living the dream

Prompt: (part 1) Recall an event that had a great emotional impact on you. What fears lie behind it? What is it telling you? (part 2) They say dialogue is everything…write a conversation between two people, real or imaginary, past, present, or future, and read it aloud.

It was the first day waking up in this place. She stirred in bed, still orienting herself in the morning light. Confusion and recollection came over her all at once as she let her eyes dart from ceiling to door to window and back again. This room is much bigger — much less cluttered — than the Chicago studio apartment she left behind. Her feet hit the floor with a loud thud and the noise bounces off the empty walls. She looks out the window and onto her manicured lawn. It sits in a row of other manicured lawns. Each has a matching mailbox with paved walkways up to identical doors.

She looks away, but catches her reflection instead. Unforgiving, she’s reminded of the ten pounds she gained and the person she never wanted to be. Frozen at 35 back home in Ohio. When city dreams didn’t work out. Relationship failed. Bills piled up. And cheaper rent beckoned her back home.

Her phone jolts her to reality. It’s her younger sister. “Shit, it’s already noon.” She rubs sleep from her eyes and tries to make it seem as though she’s been up for hours. She clears her throat and answers,

“Hey Anna,”

“Hey you! –Jackson put that down. — Sorry, Alex took the boys to the park this morning while I was at Pure Barre. Now they’re all wound up — Cooper, Mommy said no cookies, remember?

Through yawns, “Hey An, do you wanna just call me back later? Sounds like you’ve got a lot going on…”

“No, no! I’m good now. Wait a minute, are you still in bed!? LIV! It’s NOON! I’ve already run five miles, washed the car, and went to barre. Oh my gosh, you’re still sleeping aren’t you!?”

“No I’m not! I’m standing up. In my new bathroom. You know, brushing my teeth. Being a productive member of society.”

Okay sarcasm. I was going to see if you wanted me to pick you up. We could get lunch. Somewhere kid-friendly obviously. And since you don’t have a car, I just thought maybe you’d like to get out of the house and — “

“Oh I can just walk somewhere and meet you.”

“Very funny. I’ll be there in thirty. Remind me of your new place again — it’s those little townhouses near that abandoned strip mall right?”

“Actually, come to think of it, change of plans.”

“Wait what!? — Cooper what did I say? — “

“I think I’ll walk to the abandoned strip mall. See the local sights.”

“Well aren’t you in a lovely mood!?”

Liv shifts her weight, annoyed at her sister for absolutely everything and nothing at the same time. “I’m sorry. It’s all this fresh air I think.”

“Look I’m just trying to be nice, Liv. It’s not my fault you had to move back here. And besides it’s really not that bad and I am really busy so if you don’t want to — .”

Rolling her eyes, she starts to backtrack, “I know I know, I said I’m sorry. I’ll meet you for lunch. I’ll take a cab. Where are we going, Chuck E Cheese?”

“You know since you said that, I just might. — gahhh, the boys just made a mess in the kitchen — ”

“Okay I’ll let you go. See you at 12:30, alright!?”

“Yes yes! Oh but Liv?! Look up that guy I told you about, okay!? Alex’s sister’s coworker! I’m seeing him tonight so I thought I’d give him your number.”

“I think I’ll pass on that.”

crash in the background, followed by toddler cries.

“You’re infuriating.”

“Love you too, An!!”

She ends the call and throws her hair on top of her head the way her sister hates it. She decides maybe it’s reckless to be so obstinate at her age — that maybe Anna is just trying to help. She rummages through boxes to find where she packed her favorite shoes, slips them on, and is ready to walk. On the way she’ll look up Alex’s sister’s coworker the accountant, and maybe pass a used car dealership advertising tired sedans, and end up at the kid-friendly restaurant where children shriek and chaos strikes and yet somehow this is the “dream” everyone wants her to live.

She leaves her house and walks down the path that looks like everybody else’s.

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