For several minutes, the only sounds in the apartment came from the television, the two watchers frozen in silence as the scene played over and over with occasional commentary by the anchor. When one anchor mentioned the time, Ella was snapped out of her trance.
“I’m late. I have to go.”
“Wait-” Tanner was certain he had just missed an entire conversation. “What?”
“I have to go.” Ella looked at her coffee, at Tanner, then back to the TV and said, “I have to go to work.”
“What? Ella-” Tanner began to protest, but she was already walking back to her room. “They said not to go out!”
“They said not to go out if you could help it,” she countered.
“You can help it!”
“You call my boss and tell her that!”
“She can survive without a receptionist because no one should be coming in as a client!”
Ella returned with slacks on and a toothbrush sticking out of her mouth, which she was awkwardly attempting to argue around. “First, I’m not a receptionist, I’m a personal assistant and that means I don’t own my life. And second, I don’t care what the news says, my boss pays my rent, so unless the world is actually ending, I have to go.”
“How are you even going to get there?”
She looked around a moment, as if the answer to that question was secretly hiding somewhere in her third-story, single bedroom apartment, before finally hazarding on, “…bus?”
Tanner pointed wildly at the television. “There are no buses, Ella! Everyone else is probably doing what they’re supposed to be doing and staying inside!”
“Then I’ll walk,” she said, returning to the bathroom to spit the toothpaste out. “Wait, don’t you have a car?”
“It’s in the shop-” as if he would have let her take it anyway. “Just tell her to turn on the news, for god-sake!”
“No, you don’t understand! I have to be there or- or…” she came back into the living room, buttoning up her shirt as she floundered for a moment, trying to come up with a suitably horrific sounding consequence to her absence. She finally settled on, “I’d have to be sick or dead, and preferably the latter, before I miss a day.”
“Ella!” He grabbed her shoulders and turned her back square with the TV to remind her of exactly what it was she was supposed to be avoiding by not going out. “Stop having whatever kind of mental breakdown you’re having right now and be reasonable. No one is going out in that. No one.”
To Ella, not going about her day like normal was a far worse fate, because it meant there was something that was so far outside of her control that it disrupted her entire life; not just social, not just work, not just home: her entire life.
Tanner took her silence as a good sign. “Do you want me to stay with you?”
Ella nodded as she crumpled onto the couch in defeat. “I could have stayed in bed.”
Tanner smirked, not that it sounded like a bad idea, but it would probably have been a bad idea to suggest it. The thought was quickly pushed aside, however, as he looked back at the TV and wondered, if the world was about to end, what note would he want to go out on?