Speakeasy (True North #5)(15)

My cravings are really sharp, and I haven’t wanted a drink this badly in quite a long time.

Living at home is part of the problem. My lowest moments as an alcoholic were lived right here in this room. It happened a year and a half ago, when Lark was kidnapped overseas. She used to have a job with a non-profit agricultural agency. They sent her to Central America, where she was snatched off the street. She was missing for weeks, and I was sure she was dead.

That’s when I climbed inside the bottle and forgot how to climb out. I stopped doing my law school work and ended each night drunk and weepy. I was so destroyed that I didn’t even care that everyone saw my breakdown. For years I’d hid my favorite habit, but when Lark was missing, I stopped caring who noticed.

My family was astonished by my behavior. They hadn’t noticed before that alcohol was my crutch, because they didn’t recognize the urge in themselves. The week before Lark was rescued was the one of great drama, when I finally admitted I needed help. My mother drove me to my first AA meeting, where I cried like a fountain the whole time.

Ah, the memories.

Many people would call me lucky. My addiction didn’t cost me my family. It didn’t cost me my job, and I didn’t have to kill someone behind the wheel of my car, or disappoint too many people before I acknowledged my problem.

I have sixteen months of sobriety.

But this is a rough patch. I’m stuck in this house again. Thinking about Lark again. And wondering how I managed to screw everything up with Daniela.

I feel really lost for someone who’s supposedly on an upswing.

My phone chirps with a text, and I dig it out of my coat pocket, needing the distraction. The number is unfamiliar. But when I tap on the message, I recognize the Gin Mill logo on the Avatar. It’s Alec Rossi.

How are you doing? he asks.

It’s the same question everyone asks me. But for some reason I don’t mind the question from Alec. He’s just an acquaintance, not someone who expects me to self-destruct under the weight of my recent disappointments.

Also, he’s super cute.

I’ve had better weeks, is my reply.

Alec: Want to hear a joke?

May: I love a good joke.

Alec: I didn’t say it was a GOOD joke.

May: I’ll take my chances.

Alec: A screwdriver walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Hey, we have a drink named after you!"

Alec: The Screwdriver responds, "You have a drink named Murray?"

May: Is it pathetic that I just LOLed?

Alec: Nah. I love that joke. If you’re a really lucky girl, someday I’ll tell you the one about the mushroom who walks into a bar. But that one has to be told in person.

May: It won’t be easy to wait, but I’ll try.

Alec: In all seriousness, is there anything I can do to help? Besides telling you my collection of bar jokes?

I’m about to reply no, when I have an idea. I probably shouldn’t ask Alec for another favor. But if he says yes, it will help me out a great deal. And maybe there’s a way I could make it up to him.

May: There is one little thing…

Chapter Five


I’m behind the bar again, and Smitty is late for his shift. This happens a lot, unfortunately. And tonight it’s a real problem, because I’m not planning to work this shift.

My phone rings in my back pocket, and I fish it out, hoping it’s not Smitty calling me to make an excuse. I tug it out and answer. “Hello?”

“Alec?” The voice is weak and unfamiliar. “It’s Hamish.”

“Hamish! What’s shaking?” I feel a pang of worry. The old carpenter never calls me, he just walks through the front door instead.

“I hit a spot of trouble,” he says. “I’m laid up for a couple days. Could you feed my cat and lock up my shop?”

“Of course,” I say slowly. “Not a problem, man. But are you okay? Where are you?”

Hamish’s chuckle sounds embarrassed. “Montpelier Hospital. But it’s no big thing. Just a scare.”

“Sorry to hear that. I’ll check your place in twenty, okay? I’m on my way out about then.”

“Thank you, kid.”

“My pleasure.”

I hang up the call and tuck the phone back into my pocket.

“Problem?” my sister Zara asks from right beside me. She’s tending bar tonight.

“I hope not. You know our neighbor, Hamish?”

“He’s one of my best customers. The man likes lemon-poppy muffins.”

“He said he’s in the hospital, that’s all.”

My sister’s eyes widen. “Oh, shit.”

“He played it down, but he didn’t sound so good.” Also, an hour ago I saw an ambulance pass by when I was taking trash out to the dumpster. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence?

I keep this fear to myself. “Where the hell is Smitty?”

“Who cares?” Zara makes a face. “I don’t need his help.”

Uh-huh. Right. “So… Did I finish telling you about the new IPA from Hill Farmstead Brewery? Also—there’s a new ale. It’s made from malted barley. Unfiltered.”

“That’s cool, bro,” Zara says, sipping from a glass of club soda. “But I can read the board all by myself, like a big girl.” She jerks her thumb toward the beer menu on the chalkboard over her shoulder.

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