Fear of Falling
I needed a drink. A strong one.
One that could possibly knock me on my ass and make me forget what I had done just 20 minutes ago. This was always the hard part. The guilt, the self-loathing. Sometimes it strangled me. I hated what I did. I hated the pain I inflicted but it was part of the process, part of what came with being me.
I hurt people, and it wasn’t something I was proud of.
Pulling into the parking lot of the first bar I spotted after leaving the scene of the crime, I punched in a number on my cell phone, speed-dialing Angel. “It’s done,” I announced, not even bothering with a cordial greeting. Those were reserved for days when I didn’t feel like locking myself away from everyone and everything. For days when I didn’t feel myself breaking into a million pieces.
Angel sighed on the other end, feeling my pain through the receiver. “You okay, baby?”
“Yeah. I will be. Down to get shit-faced?” I chuckled though I truly couldn’t find the humor in my own request.
“I’m always down. Where are you?”
After giving Angel the address, I fixed my smeared mascara in the visor mirror. I could have just stopped at a liquor store and gone home to drown my troubles, but I needed an excuse to hold it together. A distraction. In public, I’d have no choice but to plaster on a phony smile and ignore the immense guilt I felt. I’d be forced to pretend.
I started the mental countdown ritual. I could do 10. Twenty was reserved for extra shitty days. Fifty was for all-out hellish catastrophes. Today felt more like a 10: a craptastic situation.
“You can do this,” I whispered to the reflection staring back at me. “It’s ok. You’re ok. It had to be done. You have to keep going. You can do this, Kami Duvall. You will not break. Not today.”
The bar’s marquee stated Dive, though it only slightly resembled the traditional, hole-in-the-wall dive bars I was accustomed to. As I scurried into the air-conditioned building, seeking refuge from the relentless Charlotte summer sun, I could tell it had been recently upgraded with modern furniture and a fresh coat of paint. I liked it already though ambiance was not a requirement for what I had planned for the rest of my evening.
I settled in at the bar and ordered a shot of tequila along with a Long Island Iced Tea chaser. When the bearded bartender raised a questioning brow at my request, I diverted my eyes to a bowl of peanuts a few seats down. I didn’t need his misguided judgment.
“Damn, baby. Sure a pretty little thing like you can handle a drink like that?” a voice laced with a southern drawl called out to me. I looked up to spot a smiling onlooker across the bar. Great. Judgment and an asshat with my beverages.
I smiled sweetly before grabbing my shot of tequila, downing it, tossing the slice of lime to the side, and slamming the glass on the bar. When I looked back up, Asshat was already making his way towards me, obviously intrigued with my shot-pounding capabilities. Unfortunately for him, that’d be the only thing getting pounded tonight.
“Hey there, honey. I’ve never seen you ‘round here. You must be new. I’m Craig,” he smiled, extending his hand. I looked at it, scanned the length of his body and turned my attention back to my drink. It was much more exciting. Craig took the hint and pulled his hand back but still settled in the seat beside me. I rolled my eyes; he was a persistent little prick. Normally the southern charm was endearing to a California girl like me, but after what I had just been through, it was annoying as hell.
“Craig, right?” I asked after a long pull from my Long Island. He nodded and flashed a hopeful smile. I couldn’t wait to wipe that dumb look right off his face. “First off, calling the wrong person ‘honey’ could very well get you cut. And second of all, how would you know if I was new? Do you hang out here on a regular basis?”
“Easy there, darlin’,” he chuckled, holding his hands up in defense. “Just making friendly chit-chat. And yes, actually, I do come ‘round here often. This happens to be my family’s place.”
I eyed Craig disapprovingly. With his wavy, chin-length brown hair, light brown eyes, and the bit of scruff on his chin, he wasn’t exactly bad to look at. He was actually pretty cute in that young southern gentleman kinda way, but I was too far gone on the self-depreciation train to even fall for his charm.
“So what? That
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