I was out again late. I rode my bike out of the old part of the city to Kerrie’s, passing through the quiet streets. She lived on the hill, which used to be looked down upon but had recently been overrun with jogging-bra mothers and their nannies clumsily following behind.
I had keys to her apartment, which she'd given me a while ago in a fit of pique asking me to help her manage her life. There’d initially been no romance between us; she traveled a lot for work and I would check in on the place and water her plants. She had plants everywhere.
I let myself in and she was sitting next to the window, some mournful music on the radio. It wasn’t an unusual scene. I’d found her like this too many times to count, big tears streaming down her face, empty vodka glass in her hand.
Pushing open the door the room felt cool and indifferent. It always felt odd to intrude upon her obvious weak moments, as though I’d walked in on her during an intimate moment of which I was not part. She looked up at me with sorrowful eyes. I put my hand on her sleek, red hair and was surprised to find it was extremely hot. I kneeled down next to her and was surprised to see that she wasn’t crying in a sad way, but a happy way. This was new.
“I got a promotion,” was all she said. She’d been working on this for over a year. Lots of networking, the right clothes, dinner dates with clients and long nights.
“Congratulations,” I said, eyeing the empty bottle on the coffee table.
She’d been working on her drinking. Years of meetings and midnight phone calls and trips to the therapist multiple times a week. Medications to get her up, get her out, keep her steady, help her sleep. Yet, she seemed happier than I'd ever seen her, cheerful and confident.
The phone rang. "Where's everyone going, Billy?" she asked into the phone. “That’s fine, we'll figure it all out once you get here," she said, as I drew a finger along her jaw line, tracing the tight, warm skin.
She hung up and turned to me, "You're going to stay, right?"
It was our one-year anniversary, though she'd forgotten this, caught as she was in her solitary celebration. I had planned an evening already.
I pulled away and said, "You have fun. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"But, Brian, I need you here," she said, and stared off into the kitchen, at the fridge, which was no doubt full of more booze. I felt the struggle in her, a deep, muscular tension to hold off her thirst.
When Bill buzzed up to get into the building and the door made that tiny beep, she took my hand and led me into the bathroom. Once there, she lunged for my lips and slid her fermenting tongue into my mouth. I broke away from her and stepped into the shower, the only available space.
"What are you doing?" I said, pushing her away as I mentally noted a new bottle on the little shelf of her mood-stabilizing drugs – Wellbutrin, Prozak, Valium – lined in a neat, precise row. It was the only clean room in her apartment.
“I’m really happy Brian,” it sounded pleading.
"You're wasted," I said.
"I'm SO happy," she said. "So sue me."
"I don't have to," I said. "Because you've already lost."
"That is so lame," she said, opening the bathroom door as the apartment filled with her colleagues, the ones she had hidden her dark secrets from for so long. They immediately turned up the music to dampen my anger and disappointment whole. She drifted away in a wake of apathy and joined the party.