Fiction: The Wine

2018 Fiction, 2018 Issue

By: Hunter Leduc

The Wine is dark and glossy, reflecting the scant light that comes through the curtains. She holds the glass to her lips, fine crystal stained by chapped lips and peppermint gloss. She holds it there, resting, breathing in the warm air she makes against the wine, tasting its aroma and smelling its thick scent. She then blinks and moves the glass away, setting it down roughly onto the marble countertop. She sighs through her nose, taking her free hand and rubbing it across her forehead in agitation or maybe even frustration; she isn’t quite sure anymore. She blinks again and gazes around the room slowly, vision obscured by a haze of wine and late nights of no sleep. She turns her head towards the window, a motion that drags her body along with it in a dance of uncoordinated drunkenness. Little light slips through the cracks of the curtains, but she can tell by the hazy gray of it that it is dusk, and she has spent at least two hours dedicated to drinking.

She groans as she turns her body back toward the counter, planting her hands firmly onto the countertop, her vision swaying in tandem with her body. “Drunk very drunk,” she thinks to herself, and she rests her forehead gently onto the countertop, the cool marble, a vision of relief and swirling browns and blacks. Her eyes cross trying to concentrate on the ballet of the marble in front of her, and she closes them tightly, a headache slowly bursting to life on the crown of her head. She doesn’t know how long she’s lain there for, but she hears the distant sound of keys clinking together and the unmistakable hitch and groan of her front doors lock being turned moments later. The door is pushed open, the bottom scraping the floor, and then it slams shut, the loud cacophony of noises echoing through the house. She squeezes her eyes, groaning at the headache now blossoming into a monstrosity.

“Do you not have a fucking phone anymore? Because you sure don’t know how to fucking answer it.” A sharp voice echoes from the foyer, the undertones of agitation wavering the usually clear and steady accent. The woman grumbles, lifting her head from the carnival of marble dancing in front of her eyes and toward the back counter, where her phone lay upside down and abandoned next to an empty glass bottle of Tempranillo. “Well, I see you’ve been busy.” The voice sighs behind her, quiet and reverberating like a tap on crystal. The woman turns in her seat slowly and squints her eyes at the voice now in her kitchen.

Dark, olive-green eyes peer at her disappointedly, flicking over to the empty bottle on the countertop and back to her, and a sigh escapes his merlot colored lips before he moves around the tiny marble top island to the back counter. She watches quietly as he picks up her phone and turns it in his palm, turning it on and frowning at all the messages that pop up, missed and ignored. She can’t help but admire the smoothness of his hands from where she is, and she silently glances down at her own calloused and worn pair in envy. She jerks her gaze up when she hears him move the bottle off the counter and into the bin under the sink; the rustle of plastic and the clunk of the glass a ritualistic choir song so sickly familiar to her. “I don’t know why you do this Bach, I just don’t,” he says, and she brings her gaze back up to his eyes, and she sees a sadness in them she fleetingly feels she must try and validate.

“It died,” she replies, her voice quiet in the dark gray of the kitchen. He looks at her steadily, his olive eyes never wavering. She can see them darting if she keeps herself steady enough, going from one eye to another, as if searching for something in her. She knows she has nothing to give, nothing to lose, but she lowers her gaze anyway, the dark in the kitchen slowly becoming hard to see through, hard to concentrate in with her tired self. She grunts and turns to the light switch in the corner, moving off her chair to turn it on, at least to get a better look at him. She stumbles when she gets both feet on the floor, one hand reaching out for the wall and the other shooting out for balance. The tile floor is swirling, dancing, the checkered black and white moving like it’s marble and not some cheap plastic from Lowes. She belatedly realizes afterwards that the man has come to her side, the smooth palms just as soft as they look as they press into her side and bare arm, pulling her up from her awkward hunched position near the wall.

“I think it’s past your bedtime, darling. Come on, let’s go,” he says, voice once so clear like a crystal glass, now soft and concerned, almost conscientious of the headache brewing a storm in her head. She nods slowly in agreement, though she realizes later it must have seemed more like a loll. She can feel her feet dragging underneath her as he begins to lead them off, and it’s a slow and tedious waltz to her bedroom that they’ve practiced before. She closes her eyes briefly as they pass a window in the hall, the dim gray light striking her eyes, agitating her headache. Her thoughts are a low fog in her head, muddled and discombobulated, and even though she can’t understand the incoherent sentences in her head, she feels a sense of victory and triumph coming from them, the metaphorical screams of her memories drowning in dark red bitterness.

She opens her eyes as they turn down the hallway, and she squints at the mahogany floorboards in dissatisfaction, in contempt, as a dark, malcontented thought rolls through her head. She wishes she didn’t have to drink, didn’t have to put herself into such a stupor that Amon had to drag her to bed, and she looks at him now to the best of her ability, and she memorizes the side of his face, the contour of his cheeks, and the sharpness of his jaw. It’s an image she will try not to forget, try not to drown in cheap wine, but she can never guarantee it for herself, she sadly realizes.

It is because I must drink,” she reminds herself, “I must drink to sleep, and to sleep I will forget.” She knows she cannot survive without drinking, at least not now. She has hopeless thoughts of the future not marred by sour thoughts, where she doesn’t have to drink to sleep, and the memories that grow like thorny vines in her dreams will remain trimmed and neat. She has memories not stained by red wine in her subconscious, before she found the rounded edges of a bottle soothing and idyllic. They’re so soft and sweet, so easy to rip, and she savors them when she does remember them, but it’s so easy to drown something so little, so she chooses to leave them be when in this state. The memories now are all fermented and sour, harsh, and biting wire fence that chokes.

And it doesn’t help that they happen to be in her dreams every night, in different scenarios and engraved in different faces. She drinks to forget the dreams she had, and it works, like a miracle of water to wine. But she remembers the taste of the wines for each one, for every nightmare there is a flavor, now ruined by the memory of twisting faces and burning hands. The first to mind is a Cabernet Sauvignon she had the night after a nightmare. It is broad and spicy, a finish that was firm and acidic, and it sent her stomach roiling afterwards for hours on end, the faint memory of hanging meat and rusted hooks, and she eventually upturned it all onto her carpet, ruining it.

The sight of a worn door jamb makes her carry her gaze up, and she realizes she is in her room, the bed unmade, clothes strewn across the floor, and the heads and bottoms of wine bottles peeking out from corners of the room undiscovered. She feels a nudge to move her, and she complies by walking forward slowly and gracelessly falling into the bed, half on half off. She hears Amon huff behind her, and she feels a warm pressure on her ankles before her legs are unceremoniously rolled into the bed with her. She rolls onto her side, facing inward, and she listens to him move around her room, her house, gathering things and bringing them to her. As she sits and listens to the music that Amon makes, it reminds of her of another wine she drank: a Port, deep, rich and lively. She does not remember the nightmare associated with it, thankfully, but she remembers what happened when she woke up, Amon shaking her awake from where she was slumped on the wall. She had been so startled she had swung at him with the empty bottle, a face that was not his own masking his lovely features. She brings a hand up slowly to her face, a long-calloused finger trailing the crooked bridge of her nose absently, and she thinks back to how she had missed, and instead broken her own nose when the bottle came back to hit her, her limbs and uncoordinated mess. She huffs out a tiny laugh, and thinks “Yes, maybe that wine was much too rich, much too ‘spirited.’” She feels her mind begin to fog slightly, her eyelids drooping into sleep, when the rustle of a plastic bag and the thunk of metal makes her turn back around, slowly as her headache seems to shift with her.

A trashcan sits at the side of her bed, a water bottle and two little red pills sit next to it on her nightstand, stained by a cheap Lambrusco. It is an altar she is accustomed to seeing every week, and she drags her tired eyes up to the man, the frown on his face an ugly mar on his otherwise smooth and delicate features. An uncalloused hand comes down and tries to detangle her hair, but gives up after a moment, deciding to leave it for her to deal with in the morning. She stares up at him, his frown specifically, face lax and eyes closing slowly, sleep dragging her down into a warm abyss. She sees his eyes, dark, olive green, so full of an emotion that threatens to overflow, and her own hand reaches out, clumsy and uncoordinated. Rough hands meet his cheekbones, tired eyes tracing his fine Roman features, but she is stuck on his eyes. She feels the confusion in them, hears the question sitting still on his dark wine-colored lips. “I’m sorry, Amon,” she chokes out, voice hoarse with drinking wine and remembering. His frown deepens even further, and her hand slips away from cupping his cheek back to her side, sleep a dastardly creature that keeps pulling her away.

“What do you mean?” Amon asks, voice soft in the encroaching dark of the room, and he pauses for a moment, bringing his hand up to trace the sharp lines of her cheekbones. “Bach, what died? What happened this time?”

She breathes, slowly, a soft dark coming to the edges of her vision, and she silently thanks the wine for finally putting her to sleep and prays it’s dreamless. She keeps her gaze on Amon, eyes heavy lidded, and as she feels herself start to fall into sleep, she mumbles something to him, quiet and almost unheard.

“I think I did.”

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