Hey everyone, sorry for the long wait again. I took a couple of weeks off from writing to just chill and I wrote most of this chapter before I struggled with the ending. I hope you all like it. :)
"Hey, babe, I'm gonna go shower and..."
AJ could feel the blood drain from his face after what Kim did next.
Kim opened her closed fist to reveal a small baggie that was filled with a white powder: cocaine.
AJ had almost no words, he would recognize it anywhere. "...Where did you get that?" he choked out as he slumped back down on the couch.
"You tell me," she quipped and arched her eyebrows.
"Kim, I swear to God...don't even go there." He suddenly felt lightheaded and decided to stay sitting.
"Drugs? Alex, how could you even THINK about bringing this poison into this house??" She moved closer to him and AJ slightly recoiled, afraid of what her next action might be. "Huh?!"
AJ put both of his hands up in a defensive manner. "Kim, I swear to God I don't know where that came from."
She rolled her eyes. "Really? Where have I heard that before?"
"Stop, Jordan's sleeping—"
"I can't believe you!! After what you promised me! That you would never touch this shit again!" Kim was fuming, AJ hadn't seen her this angry in a long time.
AJ tried to stay as calm as possible. "Wait, stop right there. Where did you find it?"
"I found it in your shoe," she sneered.
Something clicked inside AJ's head. "That son of a bitch! I'll kill him!"
"Oh, don't you dare go pinning this on Luke, Alex! I should've known something was fishy 'cause you went to see him."
"No! Not Luke!" Kim's blatant distrust of AJ's explanation only began to infuriate him more.
"Who, then?" Kim wondered, waiting to hear the story her husband was probably cooking up in his head.
"Luke's dealer, John, stopped by while I was at his apartment and must've slipped it in when I wasn't looking."
Kim wasn't buying it. "Uh-huh, sure he did."
AJ couldn't believe her. "Why can't you just believe me for once, Kim?"
"Why should I?" she shot back.
"Maybe because I'm your husband? Maybe because I wouldn't do this to you after what happened last time? I won't ever put you through that again. I won't ever hurt you like that again."
"I'm hurting right now, Alex," As if AJ needed any reminding.
"I'm not gonna fight with you, Kim. I won't do it! I'm telling the truth! You never trust me! I went off that shit cold turkey for you, damn it! Do you have any idea what I went through for you to change? To be the man you needed me to be? I'm not that person anymore, why do you insist on constantly reminding me of my mistakes?"
Kim didn't answer.
"Our son is asleep upstairs and I'm gonna keep quiet for him. If you wanna fly off the handle some more, go ahead, but I'm walking away before I do or say something I regret. Get that shit away from me, flush it, I don't care." AJ stood and rushed past her and went downstairs into his studio before Kim could get another word in. He locked the door and sat at the table. He just tried to calm down and remember to keep breathing.
The truth was that AJ did care about what Kim did with the cocaine. He hadn't had a craving in years, but he had a whopper of one now. He ran his fingers through his hair and a groan escaped his lips, a sound similar to what Luke made in his apartment just hours earlier. Who knew that the day would turn out like this?
"God, give me the strength...please..."
AJ rested his head on the table and let out another groan. He didn't know exactly how long he'd been sitting there, but eventually he sat up and reached for a pen and opened his journal to a blank page. With a trembling hand he wrote the following:
I can't believe this. How could this happen? I don't do that shit anymore, I haven't in almost seven years. This is unreal. I love Kim, I can't imagine how she reacted when she found me seizing on the hotel bathroom floor, foaming at the mouth, in the midst of my second overdose. She must've been so scared, I can't believe I put her through that.
She woke me up, she saved my life. Every day she does. She set me straight, got me clean and clear-headed. If she didn't leave me then, she won't now. She gave me a chance then, not now...
Ugh, I wanna do a line SO bad...the rush... No. No! Never again. I can't.
God please help me, be my strength.
AJ closed his journal, his body yearning with need for whiskey and lots of it...he could almost visualize his fingers on the ice-cold shot glass, the amber-colored liquid, feel the burning in his throat as it went down...
He wrestled within himself. So many contradicting thoughts passed through his mind. 'Should I or shouldn't I? No. Yes. No...'
Instead AJ went to his keyboard. He wasn't very good, but he knew that he was in a vulnerable state and that some good could come out of this if he wouldn't be so rash. A moment of rationality.
He started to play a random string of notes and hummed to figure out a melody of some sort. He'd do almost anything to distract himself at this point.
A few minutes later, AJ gave up, but made a mental note of his ideas. He looked at the clock on the wall and couldn't believe he'd been in his studio for over an hour already. With a sigh, he turned all of his equipment off and went back upstairs to the kitchen.
AJ realized that Kim had gone upstairs when the kitchen and living room were empty. He decided to go to his closet and change into something suitable for sleeping, their fight left him exhausted. As if he wasn't already before he got home.
AJ could hear the sounds of muffled crying from their bedroom as he pulled on some lounge pants over his boxers. If they had any other fight, he would go to Kim in a heartbeat to console her, to apologize. But she was in the wrong this time.
AJ exited his closet and got a pillow and blanket from downstairs and settled in on the couch. He didn't feel like messing up a perfectly clean guest room.
He hadn't slept on the couch after a fight in a long time. Usually they tried not to go to bed angry, but this time was different.
Even in the darkness, AJ knew exactly where pictures of himself and Kim were in the room. On the shelf next to the TV there was a photo from their wedding day: AJ in a black tuxedo with Kim in her white wedding gown, sharing their first kiss as husband and wife. Next to that was a shot of AJ kissing Kim's very pregnant belly, she was smiling...
On the other side of the TV, a picture hung of AJ and Jordan from the previous year's family photos. The two of them looked like twins in their matching polo shirts and khaki pants.
'He's definitely my son...'
AJ drifted off to sleep soon after with that happy thought in mind.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
AJ woke up with a start and began to let his eyes adjust to the darkness of the living room before he heard the voice again.
"I'm coming, I'm coming..." AJ murmured, kicking off the blanket and rising to his feet. He stretched and went upstairs as quietly as he could to Jordan's bedroom.
"Hey, bud, what's wrong?" he asked and walked in.
All Jordan did was whimper. "My tummy still hurts and I throwed up."
It was then AJ noticed some vomit on his son's chin, his pajama shirt, and on the white carpet next to his bed in front of the nightstand. With a light sigh, he went over to Jordan, being careful to avoid stepping in the puddle of sick. He heard footsteps and Kim knocked lightly on the door before poking her head in, with Bernie at her heels.
"Is everything alright in here?"
AJ looked up at her. "Jordan had an accident. You can go back to bed, I've got this," he dismissed her with a wave of his hand.
Kim gave him a questioning look, she was sure that AJ would make her stay up with Jordan. "You don't mind?"
"Nah, I was barely asleep anyway," AJ replied with a shrug and a slight bitter edge to his voice. "Go on."
"Okay. Goodnight, J, Daddy's gonna stay with you. I'll see you in the morning."
"Love you, Mommy," he said.
"I love you, too. Come on, Bernie." Kim hesitated slightly as she left, she could feel AJ's eyes on her. Sighing, she closed the door behind her and retreated back to their bedroom.
AJ stared at the door for another moment and turned his attention back to his ailing son. "Stand up and come next to me, please." Jordan did as he was told. "Is there any throw up on your bed?"
"I don't think so, Daddy," he answered quietly.
AJ checked to make sure and took Jordan into the adjoining bathroom. He wet a washcloth with warm water and dabbed a bit of soap on it to wipe Jordan's chin clean. They went back to the bedroom and AJ walked over to the dresser. "Let's change your shirt." He took a t-shirt out of the third drawer from the top and brought it over and helped Jordan put it on.
"Alright, is that better?"
"C'mon, you don't have to sleep in here tonight. You can sleep on the couch, okay?" AJ offered him a small smile.
Jordan followed his father downstairs and AJ got him settled, teddy bear included. "I'm gonna go clean up the accident on the floor in your room. Go to sleep, okay?"
Jordan yawned. "'Kay, Daddy, love you."
"I love you, too, buddy, sweet dreams." AJ kissed Jordan's forehead and went down the hallway and into the laundry room to gather some cleaning supplies. He took the items he needed and went back upstairs and began to clean the carpet next to Jordan's bed shortly after.
Once that was finished, AJ returned the items to their proper place and let out a big yawn, it was almost twenty minutes after one in the morning. He turned the light off in the laundry room and entered the guest bedroom that Denise had stayed in while she recovered from the car accident that happened almost a month ago. AJ moved the pillows and pulled back the sheets and comforter before climbing into the bed. So much for not messing up a guest room.
His exhaustion from the previous day's events played a very key role in that AJ fell asleep quite easily, almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.
The next morning AJ woke up, not caring to make the bed as he left the guest room. He shut the door behind him and quietly walked down the hardwood-floored hallway that led to the living room just in case Jordan was still sleeping on the couch.
His assumption was correct in that Jordan was still asleep, slightly tangled in a blanket and his teddy bear was on the carpet below him. AJ chuckled lightly and went into the empty kitchen to make some coffee and maybe find something to eat, he wasn't feeling very hungry after last night's disaster with Kim.
'Or maybe the whole day was one big disaster,' he thought sourly as he poured some ground up Coffee Bean into a coffee filter and added the water before turning the coffee pot on. He took a seat at the island and let his mind wander.
'Maybe it wasn't a total waste after all.' AJ remembered Jordan's face lighting up a bit last night when he entered his bedroom when he got back from dealing with Luke. Some quiet time with him aside from the giggles shared was just what he needed: a chance to come down from the craziness of the day and let things return to normal. Of course AJ knew that his life was anything but normal, but at times it could at least be familiar and routine.
And of course the clash last night with Kim wasn't normal at all. AJ was glad that she wasn't awake, he wasn't ready to face her just yet.
'I need this quiet time to relax...'
It seemed that just as that thought passed through his mind, AJ heard footsteps on the stairs. Kim shuffled into the kitchen wearing a light pink robe, her eyes slightly puffy from crying herself to sleep the night before. She noticed AJ sitting on a stool at the kitchen island looking down at the granite counter top, seemingly lost in thought.
"Good morning," she greeted him coolly in an attempt to break the silence. She could already feel the tension between them.
AJ just looked up at her with expressionless eyes, slightly wishing that Kim would just go back to bed and leave him alone.
"You're making coffee?" she wondered in the same tone as before. She heard a hiss come from the coffee maker as the dark, caffeinated liquid dripped into the pot behind AJ.
He only shrugged in response.
Kim was growing agitated at her husband's seemingly uncaring attitude. "What? Are you giving me the silent treatment now?"
"No," AJ answered quietly, now beginning to fidget with his hands.
Kim sighed and went over to the fridge and took out the carton of orange juice. She retrieved a glass from the cabinet above her and poured herself some and put it back. She took a seat across from AJ and just stared at him. "What's with you?"
AJ stayed silent and continued to look down, knowing that her eyes were fixated on him.
Kim had enough of him being passive. "Are you five years-old or thirty? Say something."
"If I wanted to talk to you, I would," AJ snapped.
Kim didn't seem the least bit phased by his comment. "Well, this little game you're playing can't last long, God knows you love to talk."
"Game?" AJ wondered, narrowing his eyes at her. "This is a game to you?"
"He speaks," she chirped.
"How are you able to just sit there and act like you did nothing wrong?" he questioned, his voice a bit stronger now.
"Because I didn't," Kim replied, confident.
AJ scoffed. "Oh, yeah? Then why did I hear you crying last night, hm? A bit of guilt, perhaps?"
"Fuck you, Alex," Kim growled.
"You are so right, Kim, you did absolutely nothing wrong last night. I'm public enemy number one, I'm the bad guy. Never trust a druggie. Are you happy now? Does that make you feel better?" he asked her, his tone dripping with sarcasm.
It was Kim's turn to be silent.
AJ scoffed once more. "And suddenly you don't speak."
AJ stood and left her with only his words as he went downstairs into his studio and shut the door behind him, effectively shutting out the rest of the world along with it.