Copyright is held by the author.
TORI WALKED around the studio apartment in less than thirty seconds. Four walls; one for the sofa bed, one for the windows, one for the kitchenette and one for the door, which she hoped to close behind her one final time, and soon, before “Crazy” became her middle name.
This cube and the 99 like it were for people on the move. Tori supposed that described her. Everything she cared for she’d put in storage. The closet was overflowing with her clothes, but you had to dress, right? The place was clean, furnished and rented by the week. The Easy Living Complex was okay for what it was, temporary.
She picked up the remote and killed the television, news was always bad. Soon the toaster oven on the counter would ping and she would pull out the single-serving turkey dinner manufactured by some no-name food factory.
Happy birthday eve, Tori. Right on cue the toaster oven bell sounded off.
Tomorrow was her 30th birthday. She jumped ahead on the gift giving this year, gave herself enough backbone to walk out on Leo. That was a week ago and she wasn’t looking back. She got mad every time she thought about that scuzzy bastard sleeping with Angela, a former friend. Did they think she wouldn’t notice all those looks? The way they went missing in tandem?
She packed her stuff and bailed. No reason to stay, right? Like it or not, Leo made his bed and she wasn’t the one he wanted in it. Tori rolled her shoulders. Lucky her, she had a job, a little money set aside. So screw Leo.
The rest of her evening was spent watching reruns of sitcoms, trying to up her mood before going to bed. She drank a couple of glasses of white with the turkey dinner and a couple more mid-evening; she fell asleep with a nice buzz going.
She arrived at the garage on time and with no hangover; already there were customers in the waiting area and the morning went by fast. A garage like this one, smack in the middle of an industrial park, was practically guaranteed a stream of cars to be worked on and there was always something to do, telephone calls, making the bank run. She liked the work and since she was alone in the office every task fell to her. She did the cash, did the books, made up the payroll for the mechanics, the parts guy, a runner, for her. As well, she arranged the drawings for her boss. Control—there was nothing like it.
The runner would bring in coffee daily and at 10 and three they’d buzz her to let her know coffee was on. Today when she pulled open the service entrance door she saw them lined up like ducks and wondered what the hell they were up to.
They started singing “Happy Birthday.”
Oh man, not only were they singing, beside the coffee cups lined up on the service counter they had a cake.
“You guys!” Tori struggled to hold back her tears. What a roller coaster ride. She wondered if the universe was giving her a jab or delivering a little kindness in return for the shit kicking she’d had courtesy of Leo and Angela.
The guys pulled out a bag with paper plates decorated with bright balloons and matching plastic forks, as they ripped the packages open they began to tease her.
“Tell us about last night Tori, Leo give you the birthday bumps?” Whistles and hoots all around.
She’d told no one that she and Leo had broken up. Tori planned to keep it quiet until she made up her mind whether stay in this one-horse or move along. If the situation was reversed and these guys got cheated on would they find another warm body and dive in or take the lesson? No matter, she had no plans to hop in the sack with anyone any day soon. She was no cheater; she was the cheater’s better half. Okay, ex-better, but still. There was someone for her some place and he wasn’t a cheater.
Maybe the shop crew and their good hearts were a sign that good guys still existed. Maybe she just had to open up to it, first things first though. She needed to start fresh by sharing a little honesty with people who seemed to care about her.
“You want to know what I got for my birthday from Leo? Freedom.”