It had been well past one o'clock when I finally got to bed and I twisted and turned until past two. Somewhere around then I kicked off the covers and opened a window. At that hour the city noises of Charleston had at long last given up to near silence, except for the occasional foghorn from the harbor or the lone car engine revving up and flying away from a red light. The car's driver - probably a college student - knew no one was around to stop him at that hour.
As I raised the window, the night air rushed through my window, causing my curtain sheers to billow and my bedroom air became damp all at once. Damp and slightly chilled. I should have recognized the smell of impending disaster, but I didn't. I hurried back to bed and when the alarm failed to wake me at six thirty, I woke in a panic at seven.
The day began in a whirlwind of petty grievances. Beth didn't like the cereal I put out for her and whined about it as though I were trying to feed her poison instead of a bowl of healthy fiber. Tom couldn't find his favorite cufflinks and accused me of being nosy for rearranging his jewelry tray. I had done no such thing. Who had the time for that sort of housekeeping? Rearrange his jewelry tray? What a joke that was. I had barely had time lately to remember my name. He had probably left them at the gym, I told him.
Half apologetic for his foul humor, Tom took our daughter to school so that I could get to my office at the Charleston County Library on time. Even he knew I had to make a major presentation that afternoon at work. Good luck! he called out on his way out the back door.
I had been up late working on a proposal for the SC Electric and Gas Company. It was pretty much a done deal, but I still worried. I got paid to worry. I raced to work like a mad woman. I couldn't be late. An ugly side of government employment involved time clock punching and score keeping at an obsessive level. If you were fifteen minutes late, your salary was docked. Absurd. I had two master's degrees, but if I was fifteen minutes late for work, eyes rolled, eyebrows arched and the bookkeeper had a smug moment of glee. Where had they been at one in the morning? Forget it. It wasn't an argument worth the blood pressure. You see, I'd learned. Pick your battles carefully.
Anyway, I felt like a plate spinner. Remember those guys on television? The Ed Sullivan Show, I think - some Russian fellow who had twenty plates on flexible poles, all spinning at once over his head. That was my life. My daughter, Beth was one plate - her academic career, her social life, her complexion, and her compulsion to spend. Oh, she spun all right. My husband, Tom was another - spinning somewhere out of my direct line of vision. The house was another - threatening to fall down around my ears. It was always something - a broken pipe, a leaking gutter - and it was my job to see about it all. Tom was too busy. Or whatever. My sex life was another plate. That one spun backwards, along with my wallet plate - slightly cracked. Don't ask. I just kept thinking that soon, things would be better - as soon as I got to the bottom of the paper on my desk, filled out all the health insurance claims, as soon as I did this or that.