The Seed of Hardship - Chapter 2
Click here to start from Chapter 1
Kristel’s ponderous footsteps steadily pounded against the moving track of a treadmill. Beside her, a thin, emaciated-looking woman with frizzy red hair seemed to be racing against the already fast moving treadmill. Panting heavily, Krystal looked at the woman with raised eyebrows. She then looked down at the display screen on her own treadmill and saw that she had only been walking for 10 minutes and she was out of breath. Worse, she had only completed one tenth of a mile.
Wiping sweat from her brow with the back of her left hand, she pulled the safety key out of the treadmill with the other hand. The treadmill slowed to a complete stop. For a moment, Kristel gripped the handles of the treadmill and tried to catch her breath before grabbing her water bottle from the cup-holder. After gulping down nearly half of the liquid, she put the bottle down and pressed two of her fingers into the inside of her wrist, feeling for a pulse.
After a minute, Kristel's eyes opened widely when she calculated her pulse. Immediately, she turned the machine completely off and stepped down. The redhead was still running at the same impressive speed. Her exposed abdominal muscles formed a lesser version of a six pack and her calves appeared rock hard beneath her Capri jogging pants. Kristel couldn’t ignore the small twinge of envy. She scoffed quietly and began walking away from her treadmill.
An odd, shaky feeling gradually formed in her knees and luckily, she was near a workout bench. She plopped down onto the leather surface and held her head as it reeled. Her initial reaction was to panic from the sudden dizzy spell. Had she forgotten to take her medication? She thought about it and recalled doing it as soon as she awoke. When the dizziness subsided, she gulped down the remainder of water and decided perhaps it was the stress from the work overload she had been facing – with searching for jobs and running back and forth between rehearsals with her children.
Kristel stood from the bench, relieved that the shaky feeling was no longer in her legs. It just wasn’t a good day, she concluded. She walked out of the busy fitness centre and out into the moist summer air. The humidity did absolutely nothing to help her breathlessness and she looked at her empty water bottle despairingly. She quickly made her way to the car and drove straight home, thinking of nothing other than climbing right into bed.
Kristel reached home, expecting to meet Matthew and Kezia there. However, the two were nowhere to be seen. “Matt?” she called, as she walked across the living room to the dining area. She looked down the hallway and listened for a response. “Hmm,” she said with a nonchalant shrug of her shoulders. She walked into the kitchen and saw that the sink was empty but so was the dish drainer. She doubted that her husband had manually washed and dried the dishes.
Suspiciously eying the dishwasher, Kristel made her way towards the machine. When she opened it and saw that it was loaded with clean dishes, she closed her eyes in a silent prayer to maintain a level temper. For a moment, she held her breath, afraid of screaming her frustration. When she finally released the breath, she slammed the dishwasher shut and leaned against the counter, massaging her head. Trying her best to relax and suppress the uprising feelings of disappointment and anger, she kept her eyes closed. Yet, the state of relaxation didn’t remain.
Kristel snatched the house phone from the wall and quickly dialed her husband’s number. His phone rang several times until at last the answering machine hijacked the call. Kristel exhaled loudly into the receiver and then disconnected the call. She tried calling again, twice more, but still received no response. She was beginning to feel exhausted just standing there so she went into the living room and lay on the couch. A dull ache pounded at her head, forcing her eyes closed. She remained absolutely still, trying to think happy thoughts.
Still, the only thing she could think about was her husband’s irresponsibility. They were having financial issues and Matthew always insisted on using the dishwasher. How hard was it to wash the dishes by hand and save some money? With these thoughts, Kristel drifted off to sleep.
An hour or so later, Kristel was awaken by her cell phone loudly ringing in the pocket of her sweat pants. She sprang up out of her sleep and pulled the phone from her pocket. Without even looking to see who the caller was, she answered, “Yes?”
Hazel was sitting in the front of the church sanctuary, along with Daniel and Stephanie. They were looking towards the stage at the drama ministry rehearsing their scene. “Hi, Mom,” said Hazel. “I tried calling Daddy but he didn’t answer.”
Kristel crinkled her forehead and asked, “Did you try calling again?
“Yes, still no answer.”
“Okay, try one more time and if he still doesn’t answer, call me back,” Kristel instructed.
“Okay,” said Hazel. “Bye.”
Kristel disconnected the call and grunted in frustration. “I’m gonna kill him,” she muttered, standing up from the couch. She began marching towards the door, repetitively muttering how she was going to kill him.
Meanwhile, Matthew was at the bowling alley, hanging with a few of his colleagues. Kezia was strapped to his back in a soft carrier. Beginning to get miserable, she was squirming around. Matthew stood with a straight posture, preparing to release the bowling ball in his handl. At last, he aimed and released the ball, watching it tensely as it rolled down the smooth alley, picking up speed as it neared the pins. With a crash, the ball rammed through the pins, knocking all but one over.
“No!” Matthew exclaimed, clutching his fists.
His friends laughed and one of them shouted that he had one more chance. This was his chance to redeem himself with a spare of that resilient remained pin. He exhaled dramatically and released the ball. He watched hopefully as it rolled down the alley and right past the remaining pin. “Darned it!” he exclaimed.
Kezia began kicking impatiently and loudly babbling her complaint as Matthew’s friends laughed raucously from the bench. “Okay, okay,” said Matthew, reaching back to pat Kezia as he walked towards the bench.
“That was your chance,” said his prematurely gray friend.
“Yeah, yeah,” said Matthew. “What time is it?”
The man looked at his wrist watch and said, “Twelve-forty.”
Matthew unstrapped the sling that held Kezia and sat her down on his lap. He bounced her up and down on his knees but Kezia refused to cheer up. Matthew took his cell phone out of his bowling bag. As Kezia made an attempt to snatch the phone from him, Matthew saw that he had five missed calls. “No, Kezia,” he said, holding tightly to the phone. He viewed his missed calls and when he saw Hazel and Kristel’s names, he sprang up from the bench.
“Oh shoot!” he exclaimed. “My kids!”
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