“In the early stages of a chaotic system, deciding factors are virtually invisible; the outcome cannot be determined.”
Anne ran as fast and as hard as she could. The rain was coming down even harder now, and her coat was damp and heavy. She hoped the book under her arm wasn’t getting soaked along with it. She reached a street corner and turned left, running down the dimly lit street. Tall buildings surrounded her on all sides. She continued to turn and run down the winding city streets; a few of the dozens of people in raincoats and umbrellas waved at her as she rushed past. She didn’t stop to wave back.
Finally, panting heavily, she reached the front door of her apartment building, Baker Street 409. She pulled the old wooden door open, stepped into the dimly lit main hallway, and shut the door behind her. She stood for a second, breathing deeply, and then she pulled the book out from under her arm, inspecting it.
She was relieved to find that it looked okay. A few small water spots were on the front and back cover, but otherwise it was fine. Then she looked down at her feet. She grunted when she saw that water was dripping onto the carpet.
“Damn rain,” she thought. “I’m sopping wet.”
She lifted up the lower edge of her coat with her free arm to slow the dripping, and then she walked down the hall. The floor was concrete, as were the walls. A few feet from the door was a newspaper rack, with the Los Angeles Times stacked neatly inside. Anne pulled one from the stack, tucked it with the book, and continued walking. She passed several metal doors, each one labeled with a thin aluminum plate…
She felt a twinge of annoyance as she passed that one. Her landlord, Ricky, had been ordering her to pay rent for the past couple of weeks, and he finally put his foot down. Either she paid him by next Sunday, or she would be evicted. But it wasn’t her fault. Ever since she was young, Anne had been interested in cooking and culinary arts, and so, taking after her mother, she graduated college with a major in culinary arts. Unlike her mother, however, she didn’t work at a French diner; she worked at a Carraba’s Italian Grill because it was the only chef job open in her area. Her boss, Carlos told her that she would be receiving a substantial pay rise this month. But she still hadn’t gotten the raise, and now she was running out of time to pay her rent. She had tried to explain her situation to Ricky, but he would have none of it. All he wanted was the money.
She kept walking until she reached a staircase. She climbed up two levels and then went through the 3rd floor door. She stepped into another dimly lit hallway, but this one was carpeted, and the walls were made of drywall instead of concrete. She passed four wooden doors and then stopped at the door marked…
304: Anne Montoya
Reaching inter her pocket, Anne pulled out her room key, inserted it into the knob and twisted. She heard the tumblers click, and then she stepped into her dark apartment, shutting the door behind her. She stepped into the room a few feet, and then yelped as she hit her shin on an end table. Growling, she stepped forward a few more steps, felt the lamp, and turned it on.
Immediately, light shot out in all directions, brightening her apartment. Her living room was small; an exercise bike sat beneath a large window which let in the moonlight. In the right side of the room a large entertainment center sat in front of the bike, complete with a large TV and stereo speakers. And at the opposite side of the living room was an end table with her phone and various papers. Tiki masks adorned the walls of the entrance.
Anne set the book and newspaper next to her phone and took off her wet coat. She held the bottom upright, trying to keep any more water from falling on the carpet. Turning away from the table, she walked into the kitchen. Dishes were piled in both sides of the sink; the table and checkered linoleum floor were stained with food in a few places. Anne stepped up to the counter, dropped her coat next to the sink, and then walked back into the living room. She checked the phone for messages, and sighed in exasperation. The digital numbers showed 10.
“Ten messages in one stupid day,” she thought. “I need to get rid of voicemail.”
She pulled her desk chair away from the desk, sat down, and pressed the playback button. The first message played.
“Hello,” the message said. The voice was a woman’s. “This is a special reminder to tune into the House of Representatives meeting tomorrow afternoon to…”
Anne pressed the delete button, then listened to the next message.
“Hi Anne, this is Bob. Just wanted to let you know that the work schedule for next Friday has changed. Monty will take your usual shift at one, and you’ll be coming in early at eight. That’s all for now; see you later.”
“Thank God for Bob,” Anne thought. “If it wasn’t for him, I’d be running like a chicken with its head cut off.” She pressed the archive button to save the message, and then the third message played. It was an overly dramatic male voice with slow music playing in the background.
“Are you concerned about having a heart attack?”
“Nope,” Anne replied aloud. She pressed delete again. The next three messages were from stores and the building proprietor. The seventh message was from Ricky.
“Anne, this is Ricky. You’d better have that money in the next seven days, or your pretty little butt is out of here. Understa…”
“Shut up, Ricky,” Anne said, pressing delete and cutting him off. She not only hated that Ricky was badgering her, but also that that he addressed her as sweetheart, honey, pretty butt and other various names. She didn’t feel the need to report sexual harassment; Ricky was harmless, he just enjoyed giving her little pet names. Still, it was becoming increasingly annoying.
The next two messages were from her friend Kathy and from her aunt. They were just making conversation. Anne made a mental note to call them back, and then listened to the final message.
“Hi Anne, it’s Mom,” the voice said. Anne smiled; she always liked talking to her mother. She was level-headed and opinionated, just like herself. She thought her mother had raised her great. Her mother’s voice continued.
“I just wondered how things were going. Jill told me about the rent issue you’ve been having. I know you hate when I say it, but you’re welcome here whenever you need a place to stay.”
Anne sighed in exasperation. Jill was always telling Anne’s mother about what Anne was doing, and whenever Anne was in any financial trouble, her mother always offered to help. But Anne didn’t want it. She wanted to get by on her own. And besides, her mother taught her that you need to learn to fend for yourself when you grow up. She loved her mother, but she also loved her independence. She didn’t want to lose it. Going back to her mother would mean that she had failed.
“So when you get a chance, give me a call honey,” the voice continued. “I’ll talk to you later okay? Bye-bye.”
The message ended. Anne pressed the archive button, and then stood up out of the chair. She stretched her arms over her head and yawned, then she walked groggily back to her bedroom. Inside, the walls were painted sky blue, her furniture and bed frame had tiki masks carved into the wood, and a tropical plant sat on either side of her headboard. When she had decided on the décor of the room, she wanted something that would remind her of her vacation in Costa Rica when she was a little girl. She later commented that it was hard to establish that when you could hear trucks downshifting on the highway right outside your window.
She changed into her pajamas and went back into the living room. She reached over to her lamp to turn it off, but she stopped short. She stood bent over, her hand on the lamp. Her eyes scanned the apartment. She noticed the dust collecting on her entertainment center; she hadn’t cleaned in a few weeks. There was clutter all over it as well. Her desk was littered with papers, and she probably didn’t need half of them anyway. She remembered the dishes piled up in her kitchen. What with her work hours increasing at the Carraba’s, she got home late, and didn’t feel like washing them.
She realized that her apartment was a complete wreck. And she wondered how she kept herself from becoming a complete wreck.
“It’s because I’m too darn tough,” she thought. She looked back to the lamp and twisted the knob, turning off the bulb.
She walked in darkness to her bedroom, yawning again. She reached the bed and pulled down the covers, climbed into bed, and pulled them back up again. Then she closed her eyes, trying to fall asleep quickly.
But she couldn’t.
She had been living in this apartment for a long time, and she loved it at first. But for the past few months, it didn’t feel like home anymore. She worked at a restaurant for eight hours a day, and during that time she saw dozens of people, including a few stupid guys that would try and hit on her. After those long eight hours, she used to be happy to finish the day.
But now, when she went home, the chaos only continued. Her sister called her every day and cried about her divorce. Her landlord yelled at her to pay a rent she couldn’t pay through no fault of her own. And coupled with the mess her apartment was becoming, and the never-ending noise of the city, it was becoming more stressful than work.
Her apartment wasn’t home… it was just another place of stress.
She grumbled as she tossed onto her side. Her house was a mess. Her landlord badgered her and called her ‘pretty butt’. Her job didn’t pay enough. Aside from Jill and her mother, her life was hell.
“Well,” she thought sarcastically, “at least I got a new book.”