Sunday Shorts: Untitled

I wanted to post a sweet, today. But, I haven’t had the opportunity to bake them, yet, because of coughing. I feel okay. I have energy. It’s just coughs tend to linger with me. I want to give whatever was in my system another day or so to clear out before I go breathing around food other people might eat, you know?

This week’s short is inspired off a blurb of a story I wrote years ago for my English 105 class. That story was supposed to be about a paragraph long–this story is over 1,000 words.

Title: Untitled
Rating: PG/PG-13 for language
Word Count: 1,053
Warnings: None.

Shay let out a sharp puff of air as she hopped on the trolley just as the doors were shutting. She’d had to sprint, but she’d made it. Barely. She wouldn’t be late for class today!

Assuming the bus wasn’t late, of course. But, she’d worry about that when she got to the station.

Normally, she didn’t have to rush so much, but the last couple days at work had been draining. She tried to tell her manager that she really couldn’t stay past the end of her schedule, but he just didn’t seem to understand that “a couple minutes won’t be too bad” didn’t apply to bus schedules. “A couple minutes” late leaving work led to being forty minutes late to class. If she missed the trolley by even a minute, she’d miss the bus by fifteen, and the next one wouldn’t show up for another twenty-five.

Men in positions of power never seem to understand that people have lives outside of working for them. He seemed so put out that she insisted on leaving at her scheduled time. Like finding the classes she needed at night wasn’t difficult enough, he just had to try to make her late.

She settled in an empty seat and tried to push her manager’s annoyed, and annoying, face out of her mind. So, of course, all she could think about was him and where she wished he would stick his stupid job.

Again, she tried to let go of her negative thoughts. At least she had a job; a stable job with benefits. Sure, her boss sucked and every day felt like a monotonous loop of static, but she knew better than to turn her nose up at solid employment. If she just stuck with it, eventually she’d get promoted and wouldn’t have to deal with anyone foisting their work on her because she was the grunt ever again.

At least, that was how she justified her decision to get her degree in a field she never imagined herself working in.

She’d gotten so lost in her thoughts, she nearly forgot to get off at the station when the trolley finally stopped. She still had a few minutes before the bus would begin loading, so she idled near the curb and lost herself in pictures of cats, food, and political commentary on her phone.

“Shay? Shay Michaelson?”

Her eyes glanced up to see a handsome young man near her age standing in front of her, smiling. He looked familiar, with his dark hair and bright green eyes, but she couldn’t place him. “I’m sorry, have we…?”

He smirked and Shay felt her heartbeat quicken. He really was quite handsome. “You don’t remember me? I’m heartbroken. We were so close, after all. I think we had, like, three whole conversations all through high school.”

“High school? We—Wait. Jacob Lewis? Holy shit!”

He chuckled as she reached up to give him a hug, mostly moving on instinct. “Well, glad to see I left some impression, however deeply you buried it.”

Shay blushed and stammered over her words as she tried to salvage her embarrassing lapse in memory, “I didn’t bury it, it’s just been a while. I mean, hell, we graduated—” Nine years ago? Had it really been so long?

Jacob chuckled again and waved her off. “Don’t worry about it. It’s fine. Really. It’s not like we were friends. We had one class together.”

A small, wistful smile spread over her face as she remembered. Photography. She’d never forget it. Although, she was a little surprised Jacob remembered, considering that he hardly ever dragged his face out of his sketchbook.

“So, what have you been up to? You still taking pictures?”

She hummed and looked up at him curiously. She’d almost forgotten all about him. Again. “Oh, no,” she laughed. “I haven’t touched my camera in years. Too busy, between work and school.”

Jacob frowned. “Oh, that’s a shame. I remember you wanted to be a professional, didn’t you? Travel the world and take pictures of all the interesting sights,” he gave a soft, sad laugh. “You changed your mind?”

She shifted uncomfortably. “Well, it’s not that I changed my mind, it’s just…” She chewed her lip as she trailed off. Then, with a huff, she said curtly, “It just wasn’t realistic. It’s a nice dream, but come on. That’s not how the real world works.”

His frown deepened. “Well, it’s a bummer things didn’t work out. You were really good. Best in the class, if I remember Ms. Singer right.”

Once more, Shay felt her face heating. “Well, what about you? What are you up to, these days?” The tone of her voice held a challenge she hadn’t consciously meant to give. Though, now that the words were out, she had to admit she did kind of want to throw his disappointment in her back in his face. She highly doubted he became some famous artist, or anything—

“I work as an illustrator for a local production company,” he said, shrugging. “Nothing too fancy, but it pays the bills and I’m getting paid to draw, so.” He shrugged again.

Crow tasted foul, Shay decided.

With a burning face, she glanced over to the bus. “Oh, it looks like I have to go,” she said quickly, shuffling toward the bus. “It was nice seeing you, though.”

“Huh? Oh, right, I guess I’ll let you go, then. I was wanted to say hi.” He gave her warm smile. “It was nice seeing you again. I hope you find the time to pick up your camera, again. You really were good, Shay, and it seemed like you really enjoyed it.”

“Yea, well…” She let out a quick sigh and turned quickly. “Have a good night, Jacob.”

She quickly boarded and settled in a seat near the back. She spent a long time frowning out at the scenery, at the setting sun and the darkening sky. Although, it was a pretty scene. Without thinking, she snapped a quick picture of it with her cell phone; she’d gotten half-way through writing her Instagram caption when she realized what she’d done.

With another long, defeated sigh, she decided to stop into the counseling office before class to pick up a schedule. Taking a photography course couldn’t hurt, after all.

Complacency and stagnation in a “typical” life, and the concept of “settling” because one’s dreams are “unrealistic,” is a topic that’s really important to me. You could definitely say this story is semi-autobiographical.

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