Debbie, pale and confused, jumped up clenching the pillow with her teeth. She recalled the night before. A strange meeting with something or someone had made her feel uneasy. Being drunk she figured she could sleep it off. Maybe someone had spiked her drink. Maybe she had just imagined it. Whatever it was made her nauseous or maybe that was just the Pernod. She reached for her water and knocked it over.
“Fuck. That is so fucking typical.”
She froze, realising that this wrongness was familiar. Afraid that going back to sleep would make it worse, she got up and had breakfast. Porridge with slices of banana, kiwi fruit and blueberries scattered across the gungey mess. She squeezed honey over the top and added chopped almonds and drank down some guava juice. A cafetière sat next to her with strong aromatic steam.
Debbie picked up a magazine and there was a picture of a girl eating pretty much the same breakfast. She saw something out of the corner of here eye, shuddered and then went back to the picture. All her friends looked like this woman. They all talked about eating this breakfast. She closed the magazine, put down the spoon and got dressed to go to the gym.
She sensed she was being followed but couldn’t see anyone. Inside the gym, healthy looking people in lycra and yoga pants filled every treadmill, every weights machine. The place was packed. She was conscious of her weight so wore shorts over her lycra leggings and looked for a space. After finding no machine unused she got her yoga mat and sat down in the corner to do some yoga. An angry gym attendant shouted to her that she couldn’t sit there. She would be a fire hazard. Everybody was looking at her, some smirking, some just looking. That was worse. Behind the sweaty sea of bodies another stood. She recognised her from the previous night. She was wearing black denim jeans, a leather jacket and shades, and she was staring at Debbie.
Debbie gathered her stuff and went to shower. She turned on the taps and the water counted out freezing cold and brown coloured droplets. She screamed, dressing quickly while wet and exiting the building. She dropped her stuff off at her flat and rushed to work. Taxis passed her, it started to rain. The same dark clothed woman appeared at a bus stop. Soaking and cold from the gym, Debbie ran to the same stop and waited for the bus. She kept an eye on the woman, while boarding the bus. She handed a tenner to the driver realising she had no change and told him to ‘just fucking keep the change.’ There were no seats. The woman’s shades followed her as the bus moved off. Debbie promised herself that she wouldn’t cry, but she couldn’t stop her eyes welling up. Fuck. Fuck it. Keep control.
Work started slow. She felt tired. She stood by the water cooler and a guy she liked joined her and started asking her how her day was going in the most redundant of language. She realised she hadn’t washed properly, could smell herself. He must smell her too. She had fancied him for months. Now that they were talking she realised that he seemed really dull. He also sensed her odour and said ‘catch you later.’ She shrugged her shoulders and thought, ‘catch you later.’ For fuck’s sake.
The phone rang. She answered. There was silence. Just light breathing. A cold sweat wandered across the back of her shoulders. She slammed down the phone. It was her. It had to be. The phone rang again. She reefed it from its cradle. Silence again.
“What? What the fuck do you want? Why are you following me? Who the FUCK are you?” she screamed.
“Eh, Hi Debbie. This is Rachel, your boss. Em, I was just ringing to tell you that we had planned your performance review, but, we ah have moved it forward to, well now basically. Em. Okay?”
She stared at the phone cradle for a long time and whispered to herself, ‘what the fuck is going on?’
The result of the meeting was an enforced visit to the company psychologist, a lightening of her duties and a new trial period to make sure her behaviour stayed up to the scratch. All of this was communicated by the bitchy secretary to the entire floor. That afternoon she could have swung two baseball bats around in her isolation.
She walked home in the rain. Her boss drove up alongside her and shouted she should get a bus and then asked reluctantly if she wanted a lift. She mumbled ‘no’ with rain dripping down her chin. Her boss moved off at which point Debbie broke down. Only her twisted face could show she was upset it was raining so hard.
A bus passed and she saw the woman looking down at her from the condensation-filled window. Enough of an elbow wipe to see her face and the smirk that filled it.
Finally home, she quickly realised the food in the fridge had gone off. The pizza delivery guy went to the wrong address and apparently just ‘gave up’ according to the receptionist. The bath she was going to have was cold as her boiler had broken down. Uncomfortable with the beginnings of a cold, Debbie crawled into bed. She kept fitfully waking up numerous times thinking someone was touching her face. At 4AM, she woke to see the the bedspread moving. She threw it back but there was nothing there. Drifting off to sleep, the events of the day spun around in her head relentlessly waking her once again to the sensation that someone was in her bed. Again nothing. She finally got a few hours of steady deep sleep.
A scream woke her up as the alarm went off. She banged on the clock. Deciding to call in sick and maybe eat just toast for breakfast, she hung over the side of the bed and stared at the carpet. The duvet was pulled back a little and she went into that cold sweat again. Dragging herself up to the bed, she saw a lump of brown hair under the duvet. Two hands stretched out and grabbed her neck and choked her. As her last breaths came out, she hoarsely whispered,
“You? Fuck-ing typ-i-cal.”