The house was warm and bright. Tina had the curtains drawn with the afternoon sunlight streaming in through the glass. It was a complete betrayal to her current mood. She could hear birds chirping, calling to each other and children playing outside on their block.
It was an incredible Saturday afternoon. No matter how much she wanted the day to be gloomy, it was destined to be great right from the start. Even though she would have rather sat in the dark, the world around her had other plans.
Instead, she sat alone, at a table in her house with her breath shaking between her lips and her stomach knotting. He’s never been gone this long , she thought to herself, her lips tightening as they pursed. She squeezed a puzzle piece in between her fingers.
She loved putting puzzles together, and had totally been at the front of the bandwagon when 3D kits hit the market. After snatching up as many as she could, she put them together twice. Once for speed then again to glue and put on display. At some point, her love of puzzles drifted from a fun pastime to a necessary commodity to ease her tension and anxiety.
She stopped buying new puzzles, content with mixing them and putting two together at a time. That was difficult at first, but she adapted and became pretty good at picking the pieces apart, even when mixed in a box or bag together. I might need to move up to three at a time .
It was a random, half thought. Searching for the next puzzle piece and sorting them internally in her head meant she wasn’t thinking about the present.
A high-pitched melodic tuned broke through her thoughts. Without thought, she reached for her phone, before recognizing the sound. It’s not him . She hesitated now, eyes drifting slowly from the puzzle to her cellphone’s slightly cracked screen. Before she could keep her body from moving, her thumb switched down and swiped out of habit, answering the phone.
Tina heard her caller’s voice before the phone was even to her ear. “Tina? Tiinnnnnaaaa!”
Her friend’s yell caused her face to crack into a smile. “I’m right here, Beth. There’s no need to scream. Why are you always so crazy?” She chuckled, feeling the knots begin to unwind within her.
“Because you’re so stuck up!” Her friend replied curtly. “Sue and I are about to get our nails done. I’ll pay and I’ll pick you up in ten so you can come join us.”
There were days where she really admired her friend’s bluntness, and other days, like today, where the thought of resisting her only made her want to vomit. “John and I had plans,” Tina said smoothly, her voice betraying her true feelings. There was silence on the other line. “You know I’d love to but we’re really trying to build our relationship back up.”
There was more silence. When her friend spoke, her voice was calm. “Why are you lying to me? Or is it to yourself?”
Tina’s heart froze. Her head snapped quickly to the phone, as if to double check who she was really speaking to. Beth was still on the line, but she said no more. Unsure of what to say, Tina set the puzzle piece down slowly, biting loose skin on her lips. She started to say her friend’s name, but was immediately interrupted.
“If you want to sit around your house waiting for that jerk to show up, go right ahead. Hannah already told me he didn’t come home last night, or call. I want to be there for you, girl. But I can’t if you won’t let me. I’ll see you around.”
Beth ended the phone call. Insides rattling, Tina sat the phone down, her brows furrowing as she looked over the large table in the spare room littered with two half-finished puzzles and many small puzzle pieces grouped by color. Setting down the puzzle piece in her hand, Tina stopped suddenly as she heard a distant familiar sound. John was home.
She stood so quickly that she knocked her chair over. Ignoring it, Tina rushed into the hallway
Storm Constantine, Paul Cashman