year #2, day #1

Sarah woke up with her heart racing. She had the flying / falling dream, again. Ever since she was little she had had dreams about flying – not like her husband, who flew in a ship. Though she had flown with him, a couple times, after she'd told him about her dreams. Flying in her dreams was completely effortless. Floating through the clouds was no different from passing through walls. But lately, whenever she'd look up to the moon during the night, she would lose buoyancy and plummet to the ground, waking only just before reaching the ground. Sarah looked at the clock. 2AM. If she went back to sleep now, she might still manage a good night's sleep. But her grumbling stomach requested otherwise. Considering she'd skipped dinner, she decided it would be best to agree to its demands. The kitchen was spotless. Not because she cleaned it regularly, but because she hardly used it. Her husband had done most of the cooking before he'd gotten shipped off to war. And though she was by no means a poor cook, she hated only cooking for one. She laughed as she opened the fridge. She was a terrible war bride, wasn't she? Wasn't she supposed to be cooking a humble but delicious meal every night, in case her man walked through the door a hero? But her fridge looked more like a college student's than a married woman's. Leftover pizza, Indian takeout, and condiments that outnumbered actual food 3:1. She decided on the pizza, on the rationale that it was the oldest thing in the fridge that was still edible. This was the sort of logic her husband would've used, which only made her miss him more. She heard a tinny meow and a little clatter as her robotic cat jumped up on the counter.

"Aww, Fluffy, you know you're not supposed to be up here! Get down! You hungry, too?" In answer it jumped down and padded over to its "feeding disc". Sighing, Sarah walked over and flipped it over from blue (which signified it was empty) to red (which was "full"). Fluffy purred in thanks and Sarah stroked its smooth plastic back. Still hungry herself, she grabbed another piece of the sausage pizza. Her husband always gave her grief about eating the stuff when she wouldn't eat the real thing. He'd never go near the vat-grown stuff, so while he was home they'd have to order separate pizzas or just get veggies. A third slice of pizza later, finishing off the pie, it was time to try to get back to bed or she'd never wake up for work tomorrow. She did fall asleep without much difficulty; the cat curled up on the unused side of her pillow (her husband would never let it sleep with theml his only reason was "it's not soft!"). And she did dream again, but they were pleasant dreams of summer in her parents' old house. The next morning she was bored out of bed by a radio newscaster reporting on the stocks. She always woke up to the news, hoping one day she'd hear that the war had ended and she'd call in to work and go out and celebrate. But the war had gone on so long that some days there wasn't even any bad news [about the war]. For a second as she locked the door behind her, she wished she was sick or the war had ended so she could call in today. She was just a teacher's assistant, so they could do one day without her. And she was dreading the task of grading the stack of essays her teacher had delegated to her. It's not that she didn't want to be a teacher – she did. But she didn't think she was going to make a very good one. At least not in her chosen subject, language. She truly enjoyed helping the students, and was honestly interested in their opinions & contributions. It's just that the mistakes – the bad grammar, the spelling errors – they pained her. Sometimes physically. She'd developed a headache that had lasted the whole day after reading one creative writing assignment by a student where every instance of "their", "they're", or "there" was written simply as "they're". The office receptionist, Sheila, greeted her when she arrived.

"Well, look at you! A bit of color – are you finally deciding to listen to my advice?" she said, pointing at Sarah's scarf.

"Nice try, Sheila," she replied. "But like I tell you every time, I'm married. I don't have anyone to impress – certainly none of the men at this school – so I'll wear what's comfortable. As long as it's presentable."

"Sure, sure, honey. But there's no harm in looking good, is there?" God, she hated it when she called people "honey". It was bad enough that her name was Sheila, but she didn't have to talk like a receptionist, too. It was like she was born into a strict caste system, and in her past life she was a waitress. This was her reward for good behavior. Or maybe punishment for bad; Sarah couldn't tell.

"No, of course not, sweety, but I wouldn't want to take attention away from you," she called back on her way out, trying to do her best surly waitress impression.

"So, tired of Shakespeare yet, Mr. Smith?" Sarah joked as he entered her teacher's office.

Mister Smith looked up at her and shook his head. "You know, I should kick you out of here right now for that. It shouldn't be too hard to get a new assistant on short notice. If you're done blaspheming a great master, how are you today? Are you ready for your punishment?"

"Ahh, well, aside from being a little tired, I'm well. And yes, I'm ready for my punishment."

"Still having trouble sleeping? Well, as long as it doesn't affect your performance, I suppose it's none of my business. Anyways, your tests are over there." He gestured to an intimidatingly high stack of papers.

"Alright, I'll get started, then."

"Oh, and if you have any questions, we're mostly just doing reading today, so feel free to ask."