I turned around. The drawl belonged to a slender man, approximately my height, with impeccably streaked and styled hair and the biggest mustache I had seen since reruns of Magnum P.I.

He wore a crinkled, aqua polyester jogging suit accessorized with purple sparkly slippers.

Chapter One

Not in Kansas Anymore

I FELT HIS LIPS gently nuzzling my neck, his demanding kisses promising exquisite things to come. Slowly his hands found their way under my shirt and he bent his head . . .

“Hey!”

 

I slowly rolled over and squinted at the sound, out of sorts that whatever was about to happen had been interrupted.

“It’s time to get up. I’m supposed to make sure that you get to breakfast on time.”

I looked around at the unfamiliar room and the anxious, wild-eyed form that stood before me. Clearing my eyes and focusing a bit, I saw that the apparition was actually a young girl with bleached spiked hair and numerous piercings. Her face was barely an inch from mine.

“You need to get up now or I am really going to fuck you over.”

 

Taking her threat seriously, I managed to croak, “Okay, I’m getting up.” I looked around trying to get my bearings and asked, “Where am I?”

 

For the first time the girl bared her teeth in a somewhat less-threatening manner. “You’re where you don’t want to be, but it doesn’t matter because you’re here and you better get used to it. Now get up. Breakfast starts in ten minutes and I’m not going to miss any bacon because of your lazy ass.”

 

Reluctantly, I threw the covers off and sat up, trying to get my brain in gear while my body attempted to ramp down from what was now clearly just a dream.

 

I was in a generic room, sparsely furnished, with three twin beds and three small bureaus, each with a lamp. The bureau closest to my bed was littered with some of my belongings, and as I groped for my phone, memories of the day before flooded back.

I was currently a resident at Healing Pines, a drug and alcohol rehab center located somewhere in the Maine Woods. My parents had researched the facility several months ago after my first totaled car and drunk-driving offense. That time I had managed to convince them that I could get sober on my own, but now, after a second, nearly identical incident, I had no choice. My dad was a successful mechanical engineer who had little use for the abstracts of addiction. His parting words to the intake counselor when I was first admitted were concise. “I don’t care how much it costs or how long it takes; just fix her.”

After searching my luggage and confiscating my phone, mouthwash, and allergy tablets, I was assigned this room that I would call home for at least the next sixty days.

I got up and padded across the small alcove to the bathroom. I didn’t dare look in the mirror. I felt like crap and was sure I looked even worse.

“Don’t forget to make your bed before you leave,” the girl said before walking out and slamming the door.

Fifteen minutes later, teeth barely brushed and my hair sloppily held in place, I made my way across a dewy lawn to the cafeteria where I begrudgingly stood in line with eighteen other similarly begrudged individuals.

“Fuck me, Toto,” I said under my breath. “We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.”

Two days ago, I had been happily enjoying my life as a bartender at a popular beach bar on Cape Cod. It was the end of June and unusually hot, giving an early start to the tourist season. As a result, tips and booze were fairly free flowing, the former a direct result of the latter. I was known to give a generous pour and didn’t look half-bad in a tight, cleavage-enhancing tank top. Both were known to get me in trouble on more than one occasion, the night before last being a perfect example.

I had started my shift at four in the afternoon with several tall Bloody Marys, and had ended it at four the next morning with several snifters of Gran Marnier. Normally, I would have called a taxi rather than risk driving home, but I had been in my car smoking a bowl with one of the cooks and when it came time to leave, my perception was somewhat altered. If I hadn’t taken my eyes off the road when I searched for the pipe that had just tumbled under the seat, I would have made it home in one piece; however, one totaled Toyota and two charges for drunk driving and possession of paraphernalia later, here I was. On the upside, the cop had located my sixty-five-dollar hand-blown glass pipe. On the downside, it was going to be used as evidence against me.

“Who’s Toto? Your dog? I had a dog like Toto once that I used to dress up when I was a kid.” The voice had an over-the-top honey-sweet drawl. “He was great until a cat attacked him. After that he was just never the same. Eventually he got so nervous we had to put him down.”

I turned around. The drawl belonged to a slender man, approximately my height, with impeccably streaked and styled hair and the biggest mustache I had seen since reruns of Magnum P.I. He wore a crinkled, aqua polyester jogging suit accessorized with purple sparkly slippers.

He held out a hand. “I’m Beau and I’m guessing you’re new.”

I took his hand, noticing the remnants of a French manicure. “Hi. I’m Lucy.”

 

“Today your first day?”

 

I nodded glumly. “Yup.”

“Who’s your roommate?”

I looked around, finally spotting the spikes and piercings. “That’s her. The one with the leather bustier and Doc Martens.”

 

Beau located her and giggled. “Sally? Good luck with that one. I’ve only been here ten days and you’re her fourth roommate.”

 

Almost afraid of the answer, I asked, “What happened to the other three?”

 

“First two relapsed and the third ran away with one of the counselors. They say she has some sort of social disorder, but as far as I‘m concerned, she’s just a bitch.”

 

“Great.” Despondent, I realized that there could be further misery in an already intolerable situation. “She threatened me this morning about not missing bacon?”

 

“Hmmm,” Beau drawled. “Well, I can see her point on that one. They only offer bacon twice a week, and if you don’t get here early, then it’s likely to be gone.”

 

I nodded. For some reason, I understood the logic. Who doesn’t love bacon?

 

A counselor approached me after breakfast to go over my schedule. First, I was to do my assigned chore, which today was vacuuming the hallways of the women’s dorm, and then spend the rest of the day attending a class on the Big Book, the apparent holy grail of Alcoholics Anonymous.

 

A couple of hours into the morning lecture, a young kid slouched in one of the front seats inquired, “So what’s the ultimate deal? Is it nature or nurture? I don’t get it.”

 

Silently, I agreed, but since the class was due to break in ten minutes, I prayed that the counselor’s explanation wouldn’t go into overtime. No such luck. Fifteen minutes after our scheduled release, the counselor finally announced it was time for lunch and the class stampeded for the door. Most of the women rushed toward the bathroom since asking to be excused to pee during class was discouraged. Luckily, I was good and headed across the lawn toward the dining hall.

 

The entire campus was a renovated YMCA summer camp located on Bear Pond—the name thankfully derived from the pond’s shape and not the propensity for clawed wildlife. The original cabins had been demolished and replaced with two larger log buildings that housed the women and men’s dorms. The administration and social buildings were pretty much the same as when the camp first opened in the sixties, except that they had been renovated for year-round occupation. The only exception, the counselor explained, was the dining hall, which had been built with alumni support just last year. Now, as I approached it, I searched for Beau, finally spotting him in the smoking section of the wraparound porch with a cup of coffee and a cigarette. Though most addictions here were taboo, I noticed that caffeine and nicotine consumption was heartily encouraged. I waved and made my way over.

 

“Yo, dahlin’,” Beau greeted as I plopped onto the picnic bench next to him. “How’s your first day going?”

 

“Good I guess.” I shrugged. “The Big Book lecture was pretty boring and it still continues after lunch.”

 

“Oh, don’t I know. I couldn’t wait for that class to be over. They don’t let you water your lily during it, and I got a big lily that needs a lot of watering.” He winked, took a long drag on his cigarette, blew a couple of smoke rings, and asked, “What’s your middle name?”

 

I was startled by the abrupt change in conversation. “Um . . . June,” I stammered.

 

Beau smirked. “You sure?”

 

I nodded.

“Lucy June?”

I nodded again.

 

“I’m not sure I can work with that. It doesn’t really roll off the tongue. I’m from the South where it’s customary to use both names and I’m just not sure about Lucy June. Now let’s see . . . how about Lucy . . . Lucy . . . I got it! Lucy May. That’s perfect! Instead of June, it’s May. Get it?”

 

For a third time, I nodded.

 

Self-satisfied he sat back and took another long drag. “Sometimes I just can’t believe how clever I am. Of course, I used to tell Joe that all the time, but he didn’t believe me. He just kept saying I was being silly.”

 

“Joe is your boyfriend?”

 

“Uh-huh. Well, he was until he kicked me out. He’s a hairdresser. That’s why I look so nice.” Beau patted his head, inadvertently flicking ash into his ash-blond coif.

 

“What happened?” I asked, always eager for gory details of someone else’s tragedy.

 

“Oh Lord, what didn’t happen is more like it. Anyway, it’s just too complicated to get into now.” He stood up, crushed his cigarette in the ashtray, and tugged on the hem of his shorts. Though I was still clad in my slouchy morning outfit of oversized T-shirt, capri-length leggings, and flip-flops, Beau had traded his turquoise jogging suit for red shorts, a loud Hawaiian print shirt, and metallic gold huaraches. Upon closer inspection, I was almost sure he had on eyeliner and mascara.

 

“C’mon, let’s go. I like to get in there before the ‘Hulk.’” He nodded in the direction of a big Neanderthal-looking guy who was chewing tobacco then spitting it into the bushes. “I caught him spitting that shit in the salad bar. It almost made me puke right then and there.”

 

I followed Beau inside to stand in line for the second time that day. Eventually, we selected our lunch--tuna sandwich and chips for me, three hotdogs and fries with excessive mustard, relish, ketchup, and onions for Beau. Finding an empty table, we set our trays down and began to eat.

 

Without much prompting, Beau recited his autobiography of an upper-class gay boy from the Deep South where homosexuality was barely tolerated. “One time after going out to a club, my friend and I were at the Waffle House and though I admit we might have been a bit overdressed, the waitress had the gall to ask if we were with the circus that was in town. I swear, Lucy May, I have never been so offended.”

 

“What was your family like? Were they more accepting?”

 

“Well, my daddy died when I was four, so I really don’t remember him. My grandmother accidently ran over him in the driveway, though my mother has always claimed it was no accident. Anyway, they both raised me, and though my mother wasn’t thrilled with my lifestyle choice, my grandmother never said a word. Of course, she had a best friend, Maisy, who eventually moved in after my mother remarried.” Beau raised an eyebrow, leaving the obvious unsaid.

 

“So what’s your middle name?” I asked, curious as to why he didn’t use it. After all, he had said it was customary in the South.

 

“My full name is Beauregard Rhett Butler.”

 

“Scarlett is more like it,” snickered a male voice behind me.

 

Beau flipped his middle finger. “Fuck you, Nathan.”

 

“Aw, c’mon, man. You know I love you.” A shaggy blond Adonis appeared, throwing his arms around Beau and planting a big sloppy kiss on his cheek. He had incredibly green eyes, which I immediately suspected were contacts, and a positively panty-dropping smile.

 

“Uh-huh. Prove it,” Beau answered while taking a bite of his hotdog, leaving most of the condiments in his mustache.

 

The Adonis laughed, threw a chair around, and sat with his arms draped around the back. He stuck out a hand in my direction. “Hi. I’m Nathan.”

 

I shook it, hoping my palms weren’t too sweaty, and responded, “Lucy.”

 

“May,” Beau interjected.

“Huh?” Nathan looked confused.

 

“May. Her name is Lucy May.”

 

“Oh,”—I rolled my eyes—“yes, my name is Lucy May.”

 

Nathan was Abercrombie & Fitch and Tommy Hilfiger gorgeous. He wore a weathered Polo shirt, khaki cargo shorts, Tevas, and Ray Bans that hung on his back from a neck cord. He was over six feet, incredibly tanned and toned, and exuded a self-assured, almost entitled aura that I knew must have come from a privileged background. I had served plenty of rich, handsome, bad-boy types on the Cape, and being the masochist that I am, had been attracted to every one of them.

 

“Well, pleased to meet you, Lucy May. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around. Meanwhile, I got places to go and girls to do.” He stood up, winked, and hurried after a buxom blonde Barbie tightly encased in pink spandex.

 

“Who was that?”

 

“Nathan Chatsworth III. My roommate.” Beau wiped his plate clean with the last bite of his hot dog.

 

“Your roommate? Wow, wanna trade?”

 

He grinned. “I know. Isn’t he cute? Too bad he’s on your team, though I have been known to turn a few.”

 

“Was that his girlfriend?” I was referring to the presumed slut that he left with.

 

“Hell no. Nathan doesn’t believe in girlfriends.”

 

I pondered that for a moment, wondering if it was a good sign for us hooking up or not. “What’s he in for?” I was sure it was probably alcohol and/or cocaine, the typical party boy’s drugs of choice.

 

“Heroin.”

 

“Heroin?” I was appalled. I had never met a heroin addict, or at least none that I knew of, and certainly not one as vibrant and gorgeous as Nathan. In my mind, heroin addicts were living skeletons with sunken eyes, loose, smelly clothes, and stringy, matted hair.

 

“Uh-huh. His sister was murdered and he turned to smack to cope.”

 

“Really?” Things suddenly started to get even more interesting. “What happened? To his sister I mean.”

 

Beau shrugged and stood up. “I don’t know. At first they thought she OD’d, but turned out someone strangled her.”

 

“Did they catch who did it?”

 

“I don’t know. I don’t think so. I gotta have a cigarette.”

 

The rest of the afternoon dragged on as the monotonous counselor painstakingly explained the nature of addiction. I had started taking notes, but once I learned we weren’t going to be tested, started doodling instead. When I found myself drawing a big letter “N” with hearts around it, I quickly snapped my notebook shut and tried to focus.

 

Finally, at five o’clock, we were released and I was back in my room trying to decide what to wear. As a newbie, I, along with four other recent admissions, would be taken off campus to an AA meeting directly after dinner. I had never attended one before, so I wasn’t sure of the dress code. Nothing too flashy, I thought, but definitely something fetching enough to attract the attention of any cute guys that might be there.

 

I was standing in front of the mirror, critiquing outfit number three, when the door flew open and my roommate stomped in.

 

“Hey,” she said. “I’m Sally. Sorry about earlier, but I’m not a morning person.” She flopped down on one of the beds. “So how’s your first day going?”

 

I shrugged. “Okay, I guess. They’re taking us to an AA meeting tonight.”

 

“Yeah, that’s routine. They like to take us to meetings outside of this place for some reason. Most of them are totally boring, but a few include a cigarette break which is kinda cool. Otherwise, they suck.”

 

“Any chance of cute guys being there?”

 

Sally laughed. “Yeah, sure. Wear your sexiest outfit.” Still laughing, she got off her bed and left.

 

I looked at my reflection in the mirror and sighed. I was twenty-eight, fairly tall, had brown eyes with naturally long lashes, and an aquiline nose with a slight bump that plagued me whenever that “time of the month” arrived.

Checking my watch, I realized dinner was in five minutes, so I quickly chose a short denim skirt with a loosely crocheted top that played peekaboo, with a camisole underneath. Dangly earrings that I designed in my spare time completed the ensemble, and I hurried to the dining hall.

 

“Well my, my, don’t you clean up good,” Beau greeted as he joined me in line. He was in his third outfit of the day, this one composed of white cotton harem pants with the buttons running up the sides opened to reveal his thighs, a silk periwinkle T-shirt, and multiple ropes of heavy gold around his neck. His eyeliner and mascara were refreshed and I noticed a slight frosty glaze on his lips.

 

“Yeah. They’re taking us to an AA meeting tonight, so I figured I should make myself somewhat presentable.”

 

“They’re not so bad.” Beau fingered the edge of my sweater behind my neck. “I like your top. What size it? Large? Oh good, can I borrow it sometime?”

 

An hour later, I was sitting in the backseat of a passenger van on the way to my first meeting. The slouchy kid from my class was sitting next to me and introduced himself. “Hey, I’m Andrew. You were in that class earlier, right?”

 

“Right. I’m Lucy.” I paused waiting for someone to pipe up, “May.”

 

“So what are you here for?” he asked.

 

“Alcohol and weed, though I still don’t think weed should technically count.”

 

“Right on, Mama!” he cheered, raising his hand for a fist bump.

 

“How about you?” He appeared to be in his teens, awkwardly lanky with the tiniest scruff of a mustache. His jeans and Nirvana T-shirt were several sizes too large and his high-tops were missing the laces.

 

“Oxys mainly. My dad’s a doctor and I stole his prescription pad before they caught on.” He shrugged. “Whatever. I sold most of it, but my choice was either this or jail. You do the math.”

 

“So how long have you been here?” I asked.

 

“This time? Just two days.”

 

“You’ve been here before?”

 

“Yeah, last year after I totaled my dad’s Mercedes. They thought I was drunk, but I was actually high on Vicodin.”

 

I sympathized. “I totaled my car too. Well, actually, I totaled two.”

 

“At the same time? What happened? Did you run a light and T-bone someone? Did anyone die?”

 

It appeared that we shared the same affinity for gory details about other’s tragedies.

 

“No. Two separate single-car accidents three months apart. One into a tree and the other into a ditch.”

 

“Wow!” He looked at me with new respect. “You really are hard core.”

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