Friday, February 6, 2009

[Fiction] Friday: Blackest Black

This week's challenge from Write Anything's Fiction Friday prompt:
"Write about a Valentine’s Day without mentioning these words: Valentine’s Day, Cupid, love, roses, hearts, flowers, February."

It’s all black. My mood, the music in my ears, the vibe I’m emanating as I walk down the street to pick up my coffee. This morning everyone gives me a wide berth. It feels good.

The coffee is black – long and black. And that’s how this day feels, stretching out before me.

I’m oscillating between pretending it’s a day like any other day, ignoring the blokes carrying naff presents they would never normally be seen dead with or going in hard from the denial angle – which in my mind, as I scald myself on the coffee – is a completely different perspective.

“Someone die?” pipes up a voice from the sea of cubicle as I step out of the elevator alone. Late again. Immediately I regret taking my earphones out and unhappy that I need my last sick day this month to go to a concert next weekend.
“Not yet! But if you keep up with the daft questions you can go straight to the head of the line.” It sounds like I’m talking to myself because I don’t address the reply to anyone in particular
“Touchy touchy.”

There’s a murmur, that breaks behind me like a wake but I pay no attention. Black was a bad choice this morning. I wanted to be impassive but my shade of black is brooding and volatile. It makes it look to others like I care, when I promised I wouldn’t let this day get to me. To react is to be complicit and I want to distance myself from all of this consumerist crap and false sentiment.

I stride faster than usual down the walkway that divides accounting from stock control. There’s a proliferation of twee balloons floating above some desks and a floral scent laces the air, competing with the usual mix of foul aftershave, overpowering perfumes, coffee and someone’s runners.

My desk is just as I left it yesterday. And I start to breathe again. A neat, but small pile of papers in my tray, the out tray is cleared. A half melted blue candle sits to the side of monitor and I can see where I’ve traced the runes in my own spit on the screen to keep my computer humming. Slumping into my seat I feel as though my morning ritual is somehow wrong today. I don’t want to manifest abundance today, just a rock to slide under and wait until the date flicks over to the 15th.

There’s a squeal of delight somewhere in the sea of desks and I jam the earphones back into my ear sockets, turning on the computer and watching the flickering screen.


I wonder if grey would have been a better colour – or beige. Nothing happens when you think beige. I’d bore myself into a stupor and fall asleep at my terminal.

As I’m opening the top drawer a too familiar face appears at the top of divider. A face with acne so bad I gave up eating pizza after I started work here.

“So?” Even though the Rolling Stones “Painted Black” is scorching my ears I know what he’s saying. He’s got the eager anticipation of a puppy and I visualise sinking my high heeled foot into him and listening to him yelp. He motions for me to take out my earphones and for a minute I pretend, like I do every morning, to not understand what he’s asking me to do.

“So?” he repeats for my benefit when I finally relent and take the music buffer away.
“So what?”
“Graeme I’m busy.”
“You haven’t even typed your password in.”

My fingers fly over the keyboard to rectify the situation.
“As I said I’m busy.”

He hangs over the top of the four foot temporary wall and stares at me. A large, angry pimple stands to attention on his chin looking as though it’s aiming to blow in my direction. I cringe back, trying to work out the possible trajectory of the pus.
“Aren’t you going to reach in and get your morning Mars Bar from your top drawer?”

That’s where I had been heading when his appearance interrupted the smooth execution of my arriving at work routine. At present, reaching back in puts me in the cross hairs of the pimple. I’m not sure what repulses me more; the pimple or the fact that Graeme knows exactly what I do when I arrive at work.

“Graeme you’re creepy. Don’t you have something else to do other than spy on me?”
“You haven’t said what day it is yet?” There’s an unusual tone in his voice – it’s a pitch higher than normal.
“It’s Thursday Graeme,” and I take a deep breathe and try to ooze every ounce of bitchiness into what comes next, “– and no I can’t go bowling with you tonight. Just like last week and every other week for the past year.”

Part of me wishes that Graeme would make a proper pass at me so I could report him for sexual harassment to our line manager. As it is, sheer aggravation isn’t enough to warrant being sacked here – even though I dream it is! Sandra sitting across the walkway from me smothers a giggle behind a well manicured hand and I scowl at her.

“No … today is special.” It’s a statement that makes my blood go cold. So much for hoping Graeme’s radar missed the media build up and the marketing campaigns.
“Oh, you’re not going to ask me to go bowling with you?”
“Uh huh.”
“Well that does make it special,” but my voice is frigid.

Graeme’s face breaks into a lopsided grin, putting more pressure on the pimple than I’m comfortable with.
“See you later.” He winks, adjusts his shirt collar and saunters off. I swear he’s deluded and thinks he’s God’s gift to women.

As I reach into my drawer I feel an envelope sitting on the last two Mars Bars. My stomach goes cold. I knew it was too good to be true. It’s low key, it can be hidden. I'm talking myself through it as though I’m disarming a bomb. I keep the envelope low, under the desk and ease my finger into the hole at the side. A sudden unusual hush descends over Floor Five. I tear open the envelope as quietly as possible.

I slip out the card – hand made, from a Rice Bubbles pack. Go the expense! I read the front and feel a tremble go through my body. I fight it, try to suppress what is about to erupt from me. And when I’ve lost the battle and can’t hold it in any longer, an insane peal of laughter tears out of my mouth and rips through Floor Five.

My eyes pool with tears. I look down again, knowing that it will be worth the possible blow back to me of putting it up on the notice board in the tea room. Graeme will keep away from me once I’ve humiliated him, then I remind myself that he wrote the card. All kudos for embarrassment go direct to Graeme and his …

“Be my Ballantyne”


lissa said...

I like the everyday feel of this piece, it sort of reminds me how easy a job can get mundane but at least you/main character gets a laugh from Graeme, adding some delight to the day

~willow~ said...

Oh, you describe the situation of an unwanted office admirer just a bit *too* well, I was cringing along with your MC at the emergence - and continued presence - of Graeme!

btw - how long did it take you to churn out this piece? There's so much in there, I would probably have had to slave over it for a while, plus edits, to get what you produced! Well done!

Annie Evett said...

Oh - how uncomfortable, how awful - for both of them. great pace all the way through, read naturally.

JulMarSol said...

Aaargh, I was feeling Graeme's presence as it it was my workstation. Aw, a not-so-secret admirer! How cute!