The music was so loud Kelly could feel it vibrate in her bones. She didn’t much like parties, but the need to let off some end of semester steam was alluring to both her and Christopher. They had decided to attend her best friend’s end of the year blow out, for better or worse, and it was turning out to be for worse. She had lost sight of her boyfriend as some of his friends pulled him outside while she chatted with her girlfriends. Much later, she felt his arms slide around her as he dipped his face to hers for a kiss.
“Hey,” he smiled sweetly at her. “Been missin’ you.”
“I can taste rum on your lips,” Kelly started, pulling back from Christopher’s arms. “You’ve been drinking?” She frowned.
Chris felt a little hazy, but his senses sharpened as the tone in his girlfriend’s voice turned accusing. “Just a little,” he admitted, playing with her long blonde hair. “C’mon, it’s ok.”
Kelly turned away from him, trying to hide her disappointment. “You’ve been doing so well.”
The buzz Chris was feeling receded faster. He took a deep breath, “I’m trying to have a good time.” Looking bashful, “I am having a good time. We’re having a good time.”
“I’m not. I’ve barely seen you all night. This is why?”
“Do you really have to do this with all these people around? I’m fine.”
Realizing he was gone, “You’re drunk.” Hurt, “I’ll find my own way home.”
She left, and Christopher stared after her before turning to head deeper into the throng of people. Searching out something stronger, he didn’t go home that night.
“Christopher, a drink? You look like a Captain man.”
Kelly’s eyes darted to her father, flashing.
God yes. “A soda would be great, thanks.” Christopher replied smoothly. He had almost five months clean and sober, and damned if this dinner with his girlfriends parents was going to push him over the edge. He smiled at Mr. Beckett as the familiar itch ran up his arms. He understood they were weary of him, but he was trying.
“Thank you,” he said quietly as a coke was put in front of him.
“How are your courses?” asked Mrs. Beckett.
“School’s good, thanks.” Nodding. “This semester is going better than last.”
“Well you don’t look strung out, so one would hope so.”
Chris said nothing, but he breathed deeply as he focused on steadying his gaze. He wanted to give away nothing in regards to how he was feeling, they didn’t need anymore ammunition. Under the table, Kelly squeezed his hand.
“It’s fine,” Chris said. “Really.”
“Is it?” Mr. Beckett countered. “I’m failing to understand what’s fine about any of this at all.”
“Why are we pretending to have a nice meal together? We certainly aren’t.”
“Am I supposed to sit here and ask him to pass the potatoes? I’d rather ask how he plans to be good for you. He’s barely good for himself.”
Chris snapped at the rubber band around his wrist as he listened.
“This is not what we had planned for you.” Kelly’s father slammed his fist on the table. “An addict for a boyfriend? A drunk.” Bitingly, “A prostitute.”
“That’s enough!” Kelly cried, angry now.
“I am right here.” Christopher said. Quietly, to Kelly, “Maybe I should go.”
“I’ll go with you.”
They both got up from the table, one saddened that the wedge between them was driven in more deeply, the other heated. Neither said anything as they left the house, or drove away.
Later, on the drive home, “Can you pull in here?” Chris asked.
“What is it?” Kelly had pulled off the main street and parked in the lot of a darkened building. People milled around the entrance where a solitary overhead light shone.
Quietly, “It’s a meeting.”
Kelly was surprised he wanted to go in as he disliked AA meetings immensely, but knew if he was asking, he was hurting a lot. Itching even more so.
She looked at her boyfriend’s profile. He looked a little beaten down and his fingers were twitching. She’d seen his hands go to his jacket pocket a couple of times as they drove, but Chris would stop them before pulling out the cigarettes she knew were there. It was too dark to see, but she knew his eyes were probably sad.
“I need it,” he whispered. Whether he meant a smoke, a drink, or the meeting, Kelly didn’t question. Probably all three.
“Do you want me to come in with you? Or wait?” she asked.
Shaking his head, Chris made to undo his seat belt. “No, it’s okay. I’ll be okay, I’ll get a cab or something.”
He turned toward her.
“I love you.”
“I love you too.” He smiled.