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The Pucking Wrong Number: Prologue


“Monroe. My pretty little girl,” Mama slurs from the couch. She’s staring up at the ceiling, and even though she’s saying my name, I know she’s not talking to me. Or at least the me that’s standing right here, scrubbing at the vomit stain she left on the floor. She’s talking to the me from the past, or wherever it is her brain takes her when she’s high as a kite.

There’s a knock on the door, and I glance at it fearfully, dread churning through my insides. Because I know who it is. One of her “customers” as Mama calls them.

The door opens without either of us saying anything. I’m not sure Mama even heard the knock. In steps a sweaty, pale-faced man that I’ve seen once or twice before. He has rosy cheeks and a belly that protrudes over his jeans. Like a perverse Santa Claus. Not that I believe in that guy anymore. He’s certainly never come to our place on Christmas Eve.

The man’s eyes gleam as he stares at me, but then Mama groans in a weird way, and his attention goes to her.

“Roxanne,” he says in a sing-song voice as he makes his way over there.

I want to say something. Anything. Tell him that Mama’s in no shape for company, but I know it’s no use. Besides, Mama would be furious with me later on if she missed out on the money she needs to get her fix.

I leave the room and lock myself in the one bedroom we have in this place. Mama and I share the room, but more often than not, she can’t make it any further than the couch.

The disgusting noises I’ve learned to hate start, so I turn on the radio, trying to drown them out. I fall into a fitful sleep, and my dreams are haunted by the image of a healthy mother that cares more about me than she does about escaping the life she created.

I wake with a start, panic blurring the edges of the room until I can convince my brain that everything’s fine.

Except everything doesn’t feel fine. It’s so quiet. Way too quiet.

I creep towards the door, pressing my ear against it to see if I can hear anything.

But there’s nothing.

I slowly open the door and peek out into the room. There’s no sign of the man, or my mother. Thinking the coast is clear, I make my way out of my room, only to come to a screeching halt when I see my mother on the ground by the front door, a pile of green liquid by her face.

I sigh, thinking of the clean-up ahead. Again. I hate these men. Every time they come here, they take a piece of her, while leaving her with nothing. It’s always like this after they’re done with her.

When I walk over with a rag and bucket, I see Mama is shaking, tears streaming down her face. She’s a scary gray color I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

“Mama,” I whisper, reaching down to touch her face, only to flinch at how icy cold her skin is. Her eyes suddenly shoot open, causing me to jump. They’re even more bloodshot than normal. Her bony hand claws at my shirt, and she frantically pulls me closer to her. Her lip is bruised and bloody. The bastard must’ve gotten rough.

“Don’t let ‘em taze your heart,” she slurs, incomprehensibly.

“Mama?” I ask, worry thick in my voice.

“Don’t…let a man…take your heart,” she spits out. “Don’t let him…” Her words fade away and her chest rises with one big inhale…before she goes perfectly still.

“Mama!” I whimper, shaking her over and over again.

But she never says another word. She’s just gone, like a flame extinguished in a dark room.

And I’m all alone, with her last words forever ringing in my ears.


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