Circumstances being what they were at that moment in time, Dusty and Gina were living on skid row in a rehabilitation center for alcoholics.
It wasn't the greatest facility, and it wasn't the worst either, they supposed. They had both lived in worse places. It was just another adventure, therefore, when the roof fell in under a torrent of winter rain and flooded their room. The women's wing slept four to a room, and there were 5 rooms in all. Dusty and Gina bunked up with Patsy and Gail. Gail was in love with Teresa in the next room over, spending most of her time with her. Patsy had a breakdown one day and was carried off in the catatonic position they'd found her in.
Dusty and Gina became good friends and swore forever to be so, as youth will often lull the young as but one of it's flights from reality. In this case, it was a desperately held myth as Dusty and Gina clung tightly to each other in their newfound sobriety. They had been made aware of their odds of a full recovery from alcoholism..............less than 1 percent. And they were scared. Gina had never lived on skid row before, but Dusty had. She had been told to stay away from the Barkley Hotel by Mrs Green, the womens' matron.
Yet when the naming contest of the largest cockroach Gina had ever seen in the shared bathroom was over with, along with card games and gossiping about Frank's whiskey drinking in the men's bunkroom grew dull, the pull for Dusty to return to the Barkley Hotel had at times proved too much. She confided in Gina that she had been back to the Barkley several times against Mrs Green's orders. Gina didn't want to see her best friend return to their shared cruel master named booze. Booze with a capital B!
"Dusty", she pleaded, "don't go back there again. Promise?"
"Promise! Scouts honour. Cross my heart and hope to die. I'll never go back to that Barkley Bar again, Gina. Mrs Green gave me a chance here and I'm not a' gonna blow it!"
"OK Dusty, OK.........sure I believe you, why shouldn't I?" "I'm the same as you and...........well heck let's get out of this hell hole for awhile, go across the street and get caught up on our laundry?"
"Agreed!" Dusty saluted back, they both had a laugh, then slung their combined laundry in pillow cases over their shoulders.
It was during their short walk across the street, when they could see that the laundry room had been "hit". By what, they did not know. The entire window had been blown out. They huddled together, freezing in the winter snow. At least the electricity had remained on!! The girls by now had learned the importance of counting gratitudes. It was part of getting well.
Still, danger lurked just down the street. It was Christmas, and their families hadn't come to visit. Dusty's was far away in North Platt, Nebraska, while Gina's was just 10 block away. Gina's family was from the rich section of town, and deeply ashamed of their daughter. They would not speak to her, nor did they understand why any of this had happened when they had given Gina such a model upbringing. Gina didn't blame them, but she did long for them.
"Gina, we look like a coupla Santa Clauses, don't we?" Laughed Dusty. Dusty had known poverty, unlike Gina, who remembered the Christmas trees, tinsel and gifts galore in times past. Dusty had been lucky to get a pair of socks.
"Yeah we sure do" she laughed back. "Say, Dusty, what do you say we make a break for it while the laundry is going?"
"Hey, boss, I'm not leavin' my clothes. They are all I have in this world and somebody could steal them."
"Yeah", said Gina..........as her mind floated far, far away. Away to happier times. Away, away, away.
"How about a quick trip to the Barkley so I can see where you used to live? I'll make sure we don't get into any trouble", she pridefully stated.
All for one and one for all, they slip slid away through the falling snowflakes.
"Hey Dusty, where you been gal?" said Buster, in tandem with a hard smack on Dusty's full bottom. 'What a creep', thought Gina.
They couldn't get up that long staircase fast enough, as Dusty wanted Gina to meet Lynda, her friend from the old days.
It didn't take long for Gina to understand the attraction. Lynda was one of the most beautiful women Gina had ever seen, with manners to match.
"May I offer you girls a drink?"
"Oh no, Mam, not today. Maybe another time.", said Gina.
Strange, there was no odor of alcohol in Lynda's sparse room. It contained a bed and night table with single drawer. Lynda kept her bottle of whiskey under the bed, in keeping with the girl's wishes.
So they sat there on her bed and had a chat. Lynda, so well spoken, and seemingly not drunk. Eventually, she pulled her silver gilded brush out of her drawer.
"Oh Lynda, can I brush your beautiful hair for you like I used to?" begged Dusty.
"Sure honey, you were the only one I ever trusted with it."
"And you're too kind to me, always were. I miss you and your sweet ways, little Dust."
"Thanks, Lynda. You really are so pretty", said Dusty admiringly.
Next and reluctantly, "We best be getting on back now".
"Sure was nice to meet you, Gina. Won't you come back and pay me a visit soon?"
"You bet, Lynda. The pleasure has all been mine. Would next week be all right with you?"
"Anytime, sweetie. I'll be here."
The memory of the Lady with the sparkling red hair haunted Gina for the rest of her drunken days.