{13}

Karina is addicted to books. This is her story.

{Read it from the beginning by clicking here.}

Karina wakes five minutes before her alarm. The blinds of the window across from her bed are open, revealing cloud-covered skies beginning to leak raindrops.

It’s the perfect sort of day for staying under the covers or leaving bed just long enough to get curled up in blankets to read with a big mug of tea.

But…it’s Monday.

If Karina stays under the covers long enough to drift back to sleep, she’ll be useless for the rest of the day. So she swings her feet onto the floor.

After putting on the kettle to boil, she gets dressed, does makeup, and brushes teeth. She checks her school backpack to be sure everything is in order. Of course it is; she prepared it yesterday. She didn’t forget anything then, at least nothing that she's not also forgetting now. She rummages through textbooks and papers again, mentally tracing the steps she’ll take today. She can’t think of anything that’s missing.

While her tea steeps, she combs her hair. There’s an odd flip to the ends this morning, so she twists it up into a bun.

Tea steeped, she takes it to the window and sits on a pillow with a blanket over her legs and wrapped around behind her. She watches the rain through the steam coming off the top of her mug.

She wishes she could turn off her brain long enough to drink her tea in peace, but the necessities of the day are making themselves into lists and looping in her head.

She tries focusing on the drops of rain that somehow managed to hit the window in spite of the overhanging shelter of the roof. Five of them cling to the glass, motionless. Three are heavy enough to begin sliding down. One slides too close to a small, still drop, and drags it along, down to the windowsill.

Her tea is cool enough to sip now.

The class schedule scrolls through her mind, and she mentally ticks off the assignments she’s finished. There aren’t any due today. She reverses the direction of the scrolling thoughts to double-check.

As Karina finishes her tea, she runs her hand along her hairline checking for flyaways. The only thing not to like about rainy days — humidity and what it does to wavy hair. Fortunately, it’s been a pretty dry winter and that, paired with the cold, makes the effect of the drizzly day on her hair minimal.

Her phone goes off, warning her that she needs to be ready to leave in ten minutes. She puts her raincoat on top of her backpack near the door and checks outside for wind. The rain is falling straight down. She adds her umbrella to the pile.

She stands there for a moment, fingers tapping her jeans. She’s forgetting something. She kneels down and pushes aside coat and umbrella. Pawing through books and papers again doesn’t trigger any memory of what she might have forgotten.

She checks the kitchen. The burner is off. She touches the dial just to make sure. The kettle is even empty, which she often forgets to do since she makes so much tea this time of year.

She runs her hand over her hair and her tongue over her teeth, thinking. Makeup and hair done, teeth brushed.

She checks the time on her phone even though she knows she has multiple alarms to make sure she stays on track and isn’t late getting out the door. She decides to leave, even though she still has three minutes until her phone will tell her to start walking to class.

Even with her rain boots on, she steps carefully through the puddles.

No need to slip and break something.

No one will jostle her on her walk today, her umbrella will ensure that. Wouldn’t it be nice to carry an umbrella all the time? A natural little barrier against feeling exposed; a way to keep people at arm’s length without actually pushing them away.

The sound of her feet in the water creates a steady pulse. She focuses on keeping it even; it keeps her mind off other things. Things like whether or not she turned off the stove (of course she did) or locked her door (she remembers doing that too) or closed the bedroom window.

She stops walking.

Is the window shut?

Her fingers rub her umbrella handle as she reviews her morning. She didn’t shut it between waking up and leaving the house, that’s for certain. Did she shut it last night, knowing the forecast?

Probably.

She keeps walking and smiles at the rain. The rain that may very well manage to soak her carpet if the window is, indeed, open.

Good thing it probably isn’t.

And even if it is open, there’s no wind today, so the eaves will protect the window. That window hardly ever gets wet anyway, unless it’s a big storm. Even if the wind picks up a bit throughout the day, the window will probably be dry when she gets home. What if it starts storming in earnest, though? Then she will have a problem to deal with when she gets home.

But the window has to be shut.

There’s no way she left it open all night and all morning and didn’t notice it at some point. It was too cold.

Karina ducks inside. Her feet echo in the empty hall.

Where is everyone?

Her phone dings right as the big clock strikes 9. MLK day, the notification says. That’s why no one is around; classes are canceled today. She knew she had been forgetting something.

It's barely sprinkling when she goes back outside so she doesn’t bother to open her umbrella. The drops sputtering on her head and shoulders calm her so that by the time she gets back to her little house, she’s shaking her head at herself. She wanders into the bedroom. As expected, the window is shut.