First Pages: The Sunflower

My shift ends in five minutes and it is three hundred seconds before I can put away the files lying idly atop my desk. 295 more, then I can finally push my seat in and shrug off the blazer that’s been hiding my stained underarms for the past hour. No matter how low I tried to set the thermostat, the cool air I needed never flowed through the vents. So here I sit, sticky thighs against the plastic surface of my seat with a small battery-operated fan barely blowing against my face.

Heels click against the granite tiles, and without looking up, I already knew it was him. Accompanying his presence is his boisterous laugh, the kind that aims to be genuine but instead comes off as cocky and derogatory. Dominic’s jet-black/slicked-back head of hair pops up over the side of my cubicle – propping an arm over the divide.
“Were you in last night’s meeting?” he asked. His haughty, well-rehearsed smile takes up most of his face, as he knows I was not. Still, I indolently shake my head without raising it to meet his stare.

He proceeds to boast about how he dominated the table, though his voice drones along with the rattling of the air conditioner. He doesn’t see through this illusion of attentiveness as I let my focus zoom
in on the same paragraph I’ve been reading for the past half hour. And by this point, I am none the wiser – already forgetting the entirety of the file. What use is there for me to pretend reading if I could start preparing for my departure? When it’s after hours, I usually begin waving the white flag as I skip toward the elevators. I sigh to myself and glance at the framed picture standing on the lowest shelf. It was taken three months before the sickness started to spread when her smile was still bright and alive. She was hugging both my brother and me, and I remembered what we discussed while we did the dishes.

“Just quit your job if it doesn’t make you happy anymore,” Mummy told me, but I refused to listen because who was going to take care of the bills and medication if I did? She did not respond. That night, I overheard her from my bedroom praying on her knees so He could help us with the financial downfall. Neither I nor the collectors were patient enough for that miracle to happen. Eventually, a blessing finally did come about. It happened in the middle of the night on the third of December and alleviated the majority of our costs – but for a price…

Dominic’s snicker regains my attention. “Can you repeat that?”

He playfully rolls his eyes, feigning a look of annoyance even if pride escapes with every word,
“I heard that the Boss was giving me a promotion, but nothing’s sure yet.” I freeze in my seat, pinching the corner of the page with all the rage my two fingers can emit. “So soon?” I ask nonchalantly. He hasn’t been here more than a year. I, on the other hand, have been working non-stop for half a decade, and he gets to upgrade to a solitary office with its coffee maker? There must be a mistake.

For so long, I have been dealing with a barely-working printer attached to a two-sided piece of glass that only glides some light across the paper, spitting out nothing but black dots. A ‘built-in scanner and photocopying machine,’ the installer had proudly proclaimed. But I think it’s a sorry attempt by the higher-ups to show they care. People have to yell out if they were to send a file for printing. Over 50 people in this office with only three printers available, and just one has the make-shift scanner and photocopier. Before I resolved to read the files, I was opting to print my report for tomorrow’s meeting, but thought otherwise when Evan, John, Mira, Bogs, and Milly all announced the sending of their files. I could have been the sixth person, but I know better than to believe the printers won’t jam and mess up the ink.

“Oh, Dom!” a voice cheers from across the hall. I raise myself a little to take a peek at who it is, and Miguel emerges from the pantry, a cup of steaming coffee in hand. My mouth gapes as he walks closer to us because in his hand is not just any mug of coffee; it is my mug holding his TURN PAGE >>

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