*This piece is part of an ongoing short story*
You can read parts one through fifteen HERE!
Gladys inhales deeply. Even the measly electronic cig manages to get her blood pumping in her euphoria. Sure she’d had to stoop to a little rub and tug, but what was that compared to what she scored in return? No skin off her nose and certainly nothing she hadn’t resorted to before to get what she wanted out of William.
Her drive home is long and smooth. She dangles her arm out her open window the entire way, while tune after tune has her singing at the top of her lungs.
It isn’t until darkness falls that familiar landmarks start to appear. She flashes left and pulls into a mini-mart close to home. Her mood still light, she decides she’ll bring home mojos and a tub of fudge ice cream – two of Helena’s favorite things.
Entering the market, she dials home hoping to talk to Helena, but has to leave a message instead.
Probably in the shower, she thinks. Where does that kid ever go?
She strolls through the aisles, still humming and putting a little more in her basket than she initially intended. She hasn’t eaten all day. She doesn’t count the coffee and odd nip of whiskey.
Her last sip had been at the bait shop just before taking care of business with Will. She’d excused herself and crouched on the grody toilet lid in the stunted rotting bathroom, taking not one, but two large burning slugs from her flask. For good measure, she’d swiped some over her hands once back in her car, thinking it couldn’t hurt.
She grabs some potato chips. Salt and vinegar, they both like those. And a few bananas and a tub of yogurt out of guilt.
“Ms. Harris! You’re in late tonight.”
She looks at Sharona, a cashier she usually tries to avoid. Strange girl. Always fishing for gossip and a nosy twit by Gladys’ standards.
“Yeah, I guess it is late, Sharona. Whaddya know?”
“Oh, funny you should ask! I actually did hear something interesting tonight.”
The beeps from her scanner punch the air as she slowly slides each item over it. Gladys can see the ice cream is already starting to melt.
Sharona pauses for encouragement. Sensing none, she manages to muster up the enthusiasm to continue on her own.
“The high school. Some kinda trouble tonight.” She squints at the bag of mojos, frustrated its barcode won’t scan. “Yeah, there was a cop in here earlier. Got the last doughnut and the dregs from the coffee urn just before the deli shut down. Heard the call on his walkie. Cuz he paid at my till, right?”
“Are you asking me?”
She ignores Gladys’ snide snip and types in the crumpled barcode by hand, her nails clicking loudly on the keys.
“Turned it off though, before I could hear the whole thing. Guess I looked too interested.” She raises her over-tweezed eyebrows expecting praise. Confirmation she’d done well.
No longer anxious about her melting ice cream, Gladys pays and rushes to her car, fumbling for the keys.
Why isn’t Helena answering the phone?