Those early days with Amy were pure bliss. We spent all our time together, either me going to her studio apartment and watching her paint while I worked on my laptop, or her coming over to my loft and burning French toast for us for a breakfast-for-dinner picnic in bed.

Both of our jobs were fairly flexible, and we relished the freedom. Sometimes we would wake up, get in the car and drive the few hours it took to get to the beach. We would lay there all day, downing a six-pack each, then sober up and drive home, stopping for fish tacos on the way.

It was like every day was the first day of summer vacation with Amy.

I had never before felt the way I felt about Amy. I felt younger, lighter, freer. The world seemed more colorful and whimsical with her around, and life seemed more exciting and full of possibility.

I actually bought the engagement ring, a beautiful Sapphire surrounded by emeralds and amethysts, before we even moved in together. It wasn’t a traditional diamond engagement ring, but Amy wasn’t a traditional girl. The colors reminded me of the painting of the park that drew me to her at the gallery opening where we first met. I knew she would love it.

I wish I’d had the chance to give it to her, to see her face when she saw it and listened as I told her why I chose it.

But I’ll never get that chance now.

The time was never right to propose because when Amy moved in, that’s when I noticed something wasn’t quite right. And I didn’t want to take the next step until I could figure out how to fix it.

You see, before Amy moved in, we would go on long, boozy dates, closing down restaurants, drinking wine in the park, whatever. We lived in New Orleans, where you can legally walk around with open containers of alcohol, and restaurants and bars allow you to take your drinks to go. You almost literally never have to be sober.

It added to the blurry, hazy fun whirlwind of the beginning of our relationship, but I thought that would slow down when we moved in together and were seeing each other’s daily lives and habits. But it didn’t.

If anything, I noticed Amy drinking even more than she ever did on her dates, almost like she had been holding herself back.

All the servers and bartenders at her waitressing job in the French Quarter drank during their shifts, and often went out and partied after work till the early morning, getting drunk and spending their hard-earned tips.

Amy would also wake up in the morning and start drinking a Bloody Mary or a mimosa before she started painting. I realized quickly that Amy almost always had a drink in her hand, no matter what time of day or what she was doing.

I tried to brush it off. We were young, and she was an artist, all her friends and coworkers were drinkers, we lived in New Orleans, it was all just part of the lifestyle.

But in my gut, I felt something wasn’t right.

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