Meredith hailed a cab outside the rehabilitation center, but decided to walk the twelve blocks back to her apartment as soon as the cab stopped in front of her, brakes squealing. The cabbie gave her the finger, but Meredith pretended not to notice. By the time she arrived at her apartment building, darkness had fallen, her feet were blistered, and a weight had come off her shoulders somewhere between Meadow Street and Avenue B.
She checked her mail and promptly put it back into the small mail slot; it was just junk mail, and walked up the three flights of stairs to her apartment. Alec sat on the floor next to her door, an opened bottle of wine and half eaten Chinese takeout containers next to him.
“What are you doing?”
“You really ask the hard hitting questions, don’t you?” Alec rubbed his eyes with his fists, “Wanna squeeze it out of me?”
“You stormed out of the office. You haven’t answered your phone. I was worried. I’ve been waiting here for you to make sure you’re okay.” He climbed to his feet, gathering the detritus of his evening alone waiting for her. “Oh and I brought take out, but I ate it, “he looked at his watch, “two hours ago.”
Meredith’s eye widened, “I had no idea,” she whispered. She dug through her oversized handbag for her cell phone. When she finally found it, underneath a travel size packet of tissues and a cell phone charger, she noticed that she had several missed calls and texts from Alec as well as a voicemail from her mother, another from her father, and a couple of texts from her brother.
Alec tapped on the door to her apartment, “Well, are you going to let us in?”
Meredith dropped the phone back into her bag and unlocked the door and deadbolt, “I guess I can squeeze you into my busy evening of watching TV alone.”
“Thanks,” Alec laughed, Shoes on or off?”
“I’ll take them off,” He kicked off his converse and looked around, “You know, I’ve never been to your place before.”
“Let me give you the grand tour,” Meredith waved her arms like Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune, “This is the living room. To your right is the kitchen.” She pointed to the other side of the living room, “The door on the left is my bedroom and the one on the right is the bathroom. It’s small, but it’s home.”
Alec deposited the half eaten Chinese food on the kitchen counter and wandered into the living room. “These are some great print. Who is this one?” He pointed to a print of a bridge and a city skyline.
“Zelda Fitzgerald. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife. And over there is a print that uses all the words of The Great Gatsby to create the image. There’s something about the 20’s and the Fitzgeralds. I’m obsessed. That’s weird, right?”
“Not really. We all have things we love, right?”
“What’s on your walls?”
“Oh you know, the usual bachelor stuff.”
“Posters of naked women and types of cheap beer?”
“That hurt,” Alec laughed.
Meredith grabbed the opened bottle of wine from the counter and plopped down on the overstuffed couch. “Take a seat,” she said, then took a swig of wine right from the bottle.
“Don’t mind if I do.”
Meredith handed him the bottle. He took an obligatory sip. They sat in a companionable silence for a few minutes, just passing the bottle back and forth.
“I’m okay,” Meredith broke the silence, “Well, I’m going to be okay.” She grabbed his hand and squeezed.
Meredith’s eyes popped open. She smelled coffee. Did she even have coffee? And who was making it? She patted her hair down as best she could and breathed into her cupped hand. “Phew,” she whispered. Her tongue felt like cotton. How much did she drink yesterday? She stumbled out of bed and into the kitchen.
“Good morning sunshine,” Alec chirped, “I’m making breakfast!” He pushed a mug of coffee across the counter in her direction.
Meredith grabbed the mug and took a long gulp. The caffeine jolt and the warmth of the perfectly prepared coffee swept the morning stupor from her brain. “What are you doing?”
“Making breakfast,” Alec fluffed a pan full of scrambled eggs with a spatula. The toaster dinged, “Oh and the toast is done. Wanna butter it?”
Meredith shuffled past Alec at the stove and took the toast from the toaster, “Ohh, hot! Hot!”
“Quick, get butter on them before they cool!”
“Okay, okay!” Meredith dropped hunks of butter onto each piece of toast and watched them melt into the crevices before spreading it.
“Now, don’t ask me again what I’m doing, okay?” Alec scooped a steaming spatula of eggs onto a plate. “And sit down and eat. You are too thin.”
“Yes sir,” Meredith took the plate and mug of coffee to the small table up against the wall between her galley kitchen and the living room and sat down.
“Here’s your fork.”
“Thanks,” She took the fork and shoveled a heap of scrambled eggs onto a piece of toast, squeezing the sides together to contain the eggs as she brought it to her mouth. “Mmm… so good,” she said with her hand over her mouth to shield him from seeing her chew.
Alec sat down across from her, spread a battered brown paper napkin with the logo of the pizza place at the corner on it across his lap, and smiled at her before seasoning his eggs and starting in on his plate.
“Thank you, Alec,” Meredith said after she swallowed, “I don’t know why you’d do this, but I’m thankful.”
Alec set down his fork, “Don’t thank me, Mere, just keep working yourself through the grief. You’re my best friend. I hate to see you in pain.”
“You’re my best friend, too.”
“Finish your plate, though. And fast. You need a shower and we have to be to work in forty five minutes.”
Meredith pressed her fork into the last morsel of eggs and brought it to her lips. She hadn’t thought of Connor yet at all.