*A/N* Mature thematic content such as mentions of drug use/mental illness.
It smelled like sweat and drugs when he got home. The apartment that he and his mother shared was small and dark. The lamp had fallen over, shards of glass sprinkled across the floor. His mother was passed out in the fetal position on the musty grey couch, fresh needle marks on her right arm, her white shirt stained.
Jake tossed his backpack aside in the entryway and tiptoed around the glass. He went to the kitchen, where the refrigerator was wide open and groaning from overwork. He slammed it shut. His mother still didn’t wake up. He supposed he should make sure she hadn’t OD’d, but he had seen her like this before. He walked back into the living room—the stench hit him harder this time. He shook her shoulder roughly and flipped the main light on. His mother moaned, clapping her hands over her baggy eyes.
Jake got the broom out of the kitchen closet and swept up the shards of multicolored glass. His sister had insisted that they buy that lamp, he remembered. It had been during one of the decent “in-between” times when his father was gone and his mother was clean.
“Look at that lamp. It’s so psychedelic,” his sister had said. She had been going through a big 1960s phase for the past several months. She had plastered her room with posters of The Beatles and started wearing long flowing pants and putting flowers in her hair, which only succeeded in making her look younger. Jake’s sister was only two years his junior, but she was a great deal smaller, more sensitive, and more fragile. This was when she was just thirteen. It would be a few years before she lost her head.
“You don’t need a lamp,” his mother had scoffed, but she stopped to look at it. It was bright red and orange with little flecks of blue and green, all swirled together like a sunset.
“Come on, Mom, it’s the perfect vibe for my room,” his sister had insisted. She had an amazing set of big, blue puppy dog eyes.
His mother had pretended to be irritated by her beggar children, but Jake knew that she liked doing things like this, feeling like a good parent. They bought the lamp and his sister had kept it in her room up until the day they had to put her in the hospital.
Jake now threw the psychedelic remains in the trash and closed the lid. His mother sat upright, rubbing her face wearily. She caught sight of him and her eyes filled.
“Jake,” she whispered. He hated her voice like that, all wet and weak. “Jake, I’m so sorry. I was doing so good. You must hate me.”
Jake looked at her, with her trembling mouth and her wet eyes, her skin sagging off of her thin, frail body. No, he did not hate her, but she disgusted him.
“I’m taking a walk,” he said.
“Jake, please, talk to me,” his mother pleaded. Jake shut the door quietly behind him.
Jake pulled his phone out of his pocket once he got out of the door. It was 4:23, a Wednesday. He thought about calling Fisher for a minute, but then shoved his phone back in his pocket and walked down the sidewalk, away from his apartment. Jake had to remind himself often that he wasn’t Fisher’s only client. He wondered if Fisher even thought about him outside of therapy—it was his job, after all. Maybe he went and complained to his wife about this punk kid he had to deal with on Thursdays.
Jake’s apartment complex was pretty bleak. Most of the people who lived there were either large Hispanic families that had nowhere else to go, or middle-aged men, probably sex offenders, living there because it was right down the road from the playground.
A car pulled through the gate just as Jake reached it. It had scuffed neon-green paint and its bass vibrated the ground. The guy rolled down his window and Jake coughed as a cloud of weed smoke hit his face. The guy held out his hand and waved Jake closer.
“Hey, man,” the guy said. He was stoned—his eyes were as pink as his tongue.
“Hey, what’s going on,” Jake said.
“Hey, man, I’m your neighbor, Shawn,” the guy said slowly. Jake recognized him now. He was young, probably only a few years older than Jake himself.
“Yeah, I know,” Jake told him.
“Hey, man, you got some of that stuff? That stuff the lady you live with got?” Shawn said, slurring his words together. He rubbed a hand over his eyebrows.
“No, man, I don’t have any,” Jake said. Curse his mother.
“Hey, man, okay, okay. Imma see her later, all right? Imma see her later anyway,” Shawn said.
“No, you’re not, okay? She’s not doing that anymore, all right? She made a mistake,” Jake said.
“Hey, man, okay, I’ll see you later, okay man, all right?” he said. He drove away. Luckily, Jake didn’t think Shawn was going to recall any of that conversation. He remembered when his mother was dealing, the kind of people who came around. This guy was mild compared to some of the junkies he used to send away. He would have to lean his body against the door while they screamed expletives at him and scratched at the wood. A small part of Jake pitied them—they were at the lowest point in their lives, desperate enough to threaten a kid for the only thing that gave them release. But he didn’t pity them enough to let them through the door.
“You’re quiet today,” Fisher said. He looked particularly shrink-ish, peering over the top of his glasses, his hands folded over his knees.
Jake shrugged. “Isn’t that a good thing?” he asked, even though he knew better. If there was one thing he had learned through therapy, it was that shrinks hated silence.
Fisher leaned onto his knees and smiled kindly. Jake felt annoyingly safe with him. “How are things at home?” he asked.
“Fine,” Jake said shortly, crossing his arms across his chest.
“Have you seen your sister lately?”
“No,” Jake replied. Guilt bubbled uncomfortably in his stomach.
Fisher nodded speculatively. “How long has it been? Since you visited her?”
Jake didn’t even remember what month it was. He just remembered seeing her pale wrists in cuffs, her eyes wide like a deer’s. She kept asking him who he was, where she was, why she was there. He had wanted to take her in his arms and hold her tight, pray for her to get her head back, but with the glass between them all he could do was press his hand up against it and tell her it would be okay.
“It’s been a while,” Jake said.
“Why do you think that is?” Fisher asked.
Jake hated seeing his sister. He hated her terror, her panic. It was selfish, he knew, to pretend she didn’t exist in order to evade his own pain, but he just couldn’t deal with seeing her like that.
“I’ve just been busy. School and stuff,” Jake said casually.
Fisher nodded. “Are you sure that’s the only reason?”
“All right then. I hear you’ve been talking to Mara Taylor,” Fisher said.
Jake saw Mara’s bright face in his head and smiled a little. “Yeah, I have been.”
“She’s a nice girl. She’d be a good friend for you,” Fisher remarked.
“What are you trying to say, Fisher? I’m not a nice guy?” Jake asked jokingly.
“I think you’re a very nice guy. Just an angry one,” Fisher replied.
Jake nodded. It was true. He was an angry guy. He felt it all the time, burning under the surface of his skin, ready to blow at any moment.
“How do I make it stop? How do I stop being angry?” he asked.
Fisher sighed. “I wish I could give you the magic formula, son. But it doesn’t exist.”
“I thought that was what therapy was for, Fisher,” Jake said.
“Therapy is so I can tell you how to start,” Fisher said.
“Tell me then!”
“Go see your sister sometime this month. Doesn’t have to be tomorrow, doesn’t even have to be next week. But go see her. Give yourself some closure. There’s nothing more you can do to help her.”
Jake’s stomach clenched at the thought of that over-sanitized smell, her bright eyes filled with fear. He nodded.
“Keep talking to Mara Taylor. If she doesn’t make at least a little of your anger go away, I don’t know what will.”
Don't know if anybody remembers this, but I've been working on a short story! If you don't remember the story, go back and read the first two parts so that it makes sense. CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM IS SO WELCOME. Thank you! :)