Short Fiction for Guests of the WordFeeder
Sunday, December 20, 2009
“Hey,” Josh looked up and over his computer, surprised to see the girl he’d been dating standing in front of his desk, his eyes distracted on their way up by the wallpaper picture of the girl of his dreams.
Josh’s desk was one of eight on the third floor where his team worked to keep their cable news service’s website up to date. It was Friday, just after 7 PM, less than an hour before another team would takeover. The day had started light, but political news and several international stories had started to break late and the floor was busier than usual going into the weekend.
There was no leaving early. In fact, they all lived for the sound of people talking to each other and on the phone, the constant motion of staff coming and going, the odd mix of professional business and social interaction that they made their days in the wide open office that was more their home than where they lived. It was a place where people came in early just to hang out, and went out after work with the other staff that had become their friends.
“Hey,” she said back to him, her look serious, the tone of her voice flat.
“What’s that?” he asked about the small gym bag she was holding by its straps in her right hand. “I can’t leave here until 8,” and then he paused, realizing something was different. “What have done to your hair? It’s…”
Her expression was disappointed with more than a hint of disgust. Taking a breath, she plopped her bag on his desk, blowing several loose pages and a newspaper onto the floor which Josh started to pick up, but stopped to hear her explanation, sensing she really wanted him to be paying attention. “I washed out the red stripe and pulled it back. I’m letting it grow out. No more blonde.”
“But I like blonde.”
“You like a lot of things. I’m just not one of them.”
“Here.” Her eyes fixed on his, she reached under the white blouse and v-neck sweater she was wearing, moving her hands and arms like a magician escaping from a straight jacket. “This is the push-up bra,” she said, throwing it at him, “that I’ve been wearing for the past four months to get your attention. It’s uncomfortable as hell,” she wanted him to know, unabashedly using both hands to adjust her breasts through her sweater, rubbing them quickly on their underside crease.
He sat their quietly, still holding the bra he’d caught with both hands. It was clear she wasn’t done.
Pushing the set of metal bookends on the front of his desk, and the paper and hard back references between them, to her left, unable to care less that one end and several of the books had fallen off the edge, she put one hand and then the other on the front edge of his desk for the balance she need to take off her high heels. “These I’ll keep because… because,” slamming them on his desk one at a time, “they were expensive and, who knows, I may need to them for someone who really cares.”
Unbuckling her belt, she unzipped the fake leather mini-skirt she was wearing and let it drop to the floor, leaving her standing there in nothing more than her favorite black, low rise boy legs. Picking up the mini-skirt, she threw that at him too. “Forty dollars. That was the sale price, and I haven’t been able to bend over or sit with my knees apart since I bought them.” From the bag, she pulled out a pair of well worn jeans and slipped into them. She didn’t mean to do it seductively. Being that way just came naturally to her. And then sox which she put on, hopping on one leg, and Reeboks. Her high heels went into the bag which she grabbed by its handles without bothering to zip it up.
“In case you haven’t gotten the point,” she said, loud and clear, with the perfect dramatic pause, “we’re done.”
Josh leaned forward to quiet her. “Could you please keep…”
“What? Some of your friends…” Looking around, she noticed, but couldn’t have cared less that everyone in his group, and from several desks across the open walkway, was hanging on her every word, watching the two of them without moving or saying a word.
Two phones were rang until they stopped. The chubby guy at the corner desk by the file cabinets snapped his cell phone closed, in the middle of a call, without saying a word or taking his eyes off the two of them. “God damn, she’s hot,” he and the other men in the group, Josh included – and one of the women – were thinking to themselves.
Turning back to Josh, “…some of your coworkers don’t know yet what a jerk you are? ‘Breaking News!’ They do now. …No, actually, I stand corrected. I’m the jerk. For the past four months I’ve done everything possible to live up.. to.. ..Mm, what a jerk?” Taking a step forward, she grabbed the screen of his computer and turned it so she could it. What a surprise?! And there she is. Hey. Pay attention, I’m not her. Never will be. Don’t want to be. The fact is, if I didn’t look like her, you never would have asked me out. Hell, you wouldn’t even know I worked here.”
“Unbelievable! …Last night, in the middle of God knows what you thought you were doing, that’s what you called me. …What’s my name? Com’on. What’s my name?!”
“Uh,” he hesitated, worried that it was trick question and wanting to make sure he got it right, “it’s …”
“How puh-thetic. You actually think you’ve been sleeping with her, don’t you?”
“How ‘bout if we talk about his over dinner?”
She paused, wondering if anyone could really be that dumb.
“Josh,” she said with remarkable calm and the flavor of pity evident in her voice, “we’re not going out tonight. Not tonight, not ever again. We’re not even going to be friends. ..But strangely, strangely I almost feel like you did me a favor. To think that it took my wanting to be someone else to figure out what I really am.” One deep breath, and she smiled, not at Josh, but at herself, and she turned and left, walking away toward the elevators.
Not one to give up that easily, Josh rose to his feet, running around his desk and after her. “Jane. Wait up. …Jane!” She stopped and turned, waiting for him to catch up to her. “Look,” he started, a bit breathless and determined not to apologize, knowing it would only annoy her. “Okay, I’m guilty of being shallow. How’s that any different from what you did? I got stuck on the way she looks, and you were just as pathetic in how you responded.”
Sad, but it was true, and the only reason she was still standing there.
“You get to start over. Why can’t I? Why can’t we just start over, me crazy about you for who you are, you being who you are and helping me become…”
“Josh,” she spoke up to stop him from talking. “The thing is, Josh, you’re right. I really am no better than you are. You’re smart,” she reached up, moving the fingers of her right hand through his hair, “good looking.. God, you’re good looking. Only average in bed, but we could work on that, and occasionally funny. Come to think of it, you’re my ‘Avril Lavigne.’” Placing her hand on his chest, “The thing is, Josh, I don’t think I ever really cared.” She smiled and shrugged. “..See yah,” and she turned, letting her hand linger on his chest for just a second as she walked away.
He watched her go for a moment, and then turned, hands in his pants pockets, to walk back to his desk. Steve, the chubby guy from the corner desk, was waiting for him, leaning up against the front edge. Seeing Josh, he smiled, nodding his head up and down slightly, rubbing his thumb and first fingers quickly to make the universal sign of cash.
Rolling his eyes, Josh reached for his wallet, took out and handed his friend a twenty.
“What did I tell you? Call her ‘Avril’ in the heat of luuuuvvv, and that would pretty much do it. …and my mother thought I wasted my degree in Psychology. I mean, was that babe psycho or what?”
Looking Steve in the face, and then looking down to his side, Josh blew him off with an, “I’ve got to get back to work.” Walking around his desk, Josh sat down and swiveled himself into position in front of his keyboard and screen. And there she was staring back at him, always perfect, always the com’on. There she was, the ex-girl of his dreams.
Oh, and by the way, say “Hello” to Jane.
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