Standing alone on the sidewalk, the wind blowing through her long streak of blond hair, Mandy gazed out towards the sun. The sky was a golden shade tinted with light blue as the sun slowly set below the horizon. There was nothing to expect from this day, nothing to want or need. Work at the office had been the same as always. Her computer had crashed as usual. Her daily routines had remained the same, except this time she was standing across from her car being towed away. Mandy considered herself a very attentive driver, and yet she still managed to find herself distracted enough to run into the car ahead of her. A slight fender-bender that barely dented the silver Audi, but nonetheless smashed the front end of Mandy’s blue 1988 Toyota.
When the accident occurred, Mandy barely reacted. Any emotional outburst would just be another annoyance to add to the situation. In fact, standing as she was, gazing out towards the sun, she realized she didn’t even feel anything. Not a hint of aggravation, not a sigh of frustration. Nothing. Her gaze shifted to the tow truck man, hefty and sweaty compared to her delicate, sweet frame, and she signed the paper on his clip board. Then she signed another paper from the police, the flashing red and blue lights an irritating embarrassment.
As soon as the technical details were done and over with, Mandy was able to get a ride home from a close friend. His name was Sam. He was a little taller than Mandy, a rough 5’10”, and much more roundly built. The two drove in silence, neither wanting to mention the last few hours, and Sam dropped her off at her simple apartment.
“You sure you don’t want some company?” Sam asked before Mandy closed the car door.
“Yeah, I think I need to sit and think a bit,” Mandy said, hoping there was a smile present on her face, though it didn’t feel like there was one. Sam and Mandy had been friends for six years since she started her job at the office. Mandy was a shy girl which Sam was drawn to. From the moment they met, Sam took her under his wing and became the only friend she had in the small town of Ripon, Wisconsin.
“You sure?” The look in his eyes seemed more concerned than they really needed to be.
Mandy nodded sincerely and shut the car door. Sam waited until Mandy was inside her apartment before driving off down the tree-shaded street.
As soon as she was inside, Mandy took the opportunity to throw herself down onto her bed and wait for the tears to come. Having her car totaled was the last thing she needed to happen in her already stretched-to-the-wire life. She couldn’t even begin to imagine how she was going to pay for the damages and the ticket she was cited. Mandy wasn’t without car insurance, but she didn’t think it was going to cover all of the expenses. So she waited with her head burrowing into her pillow for the tears to be soaked up. But they didn’t come. Everything felt…dry. There seemed to be nothing to feel for.
Pushing herself up in frustration, Mandy got up and moved into the kitchen. She rummaged through the cupboards and fridge before coming to the realization that she hadn’t gone grocery shopping in a month. There was nothing to eat except for some pasta and cereal, neither of which sounded appealing.
Snatching up her phone, Mandy dialed the nearby Chinese delivery and ordered chicken fried rice and chow mein. She figured it was probably better for her to spend money on grocery shopping, but seeing as she didn’t have a car at the moment and she didn’t want to rely on Sam, she figured this was the best decision for the time being.
An hour later, Mandy sat on her tattered couch watching Iron Chef and enjoying her chow mein. She was half way through the show when suddenly the screen flickered and flashed off. That’s when she heard the thunder rumble overhead and the lights go out. Mandy sat there for a second, bowl in hand, staring blankly at her television in the dark. She waited for the electricity to come back and heard another rumble from above.
When the power didn’t come back on, she set her bowl down on top the beat up coffee table and stumbled to the kitchen drawers for a flashlight. After searching for about five minutes, she lit up the darkness with a dull flashlight and started to place a few candles around her living room. Once she lit the candles, Mandy settled herself down on the couch and lazily watched the tiny yellow flame dance. She was amazed with herself and how well she was taking everything today. Normally she would find herself in tears, or tearing up one of her pillows in a fit of rage. But this time, nothing happened. A part of her was thankful and another part was disappointed. It was strange how numb she felt inside, as though there was a great black hole sucking in all that she felt or could feel.
And yet, maybe this was something that had been going on for longer than she thought. Something was eating away at her insides, making her feel less and less. It didn’t make sense to her.
Mandy reached out toward the candle’s flame and brushed her finger through it, feeling a brief hotness from the contact. She did it again, only slower this time, and wondered how long it might take to before she could feel its warmth burn through her. She decided it wasn’t a good idea to try and see what would be the result, curious as she was.
Having an urge to move, Mandy got up to start cleaning away her bowl and Chinese. Before she tossed the delivery bag into the trash, she dumped out the plastic wrapped fortune cookie onto the kitchen counter. She tore open the plastic and broke the cookie in half. Pulling the thin white paper out of the cookie, she leaned towards one of the lit candles and read the piece of paper out loud.
“Use your instincts now.”
The thunder crashing above made Mandy jump in surprise and then looked back down at the fortune. The orange light from the candle made the paper glow gently in the dark.
“Very funny,” she murmured to herself, then threw away the broken pieces of cookie and the fortune along with them.