Sophie sat cross-legged on Anna's laundry-strewn floor, applying her blood-red lipstick while gazing into the mirror in preparation for Halloween night. This year she had chosen a saucy Little Red Riding Hood costume to wear to whatever parties they chose to visit. Now that they were 20, Sophie figured she should stop giving a shit about what other's thought of her. Sophie wasn't usually one to wear anything to draw attention to herself (as she had extreme social anxiety), but she was dressed to kill. Anna, on the other hand, loved the limelight; thus she had chosen a revealing Indian Chieftain costume meant to accentuate the curves of her body. Anna was comfortable in her own skin, and her confidence and bubbly personality led everyone to love her. Sophie, on the other hand, was still working on her insecurities.
Anna had been Sophie's best friend since middle school when a bunch of the snotty girls made Sophie cry. Anna wasn't the type to let anyone be bullied, even if she didn't know the individual. Sophie had just run to the bathroom to cry when Anna pushed her square-framed glasses up higher on her nose, walked up and decked the leader of the pack -- the one who was teasing Sophie -- square in the jaw. The snob didn't know what to do because she was in such shock, and her minions did nothing to help their tyrannical leader. Anna didn't say a word, but went to the bathroom to console the poor girl who was the target of the snobs. Being the kind and caring girl she was, Anna and Sophie hit it off immediately, and they were joined at the hip since. Needless to say, Anna got suspended for her act of righteous retribution, which was a shame because she was only sticking up for a fellow pupil.
As Sophie continued to prepare her face, Anna sat on the bed with a large, glass bong in between her legs, packing a bowl to pre-game. Her short, auburn hair hung over her eyes as she took a rip. Sophie had only just started smoking marijuana a couple months prior, and she continued to do so because she found that it alleviated her anxiety better than any medication (like all the benzodiazepines she had been prescribed). "So, what are the plans for tonight?" Sophie asked while lining her dark, almond eyes with black eyeliner. Sophie's long black hair, dark eyes, full lips, and pale skin made her look like a porcelain China doll. Anna exhaled a cloud of smoke and replied while coughing, "We just have to pick a friend up really quick, then we can choose which party we wish to attend."
"A friend?" Sophie asked, curious. What friend? Sophie didn't have any other friends than Anna.
"Nickels," she replied before sparking the bowl once more. Anna, on the other hand, had a huge variety of friends. Sophie searched her mind for the name to try to place a face, but couldn't.
"OH! That one crazy guy you're always talking about? The one who did 'shrooms and ended up having a conversation with a spider for a half hour?" She laughed.
"That's the one," Anna replied, chuckling.
Anna and her older brother, Nate, had countless entertaining stories about this notorious "Nickels" fellow. According to them, he was the type of guy who was the center of attention, forever doing stupid things because he though they were fun and humorous. But he had just gotten out of a horrible 6-year relationship with some bitch and had moved back to the tiny town of River Rock to attempt to outrun his past. Anna had told Sophie that Nickels was a recovering methamphetamine addict, which appalled Sophie because she had never done anything or known anyone to do anything like that in her entire life. If we were to stereotype Sophie, she would be the young, naïve, square-bear who abstained from everything, albeit beer and cannabis. Anna was more experienced with drugs and druggies, so she wasn't at all fazed by knowing that Nickels smoked crystal meth. Although disgusted, Sophie was intrigued by this partying person. She was eager to meet him, and hopefully have some adventures of her own.
After finally getting themselves together, they hopped into Anna's Jeep Cherokee and blasted The Doors' "Whiskey Bar" song. They went just a couple streets down and stopped in the middle of the road. It was a dark and chilly night in River Rock, but some dark figure stood on the sidewalk. The person approached the car and jumped in.
"Thanks for the ride," Nickels replied. Sophie tried to discreetly look into the rearview mirror to catch a glimpse of the guy, but only saw darkness in the backseat.
"No problem! I am glad you're back! Actually, everyone is glad you're back," Anna replied.
"I am so glad to be back in this town, however small it may be."
They rode in silence for 5 minutes before stopping at their destination. When they all got out of the Jeep, Sophie finally managed to look at Nickels. NOT AT ALL WHAT SHE WAS EXPECTING. He looked like a corpse: he was skinny and his face was sunken in from the drugs, he had a trashy-looking goatee, a long nose, and he donned bum-looking clothes. Ew, Sophie thought to herself. He definitely was not good looking by normal standards. Quite the opposite, really.
She and Nickels didn't make any contact throughout the whole night of drinking games and shenanigans, but she had fun anyway. Nickels stayed with Nate while he got back on his feet, which left a lot of room for Nickels and Sophie to get to know each other. She found out that he was actually extremely charismatic, intelligent, and well-mannered despite his appearance. Maybe this is like "Beauty and the Beast," she thought.
Nickels and Sophie actually had a lot in common and started hanging out regularly on a platonic basis. Sophie's mom advised her not to get involved with that "hoodlum," (as her mother had referred to him), but friendship soon grew into a crush, and Sophie couldn't wait any longer for Nickels to make his move. Besides, you can't judge a book by its cover, right?
One night, at a house party Nate was throwing, Sophie (who was pretty smashed) decided it was she who would approach him. She had had enough waiting. His charming personality had made him look good — even handsome — to her, and she wanted him. Anna had no opinion on Sophie's wanting a relationship with Nickels, but she forewarned her: "He doesn't do meth anymore, but that doesn't mean he doesn't do other drugs." But by this age, Sophie was no longer scared of drugs; she wanted to experience them; a mistake that would drag her down into the depths of blackness in which she could never escape.
Months went by, and Nickels had introduced her to all sorts of mind candy. She was in love; not only with him, but what he supplied her: Percocet, cocaine, Vicodin, Klonopin, Oxycontin, Morphine…etc. But the best of the best was the "Molly;" MDMA (the purest form of Ecstacy). That night was the highlight of her life.
Through those months, they went on drug escapades and events loaded with all sorts of alcohol and mind candy. Parties, raves, road trips. They had so much fun, but the comedown was so much worse than the fun they had had. Then, one night, they got a call from Nate. He was bawling. The hair on Sophie's neck stood on end, and she knew something bad had happened.
"Anna..." Nate sobbed. "She got into an accident…a drunk driver hit her. She's…she's…" He couldn't finish, but he didn't have to. The death of Sophie's best friend turned her into even more of a mess than she already was.
Anna's funeral was packed with all of their old classmates; so packed that people were flowing out the door to pay their respects. Sophie, Nate, and Nickels were bawling, despite having taken 3 milligrams of Xanax. Snot ran down Sophie's nose, but she didn't care enough to wipe it away. Seeing her friend lying peacefully in the casket didn't calm her; it sent her into a depressive rage. WHY DID GOD TAKE HER?! SHE WAS A GOOD PERSON WITH A HEART OF GOLD! Pills. Drink. Piercings. Tattoos. Anything to numb the pain. How could she go on without her best friend? Her rock?
Needless to say, she got addicted to pills, despite thinking, "Oh, that will never happen to me!" During those months, Nickels — although so sweet and kind — had started showing signs of a very bad temper. But as long as he kept giving her pills, it was fine. He didn't mean to push her out of anger. He didn't mean it when he called her names. And she believed him.
With drugs, everything spirals out of control fast. It's a vicious cycle that you probably won't be able to escape from. The only thing she used — but was not addicted to — was the marijuana. She smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, but only felt the need to smoke a bowl when she had anxiety. Mary-Jane had saved her from anxiety and self-mutilation, but it couldn't help her wean off of the other drugs.
Nickels stumbled into their room one night, reeking of booze.
"Come out!" He hiccupped. "Everyone is wondering where you are!" He swayed back and forth, and his bright green eyes were bloodshot, his curly brown hair in a tangled mess.
"I don't feel like drinking tonight," Sophie replied. "And I am getting tired of you going to the bar with the guys every night." That last comment made Nickels erupt.
"I HARDLY GO! DO YOU WANT ME TO JUST DITCH MY FRIENDS?!"
"I just want you to slow down!" she whined. More bantering. More bickering. Yelling. Throwing things. Then he threw her. To the ground. She tried to fight back, but he was slightly stronger than her. He got on top of her and started strangling her as she beat at his head and shoulders, gasping for air. He finally let up and she, in a fit of adrenaline, attacked him back. Being insanely intoxicated, Nickels threw her iPod against a wall, where it smashed to pieces on the ground. The police were called and they took pictures of her neck, which had no visible markings. They asked if she wanted to press charges, and without hesitating, she said yes. Nickels was handcuffed, put in the cop car and hauled off to jail.
The next day, Sophie felt like it was her fault that everything had happened. She blamed herself and ended up bailing him out. She felt depressed and remorseful. She didn't even realize she had battered-person syndrome. She never understood why women helped the men who attacked them, but now she understood. They went back to their post-war house and didn't even bother to clean anything up.
Two days later, Sophie's body was found in a bathtub filled with water and her scarlet blood, and Nickels was nowhere to be found. The police never found Nichols, and never figured out if it was suicide or murder...