I woke up to the sound of something, or someone, fumbling around in my kitchen. My eyes popped open and I sat up in the bed, more confused than startled. I squeezed my eyes shut again and tried to tune in on the sound. I heard a muffled voice and jumped to my feet, searching the room for something to use as a weapon. My dad keeps saying I should get a gun and I keep saying I don’t need a gun. Maybe I should start listening to dear old Dad.
I grabbed a wrought iron candlestick off the small desk in my bedroom and tiptoed down the hall. My heart was racing as I peeked around the corner into the kitchen and that’s when I saw her. She was wearing a two-day old tee-shirt and her jeans were covered in dirt. Her hair was flat and drab. I glanced around the kitchen. Every drawer was open, the floor was littered with paper and she was hunched over the trash can, talking to herself.
She didn’t budge. She was elbow-deep in what was left of the pasta salad I tossed out earlier in the night.
“Carolina! What are you doing? And why are you digging in my trash?”
Finally she turned to look at me. I involuntarily took a step backward. This was not the girl I once described as the “prettiest girl I ever saw.” Her eyes were dark and glassy. She looked in my general direction but not directly at me. She wiped her hands on her jeans and stumbled toward the laundry room, talking to herself the whole time.
I intercepted her just before she caught the door knob.
“What is going on? Are you okay?”
She tried to push me aside. “I need to get in there, Carl. Get out of my way.”
“Excuse me? You don’t just break into my house in the middle of the night and tell me what to do! What is wrong with you?”
Carolina dug deep in her pocket and pulled something out.
“I didn’t break in,” she snapped. “I have a key.”
So she did. Carolina and I have been friends since our junior high school days. We were tight back then. We had stayed close through the years, sometimes closer than others. It had been months since I’d seen Carolina and obviously, I’d missed a lot.
I stepped out of her way.
“Go ahead. But you need to tell me what’s up with you. Now.”
She was already in the laundry room, climbing around on boxes, searching in every crack and crevice. But for what? I cleared my throat. Still no answer.
“Carolina,” I pressed.
“I’m looking for my medicine. I think I left it here.”
Medicine? What the hell? What kind of medicine? And why would she have left it here? I opened my mouth to question her but was cut off.
A smile spread across Carolina’s face as she pulled something from the bottom of the box of dryer sheets. She made a fist around it so I couldn’t see exactly what she had found.
“What is that?”
I asked the question but I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer. She was already making her way back to the kitchen, headed for the refrigerator. She stuck her head inside.
“You have any Coke? I need something to drink.”
She emerged with a can of Diet Dr. Pepper in her hand and flopped down at my kitchen table. “I guess this will have to do.”
She flipped the can open and popped something into her mouth. As she washed them down, I caught a glimpse of something in her hand. I lunged forward and snatched it away and that was the first time I saw them. Little blue football-shaped dream killers. There were at least a dozen left, wrapped in the plastic from a cigarette pack.
Carolina made a weak attempt at taking them back from me but gave up when I stepped out of her reach. She closed her eyes and put her head down on the table.
I dumped the pills in the toilet, checked the lock on the front door and went back to bed.
These characters were born out of my own real-life experiences and this short story: A Girl Named Carolina.