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Spiced Pear #12, Wintergreen #16

Author: winebabe
Title: Rum & Coke
Story: The Gemini Occurrence (Poverty Club 'Verse)
Rating: R (gratuitous swearing, underage drinking)
Flavor(s): Spiced Pear #12: hit or miss; Wintergreen #16: laundry list
Word Count: 4,011
Summary: October 2020. The foursome sits in Vic's cold house and drinks.
Notes: Previous: How to Survive. Mona Lively, Gina Damiano, Victor Eastman, Casey Calhoun, Ruby Eastman. (I'm having too much fun with this new 'verse, oops.)

Vic drives like a madman. If there aren't any cops around, and they're not in immediate danger of being t-boned in the middle of the road, he blows through the stop signs like they don't exist. Red lights are another story, thankfully, and as long as he's stuck in traffic he can't do anything too stupid. Mona doesn't care about dying, or getting into an accident, but she does care about potentially getting attention from the cops. Cassandra could not have cared less what her daughter was up to, but Olivia would care, and Mona didn't want to come back on her second day of school just to tell her she'd had a run-in with the local police.

She doesn't say anything, though, because Vic has the radio turned up as loud as it'll go, and he keeps leaning over to shout into Casey's left ear. Gina is sitting next to her in the back, curled up against the door with her phone in her hands. Mona just watches out the window to give herself something to do. The entire town is a sea of houses.

They get past the city limits and Vic turns left onto a road that angles downwards towards a lake. The houses are farther apart, smaller but surrounded by twisted, dead-looking trees, and everything seems to be tinged with browns and grays.

"Where are we?" Mona asks.

Vic meets her eyes in the rearview mirror. “The Ditch.”

“The Ditch,” Gina supplies when Vic doesn’t explain further, “is basically the ghetto of our town. It’s a dumpy little subdivision without a name that is sinking into itself.”

“I live here,” Vic announces, as if that wasn’t already obvious, “but these other two assholes live in better parts of town.”

“Just barely,” Casey grumbles from beside him. “You try living in a two-bedroom house with four sisters and brothers, and your parents, and then we’ll talk about ‘better.’ At least you have your own room.”

“At least your house has windows,” Vic shoots back, and as the car turns into a driveway, Mona sees what he means. One of the large front windows is covered with a billowing piece of plastic wrap, held on by duct tape. As the wind picks up, the plastic ripples along with it.

It looks like a dump, but again, Mona’s seen worse. It doesn’t bother her or disgust her; back in Baltimore, when Cassandra used to go on binges and disappear for days at a time, as a child Mona became accustomed to using a food-splattered microwave or walking on sticky floors. She wore the same clothes days at a time because she was too young to work a washing machine. A house with a broken window, chipped siding, and rusted car parts in the yard was far from the American dream, but it wasn’t anything less than what she was used to.

“It’s gonna be freezing in the winter,” Casey mutters, and Vic groans.

“Don’t remind me, okay? Ruby’s working on it.” He pulls the car up close to the garage, puts it in park, and then turns the engine off. “Home sweet home.”

Mona follows suit as Casey, Vic, and Gina push their way out of the car and emerge onto Vic’s lawn, the dead, brown grass crunching under their feet as they cross the yard to get to the side door. Vic holds the door open for them, leaning his head against his hand like he needs the extra support to stay upright, and grins at Mona as she steps up to him.

“You any good at essays?”

Mona smiles back and rolls her eyes. “Need a ghostwriter?”

“A what?”

“It’s what they call someone who writes a book for someone else. They do all the work, the ‘writer’ gets all the credit,” she explains, making air quotes. “I’m pretty decent in English classes. No big deal.”

“Yeah? You’ll do it?” Vic’s face lights up and he reaches out to throw an arm around Mona’s shoulders. “Alright! You’re alright, kid!”

“Shut up,” Casey says from the doorway, “and get out the alcohol.”

“Ah, fuck you!” Vic shouts, releasing Mona and reaching out to shove Casey, but he’s laughing the entire time.

Mona follows them into the house and shuts the door behind her, staying just outside of the doorway so she can look around. The side door enters into the kitchen, where the tiled floor is covered in muddy footprints. There are dirty dishes on one of the countertops, from what looks like breakfast, and the tiny kitchen table has a coffee mug at each of the four places. Vic is half inside the fridge, pulling out beers and handing them off to Casey who is leaning against the counter beside him. It looks like such a normal scene, a routine amongst friends, and Mona smiles.

“Hey.” Gina sidles up to her and gently nudges Mona with her elbow. “You good?”

“I’m good. Just used to different things, you know?”

Different things like apartments full of warm bodies, people hanging out of windows to smoke cigarettes and crack, huddled in the corner with needles sticking out of their veins, passed out on the floor. Different things like dark clubs full of almost-naked people on E, sweating their life force away with pacifiers in their mouths. Different things like an empty apartment with her dead mother on the couch, still cradling her final fix in one hand.

“Different things like parties?” Gina asks, and Mona has to take a breath.

“Yeah, sorta,” she replies and fakes a smile. “This is...intimate. It feels like hanging out.”

“Hey, Lively, you want a beer?” Vic asks, peeking up over the top of the fridge door.

“Sure.” It feels rude to ask if he’s got anything stronger, so she doesn’t, and lets him hand her a bottle.

“It’s nice, right?” Gina asks, taking a bottle from Casey. “I mean, it’s not a party or anything like that, but we have fun.”

“What else would we be doing anyway?” Casey says. He uses the counter to pop the cap off of his beer and takes a long drink. “Extracurriculars? Hobbies? Fuck.

Mona snorts and shakes her head, grinning. “Yeah, no, that’s all...bullshit. Bullshit for normal kids.”

Casey nods emphatically, raising his beer.

“C’mon,” Vic says and slams the fridge door shut, “let’s go into the living room and watch me kick Casey’s ass at whatever shooting games my dad hasn’t pawned yet.”

Mona is too embarrassed to say she’s never had video games and has no idea what they’re playing, so she curls up in the corner of the couch and just watches Vic and Casey trash-talk each other while they alternate between smashing the buttons on the controllers and hitting each other.

Gina gets a phone call halfway through the boys’ first match and she picks up her beer, cradles her cell against her ear, and disappears out the side door. The guys don’t even seem to notice, and Mona figures it must be a regular thing. She wonders if it’s a boyfriend, or a family member, and why she has to be so secretive about it. Of course, if Aunt Olivia ever were to call her, Mona knows she’d take that call outside, too.

“Fuck!” Casey shouts, and it’s the first time Mona’s seen him lose his composure. He takes a deep breath, grabs another drink of his second beer, and then holds the controller out to her. “Want a turn?”

Vic is beaming around the neck of his beer bottle, still hitting buttons with his free hand, and Mona waves Casey off.

“I can’t play. No good at these games.”

“Well, I’m done, Vic,” Casey says. He sets his controller down on the coffee table and shoots Vic a heavy look. In the beat of silence that follows, he pushes himself up off the couch and disappears into the hallway. The screen door slams a moment later, and Mona figures he must have gone to find Gina.

“Want more?” Vic asks her, wiggling an empty beer bottle in front of her face.

Gina and Casey come back inside, and it doesn’t take long for them to get serious with their drinking. Casey sets up all the beer bottles on the coffee table and they take theirs one at a time, leaving the empties on the floor around their chairs.

The drunker Vic gets, the chattier he becomes, and Mona lazily watches him run his mouth from her spot on the floor. Gina takes the one recliner, sprawled across it like a crass queen on her throne, and Vic and Casey remain on the couch. Vic keeps grabbing at Casey’s hand while he’s talking, almost like he’s unaware of himself doing it, and Mona watches Casey swat at him each time.

Everything they have to say makes absolutely no sense to her, and so she just keeps drinking. People she doesn’t know, places she hasn’t been, stories she hasn’t lived--she can’t relate to anything. There’s nothing to chime in with when Gina announces that Andrea Howard is pregnant again, and when Casey remarks that it’s gonna be her tenth abortion, Mona has no clever quip to tack onto the end.

Teenage pregnancy isn’t even gossip, she wants to say, because who cares? It’s trivial, superficial bullshit compared to other things going on in the world, going on in her world, and the last thing she wants to do is pretend to care about some stranger’s stupid mistake.

Mona pulls out her cell phone and opens up her message string with Devyn. She always has the last word, and sure enough, she was the last one to send a message to him. He hasn’t responded, and Mona scowls and pockets her cell phone, telling herself she won’t send him another message until he responds to hers.

“Something wrong?” Gina asks, smiling slyly from behind her beer. “Boy problems?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” Mona replies before she thinks better of it, and whether she’s playing dumb or not, Gina meets her remark with a look of confusion. “Your phone call--when you went outside.”

Oh.” Gina drops her gaze for just a second, and then rolls her eyes. “That was nothing. Just--stupid stuff.”

“Yeah. Everything with guys is stupid stuff,” Mona replies, and Gina smiles. “I was just checking my messages. My brother likes to ignore my texts.”

“A brother, huh?” Gina says it like it’s a much juicier piece of knowledge than it is, and Mona resists the urge to sigh. “Older, younger?”

“27. Works at a college upstate. A total nerd, really, so if you’re getting any ideas, quit while you’re ahead.”

“Professor-type? That’s hot,” Gina says. Mona wants to throw up.

“I’m gonna slit my throat if you two don’t shut up with this stupid girl talk,” Casey interrupts.

“Yeah. Drinking’s for heavy talk or bullshitting. If you two wanna have girl time, you can leave,” Vic says, but there’s not much energy behind his words. He’s sitting with his head tipped back, staring up at the ceiling, barely an inch of space between him and Casey.

“Do you ever wonder what it’s like to die?” Mona asks, and when all eyes snap to her, she merely shrugs and says, “Heavy talk.”

Casey takes a drink of his beer. “Depends on how you go.”

“I just mean in general. Like, the actual act of dying.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he insists. “Are you going slowly? Are you in pain? It’s gonna change everything.”

Mona looks down the neck of her beer bottle. She can’t imagine overdosing would be very painful; every time it had happened, Cassandra just looked tired. It looked like she was going to sleep, sometimes with her eyes open, but it didn’t look painful. “Yeah, okay,” she says, just to end the conversation. “I get what you’re saying. I guess you’re right.”

“Do you believe in that whole ‘go to the light’ bullshit?” Vic chimes in. “Like, do you think there really is a light? Do you think you see anything at all?”

“Raised Catholic,” Gina says, raising a hand. “Apparently, we’re supposed to meet Jesus at the pearly gates or whatever.”

“I don’t think anything happens,” Casey argues. “You die and that’s it. It’s like going to sleep--one minute you’re alive, the next you’re dead and you don’t know a damn thing about it.”

“I don’t want there to be an afterlife. Sounds exhausting,” Mona says, and Vic laughs.

Fuck, you’re right, I can’t do this for eternity. Shit, that’d really suck. And reincarnation? Don’t even get me started.”

Casey turns to him, frowning. “What does reincarnation have to do with anything? If it’s real, you don’t even remember your past lives anyway.”

Some people do! Kids and shit! I heard about it on this podcast, there was this kid that was talking about drowning and whatever, like he’d had a past life on the Titanic.”

“That’s total crap, Vic,” Gina laughs and sets another empty bottle down on the floor. “It’s just their imaginations.”

“What do you think, Mona?” Vic asks, scowling at Gina. “It’s just a possibility!”

“It’s also a possibility that our entire universe is a hologram and none of this, including us, is real,” Mona replies. The look on Vic’s face is enough to make her want to send a thank you text to Devyn for explaining that whole theory to her.

Vic turns to Casey and hits him on the chest with the back of his hand. “Dude, is that heavy talk or bullshitting?”

Mona’s watching them both, sipping her beer, and Casey smiles down at her. “Both, Vic.”

No matter how well any of them can hold their liquor, it doesn’t take long before they’re all heavily intoxicated. The TV’s been on the loading screen of Vic’s game for hours now, and as conversation died down, Gina pulled out her phone and hasn’t put it away since.

Mona’s still on the floor, sitting among a sea of empty beer bottles, and the only person still drinking is Vic, who looks like he’s struggling to swallow every mouthful. No one seems to be paying attention to anything, halfway to unconsciousness, and she pushes herself to her feet. “I need some air,” she says, just to say she let them know, and heads for the side door.

It’s pitch-black outside and freezing, but the cold air sobers her up a little bit. The lake glistens like black glass behind Vic’s house, and she can see across to all the houses lining the shore. The occasional stream of headlights or the sound of a running engine breaks into the stillness, but it’s too quiet out in the suburbs and Mona aches for the white noise of a busy street, a full apartment, a lively city.

She pulls her phone out to check the time; just past two in the morning. Olivia had sent her a goodnight text hours earlier, wishing her a good time at her sleepover, and Mona takes the time to read it in its entirety. Cassandra never cared where she went, unless it interfered with getting money or drugs, and it feels strange not only having to tell her aunt where she’ll be, but lying about it as well.

It’s normal teen stuff, she knows. All teenagers lie to their parents, or their guardians, about where they are, what they’re doing, whatever. Nothing about her life was normal, though, and Mona doesn’t think she wants to start now.

From behind her, the side door creaks open and the screen door slams and rattles, impossibly loud in the silent night. “Hey,” Vic says and sits down on the one concrete step, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. “You okay?”

“Fine,” Mona replies, and she wants to add more, tack on an explanation to make it believable, but she can’t find the words. Instead, she watches Vic light his cigarette and blow out a cloud of smoke between them.

“Alright then,” he says, and offers her his lighter and a cigarette from his pack. “You don’t have to stay if you don’t wanna. I can take you home.”

“You’re drunk,” Mona says and smiles. “It’s cool. I just needed some air.”

“If you’re sure.” He accepts the lighter back from Mona and pockets it. “So, what brings you to our little corner of Hell?”

This is the part where she’s supposed to lie, Mona knows. She’d been practicing for days, figuring out the best excuse to use, the best story that was just vague enough to be believable. She ran through all the scenarios, tried to predict all the questions that would be asked. But she doesn’t use any of it. “Came home and found my mom dead on the couch. Overdose. My brother shipped me out here to live with my aunt.”

Shit,” Vic replies, shaking his head. “Suicide?”

“Stupidity.” The thought of Cassandra taking her own life almost makes Mona want to laugh. She was just selfish enough to do it, too, but she never would have done anything as long as she had drugs and a place to sleep. “The only things she cared about in life were drugs and herself. It was just a matter of time.”

Vic shifts over so there’s just barely enough room for them to sit together on the step and swings an arm around Mona’s shoulders. “That’s fucked up. Sorry.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Mona replies, but there’s a heaviness in her chest that says maybe that’s not true. “I didn’t love her.”

He just nods like it makes total sense to him. It probably does, she figures, because she hasn’t seen a glimpse of anyone else inside his house, and Gina’s comment that his dad’s an alcoholic didn’t really leave that much to the imagination. Everyone is fucked up, she figures. “You’re smart,” he says.

“That’s what my brother said. ‘I saw who she was,’ or something like that. And I did, I wasn’t delusional. I didn’t think that one day maybe she’d change, or that she could ever get better, or that she’d make things up to me. She just was the way she was, and I…” Mona sucks the smoke from her cigarette deep into her lungs. “I had to live with that.”

“Yeah.” Vic pats her on the shoulder a few times and then pulls his arm back.

“I’m not drunk enough,” Mona says, and her voice comes out choked by the effort of holding back tears. “I can’t do this, I need more alcohol.”

“Hey,” Vic says, somehow gentle and soothing as turns to face her, “we got you.”

Somehow, the statement is more comforting than anything else he’s said to her, and Mona laughs. “Okay,” she says, and when he stands up she lets him pull her to her feet.

“If there’s anything I can do for you, it’s get you drunk,” Vic laughs as he leads her back into the house.

The beer bottles that were once on the table are replaced by large bottles of vodka, rum, and a few small jars of moonshine. Vic also manages to find some juice in the back of the fridge, and a case of Coke to mix the liquor with.

Mona is the first one to move in, while Gina naps in the armchair and Casey gets off the couch to walk around the living room. Vic just sits on the floor beside her, watching her pour rum into the bottom of her glass, filling it almost halfway before she caps the bottle.

“Take it easy,” Casey says, stopping to lean against the arm of the couch. “You don’t want to get sick.” He shoots Vic a look, which Mona sees, and then goes back to pacing.

“I know what I’m doing,” Mona grumbles, filling her glass up the rest of the way with Coke. “I just need one day where I don’t have to care about things! Okay? I just want to stop thinking.”

Casey looks Mona, and then Vic, and then drops down in front of the coffee table with the two of them. “I’m in,” he says, grabbing his own glass, and Vic hoots.

“Time to really party!” he shouts, stretching out across the living room floor until he can punch the button on the stereo. Music starts blasting, and he fiddles with the buttons until it’s on a different radio station, playing upbeat rock.

Gina pushes herself up out of the armchair and crouches down beside Mona. “This is when it gets fun,” she says into Mona’s ear and wraps her into a one-armed hug. “I hope you’re having fun!”

“Well, I’m not having a bad time!” Mona replies and takes a long gulp of her drink. She lets Gina pull her to her feet and the two girls dance, drinks in their hands, while Vic and Casey sit next to each other on the floor.

After one drink comes another, and another, until Mona’s lying on her back on the couch, watching the ceiling spin around above her. Gina’s already passed out in the armchair, curled in on herself and snoring softly. The stereo clicks off, and she thinks she hears Vic ask, “Are you gonna sleep with me?” before she closes her eyes and the world fades away.

She’s so drunk, she doesn’t dream.

Somewhere inside the house, a crash shatters the hazy silence of the morning, and Mona cracks her eyes just enough to see. Gina’s still asleep in the armchair, and there’s no sign of Casey or Vic, but the shadow of a person keeps slipping into view from the kitchen.

A dark-haired young woman steps into view, holding a mug of coffee, and she sighs when she notices Mona. “‘Morning,” she whispers. “Never seen you here before. Want some coffee?”

“Thanks,” Mona replies, cautiously shuffling from the couch into the kitchen. She sits down at the table and the woman sets a mug down in front of her.

“Need some milk? Creamer? Sugar?”

Mona thinks for a moment, debating how tolerable black coffee will be, but before she can respond there’s a jug of milk, a bottle of vanilla creamer, and a small bowl of sugar in front of her. “Thank you,” she says and reaches for the creamer.

“No problem. Taking care of you kids is my job.” She smiles and places her hands on her hips. “I’m Ruby, Vic’s sister.”

“Should’ve known,” Mona replies, smiling back. “I’m Mona. I know Vic from English class.”

“Ah, so you’re a junior then,” Ruby says, and Mona laughs.

“Yeah. I heard he’s a little older than me and Gina.”

Ruby smiles and sits down across from her at the table. “You look like shit, kid,” she says gently. “How much did you drink last night? And don’t bother lying, I picked up all the damn cups and bottles you slobs left sitting out.”

Mona cups her hands around the coffee mug. “As much as I thought I needed.”

“Yeah? That’s stupid.” The look of disappointment and mild disgust on her face has to be well-practiced, and Mona figures she’s gotten all the experience she needed from dealing with Vic. “You think alcohol poisoning’s fun?”

“It wasn’t close,” Mona argues, and Ruby shrugs.

“Not this time, but how about next time? Or the next? My dad’s an alcoholic, Mona, so I know how the progression goes. If you start with too much, soon it’ll be not enough, and you’ll be fucked.”

“Thanks for the advice, mom,” Mona replies, and the simple act of saying the word has all the blood rushing from her face. She goes cold, and Ruby sets a warm hand on top of hers.

“Hey,” she whispers, impossibly gentle, and gives her hand a squeeze. “You okay?”

“Fine,” Mona insists, and she’d get up from the table and leave if she knew how far it was to Aunt Olivia’s. “It’s complicated.”

There are ashy brown freckles that sit high on Ruby’s cheeks when she smiles. “So is everything. Want some breakfast?”


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 11th, 2017 12:35 am (UTC)
Don't apoligize for having fun writing!

I am enjoying this canon. I really like the characters (they remind me of high school).
Feb. 11th, 2017 12:37 am (UTC)
Your comment is especially hilarious to me considering I literally just posted another piece and immediately thought "Oh no, I posted again!"

But thank you! It reminds me nothing of my own high school experience, but not everything can be true to life. ;)
Feb. 12th, 2017 09:51 am (UTC)
Yes, don't worry! I'm enjoying reading your separate pieces about Mona, too. :-)
Feb. 12th, 2017 05:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :D
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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