White Pills and Dollar Bills

Chapter 1: Prologue

New York City



Well, it's nice to hear "Tyler" instead of "Charles's son". I threw my hand in front of the elevator door to stop it from closing as I saw Janine franticly running towards me. I should have figured it was her. Nobody else in this building calls out my name that eagerly unless they need papers to be photocopied.

"I almost forgot to give you these." She handed me two white envelopes with Merry Christmas spelled out in an exaggerated cursive text. It always seemed like normal font was just too dull for a Christmas card. "The second card is for your brother. He left the office before I had the chance to give it to him."

I replied, "Thanks, Janine. If he's still awake when I get back to the apartment, I'll give it to him. If not… I might just keep it." Suddenly, she hit my arm with much more force than necessary. This was her attempt at being playful. Little did she know, I bruise easily and the one from last week still hadn't healed. "Don't expect there to be money inside, Tyler. I work for your father… remember."

I didn't know what else to say so I just smiled. I stepped back inside the elevator and as the doors closed, a huge wave of embarrassment crashed over me. I knew that Janine was just making a joke, but I hated hearing the truth. My father pays her half of what she deserves for putting up with all of his bullshit. Everyday she answers his calls, schedules his appointments, buys his coffee, and God knows what else. She is one of the nicest women I have ever met and is worthy of so much more.

Working for my father is not the most pleasant experience in the world. My brother and I would know. For the last six months, Michael and I have been working for Hawkins Law Firm. Michael had the hardest job of all. He was my father's bitch. If Janine was busy making phone calls, Michael was the one doing all of his paperwork. He worked longer hours than me, but our pay was equal. It wasn't fair, but he continued to bust his ass day in and day out. I was lucky enough to work in the mailroom and occasionally photo copy documents for him when he was overloaded with work. I agreed to work for Charles Hawkins under one condition, that I remained as far away from the bastard as possible. But, sometimes forty-five floors below him wasn't far enough. Working in the mailroom meant delivering mail to his office. I tried to deliver it unnoticed, but after several failed attempts I chose to give up. There is no avoiding Charles Hawkins. Somehow, someway, he will find you and make you feel worthless.

The sixteen-hour workday was over and I couldn't be more excited to go back to the apartment. I still had to wrap Caroline's present from Michael and me. For the past year she has been obsessed with art. It seemed appropriate to buy her a new set of colored pencils. I couldn't stand to look at those shitty Crayola ones any longer. To some people, spending one hundred dollars on art supplies for a ten year old may seem dumb, but she deserved it. Michael and I made an agreement not to buy each other gifts this year. We were running low on cash and hadn't paid our electric bill. I wouldn't be surprised if the power was off when I arrived home.

Michael was an aspiring musician who played at local bars every Saturday night. No matter how hard of a day he had, he would always come home and play his guitar. Writing music was somewhat of a stress reliever for him. Instead of cracking open a bottle of beer, he found peace in the sound of the acoustic strings. I have yet to develop the cultivated talent of a virtuoso, but I hope one day I will.

The bitter cold raised the hair on my arms as I walked out of the office building. If there was one thing I hated more than working for my father, it was winter. I've lived in Manhattan my entire life and I still loathe winter. The days are shorter and the nights are longer. Everything about this season just irritates me, especially the snow. I trudged through the four inches of slush, praying it would suddenly disappear. It made me miserable. The last thing I needed after a long day of work at my father's office was to fall on my ass due to the slippery substance beneath my feet. I stopped at the street corner and stared at my watch. It was 1 A.M. and I was exhausted. I saw a taxi and immediately lunged my arm into the air. Taking the subway would be logical considering I had about fifty dollars to last me until February, but it was too damn cold.

I arrived at my street fifteen minutes later with twelve dollars less in my wallet. I forgot how much I hate cabs. They smell like curry and guzzle up my money. I climbed six flights of wet stairs until I reached the front door. Michael thought it would be a good idea to hang a wreath on the door to make our apartment look more welcoming. The only person I was welcoming was the pizza delivery guy and I don't think he cared if it was there or not. I fiddled with the doorknob until it opened. Our landlord had yet to fix the lock since we moved in. It's not like we have many valuables, but if Michael came home one night and his guitar was missing, all hell would break loose.

The apartment was dark when I walked inside. Michael must be sleeping. I flipped the light switch, but the room didn't get any brighter. I flipped it repeatedly hoping the light would magically appear above me. Great. It was only a matter of time before my landlord shut off the power. But today of all days? Even though I couldn't see, I knew exactly where our electric bill was, piled under the other bills we have yet to pay on the kitchen table. I set my backpack on the floor and felt my way to the wooden cabinet next to the television where I kept a candle. I removed my lighter from my pocket and lit the candle. It didn't do much, but at least I could see where I was going. Our apartment was small and the last thing I wanted to do was knock something over and wake Michael up.

I made my way to the kitchen table and set the candle down. Next to our pile of bills was Caroline's unwrapped Christmas present. I had planned to wrap it before I went to work, but came to the realization that I didn't have any festive wrapping paper. Of course I forgot to pick some up when I got out of work. I guess newspaper will suffice. I opened the nearest drawer and rummaged through it, trying to find a pair of scissors and tape. After picking through the drawer for what felt like an hour, I found the tape. Now, where were the scissors? Oh well. Newspaper rips easily.

I started to sit down until I noticed that the only chair we had in the kitchen was missing. Michael and I were T.V. dinner people so there really was no need for a proper kitchen set up. Confused, I turned my head in each direction looking for it. A chair was missing in a small apartment. How hard could it be to find? I left the candle on the counter as I walked back into the living room, but it wasn't there. What the hell was going on? All I wanted to do was wrap this thing and go to bed. I made my way back into the kitchen and brushed my hands through my thick hair. I was stressing out over a damn chair. The only other place it could be was in Michael's room. I knew it wasn't in my room, considering I sleep on the couch in the living room. I walked past the bathroom towards Michael's room.

The candle in the kitchen flickered enough light for me to make out his bedroom door. I opened the door as quietly as possible, trying my best not to wake him. His room was dark as I expected it would be. I couldn't see a thing. I took two steps inside and carefully waved my hands around in front of me trying to feel for a chair. What a task this was. I took another step forward and stubbed my foot on something hard. "Shit." That hurt. I paused and waited for Michael to wake up and yell at me, but the room remained completely silent. I bent down to move whatever was in my way to find that it was exactly what I was looking for. The chair. From what I could feel, it was laying on its side. That was odd. I'd have to ask Michael about it in the morning. I positioned my body over the chair and lifted it up onto its legs. I turned to walk out as my shoulder bumped something heavy. It seemed like it was hanging from the ceiling, which didn't make any sense. What the hell was that? I rummaged through my pocket and pulled out my handy lighter. I flicked it on and turned my body to face what hit me….