It’s been a few years since I participated officially, but I’ve always played along at home. This year, to try a twist, I’ll be writing my piece right here. Suddenly, I feel a little naked. Writing without a net can be pretty exciting, so let’s see what happens.
Sarah slumped into her seat on the bus, exhausted. Weighted down with a purse, a briefcase and a laptop case, she thought the pain in her shoulder would be a permanent fixture until she retired a few decades in the future. This, she thought to herself, was not the cruise I signed up for.
Nearly an hour later, the bus pulled into the stop closest to her apartment and she gathered her wits and her belongings to elbow her way to the door. While not exactly fresh, the air outside the bus was much less stifling than the air inside, so she paused to take a deep breath before tackling the two block walk to her building. When she managed to make it home from work in a good mood, she enjoyed the stroll through the neighborhood. Today was not one of those times, and she found herself irritated by the crowd, the smells coming from the restaurants, even the unevenness of the sidewalk was annoying her. Finally, she found herself at the door of her building. Shifting her belongings to free up a hand, she dug out her key and promptly dropped it on the sidewalk.
“Fuck,” she said, under her breath.
“Can I help?” Sarah turned to see Mr. Stevenson, the upstairs neighbor, who was holding his dog and smiling. He stooped an grabbed her key from the ground, wiping it quickly on his pants before handing it to her.
“Thanks,” Sarah replied, and even managed a half-hearted smile. “It’s been one of those days.”
“Any time, dear.” He paused and gave Sarah a concerned look. “Why don’t you and Mack join me and Regal here for dinner? I made a big pot of chili and if you don’t come share it with me I’m liable to eat it all myself.”
Sarah groaned inwardly, but melted a bit at the sight of Mr. Stevenson’s eagerness. She knew he had been terribly lonely since Mrs. Stevenson had passed away, and Lord knows she didn’t feel like cooking anything. “OK,” she nodded. “We’d love to.”
“Fantastic! Come by in about an hour?”
“Sounds great, we’ll be there. Thanks so much for inviting us.” Sarah flashed him a smile, a real one this time, before she made her way into the foyer and up the four flights of stairs to the tiny apartment she shared with her husband. She keyed the lock, careful to pull the knob up and towards her slightly while cursing the quirks that made living in an old building less charming than frustrating. With a bump from her hip, the door finally relented and swung open.
“Hey, baby, welcome home!” Mack called from the bedroom where Sarah could hear his computer reading aloud an article about the most recent political scandal. It stopped abruptly as Mack hit pause and he made his way to the main room of the apartment, trailing his hand along the wall. “I missed you. How was work?”
Sarah smiled, feeling some of the day’s irritation start to dissipate, and met him by the stove to give him a kiss. “It sucked a big bag of dicks. But I’m home, and I don’t have to go back for twelve whole hours. Mr. Stevenson invited us over for dinner tonight, he made chili. I told him we’d come, I hope it’s okay?”
“A big pot of chili and witty conversation sounds like a pretty good plan to me. Beats staying in and watching crap on TV with Chinese takeout.” Mack leaned in for another kiss, which Sarah obliged. “What time?”
“In an hour. I’m going to go drop all my stuff in the bedroom and freshen up a little. I feel like I smell like bus exhaust.”
“You smell like unicorns and sunshine to me.”
“Liar,” Sarah laughed, reaching up to tousle his bright red hair.
Mack continued into the small sitting area, keeping his hand on familiar objects until he found the couch. Sarah paused, instinctively protective, to make sure he made it safely to a seated position before heading to their bedroom to change.
Mack had been sighted when they met, and through most of their courtship. His vision loss had been gradual, over several years, but he’d been prepared. Sarah marveled at how easily he seemed to adapt to the changes he had to make in his life, she figured she would have alternated between kicking and screaming and denial if it had happened to her. But not Mack. Mack set his jaw and faced it head on, which was one of the things she loved about him. Except in those less than stellar moments when she resented the sacrifices she had to make in her own life to make their life together work. She tried to avoid or ignore those moments, with varying results.
More later on this evening!