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I’m sorry; I just don’t feel that way about you.”

The words rang around hollowly in Beth’s brain as she stared out the window of the moving taxi. The lights of passing cars danced off the bumpers of the cars in front, creating interesting patterns of refraction. It would have been absorbing in a mindless sort of way if his face weren’t occupying the whole of her concentration.

You’re great! You’re amazing! But we’re just friends.”

Every word that they had ever spoken to one another was tinged with bitterness now; the friendship dissolved in an acidic bath of awkward. Someone whom she hadn’t gone a day without speaking to in three years had not called or texted in the past four. She had sent one text to him but hadn’t heard back. Friends, both exclusively hers and mutual connections all already knew about the long conversation that had followed a startling confession brought on by too much sad music and just the right amount of cherry vodka. She now marveled at how narrow the avenue was where she was just drunk enough to be brave, but just sober enough to hear and process everything with devastating precision. The lack of an intoxicated haze only exacerbated her humiliation, as she couldn’t blame her indiscretion on too much to drink, either to him or herself.

We’re still friends. Nothing’s going to change that, okay?”

Still friends, indeed. The confession had occurred three weeks ago and the long silences and nervous throat clearing had not abated. In fact, the silences seemed to be stretching out, and the throat clearing had graduated to excuses to leave the room, and eventually to part with her for a hasty retreat home. While drinking had originally been the culprit of her poor decision making skills, it also worked to make up for it in its wonderful numbing properties.

Spending the equivalent of thirty percent of her waking hours half in the bag was an intolerable way to live. She’d seen it in action too long ago. Her mother and father wasted their years away in the haze provided by tequila and bourbon, respectively. She wouldn’t die drowning. At least, not in alcohol.

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