Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown


Liv Cigemeier was breathing heavily as they exited the Silver Spring church. (She had insisted they go to church regularly after she had found out she was pregnant, though it was hard to say whether this was superstition, gratitude, or a New Age desire to be surrounded by spirits seeking enlightenment. It may even have been a combination of those things, along with a touch of true faith.) It had been an especially stressful week at work: one of her coworkers had kept removing her pre-natal vitamins from the top of the corner filing cabinet and taking her soy smoothies out of the fridge and dumping them in the garbage. When she had told her husband about this, he had been fairly certain she was (a) paranoid or (b) hormonally challenged--especially when she had voiced her suspicions that it was Momzilla, who could barely tolerate another coworker being pregnant at the same time. But then it had turned out to be another character altogether, the one she had once gotten in trouble for calling an asshole. An anonymous tip about his stealth attacks on her belongings got him abruptly fired, whereupon a cache of disturbing articles were removed from his desk--including a pamphlet about spreading defective condoms in the Third World in order to accelerate the spread of AIDS among undesirable populations, a stash of 600,000 paper clips and 800,000 staples, a manifesto for Maryland to secede from the United States of America, a diatribe about how hip hop millionaires were secretly controlling the National Football League, and a crude drawing of Cigemeier giving birth to a lizard. "Can you believe a sociopath that like that was working at International Development Machine?" Liv had said rhetorically and repeatedly to her husband all weekend. But she wasn't entirely sure things were going to get better, since it was Momzilla who had thrown the fainting spell after the incident, then declared she could not work under that kind of stress and would stay home until her doctor felt the office was a safe environment for her unborn child. So Momzilla (secretly furious that she was not the target and center of attention) left three projects unfinished--all of which were then assigned to Liv Cigemeier. Then her boss had transferred the sociopath's projects to Liv as well. She had expected pregnancy to be hard, but not like this. She exhaled deeply, subsequently forcing her lungs to take in an extra large quantity of air, but it was no use--she knew the doctor would say her blood pressure was up this week. Just relax, her husband said, for the upteenth time this weekend. Everything will be fine. And every time he said that, she kept waiting for him to suggest she quit her job and let him support her with his big Prince and Prowling salary, but instead, he would point out that her boss was praising her work and giving her added responsibility, and he was very proud of her! And then her breathing would get strained again.

"Breathe slowly, one-two-three, exhale, one-two-three-four, inhale and hold." Bridezilla was at her pre-marital yoga workshop in Ballston, but it wasn't working. "Lift mother-in-law with left leg then drive her behind you, one-two-three." She had learned a lot of lesser known yoga positions--such as radiant bride bridge, lotus floral arrangement, groom groove, love lunge, and first dance forever--but none of them made her feel better. What really worried her was when the instructor would tell them to close their eyes and focus on their safe-happy place, and she couldn't think of one except when she was a small child falling asleep with a puppy. He's a stranger. The little voice kept coming out of nowhere. He's the rebound guy. She tried to swat it down, because her fiance was a handsome, brilliant, successful, affectionate, patriotic war hero who would do anything for her--except drive her to the yoga workshop, because he had some last minute Weapons 'R Us projects he had to wrap up before their honeymoon. "If you're too stressed to drive, just take a cab, babe!" he had said, and handed her a hundred-dollar bill, but if her husband would not drive her around when she was stressed out, why was she getting married? "Arch your back and hold, one-two-three." She ignored the instruction and curled up in the fetal position on her yoga mat. The instructor shook her head sadly--usually a third of the brides taking this workshop ended up not getting married. (Of course, the other two-thirds ended up entering the marital union with a healthier Center, as well as Inner Peace.)

Back in Silver Spring, Laura Moreno was shocked to see the junior partner from Prince and Prowling show up at the rented office space she had been supervising all week. He walked into her office without knocking, did not sit down, and blurted out, "What are you doing?!" She hesitated for a moment, then told him she was doing a second review of the contract attorney work. "I've been getting emails and phone calls all week about how you're telling other attorneys how to do their work, and telling some of them to re-do their work! You can't do that! Why are you doing that?!" She swallowed hard and told him that the senior partner had told her to. "WHAT?!" She repeated herself, starting to feel faint. He sat down in a huff, whipped out his smart phone, and dialed the senior partner. Moreno wasn't sure if she should keep looking at him in respectful attention, avert her gaze in deference, or get back to doing the work the junior partner had yelled at her for doing. She settled for staring at a desk lamp. She could hear only one side of the conversation, but she knew that the other side involved a discussion of how Chloe Clevage--for legal liability purposes related to a previous sexual harassment lawsuit against her--could not have been let loose in Silver Spring to do the supervising, and how none of the associates wanted to truck to Silver Spring to do it, and the senior partner had decided Moreno should do it. "Uh-huh," he concluded the conversation with, dramatically shoved the smart phone in his belt holster, and crossed his arms across his chest. "Fine," he said, but she did not know what that meant. He leaned forward in the chair. "I don't want to hear any more complaints." She asked quietly how he wanted her to proceed, and he said, "come on." He got up abruptly, and she took this to mean she should follow him. They walked out to the larger office space where rows of contract attorneys were spread out on their computers. "Laura is no better than the rest of you," he said. "You're all contract attorneys--the same." He looked pointedly at her. "However, she has been at Prince and Prowling longer, so the senior partner asked her to review your work. If she asks you to do something differently, you should listen to her. However, if you disagree with what she says, bring it to the attention of the senior partner. He's the one who wants her supervising your work," he concluded snidely. A hand shot up, followed by a query as to who the senior partner was and how to reach him. The junior partner gave the information, then started to walk out, then paused to add one more thing. "She IS in charge of timesheets--she's the one who will sign off on your time." He gave Laura Moreno one more pointed look, which she could not decipher at all, then left. She asked the group quietly if there were any questions, but nobody said anything, and they all turned back to their computers.

Laura Moreno walked back to her office, feeling sick. In the next few minutes, several emails would be sent to the senior partner questioning Moreno's judgment, and he would answer them from his sailboat (on his Blackberry) with extreme irritation and tell them to defer to Moreno because she had been working for the client a long time and knew what she was doing, and lawyer-by-lawyer, her control of the project would return to her, but she would never know this, even though the senior partner would angrily call the junior partner to ask why they were all emailing him, and the junior partner would claim that Moreno must have told them to, and the senior partner would doubt this but not want to spend any more time on it, and so it would all be brushed under the rug. And so Moreno continued in her confusion, not certain if this was a promotion or a demotion, a step up or a step down, her big break where the senior partner had singled her out for excellence and professionalism or the trap she had been lured into to crash and burn.

Several miles away, the sociopath was lying to his wife about quitting his job and preparing to move onto something better. She protested that she was already working two jobs to pay off his graduate school loans, why did he quit again?, the kids would need new shoes and back-to-school clothes soon, she was going crazy and could no longer take not knowing from month to month if they could even pay the mortgage, what was his plan?, maybe they should sell the house and find something smaller, she never had time to clean this big house anyway, and--. He abruptly stood up, pulled a butcher knife out of the chopping block on the counter, pointed it at his wife and told her he was going out to prune the bushes. But, instead, he went into his study and shut the door, stabbed a potted plant with the knife, then sat down at his computer to chat with people who understood him. Back in the kitchen, his wife sat trembling for several minutes, then called her sister.

In the Potomac River running between Maryland and Virginia, it was just another day for Ardua, the demon.


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