I may have fallen from my grace
but there is something left to save.


"Philip?" the murmured question lazily rolled off Anne's drugged tongue, the woman splayed over the worn couch outside. The pattern of the couch was gritty and rough, leaving its unpleasant mark on the woman's back. Rain slowly fell from the late spring sky, providing a light shower in the early morning. As the droplets passed over Anne, realization dawned on her as the rain ushered in the dawn. Another late night out with Billy, just the two of them dancing, had escalated into a much more intense situation within minutes. Shit. I can't believe I let this happen. Again. No, I can believe it and that's what makes this so much worse.

Anne, dressed in what once used to be a brightly colored sundress and no shoes, attempted to lift herself off the faded yellow-brown couch. With a groan, she sat up, only to be greeted immediately with waves of nausea and a pounding headache. Light brown hair covering her dazed eyes, weary from the past night's events (hell, from life's events), Anne Shea collapsed onto the cement patio.

"Mom?" the teenager's soft voice pierced through the fog that surrounded her head. "Mom, can you hear me?" Philip's voice wavered as he stared at this mother. She had vomited and fallen into her own sick, and Philip could only guess how long she had been in that position for. He crouched down by her side, the rain falling harder on them both now, and rolled her onto her back. Fresh needle marks were visible in the crooks of her elbows, and the rest of her body didn't look much better than a halloween gypsy zombie.

Philip pulled the towel out from beneath his jacket and began to wipe the vomit from his mother's face. When he had woken up an hour before, lazily making his way through their small apartment as he readied himself for school, he noticed that his mom was no where to be seen. Not a surprise, not a big deal. But it is a big deal. Philip's head raced with concerns, and he settled for taking a towel outside, hoping that his mom would soon be walking across the patio or maybe sitting on the couch for a bit. We're gonna need more towels. The combined effort of Philip's towel and nature's heavy rain allowed Anne to be superficially clean in couple of minutes. Leaving the dirty towel on the ground beside the couch and its occupant's puddle of sick, Philip placed his arms beneath his mother's and lifted her up as gently as he could. He shifted her so he was carrying, rather than dragging her, to their front door. He gave the flimsy door a kick and walked his mother to the proper couch inside.Not that it's much better than the one outside, but at least this one doesn't risk unwelcome pests. Except for Billy.

Laying Anne on the softer couch, Philip went to retrieve another towel, a blanket, a bottle of water, and one of Gatorade. He paused by the bathroom medicine cabinet, debated whether or not to get any pain relievers, and shook his head as he walked down the small hallway back to his waiting mom. Once at the sofa, he knelt by his mother's side and carefully laid the towel over her torso and the blanket over her waist. At least she's shivering and breathing. That means she's got a pulse.It's strange how you sometimes hear parents tell their child, 'this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you' before they punish their children. Right now, she can't even feel hurt and yet we're both suffering through hell.

Philip alternated between pouring water over his mother's forehead (holding one hand over her closed eyes to avoid the risk of her opening her eyes to a burst of water) and slapping her cheeks in an attempt to restore her to consciousness. Once the bottle was emptied, and a pink tinge rested on her cheeks, Anne began to shiver more violently. Almost there, just open your eyes and see me. Open your eyes and talk to me. Hell, vomit again, I don't care, just please wake up. I know I've caused you so much pain, I know that you didn't know about me until my father was already gone, I know life is hard and I hate it, too. But if you wake up - when you wake up - I swear I'll be better. I swear on my own life that I'll do my best to make yours better.Tears silently escaped the young man's brown eyes, ran down his cheeks in rivers, and pooled onto the floor. Philip closed his eyes, salty tears still flowing, and sat down on the floor, unsure of what to do. He was accustomed to these scenarios, no doubt about it, but he was clearly tired. She was clearly tired, or this wouldn't have been the third time in two weeks that she was blacked out. This wouldn't have been the third time, however, that Philip had made his promise. Not by a long shot.

Anne's sixteen year old son knew the rules; he had know them since he was old enough to piece together the jagged bits of their life. For most of his short life, Philip knew that family meant looking out for each other, and the rules kept the family together. You made it through the day, and if the day fucked you over, you either got over it and dealt with it naturally or chemically. Always keep water and electrolytes handy, learn how to cook canned foods, and the most important rule: keep your mouth shut. The ultimate irony of that last crucial rule was that it had never been spoken out loud; it was just basic survival for the small family.As much as I love her, and want to make her happy, her health does come first. And I know we have basic state insurance coverage and I'm not supposed to say anything about our 'situation' to anyone (not like anyone would ever want to talk to me), but she's deteriorating. She's fucking dying. Maybe the neighbors will call Social Services again, and they can make their favorite threat. 'Next time we have to come back here, the kid's coming with us and she's going to the state.' Damn, what kind of person secretly wishes this for their family? What kind of son am I?

"The really fucked up kind," Philip muttered under his breath. A raspy cough emerged from Anne's chest."Philip? Baby, are you there?" Anne asked again while her bloodshot eyes fluttered son stood up in response. "Yeah, Mom, I'm here," he tried to keep his voice calm for her sake. If he showed his irritation, she would become the scared child and start begging and apologizing, and Philip couldn't bring himself to deal with that behavior. He held up the bottle of Gatorade to his mother. "Do you want me to get you a straw?"Anne nodded and slowly sat up, managing to avoid nausea this time. "Thank you," she said, her glazed eyes locking onto her son's faded made his way into the kitchen and searched through the drawers for one of the paper-wrapped straws he had taken from the school's cafeteria. Feeling his phone vibrate in the pocket of his rain-soaked jeans, Philip removed the phone with a look of dread on his face. Bracing for impact, he silently answered the phone while continuing to open cabinets in search of a straw.

"This is a courtesy call to inform you that your child, Phil-lip She-eah," the robotic automated voice began as Philip found a straw for his mother, "is absent from school today, 5 June. The semester will end in nine days, and if your child misses those days, he or she risks the penalty of summer school. If your child has an appointment scheduled and will attend later, press 1. If - "Philip hung up his phone, placed it back in his pocket, and returned to the living room. "Here," he gently said as he handed her the paper-wrapped straw. "Sorry it took me so long."

Don't apologize to me, baby. You have nothing to be sorry about, ever. I'm sorry I'm putting you through this, and I know it doesn't seem like it because this keeps happening but I love you honey I love you so much I- Anne slightly smiled as she accepted the straw. As long as I have you, I'll be okay. We'll be okay, Philip.She desperately wanted to say something, anything, to her son to let him know how she felt. How can I talk to him if I can't think straight?

"I'll get better, I swear." Philip's mom's hair hung loosely around her gaunt face, her brown eyes criss-crossed, unable to directly look at her son. Maybe eye contact is a bad idea. I hate seeing my damage reflected in his beautiful eyes.