"Waiting, watching the clock;
it's four o'clock, it's got to stop—"
Gillian Foster laid awake in bed, the covers of the down comforter pulled taut to her chin. She did her best to ignore the glow that came from the green numbers on the clock at the side of her bed. The digital readout told her the late hour and consequently where her husband had been.
Alec was out doing lines off some mahogany conference table. She imagined the white powder lain out in a perfect straight little line, and the way Alec would lean over, pinch his right nostril and inhale sharply with his left. She imagined the residue still around his nose as he rubbed it, enjoying the exhilaration of it all.
He'd stumble into their bedroom, hours later, his eyes bloodshot, and he'd either be horny or hungry—she'd never been able to accurately predict which.
Sighing, she flipped over onto her side and stared at the numbers—3:47AM. The nights just seemed to get later and later, and it had been going on for months now. At least he didn't try to hide it from her—he'd given up insulting her intelligence after his first battle with the drug which happened exactly two years into their marriage.
She'd flipped when she'd found out that first time—how could you, Alec? She'd screamed at him, and they'd fought and yelled and he'd stormed out of the door and she'd been left alone with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She'd cleaned the whole house—twice, before he came back and said he'd get help. To his credit, he really did go to rehab. And she redecorated their entire house during the awful 14 months it took for him to finally kick the habit.
He'd brought her flowers that day and told her he was clean, finally, and that he wanted to start trying to have a child with her.
They made love three times that night, and Gillian couldn't help but see Alec as the boy she'd fell in love with way back in college—his geeky glasses, his rumpled clothes, the way he confidently talked about everything in class—and the way they'd debated those first few months of their relationship. The way he could talk about anything from biology to Tolstoy (his favorite, and not just of the Russians). Back then, they'd just sit in the lobby of their dormitory, she clad in her sweats, hair wild, sipping coffee—he in jeans and a wrinkled shirt, pushing his glasses up on his nose every time he felt truly passionate about a point. Ah, but that's the metanarrative. And that was the moment she fell in love with him.
She'd married him three months after graduation in a small ceremony, and he'd said the loveliest vows to her and even managed to press his shirt—although she did rather miss the wrinkles.
Gillian liked seeing Alec as that boy.
As the minutes ticked by and Gillian's ears strained to hear his car pull up in the driveway, she recognized that what his rehabilitation had allotted him, his recidivism had taken away completely—she knew she'd never be able to see him as that boy again, and the thought tore at her heart in a peculiar kind of way.
She hadn't been expecting the relapse—and to his credit, he didn't lie to her about it.
The first night he came in at 4:02 in the morning, he'd told her.
Where have you been?
He'd said it so simply—and then added, I'm sorry.
She didn't yell; she didn't scream. She just silently grabbed him by the hand and ascended the stairs—and she slept soundly, holding him.
Two weeks later, she did her first line of cocaine. They were at home, talking casually, the television humming in the background and the words just somehow tumbled out of her—
"I want to try it." She'd said, suddenly, her voice quiet.
"What?" He'd asked, genuinely astonished.
"Coke." She said simply, "I want to try it."
Alec hesitated, trying to gauge whether or not she was serious. She nodded her head in the affirmative—and he shrugged, then went to go find the bag he'd hidden.
Gillian didn't miss the excitement that passed over his face—and she felt her stomach do a little jump, nervous about what would happen. It wasn't as though she hadn't thought long and hard about it. She loved Alec, after all, and she was curious about the illicit substance that held his attention in ways that she seemed unable to. She wanted to share the experience with him—if only to understand a little piece of him in a way she never had before. But, also, she realized, because she hoped that it would bring them closer together—that it could repair what she felt breaking between them.
She had been in bed the night after he told her he'd been using again and she could feel him slipping away. She could feel everything she'd worked so hard for slipping away—and she wondered if she would ever forgive herself if she didn't try everything little she could think of to save her marriage. Alec was the only man she'd ever really known—she'd fallen for him hard when she was young mainly because he was the first boy to ever pay serious attention to her. Gillian tried that night, but she couldn't imagine her life without Alec in it.
Alec had walked down the stairs, bag of freebase cocaine in hand. Smiling at her, Alec grabbed a book off the shelf. Gillian read a strange mix of exhilaration and apprehension in his smile, and she felt the same feelings begin in herself. Settling down in front of the coffee table, Alec set the book down and Gillian couldn't help but laugh when she saw it. Alec poured the cocaine deftly into four neat little lines and tentatively handed the hollowed out pen to Gillian.
She swallowed hard, and shook her head. He nervously shrugged and she watched as he put the end of the makeshift tube at one end of the line and snorted quickly, following with precision the path he'd made.
He sniffled, and rubbed his nose, and looked at her—gauging her reaction. She didn't really have one—she felt rather numb, actually. He held out the pen to her again, and she took it this time, never breaking his gaze.
She saw his pupils dilate and knew that it was as much from arousal as it was from elation of doing the drug. She should feel sickened by that, but she didn't. Instead, she smiled at him—a small sort of smile, and did as he had done, though not quite as adeptly as he had.
It burned her nose a little, and she wrinkled it and then watched as Alec leaned forward and kissed her hard on the mouth, tangling his hands in the mass of her hair. Breaking the kiss, he eased the tube out of her hand and leaned his head down again—
She followed him again, and one more time, twenty minutes after that to maintain the high. She felt euphoric and elated and she and Alec sat up talking about every deep thing they'd forgotten how to talk about since they got married and then they fucked three times—once on the coffee table—twice on the floor, and then they'd fallen asleep.
Gillian went to work the next day—hungover beyond belief, and she saw her business partner, Cal Lightman in the hallway.
"Oi, Foster," He had said, "Rough night?" Concern etched his brow, as he thrust a case file out at her.
"I'm fine, Cal." Was her reply, and she smiled at him as she took the case file and walked down the hallway.
He let it go. And she got endless looks from her employees that day—all perplexed at her disheveled appearance—after all, Gillian Foster rarely looked anything less than perfect.
No one guessed that she had been up until four in the morning doing lines of coke off an old copy of Anna Karenina with her husband of 18 years.
While nobody could guess at what Gillian had done the previous night (and if they were guessing, they were invariably wrong), for her part, Gillian hated herself the next day—when the weight of what she had actually done began to sink in. She sat at her desk and laid her head on her arm. She shuddered as the sobs began to wrack her body. She cried for a good fifteen minutes all the while thoughts of the boy her husband used to be passed through her head. When she stopped crying, she turned her thoughts to the girl she used to be—before Alec—before everything, really.
The impossibility of her situation struck her as funny and she laughed a little bit, the sound echoing through her empty office, her head still on her arm, forehead pressed down heavily into her forearm.
"Alright, love?" Cal asked from the doorway.
She didn't bother lifting her head up, just made a little noise that was meant to say that she was, indeed, alright.
Cal strolled into her office and sat in her chair. They sat in silence until Gillian finally got up and walked wordlessly out the door, grabbing her purse and jacket as she left.
The second and last time she did cocaine came two weeks after that. This time, it was her husband's idea—he was restless, a quality that the upwardly mobile never truly shake, and tension at work was to blame.
She wasn't ever really sure how they even got to that point—but it ended with her lying flat on her back, clad only in her bra and panties, as Alec poured the white powder into a neat little line on her abdomen.
She felt his breath on her skin and then felt the light pressure of him snorting the cocaine—when he was done, he kept his head lowered, his breath still on her abdomen.
"God," he breathed out, his pupils dilated, "You're beautiful, Gillian."
High for only the second time in her life, Gillian began to cry—Alec mistook her emotion for something it wasn't and began to kiss her passionately through her tears—and Gillian clutched at him, holding his head close to hers by grasping at the small hairs near the nape of his neck.
"So fucking beautiful." He'd breathed, as he pulled away from her.
Gillian smiled, thankful that her husband couldn't read faces—she'd never felt uglier in her life.