Not Perfect Chapter Six
---Hello! So I haven't been here for awhile, I know. So this chapter has both point of views just because it makes it interesting :) I know the style is very “simple” in this story, and I know there isn't much description and it’s mostly dialogue. The reason I decided to write like this was because I wanted to write how a realistic average teenager thinks/talks/acts/reacts/whatever. That’s why I try to post a few short stories now and then to sort of balance myself out. So yeah, please read, and be sure to see the notes. Thanks ;) ----
It was Christmas Eve, so I thought no one would be in the work building. I planned to slip into my office and finish off a few columns. I fumbled with my keys, trying to slide the right one through the lock.
It was then that I heard a small cough behind me, making me jump to see my attacker. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw it was only Darlene, sitting in the darkened room with her arms crossed. Although I wasn’t sure if the frown on her face was any reason to be relieved.
“Hi...Darlene?” I offered. “What are you doing here?”
“Hi.” She slid off the bench and stood to face me. “What’s happened to you?” She stated abruptly.
I felt around my face, wondering if there was anything stuck on it that she could be referring to. Finding nothing, I said so.
“I didn’t mean it like that, Kate.” She said. “I mean what is going on inside.”
I took a step away from her. “Nothing...I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes, yes, you do,” she waved her hands at me. “You keep working, working...working! Like, I know I’m your boss and this should be the other way around, but c’mon...I’m concerned about your health.”
I let my books drop to the floor. They landed with a loud thud. “My health? My health? What, no. My health is fine.”
She raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“I’m not a perfectionist, Del!” I practically yelled at her. “Don’t give me that look.”
“You used to be,” she said softly. “Everybody thinks you’re going crazy, working this hard. And you didn’t come to the carols last night. The whole town was there.”
I started to protest, but she kept going. “But it’s not just that. It’s been lots of other little things...Kate, I’m just saying maybe you need a break. Be normal again. Be friends, again.”
I sighed heavily and cradled my head in my hands. I didn’t have time for this. “Darlene, I’m struggling to get these papers done, otherwise I’m going to lose this new position with Sydney.”
I started picking up my books.
“If you’re struggling financially, I know people who can help.”
I whipped my neck up. “I never I said I needed help, yours or anyone else’s. I can do okay on my own. Now please, leave me alone.”
I glanced down quickly, but not quick enough to avoid seeing the hurt in her eyes.
“Fine.” She clapped her hands together sharply, hurting my eardrums. “I’ll leave you to your…work.”
The door slammed behind her.
I tried to keep typing, but my conversation with Darlene keep echoing in my head. We used to be friends, before things happened. Before I had kids and she didn’t. Before I didn’t have a husband and she had a partner. Before Craig...before Craig...died. Images came flooding in. Broken glass, gumtree branches, blood and my screaming voice. And the doctors that couldn’t do anything.
I swallowed hard and shut the thoughts out, like I always did. But Darlene’s words wouldn’t go away. What if she was right? What if I was crazy, working so like this, shutting things out?
I thought of Kristen. Maybe I was neglecting her a bit. I glanced up at the calendar hanging on a massive hook on my wall. Oh! It was Christmas tomorrow, and I had nothing to give her. I tapped my fingers on my desk, the ryhmatic wood sound against the wood soothing. I could drop by the shop after work and get her a present then. What would a sixteen year-old want?
I chucked pieces of study paper in the bin under my desk. Didn’t need them anymore since it was school holidays...not that I cared for study anyway. I cradled the phone to my neck with my arm and tried to concentrate on Jenna’s voice.
“I can’t believe you just ditched me last night!” She fumed.
“Hey, I did not ditch you.” She didn’t seem to hear me.
“What did you even do with Brett anyway? Went to his car and started—”
“Jenna! Really, are you jealous or something?”
“No...It’s just that....you didn’t even call to tell me how it went.”
I giggled. “Oh, so that’s what? I didn’t call you to tell you about my life?”
I heard her giggling too. “Well...kind of.”
“You silly chook.”
“Whatever. But come on, what did you actually do after the bush dances?”
“Well...nothing that interesting. I was hungry, so he bought some food and…then we talked.”
“That’s kinda sweet.”
“Yeah.” I jumped on my bed and hugged my knees tight to my chest. “Oh…and you won’t believe what he said—what his little brother said he said.”
“Tell me!” I could imagine her leaning forward in anticipation.
“Okay, I had hopped into the car, and Joey, Brett’s brother, said ‘You’re so pretty, just like Brett said’ and ‘He talks about you all the time’.”
“Seriously? That’s so sweet!”
“I know,” I sighed. “And he invited me out to his place tomorrow afternoon.”
“Ooh, really? Interesting.”
“Yeah.” I fiddled with a strand of hair that fell loose. “Do you ever have trouble with your parents?” I changed the subject and she was silent for a moment.
“Yeah…of course. I mean, we fight and stuff, but…other than that, they’re good parents.”
“I see.” I envied her so much.
“Why? Is it your mum again?” She caught on quickly.
“Kind of. It’s like…it’s like sometimes she doesn’t care.”
“Care about what?”
“Me. She’s just so caught up in work…and I mean, I’m not just talking about the carols, it’s been other times too.”
“Yeah?” She prompted me to go on.
“And…then it feels like she doesn’t love me. I know she does, deep down, but I don’t feel like she does.” I felt a sob rising, getting caught in my throat. “She’s changed, and it’s hard to deal with that.”
She didn’t say anything, so I assumed she was sympathetically nodding, and I talked on. “It’s just hard. And then she doesn’t like the guys I bring home.”
I heard her chuckle under her breath. “I don’t blame her.”
“What…how can you? What do you mean?” My voice turned defensive.
“You get so many different ones! Like, all the time.”
“You’re like the girl who’s always got a new guy, flirting with all of them, breaking their hearts…” she paused dramatically.
My mouth hung open in shock. “I’m not…like that.”
“Well…yeah, you are.”
“I just want one to be really special…a real relationship.”
“That’s what you say every time.”
“Well...” I sniffed. “I don’t care. None of them have been good ones.”
“Anyway...” Jenna waved the subject away. “At the carols last night, I picked up this brochure…” I could hear the flipping of paper.
“What’s it about?”
“It’s about this church’s youth group…”
“Church?” I asked dryly.
“Yeah. The Uniting one. I was thinking we could check it out.”
I shook my head. “What for? I don’t want to get into... religion.”
“Well…the brochure says a little about that stuff…but the rest of it looks like they have heaps of fun things.”
I shrugged. “Maybe we could check it out, but…it starts after the holidays, right?”
“Yep. Means we can have a little fun before they start forcing Jesus stuff on us.” She joked.
I threw back my head and laughed. “Yeah…I’m definitely up for a ‘little fun’. I’m feeling rebellious enough as it is. Wouldn’t want to have that squashed.”
“No. So, do you want to go to town after Christmas?”
“Yeah, sure. We could do girly things.”
“Don’t they cost money?” She teased.
“Oh yeah. I forgot I’m broke.” I threw a glance over to my desk, where a mouse-shaped money box balanced. There was probably ten cents in it.
“Maybe you should get a job,” She suggested. “I would have tried to get you one at Tempt, but…we’re full with positions.”
“That’s okay. I’ll try to find one.”
“Good. I should probably go now. Lily needs help with “something in the backyard.””
“Okay then. See you soon.”
I hit the end call button. I continued to tidy my room and contemplated my now-bleak-holidays without money. This year, I was finally old enough to get out and do fun things, but...without cash those things seemed next to impossible. I had spent the last of it on mum’s gift for tomorrow. I wondered had she gotten anything for me. Probably not. She was forgetting about those things lately. I fingered my neatly-wrapped parcel sitting on the bed. At least there’d be some present giving tomorrow.
It was Christmas morning. I blinked and wiggled my toes in between the sheets. Somehow it didn’t feel very...Christmas-y. I had set up the tree with a few lights and made it look pretty, but...it just didn’t cut it this year. I thought of Jenna and how all her family came together, all the in-laws, cousins and grandparents and even the odd close friend to have a day of festive feasting. It was just mum and me today, and I didn’t think there’d be much feasting.
I ran my fingers through my hair, noticing how oily it was, thinking I should probably head to the shower.
And then...wait for mum to get up.
I stumbled down the stairs going to the kitchen for a glass of water before showering. I nearly blurted out in surprise when I saw mum bustling around getting food ready. She was NOT a stickler for early mornings...and definitely not one for preparing food.
She glanced up to see me gaping at her and then rushed to envelope me in a huge bear hug, something she hadn’t done in a long time.
Gingerly I let go of her. “Merry Christmas to you, too.”
She smiled brightly at me. “So,” she walked back around the bench. “I’ve prepared sourdough bread with avocado and strawberries.”
“Really?” I gave her a strange look. When did she...this was new. And it was one of my favourites too...how did she know?
“Yeah. We could make a smoothie to go with it too.”
“Did you want to help make it?” She pointed to the blender. “We could put pineapple in it.”
“I guess so.”
I fumbled around with some banana, pineapple, and other ingredients. I remembered Brett’s invitation about this afternoon, and opened my mouth to tell her about it, but she cut me off.
“I was thinking we could open presents after brekkie.”
I spun around to face her, in shock. “What? You have a present for me?”
“Of course.” She smiled, revealing the silver filling in her back row. “It’s Christmas, isn’t it?”
“Yeah.” Maybe now wasn’t the best time to tell her. I dumped the fruit into the blender and flicked the switch. The kitchen erupted into a burst of noise as the blades crushed and mushed the fruit into a frothy liquid. I flicked it off again. Grabbing two glasses from the cabinet, I poured the frothy, purple liquid into them.
“Here, mum,” I held hers out to her.
“Just put it on the table. The toast is almost done.”
I carried the glasses to the table, careful not to spill the liquid filled to the brim. I sat down heavily.
“There we go,” Mum balanced two plates her hands. “Eat up.”
“Thanks.” I sunk my teeth into the bread, the avocado melting on my tongue. I licked my lips slowly while watching mum eat hers, wondering at her unusual behaviour.
Finishing, I rose to take the dishes away. Mum waved her hand to stop me. “It’s okay, I can stack. You can grab your presents; mine are already under the tree.”
I ducked upstairs to grab my gifts and met mum back in the lounge room. I raised an eyebrow at the three wrapped presents sitting under the tree in silver paper. I wasn’t expecting that many.
“Do you want me to go first?” I asked mum. She took a seat on the couch.
“Sure!” She looked the most excited I’d ever seen her in ages. It was almost weird.
“Okay then,” I drew out the first present from behind my back. “For you.”
I avoided looking at her as she unwrapped it, layer by layer, ever so slowly. I couldn’t stand it, so I gazed about the gaily decorated room instead.
“Oh, that’s lovely.” I reverie.
She held the little bird ornament I had picked out for her in her hand. “Next.” I practically pushed the next present into her lap. May as well get it over with. In a moment, she was admiring the scented burgundy candle that had looked so nice in the Dusk window.
“Thanks, darling. These are both beautiful.” She leant over to give me a hug after carefully placing her gifts on the carpet.
“My turn, now!” She snatched up one of parcels under the tree and held it towards me. “Littlest first.”
I ripped the sticky tape of the paper to find a nail polish bottle inside. “Thanks.” I said, trying to ignore the fact that I already had that exact same shade of pink.
“Do you like it?” Mum asked anxiously.
“Yeah, thank you. It’s pretty.” I gave her a reassuring smile.
I opened the next two packages to find a printed t-shirt and a packet of assorted earrings. All in all, they were nice gifts, much nicer than I had expected.
“Mum, thanks a lot for all these. They’re...really nice.”
She beamed. “You are welcome. And thank you for mine too.”
We sat there in silence for a second. I suddenly remembered about going to Brett’s that afternoon, and was about to tell her about it when she cut me off. Again.
“So, what are we going to do today?”
“Mum, I have something to tell you—”
“I thought we could go for a walk or something. It’s a nice day.”
“We could do a puzzle, for once. Like old times.”
Heartstrings tugged violently on me. Why didn’t she mention this before? Then maybe I wouldn’t have said yes to Brett.
“Or we could go out for icecream.”
“Yeah maybe, but…”
“Or play board games like old times!”
“MUM!” My voice bounced off the walls, making it sound louder than it was.
She looked at me, shocked. “What?”
“I’ve been trying to tell you…um, that I kind of already had something planned for today.”
I took a deep breath. “Ah...Brett had invited me to his house to…meet his cousins. Yeah.”
“Oh. But I thought this was a family day.”
“But that’s fine, I understand.” I could tell it wasn’t.
“Well if you had told me before that you were planning to do something today, then maybe I wouldn’t have said yes.”
She looked at me with blank eyes. “How are you even getting there?”
I swallowed. I knew she didn’t like me getting picked up by guys. But I did it all the time. “Brett said he could come and pick me up for it.”
“Right.” Her mouth twisted into a hard, pouty shape.
“Who are his parents anyway?”
“Mr and Mrs Garrad. They moved here only six months ago.”
“They must be finding the summer tough.” She looked like she was forcing her words out.
I felt a guilty pang. The one time mum wants to spend time together and I’ve already made plans. Great, just great.