A young woman starting her life over with her son.
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Rain was falling down in sheets, blocking Lisa’s view of the bright midway lights. As Lisa turned away from the bay window, she pushed the thought away and focused on her plan. She had hoped to take Jason to the fair earlier that day, but the rain had cancelled her plan. Her ex-husband would be picking him up Sunday night, which left Sunday open.
“Come along sweetie, bedtime.” Picking up her 5-year old, she flipped off the tape of “Sesame Street” tape he had been watching.
“I don’t wanna go to bed. I wanna watch my show.” He pouted before a large yawn erupted from his mouth.
“Of course you don’t. That’s why it looked like you swallowed your tongue with that yawn.” Lisa tousled his fine brown hair and smiled as his hazel eyes started drooping shut. Humming softly, she changed him into his Oscar pajamas and tucked him snugly into bed.
“Good night, sweet pea.” She kissed him on the forehead and made sure his nightlight worked before closing his door all but a crack. She sighed and leaned up against the wall next to his door and slowly slid to the floor, and her hands started to shake as an unexpected craving rushed through her body. Fighting it back she stood up and walked unsteadily down the hallway to the living room. At the shrill ringing of the phone, she ran over to the kitchen counter and grabbed it before it could wake up Jason.
“Hello,” she said breathlessly, happy for the distraction.
“Hey Lisa, whatcha doin’?” The voice on the other end was unbearably cheerful, and she could feel a headache starting.
“Hi Sally. What can I do for you?”
“I was going to ask you if you wanted to hang out with me and Shelly. There’s a party that Dante’s throwin’. I hear there’s gonna be some good stuff being sold. I’m sure you could ditch the kid.” Sally drawled and Lisa was sorely tempted. She glanced at Jason’s door and even started reaching for her keys before shaking herself. Lisa wouldn’t compromise her chances with Jason by succumbing to the brief moments of false ecstasy.
“Sorry Sal, I don’t want to take the chance. They’ve been doing random drug tests on me ever since I was released from jail. I really don’t want to screw this up and have to go through it all again,” she told her friend, sitting down in the hard kitchen chair that was next to the phone.
“Gotcha hun, I should have thought of that myself. Well, if you change your mind, give me a ring. You got my cell number.” Sally said, the disappointment in her voice palpable, but her normal cheer quickly returned. “There’s always next time. By sweetie, I’m sure you’ll be free next time.”
“Of course; I’ll talk to you later.” Lisa hung up the phone quickly before Sally could say something else to tempt her. She sighed in relief, blowing her stringy auburn hair out of her eyes. She really didn’t need Sally to call her now. She sat there in the chair listening to the clock tick. The soft snores of her son helped to calm her craving.
She walked into the living room, plopped onto the soft couch and turned the TV on to the local news station. Cuddling into the couch, she pulled the gray afghan over her that was folded on the back and let the lull of the TV pull her to sleep.
She awoke to the light shake that Jason was giving her shoulder. Rolling over she smiled sleepily at her son’s smiling face. His bright blue eyes glistened in the early morning sunlight, reflecting all his youthful exuberance. His heart-shaped lips were quirked into a radiant smile. His brown hair gaining red highlights when the sun bounced off its strands. She couldn’t help but feel her heart expand at the sight of him.
“Hey you, what are you doing up already?” She sat up and stretched, feeling her joints crack at the movement.
“You promised me that you would take me to the fair today, ‘member?” He started jumping up and down in place, tugging on her hand to get her up and moving faster.
“I’m up already; you don’t have to break my poor old bones you know.” She laughed and got up, smoothing her rumpled clothes and making sure that her sleeves covered her wrists. Lisa did not want her son to see the result of her folly. She walked into the kitchen, yawning and started a pot of coffee.
“What do you want for breakfast?” Lisa rummaged through the fridge and cupboards looking for something that was edible. She really needed to go grocery shopping, yet she was followed everywhere she went. That was not an incentive to leave the house. If she was going to take care of Jason though, she needed to get groceries.
“How about some pancakes?” He asked, running around her in circles. She cocked an eyebrow at him, wondering if he had had a secret stash of candy hidden away that was making him hyper.
“Okay how about if we go out? Mommy doesn’t have anything here to make pancakes with.” She ushered him towards his bedroom to get dressed. When he was ready, she let him watch some cartoons while she took a shower and got dressed. Starting the shower, she sighed as the warm water massaged her aching joints.
“Remind me never to fall asleep on the couch again,” she grumbled to herself, carefully reaching for the shampoo as her back gave a twing. Getting out, she wrapped herself in a red, fluffy robe. Peeking into the living room to check on Jason and seeing he was engrossed in “Blue’s Clues”, Lisa walked down the hallway into her room and hung her robe on the hook on the back of the door. Reaching into her closet, she picked out a pair of jeans and a gray sweater. The pink scars on her wrists caught her eye. They were the reason her ex-husband had custody of Jason and she was put in jail and then rehab.
She had been hooked on meth, crack, and alcohol. It was a miracle Jason had been born without any birth defects and a year after Jason was born, her husband left her. She hadn’t cared until she couldn’t buy any more drugs because she didn’t have her ex’s money to rely on. That had sent her into withdrawal, which then sent her into a spiral of depression.
One desperate night after finishing the drink and drugs, she slit her wrists. The only reason she was alive was because one of her friends had come over to check on her. She had found Lisa in the kitchen, lying in a puddle of blood. She couldn’t remember much except for waking up in the hospital, tied down, with doctors poking and prodding her. After she had sufficiently recovered she was put in jail for the possession of illegal substances and then rehab.
“It was for the best,” she mused out loud, looking out the window at a tree swaying in the breeze. “I knew I couldn’t take care of him, and I really didn’t care back then. I’ve been clean for a year now, and I got to know him when they visited me. I still don’t trust myself.” A knock on the door shook her back to reality.
“Mom, are you ready? I’m starving.”
“Just a second hunny, I just got to get dressed and then we can leave.” Quickly Lisa slipped into jeans and a grey sweater, brushed her auburn hair, applied lipstick and eye shadow. Opening the door, she smiled at her son’s eager expression.
“Can we go now?”
She ruffled his brown hair and chuckled. “Of course, we can. What restaurant do you want to go to?” She asked, as she tied his shoes and handed him his coat.
“How ‘bout Denny’s? They make the best pancakes.” She nodded, putting on her own coat and shoes. Grabbing her purse and car keys, she ushered him out the door, locking it behind them. She put him in the back seat, buckling him in the car seat her ex-husband brought with when he dropped off Jason. She started the Buick and pulled out of the driveway.
She pulled into Denny’s and parked., then helped Jason out of the car. They walked inside and were seated. After looking at the menu for awhile, she ordered an omelet and a cup of coffee while Jason ordered french toast and a cup of juice.
“You ready to go have some fun?” Lisa asked as they stood up and headed to the front counter to pay.
“Of course. I really, really wanna go.” Jason replied, waiting impatiently for her to finish paying. Lisa had to yell at him several times for running around and getting into everyone’s way. She allowed her son to pull her out the door and to the car.
Reaching the free parking lot at the fair, she circled around looking for a spot. Trying to keep her patience in check as Jason sang loudly and off key from the back seat, was increasingly difficult. Finally finding a spot, Lisa helped him out of the car and they skipped over to the ticket office.
“One adult and one child please,” she requested from the bored young man behind the brightly colored wooden ticket office.
“That’ll be $25.50 please.” Handing him the money, Lisa received one blue and one pink ticket. Handing the pink ticket to Jason, they reached the line waiting to get in.
“Ready to go on some rides?”
“Yea, let’s go.” He jumped up and down, waiting impatiently to get in. Once they had given the tickets to a pretty young woman and had gotten their hands stamped, Lisa let Jason drag her to the carousel. Lisa took the black horse next to his brown one. She joined in with his care free laughter as they went around in circles, getting dizzy. After that it was a swirl of rides and laughter. In the mid-afternoon they decided to take a break and eat some lunch.
“What do you feel like eating?” She asked, making sure she had a good grip on his hand. She didn’t want to lose him in this crowd. Lisa wasn’t sure how the social service man managed to keep them in sight.
“I want some cotton candy and a caramel apple.” He looked up at her with pleading eyes. She laughed and shook her head.
“What do you want besides candy; pizza, hot dogs, or hamburgers?” He pouted a few minutes before giving in.
‘I want pizza.” She nodded and led him to a booth which sold pizza and hot dogs.
“What kind do you want?” She asked once they had reached the counter. She glanced at the small menu to see what types were offered.
“Okay, my little cheese monster.” Jason stuck his tongue out at her, and she smiled, ordering a medium cheese pizza for them to share. She also ordered two small pops and winced at the price. When they received their pizza, she led Jason towards an empty table. Handing him a slice, she watched as he inhaled it and started tugging on her shirt to get her moving.
“Come on mom. I wanna go on some more rides.” She stuffed the last bit of pizza into her mouth and stood up.
“Oh no you don’t. We are not going on any rides just after we ate. I don’t fancy seeing your lunch half-digested.”
“Mom! That’s gross.” He laughed and she grinned down at him.
“Why don’t we play some games?” He thought about it for a minute before nodding. She led him down the grassy path where various games were set up.
“Hey mom, can I play this game?” He asked, pausing by a tub where the player had to catch a plastic fish with a plastic rod that had a string with a rubber ball attached at the end. The object was to try and catch a fish with the rod while they were going around in a circle opening and closing their mouths.
“Sure hun.” She gave the carney three dollars and received a rod in exchange, which she handed to Jason. He smiled his thanks and carefully lowered the line toward the moving fish. His pink tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth as he tried to catch a blue fish. She hid a smile behind her hand as he finally caught the one that he was aiming for. The man congratulated him and let Jason pick out a small stuffed animal.
“Here mom, I won this for you.” He smiled up at her and handed her the cheap bright pink flamingo he had picked out.
“Thanks sweetie.” She picked him up and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Mom!” He wiggled to be put down, embarrassed that she had actually kissed him in public. She smiled down at him and put him back down.
“Sorry. Why don’t you try the ring toss?” She suggested, pointing to the game a little way ahead of them. He nodded and ran slightly ahead of her. They spent another hour playing games.
“Want to go on some more rides before we have to leave?” She asked, as they sat down on a bench, drinking some water. He looked at her with a raised eyebrow before nodding exuberantly. A train roller coaster, which really wasn’t much of a coaster, caught Jason’s eye. It went around in a circle with a few small hills to add some excitement. They joined the line waiting to get on the ride. Once he was seated, she joined the other parents that were lined up at the sidelines. Lisa waved at Jason whenever he passed. Looking around, a familiar face caught her eye and made her gasp. There stood her worst nightmare, Dante, one of her former dealers. She wished the earth would swallow her up when he caught sight of her and smiled, his gold capped teeth catching the bright lights. He waved and started walking towards her, and Lisa looked for a way to escape. Yet Jason was on the ride, and she didn’t want to abandon him again.
“Hey chica, haven’t seen you in a while. What happened?” He looped an arm around her shoulders and she shrugged it off, nonchalantly.
“Not much. Got busted and thrown in jail for a bit. Anything new going on in your front?” She searched frantically for help but nobody was around, “just my luck.” She groaned to herself cursing the fates that must hate her.
“Well there’s a new drug out there that’s pretty popular. Want to try some? I’ll even let you have a small bit for free. Seeing as you’re a regular.” She could smell the familiar scent of Jack Daniels on his breath as he leaned in close. He smiled his greasy smile and brushed up against her suggestively, his wiry body twining around hers. His eyes wouldn’t stay still, shifting from one area to another.
“Thanks Dante, but I’ve got to be careful. Don’t want to let the cops catch me again. They’d put me away for life.”
“Come on chica, they’ll never know.” He dangled a bag with a few pills in front of her nose; his long, thin fingers caked in dirt. She felt the familiar shaking begin. Lisa stared hypnotically, her hand reaching dangerously close to grasp the bag. He yanked them away teasingly.
“First let me know how much you’re willing to pay.” The fix she craved was so close. She began searching franticly in her purse and pockets, looking for any spare money she had left.
“Sorry Dante, I seem a bit short. Can’t you just credit me?” She stared hungrily at the drugs that were so close. She could almost feel the ecstasy running through her veins.
“Sorry Lisa, you know the rules. No money, no drugs.” He put the little bag back into his jacket pocket and left her standing there mutely, as despair washed through her. She had a choice to make, the forgetfulness and happiness that drugs would bring her or a son that brought her misery. In that moment she forgot the fun she had with Jason that weekend and remembered only the pain. After a brief struggle, Lisa gave in and started following Dante. Meanwhile the ride ended and Jason looked around for her. Seeing her walking away he started following her.
“Mom, where are you going? Who is that guy?” His voice didn’t register in her befuddled mind, which was concentrating on one thing, drugs. He started pulling on her sleeve to get her attention, and she looked down, ready to tell off whomever it was. Her eyes widened in realization, as she looked down into Jason’s confused eyes. The love, concern and confusion that was swirling in those brown eyes reminded her just how much she had to lose. Shaking herself out of her daze, she grabbed Jason into a hug. Dante looked back with a smug expression, but he frowned when he realized she wasn’t following him anymore.
Walking back, Dante said, “Cute kid. I didn’t know you had one.” Looking down at Jason, Dante curled his lip, and Jason hid behind Lisa.
“It wasn’t as if I really wanted him.” It broke her heart to say this, yet if she didn’t keep up her front she would be in big trouble. Dante had a lot of contacts in the underworld; you didn’t want to show any weakness in front of him. He would use it to his full advantage if he needed to.
“Gotcha chica, I better get going before I start rubbing off on your son. Don’t want to pollute his innocence, now do we?” He sneered. “You know how to get a hold of me if you want any of the good stuff. See you later.” He leaned in to give her a kiss but she turned her head. He snarled and grabbed her chin, his chapped lips pressed against hers. As he tried to force his tongue into her mouth, she bit down, drawing blood. He cursed and pulled back, glaring at her and wiping his mouth.
“Hey Dante, go to hell!” She shouted, wiping her lips. He quickly whirled around and glared at her.
Dante stalked back over to her and slapped her across the check. “We’ll see who goes to hell first chica.” He smirked and walked away, whistling to himself.
“Who were you talking to, momma? And why were you following him?” Jason asked, pulling on her arm to get her to slow down.
“No one important sweetie. Are you ready to go home?” She quickly changed the subject. Dante wasn’t something she wanted to get into. Seeing him had broken her hard won self-control. She needed to get back home to reevaluate what had just happened.
“Do we have to?” He whined, pouting.
“Sorry bud. It’s getting late, and your dad’ll be by soon to pick you up.” He sighed but followed without complaint. Reaching the parking lot, she placed him into his car seat. She sighed, wishing the day didn’t have to end. Glancing into her rearview mirror, she smiled, noticing her son cuddling the small white bear she had won and given to him. Lisa put the stuffed flamingo he had won her on the back passenger seat. Making sure Jason was settled in, Lisa started the car. Pulling out of the parking lot, she turned on the radio, and started singing along. Jason joined in from the back seat and she turned up the radio a little more.
Coming to a four way stop, Lisa looked around and seeing no other cars, started across the road. Singing along with her favorite song, she glanced into the rearview mirror to make sure Jason was still awake. The loud sound of a motor revving caught her attention and she looked forward around to see a truck heading straight towards them at top speed. She didn’t have enough time to slam on her brakes before the truck ran into her. Jason screamed and everything seemed to happen at once.
The next thing she knew, the steering wheel was in her lap, crushing her ribs. There were glass shards everywhere, cutting into her whole body. Luckily the front seat shielded Jason, and the car seat kept him secure. Lisa found it hard to breath as blood dribbled down her face and into her eyes. She tried to wipe the blood away but found that she couldn’t move. Lisa started panicking but the sound of a car door opening caught her attention. The crunching of glass made her look up, as a large burly man came towards her with a hard gaze and a gun in hand. Seeing her pinned to the seat, he chuckled and put the gun back into his pants.
“That’ll teach you to mess with Dante, bitch,” he laughed, leering at her. Turning, he walked away from the wrecked car and vanished into the dark. Staring after him in utter confusion, Lisa’s dying brain tried to make sense of what had happened. The screeching of tires drew her wandering attention towards the road as a black sedan pulled up next to the wrecked car.
“Are you okay?” A man asked as he ran over to the smashed drivers side door.
“I…can’t feel anything.” She coughed and the tangy taste of blood stuck in her throat. Blood was splattered on every available surface.
“It’s okay, try to hang in there.” The young man flipped open his cell phone and called 911.
“How..is..Jason?” She asked weakly, wishing she could turn around to check on him herself.
“I’m scared. I wanna go home. I want my daddy. What’s going on? Are you okay, mommy?” He started crying, large sobs wracking his body. His sobs filled the car and Lisa pushed the pain away to try and comfort her son.
“I’ll be okay, sweetie. Try to calm down. Everything will be okay.” Her vision was starting to blur, and she was starting to get cold. Lisa saw something pink still sitting in the passenger seat. It was the flamingo Jason had won for her, now covered in blood. The wailing of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks reached her ears as they pulled up, highlighting the scene in flashing lights. The police cordoned off the scene as one of the firefighters jogged toward her car.
“Don’t worry miss, we’ll get you out of there.” A firefighter told her, trying to open the door with a crowbar. Getting nowhere he called out to the rest of his team, “We need the jaws of life here.” The police were questioning the social service man as the firefighters worked to free her and Jason. The firefighters worked quickly, knowing that every precious second counted. The medics were talking to Lisa, trying to get her to stay awake. It was a lost cause. The darkness beckoned, promising freedom from the pain and loneliness. Forcing her eyes open one more time, she tried to look towards the back where she heard some policemen talking to Jason, trying to keep him calm. She cursed inwardly as her body refused to respond to her demands. Giving up, she called weakly to her son.
“Jason, hunny, never forget mommy loves you. I wish I could have seen you grow up, you would have been a handsome boy…” She trailed off, her eyes drifting shut for the last time as the world faded to black.
The last thing she heard was Jason yelling her name.