A/N / This piece was heavily inspired by another song by The Script, titled Nothing. When I heard it for the first time, the lyrics moved me so much and described this story I'm writing about Alfredo and Colette so perfectly, I had to write a story that reflected some of the imagery and scenes depicted in the song.
La Ratatouille, a now somewhat popular little bistro on Rue des Capucines, happened to be located quite near a famous Parisian bar a few streets down, known as Harry's New York Bar.
Alfredo had never been to Harry's himself, as he wasn't much of a drinker, but had been invited to go by some of his old friends from Gusteau's. Larousse Duránte happened to catch wind of Alfredo and Colette's recent break up and decided that Alfredo needed some cheering up. He rounded up the rest of the old kitchen crew, then surprised Alfredo by showing up at La Ratatouille a few minutes before closing.
"You gotta come to Harry's with us," Larousse insisted, grinning excitedly like he always did. "There's nothing like a few drinks to get rid of anxiety."
Alfredo eyed each of the chefs a little nervously. "I… but, you know I don't drink."
"Well, now's the time to get started," Horst dryly replied. "Lonely men and drinking go hand in hand."
The rest of the chefs were grinning, urging Alfredo to come along without saying a single word. Larousse walked over and put an assuring hand on Alfredo's shoulder, gently motioning for him to stand up.
"Ah, trust us, it'll be a good time," he continued. "We haven't all gotten together since Gusteau's closed up. What's wrong with a reunion?"
"Nothing, I guess," Alfredo faltered. The guys murmured in satisfaction. Larousse gave Alfredo a shoulder punch, and the young redhead blushed, forcing a smile.
"That's more like it!" Larousse jovially cried. "Just make sure you've got your I.D. on you, buddy!"
Harry's was crowded, stuffy, and loud; three of Alfredo's least favorite sensations. To say he felt out of place amidst happy men and women laughing, drinking, and occasionally kissing was quite the understatement. In short, and to be entirely frank, he felt uncomfortable; almost squeamish. This was foreign. All of it.
He watched the reflection of his eyes dully blink back at him in the glass of beer on the table. He hadn't touched it. There wasn't even any foam left bubbling around the edges of the glass, it had sat there so long. Every so often the liquid would ripple due to someone banging their fist on the bar in laughter, and Alfredo would absorbedly study the little waves in his glass.
Colette hated beer, he thought to himself with slight amusement. He recalled a date with her about six months ago, when she decided she'd order a beer instead of her usual glass of Margaux 1991. Never having tasted lager in her life, she was caught off guard by its taste and immediately requested a bottle of wine instead. The memory alone caused Alfredo to hesitate about drinking even more. What if he didn't even like beer?
"If you won't drink that, I will," Horst offered, waving a hand in Alfredo's line of vision, which pulled the young man back to attention. Alfredo shrugged and uneasily cleared his throat.
"I was gonna drink it, it's fine," he stuttered rapidly, reaching for the glass. Horst blankly watched as Alfredo downed half of the drink, made a face, and shook his head violently.
"You don't like beer," Horst calmly noted, still looking Alfredo in the eye. Larousse turned to face the two and frowned.
"You didn't tell me you didn't like beer!" he called. "I thought I'd be an easy start for you. I order you something else, a real drink, yeah?"
Alfredo was busy trying to down the rest, pretending like it didn't bother him.
Larousse shook his head and called for the bartender. "Barman! Pouves-vous obtenir ce gamin de 75 Français?"
The bartender smiled and chuckled. "Oui, monsieur."
As Alfredo wiped his mouth, Larousse jabbed him in the arm with his shoulder. "This is a real hard drink. It'll definitely clear your head."
Lalo chuckled. "Put you out like a light in two drinks or less, they say."
"Alfredo doesn't drink at all, so I predict he'll be gone before the end of the first drink," Horst retorted with a dry laugh. Alfredo was trying not to appear alarmed. The last thing he wanted to be tonight was drunk.
The guys laughed as the cocktail was placed in front of Alfredo, then clapped and shouted words of encouragement as the wary young man took his first sip. His nose filled with the dull and bitter scent of alcohol and his senses spiked. He managed a few gulps of the drink, smiled, and raised his glass.
It wasn't so bad after a sip or two, he resolved.
Not long later was he asking for a second drink. It took him roughly ten minutes to down the first round of French 75, and ten more minutes to down the first two sips of the second. It wasn't long before his head was dipping and he was talking loudly about nothing in particular.
Pompidou snickered loudly, pulling Alfredo's wallet from his back pocket, completely without detection. He whisked out exactly 36€ and slapped it on the table.
"The kid ought to be paying for this," he told the others. Alfredo vaguely turned his head and glanced over at Lalo and Pompidou, who were busy laughing. He lifted a finger and pointed at them, but could barely hold his hand up.
"You, uh hey, that's my wallet, you know," he yelled, but the words were thick and slurred. His eyebrows shot up. "Wait, Colette gave me that wallet. Colette gave me that wallet!"
Larousse slapped Alfredo on the back. "Kid, we brought you here to get your mind off the bitch. Now's not the time to be–"
"Colette," Alfredo repeated again, this time with some sort of urgency in his voice. "Colette, I've gotta talk to her. I need to say something. She needs to hear something that's kind of really important."
He fumbled and tripped out of his seat, trying as hard as he could to focus his blurred and dizzy vision on the door leading outside. The other guys shot up from their seats as well, following Alfredo as he staggered across the bar.
"Where you going, Linguini?" Lalo shouted.
Alfredo shoved the door open and raced outside. "I need to find Colette! She's down this road, I think. Somewhere down here… I gotta talk to her!" Horst and Larousse grabbed onto his shoulders and tried planting him in the middle of the road, but he kept pushing them away.
"No, no, Alfredo," Larousse urged. He gripped Alfredo's arm. "Listen! You're drunk. Colette doesn't want you anymore. You're a little crazy! Just calm down now, we'll take you back, and she'll be a thing of the past."
Alfredo wasn't sure how to feel. His initial emotion was a mixture of panic and urgency, but he was feeling that overwhelming sting of heartbreak in between. It was bubbling up out of his gut, flowing out of a wound he'd only pitifully bandaged with lies and fake assurance that everything was okay, when it wasn't okay.
He couldn't control the sudden well of tears that unexpectedly ran over. "She's gotta know how I feel. I need to talk to her face-to-face. She… she needs to see me."
No matter what the others tried doing to reason with him, Alfredo had set his mind. If he saw Colette – spoke to her, personally, and told her how he felt – she'd see him the way he really was: a dead, broken, incoherent mess. She needed to see the real him, he believed. She'd take him back if she saw how badly she'd hurt him.
They eventually let him wander off down the street, and although his steps were staggered and his balance unstable, he seemed to know exactly where he was headed. He tried calling her cell to see if she was home, but she never answered.
"Colette, I hope you're home, cuz I gotta see you," he mumbled into his phone, trying to leave a message for her. "I need to see you, baby. Baby? Ma cherie? I miss ya." He leaned on a fence in front of her apartment building, gripping it so hard that the metal began cutting into his skin. Though tears slipped down his face, he gave a sort of insane laugh that was actually more of a sob than a laugh. He shoved his hand into his hair and held his head upright. "I miss you so bad. You hurt me real bad, but I… I want you back. I want you to… I want us… I–I mean, I love you. I love you, so much. So damn much."
There was silence on the other end for five whole seconds.
Ending the call, he forced his head up and tumbled toward the apartment building. When he finally reached the steps, he slowly and carefully climbed them, hugging the handle to steady himself. Second floor up, he leaned over the rail and vomited, then nearly fainted as a sudden rush of lightheadedness took over him.
Alfredo literally collapsed on her doorstep. He pulled himself back up the best he could and banged on the door, screaming her name. It took a while for any response, but when the door finally opened, Alfredo gulped hard and steadied himself.
He couldn't read the look on her face. Could be because he could hardly see her as it was. He squinted, focusing hard.
"Did you get my message?" he wondered. Colette frowned and shook her head. "I left you a message. On your phone. Just now. I needed to see you, Colette."
She took a nervous step back, now fully aware that he was dead drunk. She could barely make out what he was saying, his words were so slurred.
"I still love you," he blurted without any hesitation. "I can't stand being away from you. I can't… I wanna… you don't understand." He shook his head violently. "Why did you do that to me? Just up and leave, and do that stuff behind my back, then drop it like a bomb and up and leave? Are you insane or something? Girls don't break hearts, guys do!"
Her face seemed to be twisting into an expression of confusion. She hadn't spoken yet.
He knew he was blushing. "I mean… no, no they don't. They shouldn't. And girls shouldn't either, but… but you did." More tears came. "I wanna help you. I wanna be there for you. I want it to be like it all was before. You know, when you used to have a bad day or you were hurting, and I'd be right there to hug you and kiss you, like that. Like it was."
Colette looked him in the eye for a moment, then slightly turned as if to leave. Alfredo impulsively reached forward and grabbed her shoulder, and in alarm she whirled back around to face him.
"Why won't you listen to me?" he frantically cried, now beginning to choke on his tears. "I don't get it! I don't get it. Don't you want me back?"
They held one long, unblinking gaze. He searched her eyes for answers. There were none. Only blankness.
His eyes widened, he bit his lip. "Don't you?"
Colette's eyes began to darken. Her tense eyebrows relaxed and her head tilted downward, ever so slightly. Her eyes shot past his, avoiding his imploring gaze. She opened her mouth for a brief moment, and Alfredo anticipated words, but only a sigh came out.
She said nothing.
Alfredo's breath caught as she shoved his trembling hands away, and this time she turned back into the apartment, pulling the door shut behind herself. For several stunned minutes, Alfredo could only stand there with his body swaying. He shuddered and choked.
That… that's not how it was supposed to happen. She was supposed to take him back.
He furiously wiped his eyes as he stumbled down the steps a second time, trying not to completely lose it. He felt nauseous and his head pounded. None of his thoughts made sense anymore. He vomited once again when he reached the second floor.
There was no reason to try and make it back home. When he met ground level, he sank to the ground, leaned against the building, and passed out.