If you’ve read Part I of the story, you may proceed.
I could feel the sweat everywhere on my body – on my forehead, my neck, my armpits, everywhere. Sitting behind her never gave me the chills but what I was feeling was something entirely different. Maybe I was sweating because I was anxious about the pills, because this story is primarily about how drugs ruined us, or perhaps how we let drugs ruin us. But there was certainly something wrong with Ava; her vibrations were cataclysmic. When the bell rang, which again rang in my ears for longer than it did in reality, everyone stood up to leave. The literature professor said something and left the room before any of the students did. Ava made her way through, walking without caring if she bumped into others, and walked right out of the classroom. She didn’t look at me even once. I wanted to get up and follow her and shake her and ask her where she had been but my legs were numb and I just couldn’t get up. And a part of me knew, I guess, that she won’t answer any of my questions, so walking up to her and creating a scene in the hallway would’ve been profoundly futile. When I finally could get up, I looked for her outside the school but she wasn’t there. I wanted to search for her everywhere but I was exhausted. I went to the girls’ bathroom to wash my face. Evie was there, sitting exactly where we sat in the morning, smoking her bubblegum cigarette.
“Were you here all day, Evie?” I put my bag down and opened the tap. I stared at myself in the mirror while the cold water warmed my hands.
“There’s nothing better to do in school,” she replied.
I took my eyes off of the mirror, and smirked at Evie.
“You’re wasting water, Turner.”
I washed my face and used my t-shirt as a towel. I realized I looked like a terrible mess myself. My white t-shirt now had a dirty and wet patch on it, my hair was coming loose from everywhere in the pretentious bun I had put it in, and my lips were chapped; so maybe Ava’s appearance wasn’t that horrifying, I thought to myself. But it was. It really was. I went over to where Evie sat, and extended my hand. She passed me the cigarette and I took out my cell to call Martin.
“Hey, you at the parking lot?”
“I’m sorry Viv I forgot to tell you, but I left for Jeremy’s a while ago,” my brother said, again, calmly, like it was no big deal.
“Dude, what the fuck, Marty seriously?! I don’t even know what to say to you except that be wary of my tonight, I might fucking strangle you in your sleep.”
“Hey, I’m doing this for you, okay? Don’t forget that.”
“How am I supposed to go home, you asshole?” I passed the cigarette back to Evie.
“I’m sorry, Vivien. I had to go immediately, or else I would’ve dropped you home first.” He said he was sorry but I could sense nothing but nonchalance.
“I needed to talk about Ava too. Did you see her?”
“I did, actually. I waved at her but she just stared at me and walked away. I figured she was still mad at me so I didn’t try to talk to her or anything.”
“You’re pathetic, Martin Turner. PATHETIC.” And with that, I hung up.
Evie passed me the cigarette and I smoked, standing up.
“Jesus, Turner, sit the fuck down, you’re giving me a headache.”
“I can’t, Evie. I just, can’t.” I paced around in the bathroom.
She stood up and extended her hand. I handed the cigarette over to her. She took one last drag and threw it on the floor and crushed it with her boots.
“Let’s go, I’ll give you a ride home.”
“Don’t you live on the other side of the town though?”
“Yeah, but what makes you think I’m in a hurry to go home?”
Evie’s car smelled great. Evie smelled great. She had a Scorpions CD already in the player which blasted when the car started and Evie immediately turned the volume down and I think she said something like “Sorry about that” but my ears had started ringing again because the sound was definitely deafening. We didn’t talk much in the car, she was lip-syncing to all the songs on the album and I was sometimes watching her, sometimes the road, and sometimes I was just staring at my hands. Surprisingly, we weren’t smoking either. I was expecting her to light a cigarette but turns out, her car is a no-smoking zone. No wonder it smelled like paradise and not the ditch within ourselves that we always voluntarily fall in.
“I don’t really want to go home,” I said just a few minutes before we were about to reach my house.
Evie stopped the car on the side. “You could’ve told me this before, you know.”
“I know, I’m sorry, I just, don’t feel like going home.”
“Say no more.” She turned the car around and drove with a new found enthusiasm.
She stopped the car at the dead end of Birchwood Drive, where the opening to the forest was, welcoming us with silver birch trees. Our town is called Hemlock Creek because it’s dominated with Eastern Hemlocks, but at the clearing of the forest, silver birches overshadow the hemlocks.
“We can stay here for a while.”
“And do what?” I was pulling on my jeans. I was very anxious and it was very obvious.
“Relax. ‘Cause you need to relax. We can smoke outside the car, and,” she reached to the back seat and took out a big silver bottle, “I’ve got something that will definitely relax you.”
“Woo-hoo!” It was fake enthusiasm Evie couldn’t detect. Or maybe she did, who can tell?
“You can handle vodka, right?”
We went outside and sat on the bonnet of the car, staring into the forest and drinking, and smoking. We talked about a lot of stuff. I talked, mostly, about my love-hate relationship with Marty, my irritating mother, how weirdly awesome my dad is, how Ava had been acting weird (which caught her attention). I think it was the first time Evie and I had a real conversation. And it was great because words just flew effortlessly. It was so comforting to talk to Evie.
“Yes, I saw your friend, Ava. The first thing I noticed was that she wasn’t wearing any shoes. I mean, who does that?”
“And did you see her eyes, Evie? ‘Cause I did, up close. Her pupils were so heavily dilated that all I could see was black; just a big black button in the centre of her eye. It was almost disturbing,” I said, with a shudder.
“Maybe she was on something.”
Before I could say anything, Evie came a bit closer to me. She took the hem of my t-shirt in her hand, and crumpled it up. Her hands touched my bare waist on the side and I felt a spark inside my body.
“I really like The Guess Who,” she said, looking me in the eyes.
At that moment, I kind of freaked out. The bottle of Vodka was in my hand and I gulped down a good amount of it, and said, “Oh yes, they were great.”
I think Evie received the hint because she let go of my t-shirt and moved away from me a little bit. Not too much as to make it obvious, but just enough to make it noticeable.
She lit a cigarette and we smoked it together, but we weren’t talking. There was a long awkward silence which continued and was only then broken by a noise we heard.
“What was that?” My head immediately started looking for the source of the noise.
“Maybe it was a deer,” Evie was also looking around now to see where the noise had come from.
We heard another rustle and this time we saw not a deer, but a person going inside the forest. With her hair tied up in a ponytail, and her red crop sweatshirt, I instantly recognized it was Ava. I got off the car, handed the bottle to Evie but the minute my feet touched the ground, I was so dizzy I couldn’t stand up. I fell on the ground.
“Dude, you okay?” Evie sounded concerned.
“That’s Ava!” I said to Evie. “AVA! HEY, AVA!!!” I screamed.
I saw Ava stop for a minute, but she didn’t turn around. She looked like she went home and changed and groomed herself but her going inside the forest made no sense at all. She went on to walk further inside but I was still on the ground, screaming her name. Evie was trying to help me up but she was drunk herself.
We somehow managed to get inside the car.
“You sure that was Ava?”
“100%.” I was.
It was a good idea and I did call her but it went straight to voicemail.
“I should’ve gone after her, Evie, I’m so worried,” I said with my eyes slowly filling up with tears.
“And we would’ve if we could’ve. Don’t sweat it. Let’s get you home.”
“Hey, woah, slow down. You’re drunk. No driving, please.”
“I’m not that drunk,” Evie sounded confident.
“Maybe we should wait a while. Maybe we can see Ava come out.”
And so we decided to stay in the car, watch out for Ava and sober up before going home. But we were obviously very drunk and we passed out and woke up around 2 hours later.
“SHIT! Evie, it’s six! DRIVE!”
“Huh? What?” Evie looked charming even when passed out, I mean, is that fair to anybody?
“My mother has been calling me like crazy. We need to go home. She won’t know I’ve been drinking though, would she? Do I smell drunk?” I was getting anxious again.
“Don’t worry, just go straight into the shower, wash up, and get into bed. Call your mom right now and tell her you’re on your way.” And then, Evie drove even better than she drove when she was completely sober.
The front door was unlocked and I tip toed inside the house. I had no idea where my mother was, but I wasn’t in the mood to get curious about that. I went up the staircase and straight into my room. And there she was.
“Jeez! Mom! You scared me!”
“Sorry, honey, didn’t mean to. Just by the way, where were you?”
She was folding my fresh out of the laundry clothes.
“Why are you in my room?”
“Answer me first. Where were you?”
“I was with Evie. We were just driving around and lost track of time. I’m sorry.” I was trying to maintain distance so she couldn’t smell alcohol off of me.
“Still doesn’t explain why you weren’t answering your phone.”
“I’m sorry, I really have to pee, okay bye,” I said and hurriedly went to the washroom.
“You’ve escaped right now, but we will have to talk about this later, Vivien. You’ve been acting very weird lately and I’ve no idea what’s going on with you, and who is this Evie? Is she from school? I want to know everything.”
I didn’t say anything because I’m not too sure if I was supposed to. After a while, I heard mom leave the room. I took a long shower, and tried to relax in bed until it was time for dinner.
“Why are you guys in the living room and not at the dining table?” I asked my parents, who were lazily sitting on the couch, watching something on Comedy Central.
“Oh honey, it’s ready, don’t worry. We’re just waiting for your brother,” my mom replied.
“What do you mean ‘why?’?”
“I’m starving and who knows when he’ll come?”
“Well, young lady, unlike you, he has been answering his phone and he should be home in another 10-15 minutes. So, relax a little.”
There goes the R word again. So fucking stupid.
“Do you want to come and sit with us, honey?” My Dad asked.
“No, I’ll just wait for you guys at the dining table.”
My head was still buzzing so I pulled out a chair, sat down and kept my head and my arms on the table. After which I’m guessing I passed out again, cause Dad was stroking my hair.
“You alright, Viv?”
“Oh, Dad, yeah. I’m okay. Is Marty here?”
“I sure as hell am,” Marty said, coming out of the downstairs bathroom, wiping his hands with a towel.
“Language, boy. Language.” Dad and I both said this at the same time, and then giggled.
I had so many questions for Marty but I couldn’t have asked him anything on the dinner table.
“Please stop shaking your leg, Vivien,” Marty said.
“I don’t think I want to.” I was anxious.
“Go to hell!” Martin’s calm broke. But only the one of his words, his face and demeanor was still as calm as a foggy night.
I was expecting Dad to say what he usually says when someone uses a bad word, but he was mute.
After dinner, Marty and I went upstairs together and I asked him outside his room what he had brought for me.
“You’re going to be so happy.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was able to arrange the buttons,” he said with a sly smile.
“WHAT?! REALLY?!?!?! Maaartyyyy!!!” And with that, I flung myself at him. I didn’t usually hug Marty unless I was drunk or really happy and feeling the sibling love. I don’t know what it was that day but Marty probably got it right.
“You’re drunk, aren’t you?” he asked with a warm smile, which I saw when we were done hugging.
“I – erm, yeah, okay,” I was fumbling, still buzzed.
“Okay, go to your room and I’ll get you the stock for this week. Please don’t overdo it this is all I have for now.”
“Aye aye, captain!”
I went to my room and patiently waited for a knock on my door. I couldn’t, obviously, take my mind off of Ava. I sat on the edge of my bed and called her again. It rang for a while but then went to voicemail. I didn’t want to waste hours trying to contact her. I decided to let it be. Maybe she didn’t want to talk, or something. And then my phone buzzed, and I received a text from Ava. It read “I know you saw me today. Tell no one.” Vague. I called her again but she didn’t answer. We exchanged a few texts then.
V – Okay but are you okay? I’m very worried.
A – Going out tonight, telling mom that I’m sleeping over at your place.
V – Okay but where are you going?
A – Where I need to be and where I belong. The silver birches are calling my name out.
V – I have no idea what you’re saying. What’s going on, Ava? Why are you being so weird?
And that was the end of it because she didn’t reply after that. A few minutes later, while I was still thinking about Ava and her texts, my door flung open and my brother jumped on me with an injection in his hand, very close to my neck. My heart had started beating very fast and I wanted to scream but I couldn’t.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t jab this needle in your fucking neck, you bitch.” He wasn’t calm at all.
“ Get off of me! What the hell?”
He pinned me down on the bed harder, the needle coming ever so close to my neck.
“No don’t do this, please, Marty, what’s up? Why are you doing this?” I was about to burst into tears but even that couldn’t have melted Marty. He was really angry and it was justified, but I couldn’t figure out then what it was.
He got up, grabbed my hand, and violently jerked me out of my bed and took me over to his room and then to his bathroom. There lay the destroyed iPad.
“Why would you do that? Why are you such a bitch? And don’t deny it, I know you did this.”
I had started crying extensively.
“Don’t cry! Answer me! What the fuck, Viv? You know how important this was to me. Have you gone fucking psycho or what? Is it because I didn’t get you the buttons? Seriously?”
I was nodding.
He didn’t say anything after that. He went back into the bedroom and I sat down on his bathroom floor, next to the broken iPad, crying.
After a while, when the tears had stopped, I stood up. I was too anxious to face Martin but I needed to go back to my room and I had to face Martin before that because he was still in bed. I slowly built the courage to face him, and I walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. I saw Martin in bed, cleaning up after injecting himself, hiding the needle and the spoon under the mattress, and getting ready for a trip. It was a really sad sight, to be honest. I was relieved he was drugged because he would have screamed at me otherwise, but I still hated seeing him that way. I know he only used to take heroin in very small doses, never enough to completely pass out, but it was still a sad sight. Before I left his room, my eyes fell on his bedside table. He had taken the bottle of Quaalude out for me. I was feeling guilty about taking them, but Martin was almost asleep and I couldn’t help myself. I grabbed the bottle and went into my room. There were 7 pills in total, 1 for each night, but I hurriedly swallowed 2 with water. Then I got into bed, and checked my phone. There was another text from Ava. My heart started beating out of my chest. I initially decided to open the message when the pills would start to kick in, but I couldn’t wait. I opened her text and it read: “Help. Forest.” I called her immediately but it went straight to voicemail. I texted her a few things but the messages didn’t deliver. I was slowly moving on to the heavy sedation realm and I liked that, but the whole deal with Ava was freaking me out and keeping me grounded, somehow. I stood up but my entire room was spinning, or my head was, and I had to sit back down. I remember thinking to myself, I’ll lie down for a bit. When I woke up, to my phone buzzing, it was midnight. I checked my phone and there were around 10 missed calls from Evie. I picked up my phone and called her back.
“Hey, Evie, what’s up?”
“Dude, I’m standing outside your house, where the fuck have you been?”
“I was sleeping, what’s the matter?” I was still very sleepy.
“Well, initially, I was just driving down to come see you, because there was this huge fight at home where my brother just left, he was acting very weird, not speaking and all, so shortly after he left, I left too, didn’t want to be a part of my folks’ fight, they were driving me crazy. But then, when I passed the forest, I heard some really weird trance music, only, it was kind of disturbing but at the same time tranquilizing, I don’t know how to explain except that it was very weird.”
And it hit me. I had totally forgotten about Ava’s ‘Help’ text.
“Evie, wait for me, I’ll be down in five.”
Evie was about to say something, but I hung up. I dialled Ava. Voicemail. I stood up, and while still dizzy, I somehow put my jeans and the The Guess Who t-shirt back on, without caring how spoiled they were, and ran to Martin’s room. It wasn’t locked. I went inside and saw him sleeping. I had to wake him up.
“Marty,” I shook him. “Wake up, Marty!”
He tossed and turned for a few seconds and then bolted upright.
“What? What happened? What’s the matter?”
“We have to go. It’s an emergency.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just, please, trust me. Are you stable enough to come with me?”
“I’m fine, but I don’t think you are.”
He stood up, held his head in his hands for a few seconds.
“Hurry up, we don’t have much time,” I cried.
“Would you chill? You look like shit. Go wash your face or something. I’ll see you downstairs in two.”
I went to his bathroom before he could, splashed some water on my face, and went downstairs. I kept staring at my phone, and I had to sit on the first step of the staircase because I was still dizzy. Exactly three minutes later, Marty tip-toed downstairs. Our parents’ room was downstairs and it was closed so we assumed they were asleep. We opened the front door, and snuck out.
“Shit! Wait, I forgot my car keys.”
“No, it’s okay. We’re riding with Evie. Don’t worry about it.”
“What the fuck?” My brother was irritated, but somehow still very calm.
“Bloody hell, you both look so fucking terrible. You guys aren’t sober, are you?” Evie said, sitting on her car’s bonnet.
“Everybody, just get in the car, and I’ll explain everything,” I held Evie’s hand as she slid down from the car, and pushed Marty to get inside the car.
I sat in the passenger seat, and my brother got into the back seat, and Evie started the car.
“Now, Marty, listen. Ava is in trouble. We’re going the forest, and –”
“Forest?!?!? Are you kidding me? Are you fucking nuts? It’s midnight, for fuck’s sake,” And at that point, my brother was as far away from calm as I’ve ever seen him in my life.
“Would you let me finish? I have a very bad feeling so please, just, roll with it.”
“If you have a bad feeling, then we should be doing the opposite of following the bad feeling. We should be at home sleeping like we were. I do everything you say, man, I get the buttons for you so that you can cope and sleep, do you know how hard it is to get them? And you want to go to the forest I mean what is this, some pretentious adventurous trip idea? Evie, stop the car.”
“No, Evie, don’t,” I said to Evie, and then turned my attention to Marty. “Marty, please just trust me. And thank you for everything, but it was your fucking fault in the first place. God knows what Ava has got herself into just because you were too fucking high to care where she was going and with whom.”
Martin shut up after that, and Evie was avoiding looking at me. I felt embarrassed ‘cause I was pretty sure Evie thought of me as a junkie, so I just looked outside the window, and there was complete silence in the car which no one tried to break, until we reached the forest’s clearing.
We got out of the car, and heard some noises in the distance. It was similar to what Evie described earlier, weird trance music. It was dark, and we could hardly see anything. It was simple. We only had to follow the music. So the three of us turned our phones’ torches on, and went into the woods. A few steps in, and I experienced a strong head rush which made me fall.
“Hey, you okay, Turner?” Evie helped me get up.
“Yeah, erm, I’m okay. My head’s spinning.”
“Mine too,” Martin added. “We should’ve done this sober. But then again, I would never have done something like this sober.”
We walked for a long time and then finally, in a distance, saw a red tent. Upon being closer to the tent, we realized that the trance music was accompanied by gibberish chants.
“Maybe we should go back. Now is the time to realize that this is a stupid idea and we should head back,” Martin’s voice was shaky.
Before I could reply, someone behind us spoke, with his hands on Martin’s shoulders and mine.
“I’m sorry, but it’s too late for you now, Turners.”
We turned around to face him, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. But it was a real shocker for my brother.
“Jeremy?!” Martin exclaimed.
“Hey brother. Glad you could join us. I never had the courage to actually ask you, but you found your way here, I’m so glad. We knew you would come looking for your girlfriend, and,” he turned to face Evie, “that you would come looking for your brother.”
“What the fuck kind of circus show is this? You know this guy, Turner?” Evie asked me.
“He – he is my – my brother’s friend,” I stammered.
“Oh, don’t be so modest now, Vivien,” Jeremy said, looking into my eyes. “I’m more than just your brother’s friend to you, am I not? I’m the reason you’re able to sleep at night.”
“Where’s Ava?” I needed to stick the point.
“Oh, you’ll know. She’s in the tent over there.”
I ran straight ahead to the tent, opened the zipper, and entered. I was welcomed by a strange smoke, and bright red lights, that had beautifully engulfed the tent in entirety. It had no scent but I immediately started to feel more light-headed than I was already feeling. And the tightness that I was experiencing in my throat and chest ever since I woke up started to fade away. I fell to my knees, my eyes were droopy but I could see, amidst the smoke, Ava, along with Evie’s brother Jayden, and another boy from school I didn’t know the name of, lying peacefully on the floor. Four people I couldn’t recognize stood above them wearing gas masks. They were looking right at me. The music was coming out of speakers, and the chants were a part of the music. And soon, I succumbed to the smoke and must’ve fallen asleep, cause when I woke up tied to a tree outside the tent, what I got to know and see, wasn’t pretty at all.
Proceed to Part III.