Ethan Douglas glanced cursorily at the clock on his living room wall. It was only a few minutes after five in the evening. It was going to be a very long evening indeed. Staying alone in the house and staring at Mildred's picture made his heart heavy and ache. His youngest sister, Beatrice, who left not quite two hours ago, had come to spend the weekend with him and was supposed to leave on Sunday evening, but something had come up, and she had to leave today, Saturday evening.
"Are you sure that you'll be fine, Ethan?" She had asked him, the brown eyes which were so much like his own filled with worry. He supposed that she had enough reason to be worried, after all, it was the second anniversary of Mildred's death. He had not taken the first one well at all and so he was not surprised when his sister showed up at his door the previous day and informed him of her decision to spend the weekend with him. Ethan remembered, with much shame and cringing, how wasted he had been, so much so that he had called his mom, sister, and even Mildred’s mother, crying and begging them for forgiveness.
"Of course, I'll be fine. Don't you worry your little head about it." He had reassured his sister before she left, smiling sadly at her to reassure her.
However, when she left, the loneliness, pain, and guilt began warring inside him again, and staring at Mildred's radiant smile wasn't helping him at all. When the loneliness began to get too much, he stood up to get something to eat. Beatrice had stocked his fridge with food, and so all he had to do was warm some of it if he was hungry. As soon as he was done warming the food however, he couldn't bring himself to even touch it. He was certain that it tasted good, but his appetite was gone, and so, he grabbed his jacket, got into a cab, and headed to his favorite bar in town to drown his sorrows in the only way he knew how, trying hard not to think about what he was doing. The bartender, Joe knew Ethan, who was a very regular customer, more so since Mildred died, and he welcomed him cheerfully.
"Hey man. What's up with you?"
"I'm good," Ethan replied. They made polite chitchat for a while before Ethan ordered his drink. He did not need to tell Joe that he wanted the hottest drink available. The man already knew. As a matter of fact, everyone who knew him and Mildred knew. Joe brought over the drink and placed it in front of Ethan without saying a word. For a while, Ethan did not touch it, but rather, stared into the liquid as though it contained all the answers in the universe. After some time, he downed the contents of the glass in one go, savoring the burn as it rushed down his throat. He was on his third drink when giggles from across the room captured his attention. Looking over, he saw a group of blonde women, about four of them, glancing in his direction and giggling with each other as though they were high school girls who had just sighted the hot football captain of their school.
Ethan nodded politely at them before turning away again to focus on his drink and minding his business. Ever since Mildred had died exactly two years ago on this day, he had not so much as looked at any other female, and he was not about to start now, although, like everyone he knew kept telling him, it was probably time he thought about moving on at least. Shrugging inwardly, he took another sip of his drink and was swirling it in his mouth when a shadow appeared in front of him. Although he did not want to, Ethan looked up to see one of the girls who had been giggling earlier standing in front of him. She was wearing a short, pink dress that exposed her cleavage and showed off her long legs quite nicely. He wondered if it was the alcohol, but he thought that she looked so much like Mildred. They had the same shape, blond hair, and blue eyes. Seeing Mildred's lookalike on this day was not helping matters at all and Ethan wished that the girl would go away, but he did not want to appear rude. He nodded at her in acknowledgment, but did not say anything, wishing to God that she would take the hint.
"Hi, I am Madison." The girl said, and without waiting for an invitation, she slid into the seat in front of him. She apparently had not taken the hint at all, and it was looking as though if he wanted her to leave, he would have to tell her. Glancing over at the table where she had been sitting, Ethan saw that her friends had already left. He was not in the mood for conversation with a stranger and was wondering the best way to tell Madison this when she spoke.
"Look, you don't look like you're up for a conversation right now, and that is okay. I do not mind the silence. It's just that my friends wanted to leave, but I'm not ready to leave now, neither do I want to sit by myself. That’s why I came over here. What's your name by the way?"
"Ethan." He mumbled half-heartedly.
"Cool. It's nice to meet you, Ethan." Madison said, all sunshine and joy, things that he was not in the mood to feel at that moment.
"What are you drinking?" Ethan asked at last, making a tremendous effort to be polite, even though all he wanted was to be left alone.
"It's just club soda. Nothing as fancy as what you are drinking." She replied, winking at him and leaning over to inspect his drink. Even her perfume smelled like one that Mildred liked a lot and used often, and as soon as he perceived it, Ethan groaned inwardly. It seemed that his ex-fiancée's ghost was haunting him today, but he supposed that he deserved it. Everything kept reminding him of her.
"Are you going to say something, or are you just going to keep quiet?" Madison asked after a while, as though she had not just sworn that she was cool with being quiet. "I can talk for the both of us if you'd rather be silent."
Ethan laughed a little, feeling slightly better, but still not in the mood to talk. They sat in silence, and he downed shot after shot of his liquor while she sipped her soda and stared at him. Ethan supposed that it would seem weird of him not to talk to this blonde beauty, who was clearly interested in him, but he couldn't be bothered to do that, and besides, she didn't seem to mind at all.
By the time he was sufficiently drunk, but perhaps not as drunk as he had been on this day the year before, he got up unsteadily and nodded at her as he dropped enough cash to pay for both their drinks and tip the bartender too. It felt like he had been nodding politely all evening and his head ached as though it was going to explode any moment from now. Joe the bartender came over at that moment and looked Ethan over with some concern.
"I have to go, Allison. It was nice meeting and drinking with you." Ethan informed her, slurring his words.
"It's Madison, and where exactly are you going? You’re in no mood to drive."
"Yeah. Perhaps I should call you a cab." Joe said to Ethan, agreeing with Madison.
"Gotta take a cab." Ethan mumbled, hating himself for having gone too far despite his resolution not to do so.
"That’s not necessary, Ethan. I'll drive you home. I've got my car here with me. Don't worry, he's safe with me, Joe." Madison said quickly, hoping that Ethan would not object.
Ethan was too drunk to care or think, so he followed her out of the bar and got in her car with her. The last time he had drunk to a stupor like this was a year ago to the day. Before that, it had been during his wild college years. He soon fell soundly asleep and was not aware of anything else until he felt soft hands shaking him and Madison's voice insisting that he wake up.