Fiction Friendship Inspirational

In literature, there is a concept called ‘arcs.’ This prompt seemed like a good place to demonstrate the idea. I start this story where the protagonist undergoes a negative arc, and then we see a positive arc. Enjoy.


‘Your doctor has not approved your refill for HY….’


“Shelly, is everything ok?” Joan asked.

Shelly briefly looked away from her phone. “Some days, I feel like screaming. I’m going to go outside for a smoke break.”

Joan laughed and asked, “Since when did you smoke?”

A sly smile appeared on Shelly’s face. “Do you ever question how smokers can take breaks from work while non-smokers like us have to stay at our desks?”

“You’re not chained to your desk. Since you don’t smoke, I would suggest you use the north side of the building, as the real smokers are on the south side, away from the wind. Is everything ok?” she asked again.

Shelly grabbed her coat and picked up her purse. “I have to yell at the pharmacy or my doctor’s office, but I don’t want everyone in the office to know my private affairs.”

Joan laughed. “Definitely the northern side of the building. If I can help, let me know.”

“Thanks,” she said. Her high heels made that hurried tapping sound in perfect cadence with her mood.

“Dr. Ramstad’s office, please hold.”

The last remaining leaves on the trees were blown by the north wind, whirling through the parking lot and swirling around beneath the portico at the building’s north entrance. As she listened to elevator music, the familiar swooshing of trucks on the highway reverberated against the multi-story building.

“Dr. Ramstad’s Office, this is Judy. Can I help you?”

“Hi Judy, this is Shelly Tanner. My birthday is 6/14/64. The pharmacy said there is an issue with my refill?”

“Let me look.”

The keyboard tapping resembled her colleagues’ keyboard.

“Ma’am. We sent it in for a refill last week.”

“Ok, I don’t have much left, and they said you guys didn’t refill it.”

“No, it was sent for refill on Friday. Have them check again.”


Tiny snowflakes landed on her phone as she dialed the pharmacy.

Thank you for Calling XYZ Pharmacy. Our store hours are 6AM to Midnight. Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish. Did you know that Flu season is here? We offer Flu shots and many other vaccines in our clinics.

-Now, in a few words, tell me how I can help you.


“You want to speak with the pharmacy, is that correct?”


“So we can better assist you. Please type or say your date of birth. Use 2 digits for the month, two for the day, and four digits for the year.”

“FFu dgge…”

“I didn’t catch that. Please type or say your date of birth. Use 2 digits for the month, two for the day, and four digits for the year.”

The door opened behind her as she scooted away from the opening.

“Hey, Shelly, what’s up?”

Shelly looked at Margaret before hanging up from the pharmacy.

“Getting some fresh air. What about you?”

Margaret noticed the phone in her hand before responding. “I am meeting with the airline about our presentation. How’s that report coming?”

“I will have it done by this afternoon.”

Margaret nodded before heading to her car.

Fuck! She thought. I should have sat in my car.

Returning to her desk, Joan chuckled. “How was your smoke break?”

“I should have sat in my car. God damned robots are taking over the world. Press one for this, press two for that, and so on. Fuck it, just give me a goddamned person so I can get on with my life!”

“Wow, the pharmacy?”

She nodded. “You would think if I say ‘hello,’ it would know that I want English as an option. Why the fuck isn’t English the national language of this country anyway? Why not have a different button for all the possible languages since we seem to have over 200 countries represented?”

“Wow, maybe you should pick up smoking.”

Shelly glanced at her and smiled. “Sorry, if we ran our business like that, we would be on the street.”

“Did you get it straightened out?”

Shelly glanced at her, taking her focus off the computer monitor. “No, I am going to go by on the way home and not leave until they get it sorted out.”

The line to the pharmacy was long. She waited until the stupidest person in the world finally understood their instructions on using the medicine as was prescribed.

“Can I help you?”

After explaining the situation, the pharmacy tech tapped several buttons before staring into her face. “We have nothing from your doctor regarding this refill.”

“They told me they sent it to you on Friday.”

“Maybe they sent it someplace other than here. There is no record of it in the computer.”

“I have been taking this med for years. Why is this happening now?”

“Ma’am, I can’t give this to you without a prescription. Maybe you should go to their office.”

“Too late today for that.”

It was past time for a pill. The anemic rattle of the pill bottle was enough to make her sick to her stomach. There were only two pills left.

The ache in her lower back made sitting or standing a painful reminder of the accident.

Pouring a large glass of wine, she put the pill back in the bottle. This isn’t going to work, she thought.

Sleep eluded her as the pain in her back went down her legs, much like an infected tooth.

She called in sick that Friday morning and the next call was to the doctor.

“No, don’t put me on hold again. Listen…They don’t have any record of you calling it in.”

“Miss Tanner, I will send a note to the doctor. I can’t just write another script.”

The throbbing pain was too much for her to handle. Taking one of the two remaining pills, she fell asleep in the recliner. Waking up a little before five, she called the doctor after working through the automated attendant at the pharmacy.

“Judy, listen to me. It’s Friday afternoon, I have one pill left, and that fucking pharmacy puts me on hold for over thirty minutes every time while they check their goddamned system to find out you haven’t sent in the prescription. Where did you send it?”

“Miss Tanner, I have a note in the system to transfer you to our office manager.”

“Office manager? What do they have to do with filling the script?”

“Hold on, Miss Tanner.”

The music in the background was anything but soothing. The dull ache in her back was coming back, and her patience was wearing thin.

“Miss Tanner, this is Carol, the office manager.”

“Hi Carol, what’s the deal with my refill?”

“Miss Tanner, the doctor will not refill your script any longer. You need to find a specialist.”

Everyone went quiet.


“You need to find a specialist to help you. Dr. Ramstad has stopped prescribing that medication.”

“Excuse me, I have one pill left. It’s Friday afternoon. Am I supposed to magically find a specialist?”

“We can’t help you anymore. Have a nice weekend,” Click.

Fuck Fuck Fuck! That’s just fucking dandy, she thought. You can’t just stop taking this shit!

The doctor prescribed the medication PRN. The doctor did not intend for the drug to be taken regularly. Shelly knew this but fell into the trap of taking it all the time. Her chickens were coming home to roost.

By Monday, she was in the midst of utter chaos. Night sweats, nausea, migraines, and, of course, the reason for the meds in the first place, the unremitting pain in her lower back. By Wednesday of that week, Joan called her.

“Shelly, what’s going on?”

It would’ve been wise to admit it. Shelly was about to hit rock bottom, learning the hard way that pride comes before a fall.

"The flu is kicking my butt."

“I’m sorry, dear. Can I bring you anything?”

“Nah, I think the fever is almost gone. I will take the rest of the week off and catch you on Monday.”

The nightmares were no match for the combined agony of withdrawal and the physical pain from the injury. Using tequila as a replacement for pain medication only worsened her feelings of sickness and dehydration. By the end of the week, she had shed more than fifteen pounds. On Sunday night, years of abuse had taken a toll on her physical well-being.

Passing out in the kitchen, she hit her face on the granite countertop, adding crimson to what appeared as a murder scene, except nobody was dead.

The following Monday, Margaret stopped by Joan’s desk, glancing at Shelly’s. “Have you heard from her?”

From the stained mascara on Joan’s face, Margaret knew the answer. “I still have a key to her house; I was going to check on her at lunch.”

Margaret placed her hand on her laptop, shutting the lid. “Go now. Call me when you get there.”

After the doorbell failed to rouse anyone, Joan opened the door.

The odor wasn’t of death, but it was close enough to frighten her.

Calling out to her, she turned the corner into the kitchen. She shrieked when she saw Shelly’s feet and then her bloody semi-nude body.

Dialing 911, she checked for a pulse.

Emergency services were there in short order.

Explaining what she found to Margaret, she headed to the hospital, where Margaret joined her.

The usually stoic Margaret broke character and hugged Joan before asking her. “What do we know?”

“She is in a coma. They found methadone in her system, and I found an empty bottle on the counter.”

Margaret peered at her. “From her accident with the drunk?”

“Possibly,” Joan said.

“She never talked about it?”

Joan shook her head. “After I lost Rodney to an overdose. She probably didn’t want me worrying about her.”

“She was there for you the whole time. We lead others by example. Why would she keep this to herself? I would have been there for her if you couldn’t have been.”

“I knew something was wrong when she took Friday off. I should have followed my gut when she was off all last week. She doesn’t take time off for anything.”

Margaret glanced around the others in the emergency room lobby.

“I was shocked to see her outside the other day. She’s never away from her desk.”

Joan glanced at her, noticing the dampness on her cheeks. “She was trying to get her prescription refilled and didn’t want the entire office knowing her business.”

As they talked, a doctor came out. He took them to a smaller room, shutting the door behind them.

“Who found her?”

“I did.”

“And you are?”

“Her sister, Joan.”

“Miss, you are?” He asked, peering at Margaret. “Her other sister, half-sister, really, but we are family.”

Noticing that the tall blond was dressed in designer everything, he nodded.

“Were you aware she had a drug problem?”

They both shook their heads.

“She was in a wreck years ago, where she lost her family. I knew she managed pain some way, but it wasn’t my business…” her voice trailed off.

“The drugs were legally administered, but that doesn’t make them any less addictive. The body becomes used to them, and it takes ever higher doses to maintain that sense of no pain. We won’t know for sure, but my guess is she tried to get off the drugs cold turkey, and the withdrawal was brutal.”

“Dr. I am no expert, but don’t you taper off drugs like that?”

He nodded. “She needed to be under the care of a medical professional and not attempt that like she did.”

Her sisters were visibly distraught, with tears streaming down their faces, as they contemplated the sheer terror she must have experienced while fully aware of the nightmare that awaited her.

“Will she be alright?”

He glanced at the two of them, noting the tears on their cheeks. He nodded. “I am Going to keep her sedated for now. Before she leaves, I want to have our top spine doctor see if he can’t do something about her pain or at least recommend someone who can.”

“I think they call it Ankylosing spondylitis. Is there a cure for that?”

He glanced at Joan. “Not my specialty, miss. I know it can be painful, and if the ribs are involved, it can make breathing hard.”

They both nodded. “Will you call us before you awaken her? We want to be there.”

He nodded, leading the two back to her bed. Margaret didn’t recognize her. “I should have been there.” She said.

“We didn’t know. If anyone should have been there. It should have been me, we office together.”

“Joan, I don’t know what went wrong, but we need to be in each other’s business more than we are. You tried to go through your son’s death by yourself.”

“You had your divorce to deal with. We all have stuff going on.”

She nodded. “I can’t begin to appreciate the horror our sister went through last week, and we didn’t even fucking know about it. Do you remember how she cared for us when we were sick or hungover from that party? She held my hair out of my puke. Why didn’t we know about this? I never want us to go through this alone. Poor Shelly, she doesn’t drink or any of this stuff. What the hell happened?”

Joan peered at Margaret. “She hardly ever talks about Everett. Come to think of it, Lilly would have been five today. She never talks about her, either. Why does she do that?”

“Oh shit, I forgot about her daughter. We are horrible sisters.”

“No, we’re not horrible. We have our own lives.”

“Sister, that stops today!”


The incessant beeping of the machine woke Shelly. She knew from the devices she was in a hospital. Cards, flowers, and a stuffed teddy bear sat on the window sill.

The door opened to see a tall blond-haired woman and a shorter brunette smiling at her.

“I’m not dead, am I?” She asked.

Her sense of humor before the incident showed through like it never left. Her sisters stayed with her until she was released from the hospital.

“Where are we going?” She asked.

“I hope you are ok with this, but you’re staying with me. I have that big old house, and it’s just me. I need someone to keep me company, and you are one of the ones to do it.”

“Margaret, you don’t want me getting in your way.”

“Sissy, we came close to losing you a few weeks ago. Yes, I want you to get in my way. I love you, and this nightmare you went through, we could have been there for you. Besides, your apartment is a toxic hazmat-only cleanup site. I had to store your stuff until we get you situated.”

“Oh god, who packed my things?”

Margaret smiled, “our nightstands are identical. Stop worrying.”

Shelly blushed, “Honey, are you sure you want this?”

Margaret closed the glass between them and the driver. “I am in this house because of you and Joan. We are the magic of that business. My house is your house from now on.”

Shelly clenched her jaw while peering at her sister.

“You know, without pain pills, I am almost cripple.”

“I don’t think you understand. If I have to personally wipe your butt, I will do it. I don’t want to ever lose you Sissy.”

Tears fell on her blouse as she glanced into Margaret’s eyes.

“How is Joan going to feel about this?”

Margaret smiled. “It was both her and my idea to have us all together. Joan is moving in too. The three of us will ride to the office, and we will get into each other’s business, and that is what I want. I hope you will allow me to do this for you.”

“Like we were kids?”

She nodded. “If you noticed, the teddy bear in the window was mine from home. He’s yours now.”

“Is that the one I got you when you had your appendix out?”

Margaret smiled. “Booboo bear, yep!”

She chuckled, “I love you sis. Thanks for this. I never wanted to be a burden to anyone. If I can get another doctor to get me the pain pills, maybe I won’t be such a problem.”

“That’s the issue, Sissy, you will never be a burden. You have always been the one to give and give and never take. Damit, sissy, let me give for a change.”

“I should’ve asked for help. I didn’t mean to be selfish.”

“Yes, you should have, and you could have called 911, or gone to the emergency room, or called Joan or me, and we would have had a little clearer head and probably taken you someplace. Anyway, it’s water under the bridge. Joan is researching a place to take you where they can fix your back so you don’t need pain meds. We need you off the drugs, sis. Let’s get you fixed. I can’t imagine the things you could do if you didn’t have a system full of drugs.”

Shelly peered at her. “That might take me away from work for weeks.”

“We will manage. The important thing is to give you a quality of life and avoid needing pain medicine.”

January 15, 2024 05:40

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Julie Grenness
22:20 Jan 24, 2024

Well written. This story handled a sensitive and relevant subject effectively. The characters created images of the story unfolding. The language chosen was effective, and realistically presented a message of hope of a battle that continues. Keep on writing.


Scott Taylor
18:10 Jan 25, 2024

Thank You, This story was inspired by a relevant situation with my own doctor and a medicine that I had taken for years, not a narcotic. Much of it came from my feelings and the way I was treated by my doctor's office, etc. The narcotic part came from the loss of a friend's child who overdosed. Life has a way of creeping into one's fiction, doesn't it? Again, thanks! -Best


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Rabab Zaidi
12:02 Jan 21, 2024

Very well written.


Scott Taylor
18:49 Jan 21, 2024



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Scott Taylor
18:51 Jan 15, 2024

Maybe through transcendental meditation..?? :) Hope you are having a great week!


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Trudy Jas
14:32 Jan 15, 2024

Did I dictate the 1st part to you? :-) So, true, so true.


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