Chocolate Milk

I got home at about midnight. Alice was usually in bed by now. Tough girl going to med school on Patron-Dollars had to get her sleep. Journalists never had reliable schedules.

Our apartment was in the Southside of the Tenth District. The walls were coppery bricks with dark brown hardwood above and below. It felt like a tomb some days. I went into the kitchen, bathing the sitting area in blue light as I drank half the chocolate milk straight from the carton.

I had considered the whiskey, but the chocolate milk sounded better right now.

It had been that kind of day.

I wanted to crawl into bed next to Alice. I could feel her warmth, her smell, and even those little spasms she had when dreaming. When we first started dating I could barely sleep easy when I felt her body jump mid-dream. I got used to it.

You can get used to stuff like that.

I sat at the cramped kitchen table, sipping the chocolate milk.

The bedroom door creaked open.

Alice came in, rubbing her eyes. “You’re home late.”

I nodded, not looking up.

“You want to talk about it?”

“You should be in bed.”

She sat down. “It’s cold.”

I managed a half smile. She looked at me from across table. Her hair grew in volume once it passed her shoulders, making her small heart-shaped face vanish deeper into the dense black hair. Her big brown eyes burrowed into mine. I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave without talking, she had that perfect disarming affect.

“I interviewed a mother who lost her twenty-five year old son,” I said before taking another sip of chocolate milk. “He died on a trade mission down south. Supposed to be safe and Clan protected. They forgot pirates don’t care about Clan authority.”

“You aren’t a crime reporter,” stated Alice bluntly. “You’re Arts and Culture.”

“They needed someone. The others were busy with the murders DownTown.”

“Go on.”

I rubbed my eyes. “So I attended the funeral last week, which was rough. I paid my respects and gave them my card for when they were ready. So the mother poured me a cup of coffee tonight, her voice was still ragged from crying, her face still burned red and her hands still shook.”

I gulped the chocolate milk. “She told me about how he was ready to go back to University, how his girlfriend was waiting for him when he came back, how he loved video games and books. He had built his own bookshelf at twelve out of scrap pieces.”

I took another sip of chocolate milk. The sweet cool liquid spread through my chest, releasing minimal endorphins to make it all easier. “He is survived by a younger sister and a dog named Rush.” My voice cracked. “His mother gave me a few names and associates.”

Alice nodded.

“So, my job is easy. I just need to find out why the mission was so important, who it killed and what it cost a family.”

“That’s your job, babes,” said Alice. “You do it well.”

I rubbed my eyes, feeling the ache in my throat. “Doesn’t make it any easier.”

“No,” she stood up and crossed over to me. Her small hand pressed against the back of my neck, her nails digging into my hair lovingly. It felt good. “It’ll feel easier in the morning.”

“Not for the mother.”

She leaned down and kissed me hard. Her mouth still tasted of toothpaste. “No, but you know you can’t let that stop you.”

I exhaled. “No. No, it can’t.”

“Good,” she straightened up. “Come back to bed. I’m cold.”

I nodded and allowed myself to be led away into the dark bedroom.

#

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