Upload. Click. Play. Destroy. Elsa broke up with her boyfriend, so he released their sex tape - a short story.

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ELSA, FIRST THURSDAY

Mom: Are you okay? Call when you get this!
Tad: Elsa! Where are you? Home?!
Mark: Nobody can reach you!! Where are you?
Tuli: Hi. Trying to call you. Please answer!
Tad: I am on the way to your house!
Mom: Tad’s coming over!
Nande: El, are you at home?!

Elsa frowned as she read the messages.

For the past hour she had been in her kitchen washing, drying, and then putting away dishes. Her iPod Classic was tucked in the back pocket of her jeans to protect it from the splashing water in the sink. The white chord of her EarPods snaked its way from her pocket, around her waist, under her right arm, and split when it reached her breasts on its stereophonic path to her ears.

Elsa’s phone had been in her bedroom. That evening, when she came home to her small Windhoek-West apartment, she had walked through her lounge to her bedroom and dumped her bag on her bed before walking to the kitchen. She cast her eyes at the dirty dishes piled next to the sink and kicked off her black pumps, tied her hair in a lazy ponytail, and went back to her bedroom to fish her iPod from her bag.

She would shower after cleaning the kitchen, she thought, and toss the day’s clothes into the laundry bin as well. Walking back to the kitchen she ran hot water into the kitchen sink, closing the tap when it was half-full. Elsa absently let her right hand soak in the warm water. Her left hand scrolled through some playlists.

She had felt like Jazz.

“Tonight is about Josephine, Nina, Ella, Edith, and Billie,” she said. “And…Elsa.”

Settling on a particularly enjoyable compilation she had made two days ago Elsa lost herself to the immortal heartache, yearnings, rejections, and resurrections of the women in her ears while she scrubbed her three-day backlog of dirty cutlery and crockery. As she stacked dishes she thought it was time her place looked like it housed a—

“SENIOR COPY EDITOR!”

She had shouted it to put her furniture, vases, books, and soon to be thoroughly cleaned kitchen on high alert.

There was a new Elsa in the building.

In the past month, after her breakup, Elsa had gone on a lifestyle purge. She defeated the lure of her snooze button and rose out of bed every morning before her alarm rang a third time. She started going in to the office early, to fix paragraphs, correct ambiguous headlines, and meticulously fact-check copy for Friday, one of Windhoek’s weekly lifestyle magazine.

Elsa would begin the day by sipping her takeaway Slow Town cappuccino, briefly scan news headlines, and then plug in her earphones and work until lunch. After a small lunch of yoghurt, fruits, nuts, and the occasional roasted butternut salad from JoJo’s, her favourite café, she would continue putting deadlines to rest, churning out work until five o’clock when she would then turn off her iMac and drive through the viscous evening traffic to her apartment.

Her work ethic did not go unnoticed. After Anne, the previous senior copy editor, departed for the corporate marketing world Elsa was her natural replacement. The new title was only the latest moniker showing how far her transformation from supposedly being a recalcitrant girlfriend to the latest version of herself had progressed.

Early riser, late sleeper.
Slow runner, fast learner.
Yoga and yoghurt.
Cocktail sipper and furious flirter.
Much-improved daughter.

Now she could add senior copy editor to her list of recent post-breakup achievements.

Most pleasurably, she had rediscovered comfort in reading and escape in her writing. Cervantes, Borges, Saramago. All of the Kindle books she had amassed but not read were slowly being ticked off her reading list. She had filled her red Moleskine with story arcs; she gave birth to characters and plotted ways to kill them.

There were moments when she felt sore from her recent breakup. But her metamorphosis into a serial reading, writing, running, socialising, and squatting machine had relegated the feelings of longing to an occasional dull ache.

As she had rinsed her plates Elsa smiled to herself, thinking of all the new activities in her life. She hummed along to Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose. She had decided tomorrow night she would invite her parents over for dinner to celebrate her ascension in the working world.

Tonight, though, she had thought, she would heat some leftovers and then tackle her sitting room. She did not want to rush home to clean when her parents came over tomorrow. Elsa had finished rinsing the remainder of her dishes and put them in the dish rack before going to her bedroom to retrieve her phone and tell her parents the good news.

She had found her phone’s screen crowded with missed call and text message notifications. Elsa unlocked her screen and read the frantic messages from her family and friends.

Just then her mother phoned.

Elsa pulled her earphones out of her ears and cast the chord around her neck without pausing her music. Wendy Rene continued mourning the bittersweetness of life as they bounced on her chest.

…After laughter comes tears…

“Hi, Mom? What is going on? Elsa began before being cut off by her crying mother.

“El, are you at home? Are you okay? Tad is on his way to pick you up now. We called but you didn’t pick up.”

“Mom, I’m fine. I was cleaning. What’s going on. Are you okay?”

Her mom sniffled on the phone. Elsa heard her blowing her nose. “We were so worried. Taddy should be there any minute now, okay?”

“Yeah, okay, but what is going on?

“We saw the email, Elsa. It was horrible. And we were worried. We’re glad you’re fine. Taddy is on his way. Let me know when you and Taddy are on the way back here, okay? We’ll talk when you get here.”

Elsa tried to get more out of her mother and came up against more sniffling and nose-blowing. She told her mother she would wait for Tad and hung up.

When you’re in love, you’re happy…

“What email?” Her face puzzled with a hesitant curiosity. “What’s going on?”

She navigated to her mail app and saw thirty unread messages, all replies to one email thread with a cryptic subject line: Have A Nice Fucking Life.

Elsa felt a cold tentacle wrap itself around her stomach as she opened the message.

Nande: This is so fucking sick.
Tuli: You are so sad, man. Fuck off.
Sandra: John, you’re an asshole.
Ndeshi: I hope you die, John.
Mel: What the fuck?

Her breath quickened as she read the replies and scrolled towards the bottom of the email thread. The sender’s name made the tentacle tighten its grip.

It was from John, her ex-boyfriend.

The body of the email was blank but for a video attachment. Elsa’s shaking thumb hovered above the play button for a second before she pressed it. The messages folder closed as the Quicktime player opened. The video stuttered for a bit as it loaded.

Then it played.

“Oh. Fuck.”

As she crumpled to the kitchen floor, the tentacle squeezed her stomach abruptly and she heaved onto the floor. Her earphone cable, dangling from her neck, was showered with the cascading spray.

Wendy Rene played on.

Elsa wretched again. She coughed to clear her throat and spat the bitter taste of the bile out of her mouth.

Then she started crying.

She did not hear the car pull-up outside the house.


MARISOL, FIRST THURSDAY

When Tad brought Elsa home Marisol hung up the phone. She had been in the kitchen talking to Kalam, her retired psychologist friend.

“You’ll have to treat her like a rape victim, Mari.”

“Is it that bad?” Marisol pressed the phone to her left ear. Her right hand gripped the edge of the kitchen counter.

“Look, Mari, she had sex with someone she trusted in a way she thought was private. But now it is not. That video was sent to her friends, to her family, who knows where it will wind up. That is sex she did not consent to. That’s rape in my opinion.”

“What do I do? What can we do?” Marisol asked.

“For now make sure she feels supported. Don’t pry too much, okay? Just take it easy with her.”

“Do you know about anything we can do about this, legally?”

“An invasion of privacy charge is probably your best shot here. But that won’t stop it from being shared. It’s out there. You cannot fight the Internet. Rather focus on Elsa. Try and keep her offline—”

Marisol did not hear the rest of what Kalam said. Her mind raced to the ubiquitous Wi-Fi broadcasting throughout the house, the two laptops, the phone, the Samsung Smart TV, and the iPads. The Internet was everywhere.

A vision of turning on the television and finding the ten seconds of horror she had witnessed popped into her head. She should have stopped when she saw the naked body. She should have stopped. But for ten seconds she had hungrily watched the two anonymous bodies wrapped around each other grunted and moaned with the pleasure and the effort. She had dropped her phone when Elsa’s face materialised on her screen.

The Internet is everywhere. And Elsa’s body will be everywhere the Internet is.

A current of nausea ran through Marisol. She heard the electric front gate open and returned her attention to Kalam’s voice on the phone.

“Mari, are you there?” Kalam asked.

“Yes, I have to go now, Kal,” Marisol said hurriedly. “Tad’s back with Elsa.”

“Okay, good luck, Mari.”

Marisol hung up the phone and ran to meet her family.


THADDEUS, FIRST THURSDAY

Thaddeus emerged from the garage carrying a crying, red-eyed Elsa. He saw Marisol was about to say something. They made eye contact. He shook his head to silence her.

Thaddeus carried Elsa into the house and up the stairs to her old room. Marisol followed closely behind. Elsa’s slight figure was a featherweight in his arms. Like Marisol, his daughter was slender, and petite, barely coming up to his chest. Her brown hair, usually worn long was tied up in a ponytail that fell over his left arm. He carried her gently to the top of the stairs where he was overtaken by Marisol who went ahead to open Elsa’s old room.

He entered the small, square room and gently placed Elsa on the bed. Marisol circled the bed and turned on the bedside lamp on the left side of the bed. A warm, orange glow filled the room.

Elsa curled her body into a small ball, crying. Marisol, teary-eyed, lowered herself onto the bed and wrapped her body around Elsa.

“It’s okay, Els, it is okay.”

Thaddeus stood for a brief moment looking at them. Then he exited the room. He went into the bathroom, opened the cabinet, and pulled out a small, brown jar. He picked up the blue plastic cup resting on the bathroom sink, half-filled it with water, and then headed back to Elsa’s room.

He found Marisol still wrapped around Elsa. He sat on the bed and spoke to Elsa.

“You’re going to have to take this, Tadpole,” he said.

Elsa untangled herself from Marisol’s arms and propped herself on her right arm, she grasped the cup with her free hand and took a sip of water.

“Open up,” Thaddeus said.

Thaddeus popped the lid of the jar and shook a pill into his left hand and then placed it on Elsa’s tongue. He watched her drink it down with two more sips of water before putting the lid back on the jar. She handed him back the cup.

“Thanks, Tad,” she whispered. Elsa lay back down on the bed.

Thaddeus left the room to return the cup and the jar to the bathroom. When he came back into the bedroom he found Marisol had pulled the folded duvet at the bottom of the bed over her daughter. She sat on the edge of the bed and stroked her head, cooing to her.

“It’s alright, Els. Everything is okay.”

Marisol’s voice was thick with emotion as she offered assurances to her sobbing daughter. Thaddeus slowly walked around Elsa’s bed to the window. He opened the curtains a bit, looking into the yard below. He remained silent as Marisol continued to stroke Elsa’s head.

How many people had been CC-ed in that email?

When Elsa’s breathing became deep and regular Thaddeus drew the curtains and walked to the door. Marisol stood up and made a move to turn off the bedside lamp but Thaddeus stopped her.

“Leave it on, Sol.” His deep voice seemed loud in the room. He lowered it to a whisper. “Let her have the light tonight.”

He stopped by the bedroom door and looked back at Elsa’s sleeping figure.

How many people were watching his daughter right now? How many would watch her tomorrow? The day after?

Thaddeus winced. He had seen some newspaper domains behind some of the email address.

No, let her have the light. There are dark days ahead.

He left the room and walked down the corridor.


MARISOL, FIRST THURSDAY

Marisol pulled her hand away from the lamp and stood looking at her sleeping daughter. She rubbed her head one more time and kissed her sleeping face before leaving the room with the door slightly ajar.

She found Thaddeus in the kitchen. He was leaning against the kitchen island in the centre of the room, picking at a cut in the wood.

“Still Nox?” she asked.

“Yes.” His usually warm and sonorous voice was hollow. “She won’t be able to sleep on her own for a while. I used mine, it’s all we had. We’ll get her something weaker tomorrow.”

“It’s okay, Tad,” Marisol moved to the other side of the kitchen island, across from Thaddeus. “As long as she can get some rest tonight.”

She leaned against the kitchen sink behind her and crossed her hands. Her eyes fixed on the smooth tiles she had been sweeping until her phone’s buoyant message notification brought her the dreaded email.

The emotional fatigue from the past two hours washed over her, sapping her energy. Since she opened the email she had either been crying, texting and phoning Elsa to find out where she was, or speaking to Kalam.

“What’re we going to do, Tad?” Marisol kept her eyes on the floor.

“I don’t know, Sol.” Thaddeus continued to pick at the cut in the countertop. “Maybe we’ll figure out something in the morning. I have nothing now.”

A silence descended between them.

Marisol’s tried to cast her mind to random thoughts but it magnetically came back to the video.

Marisol felt her cheeks colour. She looked up at Thaddeus.

He happened to be looking up at that precise moment. Their eyes met briefly. An embarrassed look flitted between them. They had both been trying to get the image of their naked child out of their heads. They broke their eye contact and hastily looked for other distractions in the kitchen. Thaddeus focused intently on the hob above their  stove. Marisol’s eyes came to rest on the polished aluminium doors of their two-door fridge and the daily affirmations that she posted on it.

She remembered today’s affirmation:

By practicing kindness and gratitude I invite the same to those around me.

The silence was broken by Thaddeus.

He stood up straight, stretching, drawing himself to his full height. He took a noisy, deep breathe, his chest rising. For an instant Marisol thought he looked like he was squaring up for a challenge, the way he did when he was about to attend to a door that needed replacing or a leaking geyser. His face furrowed into a focused frown.

He exhaled. His face relaxed. His shoulders dropped. In that moment Thaddeus was tall and dwarfed at the same time.

“These kids have new ways of hurting each other, Sol.”

Thaddeus sounded defeated. “I don’t know how many people received that email. I think the bastard sent it to her entire social circle and some other people.”

“Maybe they won’t share it,” Marisol looked at Thaddeus looking for some hope.

Thaddeus fixed her with the calm, expressionless poker face he saved for long-lost relatives asking for money and absent friends asking for favours.

“It’s a sex tape. We have it. That means it has already been shared,” he said coolly.

Marisol looked at the kitchen floor again, focusing on the grout between the tiles.

Thaddeus made as if to say something, stopped, put his hands in his pockets, and walked out of the kitchen, leaving Marisol hugging herself.


ELSA, SECOND THURSDAY

Elsa crawled from underneath the covers she had heaped over herself into the chilly air in her room. It was early evening and Windhoek’s passing winter desperately clung to the lengthening days and shortening nights despite spring’s relentless approach. Elsa lay in bed and watched the light hues change from a bright orange, to a deep red, then violet, and then blue.

Eventually the room became dark.

In the blackness of her room Elsa sat in silence and thought about the past week spent  in isolation, avoiding contact with anyone other than her parents. Her friends had come around a couple of times. Each time her mother or father would thank them for visiting and politely tell them Elsa was not yet ready for company. She would hear her father ushering them onto the front porch and the electric gate slide on its track as he opened to let them out.

The conclusion of each visit would herald an intrusion into her room ten minutes later. Her father or mother would enter and ask how she was feeling and update her on the identity of her latest missed visitor. Elsa shrugged a reply on some days. Most of the time she would remain quiet, her eyes vacant.

Her boss came around too. Thaddeus and Marisol told her he gave her a month off from work to recover and that Friday would welcome her back when she was feeling better. Elsa showed little excitement at the thought of going back to work. She could already see the judging look in all of her colleagues’ faces. They would not openly say anything besides offering her apologies or false comfort, but even now she could see the thoughts they would harbour behind their polite smiles and greetings.

I have seen your private parts. I have seen what you would let someone do to you in bed. I have seen your orgasm face.

Elsa sat in a contemplative silence for a few minutes and then reached over to the bedside table. She picked up her iPod and attached it to her portable speaker using her auxiliary cable. The cable was just long enough to allow her to navigate her music library without having to stretch too far from her cocoon. The iPod and her speaker were the only electronics her parents would let her keep in her room. Her MacBook, her cellphone, all of them had been kept away from her.

Elsa was glad her parents had taken away most of her devices, though. Her laptop and cellphone meant Internet access. Internet access meant the video.

Left alone with her music, she listened to her playlists for long periods at a time when she was not trapped in brooding silences. She ate, but only symbolically, and only to pacify her parents. And she showered occasionally. The rise and shine Elsa of the pre-sex tape era had vanished. In her place was a languid version who rarely saw a sunrise. Nowadays Elsa was awake until the small hours of the morning, listening to music, or sitting in her bed crying or wandering the alleyways of her mind. She would often fall asleep before dawn and wake up in the late afternoon.

Marisol had brought her some books to read, but they remained stacked and unopened on her bedside table unread. The only thing Elsa would commit to was her music and her playlists.

The only time Elsa had communicated with her parents in anything more than a shrug was when she asked Thaddeus why they never brought her newspapers. After he had brought her some butternut soup and watched her spoon a nominal amount into her mouth he had gone to stand by the window, looking out into the yard, probably trying to think of things that might get Elsa to talk. He had been lost in thought when Elsa spoke.

“What?” he asked.

“It’s in the papers, isn’t it, Tad? That’s why Mom brought me books and and not newspapers.”

His sharp intake of breath and the two-second delay it took him to respond confirmed her fears.

I am in the newspapers. I am being written about. People who don’t know about the tape will go and google it and then they will see it too. Everyone will see it.

“No, that’s not it, Tadpole,” he replied. “You would kill yourself with all of the bad grammar that’s been in the papers lately.”

He had looked at her and smiled, hoping she would appreciate his joke.

Thaddeus. Tad. Taddy. never Dad, never Daddy. He called her Tadpole. He was always able to make her laugh. But right then he had been annoying. She had put the bowl of soup on the bedside table, rolled over on her bed and turned her back to him.

After a long silence she had heard him pick up her bowl and leave the room, closing the door behind him.

She was in the newspapers. She was on the net. She was on phones. And she was on computers.

After that day Elsa did not speak to her parents again.

Elsa pressed the centre button on her iPod and the small screen lit up. She scrolled through her playlists and settled on a moody one. Elsa pressed play and put the iPod back on the bedside table.

As Little Dragon’s Twice started the melancholy aural carousel she had compiled for herself she reached for her pillows and stacked them around the top of her bed. Then she burrowed back underneath the covers. Her slow playlist gently pulled her towards sleep and gradually she tumbled into the darkness behind her eyelids.

Okay, it’s recording. Are you ready?

Elsa woke up in a panic and sat up in bed, dislodging her mound of pillows. She thought she was back in his room. She looked around for a camera and a grinning, eager face. She realised she was in her room.

Macy Gray’s Still played.

And I still light up like a candle stick every time we touch…

She was not that far into the playlist.

Elsa groaned. She had wanted to sleep throughout the early evening and miss having to force a meal down tonight while her mother or father tried to coax conversation from her.

Her hand snaked out from underneath the covers and reached for the bedside table again. Blindly she fumbled and managed to get a grip on the small drawer’s handle. She opened it and reached inside, pulling out a small transparent plastic jar. The hand vanished under the covers again, the contents of the jar rattling.

A popping sound came from underneath the duvet as the jar’s lid was opened.

Elsa’s hand reemerged from its den and put the jar on the bedside table. Its small label, printed in black dot-matrix, instructed the user to take one Somnil tablet every night. The jar was replaced with its contents reduced by four.

Together, the electronic and pharmaceutical pills her bedside table pulled her towards sleep again.


MARISOL, SECOND THURSDAY

Marisol opened a new tab and typed in the same search terms she had been typing in to Google’s home page for a week.

Sex tape leak, advice
Sex tape, survivor
Sex tape, care for victim
Sex tape leak, legal consequences

She sighed at the thin information that was provided. Marisa decided to be more specific with her search.

My daughter was the victim of a sex tape leak, she is on memes everywhere, the newspapers use her as headline fodder, I  don’t know the legal consequences for the fucker who did this to her, and I don’t know how to get my daughter to eat something and not be anxious about her committing suicide all of the time. Please. Help.

The last search had led her to the top five reasons why someone was glad Paul Walker was dead, a bullied teen who committed suicide, and an article about why no self-respecting woman would go without make-up.

She sighed again and rubbed her tired eyes.

When she had not been busy making meals Elsa rarely ate she was on the Internet searching for any information that would help her nurse her daughter. She decided to call off the search for another day. It was early evening and Elsa would probably be awake.

Marisol went into the kitchen and opened the fridge. She reached into the cold interior and pulled out a small Tupperware container holding pea soup. As she closed the fridge she read that day’s affirmation:

I face my problems with strength and grace.

Marisol went to the kitchen island and poured its contents into a small bowl. She then heated the soup in the microwave. Handling the bowl with a small cloth she carried it up to Elsa’s room.

She knocked lightly on the door before entering. “Els? Els, I brought you some food. Would you like something to eat?”

The room was dark. Marisol picked out verses of Tracy Chapman’s Change coming from the bedside speaker that seemed to be the only thing that could communicate with Elsa these days.

The mound of pillows and duvet under which her daughter hid did not move. ‘She’s probably asleep,’ Marisol said to herself.

She thought of waking Elsa up and decided against it. She would come back a bit later and see if Elsa was hungry.

Marisol held the bowl in her hands and looked at the cooling pea soup. She thought of new search phrases for her next foray into the Internet.

I am looking for answers using the same thing that brought me the problem.

Marisol looked at the unmoving heap again and sighed.

“I will be back a little later with food. Okay, Els?” Marisol said it softly and then walked out of the room, closing the door behind her gently.


ELSA, MANY THURSDAYS AGO

In the first life of their relationship he had been fascinated by what he called her simplicity. “It’s, like, the hardest thing to find in a girl these days, you know?” he would say.

The first few dates were all about him outlining the things he could not find in women. She never participated in these socratic monologues, letting him ramble on about the array of deal breakers that seemed to litter his romantic history. Elsa usually sat and listened.

“Everyone’s busy trying to be fancy, you know. You’re simple. I like that, you know.” Even in the beginning it felt less like a compliment and more like a labelling.

I have decided you are this. Be this.

When he visited her small, ordered apartment for the first time he had been even more impressed by her. “This is your place? Wow. It’s so…spartan. I like it, I like a girl who doesn’t have too much shit in her life, you know.”

I have decided you are this. Be this.

The list of things he liked about her grew and grew. Each new feature he liked about her made her anxious because she was never sure whether it was actually an aspect of her being. She worried about her ability to maintain the Elsa he described.

I have decided you are this. Be this.

“I really dig that you don’t need me to entertain you, you know? You’re independent. It’s cool. And you keep things simple. Let’s do that, okay? Let’s keep it simple. Let’s not crowd out the fun by being lame, okay?”

I have decided you are this. Be this.

She did not crowd out the fun. She never pushed, never nagged, and never invaded his space. She was funny, she got along with his friends, she clocked Halo 2 with him, and everyday she woke up and ticked off all the things on his list she had to be. She kept things simple.

And because things were simple they would find ways of getting complicated and hard by themselves.

First came the labels he said he had wanted to avoid.

“This is Elsa, my girlfriend,” he had said as a way of introduction to his work colleagues. She had not been warned of the status change in their relationship and her new title caught her off-guard. Still, she blushed for a few seconds and then shook hands with everyone politely.

I have decided you are this. Be this.

Girlfriend. She had liked that, too.

But being his girlfriend was not easy. Almost overnight, Elsa became a long list of things she was not. She was dressed too plainly for an outing, she worked too late and saw him too rarely. WhatsApp messages were read but not responded to as quickly as he liked. The blue ticks  would always scold her when she finally responded to his messages hours later.

He wanted to be nagged, he wanted to be wanted. All the time.

I thought you were this. Why can’t you be this?

That was when they recorded the sex tape. It had seemed like a fun thing to try. A couple thing. They had both been nervous about it but as they talked about it more and more they became excited by it.

And it had been fun. Awkward, but fun. The experience had breathed some life into their flat-lining relationship for a while.

But even the sex tape and its sequels did not stop the hard things from getting harder. So he had ended it the first time. And the second time. There was a pattern in their breakups: cry and feel sore; try to catch the silver lining of the grey clouds in her coffee; breakdown, phone, apologise, and yield to vacuous makeup sex.

Their first breakup lasted two months, the second separation only lasted three weeks before the cycle repeated itself and they found themselves standing in line for tickets on the broken fix-it roller-coaster.

‘You need to be emotionally dependent and have false hope to ride the Grand Delusion’ the little disclaimer sign would say. ‘We take no responsibility for the sadness, regret, or wasted effort that may or may not result from boarding this ride.’

I have decided you are this. Are you this?

Their tickets were taken, torn, and handed back to them.

Twice they had lined up. Twice they climbed off the ride, disappointed and bitter. They said they forgave each other but they never forgot. They put their hurts in jars and shelved them away. Whenever things got bad they hurled the jars at each other.

A third ride beckoned still. It was brief, lasting only a week.

A Wednesday evening found Elsa proofreading the latest issue of Friday. Her Thursday deadline loomed. She was sitting at her desk, earphones buried in her head, the volume turned up, looking over proofs, circling stray full stops and underlining errant double spacing.

She paused in her work and looked at a Post-It she had stuck to her iMac’s screen as a motivator for getting through the night that afternoon:

TGIF! TGIF! TGIF!

Absentmindedly she had reached for her phone and seen a WhatsApp message from him.

John: So are you going to apologise?

He had sent it five o’clock that evening. It was nine o’clock.

Elsa is typing…

Elsa: Sorry for the late reply. At the office. Deadline is creeping. Apologise for what?

John is typing…

John: You didn’t tell me you hooked up with Shivute when we broke up last time.

Elsa blanched and closed her eyes as the rollercoaster plunged. She regretted picking up her phone.

Elsa is typing…

Elsa: We were not together. I never asked you if you hooked up with anyone. Because I don’t care. We weren’t together.

John is typing…

John: Just how many guys did you fuck in that week?

Elsa is typing…

Elsa: I don’t feel like talking about this now. I have work to do. We can talk when I come to yours later.

John is typing…

John: And you’re still friends with him? How do you keep someone you hooked up with around us? That’s fucked up. I don’t want him around.

Elsa is typing…

Elsa: No, it’s not. We hooked up. And we’re still friends. Just friends. I’m dating you now.

John is typing…

John: You did not hear me. I do not want him around.

Elsa is tying…

Elsa: But I do. He is my friend.

John is typing…

John: Fuck that.

John is typing…

John: You can’t have it both ways.

I thought you were this. Be this. Or else.

Elsa did not respond to the unspoken ultimatum. She put down her phone and went back to proofreading. At eleven o’clock she left the office and drove to his place. She rang the bell for his apartment, and when she heard his voice on the intercom she told him to come down.

There, on the pavement outside his apartment, with her eyes bleary from looking at her computer screen all day, and tired and hungry from having skipped supper to meet her deadline, she stepped off the roller-coaster for the last time.

I thought you were this. Be this. Or else.

Or Elsa.

On her drive home she looked at the the yellow Post-It she had removed from her iMac and smiled.

TGIF! TGIF! TGIF!


Marisol, Third Thursday

Marisol heard the fridge door open turned around. She had been at the kitchen sink washing some baby marrows for supper. The fridge door swung closed. It was Elsa. She held a carton of fresh orange juice. Marisol and Elsa locked eyes for a minute before Elsa unscrewed the lid on the carton and put it to her lips. Marisol watched her drink the orange juice in big gulps. When Elsa was finished she put the carton back in the fridge.

Marisol and Elsa locked eyes for a brief moment before Elsa broke it off and started walking out of the kitchen.

“See you at supper?” Marisol asked.

Elsa was by the stairs, heading up towards her room when Marisol heard a silent reply.

“Sure.”

Marisol eyes were wet when she went back to washing the baby marrow.

Author’s note: In case you would like to listen to Elsa’s playlist, you can do so by clicking here.