She staggered down the street, purse over one shoulder, clutching the strap like a lifeline. The weight on the strap pulled shoulder down, making her stumble awkwardly, as if drunk. She wasn’t, of course. It would take far more than a glass of red wine for that.
It was a painfully bright day. She squinted against the glare coming off the skyscrapers and sidewalk. It took her a moment to realize why her vision was blurry. She wiped away the tears with the back of her hand.
She wanted an alley. How hard was it to find a damn alley in New York? Every time she left the subway after midnight, there was an alley every five feet. But now that she actually wanted one, it eluded her.
She didn’t know how many blocks passed before she saw one through a veil of tears. In the shadows behind a dumpster she sank to the ground and sobbed hysterically, clutching herself as if she were coming apart at the seams.
She lost all track of time. But when she realized the shadows were getting longer, she picked herself up and peered around to see where she was. Across the street was a church. She hadn’t noticed it earlier. It must be a sign.
She crossed the street and entered, twisting and turning down hallways. At the end of a hall she found what she was looking for, and opened the door without knocking. A dozen pairs of eyes turned toward her. It occurred to her suddenly that her clothes were probably filthy. She hoped they couldn’t smell her from the doorway. She took a deep, wavering breath.
“I’m Miriam Henley…” she shut her eyes as the tears began again, and struggled to speak around the lump in her throat, “and…”
The sob threatened to choke her. Her pulse roared in her ears.
“-and until this afternoon…I…I hadn’t had a drink for three years. I’m-”
The room was totally silent. Waiting. She heard a chair squeak, and a comforting arm moved around her shoulders.
“Hi Miriam.” came the chorus of replies.