When Tony woke up, it was still dark outside. April was gone, but her clothes, still scattered across his bedroom floor, told him that she hadn’t gone far. When he found her she was standing on the front porch, wrapped in a small flannel blanket, smoking a cigarette in the company of Claire, Tony’s 8-year-old grey tabby. He had always thought that smoking was a filthy habit, but there was something about the way she did it. For him watching her smoke was an intriguing experience not to be missed. For April each cigarette was an illicit love affair. She brought each one up to her mouth with her lips pursed as if to kiss her lover. She squinted as she drew in. The embers danced off the tip like fireflies. The smoke crawled across her fingers like an early-morning fog crawls across the ground. He watched as the paper burned, in a spiral of slow self destruction. She exhaled with a sigh, knowing that it was a love that could not last.
“You coming back to bed?”
“Yeah, in a sec. I’m getting to know Lil’ Miss Claire”
He scratched Claire behind her ears.
Tony and April had recently met at a local fall music festival, where they ran into each other during a Digital Evangelist show. The eclectic gathering of young music lovers was jammed in “nuts to butts” trying to catch a glimpse of the four-piece punk phenomenon.
In her drunken nuvo-punk stupor, April had inadvertently head- butted Tony in the shoulder slurring, “Hey! Wash it asshole.”
“I believe the word you’re chewing on is ‘watch,’ said Tony as he eyed the curve of soft flesh revealed by April’s low-cut top “My apologies if I somehow caused our little collision. My name’s Tony.”
“No offence, but you don’t look so hot. Would you like to squeeze up here by the railing to get some air?”
April slid in between Tony and the railing where she promptly disgorged a cocktail of booze and pain medication that could have staggered a mule. She hung there for a few seconds trying to collect herself. “Sorry, moderation’s never been one of my strong suits.”
“Are you going to be alright? Do you have someone close by I can get for you?”
“My friends left after the last band finished playing. I’ll be fi…” mumbled April as she hit the dirt.
“Shit- well, I guess she doesn’t look too heavy,” Tony said as he scooped April up, and rushed her to a nearby ER.
“Hello young lady. Welcome back to the land of the living.”
“What the fuck?”
April squinted as she looked around trying to figure out where she was.
“You’re quite the lucky girl. If your boyfriend hadn’t brought you in when he did you could have died.”
The nurse pointed to Tony who was sitting in the corner with a sly grin on his face. He waved.
“I’ll let you two love birds talk. You know nice things like AA, Alanon, co-dependency and such.”
Embarrassed, April looked at Tony, “My boyfriend, huh?”
“It was the only way they would let me stay.”
“So, it looks like I might owe you one.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Tony wasn’t sure what it was, but he saw something in her piercing grey-eyes he’d never seen before.
“Why do you do that to yourself?”
“What do you mean?”
“You nearly killed yourself today. Was it worth it?”
“You don’t know me man! Don’t sit there and judge me!”
“Whoa, wait up a sec. I’m not judging anyone; I’m just trying to figure you out. There’s something in there, I’m just wondering what it is, and I’m hoping you’ll give me the time to figure it out.”
“Sorry, I’m a little on edge.”
A young intern driven more by caffeine than enthusiasm poked his head in the door.
“Knock-knock,” said the Doc “Ms. Carnaly, My name is Dr. Snow. The results of your blood work are back and it looks like you’re going to be fine. What happened today was a very serious situation; I hope this is an isolated incident. I’m going to release you into the care of your boyfriend. Take care of yourself Ms. Carnaly, and let’s not meet, like this, again.”
In Tony’s small house in the historical district, April crawled back in bed as had become her habit since moving her toothbrush and razor to the two-bedroom shotgun.
“Did Claire come inside? A cold front is supposed to move through the area tonight. We might get some storms.”
“Yeah, the last time I saw her she was in the den.”
Tony was in constant worry over Claire. As a kitten, nearly starved to death when he found her, she resembled something out of a cheap zombie flick. He never shook that image of frailty, even years after her complete recovery.
“What time is it?”
“Sweet, I can get three or four more hours of sleep before I have to go open up shop.”
“Are you sure all you want to do is sleep?”
“My god, woman, do you ever slowdown?”
“Only when you make me,” she snickered, running her hand between his legs finding the object of her desire.
Tony owned a small record shop downtown called the Music Box. April had been hanging around the shop and helping out since their encounter at the music festival. She didn’t have a job. The two had grown very close in a short period of time. She was intrigued by Tony. He didn’t drink. He didn’t get high.
April would ingest whatever she came across as long as it wasn’t administered by a needle. It seemed like they were polar opposites, but they were the same in many ways.
They both loved punk music, but hated punk fashion. They agreed punk music and culture was a mentality not a look. It was something that was felt or bled out through the music, not something that could be worn, but they weren’t stuck up about it. Besides, those confused kids, with blue mohawks, looking like they had fallen face first into a fisherman’s tackle box paid Tony’s bills with the CDs and records they would buy.
Tony woke up about 8:45 that morning. April was a stone. He knew she wouldn’t get up to start her day for a few more hours. She had really tied one on the night before. Tony hated it, but he wasn’t going to alienate her for having a few too many drinks. He nudged her a little.
“Hey, make sure you don’t let Claire out when you leave. I’ll be at the shop til’8 tonight. Stop by if you get a chance.”
“Don’t worry Shep, you’re on my list,” she teased as she wiped the crust from her bloodshot eyes.
Tony shook his head and made his way to the door.
“Got any Crunchy 0’s?”
“No such luck. I’ll see you later.”
April rolled over and went back to sleep.
Later, around seven o’clock that night, April came stumbling into the Music Box, knocking over a promotional display on her way in. Luckily, there were no customers inside.
“Sorry I’m late Sheppy shep shep-1 had to make a stop at the Ole Limp Bistro.”
“You know- the kezzle.”
“No, I don’t know.”
“C’mon, the ketters, the Kitty- uh… The Wonkey Donkey?”
“I’m completely clueless. What’s wrong with you April?”
“Oh god! I had to get some ketamine you big nerd.”
“Shit April, isn’t that an animal tranquilizer?”
“Well, it’s an April tranquilizer tonight! Hee.”
As she sat there in the floor where she had knocked over a display, April pulled a small clear bullet filled with white powder from her purse and nonchalantly brought it to her nose and gave it a good draw.
“What the hell is wrong with you April?” Tony said, as he drug her from the floor and pushed her to the back of the shop “You know you can’t do that shit in here. You’re worthless right now. How did you even get here without killing someone?”
“Give me some credit Shep, I took a cab, you big tit-sucker. You’re so cute when you’re mad at me.”
“Put that thing away and let’s get out of here. It won’t hurt to close a little early. We’ve had a horribly-slow day. Don’t bring that shit in here again.”
“Ooh ooh ooh! Can we go down to the river? I’m craving some Burger Barge.”
“April, you can’t even walk. We’re going to my place.”
The Ketamine and the motion of the car made April overwhelmingly nauseous. They pulled into the driveway where Tony, opened the door, and helped April out of the car. April puked just a little into her mouth, but swallowed it back down.
Tony turned to see April hanging over the railing of his front porch with a long stream of saliva dripping from her bottom lip. “Sorry Shep. I couldn’t make it,” she said as a second volley flowed from her gullet.
Tony pictured the day he met the dark-haired beauty that had turned his world upside down while at the same time filling a void that he hadn’t realized was so empty before she came along. There, seeing her hung over the rail like that he realized how much they really needed each other.
“It’s okay Ape. Let’s get you in bed.”
They got inside and got settled in. April got her bearings and started to feel a lot better.
“Thanks. I don’t know where I would be with out you.”
“It’s okay April. Get some sleep.”
“No, it’s not okay. I acted like a complete idiot tonight. You saved my life Shep. I just want you to know I really do appreciate everything you do for me. I love you Tony.”
“I know, April. Now get some sleep.”
“I will. I’m gonna go have one more cigarette before I pass out for about a day.”
The next morning when Tony woke up the spot next to him was empty. The smell of fresh coffee meandered in and Tony went in search of its source. Tony found April in the kitchen.
“Tada! I hope you like your eggs scrambled. That’s the only way I know how to cook them.”
“Scrambled is fine,” Tony laughed. “Would you happen to know what happened to my girlfriend?”
“Oh shut up. I thought you deserved breakfast in bed, but you ruined that one by wandering in here, you big goof.”
“No, really, I thought you were going to pass out for about a day. I’m just messing with you. This is nice. Thanks.”
“You’re very welcome, kind sir.”
“You’re such a dork.”
“And you’re not?”
“Touche. Where’s Claire Bear?”
“I’m not sure. I haven’t seen her all morning.”
“That’s weird, she’s usually right underfoot when there’s food on the table.”
“I’ll look around. Enjoy your breakfast. Claire- come’re Claire Bear.”
April walked into the den for a quick look.
“April, you didn’t let her out when you went to smoke last night, did you?”
“I don’t think I did. I was still a little out of it though.”
“Uh oh, my poor girl probably had to sleep on the porch. She’s not going to be happy with you Ape.”
Tony walked to the door to let Claire in, but when he opened the door she wasn’t there.
“Huh? She’s not on the porch. Claire- Come on Claire.”
Tony whistled loudly as he walked across the porch toward the steps.
As he reached the steps he saw Claire out of the corner of his eye. She was lying still just below the porch near the frozen puddle of puke that April had expelled the night before.
“Oh no, no no no no no no. Oh God please- no.”
April called from inside, “Tony. What’s wrong?”
She walked outside to see Tony locked in a blank stare. She followed his stare to the ground just below where she had been unable to hold her sickness in any longer the night before.
“Oh my God.”
April ran down to check if Claire was still breathing.
“Get away from her! Don’t you fucking touch her!”
“Tony, I’m sorry.”
“Shut up! That’s all I ever hear from you! You’re sorry! You’re right, you are sorry. Fuck!! Look what you did you bitch! She’s dead! Fuckyoul What the fuck are you!”
“No! Get out of here. I don’t want to see you around here again.”
Crying, she ran inside to gather her things. Tony wept at the loss of his pet cat and at the loss of his friend.
April walked outside. Silently, she made her way to the road and started toward the bus stop.
She turned toward Tony still crying.
“I can’t bury her alone…”
The two embraced.
“I love you. I’m not giving up on you,” he said with determination.
“I know, Tony. I’ll get help… I promise.”
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