“Emily!” Esther shouted.
“I haven’t seen your tape dispenser!”
“You look at me when I’m talking to you!”
Emma did so, mostly out of shock.
Esther rose slowly from her chair and stalked up to her, somehow increasing in size. “You know what I’m thinking.”
“Nope.” Emma replied and started to take her first step toward her new desk.
“I’m thinking that someone took it because I had my name on it.”
Crap. Now Emma couldn’t leave because she was dying for this logic to be broken down for her. “Keep talking.”
With sweeping movements, Esther explained, “Well, it has my name on it. I put my name on a piece of paper and taped it on. And glued it too. But only the S, T, H, the second E, and the R part. You see?”
“I made the first E with correction fluid–“
Emma wondered if there was anybody else who used the term correction fluid.
“–and markers and glitter.”
“Did you use a highlighter?” Emma asked.
Esther’s eyes lit up. “So you’ve seen it?”
“Was it a green highlighter?”
“No, it was pink.”
Emma waved her hand. “Never mind.”
“Where was I?” Esther asked.
“Right.” Her focus returned. “So there’s a really big, beautiful E, and a smaller S, T, H, E, R that you can get rid of easy.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” whispered Emma, who was finally starting to see where this was going.
“So if someone whose name started with an E wanted a personalized tape dispenser, it would be easier if there was already an E on it,” she concluded. “Isn’t that right, Emily?”
“Dude,” she snapped, “I don’t need a tape dispenser!”
“What if you need to tape something?”
“I never need to tape anything.”
“But what if you did?” she insisted.
Emma said, “Then I would come to you and ask for some.”
“So you say,” Esther growled, “but why should I believe you?”
“Because I don’t lie.” A lot–she didn’t lie a lot. “I’m from Iowa. We’re honest out there.”
“So you’re saying you’re better than me?”
“No, dude,” she sighed, “I’m saying…” And then it hit her. “You know, don’t we have a VP named Edward?”
Esther stroked her chin. “We do have a VP named Edward.”
“Wouldn’t it be just like a vice president to want a personalized tape dispenser of their very own? Aren’t they always getting everything they want?”
“Now that you mention it…”
“It couldn’t hurt to ask.”
“No, it couldn’t.” Esther said with a wink. “Thanks for the tip!” She buzzed off, and Emma resumed her journey back to her brand new desk.
And there it was: right next to Mike’s. The delivery people had even been kind enough to restore to their rightful places her stapler, paper-and-binder clips, plastic inbox, and mug full of pens. The ancient monitor squatted just to the left of the keyboard, just as she preferred it. And the useless lamp even sat with its cord curled around it like a tail.
And yet… “Why the fuck is my desk still in the box?”
Mike shook the swear jar.
She narrowed her eyes.
Amanda swooped in beside her and asked, “Why the fuck is it still in the box?” before handing Emma a dollar she deposited in the jar.
“This is insane,” Emma groaned.
“Ladies,” announced Daryl from behind them.
Emma didn’t bother to look. “Dude.”
Amanda attempted in vain to hide a goofy smile as she turned around. “Hi…”
“How you doing, Amanda?” he asked. “Working hard, as usual?”
“Yeah…” she sighed.
“I have to say, boss,” he told her, “I have no idea how you manage to pull all of this off and make it look easy.”
“How’s life? Still single?”
“Somebody’s really missing out. Am I right, Mike?”
“I’m busy,” Mike snapped.
“Cool, cool,” Daryl said. “Emma?”
Emma had witnessed him use this tone with every woman in the office, regardless of their age or beauty, so she knew well enough not to take it personally. Still, she was a little bit jealous. “Totally,” she replied.
“I see you have a new desk,” he observed.
“It’s not unpacked, though.”
“No,” Emma agreed, “it is not.”
“Weird.” He crossed in front of her to greet the mirror, which would never have forgiven him if he’d left without visiting. “Do you think HR ordered Esther a new tape dispenser too, and that’s why it went missing?”
“What?” yelped Mike.
“No,” said Emma.
“Maybe…” sighed Amanda.
“It might be worth looking into,” Daryl suggested. “Who knows what that might turn up?”
“Why would they do that?” Emma asked, struggling to make sense of this line of deduction.
“Maybe it went obsolete,” he replied.
“Tape dispensers don’t go obsolete.”
“I bet they used to say that about water faucets.”
“No one would ever–” Actually, somebody probably did say this about water faucets, but someone else went ahead and upgraded them anyway, giving birth to some of the least necessary technical advancements in history. “All right, I’ll give you that.”
Daryl stared deep into the vast universe of imagination, wonder lighting up his face. “Imagine it: a machine that dispenses the exact amount of tape you need. And it would even have a mechanism that frees up that first little strip from a brand-new roll. There would be no more wasted tape. Isn’t that worth creating?”
No. “Yes,” Emma surrendered.
“Did we order one of those for Esther, Amanda?” he asked.
“I’m not in charge of those things,” she told him.
“Something to think about,” he concluded on his way out the door. “The possibilities are endless.”
Amanda and Emma took a moment to savor his exit. They made eye contact for a split second before looking away and taking deep, simultaneous breaths.
“So,” said Amanda.
“So,” said Emma.
“What’s that guy’s job anyway?” asked Mike.
Amanda shook her head, restoring her composure. “I’m going back to HR, and I want you to take an early lunch. Your desk will be unpacked when you return, I promise.”
“Thank you.” After Amanda left, Emma retrieved her phone from her purse. “Tyler,” she said, “we’re going to lunch.”
“Now?” the phone asked.
“But it’s not even eleven.”
“Now,” she told her boyfriend.