She woke from a beautiful dream to the scream of birds as they jostled for space in the nest they had made on her roof. The sun’s face was slotted through the gaps of her blinds, smiling benevolently down on her. Her blankets were warm, almost uncomfortably so. She had no desire to get up, but at that moment her alarm came to life, demanding her immediate attention in a flare of noise.
Sweet music poured like honey into the meditative silence of the room. She fumbled for her phone on her bedside cabinet, swiping haphazardly at its screen until the song cut off in an abrupt gasp, like the unexpected end to someone choking. She sank back into her blankets, but found that she had utterly broken the shell of her fragile cocoon, and that, having been born into the beautiful world, could not return to the stasis of unconsciousness.
Disgruntled, she rose from her bed, sweeping her hair back from where it fell in clumped strands over her forehead. At that moment, her alarm rang again. It had resurrected like a phoenix – she had only managed to put it to sleep in her disorientation. This time, she brought the full brunt of her concentration to bear, and delivered the killing blow with a single, decisive strike.
How wonderful it is / to be alive her wallpaper sang to her as she stumbled her way to the bathroom. Its soft hues swam dizzyingly before her eyes, like gold. Fool’s gold. She blinked, and scrubbed the bleary night’s grit away with her hands. The world cleared.
It was a beautiful day – one which she had no desire to be a part of.
Nonetheless, it’s beauty beckoned with the seductive whisper of a cruel mistress. She had an appointment today, with the friend that she loved most. It was something she should have felt excited about, but of which she could only muster a pale approximation.
There were beautiful dresses in her wardrobe, sorted by rank like waiting soldiers. She pulled them out, one by one, never removing them from their hangers before returning them to their posts. Mint green – the wicked witch. Deep vermilion – the femme fatale. Pale yellow – the ingenue. She settled for a harmless, drab beige that caught on the most obvious protrusions of her body but left her mostly shapeless.
She dragged a brush through her hair from the tips to the roots, until there was no snag nor painful tug when she ran the brush all the way through. She let the weight of it rest on her shoulders, the lightest of casques. In this strange assimilation of shy defensiveness that nonetheless could not fully eskew the trademarks of nervous effort, she set out into the gaping mouth of the wonderful world, of the beautiful day.
Her friend was already there when she got to the cafe where they had agreed to meet. It was a charming establishment – local, premium roast, all the knick-knacks. She would only drink coffee in espresso shots. Her friend waved her over with a call of her name.
“Sit! What would you like? Hey, miss – oh sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you. An espresso for my friend please, if you wouldn’t mind.”
She smiled with weary nostalgia, hiding guilty ambivalence. This remembering, this being remembered – how she longed to have woken late, at one, maybe even two o’clock, to let lapse the heavy manacles of loving and being loved.
“I am so glad to see you!”
The other woman reached across the table to pull her into a deep, two-armed hug. She sank into it, and pretended she was merely returning the gesture rather than clinging back. Her friend’s perfume had not changed – it was still lavender, reminding her of the sachets with dried flowers in them, the type lovers would gift each other and hang over their shared bed. “You would not believe how much I have missed you!”
Her friend drew back, her eyes sparkling. It prompted a smile from her in return as she seated herself at the table, where the sunlight sparkled off a glass ornament laid beside the salt and pepper shakers.
I’m happy to see you too, she wanted to say, but the words were coiled like unborn snakes in her throat.
The espresso arrived with a soft tap. The pungent odour of coffee shot through the air, demanding wakefulness. It was picturesque. Her friend was still smiling. She adjusted the hem of her dress and wished she had worn something nicer.
“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” she said at last.