Free excerpt from The Abandoned, available September 30, 2021
If it weren’t for her mouth feeling as dry as the Sahara Desert, Ariana would have woken up elated. Even by her standards, she overindulged in her wodin collection when she arrived back to her condo after The Corridor. Simply getting back in touch with Robin was a sufficient enough reason to feel gleeful but establishing they would remain in each other’s lives provided so much to look forward to. Even though Ariana was unsure of how realistic that could be. Feeling like a young child the night before Christmas, she was too wound up to sleep. This is why she downed that half bottle of wodin.
Ariana had built up quite the tolerance and typically avoided excruciating hangovers. A little slower the next morning, sure, but nothing close to what she was suffering through now. It felt like someone stabbed an ice pick through the back of her head and it came out her forehead. She didn’t have an appetite, but she still brewed coffee, only to throw up once its scent drifted through her nostrils. Walking like a wounded soldier coming off the battlefield, Ariana hobbled over to the sink and guzzled water.
For close to an hour, she remained in the fetal position on the kitchen floor. Thank God for the voice-controlled vacuum, or else her throw up would have remained there for a while. She was proud of herself for sending a text to Robin upon waking up because right now she couldn’t stare at a screen or concentrate enough to articulate her thoughts.
Unfortunately for her, LaVonte wanted to speak with her soon. This meant she had to get her shit together before his hologram appeared on the island. If she was on the floor sprawled out on account of too much wodin, Ariana would never hear the end of it. Somehow, some way, she mustered up the energy and forced herself to concentrate enough to text him and ask when he could talk. He replied saying it would have to wait until early afternoon because he was in the process of damage control. Usually, Ariana would have been curious for more details, but her brain didn’t possess the wherewithal to formulate the question.
She allocated herself ten more minutes to lay on the ground and embrace how pathetic she was before readying herself for her husband. To dissipate her hangover and cheer herself up, she shifted her thoughts from the wodin-induced torture to how fortunate she was Robin was back in her life, even if it would be short-lived. Learning her nephews had grown up to be such admirable young men had unexpectedly warmed her heart, and the concept of being involved in their lives excited her. Aside from her one big break, life worked tirelessly to ensure Robin failed, but she fought harder and persevered, raising two impressive young men on her own in the process. Sure, she oftentimes complicated the process by criticizing herself too harshly and falsely believing she should be perfect, but after the emotional trauma Reginald Lawrence inflicted on them, neither of the sisters could have grown up unscathed. Ariana was grateful their conversation predominantly revolved around Robin and her sons because she didn’t know if she could convincingly lie to her sister about who she really was and what she had done.
After using up her time to be a useless alcoholic, Ariana commanded herself to her feet and embarked on what she needed to carry out that day. As counterproductive as it was, Ariana rinsed off before exerting herself in the condo’s gym. The purpose wasn’t to get clean, but to rather hit the refresh button. On an empty stomach, since she still couldn’t bear eating or drinking anything aside from water, Ariana hit the gym hard. She warmed herself up by sprinting a six-minute mile. A rapid cycle of bicycle crunches, tuck and crunches, modified v-sits, and seated Russian Twists followed. She required twelve reps of each workout, and she flew through the cycle three times. Her abs were on fire, pulsing against her skin; a heavy layer of sweat drenched her entire body. Ariana allowed herself a water break before completing three sets of push-ups. As much pain as her body was in, it was thankful its mind coerced it into a beneficial activity.
In spandex shorts and a sports bra, Ariana rested her hands on her hips and let her heart rate slow. She stood in front of the floor to ceiling window and peered down at The District’s busy bodies. The majority of them were White men strolling around like they owned the place. As much as Ariana despised their shameless air of arrogance, she couldn’t deny it: they did own the place. Morvo hadn’t brought Morple up to speed with the times as much as the media depicted it did. The disproportionate rate of wealthy White people to down in the dumps minorities was still appalling, but welfare initiatives like Free Morple masked the statistics telling the real story. More power to Robin and her fellow volunteers, but Ariana recognized all they were doing was enabling big government and business to rationalize mistreating most people. Ariana lost hope for an inclusive society a long time ago; she couldn’t honestly claim she ever had it. Minorities’ education rates in some parts of the country had increased, but Ariana perceived Morple as a metaphor for elitists remaining in charge. Enough uproar forced other parts of the country to adopt progressive policies, but the powerful figures who didn’t want to concede any of their power found a solution: fabricate a totalitarian state. It was the ultimate fuck you move.
As she peered down on The District’s epicenter, she chuckled to herself. Here she was, once a little Latina girl born in Morple who the government legally kidnapped as a baby to raise in an abusive environment that attempted to rape and beat any pride she had out of her. That little girl grew up to be a bombshell those same men would have killed for back then and married the most powerful kingpin the world had ever seen, who was Blacker, wealthier, and more influential than all of the nobodies she was currently glaring down at.
Ariana’s view was symbolic of her accomplishments thus far. Proving she could overcome the impossible situation the world imposed on her fueled Ariana’s fire. If she could defy those odds, anything was possible.
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