Home » Short stories » Short story: “What a Difference a Day Makes”

Short story: “What a Difference a Day Makes”

Wrote something interesting enough to share today, something nice and optimistic!

It almost felt like something that could be expanded into something longer, but I do feel like short stories is a good thing for me to focus on right now.

***

That day had started off all wrong.

At first the alarm had not gone off when it was supposed to, or perhaps she’d just been so tired that she’d slept right through it. Somehow. Then there had been precious little time to have any form of breakfast and after splashing some water on her face and pulling on her clothes she’d just had time to down some milk before she had to rush out the front door.

As she made a run for the train it slowly sunk in that she had had no time to fix her unruly hair, she had put on not a speck of make-up and she was pretty sure she’d forgotten her cellphone on the nightstand. She cursed under her breath.

There was no time to do anything about that though, she’d just have to hope no one would notice her rough appearance and that she’d not really need her phone today. That no one would try to reach her during the day. It still bothered her intensely that she did not have everything in order, that she had been forced to skip some crucial steps in her morning routine.

She needed her routine to keep herself sane and together.

Of course the train was late.

She told herself it was to be expected, Murphy’s Law and all that. As she stomped and fumed silently she couldn’t help the thoughts that she might have had time to collect her cellphone at least, if she’d only known that the train would be late. Which she might have been able to know if she’d not forgotten it in the first place.

It was with a headache slowly building somewhere behind her eyes that she got on the train and saw an older woman with a smug look take the last empty seat on the very full train. She had about thirty minutes of standing to look forward to, unless someone got up. Not likely this time of day.

Her lack of breakfast had made itself known by the time she got off the train, feeling more tired than she’d felt when she first woke up and the headache throbbing away. There was just enough time to buy a banana, a bottle of water and an overpriced, dry sandwich from the newsstand close to her office. She downed the water immediately to dispel the headache, but then she slipped on the floor in the lobby and the banana almost exploded against the marble floor.

She had to toss it in the trash.

The elevators filled up before she could get to them and she had to take the stairs, unless she wanted to be the last one in to the morning meeting. Again.

That was not the kind of shame she wanted to experience for a second time. Look at Orderly Alice, arriving late even though she seems to think so highly of herself. Too good for this place.

It would be a lie to say that she liked her job, but there wasn’t much else she thought she could do. It’s the only job she’d ever had and she wasn’t horrible at it. And with the economy today…No, there was no way she could quit.

Though when she stumbled onto her floor with aching calves and a sense of vertigo that only came from low blood sugar, hearing Marcus obnoxious laughter piercing her eardrums she almost changed mind right them and there.

The meeting was the usual empty boasts and meaningless pep-talking. She felt her eyes growing heavy and her brain still screaming for sugar. The only highlight was when she remembered that she’d stashed a packet of Malteser’s in her desk’s top drawer. That should tide her over until lunch.

If everyone could just leave her alone.

Though she’d normally find herself half bored to death at times, this morning she experienced a constant rush of people asking her for things, giving her new assignments and at one point she found herself talked into helping the new intern that was due to arrive the next day. She supposed her problem was that she was too nice. Not brave enough to object.

When lunch finally came around she was positively ravenous.

And that was when she found herself dragged off by the other girls to have lunch with them, because “it’s been so long since we all had lunch together!” Alice was not unlike other girls in that she tried to keep some control over her weight, but she was more likely to indulge in her foodie whims and then try to burn it off though exercise. The other girls at the office were the salad-eating sort though and since she did make an effort to blend in she had to order a salad too. Without dressing or anything else too fattening. Or tasty.

At least she managed to steal some extra rolls of bread that she ate in secret when she was left alone for a bit. She felt a bit like a criminal, hunched over her desk and stuffing the dry rolls in her mouth, then sweeping away the incriminating evidence when someone popped by.

The day seemed impossibly long and there was point where she wondered if she’d pass out. For some reason her shoes had decided they wanted to pinch her feet again, even though she’d worn them many times before.

Though the train was late, at least she managed to elbow herself into one of the few seats available. The woman who she’d beaten to it gave her murderous looks from where she stood holding onto the pole in the center of the train. She paid her no mind, because the day was almost over and what could possibly go wrong now? Her feet throbbed along with her head.

When she got out of the train station the rain was pouring. She spent a few fruitless minutes digging through her bag for her umbrella, but of course she’d forgotten that along with her cellphone. There was a nervous clenching in her gut as her worries about her unreachable status returned. Had anyone tried to reach her?

She ran as fast as she could, shielding her already ugly and messy hair from the downpour with a newspaper. Ran even though her feet were yelling bloody murder at her and at one point she wondered if they’d actually started bleeding. She was half tempted to glance behind her and spot a trail of blood.

Nursing some nasty blisters, but not any actual wounds on her feet she finally found herself inside and in reach of her dear, forgotten cellphone.

Five missed calls.

She cursed and took a few deep breaths to calm herself before she checked her messages..

The first was just a call from her boss going over the proposed topics for the morning meeting, which might explain why he gave her such an odd look when she didn’t speak up more and back him up. The second was from her mother, just checking up on her as she was wont to do at times. Her mother was starting to get lonely in her old age.

Then there was a call from a friend, announcing that he was coming into town in a week and wondering if he could crash at her place. She’d have to call him back after she’d dried up.

Then she got to the fourth message and she felt her stomach twist itself into a knot.

On a whim, convinced by one of her more bold female friends she’d sent off her resume to a publishing firm. With a major in literature and languages she’d always wanted to work with literature and writing in some form, but like with other unlucky graduates it had never panned out for her. Until this ad was shoved in her face. A low level position, but it would be a start.

And this call was from the publishing firm wanting to get a hold of her.

If only she’d had her phone. If only she’d not forgotten. Her fingers clenched the phone so hard that she was afraid she’d crack the glass screen.

The fifth message was from the publishing firm again, asking her to call them as they had other applicants for the position and…

The words began to blur in her head and she felt frosty cold. Had she blown the opportunity of a lifetime by having such a bad morning (bad day really) and forgetting her phone?

With shaky hands she called the publishing firm, but all she got was an answering machine announcing their office hours which had just passed. She spoke a message into their machine after the beep as instructed and tried to keep the desperation out of her voice. After that she could only hope and pray.

Even though she was hungry she had some trouble eating anything. After pushing the food around on her place for ten minutes she gave up and retreated to the bathroom and a scalding hot bath. Anything to help her relax and take her mind off things.

It helped.

It helped enough that she found herself nodding off in the tub and nearly drowning herself in the process.

Wrapping herself in her fluffy bathrobe she curled up on her bed and fell asleep.

She woke up, not by the shrill sound of her alarm clock. (It was off; she’d forgotten to turn it on after the weekend after all.) No, what woke her was the insistent ringing of her cellphone.

It was the publishing firm. They wanted her to come in for an interview after all.

Feeling nothing but euphoria it took some time until she saw the time on her alarm clock.

She was very, very late.

But this morning she remembered her cellphone and even though she had just as little time to have any breakfast (though she packed an apple and a pear from her fruit bowl) and had just as little time to make herself look nice she didn’t care all that much.

If she played her cards right, if she prepared herself and with the support from her friends she would soon be able to say goodbye to the menial and soul crushing desk job. She’d say goodbye to the anorexic girls with their salads and obnoxious Marcus who kept hitting on everyone.

There was a future out there, a better future and it was there, almost within her grasp.

 

And it almost felt like she owed it to that horrible morning when she’d slept in.

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