Funny Friendship Contemporary

Ambitions and poor scheduling plagued the mind of Claire Olvido. Her father was an architect, her mother a surgeon, her baby brother accepted to medical school, and Claire was nearly five years out of college with a fine arts degree living in a studio apartment on the third floor of a building with walls so thin her neighbors swore they heard every stroke of her paintbrush.

“What’s this?” Claire’s friend, Tilly asked. Claire looked up the spot she was cleaning toward her. Tilly sat by a pile of tarps, holding up a large piece of paper. Claire, Tilly, and their other friend Jacob had been cleaning since 7:00am to salvage the mess of art supplies and projects into a usable space for an end of the year party.

“Let me see,” Claire said as she stood. She walked over to her friend and took the paper, her hands still covered in bits of paint from working all night to distract herself from her least favorite holiday: New Year’s Eve.

Claire’s face drains of color. Jacob walked over, asking if something was wrong, but she could barely hear him over the screaming in her mind as last year’s New Year’s came back to her. More specifically, New Year’s 1:00am to 5:00pm when she went on an absolute rampage of research and planning to form a precise, 365-day plan to finally have a year when she achieved all her resolutions. She clutched the paper in her hands, a curse falling from her lips as she looks over her goals, all abandoned sometime around 6:00 the day they were written when she passed out, dropped the paper, and it was covered by her tarps, where it apparently remained until now.

“Not again!” Claire groans, running her hands through her hair. “No, I can’t have missed out on all my resolutions for another year!”

Jacob grimaces, looking over the paper. “Well, I mean, you deserve some credit for putting all of this together,” he says. “Wow, you really catalogued every single race last year within a fifty-mile radius of here.”

Claire shakes her head. “You know what my dad’s going to say when I tell him that tonight? ‘Good intentions don’t mean anything without great follow through!’”

Claire fell to the ground, overtaken by shame as she stared at the lofty goals a less tired, more rage-fueled and intoxicated Claire wrote almost exactly 365 days before. 

Every year, at exactly midnight on New Year’s, the Olvido family held a zoom meeting where they each announced the progress they made with their resolutions and declared their new ones. Every year, Claire sat there and listened to each of her family members go on and on about their achievements and accolades while she tried to spin her mediocrity into something presentable. This was followed by a long lecture by her parents on how the way someone follows through on set goals says a lot about their character. It didn’t help that last year her brother, Carlos, got to proudly show everyone his med school acceptance letter for his dream college. All she had to show that year was a slightly lower weight, mainly from a rough December with few commissions. This year she didn’t even have that.

Tilly took the paper from her and looked over it again. She began reading the goals, “Eat healthier, talk with a big-time client about commissions, run in a race, get a boyfriend?” She looked up at Claire and grimaced. “You, uh, kind of missed the boat for most of these.”

“You think I don’t know that?!” Claire exclaimed.

Tilly just shrugged and handed it back to her. “Well, no shame in it. Jacob’s right, you put a lot of work into this, which is more than I did.”

“You don’t do resolutions,” Jacob reminded her.

“Exactly! They’re way too much stress with too little payoff. My aunt Patty’s been saying she’ll stop eating chocolate for years, and guess who always brings the triple chocolate brownies to parties and clears the plate all on her own?”

“You guys just don’t get it, I…I can’t be the failure, not again.” She groaned and laid down on the floor. “This was going to be the year I get on that call and finally have something to say that’s actually decent.”

Jacob sat down next to her, patting her on the shoulder. “It’s going to be okay, we’re here for you,” he says with a soft smile. “Remember, that’s what this party is for. You’re going to face that call, get off, and then the three of us are going to have a great night forgetting it ever happened.”

“…wait, you’re right!” Claire exclaimed, bolting up. “I have you guys! Quick, what time is it?”

“Uh, 7:30?” Tilly said, glancing at her phone.

Claire nodded, panic filling her head with what was likely terrible decisions. “Okay, sixteen and a half hours until the zoom call…”

“Claire?” Jacob said.

Claire snapped her fingers and pointed to her friends. “We can still do this! Tilly, when’s the last race on that chart?”

“Um, today actually,” Tilly says. “It’s the downtown End-of-Year half-marathon, but—”


“Claire,” Tilly warned, “It starts at 8, there’s no way you can make that!”

“Not to mention you aren’t signed up for it and you haven’t trained for so much as a 5K,” Jacob added. 

Claire ignored them, throwing off her painting smock to reveal the t-shirt and sweatpants she slept in. She ran to her bathroom and tied her hair into a messy ponytail, ignoring the paint stuck in her hair as she thought up the fastest paths to the race. “Don’t care, I need to get these done,” she says as she snatches her worn-out tennis shoes. She clutched her hands together in a pleading motion, tired eyes wide as she looked to her friends. “Listen, please, I have to get these done! I don’t really know how, but I know there’s got to be some way we can pull this off!”

Jacob softened; her dark brown puppy eyes always quick to persuade him. He gave a long sign, and simply asked, “What did you have in mind?”

“There!” Claire shouted, pointing Jacob towards the starting line of the race at exactly 7:58. He pulled his car into the lot. The second he parked, Claire threw open the passenger door and ran towards the table by the starting line. 

The lady at the desk screamed as Claire slammed her hands down, panting frantically. “How much to get into this race?” She asked.

The lady leaned back a bit farther. “Um, $20, but you needed to sign up online, ma’am.”

An announcer came on, stating that the race would begin shortly and all racers should meet at the starting point.  Claire grimaced, pulling out her walled and throwing down her card. “$20, $50, take whatever you need to get me in this thing now! It’s an emergency!”

Jacob finally caught up to Claire and gently pulled her away from the desk. He smiled at the lady. “So sorry about her, she’s very…enthusiastic about races. I know this is short notice, but is it possible for you to squeeze two more people in?”

“Two?” Claire asked.

“Yes, two,” Jacob said. He leaned down and whispered, “you don’t know what you’re doing out there. Someone’s got to be there to drag you through the finish line.”

Claire glared, angry at him for being entirely correct. “Fine, two,” she said to the lady.

The lady at the desk just nodded and swiped her card. “Would you like a commemorative t-shirt?” she asked.

“Of course!” Claire said. She snatched the t-shirt from the desk and ran for the starting line. A moment later, Jacob joined her, both of their number pins in hand.

“Are you sure about this?” he asked as he pinned his number to his chest.

Claire nodded. “A half-marathon is what, five miles?”

“Thirteen,” Jacob said. Claire had only half a second to process that before a horn blared and the race swarmed around her.

“How…far…are we?” Claire huffed as she half-jogged along the path, the other racers long gone.

“We’re roughly at the three-mile marker,” Jacob said, jogging slowly beside her. 

Clare glared up at him, not a bead of sweat on his forehead. All those times he asked if she wanted to go for a jog with him or go to the gym went through her mind. He smiled encouragingly at her. Somehow, her friend managing look good and not like a dying animal on this run only made her feel as she wheezed through the trail. 

She pulled out her phone and began scrolling through social media as a distraction.

Jacob frowned. “That’s not a good idea,” he said. “You really need to pay attention to the trail.”

Claire waved him off, her eyes focused as she scrolled through post after post. So-and-so had a baby. So-and-so got married. So-and-so was at this very race and finished already. Her brother had a girlfriend he was spending the holiday with. He was spending the holiday in his girlfriend’s parents’ mansion.

Claire was in a zone, swiping and swiping through her phone and ignoring the pain in her legs as anger fueled her. She picked up the pace, returning to a jog to try speeding up her race time to hopefully be out of it by lunch time. Jacob said something she missed. Not a moment later, she came crashing to the ground as pain shot up her leg.

“Ow!” She screamed, looking down at her ankle, twisted up by a large root. She winced as Jacob picked her up, inspecting the limb.

“Yikes,” he mumbled.  Immediately, he turned and ran in the opposite direction. Claire looked up at him. “Uh, the finish is that way,” she said, pointing the direction of the race.

“And the quickest way to the medics is this way,” he said. “Come on, Claire, you’re not finishing this with a twisted ankle.”

She gawked at him. “I’ve come so far though!”

“Yes, nearly a fourth of the race is very impressive. Now come on, you need medical attention.”

“I need to finish the race!”

Jacob looked down and smiled. “Technically,” he said, “your resolution was to ‘run’ the race, which you did, and got the t-shirt to prove it!” 

“…Fair enough. Onward, then, I have a boyfriend to find and groceries to buy!”

Tilly was out trying to get contacts together by the time Jacob and Claire were back at her apartment. Her foot was thankfully alright, only needing a tight wrap around it. A few Advils later, Claire felt good to go. Once in the apartment, she marched up to her cabinets and started looking for something, anything that could be classified as “healthy” food.

Jacob joined her, frowning as he searched for something other than instant noodles. “Claire…”

“Okay, so maybe I’ve been living off of soups, noodles, and those free muffins you bring from the coffee shop,” she admitted. “We still have time to stock this fridge with healthy veggies and have it picture perfect for the call!”

“You know, technically you don’t need to do this one,” Jacob said. “I mean, running that race is already ahead of what do most years.” Her glare shot right through him. He pursed his lips and shook his keys. “Alright, I’ll go see what I can find at the store.”

“Thanks,” Claire chimes, waving as he walks out the door.

She pulled out her phone and re-downloaded an old dating app to try working on her final resolution: securing a boyfriend. She had briefly considered asking Jacob to be a stand-in but knew her family would never buy that the nice coffee shop owner she’s known for years would actually give her the time of day, so random men online it was. She swiped, and matched, and texted in a frenzy, trying to procure a lunch or dinner date. Anything but a New Years celebration party she knew she would be trapped in. Hours went by, men coming and going in her feed, none of whom had the time for a short date where she could ask them to meet her parents over zoom for an hour or so at exactly midnight. She knew this would be difficult, but she didn’t think this many people would already have plans for today.

Claire groaned, angrily making herself a cup of noodles to calm down. She looked at her paintings across the room, letting the swirls of colors and depictions of nature temporarily take her away from everything. As she stared at a portrait she was working on, an idea formed. She dashed to her computer and began scouring the internet for images of guys roughly her age, none too overly handsome. She had once been commissioned to paint a portrait of a couple in a location neither had been to at the same time, so she had to photoshop the two together for her reference picture. Hopefully, she can forge a good enough stand in for tonight, a boyfriend her parents only need to hear about once before a “tragic breakup” tomorrow.

When Tilly walked in, she saw a madwoman crouched over a computer on the floor, mumbling to herself about pixel coloration as she sculpted the perfect forgery of a happy romance. “Uh, Claire,” she mumbled.

Claire turned her head back sharply, as though she were an alley cat startled from behind. Beside her friend was another woman. She wore a nice suit and carried a leather briefcase. Tilly introduced the woman as her boss, the CEO of one of the largest law firms in the area. The woman stepped up and smiled. “So, you’re Clarice Olvido. It’s a pleasure to meet the artist Tilly here has been raving about.”

“Oh, hello,” Claire said, jumping to her feet. She nervously ran a hand over her hair to try to tame some of the frizz. “Welcome, miss…”

“Mrs. Fielding,” the woman said. She extended her hand towards Claire. When Claire raised her hand to meet her, two things simultaneously occurred: Mrs. Fielding saw what Claire was currently working on, and Claire realized she had heard that name before. Fielding, the name of the model who posed for the picture she was currently manipulating to make look like he was giving her a tight hug by a waterfall.

Mrs. Fielding’s eyes widened. She pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows as Claire tried, and failed, to subtly move in her line of sight and block out the image. “Um,” Claire said, “So are you here to request a commission?”

“Yes, but not for my son if that was your interest,” Mrs. Fielding says.

“Of course, of course,” Claire said. She briefly considered explaining the situation but realized no amount of explanation or groveling will repair the moment. Instead, she stood there as the woman went into a lecture about how tired she was of women falling for her son’s images, how so many creepy girls have stalked him onto their property and harassed him on the internet. With each word, Tilly shriveled back while Claire just stared head on, well trained in the art of receiving lengthy lectures. By the time the woman finally left, Claire’s face was broken into a pleasant, plastered grin.

“…Claire?” Tilly asked.  “Are you okay?”

Claire took a deep breath in, walked to her bed, picked up a pillow, and let out a full voice scream she was positive her neighbors would complain about. When she was done, she dropped the pillow and fell to her knees, the crushing weight of defeat only worsened when the chime of the clock gave away the time. 10:00, two hours until her fate would be sealed.

Jacob came back into the apartment just as Claire began to cry. Tears fell from her face as she punched the floor, not even flinching when her lower neighbor shouted at her to keep it down. “Why,” she sobbed, “why couldn’t I just get it together once? Why am I always just the screw up?”

Jacob dropped the groceries and rushed to her side. Tilly joined him, and the two sat on the ground with Claire as she sobbed. “You know,” Jacob says, “I still think you did pretty good.”

“Yeah,” Tilly said. “You talked with a big client, ran a race, and look,” she ran to the abandoned bags and pulled a head of broccoli out, “we still have time to eat healthy!”

“Exactly,” Jacob says. “So what if it didn’t turn out the way we wanted, we still got most of your list done in a way.”

Claire sniffles, wiping her face off. She looked up at her friends, the loyal people who stood by her throughout this crazy day. The same friends who supported her no matter what, who only came over here today to make sure she had a Happy New Year for the first time in years. The people who have been with her throughout this wonderful, unproductive year of living her life in this crummy apartment. As Jacob grabbed some cans of tomato juice from the bags, Claire smiled and took one. “I think you guys are right,” she said, opening the can.

“That you won the year on technicalities?” Tilly asked.

“No,” Claire said. “That resolutions are pointless.” She chugs down the entire can of juice before tossing it into the trash bin and walking towards the door. “Now come on, lets go get the ingredients for some triple chocolate brownies!”

January 06, 2023 00:17

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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