Chapter 1 – The Alpha

“Everything used to be perfect,” She thought to herself as she lay in bed. Her favorite stuffed purple fuzzy monkey, Roger, held tightly against her chest by her two folded, crossed arms. It had been a rough three years for Zoe Parker. Her parents had been married for ten years. They had been a normal, happy family for those ten years. Then it all fell apart. A little bit of bickering evolved into full on shouting matches. Any resemblance of that loving, quant family was gone. Zoe didn’t know how it got that bad. It wasn’t something she could see coming or predict. It just seemed to grow, like a storm coming off the lake and then suddenly the little drops of rain turned into a huge down pour accompanied by the crashing thunder of broken dishes and screamed curses.

She lay there, chin tucked into her chest, nuzzling her nose into the fuzzy head of Roger. She could hear her mother screaming again. This time it was because Zoe’s father was unable to make the six hour trip for a visit he scheduled months ago. It had to do with work or something, Zoe found herself numb to the ever growing spew of reasons. She didn’t care anymore. She had spoken to her father on the phone three times in the past eighteen months and seen him two times less than that. She didn’t expect him to come.

Her mother was a different story. You never realize how much a woman can change when she loses the man she loves and her heart shatters. Sandra Parker always seemed to be more upset that she wouldn’t see Zoe’s father rather than he cared enough to make the trip to see Zoe. Indeed, even after three years she was still in love with him. When he left she tried to fill the void inside her with some light drinking. An occasional wine with dinner, going out for drinks with friends every now and then, these were all completely normal for an adult to do in Zoe’s mind. It’s when things began to escalate that Zoe could see her mother was developing a problem. One glass of wine at night turned into numerous glasses throughout the day. Going out for a drink once a week had turned into NOT going out once a week.

The drinking had stopped a year ago. That was when Sandra found out Zoe’s father had remarried. The news came without notice. Just a call one afternoon to announce that he had met someone a year ago, they had gotten married in a tiny ceremony a week ago and that he was moving six hours away with his new wife and her daughter. A love story wrapped up in a 5 minute phone call. Zoe didn’t blame her father for hiding it. For the same reason she didn’t blame her father for not making more of an effort to see her. Since the split Zoe’s mother was a different person. The loving, warm woman who loved to bake Oatmeal cookies, color with crayons and never once swore; that woman Zoe knew as her mother was replaced with an empty, cold woman who when she wasn’t furiously angry was an emotionless zombie of a mother.

But her mother putting away the alcohol wasn’t the blessing it should have been for Zoe. The bottle had been replaced with a needle. Zoe noticed the tell tale signs of heroin use right away but couldn’t put the pieces together and realize that’s where they pointed. She had noticed her mother’s sudden drop in weight, the heavy bags under her eyes, and the fact that she never slept at night. Whereas before Zoe’s mother was constantly yelling at her about something, making her feel like her father leaving was her fault, making her feel as if she ruined her mother’s life; at least now her mother stopped yelling and would mostly just leave Zoe to herself. While this wasn’t the ideal life for Zoe she saw it as an improvement and figured things could continue to get better over time.

Then three months ago her eyes were opened. She came home from school and had to use the restroom. The bathroom door was locked and her mother was inside.

“Mom, I have to use the bathroom,” Zoe said through the wooden door.

Her mother replied with a frantic tone, “Zoe, you’re going to have to wait. I’m busy in here.”

“Mom, I can’t wait. I REALLY gotta go,” Zoe pleaded with her mom.

Her mother’s rushed tone spat back, “Just go away Zoe. Let me be. Go away.”

Like the majority of older houses there is usually a trick to unlocking the bathroom door. Zoe learned this trick long ago. She went to the kitchen, grabbed a butter knife and returned to the locked entrance. She stealthy wedged the blade between the door and its frame. With an experienced flick of the wrist, she popped the mechanism and the door slowly swung open. Zoe looked at her mother and the butter knife slipped from her then limp fingers and fell to the floor.

Directly in front of Zoe was her mother, sitting on the toilet, sprawled back against the tank, legs and arms spread out. On the middle of her left arm was a just untightened rubber tube, on her forearm fresh needle marks and on the sink counter next to her lay a needle, a bent blackened spoon, lighter and a small plastic baggie with white powdery residue. Sandra Parker tried to reach out for her daughter, tried to offer some kind of explanation, but instead only incoherent babble fell from her lips. She dropped her hand in defeat, slinked back against the toilet and let her eyes roll into the back of her head as the high took her over.

Zoe stared, mouth gaping open, unable to move, or think or feel. She witnessed her mother’s fruitless attempt to explain, she saw the evidence and while only being thirteen years old was by no means a dummy. She knew her mother had just shot up with heroine. Zoe, without making a sound, reached up, grabbed the bathroom door handle and slowly closed it behind her. She walked, step by step to her room. She crawled into bed, reached out, pulled Roger’s furry body into her own, rolled to her side, stared blankly at the wall and began to weep.

It wouldn’t be the last time Zoe found solace in the embrace of her purple monkey Roger and the solitude of staring at the wall. For the next three months, every time she saw her mother and knew she was high she would slowly walk to her room, grab Roger and continue her position staring at the wall and sobbing. This would happen three to four times a week for the next three months. She would come into the kitchen, see her mother with that drugged out smile and simply turn around and head to her room without muttering a word. Her mother never seemed to notice. Then again, her mother never seemed to notice anything these days. Whether it was Zoe’s failing grades, the letters from her teachers that came in the mail, or the black eye she came home with after a fight at school, Zoe’s mother wandered around the house in a complete haze totally oblivious to the world around her.

“Today will probably be no different,” Zoe was thinking to herself as she walked home from school.

She dreaded school. She dreaded coming home. She dreaded just about everything in her life. She especially dreaded the thought of coming home to finding her mother high again. She knew the odds were likely. Her mother’s drug use was growing noticeably over the past couple weeks. Zoe wasn’t angry at her mother. She loved her mother more than anything in this world and simply felt complete sadness that her mother was hurting so much inside that she had to resort to drugs. Zoe just wanted her mother back.

As Zoe reached her destination on the sidewalk, made the turn and headed to her front steps she bit her lower lip.

“This is it. Let’s see how high she is today,” She thought to herself concerning the condition of her drug addicted mother.

The handle turned slowly as Zoe opened the door and entered the house. It was silent inside but it was always silent inside. The television disappeared months ago and Zoe’s mother never listened to music anymore. Zoe slid her shoes off at the door and let her backpack drop from her shoulders to the ground as she closed the door behind her.

“Mom, I’m home,” She called out, somehow, like every day, holding onto the smallest, tiniest chance of a miracle that her mother would call back to her like she used to over three years ago.


Zoe dreaded that. Usually her mother would make some half hearted response and the silence usually indicated Sandra was occupied at the moment by her attempts to get high. Slowly she walked from the front of the house to the kitchen. She noticed a piece of paper sitting on the paper. With a snatch she had it in her hand.


Zoe had feared this. She feared that her mother would be using all of her money to feed her drug habit. Her fear had come true. They had just over a week to find a new place to live. Zoe wondered just how worse her life could get. Then she saw it out of the corner of her eye.

It was the toe of her mother’s sneaker. It was sticking out from being the big brown recliner in the living room. Zoe quickly rushed over to the location of her mother. Another fear had come true. Her mother was on her back on the living room carpet, her skin pale and colorless and her eyes staring blankly into the air.

A small gasp escaped Zoe’s lips. Her hand cupped her mouth as she stared at her mother’s body. Her hand then went to her mother’s mouth and nose. No breath came forth. Then her fingers went to her mother’s wrist. Among the old track marks there was no pulse to be felt. She then raised her hand to her mother’s forehead and felt the far too cold skin. She looked into her mother’s eyes and saw a peace she hadn’t seen in three years. No anger. No heroine high. No sadness. She crawled next to her mother, reached out, grasped her mother’s hand and pulled it into her chest, rolled to her side, and stared blankly at the wall. She was to dead inside to weep.

September 2018
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