Martina managed to struggle through her classes. Her better judgment told her to forgo the coffee shop, and just get some much needed sleep, but that feeling of blissful intoxication the help offered was overpowering. She had once heard the quote, “I can sleep when I’m dead,” and that seemed like a good idea to her at the time.
Weeks went by, and then months. Callie introduced her to JB and Martina became one of his best customers. She had a new-found happiness and energy. She was able to focus, and her mental alertness became more and more acute.
The Middle Of Nowhere had become her “center of everywhere.” One night, while waiting for Callie to get off work, a man came in and sat down beside her. He said, “hello, Ms. Hamilton. Fancy seeing you here.” In a polite but surprised manner, Martina said, “well, if it isn’t Randall Taylor. What brings you to this neck of the woods?”
He said, “I stopped by for a cup of coffee and saw you sitting here. I must say, your venue has changed dramatically.”
Martina, speaking as if she was trying to win a contest for the most words spoken inside a minute, tried to explain the course her life had taken. Her bubbly and interactive behavior was a loud signal to Randall that something was amiss. Her pupils were dilated and the reddish hue of the sclera, led him to a suspicion that he, for the moment, kept to himself. Treading water carefully, he innocently asked if something was wrong with her eyes. Her immediate response was, “I’ve been studying and burning the midnight oil, as they say.”
Carrying on as if he hadn’t noticed any peculiarities, Randal continued. “My parents and I had dinner with your folks the other night and I asked after you. They told me that you were going to college, of course, against their wishes.” He chuckled when he said it, and seemed to have a slight air of curious satisfaction.
“So, showing up here wasn’t happenstance,” Martina said. “Did they send you to spy on me?” Randall shrugged, tilted his head slightly and said, “yes and no. They said they hadn’t heard from you in a while, and they’re a little worried.” Martina mockingly said, “oh, mommy and daddy. They can’t stand the fact that they no longer have any control over me.” Randall said, “I don’t think it’s about control. I think it’s about what I said. They’re worried. You should call them.”
Like a switch had been flipped, Martina became hostile. “I’m not going to call them. They will try to talk me into coming back home. They want me under their thumb. They want power over me. They want me to become some dull appendage of a rich man…some rich, boring man like you.”
Randall smiled and said, “you’re not fooling me, Martina, and you don’t have to be rude. I don’t know what you’re using, but whatever it is, you need to stop before you ruin your life.
Take my number. If you need to talk, call me. I don’t care what time it is.”
Martina said, “thank you, but that is a call you will never receive.” Randall whipped around and said, “that’s fine Martina. If you don’t want to call me, don’t, but call your mother and father. Remember, a child pouts and thinks they know everything. An adult is responsible, and grateful, and respectful. You…are none of those.”
As he walked away, Martina made a gesture and mumbled under her breath, “who the hell does he think he is?”
Martina had taken Callie’s advice and joined the drama class. She found that a little help, dissolved her almost painful shyness, and although the help had increased from one or two times a day, to four or five, Callie was right. She could be anyone when she was acting.
The class was going to perform “Les Misérables” at the end of the semester, and Martina desperately wanted to play the grisette, tritagonist, Fantine. She believed the part was perfect for her. She had never been a “working class” person, or student, or anything, but she had often felt as though she was of little or no importance to her family. The name Fantine meant infant, and that was how Martina believed her family had always seen and treated her.
Her almost maniacal focus was focus on getting the part. She lobbied and she lobbied hard. She boldly referenced her naturally golden blonde hair, which would run true to the description in the original novel, and promised to deliver a never before witnessed portrayal of the tragic Fantine.
After weeks of auditions, Martina was told that she had the part. Her first inclination was to tell Callie, but they had begun to drift apart again. She hadn’t seen her in weeks. It was partly due to Martina’s determination to be a success in her new interest, and partly due to Callie’s every increasing dependence on the help. It never occurred to Martina that she herself, was on the same path.
A few days later, Martina went to Callie’s room and knocked. She wanted to tell her that she had gotten the part of Fantine in the play. After hearing a laughing, “just a minute,” Callie opened the door. In just a few short weeks, Callie had lost a tremendous amount of weight, and being tall made the loss even more obvious. Her skin was sallow, and her eyes were dull and lifeless.
Trying to disguise the look of shock on her face, Martina walked in and said, “I have wonderful news.” Callie sat down on the floor and ignored her. After a few seconds, Callie said, “did you know that I own the R & L Railroad?” Martina, somewhat bewildered, answered, “no.”
Callie said, “yep. The Right and Left Railroad.” She held up her right arm and then held up her left. She raised the sleeves on her shirt and said, “see? This is my R & L Railroad, and these are the tracks.” She nearly doubled over with an almost insane laughter.
Martina was horrified at what she saw. Callie had started injecting the help, and her arms were bruised and full of holes. Martina said, “Callie. You need to stop. Do you see your arms? Do you see what you are doing to yourself?”
Callie stood up, looking down on Martina and snapped, “don’t tell me I need to stop. Do you think I don’t know how much you’re using? Do you think I don’t know that you can barely function without a little help? And I know what your wonderful news is. You got the part in that play. Big deal. Try learning your lines without the help. Try getting on the stage in front of hundreds of people without the help. You think you’re going to preach to me about needing to stop? I suggest you clean up your own back yard before you start complaining about the shit in mine.”
Martina got up and walked toward the door. She turned and said, “I wanted to invite you to come see the play.” Callie said with a smirk, “oh, sure. You can count on it. That has always been my fondest wish. Watching a little rich girl play a poor little waif who sells her hair and teeth. Like you would have a clue what that’s like.”
Deeply saddened, and unable to quite understand the hostility that Callie was harboring, Martina walked to her apartment, and called Randall.
When Randall answered the phone, Martina said, “I need some advice. I have a friend who has a problem.” Randall couldn’t resist saying, “I guess never came a little earlier than you thought,” and then incorrectly believed that Martine was talking about herself. “What would you like for me to do for you?” he asked. Martina said, “I’m not sure. Maybe talk?”
He said, “okay. Talking is good, but we need to start a plan of action before it gets too much further out of hand. I will be your advocate, but you have to take the first step toward recovery.” Martina, showing her annoyance in her tone, said, “oh, you misunderstand. I’m not talking about me. I don’t have a problem.” Randall said, “spoken like a true addict.”
She impatiently said, “are you going to help me or are you going to start making accusations and judgments?” Randall was silent as she continued. “I have a friend named Callie,” and emphasizing her words, said, “unlike me, she has a real problem.
Randall said, “yes. I heard about her from your mother and father, who by the way, said they still hadn’t heard from you. I know they disapproved of your friendship with that girl, and said that you were rebellious, and righteously indignant about their opinion, but cutting them out of your life is not the way to get back at them.”
Martina, intentionally ignoring what Randall said about her parents, said, “Callie was the only friend I had. She had plans. She wanted to be something special, and she told me that I could be something special, too. I don’t know what happened, but I’m worried.”
Randall said, “I can tell you what happened. The addiction animal sunk its teeth into her, and once it does, it’s almost impossible to get it to let go.” He risked Martina’s anger once more when he asked about her own addiction. Martina said, “I don’t have an addiction! I need a little help now and then, and that’s different. What’s the big deal? It’s not like I can’t stop anytime I want. Haven’t you ever had a drink to steady your nerves?”
Randall said, “I imagine Callie needed a little help now and then, too, and now it’s ruining her life. I’ll tell you something else…something you probably don’t want to hear…but that help will eventually ruin your life, if you don’t do something about it now.”
Martina angrily said, “we are not talking about me! We are talking about Callie!”
To be continued________________________