Addicted for Now

Addicted - 2


Krista Ritchie, Becca Ritchie


“People talk about you like you're Jesus, but you're not. You only pull out the miracles to save yourself. Which kind of makes you the opposite of Jesus, doesn't it?”

– Hellion (Julian Keller) X-Men: Legacy Vol 1 242

{ 1 }


Of all the days in the month, I have to be stuck in traffic on the one that means the most to me. I try not to badger Nola, my family’s driver, on our ETA to the house I share with Rose. Instead, I anxiously shift on the leather seat and rapidly text my sister.

Is he already there? Please say no, please tell me I haven’t missed his homecoming. I’m supposed to wait on the white wrap-around porch of our secluded house in Princeton, New Jersey: many acres of lush land, a crystal blue pool, black shutters. The only thing it’s missing is the picket fence. I’m supposed to give him a tour of the cozy living room and the granite kitchen, leading him upstairs to the bedrooms where I sleep. He won’t be in one of the two guestrooms. Nope, he’ll be making residence in mine for the first time ever.

And maybe awkwardness will linger at the idea of sharing a bed and a bathroom day and night, at the idea of cohabitating beyond a kitchen. Our relationship will be one-hundred percent real, and there’ll be no nightcaps of bourbon or whiskey. I’ll be able to say don’t do that. And he’ll be able to grip my wrists, keeping me from compulsively climaxing until I pass out.

We’re supposed to help each other.

For the past three months, that’s what we’ve planned. And if I’m not there to greet him—then I’ve already messed up in some way. After three whole months of being physically apart, I thought I’d be able to get this right—the celebration of his return from rehab. On top of desperately wanting to touch him, for him to hold me in his arms, I feel a sudden wave of guilt. Please be late like me, is all I think.

The text pings, and I open the message, a knot tightening my stomach.

He’s unpacking – Rose

My face falls, and a lump rises to my throat. I can just picture his expression as he opened the car door, expecting me to fling my arms around him and start sobbing into his shoulder at his arrival. And I’m not there.

Was he upset? I text back. I bite my nails, my pinky starting to bleed a little. The habit has made my fingers look ghastly these past ninety days.

He seemed okay. How much longer will you be? – Rose

She must hate being alone with him. They’ve never been good friends since I chose to spend time with Lo more than I do with her. But she’s been kind enough to allow him to stay with us.

Maybe ten minutes. After I text her, I scroll through my contacts and land on Lo. I hesitate before I type another quick message. I’m so sorry. I’ll be there soon.

Five slow minutes pass with no response, and I’ve squirmed so much on the seat that Nola asks if she needs to stop somewhere so I can use the bathroom. I decline. I’m so nervous that my bladder probably won’t function properly anyway.

My phone buzzes in my hand, popping my heart from my ribcage. How was the doctor? – Lo

Rose must have clued him in on the reason for my absence. I scheduled my gynecologist appointment four months ago because she’s crazily booked, and I would have canceled if I thought I’d be able to nab an appointment sometime soon. But that’s doubtful. And it didn’t help that my gynecologist is near the University of Pennsylvania in Philly, not even close to Princeton where I now live. Having to drive back has eaten up all of my time.

I had to wait for about an hour. She was running behind, I text.

After a long moment, a new message flashes. Everything’s okay though? – Lo

Oh, that’s what he was asking. I’m so hung up on missing his homecoming that I didn’t think about him being worried. I type back. Yep, looks good. I cringe, wondering if that was a weird reply. I basically just said my vagina looks good—which is kinda strange.

See you soon – Lo

He has always been a brief texter, and right now, I’m cursing him for it. My paranoia grows and the pressure on my chest does not subside. I grip the door handle, about ready to stick my head out of the moving vehicle to puke. Dramatic, I realize, but with our situation—recovering alcoholic and a struggling sex addict—we’re anything but mundane.

Ninety whole days passed and I stayed faithful to Lo. I saw a therapist. But sex still has a way of making me feel better, masking other emotions and filling a deep hollowness. I’m trying to find the healthy kind and not the compulsive “I have to fuck everyday” type of sex. I’m still uncomfortable talking about it, but at least I made progress the same way Lo did in rehab.

My mind whirls right up until Nola pulls into my driveway. All thoughts vacuum out into another dimension, and I dazedly say thanks and drift from the car. Purple hydrangeas frame the three-story house, rocking chairs lined in a row on the porch, and an American flag clings against a metal pole near a weeping willow.

I try to inhale the peacefulness and bury my anxiety, but I end up choking on springtime pollen, coughing into my arm. Why does the prettiest season also have to be the most foul?

I shouldn’t hesitate in the front yard. I should rush right inside and finally touch the man that plagues my fantasies. But I wonder how different he will seem up close in person. I worry about the awkwardness from being apart for so long. Will we fit the same way we used to? Will I feel the same in his arms? Or will everything be irreparably different?

I muster a bit of courage to walk forward. And by the time I climb the porch, the door swings open. I freeze on the highest stair and watch the screen door clatter into the side of the house. Then he emerges, wearing a pair of dark jeans, a black tee, and an arrowhead necklace I gave him for his twenty-first birthday.

I open my mouth to say something, but I can’t stop my eyes from grazing every inch of him. The way his light brown hair is styled, full on top, shorter on the sides. The way his cheekbones sharpen to make him look deadly and gorgeous. The way he reaches up and rubs his lips, as though hoping they’ll touch mine. He rakes my body with the same impatience, and then his head tilts to the side, our eyes finally meeting.

“Hi,” he says, breaking into a breathtaking smile. His chest falls heavily, nearly in sync with my uneven rhythm.

“Hi,” I whisper. A large distance separates us, reminding me of when he first left for rehab. Picking up a foot and closing the gap feels like crawling up a ninety-degree angle. I need him to help me reach the top.

He takes a step near me, snapping the tension. All these sensations burst in my belly. I love him so much. I missed him so much. For three months, I felt the pain of being separated from my best friend while trying to fight my sexual compulsions. I needed him to tell me everything was going to be okay.

I needed him by my side, but I would never take him from rehab for my benefit, not when it would be detrimental to his recovery. And I want Lo to be healthy more than anything. And I want him to be happy.

“I’m back,” he murmurs.

I try to restrain my tears, but they flow unwillingly, sliding from the creases of my eyes. I should be emerging from the doorway to greet him, and he should be the one lingering on the porch stairs. Why are we so backwards all the time?

“I’m sorry,” I tell him, wiping my eyes slowly. “I should have been here an hour ago…”

He shakes his head and his brows pinch together like don’t worry about that.

I stare at the length of him again with a more confident nod. “You look good.” I can’t tell that he’s sober exactly. He hasn’t lost that look in his eye—the one that seems to kiss my soul and trap me altogether. But he’s not beaten or withered or gaunt. In fact, he has more muscle to his name, his biceps supremely cut. And after a Skype session some time ago, I know his whole body matches those arms.

I wait for him to say so do you, but his eyes trail me once more, and I watch the way his chest collapses and his face twists in pain.

I blink. “What is it?” I glance down at my body. I wear jeans and a loose-fitting V-neck, nothing out of the ordinary. I wonder if I spilled coffee on my jeans or something, but I don’t see what he does.

Instead of telling me what worries him, he inches forward, the deep hurt in his eyes frightening me. What did I do wrong? I shuffle back—a reaction I hardly would have predicted for today. I nearly stumble down the stairs, but his arm swoops around my waist, drawing me to his chest, saving me from a plummet into the grass below.

His warmness snares me, and I clutch his arms, afraid to let go. He stares intensely before his gaze drifts to my arms…my hands. He peels one off his bicep, his fingers skimming over mine, stealing the breath right from my lungs. He raises my hand in between us and then lifts my elbow, giving me a good view of my arm.

My chest sinks, realizing the source of his confusion and hurt.

“What the hell, Lil?” he says.

I scratched my arm raw during the last therapy session yesterday, and an ugly red welt will most likely scab tomorrow. Even with gross, bitten fingernails, I managed to irritate my skin.