After a lunch of Thai food, followed by a chaste make-out session with her boyfriend, Tyler, Emma returned to the former smoking room to find that the deliverymen had indeed removed the brand new desk from its box. What they didn’t bother to do was assemble it. Later, when she would recount the tale to Tyler or anyone who would listen, she’d ask herself why she’d expected anything different. In the moment, she could only whine, “What the fuck is this?”
Mike shook the swear jar.
“Dude,” she told him, “I don’t like you. I mean, I was kind of ambivalent to you at first, and I was even a little fond of you after a few weeks, but today, I’ve decided that I don’t like you.”
“That’s fair,” he replied.
Amanda strode inside, and her shoulders fell instantly. “What the…” She reached into her pocket, but her hand came out empty.
“Oh, what the hell,” Mike told her. “You’re my best customer. Have a freebie.”
“Thank you,” she said with a slight bow of her head. “I still want a progress report on the 10Qs.” She returned her attention to the desk. “What the fuck is this?”
“I quit,” Emma replied.
“You’re not allowed to resign without two weeks’ notice,” Amanda told her, “especially you, Emma, because your daily tasks are pretty complicated, and it would take at least three days to properly instruct your replacement, who will probably need some kind of supervision until he or she gets a hang of it.”
“I don’t have to give notice,” she said. “I’m a temp.”
“I’ll give you a bad evaluation,” Amanda replied. “I don’t want to, but I will.”
“Stay here,” she said. “I have to get on the phone with somebody and yell. Literally yell, I mean. And I don’t mean literally like when people just use it for emphasis. No, I mean I am going to pick up the phone and yell, and I will probably be embarrassed about it later, but I’m really, really angry right now.”
Emma didn’t stay there. She caught up with Amanda halfway to her office and blocked her way. “Breathe, dude.”
“Outside of this desk thing,” Emma asked, “what do you plan to do? For the rest of the day, I mean.”
Amanda was so taken aback by the question that she answered it without thinking. “Marking, filing, sorting, personnel issues, e-mails. The usual. And now I have to worry about the work Mike’s doing because Steve can’t be bothered to check in periodically, which makes me wonder if I shouldn’t check in with all of the other temps too see if they’re not wasting company time–yourself excluded, of course, because I kind of do that already–and that means a few hours extra here and there.”
“You know, I’m good at filing and sorting,” Emma said.
“Well, the only work of yours I’m familiar with are the daily reports, so I know for sure you’re good with photocopying and data entry and spreadsheet arrangement, but given how well you perform those tasks–“
Emma wasn’t sure that interrupting the boss of bosses was okay, but she was on a roll, so she did it anyway. “I’m trying to say I can help.”
“Thanks,” Amanda responded instantly, “but you’ve got your own work to do.”
“Not really,” Emma told her. “Everything after the meeting is pretty light for me. I just do gofer things here and there, when some VP needs it. Mostly I read a book or doodle. Besides, I don’t have a whole desk.”
“Then why don’t you go home early,” Amanda said. “I’ll tell Steve to pay you for the afternoon. You’ve had a long day as it is.”
“So have you.”
“Yeah, but it’s my job,” she reminded Emma. “You don’t get paid enough to do anymore than you have to.”
“What if I just want to help out a friend?”
Amanda sighed. “Look, Emma, I appreciate the–“
“Dude,” she breathed, “just stop.”
“I’m just saying–“
“Let me finish,” Emma snapped. “I’m not asking to hang out on weekends and get cocktails or double-date or whatever. I’m pretty busy all the time anyway. You and I will probably never see each other again after this contract ends, and that’s totally fine. I’m trying to tell you that I think you’re really cool, and I don’t like watching you get chewed up like this. You’re letting this place suck away your life, and for what?”
“That was rhetorical,” Emma said. “This is fucking insane, you know that?”
“It’s. My. Job.”
“Let. Me. Help.”
“Fine.” Amanda set her jaw. “If you want to help, you can start by finding me a green highlighter.”
“No problem,” Emma said with a grin. A few moments later, she strode up to Mike’s desk. “Dude, give me your green highlighter.”
“I don’t have a green highlighter,” he replied.
“Let me look around in your desk then,” she offered, “just to be sure.”
“Why not?” she asked. “Afraid I’ll find Esther’s tape dispenser?”
“Why do you think I have–?”
“Because you used tape to make the swear jar.”
“You really think Esther’s the only one in the office with a tape dispenser?” He snorted, “Besides, it went missing way before I even had the idea. So why would I take it?”
“Because you’re just the kind of asshole who would think her freak-out was funny.”
“I’m not saying I did it,” he said, “but really? It’s all she has, man. Isn’t that kind of fucked up?”
He pulled out his wallet and made the deposit.
“I don’t get Esther,” Emma told him, “but this is her thing, and you don’t have the right to take that away.”
“I told you I didn’t–“
“Esther’s tape dispenser.”
With a grunt and a thud, he slammed it onto the desktop.
“And a green highlighter,” she reminded him.
With an additional grunt, it joined the dispenser.
She fought back a smirk and snatched them away. “Thanks, dude.”
When she spun around to leave, she found herself blocked by Daryl’s incredible pectorals and even more incredible grin. “Damn, girl,” he said.
“I know,” she replied, looking him up and down without being even a little bit coy about it, “right?”