Two cymbals were bashing relentlessly and with little sympathy against my poor ears, making them ring painfully amidst an instant headache. I fumbled for my phone on the side-table and in my zombie confusion, punched the ‘turn off’ button instead of the snooze. I slumped back to bliss in under a second.
‘Shoom, shoooom, shoom, thump, shoom, thump’.
Argh!” I screwed up my face in protest and hotly tugged the duvet over my head, remembering it was Tuesday morning; the time when Mr Lincoln liked to hoover his flat…at 6:30am. I was still yet to ask him why he insisted on creating such an infernal noise when clearly sleeping was what most people were doing at that hour. However, I wasn’t likely to be asking him any time soon as I recalled those last two painful episodes.
Scuffing up the steps, my heart beat a little as I approached my neighbour of 2 months. I finally plucked up the courage to say in what I thought was a bright voice, “Hello.” My smile soon faded as the words, “Still not got a boyfriend yet?” accompanied with a fairly disturbing toothless grin, cut through me. The familiar stab came back. The next time was worse. I’d tried to scuttle past him standing stooped in his doorway: a cigarette dangled from his fingertips, an old woollen green jumper hung limp off his sloped shoulders. He leered, shuffling forwards, his tartan slippers swishing on the grey cement which was flecked with cream circles of gum.
“Looking a bit porky today, aren’t we?” Scarlet blotches sprinted to my cheeks and I rushed past the grey-haired failure of a man, my eyes welling up with tears of hurt and embarrassment. Flakes of mascara stung my eyes, smudging as I rubbed them. An empty packet of 'to share' maltesers lay crumpled in the waste paper basket that evening.
This then left my resort to a cowardly act of scurrying past his door every day after work, no matter how tired I felt. I wanted to ensure no chances of a further meeting, of a further stab of reality, to remind me of what I already knew. I can’t deny the relief I felt once I was safely guarded by the friendly walls which made up my apartment.
Oh, I wished the walls were as thick as he was! I gave up trying to have that little bit of extra sleep and dragged myself out from underneath cosy covers, stumbling across the carpet. The mascara-smeared mirror threw back a face tired with loneliness and a lack of sleep, a few slight wrinkles smeared across flushed cheeks. Bruised shadows nestled under hazel eyes, spoiling a complexion kissed with freckles. That was all it was going to be kissed by, bitter cynicism sidled up. I groaned, disgust wrinkling my forehead as I rubbed a hand across imperfections. Thank God for makeup was all I could say.
The hot shower did little to shake off the morning fatigue and squeezing a shampoo bottle that had given up the ghost really did wonders for my mood. Hopelessly warring with the straw hat which was hair, I finally resigned to scraping it up into a messy wet bun, not even caring that it gave me a look highly resembling Miss Trunchball. I tugged my crisply clean pinafore off the hanger from the airing cupboard, dropping it onto the dusty floor below in my haste.
“Damnit!” I continued to swipe off balls of dust with one hand, as I answered my mobile with the other, which had suddenly begun buzzing impatiently on the kitchen side. I glanced at the caller display. Great.
“Oh hi Jenny. How are you?” The familiar twang grated on my sensitive morning ears. I knew she didn’t care a jot about my well-being. I waited for the favour .
“Just to let you know we’re really short-staffed this morning and I was wondering if you could come up to the hospital right now? Is that alright? I know you're not due in for another hour and I wouldn’t normally ask you but we’re so low on staff...” Right on cue.
“Yes that’s fine, I’m on my way.”
“Thanks SO much. Bye!” The phone clonked before I could even press my lips together to pronounce a ‘b’.
Cursing again, I grabbed a fruesli bar from the cupboard - no time for a bowl of soggy weetabix balanced on my knees in front of the tv - and headed down the long flight of stairs. Swinging by Meg's house would have to wait until this evening. Oh, I had been so looking forward to that. Typical - it would be this morning of all mornings.
All warmth from my shower was whisked away by the cold blast that bit through my coat as I lumbered open the heavy door exiting the block of flats. I sighed again, noticing the slices of white frost which had settled onto everything overnight. The hedge that sat round the small resident’s carpark nestled comfortably with its fluffy cover; the ugly black tarmac lay proudly cleansed for a fleeting moment before tyres and feet would sink their jaws in, once again revealing the dirty dark beneath; even the spangled arms of the oak that waved above my car wore fleeced coats, snow draping lazily like long sleeves at the tips.
My car sat dejected at the end space and I twisted the key stiffly in its lock. Retrieving the ice scraper from the glove box, I scrubbed frantically at the windows, having no time for the pretty patterns which the frozen rainwater had danced onto them. When I was satisfied with the scribbles of glass that were clear, I jumped in and roared the protesting engine and its shivering shell towards Upminster. Another Tuesday. Another week. The monotony was slowly beginning to gnaw away.