By the Time

She had always given herself deadlines.

They spoke of promise and an undertow of tomorrow. Deadlines meant plans and plans meant going somewhere.

“By the time I’m twenty one, I’ll have travelled the globe,” she wrote to herself in her scented diary. “At twenty five I’ll have a fabulous career. By thirty I will have a husband, a European car, two kids and a House & Garden home in a good suburb.”

These might have sounded like the words of idle daydreams but behind them sat a nervous intensity. She charged off into her future buoyed on the essence of her personal promise. When you’re eighteen, thirty always feels a lifetime away.

By the time she’d turned twenty two the deadlines had changed. She reasoned with herself that this was sensible, given that plans always go awry. New Years Eve with the smell of old beer in her hair and surrounded by footballers hugging each other like soulmates, she scrawled drunkenly onto a coaster. “By the time I’m twenty six I’ll have two lovers and a Prada handbag”. She added another line about having tried several new sexual positions by age thirty and a throwaway remark about being a corporate highflyer within the year.

At thirty the deadlines looked different again.

“By the time I’m thirty five I’ll have given up smoking, and have split up with this deadbeat,” her writing read determinedly. “I’ll have a baby – a little girl. She’ll only wear matching clothing. I’ll have a job.”

She’d written it at the kitchen table of the rented flat, flicking her cigarette nervously with scarred red-brown polished nails.

At thirty eight the deadlines were looking slender, mentioning something about going back to college by forty. At forty five, forty nine and the cusp of fifty there wasn’t a lot of difference in what she wanted to achieve, just the timelines moved.

“By the time I’m fifty five…” she started to write, and then paused.

‘Ah, what the hell,’ she thought.

Pouring herself another tea she turned to the gossip pages of the newspaper.

The future yawned.

By the Time


Joined August 2008

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Artist's Description

Twisted Tales Deadline prompt – TTST23

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