There were three big reasons why he avoided drinking. First, the damn hangover. He could never get used to the sharp banging pain in his head that lasts for a whole day—he never wanted to. Second, he didn’t remember a single thing after the first gulp. As soon as consciousness hit him, he felt anxious as fuck for whatever was coming for the last night drunk act—whether he killed a random stray cat or declared war to neighbor country. And third, had to hear an earful nagging while having the hangover, which was worst of all. He barely woke up a few seconds ago, but the hammering sensation in his head already hoarded him like a pack of wolves. He whined—which he regretted in no time as any kind of sound including his own voice worsening the pain—and peeked through his half-opened eyes to find out who the hell opened the damn curtain. A figure of thin petite girl in an oversized sweater loomed over him. She crossed her arms and stared down with the usual even countenance. Thank God it was her, versus, oh no it was her.
“I know you regret it,” she said in a low voice.
Her voice somehow both worsening the vertigo and calming it down. He didn’t know which one, but he lifted one hand and shooed her away anyway.
“… Don’t scold me… Please…”
“Funny. You deserve it.”
“Go… Just.. go…” He buried his head with another pillow.
“Why did you even drink anyway? You scared your date.”
Crap. “What did I do…?””
“Dunno. You better ask her and apologize. Leroy said she cried when she called him for help. I bet you said… something.”
Something meant quite a lot for a drunk person. He seriously didn’t want to know.
“Why?” she asked.
“Please… Close the curtain.. and the door…”
“Why did you drink?”
“I know you, Keith.” She sat on the edge of the bed. The bed made an unnecessary movement. He groaned. “Much better than you do. You never walked near a glass of liquor even when someone pointed a gun on your head.”
“I don’t remem—”
“Lie. I never imagine you forgetting something as big as drinking.”
“Leah didn’t force you to—”
“Of course, no! Argh! Crap… No… She’s a good girl…”
Silence fell in peace for a while only to shattered in pieces when Leroy slammed the half-opened door out of the blue. The chaos the charming man brought in almost got Keith killed.
“Yo, Keith!! Feel better already? Drink water, dude!! It helps ya!!”
Keith screamed in silent. He wished to die right here right now.
“Leroy, keep your voice down. You make his hangover worsen,” Cate backed him up.
“I know, I know!”
“No, you don’t.”
“So, Keith!” Leroy sat on the bed. The movement got Keith killed for the second time. The older man patted—slammed—his back that got him killed for the third time. “I never had a hangover before, but I know how bad it is. Leitner always threatens to slit my throat with his pocket knife whenever he experiences one and I barge in.”
“You never learn,” Cate voiced Keith’s opinion.
“Well, I snatch his knife every time. I just want him to know I’m always with him in his good and bad.” Leroy raised both eyebrows.
Keith blinked weak. “I appreciate this… Really…”
“Your welcome!” Leroy laughed while patting—slamming—Keith’s back again. The latter was killed for the fourth time.
“That’s nice, Leroy. Now, let him sleep.” Cate pulled Leroy away from the bed. “Prepare him a good meal, will you?”
“Oh, good one! What do you want to have, kid?”
“What is… anything?” Leroy had a funny puzzled expression on his face.
“Get him that Japanese noodle with salty soup. I’ll go with you.”
“Fair enough! I’ll have the car ready!”
Thereafter, Leroy stormed out of the room. The silence swelled back to its original form when the man hadn’t violated it. Keith sighed in relief.
“Before I go, Keith,” Cate interjected.
“Before you go… close the curtain and the door…”
“I will. Now, listen. If you really like Leah, don’t get Leroy misunderstand her. He’s no fool, but he’s a risk taker. If even someone like me thinks that it was her who forces you to drink, then it’s possible if he does as well. Unlike me, he eliminates every possible reasoning he could think of until there’s only one left. You know him, Keith. He tends to get protective to his squad members.”
The talking and all got his groan even louder.
“You have to tell him why you did it before he does something to her.”
“I can’t hold him back, Keith. I can pass your words to him while we’re in the car, as well as convince him it wasn’t her. After you have your favorite Japanese noodle, I have no such confidence.”
“I seriously don’t remember, Cate…”
“Fine. I’ll convince him. If I fail, though, you better ready to say goodbye to your lovely lady.” Before Cate walked out of the door, she turned to him and smiled with green eyed. “I guess you’re the boss’s favorite, now. How nice.”
With that, the petite girl left the room. The curtain and the door were all shut, trapped Keith in an everlasting darkness and silence. He drank the water Cate left on the nightstand before fell back to the hard mattress.
This hangover wasn’t so bad, despite having the life of his loved ones threatened. Compared to the last one he had long ago, this was nothing. Not even close. The last one remarked as the dead of his soul, one night right after a turn back event that got him scarred for life. It began the never-ending nightmares and delusions. The beginning of his colorblind view of the world. None of the oncoming event could win over it. He never wanted his opinion tested, of course. He’d just let it slide and left it as whatever it was. He wished he’d never get a hand of it, for it conjured up—no, forced him to relive the moment.
But still, he didn’t want to lose anyone again. Though as a simple-minded as he was, Leroy definitely knew how to not take it too far. Keith believed in him as how he believed the older man’s true murderous intent and strong concern toward those people he called friends. Keith also tried to believe in Cate’s ability to convince the most hard-headed man Keith had ever known. She was neutral in almost everything—thank God, despite her inner turmoil. He couldn’t distrust her though he’d seen it himself how the turmoil itself emerged and changed her even countenance. He wished Cate to succeed in convincing Leroy, so that Leah didn’t have to take all the aftermath from Keith drinking a liquor and get drunk.
He laughed from the lame humor and then buried his head with more pillows. He fell asleep in no time, starting yet another nightmare.
This writing is a personal submission for January writing prompts from Writers Write. No one asked me to do this, but it’s 2017 already, so I gotta write, write, write, and write.
Beautiful photo by James Stamler.