a Magazine for Writers
Just Five Minutes
By Kimberly Starrett

"I have to pee," Sarah whispered.

"Now?" Her sister's eyes widened.  "Can't you hold it?"

Sarah shook her head. "Five minutes. I'll just be five minutes."

She left Marjorie in mid-protest and hurried down the narrow hall and into the bathroom. The door clicked shut behind her and she let out a breath.

Alone at last.

The wide bell of her skirt brushed the sink on one side and the toilet on the other as she maneuvered in the closet-like space. Her bladder felt like an over-filled water balloon. As she pulled up her skirt she heard the unmistakable fart of ripping fabric.

"Damn it." Sarah twisted and craned her neck. Her hem was caught in the door. She freed herself, dragged up her skirt and yanked down her pantyhose before sinking down on the toilet seat with a sigh of relief.

"Oh!" Sarah jumped to her feet but already too late. The backs of her legs and her ass-cheeks were already wet.

"Dirtball," Sarah muttered as she scrubbed first herself then the toilet seat with a wad of toilet paper. Her mother's words floated back to her like a refrain from her childhood.

Always cover the seat before you sit. You never know who's been there.

As she sat, more cautiously this time, Sarah glimpsed her face in the cloudy mirror. God, she looked like a shipwreck in white lace and tulle. The wreath of yellow and white daisies in her hair drooped over one eye as if a drunk had done the pinning. She nudged it with cautious fingertips. If she could just shift it back into place … But it refused to budge. Better to leave it alone. She lowered her hand and waited. But nothing happened. Her bladder remained stubbornly clenched.

Sarah ordered her mind off her bladder. Think of something else, anything else.

Through the door she heard the muffled strains of music, unrecognizable though she herself had chosen the songs. Mentally she reviewed the list she'd given to the organist. But although she strained her ears still the melody eluded her.

And still she could not pee.

She pictured Andrew waiting for her, glancing at his watch every few seconds, shifting his shoulders and adjusting his cuffs as if his clothes didn't quite fit and she were somehow to blame. She pictured the line that dug between his brows whenever she kept him waiting. "For God's sake, Sarah," he would say, "you'll be late for your own funeral." And she would laugh. She always laughed to cover up.

On their first date—it seemed like fifty years ago, in another lifetime—he had said, "I love your laugh. You're so beautiful when you laugh."  It was the best compliment she'd ever received, and she'd loved him for it. Thinking of that now made her heart ache just a little. Or more than a little.

He never said things like that now. She tried to remember the last time he had complimented her for any reason and could not.

Someone tapped on the door. "Sarah? Are you alright?"

Sarah heard Marjory's worry. "Fine," she lied. "I just need another minute."

The sound of children drifted in through the slightly open window, their silvery laughter more musical than the Bach sonata coming through the door.

That was it. The music was Bach.

Sarah smiled. Something unlocked inside her. A hot stream splashed into the bowl. She bent forward and rested her forehead on the sink. Relief.

"Sarah?" Marjorie knocked again. "Sarah, is everything okay?"

"Just another minute." The smooth porcelain cooled her burning face. Another knock, this time louder, more insistent. It was Andrew.  She couldn't say how she knew, but she did.

Sarah stood up, her skirt fell in folds around her legs. She stood, silent and still.

"Sarah, what are you doing? Everyone's waiting."

Just as Sarah reached for the knob the door rattled in its frame. Her hand dropped to her side. She turned to the window, took hold of the ancient, wood frame with both hands and shoved upward. A flurry of paint chipsshowered down on her. Just like rice, she thought, and giggled.

Two fingernails snapped down to the quick but she took no notice. The wood groaned and protested before reluctantly inching up.

"Sarah!" The door rattled again.

The diamond in her ring caught the sunlight and shot jags of brilliance into her eyes. She blinked back tears as she yanked the ring from her finger and tossed it into the toilet. Splash. She depressed the handle, heard the ring clink, clink against the bowl.

Sarah turned back to the window. Ignoring everything—Andrew's angry voice, her sister's worried entreaties, the assembled, waiting guests—Sarah stuck her head and shoulders through the window frame and slowly, inch by inch, began her escape.

Ms. Starrett has had a life-long passion for the written word. Though she writes for the stage and screen her first love remains fiction. In 2003, she earned a B.A. in theatre arts from Arcadia University and hopes to earn a graduate degree in the near future. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, a dog and two cats. This is her first publication.  Contact Kimberly.