MacLeod hadn't seen Deborah in nearly ten years. When she called out
his name, Duncan stared, dumb struck, at the woman that stood in
front of him. Ten years had passed and he barely recognized her.
It was only her voice that he knew; not that face, not that
body. Even for a mortal, Deborah had aged horribly in a mere decade.
It was plain to see that more than just the passing years had ravaged
her. The natural aging process was not that vicious. But bad habits
were and they took their toll over time. It was a very hefty, ugly
price Deborah had paid to remain comfortably numb.
Joe's juke box blared out a punk rock tune from the late seventies,
"Die young. Stay Pretty."
"Deborah? Is that you?" He kissed her cheek and stepped back. Her
distorted, bloated face and figure informed him of how she had spent
those years since they'd last seen each other. She'd spent them in
places like Joe's bar.
Deborah read his reaction. Her eyes dropped in shame as she fumbled
through her purse for a cigarette and lighter.
"I know. I look like hell. Meanwhile, you haven't aged a day in ten
years. Must be all that clean living of yours, huh? Well, take a
good look at me and get it over with." She hoisted herself onto a
stool at the bar and paused to light up.
Duncan sat beside her, still a bit stunned by the dramatic change.
Taking a deep drag on her cigarette, Deborah's cheeks and lips fell
into well worn creases. The skin on her face was as dry and brittle
as an ancient scrap of parchment paper. She squinted at him through
the hazy smoke.
He was struck by the memory of Deborah's eyes as they had been years
ago, intense and full of life. At least they had been nearly sixteen
years ago on the day she and Harry adopted Bonnie. Those same
beautiful eyes adoringly watched Bonnie grow over the next six years
of happiness that followed. Harry, Deborah and Bonnie had been an
exceptionally happy little family. Everything had been picture
perfect- until the day their world was shattered by a thief's
Deborah became a widow ten years ago and the single mother of six
year old daughter. Now he looked into Deborah's eyes and did not
recognize them. They were sunken, dull and watery. Her hair hung
limply around her face, a nondescript shade of graying blonde,
framing the sad portrait of a faded beauty.
Deborah snubbed out her cigarette after a few drags. While her eyes
were downcast, absently watching the faint plume of smoke that rose
from the ash tray, she spoke softly.
"I've come to ask you a favor Duncan."
Duncan reached for his wallet. She caught his movement out of the
corner of her eye.
"It's not about money this time." Duncan let his hand drop to his
side and waited for her to finish. But he soon became impatient.
"Well, are you going to tell me what it is about, Deborah?"
Deborah decided she needed a shot of courage before answering. She
pulled a twenty out of her purse, put it on the bar and called Joe
"Absolute, with a twist of lemon." Joe avoided eye contact with
either of them and silently filled her order. She drank the entire
contents of the glass in one long, thirsty swallow.
Joe observed Deborah with a sad familiarity. Helplessly watching
people self-destruct was the part of the job he hated most. But he
knew only too well that there was nothing anyone could do to stop an
alcoholic- if they didn't want to be stopped.
She motioned for Joe to refill her glass. He did. It was slightly
less full than the first time. Deborah noticed and considered saying
something but Joe had already walked away and was busy chatting with
another customer. She finally turned her attention back to Duncan.
"Forget about the favor for now. First I want to give you two
invitations." She placed a pink envelope in Duncan's hand. Duncan
looked quizzically at the lone envelope.
"I only see one invitation."
"Read it." He did as she asked and his face broke into a relieved
smile. Duncan was so entranced by what he read, he didn't notice
Deborah polish off her second drink.
"My God! Bonnie is having her sweet sixteen next week? The last time
I saw her she was playing with baby dolls." Deborah sighed
"That was a long time ago. Bonnie has informed me that she is much
too old to play with all those lovely dolls you sent her over the
years. She's put them in storage, to give to her own children one
day." Deborah got Joe's attention. Focused on getting another
drink, she missed the mournful expression that passed over Duncan's
Joe refilled her glass, about halfway. Deborah caught on quickly. Joe
has been keeping track of her drinks and was rationing them now. It
wasn't the first time she'd experienced this treatment. It was the
smug, unspoken disapproval she was all too familiar with. 'You've
had enough, lady. Time to taper off.', as if it were up to them to
decide when she'd had enough. Deborah let it go. She had more
important things to deal with than judgmental bartenders.
"I've been thinking about my life a lot lately, Duncan. And I
realized that Bonnie was the only thing that ever turned out right.
No thanks to me, of course. I've screwed up with her so many times,
in so many ways. But she always forgives me. She reminds me of Harry
that way, so loyal and devoted..." Deborah broke down.
Duncan pretended not to notice as she turned her head away to wipe
off the running mascara with a cocktail napkin. He was beginning to
remember that Deborah was a sloppy drunk. The regrets would start to
flow even faster than her never ending- or at least it felt that way
to Duncan- stream of tears.
"I'm sure she's turned into a wonderful young woman." Duncan put his
own hand over Deborah's trembling one. Deborah nodded
"Oh, yes. She is wonderful. You should see her, Duncan. She is
beautiful and bright and sweet..."
"Just like her Mom..."
"Used to be." She waved away Duncan's protest to her self derogatory
remark, slipping her hand out from under his and continued in a
"The second invitation is the one that I thought should really be
given in person. I owe you at least that much for all you've done."
She finished off last of the vodka and looked longingly into the
glass for a moment before nervously gazing up into Duncan's eyes.
"It is an invitation to a funeral. I don't know the exact date. But
it should be fairly soon. I don't think I have very much longer.
I'm dying, Duncan."
The pink envelope slipped from his fingers to the bar.