TWO WEEKS AGO
I remember the taste of that cold bitterness in my mouth, the sound of the heavy bottle clinking against the tabletop. I drank it all quickly, greatfully, not because I wanted it, but because I had nothing else to do in my life. And I hoped that somehow the strong alcohol would wash away the sorrow and stress that I felt.
I finished the last mouthful and tossed the empty beer bottle into a cardboard bin along with the two others that I had just downed. I sat alone for a moment, and then went heading over to the fridge for another drink when my cell went off. The lights above me blurred as I staggered around, searching for it. It was underneath a pile of old papers on the kitchen counter. I cleared my throat as I shoved in the little green TALK button, and gingerly raised it to my face.
"Jason!" I groaned inwardly, recognizing my wife's sharp tone. "Where are you?"
I put a hand to my head and "ahem"-ed again. "At...at the apartment."
Her voice was accusing. "Have you been drinking?"
"Nope." I lied without thinking, knowing what would happen if she knew the truth.
She sounded relieved. "Good. Something came up at work, and I have to stay around for a bit, but I'll be home by eight. Can you go pick up Arista though? She's at ballet."
Even though she couldn't see me, I nodded. "...Sure. I'll go now."
"Great! Thanks, Jays. I have to run...but I'll be home soon."
I hung up the phone and stared around the small apartment for a moment. It was old and whitewashed, and the sparse furnishings were faded and worn down. A few of Arista's pictures, her newest kindergarten masterpieces, decorated the walls. A glossy family photo dangled off the fridge, it's corner held down only by a red magnet shaped like the letter G. I sighed grudgingly, remembering the dreams of a beautiful country home that Sarah and I had shared when we were married. Oh well. We were scratching along for a living; her job as a secretary was even more crucial now that I was spending hours in the unenployment line.
I took my time going down to the car, and old, beat-up thing that Sarah had inherited from her Father years ago. The engine buzzed to life as I jammed the key into the ignition. I felt a little light-headed, but maybe it was just the hazy summer air.
"Okay, Arista, I'm coming," I murmured to myself, and started off to get my daughter.