Short Story

I promised to write a short story for you, so here it is. I hope you enjoy it.


 
 
Eugenie finished her can of soda and walked to the trash can in the corner of the break room.  “Can life be any more boring?  It’s always the same, old thing.  Tuna casserole for supper Saturday nights and pizza while I watch 60 Minutes on Sunday.”
“You’re in a rut.”  Livia walked with her as they returned to their worker bee cubicles.  “You need to jazz it up.  Order wings instead of pizza.  And it’s Monday night.  Survivor is on.  Stop to grab a sub sandwich on your way home.  Buy a bottle of wine.”
Eugenie stared at her.  “Wine?  What’s gotten into you?”
Livia smirked.  “Every Monday, I buy a wine that goes with my supper, then Whiskers and I cuddle on the couch to watch TV.”
Eugenie rolled her eyes.  “You and your cat.  I don’t want to be tied down like that.”
“First, a cat doesn’t tie you down.  If you want to leave for a weekend, you put out extra bowls of water and dry food.  Secondly, when do you ever leave town?  Never.”
“But I can if I want to.”
Livia shrugged.  “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
They reached their office and went their separate ways.  Eugenie clicked on her computer and began to work.  The same job she’d been doing for years.  She was good at it, but she could do it in her sleep if she had to.  Still, she challenged herself to get everything done at the end of each day.  She was processing another file at two that afternoon when a personal e-mail popped up at the edge of her screen.  She clicked on it. 
It was a no-reply message.  “You’re going to die on August 28.  You have two weeks to get your affairs in order.  The Grim Reaper.”
Eugenie chuckled.  “Good one, Livia!”  She deleted it and returned to work.
On their way out of the office at five, Eugenie said, “I didn’t know you were so creative.  Loved your joke, Livia.”
“What joke?”  Her old friend frowned at her.
“The message from the Grim Reaper?  Pretty clever.”
Livia stared at her.  “I didn’t send that.”
“Sure, you did.”  Eugenie laughed.  “Take credit for it.  It was funny.”
“I didn’t send it,” Livia repeated.
“Okay, whatever you say.”  Eugenie couldn’t help not sounding annoyed.  A joke was a joke.  It was funny.  Get over it.
Livia turned to her.  She looked concerned.  “You’re not listening to me.  I’d never send anything like that.  It’s not funny.  It’s mean.”
Eugenie blinked.  Her friend sounded serious.  “If not you, then who?”
Livia frowned.  “A prank?  Some gimmick to get you to buy a health product?  A psychopath?”
Eugenie grew irritated.  “Well, they’re dealing with the wrong person.  I’m not amused.  They can try to scare someone else.”  She was tired of the endless array of scams she received.  If they e-mailed again, she’d block them.
That night, at home, she took Livia’s advice and mixed things up.  She ordered Chinese for supper instead of stopping at Arby’s for her Monday night brisket sandwich.  She watched Netflix instead of watching Survivor.  She clicked the TV off at ten and read a few pages of the new book she’d gotten from the library.  A thriller.  A woman being stalked by a psychopath.
As she drifted to sleep, she thought of the e-mail she’d received.  Maybe a thriller wasn’t her best choice for tonight.
The alarm woke her in the morning, and she geared up to plug into her usual routine.  She was sailing through more work than usual when at two o’clock sharp, a message popped up on her screen.  “13 more days.  Are you ready?”
She pushed “block” and moved on.  On the walk to their cars after work, Livia gushed about what Eugenie had missed on Survivor last night.  Eugenie stopped at an Appleby’s near her apartment on the way home and picked up an Oriental chicken salad, then she stopped at the liquor store to buy Sangria.  The wine didn’t go with the meal.  Good!  She was a rebel.  She’d make her own rules.
That night, she watched The Great about Russia’s Catherine the Great.  She felt scandalous.  The show was irreverent and even had sex scenes.  What would her mother say?  Then Eugenie smiled.  Her mom and dad had five children.  She was pretty sure her mother enjoyed sex, even if they never talked about it.
She woke on Wednesday morning, feeling pretty daring and frisky.  She told Livia about The Great on their lunch hour. 
“Oh, my, maybe you’re going too far,” Livia gasped.  “We usually watch Poirot on Tuesday nights and talk about the mystery on Wednesdays.”
“We’ve seen them all over and over again,” Eugenie said.  “I wanted to try something new.”
Livia looked disappointed.  “Then I suppose you’re not going to watch Miss Marple tonight?”
Eugenie shook her head.  “I’m going to try a Father Brown.”
“Then I will, too.”  Livia perked up. 
Back at her desk, feeling pleased with herself, Eugenie was surprised when another message popped up at two o’clock.  “12 days.  And counting.”
She stared.  She’d blocked it.  She blocked it again and clicked it as junk mail.  Someone had a cruel sense of humor, and she was tired of him.
On the way home from work, she decided to go all in and stopped to pick up sushi for supper.  What people were thinking about, eating raw fish and ceviche, was beyond her, but her nephew swore it was delicious.  He was young.  What did he know?  But when she tasted it, she realized he was right.  She loved it.
Livia called her during a commercial and loved Father Brown.  So did she.  Together, they decided to be scandalous and watch The Housewives of Beverly Hills next.  Eugenie wasn’t sure she’d like it, but at least she’d know she wasn’t a fan instead of guessing.
At work on Friday, when they met for lunch, Livia took a deep breath.  “I surprised myself last night.  I stopped at a restaurant near my condo and bought fried calamari.  Whiskers and I both loved it.”
Eugenie smiled.  “I bought sushi.  It was delicious, too.”
Livia frowned, taking a moment to think.  “Maybe we’ve gotten too set in our ways.  Maybe you and I should meet at the Senior Center to exercise after work.”
Eugenie’s jaw dropped.  “In our business clothes?  With a lot of other people?”
Livia rolled her eyes.  “We’d bring our exercise clothes to work and change into them before we left for the day.  It would only be a couple nights a week.”
Eugenie’s doctor had been prodding her to exercise more.  If she had to do it, it would be better with people her own age.  She shrugged.  “Why not?  When do you want to start?”
“Not on Monday.   Dancing with the Stars and The Voice start next week.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays?  I record my shows and can watch them later.”
“Let’s do it.” Maybe then Eugenie’s doctor would be happy with her.
But at two o’clock, again, she got a message from the Grim Reaper.  “11 days.”  That’s all it said.   Damn him!  She deleted him and vowed to delete every message he sent without reading them.
On Saturday, she still got a message.  “10 days.”  Then “9 days.”  She didn’t know how he overrode her blocks, but she wasn’t going to let him intimidate her.  If he sprang some ad on her later, she wouldn’t fall for it.
She didn’t stay home over the weekend.  She took the subway to visit her nephew on the outskirts of the city.  To her surprise, he was happy to see her. 
“I thought you’d become sort of recluse,” he told her.  “You used to be my fun aunt.  You had me over once a month for game night.  I always looked forward to that.”
She remembered.  She’d filled one whole bottom cupboard with games and snacks.  And she let her nephew beat her more often than not.    She’d enjoyed the night until her sister’s husband got sick and needed constant care.  They’d drifted apart after that, her sister caring for Gary as he slipped further and further into Alzheimer’s.
Her nephew taught her a new card game, and she spent the night at his apartment, treating him to brunch before she left on Sunday afternoon.  She met Olivia for fish and chips on Sunday night before they returned to their apartments.  She rented an early X-Men movie and marveled at the action and adventure.
The next week flew by, and she was surprised when it was Thursday again, and she got a note, “Almost Time To Pay Up” from the Grim Reaper.
Oh, lord, Monday would be her last day.  What if the threats were real?  What if the Grim Reaper was real?  She took the subway home from work, depressed.  Life had been moving slow for a while, but now it had sped up.  She didn’t want it to end.
True or not, just in case, she decided to make the most of the weekend.  She called her sister and invited her to stay with her Friday and Saturday night.  She was surprised, no shocked, when her sister said she’d be there at six on Friday night.  She invited Livia to join them, and they went to an Italian restaurant on Friday night, then stayed up late, drinking wine and catching up with each other.  On Saturday, they went shopping.  It had been years since any of them had bought anything new.  They ordered pizzas for supper and rented movies, falling asleep in the wee hours of Sunday morning.  When they finally woke, they cooked brunch together and enjoyed mimosas before her siter left to go home.
Livia looked at her.  “How many days left?”
“Tomorrow’s my last one.”
Livia lifted her chin.  “We’re skipping work.  We’ll go to the store and buy whatever we need for Monday.  We’ll cook and stay inside all day and watch Dancing with the Stars at night.  If the Grim Reaper wants you, he’ll have to go through me.”
Eugenie’s eyes misted, and she blinked hard.  “That’s nice, but. . .”
Livia shook her head, her mind made up.  “He doesn’t want me.  Only you.  But if we can drive him away together, we will.”
She was being weak.  Eugenie knew that, but she didn’t want to die.  “Let’s get anything we’ve ever wanted to try.”  And they went to the grocery store, returning with dozens of chicken nuggets, Rice Krispie treats, all kinds of chips and dips, ice cream and lots of wine.
Livia looked at their stash and laughed.  “No one’s going to accuse us of being gourmands.”
With a shrug, Eugenie reached for a bag of chips.  “Near death rates junk food.”
Livia’s lips pressed together, then she purposely curved them in a smile.  “We’ll see about near death.”  She rummaged in her purse and took out pepper spray and a key ring with a taser on it.  Then she reached for the remote.  “I vote for a Meg Ryan marathon tonight.”
“Can we start with Harry Met Sally?”  Eugenie opened the jar of queso. 
Livia clicked on the movie, then balanced spinach and artichoke dip on her lap.  Three hours passed before they nuked the nuggets for supper.
They’d made it through Addicted To Love before Livia yawned and laid her head on the couch pillow.  “We should save some movies for tomorrow.”
Eugenie slumped sideways on her portion of the sectional sofa.  When her head hit the pillow, she couldn’t lift it.  She pulled the nearby throw blanket over her.  “’Night.”
Livia reached for her blanket, too, but fell asleep before responding.
Monday was the first time either of them had taken a day off when they weren’t sick for ages.  Eugenie was surprised when she didn’t wake up until nearly ten.  She slipped into the kitchen and started coffee, then popped a tube of orange rolls into the oven.  By the time Livia woke, they were waiting, warm and wonderful.
Livia opened an eye and smiled.  “You’re still alive.”
“Technically, I should have until two this afternoon.”
“Maybe we should look up how to draw a pentagram with chalk on your wood floors to protect you from evil spirits.”
Eugenie frowned.  “I’m not sure the Grim Reaper is evil.  He has a job to do, is all.”
“But since when does he warn people he’s coming for them?”
Eugenie poured them each a cup of coffee.  “Would anyone tell us if he did?”
Livia bit into a roll.  “This is good.  Really good.”  She glanced out the kitchen window at a pigeon walking on the narrow sill outside.  “I’m pretty sure someone would mention it if the Grim Reaper sent them a warning.  I mean, most people seem surprised when it’s their time.”
“True.”  Eugenie looked at her.  “Just so you know, I have a will.  I put it on the coffee table, in case.  I’ve divided everything I have between my sister and nephew.  I don’t have anyone else.  I have decent life insurance.  It should give them a little boost.”
Livia scowled.  “I should make a will, too, but my brother’s doing so well, I don’t think he’d think much of my money.”
“Do you have any charities you support?”
“I donate money, but not enough to amount to much.”  Livia’s shoulders sagged.  “I sure haven’t accomplished much with my life.”
“What do you mean?”  Eugenie felt outraged.  “You’ve worked and supported yourself your whole life.  You’re smart and funny.  You’ve made it nice for everyone who works with you.  That’s enough!”
Livia grimaced.  “I’m just saying, when push comes to shove, it doesn’t sound like much.”
“Money isn’t everything,” Eugenie said.  “Actually, there are lots more things that are more important.  Like being nice.  Like being a good person.  You’re all of those.”
Livia smiled and reached across the table to pat her hand.  “Maybe.  But from now on, I want to have more fun.  I want to enjoy life more.”
“Me, too.”  Eugenie paused.  “We should take trips together.  If I live past today.”
Livia stood to pour herself another cup of coffee.  “We have more movies to watch.”
So that’s what they did.  And when it turned two o’clock, Eugenie took a deep breath and looked at her computer.  How would it happen?  A heart attack?  Someone breaking into her apartment?  An aneurysm?  A traffic accident when she crossed the street?
The screen came up, and she blinked.  She looked at Livia.  “This is odd.”
“What?  What is it?” Livia asked.
“The Grim Reaper says ‘Since you’ve started to live, you don’t have to die.’”
“What?”  Then Livia took a deep, solemn breath.  “Oh, God, he’s for real.”
Eugenie’s emotions were so all over the place, she didn’t know how to feel.  But the Reaper had known her, her deeply personal self.  He was for real.  She looked at Livia.  “He knew we were only passing time.”
Livia’s voice shook when she talked.  “He could have picked me as easily as he picked you.”
They sat silently for a few minutes.  Then Eugenie said, “It must bother him when people take life for granted.”
“I’ll never do it again,” Livia said.
“Neither will I.”
The two friends hugged, then Eugenie said, “From now on, we don’t go through the motions.  We live life.”
Livia nodded.  “Want to come with me to visit my brother next weekend?”
“I’d love to.”
And the clock ticked on, and the messages stopped coming.  And the two women enjoyed life a lot more.

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