By Lynn Nicholas.
The shrill ringing intruded into the shadowy space between sleep and wakefulness. Tamra fumbled for the cordless handset and slammed it back into its cradle. Enough was enough. Her cell was lost somewhere in the shambles of her bedcovers—uncharged and lifeless. Good. She couldn’t face another curious, sympathetic call from ‘friends’.
Tamra felt for the bedside alarm clock. An exasperated exhale escaped her lips. Where the hell was it? There. Her slender fingers curved around the clock’s hard edges, almost indistinguishable under the sweater and heavily padded bra she’d tossed on the bedside table last night. The bright-blue, backlit display announced high noon. Cripes. Could that be right? The Ambien had done its job. She slept over twelve hours.
Throwing her slim legs over the side of the bed, she pushed a tangle of auburn curls off her sheet-marked cheek. Thank God she didn’t have to go into the office today. She was in no mood for either solicitous hugs or the predatory gleam in the eyes of avaricious colleagues, thrilled at her tumble from the top rung of the editorial department’s ladder. She could already hear the entertainment channel’s news bite:Advice columnist’s loser love life exposed. Tamra hated to admit it, but she craved high ratings more than the average television sitcom. After last night’s scene at Dominique’s Bistro, she was sure her popularity hit cancellation levels.
Tamra was in complete control of her professional life, but her private life, not so much. Her advice column, Tamra’s Straight Talk, was syndicated in nine states, both in print and online. She could scan a letter, sift through the nonsense, winnow out the salient points, and produce the perfect, pithy, no-holds-barred reply in five minutes. People got themselves into such stupid messes. Now the stupid mess was hers, and her credibility was in the crapper. The words ‘career change’ flashed across her mind. She’d made a total ass out of herself last night. Making a scene wasn’t her thing.
She closed her eyes, pressing both hands to her abdomen. Her heartburn was heating up. Tamra ripped open a package of Zantac antacid and tossed back two capsules. No coffee for her today. Herbal tea would have to do.
She made a vow last year, on her forty-third birthday, to bail out of the dating scene. She should have stuck to it. Men were just too much damn trouble. The good ones, an endangered species for sure, were all taken, while the bad ones were intent on sharing half her closet and the TV remote. She wasn’t bitter, just done.
But then Jaunty Jake wandered into, of all places, the volunteer orientation for the no-kill cat shelter: straight-talking, flower-sending, cat-loving Jake. His charm oozed through her wall of defenses like honey through a mesh screen. She thought she’d met The One. Wrong! Again.
An acid-induced pang cramped her stomach at the memory of last night’s debacle. Dessert had just arrived at their table—a gorgeous tiramisu and two expressos—when Jake’s phone trilled out a three-note phrase. He checked his text messages, his face flushing a blotchy, typhoid-tint of red. Jake tried to stuff his phone back into his pocket, but fumble-fingered it, sending it sliding across the table. Tamra playfully scooped it up. Before she could even pretend to look at the text, Mr. Jaunty morphed into Mr. Shamefaced, and then to her horror, into Mr. Pathetic. Jake spilled his ghastly guts, tearfully whining that it wasn’t his fault. And his woeful excuse? His ex-wife made him sleep with her. It was all her. Really? The ex-wife Mr. Honest had never, ever—in seven months—even mentioned. This was the icing on the male-duplicity cake.
Tamra’s brain froze and she knee-jerk reacted. Jake’s tight butt was almost at the edge of the curved seat of their booth. With one shove, that perfectly shaped butt met the bistro’s cold, tile floor, accompanied by a loud, undignified ‘Oomph’. Red streaks bled down the table cloth as Tamra’s flying hands tipped over a wine glass. She grabbed her purse and leapt over Jake’s sprawled form. In her mad dash for the door, the tip of her spiked heel caught in his trousers, ripping the cuff.
“But Tamra, babydoll, it was just goodbye sex. It didn’t mean anything,” Jake wailed.
Struggling for control she whirled around, her eyes lasers of disdain.
“Mission accomplished, Jake. This is goodbye.”
Jerky Jake was left with the tab, a bruised backside, and the notoriety only acquired via quick-witted bystanders with smart devices and social media connections. Tamra buried her face in her hands at the sheer embarrassment of it all.
The landline’s insistent ring ripped through Tamra’s reverie. She heard her brief ‘You know what to do message.’, followed by her editor’s voice.
“Tam? Tamra, pick-up. I know you’re there.” Annette’s tone shifted from urgent to persuasive. “Tamra honey, pick-up please. Girl, you’re an overnight social media diva—”
“What did you just say? Ouch. Damn. Sorry. Stubbed my toe lunging for the phone.” Tamra pressed her lips together in pain.
“I said you are trending on Twitter, girl. Big time. Check out #YouGoGirl. Women everywhere are cheering for you. Already four more papers want to add your column. We need to strategize. Coffee at Maxim’s in an hour? Okay?”
“Maxim’s. Yes. One hour. Thanks, Annette,” Tamra replied, words tumbling.
“Whoo-hoo! Maybe she would add ‘experienced in social media marketing’ to her bio. Phone receiver held aloft, Tamra drummed her feet in a crazed happy dance. In mid twirl, the landline’s delightful trilling joined her joyous whoops.
“Hello. Hi. Trending Tamra speaking. It’s a pleasure to take your call.”
A prior technical editor, LYNN NICHOLAS is reinventing herself as a creative writer. Lynn’s flash fiction has placed four times in international contests on WOW! (Women on Writing) and has appeared the e-zines Every Day Fiction, A Long Story Short, Gay Fiction, and Rose City Sisters Flash Fiction. Published essays can be found in the AARP Bulletin (Oct. 2013), and the e-zines Foliate Oak Literary Magazine and Believer Life. Lynn, who has a novel in the works, is a member of the Society for Southwestern Authors. She lives in Tucson, AZ with her supportive husband, two dog friends, and a black cat who keeps everyone in line.