The next morning, the first thing Cat did after pouring herself a cup of coffee was to search the internet for videos on how to properly take off a cabinet door. Though she hated admitting, even to herself, that she couldn’t do something as simple as that without guidance, she also wasn’t interested in having two broken doors to replace.
Matthew was right; there were scores of videos at her disposal. And much to her chagrin, they seemed pretty easy. Still, she watched four of them before taking herself to task. Pulling out her drill once more this time she checked her bits for the right size and, without any difficulty, managed to unscrew the hinges. Holding the door safely in her hands, she grinned.
“’Atta girl,” she pronounced, setting it down carefully on her countertop. It stared back at her in all its undamaged glory. “See! That wasn’t so hard. You’ve got the makings for house renovation yet.”
Wiping her hands together in a self-congratulatory way, she shuffled into her livingroom. Blowing on her third coffee of the day, she plunked down on her couch. The blank screen of her television set stared back at her uninvitingly. She glanced furtively at her phone. There were no notifications—no calls, no texts, no social media comments… She took a big gulp of coffee. Leaning back against her cushions, she felt her gaze roam over to her computer—but there wasn’t really much of anything she wanted to do with that, either.
She drummed her fingers against the ribbed wood of her armchair. She set her coffee cup down on the polished oak of her end table. “Now what?” she wondered to the empty apartment. “God, you really need a cat. Then at least you could pretend you were taking to it instead of yourself.” Before she could help herself, she looked at her phone again. No one had tried to contact her.
Pretty much the status quo as of late. Her stomach knotted at the thought.
Groaning, she let her head drop back against the top of her cushion. In a matter of twelve or so hours the weekend she’d so been looking forward to—binge watching a TV show and never getting out of her pajamas—seemed endlessly boring. Just a bunch of hours to get through.
“Oh, who are you trying to kid? It hadn’t actually sounded that good yesterday,” she scolded herself. “Watching other people live fun, active lives was only going to further reinforce who utterly lame yours is.”
And really, with pep-talks like that, who wouldn’t have a good start to their weekend?
By Sunday afternoon, Cat was almost ready to go back to work. The four walls of her apartment were practically screaming at her. She itched to do something—go to a coffee shop or a restaurant, or hell, even just go shopping around the mall.
Except… going out alone held little appeal. It felt no different than making a solitary meal in her own kitchen and sitting down to eat; at least at home she didn’t have to see other patrons out with their family and friends, laughing and talking and generally feeling like they belonged. At home, she wasn’t forced to feel so conspicuous about her aloneness; she could pretend she preferred it that way.
At home she was only bored.
She could have called her mom, Nancy, of course. While mother and daughter were close, Cat had found herself oddly reluctant to reach out to her.
Maybe because not one single person had tried to get in contact with her.
Ironically, the only thing she had to look forward to was that damn cabinet door. All of Saturday and Sunday, every time Cat walked into her kitchen a fissure of anticipation swept over her. She wasn’t sure if it was fear or excitement, but she found herself inexplicably eager for Monday afternoon to arrive. If nothing else, it was something to shake the ordinary routine of a life that had grown stale.
Which was probably the most depressing part of it all.
She wasn’t sure when it had happened, either. All through her college years, though she’d sometimes stop and wonder what it would have been like if she’d gone away for school, she’d never quite found she regretted staying at home.
Her mom was here.
Everything she knew was here.
She’d had friends here.
It was only recently, probably when Ashley had moved to the city that she’d realized, rather belatedly, that something was missing. And it wasn’t just Ashley. Ashely had merely been the catalyst, the presence (or lack thereof) which had thrust this acknowledgement to the forefront of Cat’s mind.
“I need a distraction,” Cat mused. She was sitting on her bedroom floor, reorganizing her bookshelf. But she didn’t know what that would be.
So, with these thoughts rolling along aimlessly through her mind, by the time Ashley called her Sunday afternoon, Cat practically raced for her phone.
Plopping down on her livingroom sofa, Cat smiled. “So. Tell me everything. How’s the new job?”
Ashley didn’t need to be told twice. “It’s great. Hectic and I’m still training, but it’s great—”
“And obviously you’re making friends.” Cat winced at the words, which had popped out unguardedly.
If Ashley heard the latent resentment in her friends tone, she chose to ignore it. “Yeah, a couple of girls at the office are around my age. The first Friday of every month they go out for cocktails after work.”
“That sounds nice.”
“You know, it was a pretty good time.” Ashley laughed cutely. “I mean, mostly it’s a way to vent out some frustrations with people who get it, but the girls are nice.”
“Yeah? How’s Tyler enjoying it down there?” Tyler was Ashley’s long-term boyfriend.
Ashley sighed. “Well, he hasn’t found a job yet…”
A terrible sort of glee filled Cat’s person at the words. Huh. So maybe Ashley’s life was perfect, after all.
“But there’s loads of opportunities down here. I know he’ll find something soon.”
“But what about you?” Ashley asked. “How’s life at home?”
“It’s…” For a moment, Cat wasn’t sure what to say. The same? Totally predictable and exactly what you’d imagine? That felt way too close for comfort. For some reason, Cat didn’t want to admit that her life was something direly less than glamorous. Not when Ashley had just landed her dream job. “It’s good.”
“Yeah. I mean, nothing major…” without quite meaning to, Cat’s eyes flicked toward her kitchen, where the edge of her newly disconnected door lay on the countertop. Her stomach clenched at the sight again. “I did a little redecorating this weekend.”
Ashley snorted. “Whoa, hang on to your hats. Party animal.”
Cat frowned. She knew Ashley hadn’t meant to be insulting, only her words were uncannily close to Cat’s own thoughts. For a moment she considered telling Ashley just what had happened to her weekend, she wondered for a split second how her friend would react if Cat told her how she’d chucked her cabinet door at the wall, causing it to snap in half…
But of course she wasn’t going to tell her any of that. It was embarrassing. Mortifying and all together, well, childish.
In fact, Cat refrained from making any mention to her disastrous kitchen fiasco this weekend. It probably would have made for a good story, even with some of the, er, facts omitted. She could have smoothed over the broken door and plunged instead into it—if nothing else, it would have given her a few talking points. But the words died on her lips.
“Yeah, honestly I didn’t do much this weekend. Lazed around.”
“Well, good for you. We all need weekends like that.”
Cat’s frown deepened. All of her weekends were like that lately.
“Yeah, I guess.” She was starting to regret having asked Ashley to call her. Instead of cheering her up, it was only highlighting what she was becoming all too uncomfortably aware of: just how pathetic her life was turning out to be.
For God’s sake she wasn’t even thirty yet.
“Oh, did I mention—”
“Ashley, what kind of hobbies did I used to enjoy?”
“I can’t remember.”
“What are you talking about?”
Cat could hear the thick confusion cloud her friend’s voice at her abrupt change of topic. She shrugged. “My hobbies—what are they?”
“How should I know?”
“Well, what did we used to do together?”
“Stop asking me that!” Cat was mildly surprised at the vehemence in her voice.
“Okay. Well…let me think.” That was hardly promising. “Oh, I know! Reading. You love to—”
“Oh.” Ashley cleared her throat. “Okay…”
Another bout of tense silence passed. Cat waited.
“What about volleyball. Remember we played on that indoor league for a couple winters.”
Cat felt tears prick her eyes. Much like her violent outburst with the kitchen cabinet, the feel of them pulsing against her eyelids not only surprised Cat they outright shocked her. But damned if she wasn’t about to start crying again.
To be fair, Ashley was right. It was far from a solitary event. Only—it required five other people. Five seemed like an awfully high number. At which estimation, her stomach dropped. Totally pathetic.
“What else?” Cat didn’t even care anymore that she sounded desperate.
Volleyball was definitely out. For one thing, both Ashley and Carly used to be on the team, but as they’d moved away, Cat would have to find replacements for them… and really, the only other person she’d known well on their team was Mariah and she’d always been more Carly’s friend.
“First, want to tell me what’s going on?”
“I’m just…” Cat swallowed hard. “I’m feeling a little…bored lately. That’s all.”
Ashley was quiet for a moment. “Why don’t I come up next weekend for a visit?”
“Thanks, but that’s kind of the problem.”
“I’m the problem?”
“No!” Cat laughed. “God, no. It’s just—”
“Come on, Cat,” Ashley prodded. “Don’t hold out on me.”
“I don’t have any friends anymore.”
A static, unnerved sort of silence answered her.
Cat laughed. It had a shaky sound. “Please, don’t think I’m some pathetic…”
“Oh, shut up. We’ve been friends we were six years old,” Ashley informed her. “I’m never going to think you’re pathetic.”
“I won’t. I’m just…surprised, that’s all.”
“And I’m sorry.”
“Because you left me?” Cat’s attempt at a joke fell flat.
“Because I hate the hurt I heard in your voice just now.”
“I’m not interested in your pity.”
“Good, because I’m not giving it to you.”
“I’m fine. Really Ashley.”
“So. Hobbies.” Ashley’s voice sounded determined. “Yeah. Okay. Get a pen and paper. We’re going to figure this out.”
“You don’t need to—”
“Shut up. Just get a pen and paper. Ready?”