Nicholas woke up the next morning. He had a headache. He needed water.
He tried to remember what had happened, but everything had grayed out at a certain point so that only fragments of the night remained. Sometimes just audio. Other times only visual.
He rolled out of his bed, still in his clothes from the night before. Resting his head in his hands, he took a few deep breaths.
Shit. Why did he drink so much?
But he knew why. He had to either abstain or go to oblivion. Anything in between was no man’s land.
He stood up from his bed, opened his door and walked into his living room. His house was empty.
Where had Serendipity gone?
He went to the bathroom and filled a glass of water he kept on the counter. He drank it all, hoping that it would help get rid of his headache. He’d get some ibuprofen from the kitchen when he made the coffee. Staring at himself in the mirror, he sighed.
He grabbed his toothbrush. He had to get rid of the smell of death in his mouth.
His eyes landed on the bottle of pills next to the toothbrush holder. He spit, then put the toothbrush back, picking up the bottle and turning it over in his hands.
The house was empty. The coffee pot crackled as water heated up and dripped over the grounds.
He checked and saw his violin in its normal spot in the dining room. He ran his hand over the piano. Dust. He should clean that. Looking up at the wall, he saw the nails, bare where her painting used to be. Something used to be here.
He sighed, then walked back to the living room.
On the table next to the couch was a box of half-eaten pizza. He began to piece together the rest of the evening. So that had been dinner. He normally ordered that at the end of the night before cashing out, then carried it back with him as he walked the block or so home.
The bottle of bourbon was also next to the couch. The glass still had a little in it.
He picked up the box to put it in the fridge for later – pizza was hardy. Underneath it was his notebook, the page still open and the pen next to it. He squinted, looking down at his scribbled answers. He must have been halfway lucid.
One thing that I was grateful for today
Bar with friends.
One thing I want to change
Into my pjs
One thing I was able to accept today
It was empty. He hated that question. Then he realized he could have written something.
A free drink.
He carried the pizza back to the kitchen and put it away.
Jesus Christ. That headache.
He didn’t bother trying to ride them out anymore. He grabbed two ibuprofen from the cupboard and swallowed them. He felt them catch in his throat, but he forced them down.
The coffee finished and he poured himself a cup, leaning against the counter, loathing himself.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door.
Nicholas waited, hoping it would go away – just a package getting dropped off or something. Then it came again.
He walked over to the door and looked through the window beside it.
It was Serendipity.
He opened the door.
“Hey…” he said.
“Hello,” she said, studying him.
Several awkward moments of silence passed between them.
“You said we could meet for coffee this morning. The roaster’s across from the bar,” she said.
Nicholas searched for the memory but couldn’t find it.
“Ah, sorry, I forgot to set an alarm. Here, uh … step inside and I’ll go get ready really quick. Just need to change.”
She stepped inside, and took a better look at him, then smiled.
“No rush. Feel free to shower too.”
“I’ll let you infer,” she smiled, then looked over to the kitchen and saw the coffee pot.
“You didn’t remember at all,” she said.
“I’m sorry, last night’s pretty fuzzy.”
“I’m staying a little farther down the street. You walked me back to my place, and pointed out your house as we passed, the one with the split tree out front. Said I could stop by in the morning around 9 and we could walk over to get coffee.”
Nicholas felt terrible.
“I’m sorry. If you want to meet up later or just …” he trailed off.
“Go get ready,” she said.
Nicholas nodded, and headed back to his room. He grabbed a change of clothes and then walked across the hall to the bathroom.
“I’ll be quick. I’m sorry again.”
“Don’t keep worrying yourself. It’s okay.” she said.
He took a quick shower. Shit. I should have offered her something instead of just letting her stand there.
He got out of the shower and walked back to the living room. She wasn’t there. He rounded the corner and saw she was standing in the dining room, looking at the piano.
“This is a beautiful piano. Was this Emily’s?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Do you mind?” she said, stretching her hand out toward the keys.
“No, go ahead.”
Serendipity played a short little tune.
“I’m not very good, I’ve only picked up a little here and there,” she said.
“That’s better than I can play.”
She smiled, then looked at the wall.
“What used to be there?”
Nicholas took a deep breath.
“It was a painting of her. A friend of ours made it for us as a gift.”
“Why’d you take it down?”
Nicholas hesitated, searching for how to put it into words.
“It was hard to look at,” he said.
“When did you take it down?”
“Right after she died.”
“Can I offer something,” she said.
“Put it back up.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You’ll never move forward with bare walls.”
“It’s not what it used to be – it’s become something different.”
Serendipity looked at him.
“That’s what life is,” she said. “Everything changes over time, it’ll just take on new meaning.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“You should put her painting back up. Let it take on new life.”
She began to walk down the hall.
“It’s not down there,” Nicholas called after her.
“I’m just using the restroom before we go,” she called back. “I promise I won’t ransack your house.”