Sheridan tried to focus on the flashing window on her laptop screen, but instead her eyes followed the limping silhouette of her mother. A gritty, irritable sort of feeling welled within her chest, threatening to bubble up to her throat as the shadowy figure painstakingly shuffled across the wooden floors to the bathroom, turning on the light. Brightness bounced down the hall, making her wince. The evening was settling in.
“Sheri?” Mom’s voice was muffled through the bathroom door.
“Yeah?” Sheri stabbed at the keyboard. “What?” There was no answer until the bath-robed figure emerged, shuffling toward the dimly lit kitchen. A half-smile lit up her mother’s sleepy face. “What’d you want?” Sheri forced herself to keep her tone as neutral as possible. It didn’t take much for Mom to yo-yo between perfectly perfect Mary Poppins and the Ice Queen in a snow blizzard.
“Making sure it was you, that’s all.” She paused, hesitant. “Something wrong?”
“No.” Sheridan snapped the laptop shut, already bending under the table to unplug the power cord. “I was just finishing up.”
“Oh.” The silence was awkward as Mom continued puttering around the kitchen in her slow-shuffle steps. She made a cup of tea in the microwave by the time Sheri retrieved her computer and angled towards the solitude of her bedroom. “Where are you going?”
“To my room.” Sheridan said, stiffly. “Need something?”
“No.” Mom stared at her, graying eyebrows knitting themselves together. “I was only asking-” She was interrupted by the loud ringing of the telephone. Her grateful look was briefly visible before she caught sight of Sheridan’s scowl as she crossed the room to check the caller ID. “Telemarketer?” She tried.
“Collector.” Sheridan swallowed the bitterness rising in her throat. “Didn’t Dad pay the credit cards this month?”
Saddened eyes fixed on her face with a look of pity. “He’s doing all he can, Sheri-and you know it. It wouldn’t hurt if you could actually get a job or something to keep yourself afloat!”
“I’m floating just fine!” Sheridan snapped.
“Twenty-six years old, staying at home, living off your parents?” Mom wheezed. “That’s floating?”
“Just leave me alone!” Sheridan wheeled around, retreating to the sanctuary of her bedroom. She craved the artificial darkness, even as the harsh glow from the laptop, illuminated every shadowy crevice. The room begged for a decent cleaning by way of the teetering pile of laundry growing in the corner.
Thoughts frantically fought their way through the channels in her mind until she jerked away from the laptop to huddle in the corner beside the laundry. Her eyes squeezed shut, hands clenched into fists as she tried to absorb the pain coming with the reality she desperately wanted to ignore. The laptop chimed, taunting her curiosity.
Her shoulders drooped as she read the messages. Two job applications turned down and her advertisement to be a Virtual Assistant had run out. The raw ache inside burrowed deeper. It had taken effort to find and fill the applications, while placing an ad online had swallowed her spending and birthday money.
“Stupid money!” It was that wretchedly cursed thing in the first place that caused her mother’s stress-related chronic issues. It was watching her mother suffer through them, that birthed her father’s new addictions. There was no way out of the nightmare.
Once freshly graduated, with sky-high hopes, her options were now limited to a waitress or cashier. It was an insult to her intelligence and neatly planned life, things were supposed to be good. Sheridan snatched up her jacket, stuffing her keys in her pants’ pocket. Maybe a drive around town would help. Being anywhere but in this depressing cave-hole would be a treat.
Tip-toeing out, she headed for the back door. It didn’t squeak as much. She bit her lip-hard-at the sight of her mother huddled on the sofa, breath coming in shortened gasps. Her eyes were closed, face tired. But she was resting.
Today was one of her good days.
Sheridan inched past and out the door. Her stomach coiled into a record-breaking knot, eyes burning with the threat of tears. Seated in her car, she pulled out of the driveway, heading for town. She drove until the lights came into sight and then exited towards the Megamall.
Shreds of hope were slow in surfacing. Burying childish insecurities, she forced back the tears. Danielle said a department store was hiring.
Perhaps a temporary job couldn’t hurt.
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