The following is an excerpt from my short story “The Intern” which appears in the Chasing the Light anthology.
Monday, after school, Zoe and I met at Mr. Doat’s building. We stepped into the lobby, and a woman with an infectious smile was waiting for us. She wore brown slacks and a deep blue and white blouse. Her shoes clicked on the floor as she approached.
“Hi.” She shook our hands. “I’m Abby Greyson. I’ll be showing you around today.”
Abby collected our folders and led us back into the back offices. The place was filled with the quiet buzz of voices, the click of keyboards, and the hum of printers.
Our desks were located in a cluster in one corner. Mine had a half-dead spider plant in a white, plastic pot sitting on one edge. Embarrassed, Abby started to clear it away, but I stopped her. It added a bit of color—or would, if I could revive it.
I went to get some water while Abby got Zoe logged onto the computer. I found a water cooler in the break room and filled a coffee mug. On the way back to my desk, a man reading from a folder strode around a corner and nearly ran me down.
I gasped, pulling back. Water sloshed over the rim and splashed onto the carpet.
“Idiot.” He stopped reading and gave himself a quick once-over. His gray suit was immaculate, down to his brown leather shoes. A deep, black stone flashed from the slender expanse of white tie that hung from around his neck. When he was sure I hadn’t gotten any water on him—or near him—he aimed dark eyes at me. “You’re not supposed to take anything out of the break room.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. Great, I was going to get fired on my first day. “I was just—”
“Who are you?” He looked down at me, his eyebrows coming together. “You’re not supposed to be back in the employee area. Who let you in here?”
“Do you know how much trouble you’re in?” His face darkened, and he took a step toward me.
Around us, heads popped over the tops of cube walls. We were now, officially, a “scene.” This day was getting better and better.
“Miss Hearne is one of our newest interns.” A quiet voice broke through my thoughts of water sloshing down that gray suit, giving the urban prairie dogs something to talk about later. Mr. Doat stood to my right. I hadn’t seen him approach.
He turned to me. “And Mr. Reeves is in acquisitions.” He nodded from one of us to the other. “Maura Hearne, meet Aron Reeves.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” I said. I extended my left hand.
Reeves had to juggle the folder to his other hand to shake mine. I smiled.
“Likewise,” Reeves said. He squeezed my hand, but I’ve got three older brothers. Reeves was no contest, even if his hands were on the cold and clammy side. He released my hand and turned to Mr. Doat. “Excuse me.” Tucking the folder under his arm, he vanished back the way he came.
Mr. Doat turned to me, eyebrow quirked. Had his eyes changed color? They looked darker, almost brown.“Making friends already?”
“That man is…” I decided to play it safe, “intense.”
Doat chuckled. “Yes, that’s a good word for it.” He glanced down at the cup in my hands. “Enjoy the rest of your day, Miss Hearne.”
“Thank you.” I watched him head in the direction of his office. I glanced at the mostly full mug, remembering Reeves and his stance on taking things out of the break room, then hurried to get back to Abby and Zoe.
My average day consisted of answering phones, answering emails, making sure there was coffee in the break room, and talking with Zoe. It could have been any office job in the world, but one thing made it unusual.
A large printer stood in the intern area and, seemingly at random, pages would print out of it. Sometimes it was a single page, other times, great piles of pages would print. The paper was thick and perforated so you could split it up into twelve cards, like business cards. On each card was a name and address.
The cards were our highest priority. When a page printed, we took it and split it into twelve cards. There was a different color for each of the people working in acquisitions: blue, fuchsia, green, and gray.
Once the cards were sorted, we took them to the acquisitions offices. This was my least favorite part of the job, because, whenever I went, I always ran into Reeves.
No matter when I went, even if I didn’t have any cards for him—which was rare—I always seemed to be passing by when he was coming out from someplace. I’d pass by a doorway, and there he’d be, looming, looking down at me. We never spoke.
Delivering cards to him was the worst. His were the gray ones (naturally) and his office was sterile and lifeless. The furniture was a dismal storm-cloud color, and the office had to be at least ten degrees colder than the rest of the building.
I didn’t like the place, and I never lingered. One time, after dropping off some cards, I turned to hurry out, and he was standing in the doorway. I’d never admit this to Zoe, but I made a tiny squeaking sound at the sight of him. I don’t think he even noticed. He stared past me at the small pile of cards, like he was a starving man and I’d just delivered a steak dinner. It was like I wasn’t even in the room.
I stepped aside so that I wouldn’t get run over if he made for the cards, and that was when he noticed me. The look in his eyes made me uncomfortable in a noise-behind-you-in-a-dark-parking-lot kind of way. He stalked into the room, his eyes following me as I arced around him to the door and got the heck out of there.
When the people in acquisitions finished doing whatever it was they did with their cards, they returned them to the intern area, and we entered the information on the cards into a spreadsheet. Every day there was a new, blank sheet titled with the date. I couldn’t see why we didn’t just import the names from wherever they were printed from.
Zoe returned from delivering a batch of cards to Reeves and flopped into her chair. “That guy isn’t right. The way he looks at you, it’s like we were delivering cash or something.” She shrugged. “He’s in acquisitions, so maybe we are, in a way. I don’t know.”
“None of the others do that,” I said.
“True,” Zoe said. “But none of the others are as creepy as he is.”
I couldn’t argue with that. Everyone in acquisitions had their own thing. Gil Porter (blue) was a huge rugby fan. One day, I made the mistake of admitting that I didn’t know much about the sport, and I wasn’t able to leave the room for the next fifteen minutes.
Evony Malkin (fuchsia) was the biggest Sci-Fi and Fantasy geek I’d ever seen. She had an actual light saber on a plaque on her wall and a life-size cardboard picture of Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings movies in one corner of her office, next to a huge map of Middle Earth. I didn’t mention it, but I’d have gone with Faramir, myself.
Ruth Belcourt (green) had an office full of plants. The spider plant on my desk came from her collection, and she was glad to hear that it had recovered. Going into her office was like stepping into a terrarium.
They all had their own preferences when it came to the cards, but none of them reacted the way Reeves did when they showed up.
“Hey, check this out,” Zoe said.
“What?” I looked up from sorting piles of cards. It had been a busy Friday afternoon with several big print outs.
Zoe held up a card. At first, I didn’t notice anything beyond the gray color, but when I looked closer, I saw the name.
Zoe waggled it in the air in front of me. “It’s got his address,” she sang.
I frowned at her. After he told me I looked great a couple of weeks ago, we hadn’t said more than two words to each other.
“Stalker much?” I asked. I plucked the card from her fingers. “And I already know where he lives, thanks.” We’d ridden the same bus to school until we could drive.
The smile faded from Zoe’s face. “He’ll come around, Maura.”
“I don’t know.” I turned to put the card on my gray pile. “Sometimes I don’t think it’s—” I stopped, looking at the address on the card.
“What is it?” Zoe asked.
“This isn’t Erik’s address.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s not even close.”
“Somebody must have gotten their records messed up.”
“Must have.” I hesitated. I wasn’t sure what to do with the card. Abby had never explained what to do when the address on a card was wrong. I didn’t even know who was printing them out, so I couldn’t go tell anyone about the mistake. Ultimately, the idea of Reeves getting a card with Erik’s name on it decided me. I put the card in my pocket, intending to mention the error to Abby on Monday.
I never did.
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