Saturday 12 – Sunday 13 January 2013
Harper Fellows hated clichés but she had to admit that the gentle breeze that was coming in through the security screen on the back door made the candle flame flicker as if it were dancing across the walls of the living room. Shadows and light changed positions nearly every second in a dynamic ballet that held her attention where the actors on the fifty-two inch screen mounted on the wall could not. Fumbling with the remote control that had somehow managed to lodge itself under her rump and slightly down the back of the sofa, she finally freed it from its prison and switch off the television. The dancing flames were beautifully illuminating and almost hypnotising in their movements, and Harper needed a calming influence after the day she’d experienced.
She had given up earlier that evening, sometime between arriving home and making dinner, trying to hold back the tears that were the result of an abominable day. Still, they didn’t freely flow, rather they were intermittent tears that had their own mind about when the best time to escape from their human cage would be: in the elevator on the way up to her apartment whilst the handsome, but more importantly single, man from 7B was riding along side her; as she answered a phone call from her caring but often overbearing mother who then wanted to know the ins and outs of what had caused these tears; just as she had a mouthful of fettuccine with roasted capsicum and sun dried tomatoes. Those pesky little drops of her pain formed rivulets down her cheeks, reminding her when they fell of the hell that had been her Monday. Harper was on to her third box of tissues in an attempt to mop up the teary mess.
Her glass of wine remained largely untouched on the coffee table in front of the sofa that she was currently stretched out on. From this comfortable location, Harper was central to everything that she might require – the kitchen and her requisite supplies of chocolate, wine, popcorn for a low calorie alternative to the chocolate, more wine, and more chocolate were a few steps behind her; the telephone was within reach next to her glass of wine, although she didn’t expect anyone to call after the scene she’d made at work; the wall mounted television was clearly visible from anywhere in this room; her iPod docking station and notebook computer were sitting neatly on an antique mahogany sideboard that she’d picked up at a silent auction in the city last year; and her books, the things she believe helped maintain her sanity, were everywhere in the room housed in bookshelves, on any flat surface available, and piled in an ever increasing stack next to the non-functioning fireplace. Harper had decided that yes, this would make the perfect base for her to kick back and unplug from the world for an undisclosed length of time.
Despite the relative comfort that she had surrounded herself with, Harper was unable to shake the day’s events. Like any bad memory, every moment of the day replayed itself in her mind like some Z-grade horror movie, and Harper was in the starring role as the helpless young woman being mercilessly and relentlessly pursued by bloodthirsty zombies.
‘Urgh,’ she sighed, ‘this shit only ever happens to me, I’m sure.’ She reached for the wine, clumsily sipping from the glass and then wiping an errant drop of wine from her mouth.
‘If only I’d kept my mouth shut when she told me to do my job. But noooooo, I had to tell her that it was simple common courtesy to let everyone involved know when she found out, three days later on the morning that the changes were supposed to come in. God, why do I have to be such a mouth trap?’
In her mind, Harper chastised herself for the self-doubt that was insidiously settling itself into her brain. It was a bad habit that she’d never been able to break. Self-doubt crushing what little self-esteem she had left, giving others the permission to belittle her, believing when they said she was aggressive and not assertive when she had thought she was, always thinking that she was in the wrong, always feeling that she was to blame when, in fact, she was not. A large gulp of wine this time before berating herself for being so childlike, so submissive in the face of authority.
‘Oh God,’ she said, ‘if I start on the chocolate now, I won’t give up until it’s gone. And then I’m going to feel shit all over again for eating the whole block.’ The words, intended to convince herself that she didn’t need the comfort of chocolate, failed to hit the mark and Harper removed herself from the sofa to fetch the block of Belgian goodness from the kitchen. She had removed it from the outer cardboard packaging and was in the process of breaking it up within the foil wrapping when the phone rang. Looking from the chocolate in her hands to the telephone on the coffee table, Harper made the choice to ignore the caller and concentrate on her comfort food.
She lay back down on the sofa, a piece of chocolate melting in her mouth, and waited for the answer machine to take the call. As if responding to her thoughts, the machine activated prompting the caller to leave their name, number and message after the tone.
‘Harper, it’s Matt. From work,’ the caller paused, probably waiting for the human Harper to take over the call from the machine Harper. It didn’t happen so he continued.
‘Look, I heard about what happened today, and I just wanted to tell you . . . well I really just wanted to say . . . shit, I don’t know what I want to say. Uh, Harper, Janice Potts is a bitch. Don’t take it personally; she’s like that with everyone. The thing is, she’s probably never had anyone stand up to her before, or rather, stand up for themselves when she gets on a rant. Screw her, huh? You’re better than her anyway. Don’t let her –’
The machine cut Matt off, disconnecting his call, as it was set up to only take short messages. Harper crossed her fingers hoping that he would call again to finish off the message. She quickly resolved that if he did, she would answer the phone giving him the excuse that she’d been in the shower and unable to take his previous call.
She waited but the phone did not ring again, and it was somewhere around two thirty a.m. by the time Harper eventually fell asleep. The sofa was not the ideal bed, but between the wine, chocolate and self-loathing, she simply didn’t have the strength to make her way to the bedroom. She’d pay for it in the morning with an aching neck and stiff back, and more than likely a hangover caused equally by the wine and the chocolate. And somewhere in her sleep, Harper dreamt about what it would be like to be someone a little stronger, a little more assertive and confident enough to put Janice Potts in her place.