Billy stepped into the bar, the smell of stale smoke and strong liquor causing him to wince a bit in spite of himself. For as much as he'd like to consider himself a "man's man", his last name afforded him a sort of privilege—the sort of privilege that allowed one to avoid bars like this if that was your intention.
He sighed as he spotted an empty seat near the middle of the flat top. Avoidance wasn't on his agenda tonight. He was barreling head first, straight towards disaster in typical Billy Abbott fashion. Might as well give the people what they expect and, secretly, what he always suspected they wanted. He was the old, reliable screw up, the one someone always had to save. He'd always hated being saved before…until it was by her….
The bartender stood in front of him for a moment, saying nothing before finally exhaling a puff of air and nodding slightly. "I don't think I've seen you in here before—You new in town?"
Billy sighed as he slumped down onto the stool. "No. I just wanted something different. Got stuck in the same old routine, you know?"
"Sure. Yeah. What can I get ya?"
Billy turned towards the voice and watched as the raised head nodded towards the bartender before looking back at him.
"You must be new," he said, half laughing as he extended his hand a greeting, "Once you've been here a while, you realize you have to switch to a cheaper vice." He held up his bottle of beer and took a long drink. "Unless of course, you're swimming in that family money like our friend over here."
"I told you," the man a few stools down muttered good naturedly, "I'm not living off family money. The whole reason I'm in this town was to get away from all that. We came here to get away from our family and all that mess so we could live our own lives." He shook his head as he too reached for his drink.
"And clearly that's going very well for him," he scoffed, finally taking Billy's hand and shaking it. "The name's Shayne, Shayne Lewis."
"Nice to meet you," Billy muttered, forcing a smile as he returned the handshake. "Billy Abbott."
Shayne gestured to the man on the other side of them. "That's Joey." He paused a moment, posturing for effect, "Joseph Buchanan."
Joey shook his head again. "Asshole," he muttered as he grinned and nodded in greeting towards Billy. He stood, moving down a few stools to sit closer to the two men. "Besides, it's not like you came from a family of carpetbaggers yourself Mr. I own my Great Grandaddy's construction company."
"Fair enough," Shayne took another drink from his bottle as he shrugged. "So, Billy, right?"
"Yeah," he muttered, reaching across the bar and taking the glass the bartender slid across to him.
Shayne watched him for a moment, at the way he stared into the liquid in the glass. "What's her name?"
Billy turned his head quickly, his eyes immediately widening in interest. Had he really been that transparent? "What?"
Joey laughed a bit. "Don't feel bad," he sighed, slapping him on the back lightly with his hand. "He read me just as easily. I think it has a lot to do with the watch."
He moved his wrist a bit, his eyes looking down at the watch that rested there. "My watch?" he muttered.
"Yeah..you know. It's a nice watch, expensive. Guys that can afford watches like that can afford nicer bars than this and if you can afford a nicer bar than this, you go to a nicer bar. Generally if you choose to go to a bar like this it's to get away from something or someone or…"
Shayne interrupted, "Or to forget about something or someone….In most cases a female someone. We've all been there…several times." He watched as Billy's head dropped a bit. "So," he said again, "What's her name?"
Joey stepped back over to the table stumbling a bit as he sat the three frosty mugs of beer down. "Sorry," he grinned as he let his body fall down into the chair, "So," he sighed, "What did I miss?"
"Not much," Shayne muttered, his voice slurring slightly as he raised the glass in front of him. "We're still waiting on Billy here to share his tale of misery."
"You know what, it's okay. It is…I get it. It can be hard to open up especially when you've got your heart broken and it's fresh." Joey looked at Billy, his head tilting a bit. "This looks fresh," he whispered, nodding a bit as he glanced at Shayne for confirmation. "I think it's fresh."
Shayne nodded. "Yeah, looks fresh."
"Mine's been years and it still hurts like hell….like hell I tell ya. My girl..it was like something out of a movie…like a fairy tale romance. We met when we were in high school and we fell in love. Our families didn't get along—never had. Like some Shakespeare shit, but we made it. We didn't let it stop us. We fought through it. We got married and then….." He shook his head, bringing the glass to his lips and taking a long drink. "My own brother, man…."
"Your brother?" He heard the words as they came from his mouth, already hanging in the air before he had a chance to stop them. "What did your brother have to do with it?"
Joey narrowed his eyes a bit. "Yeah..Kelly..She.. uh…she fell in love with my brother and he was in love with her. It was all pretty messed up and even after all of it—even after I knew about it, knew she'd been with him, knew she wanted to be with him, I still can't get her out of my head, can't get her out of my heart. Even now, even after years and years without her, I still feel like something's missing."
"It's the worst when you see people together doing stuff you always talked about doing isn't it?" Shayne's voice was low and gravely as he looked up from the cup he held in his hand. "Dinah—that was her name. Dinah and I always wanted to just be together and have fun and live our life. We wanted to travel and go on adventures. It was the simple stuff, really..stuff like flying kites, seeing movies, going bowling, throwing baseballs..." His voice trailed off as if his mind was drifting back to memories too far back in his mind. The look in his eyes was one of immense sadness and Billy connected with it immediately. His voice was slightly louder as it sounded again. "She made a mistake." He stopped, thinking for a moment. "Hell, I don't even know if it was a mistake. She probably saved who knows how many lives…but she ruined her own and she was too afraid of what might happen to stay and face it. We lost our chance to be happy and I lost her. I couldn't stay in that town and try to move on. Everything there reminded me of her, of the life we'd planned, of the dreams we'd shared. I couldn't watch that dream die over and over again every day. I thought leaving would make it better, but it doesn't. Now it just dies for me here..every single day."
"You do get it," Billy said softly, "And don't take this the wrong way but talking to the two of you doesn't exactly make me feel real optimistic about things getting better."
Shayne huffed a bit, forcing a smile. "Yeah, no one's gonna lie to ya here, buddy. It doesn't get any better, but the beer's good and the company understands. There's that." He lifted his mug towards him. "So, you gonna tell us about her?"
Billy nodded. "Her name's Phyllis and she was married when we got together. Neither of us meant for it to happen. We were friends…good friends, but somewhere along the way it became more. I started to rely on her and she started to depend on me. I could be myself with her without apology and she could be honest with me about anything and everything. When I was with her, I was free. I never felt judged. I never felt condemned. She accepted me for exactly who and what I was and she loved me for it. I was happy with her. I could breathe with her and now…she's gone and it's like she's taken all the air, all the light, and everything else that was good with her."
"Yeah," Shayne whispered. "I know that feeling."
"I don't know what to do," Billy said quietly as he reached into his pocket. "I keep starting at this picture and I don't know whether to burn it or keep it or…"
A quick burst of air escaped Joey's lips and he reached into his own back pocket pulling out his wallet and reaching inside. Across the table, Billy's eyes followed Shayne who was doing the same thing.
"Don't feel bad," Joey said, his eyes full of compassion and understanding. "We all have the picture. You can burn it, but you'll find another one…guaranteed because the truth is, you can't handle not seeing her even though it hurts like hell. Mine is from almost twenty years ago." He sighed as he flipped over the picture. "Kelly," he breathed.
"Eight years maybe…give or take?" Shayne said, looking up at them and shrugging a bit as he let the glossy paper slide from his fingertips. "It's crazy, but I mean….it's Dinah"
Billy nodded, swallowing hard before allowing the words to leave his lips, the picture fluttering onto the table. "Phyllis," he whispered, "It's her."