Cara couldn’t sleep. She tried watching TV and reading, but her mind wandered. She tossed and turned restlessly for another hour. The aging clock radio taunted her with 12:27, 12:28, 12:29…
Cara slipped out of bed. She grabbed a water bottle from the pantry and made her way to the home office. Cara turned on the dim light – she really should replace those two burnt-out bulbs – and made her way over to the thing she tried to avoid all night.
A stack of file folders on the corner of the desk mocked her. Cara placed the water bottle on top and switched on the computer. The glowing screen comforted her, then made her stomach turn.
For twenty minutes, Cara looked up Thanksgiving recipes. When she couldn’t wait any longer, she opened a new tab and typed the web address, then her login information. The familiar blue and white theme soothed her, although anxiety simmered. Wrong, a voice inside her yelled. Cara responded by scrolling the mouse.
She skimmed past links to other content, pausing briefly to look at her neighbor’s latest “dog shaming” photo. When would Veronica learn making signs and taking pictures didn’t count as “dog training”?
Cara rolled her eyes at her niece’s daily “teen melodrama” status update, though at least this one was less on the offensive side: OHHHHHHH MY GOSH!!! that commercial came on with the animals and that sad song!! I WILL REMEMBER YOU, DOGS!!! gonna go volunteer at the shelter this weekend with the gurlz.
Cara clicked the thumbs up icon and continued scrolling.
She’d made a deal with herself months ago. Only ten minutes of browsing her News Feed. No searching; that didn’t count. After ten minutes, she had to sign off. Rules, order, boundaries. At the time, it seemed like a brilliant idea.
At six minutes, she paused to read a college friend’s post: God blessed our family again today with news I’m IN REMISSION!!! Thanking Him and my amazing support system, especially my chubby hubby, the girls, and Dr. Stevens!
Cara didn’t even know about the cancer. She made a mental note to order a bright, happy bouquet.
At seven minutes, she stifled a laugh at a coworker’s status update: Bro’s care package arrived today. Con: a very upset roommate who had lots of questions about the leather chaps, blue paint, and denim shorts. Pro: Arrested Development marathon!
At eight minutes, Cara experienced a mixture of relief and misery.
At nine minutes, she felt her anxiety boil over.
At nine minutes and twenty-three seconds, give or take, divine intervention rewarded Cara.
Even though he was reduced to pixels on a screen, Mitchell Harris looked just as handsome as he had in high school. Cara heard about too many reunions gone wrong, where the high school hunk turned out to be an obese has-been or a deadbeat dad. Sometimes the guy turned out to be normal, average, and boring when he wasn’t blessed with a jersey. Cara thought of them as the Samsons of former jocks: powerless and stripped of glory.
Mitchell was different. Cara still saw the focus in his eyes, that drive others found so inspiring. From the pictures he’d posted before, Cara knew he remained active and healthy – she could picture the football uniform fitting as snugly now as it had decades ago.
The status update was short and sweet: Reboot The X-Files. Discuss.
Cara closed her eyes and let the information settle into her, like a stone sinking to the bottom of pond. She swallowed and deleted her browsing history, then quit the program. Cara clicked on an icon on her desktop, navigating through a series of folders until she arrived at a plain Word document labeled “cross stitch ideas.”
The document contained three separate lists with bullet points. Cara glanced over the six pages of “MH Likes” and mostly ignored the four pages of “MH Dislikes.” The last list, “MH ???” spanned only three pages. Cara added “X-Files” to the end.
Only three years until the 25th high school reunion.
A wave of exhaustion crashed over her. Cara gave in to a well-overdue yawn, so large it made her eyes water. She turned out the light and trudged back to bed. Cool sheets enveloped her, but mumbling interrupted Cara’s serenity. A renewed sense of guilt gnawed at her.
“Nothing, sweetheart. Go back to sleep,” Cara replied to her husband.
This piece was written for the speakeasy #135 challenge. Word count is 740, just under the 750-word max. As always, feedback is appreciated!