The icy wind gusted across the back of her unprotected neck and the wintery night air frosted her cheeks as Susanna, known to her friends as Sunny, got out of her reliable old car.
To her chagrin, she’d forgotten not only her gloves but also her scarf and hat. Her short pixie cut was no protection against the biting January evening, so she quickly pressed the button on her key fob to lock the doors of her car. Not that she really needed to—someone would have to be pretty desperate to steal a dinged up blue sedan that had clearly seen better days. As Sunny liked to tell her friends, the car might not be a beauty, but she was seaworthy.
Toeing at the slush of the parking lot with her scuffed-up combat boot, she debated getting back in her warm car and driving away.
After all, it wasn’t like she was the one with the drug problem.
How could going to a Narcotics Anonymous Family Support meeting really help her?
With a groan, she turned around and faced the building, scanning the snow-crusted brick exterior for some sign of what was going on inside. It looked like any other community building in the suburbs of Washington D.C., maybe a little better than most considering the affluent neighborhood where it was situated. Mature trees draped in white Christmas lights surrounded the structure, and the walkways were all neatly shoveled. Snow covered bushes flanked the wide path leading to the front doors, dotted here and there with concrete benches covered in fluffy white mounds.
A far cry from her neighborhood with an emphasis on hood. While her one-bedroom loft wasn’t spectacular, it was close enough to school that she didn’t have to add a two-hour commute to her day. Most importantly, she could afford it. Her apartment was located in a sketchy part of town, but it was safe. Her building manager was a badass former Marine who took security seriously. Sunny appreciated that once she got inside the apartment complex, she was safe and still able to afford groceries and tuition.
So, what was she doing in this moneyed part of the nation’s capital? She certainly didn’t fit in with her hippy with a touch of romantic goth clothing. None of the posh women around here wore outfits like her black lace poets’ shirt paired with a dark purple and wine tie-dyed skirt—the fabric of which currently flapped in the breeze, revealing her black woolen stockings.
With her eyes tearing, she let the motivation of not freezing to death move her toward the slick, brass-bound glass doors that led to the interior of the community center.
Once she stepped inside, it was a different world. She brushed at the edges of her watering eyes with her leather jacket, probably smearing her makeup nicely. Not that she’d worn much. If she did find the balls to attend the meeting, she’d no doubt cry—something she hated doing. It made her feel weak and helpless. Out of control of her body and life, like her mother.
“Can I help you?” An older woman with bright red hair appeared at her elbow in a cloud of floral perfume. “You look a little lost, sweetie.”
There was only kindness in her gaze, no judgement, so Sunny blurted out, “I’m looking for the Family NA meeting.”
The woman’s eyebrows rose slightly before she gently took Sunny’s arm in her own. “Follow me, little lamb. I’ll show you myself.”
Wincing internally, Sunny tried to keep up with the woman’s chatter as they walked deeper into the massive public space. Shit, why does this lady have to be so nice? If she’d just given Sunny directions, she might have been able to slip out without anyone noticing. Instead, she was being walked to the door like a reluctant kindergartener on her first day of school.
Not the way she wanted to meet her sponsor for the first time.
Two weeks ago, she’d been having a particularly hard time dealing with her mother. Her mom, Lisa, had been arrested for prostitution—again—and had thrown a fit when Sunny wouldn’t come bail her out. Even though she’d known it was stupid, the massive guilt she’d felt at leaving her mother in jail ate at her. That led to some sleepless nights as she battled between knowing her mother was actually better off in jail than on the streets, and knowing that her mom was behind bars.
When Sunny had been a kid, her life had been awesome. Though both her Mom and Dad worked, they’d each lavished her with love and attention. They’d been teenage parents, but they never made Sunny feel anything but wanted and loved. Then her dad had a devastating stroke, which led to a long, slow death that pretty much broke Sunny’s mom. Sunny was left picking up the pieces at fifteen, both trying to get her mom to pull herself out of her depression and keep a roof over their heads. Things got worse when Sunny’s mom injured her back, then quickly became addicted to pain pills.