Contains references to drug abuse and death.
She stood in the corner of the small café. She didn’t want to sit down. No. If she sat, she’d fidget. If she sat, maybe it’d make it obvious what she was feeling. She let her small fingers curl around the coffee cup, and she’d take tentative sips, never once letting her gaze slip from the door.
The phone in her back pocket, felt heavy. The wall she leaned against, felt rough. Or maybe it was just her – maybe she felt heavy, maybe she felt rough.
A young man, maybe about twenty years old, sauntered into the café.
He looks very self assured, she thought. Of course she would think that. She felt anything but. The loud cuckoo clock sat proudly above the mantelpiece. The fire hissed and crackled, and she could feel it snatching the oxygen from the room. She could hardly breathe.
She wondered what she looked like to the few others in the room. Her blonde hair would be unruly, maybe even wild. Her usually pale face, would be paler. Her eyebrows, slightly furrowed. Her eyes wide, disbelieving. Her lips, slightly apart, as if waiting. Waiting. She was always waiting.
Did her life consist of anything else? Waiting, waiting. Always waiting. Waiting for when she no longer had to wait.
She tried to distract herself with a recent newspaper sitting on the table near the fireplace. Bending down to pick it up, she heard the young man order a large flat white.
Not wanting to be noticed, her footsteps were forcefully quiet as she made her way back to the wall. The headlining story covered a drug bust up North. Her mouth formed the shape of an O. Squeezing her eyes closed, convincing herself she’d never read it, she folded the paper, and gently let it slip through her fingers to the floor.
This small movement, did not go unnoticed. The young man leapt from his seat, taking the opportunity he never thought he’d receive. Leaning to pick it up, he noticed her shoes. Small black boots, laced up, finishing above her ankles. He saw how they were placed, how she stood.
One foot slightly in front of the other, her back leg tensed, like she was waiting.
She looked down at him, their eyes meeting as he rose. A small smile playing on his lips.
She did not smile back, she couldn’t. She was afraid that if she smiled, her face would crack, just like Humpty Dumpty. Her mother used to sing her the song of Humpty Dumpty, every night before bed. She’d lean down and whisper I’ll always put you back together again, always. As a little girl, she believed it. But here she was. Waiting.
The young man’s name was Dylan. He was a second year art student. He was nice enough. She tried to engage in conversation, but her eyes could never stay on his. They always drifted back to the door. Eventually he got bored of her mono-syllabic answers, he bade her farewell, and he left.
She stared at the doorway, waiting for it to deliver that one person to her.
Each time a body filled the doorway, her heart leapt, her eyes widened. And each time, she was disappointed. The café started to pack down, and she left. The walk back to her small apartment was short. She didn’t live in a nice area, she never had. The block of apartments sported mould, peeling paint, and half scrubbed graffiti.
The foyer always smelled, it always smelled like stale urine and unwashed socks. The stairs to her place smelled the same. The third step wasn’t stable, so she skipped it, making sure to dodge the shards of glass that bejewelled the concrete steps.
With shaking hands, she unlocked her door. It swung open, and the dim light from the hall, filled her even dimmer lounge.
It smelled dank. Like old wet and new smoke.
It all smelled. She feared her entire life smelled like this, like disappointment, and misery, and unhappiness. Fumbling for the light switch, she knocked over an empty mug. It landed on the floor with a dull thunk, but didn’t smash. The lights flickered, and eventually, the room was filled with a pale glow. She liked to keep everything tidy. It gave her an element of control.
One night, they sat in this room, the same lighting, the same smell, except it didn’t used to be a bad thing. He held her hands and whispered sweet nothings to her.
He told her stories of his travels, of the people he’d met, and the things he’d seen. She held on to every word, like it was gold.
One day, he’d said. I’ll take you. One day, you can see it all too.
He made her laugh, sometimes, so hard she’d cry.
He never used to make her sad.
It wasn’t the sad that someone makes you feel when they hurt you. It was the sad someone makes you feel when they hurt themselves.
He was always on the road. He used to tell her that while she waited, he looked. She was always waiting, and he was always looking.
And for a while, a small, sweet while. She stopped waiting, and he stopped looking.
He had a bit of money, he’d do odd jobs, and his parents were wealthy. She’d never met them, and sometimes she wished she had. But she knew that even in all their wealth, and all their social activities, and the short bursts of their upper class induced euphoria, they weren’t always happy.
He knew this too. He was a prime example of the long spaces between each burst.
He didn’t like the long spaces, and he sought for ways to fill them. One day he found the one. The one that filled all of his spaces, the one that made him laugh, sent waves of exhilaration through his blood.
But it wasn’t her.
And she’d watch, as he’d press his one, against him, watching his one fill him with joy.
But she wasn’t the one.
The one wasn’t even a person. The one was packed in a small zip-lock bag. He’d inject it into his veins, and she’d watch him slip away.
A few nights ago, she’d begged him again to stop. They’d always fight about it. He wouldn’t eat, and he wouldn’t sleep, and she’d beg him to stop.
And as they lay in bed, his arms wrapped around her, he whispered in her ear, the sober realisation of what he’d been doing, thick in his voice.
I’ll stop. He’d told her. I promise I’ll stop. God I love you. I’m done with it, I’ll stop. I’ve got help. And as her eyes fluttered closed, she was fully convinced. I’ll stop. He whispered, his voice raspy with sleepiness. I’ll stop.
She believed him. Of course she did. He loved her. He’d stop.
He told her this morning he’d meet her at the café. It was their favourite café. The staff knew them both by name, but only referred to them as The Couple.
They liked that.
She waited for hours. Watching the customers come and go.
She waited for him. She’d always wait for him.
But she knew, somehow, damn it. She knew.
So she walked to their bathroom, taking small, sharp breaths as her heart pounded in her chest.
She opened the door slightly, reaching around to turn on the light. Pushing the door open further, she held her breath, and stepped into the bathroom.
And there he was. She opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out. Only a wrenching sob, that wracked her body. Tears filled her eyes, and spilled onto her cheeks, leaving streaks of despair on her face as she silently screamed.
He was dead. And he had lied. And she had believed him. God she’d believed him.
The needle caught the light, and shone it back in her face.
It told her, that she hadn’t filled the void. She couldn’t make him happy. She wasn’t his saviour.
It told her, it laughed at her. It said, Heroin was his Heroine.
And maybe, it was right.
‘His Heroine’ is an original short story written by Hannah Ireland © 2016 inspired by the ever growing drug abuse, especially in reference to opioids, in the Western world.