>The clock's hands were stuck on 4:26
>Ticking, and tocking.
>There was nothing else to do to keep the mare's mind focused.
>She had scrubbed every inch of the kitchen.
>Mopped the floors.
>Washed the dishes.
>Swept, organized, and gave her home some order.
>Anything to keep her hooves busy and her mind even busier..
>Keeps the thirst at bay.
>But this was the worst part of the day.
>When the chores were all complete, and the only thing left to keep her occupied.
>Was to watch the clock.
>Watching the clock always left her tongue dry.
>And when her tongue was dry she felt that blackness open up in her stomach again.
>A need deep inside.
>Some days it's easier to ignore.
>Drawn out of the inside of her head.
>She heard the front door squeak open.
>Hearing the familiar excited sounding voices drove that pit in her stomach away.
>Turning her head towards the door, she was greeted with the glowing faces of her daughter, Ruby Pinch.
>And the loving face of her girlfriend, Cheerilee.
>Or as the fillies know her, Miss Cheerilee.
"Mommy!" the rose colored filly ran at her similar colored mom.
>Glomping her with a big, bear hug.
>The mare with a mane like smooth wine couldn't resist breaking out in a wide grin.
>"There's my little Pinchy" she noogied the young filly's head.
>"Did you have a good day at school?"
>Ruby nodded her head up and down as quick as she could.
"Mama Cheerilee said I was the best at craft time today!" she proudly proclaimed.
>Berry hung on to the word her daughter had decided to use.
>She giggled and looked up to Cheerilee still standing off to the side.
>Her face was scrunched and more red than usual..
>"Well that's great you silly filly" she took Ruby's saddlebag off her back.
>"Why don't you go get all nice and clean for dinner okay?
"Okay mommy!" she practically jumped down the hall.
>Ecstatic from her day.
>"Ahem" came from behind the grape colored pony.
>She turned around and saw Cheerilee's face was still red, but more confident.
>"Jealous of a little girl, "Mama"?"
>Each mare walked towards the other.
>But, Cheerilee, feeling bold, swiftly locked lips with a surprised Berry Punch.
>She broke off the kiss and looked lovingly into her eyes.
"What do you think?"
>Berry could feel a cocky half smirk appear on her face.
>The previous hours all seem like such a distant memory.
>For another day at least.
>A small pang in her stomach caused her blood to run cold.
>A brief moment went by before she realized what the feeling was.
>It was her stomach growling.
>She let out a sigh of relief.
"Something wrong Berry?" a confused voice to the side of her asked.
>Meeting Cheerilee's soft, and safe eyes filled her up with a fuzzy warmth.
>"Yeah, there's a delicious meal in the other room and we're standing here" she put her hooves to the sides of Cheerilee's face.
>"Like lumps on a log"
>She tried to keep a serious face, but everyone knew Berry couldn't help but laugh at nearly everything.
>Even her own jokes.
>Miss Cheerilee rolled her eyes playfully.
"Let's go eat then Miss Bossyhooves"
>The two mares laughed contently at how silly they were being.
>It was an amazing feeling.
>Dinner, like any other night, was a pretty great time.
>Laughs and stories of the day were shared.
>And tummies were chock full of comforting food.
>Too much food though.
>Because almost immediately afterwards, Pinchy yawned.
>Her eyes looked heavy.
"Why don't we let Mommy clean up and we'll go read a nice bedtime story kiddo"
>When those words came out of Cheerilee's mouth it was almost like Christmas had come early.
>Pinchy hopped in place and raced off towards her room at the end of the hall.
"Love you mommy!" the animated little filly yelled behind herself
>The two mares turned to each other and gave a quick chuckle.
>"I have no idea where she gets all that energy from" Berry said shaking her head.
>"She must get it from your side of the family" she nudged Cheerilee's side in a joking manner.
>The school teacher stifled a giggle.
"If you keep this up I'll have to read you a bed time story too missy" she rubbed Berry's side sensually.
"Although I might forget the book" her whisper sending tingles down Berry's back.
>And as soon as it started, she saw Cheerilee walking down the hall to Ruby's room.
>Blowing a playful raspberry as she proceeded to go tuck in the little bundle of energy known as Pinchy.
>This left Berry all by her lonesome to clean up the dishes.
>There was usually never that much.
>And with how many times she's been through the same routine.
>She's efficient with her cleaning.
>She has to be or her mind begins to wander.
>As the soapy suds are cascading over the ivory colored plates.
>Berry feels a minor discomfort in her stomach.
>Like a pit slowly beginning to open itself.
>Soon her heartbeat is thudding against her chest.
>The blackness inside her begins to steer her thoughts towards dark places.
>Sweat is pouring down the sides of her head.
>All she know is, she's really, really thirsty.
>An urge guides her away from the sink full of dishes, and to the fridge.
>There her heart was banging loud and hard.
>It was the only thing she could concentrate on.
>Kneeling down on the floor she glanced under the appliance.
>That's when she saw it.
>The bottle under the fridge.
>She reached for it and managed to steadily pull it out without making too much noise.
>Sitting up on the cold tile of the kitchen floor.
>She just stared at what she had just grabbed.
>The familiar shape in her hoof feeling exactly like what she needs
>How she yearns for just one, small, drink of this...this nectar.
>Tilting the tip of the bottle to her parched lips, she slowly, but surely hoped a drop would land on her tongue.
>She was praying for it.
>And just like that, she froze in place.
>Her skin went ice cold.
>Her heart continuing to pound in her ears.
>Instinctively, she took the bottle away from her mouth.
>And held the slightly damp object in her hoof.
>"I-I thought you were tucking in Pinchy?" Berry was too afraid to turn around.
"Berry, look at me" the concerned tone of Cheerilee was something she hoped to never hear again.
>Feeling like her neck was rusted in place, she tried with all her might to face her girlfriend.
>But as soon as she saw a hint of her dark, pink colored fur she could not continue.
>An inner struggle with herself was out of sight from Cheerilee's eyes.
>But it was a battle where Berry reluctantly waved a white flag.
>Pulling the bottle away from her chest, she held it out for Cheerilee to see.
>She turned more towards her suddenly quiet girlfriend.
>Her hoof was in front of her mouth.
>As the only thing she could do was just stare at the bottle.
>Panic seized Berry's still pounding heart.
>"It's not what you think it is Cheery" But the most cliched thing she could have said slipped from her mouth.
"...You said you dumped every bottle of liquor in this house down the drain" her shocked expression still haunting Berry.
>The grape colored mare held the bottle close once more.
>"Not every bottle" she thought.
>She clutched the bottle close to her heart.
>Like she did whenever she hugged her daughter.
>"...This is like my security blanket Cheery" her face reflected in the glass as she stared at the purple liquid inside.
>"If I had dumped all the booze...well..."
>"I try not to think about it"
>"B-But, having this around...I dunno it just makes me feel...safe" Berry placed the bottle by her side.
>Berry could feel the pit inside her begin to burn.
>She could only imagine how Cheerilee feels.
>Or how hurt Pinchy would be.
>"You remember what you told me that day Cheery?" her thoughts began to drift to more meleanchoic days.
>Her head turned slightly in Cheerilee's direction.
>"The day you gave me a much needed wake up call" she dragged her hooves down her eyes.
>She took in a deep breath and sighed it out.
>"...You...you told me Pinchy" her voice broke into a sniffle saying the name.
>Wiping her eyes with her front leg she continued on.
>"...Pinchy asked you if she was a bad kid"
The floodgates were starting to crack
"You were drunk half the time, and hungover the other half" Cheerilee's eyes were focused on Berry's shuddering form.
"Pinchy thought...she was the reason you acted that way"
>And with those words.
>Tears broke on the poor mare's face.
>A anguished filled sob came from her throat.
>Her legs trembled as she sat on the floor again.
"And that day, you and I went through every cabinet, the fridge, and dresser."
"Dumping any booze we could find down the sink" her eyes glazed over as she remembered that day vividly.
"So yes, I do remember that day Berry"
>The schoolteacher stepped forward to her broken mess of a girlfriend.
>Her frown deepening the closer she was.
>With her hooves wide open, she wrapped them around the trembling mare.
>She tenderly stroked the back of her head.
>Berry's tears soaked Cheerilee's shoulder.
>"Pinchy deserves a better mom..." she sobbed bitterly into her girlfriend.
>She sniffled once more and blinked the tears from her eyes.
>"Ma-Maybe you should just take care of her Cheery"
>"You-you're a better m-mom than I could ever dream of being"
>This triggered something in Cheerilee's head.
>An instinct, a reaction, whatever you want to call it.
>It filled her with a sense of purpose.
>And she knew what it wanted her to do.
"Berry...Berry sweetie" she carefully moved Berry's head up from the floor and towards herself.
"Listen to me, this is the most important thing anypony will ever tell you"
>The crestfallen mare glumly nodded her head.
"Before I met you, I was stuck in a rut"
"Same old routine day in and day out"
"But, I never felt strong enough to do anything about it" her face glowed for a brief second.
"Well, until I met you of course"
>Berry's eyes were still shimmering under the kitchen light.
>Unsure of where Cheerilee was going with this.
"You weren't afraid to shake things up, let your mane down, and be wild"
>Cheerilee giggled slightly at that remark.
"But, underneath that I found the beautiful heart of the sweetest and kindest pony I've ever known"
"And in spite of the drinking, and in spite of the cravings" she continued.
"You never once wanted to give up"
>She closed her eyes and gave Berry a quick peck on the cheek.
"That sounds like a strong pony to me" whispering in her half drooped ear.
>Berry's lip quivered as her face was beginning to burn red.
>It was a bitter kind of happy.
>She tightened her hooves around Cheerilee and hugged with all her might.
>"I had help" Berry said almost choking on every word.
>Cheerilee returned the hug.
>But, she noticed the bottle still off to the side.
"Yes...yes you did"
>The two mares cuddled on the kitchen floor.
>Neither one of them bringing up the bottle the rest of the night.
>It was if it were invisible.
>Just vanishing out of sight.
>Maybe it was better that way.
>One day at a time.
>That's the only thing they're sure of.