Three Little Words

This songfic is based on the lyrics below:

Whiskey and You By: Chris Stapleton

There’s a bottle on the dresser by your ring
And it’s empty so right now I don’t feel a thing
And I’ll be hurting when I wake up on the floor
But I’ll be over it by noon
That’s the difference between whiskey and you

One’s the devil, one keeps driving me insane
At times I wonder if they ain’t both the same
But one’s a liar that helps to hide me from my pain
And one’s the long gone bitter truth
That’s the difference between whiskey and you

He felt a strange sense of accomplishment each time he was able to down the contents of a glass in a single gulp. Scotch like this was surely meant to be savored, but he wasn’t in the mood to nurse a drink tonight. This wasn’t about civility or a nightcap. This was about forgetting–forgetting the sight of her, forgetting the way her laugh sounded, how it seemed to float through the air. He had to forget the green dress she wore, how it brought up the emerald color of her eyes and the fiery red of her hair. He couldn’t think about how the door had let in just enough of the fall breeze to lift her hair off her bare shoulders. The sight of him, removing his jacket and wrapping it around her.

More. He needed more. His eyes clenched shut tight as he downed another glass. She’d seen him and looked away. It was as if the sight of him pained her. She’d left with that stranger to go who knows where and do who knows what. She was somewhere with Mr. Chivalry and he was here, with the one constant in his life–the bottle.


“Anyway, so that’s how when I really started considering law as a career….” He looked up, pausing, “um, Phyllis, is everything ok?”

Her eyes snapped to attention. “Yes. I…” She saw the dejected expression on his face. Tonight had been a disaster but it wasn’t his fault. He was a perfectly nice man and in normal circumstances… “Glenn, I’m sorry. This isn’t fair. You seem very nice and I’ve had a nice evening, but”

Glenn nodded, “That guy at the bar?”

Her eyes widened. “Why would you say that?”

“He was watching you the whole time and I saw how quickly you turned away when you saw him. I was pretty sure there was something between the two of you and, not to be rude, but you just confirmed it.”

Phyllis sighed. “We aren’t together. I asked Michael to set this up because I needed to get back out there. I need to move on.”

Glenn nodded. “I respect that.” He studied her for a moment. “Can I give you some unsolicited advice?”

She smiled. “Go for it. I’ve pretty much taken a stick of dynamite to my life. I can’t imagine you could make things any worse.”

“Well, it’s just what you said about moving on–that only works if you want to move on.”

“I just told you I did. That’s why I told Michael…”

Glenn interrupted. “I’m not talking about what you say. I’m talking about what you feel. You can claim you’re ready to move on. You can say you’re over it–over him, but the look in your eyes tells a very different story. In my experience, the eyes are usually pretty a pretty credible witness.”

The words resonated deep within her and stunned her into silence for a moment. She finally gathered herself enough to speak. “It doesn’t matter what I feel. It’s so complicated. Our relationship hurts people. How is it fair that our happiness causes everyone else so much pain.”

“I have a feeling you already know this, but life isn’t fair. Look, in a perfect world we’d all fall in love with people who fit in perfectly with our lives and our families. There wouldn’t ever be conflict or problems, but this world is far from perfect. Life can really suck sometimes, but life is also really short. Trust me on this–I know.”

Phyllis drew in a breath. “I’m sorry. Michael told me you lost your wife a few years ago. I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine.”

“Thank you,” he said quietly, “but that’s exactly what I mean–if you told me know that I had a chance to be with my wife again, to have a life with her again, but that having that life would mean losing some friends and family, I’d be signing that agreement in a second. Some things in life are worth any sacrifice . You just have to figure out which things they are.”

Phyllis knocked on the door, wrapping her arms tight around herself. The temperature had dropped significantly in the last few hours. “Billy,” she called, hoping her voice could be heard through the heavy wood. She knocked again as her lips began to quiver.

Would he have stayed at the Athletic Club after she left? Could he still be at the bar? She reached into her purse, grabbing her cell and quickly pressing the numbers to call the club. She walked over to the window, where the glow from inside provided some light. The phone began to ring as she turned and faced the glass. Her heart sank as she felt the phone skip from her hands.

She slammed her hands onto the glass panes. “Billy!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. He didn’t move. She felt numb, no longer feeling the cold autumn air, now completely consumed by fear and dread. Reaching for the phone, she quickly dialed for an ambulance.

The wait had been excruciating though their arrival had taken little more than five minutes. She’d stared through the window, her hand pressed against the glass as she silently prayed that he was strong enough to hold on. She prayed that he knew she was there, but most of all she prayed that this wasn’t her punishment–that God wasn’t punishing her by taking the thing that mattered most in her life.

Watching the paramedics hovering over him, she felt as if her heart might explode. “What’s going on?” she pleaded. “Please–can someone please tell me something?!”

She’d heard the words being bandied about, slow respiration, oxygen saturation, low body temperature, but she didn’t know what it all meant–why wasn’t he conscious? What was going on?

A paramedic stood, walking over to her. “Do you have any idea how much Mr. Abbott had to drink this evening?”

Phyllis stood silent. “Wait a minute–are you telling me he’s drunk and he passed out? That’s all that’s going on here?” In a split second the concern and worry switched to fury and condemnation.

“No. we’re dealing with a pretty serious case of alcohol poising here. If we knew how much he ingested, we’d have a better idea of our next course of action.”

“I think we got something,” another paramedic called out as Phyllis and the EMT stepped closer.

Billy slowly shifted his head, grimacing and betraying the extreme effort required by the deep lines in his forehead.

“Billy,” Phyllis whispered, “I’m here, ok? I’m not going anywhere.” She thought for a minute and smiled. “To quote a very wise man, “I’m not going anywhere until you wKe up…even if it’s to tell me to get out of here.”

She felt his hand squeeze hers slightly and she could tell he was trying to speak. “Shhh–it’s ok. You don’t have to talk. It’s ok. You just save your strength.”

His head shifted from side to side, a clear negative response. His lips struggled to move once more. “Whhhhy..”

“Ok…ok…” she relented stroking his hand gently. “Why..”

“Would I…..”

She stroked his head gently. “Why would I…”

“Ever tell you tooooooo go?”

He lay back against his couch, his face tense but with a hint of a smile spreading across it.

“I don’t know, but it wouldn’t be a very smart move and I might hold it against you forever.”

The slow nod of his head brought her comfort as she watched him.

“Alcohol poisoning,” Billy said quietly, embarrassed and more than a little ashamed of the game he’d been involved with,

“Mr Abbott, your blood alcohol was nearly five times the legal limit. You’re very lucky your friend came over when she did. If you’d remained unconscious for much
longer, it’s entirely possible it all could have been over.

Phyllis reached out to touch his hand. She’d never felt as helpless as she had that night, standing outside that window–just praying. It killed her not to be able to kneel beside him, to take his hand in hers, to stroke his face, to tell him how much she loved him….just in case…..

Billy watched quietly as Phyllis grilled the EMTs. He could hear her concerned questions. “So is there anything I need to be doing to make sure he’s ok.”

He watched as they walked out the door, past the window, and loaded up into their vehicles.

She disappeared into the kitchen for a moment. She returned with a tall glass of water. “Here,” she said quietly, “they said hydration is really important.”

“Thanks,” he whispered. “You don’t have to stay. I know you had a date. Where is he?”

Phyllis ducked her head. “It uh…it didn’t work out.”

Billy’s eyes brightened. “Really? Why’s that? Is it maybe because he seems like the dullest human being on the planet?”

“Because he’s not you,” she said softly.

Silence. His eyes stared at her. She seemed as honest, sincere. “What exactly does that mean?”

Breathe. Breathing was important, she reminded herself. “He was pretty astute for a stranger…pegged us as more than two people in a bar almost instantly.”

“Did he?” His lips twitched as they ached to curl into a self-satisfied grin, but he couldn’t yet. “So, what did the genius have to say?”

“He said I couldn’t move on because I didn’t really want to–because I still don’t.” She met his gaze, her eyes locking into his, the intensity sending a pulse straight through her.

“He was right,” she whispered.

“Right about what?”

He was pushing her. He needed to hear her say it and she understood. She’d been so fickle lately, unable to make a simple decision, much less a commitment. “I didn’t want to move on and I couldn’t because I still want to be here with you….because I still love you.”

“I love you too,” he whispered. Those three words were more potent than any drink, more healing than any drug. Those words were his reason, his purpose, his reason to get out of bed in the morning. No more looking to numb the pain with the contents of a bottle. She’d healed–saved him, as only she could, with just those three little words.

The End


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