"So we're going to do this, aren't we?" said Llewellyn Barends as he gripped the steering wheel of his car. He looked into the rear-view mirror and saw how red and small his eyes were.
His grip, tight and steady, was more than enough to control the smooth drive of his Audi S4 sedan. His car’s headlights shone a bluish-white light across the road as it drew back the early morning darkness. He drew a deep breath and stared at the road ahead.
"It looks cold out there," he said without real concern about the weather. All he knew was that it was a dark and clear early morning. He saw a few stars in the sky and suddenly felt that all he had done was not enough to replace the loneliness he felt inside.
"So lonely," he whispered to himself.
“You’re not alone, dad” said another voice in the car.
Llewellyn shifted his eyes to the rear-view mirror and smiled. His daughter, Emily, sat in the backseat. She wore a black jacket with a white ballerina tutu underneath and little black shoes. At eight years old, she had more insight into life than her peers, but she still maintained her youthfulness by keeping her little brown teddy bear near her whenever she felt nervous.
“I don’t know, Em. I think Peddy has better company than I do right now,” said Llewellyn.
Emily smiled and embraced her teddy bear. “Look, Peddy is not jealous. See?” said Emily as she made the teddy bear dance on her lap.
Llewellyn chuckled and shook his head. He rubbed his face and stared out onto the road and sighed. He checked his GPS and found comfort in the fact that he was going in the right direction. The time on his car’s display panel showed it was fifteen minutes past three in the morning.
There was a moment of silence in the car. Again, he felt the loneliness.
“How far until we get to Ma and Pa?” asked Emily, breaking the silence while she twiddled with Peddy.
Llewellyn smiled and said, “A few more hours. You miss them?”
Silence again. And then she added, “I like driving with you.”
Llewellyn fought back the tears in his eyes. He looked to the drink holder behind the gear stick and eyed the small bottle of liquor in it. He grabbed it out of the holder. With expert fingers, he twisted off the cap and took a big sip of the brown liquid. The initial burn of the whiskey going down his throat was quickly forgotten as soon as he felt the familiar, gentle warmth, spreading across his chest and in his stomach. He burped and smelt the alcohol on his breath as he put the bottle back in the holder.
“Dad, why do you drink that stuff?”
Llewellyn thought for a moment before answering, “It’s to give me strength.”
He saw how Emily pondered at his reply. “And are you strong now?”
Llewellyn sighed and looked at the floor of the passenger seat next to him. He saw the two empty whiskey bottles on the floor that reminded him of his mistakes. What am I doing? he thought. He wanted to forget. It was too hard for him to remember, to even look at what he had done.
He rubbed his sore, red eyes and felt the car move slightly to the left. When he looked up, he realized that he was very close to the edge of the road. He quickly swerved to the right and corrected the vehicle on the road. The suddenly felt more alert. He looked at Emily and saw she was fine, clutching tightly onto her teddy bear.
Llewellyn again reached for the bottle of whiskey and opened it up. Just as he was about to take a sip, he caught Emily watching him in the rear-view mirror. She had a look of pity in her eyes.
He quickly closed the bottle and put it away. The car swerved again. He managed to correct it on the road again. He slapped his face in anger and strained to open his eyes in an attempt to focus on the road ahead.
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