Rush (Gods #2)(6)

By: Samantha Towle


“Without your top on.”

My face heats. “Yes. It’s just…I…” How do I say this? “It’s just that I…” Don’t want to disappoint him again.

“I won’t say anything,” he growls and then turns back to his station. “There’s nothing to tell.”

“Thank you,” I say softly.

He huffs out a brittle laugh, shaking his head, and I feel like I’m missing something.

I want to ask why he’s so pissed off by me. But I’m too chickenshit to do it.

So, I once again keep my mouth shut and head for the door.

“Arianna.”

I stop and glance back over my shoulder. He’s facing me now, the same stoic expression on his countenance.

“What?” I say.

“I want the shirt back tomorrow. Clean.”

Something in the way he says clean pokes at me.

He thinks I’m a dirty drunk.

I inhale through my nose.

I am not that person anymore.

I’m clean and sober.

And I don’t need his stupid shirt. I’d rather walk around with my boobs on show than wear his clothes.

I lift my chin and walk back over to him.

When I’m a foot away, I toss the shirt back to him. He catches it with a single hand, eyes not moving from mine.

“Turns out, I don’t need to borrow your shirt after all.” Then, I spin around and walk out of there.





I step inside my apartment and close the door behind me, locking it.

I cast a glance toward the corner of my room where my paints and easel are set up. I stare at the blank canvas sitting there, on the easel, praying that I’ll feel something. Anything. Even a spark of interest or inspiration would be a start. I’d be grateful for that.

But nothing.

I haven’t painted in six months.

Not since I’ve been sober.

Painting is all I’ve ever known. All I’ve ever done.

I’m an artist who can’t paint.

It feels like I’ve lost a limb.

Since I quit drinking, I can’t bring myself to put brush to canvas.

There has been only one other time in my life when I stopped painting. After my mother killed herself.

I was the one who found her. Hanging from the clothes rail in her and my dad’s walk-in closet. It was a high rail. The one my dad used to hang his shirts on. My dad’s tall. Six feet three. My mom was small. Like I am. I look like her, too. I sometimes wonder if that’s part of the problem. That I remind my dad of her.

She had used her vanity stool to stand on.

I had come home after studying for a test at a friend’s house. My dad was away with the team.

She had known it would be me who found her.

And she hadn’t cared.

I took my first drink of alcohol on the day of her funeral.

I was fifteen. My uncle, my mom’s brother, handed me a glass of brown liquid. He told me it was brandy and to go ahead and drink it, that it was good for shock, that it would help me get through the day.

He was right.

That single glass of brandy got me through her funeral.

And, when I woke up the next day and everything felt difficult, even just getting out of bed, I had another glass of brandy to help me get through the day.

And where was my dad, you might ask? Well, he was at work. Back with his team. His real family. He’d left me a note tacked to the fridge, saying he wouldn’t be long.

And I was left home alone, in the house where my mother had killed herself only five days ago.

Alcohol was my comfort through a difficult time, and it helped me get back to painting. I felt alive and inspired when I drank.

It made everything easier.

And, now that I no longer have that…I’m blank.

Like the canvas that’s sitting there, waiting for me.

Sighing, I kick off my shoes. I put my bag on the kitchen counter as I pass. Then, I tug off the shirt I borrowed from my dad as I pad down my tiny hallway. I stop by the bathroom and toss the shirt in my laundry hamper. I take off my bra and my jeans, followed by my panties, and toss them in the hamper, too.

I take a quick shower. Leaving my hair wet, I dress in clean panties, an old college sweater, and shorts.

I head for the kitchen and grab a glass from the cupboard. Go to the tap and fill it with water.

Leaning back against the counter, I take a sip.

My apartment is so quiet. Too quiet.

Peace isn’t good for me. Too much time to think.

I take another sip of my water, my eyes closing on a blink as I do.

I swallow slowly, letting the water run down my throat.

My mind drifts…

Vodka.

Sliding down my throat.

The burn of the alcohol.

You remember how good it felt, Ari.

The feel of it coursing through your body, taking the pain away. Freeing you—

Stop!

I flash open my eyes, turn, and pour out the water into the sink, setting the glass in it.