Every day, at five on the dot, Ann and Kenneth rise from their desk and finish their work day. They have spouses to consider and children who need to be fed before bed. I usually linger on in the office the three of us share, enjoying the solitude and silence their absence brings. It also allows me the opportunity, every time I hear Amanda’s footsteps clatter on the hallway floor outside, to imagine she’ll walk in and say, “At last, they’ve gone,” before hurling herself at me.
But Amanda is straight and she’s my boss. I can pretend to play tennis all I want, she’ll never be interested in me that way. It doesn’t stop me from dreaming.
“You’re on your own, Jo,” Kenneth says and closes the door of our office behind him.
“Leave it open,” I yell behind him—just like every night—but he lets it bang shut with the most annoying thud possible.
I push myself out of my chair but my toes catch behind the foot of my desk. My hip crashes into it, sending a half-empty coffee cup to the floor, its tepid contents spilling over my sweater.
“Fuck,” I scream at no one but myself. I quickly grab a tissue from the box on Ann’s desk and try to stop the stain from soaking all the way into the delicate fabric of my sweater. It doesn’t help so I dash out of the office to the break room, which is closer than the wash room. I hoist my sweater over my head before yanking a tea towel off its hook and dousing it in water.
Engrossed in removing the stain from my sweater, I don’t hear the footsteps approach from behind.
“Is it casual Friday already?” Amanda’s voice beams.
Thank god I’m wearing a tank top, I think as I turn around. To my surprise, Amanda’s eyes appear glued to my arms. Countless upper cuts and hooks a week haven’t missed their effect.
“I didn’t finish my lunch,” she mumbles, completely out of character.
While she hides behind the refrigerator door, I stifle a chuckle. Instead of cursing Kenneth and his stupid game of slamming the door shut every night, I secretly thank him for landing me in this situation.
When Amanda re-emerges she has put herself together again. “You must have quite a serve with biceps like that.”
This time, I’m the one nearly blushing. “I get by.”
“What happened?” She nods in the direction of my sweater.
“Office clumsiness.” Flustered, I hold my palms up, dropping the tea towel to the floor. It really isn’t my day.
She scoots closer and crouches down to pick it up. As she hands it back to me, the tips of our fingers lightly touch. She redirects her attention to my sweater.
“You may want to use some vinegar on that when you get home.” I hadn’t pegged her for someone with detailed knowledge on removing stains. “Doug is terribly clumsy. It seems all I do is run after him and clean up his mess.”
The mention of her husband’s name zaps me back into reality. I doubt Amanda is the sort of woman who does a lot of running around for her husband—the mysterious Doug whose name gets dropped occasionally, but who never shows up for office parties or other work-related social events. I want to quiz her about him, but the circumstances don’t strike me as ideal. It’s also none of my business.
“Thanks for the tip.” I smile and glance at my sweater, which I fear might now be ruined.
“Here’s another one,” she says as she heads for the door. “You should wear short sleeves more often.”
I have to keep my jaw from dropping. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear she was flirting.
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