The alarm echoed throughout the bathroom and pulsed behind her eyes. She groped across the floor for her phone. It eluded her, and the noise continued to reverberate against the walls and pound inside her skull. Waves of nausea swirled until she had to crawl to the toilet to puke. Slightly better, she opened her eyes and saw that the phone was somehow in the shower. Relief washed over her when she finally stopped the noise.

She stumbled into the kitchenette. Empty bottles of tonic water and a liter of Smirnoff were scattered on the floor. Maybe she’d run out of tonic water and resorted to finishing off the vodka in its undiluted state. Everything about last night was fuzzy after she’d treated herself to an exquisitely made vodka tonic.

Damn that vodka tonic.  The cold vapory drink slid over her tongue and burned down her throat. The promises it had made now compelled her to search for another liter. But there was no choice except to settle for the six-pack of beer in the fridge. She guzzled one bottle down to quench her thirst.

Well, maybe, the vodka tonics weren’t the problem. That would be like blaming a crack in the sidewalk for a fall or a lie for piercing a soul.

The vodka was as innocent as a lie.

She guzzled a second beer just because.

In the distance, the bells of St. John’s Cathedral tolled, reminding her that she hadn’t gone to Mass in years. Dad had always told her to attend Mass on Sunday mornings and remember her prayers on weekdays. He died of pancreatic cancer during her freshman year. She downed another beer.

Tucking another into her hoodie pocket, she staggered out of the apartment. Maybe church would be nice. Flickering candles and memorized prayers seemed safe somehow. The pleasantly pungent smell of incense. Standing, sitting, kneeling. Comfortable like the relief of a familiar bed and hot shower after a long camping trip. However, as the church’s stone edifice rose before her against the gray-white sky, she turned away. She couldn’t face God right now.

A bitter wind whipped her hair into her eyes as she trudged to the Lake Front. When her feet began to sink into the sediment, she kicked off her slippers and her feet squished into the coldness as she continued to the shoreline.

She’d seen the ocean before. Dad and Sam had taken her for her high school graduation present. It hadn’t excited her. She’d expected it to be vast, for distant shorelines to exist only in the assurances of others that there was land on the other side. Lake Michigan, however, amazed her because if she didn’t know better, she would think land was a thousand miles away instead of only a hundred. Why was this so impressive? Because a lake could look like an ocean? Could resemble something it wasn’t? She was easy prey for deception.

Water swirled around her bare feet and ankles, soaking the hems of her flannel pajama pants. It was too cold to be standing at the lakeshore. Her feet grew numb, and her fingers and face stiffened against the icy wind that wrapped her in dampness. But she couldn’t move.

Like an awkward caress, water splashed up her shins, urging her to accept the permanent oblivion that vodka had failed to give. What if she gave in to its promises and lay down in the water so that it covered her like a lover’s body and filled her mouth with a kiss of sediment lake water? And if the pulsing waves embraced her and rolled her into the icy depth, would it matter?

Joggers scuttled by. Cyclists whizzed past. Dogs pranced next to their humans attached by a leash. No one noticed her. No one in this place ever had. No one would care what happened next. She had no one to miss her if she heeded the call of the lake. If she stepped further into the frigid water. If the chill started to spread up her legs, hips, middle, arms, neck, into her very core.

The bells of St. John’s tolled. She hated the cold. The cathedral would be warm.

Frozen in place, feet in the muck, she pulled the beer out of her hoodie pocket. Stiff hands could barely circle the bottle let alone twist off the cap. The water invited her again to surround herself in its deep oblivion. The church bells entreated her to come rest.

The water stilled. The bells tolled.

The bottle fell at her feet with a thud and a splash.



Cathy Carroll-Moriarty


Cathy is an emerging author from the Midwest who rediscovered her love of writing amid the adventure of raising her family and having a career in geriatric social work. Her work has appeared in Ariel Chart, Adelaide, and Grande Dame Literary.


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