“Hey,” I said in a moment of clarity.
“Ellie … you’re drunk. You’re on like your tenth drink … not including the shit you’ve drank all day. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
“Better me than someone else.”
He frowned. “Wow. Are we at the pity stage of the night? Or is that you being a bitter drunk?”
Camille was showing her engagement ring to Falyn for the dozenth time of the evening, and I rolled my eyes. “It’s a fucking diamond, and a small one. Stop bragging.”
“You’re talking louder than you think. C’mon. Let’s go back to the room.”
I sighed. “I’ll go. You stay here with your family. I don’t want you to miss this.”
“So you can end up in the ocean? No. C’mon.”
I reluctantly stood, pulling away when Tyler tried to take my hand. He waved to his brothers and their significant others, and Tyler only touched me when I stumbled off the sidewalk.
We climbed an excessive amount of stairs to our room, and I leaned against the wall while Tyler opened the door. The lock clicked, the door opened, and had Tyler not caught me, I would have fallen inside.
He lifted me into his arms, carried me to the bed, and lowered me gently to the mattress.
“Come here,” I said, reaching for him.
He pulled off my heels and then turned me onto my side, long enough to unzip the back of my dress. He slipped the fabric down and then slipped a T-shirt over my head.
“Much better,” I said. “Now come here.” I reached for him again, but he turned off the light and the bathroom door closed. The pipes whined as he turned on the shower. I thought about joining him, but I was so comfortable, and dizzy, and maybe a little nauseated. After a few minutes, the heat became hotter and the comfort went away. Nausea took over, and I rolled off the bed, crawling to the bathroom and reaching for the knob.
I barely made it to the toilet before my stomach rejected the day’s worth of vodka I’d consumed. The curtain pulled back, and Tyler’s deep voice filled the room.
“Christ, Ellie. Are you all right?”
“Yep. Ready for round two in no time.”
The curtain closed just in time for me to heave again. The water turned off, and I could hear Tyler shuffling a towel over his body before starting a bath. He held my hair until I was finished, and then undressed me, lifting me off the floor and then lowering me into the tub.
He used a washrag to wipe my face, and then he sighed.
“This has stopped being exciting, hasn’t it?” I asked, feeling mascara sting my eyes.
“Yeah,” he said, sounding sad. “I think it’s time.”
I nodded, wiping the black from my cheeks. “It’s okay, Tyler. I knew it was coming.”
He shook his head. “I’ve told you … I’m not going anywhere. Maybe it’s not perfect, but I’ll love walking through hell with you just the same. I’m just not to going to watch you get worse. It’s time we start going in the other direction.”
“I think we both know we’re past a support group and twelve steps.”
He wiped my forehead with the rag. “Maybe. Whatever it is, I’m with you.”
I picked at my nails, feeling strange to have been sweating from the Virgin Islands humidity in the morning and have Tyler’s truck heater blowing in my face to battle the chill of Colorado air twelve hours later. The windshield wipers were creaking across the glass, wiping away the snowflakes falling quietly from the night sky.
“I’m not trying to be difficult. I think I just need some time to get my shit together.”
He sighed, frustrated. “And why can’t we do that together?”
“Because everything I’ve tried up to this weekend hasn’t worked. It’s been a year. I think it’s time for something new.”
I blinked, offended. “I can’t believe you just said that.”
“I just want to help you with your luggage. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.”
“When you get upstairs, I’ll want you to stay.”
“Is that so bad?” When I didn’t answer, he gripped his steering wheel so tight his knuckles turned white. “You want to drink, and you don’t want me to see you.”
“So is this going to be the new thing you’re trying? Choosing to get drunk over being with me?”
“That’s what it sounds like to me.”
He slammed his palm down on the dash. “Goddamn it, Ellie! I’m fucking exhausted!”
“I don’t wanna go home! I want to be with you!”
He clenched his teeth, staring straight ahead. The headlights of the truck highlighted the MountainEar building and the snowflakes, adding to the already white blanket on the ground.
He slammed his gearshift into reverse. “I can’t do this.”
I grabbed my backpack and put my hand on the door handle. “It’s about time you admitted it.”
“You were just waiting for that, weren’t you? I give up, so it’s not your fault. Or maybe you can go upstairs and pretend you’re drinking because you feel sorry for yourself. Fucking brilliant.”
I opened the door, and then opened the back door, grabbing my rolling suitcase and yanking it to the ground. I slammed the back door, and then the passenger’s.
Tyler rolled down the window. “I’ve put up with a lot of shit to make this work, and you don’t give a single fuck.”
“That’s bullshit, Ellie! Just because I warn a bank I’m going to rob it, doesn’t mean the bank had it coming!”
“Be sure to tell everyone at the bar that when you’re crying in your beer,” I seethed.
“I don’t have to go to the bar every time something in my life doesn’t go right. It’s called being an adult. And I’m damn sure not crying over you,” he said, rolling up the window. He stomped on the gas, squealing backward in a half-circle, and then spun out of the back lot and into the street, barreling toward the highway.
I stood alone for a while, stunned. In the year I’d known him, Tyler had never spoken to me that way. Love made people hate in a way they never would have before.
The snow made the world quiet, but even silence made a sound. I tugged my luggage through the snow, up and over the curb to the back door. My key was ice cold, burning my fingers while my hand trembled. In a steady rhythm, the wheels banged against every stair, and then I let it all fall forward when I made it to the top.
I took the few steps to the fridge and grabbed the last can of beer, noticing the only thing left was moldy cheese and a bottle of mustard. The beer hissed at me when I popped the top, the bitter liquid feeling cold and comforting in my throat. There was half a pint of vodka in the cabinet, but payday was a week away.