Saturday, 28 July 2012

Free short story: Extraordinary Possibilities

So, here it is: my first ever short story. I hope that you like it. Please let me know what you think!

Extraordinary Possibilities

I arrive at work before the sun is up, convinced that if I can lock myself in my office for a few days, then everyone will forget. In a day or two there will be some new office gossip, and Rob and I will be yesterday’s news. 
Except there is no Rob and I. I know that other people do it: romances in the workplace, a relationship with the boss, but it doesn’t feel right for me. 
I forgot this last night. 
At the end of the evening, when the lights in the bar came up, I was shocked. I had no idea that so much time had passed. Slowly, as the buzz of conversation and the sour smell of too many bodies invaded my senses, it became clear that we had attracted more than a little attention from our colleagues. Panic prickled my skin: I had to get out of there. 
Rob offered to walk me to a taxi. I refused, knowing that it would only add fuel to the fire, but he followed me out anyway. I didn’t argue; I just wanted to get away. The whispers I could hear in our wake confirmed my fears. The crowd in the bar didn’t even try to hide their interest, and I was certain that the rumour mill was already working overtime.
 I think back to the first time that Rob walked into my office. I hadn’t a clue who he was. All I knew when I looked up from my tired, emotional, groggy funk, was that some sort of god with Disney-hero looks – all muscly arms, perfect teeth, and hair begging to be touched – was standing in front of my desk holding out a hand. 
‘Rob Harris,’ he introduced himself confidently. ‘Your new executive assistant…’ he continued when my blank stare made it clear that I was incapable of speech. Fortunately, I’d been able to blame my lack of composure on the fact that I was only just back from sick leave, rather than being turned into a drooling, dribbling, adolescent mess at the sight of him. And so I settled into a routine of sitting, every day, ten feet away from a man about whom I had sticky, sweaty, Technicolor fantasies every night, but who was strictly off limits.
Another flashback to the bar makes me grimace. The pressure of Rob’s hand on the small of my back as we leave, wishing I could lean back into it, but forcing myself to move away. You weren’t doing anything wrong, I remind myself for the thousandth time. Nothing happened. The whole department was in the bar. It was an innocent after-work drink. You were just talking. Except ‘just talking’ didn’t seem the right word to describe the three hours we’d spent, to the exclusion of all others, huddled in a quiet corner. I remember the way he looked at me when my foot brushed against his under the table. The way that he moved closer, as I tried to move away. 
‘You’re still here,’ he says. 
‘I don’t know what you mean.’ 
‘I mean, how long have we worked together. A few months now?’ 
I agree, wondering where this is going. 
‘Well, for months now, whenever the conversation has threatened to move away from anything strictly work related, you’ve decided it’s time you were going home. Or time that I was. I mean, we’ve never sat like this before. Just talking.’ 
I nod slowly. He’s right. For the past three months I’ve tried my hardest to maintain my professionalism – not easy when I was developing the mother of all crushes. I’ve done everything that I can to shut him out. I’ve left the room rather than face up to my feelings more times than I can remember. And that’s what I should be doing now, I think. But there have been times tonight when the attraction between us has felt so strong that I could reach out and almost touch it.
 After we leave the pub, I start walking up to the top of the road, hoping that I can hail a cab. I can hear Rob following close behind me. He catches up to me and I swing round at the feel of his hand at my elbow, trying to pull myself away. I stumble on the jagged edge of a paving slab and feel my face heading inevitably towards the ground. I brace myself for the impact, waiting for the crunch of skin and bone against concrete. 
Rob catches me. 
He pulls me up against him, and as I catch my breath I can feel the intensity of his gaze on my face. I can’t bring myself to look up and meet his eye, even when his hand brushes back the hair that has been thrown across my face and tucks it behind my ear. A curl of desire starts in the pit of my stomach and spirals downwards.
I sit back in my chair, remembering the feeling of his fingers against the sensitive skin of my neck, and my reaction to it.  It was unlike anything I’d felt before: more intense, more overwhelming, more frightening. It was the first time I’d had ever felt that, and I’d walked away without saying a word. 
But now, suddenly, there’s something I’m more afraid of. What if I never feel it again? What if I run from Rob forever? What if this is my one chance, and if I blow it now, that’s it. 
This isn’t some fleeting crush. I’ve not been able to get him out of my head for months. And now I am determined to do whatever it takes to at least be able to speak to him about how I feel. My heart quickens at the possibilities opening in front of me. I don’t want to bury my head in the sand any longer. I don’t want to hide, or avoid him. The only thing that was going to help was doing something. I could talk to my manager; I could tell HR; I would do anything other than spend another minute sitting alone, in my office or in my bed, wishing that things could be different. 
As I race to the door and reach for the handle, it opens inwards, and I collide with Rob’s broad, solid chest. 
‘I need to talk to you.’ 
His tone is serious, and I’m instantly on edge. This isn’t right. We can’t have this conversation yet. But the shock of his presence, on top of my sudden epiphany, throws me, and I let him shut the door and lead me over towards my desk. 
I perch on the corner, and that’s when I see the envelope in his hand. My heart sinks. 
‘Rob, what’s going on?’ 
‘I’m leaving,’ he tells me matter-of-factly. ‘Please consider this official notice of my resignation.’ 
I’m horrified. He obviously doesn’t feel the same, and now I’d made him so uncomfortable that he needs to leave. 
‘Rob, you don’t have to do this. If something has … happened, to make you feel that you can’t stay, then I’m sure that something can be sorted out. Perhaps you would be happier if you were working in another part of the company, or if I was …’ 
‘No. I want to leave.’ My heart breaks at the certainty in his voice. 
He reaches for my hand, and holds it gently in his. I’m still so shocked by his announcement that I can barely register this additional surprise. ‘I’m sorry,’ he starts, and I want him to be quiet. I want to be able to sit in silence and concentrate on the feeling of his skin, warm and soft and smooth. Because he’s leaving, and I know that in the days and weeks and months to come, I’m going to think of this moment often. 
He continues anyway: ‘Please, let me explain. It’s impossible to stay here.’ I’m desperate to say something. It’s not fair that he should have to leave, just because I can’t keep my feelings to myself. But, again, the words don’t come. 
‘I can’t work for you anymore,’ he says slowly, with a hint of nerves making his voice waver. ‘Because of how I feel about you. Because until you read that letter, I can’t kiss you.’ 
Realisation hits, and for a moment, I can only gape at him. He wants to kiss me. He’s leaving. The two thoughts battle for space in my head, and I still can’t shake the feeling that this is wrong, that I’m forcing him out of a job. I stand, take my hand from where he still holds it, and open the envelope. 
‘Like I say in my letter …’ A hand on my waist gently pulls me towards him. ‘… I’ve been offered an excellent opportunity …’ The hand creeps around to my back and holds me firmly against his chest. ‘… With extraordinary possibilities …’ I hold my breath and tilt my face up to his, waiting for the feel of his lips on mine. ‘…That I just can’t walk away from.’

1 comment:

  1. I love that his "excellent opportunity" is a twist on the old reason of a new job offer. Fun!