Janice wasn’t ready; and she’d been sure she would be. So far, she’d stuck precisely to her plan.
“Make a plan, have a countdown list to check-off. Work through it steadily. You’ll do it Janice, I’m sure. I have faith in you.” Her therapist had told her that last visit.
Oh, God! Why is it always like this? Panic… sweaty palms. Look! Just look at my hands. Shaking like a leaf, they are… oh Christ! I’m going to be sick, I can feel it. Breathe in… one… two… three… and out…one… two… three. Wait…one… two… three. Ok, Ok, I can do this. Who can do this? I CAN. YES, I CAN.
The sunny spring morning beckoned to her. And at this moment she was sitting on the bottom stair, facing the front door. Still safe. Just sitting in the hall of her house. The air was warm and vaguely laced with flower scents –
Christ, I can smell flowers… there must be a door open somewhere. WHERE! I’m not ready. Oh God! Oh God!… I’d rather stay right here. I’m safe here, inside. I don’t have to do this. I can just sit here, wait for Jimmy to come home. I should have waited for him, like he said. I can’t do it by myself, why didn’t I wait? No need to move… Breathe…
Her thoughts looped frantically around, like a rodent on a wheel. Panic set in; seething like a rip tide through the cavern of her brain. She could feel her mind dribbling away, drying her saliva so her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. Her face was bright red, she could feel the blood flushing through the veins, pumping too fast.
There shouldn’t be a door open yet; she wasn’t far enough down her list. She looked down – through the fat teardrops rimming her bottom lids, at the crumpled paper she had clutched in her hand; a death grip on her plan. She’d meticulously set out all the steps she’d need to take to get her to her goal. There were over one hundred – one hundred and thirteen actually. She’d not got to number one hundred yet. Opening the door was number one hundred and ten.
The flowers… wait…yes, wait… air freshener! That’s it. The air freshener. I replaced it…it was a new one last week. Ok… ok…breathe.
Minutes clicked by. Relief made her giddy. Slowly, her reality righted itself. She calmed enough to read the list in her hand. Then slowly, she stood shakily and got herself ready for step ninety – six.
Put my coat on. Ok… put coat on; now where is my coat? In the closet, silly! There…hello coat! Haven’t seen you in a long time. Nice coat, warm coat…and it still fits! There, that must be a good sign.
And in this way she cajoled herself through her plan to step one hundred and ten. The door. She read out loud:
“Step one hundred and ten. Open the front door. Reach out..turn the lock, pull the handle towards you. Open door a crack… look around the edge. Slowing pull the door wide…..Keep breathing…in… out… evenly… nice and slowly. There! No problem….”
She read from the paper in her left hand, and followed her written instructions as she did so. She looked up when she got to the end of the text.
There it is. Outside… oh, God! Sick, sick, sick….I’m going to be sick…breathe, remember… settle and centre. I’m not going to die…no problems out there… See I haven’t keeled out…breathe, now, breathe.
So: point one hundred and eleven.
Step over the threshold…put the catch on before…that’s right, now one… two… three, step! Ok, ok…let’s DO it this time! One… two… three, STEP! Oh Christ! Oh God…breathe… so sick… breathe.
Dizziness threatened, the buzzing in her ears grew louder, and she fought her battle, alone on her doorstep; just as she’d planned.
Ok…see, nothing’s happened; nothing. Should I go back…forget these last two steps? I’ve done such a lot… I could just…NO. I’ll finish it.
And she did.
Step one hundred and twelve: walk down the garden path to the gate.
Just walk…don’t run…that’s it, slowly… not too slow… just normal steps.
Step one hundred and thirteen: walk back to your own front door.
Now back to the house… nice and easy. No running… nearly there! See I CAN do it! Keep going…nearly there.
Oh, the door – Jimmy’s painted it red! My favourite colour!
Avis Hickman-Gibb lives in Suffolk, England with her husband, one son and two cats. She gained a BSc. in Environmental Chemistry more years ago than she cares to admit, and worked in the fledgling computer industry whilst still a babe-in-arms. She’s had stories in Every Day Fiction, Twisted Tongue, PygmyGiant, Boston Literary Magazine, Short Humour, The Ranfurly Review StaticMovement, Microhorror, Bewildering Stories & The Shine Journal. She’s currently working on a book of short stories and a novel but is addicted to writing flash fiction.