It was one of those mornings that could not get any worse, well, that is, unless I died. I knew it would be a bad day when the alarm clock interrupted my wonderful dreams. Its shrill beeping chased away the last wisps of my boyfriend's seductive voice. Cursing under my breath I climbed out of bed. The beeping continued. "Oh shut up," I told it as I unplugged it from the wall. The display screen went blank.
I yawned and pulled on a skirt, black and flirty, and a matching shirt. It was not exactly spring attire, but it did fit my sullen personality. I stumbled to the bathroom and brushed my teeth.
Adrix, my cat, jumped onto the counter and meowed at me expectantly. "What boy?" I asked as I scratched the spot behind his ears. Clearly that had been it because he began to purr happily. I kissed his head. "Got to run Addy; I'm late."
In truth I was not, but it was a coffee morning. I needed to hurry otherwise I would be late. I grabbed a pair of sandals and my purse as I skipped out the door.
I had driven almost the whole way to the coffee shop when the first drops of rain hit the windshield. "Oh please not now." It rained harder. I parked my car and contemplated putting on my shoes before running inside. I left them and took my purse.
The instant I stepped out, the rain poured down. I made it into the coffee shop only to face another disappointment: the line. I stood there waiting on java for what seemed like forever. There were three people in front of me when my phone rang. It was Genevieve.
"You've got to get here NOW," she frantically explained. "Daniel is on a rampage and he's terrorizing the other secretaries."
"Can it wait a few minutes? I really want coffee, and I've been standing in line and I'm almost next..." I pleaded.
"Look, you're my best friend, and so I'm telling you, GET HERE NOW!"
"Ok, ok," I said as I stepped out of line. The rain fell on me as I walked to my car. My foot landed in a puddle and muddy water splashed up to my knee, barely skimming the edge of my skirt. "That was close," I mumbled. I jumped into my car and drove fast and furiously to the office.
Daniel would pay for this. Just because he was my boss did not mean it allowed him to keep me from getting coffee. Oh yes, he would pay for this.
My profession of choice had not been to answer phones, yet that was what I did. Well, I also played babysitter for Daniel. He had a bad temper, was neither a morning nor afternoon nor night person (he always was angry), and could be guaranteed to terrorize anyone in his way. I managed to never be yelled at, and that was why he had promoted me from one of his other minions.
I entered the building, passed the fields of cubicles to my customary spot, the desk outside of his corner office. I'd barely placed my bag down when his door burst open.
"Where have you been? I've been searching for the Johnson Report and I can't find it!"
"Daniel, I don't have to be here for 10 more minutes. It's only 8:50. And why are you here this early? You're not supposed to arrive until 9:30. The Johnson Report is in the ‘In' box on your desk."
His face paled. He never looked in that place for anything, even when I'd told him that's where I put it. "Well, thank you for the help." He turned and walked back into his office, and for a second I thought I saw a bottle of vodka on his desk, open. It was too early for him to be drinking. Today would be a good day I thought sarcastically, especially if Daniel's wife had kicked him out again, which all signs pointed to yes.
I made it through lunch. Daniel kept coming out to see me, angry and frustrated, and I metaphorically popped his bubble and sent him back, slightly calmer than before. Yet each time he seemed more upset, and it became harder to make him happy.
The phone rang. I answered it. "Daniel Strider's office. This is Nadia. How may I help you?"
"Nadia, it's Brianna. I need to talk to Daniel now." Daniel's wife. How could I describer here nicely? She was a super bitch, needy, self absorbed, evil, vial; I could go on for hours. And most importantly, she never called here.
"I'm sorry Mrs. Strider, but he's in a meeting and I'm not supposed to interrupt for any reason."
"You'll do what you're told or it will be your job!" she hissed at me. This was not good, not good at all.
"Okay, Mrs. Strider, but it will take a moment; you'll have to hold."
I put her on hold and slowly walked to the conference room. I knocked politely on the door and waited. A lesser opened the door and Daniel turned on me. "I told you not to interrupt! What could be so important?"
"You wife is on line one and she says it's an emergency. She very persistently made me come inform you." I turned and left because I did not want him to yell at me. It was an art that I'd spent months perfecting. Say your spill, turn and leave without looking better than him. It worked, most of the time.
I sat at my desk and saw that he'd picked up line one. Maybe that way I would be safe from his wrath. I was wrong, terribly wrong.
After his meeting, Daniel came back to his office. "We need to talk. Please come into my office," he said calmly. I entered and he bid me sit in a chair. He stood and yelled, "What were you thinking?! My wife is not important! You possibly ruined my chances with the higher ups! Do you know how angry that makes me?!"
I mumbled, "I have an idea."
He continued to yell at me for almost half an hour. Finally he asked, "Do you understand me?"
I had stopped listening a few minutes earlier and began brooding. This was it. The moment of truth. "Yes I do. You are a slimy, filthy excuse of a man." His jaw dropped and he stood there stunned as I continued on my crusade. "You are a fool and you have your head shoved so far up your ass you can't find anything even if it's right in front of your face. You treat everyone like swine and no one likes you, not even your wife who only married you for money. I have come to hate you, loath you. You disgust me. I hope you lost your chance with your superiors, and I pray that they fire you for it! I am sick of playing babysitter for you! That's what I am! I am here to make sure you play nicely with the other children! I don't want to do this anymore! Grow up!"
"You're fired. Get out now."
"Gladly!" I walked out, grabbed my stuff and stalked out. Heads turned as I stormed away from him standing in the doorway of his office.
As I drove home I realized that maybe I hadn't handled that well. Oh well, I can't change the past. I walked into my apartment and changed into slouch clothes. I plopped down on the couch and Adrix jumped into my lap and began to massage my stomach with his paws until he lay down and began purring. The television buzzed and I fell asleep. When I woke up, the cat had rolled over in his sleep and had all four legs sprawled out in the air. The sun was setting behind the curtains, I could tell. I put the cat down and stretched. My stomach growled hungrily.
As I was fixing my dinner, the doorbell rang. "Who could that be?" I asked Adrix for the noise had awakened him. I opened the door to find Adam, my boyfriend, standing there. "Hey," I said, the surprise showing in my voice.
He stepped in and kissed me. "Hey babe. I was in the neighborhood and stopped by. It is okay, right?"
"Oh yeah. I was making dinner. Would you like to stay and eat?"
"If it's alright with you."
I laughed. "Why wouldn't it be?" Luckily, he didn't answer but laughed. We finished cooking and sat down to eat.
"How was work?" I asked. Adam was a lawyer.
"Same as everyday. You?"
"I was fired." I told him the story, and he laughed.
Later we sat on the couch watching some movie. I hadn't seen the cat since I'd let Adam in. "I'll be back." I went to find him, whispering, "Here Drixxy, Drixxy, Drixxy." He appeared. "There's my good boy." He meowed and I picked him up.
I think I should explain myself. Adrix is not a normal house cat. He is my familiar. He's one of those cats that blends perfectly with its owner and they seem to have an unnatural understanding of each other. That is why, when after he disappeared for a while, I went to find him. I always do.
I carried him and sat down next to Adam on the couch. Adrix hissed and flashed his fangs at Adam before running away with his black fur standing on end. "Addy!" I called after him. Turning to Adam I said, "I wonder what's gotten into him?"
Adam glanced away agitatedly. What did I do? "It's just a stupid cat, Nadia."
I stared at him. He knew how I felt about Adrix. "He's my cat, Adam. We've been over this."
Adam looked away again and I thought I heard him mumble. "It's just a cat," he said to my face.
"What's your problem?" He'd been acting strangely for a few days now. He was edgy, and he kept jumping my ass.
"Nothing," he said roughly. I'm no rocket scientist, but it wasn't nothing. He wouldn't look at me for a few minutes. "It's just that you haven't-oh never mind."
"I haven't what, Adam?"
"You haven't done anything. That's the problem. You don't call, you don't even seem interested in me when I'm around. I mean, you used to show up at my apartment for no reason and you made me feel like no one else mattered. Now-now you pay more attention to the damn cat."
I sat there watching him in shock. Yes, I'd been very absorbed by Adam when we'd first met. There had been-there was-something about him I could not get out of my mind. But I'd explained the way I work to him so many times. "Adam, I don't do-"
"-Do well with people who need you and expect things from you. I know, I know," he finished for me. "But god damn, Nadia, we've been working at this for a year now. You do realize today marks a year?"
No, I didn't. It had totally slipped my mind.
He saw by the blank expression of shock on my face that I had forgotten. "Nadia, I won't put up with this. I have to know right now. Where are we going?"
I hung my head in my hands. True, Adam drove me crazy, but was there really something there? My cat didn't even like him. He'd been perfect in the beginning, never calling more than twice a week, happy on the few occasions I called him. But was he worth it? I choked on the truth. "Nowhere."
He nodded. "I see. Goodbye Nadia; have a nice life." He stood and walked out the door, closing it none to gently behind him.
I took a deep breath and Adrix materialized out of nowhere. He crawled into my lap and began to purr. I picked him up and the two of us spent the rest of the night watching movies in my bed.
As dawn's first rays of light began slipping through the cracks in the blinds, I came out of my comatose state. I looked at the clock-the screen mocked me by being blank. "Damn it," I mumbled as I stumbled out of bed. "I'm going to be late for work, Adrix. Why didn't you wake me?"
The line for coffee was obscene and I mumbled to myself while standing and waiting none too patiently. I began to talk in gibberish I was so tired. The coffee shop-my coffee shop, my beloved, my wonderful, MY coffee shop-had run out of French vanilla beans the day before. I wanted my favorite wake up call, only to be denied. "Fuck," was all I managed to respond with before ordering something else.
I did not remember any of the previous day's events until after I had pulled into the parking lot at the office building. "God damn it!" I screamed at the steering wheel. "Why couldn't I have remembered this before I got out of bed?" I was faced with a new problem: to leave and go home or to try to beg and get my job back. I'm not one to admit I'm wrong, so I went home.
I wish I could say that I was happy with my new found freedom. But, as I so unfortunately realized during the drive home, I have to pay the rent somehow. I'd dropped out of college after a year and a half. Let's just say that I wasn't made for college life. I was too restless. So after trying to figure life out from my 12 by 12 foot dorm room, I fled the city. The state, actually.
When I was a child I'd used to play this game with my friends. We'd take a globe and spin it and put our fingers randomly on it until it stopped moving. That's where we were supposed to live. I did something similar to that. It was a USA map, and I dropped a marble. It took a few tries to get it to stay on the map, but after it had, I found the nearest city. Phoenix, Arizona, here I come. I'd saved up some money over the years, and so I packed all of my possessions into my truck, and moved. What I couldn't fit in the truck I didn't take. I sold it. Simple as that. (You can imagine what that was like. I had no furniture as it was, but this just cut the amount of stuff I had down significantly.)
I did the minimum wage thing for a while, working two full time jobs to pay the rent on my unfurnished studio apartment. Needless to say I wasn't much fun, nor having much. But I liked the life, being able to come and go as I pleased, with no real responsibilities. I bought a mattress, and put it so I could see the TV sitting on the floor. It wasn't much, but it was all I needed. I had all the dishes and pots and pans I needed, and a bed (ish) to sleep on, and a TV so I wasn't totally alone. Life was not great, but I was content.
Those first six months were the hardest. My parents had called every other day telling me to come home, stop this foolishness, get a real job and stop stocking shelves. But I stayed. As my six month lease began to come to an end, I decided another move was in order. I didn't really like Phoenix as much as I'd thought I would. I ended up in Salem, Oregon, working as a waitress.
Not much came from that stop on the journey of life. Not much, that is, except for Adrix. I found him hiding in the bushes outside of my apartment. It was love at first sight.
By then I was getting tired of the barely getting by life. The parents still wanted me to come home, Dad found you a nice respectable office job that pays well, we won't even bother you. But after 15 months, they'd begun to realize I wasn't coming home. My nine months in Salem were better than Phoenix, in that I actually met more people. I had a few girlfriends I could go out on the town with, and a few easy liaisons with random guys from work, but nothing serious ever came from any of it. I left promising to keep in touch, but they'd all been fair-weather friends, and as far as I cared, I didn't want to see them again.
Somehow, I managed to find an office job in Denver, Colorado, through a temp agency. For the first time, I had an apartment and a job before I moved. I was just a month shy of 21 when I moved this time.
I was half way through a pint of Ben and Jerry's when Genevieve called that night.
"Hey Nadia," she said softly.
"I guess you heard." I didn't want to play the what's-bothering-you-even-though-I-already-know game.
"Yeah. Daniel started shouting at everyone this morning when you didn't show up for work. And then it hit him that he'd fired you. He didn't look too happy after that." She laughed. "But when is he ever happy?"
I laughed too, even if it was fake. "That bad, huh?"
No. Yes. No. Adam. No. "I'll be fine, Gen."
"That's not what I asked." She sighed. "You're eating cookies and cream flavored ice cream, aren't you?"
"No," I said matter-of-factly. "It's peanut butter brownie."
"Oh god, Nadi. Then it's even worse than I thought. I'll be over as soon as I can."
"So tell me what's wrong," Gen said over a bowl of ice cream. We were sitting on my bed. I was already in my pajamas even though it was only 7:45.
"All of it."
"But what if I don't want to?" I looked away from her. She wasn't going to give up and I knew it.
"Nadia, how long have we been friends?"
"Since I moved here," I replied.
"And how many years ago was that?" she prodded.
"A little over four years," I said slowly.
"And in all that time I've never seen you so upset. Now tell me what's wrong."
I sighed. That's the problem with best friends; they never leave you alone when you want to wallow in self pity. "I lost my job."
"So? You've had what... three different ones since you moved here?"
"Three, but a few promotions as well."
"Well there you go. That's no big deal. Now what is it?"
I looked at her. "Did you know that yesterday was my one year anniversary with Adam?" She shook her head. "It's also the day he broke up with me."
Her jaw fell open. "Nadia! Why didn't you tell me! You must be so upset! I know you loved him."
I laughed. "See that's the problem Genevieve; I didn't love him! Not even a little!"
She stared at me. "I don't understand."
"I know! And neither do I! I'm not really upset about him so much as... in the past 6 years I've had one serious relationship, yet I've hardly ever been without a boyfriend." I put my bowl on the nightstand beside the bed. "And I'm beginning to think that there's no one out there for me. Or at least, not here."
I waited for my words to take effect. Maybe she hadn't caught my point. She gaped at me in astonishment and I knew she had. "You're not moving again."
"And why not?"
"Because I won't let you! Because, because you belong here! I mean, look at this place! See how far you've come? You didn't even have furniture when you got here. You can't just leave."
"But I'm getting restless again." I didn't really know if I wanted to leave or not. But I had wanted to say it, so I had.
"Then move to a new apartment! A new part of town, move over by me so it doesn't take forever to get to you. But don't leave." She looked at me, and the glint in her eyes was part fear, part pleading, and part hurt.
I sighed. "I don't really know what I want. About moving, about work, about life."
"So?" Gen thought for a moment. "We can find you another job. Please just don't pack up and leave."
She needed me here. That was more than I could say for anywhere else I'd ever been. "Okay."
She squealed with delight and hugged me.
She left and Adrix and I fell asleep sometime later. But before I completely lost consciousness, I thought maybe this is where I'm supposed to be after all.