“I just feel so guilty,” I manage to choke out through the tears.
I wipe my eyes and try and concentrate on the road, my words getting stuck in my throat as I try to form a reply.
“Because she’s desperate for money and I lied and said I didn’t have any.” Tears choke me up again and a sob escapes me instead of the words. “Because I’m going to get a takeaway and she’s so desperate for anything but I won’t give her it.”
There’s incredulous silence on the other end of the phone and I wipe my eyes again, my vision blurry, snot falling from my nose and struggling to breathe properly.
“You have got nothing to feel guilty about,” comes the angry voice from the other end of the phone. “You work your backside off for what you’ve got, you work two fucking jobs so that you can treat yourself. Why should you feel guilty?”
“Because I lied mum, I lied to her and I feel awful and really guilty and horrible.” My eyes start scanning somewhere to pull over but there are traffic cones the whole way down the hard shoulder and there’s nowhere for me to stop.
“She’s an addict hun, you gave her ten pounds yesterday, her aunt gave her twenty pounds.”
“I know mum, I know but it doesn’t stop the guilt.”
I carry on driving as she whispers platitudes to me down the phone, telling me how it’s not my fault, that I’m not to blame, that I can’t do anything.
“She’s my daughter,” she’s telling me now “and I feel guilty every single time she asks me for money and we don’t do it, but we can’t, none us, afford to feed her addiction.”
I know this, of course, I know this. It’s normally me saying this to my mum, not the other way round. It’s normally me having to tell her we can’t feed the addiction, that we need to be strong, that we need to say no, that we need to be harsh. Even though I know all this it’s still too hard for me to listen to.
“It’s just after seeing her yesterday, she was in such a good mood and I know she was on something of course she was it was obvious but the difference of that to today…” I manage to get all of that out without a break before the sobs take over again. “Seeing her today, on an obvious come down is just devastating.”
Still more tears come, my eyes are wiping them away at nearly the same speed of the wipers of my car, washing away the rain. For a moment I let the thought flow through my mind of what it would be like to just take both hands off the wheel and drive into the rain, but it’s gone almost as quickly as it came.
“That’s what you’ve got to remember Anna, she was on something yesterday, of course it’s going to make it worse seeing her like that today, it’s been months since you’ve seen it. But if you give ten pounds today, it’ll be another tomorrow, and the day after and the day after and when will it stop?” My mum waits for me to reply, waits for my cries to subside slightly so I can answer.
“She’s desperate and I said no mum and yet I’m going to get a takeaway and just booked a hotel for a weekend away and I feel guilty as fuck.” That’s it, the sobs have over taken me completely, my breath is coming out in choking gasps as I finally let all the stress, guilt and pain out.
“And do you wanna know one of the worst parts? All I want to do is pick up the phone and call Sarah, but she probably won’t even answer and she’s a fucking cunt.”
The silence on the other end of the phone is heavy but for once she doesn’t say anything to me for using that word.
“What about phoning someone else? You could phone Erin?”
I smile slightly but I still can’t stop crying.
“I called her yesterday but she was going to an audition and was in such a good mood that I didn’t want to bring her down so I pretended everything was fine.”
“How about Jack from a few doors down?”
I sigh in exasperation, I know she’s trying to help but it isn’t working, “It’s just not the same is it though. Sarah knows everything, she always has done and now she won’t even talk to me I hate her for it and that hurts so fucking much cause all I want is my best friend back to talk to.”
Finally, in the distance, I spot a layby and drive until I pull into it. The only sounds on the phone is my mums breathing and my crying. There’s nothing else to say to each other at that moment but neither of us wants to be the one to hang up.
“I’m gonna go mum,” I eventually say to her.
“I wish I could come and just hug you, I love you.” I can hear the smile in her voice but I know her eyes will be wet with tears, that she’ll be feeling guilty now because of me ringing her and being so upset, and it makes me feel even worse. I already regret phoning her, the guilt burning through my stomach at the stress I’ll have just put her under.
“I love you more,” I tell her and it makes her laugh, but the laugh is heavy.
“You have no idea how much I love you,” is the reply I get and I know she’s right. We hang up the phone and I bury my head in my arms, finally letting the heartbreak out even more than I had on the phone, the tears fall unbrushed, I make no move to wipe the snot or to do anything other than sitting there in pain.
And while the tears fall I let all the other guilty thoughts flow through my mind. I wish she was in jail again. The fact every time my mobile rings I dread the thought it might be her on the other end, to the point I’ve missed job interviews because I haven’t answered the unknown number. The fact I’ve lied to her about so much to try and protect myself. That in some ways losing my best friend is what sometimes tears me upside the most.
The darkest thought starts to float up, the one that I always try to keep suppressed. I start to shiver and turn the heating up. Music going up with it and blasting through the speakers. The tears finally come to a stop and I feel exhausted. Every bit of energy has deserted me but I know I need to move. The sky is getting darker, the rain falling harder and the roads getting busier.
I pull myself up from the steering wheel and indicate back on the road. I try to feel amazed that someone lets me out so quickly, but I don’t feel anything. I’m numb inside.
Glancing in the rearview mirror I don’t recognise my reflection. My face is streaked with black, my eyes are bloodshot and cold. Empty.
I drive home with my empty eyes and heavy heart with the thought shoved down deep but it slowly worms it way back to the front of mind. I pull into my drive and turn of the engine.
I sometimes wish she wasn't here.