"Don't go on the thirteenth," the psychic said down the line. "Bad luck. I'd wait till mercury is out of retrograde too. But honey, when you do leave it's going to be the first day of the rest of your life."
She looked into the living room, but as expected her husband was still asleep, sprawled out on the sofa. The room stank of sweat and booze and cigarettes. Barbara wrinkled her nose and moved on.
She had quit smoking and quit drinking. Her intention was pure. She dreamed of a room straight out of a hotel brochure. A room with wood floorboards and everything else white. White linen sheets, white walls, gleaming white bathroom. No smells or stains, just clean white, the colour of a movie star's mega watt smile.
Her intention was pure. Her vision was strong. She had asked the universe for this. She knew it would deliver.
That was how she had met Jason.
She asked the universe for him and just two days later he had strode into the travel agents where she worked, exactly as she had visualized him.
Except for the wedding ring.
She tried not to think about that. She tried not to invite negativity into her life. But somehow it seemed to seep its way in anyway and she paused on the stairs and could hear her husband snoring and she was gripped by the urge to storm into the living room and shake him awake as she used to.
But instead she took a deep breath and thought again of the white room. The white room from the hotel Jason had booked. The white room where he thought he was taking his wife. The white room where he would take her instead.
On the thirteenth, the laundry was all piled up, begging to be sopping wet, tumbled, folded. Blue stripes and pink cotton underpants peeked out of the mix. No laundromat demonic entities in sight. On the thirteenth, my mother called and asked me to send her a local jar of(more) honey. Her and her precious honey. Also, a warm helping of "time to get off your ass and do something for once", in many variations, streamed through the connection. Warmly shouted, of course. No ominous warnings of imminent death coming though the line that day. On the thirteenth, the sun beat down upon Sacremento like a rolled up newspaper squashing a fly. Air conditioners whirred and sputtered in every home. That didn't mean there weren't armies of flies getting in drinks and getting on nerves that day, rubbing their grimy hands together and obviously conspiring against the rise of bipedal primates. No thick, heaving clouds and thrashing lightning forecasted for the next 6 months. On the thirteenth, the cute barista smiled at me. Now every time I smell coffee her image melds with the memory of its taste. God, her dimples were anything but serial killer-ish. I guess bad luck would just have to wait. Goddamnit...wet socks again. Fucking puddles. (less)
The thirteenth time was the charm as Bailey lobbed his knotted string of sheets up through the window of the abandoned warehouse. Somehow thirteen was always the charm, which had ceased to surprise him. All his life he'd gotten lucky when others tripped, stumbled, crashed and collided under the strang(more)est of circumstances, while he glided past to the oyster that was opening just for him. To be clear, though, these were the only times he came out on top and they were rare. He shrugged when it happened, no longer affected by the misfortune around him, only focused on whatever menial prize had just been handed to him. He'd take it, and live. For another week, month, season.
So it caught, his homespun grappling hook of filthy sheets and a bit of mangled rebar. Athletic he was not, and the twenty-ish feet up to the window ledge seemed an impossible task, but he had motivation, so he climbed. Hand over hand, grunting and sweating, he hoisted himself up through the frame and tumbled with a thud onto a platform of steel mesh. Rising to his stained New Balances, he pushed the hood off his head to reveal a mussed shock of red hair, poorly cut by his own hand. He took in distractedly that he'd torn his jeans and fresh blood stained the white fraying. But his mind was elsewhere, a rising anxiety in this case helping him focus on the task at hand.
Vespertine in nature, his eyes served him well nowin the near-complete darkness. A rat bolted out from under a pile of rags, making his heart freeze for a moment then race away faster than the rat. No matter how many such situations he'd put himself in, he was always terrified to the brink of wetting himself.(less)