I actually had this written for a competition but in my usual nerve wrecked fashion, I missed the deadline.
Sooo.. enjoy. I had a load of fun writing this.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
There was something green stuck to his teeth and all we had had was coffee that tasted like mud and toasts that scratched my throat so I think it was safe to say there was no reason to have that there.
I knew I was smiling as he talked while he chewed and drank. My eyes stayed glued to his mouth, taking note of every morsel of food that sloshed around in there. He snarfed it down ,reminding me of someone who had been lost in the desert without food or water but I suppose it was just really bad table manners.
Like a dream, I watched a speck of wet toast fly out of his mouth in slow motion with a smooth curve that would make any projectile proud and land on the back of my hand than I had on the table. I lifted a paper napkin and wiped it off and put my hand on my legs.
It was either that or my fist meeting his face.
My mouth stretched even wider in that smile. I only knew I was smiling because my jaw hurt as I forced my mouth closed in order to hold on to my politeness and not throw up.
“Would you look at that! My!”.
My voice was above its usual octave as I tried to rein in my anger.
“It's so late. I can't believe I lost track of time”.
He stands up the same time I do, forgoing the unused napkins on the table and cleaning his hands on his grey—and questionable— slacks.
“Oh I didn't realise I was keeping you —”
“It's no problem at all. I just got so engaged in whatever it is you were talking about”.
He must have been either stupid or too self involved because he didn't notice my thinly veiled sarcasm as he walked ahead of me, chuckling.
“I can't help myself. I'm just glad you had a good time”.
The door of the cafe creaked obscenely. The patrons paid us no mind— I suspected I was the only stranger in the room.
I found myself able to breathe again out in the open air, away from bad coffee and worse decor — the lime green and biege checkered prints on everything from the tables to the walls would surely leave me more than a little traumatised for some time.
I got into my car and offered another tight smile, my jaw was at it's full capacity this time.
“Thank you for the coffee”.
“I hope I'll see you another time ” he grinned. The green was still there in his teeth now slightly darkened by the mud drink, a few crumbs of toast had stuck to his goatee, all magnified by the fact he had his head in the window of my car and I winced, my back pressed to the door. He looked almost hopeful to kiss me.
It would have been funny if I wasn't completely irritated.
I was already peeling off the sidewalk and gunning my engines like there was no tomorrow. Plus my lunch break was over and I had to be back at the office.
Blue skies and warm sun did nothing to brighten my mood. I was late and the little tyrant I worked for was sure to hand my ass out to me.
But the parking lot didn't hold any of his cars. I hurried up the elevator to the fourth floor. As I stepped out, I was greeted with the familiar buzz of the office. Basically we were about thirty people shoved into a cramped space segmented by tiny cubicles that made it difficult to stretch or even breathe due to the cluster. Behind all of this was the ice box. A big glass box that served as my bosses office and held two air conditioning systems while the cubicles shared one. My boss was an asshole.
The space was sweltering so much, it made the sun outside seem cooler.
I walked briskly to my cubicle, no one paid me any mind. My tiny desk was neatly clustered, the only free space decorated by a shiny sticker that promised “Hang in there! You're one step away from dying!”. Maybe you or anyone else wouldn't get that but boy was it inspirational.
Some of the mud drink had got on my sleeve. I cursed inwardly, folding it to my elbow.
I logged into my computer just as the phone on my desk rings.
“Mack And Nicks dairy, how may I help you?”.
“Miss Pearson ”.
My head ached in an instant. It was the tyrant.
“In my office. Now” He spat then dropped the call.
Minus the obvious reason we called it the ice box, it just seemed like some crazy ass torture chamber and it wasn't an empty exaggeration. Imagine being in such a cold room after leaving one with a hotter as intensity then sitting on a metal chair that was so uncomfortable you would rather stand while some jerk—wad watched you with piercing hawk eyes from other side of a table that would look at home in a boardroom instead of a simple office. It reminded me of being called into the principals office in third grade for pouring glue in my class mate's hair.
He just sat there watching me. I was sweating inside my shirt. A drop rolled down my pits to my abdomen. I swallowed and tried to appear comfortable but I was sure I was looking more constipated.
And then he smiled— or showed me his teeth, I'm not sure. But this must definitely be what being in front of a predator felt like.
For the record, I was so nervous and focused on the middle of his forehead to avoid looking in straight in in eye, I didn't see him gesture to the file I had in front of me when he asked:
“So what do you think”.
“Nice dentition sir. Really sparkles”.
His lips curved in irritation, right side of his mustache and brow raising at the same time. Large hands pointed to the desk.
“The file, you bimbo. Read the damn file”.
Were black people supposed to be called bimbos or it applies to anyone now? Not that I was going to ask him anyway.
I felt the colour of embarrassment spread from my belly to my neck and the sweat pump even faster. I quickly pick it up and glance through it. My heart rate began to settle.
“I don't —”
He sighed like he was dealing with an over bearing child “I would have preferred not to but regrettably, your organisation skills are the best we've got in this department so you're going to have to work with my assistant in setting up the centennial celebration”.
He picks up his phone.
Just like that. It's not like I had a life or anything right?
I took that as being dismissed and walked out of the box. The crazy heat was a welcome reprieve.
Everyone had been waiting for me to burst into tears and the whole floor was deadly quiet, only disturbed by the whirring of printers. Someone coughed.
As I walked back to my cubicle, the chatter continued. I caught some of them look at me with a little disappointment; they had nothing to gossip about for the week.
You might be lost at this point so let me explain.
Mack And Nicks dairy are a diary products company — obviously.
They make every from dried milk to cheese to butter and yoghurt. Basically anything to do with milk.
The whole point of the Centennial thingamajiggy was to have a big party where a whole bunch of the company's old and new products would be displayed to celebrate the company's hundred year existence —not a fun moment for people who are lactose intolerant to be honest— and this year some genius in the PR department decided creating a gigantic fondue fountain; nice to look at and something to eat.
I'm just one of the many employees under the company working like tiny little bees in the hive although one would call it a nazi boot camp with the way the tyrant runs it.
Okay maybe I'm being a little too dramatic but I'm telling you, that man needs to be put in the psyche ward.
By now you're wondering what this whole thing is about . Hold on, you'll find out soon enough.
So I had to work overtime —figures— which meant late nights and having to see mister tyrants assistant, the very much equally unlikeable Tony Marriati (I know, he sounds like some old mobster but he wishes he had a bit of their spine).
Now mister Marriati, was the head to toe definition of a sycophant.Outside work, he was still an ass but when with our boss, he was way worse. Not that the tyrant cared anyway. The guy was harder than rock. Nothing impressed him.
Where was I? Oh yes! Overtime! Which meant having to deal with mad traffic and dealing with the urge to get a gun when road rage kicked in. It was beyond tough and I was glad this was the last night before the stupid Centennial celebration.
I had just stepped into my apartment.
The smell of stale cigarette assaulted my nose and I frowned knowing very well who had been smoking in there even after I said I didn't quite appreciate it.
I shared a dinky hole in a wall with my sister. She was alright, kept the place clean once in a while and I loved her company when I didn't want to kill her.
I opened the only window we had and stuck my head out, taking in a deep breath of the city : fried food, fog and homeless people. Just another regular evening.
The night was alight with fire trucks and police sirens. Someone broke a window a floor below mine, the glass shattered like twinkling stars as it dropped to the curb. Two girls screamed expletives considering the glass almost touched them and I heard a door slam, footsteps heavy on the weak structure such that I could almost feel the vibrations.
I gave this building a year and it would come crashing down or be torn down and have some other questionable structure built in its place. Landlords were such cheapskates.
My phone rang just as I put my head back inside.
As I answered, a sharp static sound killed a few of my ear cells before it finally managed to turn almost stable and my sisters voice practically destroyed what was left.
“Katie! Tell me you're home!”
Of course she was drunk and needed help for something.
“Nope, I'm out.
Her snickers were loud over the phone.
”Yeah right! With a ghost?“.
Fair point, I didn't have a social life but now, I definitely was not going to help her out.
”I'm out“ I repeat ”call an uber“.
I ended the call before she could get another word in.
I took of my shoes, grimacing at the mark on my ankle and trying to decide if I should just shower or get in the tub that was probably infected with more than enough bacteria from the many unnamed tenants that had passed through the apartment. Shower, definitely.
I was on the last button of my shirt when my beeps with a message.
”Don't forget the keys“.
Tony freaking Marriati.
Sadly, luckily, there was little to no traffic as I made my way back.
I just pulled into the property when I received a text from him.
I'm sure I looked hilarious in capri pants, the chiffon top I had worn to work and washed out sneakers. Not like I gave a damn anyway. It was cold out and I hurried into the factory.
Some of the machines were turned on, grating metal sounds filled the space, the heat from a giant barrel of hot cheese made me uncomfortable.
A chill climbed up my spine like a curling snake would a tree. It was too dark, too noisy. I took a step ready to go back out just as a hand closed over my mouth, and he whispered to me.
”Hey Katie, long time no see“.
Maybe I didn't quite get the voice but the smell of onion rings and a familiar mud drink was not going to disappear from my sense of smell anytime soon. He shoved me inside and flicks on a switch that brightens t he room.
His goatee was appeared more black than its natural brown and was speckled with food, the same dirty looking slacks paired with a ugly yellow button down shirt. Under his pits were dried sweat stains plus fresh ones.
I resisted the urge to gag considering he held a really big knife in his hand .
The way he laughed told me I'd fucked up before he told me himself.
”It's Henry. Bet you didn't bother remembering that little detail since you've been ignoring me! “.
My heart was in my mouth and I was a step away from having Henry's type of pits. I smiled.
”It was one lunch date—“
”All these women who think they're better than me“ he chuckled ”I took you out to lunch and pay and what I get is the boot?! Not even a goodbye kiss! Wasting my time and stringing me along—“
My brain was telling me to shut up but the demon in me was faster to come out .
”It was one miserly date with really bad coffee. Get over yourself“.
He didn't appreciate that as Henry lunged at me with the knife. Me and my big mouth.
My shirt was drenched as I ran farther into the factory and climbed up some railings. I actually realise it wasn't a very genius decision when I felt his grip on my leg. I kicked out in fear and rage.
”Let go of me you fucking loser!“.
Neither of us expected what happened next.
The railings gave way with a loud creak that rang out even over the din of the noisy factory.
I watched his eyes widen in horror just as I was sure mine had just as he fell into a bubbling barrel of hot cheese. I stared. There was no amount of cringing that could make it bearable to watch a grown man scream hysterically a he sank into boiling cheese.
Of course I didn't tell anyone. Tony freaking Marriati hadn't texted. Henry had.
Right now, I'm standing by the fondue fountain, watching everyone eat with vigour while I'm struggling to not throw up.
Someone walks up to me ”aren't you going to have some? It's really nice“.
I feel my head shake but it doesn't feel like mine ”I'm lactose intolerant“.
I hear someone ask ”what's that? There's something floating in there“.
But me, I'm as cool as a cucumber.