-1Joey sighed, sat down at his old kitchen table in his new house and almost felt like crying. They'd called him about Craig, Ellie and Snake. Did he know what Craig was up to in Vancouver, on the tour, in Toronto? Did he know?
Joey shook his head. Took a sip of the lukewarm cup of coffee at his hand, grimaced, drank more anyway. No. he hadn't known. When he did speak to Craig, which was more and more infrequently, he asked about his medication and how things were going and Craig always said fine and he sounded fine so just how was he to know?
Angela was out playing in the new yard. This child seemed okay. She smiled, she played, she made friends, she could hardly remember her mother. How old had Angie been when Julia died? One and a half? Two? What could a kid remember from those ages? Joey was glad of that, glad she couldn't remember, glad it was one less traumatic event for her.
It all lay before him, finding a babysitter for Ang, calling and making plane reservations for Craig, finding a rehab place somewhere, somehow, with his shrinking income and rising costs. But that was par for the course with Craig. Craig had always cost him more than he could afford.
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It was the best high being on stage. Better than the first rush of his manic phase his junior year, better than drinking, better than coke even. Connecting with the audience like that, when he could feel that they were with him, it was like a thousand lines of coke all at once. There was also a dark side to it, an underside, when things didn't go right, when the audience wasn't on his wavelength. He felt almost psychic on stage, sensing their mood. It hurt him when they were hostile, when the audience seemed to judge him and find him to be a fraud. Like someone spitting in his face, or punching him in the stomach.
He sat on the ugly green couch backstage, holding a tissue to catch the blood running out of his nose, listening to everyone discuss him like he wasn't even there, and he thought about the turn this time on stage had taken.
"We should call an ambulance," That was the manager of this club, a short balding guy with blinky little blue eyes.
"No, he'll be fine, it's stopping," This was Adam from "Taking Back Sunday".
"I'm calling Joey," Ellie said in her shrill, decisive way.
"Who's Joey?" Adam said.
Yeah, this time it had been the worst. Worse than that wedding when Ellie threw a drumstick at Manny's head, worse than the time Spinner started drumming to a completely different song than the one they were actually playing. Because he had this audience, at first, he had them. He was about to pull them along on the high when he felt it all change, felt their eyes on him in a different way, felt the blood not just trickling from his nose but gushing…
He could hear snatches of Ellie's conversation with Joey, through the roar of the headache and the thumping of his heart.
"It's Craig…something's wrong…"
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He made all his calls, all his reservations with money he didn't have. Angie came running in, her eyes watering, her cheeks red.
"Hello sweetheart," She kissed his cheek and ran off to explore new things, new rooms, new places.
Joey finished off the coffee and debated making his final call. He had a fallback person, too, like Craig had him. He had someone to go to when things got too tough but it was getting harder and harder to make that call. He had to. He had no choice. He could never afford one day in this swanky rehab place he had booked, never mind the 30 days or so it would take, or 90, he didn't know. In fact he couldn't even afford the plane ticket to get Craig back here.
Sigh, again. Closed his eyes and wished this would go away, this never ending bump in the road that was his adult life. Times like this, Craig addicted to coke, his business just barely treading water, it all came back and piled up on him. Caitlyn leaving. Julia dying. Craig's problems with Albert, with mental illness, with Ashley, and now this? There were no choices. He had to do what must be done, he simply had to go forward, and sitting here feeling sorry for himself wouldn't help. He picked up the phone and dialed the number he knew so well.
"Hello, Caitlyn Ryan,"
"Hi, Caitlyn. It's Joey,"
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The blood had stopped, or nearly. He could smell that copper blood smell, and it made him feel sick. The manager of the place had left, Adam went back onstage, Craig could hear them starting their set. Ellie was off the phone with Joey and now she was kneeling in front of him.
"Yeah?" He looked at her, shiny long red hair, little green eyes. So pretty, really, delicate like a lot of red-heads were but he's just never felt that way about her. His stomach turned when he remembered how he tried to trick her into not calling Joey when she first threatened it, playing with her emotions. That was exactly what he was doing, what he'd done his whole life, manipulated people like they had manipulated him. He breathed through his mouth so he wouldn't have to smell the blood so strong. He'd always manipulated people.
"Joey said he's going to make a plane reservation for you for tomorrow, and he'll call you with the information about it. Uh, um, do you want to go to the hospital?"
"No," he said it immediately, although he didn't know if she was talking about the hospital in Toronto or a rehab place. He didn't want to go to either .
"Okay," she said, like she had given up on him. He guessed she had and was almost glad for it. She'd be better off.
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Joey glanced out the window, curtain-less, and into the bright blue day. Craig would be coming back almost as traumatically as when he had run away back in ninth grade. Joey's thoughts flashed back to Rick, a kid he had known when he went to junior high, remembered the beating he had witnessed. Remembered Craig in the cemetery that night, angry and crying at the same time.
Caitlyn had agreed to finance the whole thing, the plane ticket, the rehab stint, even the babysitter fee for leaving Angie for a few hours. And she had sounded crystal clear right in his ear even though she was in L.A. He couldn't stop thanking her, almost compulsively he thanked her, felt like a beggar taking her money but he had to.
"Joey," she had said, and he could tell by her tone that she was about to tell him something she felt he didn't know, and should have known.
"Yeah?" His response sounded so weary it surprised him, weary and old, like some gray man rotting in a nursing home somewhere.
"Joey, this rehab idea, it might help Craig but it might not. It might just be a temporary solution, a band-aid. You need to think of more lasting ways to help him,"
He was silent. She was probably right, a fast track through rehab might not even help him with this addiction, never mind what lead to it, or what was feeding it. She was probably right. And in the way of things, when weariness and worry replace sleep, if she was right then he had to be wrong. He'd been wrong all these years, thinking Craig was okay because he was with him now and not Albert, that he was okay because he was on psych meds now and not manic, and he would have thought that again. He's okay because he went through rehab and he isn't doing cocaine now. Shit.
"Yeah, I guess you're right,"
So it was all set, every detail, even down to Snake going to the airport to make sure Craig got on the plane. Joey shrugged into his jacket, grabbed his keys, and headed out.
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Driving through the crystal clear day, blue gray road disappearing under his tires, trees slipping by in the slip stream, Joey tried not to think. Tried not to think that he had failed, that he had raised a drug addict. He had only had him since he was 14. Did he really screw him up that much in 4 years?
It was easy to push the blame off onto Albert, even Julia for dying and for whatever faulty genes she may have passed on to him. Easy way out, maybe. What was his part to own in this?
He drove up to the airport parking lot, wide and treeless, asphalt desert. Cars gleaming in the sun, making his eyes water. His footsteps sounded oddly loud and echo-ey. Was he actually nervous about seeing Craig again? Was that fear he felt in his bloodstream, traveling along the veins and to his heart? Was it really?
Inside, that funny smell of rug cleaners and traveler's dust, he knew he was afraid. Felt trepidation humming along his nerve endings. He dug out the slip of paper with the gate number on it and headed that way to wait.
The passengers came off the plane in a line and Joey scanned their faces for the familiar one, and finally he saw him.
Craig walked towards him looking hollow eyed, gaunt, his clothes rumpled and dirty. His eyes were blood shot and he kept sniffling and swiping at his nose with his sleeve.
"Craig," Joey said, trying not to look angry, but he felt anger mixed in with pity. Craig swallowed hard, rubbed his nose again, and looked down.
"Hey, Joey," His eyes were fixed firmly on the ground.