Lorna's Hangover


Lorna’s Hangover


Slowly she opened her aching eyes. Above Lorna loomed an unfamiliar stucco ceiling and chandelier. Somewhere deep in her mind she knew she should be panicking but she was too exhausted to care. This, after all, wasn’t the first time she’d woken up hung-over, confused.

 “Oh God,” she mumbled after turning to look at the clock radio. It was only three-ten, the middle of the night. With difficulty Lorna turned onto her stomach and closed her eyes. Relax she told herself but the pounding in her brain persisted. Sleep was impossible. A minute later she sat up.

A sliver of light streaming through a break in the curtains caught her attention. Sunlight. That can’t be. Finally she threw off the covers and discovered that except for her shoes she was fully dressed. Her eyes searched the room for her purse and located it on the dresser. Opening her handbag she discovered nothing amiss.

While standing precariously, the chaotic events of the night before started to come back to her in jagged bits and pieces. Where is he? Something happened yesterday with Simon, but what? Did he wreck another bar and get arrested or maybe spend the night passed out on a park bench? Should she care? Lorna blamed him for dragging her down to his level, turning her into a boozer, entangling her with his alcohol swilling friends and trying to push her mother and sister out of her life.

Her eyes grew wide as she tentatively peeked around the window covering.

What is this?

She pulled the curtains back all the way and found herself looking out at an aquamarine swimming pool bordered by coconut trees. In the distance large blue waves crashed against a white sandy beach.

“I’m never going to drink again. Never,” she mumbled. She gave it a moment’s thought. Well I’ll stop right after I get back home. Stop for good.

In the washroom Simon’s razor, comb and tooth brush looked up at her forlornly. She splashed water on her pretty face, brushed her teeth then forced herself to shower.

She put on shorts, top and sandals and locked the hotel room door behind her. The passageway was air-conditioned and cold. In the lobby the man behind the desk handed her a small envelope containing two headache pills. He gave her a long appreciative look before he seemingly caught himself and turned away.

Before walking out of the lobby she picked up a bottle of water and cracked it open, placed the headache pills on her tongue and washed the tablets down. By the pool she plopped down on one of the padded wicker chairs and groaned.

Twenty minutes passed before the medicine took effect. From under a wide-brimmed sun hat a woman, a stranger, looked down at her.
            “Congratulations,” she said.

“Congratulations for what?” Lorna said weakly but the woman was gone. A vague memory tried to surface in her mind but she kept it at bay. She wasn’t sure she wanted to remember. Not yet anyway.

Feeling much better thanks to the remedy, she made her way to the buffet. It was mid-afternoon and the place was mostly empty. The aroma of cooked beef, ham, and fish filled the air. It was a huge room with rows of different foods set out in an appetizing array. She chose a table with a view of the ocean.

She rummaged through her purse for her cell and was startled when she saw the date. Tuesday the fourteenth she’d flown out of Calgary with Simon and here it was Saturday the eighteenth. No longer hungry she picked at her food. Gradually she sorted out the alcohol blur from what actually happened during those days.

The proof was in front of her. There was no way to deny it. Her left hand sported new engagement and wedding rings.

They were large, showy, nothing like the ones she’d sold a few months earlier to a jeweller on 17th Avenue. An arrogant man in a tweed jacket and maroon bow tie, he made her feel like dirt when she presented him with her rings along with a pearl necklace. He offered her less than a quarter of what they’d cost. She took the cash and headed out the door feeling defeated. Outside she was met by a bright sun that seemed to mock her. The divorce was final. Why not accept it and move on? Still it had been hard to part with those mementos that held both fond and bitter memories.

In the hotel dining room a middle-aged couple walked up to Lorna as she played with her dessert. “Your voice,” said the man. “At the karaoke bar last night. What a wonderful voice you have.”

“Yes, it’s true,” said the woman. “Congratulations on your wedding by the way. You make a lovely couple.”

I’m not so sure about that, thought Lorna. Simon was no prize, he may even be worse than Victor, her first husband. Victor was a skirt chaser and owed money everywhere. Despite this she had loved him. When she finally accepted he would never change she had no choice but to leave him. Or did she? For a moment regret gripped her heart.

Unlike Simon he was no drunk nor did he get into fights. He read real books, had friends with university degrees and nice office jobs. But there were also the threatening emails and phone calls from creditors, the two thugs who came to their door on a Saturday afternoon looking for him. Lucky for Victor he was out. Recalling the pair of goons brought shivers down Lorna’s back.

She looked down at her left hand. “Congratulations, Lorna,” she muttered. Her eyes narrowed. Another stupid mistake. She yanked at the rings on her fourth finger trying to get them off but they would not budge.

The couple had been living together for nearly a year but marrying Simon was not something she had seriously considered. To her the relationship was a way to stave off loneliness and help pay the rent. And of course have good sex. Well, it wasn’t always good, too much alcohol and not enough cuddling.

On the plus side Simon made a nice living driving his own concrete mixing truck and didn’t hold any money back from her. Between his earnings and her income as a dental hygienist, they did more than okay.

He could be entertaining too. Simon told funny stories about his siblings and the people he worked with. And he was a handsome man in a rugged way with a solid physique. When sober he could be a great lover. Seeing him naked however wasn’t as exciting as it might be. His tattoos were unsettling. Though she said nothing, she didn’t much care for the dragon and skeleton drawings on his arms, chest and buttocks. The designs on his butt came as a shock to Lorna. Who gets his ass inked? Sure she had a tattoo but it was cute, a small butterfly on her left thigh. That was different. It matched what she fancied was her personality, sweet and kind.

Simon was perceived by those who knew him casually as fair but tough. There were times however when he was just tough. He’d never laid a hand on her but he could fly into a rage, she’d heard and seen it. He could yell, toss a chair. It scared her. He had come home more than once a little chewed up from a barroom brawl, raw knuckles, cuts and bruises to his face and arms. 

 “I floored the son of a bitch,” he told her the last time. He found the story funny, laughing while she cringed.

From the far side of the hotel dining hall laughter rang out. An old man with a mop of gray hair was telling a joke.

Lorna put down her glass of orange juice, retrieved the cell from her purse and dialed her sister in Alberta.

            “Hello, Eliza?”

            “Oh, hi Lorna. How’s Antigua?”

“We’ve been partying since we landed.”

“You’re lucky. It’s twenty below here. How’s the food and the beach?”

“Everything is top notch.” Lorna sighed.

Long pause.

“Hello. Are you still there Lorna?”

“I’ve made a mess of things.”

“How’s that?”

“It seems I’ve gotten married.”


“Without telling me, Simon brought my divorce papers from Victor. We got to the registrar early yesterday and an hour later we were exchanging vows. It happened so fast. For the ceremony Andrea, a lady I met at our hotel, lent me her wedding ring. The couple standing in line behind us were our witnesses. The ceremony was really tacky.”

She began to choke on her words, cleared her throat and continued.

“Later we went to a jewellery store near the casino and Simon bought me engagement and wedding rings. The rest of the day we celebrated. I still have a hangover. Worse, I’m not sure I want to be married to Simon.”

            “Oh dear. Well he seems like a nice guy. Were you expecting Prince Charming to show up? You’re thirty-five not twenty-five. Maybe he is what you need. Think real hard before you tell him you’ve got second thoughts.”

            “I’m so confused.”

            “Have a coffee, go for a long walk then call me back. Okay? If he’s not the guy for you you’ll get a divorce, that’s all. Either way you’ll be fine, don’t worry.” 

            For the next couple of hours Lorna walked along the island’s pristine white beach. From time to time she stopped to stare at the sailboats and surfers who dotted the powder blue Caribbean waves.

She returned to her hotel room and changed into her bathing suit then made her way back to the pool. Sitting on a deckchair, she phoned Eliza back.

“I’ve decided the marriage isn’t a mistake,” she said “I’ll make it work.”

“Good. It’ll be fine.”

Lorna spread more sunscreen lotion on her face, arms and legs. She reached up over her head and pulled the wide-brimmed straw hat over her nose then closed her green eyes.

“Dear Jesus, make it all go away,” she murmured.

People around her were giggling, diving into the pool, splashing each other. The water was enticing but she didn’t have the energy to jump in.

She fell into a reverie hoping to wake up in her Calgary bed, praying this was all a bad dream. Moments later a thick finger lifted her hat, touched her face. She opened her eyes.

“Hi, Simon.”

He bent down and gave her a long kiss. She smiled, the smile of a small child being caught sneaking a cookie but knowing she would not be punished. The kiss wasn’t earned, she did not love this man, only tolerated him.

“Supper?” he said.

“Okay. Let’s go and change.”

At the hotel restaurant they joined Andrea and her husband Ed. The couple were from Red Deer and they had lots in common with Lorna and Simon. They loved curling, hockey and fishing. Andrea was a librarian and a part time seamstress. Ed drove an eighteen-wheeler. He, like Simon, was fond of beer. Lots of beer.

After supper they walked down to the beach. At about nine the two couples headed for the open bar that sat on the waterfront. As the two men got more and more sloshed the women moved to a different table. While Lorna and Andrea talked about romance novels and Hollywood nobility, Simon and Ed struck up a conversation with three American men. They had a lively discussion on the merits of various football players.  

The stars were out and a cool, salty breeze coming off the sea passed over the beach and through the crowd surrounding the bar.

A woman shouted, “Don’t touch me!”

Two men, one built like a fire hydrant, the other lean and tall, rushed over. They wore the blue shirts and blue pants of staff and appeared to be bouncers. They grabbed the offending man.

“Hey, George, bugger off,” the trouble-maker said to the tall bouncer. He then took a swing at him but missed. He was very drunk.

“Who let you in to begin with?” George said. “You don’t belong here, you know that. You’ve been told.”

“Don’t try and push me around ̶ “

The miscreant was picked up bodily by the bouncers who punched him time and again. The two men seemed to take pleasure in beating up the trouble-maker. Lorna shuddered as she heard him yelling while being dragged out of the fenced-in compound to the street beyond the gate.

As the evening wore on the bar area became more crowded and noisy.

Lorna approached Simon.
            “It’s nearly midnight and I’m cold and tired. Andrea and Ed have gone up to bed. I’m going back to our room. Are you coming with me?”

“No, not yet, but I’ll be up soon.” He was in a deep if somewhat rambling conversation with the American men. They were all drunk. Their discussion had shifted to crime in Canada as compared to the Caribbean or America.

The tone had changed and sounded to Lorna a bit edgy, aggressive.

“Don’t be too late,” she said to Simon. Being a little tipsy she carefully made her way to their room. She had difficulty brushing her teeth and getting into her pyjamas but finally tumbled into bed. It had been a long, strange day and her pillow felt wonderfully soft and inviting. Five minutes later she was fast asleep.

She dreamed she was running down an endless beach being chased by dragons when she woke to the sound of someone knocking on the door. She turned her head to Simon’s side of the bed but he wasn’t there. The clock radio told her it was two in the morning.

Approaching the door she asked, “Who is it?”

“Security, we have to talk to you.”

“What?” she said, her voice quivering with alarm.

She looked out the peephole then opened the door.

Staring down at Lorna’s feet one of the men said, “I’m sorry madam but Simon Carmichael was in a fight. He’s dead.”

Her face turned white and she began to wring her hands. “It’s a mistake. Where, where is he?”

“By the bar on the beach. Police are here. Come, follow us.”

“I know where it is.” She threw on a bathrobe and pushed past the two security guards. The corridor’s floor felt cold to her bare feet.

The beach was crowded. A dozen security guards, looking miserable and anxious, attempted to hold back the throng. Behind them stood five police officers in a circle surrounding someone lying motionless in the sand.

 Sitting on the ground in handcuffs were the two bouncers.

Lorna heard a squeaky voice coming from one of the onlookers.

“It was them,” said a middle-aged woman to one of the cops, pointing to the two bouncers. “That guy on the ground who’s passed out, he started a fight and they grabbed him. He fought back. He’s crazy, throwing punches, kicking. Just crazy. The bastard threw a chair at me. Someone had to stop him. What were they supposed to do, nothing? The shorter bouncer put his knee on the guy’s neck for a long time. The jerk still wouldn’t stop fighting.”

Lorna pushed through the crowd, security guards and police.

“Oh, God, oh God,” she moaned as she stood over Simon’s crumpled body. She could see he was not breathing. Her stomach flipped, she wanted to run but stood frozen.

She felt guilty for having left him earlier at the bar, for having lived with a man she didn’t love, for marrying someone she only tolerated.

But then an overpowering sense of relief set in. The emotion felt wrong. She pushed back at it but the feeling wouldn’t go away. Simon was dead. He was gone along with the prospect he might one day attack her, turn her into a punching bag like he’d done to others. She stepped back from the corpse and began pulling at the rings on her left hand. Determined, she tugged at them with all her strength. Suddenly they slid off.

Looking down at the gold rings in her palm she quietly laughed as tears rolled down her cheeks.  



Abe Margel


Abe Margel worked in rehabilitation and mental health for thirty years. He is the father of two adult children and lives in Thornhill, Ontario with his wife. His fiction has appeared in Half Hour to Kill, UPPAGUS, Ariel Chart, Fiction on the Web, Scarlet Leaf Review, Academy of the Heart and Mind, 2020 and 2021 BOULD Awards Anthology and the Spadina Literary Review.


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