The brass jingle of a shop bell rang above her as she stepped into the derelict lobby of the Victory Motel; the type of motel that should exchange Bibles in the top drawer for Narcan outfits; a quaint, ding-a-ling, at the entrance just seemed like a lie. The lobby smelt of head shop oil and the lighting inside was unkind and clinical. Clutching fifty-five dollars in her right hand, Elizabeth could still feel the ick of semen crusting to her smooth thigh. It was exactly the sixth time she’d tricked herself out in all the years she was homeless. Generally, she flies a sign. But today is Elizabeth’s fiftieth birthday. She spent her first lachrymose night on the street when she was thirty years old. For twenty years, Elizabeth has managed to keep her habit without overdosing, going to prison, or getting clean for more than ten hours. For a junkie, that’s a preternatural accomplishment that takes a salty kind of prowess and a natural aptitude for subterfuge. For her birthday, she’d resolved to gift herself a night at The Victory as a rare munificence for surviving so long when so many others around her died. She didn’t care how she had to procure the money. It was uncommon to let her desire for a fix fall short of something else, but she remained obdurate that she could figure out a way to get dope later. All she wanted was a room, where she could sleep under sheets, alone, and welcome herself into her pre-twilight with a sludgy fix. A place where she could fade away for a while without waking up to sirens on a bus bench that shattered her eyes open direct to the miasmatic frenzy of a paradoxical world that thrives on killing itself.
The owner of The Victory, Sergey, sat at the front desk with his gaze staring deep into a section of the wall where the paint was peeling off. He was the precise human reincarnation of The Victory Motel. A dilapidated, malnourished, sunken-eyed man, who made a Faustian misstep in procuring his business, and now the weight of its ownership was a dark mass. A cancer spot on his heart that manifested through the permanently downturned corners of his mouth. His skin was jaundiced from the drinking and smoking he disposed himself to in dealing with the various traumas of owning a dumpy hotel. His hair was thin and greased back in sparse locks over the bald patch on the back of his head. Morning, noon, or night, Sergey never failed to stink of grape Mad Dog. He was so lost in his thoughts that he flinched when the brass bell rang as Elizabeth stepped inside.
“Sergey, Love, I need a room. And I don’t need you to give me any shit about it.” Said Elizabeth.
“Do you hear that?” Sergey asked.
Sergey was four out of Elizabeth’s six tricks. One night, he found her flying a sign on the street corner and asked her if she needed a place to sleep. She allowed him to take her to the room he kept at The Victory and then he paid her to laugh and make jokes about his penis while he masturbated. That was his kink, and he loved it. Easiest forty bucks Elizabeth ever made. Only thing is it’s hard to keep coming up with fresh material about a small penis. Afterwards he would talk out loud for hours, and she allowed herself to listen, prolonging her time in shelter. After the fourth session, she felt she knew everything about him. He would go on to her volubly like she was his therapist. He told her that he had two daughters back in a small southern town, and she picked up a pusillanimity in the shaky timber of his voice that told her he was guilty of leaving them. He told her that he wouldn’t even dare to call them until he finally turned the hotel around, which Elizabeth knew was a futile exertion of hope. It was too far gone.
“I don’t hear anything. This place is driving you crazy.” Replied Elizabeth.
Sergey pointed one crooked finger towards the ceiling and said, “Drip. Drip. Drip. DRIP! DRIP!”, In synch with the sound of a distant dripping to emphasize the noise for Elizabeth. “I’ve searched for this drip for four hours. I can’t find it. It feels like God is trying to waterboard my thoughts.”
Avoiding the conversation all together Elizabeth cheerily replied, “I brought you some business!”, and pridefully slapped fifty-five dollars, damp from clammy hands, on the desk in front of Sergey.
“This isn’t enough…”
“There’s fifty-five bucks there!”
“I can count. I raised the rates. It costs eighty a night now.”
“What? Who the fuck do you think is going to pay eighty bucks a night for this shit hole? No offense.”
“I had too. At such a low rate, people like you, no offense, keep coming here and overdosing. I’ve walked into six dead bodies this month. It’s bad for my soul. I’m going to fix this place up. I already bought a Keurig for the lobby.” Sergey pointed his long yellow fingernail to a new coffee maker.
“Oh, Sergey come on! I’ll hustle up the rest tomorrow! Or how about this, if you let me get the room for fifty-five, I’ll help you find the leak?”
Elizabeth may have been older, and she may have been missing a few teeth, but she still had eyes that, in the right light, looked like sunshine refracting through green obsidian. They were big and lurid and innocent, and she could use them as a tool to lie. Where her soul was supposed to be seen was a black hole that served to identify desolation, and she found Sergey’s, and he could feel her sucking him in against his will, and just as he was about to give in, the brass bell jingled once again behind her.
Sergey broke her stare and said, “No. Liz. I raised the rates. I have to start sticking to my guns on things, or I’ll never turn this place around.” All the while he was watching a young man who’d stepped into the lobby dripping from the summer heat. When Elizabeth turned around, she found herself staggard by his natural, masculine, beauty. He couldn’t be any older than eighteen. He was long and thin, with a built angular jaw that flexed, muscular and chiseled as he set his heavy bag on the ground. His face was beat red from the sun, and he had green eyes like hers, but with a freshness, and she could immediately tell that he hadn’t been traumatized by anything on the street quite yet. But she had no doubt that he was a junkie too, and as strong as he came off, she could see that he was scared and new to being unsheltered.
He stepped in front of her and said, “I need a room” to Sergey as he lay his own fifty-five dollars gingerly down on the desk; some of it in quarters and dimes.
“That’s not enough.” Elizabeth said to him.
“The prices have been raised to eighty dollars a night.” Sergey added.
The young man’s eyes glassed over, his lips turned down, his jaw began to quiver, and Elizabeth saw that the young man was about to cry.
Out of avarice more than solicitude, Sergey suggested, “Why don’t you two go in together on a double bed?”, then he looked at River and said, “She has the same problem.”
Elizabeth interjected in her loftiest tone, “Nope. I don’t know this kid. I don’t need to wake up to somebody whacking it over me, breathing all heavy, in the middle of the night”, secretly hoping the young man might protest.
The young man looked down at her and whipped back, “Don’t flatter yourself lady. My penis would ejaculate tears if I tried to whack it to you.”
Being that this was only the second set of words Sergey and Elizabeth had heard him speak, they were caught off guard. He looked like such a sweet kid. Elizabeth’s lips slowly crooked upwards into a semi-smile as she stared at him in mirthful amazement.
“I wasn’t expecting that.” She said to the young man as she pulled her sagging pants up over her emaciated waist only to let them fall right back down to where they were.
“What’s your name?” She asked.
“My name is Lizzy. Do you want to split a room for a night, River?”
River thought that she posed no real threat. He had nothing she could steal from him. If anything, he could tell that she could get him drugs, and he needed those. He had just smoked his last bit, and his every heartbeat was the tick of a clock that was counting down to withdrawals, so he acquiesced, “Sure. Okay.”
“Alright. Double bed. Ninety with tax.” Sergey said in the spirit of a true capitalist.
“Now it’s ninety?” Replied Elizabeth truculently.
“With tax. Yes.”
The brass bell jingled once more as River and Elizabeth heaved their bags from the lobby, through the hotel’s outdoor hallways, naked to the torrid Phoenix summer. Waves of heat refraction rose from the shimmering blacktop and bent the distance through which they could see other junkies pushing carts down the street, some setting up camp with cardboard boxes. It was a miserable day outside, and they simultaneously felt the reaffirmation that they had made the right choice to share the comfort of a hotel room. They even felt lucky to have met.
Their room was upstairs, and they could look out over the railing and see over barbed wire topped walls that closed the area in making it look like a prison, but also protecting it from the growing influx of peripatetic vagrants who would try to hang out in the hotel’s stairwells. They could see their infernal ghetto, moving and breathing and flatulating, and their short hairs goosed at the distant sound of police sirens with the pesky flashing of red and blues, and Elizabeth called, “One time!” out of pure instinct, and they could see people screaming at one another, and the sound of gunfire clapping off in the distance, and in that moment they felt a safety that neither had felt in a long time.
Elizabeth looked at River and said, “Let’s try to enjoy this while we can, kid. Tomorrow its back to that.”
They opened the door to the hotel room, and the air conditioning blew through their sweat laden skin like an arctic squall. Elizabeth shivered, and instantly tucked herself under the covers, turned on the TV for the comforting white noise, and began sucking her thumb; something she has always done whenever she feels safe.
River sat down on his bed, and asked a query as old as junk itself, “You got any dope?”
“Nope. But I know where to get it. I have ten bucks left, not sure how much you got, but if you want to go in together, I know a guy who will drop it off.” Said Elizabeth.
“I only have ten too. Do you know somebody who will deliver a dub?”
“I know somebody who will deliver a dub to somebody like you. That’s for sure.”
“What do you mean?”
“Benny is going to love you. He will hook us up just to be able to hang around you.”
“Okay.” Said River not really knowing how to respond but satisfied enough with the idea of getting hooked up.
Then Elizabeth asked him a question she already knew the answer to: “Do you smoke it or bang it?”
“I smoke Percs.” Replied River.
Liz was an old school junkie. It felt to her like nobody banged heroin anymore. Most modern drug addicts are smoking Percs now, but for Elizabeth, the needle is romantic. She adores her ritualistic fix. Opening her meticulously organized kit, with her acacia-gold measurement spoon; her assorted Bic lighters; the vinegar smell of simmering junk settling into her nostrils like the steam from a warm homemade soup; gracefully pulling a cotton sliver from the butt of a cigarette with her front incisors, wading it up with saliva using her tongue and the roof of her mouth, and then gently spitting it into the spoon. She was given a glass syringe at the needle exchange; those were hard to come by. The tie, the flick, the slap, the poke, and then the push. She was almost more addicted to the sensuous measured sequence then to the dope itself.
“He only sells black, and G, and smoking a dime isn’t going to get you very far, is it?”
“Guess not. I don’t have a point though.” River replied.
Elizabeth cocked her head to the side and said in a sweet, motherly, voice, “I do. Don’t worry sweetheart. I’ll take care of you. Just go in half with me. He’ll hook it up and we’ll be set for the night.”
Addiction doesn’t give much wiggle room for choice, and River supposed it’s not like he had to keep shooting up. He could do it just this one time and go back to smoking.
Four hours later they were still waiting for a knock at the door, both getting sweaty and antsy. River had unfolded about twenty old trays and was trying to smoke the residue of old trails where he’d already smoked Percs on them before. His throat burned from sucking in butane and heat. Elizabeth pressed out her cottons, and managed to get a pretty good shot in, but it wasn’t enough to breach any kind of euphoria. When the knock finally came, Elizabeth got up excitedly and opened the door to a stubby little man, with thick puffy sags under dark, melanin, eyes. He had a pencil mustache under the shadow of a villainously pronounced aquiline nose. He sported a cul-de-sac bald spot, with thick black curly hair on the sides of his head that he brushed back behind his ears, and bushy black eyebrows that pointed to an angle at the top. The stubby little man epitomized the stranger that children’s classes learned to avoid. Elizabeth told him to come inside and made him feel right at home. As soon as he caught River’s eyes once, he held on to them with menacing intensity, and would get visibly upset if River ever looked away.
In a supremely confident, thick Castilian accent, he said, “Who is this beautiful young man?”
Benny had disregarded the business transaction that he’d arrived for entirely. Elizabeth was right though, he was obviously crazy about River. As a rule of thumb, no dope dealer will ever drop off a dub sack. If it had just been her, there was no way in hell he would make a trip to The Victory, but for a guy like River, he’d travel across town. A silent tension filled the room now after nobody gave the introduction Benny was looking for. It expanded so rapidly that Elizabeth felt that if she didn’t say something, it might push her right through the dry wall.
“That beautiful young man’s name is River.” Elizabeth said.
“And why does he not speak for himself?” Said Benny.
“I think you’re scaring the shit out of him.”
“Am I scaring you, River?” (Except when he said “River”, it didn’t sound like River, it sounded like “Reeber”). “My name is Benicio. Call me Benny.”
River could feel that Benny wanted him, and he was overcome by the discordant cofunction of fear and flattery. He had been homeless for just under a year, and there wasn’t a pair of eyes that passed him on the street whose look didn’t let him know he was nothing more than a piece of dried gum sitting under a piece of dog shit. River was beautiful. He knew he was beautiful. His whole life he felt the feathery weight of his beauty shrouding him, sugary and warm, and it was a painful contrast knowing that people looked down on him now that he was a homeless junkie. It was an old rusty knife stuck into the ribcage of his vanity. A part of him welcomed the familiar feeling, one he hadn’t felt in a long time, the feeling of being wanted. On the other hand, Benny was likely the creepiest person he had ever met. His eyes were beady, and he had scarring on his face from acne and the incessant skin picking a meth addict is prone to. He was a hideous man, who carried with him this massive cloud of turpitude that could leave his path stained.
“You must beat the ladies off with a stick, River.” Said Benny.
“It’s been a while.” River replied.
Benny pruriently placed his fat little hand on River’s upper thigh and squeezed, making him shiver in disgust and said, “That’s madness. I’ll pay you fifty dollars right now just to let me suck your dick. All you do is sit back and relax.” He said this with the same pragmatism with which most men talk about taxes or the Super Bowl. Elizabeth’s green eyes illuminated like glowing electrons in radioactive decay at the proposition. “Easy money…” She couldn’t help but think.
“I don’t think so.” Said River apprehensively.
Benny took a square piece of tin foil out of his pocket, unfolded it to show a thick black smudge, lit it from the bottom, smoked it, and all but blew the smoke into River’s face as a wordless rejoinder. River salivated as he watched the smudge slide down the tray the way a piece of butter melts across a flapjack leaving a greasy trail in its wake.
“Can I hit that?” asked River.
“That’s up to you.” Replied Benny.
“What?” River asked, not knowing any other way to navigate the situation then to just play dumb.
Benny looked down his bird beak nose at River and said, “Don’t be coy with me.”
Realizing she’d been forgotten entirely, Elizabeth pulled the money they’d called Benny over to spend, and found a small interstice in their awkward interaction to say, “Here’s the twenty… Can we start there before we negotiate something else? Might lubricate the deal a little bit? Ha.”
“Maybe I don’t sell you drugs. Maybe I’ll just leave and go someplace else. Leave you sick.” Benny said as he folded up his tray and stood up slowly to walk out the door.
Typical dope dealer with a God-complex. In real life, he’s a dishwasher at Lolita’s Burritas. Selling dope is a side hustle, but the feeling of power he associated with his reign over the junkie miscreant population is more addictive than any physical substance he could think of.
“River, can I talk to you in the bathroom please?” Said Elizabeth.
“Okay.” Replied River.
Benny’s gaze never left River even as he got up and followed Elizabeth into the cramped ensuite bathroom. Elizabeth closed the door gently, looked into River’s eyes and spoke to him in a soft, sweet, whisper, “I knew he would like you.”
Feeling utterly objectified, River whispered back, “You said he would just hook us up for being around me, you didn’t say he was going to give me an ultimatum. You’re trying to pimp me out.”
“I’m not. I didn’t plan this, but maybe you should consider it. You have the option to make the easiest money a guy like you could possibly ever make out here. It’s just a hustle.”
“I’m not a fucking street treat.” Replied River, obviously having been named that specific epithet before.
“Nobody is calling you a street treat! It’s just a hustle. But he’s about to give you fifty bucks for putting in zero effort, not to mention zero risk of getting arrested! Take one for the team dude!”
“Listen, I’m not, not, okay with it. I’m comfortable enough with my sexuality to know it’s just a hustle. Maybe if he was prettier. He’s just so… ugly, and creepy. He touched my thigh through my jeans and I wanted to rip my hair out.”
“Welp, when you’re lying in that bed, sick as a dog, and Sergey is pounding on the door to tell us to get out tomorrow morning, I’ll open the blinds, the hot sun shining through, and I’ll say, ‘Come on kiddo! It’s back to the street with nothing to get you well!’ and I guarantee you’ll wish for money this easy.”
River couldn’t believe he was considering letting Benny go down on him. He also couldn’t believe somebody was going to pay him to suck his dick. He figured Elizabeth was right, it was easy money. His dope sickness always started as a soreness in his thighs, and he could feel them tenderizing as he stood there. He began to feel claustrophobic in the tiny bathroom.
Elizabeth continued, “I know he’s rather frightening, but when you think about it, you have the upper hand here. He wants you, bad. I’ve never seen him look at anybody the way he looks at you.”
“Oh, lucky me.” Said River sarcastically.
River wanted to mutilate himself for even considering it, “If we do this, I want more than fifty bucks.”
“Then try to negotiate more.” Said Liz.
River smirked a guileful little smirk before he finally came out and said, “We should rob him.”
“Really? I think he’s kind of dangerous.” Protesting slightly, but also surprised she hadn’t thought of the concept herself.
“Does he have a gun on him?” Asked River.
“And I bet he has cash on him?”
Elizabeth was surprised by River’s fearlessness. In a small epiphanic millisecond she realized that she was wrong about River’s looking scared when she first laid eyes on him in the lobby of The Victory Hotel. She realized he wasn’t scared so much as he had something to prove. The whole thing made her heartbeat fast and she smirked her own greedy little smile as if the feeling was contagious, and she even shivered a little bit from the excitement. Elizabeth had known Benny for a long time, and she knew he wasn’t cartel affiliated. He worked in a dish-pit all day scrubbing spatulas, but that didn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t dangerous. She wondered, “How dangerous could he be?” River must have outweighed Benny by thirty pounds, and he was at least three feet taller than him.
“Alright. You let him suck your dick for a few minutes, then I’ll sneak out, snag his gun, and turn it on him while you run his pockets.”
“Yes. That would make me feel a lot better about the whole, my penis being in his mouth thing.”
It was settled. They would rob Benny. River took a deep breath and opened the door. There was Benny’s gaze again, waiting for him. Elizabeth was surprised to find herself with a tinge of jealousy as she stood there waiting in the bathroom. Twenty years ago, that would have been her out there, but with her mouth around some creep and his hands on the back of her head, and then she suddenly felt at ease with her position in the scenario. It only took a few seconds before she could hear the rustling of clothing coming off, and then she could hear Benny spitting and choking. She slowly opened the door and peaked her head out to find River clinching his eyes shut, grinding his teeth, and clutching his fists so hard he could crush the tips of his own fingers. She motioned to River to grab Benny’s head, like he was really into it, so he could control him better.
The way Benny was on his knees, she could see the gun tucked into the back of his pants and she could see his fat wallet protruding. River couldn’t stop thinking about how badly he wanted to rip his skin off and set it on fire. Elizabeth was surprised to see her own hand shaking involuntarily as it slowly rose toward Benny’s gun, and to feel her stomach turning, and her heart thumping and feeding back a sharp white noise that sliced through her eardrums as she slowly stretched her hand further out towards the pistol. She saw River’s eyes were on her, and she saw him mouth the words, “Hurry up”.
When River looked back down at Benny, he saw that absent, dead, gaze staring back at him, and then he suddenly felt Benny biting down as he whipped his face around to see what was going on behind him. River squeeled the loud, high-pitched screech, of swine being tackled to the ground and slaughtered.
“He bit my dick!” River yelled. He checked his area, and everything was still attached, but there was more blood than any reproductive being would like to see coming from that specific organ.
Elizabeth was struggling with stubby little Benny on the ground. She had two hands on the gun, and he had two hands on the gun, and River watched Elizabeth flex her toned muscles and wrestle with an oddly poised aplomb, like she’d done this a thousand times before. She overpowered Benny with ease, and before he could get up, she was mounting him on the ground like a grade school bully. River figured her muscularity must have been from years of carrying around heavy bags all day in the hot sun, and he was glad it was good for something. Shirt on, pants off, still bloody, River rushed over to the two of them, the center of his entire body throbbing in pain, and they overpowered him completely, forcing him to drop the gun to the floor. River picked it up and his first thought was to shoot Benny in the dick, but Benny left his attached, so it wasn’t necessary, and besides that, there’s no way he could be that cold. He did, however, let Benny feel the icy barrel of his own gun on the skin of his right temple, freezing his actions so quickly it made River feel like he had the power to stop time.
“You beautiful snake! Fuck you!” Benny hollered from a place of deeply wounded pride.
Elizabeth ran her hands through each of his pockets. When she was finished, River said, “Get the fuck out of here” With his voice and heart coated in a toxic, evil, pride he had never felt before.
Benny shuddered as he found himself literally running away from the Victory Hotel.
“I can’t believe we just did that.” Elizabeth said as she walked back into the room with a bucket of ice for River’s junk.
“Do you think that’s going to come back to bite us in the ass?” River asked her anxiously.
“This neighborhood is small. It almost always does. But for now, hooray!” Elizabeth threw her hands in the air like she was on a roller coaster ride.
River cracked the first smile Elizabeth has ever seen him make and said, “I’ve never done anything like that before.”
“Did feel kind of good though, didn’t it?” Said Elizabeth.
River’s smile grew wider as he said, “Yes. Yes, it did.”
Elizabeth took inventory of their take by laying it out meticulously on her bed. She counted one pistol, three grams of black, five grams of meth, and a wallet with one driver’s license featuring a disturbing smile from Benny, an EBT card, and $335. River shed a happy tear after not having possession of anything valuable in what felt like a very long time, and Elizabeth gave him a warm hug which made him feel like caramel was running through his veins and he melted in her arms, and together they looked like a mutated Rockwell painting.
“Now, I want my birthday shot. Let’s get high.” said Elizabeth.
“Today is your birthday?” Replied River.
River loaded a tray, took one hit, and then watched the beautiful succession of Elizabeth’s routine. He watched her open her kit and lay out her favorite glass needle. He saw her caked up, acacia-gold measurement spoon, and how she pulled the cotton from a cigarette, and he too smelt the vinegar of simmering junk, and it all just looked delicious to him.
“I want to do a shot.” Said River.
Elizabeth felt a small flitter of something like fire in her heart as his request passed through her. A glimmer of humanity maybe. She forgot she’d tried to convince him to do a shot before and wished now that she hadn’t.
“I don’t think you should.” She said, “It’s a whole new ballgame, kid.”
“I can do whatever I want. I’m not, like, your fucking son.”
“Whatever. I just don’t want you dying on me.”
“Well, I want to try it.”
Elizabeth could visibly see how what they had just done to Benny changed River’s demeanor instantly. She could tell he felt more advanced, or like he had breached manhood, and he wore it on his sleeve like it was something he never wanted to forget. Then it occurred to her how young he really was, and how lost he was. If he was lost, then Elizabeth wondered how lost she was. She wondered if River thought graduating to the needle was the next logical step, only she knew it was a step backward, or the first step into the ground. And then she found herself disgusted to care so much about what happened to River. She didn’t want to care.
She acquiesced, “Okay, A small one.”
Elizabeth put his shot together, tied her tourniquet around his left bicep, rested his heavy forearm on her inner thigh, close enough to her crotch that he could feel her body heat, and she gently brushed her fingers down his forearms from where his elbow bent at the top down to the center to feel for a good vein. He had so many to choose from, but she liked how it made her feel to touch him so intimately. River liked it too. Her delicate fingers brushing over him made the short hairs on his arms stand straight up. Somewhere from the back of his mind came the memory of how his mother used to tickle him to sleep.
After she chose one, she told him, “Don’t flinch. If you’re gonna flinch, turn your head away.”
He turned his head away and shut his eyes. With ease, Elizabeth caught a vein with her needle, and watched his blood bloom into the cartridge, and then she pushed slowly. She felt him go slack.
“Holy shit, mommy.” Said River, as he rested his whole body on the headboard.
Elizabeth mixed her own shot with some meth, so when she hit, she could be awake in her euphoria. She slipped her shoe off, then her sock, and found a vein in her foot. After she fixed, she immediately put her thumb in her mouth, as she always did. Then she picked up her kit and opened the top drawer of the nightstand to put it inside. She tucked it into the very back and found hidden a folded piece of paper. A note.
To whom it may concern,
I want no more from this life than for the promise that death brings to all of us to come to me early. If you are staying at The Victory, then it stands to reason that your life is shit. I truly hope your life gets better. I hope that you quit whatever you are using this room to shelter you from. I hope that you read this, and it brings you a moment of clarity. If nobody else in this world loves you, then I want you to know that I love you.
“Holy shit. River, read this. I found a suicide note!” But River didn’t respond. When she looked over at him, his eyes were closed, his face blue, and his lips white. It was obvious that he had overdosed.
“Fuck!” She said as she grabbed the phone to dial 911. When the operator picked up, in a lazy monotone voice, he said, “911, what’s your emergency?”
Elizabeth responded with a string of three small words that were frustratingly vague as they could have meant anything to a 9-11 operator, but the way they felt as they left Elizabeth’s brain was admonishing, both nebulous and specific, heavy, and repressed. She said, “I need help.”
When she hung up the phone, River looked calm and pale. The ambulance was on its way. Elizabeth threw herself back into the soft bed, stuck her thumb in her mouth and felt as light as a feather.