Light, blazing through her eyelids. The burn of vomit and bile in the back of her throat. Pain in the side of her face, down her neck, into her shoulder.
Another Saturday morning. Marianne lifted her head from the concrete kerb, cursing as the hand placed to lever herself into a sitting position landed in the pool of mostly liquid vomit. Another day in Paradise. Another new year. Wasted year. Wasted life — she cut off the thought with practised ease.
Rolling over in the other direction, she forced her arms to take her weight. A clink against her hip and she watched the empty bottle roll down to the gutter with disinterest. Closer than a lover the night before, but nothing ever looked as good in the pitiless morning light.
Her legs felt more unsteady than her arms had been, her knees wobbling around like a three-year-old on roller skates. She couldn’t remember when she’d first thought it a good idea to drown in a bottle every night. The gift of liquor wiped memory clean; the good, the bad, the unbearable. Would this be the year she finally managed to kill herself? God had never been that good to her.
The stinking lane was somewhere near Sunset. She recalled walking down the boulevard into the setting sun. Might’ve been last night, or a month ago. That was harder to recollect, but this was her stomping ground and she’d find a familiar sight in a minute, if she could get the twin jackhammers pounding at her brain to cease for a second or two.
“Let me help you.”
The male voice was behind her, to one side, and Marianne jumped, stifling a scream as a hand gripped her arm above the elbow. She pulled away hard, swinging her free arm and whimpering when it smacked into the wall behind her.
“Stop — please!”
She sagged back against the building, her hurting hand cradled against her chest with the other. Whatever energy she’d had was gone; the moment passed. Through her filthy hair, she looked up at the man.
He was tall, at least some inches more than the six foot two of her unlamented late husband. Long, iron-gray hair was threaded heavily with silver and pulled back from a stern, seamed face. In faded jeans and dark brown leather jacket, he looked like any of the now-wealthy ex-hippies that lived in this part…