Jackie’s eyes flew open and she stared unblinking, into the still darkness surrounding her. As her eyes adjusted and the outlines of various pieces of furniture dotting her room came slowly into focus, she wondered what had woken her up. It was so silent she could hear her heart beating against the soft mattress. It had a soothing rhythm, a dull thud, thud, thud.
Her eyelids fluttered and her eyes begun to roll back into her head as sleep came to claim her but just as she was about to slip into its arms, a dog barked so sharply, Jackie started like she’d fallen off the bed. Sitting up, she muttered an incredibly impolite word under her breath several times. Sleep, fleeting as it sometimes can be, had fled. Jackie reached for her phone on the nightstand and glanced at it, it was 3am.
She was thirsty and she needed to use the bathroom, so she wriggled out from under the covers and slipped her feet into slippers that squished softly underfoot. Padding silently to the bathroom then down to the kitchen, Jackie was back in a few minutes, crawling quickly back into the warmth of her bed.
She sipped on her lukewarm water in the dead silence, twiddling her fingers. She had to be at work in a few hours and she was exhausted despite her sleeplessness. Mentally, she could hear the countdown on the amount of time left before dawn broke. And why was that dog so silent now? Probably back to sleeping itself, she thought irritably.
Long shadows danced on the walls as a slight breeze from a half open window stirred her curtains. Jackie watched them as her mind drifted from one thought to another, each barely forming before the next one begun to take shape. She’d better remember to buy rice, she was almost out and she was having a dinner party over the weekend…or did she have an extra bag in the store? No, that was pasta, she had plenty of pasta, she loved it…oh, like the pasta she had on holiday, peppered here and there with succulent chunks of seafood and a thick creamy sauce…and by the way, would she make her special sauce for the dinner she was hosting? Because she was sure she didn’t have any fresh garlic. And as she mentally pictured a garlic bulb, seeing it hanging above her bed, she laughed out loud at the silly reference her mind made to fictional vampires who were repulsed by garlic. Where had that even come from? Too many movies she decided, plus her mind running around unhinged at this ungodly hour of the night.
“Plus they can’t come in uninvited,” she mumbled, laughing harder at the absurdity of her thoughts, then suddenly she sat bolt upright. She couldn’t remember if she’d locked the doors. Not against vampires, that was silly, but had she? Jackie sighed. Now she had to go check, she’d never fall asleep if she didn’t. So slipping into her slippers again, she plodded downstairs, checked both doors and all the windows for good measure, started up the stairs when a nagging feeling pulled her back to the kitchen to check that the cooker and kettle were off; before returning to bed. It was 4am and Jackie determinedly closed her eyes. She hoped if she kept them closed long enough, she’d fall asleep. She had to.
The night was pleasantly cool, with the slightest of breezes that just barely rustled the leaves on the voluminous trees blooming in her neighbourhood. The soft sounds lulled her, so that Jackie felt her body sinking luxuriantly into the mattress, relaxing, melting into nothingness as she drifted…
“Ehe! See what we have here!” a woman’s voice cut into the tranquil black veil of sleep enveloping Jackie.
“Shh! You’ll wake the neighbours…” a deeper voice, though high pitched with stress replied.
“Oho!” the woman shouted into the night, “You’re not concerned with my sleep, just the neighbours eh? You wake me up then tell me to shh?!” there was a pause, presumably as she gulped down some air, and the man seized this one golden opportunity to plead his case.
“Come on dear,” his voice was honey and butter, “I got caught by the curfew, you know how early 10pm is…I told you I was having a late meeting yeah?” he didn’t give her a chance to respond, “So I crashed at Kevin’s instead and…”
A gate creaked as it swung open and then slammed, the argument tapering off as the couple took their quarrel indoors, leaving Jackie staring at her ceiling, chewing the insides of her cheeks with anger. It was five something in the morning now. She could tell because birds were beginning to sing tentatively. The sky was also growing lighter, the darkness dissipating subtly yet visibly. Jackie splayed her fingers on the downy mattress and moved them back and forth.
Her eyelids felt heavy and her mind worn, so lethargic she felt drugged, but sleep now only flirted with her. It came close, then danced away, chased by intrusive thoughts as she began to plan her day. She’d use the bypass, she wasn’t in the mood to sit in traffic…by the way, did she have enough fuel? If she didn’t, she would have to take another route…but was that road even open? She’d text her friend and ask…Oh! And also invite her to the dinner she was having, she’d better not forget to buy rice…