She paused as she opened the door, shocked by the almost empty room.
What had happened? Where was everyone?
She'd been away too long. There was a time when this room was packed with people trying to be heard. Now there was a smattering of people hanging aimlessly around, muttering among themselves. Their whispers droned like overworked bees as she made her way to the bar.
She reached for a bottle without replying. There was a time when she knew exactly what to say; now she could barely string together a coherent sentence. It was the voices. They had stopped speaking to her. She used to think their incessant chattering would drive her mad. Now the overwhelming silence made her want to blow her brains out.
"You've been gone a long time. Maybe some people don't want you back."
She surveyed the room. This sedate group probably wouldn't. But then she never cared much for an audience.
"I'm not back for them. I'm back for me."
She hoped that didn't sound too self righteous as she turned to look at him. He'd gotten grayer, the lines around his eyes deeper. He knew about the voices. He knew what it was like to have that eternal gabbing between your ears, but it never seemed to bother him. Though she had noticed that even he had slowed somewhat in the last year or so. A sad smile appeared across her lips.
"This used to be home. I'm dried up, I need to come back and start over . I guess I'm pretty pathetic."
He poured them both another drink, then held his up in a toast.
"Not pathetic, darling. Only human."
He clinked her glass. A warmth began to well up in her as the whiskey burned down her throat.
It was good to be back.