Fourteen year old Kelly Beckett watched from her window as her new neighbor slipped out his back door and walked quickly towards the trees. He was very skinny and probably around her age, but so far that’s all she knew about him. Putting on her flip flops, she moved to leave her own house and follow.
The thing about living upstate was that there was just so much property. Houses weren’t closed in on each other and their yards all led to the edge of dense woods. Because of this, Kelly didn’t catch up with Christopher until almost ten minutes later. When she finally came across the boy she almost turned back. He was crouched against a tree trunk, head bent over so she couldn’t see his face, and sniffing something off a key. He wiped his nose when he was done and looked up.
“What are you doing?” She asked with large eyes.
“I haven’t been clean this entire time,” Christopher admitted, wincing at the spoken truth. “I’ve slipped.”
“A couple of times since I was fifteen. But I haven’t used at all in the last five years.”
Raising his eyebrows, “You got clean at 21?” Josh questioned.
“Yeah, that was the last time. I uh.. yeah. Not to say I haven’t thought about it now and again.” Every day almost all day. The itch never fully goes away.
“It’s hard.” Josh whispered, nodding. Then, “Your wife knows?”
Memories rushed to the surface as Chris remembered first seeing Kelly Beckett, then first meeting her. Blushing slightly, “She knows. She lived next door to the Reagan’s, didn’t I tell you?” Josh shook his head. Grimacing, “She knew me before I was a real person.”
Josh frowned at that, hating the way his son characterized himself. He did it a lot, referring to the person he was as a child as not real.
Sensing his father’s frustration, Christopher continued. “We’ve been together for awhile. She’s seen me newly sober and not at all. The last time I was using she said flat out she would leave if I kept going.” Looking up, “I didn’t want her to go.”
Sighing, “Josh, look. It’s really hard. I was stoned basically my entire childhood. And when that was taken away I found drinking a decent substitute. It just made everything I hated about myself and about my life go away. But I can’t have that either because I’m not the person I want to be when I drink, and I don’t want the life I have now to go away.”
“But now you’re clean.”
“Now I’m clean,” Chris confirmed.