The only empty spot in the parking lot was at the far end, underneath of a shaggy scrub tree, from which juicy berries dropped. It was here that Laura was forced to reluctantly park, aware of the certain purple splatters to greet her at the end of the work day. Trudging inside, she dropped her lunch off in the break room fridge. It was filled to the point of bursting with brown paper bags, soda pops, and colorful mesh bags filled with leftovers and sandwiches. Clearly, it was a Wednesday, the only day that the entire office staff was required to come into the office.
Suddenly, there were so many unfamiliar faces with mouths that wanted to talk. The mouths of these unfamiliar faces talked about the week, their work, family, friends and events. They knew about her family and even asked about her dog. She saw the expectation in their faces continually replaced with disappointment. Over what, she couldn’t be certain.
“I don’t know you and I’m not going to pretend like I do,” she calmly explained when a fat woman in a billowy denim dress asked about her Labor Day as she shoved her lunch bag into the fridge.
The woman’s fat mouth fell open in shock.
Strange reaction for a stranger, Laura mused and shrugged her shoulders.
A man with a headset met her as she left the break room, “Hi Laura, how did things turn out with the Johnson’s?”
Laura looked at him with disdain at his lack of formality for someone he had never met before. An introduction might be nice, she snickered to herself. That’s just how these people are, I must remember that.
“I assume the Johnsons are friends of yours?”
The man looked puzzled, “No, they’re your clients. I referred them to you last week. Remember, they were the pack a day smokers who need the smoke alarms?”
“I have no such memory of that because it clearly did not happen.”
She had no time for such gossip. She bustled past the man, leaving him to question his reality. He felt certain that they just laughed about the irony of the situation on Friday.
Laura wandered around the office, avoiding eye contact with her co-workers. She was searching for something which was part of the reason she came into the office. What was the reason? Remembering that might help to find whatever it is I’m looking for, she thought in frustration. What was it? she berated herself and started to lose her breathe.
Calm down, just think. Think. Think.
Taking a deep breath, she walked down a row of cubicles.
I suppose this will do, she thought as she stepped into an empty cubicle with neatly stacked piles of paperwork. It looks clean enough but what about all of these papers. What a mess.
Scooping the piles into one armful, she dragged a trash can to the edge of the desk. With a fierce swipe, she pushed the entire pile into the trash with a swoosh.
“Hey, Laura. What are you doing over there?” a young girl with a long pony tail, pretty enough to get a better job, asked her with concern. “Those look like Jane’s annual client reviews that you just threw away.”
Laura narrowed her eyes, how did all of these people know her name. They seemed friendly and well-intending, but how was one to really know. She knew for a fact there are work place scams taking place every day, she saw it on the news. Or maybe she read about it? In any case, this could definitely be some kind of a information gathering conspiracy with all of the questions and watching.
“Mind your own business, Ms. Ponytail,” she retorted.
She sat down with her purse on her lap. She stared straight ahead, feeling unsettled and sensing that something had happened. Something was different, of that she was certain. It was not with her, of that she was also certain. The world had somehow changed.
It’s so hot in here, she thought and wiped the sweat from her forehead. I can barely breathe, she gasped.
She blinked and black stars started to appear, one by one. She blinked again, hard this time, as though to force the stars and specks out of her vision. Yet, they remained, winking and blinking in and out of her mind’s eye like a meteor shower in the night’s sky.