Happiness in a Bottle. Short Story.

Lily took her pill and counted to ten, she hated feeling sad, everyone did. A moment later she could feel the sadness receding, replaced instead by a buoying happiness, she smiled allowing it to pull her along. She gently took the hand of her dead husband and, still smiling, she sat down beside him. Her mind was filled with all the wonderful memories, all the times they had spent together. Gone were thoughts of arguments or broken promises, gone were the fear and worry, the anger, there was nothing left but the joy of a life well lived together. A doctor appeared, Lily didn’t hear her come into the room, “Mrs. Simmons? Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m better than ok, I’m doing pretty good actually.”
“Are you by any chance taking any medication?”
“Oh yes, I’ve a prescription for Elatol.”
The doctor nodded, “I’m not surprised, most people do these days.”
Lily nodded, a dazed grin still on her face, “I just wanted to have a quick chat with you. We’re seeing issues with people who take Elatol while recently bereaved. The mind needs to process grief and if you block it out it will be much worse when it finally gets in.”
Lily nodded again, “I know I do. I was warned, but it’s too fresh” Her smiled faltered a little, her voice dipping slightly, “I’m afraid. I’m scared I won’t be able to handle the grief, that it will consume me.”
“Many people feel that way, especially if they are not used to negative feelings. If you would like we have an on staff therapist you can talk to, he can talk to you for a little bit, maybe give you some advice on dealing with your grief in a healthy way.”
Lily’s smile brightened, “Thank you for the offer, it’s very kind, but I will be fine. My family are coming to visit, once they’re here I know I’ll be fine.”
The doctor smiled, “If you’re sure.”
“Yes, I am, thank you.”

The doctor left the room, for a brief second Lily wondered why she had lied, the words had slipped so easily from her mouth. There was no family left to visit her. Brian was the only one she had left. Her children, Anna and Jack were gone. Jack had disappeared while backpacking in Australia and Anna had stopped talking to both of them four years ago. Lily couldn’t quite remember the entire conversation, at that point she had already been talking the Elatol, but it was something about Jack’s disappearance, how they never cared about Anna after that. The conversation had ended with Anna telling them to never contact her again. Surely she would want to know about her father dying though. Lily jumped slightly and looked around herself, she was still in the hospital, still holding Brian’s hand. Two orderlies were standing there awkwardly, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I said we need to take him now.”
“Ok, yes, sorry, of course. I was miles away.” She smiled at them. One of them reached into his pocket and retrieved a pack of tissues, “Here”
“Oh, no, thank you I don’t need them.” The orderly looked at her for a second then slowly put the tissues back in his pocket. As they wheeled him from the room Lily reached up and rubbed her eye, her vision was blurring for some reason. She took her hand away and realised it was wet, was she crying? Lily went into the small bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror, her mascara was streaked and running down her cheeks which were wet with tears. She grabbed a handful of tissues and quickly rubbed them across her face. She wasn’t supposed to be crying, she was supposed to be happy. She needed time to adjust still, she knew if she didn’t ease into it the collective grief might just crush her entirely. With shaking hands Lily searched through her bag, anger slowly growing, why did she keep so much junk in here? None of it was ever used, just thrown in and forgotten about. Finally her hand closed around the familiar bottle and quickly she took another pill. Releasing a slow breath Lily put the pills back in her bag, they’d kick in soon and she’d be fine. She looked at herself in the mirror, all pale and old, when had that happened? When had all these wrinkles appeared? She smiled at herself, she didn’t notice the way her lips stretched slightly too far and how her eyes widened just slightly giving her a manic appearance. The pills were finally kicking in and she had come to a decision, it didn’t matter what Anna said, she would want to know, would need to know.

Lily sat back in the chair, phone still clutched in her hand. She had tried everything and everyone she could think of. Old friends of Anna, where she had last worked, even her building manager. No one had a number for her, no one knew where she was, she was just gone. She had asked them to pass the message on if they heard from her again and they had promised they would. There was a worry there, a fear that Anna had truly gone but mostly Lily felt empty. She suspected that most of the people were lying, though she had no proof of that. Anna had probably told everyone that her parents were crazy or something equally awful. She popped another pill into her mouth and dry swallowed it, she wasn’t sure how many she had taken today, but it still wasn’t quite enough. Finally the waves of happiness rushed over her, filling up the emptiness. The house didn’t seem as large as it had before, or as empty. It was full of memories, of stories and characters. Lily stood from the kitchen table, ignoring the reams of paper covering it. She would sort all this stuff out later, when she felt a little better. Brian’s death had been so unexpected, sure they knew he was sick, but he was supposed to have some time left, years in which he could figure out his will and try to make amends with Anna and organise all those bits and pieces. It wasn’t until she had actually sat down to go through everything that she realised how many accounts Brian actually had, his name was on everything from the rewards card for the local shops to the car insurance and beyond.

Lily took a sip of her wine, she hadn’t had a glass in a long time, perhaps years, but she deserved one now. It had been a long day, people had been dropping in to see her, people whom she had never met or hadn’t seen for years coming to pay their respects. They weren’t a very social couple, but Brian had made an impression on those that he met. Not like Lily, with her quiet demeanour. She appreciated them coming, but at the same time she would have preferred to be alone, to have time to process it all. It hadn’t really hit her yet, she knew that, hell she hadn’t even cried properly yet, not that she’d given herself a chance to. She’d do it tomorrow. She wouldn’t take any of her Elatol and she’d allow herself to fully experience the pain, after all what was happiness without some sadness, you needed one to truly feel the other.

Lily woke the next morning, her head thumping vaguely, now she remembered why it had been so long since she had last drank wine. She only had three glasses and she had a hangover, typical. Already she was hearing from people, promising to come over later to see how she was doing and the thought of having to see them, deal with them, made her feel more than a little nauseous. She looked at the bottle of pills sitting on her nightstand. It wouldn’t be bad would it? Just have them for today then tomorrow she’d let herself feel it. But then the funeral was soon, god knew she couldn’t do that without the pills, seeing him lowered into the ground like that. Lily shuddered and grabbed the bottle, fingers scrabbling with the cap, trying to pull it off, when the bottle finally opened they spilled out onto the bed sheets and she quickly snatched one and swallowed it. Slowly she refilled the bottle. This wasn’t good for her, she knew it, but she knew she wouldn’t survive the pain. Oh sure plenty of people have, but Lily knew she wasn’t strong enough. She wasn’t like other people, she was weak, always relying on others. Now she had no one to rely on, no one but the pills. She sat, the bottle clutched tightly in one hand. A doctor or nurse had given her some pamphlets at some point, something about grief counselling. Lily put the bottle on her nightstand. She just needed to get through the funeral. That was all, once she managed that she could take a break from the pills, from being happy. She would find someone to talk to, she would fight her way through it. The pills gently rattled in their bottle as she put them into her pocket, it would be a long, long day and she didn’t want to be too far away from them, just in case.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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2 Responses to Happiness in a Bottle. Short Story.

  1. WovenEclipse says:

    So sad, but really emotive!

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