Phoenix Chapter Eight: January the Ninth

Phoenix Chapter Eight: January the Ninth

A Chapter by SweetNutmeg
"

January the Ninth

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Chapter Eight: January the Ninth



He was back at work on Monday, relieved to shake off the gloomy mood that persisted through New Year's day. And he had practice to look forward to.


Thursday rolled around and he set off at six to catch the bus to the warehouse for practice. Dark clouds were collecting on the horizon. He glanced up at the threatening sky as he got off the bus, and walked quickly, hoping to outpace the coming storm. His guitar was in a case, but it wasn't perfectly waterproof. He finally arrived, dashed down the alley and up the stairs just as the first drops started coming down.


He was first to arrive so he had to wait for Buzz to come and unlock the door. He leaned against the wall of the warehouse, under the large overhang, and watched the rain start. 


Eventually, Buzz and the rest of the guys showed up and they got started. They were still working on the original songs Rogan hadn't gotten note perfect yet. Their music drowned out the rain pummeling the corrugated metal roof.


“Let's grab a beer at Molly's,” Roy suggested, after they had packed up. 


Buzz gestured to Rogan in silent invitation to catch a ride and they walked out together. The rain stopped, thankfully. This time J.D. arrived first and grabbed a round of beers. Roy came in a good 15 minutes later, apologizing.


“My mom called and I had to reassure her I am happy and healthy. You know how moms worry.” 


J.D. made a disgusted noise and said, “Not my mom. She's the wicked witch of the west.” 


“My mom isn't the doting type either,” Buzz growled. “Mainly because I can't stand her meth head old man. Always stealing and lying and cheating. I hate drugs.” He looked at J.D. and Roy and quickly said, “A little weed, no big deal, but hard drugs? I despise them.”


“Meth kills.” Rogan said this with such bitterness, they all looked at him. 


“Personal experience?” Buzz asked.


“Not really,” he lied. “You guys want another round?” and Rogan escaped the conversation. 



***  



The next Monday, Rogan stumbled out of the third bar he tried this night. He was not even sure which part of downtown Shermer he was in. Snow lay in patches on the ground, but he didn't feel the bitter cold. He moved down the sidewalk a few paces and saw a lit up store front. Inside, fancy people stood in clumps drinking wine. There was a wire sculpture in the window. He thought he must be in the arts district. An art opening, just what he needed.


He knew what he's looking for tonight, a dark bar where he could get steadily more drunk and talk to a stranger about January the ninth. He wouldn’t find this in the arts district. He leaned against a telephone pole while he got his bearings. He wanted to head over to the seedy part of town. Maybe a guy, maybe a girl, just someone who will listen and then forget him the next day.


As he pondered, someone from the art gallery approached him. Great, now he was going to be told to move along. But it wasn’t a gallery employee. It was Allison Reynolds.


“Rogan? Are you OK?” 


“Hey Al. I'll be just fine if I can find another drink. Where's Benny's?” He was glad to have the telephone pole to support him.


“Why are you here? Why are you drunk?” 


“It's January the ninth. It's an anniversary. Can you give me a ride over to Benny's?” 


“Rogan, I don't think you need more to drink.” 


“Sure I do. It's an anniversary.”


“An anniversary of what?”


“The most important day of my life. January the ninth.” Rogan tried to stand up without the aid of the telephone pole, but the world tilted. He quickly resumed his position propped up against the pole. “Whoops, lost my balance.”


A car pulled up. Allison leaned over to talk to the driver, then said, “Rogan, I've got a Lyft. C'mon, let me take you home.” 


“But Benny's...” Rogan tried to orient himself again. It was getting harder to stand without the pole. “But I've got to tell somebody.”


“Benny won't serve you so drunk, there's no point. It's freezing. Let's get you home.”


“I've got to tell...” Rogan trailed off.


“You can tell me,” Allison said, reasonably. “You can tell me at your house.” 


Allison managed to lever Rogan's long frame into the Toyota and climbed in after.


“Rogan, where do you live?” 


“51 Hanover Street.”


Things were a bit of a blur for Rogan after that, until they reached the snakehouse. He was a little more steady on his feet by the time they arrived. Up to the porch, through the front door, up more stairs, until he was standing in front of the padlocked door. He ushered Allison in, wondering briefly how this happened, then decided it's just the randomness of life at work. He padlocked the door from the inside and slumped onto his couch. Things had stopped spinning. Allison joined him. She was beautiful in her slim black dress, a scarlet scarf around her neck. 


“Allison, you're beautiful.”


“Rogan, why did you get drunk tonight?”


“It's the ninth of January.”


“Yes, you said that. But what is special about the ninth of January?”


“It's an anniversary. You wouldn't understand.”


“Try me.” 


He hesitated. He'd never told anyone he knows, just strangers in bars. People who would forget him, who he would never see again. He looked over at Allison, who was gazing at him with polite interest.


“It's my sister Lucy's anniversary.” 


“I didn't know you had a sister.”


“I don't, anymore, not since January the ninth, 2012.”


“It's the anniversary of her death?”


Rogan nodded. 


“You wanted to tell someone. If you want to, I can listen.”


It felt like the alcohol was physically draining away, making his limbs heavy and numb, but his mind cleared a bit more.


“OK, Al. I'll tell you. It was meth. Crystal meth killed her. Well, it was really my father. But it was the oxycodone in the end.” He shivered. 


“She was six years older than me. When I was little, we'd play slap jack and play with my matchbox cars. It was us against the world. She said I was her best buddy. The meth, it started out ok. Sometimes she'd come home high on meth, all happy, and would watch TV with me, or play with my Legos, being silly and laughing. But later, she mostly came home sad and angry. She'd yell at me for making noise, or sometimes cry. I hated it when she'd cry.” Rogan felt something pricking in his eyes and was afraid tears would come. 


“Nothing I did could make her stop crying.” He couldn’t help it, tears formed and he blinked rapidly.


“She'd hug me and tell me about how she deserved it. At the time, I didn't understand what it was, but I begged her not to cry. I told her I loved her, and it was never enough.” Tears were falling now, spotting his uniform trousers as he shaded his eyes. 


“Nothing I could do or say was ever enough.” A harsh sob escaped him. When Allison put her arms around him, he clutched her. 


“I was never enough, and she died.” His body was wracked with spasms. 


Eventually he loosened his hold on Allison and she rubbed his back. His breakdown shamed him. He couldn't stand to look at her, so when he let go of her, he stood and went to the mantle.   


“After, she'd fall asleep. She always crashed and slept for 12 hours at a time. When she woke up, she'd be angry and twitchy and mean.”


“It sounds like she was very unstable.”


“I didn't know there was a pattern, it just seemed like she was totally random, and I never knew which sister I'd get. She kept staying away for longer and longer. It was the last night, when she told me.” 


“Told you what?”


“That my father-- that he'd come to her bedroom. S**t, I can't say it. She said it started when she was 10. F**k.” He wanted to punch something, he wanted to destroy the world. He repeatedly kicked the box his amp came in. The hollow sound didn't satisfy his anger so he stopped. 


He was beyond embarrassment now. He looked at Allison. “That's the night she OD'd. I found her on the floor, lying on her side, and I couldn't wake her up.”


“How old were you?”


“I was 12. No one was home, and I didn't know what to do, so I called 911.” He realized he was twisting his fingers together, untwined them. “It was oxycodone. She did it on purpose.


“My parents wouldn't let me go to the hospital. She died and I was supposed to just ignore it. They acted like dying-- like she had done something bad. He used her up and threw her away like she was garbage.” He gave the box another kick. 


Allison went to where he stood at the mantle. She took his hand and led him to the bed. 


“Take off your boots,” she said softly. “Just lie down.” 


She sat down next to him and put her arms around him. He rested his head on her shoulder and she pulled him closer. 



***


When Rogan woke, he was on his side, Allison's small form fitted into the curve of his body. She had turned off the lamp and the room was lit by a dim glow from the window, a moon lit sky. She stirred a bit and pulled his hand over her waist, securing it against her stomach. He fell asleep this way, his arm around her, her warm body against his.


The sun was rising when he woke again. She was asleep. He slipped out of their embrace carefully, to not wake her. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he held his throbbing head. How much did he drink last night? He couldn’t remember. Too much. Gingerly, he got in the shower, dressed in his uniform. She was still asleep, so he headed downstairs to the kitchen. He scrambled some eggs and buttered toast. She was stretching and looking out the window when he toed the door open. Rogan didn't know what to say or do. Allison smiled and took one of the plates with a low “Thank you,” and sat on the couch. At a loss as to what else to do, he sat also. Eating was something to do, so he tried, but the eggs felt slimy and his stomach roiled. He pushed the eggs around to have something to occupy himself. 


When she placed her empty plate on the coffee table, he felt her looking at him. He slid his own plate onto the table, wanting to look anywhere but at her. She took his hand and he reluctantly looked at her, shame filling him again. All he saw in her face was warmth and acceptance, not the revulsion and scorn he somehow expected. 


“Rogan, thank you for sharing that with me last night, about your sister. I'm very sorry you lost her.” She looked at him earnestly. “Are you OK?”


“I'm fine,” was his automatic answer. She continued to look at him, his hand in hers. He wanted to brush off what happened, go back to feeling in control. But her expression didn't let him deny his out of control breakdown of last night. “Well, no, I'm not fine. But I'll be ok.”  She kept on looking at him. “Really, I'll be ok. I need to get to work now.” He pulled his hand free and began filling his pockets with keys, phone, wallet. Scooping up his motorcycle jacket, he shrugged into it. Allison put on her long coat over her rumpled dress and Rogan escorted her downstairs. She gave him a hug on the porch and they parted ways.


Ryan couldn’t stop teasing Rogan for being so hung over. Rogan did his best to pretend he'd had a fun escapade the night before. But it was hard.



© 2021 SweetNutmeg


Author's Note

SweetNutmeg
Thank you for reading. Any and all comments welcome and appreciated. With this chapter, I really poured my heart into it, so please be gentle. Honest, though. If anything seems implausible, artificial, overly dramatic, etc., please tell me. I really want to get this chapter right.

My Review

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Featured Review

This is way more emotional than I expected. *sniff* No! I'm not crying! *sniff sniff* Not at all ;-;

I don't think it's implausible, (fictional, yes, but not) artificial, or overly dramatic. It might partly be that I'm polyamorous that I see nothing wrong with Allison staying the night at Rogan's, so you'll have to wait for input on that from monogamous people (some of whom might think that is cheating, and to that I say, "um, I politely disagree").

One other thing I wonder about is the length of winter vacation in the universe this story is taking place. Allison is still in school, and the day all this happened is Monday. Back in Lao PDR, we'd only get one day (yes, literally one day on the 1st of January) off. Here in Japan, school starts on the second week of January or earlier.

Technical stuff:

1. Sometimes she'd come home high on meth, all happy, and would watch TV with me, or play with my Leggos, being silly and laughing.

Did you mean Legos? I looked up "leggo" and urban dictionary says, "The phrase "leggo" is just another example of a piece of s**t that the rap community has given to popular culture."

2. He sees he is twisting his fingers together, untwines them.

I'm not sure what's happening here. Doing weird random finger-twisting for 5 minutes didn't help. A little clarification would probably help.

3. Allison puts on her long coat over her rumpled dress and Rogan escorts her down stairs.

I think you meant "...downstairs."

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

1 Year Ago

I don't think she was cheating on Andy (if she is still with him, we don't know). She was helping a .. read more
Wathanya.5KY3

1 Year Ago

You mean they might have already broken up? *gasp* If not, we'll see how Andy feels about it.
.. read more
Wathanya.5KY3

1 Year Ago

I just went back to read the first chapter because I vaguely remember Allison's family being mention.. read more



Reviews

I see you have another chapter up and had to come by and read it. Rogan has some issue I notices with a PTSD Which was nice touch I thought. It gives the guy more character which I felt he needed nicely done. love the story it intrigues me.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

1 Year Ago

Thank you, oh faithful reader. I'm so glad you are enjoying my little story.
Rogan finally gets a bit of love--or was it just nurturing?
Outpace is one word, and I'd switch places with storm and coming--"out pace the storm coming"
Comma after eventually--"Eventually Buzz"
Comma after says--"Allison says reasonably."
"Things are a bit of a blur (for Rogan) after that..."
“Allison, you're beautiful.” Did he say that out loud? Yes, he did." This is like the movie director suddenly looking into the camera and commenting on the scene. It would be better to say something like, Rogan's tongue slipped. "Allison, you're beautiful."
He decides and says, “It's my sister Lucy's anniversary.” I think the "he decides and says" isn't needed.
“I don't, any more" Anymore is one word.
"He has been sobering up, and the thought of telling Lucy's story clears his head more." This sentence is a clear example of "tell". Much better to convey this information through dialogue, action, or inner thoughts.



Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

1 Year Ago

Thank you, Sam, for all the small pointers and tweaks. Every single one is much appreciated. I fixed.. read more
This is the best chapter so far. It's good to see Rogan open up. Now if he can only do that sober.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

1 Year Ago

Thank you for reading so far into my story. I'm quite pleased it kept your attention. Who knows if h.. read more
This is way more emotional than I expected. *sniff* No! I'm not crying! *sniff sniff* Not at all ;-;

I don't think it's implausible, (fictional, yes, but not) artificial, or overly dramatic. It might partly be that I'm polyamorous that I see nothing wrong with Allison staying the night at Rogan's, so you'll have to wait for input on that from monogamous people (some of whom might think that is cheating, and to that I say, "um, I politely disagree").

One other thing I wonder about is the length of winter vacation in the universe this story is taking place. Allison is still in school, and the day all this happened is Monday. Back in Lao PDR, we'd only get one day (yes, literally one day on the 1st of January) off. Here in Japan, school starts on the second week of January or earlier.

Technical stuff:

1. Sometimes she'd come home high on meth, all happy, and would watch TV with me, or play with my Leggos, being silly and laughing.

Did you mean Legos? I looked up "leggo" and urban dictionary says, "The phrase "leggo" is just another example of a piece of s**t that the rap community has given to popular culture."

2. He sees he is twisting his fingers together, untwines them.

I'm not sure what's happening here. Doing weird random finger-twisting for 5 minutes didn't help. A little clarification would probably help.

3. Allison puts on her long coat over her rumpled dress and Rogan escorts her down stairs.

I think you meant "...downstairs."

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

1 Year Ago

I don't think she was cheating on Andy (if she is still with him, we don't know). She was helping a .. read more
Wathanya.5KY3

1 Year Ago

You mean they might have already broken up? *gasp* If not, we'll see how Andy feels about it.
.. read more
Wathanya.5KY3

1 Year Ago

I just went back to read the first chapter because I vaguely remember Allison's family being mention.. read more

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Added on August 8, 2019
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SweetNutmeg
SweetNutmeg

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***I am on hiatus and not returning reviews.*** I'm here to improve my writing. I love critiques that give me critical feedback, as well as praise. (Although, I do like praise. Gotta be honest.) A.. more..

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