The bed wasn't made, clothes were piled in the hamper, dust was gathering on the knickknacks, food going bad in the refrigerator, books were left spilled over the floor, messages were left on the phone unheard and the faucet's leak had gotten progressively worse.
The blond shrieked with laughter. She was balled up in a tall man's lap and her drink was in serious danger of spilling.
"Hey, you better watch it," A sandy haired man laughed, and waved his finger. "Can't let good booze go to waste," He then turned back to the girl in his lap and nuzzled her neck.
"Where's your other little friend?" the blond asked, turning to the man curled around her.
"I really don't know, Babe. You saying I'm not good enough?" The tall man responded, slyly.
"You know I'm not," The blond leaned in to kiss him.
The phone rang in room 414 and Andy looked at the phone with blurry eyes but didn't reach out to pick it up. A long, tan arm reached over Andy's body and lifted the phone from the receiver and then let it drop back into place with a ringing 'click.'
"Who's calling you?" A throaty voice asked.
Andy rolled over to look at the very lean, tan woman with the messy mane of black hair laying in bed, her arm still slung across Andy's chest.
"You could have asked them."
"Don't care that much." She leaned down and kissed Andy before reaching back over to the nightstand to pull a cigarette out of the open box, "You don't mind?" She said, even though she already had the cigarette in her mouth and a lighter in her hand.
"You know I don't," Andy said, watching her take a long drag and thinking about how she looked like pure sex. Pure sex, but there was still something missing.
"So, doll face, what are you doing today?" the woman asked, flicking some ashes into the tray by the bed, wrapping her leg seductively around Andy's.
"Have to work this afternoon. Lots of phones and they won't answer themselves." Andy said, taking the cigarette out of the woman's mouth and puffing lightly.
"Well you should come see me this weekend," The woman leaned in close, nipping at Andy's ear and running a silky hand down Andy's neck.
"Okay, Tamera," Andy said, pulling herself out from under Tamera's long tan body.
"Aw, Babe," Tamera cooed, "I was just getting started," She moved closer to Andy, kissing Andy's back and wrapping her arm around Andy's waist.
"You're working Friday night?" Andy changed the subject as she stood up to scoop her clothes up from the floor, dropping the cigarette onto the ashtray.
"As always, Darling," Tamera said, a hint of sarcasm tipping off her tongue.
"Maybe Davie and I can come see you." Andy tied up the laces of her sneakers and pulled her pants up a little more.
"I don't have any use for Davie," Tamera spat, her attention back on her cigarette.
"Right. Well, the room's paid for until about ten o'clock, anything after that's on you. And I told the girl at the desk this time so no pornos on my tab, please." Andy said, tucking her wallet into her back pocket and running her fingers through her hair, trying to tame it.
"Just having a little fun," Tamera didn't move from her spot, she knew exactly how she looked right now. Leaned back on the bed, fully exposed, cigarette in one hand, eyes smoldering. Andy looked away quickly, promising herself she wouldn't get sucked into this again.
"Just not on my tab this time," Andy took one more look around the room—faded, cheap paintings, worn out armchair, carpet with some non-descript stains—and then turned to go, not giving Tamera the satisfaction of a wayward glance.
The smart looking brunette at the desk gave Andy a more than friendly smile as she walked through the lobby, Andy nodded her head, giving the receptionist a smirk before turning away and letting her grin become cocky and over-confident.
"Customer service, my name is Andy, how can I help you today?" Andy pulled gently at the collar of her blue polo and wiped her hand down her khakis, hoping this call would be calmer than the last one.
"Andy? It's Rob. Your sister isn't returning my calls. I don't know where Gigi is." His voice cracked, stress and fatigue coming through over the phone.
"Rob, it's okay. You have to stop calling me at work. I'll call Helen and see if she'll take my call. You know she probably won't though, right?" Andy said. She didn't know how to calm his nerves but right now she couldn't be caught taking a personal call on company time. Again.
"I know, but Gigi…" Rob let the sentence hang and Andy thought she heard a sob.
"I have a break in twenty minutes. I'll call her then. Did you try my mom?" Andy asked, hoping it was a good day for Mom, one she could remember, "Helen's probably there if she's not at your place."
"I'll try. Thanks, Andy."
"Yeah," Andy said before hanging up and answering another blinking light on her telephone. "Customer service, my name is Andy, how can I help you today?"
"Hello, are you in America?" A strong man's voice came through the phone.
"Yes, sir. How can I help you?" Andy asked again. Some days this job sucked.
Twenty minutes later Andy was outside her office building, pacing with her phone up to her ear and a cigarette hanging from her lips. She was getting weird looks, but that was more common, more people judging you for smoking since it was practically a death sentence now. She listened to the phone ring a few more times before there was a click, the sound of her mother's voice in the background.
"Hello?" Helen's voice came through the phone.
"Helen," Andy said, trying not to sound stern, "Are you with Mom?"
"Yeah, what are you doing?" Helen asked, not sure if she should hang up.
"Don't hang up," Andy said, answering Helen's internal question, "Rob called and was worried about Gigi."
"Oh, fuck off. All of you," And Helen hung up. Andy stood, listening to the dial tone for a few moments before ending the call.
"Shit." Andy took another long drag from her cigarette and called Rob.
"Did you get her?"
"She's real pissed, man. What happened?" Andy asked, still pacing. A few women scurried past, as if Andy was on the hunt for one of them.
"Same shit as always. She says I'm not being there. Not being supportive." Rob spat, he was over being sad and worried, "I didn't do anything this time, And, I didn't do a single thing."
"Really?" Andy asked, cradling the phone with her shoulder as she lit another cigarette, stubbing out the last one and tossing it in the trash.
"I got home late on Wednesday and she accused me of sleeping around. I've been picking up double shifts to pay for all the crap she's been buying—"
"What crap," Andy interrupted.
"Got herself a new pair of shoes, signed up Gigi for some ritzy day care. I know she can't be going down the street anymore, but there has to be a cheaper option. Place wants $5,000 upfront!" Rob fumed, Andy practically chocked, "I said 'for what?' and you know Helen, she says 'it doesn't matter 'for what' it's for Gigi.' You have to understand, Andy, I love that kid more than I love anything, but I can't be putting up that kind of money."
"I know," Andy said, looking up to the sky, wishing her sister had her shit together. "Look, she's at Mom's so maybe she'll have some time to cool off and be more willing to talk tomorrow. Okay?"
"Yeah, alright," Rob said, dejected.
"It's going to be okay. I just hope Mom had a good day today."
"You think she's back to drinking?" Rob asked, he sounded surprised.
"Rob, she never stopped." Andy threw her second cigarette into the garbage and debated about a third.
The room was dim and dusty; Andy could see the dust particles slowly floating down in the sliver of sunlight that was allowed through the curtains. Her mother sat in front of an old cherry vanity, a cigarette pressed between her thin pale lips. The ash was dangerously close to falling into the already singed carpet, but Mom didn't seem to notice as she took a swig from her beer before pouring a little into a dish. This was one of the last things she could do perfectly, holding the Velcro roller between two fingers she drenched the section of hair with beer, smoothing out the strands and then running the roller down the length of her hair, curling it in and pinning it in place. She took the cigarette from her lips and flicked the ashes off into an old shell; already full of old cigarette butts. She had a line of rollers on top of her head and in some sections her hair was so short now that it barely wrapped around the roller. Andy could see the bones in her shoulders and the depression in the front of her neck. Her frail frame looked unnatural and she paid no notice to Andy leaning in the doorway, hands in her pockets.
"Mom" Andy finally said, her voice sounding hoarse. She cleared her throat.
"Andrea. I guess you'll be needing something." Her mother didn't look away from the vanity and took another sip of her beer.
"Is Helen still here?" Andy ignored her mother's comment.
"Helen comes to see me because she loves me, you only want me when I can give you something." Her mother's voice sounded weak and airy, but determined to make her point.
"Gigi needs to go back to her father." Andy moved into the room and tried to see how many bottles of liquor were under the vanity.
"You never think I'm good enough for anyone in this family, do you?"
"Could you just tell me where they are?"
"Helen's still at school, Andrea. Did you forget to pick her up again?" Her mother pushed herself out of her chair and walked over to Andy.
"Okay, Mom. I get it." Andy raised her hands up in defeat and stepped back. "I'll go get her." She turned on her heel and walked out of her mother's room.
As she walked out of the house, Andy took in a deep breath of untainted air. She looked around again but saw no sign of Gigi, Helen or Helen's car. Taking out a cigarette and her phone she called Rob one more time.
"Please tell me you found her." Rob sounded dejected.
"Sorry," Andy cradled the phone between her cheek and her shoulder while she lit her cigarette. "Have you tried calling her boss?" Helen was notorious for calling out of work before disappearing from her family.
"He said he heard from her yesterday, but she wasn't too chatty with the details." Andy imagined Rob in his tiny apartment, cradled with the phone in his moth eaten couch he refused to throw out. She imagined him in his threadbare flannel with a cup of coffee not too far away and his hair messy with grey streaks. He was a small man, gangly like a teenager, but there was something beautiful about him too. Helen had seen that at one point, but their relationship was never supposed to last.
Andy sat on the step in front of her mother's house and took a long drag from her cigarette. Rob sat on the other end of the phone in silence and they shared the moment.
"Do you think she'll come back?" Rob asked, breaking the drawn out silence.
"She has to, eventually." Andy said. The words sounded hollow, but she knew they were the correct ones to use.
"She drained the bank account." Rob said. He let the words slide off his tongue slowly, as if he knew he would regret saying them.
"She did what?" Hopefully this was a mistake, a bad connection.
"I went to go buy a new light bulb for Gigi's night light, and when I got to the register the woman said my card was declined. So I paid in change. The card's drained, according to the bank's website." Rob said all of these things as if he was talking about the weather. None of his statements had any urgency, just factual information.
"Rob, what the fuck?" Andy stood up, smashing the cigarette out on the pavement. "Why didn't you say something?"
"What's the point, And? If she's gone, she's gone. Gigi will be taken care of and will never have to deal with her parents fighting."
"That's bullshit. Gigi would be better off knowing both her parents. My father might have been useless, but you have an interest in your kid." Andy flung the car door open and shoved her key into the ignition. She hung up without waiting for Rob's response and drove back into town.
"Tamera!" Andy stormed past the front staff at the bar toward the back room. "Tamera, I know you're here!"
"Jesus, who called the cops?" Tamera appeared, in skintight jeans and a cut off shirt, at her office door.
"Where's Helen?" Andy asked, ignoring her comment and the fact that she was obviously not wearing a bra.
"How should I know?" She asked, leaning on the doorframe. Her hair was as big and messy as usual and she had deep rings around her eyes. There was a new band coming into the bar this weekend and Tamera had done a lot of schmoozing to make sure they would show up.
Andy shook her head and brushed past Tamera, into her office. The office was like an adult collection of ticket stubs. Posters from bands, paraphernalia from all the shows held at the bar and some liquor bottles—old and new. Other than all the normal chotchkies the office was empty. Andy sunk into one of the red velvet armchairs in front of Tamera's desk and put her head in her hands.
"Okay, hi. What's happening?" Tamera sat on the edge of her desk and looked down at Andy.
Andy pulled one of her low top-clad feet up onto the chair and looked up at Tamera, deciding how much of the story to tell. "Helen took Gigi again. And drained Rob's account." Andy stared at a spot on the carpet, she imagined having to tell Rob there was no way to get Helen to realize she was wrong, no way to get his kid back, no way to turn his life into the wholesome dream he had nursed for years.
Tamera sat on the arm of Andy's chair and put a hand on her back. "That's fucked up."
"Yeah." Andy let Tamera rub her back for a few moments. "Where's your kid?"
Tamera froze. Her hand stayed planted in the middle of Andy's back and she immediately became stiff in her spot on the arm of the chair. "What?"
"He's in elementary school now?" Andy looked up at Tamera. Tamera stared back down, and pulled her shirt over her stomach. She looked less like a crazy bar owner and more like a failed mother in that moment. Andy had never asked about her kid, but now she was desperate to know.
"Uh," Tamera patted her hair down a little, "Yeah. He just turned ten." She paused, seeing if that was enough information. "He just wrote a book report on Harry Potter."
"He lives with you?"
"No." She moved off of the chair and leaned on the edge of her desk, looking down at Andy, who stayed still. "His father lives across town. I see him during the week. After the weekend rush." Tamera pushed herself up onto her desk. It looked like she was trying to get as far away from this conversation as possible. She waited again and then shook her head. "Why do you even care?"
"I can't imagine you as a mom. I can't imagine you cutting the crust off of sandwiches or picking him up from school in your cut up shirts. A couple nights ago we were in bed together." Andy trailed off.
"Helen's never going to have her shit together. But she's a good mom. She's trying." Tamera sounded like she was trying to convince herself.
"That doesn't mean she should disappear. Rob's so dejected he doesn't even care. What's his name?"
"Charlie. After his dad. Chuck."
"Chuck?" Andy let a smirk cross her face "How did someone like you end up with a guy named Chuck?"
"I didn't end up with him. He got me pregnant." Tamera looked around her office for an out and Andy continued to look at Tamera, trying to decide what to do with this new information. She was a mother. She probably had Mom friends, people who didn't know how she spent her spare time. Helen might have those people. People who believed all she did was make macaroni pictures with Gigi.
"I guess I'll go tell Rob I can't find Helen." Andy stood up and Tamera mirrored her actions, putting a hand on Andy's chest.
"It's going to be okay." Tamera said, looking up at Andy. For a second, Tamera looked like a mother. Her round brown eyes made her look more like Bambi than a siren. She moved her hand to cup Andy's face and Andy closed her eyes, letting that wonderful feeling engulf her for a second.
Andy leaned forward and kissed Tamera on the cheek. "Thanks." Andy turned to go before the moment was ruined and their relationship descended back into something physical and useless.