Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)
By Ivy Strader
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She moved away from the record player and sat in a creaky, high-backed chair, glancing out the window at the street. It was twilight and there was only one woman walking past, one hand shoved deep in her pocket and the other holding a cellphone, which her eyes were resolutely glued to. A couple of cars zoomed by, but otherwise the street was deserted.
Without thinking, Eleanor joined in with the chorus of the song, barely singing above a whisper although the tiny apartment was otherwise empty. The only other life that entered this room was her mother every Saturday night for dinner, without fail, every week, since she’d moved in straight out of college three years ago.
Eleanor still couldn’t believe she was only 25. A quarter of a century old. Assuming she stayed in good health, she had fifty or sixty more years to go, whiling away her time alone in this tiny apartment. She felt like she was trapped in a life she never asked for, imprisoned in this body against her will.
The record finished with a final wailing of strings. Eleanor let out a whoosh of breath (she hadn’t noticed she was holding it) and went to start it again. As it began (“Ahhh”), she remembered the many times her mother had played this song for her when she was a kid. Mom played it on CD, of course, because she hadn’t found Grandma’s old record player yet. It was her housewarming present to Eleanor and she’d used it nearly every day since then.
Yesterday when her mother came over she noticed the record in the player. “You’re not still listening to that, are you?” she’d asked peevishly. “Come on, sweetheart. Just because you share a name doesn’t mean you’re the same as her. Liven up! You need to join a club or something! Get out! Meet people! You don’t want to end up just like her, do you? If I die before you, nobody’s coming to your funeral, and you know it!”
Eleanor had responded with a cold stare and a change of subject. But it still hurt, because she knew her mother was right. If she died today, would anyone miss her?
With a sudden, heart-rending cry, she burst into tears, burying her face in her hands and letting her body be wracked by sobs. The record crooned softly in the background. “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”
“I don’t belong anywhere,” she said into her tear-soaked hands. “I have no friends. I’m trapped in my own head.” And muttering crazily to myself, she added silently. Sitting up, she wiped her tears as well as she could with her sleeve and took stock of her situation.
“Where do I come from, and where do I belong?” she mused. She glanced over at the corner of the room where her abandoned knitting bag lay. She hadn’t picked it up for a year at least, although it had been her favorite thing to do all through college. She pondered for a minute. She picked her laptop up off the ground, her heart pounding as she typed in the address of the website her mother had suggested to her, then typed “knitting” in the search bar.
“City Knitters. Come join us. Newcomers welcome. Meeting in an hour?” she said aloud. “I can do that. Let’s go, Eleanor!” She was terrified and exhilarated at the same time. She put her laptop down on the ground, jumped out of her chair, and flipped the record over. Yellow Submarine was going to have to do. She danced crazily through the first chorus, laughing all the way, and dropping breathlessly in the middle of the carpet, she giggled helplessly. It looked like she was finally going to break free.
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