ONE DRINK TOO MANY

Posted: August 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

“Miracles don’t grow on trees, Vito. You have to work for them, just like you work so hard on being a useless drunk.”

Chloe was screaming at the top of her lungs, frantically packing in front of her closet, hysterically tossing clothes onto the bed, then stuffing them into a large leather suitcase.

“When are you going to grow up Vito? I’ve given you everything I have, and it’s still not enough.” Chloe slammed her suitcase shut, and began her inescapable exit for the hundredth time. In the background, Chloe could hear Vito heaving his guts out in the bathroom. “You don’t even have the decency to shut the door, Vito.”

Chloe stopped before leaving the bedroom and sat on the bed weeping. She was desperately trying to find a way to change things with Vito. Regardless of how much she tried, her mind remained dizzy, disoriented, aimless, and blank. She had tried hard to work it out with Vito, but she couldn’t get him to reciprocate on any level, and was tired of not getting anything back in return.

Chloe tromped downstairs, attempting to keep the suitcase from knocking against the wall. She searched for her keys inside her purse, furtively glancing up the stairs.

Chloe yelled for Vito one more time. “Vito, I’m leaving and this time it’s for good!” Her hand reached for the doorknob, turning it slowly, wishing Vito would run down after her, pleading his case, telling her everything would be all right.

Chloe stopped for a moment waiting for her siren call. Nothing but silence filled the air. She couldn’t stop herself from crying.

As she sped away, her mind sorted out options on where to head next. It took a couple of minutes until her mind landed on her best friend Avery. The cell phone jumbled in her nervous hand, finally settling onto her ear as she waited for Avery to answer.

“Avery, this is Chloe. I need to stay with you for a few days. Vito went on a binge again last night and I can’t take it anymore. I know you understand.”

“No Chloe, I don’t understand,” countered Avery. “We’ve been through this scene one too many times, and I know how this movie ends.”

“Avery, where else can I go? You’re the only friend I have besides my clients,” cried Chloe.

“No Chloe!” Avery was adamant. “That’s the same line you used on me the last four times you asked to stay with me. It’s always the same cycle. It’s all high-scale drama and the turmoil spills into my life.”

Chloe was desperate and couldn’t take “NO” for an answer.

“How about this,” she replied. “I promise you I will only stay overnight, and I’ll sleep on the couch if that makes you feel better.”

Chloe tried to sound sober and clearheaded. She hoped it was working.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. It’s a non-stop crisis when you’re around. There’s got to be someone else you can call this time.”

Avery wouldn’t budge.

Chloe’s thoughts rambled. Then purring in the softest and most pitiful voice she could muster, replied, “Look, if it makes you feel better, if I’m not out of there by morning, I’ll pick up your afternoon shifts at the club for a whole month, and you can have my Saturday nights.”

“Well … I’m not sure …”

“I’ll be there in 20-minutes, and I won’t disappoint you this time.”

Chloe didn’t wait for a response as she raced across town, constantly looking in the rearview mirror for any cops. The last thing she needed was another DUI.

She breathed a sigh of relief when she finally reached Avery’s apartment. Chloe got out of her car, brushed herself off, tousled her hair, and cautiously rang the doorbell.

Avery slowly opened the door, peeked out the small opening and said, “Okay, but only for one night, and I’m holding you to your deal if you’re not out by morning.”

Chloe was sitting on Avery’s apartment floor polishing her toenails, listening to some high volume hip-hop and sipping straight out of a handle of cheap vodka when she realized three weeks had passed and she still had not heard from Vito.

“I’m not going to call him anymore — I’m not, I’m not,” bawled Chloe. “He better not be out with that ex-girlfriend of his. I’ll strangle him.”

Chloe’s mind was cartwheeling through thoughts of Vito when suddenly Avery marched through the front door. She was fuming as her squinting eyes scanned the disaster Chloe had made of her home.

“Look at this room Chloe. Do you mean to tell me you didn’t do anything I asked?”

Chloe began to cry, her lips quivering as she wiped her tears, looking sheepishly into Avery’s eyes. “I know Avery. You’re right. I just haven’t been myself lately. Anyway, I really tried to clean up, but I couldn’t get my mind around it. You know I’m going through a rough time right now. I thought you would understand more than anyone else would in the world. I don’t know, it’s just that I miss Vito. You’re my only friend. I need you. Please don’t turn away from me now.”

Chloe attempted to stand up, but didn’t realize how drunk she was and stumbled over Avery’s foot.

Avery stood there speechless.

“Avery, you know I love you more than anyone,” cooed Chloe.

“Stop Chloe, you’re playing me like I’m one of your clients,” chastised Avery. “Besides, do you think polishing your toenails, drinking gallons of vodka, and listening tyo music so loud I can hear it blaring from the parking lot is trying? This has to stop, and it has to stop right now.”

Chloe gulped a swig of vodka, tiptoed to the stereo, and turned it down.

“Alright Avery, look, I just turned down the music and I’ll start doing what you ask from now on.” Chloe swayed and tumbled as she  tried to take refuge on the couch.

Look at you Chloe. You’re so drunk you can’t even walk. You’re up to a handle of vodka a day. As far as the promise you made me, you can’t even get to the club much less changing shifts. If you keep this up Chloe, you’re karma is going to come back to haunt you.”

“What are you implying Avery? That I’m a drunk just like Vito. Sure I’ve had a few drinks since last night, but I feel pain Avery, real pain. I have to drink to ease my agony. That’s all I have to comfort me. As for our deal, I plan to make good on it as soon as everything settles down. I’m not a squelcher Avery. I just need a little time to pull it together with Vito.”

Avery fumed with anger. “I’ve had it with you Chloe. You are constantly drunk out of your mind and it’s starting to wear thin. No, it has gone beyond wearing thin … it’s intolerable. The apartment is a constant mess and the neighbors are starting to complain about the loud music at all hours of the day. I can’t come home from work to this mess every day. I’ve had enough. You have to leave. Go back to Vito. Get a motel room. Start dancing at the club again. I don’t care. But you can’t stay here.”

Avery began picking up Chloe’s scattered clothes off the floor, piling them under her arms, as she cast her eyes over the front room with a disgusted look.

“At least let me get some money together,” begged Chloe. “I promise Avery, it will only take a week to make enough to get me settled. Okay, it might take two weeks, but that’s it. After that I’m on my own.”

Avery was uncompromising.

“No, Chloe, I’m done. You’ve mistaken friendship for freeloading. I’m not one of your regulars who dump hundred dollar bills down your G-string so he can work you in the back room. Chloe, go back to Vito. At least he kept you in food and booze.

Chloe started to cry.

“I called him last night and he wasn’t home. I tried to call him at least a hundred times over the past two days and he doesn’t answer.”

Chloe roped onto the couch, her long blonde hair hiding her deep blue eyes, her shoulders slouching, and pouting lips juddering. “How can I go back to him if he doesn’t answer my calls?”

“You’re playing with me again Chloe. Save it for your next trick.” Avery sat down next to her. “You have to go back to Vito, here’s really no other choice, because you can’t stay here any longer.”

“You’re right Avery. I have to give Vito another chance. He’s been out of jail for three months now, and he said he was making enough money dealing that he could buy me a house in Uptown. You know how much I want those things Avery. It’s always been my dream to settle down.”

Chloe looked pathetically into Avery’s eyes and said, “You know yourself that the life we lead is a dead-end unless we find a way out.” She proudly lifted her head up in an attempt to convince Avery that she knew a few things about life too.

 “I know you have dreams, Chloe. Maybe someday things will change. Maybe you’ll forget about your past, the abuse, the denial of what we are. The problem is that people like us just can’t make the same money in the straight world. We dance naked on poles; we do lap dances in the VIP room, and maybe if we’re lucky, jump a few tricks on the side. It’s easy money. There’s no stigma attached to what we do any more.”

Avery smiled for the first time.

“You’re right Avery. I guess the grass seems greener on the other side. I still want to take a chance at living straight before it’s too late.” Chloe began to chuckle at the thought of a while picket fence, a big Victoria house with a towering Oak tree in the front yard.

“Hey, if you think you have a shot at making it, then go for it. There’s always going to be a pole to throw your legs around, and plenty of men to toss dollar bills in front of you to keep you doing it.” Avery gave Chloe a big hug.

“I’ll leave right now Avery, and I’ll pick up my things tomorrow.”

Chloe excitedly grabbed her car keys and sped across town through the dark night, her head swirling with the hazy numbness of booze dancing in her head.

Chloe saw Vito’s care in his parking spot.

“Oh, good, he’s home. I know he’s going to be so happy that I’ve come back.”

She parked her car next to his, ran to the apartment, and knocked on Vito’s door.

No answer.

She waited for a few seconds and then knocked again.

Still no answer.

She fumbled through her purse to find her apartment keys, then slowly opened the door and peeked inside.

“Vito, I’m home. It’s me, Chloe. I’ve come back.”

Chloe closed the door behind her, slowly putting away her keys, and looking for any sign of Vito.

The apartment was cold and the smell of vomit hung in the air. Chloe reached for a shirt on the floor, holding it up to her nose to block the smell. As she looked around, she began to realize that everything was exactly as she left it weeks ago.

She looked in the bedroom, and started walking down the hall when she caught a glimpse of Vito’s foot in the bathroom.

“There you are. I know, you went on a binge last night and you got a little sick like last time.” Chloe was relieved finally to find Vito, even if he was passed out.

As she moved closer to the bathroom, the smell became so abhorrent it made Chloe gag. She opened the door all the way and saw Vito’s head inside the toilet bowl. She began to scream when she realized that he had not moved since the last time she saw him.

The autopsy state that the cause of death was drowning. Vito, the big gangster, the rich drug dealer, the ex-convict, and the man of her dreams, drowned in toilet bowl water.

A month went by and there was no word from Chloe. Avery was worried. She tried calling Chloe every day for the last week, and for some reason she never got a call back.

She didn’t know what to do, until one of the bouncers at the club recommended filing a missing person report. A few days later, Avery finally called the police. The dispatcher directed her to a detective in Missing Persons. The phone rang, but he didn’t answer. She left a message and some background information on why she called, and asked the detective to call her back. A few hours later, her phone rang. It was the detective. He sounded serious and the first thing he asked was how she knew Chloe.

“I’m her best friend. She was staying with me, but that was over a month ago. Is there something wrong officer? Is she all right?” stammered Avery. Her body began to shake uncontrollably.

The detective asked her a list of questions in a brisk staccato voice, never losing his serious demeanor. Avery did her best to answer them.

“Yes, we work together … No she lived with her boyfriend Vito … Yes, he died at the apartment … No, I didn’t know him very well, just when she brought him into the club … No, I haven’t heard from her for a month … Yes, I’ve tried … No, she never returned my calls … Okay, I can leave right now and meet you there.”

Avery hung up the phone and drove straight to Vito’s apartment.

When she arrived, a number of squad cars and a few unmarked vehicles surrounded the apartment with their lights flashing. Yellow tape cordoned off the front of the apartment, as well as Chloe and Vito’s car. Plain-clothes DEA agents were coming out of the apartment, some with clear baggies, and others rolling out larger suitcases.

Suddenly, a young woman with CORONER stenciled in big yellow letters on a blue windbreaker wheeled a covered body to an ambulance. Avery recognized Chloe’s long blonde hair hanging outside the blanket that covered her face.

A detective came over to her, showed her his badge and asked if she was the woman that he talked to on the phone. Avery nodded her head.

Avery immediately asked him, “What happened? Is that Chloe? What’s going on?”

The detective was very serious and told Avery that when he got her call he ran Chloe’s name through the system. It crosschecked with her boyfriend Vito, a major drug dealer in the city they had been after for some time. For some reason, we were not notified when Vito died. When you called, his name came up as deceased. That’s why you see all the activity around here now. It’s the first we knew he died.”

Avery gasped in shock.

“I knew Vito did a little dealing, but I did not know to what extent. I’m not sure Chloe knew either. She wasn’t a druggie, and honestly, the only thing I saw her do was drink a little vodka.”

“It may be true she wasn’t involved. We’ll know that after the investigation is over,” said the detective. “But we also found what I assume to be a suicide note next to her body. Do you have any idea what this note means?”

The detective unraveled a crumpled piece of paper with mostly scrawling, unreadable marks, except for one barely legible line that read, “… I’m sorry I didn’t give you my Saturday nights.

Avery read it, then turned to the detective and said, “It’s just another broken promise by a beautiful but broken woman.”

Avery turned her head to cry and whispered to herself, “It’s okay Chloe, I forgive you.”

“Well,” said the officer, “you said she drank a little vodka. I don’t know, by the number of empty vodka bottles we found in the house, it looks as if she had one drink too many. I’m sorry to say that it appears she drank herself to death.”

 Avery looked at the detective and murmured, “The worst part of it all detective — she was only 18 years old.”

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