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Short Story 33

Just My Luck



I could hang out with her. Being a conscientious person this was an offer I did not make. There are people in life that a pleasant afternoon could be spent with little to no inconvenience. The one in question was not one of those people. She was rather a tyrant when it came to time, and also had strong expectations of other people, this also included rather low expectations or rather effort from herself. It was not her fault, she was in position of a rather low EQ score, which displayed her obvious lack of understanding for other’s emotions.


So, when the question was posed, I chose to keep my mouth shut and immediately began to consider excuses I could make if it was posed to me directly. One thought that first came to mind was to make an explanation that I had some kind of training to do that afternoon. The idea hit me that that sounded weird, but I felt I could go with it. Maybe I had gotten a new hobby like jogging or running. That was possible. Yeah, I was going to go out and practice for a marathon I was training for. Yeah, I was going to do the jogging challenge where you ran to Mordor and back. That sounded fun. How cool would that look.


It struck me shortly after the construction of this particular plan how much work that would take, my friends being both vindictive and scrupulous enough to check up on me. I didn’t like to do my usual morning workout let alone jogging the distance between two fictitious places. My exhaustion with the idea quickly made me dispense with it. Even though I was searching for some kind of lie to tell people, just the idea of the amount of work it would literally take to achieve it, even if I had no plans of doing it was too much.


I could say I was taking an overtime shift that night. But I never took overtime. I hated over time. I hated my work. I did it because I had to live. Who knew my degree would only get me some uncomfortable office job. I hated the idea of pretending that it was worse than running.


I could always say I was going on a date. Wait, no one would believe that.


Maybe I should just concede and say yes. Just to make things easier for everyone else. It wouldn’t be that much to submit to a few hours with one of the most blank and selfish people I knew, right? I mean it wouldn’t be that bad.


She did have a habit of always asking others to pay for everything. She also only agreed to go to places she wanted to go to or see movies she wanted to see. That wasn’t all that terrible. I mean it was something I could stand. It wasn’t that bad and carrying the load for others was no big deal. Unless she was in a bad mood, then her choice of preferred objectives would change in a worse way for the one forced to be with her.


But as I processed all this, I began to wonder why I was friends with her in the first place. Why any of us were. Is that such a terrible thought to have? To wonder over? I mean we met in college, and she was a really good student. She helped with our study group. I think it was that that helped her melt in. She always makes jokes that none of us would have passed if it wasn’t for her. If that is the case, she could have done more to help me get a better job after school.


Now I’m irritated. I mean, how can she take credit for that. It’s not like she studied for us, she was just a part of the group and good at taking notes, that’s it. But we are supposed to credit it to her. Oh yes, we wouldn’t have such nice paying jobs if it wasn’t for her. Sure. Uh just thinking about it makes me so angry I can taste bile.


The conversation at the table continued as most try to put up some kind of fuss about what they were doing and what had to get done. No one wanted to be placed with the responsibility of helping her fill in a few hours.


It’s terrible, but as I listened, I began to feel… pity. The most manipulative of all emotions. Sometimes it is for a good cause and others it is the noose to secure you to something worse. I sipped my drink and began to consider how lonely it would be to have people debating over whether or not they wanted to spend time with me, or more accurately stand to spend time with me. To know that the answer from most was no. No, they didn’t. To hear the excuses and be plagued by the thought that not one of them could bend themselves to the idea. It was, frustrating.


The thought revolved aggressively in my mind. There had to be some kind of plausible win win for everyone. Certainly, we could come up with some idea. Maybe if more than one person agreed to spend time with her, then it would be more of a united front. It would make the battle lines easier to withstand, we could get through it as a team and maybe even enjoy ourselves while doing so. Maybe. Maybe that would work.


It seems strange to be arguing over such a thing, for what, a college study partner. It would be a lie to say it was that simple. But the truth was even more difficult to explain. We couldn’t leave until we had agreed. Once the request was made someone had to subscribe to it.


It was just inserting myself at this point would be difficult and despite the fact that it was a good idea that more than one of us go, it would be rejected. On that point I was very sure. There was no reason for anyone to agree to it. Suffering together was still suffering after all. And not only that but we were more friends by circumstances then want.

“Let’s pull lots.” Marco pulled toothpicks from the small canister on the table beginning to break them, “Longest goes.”


“Why longest.” Jenna was defensive and irritable; she had spent the last forty minutes complaining to anyone who would listen through the throng that she had a proposal she had to have done by the end of the week. It was Thursday.


“Fine shortest pick then.”


“How do we know you won’t pocket the shortest.” Steven was a nurse and had run several over nights shifts that week, he had expressed absolute desperation to have a free time.


“I will take the one that is left over. You will be able to see it with your own eyes.”


“I think one of us should pull it out of your hand and put it in front of you.” Gloria worked in school administration, she had the nicest job out of all of us, but she wouldn’t let anyone believe it.


“Fine, let’s just get this over with.”


“First, we need to clear back the stuff on the table, so no one can pull anything.” That was Ronald, he generally had a bad personality and worked in local government, the joy of nonelected officials.


We scrambled to do as was asked, the table mostly clean, the dishes stacked at the end where the waitress could grab them without disturbing us. We sat for a few minutes looking between each other before finally we began to pick our poison. The toothpicks chosen; they were laid on the table. Marco’s put before him by Gloria.


The small bits of wood were laid out. Our hands were over them, hiding our nightmare. Tension spread across the table. We looked at each other like enemies. But wasn’t that what we truly were to one another.


“On the count of three.” Marco glanced between us, always the most composed.


We nodded in response.


“One,” His voice was steady, the delicate trembling hardly audible, “Two, three.”


Our hands lifted, our eyes going to our own before each other’s. The lot, it landed on me. There was visible relief from those around the table. It was fine, I couldn’t blame them. I know I would be much the same as them if in theirposition. I had been several times before.


“Don’t worry, it’s not going to be that bad.” I didn’t look up at Marco, his voice drifting in without registering.


“I guess this means I don’t have to pay my part of the bill,” I stood wanting to get this over with, without having to stay stand around receiving snickering condolences, “I’ll leave first then. See you next time.”


No one said anything in response to me and so I left. I didn’t want their pity, it would have been one of the great evils at that moment to see it or express it, just second to their obvious joy over my winning, or should I say losing, the game of lots.


It was dark out already, it was no surprise that it had taken all day for us to decide. My feet found the path, I knew where I was going without having to think. The building developed. I went to the keypad and put in the numbers. The front doors slid apart exposing a freight elevator.


I stepped inside. There were no buttons, there was nothing other than the doors behind me and those in front of me. Those I had entered through closed with a soundless motion. I began to move upward. The slow pull to the top was arduous, but no more so than the process of being chosen.


There was a momentary pause at the top and then the doors in front of me parted exposing a modern foyer dressed in polished slate with gray walls and dark wood accents. I took off my shoes leaving them near the entrance. There was no point in delaying the inevitable. I couldn’t even feel horror as I walked forward to that end.


Down a hall I entered a large room. Everything was opulent and simple. It was a strange world where things blended becoming muddy and mysterious. Huge, tinted windows faced out toward the city. A woman sat on downy carpet near the windows her back to me. She turned without my needing to say or do anything to garner attention. With a warm smile and eyes like hard steal she naturally said, “I was hoping it would be you.”




End



Thank you so much for reading everyone!!



Prompt Sentence: I could hang out with her


Word Count: 1794


©DecemberKnight 2023


Special thanks to Julian Hochgesang from Unsplash for the use of the image!


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