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Carla

The beating at the door – three hard, loud knocks – woke her from her sleep. Carla forced her eyes open with effort, blinking several times. Her head pounded like a bass drum, and her ears rang. She stood slowly, stretching in an attempt to eliminate the all too familiar aches that resulted from sleeping on the couch. She almost fell over in doing so. Her plain t-shirt was stained from neck to hem with whisky. The bottle laid empty on the floor. The banging started up again, this time louder.
“One second!” She glanced into the mirror that hung on the living room wall. Her hair frizzed in all directions; she thought she looked like one of those old troll dolls that had been so popular back in the 80’s. She patted her hands down onto the bird’s nest, trying to make herself at least somewhat presentable. The knocking continued. She threw on her robe, worn, matted, blue fuzz of a thing, and walked across the room to the door, trying her best not to trip over any Barbie dolls that might cross her path. She was unsuccessful, stepping on Superstar Barbie. She stood there wincing and stamping her foot for a moment, before continuing on. Peering into the peephole, she saw a man dressed in a pitch overcoat. Shades hung low on his enlarged nose. His balding head shinned in the sunlight, almost blinding her hungover eyes.
“Who is it?” she asked, annoyed.
“The city,” the man’s gruff, scratchy voice sounded through the door..As if on cue, her heart started leaping. She twisted the dead lock and pulled open the door.
“Can I help you?” she said. The man looked at her quickly, scanning up and down, before shoving a piece of paper in front of her face. She took it gingerly, unfolding it.

We regret to inform you that your heating payments are well overdue. In response to this, we are forced to seize your car to help pay off the debt. The car will …
She stopped reading then, her heart, which had seemed to have jumped to her throat, sinking past her stomach. She forgot about the hangover as she spoke.
“You can’t… you can’t take my car. It’s all I have… How else am I suppose to get to work? You can’t!” she stammered, growing more frantic with each word.
“Sorry mam, but it’s my job.” He stepped to the side so she could see. In the parking lot below, two men worked to hook up her 1984 gray Taurus to a tow truck.
“No, no you can’t! Please!” she begged, her cries not even fazing the man.
“Are there any valuables you would like to retrieve before we take it?” he asked. She shook her head.
“No, but please, I need the car. You can’t just take it.
“Sorry, it’s my job. You can take it up with the city Monday morning,” he said, his expression softening for one millisecond, before returning to the blandness of before. He turned and walked down the stairs, his boots making a sharp clang as they hit the metal steps.
Carla closed the door. She slid down the wood, sitting on the floor, her arms clasped around her legs and her head buried in her knees. After a moment, the tears started.
***
Hours later, Carla heard the latch on the door creak. She lifted her head slowly, her eyes bloodshot and her cheeks puffy. She’d stopped crying about an hour ago, she guess because her tear ducts dried, but she just stayed where she was, hyperventilating. Glancing at the door from the far corner, where she had ended up after a few minutes of pacing, she saw the door open and her two daughters, Megan and Lily, walk in, followed by Zack, who was carrying three of their bags. Zack spotted her after a moment of looking, his facing shifting from a half smile to blankness.
“Megan, Lily, go into your room and start your homework. I’ll be in there in a minute to help you,” he said, handing them their bags. The two girls sprinted off, giggling to themselves.
Zack walked over to her, squatting down to look her in the eye. “Mom, what happened?” he asked softly. She felt the tears spring to her eyes again.
“The… car. They took the car… to pay for the bills,” she said through gasps. Zack’s eyes flashed with understanding, and he sank down next to her, hugging her. She never wanted to let her kids see her like this, but, at the moment, all she could do was cry. She didn’t care about anything else. “What are we going to do?”
***
It was later when she finally got up. The kids had gone to sleep hours ago. Zack had kept the other two in the bedroom, feeding them and helping them with their homework, leaving her to cry out here. Her eyes felt dry and stuffy now, almost like they were hardening.
She felt it then. It started out as a whisper, as soft as a breeze. It will make you feel better, it said. Make all of this, all the suffering and pain, go away. Soon, it had grown into an itch, and then a rash, until her entire body felt it. She needed it. She wanted it. She had to have it.
Walking over to the small wooden table at the center of the kitchen, she picked up her purse, shoving her wallet into it and grapping her keys, her house ones; she no longer needed her car keys. She had a spare in the car, which was probably why they hadn’t asked for them. She lifted her purse off the table, revealing her 5-year chip. She went to pick it up, but hesitated.
For God's sake, don’t do this! What about the kids? Why would you throw away all that you’ve accomplished? she thought, but her resistance crumbled as quickly as it appeared.
“What are you doing?” came a groggy voice from behind her. She spun around quickly, glancing at the source. Zack stood in the hallway, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“I’m going out for a bit,” she said.
“Where? Mom, you're not going to... Please don't. ” he asked, suspicion creeping into his tone.
“I won’t be long,” she said, avoiding the question as she made a beeline for the door. Zack stepped in front of her as she reached for the knob. He stood at least six inches taller than her, his broad shoulders completely blocking the door. "Zack, get out of my way."
"No. I'm not going to let you do this. Not again," he said firmly. The itch grew again, making her feel like she was about to bust out of her skin.
"Move!"
"No!" He crossed his arms for effect
She couldn't take it anymore. She reached up and slapped Zack right across the face, leaving a red imprint in its wake. Zack stood there shocked for a moment, before stepping aside, the stunned expression never leaving his face.
A cold breeze hit her as she opened the door. She quickly wrapped an old coat around her. She heard one final "Mom!" before slamming the door completely shut. Speeding down the steps and to the street, she went looking for a man that she hadn’t seen in five years. Lucas.





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