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Bubble Gum #25, Licorice #15, Plum #14

Author: winebabe
Title: Lost So Easily
Story: The Gemini Occurrence
Rating: R (language, talk of drug use)
Flavor(s): Bubble Gum #25: debt; Licorice #15: the cupboard was bare; Plum #14: top shelf
Word Count: 2,040
Summary: 2020, continuing on from Our Folks are Damaged Goods. Devyn does appear, but not as her knight in shining armor.
Notes: Mona Lively, Devyn Lively. (Random inspiration is the only reason this piece exists. I hope to get back into writing soon--and caught up on reading others' recent works!)

The police show up first, older men who stare at her like disappointed fathers, tag-teaming her with questions about her mother, about her lifestyle, about that night. Mona knows she has to be forthcoming, because her mother is dead and it'll be easier on both her and Devyn if she doesn't play the petulant teenager with them, but it's hard. She tells them what they need to know: she was out with friends, no she didn't go to school that day, her mom was always high when she'd get back at the end of the day.

They look like they don't have the time to spend on her problems, and it's a bitter relief. A junkie mother dying is sad, of course, but only if her child is young. Only if her child isn't already marred by the world she's grown up in. Mona knows if she'd been younger, not yet a teenager, she'd be treated better. She knows if she had been a straight-A student, someone with a future, the police would be trying harder to take care of her. She's damaged, though, just like her mother, and when they look at her all they see is a carbon copy.

One day, they'll be walking into her apartment to get her dead body. That's how they're looking at her, and Mona doesn't think it's too far from the truth.

Paramedics come, and Mona guesses it's just in case, but they've already pronounced Cassandra. There's nothing anyone can do to save her. The male paramedic talks to the police, the three of them loitering around in the center of the apartment like they've got nothing better to do, but the female paramedic pulls Mona aside.

"You using?" she asks, and the way her dark eyes bore into Mona's, it's not truly a question. The woman already knows the answer.

"Am I going to jail?" Mona asks, and the woman shakes her head.

"You need to stop. You see what this can do, sweetheart? You want this to be you?" Her tone is harsh, but when Mona does manage to meet her eyes, she can see that it's from a place of compassion. Which doesn't make that much of a difference, really.

"Maybe I do," she says, before she thinks better of it, and the woman frowns.

"Alright, well, I know you don't mean that. I can get you some help, get you to a counselor or the hospital and--"

"My brother's coming," Mona interrupts. She can't listen to much more of this stranger pretending that she can pick up the pieces of her life, and she's not heartless enough to halt her with hostility. "We'll figure something out. But...thanks."

The paramedic nods and gives her one last intense, almost motherly look before rejoining her partner. Mona imagines it's the kind of look her own mother would have given her at some point, if she had any sense of what it was like to be a mother. It hurts.

Cassandra's body is packed up in a heavy, black zipper bag and loaded onto a stretcher while Mona watches, silent, with her arms crossed over her chest. It's surreal and almost unbelievable; she half-expects Cassandra to stumble out from behind her and place a cold hand on her shoulder, whisper in her ear, "What's going on?"

It's been so many years of the same thing. Mona can't believe it's taken her so long to die.


Devyn finally does arrive, some time after everyone else has cleared out. Mona can't bring herself to sit on the couch, for obvious reasons, so she's curled up on the windowsill, her face pressed to the glass when Devyn bursts in.

"I'm sorry," he says before anything else. "I'm sorry, I should have been here but traffic--" Mona can see on his face that he was preparing himself for a dead body and is somewhat relieved that Cassandra's not there, on the couch, for him to see.

"You always manage to avoid the gritty reality of life," Mona grumbles, flipping the lid of her cigarette pack open with her thumb.

"Mona, it was just chance," Devyn replies. He locks the door and then crosses the room to stand beside her, awkwardly fumbling with the zipper of his jacket. "She OD'd a lot when I was home. Dad too. It could have happened any time."

"But it had to happen for me." They're not supposed to smoke inside the apartment, but it doesn't stop Mona from pulling out a cigarette and placing it between her lips. Before she lights it, she holds the carton out to Devyn and he takes one. "I never thought it would, you know?"

"I know," Devyn agrees, and they light their cigarettes with the same flame. He exhales his cloud of smoke before she does, glancing out the window at the apartment complex across the street. "No busybody callers yet?"

Mona holds the smoke inside her lungs until she can't anymore, exhaling fast and inhaling greedily. "No." She hadn't even thought, in the midst of everything, that the neighbors would see what was going on, and she has no doubt that they all know by now that Cassandra's dead. "I guess they're waiting til I'm asleep, to break in and kill me and steal our shit."

"Mona," he sighs. "You don't think you're staying here tonight, do you?"

"Are you taking me back with you?" she asks, hopeful, but realizes her mistake too late.

"Aunt Olivia wants you to stay with her."

Mona angrily flicks ash at her brother and then curls into herself on the sill. "Are you serious? You called Auntie Liv? Devyn!"

"She's the only family we have left who actually gives a shit about us!" Devyn shouts back. "She'll take care of you! I can't take you with me because I can't trust you, Mona; I'm trying to get my own life together, and I can't police you like--"

"Like Auntie Liv will?" Mona finishes for him, glaring over her shoulder. "Fuck you."

"Mona--"

"No, save it!" She feels hot, angry tears begin to roll down her cheeks, and she doesn't bother wiping them away. Her mother just died; she should be crying. It makes her even angrier, though, that she's crying because of something her's brother's done, though, and not because of her own loss. "She always wanted me, Devyn, she was always calling mom and telling her she could take me off her hands--"

"She was trying to take care of you!"

"and mom never let her! Mom never let her because I never wanted her to! But now mom's gone and you just want to get rid of me like that?"

Devyn drops his cigarette on the wood floor and grinds it out underneath his shoe. "No," he insists, and finally does wrap his arms around Mona. "No, that's not what I'm trying to do, Mona. I'm trying to do what's best for you, okay? And Aunt Olivia is what's best for you. Not me."

"She doesn't get me," Mona sobs, "not like you do! I'm gonna show up and she's gonna think I'm so damaged, I'm so messed up, and she won't even want me anymore! Or even worse, she's gonna send me away somewhere else! One of those weirdo religious camps for sinners, like me."

"Mona, I get you because I'm just as fucked up as you are, okay? That's not good. You still have a chance, and Aunt Olivia will help you straighten things out, I promise. You can be so much better than me."

Mona crushes her cigarette out on the windowsill with one hand, and grabs hold of Devyn's jacket with the other, balling the material up in her fist. "I don't need to be! We're fine just the way we are!"

Devyn laughs. "No, we're not. We're really not."

She pushes him away from her and turns back to the window. "You're really making me do this."

"I'll visit on weekends," he insists. "We can talk any time you need to. But you have to live with her, Mona. At least until you're 18."

Mona stays silent for a long time, watching the cars' headlights passing on the street below. There's a heavy weight in her chest that hadn't been there before, not even when she found her mom, and as much as she hated their dirty, drafty apartment, she doesn't want to leave. The things inside don't matter, and the apartment itself doesn't matter, but Mona is very acutely aware that she is losing her independence--immediately.

Aunt Olivia lives in a town much smaller than Baltimore, with one high school and churches in every section of town. There's actual farmland out there, wide expanses of nature, and at least a 20 minute drive between neighboring towns.

If there are drugs, they'll be harder to find. Expensive. Questionable. She won't be able to fade into the crowd anymore. She won't be able to cut class without someone noticing.

And how the hell is she supposed to relate to other people her age? In the city, she doesn't have to look far to find someone in a similar situation to hers. Most of her friends have or had absent parents, some on drugs and some wrapped up in other things. "I can't live in a world of white picket fences and Sunday Mass, Devyn," Mona says, and again, he laughs.

"It might come as a surprise to you that the rest of the world isn't so perfect, either."

Maybe not perfect, she thinks, but a hell of a lot better than I am. "Let's get this over with," she mutters and pushes herself off the sill.

"I'm going to clean up a bit while you get your stuff together," Devyn tells her, frowning in the direction of the kitchen, and Mona almost laughs. Their coffee maker hasn't been cleaned in months, and neither have the counters. If he looks in the fridge, he'll find little more than expired condiments and sticky, stained spots where puddles of spilled food was poorly wiped up.

"Good luck," she tells him and heads straight for her mother's bedroom.

Everything had happened in a fog, and Mona can't remember whether the officers searched the apartment or not. There's a small possibility they haven't, and Mona is banking on that possibility as she throws open the door of her mother's end table and peers inside.

The shelf still has some white powder residue, but it's empty of everything--the drugs, the syringes, the pill bottles and even the wooden box she'd seen only hours earlier. The drawer is the same, empty except for the bible with Grandma Charlotte's shaky handwriting on the first page, the ink smeared where Mona imagines tears had once hit. To our darling Daughter, it reads, Have Faith. We still do. Your loving Parents. Mona leaves the bible inside the drawer and shuts it.

There's no money hidden inside her mother's pillowcase, or under her bed, or in the pockets of any of the jackets hanging in Cassandra's closet. There's absolutely nothing, and Mona isn't even disappointed. She hadn't been expecting anything.

"Trying to rob your dead mother?" Devyn asks from the doorway.

"You think she'd wanna take it with her?" Mona shoots back, and they both have to suppress the urge to smile. "I don't have any money. I'll need some, you know."

"And you thought mom would have some? That'd be a first."

"Figured it wouldn't hurt to look." Mona folds her arms across her chest and sighs. "Shouldn't I feel more, Devyn? Shouldn't this...I don't know, matter more?"

Devyn drops his gaze for a moment. "I can't tell you how to feel, Mona. She was my mother for 27 years and I'm...not too torn up about it. She never gave us much reason to love her."

"I feel like a horrible person," she whispers, and Devyn shakes his head.

"You're not. You just weren't delusional. You knew who mom was. What she was."

"Yeah," Mona says. She meets Devyn in the doorway and rests her forehead against his shoulder. "Let's just go," she tells him while he gently rubs her back. "I don't want to keep Auntie Liv up too late."

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
lost_spook
Jan. 15th, 2017 08:51 am (UTC)
Aw, poor Mona!
oonaseckar
Feb. 5th, 2017 10:59 am (UTC)
Oh, she's not a bad person. This bleak scenario is well-evoked, without coming across as hopeless. Poor Devyn too, he's come a long way from such a wrecked beginning. But do you ever really escape?
winebabe
Feb. 5th, 2017 04:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you! And very true, I'm not sure you can ever really escape. You can get far away, at least in Devyn's case, but it's been a part of you since the beginning. (I have hope for the Lively siblings, though!)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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