Rita had woken up every day for the last thirty five years to that alarm clock. After first switching it off, she would reach for her wide brimmed glasses sitting beneath the beside lamp and place them on her nose. Her tired legs would swing off the bed and she would sit upright on the edge for a few moments in her nightgown. She would dress herself in that same uniform each morning, a freshly pressed red polo shirt and dark blue trousers, before slowly making her way down the stairs to the kitchen. Once there, she would make a pot of tea in the same tea-stained teapot and boil one egg on the stove for exactly three minutes. She would eat her breakfast in the kitchen at the small round wooden table and wonder at what the day would bring.
Rita never had to wonder very hard. Each day had been pretty much the same for all of those thirty five years. She would get in her white hatchback car and drive herself the thirteen minute drive to the local co-op where she would work the till from nine until twelve. She would sit in the back office and eat her cheese and pickle white bread sandwich from twelve until half past and then return to her till until five o’clock. Just a minute after five, she would pick a TV dinner out of the fridge and drive herself the thirteen minute drive home again. Once her dinner was microwave hot and sitting on her dinner tray in front of her sunken arm chair, Rita would switch on the evening television schedule of trivia, nature and reality shows. As nine o’clock approached, Rita made sure her dinner packaging was tossed away in the rubbish bin, the tea pot and saucepan were clean and ready for the morning, and the lights downstairs were all switched off. She would check the front door was locked before making the slow ascend up the stairs to her ensuite bathroom. There she would repeat the nightly routine of bathing and brushing before swinging her old legs up onto the bed, placing her glasses on the night stand, switching off the bedside lamp and taking all of two minutes to fall asleep flat on her back.
Every day. For thirty five years.
Until the day Rita woke up to her alarm, put on her glasses, sat up in bed, dressed in her uniform, ate her breakfast, drove to work and discovered that the co-op she had worked at every day of those thirty five years had completely burnt to the ground. There was no way Rita could work the till now that it was a pile of ashes. There were no more sandwiches for her lunch, let alone an office to sit in to eat one, or microwave dinners to take home for her evening in front of the television.
Rita stood in front of the smoking ashes and blinked three times.
Then, for the first time in those thirty five years, Rita actually smiled. She felt a strange effervescent feeling in her torso and before she knew what was happening, Rita was laughing. She laughed loudly and unabashedly. She laughed so hard that she found herself bending forward, grabbing at her round belly and slapping her thighs. She threw her head back and her arms followed. Tears ran down her red face and she had to move her glasses out of the way to wipe those tears away just so that she could even begin to see the way back to her car.
It was only ten minutes past nine when Rita sat herself back down in her car and turned on the ignition. She was still smiling as she drove out of the carpark, only this time she left via the opposite exit to every other day she had left that carpark. That effervescent feeling was still bubbling in her belly when she pulled out into the traffic on a highway perpendicular to the one that usually took her home, normally closer to five pm than nine am. Her cheeks were still damp when the cattle truck ploughed straight into the driver’s side of Rita’s car on that highway at just twelve and a half minutes after nine.
But in that instant, just before Rita’s brain was wiped out and her heart shuddered to a stop, Rita was still smiling, still bubbling, still on her way to somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere else. Although she had never known it until then, Rita had waited her whole life for that moment. And when it finally did arrived, Rita felt alive.
Uniform ~ The Daily Post ~ Daily Prompt