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I reach out, run my fingers along the wooden panels, and count. Three of the four walls of the room are dedicated to housing various, ancient bottles—637 in total—most of which are full of the same amber liquid; only a couple of bottles are full of clear liquid. I move closer to inspect the labels and learn that the clear bottles are full of vodka—this is a drink I’ve heard of—but the amber liquid is named different things in different containers. A great deal of it is called Scotch. There are seven bottles of tequila. But most of what Anderson keeps in this room is called bourbon—523 bottles in total—a substance I have no knowledge of. I’ve only really heard about people who drink wine and beer and margaritas—and there’s none of that here. The only wall stocked with anything but alcohol is stacked with several boxes of cigars and more of the same short, intricately cut drinking glasses. I pick up one of the glasses and nearly drop it; it’s so much heavier than it looks. I wonder if these things are made of real crystal.

And then I can’t help but wonder about Anderson’s motivations in designing this space. It’s such a strange idea, to dedicate an entire room to displaying bottles of alcohol. Why not put them in a cabinet? Or in a refrigerator?

I sit down in one of the chairs and look up, distracted by the massive, glittering chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

Why I’ve gravitated toward this room, I can’t say. But in here I feel truly alone. Walled off from all the noise and confusion of the day. I feel properly isolated here, among these bottles, in a way that soothes me. And for the first time all day, I feel myself relax. I feel myself withdraw. Retreat. Run away to some dark corner of my mind.

There’s a strange kind of freedom in giving up.

There’s a freedom in being angry. In living alone. And strangest of all: in here, within the walls of Anderson’s old refuge I feel I finally understand him. I finally understand how he was able to live the way he did. He never allowed himself to feel, never allowed himself to hurt, never invited emotion into his life. He was under no obligation to anyone but himself—and it liberated him.

His selfishness set him free.

I reach for the jug of amber liquid, tug off the stopper, and fill the crystal glass sitting beside it. I stare at the glass for a while, and it stares back.

Finally, I pick it up.

One sip and I nearly spit it out, coughing violently as some of the liquid catches in my throat. Anderson’s drink of choice is disgusting. Like death and fire and oil and smoke. I force myself to take one quick gulp of the vile drink before setting it down again, my eyes watering as the alcohol works its way through me. I’m not even sure why I’ve done it—why I wanted to try it or what I’m hoping it’ll do for me. I have no expectations of anything.

I’m just curious.

I’m feeling careless.

And the seconds skip by, my eyes fluttering open and shut in the welcome silence and I drag a finger across the seam of my lips, I count the many bottles again, and I’m just beginning to think the terrible taste of the drink wasn’t really that bad when slowly, happily, a bloom of warmth reaches up from deep within me and unfurls individual rays of heat inside my veins.

Oh, I think

oh

My mouth smiles but it feels a little crooked and I don’t mind, not really, not even that my throat feels a little numb. I pick up the still-full glass and take another large gulp of fire and this time I don’t dread it. It’s pleasant to be lost like this, to fill my head with clouds and wind and nothing. I feel loose and a little clumsy as I stand but it feels nice, it feels nice and warm and pleasant and I find myself wandering toward the bathroom, smiling as I search its drawers for something

something

where is it

And then I find it, a set of electric hair clippers, and I decide it’s time to give myself a haircut. My hair has been bothering me forever. It’s too long, too long, a memento, a keepsake from all my time in the asylum, too long from all those years I was forgotten and left to rot in hell, too thick, too suffocating, too much, too this, too that, too annoying

My fingers fumble for the plug but eventually I manage to turn the thing on, the little machine buzzing in my hand and I think I should probably take off my clothes first, don’t want to get hair everywhere do I, so I should probably take my clothes off first, definitely

And then I’m standing in my underwear, thinking about how much I’ve always secretly wanted to do this, how I always thought it would feel so nice, so liberating—

And I drag the clippers across my head in a slightly jagged motion.

Once.

Twice.

Over and over and over and I’m laughing as my hair falls to the floor, a sea of too-long brown waves lapping at my feet and I’ve never felt so light, so silly silly happy

I drop the still-buzzing clippers in the sink and step back, admiring my work in the mirror as I touch my newly shorn head. I have the same haircut as Warner now. The same sharp half inch of hair, except my hair is dark where his is light and I look so much older suddenly. Harsher. Serious. I have cheekbones. A jawline. I look angry and a little scary. My eyes are bright, huge in my face, the center of attention, wide and sharp and piercing and I love it.

I love it.

I’m still giggling as I teeter down the hall, wandering Anderson’s rooms in my underwear, feeling freer than I have in years. I flop down onto the big leather chair and finish the rest of the glass in two swift gulps.

Years, centuries, lifetimes pass and dimly, I hear the sound of banging.

I ignore it.

I’m sideways on the chair now, my legs flung over the arm, leaning back to watch the chandelier spin—

Was it spinning before?

—and too soon my reverie is interrupted, too soon I hear a rush of voices I vaguely recognize and I don’t move, merely squint, turning only my head toward the sounds.

“Oh shit, J—”

Kenji charges into the room and freezes in place at the sight of me. I suddenly, faintly remember that I’m in my underwear, and that another version of myself would prefer not to have Kenji see me like this—but it’s not enough to motivate me to move. Kenji, however, seems very concerned.

“Oh shit shit shit—”

It’s only then that I notice he’s not alone.

Kenji and Warner are standing in front of me, the two of them staring at me like they’re horrified, like I’ve done something wrong, and it makes me angry.

“What?” I say, annoyed. “Go away.”

“Juliette—love—what did you do—”

And then Warner is kneeling beside me. I try to look at him but it’s suddenly hard to focus, hard to see straight at all. My vision blurs and I have to blink several times to get his face to stop moving but then I’m looking at him, really looking at him, and something inside of me is trying to remember that we are angry with Warner, that we don’t like him anymore and we do not want to see him or speak to him but then he touches my face—

and I sigh

I rest my cheek against his palm and remember something beautiful, something kind, and a rush of feeling floods through me

“Hi,” I say.

And he looks so sad so sad and he’s about to respond but Kenji says, “Bro, I think she drank, like, I don’t know, a whole glass of this stuff. Maybe half a pint? And at her weight?” He swears under his breath. “That much whisky would destroy me.”

Warner closes his eyes. I’m fascinated by the way his Adam’s apple moves up and down his throat and I reach out, trail my fingers down his neck.

“Sweetheart,” he whispers, his eyes still closed. “Why—”

“Do you know how much I love you?” I say. “I love—loved you so much. So much.”

When he opens his eyes again, they’re bright. Shining. He says nothing.

“Kishimoto,” he says quietly. “Please turn on the shower.”

“On it.”

And Kenji’s gone.

Warner still says nothing to me.

I touch his lips. Lean forward. “You have such a nice mouth,” I whisper.

He tries to smile. It looks sad.

“Do you like my hair?” I say.

He nods.

“Really?”

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