we left a trail of excuses as we ran with the devil

Five.

Danny’s greatest personal accomplishment to date was beating his addiction. Not getting married, not winning the girl back when he fucked up, not the movie he made with his best friend. A long, hard fought battle to clean himself up and rid himself of the demons that had been plaguing him for a lifetime had cost him a lot but in the end, he had twelve years.

His eternal battle was raging. Danny sat on the edge of the bathtub, frowning down at the small bag of powder in his hand. It wasn’t the first time he had been in its presence in the span of his sobriety, but it was the first time he was alone with it. Thinking seriously of tapping some out on the sink and letting the blissful high take him on a ride to euphoria.

He thought about it often, of course he did. He didn’t go a day without thinking about getting high. He was a drug addict and he would be one for the rest of his life, and he’d already blown through so many second chances. But the craving was always there. He just tried to take it one day at a time, there wasn’t any other way.

It wasn’t unusual for Danny to walk the halls of the theater and smell a familiar aroma late at night. He’d pace the hallways, lights low and hear quiet voices, working out whatever problem that had cropped up – or talking Matt off a ledge when he couldn’t get a scene right and was convinced he needed to throw himself off a bridge immediately because he was a hack – and get a whiff so strong he could taste it and wonder idly if a hit would be as good as he remembered. He’d walked in on someone more than a few times bent over a line, but he’d always been able to walk away. Fight through the longing, put it out of his head, and when he couldn’t, there was a circle of people he could rely on, Samantha and Matt at the top of the list.

Danny had gone to see Roger that morning. The lithe man was a jaguar in human skin who took no shit from anybody. People in Roger’s position didn’t get to where they are by rolling over. He spent his days protecting the company’s stock, meaning he spent the day yelling at anyone and everyone to put out any and all fires. He watched percentages rise and dip, and handled it all with a Cheshire smile on his face. No one saw his real face, the one he had married his wife in. And she was long gone now, her memory buried under facts and figures and blow.

That’s how Danny ended up with the powder. He had blown into Roger’s office, ignoring the poor assistant calling his name, barely knocking on the door. He’d received another text from Lily, an ex-girlfriend, and needed to tell Roger before she blew everything up even further. Danny counted Roger as one of his inner circle because he had to, rather than wanted to, and knew the help he was receiving with the press wasn’t for his sake at all, but he was glad for it all the same.

Danny found Roger with his head bent over his desk, a spray of white inches from his face.

Roger looked up, seconds away from indulgence, cold eyes meeting Danny’s, who was practically salivating at the sight. He straightened up and cleared his throat, “I assume you’re here to discuss the newest script?”

Danny dragged his eyes away from the sight on the desk and looked up. “No. I’m here about Lily.”

“What now?”

“She’s threatening to go the papers about my son.”

Ringing sounded in Roger’s ears, blocking everything else out. Another goddamn problem he had to deal with. He wanted to say Danny was more trouble then he was worth, but it just wasn’t true. Having him on staff increased profits immeasurably. He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Let me deal with this,” he said, gesturing to the spread on his desk, “And then we’ll deal with you and your.. newest problem.”

we left a trail of excuses as we ran with the devil

Four.

 

The problem with coke is that you don’t always remember things when you’re fucked up on it.

The first time Danny overdosed he was twenty four and Matt found him collapsed on the bathroom floor. Danny went to rehab and it didn’t stick because he didn’t remember the hallucinations or convulsions. He was young and thought he was invincible and self-destructive creative genius was glamorous.

The second time Danny overdosed he was thirty two and he woke up in the hospital hooked up to a ventilator. He didn’t remember the powder, didn’t remember the yelling – Samantha shouting on the cliff side for him to give her a reason to stay. He didn’t remember pushing her out of the way during his drug fueled psychosis or her slipping and crashing to the ground.

He still doesn’t. Danny can’t remember a lot of things, but he does remember what followed. That June through December nightmare that slipped away into a moment of time he would never forget. It’s what sent him back to rehab, where this time he let over ten years of addiction claw it’s way out of his skin and smear itself on the walls and leave him him raw and exposed.

He was told he pushed her hard, but was just trying to move around her to get away from their argument, but it didn’t matter in the end because he did it. She fell on the cliffs, crashing onto the rocks below and in that instant the four week old life that was growing inside her no longer was. They hadn’t even known it existed.

Three months later, Matt drove him away from the rehab and back into the life he had been hiding from, not taking any visitors or calls; just Danny alone with himself and the other patients and the doctors. He was barely stitched back together.

“It doesn’t smell like her anymore.”

“Hmm?”

“I can’t smell her perfume.” Danny glanced around the apartment, noting things that were missing. Photos, the absence of her humming, the fabric swatches that were always thrown around in a seemingly haphazard way, but made total sense to her, no longer pinned up all over. How quiet and still it was, how stale the air tasted. He turned around and faced his best friend.

“How long as she been gone?” He didn’t want to know.

Matt didn’t want to tell him, but he was going to, because he had just about enough of keeping secrets. He’d watched the man who was basically his brother practically destroy himself. The scraping and fighting to get where he was in life wasn’t going to be for nothing. People recognized his name, his ambition, his ability to turn nothing into something.

He’d watched Danny with women. Things usually ended badly, either because he was an addict or because he was never around or the girl was enamored with the idea that he was going to make it big, and then realized he was still years away from that. He’d watched Danny pick up a loose stray of a girl and devote himself to her. He was different with this one, whether it was because he was eleven years older than her or because she was strong minded, firm in her beliefs and not afraid to stand up for herself. Then it went to hell again and Matt tore her down with a few simple words because he didn’t think she was good enough for him. It bothered him and he didn’t know why, but he wasn’t going to let her ghost haunt him. He couldn’t tell if a storm was coming, or already came.

“Weeks now. Something about a semester abroad and maybe she wouldn’t come back, I don’t know. I came by to grab some of your stuff and she was packing up. Don’t worry about it.”

Danny’s stitches came loose.

 

The devil rolled the dice on Monday morning. Samantha headed her mother off by sending her a link to the story with a text that told her she was fine and to stay where she was. Danny was right, she would be on the next train up, and fuck if she was dealing with her face to face too.

“Are you ever going to forgive me?”

Startled, a bit too in her own head, Samantha stopped herself from sighing, and rolled her eyes at the board she was looking at. “Stop blaming yourself, Danny. Don’t worry about it.”

“You say ‘don’t worry about it’ a lot.”

“I learned from Matt.”

“He learned from me.”

They were sitting in the kitchen, Danny with his laptop open watching nonsense that was frying his brain, his feet kicked up on the table. The late morning sun streaming through the windows was making him squint but it was also casting a glow around his wife that made him think of beach days in Newport and long walks through Audubon Park in the afternoon. Once, during that spring break long ago, Danny had taken her to where he grew up. While walking through the outskirts of the Garden District, a homeless person tried to stop them to tell Samantha that she had the brightest aura around her. She grabbed Danny’s hand tightly and pulled him away, but he had wanted to stop and chat with the guy; he was right.

Samantha had set up a project she was working on against the row of windows in the kitchen because the natural light was good for seeing color. She was trying to match a piece of fabric but all Danny could see was a woman in her element. Her messy hair had fallen out of its ponytail, the tie attempting to reign it all in having lost the battle. He loved her when she was dreaming, but he loved her the best like this. In ripped sweaters and loose shorts, so focused on her work that she forgot everything around her. It wasn’t unusual for her to forget there were other people in a room with her, so absorbed she could get.

“Why don’t you let the design team handle that?”

“Because they won’t take into consideration the price and send in a velvet. The customer will love it and I’ll be annoyed later trying to cost it out. It’s too expensive.”

Danny understood that, price margins were a part of his job, but he wished she had just taken the day off instead of working from home. Their morning had been mostly pleasant. After Samantha shot off a text to her mom they had both turned off their phones. They had set up with coffee and toast and spoke to each other quietly, just enjoying being together like they always did when time allowed.

Eventually, Samantha put her swatches down and turned back to Danny. He was watching her with crinkled eyes and rumpled clothes; he’d never bothered to change this morning. He looked soft and tired, but smiled sadly and sweetly at her as she made her way toward him. Reaching out to push his feet off the table, she felt herself smile back and climbed into his lap.

Pushing her forehead into his and meeting his eyes, she said “I’m happier to have you then be mad at you. I’m.. really sad this is happening, but Danny this isn’t your fault. Listen to me. I hate this. So much. And it’s not okay. But I’m not blaming you.” She pressed her lips to his slowly, letting the kiss linger before pulling away. “I don’t know why all of this is such a big deal or what we did to piss someone off, but if you’re waiting for me to fall apart, I’m not going to. You’re out of luck.”

“I feel like we’re on our way to being burned down,” Danny admitted.