Home > Secrets We Whisper in the Moonlight

Secrets We Whisper in the Moonlight
Author: Rachel Higginson

 


one

 

 

I needed a manicure. And probably a pedicure if the way my socks caught against my heels was any indication of their state. I also needed to get back to the gym. It had been a long holiday season filled with parties and drinking and family, which led to emotional baking and more drinking, which somehow led to more eating, more drinking . . . And now that we were in the middle of January, I needed to get back into some semblance of a fitness routine.

I also needed a lobotomy.

Or maybe Charlie needed a lobotomy.

Maybe Ada and I could give him one together? Maybe we would be forced to give it to him if he didn’t stop talking.

“And that’s why I’m going off sugar,” Charlie said with a long-suffering sigh. “I think it’s . . .” He gestured toward his hair, which was longer than normal and more unwieldy. No Shave November had turned into a religion for him. He hadn’t had a haircut since October, and he looked one part adorable caveman, two parts terrifying Sasquatch. The sides of his head, which were usually shaved closely to the skin, had grown, and his hair was sticking straight out. And the top of his head, where he usually applied product in an effort to tame his unwieldy locks, was left to its own devices. “It’s messing with my brain waves.”

Ada looked up from where she was meticulously picking out the gunk that had built up under the bar pads and shot him a squinty glare. “Your brain waves?”

He managed to keep a straight face. Or, Lord help us, he actually believed what he was saying. “Have you ever noticed I have trouble concentrating? Or like . . . focusing on one thing at a time?”

Ada’s mouth dropped open slightly, but no sound came out. All sarcasm with a heavy dose of cynicism, she was a hard nut to crack. And even if you were one of the few allowed in her inner sanctum of trust, she still didn’t open up. Like ever.

She was like the most beautiful locked box on earth. A little shorter than I was, incredibly petite, and toned. She had not fallen off the workout wagon. She treated her Muay Thai classes like therapy, and her cut biceps and six-pack reflected this. Although you might not be able to immediately tell she was a badass by her delicate facial features. She tried to make up for how pretty she was with a pixie cut that she’d dyed peacock blue three months ago . . . but honestly, she looked more model-like and less of a killer than ever.

Still, as hard as it was to get her to share her feelings or thoughts or . . . anything but her very strong opinions, it was even harder to silence her completely. But Charlie had somehow managed to leave her speechless. There was no offhand remark. No cutting comeback. For Charlie to have said something that produced only a glassy-eyed stare of confusion was a real and true accomplishment.

I was less willing to hold my tongue. Because how could we have not noticed that he struggled to stay focused? Unfocused was his typical setting. “I’ve noticed,” I said. “We’ve all noticed.”

Charlie snapped aggressively in my direction. “Exactly.”

“And you think it’s because you eat refined sugars?” Ada asked slowly. Either she was surprised by his sudden self-awareness or as shocked at his seemingly researched hypothesis as I was. In short, this wasn’t a typical Charlie conversation. He’d managed to catch us both by surprise when he suddenly looked up from the stacks of glasses he was inventorying and launched into a three-point speech about New Year’s resolutions and life choices.

All we were missing was a poorly edited PowerPoint.

“I’m just saying it could be,” he said, a little cowed by her snarky tone. “I feel like it’s worth a shot at least.”

“Okay, wait,” I said, finally finding a way to ask questions without insulting him. “You’re going to cut out all refined sugars and see if it helps you focus better?”

“Essentially, yes. Like a cleanse,” he said happily.

“For how long?” Ada demanded.

His head wobbled back and forth while his cheeks puffed out with a big breath. Then suddenly, the breath whooshed out of him, and his entire body seemed to deflate. “At least six months,” he answered somberly. “But maybe forever. I mean, if it works, why would I ever go back?”

Ada leaned forward, resting her elbow on the now gleaming bar and her chin in her hand. “If this works, I will personally make sure you never have refined sugars again.”

Charlie narrowed his green eyes on her. “What are you saying?”

Sensing a fight, I tried to redirect them. “You know beer is made with sugar.”

He cleared his throat and tried to recover his unassuming nature, which wasn’t as real as he wanted it to be. “Well, I mean, I haven’t done a ton of research into what I can and cannot eat yet . . . but I assumed as much.”

“Are you really going to give up beer, Charlie?” My tone sounded harsher than I meant it to. I was just surprised. Charlie loved beer. And not just the light stuff. He wanted milk stouts and cloudy IPAs. He was obsessed with all sours and hard-to-find unicorn beers. He went on road trips by himself for certain releases. Once, he even flew to California and camped outside all night for a special release, only to have to buy it for triple the price secondhand.

He shrugged like it was no big deal. Which was such a typical Charlie response that my brain pulsed with an instant headache. “You underestimate me, sis. Besides, they make gluten-free beer. I’ll still be able to drink it. I’ll just have to step away from some of it.”

I knew for a fact they weren’t making special flavors of gluten-free beer that tasted like Bananas Foster or s’mores over a campfire. But he was right. I was majorly underestimating him. And that wasn’t fair.

Even if Ada and I knew how doomed to fail he was, we didn’t have to make him feel like shit about it. At the very least, we could save our “I told you so’s” for when he inevitably gave up on this crazy idea and went back to his regular life of expensive but good beer, forgetting what he was doing while he was in the middle of doing it, and being as unreliable as we knew—and loved him for it anyway—him to be.

Ada seemed to have twin thoughts. “It sounds hard, Charlie. But I think it’s cool you’re willing to try.”

“You got this, Charlie,” I echoed. “And if you need me to store all your good beer so it won’t be a temptation, I can. And I probably won’t drink more than . . . half of it.”

He grinned at my offer. “How about this, Eliza? We can swap whiskey for beer? You give me all your good whiskey because I can actually drink it. And I’ll give you all my beer. We’ll call it an even trade.”

It was my turn to narrow my eyes into slits. “First of all, dollar for dollar, that is a terrible trade. My whiskey collection is worth at least four times what all your beer cost.” That was true not only because my bottles of whiskey way outpriced his cans and crowlers of beer, but because he barely had a collection. It was hard to build a vault when you drank it almost as soon as you got it. “Second of all, hell no. Never. You won’t even get it after I’m dead. I’m going to be buried with it. In a giant mausoleum. Like an Egyptian goddess with all her jewels.”

Ada snorted. “You’re insane.”

Charlie turned to face her. “She’s dead serious.”

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