Kate woke up with an unspecified saggy feeling in her stomach that she couldn’t link to anything. Perhaps she’d had a nightmare and this was a dream hangover? Not an uncommon occurrence for Kate, who slept badly at the best of times, but she couldn’t remember even the slippery tail end of a dream so she doubted it was that.
Interview with the Vampire lay on the bedside table glaring at her. Perhaps it was the book? Maybe if she opened it and started reading she would get a little kick of achievement and feel better about her life? She picked it up - the cover was so glossy and shiny. She opened the cover page and… put the book back down again. No, she was too hungry to start reading first thing in the morning. Tea and breakfast first.
She padded downstairs to the empty kitchen and flicked on the kettle. She loved her kettle: insulated walls and a setting for different temperatures (which she never used, but she was sure the day she did use it she’d feel like buying the most expensive one was a good idea). She flopped a bagel into the toaster and then scrolled through instagram while waiting for breakfast to be ready. A text message popped up from Polly.
Are you alright if we pay for you to get a cab home tonight rather than giving you a lift back, or do you want to stay over? Xoxo
The annoyed feeling in Kate’s stomach intensified and she finally had that light bulb moment of realisation as to what her problem was. Baby sitting. Why was it annoying her so much? She loved Polly’s children, and she owed Polly hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, so one evening every month or so babysitting (for which they also paid her despite her debt) was not really much to ask. She poured water on the tea bag and pondered the feeling. It was the assumption that she would just happily do it with nothing that couldn’t be cancelled.
But then, that assumption wasn’t exactly inaccurate, was it? Sure, she’d sort of lined up a date with Graeme but she wasn’t devastated to have done that and, she checked her phone, he hadn’t even replied to her text by now so it didn’t seem like he was anywhere pining away either.
She wanted to be mad at Polly, but really… she was angry with herself for not having more going on and it wasn’t Polly’s fault she knew it. There. That was the bottom of the unspecified mucky feeling but seeing the bottom didn’t make it any less gross to feel. She squeezed the tea bag and removed it from the cup, buttered the bagel and went back to bed.
Interview with the Vampire sat on the side still. Kate looked at it. That would help, surely? She was going to start reading the damn book. Yes; it wasn’t much. But, it was something. She would have done something today. So when Polly looked at her and said casually, “What you been up to today?” Kate could confidently say back “I read a lot of the book for Book Club, an event that I go to with other adults. It’s a social occasion I partake in.” And they would both be very impressed with her.
She picked up the book in her right hand, the bagel in her left and started reading.
2 hours later her stomach reminded her that she’d only had one breakfast and it was probably time to put the book down and go and have something else to eat. She laid it carefully on the side, and skipped down the stairs to the kitchen feeling better than she had in years. What on earth had stopped her form reading all this time? She’d been lost, for two hours in a world that was vivid and interesting and exciting. Two whole hours out of her own drab existence and stretching her mind on thoughts and ideas she would never, ever had got to just from work or scrolling her phone.
She put her kettle back on and pre-heated the oven: searching through her freezer drawers for something she could easily cook. A ready meal lay, inviting in its simplicity, in the bottom drawer and she pierced the seal and threw it into the oven before prancing back up the stairs to read until it was cooked. The story drew her back in immediately she held the paper in her hand and she willingly let her mind wake back up again into the world within the ink.
By the time Polly knocked on her front door to collect her, Kate was almost done - she flew out of the house having hastily thrown on some appropriate clothing that had less food down the front of it and plonked herself in the passenger seat. She squealed and hauled herself back up again to remove the pink glittery hairbrush that had hedgehogged itself into her bum cheeks.
“Sorry,” said Polly, taking the hairbrush from her and flinging it into the back seat of the car, “I let Lisa sit in the front this morning on the way to ballet. No, climbing, no it was ballet. She must have left it there.”
“It’s fine,” said Kate, honestly, “most action I’ve had in years.”
“Tell me about it,” Polly laughed, “Sorry again for making you rearrange your date - I’m so grateful. Ryan and I really need tonight. I hope you’re not mad at me.”
“Not at all.” Kate said, and realised she meant it, “I’ll go out with Graeme again on Tuesday but I don’t think there’s much spark.”
“You’re very chipper?” Polly glanced at Kate very quickly, careful not to take her eyes off the road for more than a second.
“I am!” Kate confirmed, “I’ve been reading all day - I feel really relaxed.”
“God I haven’t started it yet - I’ll have to get on it tomorrow.” Polly groaned.
“It’s really good.” Kate watched the streets passing by outside her window, enjoying the voyeurism of checking in on families that didn’t close their curtains.
They pulled up outside Polly’s smart suburban home and Kate was greeted by a flock of nieces and nephews in the driveway all clamouring for hugs and attention. She felt more elated than she could ever remember being. Was this how happening stimulation and engaging in something made a person? She wondered. No wonder everybody at the university was so happy all the time.
The evening passed merrily in a flurry of play dough, sulks and bedtime stories. Polly and Ryan reappeared not too long after Kate had finally packed the last of their children into bed. There was no chance any of them were asleep but Kate decided that was a level up on the caretaking duties that didn’t matter to the person who was not going to be there tomorrow anyway when they were tired.
She jumped in the cab home, kissing a glowing Polly goodnight and trying to block out all the extra hand holding and winking going on between her and Ryan. She sat in the back of the cab feeling warm and dreamy. She’d passed a pleasant day in her own company, then hung out with he rlovely family and now she was going home to a good book. This was an amazing day.
She opened the front door to a storm of smoke and shouting.
“Fucking woman!” She could hear clattering from the kitchen and she hesitantly placed her bag down on the hall table and scampered to the kitchen to see what was happening.
Black smoke filled the kitchen and poured out of the open door and windows. Kate stood in the doorway looking in horror at the sight of Christian, her housemate, frantically and angrily waving a baking tray at the oven to try and angle the smoke out of the house.
“I assume this is yours?” He barked at Kate, pointing to a charred black rectangle just visible through the thick smoke coming out of the oven. Oh god, the oven meal. Kate realised with horror that she’d never gone back down to the kitchen to retrieve the meal - no wonder she’d pinched so many fish fingers from the kids’ dinner. Smoke was stinging her eyes and catching in her throat, making her want to retch and cough at the same time.
“Oh Christian I’m so sorry!” She said, choking as she inhaled to speak, “I just completely forgot…”
“Yeah, save it.” He said, “You completely forgot like you forget the rent, like you forget the cleaning, like you forget to take your key out of the inside of the door so I can get back in at night, like you forget to lock the bathroom door. I’m done. I’m moving out.”
And with that, he slammed the oven door, dropped the baking tray into the sink with a clatter and stalked up the stairs to bed.
What does Kate do?
- Beg him to stay?
- Agree he should go and advertise for a new housemate
- Agree he should go and not advertise for a new housemate
- Move out too
- Suggest he move out and she stays