Fiction Sad

           “Hey, Marla? Daddy’s got to run in here and get something real quick. You stay in the car, okay? Keep the doors locked and play your game. I’ll be right back.”

           Marla looked up from her pink tablet with concern plain on her face. “Where you going?”

           “That house right there.” I pointed to a small white house in desperate need of a paint job. “I’ll be right back.”

           “Can I come?” Her big brown eyes were wide with the sparkling excitement of exploring a new place.

           It wasn’t a safe place for a kid. Thinking of all the unsavory things she might see in there caused a chill to drop down my spine. “I’m just going in and out. It’s easier if you stay here, kiddo. Maybe we’ll get ice cream after if you’re good.”

           Marla beamed at the sound of this. “Chocolate peanut butter?”

           “Sure, thing, kiddo.” Whenever I looked at that angelic face, I felt like the luckiest guy in the world. Marla’s the cutest little girl with those curly blonde pigtails and that little button nose. I know she’ll be trouble for me when she grows up.

           My plan was simple. Walk in, give Rocky the cash, take the pills and weed, and bounce. In and out. Five minutes tops. The air was so humid, it felt like a thick blanket was suffocating me. I struggled with the metal gate of his fence, then walked down the walkway past his brown, fried grass and junk covered lawn, to the door.

           It killed me to even be there with my daughter. My stomach churned with acidic guilt as I looked back at her. Only the top of her head was visible. I told myself once I got those pills, I’d be a better dad. Without them, I got irritable, aggressive, and so anxious. Life was too hard to deal with sometimes. I just needed a little help.

           First thing to go all wrong is, Rocky didn’t answer the door. Arianna did and she opened the door wearing only a lavender, silk bathrobe. My heart raced and my mind went blank.

           “Aw, look who it is. I’ve missed you, Charlie. Where’ve you been?” She asked while she pulled me in close by my t-shirt and kissed my burn scar covered cheek. Right here I knew things weren’t going to turn out well. I was trying to be a better man. I was trying to make things work with Marla’s mom and that meant commitment. Unfortunately, Arianna was one of those girls who liked the competition. Hearing you wanted to stay loyal to your woman, only made her try harder. There’s only so much someone can take, but I knew I had to resist with all I had.

           “Rocky around?” I asked while fighting to ignore how good her hands felt massaging my shoulders. One of those stupid singing fish plaques hung on their wall. I never noticed before, but I saw it now that I was doing anything to avoid noticing the robe slipped down one shoulder.

           “Yeah, but he’s a little tied up. Let’s have a drink.” She walked over to the bedroom and put her hand on the knob.

I paused and considered if I should follow her through the bedroom door or walk out the door to the car. “Will he be long?”

She shook her head and smiled. I knew I should leave. I needed to stop messing around with Arianna, and I knew if I didn’t leave now that’d be hard. She was Rocky’s girlfriend, and nothing turned her on more than being with someone else while he was somewhere unaware in the house. The danger of it was exhilarating. There’s nothing like it. I’m not going to lie; it was most thrilling feeling in the world. The fear and intensity of doing something so risky mixed with the fact that she acted like I was so desirable, really did it for me. She never treated me like the disfigured monster I felt I looked like with all my burn scars and the prosthetic leg. Marla’s mom, on the other hand, treated me like I was as fragile as a ceramic mug teetering on a thin shelf. It’d be quick. No one would know. A moment like that was almost worth more than the drugs I came here for. Almost. Rocky had some real high-quality stuff.  

“What’s going on?” She asked.

I sighed and reminded myself to focus. The important thing was being quick. Both so I could get back to my daughter, and because I couldn’t wait anymore. My supply ran out unexpectedly. Well, unexpectedly because I took too much a couple nights ago after some real bad nightmares. Today my body was making intense demands like it had a hostage and a gun to bargain with. “I don’t got time to wait for him. I need to talk to him now.”

“That’s no fun.” She pouted and then walked up to me. We kissed and I forgot everything. Forgetting everything made this so addicting. I was a hundred percent ready to walk into that room, but then she pulled back. With a mischievous grin and the confidence of knowing she had me right where she wanted me, she turned away and disappeared down the hallway.

Relieved, I sat on the couch and flipped through some music magazines while waiting. To help stop myself from imagining what almost happened in that room, I tried to read the articles. My eyes glazed over and none of the words made it all the way into my brain. 

Rocky’s younger brother, Wes, came out of the room smoking a blunt and offered it to me. I accepted. With every inhale of smoke, all thoughts evaporated, and each muscle relaxed until my body felt as loose as Jell-O. We got to talking a bit as we passed it back and forth. Then we started watching some TV. He told me about this crazy movie, and I told him to put it on. I had this weird feeling like there was something I forgot. Something just on the edge of my memory. I struggled to think of it when he suggested we have a frozen pizza. I was so hungry. Maybe dinner was what I forgot.

“I haven’t left the house all day, man. It’s way too hot outside,” Wes said. “Couldn’t even take the dog for a walk. Not that he wanted to be out there either. Right, boy?”

Wes scratched the Rottweiler behind the ears.

“Hey, where’s Rocky? He’s taking forever.” I grabbed a beer from their fridge. Their house was a mess. Dishes piled in the sink, stains covered the floor, and they had so much stuff. Were they hoarders?

“Man, Rocky’s a mess today. I had to use the Narcan on him twice already, and he’s already getting high again.”

“Did something happen?”

Wes shrugged. “I don’t know. He got in a fight with Ari cause he found out she’s been cheating on him. Wants to kill the guy, but I’m like man, I’m pretty sure it ain’t just one.”

I swallowed hard and noticed my hands were shaking.

“Anyone he suspects?” As much as I tried to sound cool, this question squeaked out and sounded so suspicious.

“Like I said, I’m sure it’s a few, but she’ll throw some random dude under the bus to get him over it. Poor sucker whoever he is. I wouldn’t put it past Rocky to legit kill him.”

I needed to get out of there. What if I was that guy? Rocky had guns and muscles and everything he needed to take me down. I wouldn’t put it past him either. “I hate to be a pain, but I really got to get my shit and get out of here. I got my daughter waiting for me.”

“What? Man, what are you even doing here? You’re better than this. You’re the big hero, remember? Go home to your family. Where she at anyway? It’s like a hundred degree out there.”

As the reality of what he said hit me hard, panic seized my entire body like a constricting snake. My heart thumped so loud, it hurt my ears. I looked at the door to the outside and then at the door that likely lead to Rocky and wondered what to do next. Should I burst through his door and demand my stuff, or should I just walk out and forget the whole thing? Wes was right. I shouldn’t be there. It was way too hot for Marla to be out in the car, and I was being a total moron even thinking of staying. Besides, Ari might be in there telling him it was me as we speak. Revenge for my rejecting her a moment ago. She doesn’t take well to that sort of thing. He might come flying out and point a gun to my head any moment now.

“Tell him I’ll call him later.” As I walked out the door, I glanced at my phone. I had been there for over an hour. When I stepped outside, the sun burned like fire and instantly soaked my shirt in sweat. What was I thinking? I looked at my car first. I didn’t see her. I ran to the car. I couldn’t breathe. My lungs filled with lead and a scream rolled up my throat. 


I whirled around and saw her sitting on the sidewalk under a tree with some teenage boy. He must have made her a sandwich and got her a juice box, because she held both in her hands and I certainly hadn’t given them to her. Anger flashed through me like lightning.

“What’re you doing with my daughter?”

He looked at me with disbelief. “Are you serious? She’d probably be dead if it weren’t for me.”

The boy stood up. Marla hugged his leg and said, “He’s my new friend, Daddy!”

It didn’t make sense right away, but I hated that boy. Maybe because he was so much younger and acted more responsible than me, which made me feel like a stupid jerk. Maybe because I could have been that boy. I was. The good kid. Believe it or not, that was me.

“I should’ve called the cops,” he said and shook his head. Then he said goodbye to her sweetly and flipped me off before he walked away. I wanted to punch his face, but I stopped myself. It was brutally hot out here. I almost killed her. I almost killed my sweet, little baby. And for what? I didn’t want to be this guy. This irresponsible loser. Tears flooded down my face, and I held her tight.

“You still want ice cream?” I asked weakly.

Marla beamed. We got her in the car as she told me excitedly all about her friend. It ripped me apart thinking of how bad things could have been. She could have died in a hot car. She could have trusted a boy who wasn’t so nice and helpful. Someone who might have hurt her. How did I forget about her? How did I get so consumed in the stupid shit I was doing? All I do is get her ice cream like that can make up for it all. Almost killed you, but here’s some chocolate peanut butter to bribe you into forgetting it all, kiddo.

On the way to her mom’s, I’m embarrassed to say I asked her to keep this all a secret. She agreed. The shame weighted on me so heavily, it felt like it could crush my insides. As soon as she jumped into her mom’s arms, she started going on and on about her new friend. That kid ruined the whole thing, but he also saved her life. He treated her better than I did. Marla’s mom flipped out. She pieced together what happened and started screaming her head off at me. It was like one of those cartoons. You could see the steam coming out of her ears. A shade of red I’ve never seen before took over her pretty face. Marla cried hysterically. When she said I couldn’t come back, I understood why. I also knew she’d eventually cave and want her daughter to have her father. That wasn’t the right way to think though. I needed to be better.

After a lot of thought and driving on autopilot, I ended up in front of a rehab center. I walked into the lobby and was greeted by a friendly receptionist. I stared at the entrance and stared at the exit. My body was tugged in the direction of the exit. These thoughts of running away flooded my mind. Clearly, I wasn’t ready to be a dad. Marla would be better off with out me. Even some teen punk could do better. What if I disappeared? What if I left them all to live their lives without me? I looked at the entrance again. Could I get better? Was it even possible?

I stepped towards the exit and saw Marla’s face. “Daddy, where you going?”

How could I walk out now? Was I that much of a monster? I fell to my knees and put my hands on my face. This decision shouldn’t be hard. This should be a no-brainer. I shouldn’t even be considering options. Yet I was. If I did nothing, eventually things would blow over and life would go back to normal. I’d just get high and hang out with my friends until Marla’s mom changed her mind and called because they missed me. I didn’t have to change anything. What was wrong with me? I almost killed her. Almost lost her forever. There won’t always be other people to save her from my slip ups. There shouldn’t have to be.

I remembered back when I was a sweet kid. Got straight As, volunteered on weekends, played sports, and had my whole life ahead of me. If only I could go back to being that good kid. Back before I joined the army and my body got set on fire when an improvised explosive device ruptured that fuel cell. Back before I was introduced to opioids to handle the pain and got addicted. Back before my head was too messed up from trauma to function. The truth is always there though. I could have gotten help. Instead, I’ve let self-pity steer me down this path of endless destruction. I had two doors in front of me. The door to healing from the trauma, getting support for the addiction and getting better or the door to letting it take me over and run me to the ground. Clearly, I picked the wrong door back then, but here they were before me again. With a sigh, I walked to the receptionist. Time to open the other door.

May 27, 2021 20:16

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Andrea Magee
12:48 Aug 07, 2021

Bravo...captivating. You conveyed the main characters angst, fear, addiction, confusion etc....very well.


Annalisa D.
13:28 Aug 07, 2021

Thank you so much for reading and for the nice comment! I really appreciate it!


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Eric D.
00:51 May 29, 2021

Very devastating and hopeful at the same time


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Graham Kinross
06:02 Dec 21, 2021

That was rough to read. It’s a bit too easy to imagine all of that. It’s too easy to empathise with the dad, and the daughter, and the mother. It’s messed up that people even have to deal with these dilemmas. Help for addiction should be easier to get and not stigmatised.


Annalisa D.
06:28 Dec 21, 2021

Thanks for reading and these thoughts. I agree the help should be easier. This story was honestly a bit hard to write and put out there too. It's mostly fictional but mixed with some real stories I've heard and real experience with being that little girl. I'm glad to hear all the characters were easy to empathize with. I think it's taken a bit to get to a point of seeing the empathy for all sides but it's important. There is a lot of love written into this as well. It's a complex issue that I hope will have better solutions and more understa...


Graham Kinross
06:39 Dec 21, 2021

Some places seem to be making progress. Legalising some of the less fatal drugs means you can regulate them and then make sure people don’t end up getting stuff that’s mixed with heavier substances. As long as it’s not given to kids I think hash is probably as safe as alcohol in the short term. I haven’t known anyone who’s ruined their life with it but I’ve met a lot of alcoholics.


Annalisa D.
06:58 Dec 21, 2021

It is good there are new programs and people trying new methods. Some of it is overlapping too. Like better mental health care would help get to the root for some people and things like that. There seems to be hope


Graham Kinross
07:37 Dec 21, 2021

It makes more sense to try and prevent it with good mental healthcare and education. Hopefully that catches on and gets the funding it needs.


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Aoi Yamato
03:14 Aug 10, 2023

also good story.


Annalisa D.
13:35 Aug 10, 2023

Thank you! I'm glad you liked it


Aoi Yamato
00:41 Aug 14, 2023



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