Read For the Love of Alex Online
Authors: J.E. Hopkins
For the Love of Alex
Copyright 2013 J.E. Hopkins
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Chapter 1: Addiction
Addiction. That dreaded word had haunted Leah for so long. It had become an inevitable part of her life, her destiny.
She couldn’t escape it. She would run, but it would chase her. She would hide, but it would find her. It has always been there looming in the shadows. She knew one day it would destroy her and yet she was powerless to stop it. The only way to be free was to let go of her heart, but there could be no freedom in abandoning what made her whole.
She could walk away from him. Everyone had told her to leave. “He’s not worth it, Leah,” “You can do better than Alex,” “You deserve more.” She had heard it all. She uttered similar words to herself every night but she could never gather the strength to walk away from the only happiness she had ever known and forsake the love that had saved her.
Yet tonight she’d packed her bags again. Tired of the disappointment, she convinced herself that she was ready to break free of this cycle of torment. This was not the first time she had contemplated escape. It seemed like once a month another episode prompted her to empty out her closets and drawers and pack her luggage, hoping she could leave before Alex came home and convinced her to stay. Like every other time she filled her suitcases and declared she could not stand the pain of this broken love a moment longer, her mind would be flooded with memories of the last eighteen years. And for all those years, she had loved Alex Briggs to the point where she couldn’t imagine life without him.
Leah collapsed on top of her luggage as she recalled the moment she first met Alex. The happier times when his love was the only light in the darkness of her life. She tried to picture a day, a week, a year without Alex and the thoughts disturbed her so that all she could do was weep next to her bags. She cursed herself for her weakness, her inability to let go, but she could not fathom her life without him. She knew that if he continued down this dark path, she would either lose him to the drugs or lose herself in his addiction, and she was helpless to stop them both from drowning in his disease.
Leah unpacked her luggage and sat on the sofa waiting for Alex to come home. He was late once again and she knew why. Fear clutched her heart. He could be lying in a deserted alley near death with only the remnants of that white powder he loved more than anything. Heroin had destroyed the boy she loved and had turned him into a man she barely recognized, and yet she still waited for him. Every night, she waited. This had become her role, their routine. She waited, she hoped, she feared, and eventually Alex would stumble into the apartment and then they would start over again.
It had been over six hours since Alex left for the grocery store to get milk for his breakfast tomorrow. Of course they already had milk in the fridge, but that was his attempt at an excuse to leave and satisfy the craving he was too weak to resist. It was nearly three in the morning and still no sign of him.
Leah contemplated calling the police, but the last time she placed such a call Alex was nearly arrested. He had left for work and never showed up. His job called looking for him and Leah had frantically dialed his cell, but no answer. She had driven around in her little Civic for hours searching for him that night, but she couldn’t find him. Overwhelmed with fear, she called the police thinking Alex may have finally gotten himself in trouble so deep he couldn’t charm is way out of it. The police did not share her concerns. They said he could not be considered missing at this point. It had only been eight hours and with his past history of disappearances, they doubted he was in any serious danger. She begged and pleaded with them to search for him. Eventually one sympathetic cop said he would alert others to be on the lookout for him.
She emailed him a picture of Alex and her together. It was an older picture during a time when the boy she loved still existed. Three hours later, her doorbell rang and she raced to the door expecting to hear the worst. That dreaded late-night call from the police when they gave you the devastating news that there had been an accident that had stolen away your life, your future, your love. She knew that one day that call would come as Alex was leading a life certain to end in death.
Instead, the kind police officer had been hoisting up a bedraggled and dazed Alex, who couldn’t stand on his own. The officer had warned her that the next time she would have to pick Alex up from jail. He dumped Alex on their couch, where he slept for almost two days completely oblivious to the anxiety he’d caused her. He slept like an innocent infant while Leah had stayed awake watching him and worrying if she closed her eyes she might not notice if he stopped breathing.
That was just a year ago. Leah had wished it would be a one-time mistake, but it had happened so many times that she couldn’t recall the last time there was a peaceful night. Now, like every night, she sat and waited for his eventual return hoping it wouldn’t be the police at her door instead.
She wondered what mess of a state he would be in once he remembered to come home. Leah poured herself another cup of jasmine tea, searching for a calmness she knew she could never find. She was so tired of playing this game that she could never win. Each night, she would just lose another piece of herself. She felt like an old, weathered woman, aging much too soon.
She barely closed her eyes before a thud crashed against her door, causing her to drop her tea. She swung the door open and Alex nearly collapsed onto her. He reeked of vomit and urine. She wanted to just leave him there to rot in his own waste, but when he looked up to her with those desperate baby-blue eyes she conceded once again. She picked him up with all the strength she could muster and helped carry him into their bathroom.
She knew this was wrong. She’d read enough books about addiction to know that she was the textbook definition of an enabler. She wanted so bad to help him get well, but she knew deep down her help was making him worse, and she felt so trapped in this mess. If she abandoned him like all the others in his life, he would die, and if they continued down this path of destruction, they would both die. He would die from drugs and she from guilt for not saving him. Her rational mind knew she could not save him, but her heart felt like their love should save them both. Love couldn’t change a man she knew, but maybe it could give him a reason to change himself. That’s why she continued this cycle of pain, hoping one day he would love her enough to save himself, to save their love.
She ran a bath and stripped off his clothes. They had been through this disgusted routine too many times. Every time she would say it would be the last time, but here they were again and she knew she would find herself in the same position next week—if not sooner. This was life with Alex these days.
His eyes were so glazed and unfocused. She wondered if he could see her and the tears in her eyes she was fighting not to shed. She moved him to the tub and ordered him to get into the steaming water. He complied without fuss and eased into the water, even though she knew it was hotter than it should be, but she was too angry to care. She wanted the scalding heat to wash away the grime of wherever he’d been tonight. She would not allow that mess in their bed.
She picked up the washcloth and soap and began scrubbing away at his skin harder than necessary, but she was so filled with anger and rage that she wanted to hurt him for hurting her like this again. She poured shampoo in his blond, straggly hair and watched as it dripped onto his face and into his eyes. He wiped it away without a word. Leah felt a moment of shame for wanting to hurt him. She wondered if he ever felt true guilt for hurting her so deeply so often.
As if he sensed her thoughts, he looked into her eyes and she could see the tears in his. “I’m sorry, Leah. You deserve so much more than this.”
Even in this state, he always knew what she was thinking. That was the bond they had shared since childhood. As much as she wanted to embrace the joy of that bond, she could not distance herself from the horror of this moment.
“You’re always sorry, Alex,” she replied, “but nothing ever changes.”
“I know,” he whispered.
Leah finished bathing him and dressed him in a pair of briefs. He crawled into bed while she dumped his clothes in the washing machine. She knew she’d put too much detergent in the machine and the bleach on his colored clothes was probably unwise, but she needed that smell to be gone; the filth from this night to wash away as if it had never touched the sanctuary of her home.
Feeling dirty, she took a shower and tried to wash away the pain, and like usual she failed because there was no way to make this go away. She sank to the ground in the shower, clutching her legs to her body, finally emptying herself of the frustration of another tumultuous night.
After what felt like hours, she climbed into bed next to Alex but far enough away so that he was not touching her. She couldn’t bear to feel his touch right now, even though she knew she wouldn’t sleep well without it.
Even in the darkness and stillness of this early morning she could tell he was still awake. Sleep evaded her as well. Her mind too restless to relax.
“You promised me that you would never leave me,” he reminded her.
Yes, she had made that promise many years ago. It happened one night when he snuck into her house. He was only eight and she was seven. He was living in another foster home several blocks away, but despite the lateness of the night, he walked to her house, climbed up the tree next to her window, and entered her room. That became a habit for them for years. Her parents never knew their little secret and his foster parents never cared. He would crawl into bed with her and stay the night as they would talk until they fell asleep, or played games until the sun rose. Sometimes she would read him a story. She loved to read and he loved to be read to.
Leah thought about those nights so long ago where Alex and his active imagination would fill the hours with vivid stories about all the places he wanted to take her when they got older, and she would eagerly listen, imagining herself traveling the world with him. They would one day explore the pyramids in Egypt, dance atop the Eiffel Tower, and get married in front of the Taj Mahal. Their whole future mapped out in their minds and filled with adventures and childhood fantasies.
Not every night was filled with such happy thoughts. There were nights filled with silence where Alex didn’t want to talk, but needed the comfort of her little body next to his. He would tremble and she would snuggle closer trying to help him feel safe and secure.
There was that one night shortly after Christmas. Alex had climbed into her bed and just held her hand. He’d been crying. Leah pleaded with him to tell her what was wrong, but he wouldn’t. He just clutched her hand tighter and held it close to his heart. He told her he loved her that night.
Leah smiled at the memory. They we were just kids, but she knew she loved him as well. She told him that night for the first time hoping her words would comfort him.
“Will you stay with me, Leah?” he asked her. “Promise me you’ll never leave me.” His blue eyes bore into hers and even as a child she could see his desperation.
He needed her. No one had ever needed her the way Alex had, and she felt thrilled that she could be there for him and make him feel better when he was scared and lost.
Leah promised him that night that no matter what, she would never abandon him. Just like that, the sadness in his eyes had gone and he smiled brightly again. Somehow she had helped erase his hurt, and she felt so relieved that she could bring a little happiness to him as he had always filled her childhood with joy.
He had pinched her nose in his typical way of showing affection and she had laughed as she snuggled closer. They slept peacefully that night, and Alex woke up as soon as the sun rose and slipped out of her room, down the tree and back up to his foster home. He had lived in so many foster homes throughout his childhood, but no matter the distance, he had spent most nights in her room holding her hand as they fell asleep.
She made many promises to him those nights, but he had made promises to her as well. She wondered if he remembered.
“And you promised you would never hurt me,” she reminded him, hoping to jog his memory, “yet you have broken that promise to me so many times.”
She waited for another excuse. He was so good with excuses. There was always a reason for what he did and she was just expected to understand no matter how much his actions hurt.