One Less Bar



Scene Title One Less Bar
Synopsis Belated birthday wishes may be a little too late.
Date December 8, 2019

The road to Providence

There hasn't been movement on this road for sixteen minutes. Providence lies ahead, in more ways than one, and Richard Ray's car has long since left earshot and sight.

Sixteen minutes Zachery has been staring down at the contact list on his phone, thumb occasionally brushing up and down over the cracked screen.

It's not there. It has no reason to be there.

Why would it be?

He leans slowly forward into a saunter down the length of the dirt path. Toward home. Or, at the very least, toward something else. Further away from where he might have a signal for what he finds himself doing next, because he still hasn't put that fucking phone away.

The number is not easy to find. It takes some amount of digging, and already there's one bar fewer to work with when the dial screen is finally brought up.

"Hello?" The voice on the other end of the line is casually cheerful, and more familiar than it has any right to be. Zachery keeps walking.

"Helloo?" The voice comes again.

"Happy birthday," he finally says, abruptly but with the absolute least amount of energy it requires to do such a thing.

There is a silence.

Surrey, England

Damian Miller stands at the kitchen counter, phone in one hand, sponge in the other. Suds run over his fingers where he's clenched them around the foam, jaw set. The noises of a family gathering in another room of the house sound suddenly so much louder.


Too loud.

But not loud enough to break it. He waits, cramming the phone in between his head and shoulder, and reaching to grab a plate from the sink. He'll scrub while he waits, murder in his eyes.

"Can you hear—" Zachery starts.

"I can hear you." Damian finishes. "Which one?"


"Which one? Which birthday."

"All of them."

"Which one specifically?"

"I don't— Dames."

"Which one." He may as well be yelling, but he's not. Instead, he manages to finish scrubbing, rinsing and setting the plate in a drying rack before an answer ever comes.

Quietly, at that. "Your 29th."

Damian turns to pull a tea towel free from its hook, twisting it between his hands before he grips the phone again. "Was it happy?"

"What?" Zachery says, again.

"Was it happy? That October. What about that Christmas?"

"… What?"

"What about the year after, Zachery?! You absolute fucking cunt!" He leans a hip against the counter, running damp fingers through his hair.

There is no answer. Maybe there can't be one, not to this, specifically.

Once more, the other end of the line remains quiet, but so has the house. Damian startles at a hand gently placed at the small of his back. He turns to face the woman next to him only to notice two teenagers standing together in the doorway with concern clear across their features. "Dad," one of them tries with a forced excuse for a smirk that does not match his distressed tone of voice, "who was that?"

And back again

"Damian? … I'm— … Dames?"

Zachery lets his arm fall a little, phone in hand, staring at the screen. No bars, no call.

He stops walking only now. No one dropped this conversation but the distance created.

Maybe it's better that way.

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