As the sound of the alarm crashed inside her skull, Renny groaned. Nothing like waking up to a headache, she thought. Especially on a big day. She sighed and sat up, rubbing her throbbing temples in an ineffective attempt at self-massage. Just as she was considering shaking her husband's shoulder to ask him to rub her forehead for her, little Ethan began crying. She flew down the hallway to rescue him from his crib, the growing wails making her head pound even harder.
In a completely white Space-Age control room, an angel dressed in a white Nehru jacket stared intently at a round monitor. In it was projected an image of a short blonde woman who was, in her own words, "fluffier" after giving birth two years ago. The woman was soothing a toddler boy while wincing at the tyke's every wail. Shaking his head, Ariel reached out his hand to push a button marked "ABATE" but stopped when someone behind him made a clucking sound of disapproval.
"She can handle it," the mellifluous voice said.
Ariel turned his head slightly in the direction of the all-consuming white light that emanated from the holy presence behind him. "She has a big day today," Ariel said. "Surely, there's no harm in relieving some of her pain."
With a tsk-tsk sound, God replied, "She will do fine. Let her be."
Reluctantly, Ariel withdrew his hand from the button, continuing to watch the screen.
Working her mommy magic, Renny soothed her son. Then, she led him through their normal routine: picking an outfit (green dinosaur shirt or surfboard tank top); selecting a lovie to take with him today (teddy bear or plush robot); and choosing a breakfast (oatmeal or yogurt and banana). Naturally, even after saying "rogurt" clearly and bouncing in excitement as she opened the container, Ethan refused to put the food in his mouth. These days she swore he absorbed nutrients just from looking at things.
As Renny was setting her juice glass on the table, she stubbed her toe on an errant toy and dropped the glass. It shattered, splashing O.J. everywhere. What's worse, she cut herself trying to grab the glass as it fell, her hand landing clumsily on a broken shard. Fortunately, Ethan stayed in his seat as commanded, but he shrieked loudly when she turned on the vacuum cleaner to sweep up any hidden shards. The racket aggravated her headache, but she finished as quickly as possible and then smothered her little boy with kisses, tickling the bottoms of his feet until he laughed.
"Silly baby," she said. "It's just a vacuum."
Her husband had just entered the kitchen in his button-down shirt and slacks as Renny was sliding the Spider-Man shoes onto Ethan's feet. Momentarily, he looked surprised. "Where are you two heading so early?" he asked.
Renny flashed him a look that said, "Are you kidding me?"
A realization hit her husband. "Oh, right! That's today! Well, good luck. You look great."
That was sweet of him to say, but even in a brand-new skirt suit, Renny couldn't help feeling puffy and matronly. She gave him a kiss, grabbed her briefcase and slung the diaper bag over her shoulder with one hand while guiding Ethan out the door with the other.
While leaning into the car to secure Ethan into his car seat, Renny hit her head on the door. "Really?" she said, looking up at the sky. "Really?"
Ariel looked up from his monitor and turned his head again slightly to the side. The blinding light forced him to avert his gaze. He said, "Can't I help her out a little bit with the headache?"
"This is small potatoes, and you know it," God replied. "She's dealt with a lot worse in the past two years, including losing her job, breaking her ankle tripping on an icy walk, coping with disgruntled creditors, and having her car totaled by a falling tree. She got through all that."
Trying to keep the defiance out of his voice, Ariel answered, "But she's never done a thing to deserve any of this. Can't I give her a little heavenly balm once in a while? I mean, otherwise, what's the use of having a guardian angel?"
In a booming voice that sounded half angry, half amused, God replied, "Have faith, Ariel."
As Renny pulled out of the driveway, she was nearly sideswiped by a speeding SUV. Though she avoided the accident, she spilled coffee all over herself from her travel mug, which apparently was not entirely spill proof. It made a dark splotch all over her brand-new dove-gray skirt.
"Oh..." Renny was about to swear but instead said, "golly." From the backseat, little Ethan parroted the word. Not that Renny had ever been much for swear words, but she'd almost entirely eliminated them from her vocabulary after having a baby. This was exactly the reason why.
At her mother's house, Renny bundled Ethan out of the car and carried him up the steps. Although he normally was happy to visit "Gammy and Pappy," he must have sensed something was up. He began to struggle and wail. Her mother greeted them at the door and took the squirming tot from her. "I should only be about an hour, an hour and a half," Renny told her. She blew Ethan a kiss good-bye and told him Mommy would be back soon.
Walking back to her car, she heard Ethan wailing, "Mommy, Mommy!" It made her latent headache reemerge.
Watching the screen, Ariel realized he'd become quite attached to Renny. He'd been watching her since she was a very small baby. Back then, there were times she had gazed up at the corners of the room, smiling and laughing when he waved at the monitor. It was almost as if she could see him. Although he didn't really know what humans meant when they talked about love, he believed the feeling he felt for her was similar.
If she still believed in him, he hoped she'd understand that the coffee on her skirt was an unfortunate result of helping her avoid a deadly traffic accident. So many of the aches and pains she suffered came from similar causes. She'd cut her finger because, if he hadn't guided the falling glass just as he did, a piece would have flown into Ethan's eye, cutting the cornea. She'd bumped her head on the car door because he'd needed to delay her just long enough to miss the speeding SUV. He only wished, sometimes, that he could do more.
Renny fidgeted nervously in the lobby until she was finally called in. A stern-looking woman sat behind the desk. She looked up and, after glancing at the scarf tied over Renny's hips, said, "I understand you're here to apply for the Event Coordinator position. In addition, I understand you've been out of the work force for two and a half years. Could you explain?"
"Easily," Renny said. "I was downsized from a major corporation shortly after becoming pregnant with my son, so I decided to concentrate on adjusting to motherhood. Now that my son is a toddler, I'm ready to return to the job market."
The woman seemed unimpressed. "You realize that the Event Coordinator position is a highly stressful position. You will be in charge of handling all events held at this hotel, including weddings, banquets, and conferences. You need to keep a lot of balls in the air and handle the situation when things go wrong. Can you handle that?"
Thinking of the past two years, Renny said with confidence, "I can." Then pulling the scarf off her hips to reveal a dark coffee stain, she added, "Let me tell you about my morning."
I agree with my beta reader, roina_arwen, that some of the best writing is "factional." Wrote this after awakening with a headache this morning, in between mini-disasters while helping to run Press Ops at Otakon.