"Wake up." I hear a voice; a faraway voice.
"Ellie, I said wake UP."
My consciousness surfaces slowly. My head feels swimmy, disconnected. I open one eye, the sunlight sears my brain. I see the fuzzy outline of my husband standing next to the bed. He's holding something in his right hand, and he looks angry.
"What time is it?" I mumble, glancing at the clock: 9:30am. What day is it? I hear cartoons blaring from the television downstairs. Saturday. My last clear memory of the night before is of spooning ice cream into dishes for the kids. Dessert.
"Do you want to explain to me what this is?" he asks. I rub my eyes, and now I can see his face clearly. He looks livid. My thoughts race - I don't remember having a fight last night. Did we have a fight? I know we watched a movie on the couch. Then we went to bed, right? Damn. What movie did we see? That part is a little hazy. "Did you eat breakfast yet?" I ask in order to buy some time.
"Please. Explain. THIS," he says through clenched teeth.
I drop my eyes to his right hand and panic jolts me fully awake. He is holding a half empty bottle of white wine.
"I found this in the washing machine," he says. "Under the wet clothes. I thought I'd do some laundry, and I found this."
Crazily, my first thought is: I was looking everywhere for that last night.
I'm too sleepy to think quickly, and besides - what can I possibly say? This is the moment I have been dreading for months, and I'm frozen with fear.
"You are an alcoholic, Ellie," he says, with surprising calm. He's never said the A word before.
No I'm not, no I'm not, no I'm not, please God anything but that I'm not I'm not I'm not.
"I know it must look weird, but I can explain," I begin. Think, Ellie, think. How can I possibly explain this? That one of the kids dropped it in there?
"STOP," he says. "Just stop. No more explanations. You need help. You're an alcoholic. What the hell is going on, Ellie? Don't try to explain this away. Just DON'T."
My heart is pounding, my mind racing. "Okay, I won't," I stammer. And then, of course, I start explaining.
"I don't hide it all the time." Liar. Liar. Liar. "It's just that sometimes I like to drink more than you at night, and I don't want you to judge me. So I hide it." I hang my head, try to look contrite, but I'm thinking: please don't pour it out, please don't pour it out, please don't pour it out. I'm so scared, and if you pour it out I'll never make it.
"I'm pouring this out," he says, and my mind goes white with fear. "And then we're calling someone, somewhere, and you're getting some help."
Don't look scared, I think. Don't let him see how scared you are, you need to come up with a plan.
I stand up and hug him. "Thank you," I say, calmly. "I know I need help. I know I drink too much. This is probably the best thing that could possibly happen." He gives me a stiff one-armed hug, holding the half full bottle away from his body like a smelly dead animal.
He walks into the bathroom, and I hear the chugga chugga chugga as the wine goes down the sink.
I come up with a plan.
"Let me just get dressed, then I'll go get us something good to fix for breakfast," I say brightly.
He looks at me strangely for a moment. "You will get help? You admit you're an alcoholic?"
"I know I drink too much. I know what I need to do. It will be okay," I say as I pull on jeans and a sweater. "We'll go online and find a meeting. I'll go tonight." Tonight feels about a million years away. I just need to get through the next few hours, and I'll be okay.
"How about pancakes for breakfast?" I say, forcing a smile.
As I rummage in my purse for the car keys, I furtively cast my eyes to the clock. 10am. Perfect.
I can get more.