“Thanks a lot, Katya.”
Lana stared at the desk, piled high with large inter office envelopes and paperwork marked “to be filed”. The phone hadn’t stopped ringing since she’d arrived at 7:30, and Katya, the boss’ secretary, was away for a week. It might have been nice if she’d finished up a few things before she left, instead of assuming Lana would pick up the slack. Katya was enigmatic; at times, a racing ball of bubbly energy, at other times, dark, and quiet. Lana had lived in town all her life, like many of the people in the office. Katya was “from somewhere else”, although no one seemed to know where. She and Lana were friendly, but Katya didn’t seem to have many work friends.
“I’ll leave you a list,” she’d said. “And I’ll call to check in, in case you have any questions.”
With a sigh, Lana placed her Dunkin iced latte on the desk, a brown paper napkin at the bottom soaking up the condensation. The file folders on the desk were illegible, labeled and re-labled, names and dates scribbled over and re-marked in black Sharpie.
She did a quick scan of the area, and found that Katya had left a dated note, with instructions. Her handwriting was somewhat teacher-like, everything written in swoopy, enthusiastic curls. At the very end of the note she’d written:
PS: I LEFT YOU SOMETHING IN THE BOTTOM LEFT HAND DRAWER XO KATYA
Lana opened the drawer, and inside was a small red box, tied with a lacy gold bow. She examined the box for a moment, and shook it a little, but it wasn’t giving up its secrets. With a gentle pull, the bow came undone. She placed the ribbon on the desk, and opened the box. Inside, on a thin layer of cotton, was a necklace. It was a pretty blue stone, a mineral of some kind, flecked in gold. It was set in silver, and the charm hung from a black silken cord. It seemed an oddly extravagant gift, just for taking on her work for a week. Underneath the cotton was a small note, typed, in gothic letters, as if on an old fashioned typewriter:
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.
Creepy, she thought, as she examined the note and the necklace. She closed the box, with the note inside, and tied the cord of the necklace around her neck. She looked in the small mirror on the facing wall, that Katya used to check her makeup, and coincidentally, the piece was absolutely perfect with what she’d worn that day. She was fond of blue; Katya might have noticed that. Maybe, MAYBE Lana would forgive her for the mess she’d left.
Taking a deep breath, she sat in the rolling chair, and began to sort the crumbling file folders into piles. The sun outside broke through the thick gray clouds, casting streaks of light across the desk. Overhead, the fluorescent lights flickered, indicating the imminent death of one of the tubes. Even through the omnipresent hum of distant conversations and ringing phones, the high pitched ring of the dying tube was annoying.
“Why doesn’t the light just go OUT already?” She grumbled.
With a loud POP, it did just that, making her jump.
She paused, looked up, shook her head, and kept sorting, making a mental note to talk to maintenance later.
One of the folders she pulled out had a sticky note on it, reading CHECK DOC DATED 6/7, so she opened it. Scanning quickly, one of the documents appeared to be missing two signatures.
Great. Would Karen, their boss, be in yet? She looked at the clock. Probably not, as it was still early, and Karen usually came in late. She was a great boss, though, no reason to complain. Lana set the file on the corner of her desk, and continued to sort.
Her mind wandered back to Katya. It was ridiculously cold outside, even for February. She’d probably be sunning herself in the Bahamas by now. A week in the Bahamas…Lana turned to look at the frost on the very edges of the window that overlooked the parking lot.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a day off, though…”
Suddenly, there was a siren blast that made her jump. The safety lights were flashing all around her, and the sprinklers began to pour overhead. Quickly, she moved the files under the desk, shoving some in one of the drawers to protect them from the deluge. Mort, the security guard, in an obvious panic, swept in shouting “Out! Everybody out!” Lana grabbed her coat, hat, scarf and Dunkin and moved toward the hallway. People from all parts of the building were filing into the hallway, chattering excitedly, and attempting to shield themselves from the sprinklers. She saw Nancy, from HR, and tapped her shoulder.
Nancy turned quickly, pulling her hood over her hair to protect it from the sprinklers.
“I don’t know, honestly. All of a sudden, the alarms went off and the sprinklers came on, and they were yelling at us to leave.” She motioned to the outdoors, where most people seemed to be heading. The sun, now completely out, was blinding, and there was a stiff wind. They pulled their coats around them more tightly, damp from the sprinklers. Two men in gray custodian’s uniforms were in loud conversation. One with a coat embroidered “Manuel” was yelling at the smaller, younger man:
“…the pipes burst like that. I called the 24 hour people, but they can’t get to us until later. They’ll have to close the building. We can’t have workers here with no water.”
Lana looked back at Nancy, who shrugged.
“Guess we’re going home. Union says we can’t work in a building with no water, and if the water’s off, the heat’s probably next.”
Lana looked over at her car, then back to Nancy.
“You’re just leaving?”
“Yup.” She began walking away to the far end of the parking lot. Many people, in fact, seemed to be getting into their cars. Lana shouldered her purse, and headed for her Miata. She checked her watch. It was still early; should she run errands, or just go home, put on her pjs, and watch TV? There’d be more work to do tomorrow, of course, but it wasn’t like it would magically disappear just because of the sprinkler malfunction, or whatever it was. And since this was an unscheduled day off, she’d undoubtedly be paid for the day. She opened the car door and turned on the motor, setting her coffee in the cup holder and blasting the heat. She wished she could have gone for something with heated seats, but it had been too big of an upcharge. Still, it was a decent used car, in spite of the many, many payments still remaining.
“It’d be nice to have a new car, though. One with no payments, and heated seats.”
Her cell phone rang. She didn’t recognize the number, but it was local. Maybe Katya calling from the Bahamas, to check in? She couldn’t have heard about the sprinkler debacle already…she put the phone to her ear.
“Good morning! Is this Ms. Lana Coleman?”
“Yes? Who’s calling?”
“This is Doug, from the Doug and Marla Morning Show! How are you today?”
“Um…hi, good, except that they just closed my office because of some kind of sprinkler malfunction.” A fire truck pulled in, lights flashing, but no sirens.
“A day off work? Sweet! Well, your day is about to get sweeter…are you sitting down?”
“I’m, um, in my car…”
“Well, I’d suggest you pull over, if you’re driving…”
“I’m just sitting here, trying to get warm, actually.”
“Great! So…ready? You entered the Doug and Marla Dollars During Drive Time sweepstakes…and you just won yourself a BRAND NEW JEEP RENEGADE!”
“Yes!” The voice in the phone had a slight echo, as if someone was listening to the radio show in the background. “A Jeep Renegade in sky blue, with satellite radio, heated seats, and heated and cooled cup holders!”
Her hands shook.
“Are you…is this a joke?”
“Not at all, I promise you! Just head down to the station before 5 and bring ID, proof of insurance and a driver’s license, and you can drive this baby off into the sunset!”
“Oh my God! Oh my God! Thank you so much!!”
“You are very welcome, Ms.Coleman!! Looking forward to seeing you later today!”
She let the call go, and looked in the car’s rear view mirror. The charm on the necklace seemed to glitter with gold, in the light.
She changed into pajamas as soon as she got home, but kept the necklace on, because why not? She had to remember to get down to the radio station to pick up her car before 5, but right now she needed to tell someone before she burst. She’d texted her friends, but they were all working, and no one had replied, and she’d run out of people to tell. With a sigh, she picked up the remote and settled on the couch, flipping through channels.
“It’d be nice to have a boyfriend to tell. We could go out and celebrate, afterward…”
There was a knock at the door. She grumbled, set the remote back on the coffee table, and peered through the peephole. A young man in a UPS uniform was standing outside, holding a package. She undid the chain, and unlocked the door, peering out from behind it.
“Hi…can I help you? I don’t think I’m expecting anything…”
He looked up from the package and smiled at her.
“Good morning, miss…is this…2704 Elm?”
“No, that’s two buildings down…the door that still has the Christmas wreath on it.”
He frowned. He was chilly, the tips of his ears red through his wavy brown hair.
“Cold today,” he nodded. He had hazel eyes, with a bright ring of gray around the iris.
“Sure is,” she smiled, wondering why he was studying her, oddly.
He shifted the package under his arm as he stood on the stairs, and tilted his head.
“Did you go to River Junction for High School, by any chance?”
She shook her head.
“No…I went to James. My brother went to River Junction, though, before we moved.”
“Alan…his name was Alan, right? Alan Coleman.”
“I thought you looked familiar! Alan’s little sister Lana! He and I were in band together; I played the sax.”
She attempted to look casual, but it truly was chilly, and she was in pajamas.
“I’m sorry…I know it’s cold, and I’m guessing you have the day off, I don’t usually see a car in your driveway…I go by here all the time, and I know this sounds kind of stalkerish, but I’ve been looking for an excuse to talk to you. Are you…I mean, I hate to be forward, but are you seeing anyone?”
Her mouth opened, but no sound came out.
“I…um, no, but…”
“Did you maybe want to go out sometime? I mean, I totally get it if you don’t, I know this is random, but it doesn’t have to be anything major…we could meet for coffee…maybe even tonight, if you’re not doing anything…” He shrugged.
He held up a hand.
“Say no more. I’m running behind, anyway…”
“…yes. Sure. I have something to do around five, but we could meet at, say, 6? At Roasted, the café on Pine Street?”
He smiled broadly.
“Great! I…I’ll see you there! Coffee’s on me…” He started down the stairs.
“Sounds good, um…your name is…”
“Oh, sorry…” he waved his hands around. “David. Rosen.”
“See you at six, David Rosen.” In my new Jeep…it had been an amazing day, and it wasn’t even noon.
Lana was a little early for coffee, so she grabbed a table not too far from the door, where David would see her, and smiled as she looked out the window at her Jeep. There had been a whirlwind of greetings and promotional pictures at the radio station; she wished she’d chosen the white sweater with her jeans, to look better against the Jeep’s custom blue, instead of the red one she wore.
David walked in the door, and waved with a smile, sitting down beside her at the small tiled table.
“I hope you weren’t waiting long.”
“No, not at all. I just got here, as a matter of fact. I had to stop by WKXR…I won the Jeep in the sweepstakes.”
“That’s yours? The one parked right out there? How awesome is that?” He stood. “I’m going to go grab us some coffee. How do you take yours?”
“Light and sweet. Hazelnut, two sugars.”
“Great! I’ll be right back.” He moved over to the baristas in the rear of the store, and she went back to gazing at her Jeep.
Suddenly, an angry, tiny blond threw the door open and began scanning the tables.
Yikes. More people moved in and out, the place filling up quickly. A scuffle in the back came to her attention; she turned to see the small blonde woman yelling angrily at…David Rosen?
“Which one is she, David? Is she younger than me? Does she have more money? Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”
Lana’s jaw dropped. Should she leave? She hadn’t ordered anything, and they undoubtedly needed the table, with the amount of people coming in. Hastily, she threw on her coat and her scarf, and snuck out the door to get into her new Jeep. It had been astonishing that she’d been able to find a spot, right out front. She paused on the sidewalk, digging in her purse to find the key fob.
A large, black BMW SUV sped past, sideswiping the brand new Jeep. With a screeching wail of metal on metal, it pulled away, immediately pursued by two police cars with lights flashing and sirens screaming.
“Holy shit…” she breathed, still clutching the key fob, her heart pounding.
The car, once shining and beautiful, now had a gaping wound where the driver’s side had been.
Her phone buzzed. Too shocked to screen the call, she numbly pressed the green button and put the phone to her ear.
“Yeah! I was calling to see how it went today at the office. Did you find the box I left for you?”
“Yeah…the necklace?” She touched her hand to it. “Oh, it’s beautiful, I’m wearing it now, thanks so much…”
“You sound weird. Is everything ok? I felt bad about leaving you so much stuff…”
“It’s ok, it’s fine. It’ll…get done.”
“Listen, I just wanted to give you a heads up…about the necklace. That note in the box is no joke.”
“Be careful what you wish for. It’s…tricky. I just…you have to be very precise when you ask. You know, like in the Monkey’s Paw…?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t…”
“You’ll get it, if you haven’t already. But when you’re done with it, you have to pass it on. And keep the note in the box with it. It’s important.”
“So…wait. This necklace…when you wish for things, they come true? Monkey’s paw, so that means they don’t come true in the way you expect?”
“Exactly.” Lana could hear reggae playing loudly in the background, on Katya’s end of the phone. “You’re always saying how you need a little excitement, and I thought the necklace might provide that. You’ve been one of the only people at the office that have been nice to me.” There was a smile in her voice. “Listen, I have to go, crazy roaming charges, but this was important. When you’re wearing the necklace, be very careful what you wish for, and how you wish for it.”
The phone clicked off, and at that moment, Lana noticed a voicemail. The phone hadn’t rung, and there hadn’t been a missed call notification. She clicked on the voicemail, and it was the office. They’d called asking her to come back in, that the water issue had been resolved, and that if she didn’t call back, they’d dock her for the day.
People had come out of the café, pointing at the Jeep and talking excitedly. Lana stood frozen in the middle of the sidewalk, staring at numbly at her car. What had started out as the best day ever had turned into…this. Who could she tell? Who would even believe this? Tears welled in her eyes.
“I wish my mom was alive…”
She clamped her hand over her mouth.
The phone in her hand came to life, and started to ring, and ring…she looked down at the screen. It read UNKNOWN NUMBER…