I entered Halcy-on-Top and a familiarity set over me. We spent so many weekends here over the years. This house knew us as we were: young and impulsive. Before Millie had even joined our group. This house knew us as a band of brothers, bound by time and adventure. There is something comforting about that version of us being held in these walls.
I had done enough thinking and feeling for the day, maybe even for my whole life. I headed towards my usual room and fell into bed without changing. As I tried to clear my mind and fall asleep, Millie's declaration replayed itself on a torturous loop. I quickly realized, tired as I was, I wouldn't be getting any sleep tonight.
I wandered into the living room and grabbed a decanter of whiskey from the liquor cabinet. After pouring myself a glass, I decided to build a fire—not because it was cold, but because I desperately needed something, anything, to distract me from my thoughts. It was still dusky when I arrived, so I hadn't bothered turning on any lights. Now there was no light apart from the flames. As my whiskey glass sat on a side table, untouched, I became entranced by the flickering light and the shadows it cast over the room. My mind eased its way back to the memory I dreaded reliving.
It was in the bathroom of RW Guild that I'd taken the first blow from Millie's words. As I sat down on the closed toilet to keep from passing out, I glanced around the little room to find something to distract myself. No magazines here — obviously. The joy of the era of bathroom magazine reading is that no-one accompanied you into the room where you go to escape the world. Now, you take your phone and sit down to read an article and suddenly you get 17 text messages and a couple of emails all requiring instant reply. Or you see that Millie is just down the hall liking photo's of Jack on the beach and you think about flushing it all down the toilet. Good design's usually distraction enough for me, and this bathroom was beautiful. Roman and Williams designs a lot of the fixtures for the their project and the faucet here was no exception. It was chunky and unrefined, reminiscent of something you'd buy at a hardware store—but the material, the unlacquered brass, that's what elevated it. The accoutrements on the little glass ledge beneath the mirror were deluxe too, but not flashy: an amber glass soap dispense, a wood scented candle in thick seated glass and a pewter urn filled with some sort of berry branches. Were they berries? Who knows. It was all just so effortlessly cool. As I took in the thoughtfully thoughtless blend of the high and the low brow that made the space feel so whole, I couldn't help but think of Millie. It was her unfussy nature that made her so attractive to me. She wasn't as coifed as most girls, but she was undeniably beautiful. Comparing her to a bathroom probably wouldn't go far in wooing her but I never can help myself.
I caught my reflection in the mirror, and I saw that I looked exactly how I felt. The color that had drained from my face at Millie's words had not returned, and there was an anguish in my eyes that I hoped Millie hadn't seen. I turned the sink on and splashed water on my face in hopes of regaining some sense of composure. Suddenly, the water felt like droplets burning my skin. I jolted back to reality when I realized Kipling had arrived and was standing over me. He had my glass of whiskey in hand, and he was pouring it drop by drop onto my face.
“Oh, you're awake,” he noticed as he gulped down the remaining whiskey.
Bringing the decanter over and pouring himself another glass, he stares at me.
“So, are you going to tell me?” “Tell you what?” “Tell me what has you withering in your sleep,” he said, knowingly.
Kipling isn't as dim-witted as he plays. It never helps that he had insights into my mind to which most people aren't privileged. I suppose that comes naturally when you'v been roommates with someone for most of your adolescence. Kipling's a fool, but he's our fool. He can be an impossible prick, but he's loyal to a fault. Most of all, he's my friend. He maybe the truest I've ever had. That's how I knew there was no point in lying, no point in trying to change the subject.
“They're engaged,” I heard myself say as I gulped down the whiskey and felt its burn.