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Sneak Peek - Introductions

    I'm not exactly sure how I got to my apartment, and I'm not sure how I never noticed how ugly the carpet in the hallway was, either. Had it always been this shade of puke green? Oh, my god. Puke. I immediately extracted the empty vodka bottle from its brown paper bag by my side and deposited my half-digested dinner into it.
    "Yuck," I sputtered, as I wiped the residue from my chin onto the back of my jacket sleeve.
    I always hated puking; not just because it wasn't pleasant, but because it wrecked me emotionally, too. I always cried when I threw up, even though I never really knew why. Paired with the amount of crying I had done prior to my drinking binge, I was sure my mascara had painted a picture on my face by now that even Picasso would scoff at. The thought brought more tears to my eyes. I reached into my coat pocket for my keys before risking my luck with standing and paused. They weren't there. Frantically, I searched the inside pocket, the front pockets of my jeans and then my back pockets and then rechecked all of my pockets again. Nothing.
    "You have got to be kidding me," I groaned. I sluggishly reached for my phone to call the building super, Mr. Debrasio, to bring me his spare set, but realized it was nowhere on me either.
    "Oh, fantastic," I grumbled. Then I realized it wouldn't matter anyway because Mr. Debrasio was out of town until Monday, and it was Friday night. Could my luck be any worse right now? I was still drunk enough that the blow of the evening's earlier events didn't sting as much, but realizing I was locked out of my apartment without my phone (which also contained the non-memorized numbers of any person who actually could help me) was enough to send me back over the edge. I sat there, head down, hood up, and sobbed.

    'Why me?' I thought. I was a good person. I regularly paid it forward at the corner coffee shop, I donated gently used clothes and goods when I no longer needed them, and I always, always put more money than most in those red Salvation Army buckets during the holidays. What in the world did I do to deserve everything that had spiraled my life into such chaos over the last twelve hours?
    As I sat and questioned the current shambles of my existence, I heard the elevator at the end of the hall ding and the distant jingle of keys. 'Please be Mrs. Murray, please be Mrs. Murray,' I thought. Mrs. Murray was my 60-year-old neighbor from two doors down who was pleasant, but never delved further than small talk with anyone. She was private, and right now I wanted privacy more than ever. As the steps grew closer, I realized they were far too heavy to belong to my petite neighbor but I didn't dare lift my head. They moved closer until suddenly I was staring at my feet and two large, black Nike running shoes in front of me.
    "Everything alright there, neighbor?" came a deep, warm voice. I could only imagine what I looked like to someone else at the moment. My dark blonde hair askew under my hood, gray slacks wet halfway up the legs from the puddles I clumsily tried and failed to avoid, my jacket pulled off my shoulder slightly, and an empty vodka bottle lying next to a paper bag full of vomit.
    "Yeah, I'm okay," I lied. I refused to look up because I knew the state of my face would be a dead giveaway that I was absolutely not okay.
    "Are you sure?" the stranger asked, "because you reek of alcohol and stomach acid. Do you need help getting up and into your place? I know we haven't officially met, but I'm willing to lend a hand if you need to borrow my balance and coordination for a second."

    It was then I realized that this must be the new guy who moved into the place adjacent to mine. 'Obviously, idiot, your apartment and his are the only ones at the end of the hall,' I thought to myself.
    "I don't have my keys. I'm locked out," I slurred.
    "Ah, well that makes things a bit trickier then. Do you have the super's number? You can call for a spare," he stated matter-of-factly.
    "My phone is on the table on the other side of this dumb door," I slowly said as I jabbed my thumb backward into the wooden barrier, still not daring to look up. "It wouldn't help much though since Debrasio is out of town until Monday and I don't have the number for the guy in the floor unit who's filling in for him." I saw him shift his weight out of the corner of my eye and readjust the bag he was carrying, and wondered if I'd need to ask to borrow it since I already destroyed the one I had.
    "Well, why don't you come in and I'll see if I can find the number for you. I know I have it somewhere," he said.
    "No," I said, "No, thank you."
    "Why not? Wouldn't it make the most sense so you can actually get into your place? I'm sure you'd like to get cleaned up, and from the looks and smell of it I think it'd make you feel a whole lot better."
    Without thinking about it first, I looked up and glared at my would-be hero. I saw his expression change from annoyed to compassionate within a matter of milliseconds, and it began to register with him just how distressed I was. He turned to his door and I was sure I had scared off my only hope for a timely rescue, but then he sat his bag down next to his door, came back to me, and put his hand down to help me up.
    "Come on, let's get you up and inside." I reluctantly put my hand in his and as I shifted my weight forward, I realized I had done so too fast. I lurched for my already-used bag and expelled more of my dinner, utterly embarrassed as I sat back once I was done.
    "I'm so sorry you had to see that," I mumbled.
    "Hey, don't mention it. We've all been there," he said with a reassuring tone. We tried again, and as I leaned forward to shift my weight and stand, I felt his hand reach around my waist as he helped keep me balanced and upright. I gave a sheepish smile to signify my thanks, and he slowly moved us toward his door.
    "Just let me know if I need to slow down, or if you feel like you're going to be sick again," he said as he reached for his keys.

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