Monday, March 21, 2011

No. 21: Carrying Valerie

1. “Shit,” Valerie said as she stared at the plus sign on the pregnancy test. “Shit-shit-shit.” Valerie began dialing her cell phone. She looked around her apartment at the empty pizza boxes, beer bottles and full ashtrays. There were also random clothes strewn about. She wasn’t sure which were hers and which were other peoples.

“Hello?” someone answered. “Val?”

“Hey, Crystal. Remember last night when we all started making jokes about how much of a slut I am?”

Crystal chuckled. “Yeah. That was actually pretty mean. Sorry.”

“No, no. Don’t be. And remember how Erin brought up that every month I have pregnancy scare and I jokingly took a pregnancy test?”

Crystal laughed loudly. “Yeah. Again, I’m sorry.”

“It’s positive.”

Crystal was silent.


“Uh, yeah. Maybe you should go to a doctor and make sure. Those tests are not always accurate.”

“I don’t know where to start. I don’t know who to call. Do I call the hospital or a gynecologist or a—what do you call it? Pediatrician?” Valerie began crying.

“Val, calm down. I’ll do that for you. I remember what all my sister did when she got pregnant. I’ll call you back with the information.”

“Thanks, Crystal. You’re too good to me.”

Valerie was lying on her back in a paper-thin hospital gown on top of an exam table as a nurse slid a transducer around in her vagina. It was slightly uncomfortable and caused Valerie to squirm and make clenched faces.

“Everything looks good,” the nurse said, looking at the monitor. She moved the device into a different area where a small smudge appeared on the monitor. The nurse pointed to the white smudge. “And there’s your baby. Looks almost a month along.”

“Oh, wow. That is so cool,” Valerie said, looking at the monitor.

“And everything looks healthy and normal,” the nurse said and gently removed the sonogram from Valerie.

“Do you know what it is?” Valerie asked.

“No, it’s the size of an orange. We won’t be able to tell for several more months,” the nurse said.

“Ah,” Valerie nodded. “I was wondering if you had any information on help for paying for these appointment because I can’t afford even one of these a month and my doctor is asking for two or three a month.”

“I can give you some pamphlets which will give you the information you need.”


“The cost includes doctor, therapy, the procedure and everything else,” the person on the other end of the line said.

“So it’s a flat cost?” Valerie asked.

“It varies depending on how far along the fetus is and how long the procedure lasts. From what you’ve given me, it’ll be around $500.”

“$500? I guess it’s not as much as all the doctors appointments and actually raising the child,” Valerie sighed.

Valerie got no response from the receptionist on the phone.

“Do I have to schedule an appointment?”

“Yes. We do procedures from 8 to 4:30 every day but Saturday and Sunday,” the receptionist said. “We do require someone come with you because you will be a little wobbly after the procedure.”

“Okay. I will have to call you back. Thanks for the info,” Valerie hung up the phone then dialed another number. “Hello, Ted?”

“Hey, Val,” Ted said. “What’s up?” Ted was Valerie’s older brother. Ted and Valerie were very close and she often came to Ted for her more adult problems.

“I was wondering what you are doing two Fridays from this coming one.”

“Nothing I have planned. Why?”

“I thought we’d have a road trip,” Valerie said.

“A road trip? To where?” Ted asked.

“To get me an abortion,” Valerie chuckled uneasily.

Ted was silent. “Valerie, if you’re joking then you are no longer my sister.”

“I’m serious. I’m pregnant and I just can’t take care of a baby. You know my lifestyle.”

“I know how much you like to drink and have promiscuous sex,” Ted sighed.

“So you do know.”

Ted sighed again. “Valerie? You need to grow up. You’re 25. We can’t keep taking care of you. You have a college degree and you’re working as an idiot in a call center. But even though you work in a call center, you make more money than me but somehow Mom or Dad or Aunt Penny need to pay your rent…”

“Utilities are expensive,” Valerie said quietly.

“So is beer. Which one do you think is more important”

“I didn’t call you to get a lecture,” Valerie said with an angry tone.

“Then be smarter, Val.”

2. Valerie and Crystal were only an hour into their five hour trip. Valerie had tried to remain upbeat but she would calm down then become quiet and solemn. As the traffic on the interstate cleared, Valerie finally began talking about what they were doing?

“Thanks for coming with me,” Valerie said. “I really appreciate it. I owe you one.”

“You technically owe me six,” Crystal said. “Working for you that one weekend last year, paying your rent last February, paying your bills in June, letting you borrow my car in September and going out with that guy last month.”

“I thought you liked that guy.”

“Until I caught him wearing my underwear!”

“You can’t nitpick every little thing a man does,” Valerie pooh-poohed. “Well, I will pay you back for all of that, Crystal.”

“Sure, Val. Sure,” Crystal said. “So who’s the father?”

“I don’t know,” Valerie said. “I’ve narrowed it down to four.”

Crystal shook her head. “Oh, Valerie.”

“Why does everyone keep saying my name in that tone of voice?”

“Why are you getting an abortion?” Crystal asked.

“Crystal, look at my life. I can barely take care of myself let alone a child. I can’t pay my rent or bills. I had to borrow money to pay for this procedure.”

“How can you not be able to pay rent? You make more money than all my other friends.”

“I know. I just buy other stuff and when rent comes around I never have enough,” Valerie explained.

“You just need to get your priorities straight. Stop buying alcohol. Stop having a party every two weeks. Stop buying drugs.”

“I can’t do that. I like having parties. I like drinking and I like smoking pot. I’m not going to stop and I shouldn’t have to stop.”

“Valerie, that was the most selfish thing I have ever heard you say. And I’ve heard you say some pretty selfish things.”

They drove in silence for several miles until Valerie belched loudly. “Excuse me,” she said.

“I am kind of shocked any guy would get close enough to your disgusting ass to get you pregnant,” Crystal chuckled.

“I smoke when I’m stressed,” Valerie said to Crystal as she headed to an enclosed smoking room in the waiting room.

“You’re already getting an abortion. Do you have to add insult to injury?” Crystal asked.

“It’s one cigarette. It’s not going to hurt anything.”

Valerie went into the enclosed room and lit a cigarette. She inhaled and looked out the window. There were only two protesters out of the five that were there when Valerie and Crystal pulled into the parking lot. She was glad there weren’t many protesters. Valerie had imagined a sea of protesters holding signs, shouting at her and possibly throwing stuff. Crystal completely forgot that there might be protesters and was amazed to see a few standing in the right of way in front of the clinic.

As Valerie stood in the smoking room, the last two protesters left. Crystal came in and coughed as she entered the enclosed room. “Val? I’m sorry I got after you for smoking. You’re going through a lot without me adding to it.”

“I wasn’t mad at you. I’m just really nervous about being here. I’ve felt like I’m gonna throw up all day. I almost did when we stopped for lunch.”

“We can go home,” Crystal said.

Valerie took a drag from her cigarette and shook her head. “There’s no way I can take care of this baby.”

“I was maybe thinking of just telling everyone I had a miscarriage. I mean, the way I drink could’ve made it happen anyway,” Valerie said in response to the doctor’s question of ‘what will you tell people?’ “A miscarriage, I mean.”

“If that’s the route you want to take then we can help you with that. No one is making you do this, correct?” the doctor asked.

“No,” Valerie shook her head. “I weighed the options of keeping it, giving it up and aborting it and…this…seems like the more logical choice.”


“I’m irresponsible. I know I’d be a bad mother, I don’t like the thought of a kid out there wondering why his mom gave him up. At least this way, only I get hurt.”

After their talk, the doctor sent Valerie back out into the waiting room. Valerie sat down next to Crystal and looked up at the TV on the wall where an Hollywood entertainment news program was on.

“Another half hour or so,” Valerie said.

“Geez, we’ve been here for five hours,” Crystal said, looking at her cell phone. “Did they say how long the procedure would take?”

“Half an hour with half an hour for recovery. She said after the procedure I may be…vomity.”


“I’m hungry.”

“I bet. You just had that small salad around lunch time. And that was almost seven hours ago.”

“I’ve felt like vomiting all day. My nerves are shot. Probably get my first gray hair after this. You know, I can handle doing this, abstaining for the next six to eight weeks, the spotting, the guilt and possibly the pain but this waiting—the waiting is killing me,” Valerie admitted.

“At least you are actually doing something. I’m just waiting and the magazines they have here are crap. Outdoor Life? Really?” Crystal complained with a fake attitude.

Valerie smiled but then started crying.

3. No one else remained at the clinic as Valerie and Crystal walked out. Valerie was still a little dazed and walked wobbly down the stairs, carrying a little white paper bag in case she got carsick.

“Just a moment,” Valerie halted as they got to the car. “I want to call Ted and let him know I am all right.” Valerie got out her cell phone and began calling Ted as she lit a cigarette.

“Hello,” Ted answered.

“Hi, Ted. It’s Val. I just got done,” Valerie said softly.

“Jeez, it’s 9:30. That took awhile.”

“The waiting took the longest. The procedure was an hour or so, the remaining ka-jillion hours was just the waiting.”

“So everything is okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. A little woozy but I’m good. I just wanted to call to let you know I’m done and we’re just about to leave. We should be home in four to five hours.”

“Okay. You tell Crystal to drive carefully. Send me a text when you get home and I’ll stop by tomorrow.”

“All right, see you tomorrow. Love you, Ted.”

“Love you, too, Val.”

They hung up and Valerie leaned against the car and continued smoking. “Let me finish this and we can go.”

“Sure, take your time,” Crystal unlocked the door and sat down. She started the car and turned on the radio. She heard Valerie softly singing along. Crystal turned up the volume and unlocked the doors so Valerie could get in. Valerie finished her cigarette and got in the car. “Are we ready to head out?”

“Yeah. Can we get something to eat? We can just stop at McDonald’s or something.”

“Sure. Let me know if you need to throw up, I can pull over.”

“I don’t think I will need to. But I’ll let you know.”

After they went through McDonald’s, they got back onto the interstate and headed west back home. Valerie ate her two hamburgers and settled in for the drive home. As they drove, Crystal noticed that Valerie was dozing off but as her head began lowering, she snapped back awake but only for a few seconds.

“If you want to go to sleep, go ahead. I’ll be fine,” Crystal said.

“I will after we get out of the city,” Valerie lowered the back of the seat and turned her head toward the window. “Wake me up if you need me to drive,” she yawned. Soon the car was filled with the sound of the radio and Valerie’s faint snoring.

They were about sixty miles from home when Crystal’s eyes finally closed and didn’t open again until the car tires drove over the shoulder grades waking her up. Crystal exited the highway and pulled into a hotel parking lot.

“What’s going on?” Valerie said in a soft tone as she stretched.

“I can’t drive anymore. I nearly fell asleep back there.”

“Okay. I’ll take over,” Valerie yawned.

“Are you sure?”


They arrived home at nearly three in the morning. Crystal crashed with Valerie and they slept together in bed. Crystal woke up at nine and left. Valerie slept until five.

Valerie had taken an impromptu week off from work. “I will be back to work tomorrow,” Valerie said to Ted, who had called to make sure was was okay after hearing that she wasn’t going to work. “I’m fine.”

“I’m just making sure. Gotta watch out for my little sister.”

“Yeah, it has been awhile since your last lecture to me,” Valerie chuckled. Someone knocked on the front door. “Just a moment, someone’s at my front door.”

She opened the door and a man carrying a vase of flowers stood in the hallway. “Flower delivery for…”

Valerie interrupted him. “That’s me. Thank you,” she took the vase and closed the door with her foot. “More flowers from my secret admirer.”

“Secret admirer? Any idea who this admirer is?” Ted asked.

“According to the card, ‘Mike’,” Valerie chuckled.

“Not a very good secret admirer.”

“No but he’s sweet,” Valerie smiled big. “We’re going out this weekend.”

“Well, have fun. You deserve a good night out. I’ll talk to you later, sis.”

“Okay, Ted. Love you.”

Ted was taken aback. He paused for a moment and glanced suspiciously at his phone. “I love you, too,” he said and hung up.

Michael Richter showed up at Valerie’s door just a little after 5:30 on Saturday night. He brought a single white rose and wore a simple shirt and jacket combo. Valerie wore a white floral dress with heel shoes that elevated her slightly. She smiled and acted coy as she took the white rose.

“I figured you had enough flowers lying around,” Mike said.

“Just a few…” Valerie said as she placed the rose in one of the four vases she had received in the last week from Mike. “So where are we going?”

They sat on the second floor of the restaurant, able to look over and see people sitting and eating below them. Valerie had ordered some sort of linguine dish while Mike ordered roasted chicken. They sat in kind of a silence as they watched the other patrons in the restaurant. After fifteen minutes their food arrived and they began eating. Mike at least attempted to.

Mike looked at his dinner which was a tiny bird placed on a plate drizzled with seasonings and some sort of syrup. “How do you eat this thing?” Mike asked. “Apparently I got roasted chicken mixed up with grilled chicken.” Mike attempted to use his knife and fork to eat but he kept hitting bone.

“My pasta is delicious,” Valerie said.

“Quiet,” Mike said with a laugh. He looked around trying to spot other people eating the chicken but saw no one. Mike put down the silverware and picked up the chicken that was covered in grease and the fancy seasoned syrup. He began carefully eating it but his hands and mouth were still getting covered by grease and syrup. Valerie chuckled louder and Mike began feeling self-conscious about the way he was eating. “Don’t laugh. It’s not funny.”

“I’m sorry. Wish I could help you,” Valerie said.

Mike wiped his hands and mouth on his napkin and sighed heavily. “I’ll just take it home and eat it. Where it will be less embarrassing. I thought this was going to be a hunk of chicken like a breast or patty—not a whole chicken. How’s your pasta?”

“Very good. Do you want some?” she offered.

“No, thank you. I’m not all that hungry. I’m pretty nervous.”

“Why are you nervous?”

“I’m on a date with a girl I’ve had a crush on for years after being rejected numerous times.”

“After what’s happened over the last couple of weeks I figured maybe I should take a chance. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Besides, I think it’s a good thank you for all the things you’ve done for me.”

“Wasn’t nothing,” Mike pshawed.

“Yes, it was. It made me realize how I’ve been throwing my life away for guys who don’t treat me one iota worth like you’ve treated me. And you expected nothing in return.”

“Well, I wanted something in return but I didn’t really expect it,” Mike admitted.

“Oh? And what did you want?”

Mike reached over and took her hand. He smiled broadly as she blushed. “This.”

4. Valerie clutched the edge of the bed and screamed as Mike pushed himself further into her. The strained look on Valerie’s face slowly disappeared as he moved inside her. Her screams turned into moans and she began moving her hips with Mike’s motions. “Pull my hair,” Valerie squeaked as she looked back at Mike riding her ass.

Mike reached and grabbed Valerie’s short blond hair and pulled. Valerie cried out and began breathing heavier. When they were finished, Valerie went into the bathroom and Mike grabbed a couple sheets of paper towels to clean up. He stood outside the bathroom as he cleaned. “That was amazing. It was so good. I’m still erect.”

“I’m glad you liked it,” Valerie said from behind the door. “I’ve never had anal for my first time with a guy but I just couldn’t wait another two weeks to feel you inside me. You don’t think less of me because I let you fuck my ass so early in our relationship?”

“Of course not,” Mike scoffed. “My feelings for you surpass any promiscuous proclivities you have.”

“I’m having a party when I can have sex again,” Valerie said.

“I don’t think I’m okay with that.”

“Well, it’s a party celebrating that I can actually do stuff again like drink and smoke and have sex. It’s been six months since my last and my parties were legendary.”

“I know. I was at a couple of them. You smoke?”

“I only smoke cigarettes when I’m really stressed out. I mainly smoke pot.”

“Ah, ok,” Mike said.

“You don’t mind, do you?” Valerie came out of the bathroom, still naked and went up to Mike.

“The pot? Not at all. The cigarettes? A little bit. But you mainly smoke them when you are stressed?”

“Yes, the last time I had one was the day after my…abortion. It’s hard for me to quit when I have one once every three months.”

“Well, maybe with me here, you won’t get so stressed,” Mike took Valerie in his arms and leaned down to kiss her.

“Hmm, maybe.” Valerie went back into her bedroom and flopped down on her bed. She brought her knees up and grabbed her phone off the night stand. Mike came into the bedroom and picked his underwear up off the floor. His attention was caught by an errant sound coming from Valerie.

“Did you just fart?” Mike asked.

“Yeah. I just got fucked in the ass, I’m gonna fart.”

Mike dropped his underwear back on the floor, got into bed and climbed on top of Valerie. “I don’t know why but that really turns me on.”

Valerie’s apartment was trashed. As Michael walked through he noticed that a couple people were passed out on the floor and there were two people having sex on the couch he and Crystal were sitting on all night. He went to Valerie’s room and saw her laying on her bed, on her stomach, in her bra and panties.

“Kind of sexy isn’t it? If it wasn’t so sad,” Crystal said coming up behind Michael.

“Where did you come from?” Michael asked.

“I spent the night here. I was outside on the porch. And don’t worry. She didn’t do anything. I have to go. Tell her ‘good morning’ for me,” Crystal patted Michael’s back and turned back down the hallway.

Michael went into Valerie’s bedroom and sat down next to her on the bed. He shook her slightly and she slightly rolled over onto her side. “Nnngh…Mike. What time is it?” she asked.

“Almost eleven. Why are you in your underwear?”

“Well, I’m not going to sleep in my clothes. Did you have fun at the party?” Valerie asked with a drunk smile on her face.

“A little. Parties like this aren’t really my thing. Did you have a good time?” Michael rubbed Valerie’s leg.

“Oh, yeah. So much liquor and so much pot. I’m still feeling a little drunk and a little high so you should close the door and fuck me,” Valerie rolled onto her back and stratched.

“I don’t really want to have drunk-sex with you. I don’t think you should be drinking as much as you did last night,” Michael said.

“You said that you didn’t mind the way I drink and smoke pot,” Valerie sat up.

“That was when I though you more or less casually drank. Last night you always had a full beer in your hand and played clean up crew. I was really worried and hesitated leaving you last night with people who may or may not care about your well-being.”

“You left? You went home?” Valerie had a concerned tone in her voice.

“Where was I going to sleep?” Michael asked.

“With me, right here,” Valerie said.

“With people still partying? Even with the door shut I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep,” Michael explained. “I don’t care if you drink but you sholdn’t drink like you did last night. I also think that you may have a drinking problem.”

“A drinking problem?” Valerie shot out of bed and glared at Michael. “I don’t have a drinking problem. It’s literally been months since I’ve had a drink and I had a really good time last night.”

“Did you? You barely said a word to me or any of your other friends and they all went home except for Crystal who slept on the patio. There are currently five people in your apartment—two of which are having sex—do you know any of them?”

“I’d have to look at them…What are you trying to say?” Valerie demanded.

“None of these people are your friends. They are just using you for your apartment and willingness to procure drugs and alcohol!” Michael explained.

“You’ve known I did drugs and drank for years! Why is this bothering you now?”

“Because I’m dating you now and I love you and I want to be with you a long time. I feel that you need to grow up if you want a serious relationship with me. With anyone. Both Crystal and Ted prayed that you would mature after your abortion but it has seemed to make you less grown up,” Michael took a breath and continued. “You are an amazing woman. You are strong and funny and cute and I can see me spending the rest of my life with you but not like this. Please. Cut back on the drinking. Cut back on the drugs. Stop having these parties. If not for me then for your own health.”

Valerie wiped a couple of tears from her eyes and walked over to Michael and hugged him. “I love you too. But this is who I am and if you can’t accept me for who I am then that’s your problem. Not mine.”

Michael pulled Valerie’s arm off of his waist and turned away. “No, that’s not who you are. I fell in love with the Valerie before she had this party and she was a lot stronger and funnier. If you don’t even want to cut back then I can’t be with you. I’m sorry,” Michael walked out the door without looking back.

Valerie started to cry then collapsed onto the bed, sobbing, after the front door slammed shut.

5. “’This is who I am.’ That’s such a stupid justification for this argument. I’m trying to help her. I love her and she said she loved me. I would certainly attempt if I were in her shoes!” Michael complained to Crystal.

“But would you? You are not actually in her shoes so you don’t know what you would do,” Crystal said.

Michael sighed. “That’s true,” Michael turned to Crystal. “I miss her.”

“I know you do. And she misses you. She does love you and she did tell me that she could see spending the rest of her life with you. You both just need to come to some middle ground on the situation,” Crystal said.

“I want her to cut back on drinking and doing drugs and to stop having parties,” Michael said. “That’s pretty simple and, I would think, easy to do. I asking her to stop having her parties and to just cut back on everything else. You remember what she was after her abortion when she wasn’t partying.”

“I do. I didn’t have to loan her money for rent or utilities,” Crystal smiled.

“And two days after the party she called me asking me for $200 for her car payment. I lent her a hundred because that’s all I could afford.”

“I lent her the other hundred,” Crystal laughed. “She is falling right back into the same old pattern so her not throwing the parties actually did help her…”

“She was the same Valerie after the abortion just a bit more responsible. I wonder what we have to do to get that Valerie back. Can you talk to her for me?” Michael asked in a slight pleading voice.

“What for? This is between you and her,” Crystal did not want to get involved but she had a suspicion that Michael was Valerie’s only hope.

“I just need you to talk to Valerie and see if we can reach some sort of middle ground. I don’t care about the pot, it’s the other stuff she does that I’m more worried about,” Michael said.

“That seems reasonable to me but I think you and she should talk this out,” Crystal said. “I can bring it up and see if she will consider talking to you about it.”

Michael stared at Crystal and then sighed. “Okay. I really appreciate, Crystal.”

“I will see what I can do,” Crystal breathed. “I’ll come by your apartment when I’m done.”

Crystal and Valerie sat on her couch. Valerie was nervously thumbing through a magazine while Crystal spoke. “You two just need to talk it out. I’ve told you what he would like you to do but it is your decision.”

“He’s asking me to change. If you love someone then you don’t ask them to change,” Valerie said, violently closing the magazine.

“He’s not asking you change. How much money were you actually able to save during the five months you couldn’t throw a party?” Crystal asked.

“I don’t know. A lot,” Valerie shrugged.

“And what was the first thing you called me for after your party?”

“Money for my car payment,” she said softly.

“You spent all the money you saved, and probably more, on that stupid party. The point that we—Michael and I—want to make is that you were a lot more responsible when you were pregnant and the weeks following your abortion,” Crystal began. “That’s the Valerie Michael wants back. That’s the Valerie he fell in love with and all you had to do was stop having parties.”

“Then Michael fell in love with the wrong Valerie. The only reason I didn’t have parties is because I couldn’t so if that’s the Valerie Michael wants…”

“’…then we need to end this relationship before it goes any further,’” Crystal finished.

Michael had his face in his hand and was silent for more than a minute as he and Crystal sat on his couch in his apartment. He then sat up and covered his mouth with his hand. “Well, I guess that’s it then.”

“I’m sorry, Michael,” Crystal reached over and took Michael’s other hand. “But it may not be over yet. She’s got to realize how great you are and not want to lose that. Decent guys like you are getting harder to find.”

“Thank you, Crystal,” Michael said. They sat in silence again for awhile before Michael spoke. “I really thought Valerie was the one. We got along so amazingly and I was going to ask her to move in with me. I doubt she would’ve taken me up on my offer though.”


“The parties. If she’s living with me then I would have to agree to have a party. She’d have another opinion other than her own.”

“I think,” Crystal inhaled “she would’ve moved in with you. What would’ve happened after that though I have no idea. I don’t know how that helps right now but there you go.”

Michael turned his head and looked at Crystal. “I don’t know how that helps either. But I want to thank you for trying to cheer me up. You’re a good friend,” Michael said.

“Thank you too.”

Michael and Crystal continued to look at each other then they leaned toward each other and their lips met. They scooted closer to each other. Crystal placed her hand on the back of Michael’s head and Michael took hold of her other hand. Crystal’s eyes then shot open and she pulled away.

“What are we doing?” she asked in a panicked voice.

“I don’t know,” Michael also seemed panicky. “It just felt right. But we can’t—or we have to wait.”

“We can’t. Valerie is my best friend. I couldn’t do that to her.”

“Yeah. We can still be friends though,” Michael said.

“Of course,” Crystal stood up. “I’m gonna go. I will, uh, see you around.”

“You bet,” Michael smiled.

6. Valerie sniffed loudly as she put the McDonald’s straw half down on the table. “Damn!” she said. “You sure know the way to a girl’s heart, Dean.”

“Very few girls are attracted to what I have to offer,” Dean said. Valerie had known Dean for several years and he’d been her dealer for a couple. He had a permanent five o’clock shadow and scruffy curly hair.

“Well, you know the way to my heart,” Valerie smiled and winked at Dean.

“How is everything going? I haven’t spoken to you in a while.”

“Well, my boyfriend broke up with me, my TV was stolen during one of my parties, my family will barely speak to me and my best friend has vanished off the face of the earth,” Valerie said. “Oh, and the kicker, I was fired from my job.”

“Fired? That ain’t good,” Dean said. “You’re buying an awful lot of stuff. Do you have enough money for this?”

“You know I’m good for it,” Valerie smiled again.

“Why were you fired?”

“The company finally decided to implement their random drug testing policy and I was one of the ones randomly chosen,” Valerie explained. “I’m not sorry. I was kind of wanting out of that place anyway.”

“What do you want to do now?” Dean asked.

“I’m thinking something with children,” Valerie shrugged. “I like kids and they tend to like me…”

“Now I’m just a lowly drug dealer,” Dean began “but won’t getting a job involving kids be difficult if you were fired from your last job because of drugs? Do you have any experiences working with kids?”

“No but I could probably fake it,” Valerie giggled. “Are you gonna get high with me?” she asked.

“Probably not. I’m needed somewhere else in an hour.”

“Well, how much do I owe you?”

“Um,” Dean tallied everything up. “$350.”

“Ooh, that’s steep. Give me a moment,” Valerie got up and went to her purse that was near the door. She looked into her wallet and pulled out some money. She counted it as she walked back to Dean. “I only have $275…”

“What do you not want to get?”

“I’m still going to take all of it. I already told you that I’m good for it.”

Valerie and Dean hugged and kissed as he pulled out of her. Dean rolled off of her and began getting out of bed and putting his clothes back on.

“Am I all paid up?” Valerie asked.

“Yeah. I said you would be,” Dean said.

Valerie stretched, making her body has long as her bed. “Can you lock the front door when you leave? I’m gonna take a nap so I can stay up late tonight.”

Dean looked at her oddly. “Sure. Call if you need something else. Bye, Val.”

“Bye, Dean,” Valerie rolled over onto her side.

Dean left the bedroom, grabbed his backpack and left Valerie’s apartment, locking the door behind him.

Six months later, it was a rainy and cold Autumn day as Michael and Crystal got out his car. “I hope this isn’t awkward,” Michael said helping Crystal out of the car.

“I’m sure it will be fine. If they didn’t want us here do you think Ted would’ve specifically called us?” Crystal asked. “Hold on. Let me fix your tie.”

Crystal began fidgeting with Michael’s tie as he spoke. “I just feel weird. I mean, I’m dating her best friend. I know I’d be a bit hesitant to see my sister’s ex-boyfriend at her funeral.”

“It will be fine. Let’s go.”

Michael and Crystal walked into the funeral home. The home just had a few people milling around and all seemed like Valerie’s family members. They stopped in front of the door where the casket was and looked around.

“Michael. Crystal. So glad to see you,” Ted came up to them, hugged them both and wiped a tear.

“We are so sorry, Ted. I know Val and I were not exactly on speaking term but it is just unbelievable that she is gone so soon,” Michael said.

“What happened to her?” Crystal asked, taking Ted’s hand in hers.

“She overdosed. She really started hitting the drugs and drinking more. She was fired from her job and was evicted from her apartment. She sold all of her stuff and moved in with three other drug addicts,” Ted revealed. “It was just a bad downward spiral for her.”

“Yeah. After I left her,” Michael said.

“No,” Ted shook his head. “She was depressed. The abortion started it off and everything else after that just escalated it. We all did what we could to help her but after awhile…” Ted trailed off.

The three of them headed toward the open casket where Valerie was laying. Crystal choked up and began to cry. Michael squeezed her hand while holding back his own tears. After viewing the body for a couple minutes the three went into one of the corners of the room.

“Michael, I have a huge favor to ask you,” Ted said.

“Sure. What it is?”

“Can you be a pallbearer? We need six but only have five.”

“Yeah. Of course. I’d be honored.”

“It’s strange,” Ted began. “Even in death, someone is carrying Valerie..."