This is an exclusive look at K.M. Cholewa’s work in progress. You can find Part One here.
It hadn’t even been light yet when she got back home and pulled her fleece off over her head in the kitchen and her earring had caught and flown. She couldn’t say that two days earlier when they took the garbage to the dump that she hadn’t registered the noticeably fewer bottles of liquor beneath the counter in the kitchen. But then, it had been the holidays. But now, as she searched on her hands and knees beneath the counter she noticed the remaining bottles, the vodka, the gin, the rum, all near empty. Two matching bottles of Bombay Sapphire were drained to less than a shot. The same with two bottles of vodka. Why not finish one and then start the other rather than leaving a dribble in each if not to create an illusion? More disturbing to her than empty bottles was having not seen him drink it. Was it in the middle of the night, when she was in the shower, that a half bottle of rum, two bottles of gin, and a bottle and a half of vodka in addition to what they had drunk together and he had drunk alone though with her had disappeared?
Blood warmed from seventeen shared nights between flannel sheets in each other’s arms ran cold. She rose to her feet and her lit up heart dropped slowly and she felt the floor solid beneath her feet. She stood frozen in her kitchen, the morning still dark outside, the brimming possibility of her first love being her last shriveling as a sense of familiar solitude reasserted itself.
When it came to drunks, it wasn’t Ursula’s first rodeo. She knew with alcoholics, it was round-the-clock theater and that there was no sacred love or magic pussy that could restore and call home any once beautiful soul that had been hollowed and flattened to a mask on a stick.
Ursula reached for the fleece that had brought her to her knees and pulled it back over her head. She picked her coat up off the back of a chair. She stepped out onto the deck that looked over the valley where the night before they had together watched Orion, three stacked stars, rising in their bent line over the distant peaks. A frost hung in the air. Ursula looked downhill at a car’s red taillights pulling toward the highway in a long, slow twisting line.
Her mind was already making excuses and telling her eyes not to see. She didn’t want to believe it, and the fact of that made her stomach clutch because she knew when she said to herself that she didn’t want to believe a thing, it meant she did.
The silhouette of the mountain range took dark shape against the dark sky signaling last call for yesterday. Alive Mike had walked down the jet way and their eyes found each other at the same time and Ursula felt home, and Mike felt like home, and one of life’s great circles seemed complete. The Universe’s gift of magic was real. There was such thing as destiny and such thing as fate, two things in which she had stopped believing.
She knew the right move. She wouldn’t rage against his deceit or block him on her phone, because the truth had to do with more than empty bottles and the truth was not just about him. Ursula leaned on porch railing and could sense the gentle movements in tops of the trees across the street down along the creek, softly tussling in a slow breeze from the east. There were no shadows yet, and then, indigo appeared, a tight halo on the peaks. Ursula looked to them as the snow-mottled mountain came into vague focus. The breeze picked up speed and turned to wind. Ursula didn’t curse Alive Mike for heartbreaks old and new because as it was dawning on the Absaroka range it was dawning on Ursula that for her, like it or not, lies felt like home.
K.M. Cholewa is the author of Shaking out the Dead. She is currently hard at work on her next novel, Last Call for Yesterday.