The fire smoldered in the dim light of the sitting room. Gerald debated adding more wood. He was alone, so he debated the glass of whiskey beside him. He promised himself he wouldn't let the fire die, but he also knew that, most mornings, he awoke to winter chill. Still, there was something in the promise that made him feel imperceptibly warmer. He had everything he needed; this was what he wanted, wasn't it? A quiet cabin full of books and music that he picked. It would have been the perfect writer's retreat if he still wrote instead of just talking about it.
A familiar face flashed across his subconscious, and he winced. He took another sip and opened the book he had chosen to stare at. Dickens. A former version of himself might chuckle at this pretentiousness - small stone cabin, winter, scotch, and an evening of Dickens? That version of himself had been dead for at least a decade. He barely remembered him.
Gerald lit a cigarette and took a deep drag. He often coughed these days, but not when he was drinking. Every time he went to the doctor, he pretended to be concerned about lung cancer, and the doc pretended to act like he gave a shit. It was a delightful pantomime. It amused and pained him at the same time. It was a bitter, acidic feeling. He craved it. Something to rage against.
He stood up and threw a log on the fire. Congratulated himself for this. He unplugged the wall phone and put his cell phone high on the top of the book shelf, turned off. He was reaching the point in the evening where, sometimes, the whiskey was able to convince him that calling her would be a good idea. Hearing her voice. But would he hear other voices? He convinced himself that it was bravery - to nip and cauterize. He was the victim and the hero. So many of us are, he thought. He reached for a pen and paper to write this down, this theme, this seed, something to work with in the morning. By the time he found a pen, he had forgotten what he wanted to write down. He would have to buy a new laptop to replace the one that lay smashed and broken in the corner of the room.
It was her, the fucking bitch. She was the reason he couldn't write. Couldn't take care of himself. She would have told him to cut back on the cigarettes and whiskey. She would have convinced him to finish one of the novels he'd started and never realize that it was her fault that he couldn't find the words, the plot, the magic. He had folders full of character studies with no life in them. He took a sip and cursed the day he'd met her. Cursed the "happy" years. The years that had ruined him. Writers weren't supposed to be happy. The pain was a cattle prod. He thought briefly about excavating one of those pieces, then realized that the files were on the demolished laptop.
The urge to call was strong, but he had so much to answer for. So many drunken nights and fights and misplaced flirtations. And she would forgive it all. He knew that, and it made him despise her all the more. The fucking bitch. Fucking doormat. He tried to giggle and failed.
The fire was dying, but he was too drunk to care. Too drunk to stand up. His trousers were soaked, and he knew that tomorrow would be agony. Somewhere deep in his semi-consciousness, he feared the pain that was guaranteed after a night of work like this. He could feel it already. Sobriety was fighting through the scotch and the agony was starting. The aches he could stand, the blood in the toilet bowl. What scared him was the emotional fallout he would feel. He would want to call, but he couldn't call when he was hung over. It required too much.
The cat padded over in disgust. Used to dirty litter boxes and unreliable food, he was not bitter. He was simply disgusted. Gerald could feel it and, somehow, the stab of it was too much, and he broke down into bitter sobs.
He would kill himself. That would fix everything. The pain, the failing ambition. The half-hearted drive. And she would find out somehow. She'd finally see what she'd done to him with her poison love. It would be big news, even. The networks would have a field day. His books would start selling again, and myths might just be created. The suffering artist. The suicidal writer. They would eat it up, whoever the hell they were. The readers. The faceless fucking readers he cared so much about. The vultures. The ones who decided where in the pile you ended up.
People love dead writers. It's the living ones they can't stand. Except for all the no-talent hacks that were climbing the bestseller lists. Hacks like he used to be.
He was nodding off now. There would be no suicide, no death knell. He would fail even in that. He tried half-heartedly to stand. To make it to bed. To drink a glass of water, something. He didn't make it. The cat settled on the arm of the chair, not his wet lap. He'd learned his lesson. He fell asleep next to the man he had known since kittenhood. This man was not even worth hating. Deep in his mind there was a memory of how life had been before the move to this cabin.
Before he never saw the woman again.