Sometimes comfort can be the enemy. One gets too comfortable, too sure that everything's okay, will always be okay, and before it's even realized, the world has gone to hell. Of course, the thing that makes it worse is the knowledge that it could have damn well been prevented.
Comfort can be the enemy that causes someone to forget to take the one thing that ensured that comfort in the first place. Of course, the blame wouldn't be laid squarely upon one person if there were others involved. Loved ones who were supposed to be looking after them. Supposed to be noticing such things as the fact that their wife's pill bottle had been completely full for the last several weeks straight.
Second Person woke up in the bed alone. He shuffled to the edge, stretched, and stood. He took a step and quickly had to avoid tripping over his packed suitcase his groggy mind had forgotten was placed at his bedside.
Probably should have had it by the front door, all ready to go, he thought.
Second hauled the suitcase up. He carried it downstairs where he found his wife in the living room, staring at the TV. He placed the suitcase by the door and went to lean over the couch, behind her.
"Sour? Did you get any sleep last night at all?"
Sour shook her head. "Nope. Came down here to see what's on late at night. Turns out it's just infomercials for useless crap and phone sex ads. I went ahead and called up 'We Are Legal, We Swear' for the lawlz. My operator claimed she only had the job in order to pay for med-school. So I shared some of my connections. Real nice girl. Her moaning could use some work, though."
Second was used to his wife's spur-of-the-moment adventures, so none of the phone sex business bothered him. There were more important things to be bothered with.
"Sour, is there something wrong? You've been having trouble sleeping all week."
Sour shrugged. "I'm fine."
Second stood there in worried silence before uttering, "Should I cancel my trip?"
Sour turned to give him an icy stare. "I said I was fine. Besides, don't you want to beat the pants off of Anon this year?"
Second smiled. The Perdita Finn Award. It was by no means the Nobel Prize in Literature, but still it had been his ambition since beginning his writing career to earn one. Of course, someone else seemed to have a monopoly on it.
"Ah, the great Second Person/Anon rivalry," Second said with great determination. "He thinks he's so great just because his fantasy novels are all so ridiculously long." He shook his head in frustration. "His last one was his worst. Anon just cranked out a loose trilogy which his publisher then bound and marketed as a single, thousand-page doorstopper like it was some significant literary accomplishment! You don't see me doing anything pretentious like that! It's not about my size, it's about my execution! Isn't that right, honey?"
Sour rolled her eyes. "Male authors and their obsession with their word lengths."
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
Sour furled her brow. "When's that old man next door going to realize that hammering away at 7 AM is a war crime to those who haven't had their coffee yet?"
Second laughed. "Come on, he's got a lot of housework to do now that he's retired. His wife has a 'honey do list' a mile long."
Sour twirled around to give him a peck on the lips. "Want to know what the first thing on my 'honey do list' for you is? To take a shower. Have some consideration for the other nostrils on the plane ride, would you?"
Second chuckled and obeyed.
While he was getting ready, Sour went to work preparing breakfast. By the time the plates full of eggs and toast were laid out, Bitter Honey had awoken and found herself drawn to the kitchen by the delicious scent. Because of Second's trip, Sour thought it would be a nice idea for her take the Friday off as a vacation day from the hospital as well as allow her daughter to take a sick day from pre-school.
"You ready for our mama-daughter three day weekend, sweetie?" Sour asked as she saw Bitter coming into the kitchen.
"You bet!" Bitter giggled while still rubbing the sleepy from her eyes.
Second soon came down to join his girls for breakfast. He finished quickly and gave his daughter and wife their goodbye kisses.
"Have fun, daddy," Bitter said as she received hers.
"Kick some bookish ass," Sour said likewise.
Second grabbed his suitcase and left to catch his flight.
"So, Bitter," Sour said as she began to put away the dishes. "How do you want to kick off our big adventure?"
Bitter looked up at her and grinned.
Around noon, Sour carried Bitter outside to the car. She secured her daughter in the car seat in the back.
As Sour got into the driver's seat, she asked, "Wanna stop by Fast Food Wagon for a Sunny Meal before we see the zoo animals?"
"Yes, please!" Bitter cheered.
Bitter couldn't be happier. She had spent all morning since breakfast rattling off a long list of what her and her mother could do together this weekend. The zoo, the park playground, Silly's Pizza and Arcade, a binge-watch of the Discord the Happy Draconequus show... the possibilities were endless for the eager four-year-old. She couldn't wait.
They pulled into FFW's parking lot and went in. It was the lunch rush, that very special time where everybody should know better to avoid, but they go to eat in anyway. Sour ordered her usual, a carrot dog with extra relish as well as Bitter's Meal. After five minutes of waiting, Bitter noticed her mother becoming irritated. Her eyes darted around as if she was looking for a face to punch.
She reached up to tug on her shirt and assured, "Our food's coming soon."
The look on Sour's face was as if she just snapped out of something. She glanced down at her daughter and mumbled, "Yeah. Of course."
Eventually, they were seated at a table and enjoying their lunch. Or at least Bitter was. Sour still seemed to be in an increasingly bad mood.
Little did either of them know, something was about to happen to lift that mood.
At the soda dispenser, a man just finished topping off his cup. He swung around too fast and collided into another man who was walking towards the machine too fast. Ice and soda spilled and ran down the second man's shirt and pants. It was a honest accident. There was no anger. The first man was about to sincerely apologize before he was cut off by laughter.
The loud, obnoxious, mean-spirited cackle of Sour Sweet.
Unamused glares from all across the restaurant directed themselves at the discourteous woman. Next to Sour, however, her daughter was giving her a more confused glance.
"Mama, that wasn't nice."
Sour ignored Bitter and continued on with her meal, now with a satisfied smirk.
They buckled back up in the car after they finished eating. Sour pulled out into the highway. As they drove on, Bitter's mind was still on her mother's odd behavior. Yes, her mother would often get angry, even argue, not to mention have something snarky to say about pretty much anything. But flat-out laugh at someone like some bully? She had never done that. Or at least, Bitter had never seen her doing that as far back as she could remember.
Bitter's thoughts were interrupted when she noticed her mother's eyes in the rear view mirror. They kept looking back.
Bitter assumed she was glancing at her and asked, "What is it, mama?"
"That car behind us."
Bitter turned to look back. There was another car at a reasonable distance behind them. Nothing out of the ordinary from what Bitter could determine.
"They're after us," Sour's increasingly nervous voice uttered.
Bitter cocked her head. "Huh? Who's – "
Sour suddenly hit the gas. "Don't worry, Bitter! I won't let them get you!"
Bitter gripped her car seat for dear life as the car jolted into high speed. Sour swerved and zigzagged erratically through the heavy traffic, earning furious honks from other drivers. Bitter tightly shut her eyes in terror. She refused to peek as she was jerked from side to side at every sharp turn her mother made.
Finally, there was stillness. Bitter mustered up the courage to slowly open up one eye. The other popped open when she realized where they ended up.
They were in their driveway. Back home.
Bitter looked ahead, confused. "Mama, I thought we were going to the zoo."
Bitter saw the reflection of her mother's eyes in the rear view mirror again. They were full of sorrow as she said, "Oh, dear. Are you disappointed?" Instantly, the genuine guilt in her eyes was replaced with sheer spite as she growled, "Life. Get used to it, missy."
As Sour unbuckled her out of the car seat, Bitter had never been so baffled in her short life. Bitter was set down on the ground and began to follow her mother back into the house.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
Sour instantly halted at the sound of her neighbor's hammering. Bitter stopped as well, looking up to see Sour gazing off in the direction of the sound. Her face was almost expressionless as she began to nod along as if someone was speaking to her.
"Yes, yes..." Sour muttered. "I understand."
"Who are you talking to, mama?"
Sour didn't answer, opting instead to grab her keys, unlock the door and rush into the house. Bitter stepped in after her to see Sour scrambling about, opening and closing all the drawers. Finally, she found a notebook and pen. Sour dropped to her knees, bent down to place the notebook on the floor, and frantically began scribbling away.
"What are you writing?" Bitter asked as she glanced at the pages, wishing that she could read.
Her mother looked up at her with an unsettling smile. "Truth."
With that, Sour shot back up and pulled out her cellphone. She smashed her finger at one of her contacts with great excitement.
"Niban!" Sour cheered as she picked up. "I get it! I finally get it! I am among the awakened now! The weeaboos did 9/11, President Filthy Rich truly does have a very good brain, and all the rest of the world leaders are the Gorn from Star Trek in disguise!"
Bitter's jaw dropped. Her mother had never agreed with her grandmama when it came to politics before.
"Oh, Sour Sweet!" she heard Niban's voice joyously gasp from the other end. "I've waited so long for the day that I could proudly call you 'daughter-in-law'! Welcome to the reprehensibles, dear!"
"Deo Vindice!!!" Sour shouted in a disturbing tone.
That was it. There was no doubt in Bitter's mind now that something was horribly, horribly wrong here. There was only one possibility of exactly what it could be when it came to her mother. Bitter had it all explained to her not too long ago. 'Schee-zo-fren-ee-uh', as she always had trouble saying.
Bitter wasted no time in running up the stairs. She sped into her parents' room and spotted her target. Jumping up, she grabbed the bottle of lithium pills from the nightstand. She tried to open the bottle, but the child proof cap lived up to its name. She gave up and ran out with it.
When she came back downstairs, her mother was off the phone and wildly running her fingers throughout her hair.
"So much to do, so little of time, a world to storm, people to animal, purple must roam, shores to sea, west to east, grass to amass, old to gold..." Sour rambled.
"Mama, mama!" Bitter called, holding up the bottle and rattling it. "You need these! Please take them!"
Sour abruptly halted her babble and stared up at the ceiling. Then, ever-so-slowly and rather creepily, Sour glanced down at her daughter. Bitter once again rattled the bottle. Sour's hands departed from her now completely disheveled hair. A warm smile came across her face. At that moment, a glimmer of hope washed over Bitter.
Sour bent down and took the bottle. She held it to her face with a look of admiration for several moments. Instantly, her smile disappeared. She began walking away with the bottle.
"Mama?" Bitter asked with concern. "Mama, where are you going?"
With every step, Sour walked faster and faster until she reached the bathroom. Bitter followed her until she froze in shock.
"What are you doing?!" Bitter shouted as she witnessed Sour ripping off the bottle's cap.
Sour dumped the pills into the toilet and flushed. Bitter's disbelief then turned into fear as her mother swung around to face her. The look on her face was pure rage.
"You think you're crafty, don't you, brat?"
"Wh-what?" Bitter uttered, tears welling up in her eyes.
Sour hauled back and threw the bottle. It smacked into and knocked over a vase. Bitter jumped at the sound of glass shattering on the floor.
"LITTLE BITCH TRYING TO POISON ME?!!?!!?!?!" Sour screamed at the top of her lungs.
It didn't matter that Bitter fairly understood that Sour wasn't in her right state of mind. In that moment, Bitter's four-year-old brain could only process that her mother was screaming at her. The toddler burst out crying and ran away.
Bitter darted into her room, straight to the perceived safety of under her bed.
Terrified, there she stayed for the rest of the day, weeping on and off. She neither saw or heard from her mother in that time. There was no call for dinner. She fell asleep that night with a wet face, an empty stomach, and a brain racked over how she could help her mother.