Louisa Mae impatiently blew a tuft of stringy hair out of her eyes and heaved a breath. The clean scent of lemon was overwhelming but comforting. She felt more comfortable when things were nice and neat. She surveyed the room around her. Nothing was out of place. The carpet looked brand new, even the brass on the drawers sparkled. She pulled her gloves with a satisfied snap, even as fatigue dug deep into her lower back.
She couldn’t wait to go home and have a whiskey and coke with an Advil chaser. Her favorite crime show was on tonight. She always enjoyed it when the criminal got caught. In the real world nothing ever gets wrapped up so easy in 60 minutes or less.
She wiped her brow with the back of her hand while she checked her cell for the time. Louisa Mae nodded in satisfaction. She had two hours left before her shift was up. She might as well go to the next one. She’d get a bonus for hitting more than five places in one day. It was nice working for a cleaning service that actually gave a damn about hard work.
And she needed every penny she could get.
She startled when her “Goodbye Earl” ringtone rang out. She didn’t have to check the Caller I.D. Only one person had that tone. Did she want to talk to him? Habit and an underlying fear dictated her pressing talk.
“Hello?….Yea, course I’m at work. No, ain’t nobody’s here with me to tell you I’m at work. Janice called off today, so they sent me by myself.”
“Guy? What guy? What are you talking about? There’s no one here.”
“That don’t even make sense. There ain’t nobody hiding in the damn closet Shawn. Why would some guy hide just because you called?”
“That ain’t what I mean and you knowed that. Calm yerself down.”
“I ain’t got time for this. I need to clean another apartment.”
Maybe if you had a your own job, you wouldn’t be so worried about mine, she thought, but swallowed those words down.
She gathered up her supplies, resolve growing with each item. She stood, wavering for a minute. The soles of her feet were lit on fire. She’d been her feet for hours on end, every day. She was bone weary, her arms resembled limp noodles. She looked down at her jeans with the threadbare spots on her inner thighs and her pink and white Goodwill shirt. It was a little too tight, but she didn’t want to waste money on buyin new things.
Her phone rang again and this time the song made her smile. “Here for the Party” meant Allie Cat was giving her a ring. They’d been friends since the womb when their mamas hungout in high school.
“Hey girl! How’s that little boy of yours? Still ornery just like his mama?”
“Ladies night special at The Crossroads tonight? I don’t know Allie, my dogs are barkin.’ I think I’d like to just kick them up for the night.”
“Yeah, he done called me…He called you too?! Good Lord. I’m sorry about that.”
“No, it is my fault. If I could just git rid of him, then he wouldn’t be callin’ my friends and hassling them.”
“I know you got my back. Go out tonight and have a drink for me.”
They hung up. She stood there for a minute, staring blindly. She was tired, real tired of his shit. One night when she and Allie Cat were up to no good and too many Alabama Slammers, she’d met him. He seemed real nice, close-shaved. Had all his teeth. Spoke gentle to her. Didn’t try to put the moves on her or nothing. He bought her a few drinks. They danced in the middle of the bar. That night Allie Cat got pregnant with her youngest and she got a boyfriend she cain’t git rid of.
But she’s tired of him too. It feels like everything just keep dragging her down and she just wants to break free. Start fresh. And that’s why she’s trying to make as much as she can. She’s ready to start over.
As she walked to the next place a couple blocks over, she imaged herself in a new place. Dyeing her hair a real bright blonde. Wearing new clothes. Being a brand new person in a new place. Nobody knowing nothin’ about her.
Maybe trying her luck in Atlantic City or Nashville. Somewhere classy. She smiled, her bucket tapping against her thighs as she walked. The thoughts almost made her full of energy. She was ready for a change.
This flash fiction piece was written in response to #writestuff’s March prompt, A Fresh Start. Each month there’s a different prompt that’s revealed during the first tweetchat of the month. Let me know what you think about this one in the comments below. Feel free to write a response to the prompt!