Brie: It's What's For Breakfast

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Why I Should Always Check My Horoscope

Once I looked up my horoscope on this online astrology site and now, intermittently, I get an update. Not every day, every week or every month, mind you, just occasionally. It’s probably been six months or so since I saw a horoscope from this site. Maybe it only sends me a message when I have reason to watch for falling rocks or something.

When I log in today it’s there. Usually I just delete it. Today I ignore it and check for more interesting mail.

Next is a note from a lawyer buddy of mine at the child services agency. His kid is taking part in a fund raiser for school and he wants to sell me something. If I don’t buy it, will he refuse to negotiate settlement on the next case we have? I flag it so I could remember to call him at the office Monday and find out if it was intended as extortion.

There’s a flagged reminder that the Arkansas Arts Center is having a reception for a new Impressionist exhibit tonight. I’m planning to go alone if I can’t find anyone to accompany me. It sucks not having someone handy to go to these functions with.

My family emails me instead of calling me. That’s considerate. I hate the telephone. I use it all day every day at work and I absolutely hate to talk on it otherwise. I’m not crazy about it at work, either. Cauliflower ear is a disease I hope someday to shake for good. First my brother asks that I look over a new document for his business to make sure it conforms to the law. I do, it does, and I tweak it just a little so he knows I didn’t just rubber-stamp it. Then my sister wants to know if I have our grandmother’s recipe for a cheese souffle. I hope I do. It sounds like an incredibly fattening, delicious thing to have for dinner. Ah, yes. A spattered, stained card in my recipe box is the mother lode. I consider entering the recipe in Master Cook so I can get the calorie count. I decide I’m better off not knowing. I type it into an email to her. I hope she invites me over.

The phone rings. Damn. I look at the caller ID and it says “private.” There is only one person who ever routinely blocked his number when he called, but I haven’t heard from him in probably seven or eight months. The first time I dumped him he stalked me. The last time I dumped him he vanished in the face of my righteous rage. I really don’t want to deal with him again. After this long surely it’s not him again. The blocked caller ID has to be just a coincidence. I pick up the phone. What is it with me and my self-destructive behavior?

“Hello?”

“Hi, gorgeous,” he says. Shit. Why did I answer? Why? WHY?

“Hello, Doug,” I say, keeping my tone even. If I sound glad to hear from him, he’ll take it as an invitation. The last thing I want is to see this man. No, the last thing I want is this man stalking me again. I tell myself to be cool, distant.

“How are you?” he asks.

“Fine,” I answer cautiously. I really don’t want to encourage him to talk.

“How have your headaches been?”

I debate how to answer this. If I say they’re bad, he’ll probably suavely offer to sex me up to cure them, which I don’t want. If I say they’re not a problem he’ll want to talk about what I’ve done to make them go away. I weasel out the best way I can.

“They’re fine,” I say. Noncommittal, I think. Either I’m telling him I’m fine or that the headaches are alive and well. I bet he won’t figure out that what I’ve said is no real answer at all. He’s not all that smart.

“That’s good,” he offers cheerfully. Good for whom? Me or the headaches? I wonder.

“So, what’s up?” I ask, not really caring what the answer is.

“There’s a reception at the Arts Center tonight for the new exhibit. Impressionism. I know you love impressionist art, so I thought maybe we could go together.”

Shit, shit, shit. I love going to art exhibit openings, and he knows it. Think fast, I tell myself. Think really fast.

“How nice,” I say.

“So how about it?” He’s from Oklahoma originally, so he must not understand that ‘how nice’ is that ubiquitous Southern euphemism for ‘fuck you.’

“Um, well, I’m seeing someone,” I say hesitantly.

“Someone special?”

“Yes,” I say. I don’t elaborate.

“Oh.” He seems stuck for something to say. I resolve to be as unhelpful as possible. There is silence.

“Oh,” he says again.

“Yes,” I agree.

“Okay. Well, take care, then.”

“Bye.” I hang up, glad that ordeal is over. Never, never answer the phone when the caller ID is blocked, I chastise myself. Never, never, never!

I spend the afternoon looking for someone to go to the exhibit opening with me. I have no luck. Everyone’s got plans, is out of town, doesn’t feel well, or just plain doesn’t want to go. I decide to go to the reception alone. I know that I’ll know people there. Half an hour before the reception starts I freshen up my make-up, put on a dress and (ugh) stockings, fix my hair, and head out. I arrive a few minutes after 6:00, when the reception started.

Fifteen minutes later my plastic cup of cheap wine and I stroll around the gallery examining the paintings. I am inspecting a nice landscape when I feel someone close at my elbow. Without looking to see who it is, I move a little to the left to make room for him.

“Hello, Anne,” he says.

Damn, damn, and triple damn. It’s Doug.

“Hi,” I say, putting more space between us.

“Where’s your boyfriend?” he asks.

Oh, crap. Now what am I going to do? I don’t answer. I just smile at him, and I know it’s a sickly smile. I feel like throwing up.

“I’m going to get a refill,” I say, indicating my plastic cup. “Excuse me.”

He walks after me. “I’ll come with you,” he says.

“You really don’t need to,” I say, and I dodge into the crowd where I hope he won’t follow. He follows. I feel like running. I make it to the bar and signal for the bartender. He is busy and I am short. He doesn’t see me. Doug is still at my elbow. He plucks my plastic cup from my hand.

“Let me get it for you,” he offers. I hope that if I obtain enough juice of the vine it will make me braver and intelligent enough to get away intact. He gets the bartender’s attention and my cup is refilled. He hands it to me with a smile.

“Thank you,” I say. I am polite, but I move away from him. Again, he follows.

“Are you here with your boyfriend?” Doug asks again. I think he suspects I might be lying about a man being in my life.

“Oh, look! Pam and Russell!” I exclaim brightly, and head toward them.

“Hi, guys! Oh, I’m so glad you’re here!” My false cheeriness must really confuse them, but when they see Doug I hope they will figure out all is not well. I stand with them and make small talk. I don’t invite Doug into the conversation. I hope he gets the hint. Unfortunately, he greets Pam and Russell and joins the conversation anyway. I look around for another conversation to jump to. My attention is yanked back by Pam’s well-intentioned question.

“So, are you two seeing each other again?” Shit.

“No!” I yelp. Doug is silent. Russell gives me a funny look. My mind is doing somersaults trying to come up with a safe subject.

“So, it’s a nice turn-out, isn’t it?” I offer. God, how lame. Lame, lame, lame. The small talk continues for another minute. Russell and Pam excuse themselves to seek refills of their own plastic cups. Doug and I stand there awkwardly for a few seconds.

“I should be getting home,” I say. “Jack’s there alone.” Jack is actually at his father’s house, but what Doug doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

“I’ll walk you to your car,” he says. Please, no, I think.

“Oh, that’s really not necessary.” I turn and head to the cloakroom to retrieve my coat. Naturally, Doug follows. He takes the coat from the attendant and holds it for me. I shrug into it with a quick, “Thanks.”

There is no escaping the inevitable. He walks me to my car. His is parked right next to mine. He knows I hate driving and if I had a date I wouldn’t have been in my own vehicle. I feel like a naughty child who’s been found out.

“Well, goodnight,” I say as I take out my key and aim the remote at the car.

Doug puts his hand on my arm. I freeze. To be honest, the guy scares me. I was crazy to let him back into my life after the stalking incident. He proved it when he betrayed my trust a month after we resumed our relationship. I don’t like him. I know what he’s capable of. I don’t need it in my life. I’m still angry about him hacking into my email last summer.

He turns me to face him. He keeps his grip on my arm and touches my cheek with his other hand. I turn away. “I need to go,” I say.

He ignores me. He kisses me on the lips. I don’t move. I don’t kiss back.

“I’ll call you,” he says. He opens my car door. I collapse into the driver’s seat, shaken.

I don’t remember the drive home. My mind is jibbering in half hysteria. I pull into the garage and close the door behind me without getting out of my car or turning off the engine. When I am inside I check all the doors to make sure they are locked. My stomach is in a knot. I go to the bathroom and throw up.

It’s still early. I go into the kitchen and get myself a glass of ice water. I sit down in front of my computer.

My email is still open. I see the horoscope I didn’t read. I click on it.

Cancer (June 22-July 22):
This day is not exactly your best friend.
Be on guard because a friend or business associate could betray you.
Maintain a low profile and you’ll get through the day unscathed.
Be invisible.

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February 11, 2007 - Posted by | Creative Writing, Fiction, Writing

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