I give her a wry smile, shoving my hands into my pockets. “Believe me, I’ve tried. After he lost Miranda and Hamish, I thought a dog could help him overcome the grief. But he hasn’t been interested. Too wrapped up in his own world, which I get. And he loves dogs too—he always talks about Lionel and how one day he’ll adopt. But I don’t push it. I think dogs come to you when you need them just as much as when they need you.”
“Kind of like you and Emily,” she says.
“Like you and Emily,” I correct her. “Not that you’re a dog.”
She raises her brow. “I’m a bitch sometimes.”
I give her a dry look. “You both came to me when I needed you the most. It just took a while to realize it.”
She grins at me. “Well, it was really only a week before you got a clue.”
“Now that I know what I was missing, anything more than a second is an eternity.”
It doesn’t take long for the man to stop drawing, holding out the paper and admiring it with a curt nod of his head, like someone who has just painted a masterpiece.
He holds it out for us, and I have to hold back a laugh. In a way, it is a masterpiece. The guy has some talent…and a lot of that talent went toward making Brigs look as ridiculous as possible. He’s got Buster Keaton’s hat and the requisite bags under the eyes, but he’s smiling—rare for both Keaton and Brigs—and his teeth take up half of his face.
Of course, Kayla being Kayla, doesn’t hold back at all. She laughs—loudly—and points, shaking her finger at it.
“Oh my god!” she exclaims, clamping a hand over her mouth. “Look at Brigs! He looks fucking crazy. He’s half Buster Keaton, half Mr. Ed.” She looks at me, smiling big, a devious gleam in her eyes. “He’s going to hate it. It’s great.”
The artist frowns at her, so I quickly pay him for it, telling him he did a great job. That doesn’t stop him from glaring at Kayla as he slowly rolls up the portrait and slides a rubber band on it, smacking it on with a loud snap.
With the Christmas shopping all done, there really isn’t much else to do but wander. A group of guys walk past, clenching beers in their gloves, and something inside me tightens. Darkens. Not quite like a flame going out, but like a silent, black fire spreading inside me.
I don’t realize I’m clenching Kayla’s hand—and my jaw—until she says, “What’s wrong?”
My throat feels too thick to speak. My body is burning with oily flames and need, this horrible, unrelenting, unwanted need. Just from the simple sight of a few beers. If I weren’t so busy being torn by simultaneous self-loathing and fear, I’d revel in the amazement. How I can go from normal and content in one minute to having my soul scream in the next is something I’ll never understand and never get over.
Being an addict is a lot like grief. It permeates every essence of who you are.
I shake my head. “I’m okay,” I manage to say, my voice gruff. “Let’s just go home.”
She nods, frowning. “Okay.”
But as we head toward the street, she pulls me to a stop at one of the last stalls. Before I have a chance to ask her what she’s doing, she’s grabbing handfuls of tinsel in silver, red and green, a string of lights, plus a few cheap ornaments and a wiry gold star tree topper.
I have to admit, I’m grateful for the distraction, even though it’s leaving me confused.
“But we don’t have a tree,” I tell her as she quickly pays for it all. I grab the bags from the merchant and we head on our way, cutting up Hanover Street.