Morning brings titillating thoughts…and reminders of bad choices in the past. Excerpted from Interior Designs.
When her alarm clock shrilled, Caroline Jansen jumped out of bed immediately. She was hard-wired for efficiency, and everything about her day was pre-planned, from the coffee pot timed to start at 5:30 a.m. to her alarm set for 5:45. She could grab her first cup of coffee even before her shower, just to make sure she was completely awake.
Now she stood in the efficient kitchen of her condo sipping from her mug, still wearing the long shirt that reached her knees. She’d grabbed it from her boyfriend’s closet one morning after a sleepover and had never returned it, not even after they broke up. Not that she wanted any reminders of him, but it was the perfect size to totally cover her comfortably.
Carrying the coffee upstairs, she approached her shower, turned it on, and then placing the mug on the counter, slipped out of the shirt and stepped under the spray. Closing her eyes and enjoying the beginning of her day, she thought about the tasks ahead. And naturally, she thought about Martha and how off-track she seemed lately. Not that her work had suffered, but something wasn’t right. The divorce could be at fault, but those two had been apart for a couple of years, hadn’t they? She knew they’d been married for nine or ten years, and before that, they’d dated several years, too. So she could understand the connection. But wasn’t it time to move on?
Martha wasn’t aware that she knew about Zach Lowenstein. She thought she’d been so discreet, but Caroline had picked up clues. And she’d seen them together once, when their eyes had glommed onto one another, like something magical was happening. So when he didn’t show up anymore, Caroline wondered…And decided that maybe her boss’s aborted relationship might be as much to blame for her mood as the failed marriage.
Toweling off, she dressed carefully before applying makeup. Her look was efficient, just as she was. Simple A-line styled hair, a bit of eyeshadow and blush, a touch of lip gloss. Satisfied, she tucked her shirt into the slim skirt and stepped into her sandals. Tossing her glossy brunette hair and leaning in to study her dark eyes, she smiled at her reflection.
She loped down the stairs, ready for her second cup of coffee and the newspaper. Her day had begun.
When the alarm went off, I was not ready to jump out of bed. I groaned, turned over, and glared at the clock. Why did I have to wake up so early, anyway? I was my own boss. I could certainly change those hours for myself and for Caroline, too. Or maybe she could start at 8:30 and I could meander into the office an hour later.
But then I remembered Meadow. School would not be out for another couple of months. Since when had I been marking time this way? Once upon a time I used to revel in each day and look forward to the moments with Meadow. Or had I?
Maybe the secret in my life was how much I had always hated the obligations and the pretense. Maybe I, too, wanted to be a slacker, or even run off to the city to experience life. Perhaps I would like to find myself, too. Enjoy decadent nights and love affairs.
Well, I had done that part, anyway. That thing with Zach, who, by the way, hadn’t called me back. I’d left the message for him days ago. What was up with that?
Before I could allow myself to go there, though, I stumbled out of bed and into the shower. I could already hear Meadow stirring in her room. Sometimes she actually read or watched TV in there before she came to my room. I enjoyed the time to begin the day without the pressure.
When had I started feeling stressed and pressured by my own daughter?
Guilt slid over my shoulders along with the shower spray. It sluiced across my body and covered me like a thin skin of doubt and shame. In moments like these, my mind traipsed along memory pathways again, and I was back there, plotting evil with Miranda Templeton. And that had turned out very badly.