The Fable of Us(7)

By: Nicole Williams

I should have been happy for my sisters, but being happy for one another was not an Abbott sister trait. One-upping was more the thing to do, and a big reason why I got out as soon as I could. Charlotte might have wound up with Ford, and he might have been a handsome, rich son of a bitch, but there was far more to him than that—far more of the undesirable qualities in a lifetime partner. And Avalee might have landed the biggest diamond I’d ever seen, even after living in coastal California for seven years, but what good was a big precious gem if your husband worked all day and spent most of his nights with his mistress(es) as Sterling Beauregard Senior was infamous for?

After making sure the message had gone through, I flipped my phone over on the counter, willing it to stay silent for the rest of the night. I could have turned it off, but that seemed too easy.

Boone twisted on his stool and angled himself in my direction. “How much longer are you planning on staying tonight? Because if you’re not leaving in the next five minutes, I am. I came here to forget my problems for a few hours, not resurrect a whole shitload of them.”

My phone buzzed again. Repeatedly. I kept it flipped over and tried to ignore it. When I noticed the full shot glass in front of me and couldn’t remember ordering it or how long it had been sitting there, I knew better than to drink it.

I knew better—but I didn’t do better.

The chemical cleaner smell and taste had disappeared. Yet another sign that I’d exceeded my goal of getting tipsy. That might have been the reason my mouth opened and out came words I hadn’t planned on saying. “Listen, I’m sorry, Boone.” I twisted on my stool so I was facing him. “I’m sorry for how things went down between us. I never wanted to hurt you . . . but that didn’t change that I did.” I bit my lip when certain memories came flickering back to life. “And I’m sorry.”

He was quiet, his expression flat and his body still. Around us, the bar echoed with noises and voices, the air filled with the scent of alcohol and body odor. This should have been the last place in the city limits I’d go to. The person sitting down from me should have been the last I’d find myself with.

I didn’t know what any of this foretold about the next week, if anything at all, but I found myself wishing I could plan on more of the unexpected. What I expected was a whole lot of what I’d lived, breathed, and drowned in for eighteen years.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you apologize.”

Boone’s voice cleared my head some, bringing me back to the here and now instead of the there and then. No matter where I was and who I was with, I far preferred the here and now.

“Well, feel free to do the same. I’ve never exactly heard a string of apologies from your lips either.” I twirled my hand in a proceed kind of motion, and he lifted a brow in disbelief.

“What exactly do you want me to apologize for?”

The blood pulsing through my veins heated. It was already at an ungodly temperature—I did not need to start heating myself from the inside out as well. Another degree or two up, and I’d be passing out.

When Boone’s brow stayed elevated, implying he was innocent on all counts, I reached for the refilled shot. Screw it. “Nothing, Boone. Absolutely nothing.”

After that, I twisted back around and finished my shot in one drink. When the bartender meandered over, bottle at the ready, I covered the glass with my hand and shook my head. I was already showing up alone, late, and dressed in what my mother deemed “scrubs intended for the homeless, not for an Abbott daughter.” If I showed up drunk too, heads would roll. Starting with mine.

After a minute of silence, my phone started going off like a fireworks display on the Fourth of July. It was buzzing so much, so non-stop, it rocked across the counter. All I could do was stare at it and clasp my hands in my lap. I couldn’t deal with them right now. I’d be forced to deal with them soon, but they weren’t going to ruin my last half hour to myself.

“Your phone’s about to blow up,” Boone piped up, still angled my direction.

“Well aware of that. Thank you.” I glared at the phone, still jumping around like it was alive.

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