Cybil stood on the driveway, nervously pulling her sweater sleeves over her hands and tucking them under her armpits. Her packed duffle bag stood at her feet. The wind was picking up and the chill went straight to her skin despite the many layers she had on. She’d barely slept the night before, or the night before that, or the one before that. In fact, Cybil had barely slept at all the entire month. The dark circles under her eyes would attest to that, but since she had a history of drug abuse no one believed her anymore when she said she’s clean. In fact, Cybil had been clean for almost five months now. Five months tomorrow to be exact. Five months since she’d met Neil. Neil was also a reformed user and was helping her get out of her addiction one way or another. In fact, he was helping her in more than one way.
She stared up at the grey sky, and shot a look across the yard to Mrs Gentle’s yard. Her lounge room light was still on. Cybil bet the old lady had a fire crackling in her hearth and sat there with a Mills and Boon book in her grip. Mrs Gentle was a closet freak! The stories she told Cybil of her shenanigans would even embarrass Cybil, and she thought she was beyond embarrassment. She waved as the woman looked out the window, and tied the scarf tighter around her neck.
Her phone beeped. Don’t forget to message us when you reach the centre, it read. Guess her family had already given up on her a long time ago. She no longer got frantic calls from mum or dad, or Gwin when she came home late, multiple miss calls when they couldn’t get hold of her, visits in the middle of the night to make sure she hadn’t OD’d on the floor. Nowadays, she was lucky if she got a message once a week. Ever since she’d been forced to move in with Gwin, no one cared much what she did. She guessed the questions were fielded to her sister. Is she home? Is she alive? Is she going to her sessions? Is she using again?
Cybil sniffled as another burst of wind swept the street and finally saw an old lancer tumbling down the street. Neil pulled up beside her driveway and waited for her to get in before peeling off down the street again.
‘How long you going for this time?’ He asked. Since They had met, Cybil had gone back to rehab about three times. The last two times it was Neil who had given her a lift both ways.
‘Couple of weeks,’ she replied, rubbing her cold hands together and holding them out towards the warm breeze of the vents. ‘They think I’m using again.’
Neil didn’t say anything for a long while. At the end of the street as he waited for a gap in the traffic to make the turn, he glanced at her, or rather at the long sleeves almost halfway down her hands. ‘And are you using?’
She laughed. She didn’t mean to laugh, but Neil had a way about him that didn’t piss her of when he asked such questions. ‘No, not since the incident.’ She called her failed suicide an incident, instead of what it really was, a cry for help.
He held her gaze quizzically before break in traffic took his attention away. Neil was not someone you’d call tall, dark and handsome, but the more time Cybil spent with him, the more his features stood out. He had a chiseled nose with tiny freckles. His smile was always lopsided. His eyes gleamed when he saw her.
‘They were worried so I thought why not. Gives me a break as well from all the suspicion. I’m tired of saying no.’ She could tell him that she could no longer sleep in her room. That maybe going to rehab might give her some space. Make her feel safe. In stead she leaned towards him, patted him down gently, causing Neil to dance a little in his seat. She reached awkwardly into his jacket’s pocket and pulled out his phone.
Neil took the phone out of her hands with one hand on the wheel. ‘I don’t have much battery left, Cil.’
Cybil nodded and instead turned the radio on, scanning for a station with an upbeat song playing. ‘You think dreams are trying to tell us something?’ She asked casually.
‘I don’t know, probably depends on what you saw,’ he shrugged, changing lanes. ‘Why, what did you see?’
The smiling face flashed in her mind, and a chill despite the heat in the car coursed through her. ‘Nothing.’ She blinked furiously, hoping to wipe the image from her mind. ‘I was just reading up on phobias the other day and I don’t know why I thought… Never mind. It sounds stupid anyway.’
‘Tell me.’ Neil glanced at her with concern. ‘Cil?’
Cybil cozied up, pulling her legs up to her chest and wrapping her sweater around herself. She leaned on the window and closed her eyes. ‘I haven’t slept in days. Would you mind if I got one in now? I can’t sleep alone these days.’ Her voice had wavered towards the end. ‘Wake me up when we get there yeah.’
The drive was at least couple of hours in summer, but in winter, and the snow, it was a slower going. They had the whole day to get there and Cybil really wanted to sleep. Sleep where she felt safe, and Neil felt safe.
The sound of the wheels on the road, the radio chattering and Neil saying something soon melted away. Finally, after a month of heart racing anxiety about the woman in her dreams, Cybil slept.