For most people the twenty-third day of the eighth month passed by in an inconsequential blur. People woke up, eyes bleary against the sun poking through their curtains, already thinking about the three cups of coffee they needed if they had any chance of making it to work on time. For most people, their main goal for the day was to make it to 5pm without wanting to punch their boss, or getting asked out by the ever persistent Dave from accounting. The circumstances varied, of course. The name might change, but the day did not. It was another day. Comfortable in its monotonous predictability – rise and shine, you beautiful bastards.
For her, the twenty-third day of the eighth month could never pass in a blur. It was painfully vibrant. From the moment her makeup covered eyes opened; she could do nothing but think about this date. Which at this point, after six years, she knew was pathetic and ridiculous and monumentally unhealthy. Still though, it always began the same. Her eyes would open, her limbs would stretch, and her mind would wander in bliss for a few magical moments before she remembered, at which point her day was gone. On this day, she did not think about the coffee her body craved the other 364 days of the year at the unholy hour that was 6am. Instead she thought about the cheap bottle of wine on her kitchen counter that was begging to be consumed and purged within quick succession, before she began her arduous trudge to work. With these thoughts clouding her self-indulgently grief stricken brain, she begrudgingly dragged the thin sheet that covered her body from herself, tossing it carelessly to the floor, picked up her dressing gown from her clothes strewn floor and made her way to the kitchen.
She shared the small space she called home with two others – David and Liv, who routinely woke up an hour before she did so they had time to go to the gym; a tactic she suspected was employed to curb their serious lack of sexual deviancy. As she blearily walked through the shabby living room she raised a hand in greeting, ignoring their raised eyebrows and heading straight for the wine she'd bought the night previously in resigned preparation. She opened the bottle and took a large swig, relishing the bitter taste as it travelled down her throat. She screwed her eyes shut and lowered the bottle, sighing deeply before raising it to her lips again and taking yet another large gulp. It leaked from her lips and travelled slowly down her chin, a red trail staining her translucent skin before she wiped her face and finally stared resolutely toward her two complacent housemates. They were familiar enough with this specific day to know that drinking red wine at 6.30 in the morning was to be expected. Liv had lived with her for four years and had known her for ten. David was newer, but hanging on the coattails of Liv had had its advantages and he knew not to ask questions or stare too long.
Liv spoke first, "Morning, you pathetic delinquent. What's the plan for today then? Shit-faced by 7 and sick by 8, as always? Also, do you plan on sharing?" Liv was the only one who spoke to her this way; because she knew she was the only one who could. After ten years she had earned the right. David, by comparison, seemed to quell in fear as he stood between the two. It was a standoff he'd learned to expect after four years of dating Liv and listening to the tales that accompanied this day for the entire week proceeding and following it. He stared at the bottle his girlfriend's best friend clutched between her two small hands, before chancing a glance up at the large green orbs that were such a prominent feature on the withdrawn face that was usually so animated. David hated this day, not only because it inevitably led to his girlfriend complaining for what seemed an eternity, but because he never recognised the girl in front of him. She became this shell of a person, hollow and almost cruel in her indifference. As he stared at her, waiting for the rebuke that was sure to follow Liv's snide remark, she stood perfectly still - her face giving nothing away for a terrifying minute, before a small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. David let go of a silent breath.
She hated this day, but she did not hate her friends. She lifted her arm, stretching it toward Liv and tilting the bottle from side to side, an unequivocal invitation. Almost a plea - yes, join me. Help me forget… She knew, however, that Liv would not take it. After all, Liv was now as familiar to this routine and the reason for it as Jekyll was to his tormenting Hyde. Liv walked slowly forward, a twin smile upon her face, as she passed her friend and left the room. Liv knew how this day worked. She'd long given up disrupting its disturbing rhythm. It was one day out of the year after all, a vast improvement…As she left, David spared one last glance toward the bottle-clutching woman before him, ghosting his hand upon her shoulder, before following Liv from the room.
And so she was left, which was how she preferred the mornings on this day, with her bottle and resolution for company. In truth she knew that her reaction to this day was both unfair and senseless, but grief and guilt had burrowed in her for so long now that this seemed like the only logical reaction to that festering feeling. She travelled from the living room to her large downstairs bedroom once more, skipping over the shoes she'd thrown from her feet last night and taking another gulp from the red wine she held with a vice grip. It was time for her to get ready for work, and she resented this, not least because she had never worked this day for the last fifteen years until now. Her boss, Mark, had apparently forgotten she'd asked for the day off three months in advance, and had politely requested at 10.30pm last night that she arrive an hour earlier so they could go over the bi-monthly order sheet for the bar she co-managed. Mark was a piece of shit. But, as loath as she was to admit it at this particular moment, she loved her job and refused to jeopardise it for the sake of her ego.
She plopped herself down on her king-size bed and looked at her reflection in the small mirror that sat across from her. She never recognised herself on these days – it was as if the features she'd always, as a child, saw in the rest of her family morphed into something new. When she was seven, she had proudly declared she had her mother's fingers and her father's nose - they had laughed and shared twin conspirator glances, the proud parents glance, she had quickly dubbed it. When she was ten, she proclaimed with a practiced sense of victory that she had her aunt's straight teeth and pretty eyes. When she was thirteen, she knew she'd inherited her brother's bad humour and spindly legs. Now though, at the age of thirty-five, as she spun the half empty bottle between her fingers, she saw none of this. Those features she had once searched out desperately and declared so proudly had been replaced by a grown woman with red-wine stained teeth and wrinkles she felt she hadn't earned. She grabbed her makeup, and set to work in an attempt to cover her face as fast as possible, applying thick lashings of foundation and mascara, in between copious gulps. She always wore more than usual on this day, which was usually spent in any establishment that could offer her drinks on tap. But today this thick layer of war paint she wore was especially necessary. She didn't want the strangers that walked in and out of the bar to look at her and catch a glimpse of the pain she knew must sit upon her face. She had found that it was often strangers that stared the longest and saw the most, which she figured was down to their lack of shame. Strangers were void of shame in a way that friends never could be. Strangers did not fear the embarrassment of being caught out in the midst of their pity or judgment or disdain. Strangers wore their feelings proudly, which scared her because more than anything she didn't want to feel like that cold stab in her gut that told her one of these strangers knew.