Booker wasn’t even sure why he was in this damn room, with these people, none of whom had a clue who he was, or what he’d done. They all had their issues of course, and he wasn’t stupid enough to assume that anything he went through was worse than what they went through.
It’s just… he couldn’t really be honest with them. They were pouring their heart out, and he felt like an imposter, because he couldn’t really tell them anything.
In a way this was no more than a distraction. A way to keep his mind of how alone he felt. When his exile started, the first thing he’d done was get drunk as fuck. For six endless months.
And then Quynh had showed up.
He’d been too drunk to stand up to her. Too drunk to tell her anything, as well.
She’d have kicked his ass, if he wasn’t too pathetic for even that.
After the others came to pick her up, Booker had sat there, watching them leave him behind. Nicky had looked at him with almost pity in his eyes. And Andy…
She’d looked so sad.
“You have to look out for yourself, Book. This… this isn’t good for you.”
But what did they expect him to do? To throw a party because he didn’t have to talk to them anymore? Celebrate that he was going alone for another ninety-nine and a half years? Maybe it was better to dull the pain and forget. The booze was good for that at least.
A folder about AA had shown up in his mail a few days later.
He’d ignored it, only for another to show up, and another, until finally he gave in, and he looked up the nearest meeting.
He almost finished a bottle of whiskey before he went.
The guy running the meeting kicked him out. Told him to come back when he was really ready to give up on drinking. He almost sank down crying in the hallway.
He went back the next week. He was shaking as he arrived. When the guy almost threw him out again, Booker nearly fell over. That’s when the guy took pity on him.
“Who sent you here, son.”
Booker couldn’t answer.
“Do you have anyone to help you?”
He just shrugged. Two days later he was moving his stuff into Bertrand’s attic. The guy told him he shouldn’t be alone while he was kicking the habit.
It was either that or a halfway home. Here at least he didn’t have to worry about someone cutting his throat and getting his shirt all smeared with blood over a damn watch and the few bucks he had on him.
Bertrand let him drive along to the meetings. In exchange he did the man’s taxes. Bertrand told him he didn’t have to, but Booker wanted to do something to pay him back.
He was one month sober now.
An eternity and the blink of an eye both at once.
“My name is Sebastien Le Livre, and I’m an alcoholic.” It was all he said at the meetings.
It was all that was expected from him.
His fingers kept fiddling with something, anything he got in his hands. After a while he’d gotten into a habit to take out his keychain and play with it, just to keep his hands busy. It kept the shaking down. And at least it was a better habit than to start smoking.
He sat down in his usual place in the back of the room when he saw her. He blinked his eyes, wondering what she was doing here. Whether it was just someone who vaguely looked like her, reminding him of her.
It didn’t help, she was still there.
A moment later she sat down next to him.
He tried not to stare at her. Not to reach out at her, and make sure she was real.
“Andy, what are you doing here?”
“My liver’s not as sturdy as it used to be; Nile, she suggested that if I wanted to stay with Quynh as long as possible, that well… that I might best follow your example.”
“So even though there’s thousands of AA meetings all across the globe, you decided to join mine.”
She just smirked.
“I like to have at least one person who understands, Book. Don’t you?”
The worst part is that she wasn’t wrong.
Andy wasn’t like him though. When Bernie asked them if anyone had something to say, she raised her hand and moved to the front.
She kept staring at him, as if the rest of the people in the room might as well not be there.
“My name is Andy, and I’m an alcoholic.”
The others greeted her, Booker just glared.
“A few years ago, a friend of mine was taken from me… I tried to save her, but after a while I had to give up. I promised Quynh it’d be the two of us together, forever. And I gave up on her.”
“I just grew so tired of living, existing, without her there. My friends, they tried to keep me going. But it wasn’t worth doing without her by my side. I got miserable, praying for death. Hoping for an end. Existing rather than living. The booze helped with that.” She closed her eyes. “There was this kid in our group. He was miserable, depressed. He lost his wife and children. And I… I let him sink into depression, because at least I wasn’t there alone anymore.
Except she hadn't, she'd tried to help him. To listen to him, he'd just been too stuck in his own pain to see it.
"The other boys, they… they’ve been through a lot, but when it comes down to it, they had one another. But me and Book, all we had was each other. And instead of helping him, I dragged him down with me. By the time he tried to kill himself, he almost took all the rest of us in it with him. He thought he was helping me, giving me what I wanted. And it hurt. It hurt just how much I’d failed him.”
“Andy.” Booker whispered, trying to get her to stop. It wasn’t her fault damn it. He wanted to yell that at her, but he was too frozen in his seat to do so.
“When I found out I was dying, it was the first time I wanted to live in a long time. And I couldn’t share it with Book. After what he’d done, we told him to leave, abandoned him. Like I did with Quynh.”
‘Stop it.” Booker whispered.
“Quynh told me off about that, asked me if that was a habit I was getting into, abandoning the people I claimed to care about. She wasn’t wrong. She told me to stop giving up on myself. That if I wanted to live, I had to do better.”
Booker got up from his seat, getting ready to leave.
“I’m sorry, Book.”
“Just, stop it. Please, just …” She came up to him, he turned around, facing her. “I’m so sorry, Andy.”
“I know, Book, I know.”
They didn’t hug, they didn’t talk. Bertrand continued the meeting, staring at the two of them.
That night Book went back to Bertrand’s place. When he got home there was a number on his desk.
He sat there, staring at it for a long long time.