She growled while turning on her side before grinning in pain. The pasty taste in her mouth made her want to vomit. Through the vapors of alcohol, she tried to get back to reality. She could barely remember what she had done the night before. She was out with her best friends Edward and Mary to get a few drinks. Mary just got a promotion at her job. So they had to celebrate it! Except that there was now a big black hole instead of last evening’s events. She wondered how she will be supporting herself at work. Her head was about to explode inside her skull. She turned again. The sun pierced through the blinds still closed, blinding her totally. Clara pulled the sheets up to her face, moaning again. Her head vibrated painfully and her ears still rang from last night’s music. She knew that going out during the week will get her into troubles the next day. She always paid the price dearly.
With her last bit of energy left, she pushed the sheets to recover as quickly as she could do. She sighed, stretching, still numb from her short night sleep. Rubbing her eyes, she swung her legs out of bed. She was suddenly seized with dizziness. She made her way through the bathroom to vomit. The room began to spin as she tried to recover. Then she rushed into the shower to awake herself completely. She returned to her room while squeezing her hair. She looked down on the alarm clock on her bedside table. The digital display was flashing, indicating a power failure occurred without her knowledge during the night. She glanced at her watch. It was almost 9:00 a.m. She gave a little cry. She was almost an hour late for work!
She got ready as quickly as possible. She left her apartment in a hurry and took the road for work. While she was walking, she wondered what kind of explanation she will give to her boss for her being late. Luckily for her, her workplace was near her apartment. She was totally out of breath when she walks through the doors of the building while trying to act as naturally as possible. She didn’t want to attract attention. Moreover, she was still under the influence of alcohol.
The receptionist gave her a quick glance before answering the phone. She has no time to waste with me this morning. It’s a good thing. Clara did not know her so much, but she knew that she had the biggest mouth in the office and liked to gossip on everyone. Clara went directly to her office. Her head was still painful. Letting herself fall heavily on her chair, she hastened to dig into her bag. She bit her lower lip, desperate. Her eyes fell on Thomas, a colleague, who was walking by her desk very fast. She frowned and then winces with pain. He laid eyes on her and whispered:
The girl suppressed a smile before vigorously massaged her temples. She hoped not to hear about her being late to work. She was surprised when she saw the big boss speeding near her office, muttering something she couldn’t understand. She repressed again a smile, knowing now that the big boss railed against the power outage. She quickly set herself to work, running a little behind. But luckily for her, her boss was not there today. According to her agenda, Michele Dudley was out of town for a big part of the day.
She placed her files in importance order before getting herself a coffee. She had no time to waste because the pile of files was waiting for her on her desk. She went to the coffee machine located at the end of a hallway near the bathrooms. She tried not to make any sudden movements to control the blood still pounding furiously at her temples. Then she settled comfortably at her office. She took the first folder at the top of the pile and began to work. Her headache intensity dropped, finally allowing her to concentrate on what she had to do throughout the day. When her boss would be back by the end of the day, she would have little more time to devote to her because her work will be updated. She has to go further as much as she could. The phone rang on the corner of her desk. She reached out without putting her coffee.
“Michele Dudley’s office, Clara Jacob’s speaking. How can I help you?”
She listened for a few seconds before grabbing her notebook while responding to her interlocutor:
“She’s out of the office today. Would you like to leave a message?”
She quickly wrote the name and phone number before wishing a beautiful day. She let the little note near her phone.
At lunchtime, more than half of the stack of files was carefully stored in workbooks. She was very proud of what she had succeeded in a morning. She judged she deserve a break to clear her mind. Taking her purse, she walked to the door of the building. She went near her workplace to buy a sandwich and a coffee in the little bistro she adored. She crossed Thomas over there. He was waiting for his meal when she entered. He smiled shyly.
“It’s good to know I was not alone being late,” she said.
He blushed and looked away.
“I know…” he sighed. “My alarm didn’t ring and yours either, I think. Even the big boss showed up late this morning. Did you see him?”
“Yes,” she replied, “and he did not seem very happy about it.”
“Poor guy! He has the same problems as the rest of us!”
She burst out laughing at her colleague when he mocked the CEO of the company they both worked for. She remembered very well that he was muttering to himself as heading towards his office. The waitress handed a clear plastic box. Thomas thanked her. Clara raised her eyebrows when she saw the pasta salad that accompanied a tuna sandwich with raw vegetables.
“It looks very appetizing,” she said.
“I know. Do you want some?”
“No thanks. I will place my order. Bon appétit.”
He wished her the same while getting out of the bistro. The waitress turned to the young woman who had just discovered that she was starving. She ordered a large coffee and a sandwich with ham and Swiss cheese. After paying for her lunch, she returned to her office to eat quietly. She preferred to eat alone. Everything was so quiet during lunchtime. She settled into her chair after dropping her meal on her desk. A little surfing on the cyberspace for a change during lunch… She sniffed her sandwich before attacking it. She bit it before opening the browser on her computer. She went to check her personal emails. She sighed deeply when a pop-up opened. A smile broadens on her lips while reading the name of an internet dating agency. A young blonde woman dressed as a schoolgirl was sitting on the shoulder of a very muscular man dressed as a footballer. They both smiled as if it were in toothpaste commercial. The site’s slogan – HAPPY TO LIVE TOGETHER – made her smile even more.
“I’m not desperate enough to believe this!”
She shook her head when she saw how much money she had to pay for the privilege of being in their database. It was possible to perform a simple search without paying anything or even subscribing to it. Out of curiosity, she decided to select search criteria. She finished half of her meal when the results showed up on her screen. She read a few descriptions, laughing. Her eyes fell on a picture. She frowned as she looked a little closer. She suddenly put a hand to her lips.
“I know him… This is Bryan Fisher!”
She hastened to read the small description of her former classmate. The girl remembered him. He left high school before the end of her last year. He was expelled from several classes because he didn’t care about anything during class. Bryan didn’t bother. He only remained on his chair and stayed quiet. Well, he answered stupidities when the teacher asked him a simple question and he didn’t do any homework during the year. That was pretty much what she remembered from him. She smiled as she recalled some of his answers. She sighed deeply, observing more closely his picture. He was handsome. He had aged very well. Last time she saw him, he has greasy hair, looked a bit messy and was pretty repulsive. But now his neat appearance worth a second look. A little smile on her lips, she closed the window to get to a movie theater’s website she sometimes attended. She consulted the list of movies, but her mind was elsewhere. She was still thinking about the dating site. Was it really possible to find a soul mate in cyberspace? She finally shrugged, thinking it was a way just like the others to meet someone. After all, there is no right or wrong way to meet a man. Morons could be everywhere!
A small beep told her she had just received an email. She went to her mailbox and smiled. Mary, her best friend, had sent her a message. Just the thought of alcohol, Clara felt like vomiting again. She had no special intend of doing so. She would rather prefer to get back home. She felt exhausted. She finished her sandwich and then throws the packaging in the trash. She took her cup of coffee, leaning against her chair, her eyes on the screen. She drank a long draft.
At the end of her day, Clara was very satisfied by her work. She went quickly to her apartment where she fell asleep on the sofa. When she opened her eyes again, she hastened to the bathroom to vomit. She then crawled to her bed, groaning.
The next day, she had trouble concentrating on her work. Her boss was back, but she had locked herself in her office to be alone. Clara was alone with her thoughts. And they were not very happy. She began to question her own way to live her life. She was almost 25 and she was living like an 18-years-old teenager. Something was wrong. Does she want to spend the rest of her life like a teenager?
Late in the afternoon, Clara received an email from Mary, reminding her of their little rendezvous. She sighed deeply. Do not worry, Mary. I haven’t forgotten. I’ll be there. Although she had not wanted to end up the same place as usual, she was going to be there. Going out in bars, evenings spent drinking, the sleepless nights… Since yesterday, she felt weird. She had the feeling she was too old for all those things. She should resolve to act like a grownup. But it frightened her. But the reality was obvious to her. She realized she didn’t live as an adult. She was avoiding it. And it should end as soon as possible.
She replaced her files before leaving the office. She went to the rendezvous and was surprised to see that Mary has still not arrived. She went to the bar to order an iced tea. Then she sat at a table on the terrace, waiting for her friend. She cast a glance at her cell phone to see if Mary had sent her a text message telling her she might be late. She saw a tall brunette coming her way, her cell phone to her ear. She was obviously deep in her conversation. She ended it before smiling at Clara.
“Sorry!” she said to her friend, sinking into her chair across the table. “Traffic is horrible at this time of the day.”
“I know. Don’t worry about it. I just got in.”
“Wow. Iced tea?”
“I prefer not to drink anymore.”
“After our last night out, I can understand you pretty well!”
Clara raised her eyebrows.
“I wasn’t drunk that much!” she cried while putting her glass on the table. “I vividly remember the evening, of course!”
“Liar!” Mary replied. “How many drinks did you drink? Without cheating!”
Biting her lower lip, she tried to count the number of drinks she had been drinking during the evening. Everything that had happened during their last night out was still in a thick fog. She hated when it happens! Heaving a deep sigh, she threw her head back moaning. Her friend laughed. I really hate my life! Why is this happening to me all the time? Mary laughed at her for a while.
“Okay,” Clara admits. “I can’t remember how many glasses I drank.”
“And what about declaring your love?”
The young woman’s eyes widened in horror. What love declaration? She opened her mouth, looking for what to say. To her misfortune, she retained no memory of this part of the evening. She barely remembered her returning home! Seeing her distress, Mary hastened to tell her what she had done. While she was very drunk, Clara had a long talk with a stranger wearing a very round belly that stretched the fabric of his shirt. She had asked several times if he was in love with her and if he wanted to marry her.
“It’s not so bad,” Mary said. “You have made him a very happy man.”
“A good chance that Edward arrived at this time otherwise you would have followed the guy to the bathroom.”
Clara hid her face in her hands, moaning, near tears. She could not believe she had really done that. How could she do such a thing and not keep any memory? Had she been drinking that much? She could have sworn that… She didn’t really live that way. She shook her head.
“I… I can’t stand it anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
Her friend stared at her, a serious expression on her face. A quick movement of her hand, Clara pointed both at her before explaining what she meant.
“From all this!”
“It’s been years that we act like that. We have a drink – or more – and chatting quietly. Where is the problem?”
“We drink almost every night. Even though we have no reason, we are just doing it for fun or to unwind after work. Do you think it’s normal?”
“We’re too old to act like that. Don’t you think?”
“There’s nothing wrong with that!” Mary said.
“It might be time for us to grow older.”
“It’s just the way we live. There is nothing wrong to have fun when we don’t work. A way as any to relieve the stress of the day. That’s it.”
Clara shook her head vigorously while biting her lower lip.
“The more I think, the more I’ve had enough.”
“And what does that mean?”
“That I’m tired of our long evenings in nightclubs to drink until I forget everything. I don’t want to have a hangover the next day because I drank too much for no reason. My liver is about to let me down!”
Seeing that his friend was serious, Mary looked at him stunned. She motioned to the server to get away before leaning on the table, closer to Clara.
“Are you really serious?”
The young woman nodded, more determined than ever.
“The next time I’ll have a drink, I must have a good reason to do so. For the rest, coffee or lemonade will do.
“Alcohol allows us to escape our everyday life too seriously.
“So I guess that is a sign of maturity on my part. I have no intention of becoming an alcohol before the age of 30 years old. Enough! I want another life. That’s it.”
“Want another life?”
“You think it’s helpful to drink almost every night?”
“Probably as helpful as the degree you possess for years, my dear.”
Clara glared at Mary who had just touched a very sensitive chord. Five years ago, the young woman had received her degree in office technology. Since graduating from college, she worked for Michele, leaving a little aside her desire for a real career as a technician in her field of study. She had some job security where she was. So why throwing it all for something she might not succeed to get? She was scared to get back on the job searching market and her friend knew it perfectly. It was ridiculous of her to use this argument for the cause.
“I don’t have to justify my choice.”
Mary sighed, apologizing to her friend.
“Okay. So you want a small and quiet life. Is that it? The house in the suburbs with the perfect husband, children and a dog?”
“Maybe not the husband and children, but I want something else.”
“Why not exchange your life with Victoria’s?”
Clara tried to swallow her iced tea, putting a quick hand to her lips to avoid any damage if she spilled it out.
“I have no intention to be like my big sister. And the guy is a fool.”
The two women laughed. Mary knew the brother-in-law for Clara and they now shared the same opinion on the subject. Patrick represented sheer boredom. He hardly ever spoke and answered yes or no to all questions. It’s like he doesn’t have a personality! Clara had already tried to have a conversation with him. Impossible. Victoria was dating him for over six years and Clara couldn’t stand him. He did nothing special to be unbearable and it was precisely the problem! She shook her head.
“I want to change, but I’m not desperate. This is totally not the same!”
“For me, it means the same thing.”
“Do you think it’s a great way to live?” Clara asked before taking a sip of her iced tea. “Maybe for now, but imagine in ten years. Will you think the same way again?”
Mary frowned, folding her arms across her chest.
“Don’t play psychologist with me, dear. It will not work.”
“I’m just explaining my point of view.”
Mary shook her head, visibly discouraged by what she just heard. Her face lit up suddenly when their friend Edward went to terrace where they were sitting. She beckoned him to join them. Hands in his pockets of his dark trousers, he approached the table. He took a chair on the next table and joins them. They exchanged some small talk before he asks them what they were talking about.
“Clara does not wish to see us anymore.”
The young woman glared Mary with a furious glaze.
“Don’t listen to her, Eddie,” Clara replied, turning to her friend. “You know: she always exaggerates everything!”
Edward asked them a few more details on their difference of opinion. Mary hastened to explain that Clara couldn’t bear to live like them. He simply shrugged his eyebrows, nodding. He sighed to the waiter to come by their table. He ordered a beer before reporting his attention to the two young women who were waiting for his reaction.
“I see no problem,” he simply said. “What do you think really, Clara?”
The young woman took her glass en emptied it before answering.
“I no longer want to live this way. There are things in my life that I don’t want so I want to change them.”
“You have a concrete example of what you want to change?”
“Evenings in nightclubs to drink for nothing.”
Edward nodded and thanked the waiter for the beer. Mary ordered another glass, still observing her friends.
“Evenings spent with strangers.”
“You’re talking of an evening or overnight?” Mary asked.
“It doesn’t matter. It’s the same for me.”
“So,” Edward began, “you wish to remove yourself from the single marker to find someone?”
“Maybe… I don’t know…”
Her friend shook his head while placing his beer on the table.
“There’s nothing to debate,” he said, turning his attention on Mary. “She has the right to live her life. It’s not like she asked you to change yours.”
Mary sighed deeply. She was silent for a long time. She fled her friend’s glance, desperate for something to argue, perhaps to make them change their minds. Feeling very tired, Clara rose on her feet and wished them a nice evening when her friend called her out.
“You want stability, right?” Mary asked.
Clara nodded, smiling.
“Yes. You can say that.”
“So if you need help, we’re here.”
“You’d old enough to know what you want,” Edward said. “Don’t hesitate if you need something, dear.”
Clara thanked them before kissing them both. She took the road to return to her apartment. She felt lighter now. Her friends encouraged her instead of making fun of her. She had feared that. She walked slowly, pleased with the decision she had taken. While searching on the dating site, she realized that loneliness begun to weigh on her a bit. Having someone else in her life that was not part of her small circle of friends could not hurt her. Her last serious relationship was from two years ago. Since then, she had merely been a spectator at other people’s lives. It was perhaps time to meet new people. She went home and gave a sigh of relief, sinking on the sofa.
There were things that needed to be improved or changed so that she could be satisfied. She took a notebook and a pen that was on the coffee table and began to think. She drew up a list of what she wanted correct in her life. Without any specific order in which she wanted it to happen. Well it was only a few goals. And she refused the constraint of time to get them. Once the list was completed, she looked at it for a moment before getting to the kitchen and displayed it on the refrigerator door. Then she returned on the sofa, her knees under her chin. She was looking straight ahead. The young woman thought for a moment before her eyelids closed by themselves. She yawned and stretched. Black spots exploded before her eyes. She caught her balance and sighed. She went to her room to set her alarm clock to the correct time for the next morning before changing. Then she slipped under the sheets and fell asleep immediately.