Light filtered around the edge of the curtains, where they didn't quite cover the window completely. It was early, she could tell. The house was still quiet but it was only a matter of moments before alarms started buzzing and doors slamming. It was windy and she lay on her back watching the shadows play and dance across the ceiling. With her blankets piled high around her, she felt safe and warm and hidden from the world. If only it was always so easy.
Right on cue the fog horn alarm filled the room, shattering the silence and her moment in one swift swoop. She fumbled to free her arms from the sheets, stretching for the vibrating alarm on the bedside table. Just out of reach, of course. Rolling onto her side and kicking off the remaining blankets, she finally grabbed the device and culled the booming alarm. Her pillow had never felt so soft as when she dropped her head back into its warmth. Did she really have to get up, go through the motions of another day that boiled down to being exactly same as countless ones before it? Would anyone notice if she stayed where she was? Was she really going to achieve anything in the next nine hours that would change the world?
Yes, they would notice, despite the latter answer being a resounding 'no'.
Summoning all her energy, she swung her legs over the side of the bed, wincing when her toe landed on the corner of last night's book. Hobbling towards the light switch, she swore yet again that she would tidy her room just as soon as she had a chance. As the bulb spluttered into life she surveyed her kingdom. She hated that it was always so messy but try as she might she just couldn't keep it tidy. It was mostly clothes that were the problem, spreading themselves over the floor and the other side of her double bed. What did she need such a big bed for anyway? It's not like she ever had to share it. Even the cat wouldn't sleep there. DVDs piled up around her tv where it balanced precariously on its far too narrow stand. If she cared to look, she could almost guarantee that only a very small few would be in their right cases. The only tidy place in the room was her bookcase. And even that, to the untrained eye, was a chaotic mix of genre, size and printing runs.
She opened the door a fraction and looked down the hallway. The bathroom light was on but the door stood wide open so she made a break for it, managing to slip inside seconds before one of the flatmates charged along the hall.
"Sorry. Too slow." She smiled, closing the door in his frowning face. She could hear him stomping back to his room as she turned to face the mirror. She screwed up her nose and ran her hands through her dark hair. Could it not be tameable just once? The tiny bathroom was damp from the showers already had, so she reached easily across the room for a towel to clear the mirror of condensation. Her morning routine was simple and she pulled her hair back into a ponytail without really thinking about it. She would deal with that mess in a minute. She washed and moisturised her face quickly then brushed her teeth while musing on what she would wear today. Were any of her work shirts clean? Sharing a washing machine with six other people meant she was lucky if she managed to sneak in a single load a week. A brush through her hair, another hair tie, a quick layer of foundation and touch of mascara later, she slipped back into her room to begin the hunt for something presentable. Not that it really mattered. For all the attention she got at work, she was pretty sure she could turn up in track pants and slippers and no one would notice. She could never bring herself to risk it though. It'd be just her luck that would be the day the building decided to burst into flames and standing on the street there would be no hiding her less than professional office attire. Unfortunately nothing in her line of vision looked wearable. Gathering as much as she could hold, she threw most of the pile into her washing basket, admitting to herself that maybe it was time for a visit home. Sliding her wardrobe door back, she grabbed the sheer red blouse with a loose bow that sat against the side of her throat. She hated that top but it was the only thing that could salvage the only clean pants she had; skinny black jeans. With black stilettos that she knew would be killing her feet by lunchtime, she looked halfway decent. It would have to do. Swinging her favourite handbag over her shoulder, she headed for the kitchen.
Chaos awaited her as usual. Seven people trying to get dressed, eat and leave the house within minutes of each other was never destined to be easy. Ducking under a reaching arm and side stepping the cat, she grabbed a banana from the bowl on the bench and dodged her way back out the door. Her car was on the street, thankfully out of the maze of inventive parking her flatmates would soon be navigating. Sliding into the driver's seat and turning her key in the ignition, she threw her bag onto the passenger side as her phone synced and her latest iTunes purchase filtered through the speakers.
The drive into town was a long one. She steeled herself for a long wait in unmoving traffic as she hit the city right on rush hour. At least she had her music and in her car she was alone and no one would know if she chose to ignore her phone. Not that anyone would call.
As she predicted, traffic was heavy and she found herself singing along quietly to the music as she crept the car forward at a snail's pace. She couldn't remember the last time she'd actually needed to accelerate. The best thing about her daily ritual of stationary driving was the other drivers. She could watch them quite happily for the whole trip. People's reactions were as varied as their hair colours. The man to her left was angry. With short, cropped hair and a slick grey suit, he was obviously late for some important meeting if the frequency at which he was making furious phone calls was anything to go by. In the time they sat side by side he glanced about exactly once, scowling when their eyes met before turning back to his phone, face redder than ever.
She had a good view through the back window of the station wagon in front. The harassed mother inside was desperately trying to separate the two fighting children in the back seat. She was looking more and more resigned with every time she was forced to turn around. Other cars began honking and yelling when her distraction made her miss the lights. She ran her hands through her hair and took a deep shuddering breath.
From her own car, watching with sympathy, she would bet the moment those kids were dropped off the mother would be heading for the nearest bar. Or maybe that's just what she would do.
Elsewhere, drivers were looking resigned or mildly annoyed. The majority were distracted, staring off into the middle distance, no doubt reading and compiling their mental to-do lists. Her own list was short:
1. Go to work
2. Pretend to care.
3. Go home.
She walked towards the concrete and glass office block, dragging every step. Designed to look 'cutting edge' and classy, she knew only too well that the inside was like every other building on the street. Sterile and 'functional'.
She should be grateful to have a job. She knew that, but it was hard to appreciate the mind numbing tedium of data entry and the wilful ignorance of her workmates. Pushing the heavy front door open, she stepped around the construction tape and headed towards the stairwell. The elevator was broken again. Yet another way the interior differed from the image they portrayed to the street. Climbing eight floors in heels was no easy feat and her legs were burning by the time she reached the cubicle marked with her name. She sank gratefully into her creaky computer chair, kicking the stilettos off the second her weight was no longer on her feet. Her computer screen spluttered reluctantly into life while the hard drive whirred and clicked as the ancient machine struggled to boot. While it fought, she padded through the maze of cubicles barefoot in search of coffee. Her workmates were arriving thick and fast now, calling out greetings and promises to 'do lunch' across the office. She managed to reach the kitchen unnoticed where she mixed cheap instant coffee with extra sugar to mask the taste. Joining the line for hot water she kept her head down, examining her worn and chipped toenail polish. Another thing she really must get on to fixing. She made it back to her desk in time to see her phone finish ringing. She slid back into her chair, placing the dangerously full coffee mug on the desk before picking up the phone. Missed call from 'Home'. With a shrug she put the phone aside, if it was important they'd have left a message.
Finally, the computer was ready to go and asking for her to log in. Reaching for the mouse, she knocked her coffee over with her elbow. She jumped out of her seat with a small yelp as the hot liquid flowed towards the edge of the desk and her lap. Aside from a few curious glances, no one made any move to see what the commotion was about. She grabbed a handful of tissues from the box next to her bag and began to mop up the dark mess.
Sadly, that would be the most exciting moment of the day.