Sad Contemporary

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

Her alarm rings, but she’s already awake. Staring, unblinking, at the ceiling. 

She forces herself to get up. Today is another day. Today is another day.

A notification comes through on her phone while she’s brushing her teeth. 

Hey Lisa, what’s up? I haven’t heard from you in awhile. How are you doing?

Sighing, she types a quick response. Oh I’m ok. Just busy. Kinda tired.

Three dots pop up immediately and linger for several seconds. I’m sure you are. Being a new teacher must not be easy. Especially after… you know, Mom passed. Just know I’m here for you, sis

She stares at the screen, her eyes flitting over the words I’m here for you, sis. The three circles reappear and a couple seconds later, a heart emoji comes through. 

Thanks, I really appreciate you. I’ll talk to you later, I have to get ready for school

She takes a deep breath. Today is another day.

Today is another day.


It is noon. She has made it to lunch. 

The door to her classroom opens. One of her coworkers enters, a nice lady with bright teeth that seem to shine as she grins.

“Hey, Lisa! How’s your day been? The kids treating you alright?”

Lisa nods, smiling. “Hello, Erin. Yes, it’s been a pretty good day. I had one incident with Carol about to throw up, but I let Jane take her to the nurse and it sounds like she’s okay. She’s going home early.”

“Aw, well that’s too bad. It’s never fun for the parents when kids get sick! I would know, I’ve got three of ‘em!” Erin laughs boisterously. When Lisa doesn’t say anything, she says, “Well, I’m going to go say hello to Tori. I’ll see you later!”

Lisa smiles. “Okay! Bye! Tell her hi for me!”

“I will! Oh, and don’t forget about the meeting after school today. Mr. Bradford wants to talk about the parent day next week.”

Oh no. I forgot about the meeting.

“Ah, yes. I’ll be there!”

Erin nods. “Okay. See ya!”

After Erin leaves, Lisa barely gets a moment to herself before the bell rings and kids come tumbling through her door, as if the floodgates had opened. Nonstop noise, chaos. Will the world ever quiet?


“Ms. Wilson, I wanna go home!”

“We’re almost there, Max, just another hour.”

“Ms. Wilson, can you help me?”

“Of course, Faith, what do you need?”

“Ms. Wilson, Alex is pushing me!”

“Alex, remember our classroom rules?”

The end of the day is almost here. 


She is sitting at her desk while the kids finish their word search, her thoughts drifting off. The bell will ring soon. She takes a deep breath.

“Ms. Wilson?”

She blinks, snapping out of her daze. “Yes?”

Lights are flashing. An alarm sounds.

“The fire alarm is going off!” The scared face of Jane is in front of her.

She feels her heart rate immediately quicken. Her hands grow sweaty and shaky. 

“Stay calm, class, follow me.” The kids are clamoring, and she is anything but calm as she leads them towards the nearest exit, through the crowd of bodies.


Despite all of the chaos of the unexpected, accidental fire drill, her boss still wants to hold the after-school meeting. She tries to listen, but her mind keeps wandering. She has so many things to do when she gets home. Her brother is probably annoyed with her because she doesn’t talk to him much anymore. She somehow is still worrying about whether or not the students like her. She wants more sleep, she needs more sleep. She misses her mom. She-

“Lisa? What are your thoughts?”

A group of staff members are staring at her. She can feel their eyes boring into her soul, like a strong laser beam through an unsuspecting, helpless, flimsy, fragile piece of paper.

“I… uh…” She can’t think. She can’t think. She can’t think. They are all watching her. Judging her, surely. Her leg starts frantically bouncing up and down, up and down.

“You got nothing?” her boss inquires, slightly amused.

“Uh… I guess not?” she replies timidly. 

“That’s okay.” And they move on, not thinking twice about her hesitation, her awkwardness.

Yet she can’t stop thinking about it.


She is home. It is late at night. She has been working hard, very hard, all day, even after the school day ended. Maybe she can finally be at peace for the night.

She allows herself to take a nice shower, taking deep breaths. When she steps out, she notices that her medication is empty. 

Make sure to take this every day, just until you can kind of… get your anxiety under control again. Her doctor had ordered.

She starts to blink rapidly, her mind speeding up again after just having calmed it down. I don’t have medicine for tomorrow. Oh, what do I do? How did I not notice?

She changes into her pajamas quickly, then paces around her bathroom, staring at the empty bottle, sitting on the counter, almost taunting her.

What can I do? It’s too late to get more before school tomorrow.


She is ready to sleep. She is about to climb into bed when the doorbell rings.

Immediately feeling her heart lurch, she slowly walks towards the front door and peers through the peek-hole. Surprised, she unlocks the door and swings it open. 


“Hey, sis,” says her brother, grinning.

“What are you doing here?” She waves him in and shuts the door behind him.

“I know it’s super late, but I just couldn’t wait to see you. I missed you so much that I just made a split-second decision to make the drive down here. Stupid, maybe. But I really wanted to see you. I’m sorry I didn’t give you more notice.”

And suddenly, she finds herself sobbing, hugging him, leaning on his shoulder.

"Whoa, hey, what's wrong?" His voice is concerned. He leads her to her bedroom and sits with her as she cries.

"I'm just so tired of it all!" she moans. "I have to constantly act like I'm fine around all the kids and staff at the school, and I always have so much to do, it's like I can never catch a break!" She pauses, crying harder than she has cried in a long time. Kevin rubs her shoulder.

"And with Mom gone..." she sobs. "It's so much harder. Dad's been gone for years, so the pain has... lessened, I guess, but with Mom..." She cannot stop crying. "Mom knew what to say when this happened, when I had panic attacks. Now, living alone in this apartment, trying to survive the busy life of a teacher... It just feels like too much. Like, how can I go on, Kevin? How? I have n-nothing l-left..." She buries her face in her hands.

"It's okay, Lisa. Let yourself cry. You can keep talking if you need to. I'm here, sis. I'm here."


Thirty minutes later, her eyes are still red and puffy. She lays on her bed next to her brother with a box of tissues. 

“Thank you, Kevin, for talking with me,” she says in a shaky voice. “You have no idea how long it’s been since I’ve really opened up to someone.”

He puts an arm around her shoulder and is silent for a moment. “You know, I really did mean it when I said I’m here for you. Seems like you should talk about your feelings… your anxiety… more often. Clearly, you don’t do it enough.” He looks into her eyes. “It shouldn’t lead you to this point of having a total breakdown.”

She sniffs, lost for words.

“Maybe you should consider… getting a therapist?”

She straightens up almost as quickly as lightning. “No. Kevin, you know how I feel about-”

“I know, I do. But therapy might really help you.”

“How?” she asks tearfully. “I get anxious enough talking to people, but talking to someone about… I just don’t see how it would help me.”

He falls quiet. The two just sit together in silence for a few minutes.

Finally, he speaks up. “Tell you what. How about you take the day off work tomorrow. Call in sick.”

“No, I-”

“No ifs, ands, or buts. You’re not well, Lisa. Plus, tomorrow’s Friday, so you can take an early weekend. I’m going to help you find someone to talk to, someone that you think you can be comfortable with.”

“I could talk to you when things are hard.”

He chuckles. “Lisa, you and I both know that I give terrible advice. But just this once, I’m asking you to do this. Not for me, for yourself. Even… for Mom. She would want you to take care of yourself.” There is a moment of silence where Lisa’s heart plummets, and then Kevin resumes talking. “And if you give it a few tries, not just one, a few, and it’s horrible… then I’ll admit I was wrong. Just please, give it a chance. I think a good therapist could really help you.”

She takes a deep breath and meets his gaze. After several seconds of quiet, she says softly, “Okay.”


That Sunday, she and Kevin approach a small, homely looking building. Vines creep up its white walls, and the parking lot is surrounded by trees that shade the pavement. 

“See, it’s a nice environment. Already a plus.” He smiles.

The two open the door, which squeaks loudly, and a soft bell rings to announce their arrival. As if the loud, creaky door hadn’t already. 

A small waiting room lies before them, furnished with a small bookshelf that is overflowing with books and magazines, two couches, and a glass coffee table decorated with a vase full of fresh flowers. They sit on one of the couches. Kevin notices Lisa’s leg bouncing and takes her hand comfortingly. 

A couple of minutes later, a door on the other side of the room swings open. A lady with short, brown hair and surprisingly blue eyes stands in the entryway. She wears a smile.

“Hello! You’re Lisa?” she says in a kind tone.

“Yes,” Lisa replies nervously. Kevin pats her on the back.

“Wonderful. If you’ll come with me, I’m so excited to get to know you,” the lady says warmly.

Lisa slowly stands up, her heart pounding. Kevin’s eyes linger on her face. “Hey, it’s all going to be okay,” he reassures her softly, watching her go.

As Lisa follows the therapist, she looks over her shoulder at her brother and feels a warm glow overpower the anxiety in her chest. Maybe she will soon be able to believe him.

July 18, 2023 03:54

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Michelle Oliver
11:43 Jul 23, 2023

Hey Emma, this is lovely. Anxiety is a crippling disorder and he way you have described it has a ring of truth about it. I like the anxiety ramps up with the lack of medication. You have left us with unanswered questions about the fate of he therapy sessions, but from your last sentence we can surmise that things are going to be positive. A great tale that shines light on an otherwise overlooked disorder.


Emma D
18:24 Jul 23, 2023

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you liked it! I struggle with some anxiety myself, so it does ring true for me in some ways.


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Zatoichi Mifune
10:41 Jul 18, 2023

Great story! Teacher is definitely not the right job for Lisa. I can give you a critique if you want it, but be warned, it will be the first one I've tried so feel free to ignore all of it.


Emma D
12:54 Jul 18, 2023

Thanks for reading! I was nervous about how it would turn out because I was trying a different style than I've written with before, but I'm glad you liked it. Critiques are welcome, I'm always looking for advice :)


Zatoichi Mifune
13:12 Jul 18, 2023

Okay here we go. Only a few minor things, I wouldn't be confident with asking you to change anything major (apart from the fact that I can't see anything major to fix). - 'Make sure to take this every day, just until you can kind of… get your anxiety under control again' - I don't think the 'kind of' and the ellipses work together. I would consider removing the 'kind of', it just doesn't sit right. 'She straightens up almost as quickly as lightning.' - Either she straightens up 'like lightning' or she doesn't. 'almost as quickly as' drags...


Emma D
13:17 Jul 18, 2023

Thank you so much for the feedback, I really appreciate it! Those are good comments that I hadn't thought about.


16:43 Jul 18, 2023



16:43 Jul 18, 2023

To make sense of that, read zatoichi's bio 🤭


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Mila Van Niekerk
06:17 Sep 21, 2023

I love the way you portrayed anxiety: things don't just feel loud, they feel noisy, and that really comes through. Just a few things 1. The doctor prescribing her medication sounds unsure. Rather have his line be something firm or reassuring, like : ''Take these every day, you should start to feel more in control. '' 2. Make the part where she confesses her feelings to Kevin shorter. The theme of the story is a character putting up a facade, but half of this is her letting go of it. I'd like to see more of her struggles, and the very last...


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