John awoke as usual and stepped out of his bed and toward his bathroom. A steady stream of urine followed by the start of a coffee pot. Catherine was already awake and getting a light breakfast prepared. She would take him to work like every other day with a sweet kiss goodbye until he was done in the lab and on his way home to her loving arms once more.
Today he would spend his time wading through samples and labeling viruses without a hitch. His co-workers would stay out of his way and the usual corporate idiocy would be spared just this once. It would return the next day or the next after that he was sure, but today was rather calm. He was surprised to have such an easy day and decided to spend his good mood on his oldest friend. A few days had passed since he’d last seen Alan Venar, but surely nothing had changed. Or rather, maybe everything had changed in a way the best suited Alan. It seemed he was a master of constantly changing and shifting his feelings and thoughts while maintaining the consistency of always doing so.
But the last time he’d seen him, Alan was different. A cold sadness veiled by his forward gaze. And then the letter he’d seen only a glance of. The one sent to his former love. Perhaps it was over. And perhaps it was not. Perhaps it could never be over. That was the game he’d come to know from Alan. A game of his own mind in which he played against himself for the sake of no one but for the idea of love and aesthetics. He was the king of falling in love. Falling for women. For ideals. For beauty. For admirable traits as well as the darkest shadows cast by most loathsome of abusers. He always fell for the extremes. For the subtleties. And for the game itself.
John made his way to the Venar estate and walked into the chamber of his friend without a thought. Having a key and technically owning it led him to believe there would be no incident walking directly in. The naked body of his friend and a very attractive younger woman made him immediately think otherwise.
“What the hell? Whoa! Sorry! Leaving now!” Said John in a quick turn toward the way he had come in.
“Wait! John! Wait!” He heard calling back to him.
In a rush Alan made his way over to him with as thin sheet wrapped around his waist.
“Sorry, I didn’t think to hang a sock on the door. So used to it being mine, you know? What’re you here for so early and on an off day? It’s not like you to break routine.” Said Alan.
John avoided looking down. “Wha–I just…well I thought I’d stop in and see how you were doing…not WHO…”
“Ha ha ha! Look at you making jokes, you old square! I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were coming or I’d have made you some supper while I had my dessert!”
“Now who’s funny? Well, I’ll be on my way–”
He was cut off as the beautiful young woman made her way out of the room and wrapped her naked body around Alan.
“Alan, come back! Who’s your friend?” She said.
In that moment John noticed that the young girl looked remarkably like Estelle. A younger and peppier version, but the likeness was uncanny.
“I’ll be back in a bit, love. This is my best friend, John. Don’t worry I won’t be long.” They kissed and she made her way back to the room with a slight smile toward her bedmate.
Alan and John stared at each other in silence.
“What?” Said Alan finally.
“You know what! Jesus, she looks just like her!”
“Oh come on! She’s much younger and prettier and they’re nothing alike. I promise. Arissia is way better in bed!”
“Alan, I’m happy that you’re moving…on, but this may not be in the right direction.” Said John. “And my God, how much have you had to drink?” He pointed to the empty bottles on the table beside him.
“So sorry, mother. I’ll act like a gentleman from now on.”
John shook his head. “Is everything a joke to you?”
Alan snickered, “Only the things that matter.”
“Seriously, you have been drinking more and more since all this ruckus began. I thought your ‘death’ would have at least made your life easier to cope with.” John put his hand on his friends bare shoulder.
Alan smiled softly and looked away, “”Have you ever had one of those days where before you can tell if it’s going to be bad or good you can already tell that you’re going to need a drink at the end of it? Funny thing that word, “need”. It beckons the idea of necessity as if one could not do without and as for things that one cannot go without, we find there are many things the opposite that we have garnered an overabundance of–things that create the former idea of drinking. And thus the alcoholic is understood and embraced.” He lifted a bottle and took a long drink of it.
“So now you’re an alcoholic?” Asked John with his brow crumpled tightly.
“I’ve gone without many things that are necessary…I’d say I’m doing considerably well, wouldn’t you?”
“If you say so. I’ll be on my way now. Next time at least leave that sock on the door. It’s bad enough I have to keep up this lie while dealing with your damned publisher. I don’t need to see your ass too.”
Alan laughed at him.
“Speaking of, you haven’t given me anything to send to the publishers lately. I’ll be needing a manuscript for the next book in a month.”
“I’ll have it done…I just haven’t been writing lately. Don’t worry, It’ll get done. I’ve just been preoccupied…Arissia and I have been going out a lot lately…in disguise of course. Seriously, I’ve got it covered.” Alan frantically pulled at the sheet around his waist and followed John to the door.
“Well make sure of it. And prioritize. Don’t get distracted by another girl.” John regretted saying it as soon as the words left his mouth, but it was done.
Alan gave a faint smile as he took the blow with grace. He patted his friend on the back and sent him out.
John turned to the window and thought for a moment on the last time he had seen his friend so caught up in someone else. Even with Catherine around, he had let himself get so defined by routine that he had not noticed his friend’s absence in both mind and body. The manuscripts weren’t coming because his friend was becoming happier every day by distracting himself with frivolity and an obsession with beauty. The new girl was his crutch, but also his nightmare. A hindrance to his creativity and a drug to appease his illness. John knew the cycle far too well.
But he could do nothing. And in deciding so, John returned to his home. To his fiance. And to his life devoid of such troubled darkness like the ghosts dwelling in Alan Venar’s mind and sheets. In truth he was a bit scorned, but a voice in the back of his head compelled him to believe the idea that maybe, just maybe, Alan could find a way out with this newly sought happiness despite whatever form it may have taken. But John knew deep down that his nagging intuition would always prove true–that this could not end well at all.