“Does anyone know the totals?” my team manager, Geoff, asked in a gravelly tone as he looked around the room.
He was a not-quite middle-aged-man with a beyond middle-aged mindset. He had salt and pepper short hair and kempt beard and he also either had his mid-life crisis at 15 or never at all.
The average sized gray and brown conference room was quiet except for the hum of the projector. That’s how old-school this place was; we had a freakin’ projector. And getting Geoff to upgrade anything beyond the early 2000’s took an act of congress.
But the only thing on his mind right then was getting someone to incorrectly answer, so he could rant about it and show himself off. His dark brown eyes cast around the table, daring someone to guess a number.
Those were the moments managers like Geoff lived for; someone making a mistake in the open so he could call them out and show why he was the manager. In case we forgot.
Normally, I kept quiet during the meetings-especially after that one time I suggested making sales meetings quarterly instead of bi-monthly and Geoff acted like I had suggested to sacrifice his first-born child for a coven ritual. Apparently, I practically asked for the death of the company by thinking that sales quotas being processed quarterly didn’t need every other week check-ins.
Most people stayed quiet to get meetings done as fast as possible and to not get Geoff-call outs. He dragged them on and did it just to embarrass people. So, most of us fiddled idly on our company laptops, shuffled file papers around, or did some kind of minor grooming, like adjusting our name badges.
My name badge reads Rebecca Blue. I have sandy blonde bobbed hair that I kept pulled back via a white hairband. It went with everything, could be professional or party, and generally looked put together without a lot of effort. My makeup was also simple and clean to be able to be amped up by a shade of lipstick, if needed. My blue eyes really spoke for themselves anyway, in my opinion.
And today, I lifted those eyes to look Geoff squarely in his as my chin rose and my shoulders pulled back, puffing my chest out before I spoke.
“41,531. Well, technically it’s 41,530.5778, but I rounded up for simplicity.” I replied.
Geoff’s and the other meeting attendees looked at me with mouths agape.
Geoff started stammering a bit “Wha, but how did you, when did you”
“I just looked at the previous documents’ totals and added them to today’s; they get attached every week” I interrupted with a shrug.
Geoff looked gob-smacked and was speechless; a first for him, let me tell you.
Every single week Geoff sent us the sale totals with completed reports from accounting for us to access. Normally, we all just ignore them because it’s not like Geoff lets us do anything with the reports; he’s the only one capable of handling the reports. According to himself.
I was busying writing a note on my laptop when I felt eyes still on me. I looked up over the monitor edge and saw all four people across still staring at me. This encouraged me to glance around to see everyone was still staring at me; including Geoff at the head of the table by the screen.
“What?” I asked, genuinely confused.
“How did YOU do that math?” Thomas, the guy who used to be a star athlete in school, asked.
Thomas was tall and broad shouldered. He still worked out (I knew because every time I asked what he did over the weekend, he always responded with ‘worked-out’). He was so handsome with his god-like jawline, chocolate-ganache eyes, to die-for cologne, and perfectly quaffed brown hair. It looked softer than marshmallow fluff; like he didn’t use any product at all. But it always stayed in place and it didn’t frizz or go flat on rainy or humid days. It was always perfectly poofy.
I frequently thought about asking Thomas to let me touch his hair, but always decided against it because...well, because honestly that just sounded weird. He’s not a dog that can just be casually pet. I’d even practiced in the mirror a few times to see if I could phrase it in a cooler way; but there’s just no non-creepy way to ask to touch someone’s hair. You have to already be in a relationship with someone to comfortably ask them something like that.
But right now, Thomas’ curiosity was front and center as everyone leaned in a little closer to me, probably unconscious to them but obvious to me, awaiting my answer.
“I added” I replied simply.
Yeah, but, you did it so fast!” Thomas acknowledged.
“I already had it done” I said nervously.
I looked side to side, hoping to see the others understanding. But they all looked as blind-sided as Geoff. It made me shift uncomfortably in my seat; I mean, it was just basic addition. I’d even used a calculator for peach’s sake!
“But...how did you know I was even going to ask?” Geoff spoke at last, his voice a notable couple octaves higher than normal.
“Because that’s what you always do” I said and then explained the proceedings of every meeting and in the order that Geoff presented and asked things.
“You pay that much attention to all of that?!” Geoff, Thomas, and a few others asked at the same time.
I’m pretty sure people haven’t looked this astonished since the rising of Christ.
“We all do...” I say tentatively and looked around. “Don’t we?”
The heads all shook ‘no’ but only Thomas commented “We all just let the meetings happen and then get back to our desks”
The other heads nodded.
“Well, I mean, I thought we were supposed to pay attention to that stuff and look at the reports Geoff sends and apply it” I’m really nervous now. I didn’t realize having prepared math was going to make me the ultimate and isolated nerd.
“But you got the number right! A big number that you were exactly right about! I-I never had anyone be right before! People have guessed kinda close, but that was exact, exact! I-I have no words!” Geoff blurted.
“Could have fooled me” I said out loud without meaning to; I quickly clasp my hand to my mouth.
But instead of distancing, a chuckle echos in the room; even Geoff looked a bit amused.
Thomas leans in even more, his hand under his chin and gives a smirky-smile and suggestive eyes as he says “I never knew you were so smart and observant, Rebecca. That’s uh...really...” and he winked at me.
An ‘oooooh’ went through the room.
“All right, all right, order in the conference room” Geoff said, slapping his hand to the table, I presume, like a gavel.
We all looked over to him.
“Rebecca. Since you apparently poured over the reports; tell me which client had the highest sale orders” Geoff’s snootiness returned with a flourish.
His arms were crossed and he was looking right at me with his eyes bugged out.
Everyone else was looking at me with baited breath.
“Trenton” I answered. I didn’t mean to sound timid; I knew that was correct.
Not only because Geoff literally highlights the sales of each client but he always puts the biggest sales first and the smallest sales last. But having everyone in unison swing their heads at me and then to Geoff made me uneasy and maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut.
Geoff’s arms and mouth fell.
“She was right?” another woman from the media department whose name I could never remember asked.
Geoff nodded quickly and put his palm to his chin. He looked like he was racking his brain for something.
“And Thomas had the highest completed sales from any client” I add.
Geoff looked at me like he was impressed and scared.
Thomas looked impressed with me and himself.
“How do you KNOW?!” Geoff asked again, in fear-laced amusement and a hint of anger.
“I just told you! Because you always ask and present in the same way in every one of these meetings. And I’ve been to each one.” I said “You present the sales quotas in an email at the end of each sale meeting too”
A silence filled the room and it caused a heavy tension to set in too. It almost made the room Claustrophobic.
All of a sudden, a slow clap echoed in the room and made me jump. I wildly looked around first at Thomas but then up the table to see its Geoff. He’s applauding...me? I blinked at him.
Then Thomas and a couple more people start clapping and soon the room erupts in applause. I sigh, proud and embarrassed at the same time as I look around at everyone clapping and smiling. Thomas threw in a whistle that made me blush. Then I started thanking everyone.
After the applause dies down, Geoff looks at me and says “We need to talk in my office about a promotion. We need someone who pays that kind of attention to do more than reviews” he says. “And with that needed to get done sooner than later, meeting adjourned. Have a good rest of your day everyone”
Everyone gave a little cheer at the meeting ending early. They each gave me some form of praise like “Way to go” and “Never knew you had in you” as they pass me.
When Thomas gets around the table to pass me, he stops and slides a sticky note to me with a delicious smile and a wink. I blush and wave as he leaves. I look at the sticky note and my breath, heart, and probably brain waves all stop. It’s a phone number and the words ‘Dinner Friday Night?’ are written on it.
I felt a light blush color my cheeks. A dinner date this Friday with Thomas?! I-I couldn’t believe it! My mind started swimming with excited worry. What would I wear? I didn’t go out very often and so most of my nicer clothes I wore to work. He’d seen me in all of that! And my other outfits were not typical date worthy much less Thomas date worthy. And my hair! If I did something different, would it look like I was trying too hard or show that he was special? What would I order? I remembered reading advice that one should never choose the most expensive nor the cheapest menu items. What if we weren’t going to dinner as the date? Thomas was so cool that he probably found dinner-and-movie dates too cliché and overdone. He was into workouts...what if his idea of a fun date was like some couples’ workout class? I would fall over; I only did occasional yoga classes! No, Thomas was too classic for that. Wait...he said ‘dinner’ date, didn’t he? So, I was back to what would I order?
Then I had an idea strike! I could text him to respond ‘yes’ (of course) and then find out where we were going and look at the menu ahead of time.
Fast-forward to the date.
We went to a fancy Italian bistro (told you he was a classic, classy guy) that had small chandelier lighting and maroon and black colors. Our booth was black leather with a maroon table cloth and a three-piece artificial candle set in the center. There was a water carafe with two water glasses and more forks than should be allowed for one meal.
I left my hair as usual and my outfit was a black and white rose-pattern dress. I’d only worn it to the office once a while ago and it was nice enough to be nice but not overdone. I causally pretended to peruse the menu and after only a few moments, decided what I wanted and reported that to Thomas.
He looked so, so handsome. He had on a perfect dark-green button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows that made his eye color stand out. He wore black jeans that really showed his tightened...assets. His hair was perfect as always and his cologne was stronger than usual. And that made it more intoxicating than usual. Usually, Thomas had a five o’clock shadow when we left work, but he was perfectly shaven now.
After I told him I knew what I was ordering, he put his menu down and put his elbows flat on the table.
“Wow.” he said. “You’re just...incredible”
“I am? Well, thank you. Although, I don’t think I’m the first girl to order three-cheese alfredo” I said with a light giggle.
He laughed a bit too but then said “No, not that. I mean, usually girls just order a salad without looking at the menu or they take nine-years to decide. You’re just so.... I don’t know how to phrase it. You just know what you want and go for it. I like that. I hope I don’t sound too full of myself, but I know what I want and like to go for it too.”
“Yeah, I like that about you too” I said, dreamily looking at him. He’d moved in closer and his cologne scent was driving me wild.
“I’m glad to hear it” Thomas said, his voice becoming husky.
We looked at each other for a full second before we both practically jumped out of our sides of the booth and were pulling each other in over the table, making the stuff on it shake a bit. We kissed madly, deeply, passionately. He was so soft and warm. And he was making these deep manly half-growl/half moans that made my heart beat faster.
We pulled back begrudgingly to breathe but he kept planting little kisses on my lips between breaths.
“Oh, Rebecca” Thomas said breathily. “Put your hands in my hair, Rebecca!”
“Ohh, yes!” I said, swallowing air. And I finally had my moment to put my hands into Thomas’ hair! I finally got to actually feel that velvet fleece of chocolate-colored perfection!
“Rebecca” Thomas said.
My hands pushed off from his chest and I wanted to savor this feeling, so I intentionally forced myself to slow down as my hands neared his hair.
“Rebecca” he repeated. “Rebecca!” but it was louder and angrier.
I gasped so loudly it was more like a yelp. I blinked several times and looked around, puzzled by where I was. The bistro was gone.
I was back in the grey and brown conference room with everyone, including Thomas, looking at me like I was crazy. A not-so muffled chuckle echoed around me.
My breathing was heavy and looked confused around the room.
“Rah-Beck-Uh!” a voice said firmly again.
I shook my head to clear it and looked towards the voice and saw it was coming from Geoff.
He wasn’t pleased; he was annoyed to point of anger. He feigned a smile “Thank you for coming back to join us, Rebecca”
Another sneer-like chuckle swept the room; even Thomas was laughing at me, covering his mouth with the back of his hand, elbow on the conference table. He was looking side-ways at me.
I looked back to Geoff.
“Can you answer the question now, Rebecca?” Geoff asked, somewhat between his teeth.
I licked my now dry lips and felt panic arrest my body and senses. ‘C-can you repeat it?” I asked desperately, my voice higher than I preferred.
“Sure, Rebecca. I can repeat the question. For the third time.” Geoff said, that fake smile with eyes of fire boring into me. “What are the total sales of your department for this month?”
I swallowed and my eyes quickly darted to my laptop but the screen was black-it had gone to sleep. I didn’t have any papers or files with me. I had no choice.
I side-way glanced to Geoff and sucked my lips in as I shook my head.
“I didn’t think so. Let’s talk about what we can do about all the spacing out you’ve been doing lately in my office after the meeting” Geoff said and then went back into talking about sales numbers and improvement data, changing slides on the projector.
I had a feeling I was about to have a lot of time to day-dream about dates between job searches.