Melody, at first, didn’t think much of her sister’s new job. It was a job, forty hours a week of sitting behind a desk, tapping away at a computer, with a half-an-hour lunch break. It was thirty five minutes outside of the city, and her sister needed a car to get there, so the company gave her one. The red sporty thing with a moon roof and bluetooth for her phone. She needed some way of getting to work, after all, Melody thought.
Her sister, however, isn’t a very good cook either, so after a week of frozen dinners, the company opened its new cafeteria policy, where everyone who worked full time got a free lunch. Every day. In the company cafeteria that served tex-mex, sushi, even an omelet bar. Melody’s sister showed her the photos. She instagrammed her meal every day, and her lunch went from half an hour to an hour. Melody, at first, found it amusing enough to reply with her own lunch, usually a ham salad sandwich on rye, pickle and apple on the side, complete with chocolate pudding as dessert. Melody liked her routines but sometimes the fresh sushi made her salivate.
She asked her sister what she did all day, what her job was exactly, but the answer was flippant and vague: meetings and emails and brainstorming sessions, answering phones, leaving messages, preparing reports. What was more important was the perks after all.
Melody found it difficult to concentrate at her job, where she had to manage her boss’s time and money like a personal assistant would, but also everyone else’s at the small company. It took her forty minutes by bus, and she usually ate her lunch at her desk. She hadn’t gotten a raise in three years, didn’t think they had more than a fridge and microwave for a kitchen, and had ten days of paid vacation each year, half of which she didn’t take. Her sister celebrated a promotion after five months, and spent two weeks in Key West for it. Half the time was at a conference, paid for by her company.
Melody asked once if they had any openings to which she could apply and her sister said she’d check but really just brushed her off.
Melody’s work days became longer, with her staring at the clock and ignored the ringing phone. She began stepping out for lunch, treating herself to seasonal salads at the cafe around the corner. She requested an entire week off to visit her best friend in Virginia. She returned to work, refreshed, determined that she, too, deserved all the things her sister got at a nondescript job, and so she asked her boss for a raise. She got one, to her shock, but didn’t push it for more. He smiled when he gave it to her, thanked her for all her hard work, and asked if she needed anything else. She mentioned that the s on her computer keyboard was stuck and the copier often broke down. They were fixed the next day.
Her sister began complaining about her job, the expectations to put in longer hours now that they were given lunch, the upward movement all around her that disrupted teams, the turn over of her colleagues – how could she make any friends?
Melody commiserated with her sister because that was what sisters did, but when she stopped and really thought about it all, she knew that no, she wasn’t really all that jealous of her sister after all.
Word count: 586
This is the first of what I hope to be many weeks’ worth of writing prompt responses. It’s been a long time since I did these regularly, but I settled in with 20 minutes on my phone’s timer app and started writing. I transcribed my response exactly, even though I was itching to start revising, especially the tenses, fragments, sentence structure, and word choices.
Jealousy seems like such an easy prompt. Relationships, for one, are ripe with jealousy. As we learned yesterday, so is the field of writing. But my first instinct was to go with the day-to-day and what’s more day-to-day than a job. What I noticed most while writing is that I wasn’t very overt with the emotion. I guess I try to do this a lot in my writing — remaining subtle and putting the feeling between the lines — and so that’s what came out naturally here.
It ended up coming out more like a character study than anything else, and I like that. I like it enough to re-work it and re-visit it, to pay more attention to the details and flesh out the piece. Melody’s an interesting character to me already, with her routine and the way her mind moves from one thought to the next. I would want to explore more about her relationship with her sister, though it’s Melody and not the sister that interests me.
I think it’s solid, start to finish. I wouldn’t call it a short story or anything, but with a little work it could certainly be a complete piece.