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Gwendolyn Stitch

By Aniyah Barnette, Virginia State University

Photo 170305092 © Zeljko Vranjkovic |

Beep, Beep, Beep.

Gwendolyn Stitch gasps for air as her alarm clock buzzes her awake, not remembering how she got home or how long she had been asleep. Blinking a few times, letting her reality set in, she turns the alarm off before turning towards her bedroom's open window. The sun warms her face, almost too much, and as a forced smile creeps along her lips, she thinks to herself: It’s a beautiful, new day.

She heads to the bathroom, diligently avoiding eye contact with the numerous family portraits littering her walls. She turns the shower on cold, stepping in without a second thought, and takes a couple of deep breaths while closing her eyes in uncanny bliss. Before she can exhale her final breath, the water begins to turn from iced, to chilled, to warm, to boiling. Instinctively, her arm flies up, smacking the shower head in the other direction and leaving a slight sear on her palm. She steps out of the shower, smile still intact, and begins dressing for the day.

Coming through the elevator, she waves at the current receptionist unlucky enough to land there. She knows they all leave eventually, and secretly wishes they would tell her how they found somewhere better beyond this company. Dropping her bags off at her desk, Gwen makes her way to the other side of the office to do her daily rounds of salutations. “Good morning, Phillip. What a pretty blouse, Clarissa! How are you today, Russel?”

As she goes down the line, she notices there is a new hire just getting settled in. “They didn’t tell me someone new was moving in! Hello, my name is Gwendolyn Stitch. What’s yours?”

“Amy Duncan. Just got transferred here, I think. I’ve never worked in an office before, but they said I’d fit right in so here I am.”

“That’s great! You’ll love it here, I sure do! Let me show you my cubicle.”

Gwendolyn grabs Amy’s hand, leading her down the walkway to her chilly little corner of paradise. “This is it! How do you like the décor?”

“It’s very, like...You must really love penguins huh?”

Gwendolyn’s left eye twitches a bit before responding with a wide grin, “I adore them! They are our favorites!”

“Our? Who else likes penguins?” Gwendolyn stares blankly at Amy, still holding her smile, more for her own comfort than for Amy’s. Amy lets out a giggle, almost childlike. Turning to grab one of the figurines on her desk, she repeats, “Who else loves penguins, Gwendolyn?”

Outside, a car horn blares from the traffic below. “I made a mistake. It will not happen again,” says Gwendolyn, her eyes stinging from the tears she refuses to acknowledge.

“It’s alright, we all make our mistakes.”, sighs Amy. "Some mistakes are bigger than others, right Mommy?"

Gwendolyn’s smile begins to droop off her face. “What did you just call me?”

“I’m sorry?” replies Amy.

"Mom-, you just, did you hear someone say Mommy?”

“Why would I call you that? You’re not a mother,” Amy says, starting up another giggle, this one higher pitched and terrifyingly familiar. She doesn’t stop giggling. The horn from below roars incessantly, making Gwendolyn's heart skip a beat, then another, and another. The figurine in Amy’s hands drops, hitting the ground with an unusually loud crash.

Gwendolyn simply cannot take anymore. She rushes into the women's room, her eyes plastered wide open, along with her mouth. Walking eerily calm to her usual hideaway stall, she does not fight the overwhelming urge to vomit both metaphorically with words and literally.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry” she repeats in between blows. “It was a mistake, my babies, please forgive me.”

But this was not all the way true.

There were plenty of good intentions in what went down on that dreadful day. Gwendolyn meant to take off of work that Friday, to wake the twins up bright and early, to dress them in their favorite penguin onesies. She meant to make them all a nice breakfast, to keep them full as they saw their favorite animal in real life for the first time. Gwendolyn meant to mix her coffee with whiskey, just a splash, then a little more, then, what the hell, it’s a beautiful day, let's have a real pour. She meant to load up the car with diaper bags and snacks just in case, and Gwendolyn had every intention of fastening her children’s car seats. The mistake, however, was when she was so relaxed on this beautiful day that she couldn’t keep her eyes open for the whole drive.

When she finishes, she texts Kevin Howard, her office buddy, asking if he wouldn't mind taking her calls for the day. She knows he won’t mind, as he would do anything for her if she asked. She takes a seat after flushing, bringing her knees up to her chest and closing her eyes. I’m so sorry my babies, she thinks to herself, I just wanted a nice day. Her heart heavy and skin flushed from the never working A/C unit. Drenched in sweat, an exhausted Gwendolyn drifts off to sleep.

Beep, Beep, Beep.

Gwendolyn gasps for air as her alarm clock buzzes her awake. She knows she can’t escape it, but she is going to have a nice day here, whether she is meant to or not.

About the Author

Aniyah Barnette, Virginia State University

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