This one is for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Now Choose Your Title. The title comes from the previous week's challenge, which I didn't link because it's just creating a title, which isn't easy, but also doesn't make for much of a post. This is probably the first one I've done where I've felt it sounded like "me" if that makes sense. It needs an edit or two, and some filling out some of the characters, but this one, I like.
The thin line of warm sunlight crept across her bedroom floor from between the blinds and the window frame. The light started on the sill, then slowly, so very slowly, worked it's way down the wall, over a pair of flats which really ought to have been put back in the closet, over the grey tabby which had a gift for anticipating sunlight, up the side of the bed, finally reaching Beth's left cheek. Her eyes fluttered open behind stray strands of long brown bangs and she smiled precisely the sort of smile you would expect to find on someone who is tucked into a comfortable bed and is sleeping in on a weekend morning.
Which was a curious thing as just ten hours ago, it was Tuesday night.
Normally, when Beth was awakened by sunlight on the morning after Tuesday night, she goes from fast asleep to an abruptly upright position, adrenaline working more swiftly than any amount of coffee ever could. Sunlight meant she'd overslept, and "the morning after Tuesday night" meant "Wednesday." Wednesday meant having taking a shower in the dark, drinking something that bore no resemblance to a "shake" no matter what the printing on the can insisted, and driving half-asleep in to the office.
Instead, she pushed herself up on her elbows, twisted her torso slightly, picked up her glasses from the night stand, and pressed the side of her iPhone. It read "9:17 A.M., Sunday." Sunday meant sleeping in, so she leaned out of the bed and stretched the curtains to cover the sunny little gap. The cat gave her a dirty look, stretched, and hopped up on to the bed, making biscuits in the knitted blanked bunched at the foot of the bed. Beth pulled the sheets back up under her chin, closed her eyes, and dozed back off, never even wondering why there was no date next to "Sunday" on her phone.
The fact that the day following Tuesday was, quite improbably, Sunday this week, was accepted by most people with surprisingly little resistance. In hindsight, perhaps it wasn't all that surprising. After all, when everyone knows and agrees that a day is Sunday, then arguing otherwise was just contrariansm and the people who adopted this position did so without any real hint of enthusiasm.
No, the heated arguments, the ones containing passion and tears, were reserved for the "how" and the "why" of the matter: "How did Sunday manage to wedge it's way in to the week after Tuesday, and why on Earth would it do so?"
Luis was an old man ten years ago when they renovated the park in the middle of town. Figuring that "becoming a fixture" was a fitting thing for a man of his advanced years to do, and that "the park in the middle of down" was a good place to do it, he'd been spending most of his days on the benches, at the long-planked wooden tables, and on the crushed orange stone walking paths for a long time now.
He was an expert on the ebb and flow of traffic in and around the park and could tell when there was going to be a special event like a parade, or when there'd been some sort of public tragedy, just by watching the movement around the park. Oh sure, he also read the news religiously, but if push came to shove, he could tell you a great deal about the local scene without doing any reading at all.
His morning circuit of the walking paths confirmed what he had felt when he woke up. For whatever reason, today was Sunday. Luis didn't really worry too much about it beyond that. Most days were pretty much the same to Luis, but Sundays were always nice since there were most families and fewer drunks in his park. An extra Sunday suited him just fine.
Making his way along the North edge of the park, something clicked. This was the main drag, the street where people who had some sort of romantic notion of local shopping bought books and antiques. There was even a little hardware store. The strange thing was, they were all closed. There weren't any blue laws anymore, but everyone was acting like there were. The only open doors on the street were those of Koval's BBQ and everyone knew that barbecue joints were closed on Mondays.
Luis tipped his hat to Rita, lovely Rita as he hummed to himself. His elbow didn't bark the way it usually did, and he slowly became aware that he wasn't favoring his left hip like normal.
"Heya Luis! What do you make of this Sunday we're having? Damndest thing, isn't it?" Rita, forty years Luis' junior and all freckles and red hair that wouldn't stay in a bun if you used super glue, was the hostess at Koval's. Seeing Luis making his rounds always brought a huge smile out of her.
"Don't know. Don't know and don't mind an extra Sunday. Wish we had more of 'em." His voice sounded stronger, younger. "I'll tell ya a secret, though: This isn't just any Sunday," and he swept his arm down the street indicating the closed shops, "It's an old Sunday."
Rita just laughed because how the hell else do you respond to something like that?
The national, 24-hour news networks spent a lot of air time discussing Sunday because 24 hours is a lot of time and there really wasn't much else going on. It was proving to be a remarkably incident-free day, but incident-free doesn't make for compelling television.
"If we don't figure out how this happened, how can we be sure it won't happen again? How will we prevent it from happening again?" The speaker was Robert Hastings, who was a popular guest on talk shows as he'd been the CEO of several companies, so he had plenty of credentials. He'd also been largely unsuccessful in those stints, so he also had plenty of availability. He was wearing his navy suit with a white dress shirt and a red silk tie, which is all anyone could remember him wearing.
"Why would we want to do that? What's so terrible about an extra Sunday?" Dr. Caroline Hsu was, in fact, an medical doctor, but when the network called her to appear opposite Mr. Hastings, it was because they wanted her insight as a former campaign manager for a New York senator. Not that either MD or campaign manager qualified her to talk about Sunday, but exactly weren't very many people who had experience in that specific and previously non-existent field.
"Caroline, even you can see what kind of chaos messing with the calendar could create." Dr. Hsu winced at the "even you" but held her tongue. "The NYSE is closed today. Closed! Financial reporting is going to be a disaster. It could take the markets months to recover."
"Mr. Hastings, how do you know that?" Dr. Hsu spoke slowly and carefully, a decrescendo to Hastings. She did this consciously, maybe to keep the discussion at a level she was more comfortable with, maybe to irritate Mr. Hastings. "Do you have any experience with Sundays appearing in the middle of the week? If you could share your data with us..."
"Caroline, you know we've never seen anything like this before. This isn't even possible, and that's why it's so important. If the markets were open, they'd be in chaos."
"But they're not."
"But they would be. How do we know that this isn't an attack? Maybe next time it will be a Monday."
"An attack? A weaponized calendar?" Even viewers with old, curved screen, cathode ray tube television could see Dr. Hsu's eye-roll even behind her vintage, cat-eye glasses. It was one for the ages. "Mr. Hastings, as eager as I am to avoid any additional Mondays, I can't imagine any way to interpret today as an attack."
"Well, Caroline," Mr. Hastings smiled, letting on that he was enjoying this, which he always did but seldom admitted, "What's your theory? How does Sunday end up smack-dab in the middle of the week? It's not possible, but it happened. How? Why?"
"I don't know." Dr. Hsu paused, closed her eyes, and took a breath. Did she really want to answer that? "I don't know, and I don't think anyone knows. Maybe Sunday just wanted to be here today?"
"That's pathetic," Mr. Hastings grinned, remembering his high school English just well enough to get his own joke. "The idea that a day could 'want' something, could even be aware of itself enough to move through the week. Where do you come up with these things?"
Ed went to bed last night at his usual time, but he hardly slept. He was a decade older than Dawn, but for some stupid reason, her health had failed before his. By the time they diagnosed the cancer, even though she felt fine, the odds of successful treatment were slim and they faded to none over the course of six short months. At first they were counting how many years she had, then months, then weeks. They were down to days now, and there weren't likely to be too many of those.
Ed did most of his crying alone, in the bathroom and the shower running, so Dawn wouldn't hear him.
Dawn was the kindest person Ed had ever met and, even forty years later, he puzzled over what she saw in him. That was always the first word that came to his mind. She wasn't a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but when there was no one else willing to be kind to someone, there was Dawn.
The hospital sent Dawn home with Ed last week. The cancer wasn't going to respond to the treatment, and cancer treatment itself is hell, so there was no point in continuing it. Dawn offered to stay in the hospital so Ed wouldn't have to care for her by himself, and Ed wouldn't hear of it because the dog missed her and because he couldn't bear the idea of her in a hospital bed any longer.
"Please just make it to the weekend," Ed thought to himself, but he knew that she probably wouldn't. They'd worked for decades, neither of them giving much of a damn about their jobs, but their jobs allowed them time off and let them spend time together on the weekends. Those were the best times, the times that counted and meant the most. When they walked, they walked together, in love, with a protective shield, like deep sea divers in their bathysphere. The world and all of it's stupid, sharp-edged, pain couldn't reach them when they were together on weekends.
And so, when Ed awoke on this unexpected Sunday morning, he did not expect to see Dawn in the kitchen preparing him breakfast like she did back when he used to say he didn't like breakfast. She'd always made it anyway, and he'd always loved it.
"I feel better today, honey."
"You look better."
"I think, after breakfast, I'd like to go to the farmer's market, and then the park. I think I can do that." Dawn looked back at Ed sweetly and said, "So get your lazy ass out of bed so I don't have to go by myself."
It was as close to a perfect day as Ed could imagine. Time was acting funny, and he couldn't properly tell what happened when, but they spent the day walking together, having lunch downtown, visiting the book stores, and just being Ed and Dawn. For the first time in months, just being Ed and Dawn.
That evening, when it was much later than they usually went to bed, Dawn nodded off to sleep. Ed made sure she was snoring, then got up, and went into the bathroom and started the shower.
"I don't know if you can hear me, but I think I get it. I bet tomorrow, it'll be Wednesday, and there won't be anyone even remember that you were here. Is that how it works?"
Ed was crying again. Happy, sad, and everything in between.
"I'll remember though, won't I? Everything will go back to normal tomorrow and Dawn and I, we'll be the only ones who remember. I expect you've done this before, is that right?"
Ed grabbed a towel, wiped his face, and continued talking to Sunday.
"These last six months. They've been...I can't even describe it. I can't imagine life without her. Well, I can. I just can't imagine wanting it. And watching her, the best thing in my life, slowly fade."
"Thank you. Just thank you. You did this for us, didn't you? This means so much to me...to Dawn..."
He was now lost in his tears.