The irritating green numbers on the clock nonchalantly pronounced 1:16 am. No matter how long she stared, they never seemed to fade into the landscape of a dream she longed to have.
With an exasperated sigh, she flung off the sheet. The ceiling fan made more of a breeze than she remembered, as goose flesh rose on her arms. First one leg and then the other tossed off the edge of the bed. Maybe a drink would help.
She slid her feet into the bunny slippers beside the bed. The cat only opened one eye to shoot her a disapproving look for getting up.
In the kitchen, the goldfish swirled around his bowl when she flipped the light switch. “Nugget, I swear you are a dog with gills. You are always happy to see me.” She dropped in a few fish flakes on the way to the refrigerator. “Do you think it is too early for a beer?” Nugget snapped the food from the surface. “I think you may be right. I really should not drink on an empty stomach.”
She poured a glass of water and drank it as she watched him finish eating. She set the glass in the sink and reached for the switch. “Goodnight, Nugget.” Walking down the hall, she wondered what dreams he would have.
Snuggling back into the covers, she slid her foot under the cat. “I really think we should see other people, Jake. You never snuggle with me any more.” He let out a halfhearted meow as he stretched and curled back into a ball facing away. “Too bad Nugget cannot come in here. At least he likes me.”
She punched the pillow and moved every muscle in her body to find the perfect position. One deep breath followed the other while she concentrated on dream land. “First star to the right and straight on ’til morning.” With my luck, it will be morning, and I will still be flying.
The mattress pushed back without being truly supportive. She noticed the slow ache growing in her hip and shoulder. Jake howled when she kicked him. “If you would come up here to the pillows, I would not kick you every time I roll over. Silly old cat!” What he said next was likely profanity.
The clock was still steadfastly counting all the time she was not sleeping. 2:24.
She reached for the book on the nightstand and pulled the chain on the lamp. For the last four months, she had attempted to read the dime-store romance. Her thinking had been if it was only a dollar, it could not be all that interesting. She had been wrong. The setting was exciting, the plot quick and the characters memorable. The only explanation she had for not finishing it was each time the heroine got into a scrape, she put it down because she was jealous she did not have a hero to rescue her from a tax inquiry, food poisoning and an inescapably empty sex life.
“Ugh! I need to sleep.” In three hours and 31 minutes the alarm was going to buzz. Her morning routine would carry her to the meeting she would rather be shot than attend.
She got up and went to the closet. One by one, she slid hangers to the left and inspected the clothes on them. “Eww, why is this still here?” She slide the dress off the hanger and dropped it to the floor. The last time she had worn it was her date with that ne’er-do-well her bestie thought would be a perfect match. On the way home from the blind date, she had vowed to burn the dress. Tomorrow is a good day to do just that.
The pile on the floor grew to more than 30 pieces before she was done. She bundled them into a bag and tossed it into the garage. At the kitchen sink, she washed her hands and saw the reflection of the stove clock in the window. 4:18. With a sigh, she went back to the bedroom and climbed between the sheets. Jake did not move.
This time, she did not bother to lie down. She dug in the nightstand for the journal she had neglected for the last four months. She opened with an apology for not having written as though a dear friend would be reading and disappointed with her infidelity. She chronicled the bad dates, work hassles, the new neighbor who was infatuated with her, the shoes whose price tag was larger than her lust for them, a passing thought to plant flowers and the frustration born of her inability to fast forward through nights when sleep would not come.
Had writer’s block timed itself with the alarm? Fat chance. 5:22. She looked a Jake sprawled nonchalantly across the rumpled duvet. She nudged him out of spite. “May as well use my time wisely.” She tossed back the covers and skipped the slippers this time.
In the bathroom, she snatched the laundry hamper as if it were eluding arrest and sullenly dragged it to the washing machine. When she opened the lid, she instantly remembered what she had forgotten when she got home from work. Fortunately, the damp clothes passed the sniff test because slamming them into the unwitting dryer was cathartic.
With both machines humming softly, she stalked back to the bath, but her reflection stopped her in her tracks. Leaning close to the mirror, she examined the faintest hint of circles under her eyes. “Good grief! I am staying up and watching myself get old!”
Without another thought to the cleaning supplies which had called her to the bathroom, she padded back to the kitchen. First one cabinet door then another opened and slammed. “I must not be a lush if I don’t know where I keep the shot glasses.” The third door was the charm. Whiskey swirled around the tiny glass and spilled onto the cabinet. Snickering, she swiped at the spill with a towel. “I am tired enough to commit alcohol abuse.”
The shot burned the back of her throat, and her face puckered into a head-shaking snarl. “Maybe sniffing gasoline would be easier.” She poured one more before scooting the bottle to the backsplash. The shot glass had a logo, a baseball with Mudhens written across a bat. “Here’s mud in my eyes.” She squinted them closed before she threw back the drink. She debated whether she cared about the glass’ origin given her general disinterest in baseball and concluded watching baseball may be just enough to put her lights out if the whiskey failed.
Dutifully, she flipped every light switch on the way to bed. She fluffed the pillows and decided not to feel guilty for not brushing her teeth again. Her feet slid between the cool sheets. Jake did not bother to object, and she pulled the chain on the bed lamp. Eyes clamped shut, she flatly refused to think of anything.
Peace finally settled over the bedroom. For 26 glorious minutes, silence reigned over the house.
At 6:11, Jake batted at her nose. She rubbed the memory of fur from her nose and asked, “What is your aversion to sleeping until the alarm goes off?” She sat up and stretched. “For that matter, why have you not learned to make coffee yet?” Feet found slippers, and she yawned through the hall. As she stood beside the coffee pot, she glimpsed the whiskey on the counter. The wake-up wheels slowly began to make purchase. “That wasn’t a dream!”
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