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I was still in bed when the alarm clock went off. Normally I’m up before it rings but that morning I was having trouble motivating myself. The arm around my waist was loose. I moved it to the side wishing I could stay in bed. “Where are you going?” Darkness loomed outside my window. “For a walk.” His arm reached back around me. “Skip your walk today.”

I rubbed my forehead as I looked out the window. I didn’t feel like going for a walk, I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to call my boss and tell her she needed to find someone else to manage her store. I was sick of cleaning and tired of listening to my employees complain about the schedule. When I flung the covers back the sheets were still warm from last night. Outside it would be cold. “I should go for a walk.”

“You should call in sick. We can spend the day together.”

“I hate it when people call in sick. Especially if I know they have other plans.”

“How many times have you gone in when someone else is sick?” So far I had gone in three times to cover for other people. Being reminded of that made me crabby. “We need the money and I’m not really sick.” I grabbed my clothes and headed into the bathroom. My head pounded when I leaned over to pick up the box of tissues I knocked over. None of the apples in the fruit bowl were the kind I liked. The first bite of my Red Delicious was mealy. I threw it out and grabbed my favorite pink hoodie. I was halfway down the block before I realized I had forgotten my iPod. I waved to my neighbor who peeled out of his driveway. Today walking wasn’t helping, I missed my music so I went back home for my headphones.

When I opened the door the TV was so loud I could hear it from the hallway. I turned it down thinking that my parents never would have let us watch TV before school. My daughter started complaining. When I told her to get dressed she told me she wanted breakfast first. My stomach felt funny when I poured her a bowl of cereal. I opened the refrigerator and found out we didn’t have any milk. The urge to crawl back into bed was irresistible. Laying on my pillow I watched the numbers on the clock. “I love you.”

The words were right but the timing was wrong. I started crying, Jon put his arm back around me and kissed the side of my head. “What’s the matter?”

“I’m sick and tired and I don’t want to go to work. I hate my job, I can’t find a new one. I hate working by myself more than anything, all the people who tell me to apply where they work never hire me. You’re still in bed, the girls are up and we don’t have any milk.”

“Do you want me to get up with the girls?”

The offer was nice but it made me angry that he was asking instead of just doing it. Obviously I wanted help getting the girls ready. I was tired of getting two kids ready for school when I had to get ready myself. I yawned and shrugged knowing he'd stay in bed until I got up. “Whatever.”

“If you took the day off we could go to Chicago. What’s the name of that restaurant you like?”

“There are thousands of good restaurants in Chicago.” The last time I went out to eat in Chicago I had almost died. Jon didn’t like the restaurants I did either. “I can’t go to Chicago. I have to work.”

“Call in sick. You deserve a day off.”

“If everyone called in sick when they wanted a day off no one would ever show up for work. Two people already have the weekend off and now someone else wants it off too. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to do this anymore. Never mind.” I tried moving but his arm held me. “Don’t be a crab. You’re the morning person in this relationship, remember?”

“I can’t stay up until one in the morning and be a morning person the next day. I…” I wasn’t in the mood to be kissed. Help was what I needed, not kisses. Kisses didn’t solve anything, action was what I wanted. “Call in sick. We’ll go sailing.”

“Your dad took the pier out last weekend.”

“We’ll go sailing on Lake Michigan. Remember that Fourth of July out on the lake?”

“I remember walking forty-five minutes there and back because you were sure there would be a place to park.” He had been a jerk that night but I couldn’t remember the particulars. “I thought you were getting off of work early. I was already downtown.”

“Can we please not fight about this?”

“I remember you had, what did you wear that day?”

“I need to get going.”

“We could take a walk down by the lake. I liked it when you had cute clothes to wear.” Back when we were first dating I had a wardrobe full of clothes. “I liked it when we had money.”

“I’d take you shopping if you called in sick to work. Remember the day I forgot my work shirt and you drove one down for me?” That was the day we had gone out with the guys in his department. It had been a lot of fun sitting outside, drinking beer and watching the world go by. “I miss you having that job.”

“What do you miss about it?”

“I miss going downtown and hanging out.”

“We can always go back.”

“It won’t be the same.”

“Things change. You like the new river walk, we could take a walk down by the lake after we’re done sailing.”

“We can go sailing on Saturday.”

“I have to work on Saturday.” I moved his hand again. “I’m not in the mood for that.”

“What are you in the mood for?”

“I’m not in the mood for anything.”

“Why are you so crabby?”

“I just told you. I have a cold. I don’t want to go into work and you’re sitting there trying to get me to do things I don’t want to. Be responsible for once in your life.”

“Be fun for once in yours.”

“Calling in sick to go sailing isn’t fun. That’s a terrible thing to do to someone else.”

“Other people are doing it to you. Stand up for yourself a little.”

“I’m trying to. It’s people like you who make my life tough to manage. Work first, then play.”

“When do you have off next?”


“So if I wake up and I get the girls ready and I take them into school you’ll go sailing with me?”

“I have to…”

I knew you wouldn’t.” He threw the covers back and stormed out of the room. Growing up my parents worked all the time. It seemed like they never had time for us kids. It was always them working and fighting about money they didn’t have. Now my parents brag about how long it’s since either of them has called in sick. When I was in a car accident this summer my mother told me I should stay at work instead of going home. I didn't feel like I could leave work because people were counting on me to be there. Now my neck and shoulder bother me when I lift heavy things. I resent that and the company that she works for because they expect so much and give her so little. My mom has worked for the same company for over twenty-five years. She doesn’t have a degree so they can get by with paying her less. Her boss appreciates her and don’t get me wrong, this is something she does to herself. She likes to work because people at work appreciate her. They’ve been good to her but whenever I talk to her I get the feeling that work is a little more important to her than I am.

My dad has two jobs even though he only needs one. He serves on boards and committees even though some of the people who could have helped him didn't after he lost his job. Parkinson's has taken some of his independence away but he doesn’t let the disease stop him for signing up for the things no one else wants to do. If I asked my parents for money they would give it to me. When I needed someone to watch my children so I could go into work when someone else was sick my mom told me I could drop the girls off at her office. Two of my sisters work and go to school. My brother has three part-time jobs, mostly because his friends talked him into working. The people I manage have it pretty good with me. Most of them work less than twelve hours a week. I make sure that they know I appreciate them. I work with them. I listen to their complaints and suggestions. They know that I’ll come in when they're sick. I bought everyone I work with gift certificates after the health inspector told my boss that our place was the cleanest restaurant he had ever seen.

I thought about the guy who works at the Apple store who had given my resume to his manager. The woman who works at the shoe store passed my name along to her boss. I know that if she had a job for me at her store I would have it. I thought about the customers who stop by my work just to see me. Work gives me a sense of accomplishment. When I’m there I’m the boss. I tell people what to do. I listen to other people’s personal problems. I hear about how much homework the teenagers have. Once I sent a guy home early after his girlfriend broke up with him. I’ve fired four people, two of those people still stop by the store to see me. One of the girls I work with brought her father in to meet me. I’m good at my job. I see things that need to be done. I have a vision, I set realistic goals. I build flexibilty into my plans. I encourage others to work hard. I set a good example for other people to follow because that’s what my boss does for me.

Jon turned the shower off. While I was thinking the mirror in the bathroom had fogged over. I wrote a message in the mirror with my finger. It reminded me of the day I had written “I love you!” on the mirror with shaving cream. When my message was finished I realized I didn’t do things like that anymore. What Jon had said was true. I wasn’t fun to be around. Fun had become work to me. The message on the mirror was fading fast. Holding his towel in his hand Jon read my message: Do you want to go sailing today? Jon set the towel down. I bought new towels but he likes the old ones better. I hung his towel up for him. It's been a while since I've done that for him. His reply to my message was two words long: Do you? My response to his message was even shorter. I closed the bathroom door, I made sure the door was locked. The girls’ toothbrushes were already out. I picked up their tube of Silly Strawberry toothpaste and I said yes, because I believe in sailboats.

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