A terrible headache rumbled in her ears the next day. She could very well stand it if it had been her only problem. She had a bitter taste in her mouth. She remained in bed to rest and allows the painkillers to perform miracles and calm pulse inside her head. She closed her eyes and waited. She wasn’t feeling sick, but she wasn’t feeling very well. Alcohol, it’s not really my thing… She pulled the sheets under her chin and let herself go. She dozed for a while, vaguely aware of noise from the street.
Her head finally calm down and she could get up and take a long hot shower. It was almost noon when she finally left the bathroom. She made some coffee while her computer opened. She wanted to check her emails before taking a new decision: completely erase her profile on dating site. She had met only one guy and that was enough to convince her she was wasting her time.
According to statistics, more men had visited her profile during the preceding hours. None seemed interesting or even worth a second look. She made a new research on other dating sites out of curiosity. Some promised a love story like in Hollywood movies. She sighed, discouraged. Can any fool really believe that? She wondered if she really wanted to have someone in her life. It’s been a while she was living alone. Not report herself to anyone was a good thing. The presence of another person when she returned home after a hard day at work… It was something else… She loved solitude, but sometimes it weighed a little heavy on moral. Maybe she wasn’t made for it.
She wondered how people were to know it was the right time to move in together. Was it possible to never be willing to share his daily life with another person? Discover all the other small sides that ended up getting on our nerves… Could two people form a couple without living together under the same roof?
There were too many questions spinning in her head. She felt a headache coming back to torment her. She huddled on the sofa and sat there for a moment. She waited until her mind was completely empty and her migraine calmed again. Sometimes people treated her as if she was suffering from a severe, incurable illness. All because she was single. She was certainly not the only single person in this city! But she was sometimes ashamed to admit to people that she had no one in her life. And in this case, she tried to cheer them up by finding positives points to her own situation. She knew it was pitiful for her to reply on what others thought of it really. This is probably why my friends have pretty much the same lifestyle as me. They understand me without judging me. Well, most of the time…
Later in the afternoon, Mary called her to see how she was. Clara told her that David had attempted to kiss her, hoping to have sex with her. But the young woman had kept it cool and refused, but her moral was now taking the shot. Her friend suggested that she come, but Clara refused. She wanted to be alone.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Don’t worry.”
“If you need anything, call me. Okay?”
Then they hung up.
She remained locked up all day, filling herself with nonsense on television. She really wanted to see nobody. Her head kept wondering how she had some to this. It would perhaps spend the rest of her days alone, no one to love. She burst into tears. Nobody could predict the futures, but she would have liked a little help from destiny. Everyone needed help from time to time.
She was much more active on Sunday. She cleaned up the entire apartment and went shopping. The entire place was spotless. She even washed the floor after vacuuming. Refrigerator shelves and cabinets were crumbling from all the groceries she had just bought. She also washed and put away all the clothes lying around. Once it was over, she fell on the sofa with a sigh. She looked around her. What remained to be done to get her mind on something else? There was nothing else left to clean or store. It was almost 3:30 p.m. She turned on the television and went through all channels to find an interesting movie. The telephone took her by surprise. She stretched her arm to grab the receiver that was on the coffee table.
“I want to see the dress you will wear for Victoria’s wedding.”
The tone was very authoritarian. Clara frowned, sitting up on the sofa.
“Mom? Why do you want to see my dress?”
“To make sure you won’t dress in white!”
Clara sighed in despair. Why would she dress in white for her sister’s wedding? She’d seen a scene like that in a movie where the jealous stepmother decides to wear a gorgeous white dress for her only son’s wedding. All that for her future daughter-in-law would get angry. But it really wasn’t her kind of scenario! In any case it would steal the attention just for her sister to get mad. She didn’t like to attract attention. Sighing, she leaned against the sofa.
“You don’t have to worry. I’m not going to wear white.”
“I want to see your clothes!”
“I don’t know yet what I’m going to wear! And you will see my clothes at the wedding like the other guests!”
“I forbid you to take this aggressive tone with me! I’m still your mother! I know it’s hard for you to admit you’re jealous of Victoria. I just want to make sure you’re not going to spoil everything. Then change your tone!”
“Mom! You call me for no reason, accusing me of being jealous!”
Her mother was on the verge of being hysterical, as usual. Wearing white for someone else’s wedding… It didn’t even cross her mind! She didn’t care of her sister’s wedding. One day and spend that much money to impress a bunch of people who meant nothing the rest of the year… Was it worth it? She wouldn’t discuss it with her mother. Her shopping spree wit Mary had not yet occurred. She rummaged through her closet and nothing seemed right for that day. She didn’t know what she would wear, but it would certainly not be white. It was too ridiculous!
“It’s not because you are not happy that the whole city…”
“I’m serious! I don’t know yet what I’ll wear!”
She took a deep breath to calm down so as not to hang up on her mother’s nose. She didn’t want to argue on this with her. Then an idea flashed through her head. If I do this, will I still be invited to the wedding? Could she get away with it? She shook her head, closing her eyes.
“I assure you I’ll be suitably dressed. Okay?”
“Remember that there are certain colors and patterns that you won’t be able to wear. Try not to look ridiculous that day.”
“Okay. No leather or latex for the wedding. Thanks for the tip.”
“It’s like you’re saying I’ve got no taste for clothes!”
“Come on! I say only that you should be careful with what you wear.”
Without waiting for her reaction, she hung up. Why did her mother wouldn’t let her go with that dress thing? Who could have put this idea into her head? She pulled her knees against her chest and concentrated on the film on television.
The following week, she posted her old assistant job and selected by herself the candidates. Michele wasn’t sexist, but she preferred to work with a woman. Still, Clara selected two men who had all the qualifications. Her boss asked her to take care of everything. It wasn’t necessary to get all her requirements. She trusted her enough to give her this task to do.
At the end of the week, the calls for interviews were made and all documentation was prepared for Monday morning. She was very satisfied with all the work she had done.
During the week, Mary presented her two guys while they were chatting over coffee after their workday. None was interested, but she had an invitation to dinner the following Saturday. She had to accept since the hit on her knee she received from her friend demanded a positive response. A bit difficult to refuse…
Mary left her a message on her voicemail Friday while Clara was on her way home. She wanted to know if the shopping spree was still on or if everything was canceled. A small smile on her lips, the young woman wanted to call her back, asking her to help her find a white dress for the big day. Her mother would probably be hysterical when she saw her! She sent her a simple text message to confirm after trying to contact her at her place. She should be out with a new guy. Clara began to think about her own rendezvous the next day. She wondered how it would go. She had no great expectations. She was seeing the guy only to please Mary. He seemed nice, but she didn’t really feel attracted to him. To see him again will not kill her. She could spend a wonderful evening and it wasn’t the first time it happened. The uncomfortable silences marking the first date didn’t help anything. She shrugged, saying she couldn’t predict what will happen.
She opened her computer to do some online window-shopping to get an idea of what she wanted to wear for the wedding. The date approached too quickly and she had no choice but to go shopping. But she didn’t know what she could wear. She went on few online shops on the Internet before being fed up and moved to relax watching television. A small quiet Friday night… Like I love them! She dozed on the sofa for a moment before looking at what time it was. The week has been very busy and she felt very exhausted. It wasn’t very late, but she wanted to sleep.
Once her body numbed by sleep came under the sheets, she fell asleep very quickly.
The following Saturday promised to be beautiful. The warm sunshine warmed the city without it being too hot outside. So there was hardly anyone in the shops. Clara and Mary could talk quietly while they were walking from one store on another. There were many things that caught the young woman’s eye, but she looked horrible in it. She was upset by it. She would eventually find something. They paused at lunchtime. Mary asked her not to forget to tell her every detail of her rendezvous. Clara shook her head, laughing.
“Don’t count on it too much. Okay? There will absolutely be nothing interesting to say.”
“How could you know? The first rendezvous is always very important. He insisted a lot to see you again.”
Clara grinned, reminding her that they had met during the week. This wasn’t a first date. Mary swept that away with the back of her hand, replying that it didn’t count because they were not alone.
“Doesn’t matter”, Clara said. “We have met already.”
“But give him a chance! I’m sure you’ll get along.”
“You say that every time! And why do you want to introduce me to someone?”
Mary shrugged her shoulders without replying. She said she didn’t share her opinion and her desire for a change. Why the sudden minds change? Clara repeated the question, but her friend did nothing but shake her head. The young woman had to insist if she wanted to understand.
“You didn’t agree with my idea.”
“Yes, but that’s what you want and friends should help.”
“So… I thank you for your help, but…”
“You still have to admit I have great taste in men. I know a little more than you.”
“I never said otherwise. Our tastes are a little different sometimes.”
They remained silent a moment, drinking their iced tea while watching people passing by their table. Clara thought about nothing in particular. She was simply trying to hear the music playing softly in the background. It was hard to identify it with the hum of conversation from other customers. She didn’t think about her rendezvous so she will not be nervous or disappointed. She said there was little chance it’ll work.
“Good!” Mary finally threw while getting back on her feet. “Let’s search for the perfect dress for your sister’s wedding!”
“No need to mention it.”
Her friend frowned.
“Why do you say that?”
“I’m really tired of hearing about it. My family just talks about it and the plan it!”
“It’s normal, right?”
“I guess, but my mom thinks I’m jealous of my sister.”
Mary laughed, sinking into her chair. Seeing the serious expression of her friend’s face, she suddenly fell silent.
“Damn… Does she really mean it?”
Clara shook her head before telling her about the episode where her mother accused her of wanting to dress in white. Mary was amazed just to hear it. She didn’t know much Victoria. In fact, she had seen her once or twice and it had enough. Adults who looked like spoiled children… Victoria watched some people – not to say everyone – with a certain disdain and general behavior was very annoying. Mary couldn’t get a real idea of her since she hasn’t spoke to her: she wouldn’t know what to say, anyway. Victoria seemed to think she’s superior to everyone and Mary avoided this kind of people. Unfortunately, Clara couldn’t flee and Mary pitied her for that.
“And you’ll show her what you’ll buy?”
“No. She’ll see it along with everyone!”
“But you… you’re not jealous of… Victoria? Reassure me…”
“I don’t want to marry Patrick, if that’s what you want to know. He doesn’t interest me.”
They laughed, but Clara fully understood the question. She had never asked herself that question before. Did she want to get married? She remembered when she wanted to commit a more serious relationship with David. She had imagined a bit party after signing papers in front of a judge. Not an official ceremony as Victoria. Now, marriage was no longer the same. She wanted something very simple, but it would entirely have agreed with the man who would share her life. She no longer thought it was going to happen to her. And especially not with David!
“No, I’m not jealous,” she finally admitted her.
“Good! So let’s go!”
They got up and continued to shop. After several attempts in the dressing room, Clara finally found a dress with a retro style, thin straps and a color that suited her perfectly: lavender. Nothing to attract attention and her mother will stop harassing her with that. She bought some jewelry, a small handbag and sandals with the same colors. The bag was lavender, but the clasp was black. Same thing for the sandals and the fake diamonds on the earrings, bracelet and discreet pendant. Mission accomplished! She was finally able to move on now that she had found everything she needed.
Exhausted, they parted in the middle of the afternoon. Clara went home to sort her purchases and ensure that the dress was still in perfect condition. She smiled while taking out of the bag the small bottle of lavender nail polish she managed to find. Everything was matching!
Then she opened her computer, out of curiosity. There were some days she hadn’t visited the dating site. She had received several warnings that she suppressed without reading them. A rather cute guy offered her to get laid as soon as his wife would be out of the country the following week. She laughed. He had thought about his proposal before writing this message. She wondered how he managed to make such a decision. She quickly deleted the message. It doesn’t interest her to get laid with a guy met on the net. They were sometimes a little too weird for her criteria. She could control her sexual impulses without jumping on the first to look her way. She sighed with discouragement. Most of the accumulated messages came from married men. She didn’t want to become a marriage breaker for a single night. She selected a short message sent two days earlier. It contained very little, just enough to get acquainted and engage conversation. She answered almost the same thing, didn’t formalize the fact that there was no profile picture for him either. Besides, he wasn’t trying to meet someone according from what he had written. And she liked it that way. No promises that wouldn’t be kept. As the days progressed the more she became discouraged. There was perhaps no one for her in this world. She had to face the facts.
Having refused that her rendezvous picked her up, they were meeting in a small Italian restaurant around 7:00 p.m. She preferred to preserve her privacy. She didn’t give her address to anyone, anyway! Security with the crazies! Her lasted tip-off hadn’t really been a great success. She wondered how it would go…
To her surprise, he was already in the restaurant when she showed up. Very punctual. One good thing for him. He offered her his best smile when he laid eyes on her. The young woman joined him. He chose a table in a rather isolated. They would be quiet to talk. She asked him if he waited too long. He shook his head while placing his glass of water. He explained that he had just arrived a few minutes ago. He invited her to sit down with a simple hand gesture. She thanked him by taking place before him. An awkward silence settled between them while the waitress brought the menu. She looked down at the food offered. She was starving after her hard day of shopping.
They spoke very little during the meal. Their short discussions were interspersed by long silences. They didn’t seem to have much to say and she realized this soon enough. He often tried to look quietly at his watch. She saw him do so. This little game still lasted a good two hours. She finally told him that she felt very tired and wanted to return home. As a courtesy, she said she was happy to have seen him again. He seemed relieved. If he’s that happy, he could not show up instead of coming on time. She decided they would each pay their bills. She didn’t want an invitation. When she accepted, she had made a big mistake. She shouldn’t have to bend to what Mary wanted. They had both lost their time.
They met on the sidewalk, still wrapped in a heavy silence. This is ridiculous! She turned to him, seeking the right words to make him understand that she wasn’t interested and that dinner was boring. He cleared his throat.
“I’m sorry for tonight.”
She forced herself to smile while looking away. She was about to say something when he went on.
“I must confess that… I have only invited you to please Mary…”
Clara gasped. He had somehow done her a favor. What chance did she have dinner with him! She suppressed a furious desire to yell at him how much he was a moron. He might have kept it quiet, say nothing. The diplomacy lessons couldn’t be given to everyone! He wasn’t attracted to her. The young woman could very well accept it. But she didn’t know that her best friend had begged him to ask her out. He opened his mouth to continue, but she raised her hand to silence him. She wouldn’t listen.
“Don’t waste your breath. I can’t tell you the same thing because I don’t want to look like the girl who wants to save her butt. But Mary asked me the same thing the day you invited me.”
He pouted, looking away.
“You are one of the worst rendezvous I had.”
“Wait a minute!” he cried. “What do you think you are?”
“A lot more diplomatic than you, that’s for sure!”
He had recoiled. She had trouble to control herself. This guy was so arrogant! As if he could believe for a moment she would have liked to see him after that disastrous evening! He wouldn’t have the slightest of a chance. He was unfortunately paying for all the other assholes with whom she had went out in the past years.
“Did you really think I wanted to see you again after tonight?”
“I’m here to please Mary too! She wanted to help me at all costs to meet a man. I had absolutely no intention of doing it again another night, believe me!”
Right now, he seemed very upset. He perhaps imagined after his little speech, she would have begged him for a second chance. It was pitiful to see because he seemed to really believe it. She was tired of always being the nice girl. He had to learn the mistakes he had made as soon as possible. And she was there to help him to do so. She turned sharply on her heel without wishing him the slightest thing. She was tired of men! They liked to play the victim to look sincere and they acted like Casanova in front of their friends not to lose face. It was too pitiful!
She hadn’t put pressure, but men who showed her a little interest proved to be perfect idiots. Good reason to change her interest!
Once locked in her apartment, she quickly sent a text message to her friend to ask her once again not to try anything as long as she was alive. Mary called her a few minutes later, but Clara had disconnected her phone and her cell phone.
She gorged herself with chips in front of a multitude of very violent movies shown on television. She wouldn’t talk to anyone. She no longer seeks to understand why she wanted a man in her life. Men were much too complicated for her. A dog or a cat would be a better companion than the morons that life had gave her!
The following Monday, she finally found the perfect assistant for her former boss. She was somewhat shy, but she learned quickly. Michele was delighted by the choice she made. Her professional experience in every way corresponded to what was wanted from her. Clara gave her a little training for a week and a half. Then she met Michele outside the office to put an end to her contract that linked them professionally. Michele didn’t need her anymore. During the meal, the young woman felt a strange uneasiness in her former boss, as if something bothered her. Since she wasn’t her superior anymore, Clara could ask her question without fear of consequences. But the response was delayed. Michele was trying to avoid by muttering things that nobody else could understand. She ended by saying:
“I’m not very good with greetings.”
“I enjoyed working with you during those years.”
Clara didn’t know what to say. Since she met Michele, it was the first time she showed a little emotion to her, other than anger. Still stunned, the young woman thanked her and wished her all the luck in the future. Shyly, Michele smiled and showed her left hand. Clara was surprised to see a huge diamond.
“I know that everything will be okay.”
Someone had asked her the big question? Who? According to what she knew, Michele was dating married men most of the time. Would she really take the plunge and settle down with a serious man? It’s not fair! The woman without a heart is getting married while I find only fools and morons! She hid her own sadness and wished her all the happiness she deserved.
“It’s not my style to let go emotions, but I had to tell someone.”
“Congratulations to both of you.”
Now her mind was working at full speed to change subject before jumping on the table to pull her eyes out of her skull. What an injustice! She began to wonder if happiness was really for everybody, or it took delight by escaping her all the time.
Clara spent the rest of the week locked in her apartment. She only went out to get to the video store next to her place. She languished, avoiding anything that was close to the happiness of those around her. She didn’t answer the phone, not answering her emails either. For her, it was a difficult shot to take. Michele had always been the type of women who preferred their career over her sentimental life. A single woman living in a rich condo downtown that once slept from time to time without any attach.
She came to realize that this wasn’t the case. And it made her very depressed. Why it didn’t happen to her? She was happy for her former boss, but she wanted something like that happening to her too. Life could sometimes be very unfair!
She must be mentally prepared to face reality again on Monday morning. She had to begin her new job. Over the weekend, her depression gave way to nervousness. In addition, the marriage of her sister she had managed to forget was scheduled for next weekend. She thought only of her new job. It was absolutely necessary to make a good impression for her first day. She carefully chooses her clothes before going to work. She had moved closer to her apartment without knowing it.
She met the person she would definitely replace: a tall blonde blue-eyed, angel-faced and with a very round belly.
“You’re the new girl!” she shouted. “Welcome aboard!”
She vigorously shook her hand while the other continued to caress her preeminent belly.
“And let me introduce you the next generation!” she said, pointing to her belly.
“Wow…! Is it coming soon?”
“I hope so! It begins to take much space and I’m a little tired to carry it all over with me!”
She introduced herself, pressing her hand again very determined. Her name was Patricia Thompson and she told her she was leaving her job to become a full-time mother. Clara was very happy with this clarification. At her interview, no one had mentioned a pregnant woman. She had come to ask whether the job was a replacement or something permanent.
“Come! I’ll give you a little tour before taking you to your new office!”
They walked to the receptionist’s desk for official presentations. The company was much smaller than her former employer so the receptionist was going to help her and take her messages when she’ll be too busy. Then they headed to a huge glass office where there were three men very charismatic. They were all dressed in a three piece suit. Big blue eyes turned to her while Patricia opened quietly the door after having knocked. All eyes turned toward them and Clara felt her cheeks become crimson. This is not the time to look stupid! Oh! This guy is so cute! But she quickly got back to reality, learning that he was the son of her new boss. And he wore a gold ring… Patricia presented her to the three men who greeted her with a discrete movement of the head or a smile. The big boss was named Maurice Powell and his son Nathan. His adviser and assistant’s name was Benedict Astier. Clara had to control herself again not to melt before the beautiful smile that Nathan gave her. He was still beautiful even if he was married. He didn’t lose much of his charm.
“So Patricia”, Maurice said with a mocking tone, “still determined to change diapers?”
“My son will make me happy every day. Don’t worry for me.”
“You know,” he adds, “this young lady might not want to leave you her place if you change your mind.”
Patricia was just smiling and they left the office to continue the visit. While walking, she advised Clara not to be impressed by them. Mr. Powell was sometimes tending to play with the emotions of his employees. Not always, hopefully. He loved to tease. The counselor was a bit cold, but Nathan was often coming in the office to prepare to take over the retirement of his father.
“Mr. Powell plans to retired soon?”
“In two or three years. Maybe less. Nathan tries to convince him to take vacations more often to rest and allow him to take care of everything.”
“They look all nice.”
“Nathan is charming with everyone. He’s the perfect gentleman. That’s why I married him.”
Clara’s shoulders sagged slightly. She now had a good reason not to get an idea on the boss’s son. She concentrated on what Patricia was telling her. There were many things she needed to know before taking the lead. They entered a room with modest dimensions. Patricia turned to her, smiling.
“And this is your office!”
Clara didn’t know what to say. She never had a private office to herself before. There, it was a room with a door that she was able to close for a little peaceful moment. She realized that Patricia talked to her and she wasn’t listening. She told her she was going to resume most of their files. She had nothing left unfinished because she didn’t like unfinished business. She wanted all her files in order before leaving.
“In fact”, Patricia began, “it doesn’t bother you that I’m getting a little familiar with you, I hope.”
“No. No problem.”
She walked around the office to enjoy the view she would have all day. A strange feeling came over her. She felt so proud of what she had succeeded to do. I have my own office.
“I hope you’ll like it here.”
Clara smiled. She hoped too. Patricia sat on a chair in front of the desk while letting a small moan. The young woman turned to her, alarmed.
“Is everything okay?”
“Of course! It’s just very active.”
She patted her belly to calm down the baby.
“Do you have children?”
“Do you want children someday?”
The young woman frowned, not knowing what to answer. Children… It’s been so much more… adult… To have a little being dependent upon you until its majority… She shook her head, her eyes still resting on the round belly.
“I don’t think so.”
Patricia looked up at her, still smiling.
“You still have time to change your mind. You have perhaps not met the right man.”
This is not the first time I hear that one. Why the future parents or the new parents always say the same thing after a negative answer? She had already spent a few pregnancy tests, but they had always been negative. So she hadn’t thought about all those questions. Even if she found the man of her dreams, it didn’t mean she would suddenly want children. She didn’t believe that motherhood was made for everyone. After all, some people shouldn’t have children and others want to have a big family without being able to. It was so unfair.
“I’m alone for now.”
“Oh! Don’t despair!”
She frowned. Did she look desperate when she claimed to be alone? She seriously began to wonder…
The brainwashing session lasted all day. Clara felt very exhausted when she returned home. She wanted to absorb everything at once and her head was about to explode. She had left all her notes to her office so she wouldn’t become crazy. Installed on the sofa, she was dozing quietly while watching television. She dreamed of her sister’s wedding. She saw herself running to Victoria to snatch her bouquet and brutally strangle Patrick. She jumped up suddenly, gasping. Rubbing her eyes, she went to her room to sleep.
She hoped to avoid recreating the same scene Saturday morning during the ceremony…
But at night, she dreamed she entered Nathan’s office to throw everything that was on his desk directly on the floor before getting her hands on him. She opened her eyes the next day just before her alarm clock. She felt so embarrassed by this dream! She hoped not to see him during the day. Except she would spend much time with his wife… Patricia was a very nice person.
A coffee in her hand, she was about to face her second full day at work. She moved to her office after the computer technician left. He had transferred all Patricia’s files on Clara’s new computer so she can see how her predecessor was working. She would have at least one base to start. Then she would do well what she wanted. Patricia joined her after a while. She had been given time to familiarize herself with the new computer before coming to see her.
“Did you sleep well last night?”
“Not too bad, I think.”
“I hope you didn’t have nightmares because of me!”
Clara smiled without answering. She wouldn’t tell her that she had an affair with her husband during the night!
They went back to training where they left it yesterday. Patricia took a chair and she slipped near her to explain her old way of working. They spent the whole morning without a break. Clara wanted to understand everything perfectly so she was studying how Patricia had done when she was working here.
“Don’t you do that!” Patricia said. “The pressure is unnecessary.”
“I just want to be sure to understand it all.”
“Don’t get so much pressure on yourself. Nobody works the same way!”
“I still need basic knowledge, right?”
“Mine is perhaps not suitable for everyone. So relax!”
Clara forced herself to smile. She wanted too much to compensate for her lack of training by the fact she was learning fast. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best way to do it and she knew it. Her head still wanted to explode at the end of the day! They talked about nothing and everything to lower the pressure. Patricia kept telling her not to be nervous. Clara wanted to learn as much as possible.
At the end of her first week, she was totally exhausted. On Friday night, she took her notes and decided to build a classification system to understand better. She spent the entire evening on it. It was almost midnight when she finally went to bed. Saturday promised to be pretty busy with the wedding. But as she had no special role, she had only to come to the church and expect it will end soon. She closed her eyes, imagining her sister falling down on the center aisle and breaking her nose in front of all guests.
It would be too funny to help Victoria getting back to reality!