High up on the 14th floor, the bedroom was pitch dark, blacklight shades entombed her. The streets below had finally quieted with the only sound from city buses screeching at the corner light; a familiar lullaby she had thought she would never get used to.
An hour ago, her daughter had been coughing, that whooping, alarming cough that keeps a mother from truly nestling into the warmth of her own covers. The potential for hacking sounds from the converted dining room next door caused her to be ready to dart to her baby’s side.
The neighbors had been arguing all evening, something about a green rental car and a missing cell phone. Three times she had grabbed the broom and rapped at the ceiling for them to shut up. Finally she heard a door slam and she was grateful for the only sound now coming from the shuffling of the victors’ feet on the wood floors above.
Her daughter was only lightly sleeping… the slightest thing would start the coughing fits all over again.
Her mind had finally stopped racing and her eyes softly fluttered and then sealed with the determination to get rest.
Tonight she would steal maybe just five hours of precious sleep.
All she wanted was five uninterrupted hours.
Her body exhaled as each muscle melted into the familiar mattress. Her breathing shallowed and rhythmically her chest rose and fell into a pattern. Finally, she was sleeping.
She heard her name being called but she couldn’t pinpoint from where. Something was in her hand and she heard her name over and over again. Finally she realized the receiver was just inches from her ear.
“…h-h-hell-” Sheila tried to swallow.
“SHEILA! …SHEEILA!… ARE YOU THERE?!”
A man’s voice shouted through the earpiece and echoed in her bedroom.
“SHEEILA, WHY AREN’T YOU HERE?”
Her lips were cracked and her mouth was dry, Sheila tried to answer: “Who is this?” but only half of the sentence croaked out. She tried again, this time with more air behind her words: “WHO IS THIS?”
Her voice was still groggy and unsteady.
The man on the other end was strangely familiar but she had no idea who was calling her name.
“SHEILA!! WE MISS YOU GIRL! YOU SHOULD BE HERE!”
The man’s voice was complimented by three other strange voices, all of them shouting. She couldn’t make any of them out.
Her heart started to race as became more and more alert. She glanced at the clock on the nightstand and slowly the numbers came into focus. 3:31AM.
Shit – she thought.
From the other room, she heard her daughter rustle and start to murmur. Then she heard a cough.
Her hand rubbed her eyes and then her hair as she let out a huge yawn. She was not yet awake as she tried to concentrate.
“Who IS this?” she demanded.
“It’s Brian! We wish you were here girl!”
Then it clicked.
Tonight was prom. She was supposed to be out with her friends enjoying the last night of high school madness.
But instead she was here, sleep deprived, worried about her baby girl in the next room.
Last year, she’d spent the entire night with Brian talking about what their senior prom would look like. A lot had happened in a year, she’d forgotten completely about tonight. Her priorities had changed.
“I gotta go” she said as she lunged the handset back into its cradle.
She heard the mounting cries and labored wheezes from the room next door.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed and shuffled to her baby girl.
This was fiction that I wrote for the Red Dress Club. The assignment was:
“In the middle of the night, you get an urgent call from a friend you haven’t talked to in years. Something terrible has happened. What is it and why is he/she calling you?”
I have never written fiction before. It was not easy and honestly i had no idea where I would end up. Part of me hoped that if I started I might spit out the next “Twilight” series, alas, no such luck.