The whiskey bottle that saved my life mocked me from its pulpit on the coffee table. My hand rose, ready to strike it off its perch, but froze at the sight of the stranger passed out on out threadbare couch. His swollen face promised a rough awakening. If he hadn’t knocked over Joe’s favorite drink when he did, that might have been me. Images of my husband standing over me flashed across my eyes, one hand on my throat, the other pulled back in a fist.
Fate — and the junkie on my sofa — had no small part in keeping me alive last night. The sound of the bottle flying into a wall, no matter how therapeutic it might feel, would wake Joe and bring him storming out of the bedroom. My hand rubbed across my ribs where the pain still flared when I moved. A little petty revenge might press my luck too far. I needed to be quick, but more importantly, I needed to be silent.
The pills had done a number on me. I woke up so late it would take some hustle to get to work on time. A double shift might put most nurses off, but today I relished it. It would give him enough time to cool off, maybe even forget. Especially if I brought work home with me.
A quick sniff of yesterday’s scrubs confirmed they’d work for a few more hours. There would be fresh ones at the hospital. I grabbed my purse, wincing at the soft jingling sounds, and headed for the door with my shoes in hand.
The telephone rang.
I leaped across the room and yanked the phone from its cradle, my senses focused on the bedroom. No one appeared in the doorway, no sounds reached me above the quiet drone of cars from outside.
“Hello? Mrs. Favrot?” The voice on the other end of the line was unfamiliar but insistent. “Betty Favrot?”
“Miller.” I kept my voice so low I wondered if the caller could even hear me. “Betty Miller, and it’s not a good time.” I started to hang up the phone.
“But you are the daughter of Vera Favrot?”
My hand froze at the sound of my mother’s name. I brought the phone back up as a dark cloud seemed to grow inside my lungs, making it harder to breathe.
“Yes.” An avalanche of questions popped into my head. “Did she ask you to call me?”
“Mrs. Fav — excuse me, Miller, my name’s Harry Forsythe.” His sigh echoed through the phone line. “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. I represent your mother’s estate.”
* * * * *
My hand shook as it placed the phone back in the cradle. I stared at the phone number scribbled on the palm of my other hand, not yet believing what I had heard.
Sometimes death brings rebirth, the end for one a beginning to another. And the anguish that gripped my heart a moment ago had already started to turn into something else. Something I hadn’t felt for a long time. Hope.
My eyes raced around the room, scouting for anything I absolutely needed to take with me.
A rather sad truth, but telling as well. After years together, fighting to keep our marriage from disintegrating, fighting to keep either one of us from heading down some dark path we couldn’t come back from, I couldn’t think of one thing in our whole apartment worth keeping. Pretty damn telling indeed. The sum of our entire time together turned out to be zero.
I slipped on my shoes and tiptoed towards the front door. The loose sole on my left foot made a slapping sound on each step that made me wince and glance towards the bedroom. I put my weight on my heel to keep it quiet.
On the way out I took one last look around the room. My eyes paused at the coffee table, traveled down to my broken left shoe, then back to the table.
Nothing I need, but one thing I sure as hell deserve.
I stuffed the whiskey bottle into my purse and slipped out the front door.