The rains had come early this year. Sharon made her way across the deserted market place, trying to find a place of solace from the heavy downpour. She finally settled on an abandoned stall which offered some amount of shelter from the angry raindrops. The rain always brought back painful memories. Her home. Her husband. Her children. Her former life. She shook her head to clear the thoughts and surveyed her new home, worn out price lists, piles of decaying garbage and rats scurrying off with scraps to feed their families. Food. Yes, her next task would be to go looking for food.
“Looking for food”, she repeated the words aloud as if willing them to sound less severe. She smiled bitterly knowing that her situation was indeed severe and that there was very little chance of improvement. That’s what Michael had said. As memories of her husband came to her, tears stung her eyes and she roughly wiped them away on the sleeve of the tattered blouse she had been wearing for the past two weeks.
It had been two years since she had last seen Michael or her children. Her heart ached as she remembered her daughter Isabella’s plea “Mommy, please… stay…don’t leave us.”
Her then nine year old son David had clung to his father, eyes fixed on her in a silent plea to the mother he knew still existed in her, but she had left… How could she have stayed? Her addiction to cocaine was tearing her marriage apart and turning her into a monster. She didn’t want her children to come home anymore and see her sprawled out in the bathtub with a syringe clutched in her fist, unconscious and barely breathing. She didn’t want to keep emptying her husband’s accounts to buy cocaine and then lying that she had needed the money for food or for the children.
But Michael, who had been trying to help her deal with the addiction, had insisted that she leave when she had nearly “sold” Isabella to one of her suppliers. She had gone to collect ‘the goods’ but she did not have enough money to pay, the desire for the powder had consumed her by this point and she was desperate. Pleading with the dealer, she had promised anything. He peered outside and saw Isabella waiting in the car.
“How ‘bout your lil’ precious there?”
She had turned on the spot and walked back to the car where her innocent 12 year old daughter had been waiting.
“Honey… mom…Mommy wants you to do something for her”
Isabella had looked up at her with those big blue eyes full of willingness. “Sure Mom, what’s the matter? You look ill”
Before she had a chance to answer, he was at the car. He flung a small bag in her hands and proceeded to drag Isabella from the car.
“MOMMY!” Isabella screamed “Get him off me!’’
But Sharon was already on the ground bag clutched to her nose… sniffing.
The release was immediate. She felt all her problems leaving her and the colours before her eyes blurred. She lay down on the sidewalk and saw no more.
She opened her eyes and saw Michael pacing by her bedside. “Mikey” she said weakly trying to smile but as she saw the grave expression plastered across his face, her smile faltered and died; the horrific incidents that had transpired came crashing back to her. She shot up in bed, “Where is ‘Bella?”
Michael stood there silent.
“Michael, where is our daughter?!” she shouted.
After what seemed like minutes, he whispered “My daughter is fine…”
The implications of his words hit her like a fist to the stomach.
“What do you mean your…”
He cut her off in mid sentence, “I have signed you up for the rehabilitation clinic in Kingston with immediate effect.” It was not a question.
“I have also tendered your resignation from the position of Chairman of the Bank”
“You didn’t tell them –“
He cut her again in mid sentence. “You are no longer allowed within 100m of this house or the children”
But he refused to meet her eyes as he turned to the door “Your things are in the living room and the cab is waiting”. With that he left the room, closing the door behind him.
She sat there in silence for what seemed like an eternity. He was casting her out but it was not for selfish reasons, it was to protect the children, to protect her. He had tried to help her by not committing her sooner and she had betrayed him.
She had almost hurt Isabella.
She slowly rose and got dressed, steeling herself mentally for the anguish that she was about to walk into when she entered the living room. She was about to walk away from the only thing that mattered more to her than cocaine, her family. But it must be done. With that she opened the bedroom door and stepped into the living area.
Isabella sat on the couch her head buried in her hands, crying. Michael held David by his side but clearly it was taking some amount of effort as the boy seemed determined to run to her. As if sensing her presence, Isabella looked up; her face stained with tears “Mommy, please… stay…don’t leave us”. David kept his eyes fixed on her.
Sharon willed her legs to move her forward and she grabbed the bag that lay waiting for her by the door, she turned “I want you to know that I never meant to hurt any of you…” Words began to fail her and she felt the tears rising to the brim of her eyes. She looked at the children and spoke directly to them “I promise I will get well and return to you soon…” She looked up at Michael and said more forcefully, “I promise…”
That had been two years ago and here she was rummaging through the trash for food, she had not kept her promise. She had run away from the clinic a month after she arrived and had not returned since. Lately she did whatever she had to obtain the drug. She had been raped, beaten, shot at and even arrested, just for a moment’s release. These days she was barely coherent enough to feed her urges and at times she thought it would drive her out of her mind.
As she dug through the scraps in the garbage, she saw it. A calendar, the date: July 25th. Her heart pounded in her chest, David’s birthday. Within that moment she knew what she had to do, she would call. But how? She had no money for a phone and had no cell phone. A surge of annoyance shot through her and then she made another decision, she would steal one.
The rain continued to pour in torrents and she could see no possible way of getting to a cell phone. The clock tower struck 4pm and as if an answer to her prayer, a gentleman dressed in a grey raincoat stepped from a building across the street from where she stood, a cell phone clutched to his ear. As Sharon stepped from the curb, he hung up and stowed the phone within his coat. No matter she thought, she would still have that phone.
She headed directly towards him and bumped into him, easing her hand beneath his coat and relieving him of the phone in one fluid motion. “Shit!” he exclaimed “Watch where you’re going filthy bitch!”
“Sorry” she muttered, head bowed and she continued walking in the opposite direction. “The filth that this government allows to walk the streets” she heard him say as he continued walking.
When she had put enough distance between herself and her unknowing benefactor, she stopped under a bus shed and took the phone from her bosom. With trembling fingers she dialled the only number she had kept etched in her memory these last two years. The phone rang. Once… Twice… Three times… She was about to hang up when a voice picked up, a teenage voice, a male voice. “Hello?”
“Dav- David?” she whispered. There was silence for a few moments and then, “Mom?”
“Yes, honey… its Mommy…”
A voice in the background shouted “David lets go!! Dad says to tell them to call back, come on!” It was Isabella. Sharon’s heart ached. Her voice sounded so much like her’s.
“Mommy… where are you?” David asked, “We miss you”
“David!!” Isabella shouted “let’s go!!” she sounded closer as if she had entered the room.
“Bella, it’s Mommy, here on the phone!!”
“That’s not funny David, stop it”
“Honest Bella, here see for your self” he replied.
Isabella reluctantly took the phone from her brother’s hand, “Hello?” she whispered.
“Hi Bella, how are you baby?”
At that moment the operator came on the line “You have one minute remaining on this call”
“Bella, I don’t have much time, I want you and your brother to know I love you both”
“No you don’t!!” Isabella shouted, “you left us!!’
“I believe you do Mommy” It was David.
“Thank you baby, Happy Birthday. I love you” she breathed. “I’ll be home soon…I promise… And with that the line went dead.
At that moment all the emotions she had held in for the past two years overtook her and threatened to consume her. She fell to her knees on the cold, hard, wet pavement and sobbed uncontrollably. She cried until she felt her eyes going dry.
She had to get help; she knew it, for her children, for herself. With that realization she got up and made her way towards a clinic.
Minutes later she stood before the doors, she read St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Centre.
She took a deep breath and stepped across the threshold; she took one last look behind her and saw that the downpour had subsided. She smiled, it was going to be ok she told herself