This is Part 1 of our weekend Solo Lockdown Short Stories. The first two parts will be published on Sunday 26th April – morning and evening. Thereafter another story will be shared every Saturday and Sunday until the 31st of May. 12 stories in total.
Joslyn knew how to deal with stress. A fast-paced work environment taught her a lot, and she had long since learned to apply the same strategies to everyday life. Constantly on the move, always busy, she juggled everything from work to her social life expertly.
At least, she had. It had been a skill – a talent even – and she wore the badge with pride. But now the entire country was in lockdown for who knew how long, and she had nothing to fill her time. No work, save for the two hours a day she set up her laptop at the dining room table, nowhere to go out, and most of her friends were too busy freaking out to bother with Skype or Facebook.
Which is why, despite being bored out of her mind, Joslyn sat cross-legged on the leather sofa, idly flipping through dozens of movie choices she didn’t even care about. It was Thursday, and Thursday was usually the day for drinks and Mexican food with work friends. To say the least, being stuck inside left a sour taste in her mouth.
As she scrolled past another list of garbage movies, Joslyn’s phone dinged cheerfully. For a moment, all she did was squint at it. Her phone was awfully quiet these days without work filling up her notifications, and she was hesitant at first to look. An unknown number glowered back at her. There was a text, filled with emojis Joslyn herself never bothered with. Who was that? Friends knew if they wanted her it was better to call, and no one from the office would use so many annoying smileys. Huffing, she swiped open her phone.
Hi Joslyn! Emmett gave me your number, said you’d changed it loads since we last spoke. He also said to say sorry for not calling, but he’s swamped by work and has neither had time for family.
And then underneath, another message; it’s Kalisha btw! From the internship like, 6 years ago? Aw, you probably don’t even remember… 🙂
She blinked down at her phone, and her heart did this weird little flip as she read over Kalisha’s name. How could she not remember her? Everyone remembered Kalisha. A smile curled at her lips, fingers already typing out a reply.
Hope you’re doing well, and this lockdown isn’t driving you mad. How do you know Emmett?
It sounded stilted even to her own ears, and Joslyn winced. Still, after nearly six years of no contact, she had almost forgotten about Kalisha. Or, at the very least, let her drift to the back of her mind. With a frown, Joslyn hit send.
A reply didn’t come back right away. Bored of looking through movies without watching them, Joslyn instead took a wander into the garden. She had never, in her life, enjoyed gardening – it was why most of it was turned into a tiled patio, set up as a handsome extension of the conservatory. She hired a gardener for the rest, but even after just two weeks, it was beginning to look like an utter mess.
Collapsing onto the nearest patio chair, Joslyn tried to soak up some sun. Being locked up inside was doing hellish things to her skin, which was almost as bad as the boredom.
Her phone dinged, the echo ringing in her ears as slender hands snatched up the device. Another message from Kalisha, adorned with so many emojis she might as well not bother using words.
My mum lives at the care home he works for. I’m worried about her, but this lockdown business isn’t so bad. I don’t have to worry about work for starters! A moment later, another ding followed by honestly, I’m enjoying the chance to relax. I’ve already discovered two new hobbies!
Joslyn huffed and rolled her eyes. How could she be enjoying this? This wasn’t relaxing, it was frustrating and boring and dull. Resting her chin against her palm, Joslyn stared out across her garden with lidded eyes.
At least someone’s having a good time, she messaged back with a frown, I’ve been bored out of my mind without work. And I won’t even get to go out for Saturday night drinks.
You just need to find something to do. You don’t have to go out to have fun.
Joslyn begged to differ, but she forced a smile. Always the optimist, that Kalisha. It was nice to see the years apart hadn’t changed that.
What do you suggest?
Quirking a brow, Joslyn snorted. Of all the things, that was not happening. She said as much too.
I’ve never gardened in my life. I’d rather go out with friends or hit the pub. Too bad all the fun stuff is a no-go now.
It sounded snippy, rude even, and the second she sent the message Joslyn winced.
To make things worse, Kalisha didn’t reply. No message, no little dots to indicate she was typing. Just the little red icon to indicate she’d opened the message.
Joslyn stayed outside a little longer, enjoying the warmth of the spring sunshine as it danced across her skin. Yet soon enough the familiar prickles of impatience crept along her limbs, and she couldn’t sit still any longer. Sighing, Joslyn heaved herself to her feet and went off in search of something to do. Predictably she came up empty, and she wished for Saturday drinks, a movie night or Mexican food at the place in town.
By the time dinner rolled around, Kalisha still hadn’t replied, and Joslyn was left wondering if she had somehow pissed her off.
Unwilling to roll out of bed until after ten o’clock – hardly a lie in for some, but late for her – Joslyn took her time getting ready. After all, it wasn’t like she had anywhere to be; but getting dressed and made up as if she was, at least brought some kind of normality to her new routine.
It wasn’t until she collapsed onto her bed, tugging at the brush securely lodged into her thick bobbed hair, that she saw the notifications on her phone. Two messages, and a missed call from… Kalisha? As she looked at it, the phone buzzed again. Wrenching the brush from her hair – and grunting at the sharp pain – Joslyn answered with, “Hello?”
“Joslyn!” Ah, she had forgotten how loud Kalisha was, voice bubbling over with enthusiasm, “I’ve got an idea how to help! You said you were going crazy inside but I’ve got so many ideas for things you could do. Isn’t now the best time to discover a new hobby? A new talent?” She laughed, and the sound made Joslyn’t ears ring.
“Look, I appreciate the help, but we haven’t spoken since-“
“And now’s also the best time to get back in touch with old friends.”
Well, she could hardly argue with that.
“How about we make a deal?” she challenged, “try a new hobby every day for a week. Something relaxing. I’ll prove to you it’s possible to have fun by yourself. If you don’t like it, I promise I won’t bring it up again.”
Crinkling her nose, Joslyn sighed. Why not? She was certain it was a waste of time, that she wouldn’t enjoy any of these silly solo hobbies, but it wasn’t as if she had anything better to do. “Deal,” she replied with a sigh, “what should I try today.”
“Hmm. How about… journalling?”
Oh boy. How was she supposed to write a journal, if there was nothing interesting to write about? Yet she conceded with a wince. “All right. Fine.”
“Brilliant! Text me tonight and let me know everything. I promise we’ll find something for you yet.” With a click, Kalisha hung up.
A low groan caught in Joslyn’s throat, but she had promised – so with a long-suffering sigh, she hauled herself to her feet, tossed her hairbrush aside, and got started.
Monday was journalling. Joslyn detested it, giving up after writing only two sentences. There was nothing to write about, and talking about herself made her feel like a pre-teen with her first diary. No thanks.
Tuesday was gardening, which she hated as much as expected. She finished the afternoon sweaty and sunburned – and the garden somehow looked even worse after she’d weeded the flower plots.
Wednesday went a little better, and Joslyn discovered she was a natural with knitting. Mostly thanks to her Grandmother, who had knitted about a thousand cardigans for her as a kid. Still, it left too much time for her mind to wander, and so she ended up bored out of her mind anyway.
Thursday, Kalisha insisted she tries baking. It went well, up until Joslyn forgot about the oven and the cake was so burned it cracked apart in her hands. She dumped it in the bin and ate a slice of pre-packaged chocolate cake instead.
By Friday, she was losing hope. Workout videos on Youtube didn’t even begin to emulate the gym, and she was left yearning for a proper cycling machine or real weights.
By Saturday, things were beginning to look up. Joslyn had all but given up, frustration bubbling under her skin as soon as she saw a new text from Kalisha. This wasn’t working, so couldn’t she just enjoy breakfast in peace? When her phone rang, she almost ignored it – and then picked it up with a groan.
“Morning!” Kalisha chirped, “I promised I’d find something you’d enjoy, and I’m determined! So here, give this a go; you have a laptop, right?”
“Of course, I need it for work,” she shot back with a cautious smile, why?
“Solo hobbies aren’t working for you, so I’ve got a new idea. Online games!”
Weren’t those for kids and teenagers? She thought of her cousin Adam, who spent his entire time on his X-Box.
Yet she allowed Kalisha to rope her into it anyway, lips pursed as she booted up her laptop. A quick search revealed all sorts of games – old fashioned Solitaire, words games, even an online version of Monopoly. There were more modern things too, like Overwatch, but she took one look and decided that was definitely for a different audience.
Kalisha’s voice sang through the phone’s speaker as she chirped, “See anything you like? Come on, we can play something together. It’ll work, see – you’re relaxing, but you’re still spending time with someone!”
They chose a simple game – basically, a competitive crossword – and Joslyn started up the game with a scowl. Her expectations were low, as they had been all week, and she had already resigned herself to a day of hell.
It started off slow, but Kalisha’s constant chatter brought a smile to her lips. She had missed this, talking with friends. Admittedly it was usually with a group of six or more, and there was usually food or alcohol involved, but she found herself enjoying the chance to just… sit and listen.
And, as much as she hated to admit it, the game itself wasn’t so bad either. In fact, by round two her competitive side was beginning to show, and Joslyn was laughing alongside Kalisha.
By round six, Joslyn was determined to win.
And by around eleven, Joslyn was jolted from her focus by the dull growl of her stomach. Oh, had that much time passed already? Her eyes flickered to her watch. Two-thirty. Huh.
“So,” Kalisha’s voice laughed, “what do you think? Fun, right!”
Her stomach squirmed, unwilling to admit that yes, it had been good. With a smile, she answered, “it was fun, sure. I… didn’t expect to enjoy it so much.”
“Right? And you didn’t have to leave the house, either! Maybe we could find you a more relaxing game, something that won’t have you desperate to kick my ass-“
“Kalisha,” she shot back, “I had fun. I found something new. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“I’m on a roll now, I’ll find you ten new interests by Monday, all perfect for staying at home.”
Joslyn rolled her eyes – but laughter spilled from her lips. “Don’t go overboard,” she warned, “if you have me sewing and scrapbooking I’ll never forgive you.”
Kalisha just snorted out a laugh, a sound that brought a grin to Joslyn’s features. Then they fell into silence, the peaceful sort that let Joslyn relax back into the cushions of her sofa and close her eyes. “I should probably thank you,” she muttered, “I’ve been going stir crazy these past few weeks, but it’s been great.” A huff, a reluctant smile, “better than great, even if I’ve discovered I should never, ever make cake again.”
“I’m glad to help!”
“Thanks for getting back in touch with me,” Joslyn said, “you’ve been a lifesaver.”
It was true, too. With Kalisha and her crazy ideas in tow, maybe being stuck in lockdown wasn’t so terrible. After all, there were still dozens of inside hobbies she had yet to attempt. Maybe she could come out of this with more than one new interest to surprise her friends with.