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My Best Friend
Carefully, as if afraid to get caught, the man wrapped his hand around a cool green bottle. Plucking it out of the refrigerator door, he made a mental note; need to stop by the store. As this would be his only beverage tonight, Chris would cherish this green bottle’s contents until the last drop. Chris settled back into his well-worn leather armchair, and caressed the cool green drink. Popping off the cap, he brought the liquid to his mouth and suckled it like a baby and its pacifier. It would be his only one, which happened close to never. He was usually careful to keep track of how many he had in stock, and dropped about thirty-five empty bottles into the recycling bin per week. But lately, Chris had become preoccupied. Last week, he had been rummaging through some old boxes that had been sitting in the attic for who knows how long. He hadn’t meant to take a journey down memory lane; no, he was thinking of finding a few old things to sell. It wasn’t that he was moving or looking for something for an old friend. In fact, now that Chris thought of it, I really don’t have a real friend, old or new. His best friend was always there for him behind a door; be it a grocery door or a refrigerator door. His best friend motivated him to sell some old stuff; his best friend was getting a little on the expensive side. So that’s the truth, he went up to the attic out of his own disgusting selfishness. Only a few moments later, he opened a box, and gazed upon the face of the most selfless person. “A photo, a photo of my deceased wife, just figures,” he muttered as he set aside the frame. The attic trip was a success; he found enough items that would buy him his favorite beverage for the next three weeks (which is a lot if you figure how many he goes through). While Chris soon forgot about the items he sold (as he had when he shoved them in the attic decades ago), the picture hung around in his thoughts haunting him like Julius Caesar’s ghost to Brutus.
Now, as he let the last drop of liquid slide down his throat, Chris’s mind quickly turned to Danielle. It had been twenty years since the day she died. The photo depicted a young woman (probably around early thirties) in a new leather armchair holding a baby girl. A sad smile formed on his face as he remembered their conversation about the chair.
About eight months into Danielle’s pregnancy, Chris brought home a beautiful glossy wooden rocking chair. When Danielle saw it, she was obviously pleased, but wanted to return it for a different kind of chair. Chris had been proud of himself and clearly was upset, and demanded to know why. But she told him she wanted to first hear why Chris chose a rocking chair. He went on mumbling about how women supposedly like to rock the baby in a rocking chair. Danielle giggled, (God her laugh was the best sound in the world) and said that his reason was such a typical man thought. He became flushed and inquired exactly what kind of chair she had in mind. She explained that while the rocking chair was aesthetically pleasing, she assumed that sitting in a wooden chair would eventually become uncomfortable. Instead, a nice big comfortable leather armchair would be better.
Chris patted her armchair softly, leaned back and sighed. If only he could rewind time. As he shut his eyelids, his mind slipped to that fateful day.
It was the night before New Year’s Eve. The kind of night that is oddly warm. Danielle had just landed, and called Chris.
“Could you come and pick me up at the baggage claim?” asked Danielle.
Thinking back, Danielle probably used that word could on purpose; realizing Chris had most likely had at least a beer (or more). She was thinking that he would call her a cab; who will ever know what she thought (Chris thought bitterly). It was his entire fault. The next words defined that night, “Yes, I’ll be there.”
Danielle was in the process of grabbing her bag off the carousel and distractingly replied, “Okay.”
Chris only drank one beverage that night because that was all he had; he hadn’t kept up how many refreshments he had. Chris was excited that Danielle was coming home that week and had forgotten all about his best friend.
Chris made it to the airport fine and dandy, but Danielle, after learning that he had one drink, decided that it would be better if she drove home. It was very late and as they were zooming by they came to a bend in the road. Out of nowhere, a deer hopped gracefully into the middle of the road. What happened next has all blurred together; the jerking of the car, the impact of the deer and vehicle. Chris survived, but Danielle, who didn’t have her seat belt buckled, was thrown against the windshield…
Opening his eyes, Chris could feel his heart racing. He looked up at the fireplace mantle; there were three items sitting upon it. A photo of the family, his best friend, and a small gold necklace with the initial AR and inscribed on the back Daddy’s little angel. The photo of his wife (found in the attic) showed her caressing a baby girl. Chris was going to give his daughter the necklace on her third birthday.
The night of the accident (four days before his daughter’s birthday), Chris brought their baby girl to see her mommy when she came home. Danielle was ecstatic. She placed their daughter in her lap as she drove home. Danielle forgot to buckle her seat belt, and when she realized, she figured it was only two miles until they got home. That is right, the piercing sound that chills Chris still today, is his baby girl screaming with terror as the car spun out of control.
Chris blames himself for Danielle’s and their daughter’s deaths. He brought their daughter when it was too late for her to be up. He should’ve left her sleeping peacefully. Instead, he carried her to her death.
He hadn’t been driving the car, but that was not the way he thought of it. He brought their daughter, which distracted Danielle while she was driving. Then, there was the fact that he had a drink. If he didn’t have that one drink, Danielle would not have needed to drive. The argument between them of whether or not he could drive would never have happened, and they would have never encountered the deer.
Ironic, the name of the animal that killed his family rhymes with his best friend’s name. Beer or deer…beer, deer. His daughter always confused her b’s and d’s. Shifting in his chair, Chris felt sick at the connection he just made.
Danielle, who was watching from above, with her daughter by her side, had tears standing in her eyes. She could hear her husband’s current thoughts, and what he was about to think and do.
If I could have anything I wanted, anything at all….
Chris glanced over at the mantle again, and his eyes focused on the picture of his family, but his mind thought of his best friend. Grabbing his car keys, he headed to the local liquor store.