A Short Story by M.J. Patrick
I lay my last bill on the polished granite countertop. “Let me buy this round.” If I appear desperate, the odds of sleeping in bed tonight decrease considerably. The mocking voices in my head are quiet, due to the amount of liquor I’m consuming.
My new friend, Mia, gives me the cutest smile. “I think someone wants to be more than friends.” She leans in, giving me a kiss on the cheek. Her lashes flutter against my face. Her nearness takes my breath away. The sweet perfume of her, fills my soul.
I give her a bashful smile and hide behind my long tresses. I’m blushing.
“Awww, you’re as irresistible as a puppy.” Mia slides off the stool revealing toned, tanned legs. A grin spreads across her face when she catches me looking. I entwine my fingers into her short hair at the nap of her neck, pulling her close. Then I stop when our lips barely touch; She closes the gap. Her kiss is divine and hungry, the nibble to my bottom lip shoots pains of ecstasy into every nerve.
Joe knocks on the bar to remind us of his presence. “Here’s your shots of Tequila, limes, and salt. Enjoy. I’d tell you to get a room but then I couldn’t watch.”
“Consider it your tip.” I tease him.
Mia and I throw back the shots. I’m so ready to leave here, soak in a tub and sleep in a clean bed. Mia will be like the cherry on top of a sundae. In the morning, I’ll fix breakfast, tidy the kitchen, and worm my way into her heart. A faint hum breaks through my euphoria.
“Hold on, I need to take this.” Mia whips out her phone and walks away.
I watch her hips sashay away. Someone clears their throat behind me. Tearing my eyes from the view, I turn around and face Joe.
“I’m not giving your money back, like last time. Annie, there’s a job for you here, if this doesn’t work out.” Joe tips his head in Mia’s direction. He moves away before I say a word.
In a year’s time, Joe watched me go through my inheritance, lose my apartment, and move out into the streets. This wasn’t the first time he offered me work. Something inside me said I’d screw up the opportunity and lose his friendship. I couldn’t afford that.
A touch on my arm pushes the miserable thoughts aside. I turn smiling until I see she’s not. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve got to run, work before pleasure. Maybe next time?” Mia gives me a nipple pinch. “One to remember me by.”
Watching Mia walk out the door, plunges me into a dark pit. I don’t want any sympathy from Joe. It’s time to leave. At another bar, I get free drinks for favors. I’ll do anything to keep the voices quiet. An hour later I stumble out of a backseat of a car. It’s time to find a place to sleep.
The cool night air doesn’t soothe the turmoil that writhes within. The effect of the alcohol wears off and the voices hum their favorite chorus of my unworthiness. I hesitate at the entrance of the alleyway, where I sleep. The last few nights, I’ve had it to myself. There’s an alcove behind the dumpster concealing a boarded doorway entrance.
I kick an unseen soda can, sending it skittering and clanging across the asphalt. Every muscle freezes. My body prepares to flee. Silence greets my ears, another night alone. I reach the end of the smelly dumpster and crouch low to slip between it and the building. A low chuckle is the only warning I have before my hair is grabbed, lifting me to my tiptoes. Cold metal touches my throat. His mistake.
Self-defense lessons and zero inhibitions have him lying flat on his back. I place a swift kick between his legs and throw the knife into the dumpster, with a satisfying clink. My predicament is catching up to my mind. I run from the alleyway with no destination.
Fear takes me to dark places, I fight hard to avoid. The voice’s humming changes to chants of repetitious soundbites, I’ve heard for years. We love you, but not your sin. You chose this life. Jesus can change you. The Bible plainly says. I run until I stop to throw up. Catching my breath, I see I’m standing in front of a church, with a cross atop a steeple. “Why did you make me this way? Do you think, I want to be different?”
I stumble away. There won’t be a talking, burning bush or an angel sent to guide my way. My feet know where to take me. It’s a path I’ve traveled often. It’s not famous as the Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t know if my bridge has a name. I do know its height will take me to oblivion. It will quiet the voices litany that reach a crescendo.