She didn’t know what she was thinking. She shouldn’t have come here. She should never have said yes. Never in a million year, she would have imagined herself in such a situation.
She looked at her reflection in the mirror: why did he pick her in the first place? What did he see in her that she couldn’t? Why did he insist over and over again?
She looked at her face – her tired eyes from the lack of sleep all week. She couldn’t stop worrying about tonight. She opened her purse and took out her pencil case. She put on a little make-up and hoped she looked alive.
A gentle knock on the door followed by his gentle voice.
“You alright there, Annie?”
“Yes, yes I’ll be out in a minute.”
“Alright. All is set in here.”
She was not even ready but she didn’t want him to get impatient. In any case, if she stayed more than a minute in this bathroom, she was sure that she’d talk herself out of this. Maybe she should though. She removed her pants and top then stood in her underwear in and stared at the mirror again. Luckily he snatched her out of her thoughts before they could start.
“Would you like something to drink? I can make coffee.”
“I’m good, thanks.”
She removed the remaining clothing items and took the white bathrobe that he had prepared for her. She put it on and took a deep breath.
She unlocked the door then slowly opened it.
And there he was, all dressed-up but barefoot. His blue jeans and white shirt. His dark skin. His beautiful face. His brown eyes. What did he see in her?
He came closer.
“Shall we start?”
She nodded. He led her to his bed.
“If you could just lay here, it’d be perfect.”
She responded quickly to his request.
“Oh right!” She sat back up and removed the robe as he looked away. Who were they kidding? In less than a minute, he was going to see everything.
He walked towards the tripod and stood behind his camera. She let the robe fall to the floor and lied back on the bed. She shivered as her body touched his blue bed sheet.
She shook her head.
She smiled. He smiled back and looked at her through his camera.
CLICK. The first picture.
She blushed even more.
“You were always the quiet one.”
She smiled and thought that maybe they could – eventually – become friends.
An hour passed.
Two hours. He would come closer, take his pictures then stand by the entrance and take some more. They never took a break, he was in “the zone”. But she was exhausted and sore. The lights on her. The camera on her. His eyes on her. She never liked to be the centre of the attention.
Another hour passed and she couldn’t wait to hear these words:
“Okay, I believe we’re done for the day.”
He smiled as she relaxed for a moment then quickly wore back the robe. He laughed.
“Beautiful work. Beautiful girl.”
He came closer to her. She stopped moving as he kissed her lips softly. So much for becoming friends, maybe they’ll become lovers instead.
“So same time next week?”
“I’d like to do this on a regular basis.”
Maybe she’ll become his muse.
She shrugged: “Um sure.”
His smile widened and he kissed her again.
“Perfect. You’re a natural.”
She smiled nervously. Natural? Natural at what? Lying naked on a bed? That required talent indeed.
As she drowned in her thoughts again, he stood up and reached his wallet left on his desk and took out a hundred-dollar bill. He came closer to her and handed over the bill. She looked at him in disbelief.
“Patrick told me you needed cash.” He smiled and put the money in her palm. “Don’t worry, this will be our little secret.”
She stood there in silence unable to speak, not sure how to feel.
He pointed to his laptop. “I’ll check how the pictures turned out. Feel free to put your clothes back on, or just stay as you are. I don’t mind.”
He sat on his bed, connected the camera to the computer. She took a step back to the bathroom as the last hope of them ever becoming friends or lovers vanished into thin air.
Him: Why are you depressed, Jennifer? What’s your story?
Me: Well… I recently lost someone very dear to me. So it’s been a hard couple of months, to say the least.
Me: Yeah. One of my closest friends, Jeremy passed away. Umm… It’s so weird how humans just vanish in seconds. Jeremy is… well was such an incredible person and now he’s gone, in a blink of an eye. The irony is that just a few minutes before he passed, we were talking on the phone about our plans for the evening. It was a Saturday, mid-September. We were going to eat oysters, drink some wine then head home and have a Chaplin movie marathon. We were going to pull an all-nighter and on Sunday we were going to brunch with some friends. But you can guess the rest, he didn’t make it to dinner. I remember receiving that call at 5:34 PM. I see his name popping up on my phone. I pick it up: “You miss me already!” “Jenny?” I didn’t recognize the voice. “Who is this?” “I’m afraid your friend has been in an accident and you were the last person he called. He’s in the hospital and we need you to come down as quickly as possible.”
Me: You can imagine how I looked at the time. Colorless. Lifeless. I remember reaching this hospital after calling everyone I knew. I saw the doctors, the nurses, the interns. The moment I saw their long faces staring at me, feeling sorry for me, I knew I lost him.
Me: It’s been months now and things are only getting worse. I’ve started drinking on a daily basis, I quit my job, rarely leave the house unless I run out of alcohol. I’ve cried myself to sleep for the fourth time in a row this week and it looks like tonight will be no exception. I’ve tried so many different sleeping pills in the past few months but nothing seems to work for me. I’ve been to Church, fought with God, got mad and left. I’ve tried boxing too: in other words, releasing my anger while hitting a man who could effortlessly – if he wanted – beat me up within seconds. So I stopped after three sessions.
Me: I keep remembering stuff that I try so hard to forget. And I’ve reached a point where I don’t understand my own feelings. Whenever I talk to people about how I feel, they only tell me that I should be more positive, that things will get better in time, that I have to put my heart and soul into changing. Easier said than done, to say the least. One of my friends advised me to get fifteen minutes of daylight every day and follow a diet. Like that’s going to help. Oh, and should I remove the only thing bringing me some joy, aka burgers? I think not!
Me: I read this stupid article recently about overcoming depression and sadness. You know what the first tip was? “Be happy”.
Me: “Be happy”. Thank you. Like really, this was the much-needed advice that I was looking for. “Be happy”, “Stop being sad”. It’s like telling a homeless person to “stop being poor”! Oh, wait someone did do that!
Me: Hilarious. “Be happy”. Alright, I’ll be happy. I’ll show you fucking happiness! “Be one with nature”, “Live the fullest”. People just don’t understand. Well to be fair, most people, not all of them. Last week, another friend suggested that I join this group therapy, said I could talk to you guys and hear your stories too, so here I am. *AWKWARD LAUGH* I prepared my speech and all, worked hard on it. Didn’t realize it was going to be this long.
Him: It’s okay. Let it all out.
Me: Yeah. Umm, I’m miserable, I’m depressed, I’m always in a bad mood and I’m really tired. I’m putting too much effort into smiling and laughing. So I thought, why not? Why not come here and talk about my life while you listen? I never got the chance to do so before. I thought I’d come here. Even if my story wasn’t as tough or tragic as some of your stories that I heard during our meeting today, I thought you’d still like my captivating storytelling techniques and maybe the Creative Writing workshop that I took last year didn’t go to total waste…
Me: *AWKWARD LAUGH* The end… and queue the applause! *LAUGHS*
Him: Thank you, Jenny, for sharing your story and your pain.
Him: We know how hard it must have been on you but sharing makes us feel less alone.
*EVEN MORE APPLAUSE*
Someone: What happened to him?
Someone: Jeremy, how did he die?
Someone: Jeremy, your friend, how did he die?
Me: Oh that small part wasn’t true. None of my friends passed on recently. Oh and yeah I don’t know anybody called Jeremy.
Someone: And the story you just told. What about it?
Me: I’m really depressed and it was the only way people would sympathize and listen to me. I did get your attention, no?
Me: I’m really sad but I don’t have a sob story. Is that so wrong?
This first challenge was triggered as I was checking BOOKFOX and I found its first line generator tool. I refreshed the generator once and got a really interesting first line. I think I’ll do more of these challenges, so feel free to suggest first lines or ideas.
He knew that 95% of people in plane crashes survive, but he was shaking uncontrollably because that five percent was enough to terrify him.
He was breathing heavily, turning his head left and right without really seeing anything. Five percent meant that out of a hundred passengers, five were living their last moments.
“Ma’am, you need to stay calm. We have the situation under control.”
They were at least three hundred passengers on that flight. Not to mention the flight crew. Five percent meant that at least twenty were going to perish in a few seconds.
His eyes widened. He didn’t want to become just a number on the news tomorrow. He’d rather be the only one dying on this damned plane and have his full name and biography on TV. Maybe they’ll mention his achievements and his dedication to work.
Exhibit A: he was killed on a business trip while attending a conference that he didn’t give a single damn about. Maybe it’s a good thing that this plane is crashing, he was going to be saved from hours and hours of speeches and nonsense. He did joke about it just a few hours before take off. Maybe this whole disaster is his own fault.
He shivered as he saw hundreds of motionless bodies and a plane in pieces stranded on the shore. He pictured himself sinking in the Atlantic ocean, rescue teams searching for him. His parents watching the news, crying and praying. He saw her face, she was in grief, her mascara ruined, but looking prettier than ever. Would she forget about him? Would she ever fall for someone else? He should have proposed to her when he had the chance but he always waited for the right time. God he felt like a total idiot!
He thought of all the opportunities he was going to miss on, because he didn’t grow a pair and told his boss “no, I don’t want to go this time”. He was never going to travel the world with his sweetheart. Never going to marry her. Never raise a family he always dreamed of. Never know what it’s like to be a parent and it’s a damn shame because he thought he’d make a decent one. He was never going to meet his kids, take them in his arms, hug them tight, read them a book, kiss them goodnight, save them from monsters under their beds.
“Please sir, keep your seat belt on.”
He looked to his left and saw the panic in everyone’s eyes. Even her in her blue uniform, he could see how scared she was as she made sure everyone’s safety. He could feel that she was not ready for this to happen and her safety demonstration earlier was a script well memorized. Who was he to judge her though? This was probably her third flight this week and was eagerly waiting to go home. She’s probably wishing she never took this job. He wanted her to look at him, he wanted her to know that he understands. But she was too busy trying to keep a man in his seat. Why must everyone make her job ten times harder than it already is?
He turned to the couple sitting on his left. She was crying and he was holding her tight, he was crying as well. He couldn’t help but wishing he wasn’t alone in this. He didn’t want any more casualty but he could use a hand to hold. Her hand to hold as the plane crashes. He wanted to kiss her one last time and smell her again. He wanted to watch another beautiful sunset by her side and tell her that it’s not as beautiful as her and she would blush and smile. He was never going to see her smile again.
And his mind jumped from a thought to the other like a series of hyperlinks: I’ll never know who won the election, the Bad Hombre or the Nasty Woman. I’ll never know how “How To Get Away With Murder” ended. I’ll never go to the movies again. I’ll never listen to my favorite song again. I’ll never watch football again. I’ll never have a good meal again. Can’t believe my last one was a gluten free plane platter! Screw these new trends!
He couldn’t help but laugh. At least he could still laugh through this awful situation.
He did feel guilty about laughing though. These were terrible last moments and he needed to focus. He had so many mental messages that he wanted to send and there wasn’t much time left. He wished he had a piece of paper to write it all down. Note to self: buy a notebook for future flights. He thought about that for a moment and felt deeply saddened by the idea. These were terrible last moments and these were his last moments, thoughts, breaths on planet earth.
As his life flashed before his eyes and tears ran down his face, the plane kept falling at a scary rate. He looked through the window. Despite the speed of the fall, he could still see the sunset, more beautiful than ever. He could feel the end coming closer. He could see the ocean getting closer.
He closed his eyes, saw her face on a happy day and couldn’t help but smile. She was perfect and he was so lucky to be a part of her life. He hoped she knew exactly how he felt about her. He hoped she knew she was his very last thought.
It was a sunny Sunday in Sunnyside.
It was the first sunny day in ages. Coldest winter in twenty years.
Sun was shinning. Clear blue skies.
It was such a perfect day.
Almost because there was a funeral in Sunnyside that sunny day. But the world wasn’t affected at all. It was happy.
She stood there staring at the happy world. She stood there staring at the sun. It was almost mocking her. But she wouldn’t take it, not today. She looked away.
She looked around her: they were all in black, all of these people she’s never seen before. They were in black because you must wear dark colors in funerals. And yet here she was, in her blue jeans and her favorite beige scarf. Luckily she managed to find a decent black shirt and a jacket. Good thing she had a pair of black boots.
She observed these people in black but couldn’t focus on their faces. The sun was blocking her view. She was sure it was just there to provoke her. But she wouldn’t take it.
No sir, not today.
She turned, stared right at it and stuck her tongue out.
What a mature person I’m turning into. My parents would be so proud, she thought.
Right on queue.
She walked away from the sun and stood next to her grandparents. Both in tears.
She stood next to them silently. Head down. Crossed arms. These situations were way too awkward for her to handle. Silence was the best policy.
She looked at the devastated faces in front of her. Fools. She was a fool once. She grew up thinking that family was the most important thing, that her parents were the best.
She spent all of her time with them and couldn’t care less about making friends outside of the family circle. She had the perfect family anyway. The family everyone wished for.
She was a fool then, but not anymore. She grew and started to notice things. She began to understand adults, their lies and their betrayals. She figured their secrets, their plans and their priorities. Her world started to fall apart. She didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.
She experienced anger, sadness sometimes hate. She couldn’t stand it. She no longer wanted to stay there, no longer wanted to be a part of this, no longer wanted to live another day by their side. This was no perfect family. This was no perfect life. Her world was shattered. She wanted to run away but kept postponing.
She was scared and thought she couldn’t manage living without them. She barely knew how to speak up. She barely knew how to survive. So she always stayed, despite the regular fights, the hurtful comments, the lack of freedom but she didn’t mind that much, it was nothing she couldn’t handle.
Until that year. An unbearable year where the load was too heavy to carry. She learned to keep her distance, stayed quiet. But whenever she was approached, she would snap and get mad. And it kept happening. For months. Fights. Arguments. Yelling. Screaming.
She knew she lost control over herself but it was expected. She couldn’t ease her pain anymore, she wanted to fight, argue, yell and scream. Things would be quite without her. She was ready at that moment. She was ready to leave.
But she didn’t have to. Because came that day. A gloomy Saturday morning in Sunnyside. There was a gun shot then another. That hunting rifle had a purpose after all.
Things will be quite in this house. She just wanted peace and she got it. She was going to find herself. She was going to enjoy her teenage years. She was going to live a normal life. “Normal” she laughed. Nothing will ever be normal.
But at least, she was going to get away. A more importantly, she was going to rest. Finally.