Vignette

She worried at the small patch of smooth, hard skin at the tip of her thumb, sharp nails over burnt skin, the sensation oddly distant. Every few seconds she’d switch to smoothing the first two fingers over the same patch, feeling for differences, for sensation reciprocated. Then scraping and prodding once more. She leaned back with a sigh, wrapping her thumb in the fingers of her other hand to stop the nervous scratching. The skin itself lacked sensation, but the nerves beneath were beginning to buzz from overstimulation. “What do you think, Boss?”

The cat blinked sleepily at her from his perch atop the bookshelf, his opinions his own for the time being. He was doing his best knick-knack impression, a lone tchotchke among dust bunnies of minimalism and neglect, orange fur riotously out of place in the subdued blacks and watery greys of the room. She turned her head to the window, lifting her hand to bite at her thumb, stopping only because she didn’t want to get chapstick on her fingers. The view was uninspiring, weak sunlight sliding over faded brick kept fastidiously free of ivy, the comfort of its familiarity losing out to the need for some prompt, some spark of an idea that might tip the scales in favor of one side or the other.. “I just… I don’t know. It’s not like it’s a big decision. Not really. When you get down and think about it.”

She stood and tried to pace, one foot in front of the other, ten steps to, ten steps fro, but the motion felt out of place in her legs, so she sat back down. Waited. Stood up again and moved to the couch and sat, again. Unattended, her nails returned to the burn on her thumb, scratching, scraping, pulling, ineffectually. The cat leapt down, stalking imperially to the chair she’d vacated and jumping into it, leeching a little warmth from her absence. The cat tucked himself into a loaf, facing her with patient, expectant eyes. She glowered back. “Don’t look at me like that. It’s not. Lots of people make far more important decisions every day. Sometimes several times a day. Before breakfast, even.”

The cat took a deep sighing breath, closing his eyes to nap, and she deflated into herself, drawing her feet up onto the couch and wrapping her arms around her knees. She leaned into the back of the couch, its clean clinical lines offering little in the way of embrace. The doorbell chimed, the muted belling descending carefully into the silence, unnoticed save for a twitched ear on the cat’s behalf. The silence swallowed the noise, stowing it away for safekeeping before the bell chimed again, almost apologetic. With a sigh, she pulled herself up from the couch, each step a layer of self building, one atop the other, from sullen and slouching to self-possessed austerity. Her hands dropped elegantly to her sides, fingers loose and unconcerned.

The cat curled in on himself with a sigh.

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