Today, we bring you the first chapter from Dissolve by Andrea Heltsley!
I felt a lurch in my stomach as the room spun and the night caught up to me. I didn’t even have the chance to excuse myself from the tall dark and handsome I had been dancing with all night. I drank too much too fast. All the hangover remedies in the world weren’t going to be able to fix this blunder.
The nightclub lights were swirling into melted colors and the music was turning from techno to smashing beats inside my head. Slowing to steady my breath, I bit back the metallic taste and rushed out of the crowd and into the bathroom.
It wasn’t long before I heard the push of the door and the clack of heels against the bathroom tiles. They were moving steadily towards me and I was about to tell the intruder to go away when a familiar voice spoke up.
“Cora, honey, is everything okay?” Nessa asked as she leaned against the cool steel of the stall.
“I’m fine. Just give me a few minutes,” I slurred as I embraced the toilet for another round.
“You don’t sound fine.”
“Ok, I might not feel the greatest right now,” I admitted.
“Oh Cora, that royally sucks. I didn’t think you even drank that much.”
“Apparently I did. I am on the floor in a dirty public restroom and all I can think about is heaving, yuck,” I said.
“I will be right back, I have an idea,” Nessa replied before swinging the door open and stepping away.
I heard a sudden pulse of music then shuddered. It was all I could do to fight back the urge to heave as I sat there. It wasn’t long before Nessa returned and tapped on the metallic stall.
“I brought you some club soda to settle your stomach,” Nessa said, handing me the club soda underneath the stall.
“Thanks,” I murmured.
“Come out when you are ready and we will head home,” she said.
Then I heard the fading clack of her heels and the door swinging shut behind her. Taking a calming breath to steady myself, I sipped the bubbly liquid slowly. Soon I was able to finish the cup she left me and I sighed in relief as my stomach began to settle.
Cautiously, I removed myself from the disgusting public toilet and shivered in revulsion. I never get this drunk. I didn’t even feel like I drank that much, but apparently I did. Public toilets are about as awful as you can get. I straightened out my wrinkled red strapless dress and unsteadily managed to make it to out of the stall and towards the sink.
I tried to ignore the hammering in my head as I rinsed off my face in the sink. My blonde hair was now stringy and I tucked it behind my ears. I no longer cared about the state of my makeup or my hair. I just wanted to get the hell out of here and go home. Pushing the bathroom door open and into the club, I winced. The pounding of the music rattled through me and I thought about being sick all over again. Each thrum of the base sent a crackling through my head and I tried not to faint in the flashing lights of the club.
Nessa was quick to find me and I was relieved for something going right tonight. Her brown hair was down, flowing all around her face. She looked incredibly sexy tonight in her black mini dress and newly bronzed skin. I would be envious if it was anyone but Nessa. Her brown eyes met my blue ones and she sighed.
“Oh Cora, let’s get you out of here,” she said with a look of concern.
I simply nodded in agreement and followed Nessa out through the crowd of the throbbing and swelling of the night club and into the warm summer night. I swayed on my feet, unsteady. Nessa wrapped her arms around me to steady my shaking body. I was grateful and leaned into her embrace.
“You look so pitiful, I just want to hug you and tell you everything will be okay,” Nessa said.
“Thanks I think,” I replied.
With her free hand, Nessa hailed a cab. Once successful, she steered me to the curb and I tried not to trip on my red peep toes. She placed me in the cab before joining me and closed the door behind her. I let out a sigh of relief just to be able to get off my feet. Safely in the cab, I pulled my shoes off and lay them next to me in a jumble. I sunk into my best friend as I floated in and out of consciousness the whole way home.
I startled as we slowed and came to a complete stop. My blue eyes that had now become a brilliant hue were watering and I swiped at them with my index fingers. Nessa was kind enough to pay the cab fare before letting me out, barefoot and holding my shoes.
“Are you sure you are going to be okay?” she asked, giving me a gentle hug.
“Nothing I can’t fix with some aspirin and lots of sleep,” I replied.
“Do you need help into the house?” she asked as she tilted her head towards my brownstone settled at the end of Main Street.
“No, I will manage. Thanks for everything. Sorry I got so drunk.”
“It’s okay, call me tomorrow. Oh and tell Tom I said hi,” she told me.
“I will, goodnight,” I said. Nessa shut the cab’s door and soon all I saw was the vague glow of the fading tail lights. I turned and walked up the stairs, trying not to injure my bare feet on the concrete. I soon fished the spare key out of the planter and headed for the door.
I grimaced at the thought of coming home to Tom in this state. He was going to be pissed. We were supposed to be getting married in three months and here I was, still acting like a juvenile. He usually didn’t say anything, but I could see it bleeding out between the seams every time I came home wasted. Still, I was thankful he was patient with my self-sabotaging actions. Contrary to my actions, I truly can’t wait to start my life with him.
Closing the door with a quiet click behind me, I tiptoed across the living room carpet and clumsily dropped my peep toe kitten heels. I stumbled into the bathroom and stepped out of my alcohol and smoke laden red dress and lingerie. The piping hot shower was perfection and I sighed in relief as I washed away the filth from the night and the public restroom. I scrubbed in the heat until my skin was a brilliant pink and fought off the exhaustion that was taking hold. I still felt the alcohol seeping through my veins but the nausea had subsided a bit.
I wrapped myself in a soft beige towel and opened the door, letting the humidity escape like a warm breath. As quietly as possible in this state, I slinked across the bedroom floor. I pulled the closet door closed to a crack behind me before turning on the light to illuminate the small space. I wasted no time pulling a green silk negligee off the hanger and slid it on. I kicked the towel into the corner near the hamper and turned to the door.
With a sigh of tiredness, I shut of the light and slid into bed with Tom. I must have been quiet enough, because Tom barely even stirred. He just slid his arms around me and I rested snugly against his sleeping form. I felt the even rhythm of his heartbeat against me and the steadiness of his breath on my neck. I thanked my lucky stars that I was finally home as fatigue overcame me and I drifted off to sleep.
I woke to the sound of the music thrumming in my head like ping pong balls rattling around. My head was throbbing so badly, that it took me a minute to realize it was my alarm clock. Crap, my head hurt excruciatingly. I fumbled on the nightstand for my phone and pressed every button until the music stopped and the pinging subsided.
I had just about drifted off again when the damn thing started up again. It must not be the alarm. Maybe it was a call. I opened one eye and pushed the talk button before placing the phone to my ear. I let out a muffled “Hello” and waited.
“Good morning Cora,” Tom said, his voice smooth as honey.
I just now realized that he was no longer next to me and I bolted up in concern.
“Shit, what time is it?” I asked him.
“Around eleven, I figured I would give you a wakeup call since you were out so late,” he said pointedly.
So he had noticed. I winced and replied, “I am so sorry. Time just got away from us. I tried not to wake you.”
“You didn’t. I just didn’t want you to be late today. We have to do the cake tastings today and meet with the florist. If you are dragging me to these things Cora, then I want you on time, especially since we have to spend the day with our mothers.”
I had completely forgotten and I tried not to let it show in my voice.
“Thanks for the call Tom. I will be there in thirty-minutes. Primrose for lunch, I haven’t forgotten. I love you.”
“I love you too. See you soon,” he said before the line clicked off and I was alone with my pounding head.
I sluggishly ate the remainder of the aspirin bottle and chased it down with three cups of coffee just to gain some sort of a reaction in my brain activity. Only fifteen minutes to get ready and judging by the mirrors response to me, it was going to be a rough day. I looked like hell and my blue eyes were dull and lifeless. I quickly tossed my flat blond hair in a bun to hide the lack of shine this morning.
Then I doused myself in perfume and threw on a tie dyed tee with a long white cotton skirt. I didn’t have any time to shave and would have to make do. Sliding on my pheasant sandals, I was out the door and hailing a cab in ten minutes flat.
I watched out the window as the cobblestone road jostled me. The brilliance of a sunny summer day settled across the town. Parishioners lined the sidewalks, perusing the rows of eclectic shops that made up old town St. Charles. Soon the old fashioned lantern streetlights lined my rear view. I didn’t even dare breathe until I was pulling up to Primrose with five minutes to spare.
Tom was there, already seated; punctual as usual. His brown hair was shining in the light of the patio, and his green eyes alight. His mother was sitting next to him already and they were engrossed in conversation. They looked so much alike, I smiled to myself. Beverly had her dyed brown hair down and strait. Her emerald green dress was perfectly suited and matched her sparkling eyes.
I saw my mother just outside the entrance. She looked stunning in a light blue cotton dress, a white sweater wrapped around her shoulders. Her hair was up today in a French braid and her soft blue eyes reached mine as she noticed me.
“Mom, how are you?” I said as I gave her a big hug.
“Oh just lovely dear,” she replied. Then she looked at me more closely and raised an eyebrow.
“Are you ok? You look a little under the weather today. You’re not getting sick are you?”
“I’m fine mom, just a little off today,” I said, not wanting to tell her that I was really out getting drunk with Nessa last night.
Nessa, shit I forgot about her. She was supposed to be here today. I can’t believe I forgot to call her. What the hell was wrong with me lately?
“Go on in, Tom and his mom are both already here, I just need to give Nessa a call,” I told her.
“Ok dear, but don’t be too long,” she said and then headed into the restaurant.
I shot Nessa a quick text.
Where are you, it is wedding preparations day. We are at Primrose already.
It only took her a second to respond, which was a good sign.
I am two minutes away, go on in.
Relieved, I turned and entered the restaurant. Yellow flowers bloomed on each of the tables and the sun shone brightly into the restaurant. I slowed as I approached our table. Tom’s eyes lit up when he saw me. He stood to give me a sweet kiss and pulled my chair out for me. I loved how kind he was. He has a truly genuine heart and I felt lucky to have him.
“Good afternoon sweetheart. We were just ordering appetizers,” he said sitting beside me.
The thought of food just made me cringe but I tried not to let it show. “Hi, mom and Beverly, it’s always a pleasure.”
“Oh dear, you aren’t looking so well today. Are you feeling okay?” Beverly asked.
“I am just getting a cold or something, nothing to worry about,” I assured her.
Just then, Nessa strolled up and sat in the seat next to me, saving me from the concerned motherly talk I was about to become engaged in. “Morning Cora, Tom,” she said turning to him in a polite nod. “It’s a pleasure to see you Mrs. Fletcher and you too Frannie.”
“Nessa, I trust you and Cora are keeping out of trouble these days,” my mom said in her stern motherly voice.
“Yes mam, we are perfect angels as of late,” she said, giving a slight gesture of respect.
All I could concentrate on was the pounding in my head that had still not subsided. I felt pallid and pasty. My stomach swirled and I felt a wave of nausea. I swayed slightly, unable to stop myself.
“Cora, I have to use the ladies room, can you join me?” Nessa asked, seeing my need to silently recover for a few minutes.
“Sure, excuse us, we will be right back,” I said standing to follow Nessa off the patio and into the restaurant.
As soon as we entered the restaurant, Nessa guided me through the rows of tables toward the restroom. She took one look at me and then shut the door behind us.
“Cora, what is wrong with you? You didn’t drink enough to look like this. A hangover is one thing, but honey you look sick.”
“I just feel awful. My head is throbbing and I am nauseated. I am exhausted and dreading today,” I admitted.
“Then cancel. They will understand, trust me. You look like death warmed over. It won’t be a tough sell.”
“Beverly will be cross with me for wasting an otherwise productive day for her to plan my wedding and I can’t handle her nagging. Maybe I should just suffer through,” I told her.
“Ugh, just a day alone with the soon to be monster in law is enough to make anyone sick. She has gone crazy planning this wedding and it doesn’t even feel like yours anymore.”
“I know, but she will be family and I want to keep her happy. I love Tom so I need her approval. Let’s just go on back, I will be fine,” I replied.
“Are you sure?”
“I think so. Besides, I don’t want Tom to think it was because we were out last night. I don’t want to fight with him, I am too drained today to handle it,” I said.
“Alright, if you say so,” Nessa replied unconvincingly.
She led me back through the restaurant and out onto the patio. Just before we reached the table, my vision began to fade. Tiny pin pricks of black filled my sights until they had completely taken hold. I crumpled, losing consciousness.
When I came to, I found that I was sitting on the concrete. Everyone was peering around me, concern written all over their faces. Nessa was holding me up and Tom was brushing my sweat laden face with a gentle caress.
“Are you okay?” Tom asked.
“I am just getting sick I guess,” I told them.
“Let’s get you home. We can reschedule. You look awful and you passed out,” Tom said.
“I agree. Let Tom take you home and I will call you later honey,” Mom said with a weak smile.
“Okay, I guess that would be best. I really don’t feel that great. Maybe I can sleep it off,” I admitted, letting Tom help me to my feet.
He hailed a cab and gently slid me in before closing the door behind us. When we were alone finally, I sank into him. He smelled of pine and cinnamon and I nuzzled closer. He didn’t question me or give me a hard time. Instead, he just held me in a comforting embrace. I was thankful since my head was throbbing so loudly that I probably couldn’t hear him through the sound of the internal pounding.
When we reached our apartment, Tom tipped the cab driver and gently slid me out of the car and onto the sidewalk. He wrapped his arms around me and guided me up the stairs and into our building. Just inside the door, I swayed on my feet and Tom steadied me.
“Maybe you should take a shower, it might make you feel better,” he suggested.
“Mm… that is a good idea. I think I will,” I said already making my way towards the bathroom.
I showered, reveling in the penetrating heat. I was trying to ignore the pounding in my head that felt like the beating of bongo drums in full force. I was relieved to finally be able to shave. When the water cooled to icy droplets, I reluctantly shut the shower off and patted dry with a soft towel.
I slid on a cream silk slip and headed out of the closet to find Tom. I didn’t get very far though and began to sway once more. I was still incredibly sluggish so I decided to just crawl into bed.
A few minutes later, Tom was by my side. “I thought you might want some aspirin and a glass of water.”
“Thanks. My head is still pounding,” I said as I swallowed the aspirin and chased it with the water.
“Could you do me a favor?” I asked. He looked so strong and I craved the feel of him. His kindness only made me love him more than I already did and I gave him a pleading smile.
“Anything for you, Cora, what is it?”
“Would you lay with me for a while? I don’t really want to be alone.”
“Of course,” he said. He undressed down to his plaid boxers and crawled into bed.
Then the warmth of his body spread throughout me. He held me close and I reveled in the feel of him wrapped around me. I was lucky to have Tom. That was the last thought I had before I fell asleep and my nightmares started.