Valerie stormed into her ground-floor apartment, dropped her bag, and threw herself onto the couch. For a time, she was aware of nothing but her own sobbing into her arms.
How can everything be so unfair? she shrieked silently after a time. Everyone is against me!
When her initial storm of tears subsided, Valerie pushed herself to her feet. She glanced out the windows of the living room and saw people and traffic—things that reminded her that the world was out to make her life miserable. She couldn’t stand any of it. In a surge of fury, she stomped to one window, closed the blinds, and pulled the drapes shut. Then she did the same with the second window. And every other window in the apartment.
But that wasn’t good enough. She had to shut it all out. She grabbed beach towels and hung them over the curtain rods. The towels shut out nearly all of the light.
With that done, Valerie changed into pajamas and went into the kitchen to find some ice cream.
* * * *
Days passed. Valerie didn’t go to work or class. She refused to answer her phone, email, or front door—and, later, to go out for groceries. She put nothing away that she used or wore. She grew to hate the lights in the fridge and freezer, so she unscrewed the bulbs. She took to sleeping for most of the day and sitting up to stew at night. The darkness had enveloped her apartment so fully that she couldn’t see the mess she was making of the place.
There’s no light for me, Valerie frequently told herself. There can’t be anything good. I can’t be happy. Happiness doesn’t exist. Light doesn’t exist. Not for me.
Then, one day when she was sleeping, a sound woke her up. Had that been the front door closing? Valerie arose and stumbled out of her room. No one else seemed to be there.
But the drapes in front of one of the windows were pulled a couple inches apart, the beach towel slid aside to allow in a crack of sunlight.
Valerie hissed and recoiled like a vampire. Shielding her eyes, she made her way to the window and reset the drapes and towel. Then she stumbled back to bed and sleep.
Next day, the closing door awoke her again. She leaped out of bed this time. Once again, a crack of light pierced the gloom, but wider this time. Once again, Valerie yanked the drapes and towel back into place. What was going on?
The day after, Valerie’s eyes snapped open when the doorknob clicked. She tried to vault out of bed, but a tangle of blankets prevented her from gaining her feet. A whisper of cloth told her someone was opening her drapes again—and as she struggled to her feet, the front door opened and closed. Valerie raced across the living room to the offending window and hesitated. The drapes had been parted nearly a foot this time. But her curiosity overcame her revulsion, and she leaned into the light, squinting and parting two of the blinds.
A lithe figure strode down the front walk and out to the street, then jogged to the other side.
Valerie knew that figure. It was her best friend, Kayla, whom she had given a key to the apartment for emergencies. But this was no emergency …
She took a step backward into the shadows. Just stood there for long moments. A golden stripe reached across the floor, cast by the morning sun. It lent enough light to the room that Valerie could see the state of the place. Gross.
Slowly, she turned back toward the window. The light coming in brightened. Valerie took a slow, deep breath, stepped forward, reached out, and spread the drapes apart. Then she pulled the blind cord as far as it would go.
Sunlight flooded the room, gilding everything in it. Valerie closed her eyes and tilted her head back. The light was warm and inviting. It felt like an assurance that good things could happen again. She inhaled, brought it into her body. Its warmth infused her skin and filled her. A slow smile spread across her face.
Thank you, Kayla, she thought. Thank you.
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