“Reilly is calling me back. I have to go. Are you okay, hon?”
I nodded quickly. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.”
“Go.” I waved her off. “The boss needs you. I’ll figure this out, I promise.”
“Keep me posted. I need updates. We can’t go this long without getting together.”
I agreed and gave her a hug goodbye. She lingered, hugging me tightly. I was going to start crying if she didn’t let go, so I was relieved when she finally left me alone with my untouched lunch. My thoughts all swirled around Cameron now.
I texted him on the way home.
M: Dinner tonight?
C: Sure. What time?
M: Pick me up at 6?
C: It’s a date.
I smiled at the reference. We’d gone so far past my juvenile relationship limitations. Making plans to see each other and talk sent a rush of anticipation through me, but Vanessa was right. I’d had some time to sort myself out and I was stalling at this point. Avoiding my deeper relationship with Cameron meant sidestepping the emotional albatross of his proposal. I couldn’t lose him, and I only hoped I hadn’t pushed him too far away.
Just inside the stairwell leading up to the apartment, my phone began to ring. Not recognizing the number, I answered tentatively.
A man’s deep voice greeted me. “Is this Maya Jacobs?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“I’m sorry to bother you, Ms. Jacobs. My name is Officer Ray Stevens. I’m with the Greene County Police Department.”
My heart fell into my stomach. I sat down on a step immediately. “Is it my mom? Lynne Jacobs? Is she okay?”
He cleared his throat, drawing out the silence long enough that I nearly interrupted him before he began again.
“I’m very sorry to tell you, Miss Jacobs, but your mother has passed away.”
"She was found this morning. It appears she overdosed. We were able to track you down as her next of kin.”
“No.” Everything around me spun. This couldn’t be. No, no, no. God, no.
His voice was lower, muted by the thundering sound of my heart and the screaming denial of my mind.
“I understand if you need some time. Maybe I could call back a little later to discuss your plans for arrangements.”
I shook my head. She wasn’t gone. This couldn’t be happening.
I took a sharp breath. “Yes, later. I can’t talk now.”
That was all I could manage before lowering the phone. I dropped my head in my hands. My thoughts spun, the beginning of a never-ending search for answers I’d never have. For all my focus these past couple weeks, nothing made sense now. Nothing could, because I’d been in the dark for too long. Our lives hadn’t intersected for years. I had no information, and I likely never would. The puzzle pieces would never fit together.
She was gone. Irrevocably lost. All the guilt, worry, and regret I’d tried so valiantly to put away all crushed down on me at once. I was buried in it.
I dragged myself up the stairs to the apartment and headed straight for my room. I wanted to fall onto the bed and cry until my tears ran dry. I wanted to upend my dresser, break everything, scream, and cry some more. But for the life of me, I couldn’t find that person. I couldn’t find the tears that had come so freely lately.
Maybe this was shock, but I knew none of that would quell this kind of pain.
I turned and headed into the kitchen, past Eli, whose gaze was fixed on the television. I found a glass and contemplated the faucet. Water wouldn’t relieve this thirst. The dull craving I’d been getting good at ignoring no longer pulled. It didn’t ask or beg. It screamed, like a ravenous hunger that compounded my pain like nothing ever had. It demanded relief.
With trembling hands, I reached for the cupboard and pulled out the whiskey we saved for pregame shots and really bad days. I poured several ounces worth into my glass, not bothering with ice. This wasn’t about savoring anything. This was about making the hurt go away as fast as humanly possible. I lifted the glass to my lips. I inhaled on instinct and released an audible sigh with the sheer anticipation of it.
Eli’s voice startled me, and I dropped the glass. It shattered in an instant, the contents splashing everywhere. The sharp smell of whiskey covered me. The liquor was wet on my hands and saturated my shirt. My stomach turned. As desperately as I’d wanted it in me, I suddenly wanted all traces of it off of me.
“S**t. Are you okay?” Eli rushed to me, grabbing a towel.
I shook my head violently as I stepped back from the mess I’d made.