*Features adult language and themes.*
She was late.
If there was one thing she despised in others it was bad time-keeping and now she was being forced into it herself.
That bloody woman. She does it on purpose.
Evie was standing at the front window in her living room tapping her foot and taking it in turns to look at her watch and back out to the driveway.
Robbie was on the floor behind her, amused by whatever bright colours and funny noises the TV was making.
Jon had left early to go to work. They’d barely said two sentences to each another. He always made a point of waking her up to say ‘bye’ and ‘Love you.’ It had become an automatic response when they separated for the day. She appreciated the gesture, but would have chosen to be left undisturbed.
She got up soon after to sort Robbie out, get him washed, dressed and fed then usually washed again. He had a habit of not quite knowing where his mouth was, or mistaking his nose for the place the food was supposed to go in.
Evie glanced to her right, spotting her empty easel out of the corner of her eye. Her desperation to be out the door was replaced, momentarily, by a flash of anger. I should be painting. She felt like her job stole time away from her art. If I had all day to paint, would I actually do it? She left the question hanging in her mind knowing the answer but reluctant to voice it to herself.
She hadn’t been able to carve any time for her artwork since the New Year, she’d made hasty notes as ideas came to her but the prospect of actually putting the paint on the canvas filled her with dread, not excitement like it should have done.
A car pulled into the driveway. Finally. Jon’s Mum got out, slammed the door, looked over to the window and waved, apparently knowing Evie would be there.
Evie went to the sofa, put her coat on, picked up her purse, stooped to give Robbie a quick kiss on his head then went through to the kitchen.
“Wooooo-ooo. Hello. Sorry I’m late,” said Jane as she let her self in.
“Morning. I’ve got to get going. Robbie’s had his breakfast. He’s allowed a biscuit in a bit and his lunch is in the fridge. Jon should be back about 3.” Evie squeezed past Jane on her way to the door.
“OK, dear. Have a good day, won’t you.”
Evie shot a glance over her shoulder at Jane’s smirking face. “I’ll try. Call me if there’s any problems.” You have to say it. “Thanks for coming and sitting with him.”
“Anytime, dear. You know that.”
Evie closed the door behind her crossed the courtyard and went up the metal stairs that led to the path. Anytime, my arse. Anytime it’s convenient for you. She looked at her watch. Shit. I should be there now. It was a 15 minute walk across town. I’m already late. No point rushing now.
* * *
The bell tinkled as she pushed the door open.
Evie had made pretty good time getting across town considering she’d almost been run over twice and people kept walking into her.
“Afternoon, Evie,” Said Zoe.
If anyone else had said it, she might have reacted angrily, instead she smiled and rolled her eyes, letting a touch of her frustration show. “My bloody mother-in-law.”
“You sound like a comedian from the 70’s.”
“Mother-in-law jokes exist for a reason. All good jokes work from a basis of truth.” She went out to the cloakroom, hung up her coat and bag then came back into the cafe tying her apron. “Is Layla in yet?”
“No. I opened up today, not sure if she’s coming in. If she asks, I’ll cover for you.”
“Thanks.” She took a quick look around the cafe. The floor was aged boards covered here and there with ornate rugs that had become patchy where the foot traffic crossed them. Most of the floor space was taken up with small wooden tables and chairs. At the far end there was a big comfy sofa. The walls were painted maroon with dark wood paneling in places. There wasn’t a great deal of space between tables, but that didn’t matter at the moment because they had no customers. “Did I miss the rush?”
“Yeah. Mrs. Higgins has come and gone.” Zoe chuckled to herself. “It’s been a bit manic, but that’s not your fault. I was expecting Layla to be in at some point.”
“One of the perks of owning the place I guess.”
Zoe made a non-comital noise as she cleaned the coffee machine. “So, what’s up with your Mother-in-law?”
Evie grabbed a box of sugar packets and went from table to table filling the bowls. “She turned up late. I’m pretty sure she does it on purpose. She’s got these weird 1950’s ideals where she thinks I should stay at home looking after Robbie while Jon goes out to put food on the table. The woman doesn’t live in the real world. Not my world anyway.”
“Why don’t you say something to her?”
“I can’t. We need her to sit for us a least once a week. Can’t afford to pay for childcare so we just have to put up with it. She knows she holds all the cards so she keeps doing these little things to push me, it’s like she does it as a reminder that we need her more than she needs us.
“I don’t know? Maybe I’m seeing something that isn’t there.”
“No, don’t doubt yourself. If it feels that way, it’s probably right. Wish I could suggest something.”
“Tell me about it. I’ve racked my brain to think of ways around asking her to sit for us, but I don’t see any alternatives. I’d love to live my life the way she wants me to. Staying at home with Robbie all day. Trouble is I’d be worrying about feeding him and keeping a roof over his head instead of finding someone to look after him.”
“A lottery win would be good.”
“Wouldn’t it just. I think you actually have to buy a ticket to win though.”
“Your chances would dramatically improve.” Zoe moved across the counter and started to set up cups, saucers and spoons, ready for the tea orders when they came. “When I was at college I had a few friends who planned their future based on the fact that they would win the lottery. They had no idea what they wanted to do for a living, they simply planned to win the lottery.”
“How can you plan to win the lottery?”
Zoe shrugged and the conversation died as they each busied themselves in preparation for the lunch rush.
Evie went around the shop wiping the tables down and straightening the menus. She paused every now and then to look at the artwork that covered the walls. They were all original pieces from local artists. Layla displayed them in the hope that customers would buy them. If they did she took a commission.
Evie wanted to put a piece of her own on the wall but had never had the confidence to do it. I would actually have to finish something first.
“Is this one new?” Evie pointed at a small ink sketch of a horse in a tiny frame.
“Yeah. Bit weird isn’t it,” said Zoe.
The sketch had been hastily done, it gave the horse a frenetic energy. Evie couldn’t work out how such a complex drawing had been made with so few lines. I could never do anything like that. I think everything out too much. It looks like that sketch was done in a few seconds and it’s better than anything I’ve done in years. A surge of jealousy welled in her chest that battled with admiration. The little sticker next to the sketch had been partially covered with a reserved sticker. Sold already, It’s only been here a few days, at the most. Evie pealed it away to see what someone had paid for it.
“I can’t believe someone paid £50 for it,” said Zoe, noticing what Evie was doing.
“It’s probably worth more than that.”
“I’d say so. Though, I guess anything is only worth whatever someone’s willing to pay.”
“You used to say you were going to bring some stuff in to sell. Maybe that’s how you could make some cash to get your Mother-in-law out of the picture.”
Evie bit her lip to stop a barbed comment jumping out and pretended that she hadn’t heard.
The door bell tinkled as a few old ladies entered. Evie joined Zoe behind the counter. “Looks like the lunch rush has stared early.”
* * *
It was mid afternoon before things calmed down a bit. Layla made an appearance at lunch time and proceeded to act as though she was working when, in fact, all she did was watch Evie and Zoe do everything.
Evie took a cup of coffee and a sandwich and went across the path to the church opposite the cafe. It was a strange little church that had been hemmed in by buildings as the town had developed. It was surrounded by old stone walls topped with iron railings. Just inside the wall was a little bench that Evie liked to sit on to take her breaks. It was impossible to get any peace if she took her break inside. Something would need doing, or a customer would come in and the break would disappear.
She sat down and picked her diary out of her bag. Over the last few days she’d been reading and re-reading Kurt Sampson’s article. Amongst her usual diary entries she’d been considering the exercises he’d laid out. She flicked back a few pages to read what she’d written about her life-blocks.
* * *
Self-Esteem I get down on myself easily. I let Jon control my life too much. I don’t have enough confidence to force change upon myself. Unhappy.
Health I don’t have any major complaints. I’m quite healthy. I don’t eat as well as I would like. I’m tired a lot of the time and can’t gather enough energy to do things for myself once I’ve done the things I need to do. Neutral.
Work I don’t have a career. I work out of necessity, for money. Unhappy.
Play I don’t have time to do things for fun. The hobbies I do have frustrate me because I can’t seem to finish anything. Unhappy.
Money Ha-bloody-ha. Unhappy.
Family & Friends I love Jon and Robbie more than anything else in the world. They are all the family I have. Despite this I can’t help feeling I give them more than I get back. Neutral.
Home & Environment I live in a shit-hole and my neighbours are wankers. Unhappy.
Love I love Jon and he loves me unconditionally. I’ve loved him since the day we met. Our relationship has become strained recently. I have doubts that grow everyday. I’m afraid that he’s cheating on me, or he’ll leave me. I have no reasons to believe this, but I can’t shake the fear. Neutral.
Dreams & Goals I have meagre dreams, but they all seem unachievable. I dream small but still come up short. Unhappy.
Purpose & Meaning I believe in God, but haven’t been to church for years. The only meaning I have in life is when Jon hugs me so tight I can’t breathe and when Robbie smiles at me for no reason. I can’t help thinking there should be more. Neutral.
* * *
Not a single ‘happy’ in the bunch. It had only been a few days since she’d written the entry, but she couldn’t help thinking she’d been a little harsh. I know for a fact that there are plenty of people that have it worse than me. Reading through it again she tried very hard to make positive comments in at least one section to push it over to ‘happy.’ I can’t do it.
No matter how she framed it all, she simply wasn’t completely satisfied with any of her life-blocks. She saw room for improvement in each. Kurt says I have to be completely honest with myself. I have to be harsh. If that means facing up to the fact that I’m unhappy with my life, so be it. This is a new beginning, the start of my path.
Evie plucked a pen out of her bag and continued with the exercises.
* * *
Top 5 things that make me Unhappy.
1. Feeling trapped in my life.
2. Existing instead of living.
3. Lack of money.
4. Doubting the good things in my life.
5. Not being able to complete the things I start.
Top 5 things that make me Happy.
1. Watching Robbie grow.
3. Being creative.
4. Getting a nice surprise.
5. Learning new things.
* * *
I’ve had a look back through some of my old diaries to see how I used to approach life. I’ve been keeping a diary since my teens. I read in Kurt’s article that it’s good to look back at the things I’ve written in the past. I seem to focus on the negative things all the time. I rarely mention good things. I’ve come to hate myself a little through reading the words of my past self.
I’m going to try and keep an appreciation log. Each day I’ll try to find something to be thankful for, or make a note of something good that happened, no matter how small. As I write this now I can’t think of anything that would be suitable.
I’ve been thinking hard about the ‘doing something new’ exercise too. Everything that comes to mind would cost money I don’t have, or goes against my nature. I’d love to travel somewhere I haven’t been before, swim in a warm ocean, see the sun rise behind a mountain or set into a desert. I want to dance without being self-conscious, buy a dress on a whim and wear it once without feeling guilty or go out for a meal without dreading the bill. I’d like to give Robbie something I can’t afford, make love to Jon without worrying about how he sees me or fall asleep without thinking.
* * *
The bell tolled in the church tower. Evie looked at her watch then rapidly packed everything back into her bag. She discarded half of the sandwich she’d neglected and the remainder of her coffee into a bin before crossing the path and going back to work.
“Evie, I thought you’d done a runner.”
“Sorry, Layla. I lost track of the time.”
“OK, don’t make a habit of it, please. Can you empty and clean the orange juicer before you go today?
“Erm, I haven’t done it before.”
“Well, there’s a first time for everything.”
It isn’t ideal, but at least it’s new. I suppose I can start small and build up.
Many thanks for reading. If you have any feedback or thoughts, feel free to comment below.