Eyes closed over a steaming plate of highly processed food, she struggled her way through a deep breathing exercise. The feelings welled up with threatening force within her. In and out came her breath, slowly and methodically. Stray thoughts zipped by, threatening all the while to grab hold and drag her along a dark path of explosive emotion. At any given second she felt she was about to burst into tears, scream bloody murder, or shrivel up in a shivering, sniveling ball of anxieties.
Forcing herself into something resembling forward progress, Robyn took steady hold upon her fork, convincing herself that the simple act of eating her meal would keep things going in the right direction. Without opening her eyes she steered the fork towards the plastic tray eminating heat in front of her. To her surprise, the phone blurted once again its electric tone, so startling her that she jerked out of her meditative breathing. The fork, which had made its way almost to the food, caught on the lip of the tray as she flinched. The whole meal jumped into the air, turned upwards, and scattered across the table in a cascade of supposedly appetizing color.
With an equally colorful cascade of language, Robyn spun to her feet. Her chair toppled to the side with a disharmonious clatter befitting her general state of mind. All practiced breathing entirely forgotten, she brought her hand down with vengeful force upon the receiver before picking it up. She fumed there for a moment wondering beneath the rage who might possibly be calling. A glimmer of hope tantalized from the corner of her mind that it might be pleasant news or a welcome call.
She grabbed this hope and hauled it to the forefront as she answered the phone as pleasantly and as calmly as she could, “Hullo.”
“Oh great, you’re there! Ah, course you’re there.” The voice on the other end was that of Butler, just a little slurred but exuberant and cheerful.
“Oh hi, Butler,” she answered, visibly and audibly deflated from her effort to cling to hope.
“We’re coming over. Be there in, like thirty or forty minutes.” It was a statement, not a question. This was a problem.
“Wait. What? You’re doing what?”
“Duh, we’re coming over. Why else would I be calling?” Of course, that was a fair question, though a galling one.
“Me, [other dude], Lou, Gerald, and…”
“Wait,” Robyn interrupted, letting the slowing rebuilding rage to clear her mind, “Why are you all coming over here.”
“Stinky’s television busted, and mine’s too small to do four person duels on…”
“You’re coming to my place so you guys can play video games on my flat screen?”
“Well, yeah, I mean, you can play too if you want, or just sit there and look pretty.”
“Was that an attempt at complimenting me?”
“Yeah, sure. You can be the trophy.”
“You’re a jerk.”
“Whatever, we’ll be there in thirty or forty, and we can discuss my jerkiness then.”
“No, we won’t.”
“Fine, we won’t discuss my jerkiness. Great!”
“No, I mean you and your loser friends are not coming over.”
“What? Since when?”
“What’s your problem? You have something better to do?” This was a question, but it was said more like a statement of fact, the fact that she likely didn’t have anything to do. Right or not, this was a rude question.
“Piss off, Butler. If you show up here, I’ll call the cops on your doofy butt.”
“What the!? You stupid, little…” Robyn hung up the phone before he could finish much more. Until she turned around to see the mess on the table she’d almost forgotten, she actually felt a little better. Drained from standing up to Butler and a bit defeated by the state of her dinner, she slumped into the kitchen to fetch paper towels and whatever cleaning solution might be under the sink.
Around the corner she heard the door open and Beth Ann’s cheery voice, “Honey, I’m home.” Robyn just let one slide by while she rummaged underneath the sink, having found ant bait traps, roach spray, and a box of garbage bags but no cleaning stuff. Beth Ann called out, now having made her way to the living room, “Anyone home?”
Robyn grunted, “In the kitchen.”
“Oh great,” she piped happily, making the rest of the half-circle circuit out of the living room, through the dining area, and into the kitchen to present to Robyn a small package, “This was in the mail for you.” Beth Ann grinned stupidly at the novelty of something in the mail. Robyn just rolled her eyes and tucked the paper towels under her arm. With the now found cleaner, some green stuff with all kinds of extravagant claims all over bottle, in one hand and the package in the other she trudged back towards the remains of her meal.
She stopped at the shiny metal trash can, stomped the foot pedal, and delivered the package with a forceful downward toss into its depths, “Stupid package.”
Beth Ann was a little shocked, made a slightly dramatic little gasping noise, and asked, “Now what did you do that for, silly? That might have been something really nice."
Spraying green liquid liberally over the glass table top Robyn answered without looking back, “I know what it was.”
When more information wasn’t forthcoming, and once she had finished sifting through the rest of the mail, Beth Ann asked sweetly, “What was it then, the package?”
“An angel from my mom. Probably cutesy ceramic or abstract, cheap-o crystal.”
“Sounds, um, pretty.”
Robyn was starting to wipe up the bulk of the food and muttered more to herself than anyone else, now convinced the whole weekend would be unavoidably horrible, “Stupid angels. I hate angels. Don’t want any stupid, smarmy angels.”