Brittany let herself into the kitchen tossing the key on the counter next to her cell phone, its blinking display indicating she had eight, new messages. The kitchen was littered with dirty plates and empty take out boxes, a trashcan sat by the sink nearly overflowing, two empty bottles of Smirnoff resting on top. The heat had been left on and the old place was stuffy, the garbage stunk and the house was dark.
More than anything Brittany wanted a hot shower and to fall into bed, but her mouth was a desert and tasted like puke. She opened the refrigerator and looked over the assortment of half eaten leftovers, catsup, mustard, and an empty jar of pickles. Not the average larder of someone who earned almost a million dollars a movie, she thought. There was a jug of orange juice though, she grabbed it and walked over to the sink choosing the least dirty glass. She filled it about halfway and started to take a sip; she paused and looked over the glass at the refrigerator. Lowering the drink she walked over and opened the freezer. The bottle instantly frosted, it lay on its side, half full, cold and crystal clear; she picked it up, unscrewed the cap and filled the remainder of her glass with the vodka.
She took a long hard drink, her eyes watering; she reached up to steady the glass holding it with both hands as she drained it. The alcohol burned but only at first, standing there with her eyes closed she felt the familiar warmth spread from her stomach down her legs, and up to that spot just behind her eyes. The spot that softened the world and for a time made everything seem all right. She filled her next one about a third full of juice, empting the jug. Then poured the rest of the vodka on that. When she finished she made her way into the den. Falling onto the couch and managed to half pull a light blanket over her before passing out.
Sometime after dark she had moved from the den to the bedroom upstairs. She awoke with a thin slit of sunlight drilling a whole through her eyelids into her brain. She moaned and rolled over, her eyes felt gritty and her head ached. She cursed as she realized she had pissed herself sometime in the night. She made her way into the bathroom stepping out of her clothes as she walked. She turned on the shower and then headed for the toilet where she sat and automatically reached for the pack of cigarettes and lighter she kept on the counter. She lit one and pulled hard, coughed and sucked again letting the smoke out slowly before flicking the butt between her legs into the bowl.
Steam billowed out of the shower as she flushed and gingerly stepped into the hot stream. She let the water pour over her as she slowly moved her head around in slow circles. She rinsed her mouth; spat, and then just stood there, letting the water do its magic. She shampooed her hair twice and scrubbed herself from head to toe. Only when the house’s old hot water heater failed to keep up did she turn off the spigot and pad dripping into the bedroom.
She looked from the sun shinning through the window to the clock on the nightstand. It said 7:50, her mind registered that it must be in the morning because it was still light out. She thought about what day it might be. Yesterday had been Sunday. No, that wasn’t right, she knew, as she remembered waking up in a stranger’s house on Monday morning. “Shit!” She said, but wasn’t surprised; she had lost more than a day before.
She grabbed a clean dirty towel off the floor and began to dry off. As she did she stared at herself in a wall length mirror. Her ribs showed slightly and she had lost her tan, her face was pale which made the dark circles under her eyes look that much worse. Her slightly longer than shoulder length brown hair with its soft red highlights was thick, and still showed the benefits of the three hundred dollar haircut she had gotten just the week before.
She ran the towel over her breasts that were small, but well proportioned for her 5-foot, 5-inch frame. She stopped to trace a finger around the black rose tattoo above her left nipple, the backwards initials LS, just below it. Holding three fingers over the brand Brittany wondered if she could get it removed.
At 28 she was admired professionally and her fans numbered in the hundreds of thousands the studios told her. This was despite her resent tabloid exposes and the brushes with the law. Yet she was sick and an alcoholic. Knowing the problem did little to help her solve it, or deal with it. She turned her back on her own critical observations to finish toweling off. She was disgusted with herself and felt truly alone.
Dropping the towel to the floor she sat on the bed and turned to look at the clock. Then, as the last 24 hours started to come into focus she remembered she had made a date with that policeman. Whatever had possessed her to do that, she thought, she barely knew the man. Yes, he was nice looking, seemed to be sweet, and had gone out of his way to keep everything that had happened quiet. As she watched the numbers on the clock roll over to 8:00, she thought, what the hell, I guess I have a date.
Coffee, she needed coffee, and some food, she thought, as she pulled on shorts and a t-shirt and headed downstairs. She was a little lightheaded and took things slow. Right after brewing a pot of strong coffee she called the grocer and ordered milk, bread, eggs, cheese and whatever else she could think of at the moment. She told them to leave the boxes on the back porch and charge the house’s account. She then started on the kitchen loading the dishwasher and taking the trash out to the bin by the garage. She filled a second trash bag with the contents of her refrigerator and then poured herself another cup of coffee and lit a cigarette. She turned down the CD she was listening to and decided to face her phone, which now blinked that she had 12 new messages. With reluctance she pushed the button.
The first call was from her agent, she did not even listen to it.
The second from her business manager, “Please call.”
The third, fourth, and fifth, her agent, everything was always an emergency with her, Brittany thought.
Sixth, her business manager again, “Her stocks were tanking and he needed instructions,” she made a mental note to call him.
The seventh was from the real estate broker needing to know if she was going to take the house for another month?
The eighth was from Lesa, “Shit,” Brittany cursed. She got the number.
“Hey girl, sup? Haven’t heard from you and just wondering if we’re cool? We just got in, call me babes.”
Brittany had taken advantage of the fact that Lesa and her band were on a concert tour in Europe. She had packed up the few things she had at Lesa’s place and flew out here. It had been a week since they had last spoken.
Call Nine, Lesa again, “Hey Brittany, come on, pick-up, or at least give me a call,” Brittany could hear laughter and music in the background.
Ten, hang-up -
Eleven, hang-up -
Twelve,” Why are you doing this?” It was Lesa and she was drunk, “I fucking give you everything and jew treat me like dis chit.” Brittany was reminded how Lesa’s accent thickens when she drinks.” Well, fuck you bitch, fuck you!” Lesa yells into the phone. A pause, then crying, “What do you want me to do?” Her slurred voice pleads. “Please don’t do this Brittany, pleaseeee,” Lesa begs before the message beeps and stops.
Brittany stared at the machine; one hand over her mouth as her tears burned her eyes. She reached for the phone, stops, picks it up, and then hangs up. She does not want to start down that spiral again. If she ever hopes to get her shit together, she knows it must stop, now.
Reaching for the remote she turns up the stereo, grabs her coat off a chair and walks out onto the back porch to sit on the edge of the steps. Wrapping her coat around her bare knees, Brittany stared out over the ocean. As the next song begins, she tries to concentrate on the words, hoping to do anything that to help clear her mind.
Out of sight, out of mind, out of time, to decide. Do we run, should we hide, for the rest of my life?
The sound was soft, techno-pop, the young voice high and melodic. Despite the cold Brittany found herself getting into the song.
Can we fly? Do I stay? We could lose, we could fail, in the moment it takes, to make plans or mistakes. 30 minutes, a blink of the eye, 30 minutes to alter our lives, 30 minutes to make up my mind, 30 minutes to finally decide. Carousels in the sky, that we shape with our eyes, under shade silhouettes, casting same, crying rain. Can we fly? Do I stay? We could lose, we could fail, either way, options change, chances fail, trains derail. 30 minutes to whisper your name, 30 minutes to shoulder the blame, 30 minutes of bliss, thirty lies, 30 minutes to finally decide. To decide, to decide, to decide…”
When the song finished, Brittany got to her feet. She would move forward she decided, take control and get her life back. She walked back in the house and noticed the phone blinking with a new message. Hesitantly, she pressed the button one more time.
“Hey it’s me, Ethan. I was just checking to see how you were doing. Hope we’re still on for tonight; I’m really looking forward to seeing you again. I remembered I didn’t give you my phone number in case something came up. See you at seven”, he said, leaving his number before hanging up. Brittany didn’t write it down, she just smiled, turned the volume up on the stereo, and tackled cleaning the rest of the house.