Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and mature content.
“These are stupid,” Rhys told Ethan as the orange Camaro pulled onto the street leading to First United Methodist Church.
“They help you stay sober,” Ethan corrected, not taking his eyes off the road.
“Apparently they don’t,” Rhys muttered under his breath, lighting a cigarette and examining the track mark on the inside of his elbow. It hadn’t taken him long to build back up to his old tolerance, and he had had a nice fresh shot that afternoon.
Ethan only sighed in reply as they pulled into the church parking lot.
“Please Rhys,” he said softly as they pulled into a parking space and Rhys moved to get out of the car, “just do this for me. Okay?”
Rhys paused, hand on the door handle, then nodded quietly as he got out. Ethan pulled out of the parking lot as Rhys walked towards the church entrance, on his way home after another late shift at the diner.
Rhys lingered outside the door to finish his cigarette even as the meeting started inside. A baby blue Subaru pulled into the parking lot, screeching to a halt in the first parking space it could find. The driver door opened and Rhys laid eyes on the most punk looking girl he'd ever seen.
She was tall, at least 5'11, with electric blue dreadlocks to her middle back. She wore knee-high boots over what Rhys knew to be crust pants, her dark-skinned midriff showing between her waistband and the Dead Kennedys crop top she wore. She lit a cigarette as she stepped out of the Subaru, locking it with her keyfob as she started towards him.
"Fashionably late as well?" she asked in a heavy Cockney accent, peering at him through her heart-shaped sunglasses as she leaned against the church's brick wall. "High as a kite, too."
Rhys shrugged in response, taking a drag off his cigarette and looking down at his feet.
"It's okay," she smirked, "I know a newcomer when I see one. The important thing is that you're here. Bring the body and the mind will follow."
"Platitudes," Rhys muttered, smoke curling out of his mouth with disdain. The girl's smirk only grew wider as she exhaled smoke herself, the clouds of smoke mingling together before disappearing into the air.
"You'll get it eventually, kid."
Rhys dropped the remainder of his cigarette, crushing it with his boot before walking past her and inside. He went to the back, trying not to make too much noise as he fixed a cup of coffee and dumped seven sugar packs in it. No creamer, he couldn't stand non-dairy creamer.
He shuffled to one of the metal chairs in the back, taking a seat with his hands cupped around his coffee, watching as the punk Brit came in and took a seat near the front. He took a sip of his coffee, relishing the way it burned his tongue and his throat on the way down. He loved when things were so extreme he could feel them.
The group was getting to the last of the reading, and Rhys leaned back in his chair with his head tilted back to watch the kaleidoscope colors as the room tilted into silence. The occasional voice, a member "sharing", was a pleasant, background hum as he watched his visions.
He wasn't aware of how time had passed until someone kicked his chair, jolting him out of his trance. He pulled his head up to look at the Brit, who was holding something out to him. He took it, staring down at it in his palm. It was a white key tag, emblazoned with the NA symbol one one side and 'just for today' on the other.
"Don't need this," he muttered, trying to give it back to her. "I'm not sober."
"Clean," she corrected, hands in her pockets to indicate her refusal to take it. "And you will be, eventually. This can be a reminder."
"Of what exists outside of drugs," she smiled. "Come on, I'll give you a ride home."
"I'll walk," he didn't move from his seat.
"We're going to the same place," she shrugged. "Witchwood apartments, 404."
He stared at her.
"Rhys, right?" Her smile grew wider. "Ethan's little brother?"
"Leah," Rhys nodded in understanding, then muttered under his breath, "that fucking bastard."
He got to his feet, shoving his hands - and the key tag - into his pockets. "What, did he ask you to spy on me? Are you even an addict?"
Leah's smile disappeared. "I'm three years clean, thank you very much. He told me he'd bring you by, get some recovery in your head. I told him I'd drive you home."
They had made their way towards the church doors over the course of this conversation, where Rhys saw through the window panes that it was storming outside. He sighed.
The two hurried across the parking lot, taking refuge in the Subaru. Rhys shut the passenger door behind him, looking around as Leah situated herself and put the key into the ignition. The backseat floorboard was covered in empty water bottles and cigarette packs, old crumpled receipts and one or two bags of fast food. On the backseat lay a tarp with mud-caked boots on it, Leah's purse beside them and on top of a thick, old-looking laptop. Rhys let his eyes wander as Leah backed out of the parking space, his gaze falling on the cross hanging from the rear view mirror along with a cotton-candy scented air freshener.
His arms itched, the burning desire for more cocaine wriggling under his skin. He needed to shoot up, resurge his high, feel that euphoria, stimulate his brain before the boredom took over. He wished Leah would drive faster.