So here is my (very unedited first draft) of my (very literal use of the prompt) story for Story A Day May, Day One.
She walked in the door. Before the latch clicked shut, she had already kicked off her shoes and she had one arm out of her jacket.
She made her way into the house, shedding outdoor clothing, her bag, her sunglasses, as she went.
The light on the phone was blinking to indicate a message, but she ignored it. She always ignored it and she wasn’t at all sure how many days the light had been blinking.
She kept moving. By the time she reached the bedroom, she was pulling her shirt over her head. She finally let herself breathe.
She needed the sharp division between out there and in here. She pulled on pyjama pants and a tank top and flopped down onto her bed.
What a day.
It wasn’t the worst day. It never felt like it was except in retrospect. She knew that she needed to find a new job, but she couldn’t bring herself to go through the necessary motions. Not just the looking for a new job, although that would be bad enough. It was the also the saying she was leaving and the preparing for a new person in the job — she didn’t even want to entertain what all would be involved. She had been there too long. She should have left years ago.
But it wasn’t just the job, of course. It wasn’t as if everything else in her life was all fine or anything. There was work and home and once she got home that was it for the day.
The phone rang.
She turned over and put the pillow around her ears. She hated answering the phone.
It kept ringing.
Ugh. She pulled herself up and went back through the house to the phone. She stared at it for a long moment and then picked it up. The display said PRIVATE and she hated that because it just meant that she could not make an educated decision before picking up.
She didn’t recognize the voice.
“Hi, Carl.” If she had a best friend, she supposed Carl was it. But, like her job, he existed in her life in a state of inertia. She liked him well enough and there was never any reason to cause a break with him.
“I hate to ask…”
Unfortunately, this was not the first time Jen had heard Carl begin a request with those words. He always hated to ask, but ask he always did.
“What is it?” She was afraid that she probably sounded too abrupt, too annoyed. That she had not made the effort to hide her immediate reaction. Because, the truth was, she did not overly mind. Not really. She never said no.
“Can you come pick me up?” He sounded apologetic, of course, and she suppressed the sigh that came to her unbidden.
“Where are you?”
“The hospital.” That was different.
“Why are you at the hospital?” Visiting a friend, she was sure. Registering for a charity run. It wasn’t as if those were not things that had happened before.
“I told you the other day, can’t you just come?”
She couldn’t have placed what it was in her that snapped, that was different, but the weight of everyday disappointments suddenly felt more than she could bear.
“No. You’re always doing this. Always asking, asking. It’s never what I want or what I’m doing or how am I or any of those things.”
She felt as if she were emptying everything, as if she were now a shell, but it felt good.
“What?” Carl sounded shocked and she thought that was good, too. He should be.
“I said no.” And she hung up the phone and sat down heavily on the floor beside it.
What had she done?
It felt good, it really did. She leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes. Maybe this was what she needed to do. Take some strong stances. Just say no.
Ha. Maybe Nancy Reagan had been right after all.
No. It was good.
She was not sure how long she sat there, but eventually she opened her eyes and stretched her legs and stood up.
The light on the phone base was still blinking at her. She picked up the receiver and punched in *98 for the messages.
Yes, yes, she was sure.
The first one was from the library. A book she had requested was in. She would pick it up tomorrow on her way home from work. She had been looking forward to it.
The next one was from Carl. That was weird, he didn’t usually leave messages.
It was Carl. And he was telling her how he needed some tests and could she pick up him after he had them. Because it wasn’t just that he would be unsteady, but he really needed someone to talk to. Because the doctor was fairly certain it was cancer and advanced at that and he just couldn’t take it on his own.