The walk home from university was uneventful, as always. I feel a cold breeze against my face as I move. Even with all my layers, somehow, I'm still cold. It must be like, what, five below zero? My scarf is wrapped tightly around my neck and face, up to roughly nose level, almost like a mask. Pulling it down, I feel some wetness on my chin from the soft fabric wiping against it.
It must be the condensation of my breath. I was wearing the scarf for a while, so I'm not exactly surprised.
"Ugh…", I groan quietly.
I shiver a little, exhaling slowly. My breath is visible for a moment, and I can feel a slight sting in my chest as frigid air fills my lungs with each new breath. I can't help but wonder when the weather will improve. It's already mid-February but I feel as though spring couldn't be farther away.
As I walk by a bus stop, I consider hopping on. I have some change on me; it would be enough to get home, I think. I stop for a moment, considering it. There's still at least 20 more minutes of walking left. Should I?
"No, Jeannine. Remember your goal..." I mumble.
I continue walking, deciding to endure until I arrive home. Why did I decide to walk? It's simple. I'm saving up for something. I need to avoid spending on anything that isn't essential. A few walks in the cold will be worth it in the long run. It's only for this month and then I can rest easy. Focusing on my goal often helps distract me from the inconveniences resulting from my money saving.
“It's for them. They will be grateful. Be strong!”
A few minutes later I arrive at my home street, and not a second too soon. My hands have long since gone numb and stiff. I can't feel my nose, either. As I'm walking up to the door to the apartment complex, I take note of the overgrown garden. Grass and weeds have gotten so big that they are covering sizeable portions of the walkway.
I stop mid-step when I notice a line of ants crossing my path. I hang my foot midair over them for a moment, and then set it down away from them. I make sure not to step on them, going as far as to take an entire step back just to give them space. I lean over a little to rest my hands on my knees and take a closer look.
They seem unbothered by me. I’m curious about what could be going through their little minds right now.
Are they too busy to notice me?
Are they too dumb to realize the threat I pose?
Maybe they sense that I'm harmless?
I really wish I knew.
"Don't mind me, guys. Just a passerby~", I giggle.
I enter the building and immediately breathe a sigh of relief. Warmth! I love it! Not hot, but just warm enough to be comfy. Enough to lose a layer, probably. I head over to the elevator and call it down. In the meantime, I look left and right. The halls are empty. I hope there won't be anyone in the elevator, either. I just...don't feel comfortable with that. It's a delightful surprise when the doors open, and I find it empty.
As I ride up to my floor, I hum a tune from some random song that's stuck in my head.
My eyes drift downward to my feet. It seems like I've been looking down a lot lately. I should really break that habit, if possible. My gaze is drawn to some red dots near the corner of the floor. I purse my lips, feeling a little sad.
I wonder who they were. Was it an accident? Probably not. Whenever they're found in a building they're treated as pests or worse. I know it's not my problem, but I feel a pang of guilt. That guilt quickly turns into stress in no time at all.
"Hurry up, hurry up! I don't want to be in here anymore...", I mutter...
The door opens and I scurry out into the hallway. Without looking back, I make my way to my door and quickly unlock it, fumbling with the keys in the process. Another blur of panic, and I enter, slamming the door behind me. I fall back against it, slouching a little as my legs get weak. I'm breathing hard, even as I try to calm myself.
I hate seeing things like that. I really hate it. It's like, I can physically feel their suffering…
A glass of water. Water will help.
I shake my head and go to the fridge. My hands are still shaking as I pour the glass.
"God, why am I like this? If anyone saw me, I'd be a laughingstock."
I bring the glass to my lips and drink my fill, finally coming down a little. The ensuing dizziness is not welcome, but it's par for the course. I whip out my phone and open my banking app. I smile when I see the amount.
"One thousand, five hundred, sixty-seven dollars, and thirteen cents. Almost there--just one more week. So close!"
My original goal was a thousand dollars, but after some research, I figured that I could get far better materials with double that. Sadly, this unemployed student isn't exactly swimming in funds. Besides the allowance I get from my parents once a month, I only have money from previous jobs. Lately, I've been living conservatively just to save up. I feel so broke, it's ridiculous! What's worse is that I can't really tell anyone why I'm doing it in the first place.
They simply wouldn't understand.
I head to my room and flop down on my bed. I could use a shower. No, that can wait until I've finished my assignments… Scratch that, I still need to eat. But my room is still such a mess. I lift my head and look around the room. There's a lot of work to be done. Even if they're super tiny, I can't have them living in a space like this. What would they think of me? I shudder at the thought. Okay, time to get to work. No excuses!
Cleaning up the floor is the easy part. A plastic water bottle here, a discarded bra there... It doesn't take long. What does take a while is the second stage. I need to have the floor spotless; more specifically, one key area. The corner of my room, across from my bed, and beneath a poster of my favorite band. I get down on my hands and knees, low as I can go, and inspect the area. I see dust. A few crumbs and some hairs decorate the one meter by one meter space I've been preparing.
"This won't do. No, it has to be perfect. They'll notice."
I take a ridiculously long time in that area, doing everything I can to make it ready. I disinfect it, wipe it down, dry it, and repeat a few times. Any other person would think I'm crazy, or perhaps suffer from OCD. It's a good thing I'm in the privacy of my home. There's no one here to judge me, at least not until next month.
Once I finish, I turn my attention to the pile of assorted things I've purchased recently. I wasn't sure how to organize them, so I simply piled them up in the corner behind the door. Going over my inventory has been a nervous habit of mine. I often wonder if it will be enough. I don't think having too much would necessarily be a bad thing either, though.
I've got wood chips, iron filaments, copper wires, beach sand, a whole assortment of elements from a pricey chemistry set, various fabrics, and so much more. Pretty much any material you could ever want for construction or metalworking. Personally, I have no clue how to use these things, but thankfully my job is merely to provide. If anything, it's sort of the easy job. Still, I just can't help but feel like it's not enough.
What is still missing?
"Oh! Maybe some matches? You can grind the heads into powder for a fire starter..."
I take a mental note and hope I wont forget. Fortunately, I have a good memory! The day is approaching, the preparations are almost complete. I even know where I'm going to get them. A friend of mine put me into contact with some, let's say, shady individuals who regularly deal. Normally I would never condone their actions, but this is for something good. I'm not like the creeps and sadists who usually give them business. I refuse to be. My only regret is that I'm giving them money for it.
"Lowlifes. Every one of them...", I grimace.
I recline back in my chair, stretching my arms and groaning. I close my eyes and picture a happy place. Somewhere where life is easy, safety is assured, and you will never be alone. It's about to become a reality, and I couldn't be more thrilled about it. I almost want to live in a place like that, honestly.
Actually… No, I think I'll stick to being its caretaker. Not that I'd abuse it, but it's nice to be big and in charge. I think it'll be interesting, despite my lack of experience in leadership. Who knows? Maybe my role will be something entirely different than I imagined? Only time will tell.
"I really hope they like me."
I feel a discomfort in my stomach. It's the usual butterflies from whenever I'm nervous. In times like these it's best to think about something else. I've got so much to do already that sitting here and worrying about what may or may not happen is just absurd. Plus, I'm starving! Taking care of myself comes first. You can't take care of others until you've taken care of yourself.
I get up from my chair and get on with my afternoon. Aside from my preparations, the rest of the day is uneventful. Around eleven, I decide to turn in early. I know it's not that early but I'm still a student, so I go by university student standards. I'll be walking to campus again, so I'll need the extra time. Just as I feel myself slipping into sleep, I'm disturbed by a notification from my phone.
My eyes crack open, my vision somewhat blurry. I pick it up and squint at the screen's brightness.
Mom: “I'm so proud of you for doing so well on your midterms! Check your bank account ;) Love, Mom!”
I smile upon reading that. I'm glad that Mom's happy, but I'm even more interested in the second part. I swipe over to my banking app and check my balance. My eyes practically bulge out of my skull.
"One thousand, eight hundred, sixty-seven dollars... and thirteen cents. She sent me three hundred. Oh my gosh..."
I lock my phone and shut my eyes once more, the smile never leaving my face. Her generous gift brings my big day forward to just next week.
I'm ready. I know I am.
It's finally time to make my dream come true.