Somewhere a door clicked and Leon knew she was sneaking out again.He sighed and picked up his eight month old daughter Ella off the floor, who responded with an indignant squeal.
“Yeah, yeah. Here,” he said handing Ella the teething ring she had been chewing on so fretfully.“You can bring it with you.”
He set Ella on his hip and went to look through the dingy side window. He was just in time to see Victoria striding towards a dark blue Mercedes with blacked out windows, parked just around the corner.The passenger window was down and he caught sight of a heavily tattooed arm resting macho style on the door.Through a thin haze of smoke drifting through the open window Leon saw a hand dart out and casually flick a cigarette butt to the ground. His heart sank.
Somehow he had to stop her from getting into that car. Leon ran to the front door and flung it open in a panic.
“Victoria!” he yelled.But he was too late.Her mini skirted backside and long bronze legs had already disappeared inside the flashy Mercedes and with a deafening screech of tyres she was gone.“Shit!” he said loudly and kicked at an empty beer can he’d left lying on the front porch.
The stink of burning rubber filled the street and Leon aimed a scowl at the neighbour’s Pitbull as it snarled viciously and ran the full length of its rusting chain, again and again.Leon hoped it never managed to get loose, because that was one mean dog.
Pulling his phone out of his pocket he hit the speed dial button for Victoria’s number.Disappointingly it went straight to voicemail. He cursed inwardly. Little Ella bawled lustily in his ear, so he carried her into the house out of sight of the slavering Pitbull.
Eventually Ella settled enough so that he could put her in the playpen over in the corner. He handed her a sipper cup of juice before navigating his way around numerous toys lying strewn across the floor. Leon plumped himself down on the battered sofa and tried to phone Victoria again.He listened intently, praying that she would pick up the phone, even if it was only to curse him and tell him to get lost.He rolled his eyes as the automated message kicked in asking him to leave a message after the beep.
“Call me as soon as you get this message Vicky,” he said trying not to sound too freaked.Laying down his phone on a small side table, he reached over and picked up a small silver photo frame. Closing his eyes he held the picture to his lips, kissing the face of his beautiful wife.
“I wish you were still here,” he said under his breath.
He hung his head. There was that awful sensation again. It was so intense that it felt like a physical pain; as if someone had just tried to rip out his heart.If anything happened to Vicky he didn’t think he could go on.
Ella gurgled in her playpen and looked at him wide eyed, full of innocence.“It’s ok,” he said with a wobbly smile.“Daddy will keep it together, I promise.”
She grinned at him and he absently noticed her third front tooth was almost through.If only Vicky hadn’t gotten hooked on cocaine, he thought for the hundredth time.
It was only four months ago, since it had all started and their lives had been on a downward spiral ever since. He knew now that he’d made a mistake moving the family to Detroit. It was too much change too quickly.
Hour after hour went by in tortuous slow motion and every car that drove by and every door that slammed fanned a dwindling glimmer of hope that she just might return before nightfall.
At half past seven he put Ella down for the night and went downstairs to tackle a kitchen sink overflowing with dirty dishes. His gaze fell upon Vicky’s plate of spaghetti and meatballs, completely untouched and he wondered whether or not he should keep it warm.
She’ll probably be doped up to the eyeballs even if she does return before morning, he thought. So he left it to cool and then covered it in cling film before putting it in the refrigerator.
While the dishes dripped on the drainer, Leon lowered himself into a chair and held his head in his hands desparingly.
Yet again he was slipping down that destructive slope again, drowning in thoughts of where she was and what she might be doing. Each new thought whirled through his mind, chasing each other maniacally like the dance of a New Year’s dragon in China town.His head ached and he toyed with the idea of phoning the police.But he already knew what they would say.It was way too early to file a missing persons report.Wait until tomorrow, they would tell him curtly, as if his request was an intolerable nuisance. They probably recieved fifty or more calls like that a day so sympathy was in short supply.
Leon groaned and knew it was going to be a very long night.If only he could reach out to Vicky somehow and through sheer force of will make her aware of just how much she was making them both suffer.
Come home! he thought squeezing his eyes shut.
He spent the next several hours in the grips of yet another internal conflict.Should he try and get some sleep or not? It was hard to think straight. Once again he decided to call her phone and to his immensesurprise someone picked up.
“Who is this?” he demanded. “Where’s Vicky?” There was a long silence. Leon gripped the phone tightly.
“Don’t hang up, please!” he begged pacing the floor.
“Are you Victoria’s father?” said the woman.
“Yes.Yes I am.What’s happened?”
That last question had almost choked him.But he had to ask.
“You and your wife need to come to Beaumont Royal Oaks hospital immediately. I’m Beverly Carmichael, a nurse in the ER department.Ask for me when you arrive at the front desk.”
“Is she ok?” said Leon looking at the ceiling and swallowing hard.
“We think she OD’ed sometime this afternoon and was dumped at the front door.She’s stable for now, but you need to get here as soon as possible.She keeps asking for her mother.”
“Ok,” sobbed Leon.“But it will be just me….Her mother died in a car accident six months ago just outside Lansing.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that Mr Yorke.”
“I’m sure you understand though that I can’t promise you anything regarding your daughter Victoria,” she said after a pause.“But I assure you she’s in good hands here.We’re just waiting for her bloodwork to come back from the lab and until then we’re taking it as a good sign she’s awake and talking a little already.”
“She’s only fifteen,” croaked Leon.“Just a child.”
“She has plenty of time left to turn her life around then, with the right help” said the nurse gently.“But we can discuss that when you get here Mr Yorke.”
“Thanks for your help,” said Leon with a sniff. “Just look after her and tell her I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Of course,” she said.“I’ll tell her you’re on your way.”