Sitting in the small room, Mia trembled. The handcuffs hurt her wrists but the pain was welcome. It took her mind of the demanding need she felt. Soon she would not be able to string a sentence together. The need would be too strong. She knew that. Her mind was already tricking her; the walls of the room weren’t closing in on her. It was hard to convince herself though. She tried to breathe slowly; it was ok. The windowless room wasn’t getting smaller.
Thankfully the door opened bringing a bit of air; not quite fresh, they were in a precinct after all. Two officers entered. Detective Winston and a woman, she did not know. Probably from crime.
“How is he?” She asked.
“Like you care.”
The lady snorted, taking a seat. Ok, so she was the bad cop in this setting. The thing was; she really did care. She had remained with him right?
“He’s going to be ok.”
She nodded to Detective Winston. She wasn’t entirely certain why he was here but his presence was welcome.
“Why did you shoot him? What did you do with the gun?” The woman asked.
“I didn’t shoot. It wasn’t me.”
“You were the only person there.”
“Why not start at the beginning Mia?” Detective Winston asked.
The beginning? Which beginning? The start of tonight or the beginning of her descent to hell? What could they know? It wasn’t the life she’d envisioned for herself. That her parents thought she’d lead. Who ever intended to become a junkie? A criminal? But here she was. The beginning?
It all started when she went to that party because her parents insisted she go. Laurel’s parents were important; it was good she could be friends with her. No matter that the invitation felt wrong. Laurel and her gang of friends never spoke to her at school, unless they tried to bully her into doing their homework. Her father had dropped her off at the house. She didn’t want to talk of what happened then. It didn’t matter. And yet… the humiliation, the torture.
She couldn’t escape the cigarettes as they pushed the burning buds into her body. The girls had shaved her all over, except the head, cutting her skin voluntarily until she bled all over. They broke her. She didn’t say anything to anyone; she was ashamed of what happened. She could probably have asked for help. But she didn’t. She was too afraid her parents would shut her out. So she kept it to herself. But she was haunted. And with the nightmares and the fear, the bullying and the pictures, the only way to escape had been drugs. It erased the pain and the fear for a while. But only for a while.
And it required money. The day she stole from her mother’s wallet, she knew she had to leave. She wouldn’t steal her parents’ dough. She’d written a message, took some cash – her parents could take the money back from the savings account they’d opened for her – and left her house. She purchased a bus ticket, changed states, disappeared. She had to.
“Mia, talk to us.” Winston was holding her hands. She’d been scratching her wrist. It was bleeding. She shook her head. The images were so vivid. She could barely escape their faces. They were sneering and laughing.
“I didn’t want to be a whore.” She whispered.
“That makes no sense.” The woman said.
“The… boss he said I wasn’t making enough money. Wanted to pimp me out.” She shuddered. Were the shivers because she was afraid? Or because she was entering withdrawal period? “I didn’t wanna. I can’t be a whore. I just…”
“It’s ok Mia. You won’t be a whore. What happened?”
“He said I had to show him I could make money. Johnson would come with me. They gave me a gun. Said I had to take the money from the grocery store cashier. But I couldn’t. The man he was nice. And so Johnson took the gun and shot. He left. I couldn’t leave. He was bleeding. He was hurt. This was wrong. I couldn’t. I had to…”
Shivers racked her body. The walls were shrinking around her. And the two creatures in front of her… they closed in on her. She screamed, as bony fingers clutched at her, pulling her down to hell. The only place she could go from here.
Niamh woke up, sweating heavily; her bed linens were soaked.
“Mama!” Tess ran and jumped on the bed to hug her. “Ew mama you’re all sticky.”
She kissed her daughter’s brow, as Jason entered a knowing smile on his face. He sat by her side and kissed her. His lips felt a warm balm on hers.
“Yuk.” Tess said before running out of the bedroom.
“No tv honey,” Jay said.
“Nightmare?” It wasn’t even a question. He knew.
“Memories.” She shrugged.
What was there to tell? He knew everything. He had seen her fight the addiction, the guilt. And then the horror when what happened to her was revealed. She’d almost died then. Still it was that day thar haunted her. She shook her head. Fifteen years… it still haunted her. It would never stop.
“Always the same day.”
He nodded soberly.
She gasped. Of course it was. She leaned on him, seeking the embrace he would give willingly. He’d helped her through it all.
“You saved me that day.”
“You were ready to save yourself Niamh. I knew it when you called me.”
A sudden pain spread through her stomach. She gasped. Jason’s eyes widened.
“I felt him.”
“Me too.” She laughed.
“Are you teasing me Mrs. Winston?”
“I may be Captain. Will you arrest me?”
He cast a quick glance at her; she rarely made fun of that. She’d spent too much time behind bars for the joke to be entirely light hearted. But life was good despite the nightmares. Better than she could have hoped that day she pleaded guilty to robbery. She was unlikely to forget she hadn’t gone down for attempted murder because Mr. Pradeep testified she hadn’t shot the gun… She would go see him today with Tess: his support through the years along with Jason’s had ensured she wouldn’t relapse.
Fifteen years later, she knew the risks existed. But she was stronger, and she wasn’t alone. She had Jay and Tess. And she had a purpose: working with kids struggling with the same addiction she used to – though not necessarily for the same cause – to make sure they knew they weren’t alone.
It might have felt like Judgment Day that night after she remained with Mr. Pradeep until police and paramedics arrived but she had crawled her way back out of Hell with the help of her guardian angels.
“I love you.”
She whispered to her husband. What else was there to say?
In response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Tarot Card writing prompt Judgment