Crandall slouched in his seat so his head rested on the edge of the chair back. He stared at the long, bright light fixture above his head as he tossed a stress ball with the company’s logo up into the air. He caught it fourteen times before the shrill female voice prattling on in his ear stopped long enough for him to respond.
“Fucking moron,” he said, and then clicked the button on his headset to unmute his line. “Listen to me.” He glanced down his nose to check the monitor, “Marcy. If you can’t remember your password, then you have to reset them. Fu– Again. There’s no other way around it.”
She went off on another long-winded explanation that would made no sense, and even the least tech savvy person in the city would’ve rolled his eyes. She whined about how it had to be a computer issue because she typed her password correctly, and about how this call was wasting her precious time. Wasting time? Crandall snorted. Hello fucking pot. Not that he had anything better to do with his time. His boss was still pissed at him, so he was stuck on these pointless calls for the rest of the day. If she needed a definition of waste of time, Crandall could provide it with this same call as an example.
What little patience he’d been clinging to snapped when Crandall tossed the ball and it dropped into the lighting fixture. With a sharp pop, the light went out. He muttered the profanity he’d been holding back and sat up in his seat.
“What was that?” Marcy demanded. “What did you say to me?”
“It’s not the computer’s fault, damn it.” Crandall bit his lower lip, thinking another curse-laden insult as loudly as he could before continuing. “The program is working fine. It’s user error. I’m sending you a password reset link. Click it and follow the instructions, and stop forgetting your password!” Crandall hit the End button on his computer and ripped the headset off his ear. “Fucking, fucking morons,” he shouted, throwing the headset across the desk.
Continuing his venting on his office equipment, he stood up fast, shoving the chair back. It bounced up against the cubicle wall and knocked down two laminated announcement cards with what Crandall considered useless flow charts for assisting callers. He stormed out of his cubicle, and slammed into a woman walking the other way.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. She took a step back. “Are you okay?”
Crandall’s glower intensified and he opened his mouth to spout off in a way he couldn’t do when his boss was monitoring his help desk calls. The woman cut him off. “Oh my God, you’re that guy’s friend.”
He frowned at her, unable to place her but not really caring either. Pale ginger hair, a splash of freckles over her nose and cheeks, and blue eyes so light they looked washed out – the only red head he knew was that pain in the ass vampire bitch, and her red was much closer to his than this girl’s. She also had a better rack. “I don’t keep friends,” Crandall said. “They’re too much fucking work.”
A smile flickered across her lips, followed by a pursing that revealed her uncertainty. Crandall had a way of saying things that made even the most optimistic person realize he probably wasn’t kidding.
“Last week…” She glanced around uneasily, but then looked at him again. “At the fire.”
Crandall tried to picture her with a backdrop of flames, but still couldn’t place her face. “Ash or Mike?” he asked.
She shrugged, and the gesture annoyed him. Pointless conversation. He started to move around her, hoping for a fresh pot of coffee in the break room so he wouldn’t have to walk all the way down to the cafeteria.
“The one with the black hair,” she said.
“Ash,” he replied without looking back.
Crandall poured the rest of a pot of coffee into a Styrofoam cup, and then dumped several sugars and creamer cups into it. He stirred it with three tiny plastic straws, and then took a sip. He wrinkled his face in disgust, made a gagging sound, before pouring the vile mixture down the sink.
“Let me buy you a cup at the Canteen.”
He turned and glared at the girl. “Why are you following me?”
“I was hoping you’d introduce me to your friend.”
“Who?” He brushed by her and tossed the cup in the garbage.
“Why?” He frowned at her.
“I saw him around, you know, and he’s kinda cute – so are you by the way – but I’ve been wanting to talk to him, but the couple of times I saw him at the apartments, he always seemed to be in a rush, and I didn’t want to interrupt. So I figured I missed my chance with the place burning to the ground, and the rumor is the owner isn’t in any rush to rebuild, if at all. Though I don’t know why he wouldn’t. So anyway, since I ran into you. Literally. I thought maybe it was fate.”
Crandall scowled because he’d promised his boss not to swear at co-workers for one day. The bastard had tricked him into it, but damn it, he could fucking keep it clean for eight hours.
“So what do you think?” she continued in his silence. “Can you, maybe, introduce us? Or get me his number? Or, I don’t know, maybe we can double date? Do you like blondes? My best friend just broke up with her loser boyfriend because he thought it was his right as a musician to sleep with the fans, but she’s really sweet.”
“I’m a musician,” Crandall said.
“Oh,” said the woman.
“And I don’t like girls.” Okay, not entirely true, but he couldn’t tell her to fuck off today.
“I see. Oh, okay. I have a cute guy-friend who’s single.”
“Go away.” Crandall turned his back and walked quickly out of the break room. He wanted coffee, but he didn’t want her following him. Instead of heading to the Canteen, the company- subsidized cafeteria, he turned the opposite way down the hall, and hurried for the exit. Dunkins wasn’t that far away, and it’d be easier not to tell off coworkers if they weren’t around.