The heavy doors automatically locked behind her. Angela walked down the steps of Serenity Rehab feeling the coolness of the wind send a shiver through her. One of the counsellors approached, on the way in for her afternoon shift.
“So today’s the big day, Angela?”
Angela zipped up her flimsy windbreaker. “Yup. Thanks for everything, Sue.”
Sue grabbed Angela’s delicate hand and gave it a squeeze. “Going to stay at your Mom’s?”
Angela nodded, wondering if Sue could sense the lie floating between them. Sue dug in her purse and handed Angela a bus token. She wagged her finger. “And go to your meetings.” She smiled at Angela before turning and heading up the cement steps.
Angela stood for a minute and thought of how she had told the staff at Serenity that she would leave Rick, whom she had lived with the past three years. She loved Rick with a depth she had never felt for any man, but he was still using drugs. She knew what a slippery slope she’d be on if subjected to the temptation she craved with every pore in her body.
Angela rummaged in her purse to find her cigarettes. She leaned against the bus stop sign and inhaled deeply. She would go to Rick’s first and tell him she was going to have to move in with her Mom for awhile. Her eyes filled with tears as she flicked her Craven A before climbing aboard the bus. She flopped down on the ripped black vinyl seat and put her head back while she stared at the passing world. She caught a glimpse of reflection in the window and realized she had put on some weight in the last twenty-eight days. She knew she looked healthier than she had in a long time.
Angela got off the bus in front of the little bungalow Rick had rented for the past few years. Angela felt her heart start to pound so hard she put her hand to her chest to try and calm herself. She put the key in the lock and opened the door.
Rick’s large frame was sprawled on the couch watching The Price is Right, his routine after working the graveyard shift. Startled, he jumped up and rushed toward her. “Angie, Angie.” He cradled her in his strong arms and rocked her back and forth rhythmically. “I missed you so much, Angie. I’m so glad you’re home.”
Angela began to weep, and Rick’s dry hands gently wiped the tears from her pale cheeks. “They told me at Serenity I should move to my Mom’s.”
Rick led her to the old couch they had sat on so many times before. He smoothed her hair back from her face and kissed her slowly on the forehead. She noticed a plastic bag of white powder on the kitchen counter.
“It’s your choice, Angie.”
Angela wrapped her arms around herself protectively and felt her throat closing in. “I don’t know what to do.”
Rick got up and left the room. He came back with a box of Kleenex and the old green blanket from their bed. She blew her nose so loudly that they both laughed. “I must look like a freaking mess…”
Rick took her face in his rough hands and his eyes softened. “You’ve never looked so beautiful in your life, Angie. I missed you so much.”
She could see the moisture in his eyes. “Enough to stop using?”
He sighed. “Angie, we’ve been through all this. It’s not a problem for me to use…”
Angela clenched his arms. “But it’s a problem for me.”
“And that’s why it’s your choice, Angie.”
Angela laid her head on the back of the couch and closed her eyes. She thought of all the issues she had with her Mom, and of the painful childhood she’d had. Her counsellor’s voice rang through her head reminding her that she needed to be in a clean environment if she wanted any chance of survival.
Angela stood up and walked to the door. She stood with her head down and her hand on the knob. She turned the handle to lock it. Trembling, she walked back to the couch and secured herself under Rick’s shoulder with a weary resignation.
Rick pulled her closer. “I’ll take good care of you, Angie.”
Angela knew she had made her choice.
Elizabeth Crocket writes short fiction, poetry and haiku. She has been published in Ascent Aspirations, RKVRY online journal, Roadrunner online journal, First Thought and more. She will be published this year in Word Riot and Mastadon Dentist. Elizabeth has a diploma in Addiction Education from McMaster University.