Hungry

The overwhelming smell of vanilla made Karen feel dizzy. She hadn’t eaten for much of the day and was unlikely to get a chance for more than a chocolate bar before dinner. She hated it when her life was like this – so overwhelmingly busy that she stopped taking care of herself. It was fine when it was something she wanted to do, but when it was other people’s crap, she just got annoyed.

Running to her next meeting, she cursed the biscuit factory next door. She walked into the room, late, as usual and nodded an apology to her boss. It was not well received, with Dr Johnston frowning and giving a slight shake of his head. He had been distracted during his presentation by her lateness and the room went quiet for a moment. The noise that came from her stomach was animalistic. Karen went bright red and knew there was no way she could pretend it wasn’t her – not with the entire room looking at her with disgust.

“Apparently, my stomach disagrees, Dr Johnston,” she quipped. He frowned even more and Karen sighed. 

 

She drove

She drove. The fog was thick and the road was empty. She had the heater on, but it took a long time to turn warm in this old bomb of a car. She watched the streetlights appear out of the fog and get brighter as they came closer. She felt a sudden understanding of perspective and lines and wish she’d understood this when her art teacher had tried to explain it back in year nine. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to be an architect now. Nothing mattered. She drove, watching the streetlights and wishing she was heading anywhere but the hospital. She drove.

Laundry

Cindy’s face went hot and then cold. She felt a wave of nausea and she closed her eyes, hoping when she opened them everything would be back to normal. She counted to twenty forwards and then, just for measure, backwards.

She opened her eyes but it was still there. Her mother’s favourite white, linen tablecloth. The one she was given as a wedding gift from her own, now late, mother. The one with hand made lace across the edging.

And a single red sock.

Battling technology

It didn’t work the first time or the second time. By the third time, she was clenching her teeth and getting angry.

“Come on, you bastard.”

Whilst she knew that yelling and swearing were not actually going to make a difference, it made her feel better. Although, if she thought about it carefully, it just got her more angry, raised her blood pressure and sometimes made her cry, just a little.

The paper scrolled through again. She kicked the wall.

“Work! You stupid piece of crap printer! I don’t know why you won’t just work!” She knew she was losing it when she started pleading. She angrily turned the printer and computer off, waited a minute, and then turned them back on. If this didn’t work, she was going to throw one, or possibly both of them, out the window.

She wondered if she was over reacting.

 

Alchemy

Studying the job section of the paper, Tamsin sighed. There was nothing in her field, yet again. She knew she should have studied something else. When she’d started the class, she thought alchemy was a self-starter. Turning metal into gold. But, as it happens, you still needed money to buy the metals. And it couldn’t be just any metal – the metal that turned into gold was actually not that much cheaper than gold. Plus, alchemy took far too long – seven years and you only got a few tens of thousands of dollars worth. Really, it would pay better to be a teacher.

Stood up

The ring of the message alert on her mobile startled her. Cathy realised she had been stirring the sugar into her cappuccino for ages – for much too long. She blinked and looked at the screen of her phone. Tiffany. She sighed. She’d obviously be having the coffee alone. As per usual. She licked the foam off the spoon as she opened the message, placing in order the likely excuses. First: I am so sorry, my alarm didn’t go off. Second: I am so hung-over, I can’t leave the house, and can you please do me the hugest favour and bring me a coffee? Please? Third: I’m not alone. (Giggling and some shushing of a boy in the background) Yeah, it was a great night last night, but I can’t make it. Fourth: Did we say ten or eleven? I’ve written down eleven, but I have a ghastly feeling… I’ll be there momentarily.

Cathy wondered if she should be so judgmental. She closed her eyes as the message opened.

“If it is not one of those, I promise I will never be judgmental of her ever again, I promise.” She thought to herself. She opened her eyes.

“Did we say ten or eleven?” Cathy didn’t bother reading the rest of the message. She turned her phone off and looked across the park, sipping her coffee and willing herself to be calm and tranquil. 

 

Pre-Wedding

Yet another nineties grunge song played out of Chris’ iPhone. Tony wished his brother would go through and update his iTunes, but knew that even if he did, all this crap would still be on it. Or worse. Perhaps he’d put on some doof. Tony sighed and tried to block it from his hearing.

It was putting him in a bad mood, and today was supposed to be a happy day. Finally, Chris was getting married. It was his day – well, his and Isabelle’s. Women always thought that weddings were for the bride, but Tony had been way more into both his weddings than either wife. He suddenly realised why he was so grumpy. Both his marriages had ended in divorce. Of course he was struggling to find the happy face that his brother deserved.

Chris pulled a half-empty hip-flask bottle of Jim Beam and a couple of plastic shot glasses. He poured two shots and pulled Tony to the table.

“Chris, shit, are you allowed to do this in the vestry?”

“No-one’s looking, you wuss.”

Tony pointed up.

“What about Him?”

Chris punched him and forced the shot glass into his hand.

“You know I don’t believe in all this bullshit. It’s for Belle and for Mum. Now, drink this. I reckon it’s the only way I’ll get that frown off your face. Three, two, one.”

They threw back the shots. Chris lined up two more in quick progression. Tony followed suit.

He poured the last dribble out into one glass and passed it to Tony. Tony shook his head. Chris laughed.

“You’ve got to, mate. It’s my fucking day!”

Chris shook his head but drank it.

Tony opened the door and threw the empty bottle and the glasses into a bush outside. He put his finger to his lips.

“Shh… don’t tell God!” He pulled out a roll of mints, took one and passed the pack to Chris. The minister opened the door.

“Tony, Chris, how are you?”

“Nervous. I mean, this is old hat for him,” Chris shoved Tony’s shoulder. “but it’s all new for me. I’m shitting myself.”

“Well, I’m, uh, certainly it is an exciting day, you have nothing to worry about.” Tony tuned out as the minister fumbled his way around Chris’s foul language and less-than-Christian comments. He picked up a bible from the sideboard. He wondered how different his life would have been had he not renounced God and the church when his son died. Three years old – God was a monster. Perhaps he and Mary would still be married. Perhaps there would be other kids. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

He took a deep breath and put the book back. The minister was leaving the room and Chris stared at him. He picked up the phone and turned it off. The room was silent a moment.

“Time to go, mate?”

Chris nodded. “Yup. Time to go.”

 

 

The morning after

The throbbing started during the night. She woke and took a few moments to locate the pain – her left shoulder. She rolled off it and lay for a moment, trying to remember what happened. It hurt badly, but then so did her head. Her mouth was dry and opening her eyes, she realised the wedge of light coming under the bathroom door was far too bright to be daylight. It was a late and very drunken night. She remembered slipping whilst she was brushing her teeth and laughing loudly. She licked her teeth – she could taste blood. She braced herself, and then got up and went into the bathroom. Opening the door, the fluro light stunned her for a moment. She gave her eyes a chance to adjust, then opened them and looked around, stunned. There were streaks of blood all over the room. The toothbrush lay discarded on the floor. She could see where she fell and where her hand had left bloody trails across the room.

She looked into the mirror and nearly fell over with shock. The right side of her mouth had a trail of blood leading out of it and it was smeared across her face and into her hair. She leaned forward to get the face washer off the tap and noticed something out of the corner of her eye. It was her shoulder. Somehow, she had grazed her shoulder and there was blood down her back. She looked around the room and quickly spotted her raffia clothesbasket in a crushed heap on the floor. She must have fallen and somehow injured herself on that.

She decided she would have to call in sick today. She’d known that the drinks that she’d had last night to celebrate the first day in her new job were a mistake. She just hoped she wouldn’t get fired.

Missing him

It was Thursday. She wasn’t sure how it was Thursday. It seemed only a few moments ago that it was Monday. She hated working away from her baby. She had been so sad to give up breastfeeding less than a month ago, but she couldn’t take her baby in to work, and now they’d sent her away for the week. She’d kissed her baby and put him to bed on Sunday night, and looked in quietly before sneaking out the door Monday morning.

“Don’t wake him,” David whispered. “Come on. Taxi’s here.”

David had dropped to part time and little Jon enjoyed his three days in day care. David had packed her into the taxi and given her a strong kiss. His breath was morning stale, but she didn’t mind. He’d put up with her regular messages, especially at night.

 

“Did you bath him?”

“Yes.”

“And read him a book?”

“Yes. Stop worrying.”

“Is he sleeping ok?”

“He’s fine. Get some rest, see you Friday.”

 

She had no idea of what she had achieved for the week. All she knew is that she couldn’t wait to be home. 

 

The constant drone

The constant drone rang in her ears, not loud enough to hurt, but loud enough to annoy. Karen sat on the couch and turned the television up. She hated the television, but since the radio had broken it was the only thing that gave her any escape. The light flickered through the flat. She looked around. This wasn’t what she’d planned on. A small flat on the second floor between two apartment buildings with a view of air-conditioning units and filth. She thought by the time she was forty she’d at least have a view. Even if it was of a brick wall, it would be better than this.

It was too hot to have the air con off, but too loud to sleep. She hadn’t sleep a full night for months, or so it felt. The clock read 4:24. Four hours until she had to leave for work.

Infomercial, infomercial, commercial, infomercial, infomercial, infomercial. There wasn’t even a decent crappy sitcom to take her mind off things. She drifted off, although whether you could call it sleep or not would be debatable. The next time she checked the clock is was 8:18. Now she barely had time for a shower. She threw herself in, threw herself out and tried to ignore the grit on the towel as she dried herself.

At work, she set up her workstation, checked herself in the mirror and nodded to the apprentice to send through her first client. The air conditioning unit coughed and kicked in. The pop music attempted to drown it out.

“Mrs Jackson! So, lovely to see you – just a trim? Fabulous! Oh, it is warm, isn’t it? Yes, thank goodness of air conditioning! Oh, you poor thing. It’s terrible when you can’t sleep.”

Her training had taught her to lie to the client. No client wanted a whinging hairdresser. She concentrated on cutting and tried to ignore the feeling that she was dying inside.