For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Nimue challenged me with "A (pick a color) bottle and a (pick another color) glass together changed the night for her; something even his smile could not" and I challenged Tara Roberts with " 'Blind faith, in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed.' -Bruce Springsteen"
The bottle was brown. It was a gentle brown, but still so opaque that it almost looked like the side of an adobe house. The bottle had a picture of a tree on it, with a bear looking out from behind the tree. The pictures were almost impressionistic, drawn with very few lines, so it could be something else. But it was probably a bear and a tree. The bear might mean the wine was from California- she thought she remembered Sophie having to memorize the 50 state flags, and California's had a bear on it. But she could be wrong. A lot of things she thought were true turned out not to be.
The glass was clear, but it had lipstick smudges and other stains on the sides. One smear looked like it was from spinach dip that had gotten onto her finger and was transferred onto the glass. The glass was dirty, but she made it a point of pride not to get a clean one. Those stains were her stains. There was a bit of red wine, no more than a sip, at the bottom of the glass. When she looked at it, she had a panicky feeling. She wanted to reach and pour more into the glass until it was almost full, but she wasn't sure she had the dexterity to do it. So she stared at the mostly empty glass and the half full bottle and thought about how nice it would be if someone refilled her glass for her.
She always felt tighter when she was drunk, like her insides were swelling up, about to burst through her skin. It was a frantic, nervous feeling, a restlessness that made her talk faster, move faster, do more. The only thing that soothed her was more wine, and that only worked for a while. She remembered everything, including showing Thomas' best friend Paul up to the kids' bathroom upstairs when the lower level one was occupied. She remembered what happened, the way he washed his hands and emerged to find her still standing there, the way he stood very close to her for the moment right before it happened, but she was unclear as to why it started, or exactly when, or how long it took. She remembered that it happened, though. She wanted it to happen, and then it happened, and then it was over. She wasn't so far gone that she didn't know what happened.
Then Thomas was getting up, starting to stack individual plates and cups into larger groups. She supposed she should help, although Thomas probably wouldn't say anything if she didn't. She gathered her feet together, pressing down hard on the toes of her shoes. They felt more stable than she thought. She felt weak, and sore, but able to stand. She pushed her chair back from the table, then slowly rose to her feet, wobbly in her high heels, but upright. She tugged at her dress, pulling it down where it had ridden up until it fell loose. She moved very deliberately, as if she was defusing a bomb, stacking empty cups together to move them into the trash, making decisions what leftovers would keep and which ones were ticketed for the trash. It reminded her of her first days at home after having Sophie, always doing everything very slowly and carefully because you never knew what motion would cause pain.
Thomas came into the room, lugging a green trash bag. She added a pile of dirty paper plates to the sodden mess he had collected. He smiled at her slowly, like he knew something she didn't know.
"That was fun, huh?"
"Yeah," she said, eyeing the swallow of wine still in her glass. Would it be too much to reach over and gulp it down?
Her head spun a little bit, and she stood still until it passed, then gently tipped a bowl full of potato chips back into the bag they came from. Why was he still smiling? She moved around the table, stacking, gathering, cleaning. She took very small steps. She wanted to take her shoes off, but she was pretty sure she wasn't coordinated enough to undo the buckles. Her insides shifted uncomfortably.
"We should do that again," he said.
"Not anytime soon," she said softly. She felt tears gathering at the corners of her eyes.
"You OK?," he said, scooping the potato salad into the trash bag, where it fell with a wet, thick sound.
"Yeah," she said. "You know I get weepy when I drink," she added.
"Yes," he said. "Let's clean this up and go to bed. Kids'll be up soon." He smiled at her again. He looked proud.
"Yeah, let's do that," she said.