It's been a year to the day. 365 multiplied by 24 equals 8706 hours wasted. Again.
"If I’d just use the time I spend filling up daytimers and making to-do lists on the things I actually want to do, I’d probably have achieved something worthwhile by now." Her mostly white, barely calico cat just stares at her then yawns and goes back to sleep.
Every night, she lies on the couch and imagines a different tomorrow. One where she wakes up and goes for a run; bathes and styles her hair. Brews a cuppa, reads a blog, enjoys a danish. All before catching the bus that takes her downtown to a job she loves.
Every morning, she rolls off the couch, races to the bathroom, and brushes her teeth in the shower. She hides her hair in a scrunchy and speeds down the street to a job she hates. The only thing that makes her day tolerable is her cubicle buddy.
Every Friday he brings her a small coffee and piece of fruit.
It isn’t until she flops into her chair that she realizes he isn’t there for their ceremonious we-made-it-through-another-week high five. She stands up to watch for him and celebrate beating him to work for the very first time. Instead she sees their boss approaching. He looks more unhappy than usual.
“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but Chris was hit by a car this morning while he was riding his bike to work.”
“Time’s up,” the instructor declared. This is the final time I can write this exam. My entire future depends on it. Leaving the lecture hall, I notice there are more first-timers than usual rushing to the bathrooms. Stress is an interesting thing. From headaches and breakouts to heartbreaks and blackouts, it’s a miracle students survive.
I close my eyes and stretch my neck; it cracks…vertebrae by vertebrae…as I drop my chin to my chest. “Third time’s the charm,” says a deep voice behind me. I quickly look over my shoulder to smile and nod when a pain grips my shoulder and radiates into the back of my skull. This is what I get for being polite. I tell the voice that I must get to a chiropractor. Then darkness.
A pungent smell of dried urine assaults my nostrils. My tongue sticks to a grimy tile as a large hand pulls my face from the cold floor. Two men murmur above me. I hear student of mine and almost dead. The voice. It’s the instructor. The horrific realization that I hadn’t failed those other exams grips my brain. The sick son-of-a-bitch stalker kept me in his class intentionally. The hand yanks my head back, peels my eyes open, and flips me over.
Plastic covers my mouth and my nose is pinched closed. I brace for more pain, but warm oxygen begins to fill my lungs. I gasp. The instructor commends the security guard and then whispers into my ear, “Next time.”
Today he turned 40. And what did he have to show for it? A less than comfortable relationship with his parents, no relationship with his sisters, and no wife or kids. Signing up for this jet-setting gig had seemed like a good idea at the time: good money, comping privileges, girlfriends galore. What more would a guy want? Then, not a thing.
But today would be his last day. One last return flight, one last call to his boss and one last big paycheck. “You will rent a car and drive home,” he said to the warped airplane mirror. Home, a place a child is always welcome, or so he hoped.
The landing was rough, but the phone call rougher. Breaking the terms of his contract, he’d only receive the base salary legally owed to him. Twelve years of being the top salesman and this was his fond farewell.
Starting the rental car, he realized it’d been a while since he’d last driven. “How different can it be,” he said. Eventually maneuvering his way out of airport traffic, he was finally cruising along the secondary highway towards home. Although this route added an extra hour, speeding along the interstate was not an option. His phone buzzed.
He glanced down and saw “…reconsider if….” He entered his password and typed “Thanks. But know.” Damn autocorrect, backspace…backspace… “no.” He smiled and glanced back up at the road.
The car crashed head-on with a truck. The word “delivered” flashed under his last text.
With their families no longer speaking to one another, let alone taking vacations and celebrating holidays, the two crossed paths under the stars and embraced. Then, a passionate kiss. “Are you ready for this?” They discuss their plan to fake their deaths and hitch their way to the more tolerant streets of San Francisco or Vancouver or anywhere…but here. They put the ’65 Volkswagen in gear before guiding it over the cliff. They watch the car flip and crash and begin to burn and smile. But realizing they left their runaway packs in the backseat drains all happiness from their faces and their hearts. “We have to get them.” They run down the road as far as they can and then stumble down the cliff. The smoke makes it hard to see and even harder to breathe. They can, however, hear the sirens loud and clear. Scraped, lashed, and bleeding, the authorities would assume they’d been thrown from the car. And, thanks to the mercy of the Almighty, both had been spared in spite of their wicked intentions and sinful ways. Reform was imminent. Flashlights begin to spot light all around them, and the two girls run: one towards what’s left of the back seat of the car, the other out of the streams of light. The car explodes sending huge razors of shrapnel in all directions. The one left hiding in what was darkness looks up and does not move as huge pieces of metal rain down upon her. [250 words]