Characters: Actor Chris Evans, Scott Evans
Word Count: 2558
Chris was slumped deep into the cushions on the couch, his bloodshot eyes unfocused, staring into tiny flecks of dust suspended in the air. His right hand rested on the arm of the couch and a crystal glass hung perilously from his fingertips.
When the doorbell rang it barely registered with him. He blinked a few times until he realized the sound was coming from the front door. He hefted his body from the couch, leaving a deep imprint in the cushions. Although it was a short distance, the walk to the door seemed to take forever.
Chris fumbled with the doorknob, finally managing to turn it open, spilling his drink on the tile foyer as he pulled open the door.
“Hey, Chris. How are you?” Scarlett eyed him warily taking note of the half empty glass of amber liquid in his left hand. She didn’t use the “poor Chris” tone of voice like most everyone else. That’s probably why they sent her.
“Scarlett. Checking up on me?” One eyebrow raised and the deep brooding voice was shaky from the liquor. He slugged down a shot of the liquid in the glass.
“I was in the neighborhood and thought I would stop by. How are you doing?” She remained on the threshold waiting for him to invite her in, but knowing he wouldn’t.
Chris looked into the glass as if he could find some kind of meaning in the amber colored nectar. “How the fuck do you think I am?”
“Chris a lot of people are worried about you.” Her voice took on a softer tone, not patronizing but soothing.
“And by a lot you mean Feige and all the fucktards at Marvel.” His voice rose an octave. “They can kiss my ass. All they care about is when I’m going to be back in front of the camera making them money.”
“You know that’s not true. You suffered a tremendous loss. Everyone feels for you.” She reached out to put her hand on his arm but he pushed it away.
“Everyone Scar? Everyone?” He threw the tumbler across the room and it shattered against the wall sending shards of glass flying and liquid stains running down the walls. “Everyone doesn’t know what it feels like to lose their family. Everyone doesn’t know what it feels like to lose everything that matters. Go tell them to fuck themselves.”
He pushed the door closed, forcing Scarlett backwards onto the front porch, her mission a failure. He went to the kitchen to find a new glass. He wasn’t concerned about the mess he had just made. The housekeeper would be by in a few days. He filled the new crystal tumbler to the brim with liquor and took a long sip, relishing the burn as it went down his throat.
It wasn’t easy to stay in this house. But it was worse in Boston. He had tried to go back. He couldn’t stand the look of pity in everyone’s eyes. It had been too much for him. Boston was a painful reminder that he wasn’t ready for. So he went to LA. To their home. Which was just a hollow shell now.
The framed pictures of his wife and daughter were all gone. One by one the frames had been smashed and the pictures eventually retrieved and carefully stowed away by one of his siblings or friends for safekeeping. Carly and Shanna and Tara had come and packed up all of Claire and Brinley’s things and had them removed from the house. It was supposed to make it easier for him to live here. Nevertheless, it only removed the physical possessions. It did nothing to erase the reminders stored in his head.
He padded from room to room in his bare feet, his footsteps on the wood floors echoing in the empty house. He paused at the closed door on his right. His hand went to the door knob and turned it slightly. The room inside decorated in pink with a brand new ‘big girl’ bed. His heart began to race. Memories flooded his mind. A hospital delivery room, the sound of a newborn infant’s cries, an exhausted mother holding her daughter with a look of graceful satisfaction. The smell of baby powder and shampoo. Clean, new baby smells. A list full of firsts. First smile, first tooth, sitting, crawling, standing, walking, talking. Things he couldn’t bear to remember.
He pulled his hand back from the door knob and brushed away the tears from his eyes. He wasn’t ready. He moved down the hall toward the double doors at the end of the hall. The master bedroom. He had only recently started sleeping there again. Even so, it had taken him weeks to be able to enter the room. It still smelled like Claire. Carly had replaced all of the bed linens and bath towels. The room had been scrubbed from floor to ceiling. There was nothing left of Claire. However, Chris could still smell her perfume. The faint scent of jasmine, vanilla and rose.
He slowly pushed open the doors, expecting to see her standing at the foot of the bed waiting for him. “Chris, it’s late, come to bed love.” She was always looking out for him. However, the room was empty; the smell, the voice, they were just his memory. The linens were fresh, crisp, and new, a plaid design in dark earthy colors; nothing like what Claire would have chosen for their room. His face fell and he succumbed to the familiar somber feeling of late. He sat at the edge of the bed and let his feet swing freely.
He drank from the crystal tumbler again, downing half of the liquid. As long as he continued to drink he was numb and the pain was kept at bay. For just a few hours it didn’t hurt quite as much. A respite of sorts.
He looked around the room. The linens were new but there were still traces of Claire. The blue color on the walls, chosen to complement the color of Chris’ eyes which were her favorite of his features. She didn’t know that Chris knew that was the reason she had chosen the color. He overheard her on the phone one day. “When he’s gone on those long movie shoots sometimes I go into the bedroom and stare at the walls and pretend I’m looking into his eyes.”
She had also chosen the tile floor which felt cool to the touch in the normally warm California weather. Chris had wanted a wood floor for an earthier New England feel but he ended up agreeing with her in the hot summer months when the tiles seemed to absorb the heat from the air.
Chris downed the remaining whiskey and looked intently into the empty glass. He rolled it around in his hand, the few remaining drops circling around the bottom. Soon a few tears fell and mixed in with the amber liquid. He set the glass on the tile floor and laid back on the king size bed, hands folded on his stomach, staring at the ceiling. He tried to focus on a speck on the ceiling but gave up and let out a combination of a deep sigh and a sob. Finally giving in to his emotions, he rolled to his side and curled into a ball, letting his tears flow freely as he let out shrieks of pain in the form of wails.
Chris felt the drool on the comforter although his mouth was as dry as a chalkboard. He blinked a few times and looked around the room to get his bearings. He knew in his broken heart that Claire was not here. He sighed deeply and made an effort to push himself up to a sitting position.
He heard movement in the kitchen. Unconcerned, he assumed it was the housekeeper; although the current state of the house was not something he was proud of even in his mourning status. He went to the bathroom to splash water on his face and looked at the face in the mirror, one he didn’t recognize. It was just a shell of the man he used to be. His usual neatly trimmed beard was unkempt, his hair hadn’t been cut for weeks. He didn’t dare look at his hands or feet. He barely made it into the shower each day. He considered that a victory.
Standing in front of the mirror looking at the image of himself, he vividly recalled the day it happened. He had a meeting with his agent that had run late. They were discussing a new project he wanted to direct, something close to his heart. He was supposed to take his mother to the airport but the meeting went long and Claire called. “Chris, I can take Mom to the airport, it’s okay. I know how important this deal is to you. Just talk to her real fast, tell her good bye. It’s okay, I got this.” He didn’t know that in one day he would lose the three most important females in his life.
He told his mother good-bye for the last time. He said ‘I love you’ for the last time. He told Claire ‘I love you’ for the last time. But he never got to say good-bye to Brinley, their daughter. He assumed he would tuck her into bed later that night. In her pink princess themed room with a white poster bed framed with Christmas lights wrapped around the frame. He would read her a good-night story complete with voices and maybe singing. Then he would kiss her good-night like every other night. He didn’t ask to say good-bye to her. He had a meeting to get back to. And anyway, he would see her later that night.
He looked in the mirror and saw the tears form in his eyes as he recalled his almost two-year-old daughter. Brinley Elizabeth. She was half Chris and half Claire. She had Claire’s gingerbread colored hair, and Chris’ blue eyes. She was inquisitive, smart, imaginative, and beautiful inside and out. His heart almost stopped just thinking about her. He dropped his head and let the tears fall freely.
His little girl, his Brinley would never grow up. She would never have a first date. She would never have a first boyfriend that Chris would have to approve of. She would never go to the homecoming dance or to the Prom. She would never go to college or get engaged. She would never get married. He would never walk his little girl down the aisle.
Chris didn’t know how he got to this place. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. He worked and when he had time he dated and then he met Claire and everything changed. He didn’t factor Claire into his plans. But there she was. Their attraction was instantaneous and undeniable. He didn’t think he was ready to settle down, but when he met Claire he just knew. And they were going to take their time, get the fans used to him being in a relationship. They were in no particular hurry to get married. Except fate had a way of changing things.
Despite their best efforts, Claire got pregnant. She didn’t want to force a marriage but Chris wanted to keep things traditional. Besides, in his heart he knew Claire was the one. So they had a very private marriage ceremony in Boston. Only their closest family and friends were invited. Claire came from a very small family so everything worked out well.
They kept it quiet as long as possible but it didn’t take long for Claire’s figure to blossom. They bought a house near his mom in Massachusetts and split their time between coasts. Claire had quit her job at the children’s hospital where she and Chris met. She loved staying home with Brinley and being able to visit Chris when he was filming.
Chris heard a loud male voice cursing in the kitchen. Definitely not the housekeeper. He made his way toward the noise to find his brother loading a few days’ worth of dishes into the dishwasher. Scott looked up as Chris entered the room. “You look like shit.”
“Fuck off.” Chris reached for a glass in the cabinet and filled it with water, draining the glass in one swallow.
Scott looked at Chris out of the corner of his eye while he continued to clean the counter. “Dude you seriously need to get yourself cleaned up. How long are you gonna keep this up?” He lifted two empty whiskey bottles as evidence.
Chris glared at his younger brother then in a low growl said, “Get the fuck out of my house.”
Scott turned and squared himself, crossing his arms against his chest. “Fuck you. You’re not the only one who lost someone that day. I lost a mother too. Maybe you were her favorite but she was my mother and she loved me too.”
Chris pushed Scott’s chest with his open hands and Scott stumbled backwards, the counter holding him up. “You blame me for mom’s death. Is that it? It’s my fault mom’s dead?” He pushed his finger into Scott’s chest punctuating each sentence.
Scott put his hand around his brother’s head and pulled it into his, their foreheads resting together. “Chris, you had no control over what happened. It was an accident.”
Chris bit his lip trying to fight the tears. “Claire was the one who drove mom to the airport. I was supposed to drive and I was in a meeting so Claire drove. I was supposed to drive. If I drove, they would all be alive.” The tears began to spill over his eyelids.
“It was a pile up on the freeway. They were hit by two semis.” Chris cringed at the mental image of his family being crushed to death in a twisted wreck of metal. “How would you have avoided that?”
Chris slid down the counter and sat on the floor, put his face in his hands and began to sob. Scott sat next to him with tears in his eyes and put his hand around his older brother’s shoulder. “Chris you can grieve and get past this or you can hold onto your anger and let it consume you. But I know what mom would want. I know what Claire would want.”
“I wish I had been with them. I wish I had died in the car with them. I feel like I did but I’m still here.” Chris, usually the stronger of the two brothers, laid his head on Scott’s shoulder and cried.
They sat on the kitchen floor until they were both out of tears. Scott moved first, kissing the top of Chris’ head. “Bro, I always have your back, you know that right?”
“I love you Scott.”
Scott stood and held his hand out to Chris and pulled him up. “I brought a new bottle of whiskey for you. Let’s break it open.”
Chris grabbed two tumblers from the cabinet and Scott poured. They walked to the living room and dropped onto the couch.
Chris took a long sip of whiskey. “Scott, how am I gonna get through this?”
“One day at a time bro, one day at a time.”