Samantha could hear a faint knocking. She wasn’t sure if it was part of her dream or an actual knocking. Again, the knocking. She forced her left eye to open and then her right.
It must be real. She groaned. Who would have the audacity to come and visit? Don’t they know she is wallowing?
She rolled off her cute little couch that she was pretty sure she couldn’t afford anymore and went to the door. To her surprise, her cousin Kate stood outside with her back to her.
Kate turned around. “Ah, so you are alive. That’s good news. I’ll be sure to send that through the family network.”
Samantha just stared.
“I won’t mention anything else for now,” Kate sized Samantha up and down. “Having a bit of rough go, are we?”
“What are you doing here?” Samantha asked. Her and her cousin had never been close. They had lived in the same city for a couple of years and only bumped into each other a few times. Although Samantha never admitted it there was something about Kate that she was always jealous of. A slight envy. To hide her pettiness she accused Kate of being condescending and snobbish.
In her defense, Kate didn’t care what anyone thought of her. Certainly not her cousin. If anyone wanted to be a genuine friend Kate would be truer than true. For those who played what she considered childish games they could keep moving along.
Kate smiled. “Your mom asked my dad if I would check up on you. She was worried.”
“Great,” Samantha said. “I will get a devoted paragraph in the family Christmas letter.”
“Probably,” Kate said. “In the meantime, I brought you some soup. All vegetables I grew in my garden.”
“Garden?” Samantha asked. “You live in a condo.”
“Garden box,” Kate answered and started to walk inside.
Samantha blocked her entry. “I’m not up to receiving friends.”
“I’m not a friend, I’m family,” Kate pushed her way inside. “Oh,” she said involuntarily when she looked around the living room. Cardboard boxes that hadn’t been unpacked yet were in two corners. Blankets and pillows were on the couch revealing where Samantha had been spending most of her time. Take-out boxes littered the floor. And there was some kind of sour smell that she had to control her gag reflexes not to react to. “Love what you have done with the place.”
Samantha glared. “I wasn’t expecting company.” She grabbed the remote and turned off Netflix.
“Binge watching anything good?”
“How do you know I was binge watching something?”
Kate looked around the room. “Just a hunch.”
Samantha rolled her eyes. “No, I keep falling asleep.”
“How about if I put the soup in the kitchen?” Kate asked without waiting for a reply.
“Thank you,” Samantha said and kicked some empty take-out boxes under the couch in a futile attempt to create some order.
Kate came back from the kitchen. “You know, I have a few minutes. Do you want some help tidying up?”
“No, that’s okay. I have a system.”
Kate nodded. “Of course, but it wouldn’t hurt to get rid of some of these empty take-out boxes.” She gathered several up. “There is still pizza in this one. Are you going to finish it?”
“I haven’t had pizza in two weeks,” Samantha said feeling guilty and helped pick up some boxes.
“Okay, so that’s a no. We’ll just toss it.”
After the boxes were gathered and stuffed into a garbage bag Kate looked around. “Here, you take the garbage out. I’ll vacuum. Is the vacuum in this closet here?”
“Yeah,” Samantha said. “You don’t have to though.”
“No worries,” Kate replied and plugged in the vacuum.
Samantha shrugged and took the garbage out. The outside air almost sent her body into shock. Not really, but it did feel a little weird to step foot outside. The sun seemed brighter than normal.
She walked back into her house and could smell the sour odor. At this point, she couldn’t guarantee it wasn’t her. She smelled her pits discretely.
Kate finished vacuuming and put the vacuum away. She looked at her cousin. “You know, why don’t you jump in the shower?”
Samantha nodded. Now that she was aware of the smell she needed it to go away.
After her shower, she walked back into the living room. Kate was still there and had been busy. The blankets were folded on the couch and the pillows stacked neatly beside them. The cardboard boxes were neatly organized. “Noticed you haven’t finished unpacking yet so I just stacked your boxes a little.”
“No point in unpacking,” Samantha said and sat down. “Probably won’t be staying long.”
“Why is that?” Kate asked gathering dirty clothes and putting them in piles.
“Where have you been?” Samantha asked. “I lost my book deal. I lost my boyfriend. I lost my life.”
It took all the self-control Kate had not to roll her eyes. “Your book deal was just a job. People lose jobs all the time. You will get another one. Your boyfriend sounds like a real jerk so his loss not yours. And if I’m not mistaken, you are still here talking to me. I don’t talk to ghosts so you must still be alive.”
Samantha did not attempt to hide her eye roll. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“I wouldn’t understand?” Kate asked incredulously. “You think you’re the only one to have a bad day? You really think you are the only one to lose it all in one day?”
“Oh, so because everyone else in the world has felt this way then I have no right to? Samantha snapped. “Everyone has it much worse than me so my pain doesn’t matter?”
Kate took a deep breath. “No, things fell apart on you. Rather quickly. You have every right to feel the way you do. But trust me, others have felt it. Others have gone through it. And others have survived.”
Samantha thought about it for a moment. “I really don’t want to feel like this anymore.” She said the words slowly and without making eye contact.
“That’s good! Because you won’t.” Kate sat down beside her. “You will get better. But you have to start making a move toward that goal. Otherwise, you will be stuck where you are. And to be quite frank, where you are is a little smelly right now.”
“I know! I smell it too. I’m just glad it’s not me.” Samantha said.
Kate laughed. “It might be one of those,” she nodded at the piles of laundry. “So maybe we should get a load started.”
After the first load was in the laundry they loaded the dishwasher and started it. “Actually, the smell probably was from something in that pile.” Kate said sniffing the now empty sink.
“Hope so,” Samantha said. “Thank you for helping. It does feel better to have a clean house again. I’m not normally like that. Usually my home is quite clean.”
“I figured,” Kate said. “You were thrown for a loop though. When that happens we don’t act like ourselves. We do weird things.”
“Apparently smelly things,” Samantha said.
Kate laughed. “And you’re making jokes. This is good. This is a good sign.”
“It still hurts,” Samantha looked at her cousin.
“Of course it does and it will for a while. If it mattered it’s going to hurt. That’s a good thing. It means you lived and felt and experienced. If it doesn’t hurt then it never really mattered. And that is no way to live.”
Samantha thought about it and nodded.
“The good news though, and there is some, is that you will heal. Broken hearts like the rest of us can heal.”
“It will get better?”
“You will. You will get better. But it is a process and it will take time.”
Samantha didn’t answer.
“Hey, why don’t we find something on Netflix to watch,” Kate said walking back to the living room. “How about a good comedy?”
“Anything but a romance,” Samantha answered.
“Agreed,” Kate said and turned on the television.
Samantha sat on the couch and looked around. Her room looked cleaner. She felt cleaner. Something about the cleanliness filled her with hope. “I think I’m ready to start the process.”
Kate looked at her. “Then think of this as the first day of the rest of your life. It all begins now.”
Such a cliché. But Samantha liked it. She wasn’t sure what it meant exactly she just liked the sound of it so she was going to declare it. Today was the first day of the rest of her life.