They were in trouble, there was no doubt about that. The rent was due in a week and she had no job, no credentials, not even a high-school diploma. She had run away with that son-of-a-bitch a year before graduating, and now look where she was. Carol slumped into her armchair. Empty. The entire apartment had never felt so empty, so devoid of life, despite the fact that her baby daughter was sleeping quietly in the next room. It seemed so desolate and hopeless, yet there was nowhere else.
She rested her gaze on the nightstand. There, next to a picture of him, was a small jewelry box containing the few meager items of adornment that she owned. She could pawn all of it, but it would not yield nearly enough. However, if she could double the amount…
Carol was tense as she dialed the phone. For the life of her she could not stop thinking that what she was about to do was desperate and crazy, that it would never work. The phone rang and rang. Stephanie should be home, and even though Carol knew that Steph had her own fistful of problems right now, she needed a babysitter. The ringing stopped, and someone on the other end said “hello?”
“Steph, it’s Carol. I-I need you to watch Jessica for a few hours.” Carol’s voice was shaking.
“Carol? Are you all right? You sound worried,”
“I’m fine, Steph. I just need to run a few errands.”
“All right. I’ll be over in a few minutes.”
They barely exchanged pleasantries when Steph arrived. Carol was nervous and decided it would be best to leave right away. Steph’s face showed concern, but she didn’t pry. Good old Steph. Carol could always count on her to listen.
The drive happened in a blur, as though she was watching a movie in fast-forward. There was the pawn shop, now she was selling her jewelry, now the man was inspecting it, now she was taking the money, now she was back on the road. The highway blurred past in a blaze of red and yellow lights that must have been other cars.
Soon the Casino loomed over her, tall and ominous, a commanding tribute to opulence. Jazz music flowed from within, dancing on the breeze, a dazzling tune of sensuous sound. The neon sign mocked her, daring her to step inside. She clutched an envelope to her chest. Inside were a few hundred dollars, the sum total of everything the pawn shop had bestowed upon her. She would need to at least double it if they were to make rent.
This story was originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of Ty Celf, Cardiff University’s Art Magazine. I have edited this version slightly to correct a few mistakes.