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Short Story 31


Mary realized if her calculator had a history it would be more embarrassing than her computer browser history. Though in truth the two put together would make the other make more sense, it was none the less incredibly difficult to admit, with clearly displayed facts what a failure she was. The old saying, ‘numbers don’t lie,’ ran through her head on a never-ending circuit.

It was fine, she could figure something out. She just had to imagine a way to pay down her credit cards, that was all. There was nothing all that difficult, other than the fact that she had no money to eat with that week after general expenses were paid, and there was the little problem of the overdue water bill. But the biggest dilemma, the one that had caused it all, was that her rent had gone up over a hundred dollars last month, which was the very reason, not excuse as some liked to tell her, that the water bill was overdue.

The pressure of her teeth on her lips was beginning to create an indentation, she pushed them out, free at last from the white vice, a pout puffing them moodily out, creating an expression much like an upset child. It was horrifying. In school she had always been the best at balancing her imaginary budget, but real life was so much crueler than practice. But that was life, right. Real life was the only thing that could give a graduate’s certificate in the school of hard knocks. It was a general degree most couldn’t get past no matter what they tried to do. There was no such thing as practice or make up tests. There was always something in life that could surprise you and prove that there was no way to prepare for everything. A sea of pop quizzes that were impossible to study for.

Pressing the power button on her phone she turned it off, removing the face of the calculator from her sight. This action was quickly followed by a jam to the power button on her laptop which quickly took from sight her bank statement and bills behind an accompanying screen of blackness.

It was impossible. Moving away from her desk Mary went to the small kitchen set to the far right of her bed. She filled her kettle with water from a bottle in her dorm sized fridge, setting it on the stove top of her oven hardly large enough to cook a chicken breast. As the fire started beneath it, she found herself longing for just one additional room, just a bedroom, or even a loft, at least if she had that she could avoid having her bed clothes smelling like whatever she managed to make in her Barbie sized kitchen.

She would have liked to eat out, but unlike what the grocery prices would have you believe it was far too expensive and she would never submit to it unless someone else was paying. It had been a long time since something like that had happened. She had been reusing the same coffee cup from a ritzy bistro, filling it with standard coffee and dropping a few ice cubes in. It made her look fancy while sparing her wallet, not that it helped her palate. She was disdainfully aware that she had long since tanned her tongue.

It was pointless to admit to herself that she shouldn’t have moved out here for an internship. She was lucky to have gotten the position. It had been such a great opportunity; it was even paid. But it wasn’t enough for city living, even when they gave her a full-time position. Everything was too expensive, maybe that’s because everything had to be trucked in.

Running a hand through her dark hair she gave up on trying to understand what was going on. There was no point, it was a mess no matter what way she looked at it, and no matter how she tried it didn’t make sense. Even when she looked over the receipts, she could understand how it had made sense at the time and not now.

She would have no choice but to call her mom tomorrow. There was nothing that her mom would say that she didn’t look forward to, her parents were very supportive in general, she just knew that the life presented, the one that had glittered before her, the one that had been painted so sweet and beautiful was nothing like what it had been advertised. Maybe it was because dreaming about it and experiencing it were two very different things.

The kettle whistled, she took a cheap bag of tea out of a jar on a shelf above the sink, plopping it into a chipped ceramic mug, she scalded it with the hot steamy water that so easily burped from the stout neck of the kettle. Maybe, it was a good thing this was happening now. She laughed turning the egg timer near the oven to three minutes. Dreams are never what you picture. They’re beautiful while you’re having them but when you open your eyes and look around it makes reality disappointing.

There was no point in being frustrated, no use crying over spilled milk as the saying went. Adjusting her robe collar, she took a seat on the small sofa at the end of the bed. It was funny to think her childhood bedroom was larger than this.

Mary sighed pulling up her legs, exposing the pantlegs of her long gray pajama bottoms. It was difficult to think of it as giving up. She didn’t want to look at it that way. She had learned something, she had come to understand herself better. It was good. She would go back for now and regroup it was fine.

The egg timer screamed with the voice of a shrill bell. Standing she plucked the tea bag out of the hot water, tossing it into the tiny trash can that had always seemed to her like a coffee tin. That was the funny thing about living in the city, everything was big as long as it didn’t belong to you. Oh, yes, everyone talked it up. I have a hundred and fifty square foot apartment all to myself, it has a kitchen like a child’s plaything and a bathroom like a match box, but I’m so happy. I’m independent.

She blew the steam and for a moment and felt an insurgence of relief. It was almost maddening to have to make everything work. It had been so hard to keep things going as they were. She worked at a job that had seemed so promising and now she hated. It didn’t pay the bills and now her credit was shot from just inflation and expenses. There was something warming to it something beyond the hot tea scolding her throat filled with a damp under steeped taste. There was something to learning about herself, something to understanding what she wanted now. It was relieving.

Tucking her legs beneath her on the small armchair at the end of her bed, there was a part of her that was happy the decision had been made for her. If she thought about it that was exactly what had happened. It wasn’t that tragic and she wouldn’t cry about it or try and make it work. She would sell everything she could and start over. Move away from the city, maybe even live with her parents for a little while, and then restart.

Somehow this conclusion was more relieving than she had imagined it would be. It was like playing a video game and pressing the reset button. She just had to go back to the last place she had saved, the only difference was she couldn’t rewind to the age she was when she began. But it wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t so terrible to realize your dream wasn’t everything you had thought it would be, she would be far more of a failure now to continue on with the farce and pretend she could go it all on her own and continue to be happy.

A smile, soft, and piteous edged across her face, an unwelcome and yet expected guest. In a strange way it would be good to be home. She was actually looking forward to it.


Thank you so much for reading everyone!!

Prompt Sentence: Mary realized if her calculator had a history it would be more embarrassing than her computer browser history.

Word Count: 1393

©DecemberKnight 2023

Special thanks to Barbara Webb from Pexels for the use of the image!

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