Masha [fiction]

“The route to truth and beauty is a toll road.” ~ Lorrie Moore

Masha gazed out the window. It was raining again, a miserable, cold, early April rain, the kind that made her feel chilled from the inside out. She glanced at her phone and sighed. No word from Max. Still. Why was he being such a dick?

She decided to draw a bath. It was mid-afternoon, and she had the place to herself for at least another three hours. As the tub filled up and steam rose from the water, she realized she’d been wearing the same clothes for three days now. She removed them in a heap by the toilet, then watched her skin turn a deep pink as she lowered herself all the way into the water.

Masha’s thoughts drifted to the “someday” she often imagined, when she had her own apartment, could burn as many candles as she liked, could play her music as loud as she liked, could come and go as she pleased. She was tired of adults poo-pooing her vision, always acting like they knew something she didn’t about real life. Real life, she had decided, would be whatever she wanted it to be.

Sunlight would stream in, illuminating the blank canvases strateched over easals in her studio. A French Press would sit on the counter, still warm to the touch. Her favorite song would play through the speakers, and Max would come through the door just as she was singing along at full volume, surprising and delighting her.

A text rudely interrupted her reverie, and Mashe scrambled to dry her hand before picking up her phone to check. Was it him? Her mom had told her to forget about him. “You deserve better,” she had said. “Someone who is actually available, not just caught up in their own drama.” She’d been furious then, just as she was when her mom warned her about the bills and pressures of living alone. “You’ll need a good job,” she was always saying, as if Masha didn’t *know* that already. Geez.

But she couldn’t help but wonder, alone in the house, if her mom was right. Maybe she did deserve better. Maybe it would be hard. Maybe, maybe… All she knew was that she had to find out, and she couldn’t do it being here. She felt trapped and stuck and like her own anger followed her like an unwanted stray animal. She honestly wanted to kick it a little, but couldn’t bring herself to be that cruel.

Anyway, it’s not like her mom knew what she was talking about. She’d gotten married at 16 and was a widow at 20. Masha was not going to follow in her footsteps, that much was for sure.

She checked the text. It was a reminder that her phone bill was past due. Damn. Where was he?

Instead of putting on the same outfit, she rolled on some deoderant and pulled some clean clothes from her dresser. She was sick of this rain, this dreary sitting around and waiting for something to happen. Forget Max, she thought. He missed his chance.

Determined to do something that mattered even though she had no idea what that meant, she grabbed an empty envelope from the small desk in the kitchen and wrote quickly: “Mom — out. Phone might die. See you later.”

She slid the elevator door open and stepped in to ride the five floors down to the lobby. Going, going, gone.

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