COED DEMON SLUTS: BETH
“I have called your brother,” Beth said, trying to keep impatience and desperation out of her voice. “He won’t listen to me. Please listen, Darleen.” Her now-ringless fingers clutched her cell phone. “Your father’s settlement check bounced. I have no money.” She’d sold the last ring three weeks ago.
“But you still have the house,” her daughter said.
“You know he took the house, Darleen,” Beth said, trying not to sound whiny.
“Mom, can’t you stay there another month or so? We have the Chinese exchange student in the spare room.”
Panic rose in Beth’s chest and stuck in her throat. Something moved on the edge of her view. She turned her head swiftly. A cockroach crawled down the wall of her motel room. She squeaked and shrank away in revulsion. A bed thumped rhythmically against the other side of the wall.
Over the phone, Darleen sighed. “I suppose we could let the au pair go. You could have her room. You still don’t have a job?” Her tone implied, You’re not trying, are you, Mom? With audible reluctance she said, “You like babies. It’ll be something for you to do. Only for a month or so, though. We were so hoping they would learn French early. You know you don’t speak French.”
That was a new offer. Beth sensed it was the limit of Darleen’s generosity. Somehow in twenty-eight years of endless care and worry and the thoughtless outpouring of her love, she had failed. She hadn’t learned how to get through to her kids. Her heart twisted in her chest. But I love you! she wailed inside, unable to say it aloud for fear of what Darleen would say back. I would do anything for you!
“If we let the au pair go, we can put the money we save into their college funds,” Darleen added, as if talking herself into it.
Beth couldn’t listen to another word. Carefully she thumbed the phone off. She pulled in a shuddering sigh, and pain tore her in half. Then she breathed in again, and pain tore her in quarters. If she kept doing that, she’d soon be in tiny, tiny shreds.
She’d tried to kill herself two months ago and failed, too angry to die. Then she’d taken as much cash as she could find, packed one suitcase, and moved to this roach-infested motel in the city.
Tonight, she found herself looking at the suicide option again.
Her anger had burnt itself out. Now she was just afraid, paralyzed, and every breath brought back the voices of her children rejecting her when she needed them the most. That betrayal was tearing the heart out of her body. She would die rather than feel it.
Her Coach clutch lay next to her phone, the sensible strap grubby from being carried every day while its companions went one by one to the pawn shop. Beth opened it and found her last two twenty dollar bills. Could she afford to get drunk enough to kill herself?
If she spent it at a liquor store, definitely, yes. But Beth couldn’t be alone one more minute. The idea of spending her last night in this room, drinking herself to death, was too sordid. No. A few cheap margaritas and then she’d step in front of a train.
She went to the bar around the corner.
That was where the evening went strange.
Now Beth sat at a rickety cocktail table in a grim neighborhood bar, drinking margaritas and staring in disbelief at the woman who had just offered her a contract with hell. …