Saturday, 14 October 2017

Bated Breath


Greetings and salutations, lovely readers! How are you all? I keep pretending that there are so many of you. Why not? It's a lovely little game called Being Delusional that I like to play. No harm done. 

So just for shits and giggles I wrote a little made up story for Friday Reflections inspired by the prompt: Bated breath.  Of course I didn't get around to posting, linking and sharing it until Saturday evening, but, as I like to say, details! Besides, that's just how I rock a Saturday night! So anyway, here it is...



BATED BREATH


Adrenaline pulsated through me as I approached the counter. Every nerve ending was tingling. It happened every time. It was equal parts thrilling and gut wrenching. Yet, I couldn't stop. 

"How are you today?" the teller flashed a flight attendant smile. Her eyes were warm behind her designer frames. I glanced at her name tag. 

Louise. 


"Good thanks," I replied, matching her smile. I couldn't be sure if it reached my eyes. Mentally I summed her up. Her ash blonde bob and manicured nails spoke of regular trips to a salon. Her trim physique suggested an expensive gym membership.  Louise was thoroughly middle class. She probably had an immaculate brick home in a leafy suburb. A husband. Kids. Just like me. 

Except I was different. I had to be.

"How can I help you?" Louise asked.


I slid the cheque across the counter.  "I need to deposit this," I handed her my key card. My hands were steady. I had become skilled at pretending that depositing generous cheques was common place for me. 


"No problem," she swiped my card and efficiently tapped away. 

I waited with bated breath. My exterior remained placid, inscrutable as my heart beat a crescendo in my chest. Any moment she might say something. Louise's pleasant features would suddenly look puzzled. An eternity seemed to pass as I willed my heart to slow. 


How many similar cheques had I deposited in the past few months? I'd lost count. Each time was the same. The trepidation. Exhilaration. Bated breath. 

"Done!" Louise beamed. It was too easy. "Have a great weekend," she added, handing me back my card. 

"You too," I exhaled, then strode out past the security guard. Maybe I wasn't safe yet. He might tap me on the shoulder. I would be cornered. Found out for the absolute fraud that I was. I lived in perpetual fear of being discovered. When I wasn't, elation replaced fear. 

The guilt always evaporated when I walked out into the busy shopping mall. I felt alive. Energised. Euphoric. I was living a double life and I loved it. Time to go shopping. 

Travis would have picked Ella and Max up by now. He'd be at home, patiently helping with homework and preparing the evening meal. He'd taken on the reluctant role of house husband since he'd been made redundant a year ago. 

Meanwhile, their bills were piling up. Travis couldn't find another job despite applying for many. He sank into depression. I'd had no choice. I was the breadwinner now. 

I lingered near one of my favourite boutiques, lost in my thoughts There was only one way to stop these intrusive worries. Shopping. My card was never declined these days. That hadn't been the case some months ago. 

"We'll have to sell the house," Travis had told me. He was flat and defeated. 

"NO!" I couldn't bear it. It was our dream home, minutes from the beach. We'd been living the good life and I wasn't ready to give it up. 

"We just can't afford the mortgage repayments," Travis argued.

"I'll be getting a promotion soon," I said "we can make it work."

In the end he gave in, too bogged down in his depression. He already felt like a failure for losing his job. Now his wife was taking care of him. He'd always been so driven. We both were. There was no way we could just give up on our lavish existence. It would be humiliating. I was too proud.


Sure, we could sell the house, but then what? We'd had have to live somewhere. Imagine having to leave their prestigious suburb to move to bum fuck boganville. I'd worked too hard to get out of there. I couldn't go back. I'd have to take Max and Ella out of their expensive schools and send them to the school I'd gone to. There was no way I'd ever do that. So I made my decision.

Though in some ways it seemed like it was made for me. My role at the major insurance company where I worked involved drawing and cancelling cheques. On that fateful day I was there early. 




There was a tap on my office door. "Coffee!" my assistant Veronica trilled.

"Thanks," I took it, smiling. Veronica was a decade younger than me and I'd taken her under my wing. She seemed to have something of 'girl crush' on me. I knew she aspired to be where I was eventually. 


"I'll leave you to it," she said, closing the door. Then I saw it. A returned cheque. The customer was no longer at the address.

Ms Sarah James.


I couldn't believe it. I knew I was meant to cancel it. Instead, I put it in my top drawer and locked it. I tried to forget, but it was burned into my brain. When I left the office, darkness was descending. In more ways than one.

"See you tomorrow, Sarah," Veronica said. She eyed my Prada suit with open envy as I sashayed to the lifts. 


At home there were more bills. Final demands. The next day I banked the cheque. It was fate that my name was the same. Didn't everything happen for a reason? 

As the weeks went on, it became an addiction. I would draw another. Just one more, I told myself. To get myself out of this predicament, give me more time. One more became two more, and eventually I lost count. 

"It's exquisite, isn't it?" The sales assistant startled me out of my ruminating. "Would you like to try it on?" 

Before I knew it, she'd ushered me to the change rooms. The dress hung perfectly over my lean frame. Stress and long hours had made me too edgy to eat much these days, though I managed several coffees and wines each day.  The liquid and embezzlement diet certainly paid off, I mused.

"I'll take it," I told the sales assistant. I could always leave the tags on and return it, I told myself. Besides, it was an exclusive label, so it was practically an investment. I could already picture the likes and envy on Insta.

 And anyway, I deserved this. I had to carry the entire financial load while Travis was at home with the kids. I would need more wine. I made a quick detour to the bottle shop. 

I walked into work the next day with a sense of foreboding. I shook it off. I saw my reflection in the elevator mirror. I looked sensational. I was winning at this thing called life.

"Good morning!" I greeted colleagues who refused to meet my eyes. Outside my office, Veronica was absent. She was always there early. My stomach dropped. I glanced at the gold lettering on my office door.

SARAH JAMES 

Financial Manager

Then I saw them. My boss was approaching me with a subdued Veronica at his side.

I froze. Bated breath. It was all over. 


"You will do jail time," I was told. When I rang Travis he was livid. He was taking the kids and going to stay with  his parents. My whole world was crumbling around me. 


The last thing I remembered as I cleared my desk was Veronica's cold stare. 


THE END.

What do you think about silly old Sarah?

Do bills give you bated breath?


Reactions:

2 comments:

  1. Once you start the lies, they just get worse don't they? Enjoyed the story, Ness. You should write more fiction.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I enjoyed reading this. Sarahs exist everywhere unfortunately .
    Yes the power bill takes my breath away but government letters - bated breath for sure.

    ReplyDelete