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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #2

Fiction: “When the Pillows Have Eyes,” by J. Verostka

I was still standing at the end of my first week, if a bit battered and worn. I had used everything in my stash of traditional medicinals—bottle, box and broadcast—to do it, but I had survived. Six of us had started and four remained. Lisa, the only other woman, had turned in her notice Thursday morning. Maybe she didn’t have the voice of her newly-ex ex in her head, telling her she’d never make it in such a high pressure firm, to keep her going. Well, I sure as hell did.

I told the door not to open to anyone and the curtains to draw over the windows, and the Home did as I asked. I always thought condo was kind of a sleazy word. I liked coming home to a place that called itself Home. Even the elevator’s soft voice made you start to relax. I kicked off my heels. I left them and piece by piece, my suit, hose and shapewear where I dropped them for the Home to pick up off of the plush, rose-colored carpet. My body thanked me with every breath.

A quick, hot shower unknotted my shoulders and I could smell the chicken pie that I had requested for dinner while still at the office. I loved having a Home that did for me the work I used to do for him. With the carafe, the remote and the last of the cake already waiting for me and an extra-sized towel between my bottom and the upholstery below and my lap and a hot plate above, I snuggled down for a long Friday night’s streaming. Something steamy; I wanted nice dreams.

¤ ¤ ¤

The following afternoon, I was still trying to figure out who wore hostess gowns—whatever they were—when I rang the bell. Pat, my host, apparently did. She also read constantly, liked historical dramas, salads with avocado, and black tea with a slice of lemon. The Home told me. She was also seriously addicted to dried pineapple dipped in dark chocolate. I’d brought her a box as a gift. The Home had recommended it.

My three closest new Home neighbors had invited me to join them for movie night with the girls. Newly relocated, suddenly single, and working in an almost exclusively male office, I felt like a cross between a job interviewee and a blind date. Deep breaths, I reminded myself.

Pat looked like the head librarian at the state archives (which she was) and a hostess gown, it turned out, was a really nice robe. She thanked me for the gift and introduced me to the others.

Maree was a tiny personal trainer who liked film festivals and documentaries and preferred herbal teas and raw foods. I recognized her from the athletic wear she lived in. Libby had the squishy look of someone who wrote about food and did her own cooking. And knitting: I was pretty sure her sweater was handmade. And she was my fellow coffee fiend. They looked friendly enough.

“You’re nicely dressed,” said Pat, and they all smiled in a way that made me vaguely uneasy.

“Thanks.” I smiled back. I had put some thought into my clothes and gone with a nice rayon velvet tunic set from my post-settlement wardrobe renewal.

I was surprised but not disappointed to find that dinner—by Libby—centered around a marvelous creamy veal dish. I could only just stop myself from taking seconds. No one else did. A lovely rosé wine, all around. Even the vegetables were divine.

We moved to the living room for dessert and Libby brought a tray with the coffee pot and four cups.

“But wait,” she said, whipping out a small bottle of Jack Daniels and pouring a shot into my cup. “That much?”

I’d only hit the Jack D. twice, on Wednesday and Thursday when I didn’t think I’d make it.

“Ummm, fine. Not really necessary.” I couldn’t decide whether or not to add among friends, so I didn’t.

“Well,” said Pat, sitting next to me. “Here are some of our options for the night.” She had actually printed out a list. Job spillover, I assumed.

I recognized the titles. Things I had watched. Things I had watched when I thought no one was watching me. But the Home watched. That was its job. Helping me by doing what I wanted. By noticing and anticipating what I wanted. By sharing information to make all of our lives easier. Like my little gift.

“Got the cake,” Maree announced cheerfully. Chocolate covered chocolate, your first great love, my ex had called it. Three dainty slices and one plate with one quarter of the whole cake on it.

Just like I’d had the night before.

“It is the right size, isn’t it?” Maree asked innocently as she put the embarrassingly large serving down in front of me. My face was hot and I knew it was red.

“I’m sorry, I forgot about a—report I need done by Monday. I really don’t have the time for this after all.”

Pat put her hand on my arm and pushed me back down into the cushions with surprising strength.

“Wait a minute—” said Pat.

“Honey,” Maree said. “Been there.”

Libby’s voice—and face—were positively motherly.

“Girl,” she said. “We’re here to help you.”

 


 

J. Verostka was born in the Midwest and grew up a little bit of everywhere, even some time overseas but mostly on the West Coast. She attended college in Richmond, Virginia, stayed, married, pursued a career as a tapestry weaver, and set that aside to mother full-time. Somewhere along the way, mothering led to writing and now she does both. She still owns two looms and four spinning wheels—along with thousands of books—but her dearest things are her husband, her daughter, and sometimes her cats.


Editor’s Note: This story was written in response to the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge. We received so many good stories in response to this challenge that we’re running new stories daily all this week. We encourage you to comment on the stories and to vote for your favorite as soon as the polling widget goes live, as the author of the winning story will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate. Thanks for participating!

Another Note: We’ve learned that the polling widget is not accessible in some web browsers, particularly those found on smart phones. If you can’t see the polling widget in the upper right corner, here’s a direct link to it:


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