By Vera Constantineau

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.”


  1. “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose.” So the page can then be turned and a new path taken. And what better time to do it than on your 30th birthday..
    A very good story, Vera

  2. Nicely written snapshot; a good read.

  3. A great story Vera … reality at its best. It took me some time to get to this one but appreciate it at this time.

  4. I’d say you had the basis for a neat little story — just requiring a few minor tweaks. I wasn’t sure what the ‘Control’ line of the story had to do with her break-up. I thought, perhaps she tried to take control of Tom and he rebelled by ‘cheating’. But there is no Tom in the story, no expose of his character.

    I wondered about her ‘freedom’ too. She lives in a small place, eats manufactured food from a no-name factory, and works in a simple garage as a payroll clerk (it sounds like payroll). So, what “freedom” does she have or did she gain?

    A few punctuation glitches and some diction choices could be improved but all-in-all, you’ve got a good beginning.

  5. First off, it wasn’t “…..the basis for a neat little story..” – it was a neat little story..!!
    There is no character called “Tom” – the jerk’s name was “Leo” and I’m not sure there has ever been a requirement for cheating down through the ages. We don’t need an expose of his character, he’s fairly stereotypical.
    “What freedom did she gain..?” The ultimate freedom — living her OWN life T.V. Dinners and all.

  6. Hi, Tori:
    Jazz is right. Of course it’s Leo, not Tom, Dick or Harry. But that’s how the name ‘Tom’ came out by mistake. Leo is just a random guy. We know nothing about him or how Tori feels, or felt, about him. So, even his name is unimportant.

    When Flaubert wrote MADAME BOVARY (1857), his intention was to critique French society — its morals, social postures, its sense of propriety. Emma Bovary has an affair because her husband is boring (read French society is a bore). Her husband was a successful doctor, well respected, polite, loving, socially correct, and proper in every way. And it was suffocating her! Her only freedom was to have an affair.

  7. HUH…?

  8. I love the comments here on Commuter Lit. So entertaining!

  9. My reaction exactly. I have no clue what the first paragraph after Hi, Toni means. Nor am I sure who is being addressed here. The character or the author??
    ‘Madame Bovary’ is maybe not the best choice to use as an example in this case. While it is true that it deals with the contentious moral issue of marital infidelity — and what was scandalous about the novel at the time was not the sexual indiscretion itself but the fact that Emma was a woman from the ‘respectable’ middle class — not a courtesan or prostitute — the real legacy of Flaubert’s masterpiece is stylistic. It is much more significant for this reason than for any ‘social realism’. It was Flaubert’s obsessive pursuit of ‘a purity of language’ during the writing and re-writing of this debut work, that the phrase ‘le mot juste’ was born.

  10. I found this story delightful! Absolutely delightful! So glad I read it….

  11. The whole piece read more like the final act of a story. A satisfying end, but just the end. The reader must take the author’s word that her cheating husband was the reason for her leaving, which, of course, is justifiable. However, I, as a reader am more interested in the story — the first two acts: why did bad husband cheat? What were the dynamics of the relationships? A one-dimensional antagonist is boring and offers little true drama. A tornado might as well be the cause of her exodus from the marriage. The antagonist comes across as smug, self righteous and with little depth of character other than ‘being wronged!!!’ Maybe the cheating bad boy was simply tired of living with this woman and meant to punish her for her perceived failings in the relationship. Each character and each story has its own moral structure. Assuming the reader holds yours is presumptuous and arrogant and does not lend to interesting narratives.

  12. Frank,
    Should that last sentence read..”..assuming the Writer…..”?
    By the by, I’m not sure that if I’ve ever imposed my own moral compass on a character or a story. In doing so I would have been quite weary with dozens of Shakespeare’s people. History books would be out of the question and Hannibal would have put me over the edge?
    Why did the bad husband cheat…..?. “…to punish her”. Nope, simply because he could.

  13. The reasons why her husband cheated on her were irrelevant. The story was not about the state of their marriage, but rather the focus was on the exhilaration the protagonist felt at being in charge of her own life. Every short story is a part of a whole, just as one incident in a person’s life doesn’t necessarily define him. Maybe we ask too much of a story??

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