For the next few months, Tuesdays on my blog will feature one of my fellow Martin Sisters Publishing authors. There are a bunch of us, and we all write in various genres, so enjoy the fun stuff included in these posts and maybe even check out the MSP website.
Today’s feature is Sunset Park by Dana Mansfield.
We need to talk. This phrase spoken by Ben to his longtime love Laurie changes their lives drastically. He uses those words to springboard his intent to leave her and their childhood neighborhood in Memphis. Sunset Park is just as much engrained in their souls as their horrific childhoods they survived with each other’s help.
Ben returns to Sunset Park five years later amid the impending festivities of his cousin’s wedding. He has an ulterior motive other than walking Jamie down the aisle – he wants to make amends with Laurie. This goal is a delicate one as both of them are fragile from Ben’s actions that fateful April night five years earlier.
After a scare, they make the complicated attempt to reconcile their relationship and move forward. However, an old mystery resurfaces from their five years apart that threatens not only Ben and Laurie’s hopes but also their lives.
Excerpt from Sunset Park
Chapter 7: Back Home
By midnight, Ben settled into the small apartment that overlooked the front street. It was a mirror image of the apartment he shared with Laurie for so long but it lacked the warmth of that previous dwelling. The furniture was sparse – a bed in the sleeping alcove, The Old Man’s lumpy couch, a card table with a couple chairs and a dresser. It wasn’t much but it already felt more like a home than the furnished rat trap he rented in the bad part of Panama City Beach. When you drank and shot up most of your earnings, you couldn’t afford the best surroundings.
He sat on the side of the bed and tried to rub the stress of the last few days from his face. A variety of emotions ripped through him in the four days since returning to Sunset Park and he did not expect them to dissolve easily. There was fear at seeing his cousin Jamie for the first time in five years, worry about what people might say at her wedding and a ton of Laurie anxiety in general. When he saw how beautiful his cousin looked before he walked her down the aisle, he felt nothing but joy and happiness. A different fear and worry hit him when Marcus took Jamie to the hospital and then relief when she came back home. Nervous excitement followed the phone call from Marcus where he was offered the job in the café and a place to live. Fear returned again as he wondered how Jamie would take the news of his extended drinking and drug abuse and that fear was relieved a bit after Marcus told her. And now he felt a slight surge of optimism. Just a small amount but it was enough for him to look forward to the coming days.
He slipped off his long sleeve t-shirt and caught site of the crooks of his arms. It was just over a year since the last time he shot up but the scars were still there. Maybe not as visible as Ben believed; he often covered them at his most pathetic moments. The yearning for a hit was bad enough but seeing the scars often weakened him to the point of wondering where he could score just enough to make the pain go away.
Shame exploded within Ben. To differentiate himself from his drunken father, Ben added heroin to his arsenal. The crash from the brief euphoria deepened the guilt he tried to eradicate and he would begin the vicious cycle all over again. Ben wished he never took the needle when presented to him; the cravings for heroin were ten times worse than the craving for Jack Daniels.
“Stop it,” he told himself aloud. The year sober taught him to stop the fall downwards before he lost it completely and he focused on what was important at that moment. Ben pulled off his boots, then stripped to his boxers. Five in the morning would come quickly but he was far from tired. Leaning back on the bed, his thoughts immediately went to Laurie. How could they not? She was entwined so deep into his soul that death would be the only way to separate them.
With his first stretch of sobriety, alcohol being his only drug at that time, he finally accepted what a huge mistake he made in walking out on her but what he could never forgive himself for was not coming back when he was begged by the two most important women in his life. Bits and pieces of those messages haunted him whether he was sober or drunk. No matter how much he drank, and later injected, he could never get away from those words. Missing, abducted, knife wounds, stroke, life support, coma, raped… Over and over they haunted him. He was numb; unable to do the right thing after leaving her. And then Ben did the one thing he promised himself he would never do – he went into a bar and took a drink. It was a split second decision that turned him right into his father, minus the physical abuse.
Ben languished in the bottle before realizing that drinking wasn’t solving his problems and he went to his first AA meeting but stayed sober for only three months. It was April; one year after the breakup and Laurie’s nightmare began. There was no thought other than trying to forget everything and back to the bottle he went and eventually, the needle when it was offered. For three years he used and abused but even at that he failed and after Jamie asked him to walk her down the aisle, he turned to his old sponsor for help. Ben did ninety days in treatment and it was during rehab that he realized his only hope for long term sobriety was to face his darkest fear – Laurie. Another April came and he was back in Memphis and Sunset Park. Hopefully, he would find the strength he needed and make amends. If he couldn’t, deep down he knew that his next round with heroin would be his last. Only once did he come close to overdosing and that offer of complete absolution of his pain had been very tempting.
The streetlights cast a pale beam on the wall behind Ben. He wondered if Laurie was lying in the old brass bed just a few inches away from his own head on the other side. Quietly, he sat up and put his ear to the wall and listened. Nothing. It was silly for him to even try to hear what was going on next door but that’s how bad he was hurting inside for his huge mistake.
Ben settled back into bed and with horrific whispers of past regrets bouncing around his head, he fell into a fitful sleep.
Find Sunset Park at Martin Sisters Publishing.
Find Dana at http://www.danamansfield.com