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29th February
posted by amber

Georgie’s Desk

Georgie’s desk is a monument to order. Every item is in its place. Every item, that is, other than the sticky tape dispenser, a heavy retro behemoth of sturdy painted metal, olive green, with a tear bar that could take your finger off. Where that item once sat is a neon blue toy mouse, poised to run crazily across her desk the minute she reaches for her tape but encounters it instead.

Naturally, this does not happen. Georgie notices the substitution the minute she enters the office. She spies it from across the room. She’s very observant of details, and she’s primed to be vigilant for practical jokes, ever since Collins was hired and was given the desk next to hers. Each day brings a new trial for her.

She strides across the room and sweeps the offending artificial rodent onto the floor. With a mechanical squawk, it scoots under Collins’ desk. Grinning, he picks it up and stuffs it into his pocket.

He doesn’t laugh, but across the room Annabelle and Richard do, ducking down behind their monitors, unwilling to risk her ire by being openly derisive.

“Serves her right, the way she’s been so stuck up all these years,” Annabelle whispers.

“Wait – it’s not over yet. This was just the distraction. He was here when I arrived. He’s set something elaborate up this time.”

Georgie must think so too. She bends over to peer beneath her desk before sitting down. Richard scrunches down in his chair to get a better view of her legs as her skirt rides up.

“Cut that out,” hisses Annabelle. She and Richard are supposed to be an item.

“Can’t help it. My god, those legs! What a waste, to give legs like that to such a frigid witch.”

“Richard! Don’t use the ‘f’ word, it’s mean. You don’t know what her personal life is like.”

He tilts his head sideways and gives her a goofy look. “Get real, Annie.”

She smiles. “You’re right. She is a frigid witch. Anyone with an ounce of emotion would have reacted to Collins’ pranks by now. Scream at him, or report him, or get him back. Something. It’s sad, really.”

“But funny. It’s funny.”

Georgie sits down cautiously, testing her chair before trusting her weight to it. More than once, Collins has primed it to descend like an out-of-control elevator the minute she sits. She scans the desk again, looks up at the ceiling, then unlocks the middle drawer where she keeps her keyboard and important notes.

The explosion brings a small frightened ‘ah!’ from Georgie, the loudest reaction anyone in the office has ever heard from her.

Annabelle screams outright. Even Richard is surprised. Wide-eyed, he mouths, “S**t!”

The explosion is bright and loud, but the flame-coloured gush emerging from the desk isn’t fire, it’s metallic confetti. Her hair festooned with shiny circles and stars, her eyeglasses awry, Georgie staggers back from her desk, looks wildly around the room, then rushes out into the corridor.

After a few futile attempts to sweep the bright litter from her desk, Collins follows her.

“That was pretty brutal,” Annabelle declares.

Richard agrees. “Scared the s**t out of me. But it was funny as hell.”

“Do you know that he asked her out?”comments Wanda, the office gossip and unsurpassed eavesdropper. “Remember when he first came here, they always were talking?”

“He talks to everybody. He’s a friendly guy,” Annabelle says, earning a brief speculative glance from Richard.

“He talked to her more. They both like poetry and power walking. Plus he helped her with a computer upgrade, something to do with organizing her files better.”

“That would appeal to her.”

“Anyway, they were in the photocopier room and he asked her if she wanted to go to a poetry thing with him, I think he called it a ‘slam.’ And she said no. That’s when he began teasing her, playing jokes, acting like a stupid high school kid with a crush.”

“Wow. I never saw it that way.” Richard shakes his head.

“You wouldn’t. You’re a guy – insensitive, unobservant, shallow.”

“Not to mention juvenile,” Wanda adds, causing Richard to fling himself to the floor and suck his thumb.

Collins doesn’t find Georgie in the hallway or the coffee room or the photocopier room. He finds her in the supply closet. She’s crying.

“I’m sorry,” he says, looking amazed and shaken. “I was just trying to break through to you, make you notice me.”

Turning her back to him and pressing her face against a box of white paper, she mutters, “I noticed how immature you’ve been acting. That’s really attractive. That’s really appealing to me.”

He holds out his arms to her, his grin returning uncertainly to his face. “Not even a little bit?”

“No!” she growls, turning toward him and poking a finger into the middle of his chest. “I used to like my job. Now you’re ruined it. Everyone’s lost their respect for me.”

He moves her finger from his chest, but doesn’t let go of it. “They didn’t respect you, Georgie. They just tolerated you. You’re different, you’re better, but they don’t get you. Not a one of them knows you.”

She tugs at her finger, but he won’t release it. Her voice is cold. Swiping at her wet cheeks with her free hand, she says, “And you think you do?”

“Not yet, but I’d like to.”

He tries to pull her toward him, but she plants her feet. “And you think that’s possible after all of this … harassment?”

“You know what they say is the good thing about hitting your head against a wall?”

She gives him a quizzical look. “What?”

“That it feels so good when you stop. I’ll stop the practical jokes if you want me to.”

Looking away, she pronounces haughtily, “Well, I don’t think that’s good enough for me.”

“I can think of one thing that might help,” he says in a low voice, dropping her hand and hunching his shoulders as he stares at the floor.

“What is it and how is it going to help?”

“I’ll show you.” He reaches quickly to seize her hand and pull her toward him, enfolding her in his arms and moving in for the kiss. She resists at first, then melts into his embrace.

Outside the stockroom door, Wanda turns toward Richard and Annabelle, smiling and giving them a thumbs up.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

This story was written with suggestions for a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre supplied by Heather Porrill. I’m practicing for the script I’ll be writing for the 48 Hour Movie Making Challenge in Calgary on March 30. Heather gave me: 1. sticky tape dispenser 2. “How is it going to help?” 3. Romantic comedy. Thanks, Heather!

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