Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/849300-The-Bottom-of-the-Glass
Rated: GC · Short Story · Drama · #849300
A haunting past drives a woman to the edge.
The Bottom of the Glass

The last sounds Celeste heard were the jumble of a man's shout, a woman's scream and squealing tires on asphalt...

The frantic strains of a rock song blared from the clock radio awakening Celeste from the sleep of the dead. She groaned and hit a button to silence the intrusion. Grumbling, she sat up, stretching out the kinks. Reluctantly sliding out from beneath the warm covers, she shuffled to the bathroom.

Flicking on the switch, she squinted in the flourescent light and groaned again. She stared at the face in the mirror. It looked like holy hell. Her brown eyes were shot through with red and had dark circles under them. Her dark, wavy hair was a bird's nest of tanlges. I feel like holy hell, too. Her mouth was desert dry, her head contained a symphony of jackhammers and her stomach felt full of razor blades.

Celeste turned on the tap and splashed cold water on her face and neck, then straightened to look at her reflection again.

"Shit," she moaned. "God, how much did I drink?"

"Plenty," a voice behind her answered.

A reflection appeared next to hers. Jack's clear blue eyes gazed into hers. His sandy hair was mussed, a sign he had spent the night on her couch.

"How much, Jack?"

"Dunno. I lost count, but I had to scrape you off the floor and bring you home. Again."

"Uh, thanks Jack."

"Yeah," he answered. He studied his hands wanting to say more.

"What is it Jack? What's on your mind?"

He sighed, "Celeste, I'm gonna be honest with you and you're not gonna like it."

"Go on."

"Okay, I will. Girl, you're a mess. Look in the mirror. You look like Death warmed over. You're drunk all the time. You haven't worked in months. You used to be a beautiful, vibrant woman. Now...." he trailed off.

"Now what?" she demanded.

"Now you're rarely sober. The only time you go out is for more booze. I have to scrape you off the floor every other night. And frankly, I'm sick and tired of it. I don't know how much longer I can watch you destroy yourself."

Celeste spun around, nearly falling.

"I never asked for your help! I don't need a babysitter!"

"You're right, Celeste. What you need is professional help."

She stood facing him with her fists balled like a defiant child.

"Get the hell out, Jack!" she shouted. "Now!"

Jack's blue eyes turned hard and cold. Through his clenched teeth, he spat, "Fine little girl. I was only trying to help. You want me gone? I'm gone!"

He turned on his heel and strode from the room. His fading footsteps echoed against the bare walls. The slam of the front door left Celeste alone.

She turned back to the mirror and sighed. Jack had been her best friend as far back as she could recall. He had cheered her on when she was on the debate team. He had nursed her bruised teenage heart with chocolate milkshakes, listening to her tearful tales of love gone wrong. She could count on Jack for anything, and now, he was gone.

"I don't need this bullshit," she told the empty room. "And I don't need him!"

Her stomach rumbled reminding her that it had been yesterday at lunch since she had eaten. Once in the kitchen, she removed a large glass from the dishwasher and poured a bottle of beer and a bottle of tomato juice into it. She swirled the glass to mix the "red beer" and took a swallow. The concoction always made her feel better after a hard night of drinking.

Five red beers later, she decided to call her sister, Camille. Hoisting herself on the counter, she picked up the phone and dialed. Camille answered on the fifth ring.

"Hi Sis," Celeste greeted her.

"Celeste! To what do I owe this momentous occasion?"

"Jack and I had a fight. He stormed out," Celeste informed her.

"It must've been good. Jack never gets angry with you. What were you fighting about?"

"He was on my case for having a few drinks last night."

"Oh, honestly Celeste! When are you going to wise up? This little habit of yours has gotten out of hand. I don't know why he has stayed around this long."

"Camille, I called to talk, not to be lecture. I've already had my lecture for today."

"Well apparently you weren't paying attention. You're drinking now, aren't you?" Camille accused. "Celeste it's eight freaking thirty in the morning!"

"I've just had a few red beers to clear my head," Celeste explained.

"That's not clearing your head! Can't you see what you're doing to yourself? You've got to get hold of yourself. You're a mess. A drunk. You...."

"Thanks for cheering me up, Sis," Celeste interrupted. "I knew I could count on you." She slammed down the reciever.

She hopped down from her perch on the counter, knocking over the empty glass by her side. She fished another one from the cabinet along with a fifth of cheap whiskey. She filled the glass with the amber liquid, took a swallow and headed for her living room, bottle in hand.

She sat down heavily in her favorite chair. It was old, huge, overstuffed and covered in denim fabric. It wrapped itself around her as she settled into it. She drained her glass and refilled it. She allowed her mind to drift...


Celeste had been a field reporter for Channel 6 News. She was one of the best. Her work ethic and pride in her job earned her the respect of her peers. She was rewarded with the most challenging assignments. Celeste loved what she did, until that summer night two years ago.

She had been sent to cover a hostage situation on the west side of town. When she arrived at the scene, she searched the crowd that had gathered for the familiar face of Charlie Coltrain. She and Charlie went way back. He was a rookie cop at the same time that she was new in her own field. They had become friends over time. He was the one she turned to whenever she covered a crime story. She spotted Charlie standing in front of his squad car and made her way towards him.

"Hi, Charlie. Whatcha got?" she greeted him.

"Hey yourself. Seems the lady of the house wanted a divorce and her hubby didn't. The damned fool's holed up inside with his baby girl. I suppose he thinks he'll win back his wife."

"Is he armed?" Celeste inquired.

"His wife says he collects guns. Answer your question?"

"Yep. Who is he? Do you have a name on him?"

"I've got it right here," he said glancing at a notepad in his hand.

Before he could answer Cesleste, the relative calm of the evening was shattered. The man came out of his front door shooting. Celeste hit the ground, laying still for fear of becoming a target. The stifling evening air cracked with shots from both the man and the officers. Men shouted orders. A baby screamed in terror. Then everything went eerily silent. For a split second, the world seemed to stop.

Slowly, Celeste raised her head. Charlie was laying a foot away, motionless. A bullet had struck him in the face, tearing half of it away. She stared at him in horror. Only a moment ago he was talking easily with her and now he was dead. She realized that she was splattered with his blood and tissue. Her stomach started churning. Shakily she sat up and surveyed the scene before her.

Three other cops were down, two dead and one critically injured. Several bystanders had been hit and were screaming in pain and confusion. The suspect lay sprawled across the front steps, dead from the hail of bullets. Then she noticed a small, bloody bundle on the grass next to him.

"My God!" she hasped as realization dawned on her.

The man had held his infant daughter in front of him like a shield when he had come out the door firing. The officers had no choice but to return fire. The baby, an innocent casualy of her father's insanity, was barely recognizable.

Celeste began to shake uncontrollably and then began to scream.


Celeste had never been the same after that night. She had to be heavily sedated for weeks. She barely slept, for when she did, she heard the screams, the crack of gunfire and the silence in her dreams. She would see the tiny form laying still on the grass. And, she would see Charlie. She would wake up trying to wipe his blood from her clothes.

At work, her concentration failed her. She became short-tempered with her peers. In her personal life, she began alienating friends and family. And, she began drinking.

At first, it was only a glass of wine to calm her nerves. Soon it became the entire bottle, then she graduated to hard liquor and lots of it. She drank in an attempt to block the terrible images from her troubled mind. She found that if she drank enough, the grisly details would fade for awhile. The moment she was sober they came back to haunt her. She drank more and more until she was drunk most of her waking hours. People who had been important to her had faded from her life like evening shadows. She was fired from the station. The only constant had been Jack. She depended on him for everything and he had never failed her.

She picked up the phone and dialed his number.

"Mmmmm, Hello," a sleepy voice answered.

"Jack? Jack, it's me," she replied.

He sighed, "What do you want?"

"I wanted...," she began. "I wanted to apologize. Jack you're all I have left."

"You're already drinking aren't you, Celeste? Geez, it's still morning. Why must you live your life in a bottle of whiskey?"

"You know why!" she answered. "I can't make it go away!"

"Get some help, Girl. Drinking is going to be the death of you."

"I don't need any help! I've got you!"

"No," he replied. "No you don't, Celeste. I can't do this anymore. I can't watch you kill yourself."

"What are you saying Jack?" she cried. "You can't leave me now! I need you!"

"What you need is help. Listen, I found this place over on Pine Street. They have meetings for people with drinking prob...," he began.

"I don't have a drinking problem!"

"Yes you do, Celeste. It's time you faced it. Go there. Talk to them."

"Damn you Jack! I thought you were my friend! You're just like the rest of them!"

"Celeste...," he began, but she had slammed down the receiver.

"Damn you!" she was still screaming. She hurled the phone across the room. Curling into a ball on the floor, she sobbed. After what seemed like hours, she was spent. Sitting up slowly, she rubbed her tired eyes. She was numb, drained. Unsteadily, she rose to her feet to go take a shower.

Turning on the hot water, she allowed it to run over her weary body. The water and steam began to do their work on her and when she stepped from the shower, she felt half-human again.

She searched her closet until she found her favorite pair of faded jeans and pulled them over her hips. Fishing out an oversized black sweater, she tugged it over her head. Completing her look was her worn black leather boots.

Back in front of the mirror, she applied lip gloss and mascara and dried her wavy, brown hair. Reluctant to face the world, she shook out her hair, took a deep breath and stepped out the front door.

A blast of cold air greeted her, nipping at her face and tossing her hair. She breathed in the chill of it and set out. For the first time in months, she set her senses free. She felt her boots on the hard concrete underfoot. She noticed children playing in the cold day and the elderly scurrying on their way to someplace warm. She took notice of smoke curling from chimneys. The brisk bite of the air brought life back to her. It felt good to be in motion.

She let her feet take her where they may. She wandered into the bar district, but today, she just didn't feel like drinking. She passed through. She wandered for hours. Up bustling avenues and down quiet residential streets. Concrete and lawns, storefronts and homes blended together.

As dusk settled in , Celeste found herself on Pine Street. She stopped dead in her tracks at the realization and looked around. This was the street that jack had mentioned. Taking in her surroundings, she saw that she was directly across the street from the place he told her about. The temperature was dropping as night creeped in and the warm glow of the windows in the place was inviting. Celeste watched people enter the meeting place. They looked normal enough, not at all like she pictured alcoholics. An icy wind began to blow, chilling her. She reached a decision.

"What the hell," she said to herself. "It's colder than shit out here and I could go for some hot coffee. It wouldn't kill me to listen to what they say while I'm getting toasty."

Her mind set, she lifted her chin, squared her shoulders and stepped into the street.

The last thign she heard was a jumble of a man's shout, a woman's scream and squealing rubber on asphalt...

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