Back in the lounge, Hattie surveyed the drinks cabinet. There were half-bottles of strange liqueurs they’d picked up on their holidays. What was cachaça when it was at home? She squinted at the label. Brazil. They’d definitely never been there. Tanqueray gin. No idea where that originated from, but if it got you tanked … She poured herself a generous measure and topped it up with some tonic that was a year past its sell-by date. Flatter than Keira Knightley’s chest but it did the job.
Taking a swig, Hattie wished again that she was more of a hardened drinker. A couple of these and she’d be lights out and nobody home. Admittedly, that was the effect she was going for, but the ability to chug a few more might help to numb the pain for longer.
As the gin sneaked its way around her bloodstream, Hattie swayed around the room. If Gary had been here – if Gary had been here during a party – there would be glasses everywhere. His glasses, to be precise. He’d been notorious for ‘parking’ his drink somewhere, forgetting where it was and pouring himself a new one. Hattie had tried everything, from dangly glass markers to indelible ink pens, to identify which drink belonged to whom, but Gary always left a trail of semi-supped glasses in his wake.
Suddenly, Hattie felt a peculiar sense of being watched. Had Johnny come home unexpectedly? No, she hadn’t heard the front door opening and closing. In any case, he’d have at least spoken to her before heading to his room. Her sleep-deprived and grief-addled brain was playing tricks with her, that was all.
Reaching the CD player, Hattie considered putting on some Fleetwood Mac. She could channel her inner Stevie Nicks and flap around a bit. All she needed was some dry shampoo to oomph her curls and a slightly gothic outfit. Nope, Pokémon pyjamas were not hitting the mark. She started rifling through the CD collection then … hang on … where had that glass come from? Hattie looked in disbelief at what appeared to be a shot of whisky topped up with water. Balanced slightly precariously on one of her precious Steps CDs, like it was a coaster. She nudged it nervously aside with her finger. A quick sniff confirmed her suspicions. It was whisky. One of Gary’s favourites. Hattie would rather gargle bleach than touch the Scottish stuff. Eurgh! Who ever thought that a combination of smelly socks with a hint of plant compost would make a best-selling drink? Well, millions of people clearly did but …
‘Hey, babe. I’m home!’ Hattie froze, pre-Stevie Nicks impression. ‘Christ, that gin was bloody strong,’ she thought, before realising that the voice she’d just heard was Gary’s. Not, I’m in heaven, be strong, flying with the angels now, voice of Gary she’d conjured up since his death but his actual voice. Gruff, rough and impossible to misinterpret. Somehow, someway, Gary was back.
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