She was only allowed to smoke only one cigarette in her lunch hour but the day was so beautiful that she stayed longer in the rooftop of the restaurant, watching the clouds and smoking her second cigarette. She knew they weren’t very good for her but she didn’t mind. As far as she was concerned, she had to die somehow and if it was because she had done something that made her happy, well, she didn’t mind at all.
Finally, Richards, her boss downstairs, came to call her to her workstation. During the mornings, she was in charge of cleaning the bathrooms and sweeping and mopping the floors before anyone arrived. After that, she would have to flip the burgers and serve the fries if the person that was in charge of that was too busy. In the afternoons however, she was in charge of one of the cash registers. Some days, she enjoyed taking people’s orders and advising them on what they might like or what new menus they had that month.
Sadly, it wasn’t one of those days. She wasn’t feeling well and it wasn’t a physical thing. It felt deeper and even more worrying. Waiting for people to decide on what they were having or what toy their kids wanted didn’t make it better. She tried to smile, as she was obliged too, but she just couldn’t. It was as if life had been drained out of hair and she couldn’t properly smile. Her shift finally ended at six, when Georgia came in to replace her. She did asked to the other woman if she felt good but she just couldn’t point her pain, her issue so she just dismissed it all and left to go home.
On the ride on the bus, she realized what was that made her miserable, because it wasn’t pain but that overbearing feeling when you realize your life hasn’t been what you expect it to be. Lily was about to turn thirty years old and she had worked in that restaurant for the last five years. The job had been found almost by chance and it had been the only one to which she applied that had succeeded in any way possible.
She had gone to school to study literature and she had even got a masters degree and congratulations for many of her works. But all of that had amounted to nothing, at the end of the day. She was stuck in a point in her life where nothing was moving forward. It appeared that the fact that she was stalling at work had affected everything else. She didn’t spoke with her family as often as she did year’s prior. She had thought it had been because of the death of her father but that did not make sense.
She only had a couple of friends, literally only two that came to her aid when they were able to. One of them had been married for seven years and had two children and one on the way so she rarely left the house in the last few months. The other friends traveled a lot and had left the city a couple of years ago but every time she came back they tried to reunite to have a drink and talk about the old high school days, which weren’t specially nice but it was nice to laugh at them from this side of time.
But now, Lily would have loved to be back in high school. She would stand the annoying girls and the boys that were so full of themselves for a peace and quiet she missed so much. When she was there, she didn’t have to worry to pay a rent or get her taxes done or managing the few pennies she won from the restaurant, which wasn’t her only job. On weekends, she would babysit all around, clean houses and even walk dogs around. It was impressive, but with all that she always achieved to get through the month alive. She didn’t really spend much money on herself, wearing the same clothes for the last few years and avoiding all extra expenses like parties and dates.
Yeah, she avoided men at all costs. When she was younger, her mother had put her in self-defense classes, which had proven useful, specially when men got annoying after just a couple of drinks. She had learned how to flip a huge guy over her head and how to break someone’s arms or legs. She had used it all once, when two assholes had tried to rob and rape her. They had been quite surprised when lying on the ground after she had shown them her skills.
And dating was out of the question. All men she had ever know where extremely boring to her. Not one ever seemed to be real, to be actually telling the truth. She always felt he was lying or at least trying too hard to be liked. And if they were too shy or too outgoing, she didn’t care at all. It was always boring and even more when they wanted sex after the date, as if it was a duty she had to fulfill. She never did actually.
She then thought she might be a lesbian but it wasn’t long enough before she realized that wasn’t the case. She apparently wasn’t all that into people, preferring to stay at home with a good book, caressing her rescue cat Mr. Turner. He was a big black cat who loved to disappear for days only to reappear days later wanting food and shelter. As he wasn’t able to speak, the relationship was perfect.
That day after arriving home, Lily turned on her computer and started watching a TV series episode while eating an instant soup, one of those you put on the microwave. She never really cooked, except when she was able to buy some actual groceries, which wasn’t that often during the year. She sipped her soup smiling from time to time, watching a sitcom. Sure enough, Mr. Turner appeared out of nowhere and started demanding his food. Lily realized there was nothing except a carton of milk about to go bad. It didn’t smell all that awful so she served him a big bowl of it, which he drank as Lily checked her emails.
She had gotten none but she scrolled down and checked one that had been sent days ago. It was the invitation to her school’s reunion. They held it every single year and her friends had gone a couple of times but she had never been there. According to the email, it was being held that same night which made her imagine who would be there but then she remembered she had never really liked high school.
Not only because of the friends issue but because she always felt out of element there. She felt nothing that was being said during class was actually useful and it was then, during the boring classes, when she started writing diverse little stories that she never shared with no one. She stood up fast, scaring Mr. Turner a bit, and went to her room to look for her school notebook. She knew it was around and felt she suddenly needed to see her handwriting again as well as reading her past inspirations, which were now almost non-existent.
Lily found her notebook in a box on top of her closet and decided to read some of the stories. She laughed at them because they were a bit childish but a couple of them were actually very good, with the right corrections. She then felt that pain again, that strange feeling on the bottom of her gut that made her think that her life was just a piece of shit. And somehow it was because she was alone, no one to share her thoughts with, no one to listen her bitch about everything. And she didn’t mean love as in romance but love as in friends and family.
She then grabbed the phone and, before she had thought it through, her mother was answering the phone. They started a shy and strange conversation that turned, in matter of minutes, in a festival of apologies and tears and regret. She told her mother how much she missed her and how much she missed her dad too. Her mother told her she could come back home anytime to have lunch or just to have a nice time. They spoke for about an hour until the conversation naturally ended.
Full of energy from this action and without even putting down the phone, she decided to call the restaurant and tell Richards she wasn’t going to be at work on Monday, nor any other day. She apologized for the sudden decision but stated that it wasn’t the best thing to do. Surprisingly, Richards wasn’t mad at all. Instead, he told Lily to go on and go after her dreams because they really needed to be taken care of. He congratulated her and assured she would get a full month paycheck once they settled it all.
Then Lily stood awake for hours, making calculations under the close interest of Mr. Turner. She had come up with the idea of moving out of town, to a nearby big city where her mother actually lived. She didn’t want to live with her because she appreciated her freedom too much but she did want to have a renewed relationship with her and that was the best way to do it.
Besides, she supposed other opportunities where waiting for her there. It wasn’t far or all that different but she felt she had to do something different and radical in other to shake up her life and start being the woman she had always wanted to be.