and found something they could use, and went out to the car where Saphyr was waiting, unable to make it up the steps. She was dozing when Cathy got to the car, and woozily pointed out where her leg was damaged, then asked her for lunch.

Cathy examined Saphyr’s leg. There was nothing wrong with it, no scrapes, no bruising, as normal as she’d ever seen her legs. She made them come into the house. Saphyr was very shaky on her feet, and wobbled up the stairs. Greane smelled of shit again. Cathy assumed that Greane was so big and pregnant that she could no longer reach her butt to wipe it.

“Is there anything else wrong with you?” she asked Saphyr, who was perched at the edge of her stool as if she were about to fall off it.”

“Oh, someone gave me a pill for the pain,” she said, reaching down to rub her leg and toppling right off onto the floor.

“I’ve got to talk to you about your daughter,” she said as Cathy helped her to an easy chair in the corner and turned to make sandwiches for the girls. “Witch to witch.”

Greane stood around, telling Saphyr to hush, the news was so bad that Cathy shouldn’t hear it.

“You know Steven, the guy who’s in the hospital with a bad leg?” Cathy nodded. It had been Brendan yesterday. “Well, he wasn’t hit by a car at all, but was shooting up, and he blew a vein in his arm. You should have seen it. Six inches of his arm, hard as a rock, dead. They might have to amputate.”

Cathy was confused. “Then, what was all that about? Did she spend the night in the hospital watching over him?”

“Yeah, she did, but Joey, a friend of ours, he went by to say hi and caught her shooting up Steven in his other arm. And later he came back and saw her in the bathroom, injecting herself in the ankle so she wouldn’t leave track marks.” Saphyr glanced at Cathy’s ashen face. “She’s that far gone,” she said, sounding satisfied. “I just thought I needed to let you know what she’s really up to, so that you aren’t fooled by her lies.”

Cathy felt sick. As she was hearing this sordid tale, she was trying to figure out just why she was feeling so ill. Certainly the things she was hearing were enough to make her toss her lunch, but she sensed that the bad feelings were coming from the girls. It was as if they were under a cloud of negativity that they spread wherever they went. She had the sudden feeling that she couldn’t wait to get rid of them, and hustled them out to their car as soon as she could. And, in fact, she felt much better the moment they turned Star’s car around and left the neighborhood.

She headed for Gray, the bright spot of sanity in her muddled universe. But even his calming influence could do nothing to distract her from the continuing catastrophe. It was a constant crisis. The pace seemed to confuse even the girls, who would be completely taken by the details of one crisis, only to forget them entirely the next day, when some other crisis would develop.

The next day, she got a call from Greane just as they were getting ready for bed. It seems that Saphyr and some unnamed others had stranded her at the local hospital, and she wanted Cathy to come get her. So Cathy got dressed and picked her up on the corner of the street opposite the emergency room entrance. Greane was a dark, hulking shape under the street lights. It was as if she carried her own shadow that overpowered the yellow mercury glow of the lights. She got in the car, reeking of cigarette smoke. “Saphyr’s been arrested,” she stated excitedly.

“What?” What now? Cathy’s heart sunk. No more strange and distressing revelations about girls she would avoid if they weren’t Star’s friends and in such obvious need of help that Cathy was beginning to regret wanting to offer.

“Yeah. We went into the emergency room earlier this evening, because Saphyr needed something for her migraine. She told you about her polyps, right? Well, they give her these ferocious headaches and she can’t move without something. So she went in there, and they told her she was a drug addict and said they wouldn’t treat her.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah, and then she started yelling at the nurse, ‘cuz she was in so much pain, and the bitch called security. And all of a sudden there were six police officers standing right there, ready to arrest Saphyr. I didn’t know what I was going to do. They were arresting her, and I was afraid they were going to arrest me to, so I left with Marty.”

“Who’s Marty?” It was so hard to keep track of all these faceless people. For all Cathy knew, they might all be fictitious.

“Oh, he’s one of the guys who lives at Brendan’s house. That’s where Steven lives, the guy who was in the hospital.”

“And how’s Steven?” Cathy kept her attention on the road, not really wanting to see the look on Greane’s face, not wanting to catch her in any of the lies she must be struggling with. All of this just couldn’t be true.

“Who? Oh, he’s fine.” She dismissed it as if he hadn’t been lying close to death in the hospital just hours before.

Greane wasn’t fond of the idea of going home with Cathy, who offered her a nice warm bed and a (hint, hint) shower. She wanted to go back to where she’d been hanging out, Brendan and Steven’s.

This was the same place Star had been hanging out, in some upper floor apartment she couldn’t point out, where Greane had earlier told her all the occupants did all day was to snort oxycontin and smoke meth and take pills until they were wasted, and then they’d watch TV and loll about in their own shit.

“Are you sure you want to go back there?” Greane nodded vigorously. Cathy reminded herself to look up what kind of drugs caused diarrhea. As well as what drugs caused craziness as a side-effect. She felt like she was getting crazy herself, from exposure to all this strange behavior from the girls.

At four in the morning, she was awakened by a knock on her front door. She went to the door, but could see nobody thru the glass, and was halfway back to bed when she realized someone was on her front porch.

She opened the door to find Greane slumped on her glider, smoking a cigarette. With her was a scruffy boy with a long bear and a heavy metal t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off. He rose from the glider as Cathy opened the door, and fled down the stairs, saying something about how the others had left her at the apartment to go to the hospital and she didn’t want to go with them, so he brought her here. He mumbled something about her breaking her waters, and Cathy was alarmed.

She turned to ask Greane for more details and to see if she wanted to be examined for signs of labor, but the poor thing was close to passing out, sitting there on the glider. The cigarette was in her lap, smoldering, while she stared at the street light. Cathy reached out and took the cigarette from her. Her lap was dry. So much for breaking her waters, she thought. Greane gave no sign of being able to feel the cigarette burning her skin, tho Cathy smelled scorched cloth, and a very strong smell of shit. She wanted to stick Greane in the shower, but took pity and put her to bed in Star’s old room, instead. And was immediately sorry as she noticed that Greane’s heel was caked with something dark brown and crusty.

The next morning, Cathy woke to hear Greane stumbling around in the hall bathroom. She made lots of dropping and slamming noises, and Cathy thought that maybe she was looking thru the drawers for some soap. Or drugs. So she got up and got dressed and went and knocked on the bathroom door. Greane opened the door, wrapped in a towel. But, Cathy noted, dry as a bone. Her right foot and ankle were blackened with a cracked substance, like dirt, only blacker. Tar, perhaps. Maybe she stepped in road works.

She asked, “Do you have the runs?”

“Yeah, I was just going to take a shower. I stepped in a big pile of dog shit last night.”

“Why don’t you wash your foot off in the toilet first, so you don’t clog up the drain?” Greane nodded okay and closed the door, and Cathy went off to inspect the sheets in the spare room, which were smeared with the same black, foul-smelling crusty stuff. She pulled them off the bed and stuffed them into the washer.

Greane came out of the bathroom, not having taken a shower, her ankle and foot partially clean. Cathy made a note to take a sponge to the floor where she walked back to the spare room to get dressed. She stumbled out of the bedroom a few moments later, a cigarette in her hand. She was trailing things out of her clothing, a bunch of coins that kept dropping out of her pocket, her charger cord that she kept tripping over. She sat on the front porch and said in a small child voice that she just wanted to go home. Cathy felt sorry for her and drove her back to her mother’s house.

All the way down there she insisted that Star was living dangerously. She kept mentioning oxycontin and meth and coke and pills. Cathy was getting tired of hearing it. She replied that unless they could put Star into rehab, there wasn’t much they could do about it, and Greane reacted indignantly, as if Star’s downfall would be Cathy’s fault. Cathy couldn’t wait to drop her off, and promised herself she would have nothing more to do with either Saphyr or Greane.

But Greane didn’t notice. “Yeah, I used to be a crackhead, myself,” she said, a trace of satisfaction in her voice. She was smoking another cigarette, her third since she got in the car. “And I used to do an eighth of an ounce of meth every day, when I was selling it. I had Saphyr working for me, too. We were still in high school.” She took another drag. “Yeah, I know all about addiction and recovery. Because I’m clean now,” she said, looking at Cathy with concern. “I want you to know that. I should know about what Star’s doing, and I’m telling you it’s as bad as the worse things I’ve ever done. She’s mainlining meth, and she’s going to die.”

“Mmm,” Cathy said. “And what are you on now?”

“Nothing. I swear. I’m pregnant.” She blew out a lungful of smoke with vigor. “I blew out all the serotonin in my brain with all the drugs I used to do, and they finally put me on something strong,” she waved her hand vaguely, “during the day, and at night I’m taking seroquel. They’re antipsychotics.”

That’s comforting, thought Cathy. “Don’t they realize you’re pregnant?” she asked, unable to believe doctors would prescribe such drugs to a pregnant girl.

“Oh, they don’t have any choice,” she said. “I’m crazy without them.”

“Mmm.”

“Yeah, Saphyr’s on lithium, and she’s got a brain tumor. And she’s pregnant.”

Cathy was beginning to doubt it. She was beginning to doubt a lot of things.

When she got back, she noticed the bowl where she collected loose change that came out of dirty jeans. It was empty. The smell of shit was overpowering in the bathroom, and there were brown smears all over the toilet seat and in the toilet bowl. She flushed several times, but the smears were like glue, so she got out the brush and the comet and cleaned it thoroughly. But the room still smelled of shit. She lit incense, the strong stuff. But the smell was still there. She turned on the fan, but it didn’t help. She scrubbed the floor. It still stank. Finally she discovered Greane’s shit-covered socks in the garbage can.

Richard called, and Cathy felt more sympathy for him than she had in some time. To be dealing with those girls on a daily basis.

“What do you think of the things Greane and Saphyr have been telling you?” she asked him.

“I’ve told you for awhile now that those girls are pathological liars.”

“You’ve been telling me Star’s a pathological liar.”

“Yeah, you can’t trust anything any of them tell you.” He paused, looking for something good to say about Star. “She’s been making a real effort to keep her room clean,” he offered. “She’s been making dinner for me, and she’s been a lot more polite – she spoke to grandma on the phone and actually said she loved her.”

“Wow.” Star went out of her way to be rude to the rest of the family. “She could just be putting on an act.”

“Yes, she could. But why would she bother? She’s been rude to us for months now, whenever she felt like it. She’s only nice when she wants something.”

“Just like every teenager.” Cathy felt guilty, and decided to call her mom later and apologize again.

“I tend to want to believe her over her friends.”

Richard was interrupted by the arrival of Greane and Saphyr in the driveway, and promised to call Cathy back. But he didn’t, and later, Greane showed up at Cathy’s house with Star’s car and a guy with crutches in the passenger seat. She was looking for Star.

“But Star’s at her dad’s,” Cathy protested.

Greane was frantic. “No, she left with Spike. He showed up at her house right after she gave me the keys. Saphyr’s all upset because Star went to her mother and told her she was going to file a police report that Saphyr had stolen her car and wrecked it, that night we were up here. You need to call Saphyr’s mother and tell her she didn’t do it.”

Cathy’s head was spinning. She looked at the guy in the car. “And who are you?”

Greane waved dismissively. “Oh, that’s just Steven.”

“Ah.” Cathy went up to him and examined him. A cast on one leg. “So, how’re you doing now? I heard you had a close call.”

He seemed embarrassed. “Yeah, I’m fast. My head and leg aren’t too good after being hit by a bike, but I don’t know what to do about it except keep taking drugs.”

She wasn’t sure how to interpret that. What did fast mean if he had a broken leg? What was this about a bike? And what drugs was he talking about? “Okay, well, you keep off that leg,” she said weakly, and turned back to Greane, who urged her to call Saphyr’s mom without giving her a number, and then sped away in Star’s car.

Richard finally called her back, hours later, as they were getting ready for bed. Cathy ran to get the phone, naked, before it went to the answering machine, and stood there shivering while he unleashed the latest on the girls. He sounded livid with rage. “Your bitch of a daughter came back after being out with that criminal,” meaning Spike. “And she had that bitch Greane with her. I couldn’t believe her gall. She traipsed up to her bedroom and told Greane to sleep on the couch, as if we’d never thrown her out.” Cathy already had questions, but didn’t bother. “I whipped her aside and said no way you’re not staying here any more. And then she stood there trying to worm her way back into my house, saying she’s sick, crying, being all dramatic. So I let her stay, just for one night, but told her she couldn’t live there, and that I didn’t appreciate all the lying she was doing about Star. And then she started in again. I nearly tossed her out into the cold.”

“Did she smell of shit?”

“Hell, yes. I made her take a shower. In Star’s bathroom.”

“So, they’re all friends again. I wonder is she surrounding herself by people worse off than she is so she can help them?”

“Or are they all in it together?”

“Well, her behavior is just as erratic as theirs is,” Cathy observed, thinking of the phone conversation with Spike where Star pleaded with tears in her eyes and desperation in her voice.

“She has crying jags, she sleeps all day. I’m throwing my hands up.”

But there was more. He called Cathy the next evening to say that Saphyr had just come to the house, twenty minutes before, and told him where to find a bunch of drugs in Star’s room.

“She stood on the threshold, wanting to come in, and I told her she couldn’t and to tell me what she wanted to tell me. She was acting very strange.”

Cathy got a cold feeling.

“There was this scuzzy looking guy with her. Some guy with curly hair and a high forehead. Do you know him?” Cathy didn’t recognize the description. Richard continued. “She went on about the three of them being at this party the other day, drugs blah, meth and coke and pills blah, danger blah, something about something in her purse. And she was still trying to get in the door, but I had my foot against it so she couldn’t push it open.”

“Good for you.”

“So Saphyr insists that Star stole $500 from some guy at this party. They all fell asleep together and when he woke up his wad was missing. And she’s sure Star has the money. So I said I’d check it out, and closed the door on her and went upstairs, and Star’s asleep.”

“Okay.”

“Well, I was getting ready to go thru her room when Saphyr knocked on the door again and asked if she could come in. She just had to get something upstairs, she said. And this was so incredibly suspicious that one look from me and she shut up. I told her nobody was coming in or out, and then she put her hand thru the crack in the door and shook my hand. How strange.”

“Oh,” Cathy said. “Didn’t you know? She’s a witch, and she just put a spell on you. Are you getting warts on your hands yet?”

“Hah, hah. Anyway, I went back to her room and after tossing it – without waking her – I noticed she was holding onto a Crown Royal bag, so I pried it out of her fingers and took it into my room. There was her phone, cigarettes, other junk. But there was also a pill bottle with no label, and inside there was a cellophane cigarette pack wrapper with some white powder in it, and twenty seroquels, and two and a half bars of xanax.” He paused to let this sink in. “I’ve done seroquel. I took two and was out like a light for twelve hours. Alarms didn’t get thru, phonecalls didn’t get thru. Nothing. These kids, they use 200s, which is like five times the dose, and they break the coating, which circumvents the time release feature, and gives it to them all at once. This is how they are nowadays. It’s not just weed and the pep pills in your mom’s medicine cabinet anymore.”

Cathy felt sick. Again. “What about the white powder?”

He wasn’t sure if it was coke or meth, and he didn’t want to find out, so he’d called Spike, who was on his way with a home drug test, and he was threatening to break up with her then and there if she didn’t use it.

“Can you call a bunch of rehab places?” he asked a shocked Cathy. “I mean, granted that she tests positive for this stuff. Perhaps we can pressure her to go in and stay in, and it would be good if you could expedite it.”

“What are you doing talking to Spike?” she asked.

“He called me. It seems he’s as concerned about her behavior as I am. Maybe I judged too quickly.”

“I don’t know. Maybe we’re not judging quickly – or harshly – enough. This is wearing me out.”

He laughed, a short cough and sputter. “You’re not the only one. I’m so far behind in my projects at work that I’m wondering if they’re not going to fire me at the next layoff cycle.”

“Well, keep your head down. I’ll look for rehabs. What kind of insurance do you carry, and is she on it?”

“Yeah, I haven’t cancelled her yet.” He’d threatened to when she came to live with Cathy the last time. But most of his threats were half-assed. Which is why Star felt she could push her luck with him.

He called back the next morning to say that Spike came to the house and walked right into her room, screaming at her. She woke up, and they had an enormous argument, very loud. Richard had retired to his room to avoid the fracas, muttering about never getting a break, while Spike made Star pee into a cup. They went back to fighting while the test developed.

“She’s negative for meth and weed.”

“That’s good for her probation. She’d have to go back to jail for a long time if she gets caught violating it again.”

“Yeah, but she’s positive for coke and benzodiazepine, which is valium and xanax, and it’s maybe for antidepressants. They kept on yelling at each other, and I could hear scattered phrases, like everything we’ve been working toward. It seems he got everything out of her, which I’ve got to hand it to him is more than I could do.”

Me too, thought Cathy.

“Then the two of us went thru her room with a fine-toothed comb, and busted her for everything she had. Coke, pills, all the rest. Spike found out that Josh supplies her the coke. He’s a guy on crutches.”

“Isn’t his name Steven? Isn’t he the one who was hit by a car, run over by a bike, and blew a vein trying to mainline meth?”

“Hard to say. Anyway, Star told us that he’s on a thousand milligrams of seroquel daily. And he’s driving Star’s car at the moment.”

“Oh, God.”

“Get this.” He sounded proud. “We got in the car and went over to Josh’s house and scared the shit out of his mother and sister. There I was dressed in hippie clothes, and there was Spike, dressed like he’s ready to kill someone, carrying a gun. We told them we wanted Josh’s cellphone, but they wouldn’t give it to us. They called him instead and let me talk to him. And I told him he had twenty minutes to get Star’s car into my driveway. He said it might be difficult. Might be difficult,” he repeated. “I told him that I was going to cancel the insurance on the car in twenty minutes, and in twenty-one minutes I was going to report the car stolen.”

“How long did it take?”

“He showed up twelve minutes from the time I hung up the phone. First Spike took him aside and had a few words with him about giving Star coke when she was on probation. Then I drove him home and had a few more words to him about how much of a living hell I was going to make for anyone who gave Star anything. Pass the word.”

Cathy figured he might know. “What drugs give you diarrhea?” she asked, thinking of Greane.

“I think coke gives you the runs,” he said.

“I think Greane might be doing coke,” she replied. “She’s been smelling awfully barnyard lately.”

“I noticed that. It just could be that she’s very pregnant.”

“Well, I didn’t smell like that when I was pregnant.”

“Yeah. Oh, I forgot to tell you. Greane’s in the hospital at the moment. With a GHB overdose.”

“What the hell is that?”

“Date rape drug.”

“Won’t it stop? I can’t stand much more of this.”

“I don’t think it can get much worse,” he said, reassuringly. “She’s going to move in with Spike right away, and she’ll be his problem from now on.”

“That means I can stop looking up rehabs now,” tho she hadn’t had time to even start.

Chapter Four

Then one day all hell broke loose. Cathy got a frantic call from Star. “Mom, the police are here. I may be cut off at any moment.”

Cathy was alarmed. “Star, what’s going on?”

“There was a break-in. They pistol-whipped Spike. They tied me up and put a gun to my head, but I was brave.”

“Who did? The police?”

“No. These dudes Spike knows. They came to rob us.”

“I’m coming down there.”

“No.” She was insistent. “If I knew you were going to do that I wouldn’t have called you. I’ll be alright. But I’m not sure if they’re going to arrest me.”

God. What was going on? Cathy pictured a shootout, her baby lying in a pool of blood, a cop standing over and shaking his head sadly because she’d gotten caught in crossfire.

“I just wanted you to know what was going on,” Star continued.

“I’m glad you called me. Is there anything I can do?”

“No. You just stay there. And don’t worry. I’ll call you later.” And she hung up.

Cathy was shaken. She banged on the floor with her foot to signal Gray to come upstairs, and when he came thru the front door she flung herself on him and hid in his arms, telling him what Star had said. “My little baby,” she sobbed.

She waited for a phone call. And waited. It was several days before she heard anything. Star’s cellphone wasn’t answering, and Richard wouldn’t pick up. She didn’t know how to contact Greane and Saphyr, and had no idea what Spike’s last name was. She thought about calling Miranda for advice, but she kept feeling that if she picked up the phone she would miss Star’s call, so she sat next to the phone and stared at it.

go to tomorrow’s writing

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