Hope you enjoy this piece by Janel Gradowski who recently released another volume in her 6:1 series of short stories and flash fiction, Revenge.
By Janel Gradowski
The heavenly aroma of brewing coffee greeted Allison when she walked into the kitchen. Jeff must have started the coffee maker before he headed into the shower. Usually Allison got up before him, making toast and scrambled eggs while enjoying the dark quietness. The swampy insomnia over the last few weeks had made mornings feel like she was entering a dark tunnel with no light at the other end.
The bathroom door clicked open, and Jeff hurried through the kitchen, rubbing his hair with a towel. “I’m running late. Can you fill my travel mug? Just leave it black.”
Allison opened the upper cupboard and stared at the array of mugs and glasses. Her mind was tripping over itself, trying to remember which insulated tumbler was Jeff’s favorite, or if it even mattered. She chose a shiny, stainless steel one and grunted as she tried to twist off the top. Her entire body was limp and soggy, sapped from staying awake night after night. The seal finally released with a hiss. She filled it with the dark-roasted coffee, letting the scented steam wash over her face, hoping the vapor would deliver some precious caffeine through her pores. Jeff’s footsteps were rumbling down the stairs, so she quickly refastened the lid.
“Hey, honey. Do you think you could do the laundry today?” Jeff shrugged into his suit jacket. “I’m running low on shirts.”
After transferring the mountain of dirty laundry into the basement and stuffing the washing machine full of dress shirts, Allison sat down in front of her computer. The characters in her novel had turned into nocturnal creatures, whispering to her about what they wanted to happen in their fictional lives when she was supposed to be sleeping. She opened a file and stared at the words filling the screen. It had been four a.m. when the brilliant idea came to her, but she was too exhausted to scribble anything down on the notepad she kept on her nightstand. Now the perfect solution to her main character’s dilemma was just a vague memory that had been almost completely evaporated by the effort of what used to be an easy morning routine. She rubbed her eyes. It felt like her eyelids were lined with sandpaper. Maybe some more coffee would help.
On the way to the kitchen, Allison glanced down the hall. She could see the corner of her unmade bed. Ideas used to come to her whenever she sat down in front of her computer. Now they only seemed to come when she was stretched out in bed, chasing elusive sleep. She guzzled a mug of coffee, laced with a hearty squirt of honey, and headed to the bedroom. A little nap would get the creative juices flowing.
The thud of a slamming door woke Allison. She pulled the sheets up to her neck and listened. Someone was walking around in the kitchen, she could hear the footsteps clunking on the tile floor. Panic flooded her body. She had just laid down for a nap. It should be hours before Jeff was due home. The floorboards in the hallway creaked. The intruder was coming closer. Allison screamed as Jeff walked into the room.
He flung his necktie across the room in response to the unexpected screech. “Ali! What are you doing? What’s wrong?”
“I thought you were a burglar.” Allison took a deep breath. “What are you doing home early?”
The closet door banged open as Jeff searched for a comfortable outfit to change into. “I’m not home early. It’s almost six o’clock. What are you doing in bed? Are you sick?”
“No…no. I just haven’t been sleeping well.” She rolled on her side and looked at the clock. It was 5:57 p.m. The sky outside the window was glowing pink as the sun set. “I took a little nap.”
Allison yawned and stretched her arms to the side. The little nap had been all day, but it had been weeks since she felt so rested. The next scene in her novel played like a movie in her mind, superimposed over the image of Jeff changing into a t-shirt and jeans. “Honey, I’m craving pizza from Antonelli’s. Why don’t we order that for dinner?”
“Um, sure. That’s fine.” He examined the shirts hanging in his closet. “Did you do the laundry?”
Allison threw off the bedspread. “Yes, I sure did.” She trotted out of the room and headed to the basement, hoping none of the colors had bled in the wet clothes still sitting in the washer. More details of the scene she needed to write were surfacing in her mind as she transferred the clothes to the dryer. She returned to the living room and sat down in front of the computer. Jeff was ordering the pizza as the screen blinked to life.
Sleeping in bed with her husband, like a normal person, didn’t look promising for the night. Finishing her novel, like a professional writer, was a good possibility, though.
Janel Gradowski lives and writes among the farm fields of central Michigan. She is the author of Haunted and Revenge, which are both part of her 6:1 series. Each volume is a collection of six flash fiction and short stories based on the title’s theme. Her fiction and non-fiction work also has appeared in Luna Station Quarterly, Every Day Fiction, Long Story Short, and Beadwork Magazine. To learn more about Janel, visit her blog.
Photo courtesy of Uncyclopedia.wikia.com.