Raoul ordered another drink.

It was the best thing for him now, to stay here as long as possible and put off going home, where he would have to see the disappointment on Christine's face and the worry on Gustave's. Being drunk was better than being sober. Being drunk meant he didn't have to feel guilty about drinking. Being drunk meant he didn't have to feel anything.

It had seemed so insignificant at first; a drink here, a friendly game of cards there, nothing he couldn't handle. But his tabs and his bets had gotten larger and larger, until he could no longer look the other way. Raoul had promised himself, Christine, and Gustave that he would stop, that he would never drink or gamble again. He had broken that promise, and was continuing to break it.

If Christine was angry with him, she didn't show it. She had thrown herself into singing and caring for their son. Every so often, she would give him a look full of sadness and longing, and he knew she was wondering what had happened to the old Raoul, the Raoul who was her childhood friend, the Raoul she had married. She wanted that Raoul back. He would give anything to be that Raoul again for her, but it was too late. The longer he tried to resist the siren songs of the bar and the gambling house, the deeper he would be pulled in when he eventually succumbed to them.

No, it was better this way. Better not to prolong the inevitable by fighting it. The only ends for him were in debtors' prison or the gutter. Christine and Gustave would be free of the burden he placed on their shoulders. Raoul knew from previous failures that he didn't have the strength or the courage to change. All he could do now was grow numb. Each drink brought him closer to oblivion, away from shame and sorrow. Perhaps one day, he would fall into an unconsciousness from which he would never wake. He would no longer be able to hurt himself or the people who loved him most. Everyone would say it was before his time, but as far as he was concerned, his time could not come soon enough.

Raoul finished his drink and ordered another.