Louise considers opening a bottle of the dark red wine from the cases her sister Penelope left behind. Now seven years sober, she faces this decision every day. It’s been harder since Penelope died. One less reason to choose rightly, she thinks.
Choosing rightly – what does that even mean? It’s a mantra Louise has held onto for as long as her sobriety. In this dark winter, without Penelope’s brash, ridiculous, loving insistence on staying connected, on staying adventurous, on meeting the world on her own terms, Louise questions everything. She takes a wine glass down from the cupboard.
There’s Douglas, an inner voice whispers.
Dear Douglas, her knight in shining armor. The man who accepts her, demons and all. Whose attentiveness can sometimes smother, but whose intentions she never has to question. Why did the universe spare him, and take Pen? This question lingers around the edges of her thoughts, no matter how hard she tries to shake it away.
Louise puts the wine glass back, makes herself a cup of the licorice tea her Penelope loved. It’s not her favorite, but on Christmas, she wants to feel closer to her sister. “To you, Pen. I will always love you.” She settles in her favorite chair to read, but does not pick up the book waiting on the side table.
Instead, she reaches for her phone, and taps in a number she has not used in a long, long time.
“Jessie, it’s me.”
“Merry Christmas, Jess.”