Cassia woke up with vomit in her mouth. She opened her eyes and saw unfamiliar furniture. She was on her side. She lifted her head and it stuck to the pillow. She used her arm to disengage it from her face. Thanks, Morta, she thought.
Cassia sat up and surveyed the room. Whoever occupied this space wasn’t rich. The furniture was threadbare, as was the carpet. She looked down at the T-shirt she was wearing. It was full of holes and ragged on the edges. She lifted it over her head and threw it into the corner.
As she made her way to the bathroom, she checked the drawers in the dresser. She found a bra and panties that looked fairly new. She took them into the bathroom and turned on the shower. As she scrutinized the unfamiliar face in the bathroom mirror, she sighed.
“Just once, Morta, you could find me a body that took care of itself,” she said.
The face wasn’t old, but it had dark circles under the eyes and a chalklike appearance. The long hair was an unnatural shade of blond, and she could see redness under the nose, indicating some sort of drug had been snorted frequently. Cassia washed out her mouth and brushed her teeth and tongue. She reached for the mouthwash and took it straight from the bottle.
“Another round of detox,” Cassia said, as she looked in the mirror. She would have to call her doctor, a woman well acquainted with Cassia’s situation, although she hadn’t seen her with the same face twice.
Cassia stepped into the shower. She washed her hair and scrubbed the rest of her body. She could feel the familiar craving in the pit of her stomach. This body would need drugs soon, or it would begin to get sick.
She towel-dried her hair and put on the underwear. She routed through the closet looking for something that didn’t scream “whore.” She settled for another hole-filled T-shirt and ratty jeans. Then she picked up the cellphone on the dresser and dialed her doctor.
Cassia looked around the small, studio apartment as she chatted with her doctor’s receptionist. She was told to go to the nearest hospital and have the attending doctor call them so they could make the arrangements.
When Cassia got off the phone, she looked through the handbag hung over the dining room chair. She found a wallet with two dollars in it and a driver’s license. She wasn’t sure if the license was valid or not. The name on it read “Meghan Spencer.” There were car keys, too. The keys had an electronic lock, so she should be able to find the car by clicking on it.
Cassia took one last look around the apartment before she left. She searched in the drawers to see if she could find any more money. She found an empty bottle of Oxycodone, a pipe and a spoon, but no money.
She looked for a jewelry box but couldn’t find one. Lastly, she looked for something she could pawn. The girl had nothing. If this girl was turning tricks for drug money, Cassia would need a test for STDs.
Cassia didn’t know where she was or what the temperature might be, so she picked up the jacket hung over the chair. The driver’s license said Baltimore. She hoped she could find a hospital close by.
When she opened the door, the smell of urine almost knocked her over. She quickly walked out, barely closing the door behind her. The steps were wooden and old, and she was really beginning to feel sick. She walked as fast as she could, but she didn’t make it all the way down without upchucking over the bannister.
There was a parking lot across the street. Cassia pushed the button on her key and heard a beep. She followed the sound to a very old Mercury Grand Marquis. Cassia opened the door.
This girl, Meghan, had been a real slob. The car was filled with old fast food containers and soda cups. Cassia swept them out of the car with her arm and sat down. She turned the key and saw that the car had some gas, but no GPS. She pulled out of the parking lot and into traffic.
Cassia perused the area for a big blue sign with an “H” on it. Three blocks down, she found one. She followed it to the Sisters of Mercy Hospital and parked.
Cassia was shaking and sweating now. She walked into the ER waiting room and was told to take a seat. By the time they called her name, she was unable to respond. When they were able to revive her in the ER, she gave them the name of her doctor, and was then whisked away to a private room on one of the upper floors.
Cassia was given medication to ease her detox symptoms, and within a few days she was feeling better and asked to be released. Her doctor telephoned her attending physician, and the papers were signed that day.
A limousine met Cassia as they rolled her out of the hospital in a wheelchair. She had to wear the same jeans and T-shirt she’d worn to the ER. As she got into the limo, she smiled at Manuel. He smiled back.
“Home?” he asked.
“Home,” she replied.
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