It was Tuesday morning. Morning is the time that Patrice goes and picks up the paper from the ground floor. Tuesdays are the days when the paper will, for some reason, be late. She left to pick up the paper at 9:15. She came back at 10:00, a new record. Hank had begun to get antsy, Dawn glanced at the clock every two minutes, and Chaz kept saying “Hey, shouldn’t she be back by now?”
When finally Patrice did return, she brought with her another person. We all turned to face to elevator as she got out, dripping wet. The paper had been late because of the rain that morning – you’d think the Seattle paper services would be used to it, but the case was clearly otherwise. She turned to the interior of the elevator and said “Come on, don’t worry. You just need to talk to Harry. He’s our manager. It’ll be fine.” Out of the elevator car stepped a woman. She was gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. It wasn’t a porn star attractive, either; it was like a fairy queen. Delicate, gossamer, and yet as lithe as a willow bough. She was something else. I heard Chaz start a cat-call, but it died on his lips as if recoiling, afraid of being coarse for this lovely creature. The Fairy Queen, eyes focused on the ground, followed Patrice into Harry’s office.
Conversation began – real conversation, not electronic blips.
“She looks nice.”
“She looks like a tall cool drink of hot, my man!”
“Charles! She seems like a very nice lady. I suppose she’ll work with us now?”
“One would assume so, Dawn.”
“Does Patrice still have the paper?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
This continued. After a few minutes, full of rumor and intrigue and impatience, the door opened and Patrice came out, Fairy Queen in tow. The two stood near the water cooler, the communal watering hole around which our attention was focused. She addressed us, one arm around Fairy Queen’s shoulders in a matronly manner. Fairy Queen’s long black hair didn’t seem a strand out of place, even though she was practically quaking at the knees with nervousness.
“Guys, I want you to meet Kaitlin. She’s new to our company and-”
“Give me a shitting second, Chaz. As I was saying, Kaitlin is new to the company and has been assigned to work in our pod, alright? She’s going to be moving into the empty cubicle between Mikey and Arthur.”
Chorus: “Hi, Kaitlin!” She offered a coy smile and waved. I got up – not sure why – and held out my hand.
“Hey, I’m Arthur. Looks like you’ll have to put up with me as your neighbor, huh?” She took my hand demurely, but shook it with surprising confidence.
“Nice to meet you, Arthur. I’m sure we’ll be fine neighbors.”
I could feel Chaz’s eyes burning holes in my neck as I walked back to my desk. Kaitlin entered the cube next to mine and sat down. It wasn’t long before she stood up again, however. She walked into Mikey’s cube. This was something that none of us had dared attempt before; Mikey was beyond “loner” and bordered on “Unabomber.” But Kaitlin entered. We could all hear the conversation.
“Hey, you must be Mikey. I’m Kaitlin. It’s nice to meet my other cube neighbor.”
“Hey, no need to be a stranger. Come on, open up a bit. Tell me, do you like to go to parties?”
“Yeah? I’m having one this weekend with some friends from college. You should totally come along! Get some social interaction. I insist.”
If there was a way to quote stunned silence falling like a heavy chunk of metal onto the carpeted floor of our office, that word would be used here. Nothing can describe the sheer lack of noise that hit us like a cannonball. To say that it was dead quiet is an insult to the dead and to quiet.
The office exhaled a deep breath laced with confusion and brimming with gossip.
“Cool! I’ll shoot you an email with the details, Mikey. I’m looking forward to it.”
And with that, Kaitlin returned to her desk. No one was exactly sure what our Fairy Queen had wrought. But Mikey was only the beginning.