Chapter One: Rush
The dilapidated bulb swings slowly back and forth, like a grandfather clock on its last oscillations, and the flickering light bounces off the dark tattered walls. You're used to it now, the dimly lit room, the cardboard stench of old wood and alcohol. It's the only place you can do this between hours without getting caught.
You pull out the small baggie from the back pocket of your jeans, feeling the stare burn heavily into the side of your face. There's only one other girl with you, wide-eyed and craving. The rest are still working their shifts and she insisted on getting a head start. It's been a while since your last dose, a week or so, and you're not looking to waste any time. But you're not addicted to the stuff, or so you claim. It's more of a one night thing when you feel up to it, depending on the mood. Tonight just so happens to be one of those nights.
"Fuck," she says in anticipation, "How much was it?"
"95," you spit, opening the bag and picking your surface.
The white powder falls out like dust onto the small table tucked away in the back and you try to pour a line. With the alcohol coursing through your system, though, you're finding it hard to concentrate and end up with several small piles, like tiny mountains of snow.
"How did you score that much blow for less than a hundred?" she asks again.
You sigh in frustration. She's really not helping you focus and it's pissing you off. It was busy at the bar tonight and you just finished your three hour shift. You really need something to loosen up.
"No big deal," you say without looking up, refining the edges of the line you poured, "I knew the guy."
The words slide past your lips bitterly, like something rotten, because you remember what you did. You remember the callous hands at your neck and the disgust churning in your stomach when you felt him against you. The thoughts attack and the only way you know how to fight back is by bending down and snorting the first half of the line. You hate that part, getting it up your nose, because it stings like a bitch. You always regret doing it right after, when the powder burns holes and you can't breathe for the first few seconds.
As you tilt your head back, stumbling away from the counter, your head starts to throb. It's been doing that the entire night, violently enough to throw you off reality several times. It feels a little like being placed under a microscope where the intensity of everything is magnified. The coke only heightens the pain shooting up your nasal and into your head. With that plus the measures you took to make the good deal, you reconsider whether it was worth it.
"Shit," you mutter under your breath as you stand up to make room for the other girl. You turn away to face the darkness and reach up, applying pressure to your temples.
The other girl stumbles back moments later giggling, tilting her head up to let the stuff kick in. Before you can even realign your mind onto the tracks of reality, you're pushed and pinned against the wall. Within seconds, her lips are on yours and her tongue darts into your mouth. The spinning in your head makes it harder to pull yourself together and throw her off. You knew this was bound to happen soon, you and her, because she's been giving you that look for weeks now.
You attempt to stop her but the weight of her body falls into yours and you can't muster enough strength anymore. For the time being, you stop fighting and let her press you up against the storage room wall. You know it should feel rough and unpalatable but it doesn't. Your lips just feel numb because despite the pressure she's forcing onto them, this is what you're used to. It should feel wrong but it honestly doesn't impact you much at all and that's not anything new. You can't remember the last time kissing was something you enjoyed.
Time skips and it feels like blocks of memory have been sliced out from your mind, leaving you with scattered bits and pieces of the past few minutes. She's biting at your neck when you tune back into the moment and open your eyes. Her hand slides into your jeans and you spend the next few minutes under her control. You're slowly approaching that line between in and out of this world so most of the moment doesn't really process in your head and it feels completely insignificant when it's over.
You stumble out into the alley, wiping your nose with the back of your hand and sniffing. It still burns a little but the initial pain is gone. You feel unclean, a layer of dirt settling on on you that you want nothing more than to wash off with hard scrubbing. It's the same feeling every single time you're with someone. You want it to disappear and luckily, all you have to do is wait until the stuff kicks in.
You walk the remaining distance back into the building of the bar, tripping over your own steps every once in a while. The back entrance swings open with your hand and you aim to be in and out as fast as possible. You just have to grab your bag and punch out from your shift.
The faint music sounds when you open the second door that takes you down a hallway. You remind yourself where to go because at the end, taking a right will lead to the lockers but a left with put you right back into the bar scene.
You keep walking, eyes glued to the ground so that you don't trip where someone can see how clearly out of balance you are. For a split second, the music climbs a level louder and you realize that the door that separates the main area from the back is being opened.
Before you reach the end of the hallway, you walk straight into a larger body with your face landing on his chest. You're afraid it's Jerry, your boss, so you try to get away without looking up. Before you can shuffle past him, his arms come up to yours and hold you tightly. You're trapped now but you know who it is.
"Whoa, whoa, Santana," he says, slightly worried.
"What do you want, Puck?" you snap back, finally looking up to meet his eyes.
You notice how he searches you, his eyes narrowing deep into yours like you're his case to solve. He's been this way since he found you that night last week with red eyes and dark patches of skin underneath. He doesn't know about your little extracurricular activity but he's on to you. If you aren't careful, he's going to find out soon or later.
His eyes lower to meet yours even though you've hidden them. He tries to get to you, to work past that shield you keep building. You've secreted behind walls all your life that it comes easy now, like memorizing the key controls in a video game or a default setting in your body. Some would call you an expert, if they were into labels.
When Puck realizes he's failing, he sighs in defeat. You hate that, the way people always seem to hang their heads in disappointment of you.
He gives up and regains composure, "I came to find you and tell you that Jerry needs you to serve."
"What?" you frown incredibly.
"Katelyn called in sick," he explains, letting go of you, "I'd do it but I've got plans."
"You're joking," you say irately, "I did my hours."
"You'll get her tips," he reminds you, "And its swamped tonight so might as well make the most of it."
He has a point and you really do need all the extra money you can get. Working at the bar pays enough for your third of the rent but despite sharing an apartment with Quinn and Tina, money is always tight and you can't quite afford to turn down the opportunity to make more of it yet.
"Fine," you huff, "But I'm off at midnight."
"Sure, whatever," he agrees.
You turn around in frustration to make your way back to the bar. The space in your chest feels tight and crammed, shrinking every minute as the effects kick in. You don't get too far until you feel his hand catch yours again.
"Santana," he says quietly, "You can talk to me, you know?"
You chuckle disdainfully, "Nothing to talk about."
"What about Tina, and Quinn?" he asks, forcing you to turn around and face him again, "You talk to them?"
"There's nothing to talk about, Puck," you insist.
"Alright, Santana," he says sternly, "I'm just trying to help."
You laugh coldly, "I don't remember asking for help."
"You didn't have to," he says strongly, eyes lowering to meet yours even though you've hidden them, "Now I don't know what the hell's going on with you anymore, Lopez, but we're all worried."
You snatch your hand back forcefully, eyes narrowing at him as you approach, "I don't need your fucking sympathy, Puck. Leave me the hell alone if you can't accept that."
You don't even wait for him to respond before walking away. Your head drops down and fingers reach up to pinch the bridge of your nose as the music grows. It took all the strength in you to stay focused during that conversation so now that he's gone, you slowly feel yourself tip toeing back into that rush. It's just a couple more hours, you tell yourself, but then the walls start melting and your head explodes into the darkness.
The sound of the mixer as you shake it back and forth is nauseating, probably more so now that the coke has kicked in and you're irreversibly lodged in between reality and, well, whatever that other place is called. Jerry doesn't know you're high and if he did, you'd lose your job. The staff is prohibited to drugs and alcohol during hours and you haven't once broken that rule. Your normal time slot was over and done with so there was no reason you couldn't go for it. Somehow that's put you on a tight rope with a pool of lava beneath you where one mistake, one slip up, and you're gone.
"Excuse me, sweetheart," a man calls out from the counter.
You breathe out, dreadfully, and peer up from the glass you were cleaning. The man smirks and you lift your brow, signaling him to continue with his order. You're trying your best not to talk or say much besides naming the price because you don't think anything will come out too coherently right now.
"Could I get a scotch on the rocks," he requests, his grin growing wider.
Without a word, you nod and bend down to the shelf of glasses that you use particularly for that order. You spin around, regretting it moments later from the head rush, and scoop a few ice cubes into the glass. On your way back to the counter, you reach over and retrieve the bottle of Black Label. As you pour it, you notice how shaky your hands are. Panic sets and you lower your hands so that you're fixing his drink where nobody can really see. It takes so much more concentration than you're capable of mustering together right now but you get it done eventually.
"Busy tonight, huh?" he asks as you set it down in front of him.
You really don't think you can handle this, talking to someone, because from the corner of your eye you can already see a few other customers waiting that Greg, the other bartender on shift, hasn't served yet. Plus, you can feel your heart picking up its pace and a certain dizziness shaking the boundaries of your vision. Talking isn't really what you're interested in, or even competent of, doing right now.
"Mhmm," you manage to agree after wiping your hands on your jeans.
He lets out an exaggerated sigh from the feeling of the drink sliding down his throat. His eyes shift and scan over your body the same way every other man in this bar does. Something drops in your stomach, like a pool of disgust, and you desperately try to ignore it. You'd think that after six months working here that you'd be used to it by now, the inappropriate comments and stares from customers, but you've just become extremely good at pushing things away. Feelings, that is. That's how you survive in this career, in this world.
"Well thanks for the drink, babe," he says, winking as he pulls out a ten from his wallet and slaps it on the counter, "Keep the change."
You quickly reach for the money and turn around, leaving the cost of the drink in the cash register and exchanging the bill into ones for your tip. The extra cash is stuffed into your back pocket—no, your other back pocket—and you make your way to the other customers, hoping to get a few more of those.
The rest of the night moves quicker than you thought, especially with another wave of people flowing in at around eleven. The bar closes at two and there's usually still a relatively large crowd until midnight. You continuing serving for the remaining half hour of your shift, glad that the orders aren't too varied because it'd be annoying to have to pull out ten different bottles to mix ten different drinks. Most of them just ask for scotch or whiskey—the men that is—and the woman take shots or order themselves classier cocktails like martinis and mojitos.
The throbbing in your head is just as bad as it was when you started the shift but you haven't shown extreme symptoms from the blow. You didn't take as much tonight as you have been known to before which you guess is fortunate considering you had to work again. The only thing that bothers you is the bomb that keeps ticking off in your chest and the roller coaster ride your head hopped on.
You're fishing through your cubby in the employees lounge to pull out your coat and purse when the same annoying voice from before enters your thoughts.
"You're still here?" she says quietly, the girl who did the line with you hours back.
Your eyes roll with a sigh as you slide your arms through the sleeves and swing the bag over your shoulder. Everything has weight attached to it, every movement and gesture. You're a sloth except only in your actions because all else still moves accordingly, you're a slow motion movie in a sped up world.
The sound of the locker shutting bursts your eardrums—at least that's what it feels like—and you prepare to turn around and face her again.
"I covered a shift," you explain, avoiding her as your finger scratches your eyelid. You shudder because you can hear your nails scrape against your skin. Suddenly, you have this supernatural ability to hear every little detail of everything and it drives you insane.
There's nothing else you want to say to her and since she keeps quiet, you start walking towards the door that she just so conveniently happens to be standing beside to leave. When you brush past, she grabs your arm and stops you. People seem to have picked the same night to do that, stop you from leaving.
"Santana," she tries but you don't let her.
"Fuck off," you curse; wiggling your arm free, "You got what you wanted, didn't you?"
She doesn't bother fighting back because you know she's always been scared of you. Almost all the girls here are and you like it that way. People don't mess with you when you make it clear that you don't play nice when you're pissed. They don't even need evidence to believe it.
Once you step outside, the fresh air that greets you settles several of the reactions still zipping around inside your stomach. You feel heavy, dragged down by some invisible weight, and the few blocks that you have to walk to your apartment are steps that you're already dreading.
It's probably not the smartest idea, considering how easy it is to get mugged, but you pull out your phone as you're walking to check for any alerts. There's a text and two miss calls in whom you can already guess were made by. When you open the call log, you're only confirmed by Tina and Quinn's names appearing on screen. You hope they aren't waiting up for you at home, although you know it's most likely they are. Ever since you dropped college last year, turned twenty-one and got the job at the bar, all they've ever been is worried.
They can't see you like this, not after you've taken a hit tonight. Neither of them knows but they both suspects something, the same way Puck does. You only started doing coke a few months ago because one of the girls you work with had some and you figured there was no harm in trying it once. Except, that 'once' turned into once every week and then some.
Before crossing the street to your apartment complex, you stop by the drug store for a pack of cigarettes. The fluorescent lights beaming from the ceiling are a little too nauseating for your current state so you shuffles your bangs over your eyes to minimize the effect. At the counter, you point behind the cashier for a pack and pay the outrageous nine bucks with help from the tips you got tonight.
After stuffing them into your bag, you leave the store and cross the road without having the pleasure of flipping off a cab that tries to run you over. It comes as a surprise considering the amount of times this week you have had to yell.
The door buzzes open and you make your way up the stairs groggily, eyelids weighing down heavily enough to feel as though you'll fall asleep in the middle of walking. You grip the rail and use it to pull you up so you don't have to use all you're energy, whatever of it there is left. You're in the last stage right now. Your heart rate has dropped significantly since you last paid attention to it, the beats so widely spaced apart that you're almost convinced they aren't there at all. It's as though you're shutting down, like a power cut in a vibrant city, and you're just waiting for the last building, the last muscle, to lose light.
You fumble with your keys, trying to identify which one is going to let you into your apartment. It takes you a while because your fingers feel thicker and less attached to your nerves, almost like you've forgotten how to move them. There are four other keys that distract you from finally tugging on the right one and shoving it into the lock.
Before twisting and opening the door, you take a deep breath and try to establish some normality inside you. The last thing you need right now is another intervention with the girls begging you to say something or talk to them about what's been going on. All you've been the past few months is absent, as if the only reason you still see Quinn and Tina is because you live with them, not because they're your friends and because you make time to hang out with them. You three haven't had a real discussion in ages.
It makes you a little sad, and nostalgic, but you brush off the feeling the moment you push the door open and step into the apartment.
"Jesus Christ!" Tina says immediately before you can even look up. You keep your head down, eyes shielded from meeting hers.
"Tina—" Quinn tries in attempt to calm her down.
"No, she was supposed to be back by 10," Tina reminds Quinn before addressing me again, "Where have you been?"
"Calm down," you tell her, grimacing at how loud her voice is when it reaches your ears, "I took an extra shift."
"Santana," Quinn says composedly, "We need to…talk."
You still haven't shown your face yet and you continue to avoid eye contact until you shut the door and take a left into the kitchen. You set down your bag on the counter and shut your eyes tightly before finally lifting your head up. At first, you see Tina standing with her arms on her hips and a disappointed look on her face. Then you see Quinn on the other side of the coffee table, eyes squinting in, strangely, both judgment and worry. You think you're done looking, that you've had enough of them, but then you see their eyes shift to the same spot between them and a third person emerges from the sofa chair that faces away from you.
You freeze when the stranger stands up and turns around because hell, she's no stranger. You think the thump inside you was the sound of your heart dropping into your stomach. There's doubt, so much of it, but there's also complete certainty, the two contradictions speeding towards each other and exploding in the middle of your mind. Pieces of the world, like that wall over there and the door behind you, feel as though they're peeling off, leaving you isolated in the room with the three of them.
Nobody says anything; you all merely stand in the given silence because none of you know what could possibly be said in a situation like this. The hand that you held up to press at your temple gradually drops down and hangs at your side helplessly.
She's grown her hair out longer, the waves of blonde taking over your vision momentarily. Maybe it's the drugs but it feels like you're floating in them suddenly, or drowning. She's taller, or again, maybe that's the drugs distorting your vision. No, not her though. You've always remembered her clearly, even more so right now than ever because she's the only thing that sticks out in your mind. You're surprised with how much you manage to recall—like the way she still stands with her weight shifted to one leg—and the thoughts temporarily clog your mind. You lose feeling in several areas like the tips of your fingers and your ears but you can't tell whether that's the aftereffect of the blow or her.
You're not close enough to see whether her eyes are still as blue but she's looking at you. She blinks widely, gaze falling from your face to the rest of your body. People have scanned you the way she scans you right now but you don't feel the same kind of violation from it. It isn't that twist in your gut because you're disgusted by them more or less the twist in your gut because you're disgusted by yourself. You'd get angry and irrationally defensive but you can't because you know that she doesn't mean to make you feel that way, you just do.
You can't think straight, like your thoughts are a train that keeps derailing and crashing. Five seconds ago you didn't know how much space there was between you and her—a mile or a thousand miles—and you weren't even thinking about it but suddenly she's only a few feet away and you're scared. There's nothing on your mind that doesn't have to do with her. You think she's doing that—kicking away those other thoughts—because that's how it used to be. She was always so good at being the only thing on your mind.
She looks worried, scared even, with the way she pulls her bottom lip into her mouth. She takes a step forward and your heart flops, the reaction causing your hand to clench your keys in a fist. She runs an anxious hand through her golden hair, swallowing nervously before meeting your eyes again. You're breathing heavily when her lips part, mouth opening to say something.
"Hi," she breathes out and the memory of her voice clicks, like two attracting magnets, you and her again for the first time in two and a half years.
Hi, I'm back already! :) This is Chapter One of the new story I'm working on and a few notes on it:
- The second person POV is going to remain the dominant perspective but I will switch to third quite frequently as well, so dual perspectives
- This story does reference drug abuse and therefore if you aren't comfortable with that, I should warn you now not to read
- It will be angsty but hopefully in a more comforting way :)
- It seems as though my head canon is that Brittany and Santana split after graduation since I've done this for two stories now. I'm sorry haha.
- The title of this fic is the name of a song by Mumford & Sons, "Ghosts That We Knew". I do not claim any rights to it.
Anyways, let me know what you think! :)