Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Drama · #2268661
Birthdays and riots really don't mix.
|Word Count: ~2230|
Did I sleep? Felicia wondered as she opened her eyes and lay in bed.
Sunlight poured into the bedroom through a gap at the bottom of the vertical blinds. Craning her head to the side, she could see it was seven in the morning, about the time she'd be awake on a Sunday. Still, she remembered being awake around three and before that one thirty. Her phone battery hitting ten percent charge is what ended up pushing her to give up the ghost of vigilance and at least slink off to bed.
Felicia shifted and swiped said phone off the charging dock on the nightstand. After unlocking it, she found herself facing the browser window she'd refreshed about a hundred times the day before: a list of all the metro businesses that had been hit in the rioting. She hit refresh to see if any new updates had been made overnight. A couple new vandalism reports greeted her, and she spotted some updates on several Minneapolis and St. Paul gas stations that had been added yesterday. One was upgraded to severely damaged; another one was now deemed a total loss. The latter made Felicia clutch her face. She had been to that gas station countless times over the years, even getting her keys locked in her car an hour before a job interview.
A squeak diverted her attention to the bedroom door. She shook her head to will away tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. Looking up, she spotted Adrian stick his head in the opening.
"Morning," he greeted her.
"Morning," she mumbled. "Any news?"
Adrian nodded. "It sounds like last night was nowhere near as bad. The police and everyone else really clamped down on possible arson activity, although there was a rather tense moment on one of the bridges. Apparently a band of people tried to march over to Minneapolis from St. Paul around midnight."
"Clearly they had no regard for curfew."
"Nope, not by a long shot. Sounds like some of them were from out of state, along with a few from outside the metro."
"No Minneapolis residents, I presume."
"Doesn't look like it."
At that, Felicia nodded and set her phone aside. She pushed herself up on her elbows into a half-reclined position in an effort to push through the hazy slog lingering from dubious sleep. This prompted Adrian to open the door further. A round, black cat bounded into the room to hop on the bed.
"Hi, Lulu," Felicia greeted the newcomer. "Are you more Lulubelle or Lucifer at the moment?"
This got a snicker from Adrian. "I did give the cats some food because she was closer to the Lucifer end of the spectrum."
Felicia snorted and pet the cat. "Thanks, honey."
"Plan on doing anything today?"
"You mean besides try to stay away from burning buildings and keep an eye out for suspicious characters?"
"I'm not sure," Felicia admitted. "I know it's my birthday today, but, well, look."
Adrian nodded as Felicia flailed her free arm around the room. "Yeah. I get it. It's like our trip to Duluth last week never happened. I just don't see you spending all day in bed, though."
"Lulu here could."
Lulu voiced her agreement as Felicia stroked her shiny fur.
"True," Adrian replied with a chuckle. "Still, we will have to get something for dinner at some point."
"And we'll have to do that fairly early. I think curfew starts at eight again."
"It does. I was about to go for my walk but should be back in an hour or so."
"Alrighty. Text me if you'll be late getting back."
With that, Adrian walked away, leaving the bedroom door open. Lulu peered up at Felicia and purred. Felicia gave the cat some more pets while looking back at her phone. She decided the cat had the right idea for the time being and hung out in bed a little longer.
After a while, the griminess of overnight perspiration got the better of Felicia, and she made her way out of bed. Lulu complained but hopped down as Felicia edged her feet to the floor. She stood up, knocking over the fire extinguisher next to her side of the bed. With a mumbled curse, Felicia picked up the extinguisher to having it standing up again before heading for her closet to grab something to wear. With a pair of black track pants and a kid's shirt she bought on a whim a few years ago in hand, she made her way to the bathroom for a shower and to get ready for a long day.
Once she finished her shower and got dressed, Felicia wandered into the living room. She found her other cat Daisy dozing in the abundant sunlight hitting the gray sectional. Her cat's oblivion at this moment contrasted with the frantic meows Felicia heard from both Daisy and Lulu just a couple days prior. Felicia could still feel the tension poke at her arms at she ran around packing a small suitcase and retrieving the cat carriers from the hall closet in case they needed to leave the condo. She looked out the window at the Minneapolis skyline. There wasn't any smoke in the air today, much to her relief. Still, she knew that wandering outside the neighborhood was at the very least a tricky task. The street outside her condo building had a few cars rolling by. She went up to the window and pressed her face against the glass. A frown formed as she noticed a brand-new car without license plates speed down the street. If she wandered outside and wanted to actually live through her entire birthday, she needed to keep an eye out for more cars like that. This made her decide to wait until Adrian returned before heading out on her own for any reason.
Adrian did keep his word and made it home at the time he promised earlier. By this point, Felicia had settled on the sectional's chaise to watch some Smithsonian Channel videos on her laptop. She'd watched them the previous evening to try to distract herself from shenanigans right outside her building. With daylight flooding the city, she was able to rewatch the videos and pay closer attention to the content instead of having it on as a form of white noise.
"How was your walk?" Felicia asked once Adrian locked the door.
"Pretty good," he told her.
"See anything noteworthy out there?"
Adrian shook his head. "It looks like the rest of the Quarry shopping center is open. I did see a board over one of the windows at Target, but otherwise nothing really stood out."
Felicia nodded. "I was thinking of scoping out the neighborhood here, maybe walk to the river. It seems like heading north is somewhat safe but heading south is flat out not an option, at least not if we want to not lose our minds any more."
"Yeah, the freeways aren't too busy, but drivers seem to be going faster than usual on them."
"Joy. Looks like I'll want to stick to the local streets. I don't want to get hit before the Prius is even paid off."
"True story. Are you heading out now?"
"In a few minutes. I just need to grab my camera gear and a mask first."
And that's how Felicia found herself meandering the streets of her neighborhood. Her walk started off taking her past some nearby restaurants. All but one were closed, and every single business had their windows covered in plywood. Some businesses taped signs to the plywood begging people not to harm their businesses since they were neighbors. One restaurant even mentioned that they were Black family owned, a declaration that worried Felicia. As she made her way to one of the main thoroughfares, she stopped to watch a lifted pickup truck rumble by, an oversized American flag fluttering from its mount in the pickup's bed. Felicia managed to fish her camera out of her backpack just in time to snap photos of the truck rolling away from a stoplight.
Further walking showed the nearby grocery store boarded up but open for a shortened time frame. Felicia took some photos of people waiting in line at the front entrance and of some blacked out graffiti on one of the boards covering the store's myriad windows. She spent a few moments trying to decipher what had been covered. She saw a capital 'F', but the rest was too obscured to the naked eye to read all that well. She hoped her photos would give her more to work with in solving that mystery. Walking past the line of waiting shoppers, she kept walking along, passing by more boarded windows and a restaurant that had closed very early on the pandemic. To her surprise, though, the closed restaurant had a new Black Lives Matter sign hanging from the door.
She ended up at a park along the Mississippi River. Looking down, she found the pathways splashed with chalk designs of peace signs and pleas for Justice for George. Indeed, she'd seen similar refrains in various media as she moved from the neighborhood's commercial district and into more residential areas. A few people had been outside watering their plants or taking in some sun, but otherwise the streets were empty. Felicia found a similar scene at the park. Compared to just a few weeks ago, almost no one was there. She spotted a few people on picnic blankets but nothing like the swarms of people outside at the beginning of the month. Her glancing soon landed back on the skyline, clouds laid out like sheets above the skyscrapers. Even with the sun, the air looked and felt hazy. It seemed that the abundant smoke would linger for a while.
For a moment, Felicia stared at the buildings. In the park, she stood there wondering how anything could still be standing and at least looking good in light of the chaos that had engulfed the city in less than a week. A week prior, she and Adrian were wrapping up their first overnight trip out of town and were in good spirits given that there was a pandemic going on. Now they found themselves refreshing news feeds every other minute to find out more details about curfews and freeway shutdowns being taken to try to stymie the violent onslaught. Despite the despair Felicia felt clawing in her chest, she lacked the energy to cry or even do anything beyond stare at the omnipresent emptiness all around her.
After a while, Felicia made it back to the condo. While she and Adrian had made plans to go to a park near her office for some bird watching, she was not quite ready to head out. Instead, she toed off her sneakers and slinked over to the sectional. Adrian looked up from his phone and watched his wife sink into the chaise.
"Take it your walk was a long one," he remarked.
Felicia turned her head to face him.
"Yeah," she replied. "The gas station is still closed. Everything's boarded up. Kinda looks like a pop-up art museum, actually, since some of the boards have elaborate murals painted on them."
"Did you get pictures?"
"I did. I'll back everything up later after the park visit."
"When did you want to do that?"
"Maybe in an hour or so."
Adrian nodded and went back to looking at his phone.
"What the hell has happened to the city?" Felicia found herself asking. "I just...I just can't grasp all this shit! It's one thing to protest, but people driving in to torch the city under the cover of night? What the hell, man?"
That made Adrian his phone down and focus on his wife.
"People are assholes," he remarked.
"No shit! I just hope people are open to hearing what's going on here given how so many other cities are chaotic now, too. Those places have nothing on us, though. I don't care what they say. They're not seeing smoke plumes outside their goddamn windows."
"No, they aren't," Adrian agreed.
"It's terrible, and I'm too exhausted to even really think or feel anything. I can't stand the thought of working tomorrow because everyone will want to talk about it on the water cooler chat. Hell, they were doing that before everything went super sideways, and it pissed me right off. I didn't get involved in those conversations. It just pissed me off too much. I'm even less interested in what the damn suburbanites have to say now."
"Do you still want to go to the park today, or do you want to stay here?"
Felicia half shook her head. "We should still go to the park. I feel like if I spend all day here I will lose the remainder of my mind. I think I need a nap real quick before we leave, though."
"Fair enough. You look like you're about to fall asleep just lying there on the chaise."
Her shoulders slumped, and her whole body seemed to deflate in a chain reaction. "We'll see if that happens."
With that, Felicia rolled on her side and stared out the window at the skyline. Maybe the abundant sunlight would be enough to lull her to sleep.
Song: "Underground" by MISSIO