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Stella Marrs
HAPPILY EVER AFTER : ALTERNATE ENDING

I didn't realize the problem that was brewing, and I COULD have blamed it on the fact that it was Monday and I'd been drinking since Thursday, but that's a cop-out. I'll admit, there was a small corner of my brain that knew that wandering up the street to a different bar without telling anyone probably wasn't the smartest idea in the world. But the thought that held more weight was :

"Who'd notice anyway?"

I wasn't consciously in search of attention. It was habit. I didn't realize that that's how it looked until later. That "habit" was tucked away in the folds of my brain next to the one where I wished I could attend my own funeral just so I could see who cared enought to be there.

Self-centered - well, yes.

Intentional? No.

So I walked into the bar - I don't remember the name of it but I DID know that it was the place that Bill and I used to go to to get coke. And I technically wasn't "alone." Some guy I'd just met at the other bar was there. I even knew his name. His name was Chris. I think...

He got me a Rolling Rock. I started drinking it. And that's when that awful awkward feeling set in. The one where I'm at a bar surrounded by people, and all I can do is stare at my reflection in the mirror behind the bartender. Watching people talk over me, around me... Did I look nervous? Uncomfortable? I hoped to God I didn't. I watched as my reflection casually took a huge swig of beer, looking like I did this all the time. This "sitting alone amidst hundreds of people" thing.

Yeah, the "casual" look wasn't working for me. I looked like an idiot. So plan B was to just look and act drunker than I really was: stare at one spot, eyelids droopy, hand slightly, and only slightly, veering off-track a little bit as I lifted the 16 ounce plastic cup to my mouth for another sip.

Then I just got bored. So I put the beer down, walked out the door, and headed back up the street to Max's. Ahead of me I see Justin. He spots me and throws his hands up in the air. Starts running towards me.

"THERE you are!"

I waved, a big smile on my face. "Here I am!"

"Everyone's freaking out!"

"What?"

"Everyone's freakin - no one could find you!"

I laughed. "Right."

He scooped me up like a man carries his wife over the threshhold in the movies and starts walking back to Max's. "I'm serious! We all thought something happened!" He pushed open the door to Max's with his foot, and Bill is standing there.

"Where did you go?"

Justin put me down. "I just-"

Bill cut me off. "I can't talk to you right now." And he walked away.

Liz was sitting on the steps giggling. She was hammered.

"Steph! I fell down the stairs!"

I grabbed Justin before he walked away. "Hey - talk to him for me? Please?" I couldn't stop laughing. I didn't even remember starting to laugh. What was so funny? "Talk to him? He'll listen to you - tell him not to be mad."

I sat down next to Liz. "So you fell down the stairs?"

"Yeah!" She was cracking up. I pointed to her feet.

"It's probably because of those goddamned pointy shoes."

"YEAH!"

"Dude, I'm in so much trouble..."

"Yeah!" Liz was useless. And now I was hot. It felt like it was about a hundred degrees in the bar. I turned to Liz.

"Listen to me, okay? I'm going outside because I'm hot. If anyone is looking for me, I'm RIGHT... OUT... THERE..." I emphatically pointed to the curb which was clearly visible through the glass front wall. "Got it?"

Liz nodded. "Got it!"

Like I said, Liz was useless.

Next thing I know, I hear Justin saying, "Dude, she's right over here!" I looked up and to my left and saw Bill standing on the corner. He looked at me, looked down, looked at me again, and walked over and sat down on the curb next to me.

"What are you doing?" He was irritated. "I've been looking everywhere for you - I've been THREATENING people when they said they didn't know where you were."

"I'm sorry, I - "

"Look." He stopped me. "I just, I mean, why would you LEAVE and not tell anyone?" I looked at the ground which was kind of sliding back and forth slightly - like one of those people-movers at the airport.

"I don't know..." Yeah, that was lame. "I didn't really think about it. I didn't think it was a big deal."

Bill put his head in his hands. He didn't say anything for a while. When he finally looked up, he said something I never thought I'd ever hear him say:

"You know I don't give a shit about anyone. Everyone can go fuck themselves as far as I'm concerned. If you were anyone else..." He paused. Because a tear was forming in his eye. He blinked to try to stop it, but that only made it fall slowly down his cheek. "I care about you alot, Steph." Slowly sliding toward the edge of his mouth. "When I didn't know where you were..." It trickled down his face in the slight choppy motion that tears often trickle... A tiny little zig-zag that grew smaller and smaller as it left pieces of itself behind on his skin. "Just... Just don't do that... Okay?"

I couldn't stop staring at the tear. I lifted my hand to his face and wiped it away with my thumb.

And another one fell. I wiped that one, too.

I'm not sure why. What's the purpose of wiping people's tears away? I suppose there's somehting loving in it, but at the same time it's as if you're saying, "Don't cry. Don't feel the way you're feeling." And everyone has the right to feel however the fuck they want to feel. There's no right or wrong, there's only what's acceptable and what's not acceptable and who the fuck decided THAT?

I didn't wipe his tears away because I didn't think he should cry. I think I wiped them because it was the first time he had ever shown any sort of emotion toward me, and I wanted to make sure it was real. I wanted to touch it. It was right there. I HAD to touch it...

And in that moment, I really thought that everything was going to be okay...












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