THERE was no place in the world Lizzie Blake loved more than Philadelphia. From the food, to the people, to the kaleidoscope of neighborhoods, energy pulsed in every crack and crevice of her city, coursing through her with a bubbly type of joy.
But, as Lizzie stared down at the massive pile of shit she’d just stepped in, she hated that she had to question whether it was dog or human.
Lizzie dragged her hands over her face then shoved her knuckles in her mouth, biting down to suppress a frustrated howl. After sucking in three deep breaths, she scraped the sides of her shoe along the edge of the sidewalk, removing what she could before walking the last block to her apartment and stopping outside the door.
She stared at her pale pink sneakers, now ruined by the brown stain embedded in the fabric. With a sigh, she took off the shoes, pinched them between her fingers, and took a few sock-clad steps to the dumpster on the side of her building, hurling them in.
What a fucking day.
She tiptoed across the sidewalk, into her apartment, and up the stairs to her unit.
“Honey, I’m home,” Lizzie crooned as she walked in the door.
Indira, her roommate, shot her a grin that quickly turned into a confused frown as she took in Lizzie’s mismatched neon socks and lack of shoes. She lifted her eyebrows in question.
“Stepped in shit,” Lizzie explained, peeling off her socks and chucking them through the open bedroom door as she made her way to the couch, plopping down beside her best friend.
“Animal?” Indira asked, dropping her head to Lizzie’s shoulder as she scrolled through Netflix.
“Mm, life’s fun little mysteries,” Indira replied. “How was the rest of your day?”
Lizzie let out a long-suffering sigh. “Not the best. I got written up again,” she said, digging the heels of her hands into her eye sockets.
Indira shot up. “Lizzie, again? That’s like the third time this month.”
“Second,” Lizzie corrected, although she’d gotten both in just as many weeks.
“What did you do?”
Lizzie groaned and sat forward, planting her elbows on her knees and burying her head in her hands. “I forgot to prep a catering order for one of George’s bigger repeat clients—some company party or whatever. The woman came in to pick up the cupcakes, and I found the order info scribbled on a gum wrapper that I’d taped inside my locker and completely forgot about. It was a shit show.”
Indira gave her a look of horror. Although she worked in psychiatry, Indira was familiar with the wrath of an angry boss. “What did George say?”
Lizzie let out a humorless laugh. “What do you think? His face turned a new shade of purple as he yelled. Said I’m on thin ice.” Her boss, George, was a millennial-hipster nightmare of a person, constantly having his bakers chase Instagram trends to the point that the shop was a hodgepodge of deconstructed quiches, ombre cakes, and overdecorated cookies shaped like sloths. All the while, he sipped nitro cold brew and scrolled through his phone, regularly barking out orders for everyone to “stay on brand,” like any of them had a damn clue what that meant.
There was an awkward silence as Indira examined her perfectly manicured nails, avoiding eye contact. Lizzie wished she could have pretty hands like that. Instead, her nails were jagged and bitten down, the cuticles picked raw and butchered from Lizzie’s constant, pulsing energy.
“You can’t really blame him, though, Lizzie. For being mad, I mean.”
Lizzie’s shoulders slumped as shame gripped her around the throat. Lizzie didn’t want to be like this. It wasn’t like she enjoyed her mind rioting and rejecting normal executive functioning. But the past year had been a loop of one step forward, five steps back. She’d made the jump from working as a baker/barista at a coffee shop next to Callowhill’s Medical School, to being hired on in a pastry kitchen of a bougie hotel chain.
But within two months, she’d been fired, having accumulated a mountain of citations ranging from chronic lateness to setting small kitchen fires, the last straw being her boss walking in on her hooking up with a server in the employee bathroom during a break.
Lizzie had flitted from job to job after that, unable to turn on the responsible-adult switch everyone else seemed to have.
Instead, she floundered with the basics—struggling to organize and execute tasks in an order that actually made sense, failing to remember important things that needed to get done, even keeping track of the damn time felt like an impossible feat—while the need for stimulation and impulsivity prickled across her skin.
Lizzie let out a deep breath. “Nope, I can’t blame him. Can only blame myself,” she said with fake cheeriness, patting Indira’s knee and pushing up from the couch. She headed toward her room, making a mental note to schedule an appointment with her psychiatrist. It’d been a while since they’d evaluated her medication. She was on a nonstimulant drug that wasn’t always as effective at bolstering her focus as she wished, but other options like Adderall gave her nasty side effects she had a hard time dealing with.
Lizzie made a second mental note to actually take her medication instead of continuing on ADHD’s most ironic loop of forgetting to take the thing that will help her remember.
“Well, do you want to order a pizza or something?” Indira asked, getting up and following Lizzie. “Or we could splurge on a twelve-dollar bottle of wine, maybe? I bet that would cheer you up.”
Lizzie laughed as she pulled her T-shirt over her head and flung it in the general vicinity of her buried hamper. “Twelve dollars? In this economy?” she said. “I’ll take a rain check, sweets. I have a date tonight,” she added, digging through a pile of wrinkled tops by her closet door.
Indira made a crooning oohh sound. “With who? That last guy that called himself ‘the milkman’ during sex?”
Copyright © 2022 by Madison Eddings