As you wake, your eyes begin to focus, and you recognize the familiar splintered, wooden planks that make up the walls of your secret place. You’ve been coming here since you were a kid, a quiet place no one else knows about. Your lips are numb as your tongue traces their outline, and your head still swims in the bottle of whisky you finished off last night. You push yourself up to a sitting position, from the concrete earth beneath you. Your muscles protest in anguish, and you involuntarily grimace at the smell of sour sweat that seeps from your pores.
What am I doing here?
An empty bottle of Jack lies on its side in the right corner of the room, evidence of another forgotten adventure. Beside it sits the black duffel bag you’ve always kept packed with basic necessities for emergencies: a change of clothes, toothbrush, Swiss Army knife, toilette paper, among other useful odds and ends. You’ve been drinking for years, but it has only recently become a problem. Frequent blackouts now speckle your memory with questions that often go unanswered.
You try to shake off the confusion, only to gain a slight head rush. Your chin falls to your chest to try and stop the dizziness. This is when you notice the large red blotches splattered across the front of your once white t-shirt. Crimson streaks run down your arms and cover the palms of your hands. Your short, brown hair is matted with…
Your eyes dart from your duffel bag, to your surroundings, to your clothes, as reality begins to sink into your unsettled mind. What have you done? Scenes from last night begin to flash through your mind as you struggle to remember what happened. You had pounded down some shots to loosen up before going to your sister, Greta’s, party. The world already had a comfortable haze around it when you arrived. You remember the concerned look on Greta’s face as you made your boisterous appearance. It all gets fuzzy after that.
An argument. You had an argument with someone at the party. Andrew, Greta’s ex-boyfriend. He was talking smack about Greta in front of everyone at the party, in Greta’s own living room. You were so angry, you almost punched the guy. Hearing the commotion but not knowing what was happening, Greta walked in from the kitchen. There you stood with your fist raised to Andrew’s face, ready to strike. She was livid and immediately ordered you out of her house. She had refused to listen to your plea. Feeling betrayed, you stomped into the kitchen with Greta at your heels, grabbed a full bottle of Jack Daniels out of the freezer, and stormed out of her house. Gripped by anger, you remember announcing that Andrew would pay for what he did. After that, nothing. Only blackness, a bloodstained t-shirt, an empty bottle, and a duffel bag to explain how you got here. You pick yourself up off the hard ground and try to formulate a plan of action. The faint sound of a phone rings, and you freeze, listening intently.
Riiiiiiing. It’s coming from the duffel bag, and you hurry to retrieve it. You kneel, fold back the zipper, and reach in to rummage through the contents of the bag. Your shaking hand stumbles upon a mobile phone, and you pull it out.
Riiiiiiing. This time it’s louder. The display reveals that it’s Greta calling. You hesitate before putting the phone to your ear and pressing the button to answer, “Hello?”
“Jackson! Where are you? I’ve been worried sick!” Greta’s voice springs out.
“I’m…never mind where I am. What do you want?”
“What do I want? I want you to come face the consequences of what you’ve done, that’s what I want. You can’t get away with this, you know. Every one knows you did it.”
Silence. You don’t know how to respond. A lump emerges in your throat, and you try to swallow it back down.
“Jackson? Are you hearing me? Are you still there?”
“I was only trying to protect you, Greta. I never meant for this to happen.”
“I know, honey. Cindy told me about the argument.”
“I was drunk!” you burst out, “I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t even remember! Greta, I don’t know what to do. I can’t go to prison!” You no longer fight back the tears. They pool in your eyes and flow down your cheeks. You feel your life coming to a tragic, miserable end. You never liked Andrew, but you never meant to kill him!
“Oh Jackson, you’ve always been such a drama queen! I spoke with Andrew this morning. He said he wouldn’t even press charges if you’ll agree to pay to have the paint job fixed on his Camaro. He’s even thinking about having the color changed to red, thanks to you!”
“Jackson, are you there?”