A lesson to learn

Written in response to: Begin or end your story with “Well, that was dramatic.”... view prompt


Fiction Friendship

"Well, that was dramatic."

As quickly as the encouraging applause started, as quickly it died down again. I could hear an inaudible gasp going through the room. Eyes looking at me, then looking at her and straight back to me. Waiting for my reaction. And all I was able to do was stare at her, and that's exactly what I did.

The truth of the matter is, it was rather dramatic. I tripped over a wire. That wire is there ever since we moved into this office. And since that day we meant to tuck it away. It doesn't just look unprofessional, it's a health hazard, as I clearly demonstrated just now. And I did it in style. I was holding a takeaway coffee. I threw it in the air while I tripped, made a pirouette in an effort to look cool and managed to catch the cup. My body was still in fall mode. So I tried to make a fancy dance move out of it and managed to drop myself safely into an empty office chair. Talk about being smooth. I held up my half empty coffee cup and people started clapping. Until she said something.

Coffee was dripping from my hands while I watched her walk towards the customer service desk. She stepped over the wire, a bit dramatically I may add, and proceeded with her job, which was delivering parcels. Some employees walked over to me. Asked if I was okay and offering me tissues to dry my hands and my cup. Our intern John said he would go outside and get me a new coffee. That wasn't necessary, but he was gone before I could even say something. 

“I will call the delivery company and tell them this delivery woman is no longer welcome here.” That was Denzel, my personal assistant, and judging from the tone in his voice, he meant business. 

“What? No! Why would you do that?” 

“Maybe you’re right.” he sounded pensive, but still agitated. “These companies have dozens of deliver guys, and with that attitude I doubt she will work there for long.” I followed his gaze and saw how she left our office again. Making an exaggerated step over the wire again. Why were people so angry with her? I wanted to get up and walk after her. Why I don’t know, but I wanted to say something to her. Apologize maybe, I’m not really sure. But I never found out. Amber stood in front of me, waving some papers.

“I hope you’re okay. And if you are, you may want to look at this. But if not, I just put it on your desk for later. Wait, I’m such a fool. I will put it on your desk. Sorry.” 

“No wait, Amber.” I tried to grab her by her arm but missed. She stopped anyway, turned to me and smiled a friendly smile. “Just, just give them to me. I’ll have a look at it.” 

“I hope you like it.” she beamed. I took the papers from her and looked at the title. ‘Cereals against Capitalism’ it said. It was probably one of these essays she was trying to impress me with. She’s a good writer, very funny as well. It’s just that her stories on animals were so much stronger than political orientated topics. And that was okay with me, that’s why I still had her work here. But she wanted to show another side of her. Like every other day. 

I got up from the chair, told everyone I was okay and that they could all go back to work, and walked to my office and closed the door behind me. I rarely did that. Briefly I wondered what kind of signal that would send to the employees, but I quickly shook that off. I sat down and started to read Amber’s essay. My mind wasn’t paying attention and drifted off. 

Sure, I was head of the office, but I rarely felt that way. I didn’t like hierarchies, it wasn’t necessary either. The interim could have just as a good idea as someone who has been writing for me for years. And it felt like an open work space where everyone was equal to each other. I always made sure that everyone was feeling comfortable. Give someone some extra attention when they were going through a rough time. Encourage people when a writer’s block had come knocking at their door. I wasn’t more than they were, even though the company carried my name. I thought they knew. 

They wanted to cheer me on when I dramatically tripped over that wire. Like I was one of them. And yet, everyone was on their toes when that delivery woman came in and made a snarky comment in my direction. How someone dared to speak to me like that. Well, why shouldn’t she? It was a dramatic move on my behalf. From the tone Denzel spoke, he even wanted to get her fired. For what? And John rushed out to get me a new coffee. Why? It was like everyone wanted to do something. If it just was offering me a paper towel. Actually, with the commotion that occurred, I’m actually surprised no one offered me to get my clothes to the dry cleaners. 

And then Amber. Trying to impress me on a daily basis with political satire. I hired her for her funny and heartwarming stories she could write about animals. It’s not our core business, but I love these stories and often use them. She knows that. And yet, she waned to impress me. And she was apologetic when she offered me this, as if she was intruding. Amber, love, you weren’t. But like everyone else, she treated me as if something terrible had just happened. 

I would have laughed at the delivery woman, if the mood in the office hadn’t changed. What she must have thought. Like I’m some tyrant. That everyone has to act the way it pleases me, and only me. To suck up to the boss. No one needs to suck up to me. I don’t want people kissing my ass all day. But is it that what they do? Why? Am I doing something wrong? 

I asked Denzel to come in. Am I a tyrant? He told me I’m not. People love working for me. I’m a cool boss. Funny, social, involved. But why walk on eggshells? He claimed that they don’t, but after I pushed him a little he confessed. People do love working here, and they just don’t want to lose their job. So they’re doing everything to please me. Well, that explained why I never get any criticism. I could tell he’s confused when I let him go back to work. Hell, I am confused myself. I tried to remember what uniform the woman was wearing, and called that company. 

“No, due to privacy reasons we can’t tell you who we send. Did they do anything wrong, then we tell them off.” 

“Oh my god, please don’t! Everything is fine! I want to thank her personally, that’s all.” I didn’t want to get her in trouble. 

“Which company did you say you were from?” I heard a little hesitation in the operator’s voice and I realized that, if played clever, I would get my way. I told him the name of my company again. Asked if he could ask her to come to my office, after her shift of course. And that I would want to thank her in person. And if she didn’t want to come, well, that was fine as well. But at least I tried. 

“I… I can ask her, sure. And who can she ask for?”

“Kevin.” My first name would have to do. My last name isn’t important. But the operator knew exactly who I was now. 

“Wow, it’s an honor talking to you. I… I will let her know. Thank you for calling, and we hope our services are living up to your expectations.”  

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I thought, a little annoyed by yet another suck up. “No complaints.” I said instead and tried to speak with a smile. I ended the call and all I needed to do now was wait. 

It was towards the end of the day, though I could never tell when the day really ended. I always practiced that the fewer people in the office, the closer it is towards the end of the day. I was usually the last to go home anyway. Denzel was still there, as were Amber and John. I was having the last of my pizza when I heard a voice in our office say confidently and clear: 

“I’m looking for Kevin. Is he in?”

I quickly cleaned my mouth with a napkin and took a large sip of water. Denzel said that he would look if I was available, and I heard him getting up. I left my office and walked into the open workspace. All three of my employees looked at me, almost apologetic. And there she was, the parcel delivery woman from earlier today. She still wore her uniform, she went straight from work to my office. She didn’t show any emotion, and looked at me when I entered the space, tilting her head. 

“Are you Kevin?” 

The tension in the room was rising. I could see John looking at Amber and inaudible say: ‘doesn’t she know who he is?’ to her. Denzel however, being my personal assistant after all, took initiative and turned towards the delivery woman. 

“Can I help you? I need to know the purpose of your visit, or else I need to ask you to leave.” 

So harsh. But he was just doing his job. The woman wasn’t impressed. 

“My boss told me to come back because Kevin wanted to say something to me. Trust me, I’d rather be at home right now. It’s been a long day and I really like to take a shower. Or maybe a bath, I think I deserve that. But my boss insisted I’d go here first.”

Four pairs of eyes were now staring at me. Three of them more questioning than the eyes of the delivery woman. Though I could see that she was wondering why she was here as well. 

“And thank you for coming.” So, here she was. And I had no idea what exactly I wanted to say to her. Well done. But I instantly liked her attitude. And so I asked her a spontaneous question. 

“Do you like writing?”

Amber’s mouth fell open, and she looked from the woman to me and back and forth again. Denzel, who was still standing between me and the woman, raised his eyebrows. John said out loud what everyone was thinking. 


The woman looked startled as well. 

“Sir, I drive packages.” 

“I know, I know.” I said. “And please, no sir, just call me Kevin. May I introduce you to part of my team? Amber and John, who is an intern, are two of my best writers, and this guy is my assistant, Denzel. Maybe come into my office and I can explain myself. And you guys, it’s late, call it a day alright?” 

I instantly regretted saying this. I meant well, I really wanted these three to go home and enjoy the evening. But I instantly realized that this must sound incredibly creepy and not just towards the delivery woman. She quite rightfully gave me an aversive look. And I liked that. She wasn’t afraid to show me an attitude. In fact, she was exactly what I needed. I wanted her in my team. But I now had gone from tyrant to creep. Not a good move. 

“Wow, right. Uhm, may I offer you something to drink, miss…?” Denzel came to my rescue. That’s exactly why I hired him. We were friends from all the way back from school, he always had my back then. And he still had today. 

“Coffee would be nice, unless your boss wanted to offer me something a bit stronger.” 

Now I raised an eyebrow. Why would I do that? Oh, right… Denzel gave me a look saying that if I wanted to he would take care of the situation right now. That probably meant he’d make her leave. Amber and John didn’t make any signs of going home, though I could tell they were clearly confused. I had to take control of the situation again. As if I ever had it in the first place. 

“Make that two coffee please, Denzel. And please follow me.” I walked towards the delivery woman and showed her to the sofa we had in the corner of the work space. It was a place to relax, a place to talk. I’ve spent many hours there listening to problems people might have. I also spent many hours laughing with the people I work with. Work with, I didn’t see them as people working for me. To my relief she walked with me to the sofa. We waited until Denzel brought us the coffee. He gave me a concerned look but I just nodded at him that everything was okay. Not sure if he believed me, but he left us be. 

“I have to apologize for this rather unusual introduction.” I said. She took the cup of coffee in her hands. She realized it was till hot, but held it in her hands. I wasn’t sure if she was, but at least she looked a bit more relaxed. 

“Like I said, I deliver parcels. I’ve seen and been through worse, trust me.” 

I smiled. “What’s bad about this place?” 

“You really want to know?” She took a sip of the coffee. I was pretty sure she would list a million things she didn’t like. But she didn’t. “Why?” 

“It’s always good to get an outsider’s opinion.” 

“Sir. I mean, Kevin,” Was that a faint smile on her face? “Like I said, I deliver parcels, I’m not a company councelor.” 

“I know.” I took a deep breath. “Okay, this may sound creepy.” 

“Creepier than this whole thing already is?” 

“I’m sure you’ll let me know.” I tried to smile confidently and hoped that it didn’t come out the wrong way. To my relief, she faintly smiled back. I told her about how the mood changed in the office earlier today after she made that remark. How the employees overreacted. That it made me think. That I probably came across like some kind of dictator who has their followers applaud and approve every single move they made. And that I came to realize that no one ever critized me indeed. That I needed that. 

“You’re one of the most influential people in this city.” So she did know who I was. “What is there to critize? I’m pretty sure people love working here and I’m sure you’re good to your people as well. People don’t want to lose their job. For me it’s different. I don’t want to lose my job per se, I need an income. The city is expensive. But I tell off my boss if he deserves it, I don’t have that much to lose. But that’s also why I drive the better part of town.” 

“Exactly my point! Your boss appreciates it! I could use someone like you in my team. So again, do you write?” 

“Wait, you want to offer me a job?”

“Yes.” I heard John choke on his water he just drank from his water bottle. Of course they were all trying to listen in to what we were talking about. I looked at him and shook my head. He quickly pretended to work intensively again. 

“Dude! I mean, Kevin. You know nothing about me. Not even my name.” 

“But are you interested?” 

She sat back and looked pensively into her cup. She was really thinking about it, that was something. “Well, I write short political science fiction stories, that nobody have ever read.” 

“I’d love to read them.” I meant it. Political satire is our main business, science fiction is my favourite spare time genre. “And if they’re good I will offer you a position in my company.” 

“I’m no George Orwell or Kim Stanley Robinson.” 

“That’s up for me to decide.” I smiled. I reached into the pocket of my jacket and got my business card out and gave it to her. She accepted and run it a few times through her fingers. She asked for a piece of paper and a pen. She quickly wrote something down, folded the paper and got up from the sofa. I followed her example. 

“Well, Kevin. I will go through my stories and pick some to send to you by email.” She handed me the piece of paper and made her way to leave the office. 

“Wait!” I shouted when almost left the work space. “I still don’t know your name. How will I know the stories…” She pointed from across the room to my hands. She wished Amber, John and Denzel a nice evening and left. 

I sat down and folded open the piece of paper. ‘I’m no George Orwell of Kim Stanley Robinson’ it said. Then I smiled. She left a clue. I knew it, Kim would fit in here perfectly. 

December 09, 2021 11:37

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