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Last time I saw her was today.

     Last time I saw her  the way I remembered her was the day I went away. She was beautiful then as she is now and there’s no denying it. 

     She was waiting in the courtroom with her mother and I was sitting in the dock and the magistrate was breathing in and out through his teeth and twiddling his thumbs, rocking back and forth and nodding his head, and I knew I was a goner. 

     Only a week prior I’d been standing on the corner speaking with her and she was a mess. It was cold and she had no jacket and wore sandals and seemed to have no feelings. Couldn’t blame her for that. 

     We’d hung around in similar social circles and I only met her because of my cousin. Later I found out she had ripped my pal off fifty bucks when he hit her up for fellatio and he moaned at me about it and how life sucks, how he hated her, and I told him to cool off. 

     I’m glad she ripped him off. 

     She was always so skinny and she said it herself the day we met, “ That’s how it gets for a junkie, “ like she was letting me in on something I didn’t know. I gave that life away in May 2004. 

     Man… She was so pretty. Still is. 

     These days I can speak to her for longer and sometimes her eyes turn away as if she’s bored and it makes me want to hug her and remind she’s going to have feelings and she’s allowed to. I was never bad to her. 

      Sometimes, I’d speak to people about her at work, because I knew they had contact with her, and I’d say fanciful stuff, like, “ Imagine if she changed her act up, you know? Got off all the shit and forgot about people like you. And me. I wonder what her life would be like? In four years she could do that. She could get clean, meet someone good, maybe go to school and be working in one of those employment places, you know? She could even be a mother by then and the best in the  world, man. I can see it. “

     They’d laugh at her, laugh at me, tell me she was no good. They gave up on her, saw her as a lost cause. 

     It’s not so funny now. 

     Unlike them, she never lied to me, stole from me, or used me for a single thing. 

     I’d be driving around and see her and want to pick her up but I didn’t want to upset my partner at the time. She had a big grief against her and I never knew why. Guess I didn’t bother to ask because I didn’t want hear an endless tirade about junkies and sluts. That kind of stuff drives a man to drinking. 

     She’d do funny things like walk down the street and spin out and click her jaw and then look at me like I was food and I’d have to scamper because I was terrified she would come over and  eat me, bro’, or beat me up or something. She wasn’t well and neither was I and people as unhealthy as we were, anything can happen. 

     I remember she was humming a tune and I could’ve cried at how long she held that note and it stayed on key and it was beautiful. She got my attention that day and I was always concerned for her after that. I told anyone who would listen to cool off. Don’t be tough. Don’t be a hero. You’ll end up foolish. You don’t want for her what she needs. You’d only kill her. 

     We went out to the lake with my cousin and he brought her along and he wasn’t kind to her and I never understood why she’d be hanging around him even for his drugs. He told her she was stupid. I never saw that about her. Remember, she didn’t lie to me, steal from me, or use me for anything. 

      What do you want to hear? You want to hear I secretly liked her? That I liked her skin and eyes and attitude and how she made me nervous and the guys she was with were always going to lose her? How every time she dressed up I noticed her jewellery and how she wore her hair? Because it’s all true. 

     But then I noticed a lot of things about a lot of people and I used to forget about myself. 

     I got sober and I was coming home on foot and hot stepping the main street and there she was and she approached me. It was that cold night and she had no jacket, sandals on, and no feelings.

     She asked, “ Got a smoke? “

     I did.

     She didn’t want to talk, so I decided she may want to listen, and I told her, “ Imagine if you gave it all up? In four years you could have someone who really cares for you, you could be clean and better than all this. You really could. You, yeah you. You could study and do whatever you want to do, because you’re still young. You could be a mother and put all of them to shame. Everyone who ever doubted you and you really should. “ 

     She finished her smoke and split and I knew I was already leaving. I haven’t been back to that town since.

 As she crossed the street she looked back and I guess no-one ever told her not to look back, because didn’t she know if you look back we may not be there any more?

 “ Go home, “ I said. “ Get warm. “

Next time I saw her I was sitting in the dock and going to prison. 

She’s still like the last person I ever saw.

Today, however, we spoke face-to-face, and it was kind to see her and it was kind to hear her voice and she showed me what she was wearing and we were thankful, and we’re clean, and she’s healthy and not skinny and breakable and she smiles so very well. Her hair was to her shoulders and clean and dark and shined and her eyes so full of life now. I really wanted to tell her…

     “ You’ve come  a long way, baby. “

Bio: L Christopher Hennessy lives in Coffs Harbour NSW Australia. He has been published for poetry, articles, and stories the world over. He continually writes and still manages to keep a smile on his face. 


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