Nadia didn’t fully notice something was different until her strict morning routine finally let her sit down at the breakfast nook with a coffee, cream no sugar, and her low-calorie high-fiber breakfast bar. She pulled up the stock market app on her phone, brought the mug up to her lips, and froze just as the hot coffee hit her tongue. Not because it was too hot – twenty years of chugging coffee whenever she could and had burned off any nerves that would give her that information – but because she had looked out the window.
“It’s still dark,” she said because it was, indeed, still dark outside.
She glanced at the clock over the stove at the same time she put down her mug to check her wristwatch. It would not be the first time she had completely fucked up her time management and sat down to breakfast a full two hours before she was supposed to.
Nope. Both the clock on the stove and her wristwatch – and her phone, for that matter – all agreed it was seven-fifteen. The sun should have been up by now and reflecting off the windows of the apartment building across the street.
“Hey, Jules?” Nadia called, afraid to move.
Jules sauntered into the kitchen still wearing his sweatpants, his hair sticking in every direction. Nadia had tried to get him on the same Up-And-At-Them morning schedule as her, and to his credit he’d given it the old college try. For three days it had been great. They had woken up, stretched, worked out, meditated, gotten ready and had breakfast together. Then on the fourth morning Jules had waited for her to leave the bedroom first before closing and locking the door and getting back in bed. Three days later he had finally emerged and the two of them had agreed to never try it again.
“I think I’m having some sort of episode,” she said, staring out the window. She kept moving her eyes in and out of focus like she was looking at a Magic Eye and all she had to do to get the sun to come up was squint hard enough.
“You don’t watch TV,” Jules said from the depths of the fridge.
“No, I mean…Jules? Jules. I need your attention right now.”
He shut the fridge as he yawned, and she waited until he was looking right at her. He really was a good man. Later in the day.
“What time is it?”
Jules glanced at the stove. “Seven-eighteen. Nineteen.”
“Your phone says that too?”
Without argument or question, Jules pulled his smart phone from the pocket of his sweatpants.
Nadia took a relieved breath.
“It’s says seven-twenty. I guess the stove clock is a little off.”
“The sun isn’t up!” she practically yelled into their tiny apartment kitchen.
Jules looked out the window and blinked a few times.
“You see it, right? That the sun’s not up? It should have been up half an hour ago, at least! I mean, I don’t really know when sunrise is, like, specifically, but surely it should have been up. It’s up, isn’t it? It’s up I just can’t see it. Oh God. Oh, no.”
Nadia kept thinking about her Uncle Reggie. He’d been a high powered corporate lawyer, working eighty to a hundred hours a week and making an insulting hourly, right up until he’d had a complete nervous breakdown. They’d finally found him three months later, working at a Buc-ees outside of Fort Worth under the assumed named Jackie Potts.
That can’t be me. No no no. No way. I don’t work eighty hours a week. Seventy, tops! Unless you count all the stuff I do at home which I don’t because it’s not work if there’s a television on in the background and your boyfriend is massaging your feet. Right?
Ahhh! Did I just answer myself? I just answered myself!
“Babe, relax. You’re not going crazy. Today’s the first Dark Day, remember?”
She looked up mid-hyperventilation, her arms still wrapped around her thighs and her head barely above her knees, and stared.
“The first what now?”
Jules rolled his eyes. “I knew you weren’t paying attention when I was telling you about this. And reminding you about it. And pointing it out to you when it was on the news last night.”
“I work too hard, yeah, I know, I get it, old argument, what the fuck is a Dark Day?”
“Exactly what it sounds like,” Jules said, gesturing vaguely out the window. “The scientists thought it might help with global warming if we skipped sunlight for a day or two every month. So here we are.”
She…vaguely….remembered something about this. He’d been telling her the other night, while they had been watching…something…and she had been answering emails.
And hadn’t someone mentioned it in one of those emails? She couldn’t remember. She usually skipped both the first and last paragraph, knowing that that’s where the useless greetings and pleasantries were.
And maybe someone had said something about it in the last Zoom call she’d been on?
Nadia looked outside again. Still dark.
She looked at her boyfriend again. Still unconcerned.
“Scientists?” she finally asked. “What scientists?”
“I don’t know! Scientists! They figured out how to do it and got the approval last month. It’s all anyone’s been talking about for weeks!”
“Not in my office,” she lied.
Jules rubbed his forehead. “Nadia, for fuck’s sake.”
Nadia looked from the window, still dark, to her boyfriend’s face. Somehow darker.
“What? Come on! It’s dark outside and it shouldn’t be! That would be enough to freak anyone out!”
“Yeah, anyone who wasn’t so involved with their work they missed literally every notice about it. For months. From their own live-in boyfriend.”
“Hey! This isn’t about my job!”
“Of course it is!”
Nadia stepped back out of shock. Jules was perhaps the most even-keeled person she had ever met. Not really saying much given the type that she worked with, but still. She’d never seen him even raise his voice at being cut off, let alone yelling at someone in person.
Yelling at her.
But here he was. Arms out. Eyes wide. Exasperation painting lines into his face.
“Not everything is about my job!”
The laugh that came from him was so over the top and fake he ought to have earned a Razzie.
“That’s fucking rich coming from you. Your entire life is this job, Nadia. You’re so caught up in it, all the time, the whole world is passing you by. You are constantly three degrees away from completely burnt out and yet you keep on pushing.”
“I’m not burnt-”
“Oh, yeah? Tell me something. Just now, when you were hyperventilating into the back of your knees, you were thinking about your uncle again weren’t you?”
He only needed the look on her face.
“See? You know, Nadia. You know this job is killing you and you still can’t disengage. And, uh, I can’t stay here and watch it anymore.”
Just like the darkness outside the window, it took some time for the words to completely register. The perfect rebuttal she had been planning dissolved into nothing.
“What?” was all she could manage.
There were other words said. Screamed. Cried. None of it seemed to matter. This was, apparently, coming. Coming for a while. And just like all of the little warnings about the completely Dark Day outside, Nadia had missed every last one.