This is my entry this week for therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This week we had to write about two topics. This entry is in response to "the call that never came."
Luanne fingered the bottle in her pocket. The label said "migraine-strength pain-reliever," but inside were "pharmies," bought from one of her boyfriend's friends. Her skin itched to take one, but she didn't want to pop them in public.
Fortunately, she'd almost reached the Daleys' house, where she'd been working lately, doing yard work and cleaning. Mrs. Daley would be out, since this was Tuesday, the day she met her friends for lunch. Luann would have time to take a couple pills, wash them down with vodka from a bottle she'd hidden in the freezer. She could mix it with some diet soda. Then, when she was feeling a little less sketched out, she could start weeding, a task she'd been delaying in the blistering July heat.
It was a long walk, from her apartment in the factory district to the posh side of town, but ever since her license had been suspended she'd had no choice but to hoof it. She was already sweaty and thought that maybe, if she got done quickly enough, she could sneak in a quick shower. Her spirits lifted, as she opened the front door, not even thinking about the fact that she hadn't had to use her key.
She was headed for the refrigerator when she heard an unexpected voice. "You're finally here," Mrs. Daley said from the living room. "Come in, Luanne. I need to talk to you."
Reluctantly, Luanne crossed the kitchen. With its professional stove, stainless steel refrigerator, and marble-topped island, Luanne envied it each time she cleaned it. She'd once believed she was destined to such extravagance, back when she was "Daddy's little girl," the daughter of a small-town doctor. As she entered the sleek, modern living room, she thought she could pinpoint her problems on one moment: the Sunday she'd first gone out with Randy, the sexy troublemaker. Two months later, she'd been pregnant and on the road to self-destruction.
Mrs. Daley sat primly on the luxurious leather armchair, gesturing for Luanne to take a seat across from her, on a sturdy but uncomfortable wooden chair. Luanne hiked up her shorts, which had been getting looser, and perched on the chair. Without a cushion to add padding, she could feel her butt bones against the chair. She'd never had much of a butt, but lately, she was skin and bones, unlike the plump Mrs. Daley, whose russet hair had carefully-maintained blonde highlights.
Slight wrinkles crossing her forehead as she frowned, Mrs. Daley said, "I need to ask you something. Is this yours?" From the floor next to her, she produced the half-empty bottle of bargain-variety vodka that Luanne had been hiding.
Fixing her eyes on her scuffed tennis shoes, where the big toe on her left foot was beginning to peek out, Luanne nodded. She couldn't think of a good excuse, so she just waited for Mrs. Daley to speak again.
"I suspected so." Mrs. Daley sighed heavily. "Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? I don't know exactly what you're up to, but whatever it is, your body can't take much more. You were always such a sweet girl when you were in my Sunday school class. You were so fervent in your beliefs. I always thought that you'd go into the ministry. Why didn't you?"
"Didn't get the call, I guess," Luanne said. In a way it was true. She'd never felt that driven to be a minister. But then again, she hadn't been driven to do much more than feed her drug habit for a long time. Aloud, she said, "I guess God had other plans for me, like Junior." Her little boy was a sweetie, with a head full of golden curls. She felt bad sometimes that she wasn't a better mom.
Shaking her head, Mrs. Daley said, "This is no life for a toddler. What is he, 2 now? Living in poverty, with goodness knows what sort of illegal activity going on around him? I'm sorry, but I can't just stand by quietly any longer."
"I'll get help," Luanne uttered, using the magic words she'd used countless times on her mom.
But Mrs. Daley called her bluff. "Good. You do that. I've called your mom and told her I'm going to have to fire you. She said she'd take you and Junior in. If you return with a two-months' sober chip, I'll rehire you. If not, I'll have to call Children and Family Services."
Luanne was stunned but knew better than to call Mrs. Daley all the words that she was thinking. After all, she could have a job again in two months, if everything went well. If not, maybe she and Randy could come back here and take as much fancy stuff as they could carry. She bet that Mrs. Daley didn't know she'd made an extra copy of the key. She walked out, mumbling, "Thank you, ma'am. I'll turn my life around."
Just before the kitchen door shut behind her, Mrs. Daley called, "No need to leave your key, Luanne. I've had the locks changed already."
The sweltering walk across town did nothing to soothe Luanne's feelings. Not only was she out of a job, but she'd been strong-armed into moving in with her disapproving mother, who was already struggling to support herself on her meager income from clerical work. Luanne's father had been great at diagnosing illness but terrible at life planning, and when he'd died suddenly of a heart attack at age 55, he'd left her mother with only a modest life insurance policy and a house that wasn't yet paid off. Even selling her dad's portion of the community medical practice didn't net the grieving widow much after lawyers' fees. Since then, money trouble had been constant.
Now, without her own income, Luanne would have to give up her apartment. That would be unpopular with Randy, who didn't have a permanent place and crashed there most nights, never paying rent. Lately, his only income came from selling drugs for the very "buddies" who'd gotten him and Luanne hooked. It made her nervous to have that stuff around Junior, so Luanne always urged Randy to do it elsewhere.
She was thinking about whether she'd be able to sneak a few carloads of possessions over to her mom's house without him noticing: or for that matter, the cops, who wouldn't like her driving with a suspended license. Maybe her Uncle Stan could help; he had a pick-up truck.
As she neared the apartment, she heard loud voices. It was that low-life Roy, one of Randy's drug buddies. He was arguing with Randy, and the baby was crying. She burst through the door, shouting, "I told you to keep your nasty friends out of my place!"
"Shut up, ho," Roy hollered back. "You're one to talk about nasty. Your face has scabs on top of scabs."
"I didn't have time for a facial," she shouted. "Get your own scabby ass out of my home." Running across the room, all she could see was her baby boy, his face screwed up, red and flushed, as he wailed. She grabbed him and whipped towards the front door. "I'm going to my mother's," she told Randy curtly.
She was running by the kitchen when it happened. First, a strange hiss. Then, Randy squealing, "Is it supposed to do that?" Turning her head, she saw what she hadn't noticed before: containers, beakers and pots all over the kitchen. It looked like a chemistry experiment, she thought, just when the explosion blew her out the door, tearing her baby from her. Before she passed out, she saw him carried right into the midst of the flames, his face contorted in pain as his beautiful blonde hair burned.
"I killed my baby! I killed my baby!" she cried. "Please God, give me a do-over. Give me another chance!" she screamed before everything went black.
"Luanne? Are you OK?" a tender voice asked.
She looked up and was immediately disoriented. Instead of lying on the ground in front of a charred apartment, or in a hospital bed, she was someplace bright and clean. Looking around, she finally placed her surroundings: Mrs. Daley's Sunday school class.
"You drifted off," the voice continued. "What is it, all those late nights of studying?" She recognized the voice as Mrs. Daley, who smiled sweetly at her.
"Studying?" Luanne shook her head. If she didn't know any better, she'd think that she'd gone back in time.
With a hearty laugh, Mrs. Daley gestured around the room. "That must have been some dream. I let you sleep, because I know you've been studying for the SATs. But everybody else already left."
Luanne sat upright and shook the cobwebs out of her head.
"That boy Randy came by looking for you. Said you were supposed to meet him after Sunday school to go on a date. I told him you were helping me. You'd be better off staying away from that boy."
Nodding, Luanne stood up and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Her long, blonde hair was glossy, her skin clear and her body curvy. She couldn't help smiling. Grabbing her purse, she headed for the door. "Thanks, Mrs. Daley, for letting me sleep."
"That's fine, Luanne. Even if it does mean you find my lessons boring." Then, Mrs. Daley's face grew more serious, and she said, "Welcome back, Luanne. Make the best of this beautiful day."
Luanne walked out into a refreshingly bright summer day. As she did, the phone in her pocket began to vibrate. It was probably Randy, wondering where she was. She picked it up and pressed "ignore."
This was written based on a vivid dream I had this morning where I was Luanne. I screamed, "Please, God, do a rewrite," holding out to him a book of my life. I woke up, and my son was slumbering peacefully and safely. "Thank you," I uttered, through tears. You never value what you have so much as when you believe it to be taken away.