Below is page 1 from chapter 2 of A Place to Stand ($0.99 on Kindle). Click here for more information.
I wake the next morning spooned up to Jess’s back. I tilt my body to try and stretch when I bump into Liz. “Bitch.” She murmurs in her sleepy stupor. Lord that is her favorite word. Everyone is a bitch. Bitch is a multi-functional word for Liz. It was a noun, pronoun, proper noun, verb, adverb… you name the part of grammar she uses it in that context. I love her for it, too. That girl has been looking after us for nearly 15 years and she’s still here. Cuddling me through this pain like she said she would.
I look over and see Red passed out in an armchair. She is small enough to ball her whole body up in the damn thing. I wish I was a petite, feisty red-head. She is so fun. No one gives her shit. She hands people their asses and is my mentor in sarcasm. I take in the scene around me and know I can’t ask for better people to see me through this. Sisters all around me. Every last one of us. But where is Marie? I have a momentary ache of concern. I sigh in resignation and shake the thought.
Very carefully I inch toward the end of the bed, sliding out of the middle. Jess flops onto her back and stretches, while Liz does the same on her tummy. I grin and make my way to the bathroom. I have to pee so bad I think my bladder is going to jump out. I am washing my hands and consider using Jess’s toothbrush when I accidentally look up into the mirror. I freeze. I don’t recognize myself. My eyes are puffy and bloodshot. Dark circles reach deep under my eyes. I’m ghostly pale, and yet my nose is bright red. My hair is sticking out in every direction possible. I am a hot damn mess.
I decide to take a shower even though I don’t have clean clothes. I run the shower and get in. The water is hot enough to melt skin. I wash my hair and soap my body. Then I stand under the water letting the heat numb me again. That is all I want, numbness. I don’t want to feel or deal with anything. Can’t Jess and Liz sign papers and make phone calls. Red can certainly deal with life insurance and payoffs on stuff. They can get the death certificate.
Death certificate. Yeah. I have to have that now, too. There is actual documentation that certifies Ryan is gone. Dead. Somehow I slide down to the tub and rest on my aching knees. I guess that sting is all the scrapes from yesterday. Then I remember how southern people handle death. People are going to be coming over all day. I shake my head and try to forget that part. I really dislike people, in general. At some point, I start crying as I’m thinking through all the details of the coming days.
Ryan always did the right, social things. He always held me up, an arm around my waist, and helped me do the right things. I was always so awkward in a crowd of people. He was a superstar. People loved him. He was warm and genuine. Just laid back all the time. Easy going.
My throat aches and my back hurts. I’m shaking all over. I don’t notice the water is running cold. I have no idea how long I sit under the cold streams crying when they’re finally turned off. I look up and Jess is holding open a bathrobe. I stand and wrap it around me. I try to wipe the tears and water from my face. Maybe she can’t see the tears.