Her ribs were aching. Sore and stiff from sleeping on the couch, but the pain was better than the fear. You in bed? Lucille’s boyfriend Jake would answer the phone for their nighttime call. In couch, she replied occasionally. The first night it had been funny. If two couch nights were back to back Jake’s voice had a ring of disappointment to it. At some point she had begun ignoring the question. Somethings were better left unsaid. 

Lucille had the music turned up. The bass reverberated through the windows. Her thoughts were drowned out by the sound of hard rock. There were 14 minutes left in her commute and she hadn’t yet called Jake for their good morning call. After this song, she told herself. This was the third song in a row. None of them had been particular show stoppers, but they were good enough. They were loud, angry, and had lyrics that spoke to Lucille. They were the easier route. The one sided conversation, the one that left out the uglies of the night. 

Looking at the time, the small white numbers jumped out at her. It was getting late. Jake would begin to worry that she hadn’t yet made it out of the house. Some bullets were better to bite. Tapping away at her car’s touchscreen, the music faded to ringing. 

“Good morning beautiful,” Jake said horsley into the phone. 

“Good morning,” she returned. 

“You on your way to work?” 

“Yup, almost there actually,” she said. “What about you?” 

“I’m up. Just fed Max.” 

“Nice. Tell my favorite phat cat I say hello.” 

“Max, she called you fat,” Jake said off to the side, “He hissed and scampered off to his cat castle.” 

“He’s cute.” 

“So are you.” 

“Thanks,” a smile spread across Lucille’s face. 

“How’d you sleep,” Jake asked? 

“Good,” Lucille said truthfully, “better than the night before.” 

“Where did you sleep?” 

“What,” Lucille said rolling down her window, “I couldn’t hear you. How did you sleep?” She asked, closing the window. 

“Pretty good. Got up around seven to pee, and then went back to bed,” Jake answered slowly. He didn’t push the lingering question. 

“Nice.” 

“Yeah.”

“You have calls today at 12 and 2?” 

“I do, what about you?” 

“A few meetings for marketing and sales, but that’s really it.” 

“Call me later, and go kick today’s ass, okay?” 

“You too, J,” Lucille said into the phone, dropping the line. 

Lucille picked at her cuticle with her teeth. Where did you sleep last night, she heard Jake’s voice playing back in her head. His voice, even in her mind, was strained as he asked the question. Lucille felt a pinch as her skin broke away from her finger.  

Blood began pooling around her nail bed. Lucille reached over for a napkin. While Jake would be worried that Lucille was picking at herself, nothing she could do would cause her more hurt than the evil that was stewing in her room. 

Lucille’s car flashed “BRAKE” across her dashboard. The car began to stop before her foot touched down. Startled, the moment had brought her attention back to the present. The music had returned. A new song from one of her favorite bands was premiering. The album had been released the week before, and slowly the radio hits were making their way to the world. Running her hands across her steering wheel, Lucille felt the different textures. It had been years since she had regularly seen Ellen, her college therapist. Not since – Lucille inhaled deeply, focusing once more on the rough texture of the leather encased steering wheel. With the music back in focus, Lucille began to look ahead. 

It was going to be a good day. If the HR department was in a tizzy that was on them. They didn’t have to like her, but they did have to do their jobs. The sales meeting would be an effort, but only because of the flurry of activity. Her marketing meeting would be her saving grace. Her easy win for the day. Not only did Lucille love the marketing lead, but it was the strongest department. The one she had built up from an idea to a power house. Lucille parked her car in her usual spot. Maybe she was a little extra on edge today, but it was going to be a good day nonetheless.

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