“Love is in the air at work. Ryan develops a crush on his boss and she finds him fun to talk to. Will things go as smoothly as Ryan hopes them to be, or will they turn into a big mess?”
This story is part of the Claire Romantic Series.
It was not a good day that day. Everyone was gone (or so I thought at the time). I was accompanied by the sound of heavy rain outside while being gazed by the 14-inch computer screen in front of me. I had become sick of that screen, sick of that cubicle that I had learnt to treat as my second home; the “sacred” cubicle of mine that I had come to spend most of my time at in the last three years. I had become sick of my job, sick of getting up at 6.00am in the morning and went to bed at 10.30pm.
I hated seeing everyone going to the pantry to make coffee in the morning so that they wouldn’t fall asleep while they worked their ass off for the hope of a little raise or promotion. I hated my job, and at the time, there was not a single thing that I liked very fondly of that little building.
Finally I turned off that computer and started stretching up; as if that would make me feel any different. I listened to the dull sound of the rain coming from outside for a few moments. It was already dark outside by then. Almost 8pm the earliest. And that was when I thought I saw a flicker of light, somewhere, far across the office. I got up, tracing the light where I saw it. I saw it move a little, and then gone. I was at the other department on that floor when I saw another light, a brief tiny orange light this time, coming from the same place as before. It was from the direction of the Vice President’s room. My nose quickly caught the smell of cigarette smoke when I (had no business) stepped through the open door and into the room.
I realized it at once; what I saw was just someone lighting a cigarette. But of course it didn’t come to me immediately that someone else was inside that room, in that bare darkness. If I did, I wouldn’t have been as surprised as the other person with a cigarette in her hand was.
I quickly apologized, clarifying why I was there. Should mind my own business, I supposed.
“It’s okay,” that person said in a calm voice. The Vice President. I at least knew the voice.
“Why didn’t you switch on the light?” I asked out loud before I could stop myself.
I thought I saw the person (presumably) smile, while flicking her cigarette over what I believed was an ashtray.
“I like it like this… sometimes. You smoke?” the person asked me, still in a calm voice, pointing a pack of cigarettes to my direction. I was about to say no when she said, “Come on, have a seat.”
I took my seat. And smoked my first cigarette of the year. I didn’t really smoke, but that night was different; it was an invitation.
She was Claire Scott. She had been occupying that glass room as the Vice President of Marketing and Sales for as long as I worked there. We never really talked. Actually, we never talked to each other before. I only knew her, saw her, from afar. But that evening, we talked. We talked casually. And we laughed lightly.
We talked, and I watched her puffing the clouds of smoke, barely seen in the dark, trying myself not to cough, thinking that the day might turn out alright after all. We talked, about things other than work, about her favorite movies, my favorite football team. We talked, until the cigarettes ran out and the rain stopped outside.
“Do you feel like having a cup off coffee right now?” she asked me. At that moment I thought about how I had stopped drinking coffee because the sight of everyone with a cup of coffee in their hands, on their desks, in the morning, had become something I really loathed.
“Sure,” I said.
She stood up, pushing her chair back. But I quickly stopped her. “I’ll make one for you,” I said.
She drew a smile. “Classic Brew,” she said. “A couple of blocks away. It’s just opened.” She was talking about the new coffee shop a couple of blocks away from our building.
And so we rode the elevator down to the ground floor, and afterward walked side by side along the wet pavement, in that wet and cold evening, to Classic Brew.
The evening seemed long, and sweet. Because when we arrived at Classic Brew and had our coffee’s, we were talking like old friends. She laughed her lungs out at my stupid jokes. And I listened to her stories about a little girl who dreamt to be everything she saw on TV as a child (dancer, sprinter, swimmer,…) but became none of those when she grew up.
“Is she someone I know?” I asked her. She smiled to my question. “Nope,” she said, firmly yet friendly, shaking her head.
She was beautiful, I had noticed that long ago. I just never noticed how beautiful she really was, until we reached Classic Brew and sat down, and I saw her face much clearer in front of me with all the lights in the coffee shop.
And she was pleasant. She was everything that I never thought she was before.
The Claire Scott that I imagined was more bold, hard to approach; a snob. I was surprised when she offered me the cigarette earlier. And even more surprised when I realized she was walking with me shoulder by shoulder, together, to that coffee shop. And even as I sat there with her in that coffee shop, watching her laughing and smiling, I was still in disbelief that I was the other part of this conversation. Her, and then Me.
It was near eleven when we walked back to the office. The road had become more quite and the pavement had become less slippery. We said our goodbye’s in front of our office building after getting our things upstairs.
“So see you in the office tomorrow,” she said.
I looked at her and nodded. “Yeah,” I said, giving her a smile. She nodded too.
“Ryan. Right?” she asked. I laughed. “Right,” I said. She was referring to my name.
“Ryan from Sales department,” she said, nodding to herself. I chuckled. “That’s me,” I said.
We stood in front of each other for a bit longer. It was like a first date. It was funny because I found myself not wanting it to end just yet.
“So I guess I see you tomorrow then,” she said finally.
“Yeah,” I said, nodding again. “See you tomorrow,” I added, as if closing the night for both of us.
We parted ways. Her, to her shiny black metallic sedan (even in the night I could see that much), while I to my old minivan that I bought from my dad. On my way home, I thought of how the evening had turned out for me. And I was smiling all the way home.
* * * * * *
The next day I woke up earlier than 6.30am. I woke up and sat for a few good moments in my bed replaying everything that had happened the previous night. Then I went to shower and dressed for work, feeling like there was something different I went to work for that day. I arrived at the office fairly early too, and unlike always, surprisingly feeling so freshened up.
It was close to nine when I saw Claire Scott walked into the office. A few heads turned and greeted her. I was a few feet away, at the photocopier, when she walked in. Suddenly my heart was beating faster. Suddenly I didn’t know what buttons to press on the photocopy machine. Suddenly I found myself deciding whether to look at her face and see what her reaction would be seeing me again this morning, or to look down to the photocopy machine and act like nothing ever happened.
And I looked down.
When I was quite sure she had entered her glass room, I looked up. She didn’t notice me. The rest of the day, I had series of occasional peeking at the direction of her room, from afar, with no particular reasons. Half of the time she was there inside her room, half of the time she was just nowhere to be found.
I found some part of me wishing we would cross path, and we would exchange some words, or smiles, or laughs, or all of those. When it didn’t happen, I found excuses to stay until past five, like I had to finish my work, or I didn’t have anyone waiting for me at home so staying around finishing my work wouldn’t be such a bad idea. But I knew the real reason I stayed late. I wished Claire Scott would be there, in her room, with the door opened, smoking her cigarette in the dark again. And she would invite me in, and we would talk all night long. And we could probably walk that pavement again, together, only we could probably try the park this time instead of Classic Brew. But it too, didn’t happen.
When the clock showed 7.00pm, I realized I was really alone in that office. Her room was dark, and this time, empty. No one else was on that floor other than me. I finally turned off my computer, took my things, and walked to the elevator less inspired than when I came in the morning.
At home, the night felt like forever. I didn’t understand why Claire Scott had to be in my mind again. I told myself what happened that evening between me and her shouldn’t mean anything. If it should mean something, it should only mean there was someone else, other than me, who was not a zombie working in that office. And I went to sleep.
I woke up much later than 6.30am the next morning. I had spent a few miserable moments trying to force myself to get out of bed. I showered and dressed for work, feeling indifferent. The rest of the day at work was like how it was two days before. It was all the same, indifferent, office routines. I didn’t notice what time Claire Scott arrived in the office, but she was there in her room when I went to use the photocopier in the joint space of my department (Sales and Operations) and Marketing and Communications department. I also realized I had been using that particular photocopy machine a little too much since yesterday morning. Particularly because it was the one with the best view of the Vice President’s room.
If there was something different about that day, it was the one time I went to copy a few (unimportant) papers at that particular photocopy machine. I was there standing next to the machine while waiting for my papers when I saw Claire Scott left her room and walked to my direction. Suddenly I was being clumsy, and my heart started to beat a little faster than usual. I wanted to quickly abandon that photocopier and went for a rescue, to a place where my heart didn’t need to beat as fast. But I had been hoping to at least see her reaction after that night the whole day yesterday, and this was my chance.
So I tried my best to act casual, one hand in my pocket, leaning against the photocopy machine as casual as it could look, and casually looked at her direction where she was looking down to the file she was holding. I was prepared. The moment she came a little bit closer and looked up I was going to smile at her and if she smiled back I would probably say hi, or a little more.
And there she was, coming closer, and closer.
And she looked up.
I swallowed an empty air, waiting for her to look at my direction, while one hand still in my pocket, acting as casual as I could.
And she walked past me.
She walked past me.
She just walked right past me.
Without offering me a glance.
Continued Here: PART 2
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