Excerpt for Comorbid Part 2 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Comorbid Part 2: Memories

Natasha Weber



June ripped a seam in her runway dress and a panicking designer rushed over to her to try and patch it up.

June was a tiny model, and yet the dresses were still too tight to fit sometimes. It wouldn’t be the first time June had walked out onto the runway with a ripped dress. Thankfully, however, the designer got it patched up and June stomped out onto the runway, planted her hips at the end of it, and a dozen pictures were snapped of her outfit.

She went backstage afterward and about three stagehands undressed her and put a different garment on her. All the while, June was sweating and frowning. No matter how many times she walked, her heart always pounded.

*

June lived with her parents still. Sometimes, she would come home, go to her room, and feed her habits there. She had dropped out of highschool, not gone to college, but had been lucky in landing a job as a model due to her parents’ money and her father’s influence.

She made enough money to keep her parents happy and to feed her own habits. June had a bad addiction before that landed her in the hospital, but now, she had a different addiction that she was just starting.

She had heroine in a needle, and she injected it into her veins while she sat on her bed in her room.

It was like she was in her own world when heroin was in her veins, safe from judgment and the anxieties she suffered. It was as if it opened up that door to that other world in which Mercury seemed to frequent.

She was in a daze, sitting on her bed. This was only her third time injecting it, and so the effects shot through her system easily and quickly, and made her feel at ease.

*

When June woke up, she heard her father opening the garage door and stepping into the house.

June got up and quickly hid her needle and drugs. She scratched her face a little and then changed into presentable clothes, put a little makeup on, and brushed her hair.

June heard father say to mother, “hi, sweetie.”

“Hello.” Mother replied ineffectually.

“How is she?” Father continued.

June, now presentable, pressed her ear to her door and listened.

Mother was silent.

“I told you to check on her.” Father was irritated.

“I forgot.” Mother answered.

June heard father heading down the hall to her room in a moment.

“Are you stupid? She could be drinking again.” Father knocked on June’s door in another moment.

June took a deep breath and said, “come in.”

Father opened the door and took a cursory look around. He looked relieved when he saw no sign of her previous addiction. There were no alcohol bottles lying around.

Father had been being more kind and attentive of late due to mother’s withdrawal.

“How was work, June?” Father asked.

June shrugged. “I walked and looked pretty.”

Father always thought of her sarcasm as charming and he indulged a chuckle. “You must have something special to become so famous a model in so little time… Even though I pulled some strings for you, a model also has to have something special as well.”

June smiled a little and felt a little proud of herself for just a moment, before she realized all that was required of her at that job was to be pretty.

“Anyway. I’m so proud of how far you’ve come since you’ve been working with Leanne. She really helped you out of that addiction.” Father craned his neck one more time to make sure June was not hiding any beer bottles.

After a moment of silence, June asked, “is there something else you wanted?”

Father cleared his throat awkwardly. “I was thinking maybe you should start thinking about college again?”

June glanced at father awkwardly and then looked away.

Father sighed. “Just consider it, please. Maybe talk it over with Leanne tomorrow? Alright, let’s see your phone.”

June handed him her phone, and after father sifted through her texts and voice mails, he handed it back, satisfied she was staying away from boys and other unhealthy influences.

Father left her room after that, and June decided not to do anymore heroin for the night. Instead, she looked out the window and thought very deeply for a moment that she wanted affection tonight.

She deleted all the numbers of men she used to know, but she still remembered many of them. She called up a man named Ben who used to drink with her.

“Hello?” He answered.

“Hi,” June replied simply. “It’s June. Do you want to go out tonight?”

There was silence. He said to her, “June, we both ended up in the hospital. I don’t care what happened to me, but my parents would be devastated if I threw my life away. We’re not good for each other, baby.”

June was losing him. She panicked, wanting to say anything to keep him on the phone. “It’s horribly lonely without you. Isn’t it lonely without me? I don’t know what I’ll do if you’re not in my life. I love you.”

“June, we’re both going to die if we keep seeing each other. It’s best for us both to part ways. What about art? You love that, too, right?”

June had empty tears in her eyes. “Don’t hang up…”

But he already did.

*

June sometimes liked to sneak out of her room late at night and just drive somewhere. Sometimes it was to do naughty behavior like drinking, drugs, or sex, but sometimes she just wanted the fresh air and to be alone. This was one of those nights.

Father had barred her windows, and so the only way out was the front door. Only mother was awake right now. She could probably waltz out the front door without mother noticing.

She creaked her door open quietly and padded across the living room in which her mother was sleeplessly watching TV. Mother didn’t notice at all, and wouldn’t have if the TV hadn’t gone black just as June was standing right behind the couch and her image was reflected in the TV.

Mother turned around. “June, where are you going?”

It wasn’t obvious when she was a child, but now as an adult, mother clearly suffered from depression. Mother was always so sure the gene would never manifest, but June knew what must have set it off.

One day, when she came home from school, after mother had been cooking and cleaning and being a good wife and mother, father told her that he thought she wasn’t doing enough.

June thought the remark was ridiculous and rude. Mother didn’t work, but she never required father to do any of the housework and only asked that he hang out with June in his free time, which he did. Mother did plenty of work, she just didn’t make money for it.

But father had been having a hard day that day, she remembered. The work mother did was much more fun than father’s. Father probably just said that because he was frustrated and lonely much of the time at work.

But mother’s affect since then had been flat.

“I’m going out, mother.” June said honestly.

“Father doesn’t like you to go out…” Mother said rather ineffectually.

“Mom, I think you really need to see a therapist…” June said with a sigh.

Mother was silent. After a moment she said, “has it worked for you?”

“Somewhat…” June shrugged. “Anyway, I’ll see you later.”

“Bye.”

*

June drove out into the desert and parked her car under the stars. June didn’t know what she wanted. The idea of going to school scared her to no end. High school had ended poorly for her. The only good thing she remembered was Mercury.

Your body is sacred. His voice would often echo over and over again in her mind whenever she made terrible decisions. She had ruined her body. It was a thing that had no value now; something to be gawked and whistled at, but never respected. A body like that should have no children. A body like that should never have the pleasure of having two arms that truly wanted it wrapped about it.

June took out a cigarette as she sat on the hood of her car silently. After all these years, she was still obsessed. She thought about hat kiss on the forehead he had given her and she shivered a little. She closed her eyes with an intense frown and then flicked her cigarette away.

June wondered if she could do anything useful at all in her life. She never had any serious prospects in her life like some of the kids in high school did. She never found that she liked or was good at anything enough, good grades be damned.

There was art, like Ben had mentioned on the phone. Sometimes, when June was alone, she would find her colored pencils and just start drawing. Some of her work she had shown to her therapist, and her therapist couldn’t stop staring at it for a full minute.

Some of June’s art was happy. It depicted a young girl of Spanish descent in a princess gown up in space—ruling over adoring subjects. The colors used were yellows, pinks, and blues.

Some of her other art depicted a young girl being jeered at in a crowd or being raped. Those were red, black, and green colors.

Her art was minimalistic, and her therapist described it as raw and emotional. June didn’t think it was very good, and she certainly didn’t like making it most of the time. But, when her therapist then asked June why she made it at all, June could only reply, “I can’t… I have these feelings that can’t be contained or shared. I can show them to myself visually, though.”

People who knew her thought she loved art, because she only showed them her happy pictures, but her therapist knew the truth.

But June could never work full-time anyway, even if she got a degree at college. Whenever she began to think about troubles, she would think about them to the point until she thought about the worst possible outcome. It frayed her nerves, and the only thing that could quell them were substances.

She drove home after an hour and went back to sleep.

*

“You seem restless today, June. What’s wrong?” June’s therapist, Leanne, asked her the next day.

Her therapist’s office was small and clean with a brown rug and a couch for the client.

June scratched her skin a little. “I don’t know. My Dad wants me to go to college.”

Leanne watched as June tapped her feet restlessly and trembled a little. “June, are you taking some kind of drug?”

June was shocked her therapist noticed. But not too shocked. It was her job to notice. June was defensive for a moment. “Why would you ask that?”

Her therapist, knowing how to get the most out of her, was silent and crossed her arms. She just looked disapproving.

June broke down in tears. “I’m sorry…”

“How many times have you taken the drug?” Her therapist asked.

“Three times. Please don’t tell anyone… Please don’t be angry.” June begged miserably.

Her therapist looked very thoughtful, and then she took a deep breath and said, “I’ll give you one more chance, but if you do it again, I will tell. June, you almost died when you were addicted to alcohol.”

June knew her therapist was disappointed in her. She could feel the judgement coming through her eyes. She wanted to be liked by her therapist. More than that, she could feel her heart beating faster when she thought about how she almost died from a seizure when she had drunk too much. “I’m sorry. I’ll try not to do it again.”

Her therapist told her kindly, “it’s alright. Now, tell me more about college.”

“My dad wants me to go, but I really don’t want to.” June breathed easily, relieved to get it off her chest.

Her therapist leaned forward and let what June said sink in for a moment. “Because of what happened in high school?”

June had never told Leanne in great detail why she dropped out of high school, but she made it known it was a scarring experience for her. June crossed her legs and looked down silently.

“June, will you tell me more about high school?” Her therapist asked gently.

June looked her therapist in the eye, with flat tears in her own. “It’s just what I told you. Justin told everyone I was a cheap slut when I wouldn’t sleep with him. He ruined my reputation. I had to listen to other people whisper behind my back for a whole year. Trisha didn’t want to be my friend anymore; it was such a shallow relationship, and I thought it was so deep. She promised she’d never abandon me. But… Nobody wants to be your friend when they think you’re a slut. He told me he’d stop telling everyone I was a slut and he’d tell them I was one of the cool kids again if I slept with him. So I did….”

Her therapist knew there was more, and she waited patiently for June to continue.

Tears were falling from June’s eyes—her fists were balled up and trembling on her knees. “I hated it! But it felt like he really loved me… I just kept coming back to him and I have no idea why! To everyone, it seemed like I was his girlfriend. But in reality, I was just his whore. He could have me anytime he wanted, and he never loved me for it.”

Leanne passed June a tissue box and let her sob for a moment.

“My body was sacred and I sold it and let men use it as they wished! Nobody decent will ever want me again—can’t you see that I’m ruined!” June couldn’t stop crying. Her cheeks were red with terrorizing memories, and she felt hot and defensive.

“Your body is worthless because you made a bad decision?” Leanne asked.

June looked at her therapist. She hadn’t told anyone about Mercury since she’d met him. He was a special secret she kept to herself. She was afraid that if she told anyone, her memories of him would no longer be special. She was afraid they would become normal, wretched memories that plagued her mind with empty emotion like the rest of her memories. Not the intense, fiery emotion she felt that night.

“There was this boy—a boy I truly loved—he had these two different colored eyes. He was a complete and total mystery, and I was free to imagine him any way I wanted to. I liked to think he was made of pure magic, and he was from some kind of different, spectacular world. When Justin blackmailed me for sex, he told me not to do it. He told me my body was sacred. I took it to heart. From that moment on, my body was sacred. And I liked that it was sacred. But… But then Justin just kept chipping away at my reputation until I had no friends. I wanted to be loved—I needed to be loved—and so I let a man who thought of me as nothing more than a toy have me. Justin thought of my body as an empty shell to be used. He dug his nails into my wrists until they bled. God, I can still feel the blood!”

June’s therapist let her cry for a moment, and then she asked June, “how can you measure a body’s worth?

“I can only measure it by how much I valued it, which wasn’t much.” June replied.

Leanne spent the rest of the session continuing to challenge that thought, until June believed, at least at that moment, that her body was not worthless or vile.

At the end of the session, her therapist asked, “this boy… The one you loved? Are you still in love with him?”

June grinned with awkward tears in her eyes. “God, no one else will do. He’s my poison.”

*

June got rid of her needle and heroin the next day and worked with her therapist for the next month on whether she should go to college. Eventually, June decided she was well enough to try.

She began by taking the lowest level of math offered at the college of Ghrun while simultaneously modeling every now and again. There were, of course, classes for art, but the idea of taking them scared June.

It was a very big campus, and June always felt extremely nervous walking about there. She was too afraid to talk to people. She was afraid the incident from before would repeat itself if she did. She trusted no one, and she felt very alone when she saw students who seemed to be the best of friends talking on campus. It reminded her of when she had good friends.

After math class one day, some of the female students June sat next to talked together like the best of friends.

“I bought this makeup the other day that was way too much. Like fifty dollars!”

“It’s alright girl, you deserve something nice.”

June giggled a little and tried to chime in, “this dress I bought the other day was like, seventy dollars…”

But the two girls ignored her and kept talking among themselves. June hadn’t spent time with women her own age in a long time. Perhaps she didn’t know how to communicate with them anymore. Maybe they could sense she was dirty and she wasn’t much fun to be around unless she was drinking. June had tried hard for the past month to be a good girl and not take any substances or hang around any boys. She hoped it would help her make some real friends, but it hadn’t.

June left the classroom and emerged outside on the big campus, hiking her backpack further up on her back and pulling down her dress.

She looked to her right at the big crowd of students filing out of the math classroom and saw, behind the crowd in the distance, a man with red sunglasses, a cowl, and a comfy sweatshirt one.

She froze in her tracks. She was sure it was Mercury. She dashed after him.

“Mercury!” June called as she was a yard away from him.

He turned to her with a look of surprise. She stopped in front of him. He was silent for a long moment, and then he slowly asked, “June…?”

She nodded excitedly. She wanted to hug and kiss him-- she found herself reaching out to touch him. But he stepped away from her, guessing her intentions.

Mercury shook his head with a little smile. “What do you want?”

“I want you…” June said honestly, unable to withhold her feelings.

He stiffened with a consternated frown. “Are you stalking me, still?”

June shook her head. “I haven’t seen you in years.”

Mercury stuffed his hands in his pockets with a sigh. “Should I be scared of you?”

June was silent for a moment as a crowd of student enveloped them and noise was in their ears. After the students passed she replied, “of course not… I’m crazy for you, but I don’t think I’d hurt you. Would you hurt me? You never told me if you have that gene…”

His eyes were hidden, but she knew he was thinking deeply about whether he wanted to tell her. “Meet me in the parking lot later and I’ll tell you.”


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