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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2200442
A 973 word story written for the Writer's Cramp prompt 9/12/19.
A Call For Reflection

It is a morning like any other, until something happens to change things. The fact is that such an innocuous looking thing has turned my life on its end, and is forcing me to make some very difficult decisions.

Jack has already left by the time I ease myself out of bed. I go through my normal routine, toast myself a slice of bread then make my way in to my office. There is a lot to be said for being self-employed and working from home. I just have to think of the hours of commuting that I am saving myself to know that I'd made the right decision.

The book sits on my desk, to the left of my laptop. I'm sure that I have never laid eyes on it before. It is a journal, covered in brown leatherette, with the year 2020 inscribed on the front. Such an innocuous thing it had seemed.

Jack must have sneaked in to my office and left it there. An early birthday gift, perhaps. I must remember to thank him for it later. It's getting to the time of year when the shops will be bulging with books such as these. I reach out and pick it up, flick through the pages and freeze.

It's not possible. What I see looks remarkably like my own hand-writing, and there seems to be some kind of entry written for almost every day. Randomly, I read a couple of them. I go cold all over, for I am reading about things that have not yet happened, and still I am positive that the writing is my own.

I slam the covers together. This book cannot exist. I must still be asleep. I yank open one of my desk drawers and hastily stuff the journal inside. Better, that's better; all I need to do now is calm down.

I start up my computer and look at the notes I had made the previous day. I am working on illustrations for a children's book; I have a contract, a schedule, I need to get to work. Time and time again I find my eyes being drawn back to that drawer, the one that I have stuffed that journal in.

No, I remind myself. It is an impossibility, nothing more than a lingering dream. That book did not exist. I try to work but my concentration has deserted me. I hit the delete button over and over again before finally admitting defeat and consigning the entire file to the trash can. An entire morning wasted; I cannot not afford to waste this time; I need to get a grip.

It isn't easy to tear myself away but I do. There's no one else in the house with me, nothing that can influence what I am going to find, in any way, shape or form. I need coffee, a strong cup, if I am going to get up the nerve to open that drawer.

There is going to be nothing there, I know that. The drawer does not slide open with its usual ease. I have to give it a real tug to get it to open at all, and then I nearly pull it from its sliders. It's still there, the journal. Hands shaking, I lift it out of its hiding place, take it over to my window seat and brace myself.

I wonder what it is that makes me so scared about reading what's written. I am terrified. Just by its existence, its physical presence in my hands, it is inspiring a deeply unsettling sense of foreboding. The entries for January, for February too, turn out to be completely mundane. If it was not for the fact that the events they recorded had not yet happened, my worries could all disappear.

Then, when I reach the middle of March, things change. I am reading recordings of observations, of feelings about Jack, that are simply inconceivable to me now. By the time I get to the end of April, my future worries seem to have spiralled into some kind of full-blown paranoia. My husband is having an affair, and had been for the last year!
It's ludicrous, of course. This has to be some kind of fiction; if I believe this that would mean that Jack has been unfaithful to me for the last five months!

I want to tear out the lying pages, rip them in to tiny pieces then feed them into the shredder. That's what I want, but it is not what I do. I carry on turning the pages, reading the entries, becoming more and more disturbed by the second.

I slam it shut, feeling sick. My hands are shaking even more. I so want to dismiss the entire thing; I so wish that I had never found it. Is this why Jack has been 'working' all these extra hours? Does this hold the key to all the sudden meetings? The weekends away from home?

I need to think, take stock. This book is undeniably a call for me to reflect on our lives, on the ever-growing distance between us. But knowing what I do now, is there any point? All I can achieve is to bring things to a head even earlier.

This journal should not exist, and yet it is here... in my own hands. I can't deny it, not when I can leaf backwards and forwards through the pages. I need time. I need to think. There are decisions that I am going to have to make, very soon. But Jack is at a 'conference' and will be gone for the entire weekend. That will, I think, provide me with ample time to reflect.

(953 words)

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