Partly inspired by the beautiful song 'Medicine' by Daughter. Listen to it - it tells the story better than this.
I'm not trying to glamorise alcoholism in these descriptions; I'm a bit worried that is how it comes across but I hope not. I just wanted to put us inside Rachel's head as close as possible.
The light catches in the smooth green arc of of glass and is held there. The object is warm and solid in her hand. Rachel runs her finger over the flawless surface. The curve of it welcomes her and the comforting heft reassures her that she does not yet need another bottle. She tilts it slightly to feel the liquid seep towards her, hear it whisper.
A shadow of another sensation crosses the back of her hand – softer and rougher than the wine bottles' caress. Rachel is still processing this oddity when she notices the emptiness in her hand. She stares and her blank palm stares back at her. Something is missing. The bottle has left her. Raising her gaze to search for it, she spies it sitting on the far side of the coffee table in another's hands. Of course – Janet took it from her. There was a little tug, Rachel recalls, like at the dentist when your body refuses to part with something that it knows belongs to it. Janet's fingers tap the neck of the bottle. She is waiting for something. Yes, Rachel thinks, or maybe no. She peels her upper lip from her teeth with her tongue.
'Err... what was the question?'
Janet tuts a sigh. 'How many have you had?'
That was it. Rachel had been counting, trying to count, when the bottle had distracted herl. She had been up to four but was that one her fourth or had it been four before she opened it?
The bottle looks at her from across the table. If she could just hold it again.
Rachel looks up, surprised. She meets that steel blue stare and... doesn't. Her hand floats, purposeless, until Janet takes it. Janet's skin is rough compared to the touch of glass, but her flesh is softer, Rachel realises. It gives slightly in response wherever it touches.
Janet's fingers close around Rachel's wrist. Her hand is as fine and light in Janet's as a small child's, like one of her girls years since. Her skin has shrivelled though, drawing back from her bones. Janet chills – she should not be able to hold her like this.
'Rachel, when was the last time you ate?'
Fear of the answer makes Janet hang on tight. Don't disappear.
Rachel considers the question. Was it yesterday maybe? Not this morning, her stomach had revolted, and last night she had got too involved with a bottle of whisky to think about food. Clear glass, not green, and gorgeous liquid the colour of Janet's hair. A blissful burning in her chest that quickly spread out to utter nothingness. A state of being that she had been working hard to recapture before Janet pitched up on her doorstep.
Janet, who is waiting for her again. Another question. Rachel stares at their cradled hands and doesn't feel anything. Something drips and Rachel wonders if she has somehow managed to spill her drink. It's not like her. Is she even holding a glass?
Another drip splashes her arm, and another, but Rachel is completely baffled when Janet reaches one hand up to brush wetness from cheek with those strange, tender fingers.
Rachel gropes her way out the far side of her storm of tears to find herself curled up on the sofa, her pounding head in Janet's lap and Janet's hand stroking her shoulder. She wonders what she has been saying and if Janet understood any of it through the stomach-wrenching sobs. She should be worried but she iss still too numb. The shoulder that Janet's hand passes over rhythmically – down and back – seems a long way away.
Janet eases up and leaves her to potter at the kitchen units. She switches on the lights under the cupboards and becomes a silhouette, her back turned. Rachel, watching her, sees Dom running up the alley, her Mum walking out of the pub, Sean plodding down the front steps, Gill standing in her office doorway.
Rachel needs a drink.
When she levers her head off the cushion the half-drunk bottle of wine has disappeared from the table. Pity. She knows where she can find another one though so she doesn't panic.
Rachel flops back on the sofa and watches Janet move around as if she belongs there. She wonders when she will leave, really leave, and what it will look like when she does.
Janet returns with a brimming mug. The tendrils of coffee still have the power to make Rachel's nostrils twitch. Janet takes this as a good sign and gathers her friend in her arms to hoist her upright. She is a lot more angles since the last time they were this close and she clings to Janet for a moment before she is steady.
'Here.' She hands the mug over, even as she wonders if it is too heavy for Rachel's grip. She desperately wants to be as tough with Rach as she usually is, to make believe everything is normal, but she is physically scared of breaking her. She tries not to notice as Rachel wretched over the amount of milk in her drink and pats her knee in encouragement.
Rachel chokes and groans over it but keeps going. If she can keep her nose in the mug for long enough, maybe Jan will be distracted from asking the one question that Rachel does know the answer to. Being Janet Scott, of course, that is the very next thing she does.
'When was the last time you were sober?'
Rachel isn't sure how many days ago it was but she remembers what happened and Janet must know the answer really so she thinks it is cruel of her to ask, to force Rachel to think about it. She describes it to herself in different ways: the day after her Mum, three days after Dom, the day that Gill...
'I've really messed everything up, haven't I?'
'Well you're going the right way about it.' It is a touch of normal Janet and Rachel flinches at it. Her eyes are huge, begging for something that Janet cannot refuse and has no idea how to give. It is time to get serious. She takes Rachel's hand again.
'You need to do something about it, Rach. You need to talk to Gill.'
'But she...' Rachel's eyes well up again as she thinks of the things Gill said in that last bollocking before Rachel stormed out of her office.
'I know. I know, it was awful but she was angry, anyone would have been. You were out of order.' Janet can't help herself. Rachel's head sinks into her chest. She has had it. Janet sees herself losing.
'Look, I don't understand everything that's going on with you at the moment Rachel and it's ok, you don't have to tell me. But I know there are reasons you have been acting this way. You need to talk to Gill, explain, at least a bit of it.'
Rachel can hardly breathe at the mere thought.
'I can't.' Janet feels the hand in hers go limp. She squeezes it tight, harder than she means to. I am not giving up on you.
And so, somehow, without quite understanding how, Rachel finds herself with a phone instead of a glass or bottle in her hand.
'I don't know what I'm doing,' she whispers and Janet is there with a hand on her shoulder again.
'Do you want me to go?'
Rachel shakes her head. Never. Not that image. She is not sure how much she dares tell Gill but whatever she does say, Janet ought to know too.
Rachel knows her boss's number off by heart but she manages to dial it wrong three times before handing the phone to Janet.
As the call connects and the dialling tone drills into her ear, Rachel finds herself whispering 'I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry' under her breath.
'I'm sorry, I... Ma'am umm Gill I...'
Rachel's voice seems to quaver in and out of reality as the phone shakes in her hand.
'What?' Gill is forced to ask. Rachel closes her eyes and tries again.
'I need to talk to you