I set the shopping bag down on the floor of the foyer, just inside the door, and pushed the front door shut with my free hand. The house was perfectly quiet.
“Hello?” I said loudly. I leaned in and looked around the corner of the short wall into the sitting room. The room was empty except for Saffron. My portly black cat looked at me with one eye.
“Emma? Jane?” I said again. I kicked off my shoes and picked up the bag. It was heavy with groceries and a new writing pad that I had picked up on my way home from work. No answer from the girls met me as I padded into the kitchen in my sock feet. The jug of cranberry juice banged on the counter as I set the bag down. The juice sloshed around while I retrieved the other packages out first. I picked the jug up and turned to the fridge to put it away. My youngest daughter’s note was tape just above the fridge door handle.
“Gone to Kay’s – back for dinner” was scrawled in purple ink. I looked at my watch. 4:12pm. I put the remaining groceries away and left what was meant for dinner beside the stove. I wandered into the living room and sat down at my small folding desk. The house was not big enough to have a proper desk. The cheap aluminum tube and hard plastic folded flat against the wall when it wasn’t in use. It was rare that it wasn’t in use. I watched the yard through the window, while my laptop started to whirr and pop in front of me. I wanted to take advantage of the quiet time and work on a new story that had possessed me the night before. The screen remained blank. I got up and hurried into the kitchen to put on the kettle to boil water for tea. Three seconds passed and still nothing appeared on the screen.
“Dammit.” I said out loud. Saffron snored in agreement. I didn’t bother to scratch him in thanks. I punched the power button and waited for the laptop to power down. The itch to write was getting stronger. I could feel it niggling through my intestines and taking up residence in my lower ribcage. I stood up again and went to the book case. One shelf, the bottom one was overflowing with piles of papers and unused notebooks. I rifled through, looking for a fresh one to write on. I slid off the book with the iceberg photo I’d bought the day before and let it fall to the floor. The fifth notebook I pulled from the shelf seemed suitable. I rubbed my finger tips across the pristine paper. Instinctively I smelled it. I had been caught once smelling a new journal by my brother.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asked. I was sitting at the dining room table of the farmhouse with a new journal pressed to my nose. I looked at him over the red brocade cover, startled.
“Nothing” I said, quickly taking the book down and laying it on top of my math text book. He smirked at me.
“You were smelling that book weren’t you!?” he said, laughing in his condescending way; the fucker. I shook my head vehemently.
“No I didn’t.” I said.
“You did so. I just saw you. Don’t lie. You’re a book sniffer. Book Sniffer. Book Sniffer.” He said, gradually letting his voice get louder and louder. He ran from the room when I stood up to chase him. I could hear his voice echoing through the house.
I plunged my hand into my briefcase looking for a pen. I pulled out the folders and booklets like they were the guts of a fish, throwing them aside until I found what I was looking for. The pile of debris by my feet did not deter me from the new notebook clutched in my right hand. With my desk still full of laptop, I stomped to the dining room and sat down heavily at the end of the table. The notebook kissed the table with a loud smack. I stared at the first white sheet.
The kettle snapped off suddenly. My heart leapt to my throat and I jumped. I had forgotten about making tea. I stood up from the table too quickly. The dining room chair crashed onto the floor. I stepped over it and made my way to the kitchen. My favorite tea cup was waiting for me patiently by the sink. The solid red ceramic made me smile. I had no idea why, but it always did. Three minutes to fix the tea and find a snack. The clock on the stove blinked.
Back in the dining room, I hesitated to put my pen to the paper. I drummed my fingers on the desk. The hum of the fridge from the kitchen started to annoy me. I imagined that I could hear the ants walking around on the patio outside in the garden. They tapped on the glass as they wandered by. I pressed my knuckles into one side of my head, leaning against my hand, waiting for them to stop.
Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes, still resting my head on my forearm, and thought about what I would write. The story wound itself through my thoughts like a slow moving vine, wrapping around my bones and muscles, hauling itself up through my ribcage and came barreling through my heart. I could hear the pounding rhythm in my ears, ka-thump ka-thump. I held my breath. The beat slowed. Ka…… thump. I wondered suddenly about how long it would take for me pass out holding my breath. I thought of my younger sister who would do that as a child when she didn’t get her own way. My father would let her hold her breath, watching her face grow deeper shades of purple until she fell to the ground in a heap. My head slipped off my arm and hit the wooden table hard.
“Oh my god.” I said out loud. Saffron waddled in and meowed. I looked at my watch. 5:45pm. The front door rattled open and my daughters laughing and talking poured into the house.
“Hi Mom, we’re back.” They chorused. Emma and Jane were born eighteen months a part and were often mistaken for twins. I had no trouble telling them apart.
“What’s for dinner?” Emma asked. I groaned, rubbing the goose-egg sized bruise on my forehead.
“We’re ordering pizza.” I said, reaching for the phone. The brand new pad of paper mocked me as I threw the pen at it.