|It was the last straw.
I'd slept through the alarm again, and woken half an hour late. I'd known I could make it if I rushed and stuck to the essentials. Skipping breakfast and taking a lightning-fast shower, I'd sprinted to the dryer in my underwear to grab my only pair of clean work pants.
I'd discovered that I'd washed the load of laundry, but had forgotten to dry it.
For a moment, I'd seriously considered taking a sick day. Honestly, I'd thought, the way things are going, I need it for my mental health. Then I'd sighed. Like I can afford to miss a day.
I'd ended up rummaging through the hamper. I'd found one pair with no visible stains. They'd been slightly damp, and smelled like the sweaty socks they'd nestled against, but at least they looked okay.
Spraying them with perfume had only resulted in my radiating the smell of feet and flowers.
I'd dashed into work just four minutes late. Leonard, my boss, was nowhere in sight. Finally, I'd thought, luck is on my side. I kept my head low and quickly made my way to my cubicle.
I'd walked directly into Leonard. Hard.
Rubbing his shoulder, he'd launched into his oh-so-polite lecture on The Importance of Being Punctual. (I was sure he'd memorized the speech from a manager's handbook or something...it never varied.) Apparently, four minutes of work missed due to lateness was a tragedy, but fifteen minutes missed due to lecture was fine.
The rest of the morning had been worse than its usual tedium. Leonard had seemed to feel that it was his duty to make sure no more precious minutes were wasted. Every time I'd glanced at the clock or shifted my weight, he'd stare at me with that patronizing look on his face....Now, now, let's pay attention to our work, shall we?
Finally, it was lunch hour. Freedom.
I zipped down the sidewalk toward my favorite used book store. I was starving; but right now I needed to lose myself in a book more than anything.
The sky was dark with storm clouds, but I wasn't worried. There was wind yet, and I didn't smell rain. It would hold off awhile.
Bells chimed softly as I opened the door. Lucy, the owner, waved to me as I headed straight for my favorite section, fantasy. I was a regular here; she knew I didn't need any help.
I rummaged around, but I couldn't find any of my favorite authors today. I pulled out books one at a time and read the backs before returning them to the shelf, but nothing was catching my interest. Frustrated, I finally needed a book fix so desperately that I snatched a random book, opened it to the middle, and dove in.
Elizabeth's eyes widened in panic, then Crash! Lightning streaked down and struck the ground in front of her. A tall, cloaked form emerged from the smoke. “You have a choice,” he intoned gravely. “You can remain as you are. Or you can have magic....but at a price. You will not be able to return to this life, and the otherworld is very, very different..
“You mean....I have to leave all I've ever known?
“But...I'll have magic?”
Elizabeth agonized. She would have the magic she craved, but would have to leave and go to the unknown, never to return. She gulped.
“I...I just can't do it.”
I slammed the book shut and glared at it. Stupid girl, I thought angrily. She's offered magic, and she gives it up just because she's afraid of the unknown.
“I would have chosen the magic,” I grouched under my breath.
Suddenly, Lucy materialized in front of me. “Hi! Found anything good?”
“Not this one,” I replied.
She looked at the title and laughed. “Ah, that one. You would have picked the magic, huh?”
Lucy laughed again. “Me, too. But I thought your lunch hour was over at one?”
Startled, I stared at the grandfather clock near the door. “Five minutes to one! I'll never make it back in time!” I waved to Lucy and rushed out the door.
There was no way I could get back in five minutes. Not only was I going to have to endure The Importance of Being Punctual twice in one day, but I'd probably get an official warning...if I was lucky.
It felt like my unpaid bills were looming over my head, darkening the sky like the storm clouds above.
I sprinted down the sidewalk, gasping as a stitch started to form in my side. The park, I thought. I usually skipped this shortcut because of the hordes of shrieking kids running around, but today the park was silent and empty. Must be the storm, I thought gratefully. The wind picked up and I felt a drop hit me, but I ignored it. A little rain wouldn't melt me.
I worried as I ran. I thought of the bills that were already late, the car that was on its last leg. About my stupid, boring, pointless existence. I wanted the magic, and what I had was work and worry...and stress...and boredom.
And then it started pouring. I ran faster, gasping for breath. The sky opened up. It was like the ocean had suddenly fell from the sky. I was beyond soaked.
It was the last straw.
Furious, I looked a the sky and screamed so loud it felt like my throat was tearing. “Fine! I give up! I can't take this anymore! There is no magic and I will be stuck here forever! LIFE SUCKS AND THEN YOU....” My voice broke. Suddenly drained, I slumped down to the ground, too miserable even to cry.
Crash! Lightning streaked down and struck the ground in front of me. A tall, cloaked form emerged from the smoke. “You have a choice,” he intoned gravely.