One hundred and forty-two dollars. The screen lay in front of me, honest and accurate. I hoped when I clicked refresh it would show me a different balance. I clicked refresh. Same balance. 142.
Rent is due in 11 hours. My car payment was due last week. Also, I needed to eat. I blinked, and when my eyes opened everything was the same. I was still a failure. I put my hand on the screen to validate its existence.
It was my mom’s fault. When in doubt, blame Mother. She raised me to believe I was rich and always would be. I deserved nice things. She expected me to marry rich at some vague young age and never have a care in the world. That didn’t happen. I still had her in me. Lingering, quiet and steady, her voice pushed me to buy the higher end products, when I could barely afford any product. I always upgraded. Her voice has become a part of me. It merged with my voice; it was now my voice. People will know my value if they see what I have.
I could call her. She’d be there, ready to help. But nothing is free. The conversation would somehow land on how I needed to be more social. Meet more people. Get married. It wouldn’t be about the money, but then it would be. The mind puzzles of my mother. I could call her, and all my problems would fade away. All I would have to do is put up with… her.
Clementine would never be in this situation. She was tough. She would storm into her boss’ office and demand a raise. Or negotiate her car payment down and flirt her way out of paying rent. On page 12 in Open Sea by Elizabeth Hartfort, Clementine didn’t cower when she found out she was the Princess of Magic. No, she rose to her calling and accepted the challenge. Clementine would never allow her mother to influence her spending habits. I could be more like Clementine. Timely, brave, an opportunist. Someone who would never see the number 142.
It was Ben’s fault. He loved spontaneity, which is never cheap. The world was ours and we could do whatever we wanted. No planning allowed. His level of non-commitment liberated me, until he left. If only he hadn’t left. If he was here, I would have more than 142. Or even if I had less, it would be worth it. My car payment would be our car payment.
I could call him. He’d be there, ready to help. But nothing is free. I would hear another woman’s voice in the background as he explained how he would wire the money. He was always there on the other end ready to help. Guilty, I’m sure. I could call him and all of my problems would fade away. All I would have to do is accept that he isn’t mine anymore.
On page 72 in Worlds Collided by Elizabeth Hartfort, Clementine’s heart was broken, but she didn’t crumble to pieces, no. When Henry broke off his engagement to her, she didn’t sulk in her misery. She knew her value was outside of a man. She instead found George, instantly. Clementine would never allow a dead relationship to dominate her thoughts. If only I were more like Clementine, I could get Ben back, or at least lead him to feel like he was missing out. I definitely wouldn’t be considering asking him for money. No, Clementine was far above that.
It was my fault. Clearly. I was the only one in this equation. Money management was never my thing. I should have taken classes and sought help. Save. Think. I needed to not be surprised at the number 142. I should never have seen 142. If only I was better. More together and aware. If only I didn’t spend to heal. My 142 would be a percentage, not the whole.
I could sell my things. Take on a vow of simplicity. Never purchase an item again.
In the final scene of Blue Night Sky, Clementine didn’t stop right before thrusting the sword into the dragon’s throat to count all of her mistakes. No, Clementine destroyed the dark powers and saved her village. There were no pity parties for Clementine Kingsley. Not ever. Clementine would never allow her thoughts to make her own self the enemy. If only I were more like Clementine…
I moved my hand off the screen, and it remained the same. All of my purchases, my poor choices and my regrets laid out in plain sight. I closed the window. Poof. Gone. That was easy. It was no longer a problem.
I opened a new window and typed in Elizabeth Hartfort. Endless Stars released yesterday. $14.99. I clicked BUY NOW.
One hundred and twenty-seven dollars.
About the Author: Danay Robinson holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She lives in Dallas, Texas and fills her spare time with devouring books, writing, asking ludicrous questions, and challenging herself. She is thrilled that "142" is her first published short story.