The Edge of HeavenBy: Gia Riley
The lights were out in the apartment, and it was quieter than usual. When Mick and Tess were having one of their parties, the entire floor was awake. I’d always stop by when I got home from work, wondering how they managed to get to their own jobs in the morning after partying all night.
Mick was responsible though. When it came to his daughter, she didn’t want for anything. But, as the partying got more and more out of hand, I knew my best friend was slowly losing his grip on reality. Empty bottles and dirty needles littered the coffee table. Lines of coke were ready for whoever needed it, all while an impressionable teenager slept in the other room. If she didn’t have such a good head on her shoulders, she could have taken advantage of a shitty situation.
She sure as hell didn’t deserve to be surrounded by the partying and drugs, but there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to change the way we lived. Mick would never let me step in. He had it under control. Or so I thought.
The hallway was lit by a night-light, and I heard the toilet flush. Then, the floor creaked around the corner. Something in my gut told me to take a look, and when I did, I saw his hand on the knob.
“Get the fuck out of here,” I told him.
He held his hands up and turned around.
I should have known it was Jax.
“Where’s the bathroom, man?”
I pointed over my shoulder because it was obvious. He’d been showing his face more and more lately, and no matter how much he drank, there was no way he could forget where the toilet was. The place wasn’t a mansion in the suburbs. It was an apartment in the heart of the city.
City or not, Mick never should have let Jax back into his life. The guy was nothing but trouble, and he wanted Tess. He always did. But, in that moment, I wasn’t so sure Tess was the only reason he kept coming back.
I got in his face with a warning that couldn’t be ignored. “If I ever catch you near Winnie again, I’ll kill you,” I told him. And I meant it.
The bathroom door opened, and Tess came out. She had to hold on to the wall to keep herself upright. I saw the way she adjusted her skirt and bra and then pushed the sweaty hair away from her face. Some guy I’d never seen before trailed her, and I wanted to kill him, too. Not because I was jealous. I was pissed off because my best friend loved her, and she was more worried about scoring dope than staying faithful to him.
Jax and Tess exchanged a look, something in between friendly and I’ll fuck you later, and then he closed the bathroom door behind himself.
It was time for me to leave. I couldn’t handle that shit. The games. The bad decisions. The drugs and drinking.
Mick stopped me on my way out and offered me whatever I wanted from the table. I dealt with enough of that shit at work. I didn’t need it. Didn’t want it.
“I’m good,” I told him.
Then, I left and prayed. I prayed Jax stayed out of Winnie’s bedroom and that nobody overdosed. Because I was tired of reading about all the friends I’d lost in the paper. Obituaries that told stories about the good years or about the heart that used to beat beneath the skin and bones each had become. Nobody ever mentioned the binges, the withdrawal when the money had run out, or how many men or women they’d had to fuck to stay high.
Addiction was ugly.
Ignoring it was even uglier.
But that was what I did every time I walked away.
I missed the person Mick used to be. I missed the guy who had sober conversations without losing his train of thought or stopping mid-sentence because he needed another hit. The one who talked about buying a house outside city limits, so his daughter could have more space to grow up. God, he’d talked about that all the time.
Now, he merely existed in a hazy fog, and those goals were long gone. I knew it was only a matter of time before it all caught up to him, and he was gone, too. That was how it worked around here. And I knew, when that day came, I’d have Mick’s back, dead or alive. I’d pick up the pieces he left behind and make something out of them.
Just because his life was slipping away didn’t mean Winnie had to lose hers, too. Maybe I couldn’t control Mick. I couldn’t force him to quit and get clean—not as long as he was controlled by Tess, the most powerful drug on the market—but I could fight for Winnie. I’d never stop fighting for her.
“This isn’t how it ends, Winn. You’re not getting on that stage,” I say to myself as I stare at the bar flyer with Winnie’s face plastered across the front of it.
Ace told me I could trust him, but trust doesn’t involve an underage girl stripping for money. He has flyers all over the park, and because of him, whatever anonymity Winnie had left is gone. In a matter of twenty-four hours, he managed to turn the sweetest girl in Carillon into trailer trash, and she hasn’t even stepped onstage yet.
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